A Deceitful Narrative Regarding the U.S. Civil War
The first U.S. Civil War was fought by the North to preserve the Union and to abolish slavery.
President Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 as the war dragged on; the North won, and slavery was formally abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In the post-war rubble of the embittered South, a new systemic racism known as Jim Crow emerged. After Reconstruction which ended in 1876, Jim Crow held sway into the twentieth century when, thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of many Americans, Jim Crow was defeated, and with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, outlawed.
Unfortunately there are some who seek to deconstruct the Civil War by suggesting the North didn’t fight the war to abolish slavery. Their proof? Racism persisted after that war. Flying under the banners of CRT, cultural Marxism, and identity politics, a few well heeled sophists and a larger number of cultists are acting to undermine the accomplishments of abolitionists, soldiers, and civil rights leaders of our past by contending systemic racism defines America and persists.
These Jacobin-like absolutists hold sway in quite a few big cities, more than just a few states, and in the District of Columbia.
Is their larger purpose to deny any virtuous participation or contributions toward racial harmony in order to demoralize those who don’t know history and thereby destabilize the U.S.?
Slavery was abolished almost 158 years ago. Systemic racism certainly existed but it never reflected American ideals and was outlawed 60 years ago after millions worked and sacrificed to make the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts happen.
Slaveholders and their supporters betrayed American ideals right out of the gate. So did the Southern Democrats and others with Jim Crow. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right to assert that he was there at the Lincoln Memorial to cash a check, long denied, drawn on American ideals. Both Lincoln and Dr. King paid the ultimate price to deliver on that promise by first abolishing slavery, then outlawing the systemic racism that survived the war.
The first American Civil War was fought by the Confederacy, a.k.a., the South, to preserve the right to own slaves, to resist Union political power that was clearly trending toward abolition with the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, and to defend their land. Northerners fought to re-unite the Union, the Confederacy having by then seceded, and to further American principles by abolishing slavery. The shooting war started in 1861, but the real war began long before 1861.
The real war started with slavery and the movement to abolish slavery. The Abolition Movement in what became the U.S. began in 1688 with German and Dutch Quakers who published pamphlets urging an end to slavery.
It started as a religious movement then picked up steam in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries leading to a great deal of controversy and violence nationwide in the years immediately preceding the Civil War, notably in “Bleeding Kansas”, a pre-Civil War armed conflict that was all about admitting new states as “slave” or “free.”
Slavery wasn’t the only issue that divided the States, but it was first among several and easily the most consequential; slavery was the catalyst that inspired secession and that led to the most devastating war in U.S. history, so far that is.
By 1838, there were over 1,400 abolitionist organizations in the North and numbers continued to increase right up to Southern Secession in 1861. There were abolitionists in the South, too, but since they were secretive by necessity, there’s no way of knowing how many there were. But the Underground Railroad was testimony to their existence and a tribute to their courage.
I’ve seen it alleged that since the number of registered abolitionists represented a small proportion of the whole population in the North, that it follows slavery was not important to the main body of Northerners. I’ve also seen it written that because Lincoln said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so" in his first inaugural address, he wasn’t anti-slavery.
Such allegations fly in the face of facts.
First, trying to avoid war while hoping slavery would die out doesn't make Lincoln an apologist for slavery. At the time of his first inaugural address, Lincoln was still seeking to preserve the Union. The war changed all that. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had to wait until the fortunes of war made such a move credible. He issued the Proclamation on January 1, 1863, after the Union victory at Antietam in September the previous year. Five days after the war ended, a disaffected Southerner assassinated Lincoln on April 14, 1865.
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution followed in December of 1865; the Amendment formally abolished slavery.
Second, during the Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debates that preceded the war, Lincoln emphasized the moral iniquity of slavery and attacked popular sovereignty for the bloody results it had produced in Kansas.
Before those debates took place, one of the most consequential novels in American history had been published in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe, an abolitionist and author whose anti-slavery work “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” sold over 300,000 copies in its first year; her novel sparked a groundswell. In 1856, a Whig Party faction broke off from the main body to establish the Republican Party.
In 1860, that party championed Abraham Lincoln for president running on a platform to preserve the Union and to abolish slavery.
You can read that platform here. Lincoln won the presidency on that platform. The South, reading the clear handwriting on the wall, seceded.
The Confederacy lost the war. Slavery was formally abolished in December of 1865 with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. I’ve seen it asserted that the Thirteenth Amendment was a happy accident proven by the fact that racism persisted; there’s nothing accidental about a Constitutional Amendment. Without a doubt, though, such revisionist history dishonors the sacrifices many have made for hundreds of years to improve prospects for racial harmony.
Jim Crow, systemic (de jure) racism championed by Southern Democrats but not limited to them, started after Reconstruction and persisted until 1954 starting with Brown vs. The Board of Education, the formal beginning of the end of Jim Crow. Then came the larger Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights bills of 1964 and 1965 resulting in the abolition of Jim Crow.
De facto racism persists, but it’s nowhere near what it was sixty-five years ago. De jure or systemic, racism is over and has been since the mid-1960s. I lived through that period and saw it firsthand.
I was raised in Central Ohio where segregation was real, redlining was real, and facilities were separate and definitely not equal. Those in mixed marriages took their lives in their own hands. Racist jokes and terminology were crude and very common.
I haven’t seen any of that stuff for a very long time. I’ve lived nearly all of my adult life in the South, including the D.C. metro area and central Virginia. I live in Florida today and my neighborhood looks like an ad for DEI.
It's weaponizing a false narrative to assert that because racism persisted after the Civil War that it wasn’t fought by the North to end slavery. Before twisting history it behooves those whose animus obscures the facts to take stock of their own biases and resentments; they should remember the sacrifices of those who went before them and honor those sacrifices, since without them they would be considerably worse off. They should also consider what the sophists of cultural Marxism are really after. What is it, really?
If cultural Marxists really gave a damn about slavery wouldn’t we hear a great deal more from the cultural Marxists about slavery as it still exists in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and even in the Western Hemisphere?
“…. There are more people in slavery today than at any other time in history. More than 40 million people around the world were victims of modern slavery in 2016, including about 25 million in forced labor, and 15 million in forced marriages. If they all lived together in a single city, it would be one of the biggest cities in the world.”
Then what are they really after? Is it to preserve and stoke resentments from the past in order to keep racial preferences going and public money flowing? Is it to mask the motives of people who don’t like what they see in the mirror, won’t do anything constructive to change, and would rather project their weaknesses on to others in order to feel self-righteous without honest conviction or accomplishment? Is it to focus the political power realized from a chorus of self-haters to accomplish what would otherwise be impossible if their motives were subjected to rational analysis? Is their real objective to scuttle progress toward racial harmony as part of a program to foment a second violent civil war in the U.S.?
Enough. We can continue to confront and declaim the evils of racism, we can continue to improve on delivering the blessings of liberty, without distorting the past to stoke civil disorder.