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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: II. “The Myth of the Myth of the Lost Cause” (continued)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

II. “The Myth of the Myth of the Lost Cause” (continued)

About Slavery as a Political Issue in ante-bellum America

By Bill Vallante

Yes, slavery was indeed an issue of political conflict, one which revolved chiefly around slavery in the territories. But there was much more to the 'slavery in the territories' question than a simple matter of good vs. evil. As in the case of most political conflicts, the real issues had more to do more with money and power than any real moral principle. How do I know this? I know it because I have read the words of those who lived at the time, northerners, southerners and even foreigners – words which are usually not to be found in most of the contemporary history books for some strange reason. I cannot say for sure why these words are so hard to find, but I do know that their inclusion might give students of the period a more accurate picture of what was going on in America at the time and why!

More than one Southerner questioned the feigned and hypocritical philanthropy of Northerners toward the black man. The English also questioned it and for their part, Northerners seldom issued any denials.

Students reading about “The Wilmot Proviso” in their high school history books seldom will read the actual words of Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot when he introduced this important piece of anti-slavery legislation – legislation aimed more at Southern domination in national affairs than the pursuit of some vague notion of equality. It doesn’t sound to me like Mr. Wilmot was too concerned about equality:

“The negro race already occupy enough space on this fair continent.” [2]

Josiah Quincy, Massachusetts politician for over 50 years, spoke out in 1811 in favor of New England forming its own Confederation – in other words, he had no problem with New England seceding. Still active in 1861 he strongly supported Lincoln’s invasion of the seceding Southern states in what can only be described as an amazing turn around! Nonetheless, he was honest enough to openly admit one of the real reasons behind the North’s 30 year anti-slavery cold war against the South:

“The slave representation clause is the cause of all the difficulties we labor under…the Southern states have an influence in our national councils, altogether disproportionate to their wealth, strength and resources.” [3]**

And if that isn’t enough, we have the words of various antebellum Northern luminaries who, perhaps, not realizing that someone would record their words for future posterity revealed their true attitudes toward the black man:

Ohio Republican Senator John Sherman, (brother of William T. Sherman): “We do not like the negroes. We do not disguise our dislike…..The whole people of the Northwestern states are opposed to having many negroes among them and that principle or prejudice has been engraved in the legislation for nearly all of the Northwestern states.” [4]

Republican Senator Lyon Trumbull: “We, the Republican Party, are the white man’s party. We are for free white men, and for making white labor respectable and honorable, which it can never be when Negro slave labor is brought into competition with it.” [5]

William Seward, inveterate moralizer and creator of the phrase “irrepressible conflict,” who, at a political rally in 1860, described the American black man as a “foreign and feeble element like the Indians, incapable of assimilation…a pitiful exotic unwisely and unnecessarily transplanted into our fields, and which it is unprofitable to cultivate at the cost of the desolation of the native vineyard.” [6]

And on July 12, 1848, during a Senate debate over slavery in the territories, it was a New York Senator, John Dix, who got up and said that “free blacks would continue to be an inferior cast and simply die out.” It was a Senator from Mississippi named Jefferson Davis who replied that he was “horrified” to hear “their extinction treated as a matter of public policy.” [7]

During one Senate session in the spring of 1860, Senator Jefferson Davis cited what he believed were the real reasons behind the North’s anti-slavery campaign. For those who believe the “Myth of the Lost Cause Mythologist’” contention that unjust tariff legislation or economic grievances were issues dreamed up by Southern apologists after the war, read on:

“What do you propose, gentlemen of the free soil party? Do you propose to better the condition of the slave? Not at all. What then do you propose? You say you are opposed to the expansion of slavery. Is the slave to be benefited by it? Not at all. What then do you propose? It is not humanity that influences you in the position which you now occupy before the country. It is that you may have an opportunity of cheating us that you want to limit slave territory within circumscribed bounds. It is that you may have a majority in the Congress of the United States and convert the government into an engine of Northern aggrandizement. It is that your section may grow in power and prosperity upon treasures unjustly taken from the South, like the vampire bloated and gorged with the blood which it has secretly sucked from its victim. You desire to weaken the political power of the Southern states, - and why? Because you want, by an unjust system of legislation, to promote the industry of the New England States, at the expense of the people of the South and their industry.” [8]

Such statements were nothing new for Davis as he had been making them for years. In 1848 he called out his northern brethren for their hypocrisy with these words:

"Neither “love for the African” [witness the northern laws against him], nor revulsion from “property in persons” [“No, you imported Africans and sold them as chattels in the slave markets”] motivated the present day agitators,"…... “No sir….the mask is off, the purpose is avowed…It is a struggle for political power." [9]

And let’s not forget that Vice President Alexander Stephens, often cited for his “Cornerstone Speech,” had much more to say than simply “the Negro is not the equal of the white man,” (a widely held belief in white America, north and south at that time). He also noted the following regarding the feigned Yankee sympathy for the slave:

“Their philanthropy yields to their interests. Notwithstanding their professions of humanity, they are disinclined to give up the benefits they derive from slave labor…The idea of enforcing the laws, has but one object, and that is collection of the taxes, raised by slave labor to swell the fund necessary to meet their heavy appropriations. The spoils is what they are after – though they come from the labor of the slave.” [10]

And what about the old “spread of slavery” gambit, often used by northern politicians of the day and by “Myth of the Lost Cause Mythologists” today? ‘Oh! The South was trying to spread slavery all over this great free land of ours!’ Not quite. Once again we have the words of old Jeff Davis, words not to be found in many contemporary books on the subject:

“We equally deny [to the federal government] the right to establish as to abolish slavery…..Non interference with the subject of slavery is our main position, and is equally opposed to force for or against it”” [11]

Students of the period who subscribe to the South being a “Slave-ocracy” will take note that in 1860, in the New Mexico Territory, an area which encompassed the area presently occupied by the States of New Mexico and Arizona, that there were a grand total of 22 slaves, only 12 of whom were actually domiciled there. If the South intended to be a “Slave Power,” spreading its labor system across the entire continent, it was doing a pretty poor job of it. Commenting on this fact, an English publication in 1861 said, “When, therefore, so little pains are taken to propagate slavery outside the circle of the existing slave states, it cannot be that the extension of slavery is desired by the South on social or commercial grounds directly, and still less from any love for the thing itself for its own sake. But the value of New Mexico and Arizona politically is very great! In the Senate they would count as 4 votes with the South or with the North according as they ranked in the category of slave holding or Free soil states”. [12]

The English, abolitionists though they were, were especially good at sniffing out northern hypocrisy on the slavery issue. An 1862 editorial in an English journal commented, “They (the Northern white men) do not love the Negro as a fellow-man; they pity him as a victim of wrong. They will plead his cause; they will not tolerate his company.” [13]

And if these examples aren’t enough, (I have many more, enough to fill a book), there is the simple fact that while all of this was going on, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin was moving Northern audiences to tears – in segregated theaters!” [14]

So yes, slavery was indeed an issue in antebellum America, but not in the way that our “Myth of the Lost Cause Mythologists” say it was. Indeed, if such mythologists accuse the South of fighting for slavery, I would have to respond by asking what it was that the North was fighting for? Perhaps the Times of London hit the nail on the head in September 1862:

“If the Northerners on ascertaining the resolution of the South, had peaceably allowed the seceders to depart, the result might fairly have been quoted as illustrating the advantages of Democracy; but when Republicans put empire above liberty, and resorted to political oppression and war rather than suffer any abatement of national power, it was clear that nature at Washington was precisely the same as nature at St. Petersburg. There was not, in fact, a single argument advanced in defense of the war against the South which might not have been advanced with exactly the same force for the subjugation of Hungary or Poland. Democracy broke down, not when the Union ceased to be agreeable to all its constituent States, but when it was upheld, like any other Empire, by force of arms.” [15]

The “Civil War,” like almost every war ever fought, was about power and control. That’s your bottom line – and it isn’t pretty. And maybe, just maybe, when the “Myth of the Lost Cause Mythologists” claim that the history of the war has been sanitized, well, maybe they are right. Maybe it has been sanitized – it was sanitized because the real truth is pretty damned ugly to look at!

(to be continued)

[2] “Taking a Stand, Portraits from the Southern Secession Movement,” By Walter Brian Cisco, White Main Books, 1998, Pages 62-63

[3] “The Real Lincoln,” by Thomas DiLorenzo,” Prima Publishers, Roseville Ca., 2002 Page 99

** (“The Slave Representation Clause” – Each slave was counted as three fifths of a person for purposes of determining a state’s representation in the House of Representatives. Northern politicians felt this to be unfair, claiming that it gave the Southern states more congressional representatives than they deserved, and would have preferred that slaves not be counted at all. Southern politicians of course, would have liked to have seen each slave counted as a “full person.” The more “full persons” a state has, the more representatives it gets in the lower House.)

[4] “The Truths of History” by Mildred Rutherford, Southern Lion Books, 1998, p. 9

[5] “North of Slavery,” By Leon Litwack, University of Chicago Press, 1961, Page 269

[6] “North of Slavery,” By Leon Litwack, University of Chicago Press, 1961, Page 271

7] “Jefferson Davis – Unconquerable Heart”, By Felicity Allen, University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, copyright 1999, blacks p. 168

[8] “A Constitutional History of Secession,” By John Remington Graham, page 232, Pelican Publishing Company, copyright 2005 [8]

[9] “Jefferson Davis – Unconquerable Heart”, By Felicity Allen, Page 168, University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, copyright 1999 [9]

[10] “One Nation Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution” By Robert F. Hawes, Copyright 2006, Published by the Fultus Corporation, Page 228

[11] “Jefferson Davis – Unconquerable Heart”, By Felicity Allen, University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, copyright 1999, pp. 167-168

[12] “The Quarterly Review,” “Democracy on Trial,” London, July – October 1861, vol. 110, pp. 247 – 284

[13] “The North British Review,” “The American Republic: Resurrection through Dissolution
Edinburgh, February, 1862, (British Edition), pp. 233 – 272

[14] “North of Slavery,” By Leon Litwack, University of Chicago Press, 1961, Page 248

[15] “The Times of London,” September 13, 1862, pp. 7-8


Anonymous Truthseeker said...

Terrific analysis! What a magnificent researcher Vallante is!
His "Myth of the Myth" series brings out of the dark the lies in the past of the grand old Republican party. He exposes to the light of day the Republican ugliness so long and so carefully hidden.

Tell us more, Bill! Americans need, for a change, to learn TRUTHS.

Even Confederate descendants are still brainwashed by those 1848er Marxists and continue to believe what they were taught in government-controlled schools--that the South fought that war to keep noble northerners from freeing slaves--that slavery was the cause of the war! Confederate descendants are still, wrongly, apologizing for slavery while northerners are claiming to be the only white Americans who really liked black people.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Eddie said...

Race and the Rise of the Republican Party, 1848-1865 By James D. Bilotta - is a similar type book. Worth the read.

3:09 PM  

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