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Saturday, June 10, 2017

RE: Lee Buchanan’s Opinion piece in the 24th May 2017 Franklin Press
Letter to the Editor by George Crockett

File Photo of Memorial in Rankin Square

“The South went to war to preserve slavery,” Buchanan says. The South did not go to war. War was brought to the South.

The South fought for slavery, he says. Who was fighting against slavery that the South had to fight for it? Lincoln told them they could keep their slaves if they did not secede. They seceded anyway, so they must have had other reasons. The Republicans did not adopt abolition of slavery as a war goal until late 1862, but there had been fighting since early 1861, so there must have been other goals for which the North went to war.

Washington and Jefferson were “flawed men of their time” because they owned slaves, says Buchanan. Then every last one of us alive today is a flawed person of our time because we buy goods made in factories that emit carbon dioxide and drive cars that produce carbon dioxide.

Buchanan says the men who led Confederate armies in the war, were flawed men of their time. Until 1789, our constitution of government was the Articles of Confederation. It provided each member state of the union with a veto over legislation proposed in Congress so that laws had to be agreeable to every state. The constitution that replaced the Articles, provided no veto to any minority. The majority was always to rule, regardless of the needs of any minority. In the 1840s, John C. Calhoun suggested that the Constitution be amended so that a majority of each major party would have to agree in order for laws to be passed. He predicted that without such an amendment, separation of the Union would result. The Northern states had a majority in the House of Representatives almost from the start, but the South held a majority of the Senate until 1850. Northern businessmen and politicians wanted the government to support industry. With the help of some Southern senators, they got a protective tariff after the War of 1812. From then, Northern industry existed on government subsidy. Most of that subsidy resulted from the tariff which prevented Americans from buying foreign goods except at very high prices, so that Northern businessmen could charge very high prices for their goods. Also, the majority of the tariffs collected were spent in the North. In the 1830s, South Carolina risked war with its Nullification Act to escape the oppression of the protective tariff. (In March 1862, after the Southern Congressmen had gone home, the Republican Congress would pass a protective tariff that was higher than any the North had yet obtained.) The Southern Representatives and Senators usually voted against government support for industry. Northern businessmen and politicians began to scheme to reduce the political power of the agricultural South. In the 1820s, they got slavery barred from certain territories. In the 1840s, they tried unsuccessfully to bar it from more territories. Also in the 1840s, they tried unsuccessfully to limit the size of farm that could be purchased in the territories. (In 1862, after Southern states had withdrawn from the federal government, the Republican Congress would pass the Homestead Act which limited the size of farms carved out of federal territory.) In 1850, California was required, for admission to the Union, to allow the federal government to retain all government lands in the state, so that the business interests with their new majority in both chambers of Congress, could control the size of farms carved out of government lands. In 1860, the industrial interests, which already controlled both chambers of Congress, obtained control of the Presidency also. Now their long campaign to make the agricultural interests in the U.S. subservient to the industrial interests, would be certain of success. Now a majority of Southerners joined those fire-eaters who had long believed secession was the only way for survival. Such men are not flawed. Such men are patriots. That most of rural America, north and south, agreed with them is suggested by examining a county by county map of the Presidential election of 1860–rural counties voted Democratic or Constitutional Unionist, urban counties elected Lincoln.

“Clinging to the evil economic engine of slavery was the shameful motivation behind Southern aristocracy going to war,” Buchanan believes. In every Southern convention to consider secession that I know anything about (and I don’t know everything), the majority of the aristocratic delegates present, voted against secession. However, the Southern states were democracies, not aristocracies, so the aristocrats were out-voted by the delegates from the middle class and commonality. When war came, the aristocrats supported the Confederacy. By then it was their country, like it or not, and their country was being invaded. The Southern aristocracy did not go to war. War was brought to them. Clinging to the evil economic engine of government subsidies was the shameful motivation behind Northern bourgeois going to war. If the South seceded, the North would no longer have its captive market for its goods or other peoples’ money for improvements to its transportation systems, thus would occur the Mother of all Great Depressions.

“The South’s cause was grotesquely wrong.” There is never one cause for warfare and never is one side all right or all wrong, and I maintain that the South was more right than wrong and more right than the North. That is my opinion, which at least is an educated opinion.

--George Crockett


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