by Gene Royer - a voice of reason in a babbling society. March 23rd, 2001
In a previous article here in the Tocquevillain, Ken Masugi wrote:
"Rush finally threw up his hands in (presumably mock) exasperation and declared that he no longer knew what the Civil War was about: Tariffs? States' rights? Anything but the slavery he had always thought was the true cause."
Myself being a long-time dittohead and supporter of Rush, I do not often disagree with his conservative take. But when I do, I do. This is one of them-as well as a disagreement with Mr. Masugi's take on the event which we call the Civil War:
No one is really saying that the Civil war was not about slavery because it was. What we are saying is that the war was not about *only* slavery as most textbooks aver. In fact, it was barely about slavery.
Tariffs and other States' rights issues are as boring to read as Algore's bio and as difficult to understand as the U.S. tax code. But *Slavery*-ahh, now there's an issue that attracts immediate attention, and one to which everyone can relate. It makes much better copy on an editor's desk.
So, when it comes time to assign a reason for the Civil War, the shortest distance between the saga and the average person's intelligence is a straight line to slavery. The outcome is that everyone is taught the historical revision version that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves. No so. the slaves were freed as an outcome of the North's victory, but it was not the driving force for the war's onset.
Consider this: Owning slaves was expensive. A master had to pay big bucks to buy them and then provide their upkeep: shelter and food. Only a select group of people in the South and North could afford the luxury of slaves, and those were the large plantation owners or those involved in manufacturing or mercantilism. In short, the wealthy.
Most of the people in the North and South were not wealthy, so they did not own slaves. I mean, it's not as if you walked down the street, and everyone on the block had a slave or two. They were concentrated in the hands of only a comparatively few citizens, and some folks had never really seen a Negro up close. After all, slaves did not get the day off to go into town on Saturday night and tie one on. No, they were confined to the property of the slave master who owned them.
Does it seem rational to believe that the entire South would be willing to go to war, send its sons to war and/or sacrifice for the needs of an army just so a few wealthy people could hold on to their slaves? Does it seem rational that the entire North-which, we are erroneously taught did not own slaves-would go to war, send its sons to war and/or sacrifice for the needs of an army just so Lincoln could be a big man and free the slaves? Give our intelligence a major break here, folks.
The rebellious secession was due to many things more important to the citizens of the South than the prospective loss of slaves. True, slaves were a part of the loss the south would later sustain, but the causes of the war were much more far-reaching.
As to whether Lincoln's humanitarianism led him to demand the end of slavery is beside the point because he did it-for whatever reason. But if we stop and think about it, it was a very inhumane and imprudent thing to do. Wasn't it?
Slaves had no homes of their own, no skills, no education, no way of providing a sound future for themselves or their progeny. It was most irresponsible for the Federal Government to free them in one fell swoop-and Negroes are still feeling the result of this ill-thought-out act. It is akin to releasing an animal into the wild, which never had the benefit of learning necessary hunting and survival skills. The animal soon perishes-falling victim to starvation, the elements and other, more-skilled predators.
Slavery was an ugly practice. Freeing the slaves-the way it was done-was no prettier. If people did that today to an animal, the wacko animal rights group would be all over them like hair on a hippy.
Admittedly, there is a firestorm nowadays concerning Lincoln and his agenda. Who knows what was really in the man's heart? Personally, I doubt if sufficient humanitarian benevolence dwelt therein to support his taking this mid-continent into the bloodiest war of all America's history. There was much, much more in the balance.