Refighting The Civil War - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Refighting The Civil War

Below, Jim linked to this Daniel Larison post defending his sympathy for the Confederacy, and said that those who share such paleo-ish views shouldn’t be driven out of “polite society.”

No doubt, the historical narrative portraying Abraham Lincoln as this Great Emancipator who fought to free the slaves from the South, which was fighting purely to promote slavery, is flawed. The legacy of Lincoln’s expansion of executive power and the role of the central government, combined with his disregard for civil liberties, deserves criticism. And yes, Southerners weren’t just fighting to advance slavery, but also to defend their sovereignty and constitutional rights.

With that said, I think Larison goes overboard in the opposite direction, and provides an overly-romanticized view of the South. While Southerners were fighting for sovereignty, the main impetus for their drive for sovereignty was their desire to preserve the institution of slavery. Had the inciting issue been Lincoln wanting to impose a federal income tax and the Southern states choosing to secede rather than pay it, I would share Larison’s sympathy for the Confederacy. But the reality is that the Southern states ultimately seceded over the issue of slavery, and had they gotten their way, slavery would have persisted longer. Indeed, at first, the dispute wasn’t even about abolition of slavery in the Southern states, but over the expansion of slavery into new territories. So the Southern states didn’t merely want to preserve their own sovereign rights to own slaves, but they wanted slavery to be allowed to spread into new states.

Larison quotes Sen. Jim Webb approvingly, who said, “In 1860 fewer than five percent of the people in the South owned slaves, and fewer than twenty percent were involved with slavery in any capacity.” And Larison himself adds that, “I remain convinced that the vast majority of Confederate soldiers were fighting for constitutional liberty, including one of my own ancestors, and I think that was, is, something worth defending.”

However, even if a vast majority of Southerners weren’t involved with slavery, that majority certainly did not lift a finger to peacefully end the human tragedy occurring within its own lands. If most Southerners were truly as concerned with constitutional liberty as Larison believes, then they should not have stood by idly and allowed the institution of slavery to exist– an institution that was quite indisputably the greatest affront to liberty in the history of the United States and a tradition that undermined the founding principles of our nation.

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