Friday, October 15, 2010

Know Your Rights!

OK I's the title of a Clash song. But it just sort of popped into my head during this morning's run. It got me to thinking about rights - and then state rights - and then the secession crisis and the war. Really...doesn't everything lead me to think about the Civil War era? (the answer is yes, of course).

So as you probably know, a lot of neo-Confederate and Sons of Confederate Veteran types like to talk about these so-called rights a lot. Indeed - they claim that these rights were what the war was all about. Forget about all that crazy slavery stuff. Slavery as the cause of the war was, I suppose, just the invention of a bunch of wimpy tree hugging college professors. (you know - those who practice the dreaded "revisionist" history).

Well, if you are in line with our Confederate sympathizing friends, you are probably just confused. Now I'm not saying that state rights were not important, they were. But the usurpation of any state right "principle" did not cause the Civil War.

Guess what did. Now brace was slavery. Yep - you might want to write that down and refer to it if you are still confused. You see friends, the Republican party headed by Lincoln knew that they could not interfere with slavery where it already existed, but the territories were a different story. They wanted territories and any states formed from these territories to be reserved for free labor. That means - no slavery. Slave owners could not establish slavery or take their slaves there, no matter what.

Bummer for the slave holders. And they were pretty upset about it, too. They thought Lincoln and his crew were mad abolitionists (they weren't - but more on that later). Now the real problem was a little more complex - remember, all this carrying on about slavery had to do with places outside the South. But slave holders along with most of the rest of white southern society believed that if the Republicans could successfully go after slavery in one place, then it wouldn't be long before they went after it elsewhere. That means the glorious South - and the prospect of total abolition made white people very nervous.

Does secession make a little more sense now? Southern states seceded when the white citizenry perceived an eminent attack on the cornerstone of their society - slavery. That would mean the loss of enormous wealth and the upheaval of their social structure. Whether you believe it or not (you should believe it, because it's true), every white person in the South had a stake in the institution of slavery - and many supported secession to preserve it, no matter what stories the former Rebels came up with after they lost the war.

Now, if you ever run into one of these Johnnies who insist you have been brainwashed by a bunch of revisionists, just ask them to tell you exactly which rights the southern states seceded to protect. They can name any three. Be sure to give them a few minutes to think it over (I mean....come on, let's be fair).


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