Questions About The CSA
On Mon, Oct 4, 2010, rodbren (email@example.com) wrote:
Dear Mr. Edgerton,
I don't send this as a liberal or a Yankee or to be unfriendly by any means, but I'm curious how you and the few black folks who are seen with the Confederate flag reconcile the slavery aspect of the Confederacy.
For several years I was sympathetic toward the Confederacy, but last year I ran across something I hadn't seen before, which was the official reasons for secession by most of the Southern states. I'm afraid that most of those states' primary reason appeared to be the preservation of slavery. That was disappointing. I knew that slavery was going on in the South quite a bit, but I thought that the main reason was high tariffs/taxes imposed by the US government to benefit the North. Even the Constitution of the CSA mentions slavery. I know that almost all folks who fly a Confederate flag today have absolutely no desire to reinstate slavery, and rightly so, and I know that most Confederate soldiers during the "Civil War" had no slaves and weren't fighting for slavery. What seems to be true is that the core of the Confederacy, its government made up of rich politicians and endorsed by rich plantation owners, was indeed very much wanting to preserve slavery, and I can't seem to get past that now! The Bible doesn't condemn slavery, and in fact there is mention of folks in the Old Testament having slaves, but I've read that those "slaves" weren't actually in bondage for life, but were paying off debt or some such, if I'm not mistaken.
Could you shed some light on the subject? I'm not referring to Confederate soldiers from the honorable Robert E. Lee on down to the hardship-enduring barefoot private, but was the very essence of the Confederate government evil since it wanted to perpetuate slavery? I've read that slavery was probably on its way out in the South, but I wonder if it really would've eventually been made unconstitutional under the Confederate government. I also acknowledge that slavery was legal in the US all those years before they finally made it unconstitutional after the "Civil War."
I'd really like to get some things settled in my mind in reference to the Confederacy. I've read one side and the other and it's a mite frustrating not knowing who was most right and who was most wrong.
Thank you for any help on the subject.
From: HK Edgerton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri, Oct 8, 2010
Subject: Re: Questions about the CSA
To: rodbren (email@example.com)
I shall answer your question to the best of my ability on Monday, October 11, 2010.
From: Tom Hiter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri, Oct 8, 2010
Subject: Re: Questions about the CSA
To: HK Edgerton (email@example.com)
As you pepare your answer to the original e-mail, I offer some thoughts of my own. You may use them or not, as you see fit.
First, let us deal with the most fundamental issue, here. The "cause" of the Confederate soldier was not necessarily the "cause" of the Confederate government. Fewer than 10 percent of southerners owned slaves. The number was far lower than that among Confederate soldiers, most of whom were too young to own slaves, besides being too poor.
Now: were there political arguments to secede so that slavery could be protected? Sure. The slavery question was first of all a property question, as dictated by the Supreme Court (in the Dred Scott decision, for example), but the Confederate Battle Flag, the flag of the Confederate soldier, and the flag of the SCV, is only tangentially related to slavery, at all. There's no particular evidence that the Confederate army had ANY position on slavery. Still, it's a legitimate question, whether the Confederate government was pro-slavery. The answer is "yes", but so was the U.S. government! Slavery existed in the United States territories and several states until abolished by the 13th amendment. Many U.S. Army officers owned slaves all during the war. Slaves were used to build the dome of the U.S. capitol in 1863.
Most Confederates fought because their homes had been invaded by yankee armies. They fought to protect their homes and families that were were seriously threatened. Seven states composed the Confederacy before Lincoln declared war on the south. Six others, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri, and Arkansas, plus the territories of Oklahoma (four Indian nations, organized as two states) and New Mexico only left the Union after Lincoln's call for volunteers. There's just no logical way to pretend that these left over "slavery".
Finally, as to the issue of slavery, itself. It may authentically be viewed as a moral, economic, or political issue. The moral dimension has come to dominate the debate of late, but the economic and political dimensions were far more important in the middle of the 19th century. The literature makes this clear. Even on moral grounds, while the great factory-plantations of Mississipi, Arkansas, and Louisiana were, by most reasonable standards truly deplorable, most slaves were not on these huge absentee-owned plantations. Most were in family groups living and working on small farms with the white families who "owned" them. Just as they provided labor to the white "masters", the white families provided food, shelter, and often education and opportunities to them. The nature of the slavery situation, off the largest plantations, was very complicated and very difficult to describe. It is of some note that most such slaves chose to take the "master"'s surname, when they left the plantation (or home, which may have been more current). Anyhow, the slavery arguments that contributed to seccession were rarely moral. They were about compensation for lost property and adjustment of political representation based on population. So they should be viewed, today.