6 Myths About the Confederacy, Debunked
Time to clear up some misinformation.
1) “It wasn’t about slavery.”
It was totally about slavery. How do we know that? Because the Confederate States were very clear about that particular fact in their Declarations of Secession.
Take Mississippi for example:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery— the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.
Texas went as far as declaring Slavery “the revealed will of the Almighty Creator”
That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.
2) “It was about States Rights!”
Specifically, it was about the Southern States objecting to the States rights of the non-slave states.
an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.
The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slaveholding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war.
3) “The Confederate Flag just means pride in Southern Heritage.”
Not according to its creator, William T. Thompson:
“As a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”
He went on to say:
“Such a flag would be a suitable emblem of our young confederacy, and sustained by the brave hearts and strong arms of the south, it would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations and be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN’S FLAG.”
Given the fact that German neo-nazis have taken to flying the Confederate flag because Nazi symbols are banned, it looks like Thompson was right.
4) “Most Southerners weren’t slave owners and they were fighting for what they believed in.”
Most Southerners in the CSA were conscripted while slave owners received an exemption from military service due to the “Twenty Negro Law.”
The Twenty Negro Law was the popular name given to a section of the Second Conscription Act passed by the Congress of the Confederate States of America on October 11, 1862, during the American Civil War. This particular portion of that statute specifically exempted from military service one white male for every twenty slaves on a Southern plantation, or for two or more plantations within five miles of each other that collectively had twenty or more slaves. A reaction to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued barely three weeks earlier, the law addressed Southern fears of a slave rebellion due to so many white males being absent with the Confederate Army. It would prove extremely unpopular with poorer white Southerners, many of whom did not own slaves at all, and would contribute to the oft-repeated adage of the war being “a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight.”
5) “It was about taxes/tariffs.”
Obviously this issue must have been important to the South because they didn’t mention it once. In fact, Southerners had written the Tariff act of 1857, lowering tariffs to their lowest point in 40 years.
6) “The flag isn’t racist and if it is racist it was created by Democrats.”
Always a fun one. Yes, the “democrats” of the 1860s did create the flag, and at that time, they identified as conservative white supremacists.
Then 150 years of history happened, including the Civil Rights movement, when Southern Conservatives took to flying the Confederate flag as a symbol of opposition to equality, and the Republican party began its Southern Strategy, best explained by GOP strategist, Lee Atwater:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Ni**er, ni**er, ni**er.” By 1968 you can’t say “ni**er”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites…. “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Ni**er, ni**er.”
“The realignment started as a backlash to the 1960s civil rights movement.” But recently published research suggests the channeling of racist attitudes into changed voting behaviors did not happen naturally, or automatically. Rather, it was due in part to the efforts of one organization: the Ku Klux Klan.
“Klan activism loosened entrenched party loyalties and directly contributed to the dealignment of white voters from the Democratic Party in the 1960s,” writes a research team led by sociologist Rory McVeigh of the University of Notre Dame. “This initial untethering process was critical to the more durable subsequent realignment with the Republican Party.”
It’s almost a given that Confederate apologists will come up with new spin to revise history, so expect this list to grow as time goes on.