I recently had occasion to take issue with someone who, in the context of another discussion, characterized the American Civil War as a “mass uprising” against government misconduct.
As my two or three regulars readers might guess, I begged to differ. Well, maybe “begged” isn’t exactly the right word. I’m rather proud of what I said, so I’d like to share it here, with some slight editing. It’s below the fold, if you are interested (in fact, it’s below the fold even if you are not interested).
I hate to quibble, but the Civil War was hardly a “popular uprising” in the sense of, say, the French Revolution. It was a war to protect the right to hold slaves in chattel bondage.
More particularly, it was about expanding slavery into the western territories so that the slaveholders in the mid-Atlantic and upper South states, who were for all practical purposes running breeding farms for slaves, as they had long ago exhausted the soil, wanted new markets for their “product.” I had ancestors who did just that.
No amount of fulminating or obfuscation can hide that fact, though many have tried to so.
- When people say, “It was about states’ rights,” the proper response is to ask “the right to do just what, exactly?”
- When people say, “It was about federal intervention,” the proper response is to ask, “just what intervention did they fear, exactly?”
- When people say, “It was about economic systems,” the proper response to is ask “what economic systems, precisely?”
But, natch, Americans don’t like to talk about or even recognize that part of their history, so they invent romances–think Gone with the Wind–and tell themselves tales of “The Lost Cause” and of “The Land of Gracious Living.”