Re: Miscellaneous Junk

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Posted by Mark on June 11, 1999 at 15:08:02:

In Reply to: Miscellaneous Junk posted by Tom on June 10, 1999 at 08:40:57:

: In reference to the explanation given by an altruistic "Tom" that implies that in defending the position of the South during the Civil War one is in effect attempting to excuse the Confederacy for fighting for slavery is an absurd contention.
Lincoln's initial program stated that he would not interfere with slavery where it existed. In this sense the North was in effect "fighting for slavery". At the start of the war the North under the Lincoln administration held that secession was illegal and that quelling the rebellion was the sole issue. Abolitionist Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune initially agreed that this position was of paramount importance. Lincoln had no desire to alienate the border states which had large slave populations. Only as the war ground on did it become politically expedient to espouse the cause of emancipation and the movement gained momentum. A case could be made that the issue of slavery arose over its extension into the territories and not in its existence in the states themselves. Many educated people in the South thought that slavery was wrong and knew that its demise was coming. The Southern farmer had no love for the wealthy planter class and to contend that the former fought to sustain the latter's position is sophomoric. Once the bear of slavery had been embraced the South would have a very difficult time ridding itself of its embrace. The effects of a sudden end to the "peculiar institution" were frightening to most southerners who feared being inundated by former slaves with little knowledge of how to support themselves. It was very easy to live elsewhere and espouse a freeing of the slaves but very hard to live in the South and be surrounded by prospects of the resultant social collapse. As the war was nearing its end a number of Northern jurisdictions passed laws that stated in effect that it was fine to have a freed population but be free somewhere else. THEY did not want to be inundated by a mass exodus of freed men from the South.
Many more slaves were imported into South America and often treated less humanely than in the United States. Yet one does not hear the furor there that is generated here. The Arab slave trade in Africa and the Middle East was extensive yet once again one hears little if anything about it. The Spaniards and Portuguese at the height of their power were notorious for their treatment of slaves. It seems that only the Americans are held to a standard of "collective guilt" that does not exist. Many indentured servants were in a form of servitude little better than slavery. The NORTH was changing and becoming capitalist, the South remained largely in its traditional agricultural position.
I am not apologizing for the South. Slavery is an evil institution that should be abolished wherever it is. But to label pro-Southerners as pro-slavery and Northerners as morally superior shows a lack of a basic historical grasp of the situation.
There were many causes of the Civil War. Immigration had accelerated in the middle 1840s through the 1850s and most of the immigrants arrived in northern ports and stayed in the north. During the 1850s over half of the populations of New York, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Chicago were alien. Many Americans feared that the Anglo-Saxon predominance in America would cease to exist. Nativist movements arose. Southerners were unhappy with the increased population and increased congressional representation which new immigrants gave to the North.
Traditionally agricultural, the United States was becoming rapidly industrial. The mass of non-slaveholding southern farmers in the main remained outside of the market economy and raised crops for their own subsistence. But increasingly they were becoming caught up in the capitalist world of merchants, manufacturers and bankers (often to their detriment). The South resented its increasing dependency on the North, whose factories could undersell local southern wares and helped to keep the South agricultural. The South increasingly felt that Northern profits were largely a form of expropriated Southern wealth and that the South by the 1850s had in essence become a colony of the North.
There are too many reasons for the cause of civil war to mention here but geography, cultural differences, economic differences, states rights and popular sovereignty were certainly considerable factors. Fanaticism, misunderstanding, misrepresentation and politics on both sides inflamed tempers. Judging the past solely by contemporary standards is poor scholarship whatever topic one discusses.
As the historian Charles Beard observed it was hard to tell "where slavery as an ethical question left off and economics - the struggle over the distribution of wealth - began".
As for the comparison of General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia with the Waffen SS a reply to its absurdity is not needed.

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