Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The "Civil War" Was NOT About Slavery

By: Jonathan Harris

Perhaps the most oft-repeated inaccurate historical assumption about American history to have been foisted upon the public by so great a class of educators ranging from ignorant to prejudiced is the idea that the “‘Civil War’ was about slavery.” Packed into this conveniently vague statement are all the stereotypical assumptions concerning racism and slavery as “moral questions” painted upon a political canvas. To the victor goes the spoils, including historical interpretation—or in this case—down-right falsification. But a noble reason must be given to justify the taking of 750,000 lives.

The war itself was over one question—Does an American state have the right to leave the union (as the thirteen original colonies left Great Britain). This is why Southerners commonly say the war was over “State’s Rights.” Secession itself was over a number of conflicts that separated two very different worldviews—that of the orthodox Christian and traditionally conservative South, and the increasingly humanistic and progressively utopian North.

Spiritually, secession was over Biblical Authority. Christian denominations split over Northern insistence that a moral law outside of Scripture declared the relationship between master and slave to be sinful in and of itself. Southern Christians supported scriptural restrictions on the institution, but it was a bridge too far for them to accept the spiritual authority of a section of the country hypocritically benefitting from the profits of the transatlantic slave trade, while simultaneously beginning the adoption of Darwinism and higher criticism. Southerners could look for political ways to end the slave trade, something the Confederate constitution directly restricted, but they could not call sin what God had not called sin.

Socially, secession was over Northern aggression. In the years leading up to the war, Southerners became increasingly worried that radical elements in the North were hell-bent on vilifying and subsequently destroying the South. The Postal Crisis, the effect of anti-southern publications, the tolerance for and even championing of “slave insurrections” all served to fan the flames of sectional division. Southerners found themselves portrayed as the source of the national sins of backwardness, ignorance, and slavery. Why could the North not focus on its own flaws? The conditions for children and immigrants in Northern factories, the kind of prejudice that existed against free blacks, and the dehumanization that came with commercialism were out of step with the agrarian South. Yet the South did not seek to re-make New England in its image. The favor however was not returned and the South did not want to be New England.

Politically, secession was over the implications of Northern dominance in the general government. The South had long been in a political struggle with New Englanders dating back to the 3/5 compromise. The South favored Agrarianism, free trade, and Constitutional originalism. The North championed industrialism, social programs, and a generous reading of the constitution. Perhaps both sections could have lived in peace if it were not for one thing—The North wanted the South to pay for its “American System,” even if it meant subverting the Constitution. The North had threatened to secede many times before the war based on the fear that the West would alliance with the South and dominate the general government. Now it was the South’s turn to fear. In 1828 South Carolina narrowly dodged an invasion of federal troops over the states nullification of the “Tariff of Abominations,” which as one contemporary said, gave the North in effect 40 out of every 100 bales of Southern cotton. Between this event and the war, the North and South were in a death struggle to see if New England commercial interests would be allowed to dominate the country. It is at this point that the question of slavery enters the discussion—not as a moral question, but as an economic one. The question was not over the “expansion of slavery.” Outlawing slaves from entering the territories did nothing to effect the total number of slaves. What it did do however was keep influential Southerners from moving into the territory, thus ensuring that when it became a state, it would have been under Northern influence. What it also did was keep blacks from competing with white labor and becoming an undesirable presence in the community. The North cared about subjecting the South, not the plight of blacks. With the dreaded “Morrill Tariff” on the horizon and the election of a president who was more than happy to enforce it while restricting Southern influence in the West—The South knew it was doomed. The war and subsequent Northern victory only confirmed that its suspicions were correct. The “Civil War” was NOT about slavery.

For more info on slavery as a political question, check out Brion Mcclanahan’s podcast this week!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Tale of Two Flags

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Debating the Charleston "Confederate" Flag

By: Jonathan Harris

It's been five years since I've written anything on how to debate the "Civil War" from an anti-revisionistic perspective. But the battle, though we haven't asked for it, has come to us! Those who wish to honor their Confederate ancestors are finding themselves in the greatest cultural fight yet though, and I want to offer up some new pointers. Most SCV members that get on the media have a real problem because they assume a couple things.

1) That they're going to have enough time to explain complex political situations.
2) That the other side is interested in the truth.
3) That if they're nice enough, and not aggressive, the other side will be respectful.

I suggest dumping all those assumptions. It's a set up. You're the prop being used to blast the real target- your ancestors. The goal is to make you look as dumb as possible by surprising you, by talking over you, by asking you loaded questions, etc. Don't fall for it. Have your message already planned and take control of the conversation. Here's my recommendation. Choose something like this:

"The flag displayed on the SC statehouse grounds is strictly a battle flag meant to honor the noble men who defended SC against a ruthless invader."

No matter what the opposition says, make sure that's your purpose. Be clear. Be articulate. Make it about the noble actions of soldiers, because that is what it's about. Paint your opponent as being ungrateful or uncaring of those who paid the ultimate price. Do it. They will be offended, but if it's the truth it will only steer the discussion toward their actual anti-Southern bigotry, or ungratefulness, NOT your imagined "racism."

My second piece of advice is this. Your biggest offensive weapons ARE NOT the facts! They don't care about the facts, remember? Your biggest weapons are hard questions that expose the lack of understanding your opponent has. Have some questions ready. Here are my suggestions.

- Why did the CSA Constitution outlaw the slave trade?
- Why did free blacks fight for the Confederacy?
- Why did the vast majority of non-slaveholding Southerners fight?
- Why did the Slave Narratives recount relatively peaceful race relations in the South?
- Why did foreign observers and the US Census point to greater race-relations in the South than in the North?
- Why did Lincoln go to war if his intention according to the 1st Inaugural, was not to free slaves?
- Are you aware that the same arguments you're using against the "Confederate Flag" can just be easily used against the Stars and Stripes as well?
- Why shouldn't we ban the Stars and Stripes since it flew over slave ships?
- Do you know why the Southern Cross is the flag chosen at the SC statehouse grounds?
- Do you condone the atrocities waged by Sherman in SC? --- Atrocities the soldiers represented by the memorial were trying to prevent?
- Do black Confederate lives matter to you?
- Do you consider Dylann Roof to be an authority on the meaning behind the Southern Cross?

I could go on. . . but you get the point! Ask hard questions for the Leftists to answer. You can give them enough rope to hang themselves. Make sure you do it with a smile (not a smirk!) and a soft, but resolved countenance. These days emotions are way more important than facts. If your opponent is aggressive, let him know you deeply care for your ancestors and you take his or her offense personally but that you care for them too. These are my pointers.

I will say this- It may be that the flag is taken down from many many places in the South, but that is not because it's not worthy of us. It's because we're not worthy of the men who died defending it anymore. If that's the case we are under the judgement of God, and He will remember those who didn't cave to disrespect and dishonor. This all comes down to one thing. Are we grateful to our Creator for the men who so nobly displayed the definition of love on behalf of our people? Or do we say that we'd rather forget that such men ever lived and thus show our ingratitude. I pray there's still enough of us in the former category.