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Today is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of America's Civil Wars. I've seen a theme in the discussions on several leftist blogs, news sites, etc.: those silly southerners, they *still* think the CW wasn't over slavery.

1) No war ever has just one cause. No individual is ever just motivated by one point, for that matter. Human psychology is complicated.

2) In any era, 55% is landslide public support. Even assuming a good democracy, even assuming the assumption that the South was fighting to free the slaves, this does not mean every or even the vast majority of Southerners were pro-slavery.

3) Saying the north was anti-slavery and implying the south was pro-slavery is misleading. I grew up believing (and still believe, to an extent) that the war wasn't over slavery. Or rather, it wasn't simply north = slavery good / south = slavery bad. For many I suspect the question wasn't is slavery good, but rather who should be deciding that question. And while I of course find slavery highly offensive, I also find it offensive that outsiders to the society should be imposing the decision on a culture.

Small comfort to the enslaved, of course. But I do wonder how many Southerners in the 1860s just framed the question differently. It's kind of like with the labels pro-choice and pro-life. Is anyone actually against choice or life?


1 A.M. blog posts aren't always the most thoughtful. But really, I am frustrated by the exposure and am really and truly glad that the anniversary has passed... :-S

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
vulgarweed
Apr. 14th, 2011 06:25 am (UTC)
IMO, as a Southerner?


The war was about slavery. But, like most wars, it was a case where wealthy powerful old men sent poor unconnected young men to die to protect the wealthy men's economic interests. And that was true on both sides.

I'm an Appalachian Southerner, from SW Virginia, just about a half-hour drive from the WV border. WV split off from VA in the first place to join the Union whereas VA went Confederate; but where I'm from, the local people have a hell of a lot more in common, culturally, historically, and familiarly, with West Virginians than they do with other Virginians in Richmond (the Confederate capital, a long way off) or the Chesapeake or the DC suburbs. Most of the people I knew as a kid had ancestors on both sides, as did I.

It was about slavery, and it was about dehumanizing black people (which also was a given in the North; see the NYC draft riots). In the same sense that the wars we're in now are about both oil and a Christian-supremacist dehumanization of Muslims.

Was it a just war? Maybe. I really don't know. We would have gotten rid of slavery eventually. The last country in the Americas to do so was Brazil, in 1888, and there was no war involved. Was it worth it to make it happen a few decades earlier? Who knows? That's not why Lincoln fought, we know that. I just know that in the US Civil War, a shitload of people died who had no material investment either way--boys from families too poor to ever have owned slaves, fresh-off-the-boat immigrants who never knew what was going on at all, and for that matter, slaves. So I see it as a matter of great tragedy all around. It's like in WWI when thousands of men died just to move the "front line" a quarter mile.
celandineb
Apr. 14th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)
Is anyone actually against choice or life?

Yes, I do think there are people who are against choice... not against it for themselves, usually, but for others.

Long long ago I took a whole history course on the antebellum South, but I have not really studied the Civil War itself enough to have an opinion about it, other than that it was at least partly about slavery, and anyone who thinks the slavery issue was unimportant is as wrong as the people who claim the Holocaust didn't happen.
wacegram
Apr. 16th, 2011 02:06 am (UTC)
This blog is bookmarked! I really love the stuff you have put here.

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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