By C. Augustus Landis
“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is (sic) pains taken to bring to light. ”George Washington.
“Those who control the past control the future. Those who control the present control the past”. George Orwell. 1984.
This is the first of commentaries I will be publishing to address contemporary (woke) narratives on the cause of the Civil War, the secession of the Southern states, confederacy as the Lost Cause, and the desecration of memorials. The prevailing narrative (Indeed, the insistence) is the Southern states seceded from the Union to preserve and protect their interest in the institution of slavery and that Lincoln was the Great Emancipator who went to war to free the slaves and save the Union.
That narrative is refuted by repeated attempts by Lincoln to persuade the South not to secede as his interest was in preserving the Union with or without slave states; it mattered not. During the War, he offered rejoining the Union as slave states. The South rejected these overtures because slavery/emancipation was not the Cause for secession.
!) In his 1st inaugural address, Lincoln said he had neither the intent or authority to end slavery in any state where it existed . Why would Lincoln raise 75,000 troops to invade the South when he had no intention to abolish slavery and he thought to do so was unconstitutional? Because slavery/emancipation was not the Cause!
2) In 1861, at beginning of his administration, a Republican dominated Congress passed the Corbin amendment to the Constitution that would prevent Congress from interfering with the institution of slavery in any state where it existed. Lincoln endorsed. Why did Lincoln endorse if emancipation was his cause? Why did the South reject if preservation and extension of slavery was object of secession? Because slavery/emancipation was not the Cause!
3) On February 3, 1865 when the 13th Amendment had not been ratified, Lincoln met secretly with Confederate leaders aboard a ship, The River Queen, anchored near Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia, to discuss a peace treaty. Lincoln offered to prevent codification if the Confederacy would rejoin the Union. Why would the great emancipator prevent emancipation when victory was at hand and why did the Confederacy reject? Because slavery/emancipation was not the Cause!
Note: Lincoln believed strongly that slavery was wrong and so, also increasingly did many in the South. The problem for the South, however, was what to do with more than 3,000,000 slaves if emancipated? For nearly 250 years they had known of no other condition than bondage, unskilled and uneducated. Lincoln and the North had no plan to deal with emancipation other than they did not want their migration north.
By not seceding or rejoining the Union, the Southern states could prevent a ¾ majority of state legislatures from passing emancipation amendments. If preservation and extension of slavery was the cause for secession and war, why were these offers rejected by the South? Because it was not the Cause!
The Cause of the War, therefore, was the one issue neither the Lincoln/Republican/ northern interests nor the Southern states would compromise on, secession. They had fundamentally different views on the meaning of the Declaration and of the Constitution.
The Lincoln/ Republican North identified with the Hamiltonian nationalist- Federalist ideology of a strong central government with support for manufacturing/commercial interests and need for infrastructure improvements. The South identified with the Jeffersonian ideals of an agrarian community of states and a confederacy form of governance. Lincoln could compromise on the emancipation issue but not on secession because it would be devastating to the northern economy; especially a loss of tariff revenues which were critical to the Union. Lincoln adamantly refused to allow secession to deprive the northern/Republican interest of significant tariff revenues from Southern ports like Charleston, New Orleans, and Fort Pickens, Pensacola, Florida. Revenues from the South were 75% of federal revenues and predominately used for Northern/Republican interests. With Lincoln election and a Republican dominated Congress, this would continue and increase.
One should not confuse emancipation with the irreconcilable issue of Lincoln and the Confederacy, secession. The South believed the Constitution was a compact between the states with right of nullification and secession and the Union had broken with the principles of the founding. They wanted independence. Period. If one understands this, then one understands why there are so many memorials and testimonials to the Confederate soldiers who sacrificed all for their Cause…. independence.
As I write, they are removing the memorial statue to Confederate soldiers at Eastville. It was said this memorial celebrated slavery and Jim Crow. NO. The memorial celebrates the Cause for which they fought and sacrificed so much for…independence.
It is a sad day, and much to be lamented, that, today in Eastville, they are removing a memorial to a Cause and a history which they do not know or understand.
It is as Orwell said… Those who control the past control the future. Those who control the present control the past”. George Orwell. 1984.