Letter to the Editor: Cause of Civil War more complicated than some think


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Take down the Confederate monument? Why? It is wrong for one human being to be owned by another. It is also wrong to teach students history that is incorrect. Proving that the South was fighting only to keep slaves, as Andre Knight and Reuben Blackwell have suggested, is a hard case to make. At no time prior to the War Between the States was the South ever ordered to release their slaves. After all, slavery was nationwide. 

More importantly, remember that there was precious little sympathy for black African slaves. The Quakers looked upon them as equally created by God, but that was about it. Americans in the 19th century didn't care for foreigners period. Many so-called abolitionists wanted the slaves freed, but once they were free they wanted them to just go away. Lincoln's own state of Illinois amended its constitution to keep free blacks out. States that opposed being slave states felt that it was taking jobs that whites could be paid for. The North only freed its slaves because of mechanization. Some Northern slave owners sold their slaves to Southern slave owners. So to try to suggest that the North had a moral opposition to slavery is pure fantasy. It was a different time and culture.

By the start of the war slavery was already on its way out. The South only kept them because it had remained agricultural. People bought slaves to help them in the fields where, usually, they toiled side by side. Black and white.

Mr. Knight and Mr. Blackwell should view the movies “Glory” and “Gangs of New York.” In “Glory,” which is about the first black Union regiment, one will see that white Union soldiers resented having blacks among their ranks. “Gangs of New York” presents a re-creation of the New York draft riots. Lincoln imposed a draft and New York, which hated him, revolted. Insisting that they were being forced to go to war for sake of slaves, the citizens chased down and lynched innocent blacks.

The cause of the war is complicated. One of the issues that helped light the fuse was that the Federal government imposed import taxes to force the South to buy goods from the North instead of importing them from Europe. The North received 80 percent of the revenue while the South paid 80 percent of the taxes. Citing cultural differences, the South wanted an amicable split from the union. Lincoln, in an effort to keep the tax money rolling in, invaded the South. There had been two hundred years of slavery in New England. The two hubs of the slave trade were Boston and Newport, Rhode Island. Most Americans, even the slave owners, hated the slave trade. Lincoln's in-laws, the Todds, owned slaves. U.S. Grant's in-laws owned slaves. (Grant didn't free them until 1867. Two years after the war was over!) Lincoln stated that he believed that whites were superior to blacks. He told Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune that his aim was to "preserve the union" not free slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in states that weren't loyal to the Union. Plus the proclamation was drafted in 1863, not prior to the war. There were people, including Lincoln, who wanted to ship the slaves back to Africa or send them to South America. Remember also that Sherman, who hated abolitionists, tormented Southern civilians and then went out west and murdered Indians. I could go on and on.

To make the claim that the Confederacy fought only to keep slaves is pure myth. A Confederate memorial or statue, just like a Union one, is American history. Not racism. Not a symbol of slavery. Not a symbol of oppression. Students should know the history of our nation — the bad as well as the good. What the city is proposing is the very same thing the Soviet Union/Russia has been doing for generations. Rewriting history and flushing it down what Orwell called the "memory hole."


Ivan Price

Rocky Mount