Still fighting against own cause; The Civil war and today
The Neo Confederates have always been a concern of mine for several reasons; one being that my father was from the south and came from a southern Quaker family who fought for the Union. My great grandfather ran away from home at 13 to join the union against his father’s wishes even though his father joined the union also. Quakers were pacifists and you could be ousted from the church temporarily or permanently for fighting. His father knew he himself could be ousted and did not want his son to suffer his fate. The following article is very good insight into what we learned through the family about the civil war and how the wealthy slave owners were able to get so many poor non slave owners to fight on their side and against their own best interests.
Mississippi seceded from the Union 150 years ago this week (Jan. 9). But the intermittent, sometimes bitter, argument over whether the Civil War was “about slavery” again is the focus of public debate.
Actually, both sides are right. And deciphering this paradox can go a long way toward explaining a perplexing aspect of our current political struggles.
Many have been puzzling over why so many middle-class Americans were persuaded to demonstrate and vote against their own interests — supporting low taxes for the very rich.
Here in Mississippi, we have a lot of experience with that sort of thing.
On one side of the debate over whether the South seceded and fought because of slavery is irrefutable evidence. “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery,” the Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union begins, “the greatest material interest of the world.”
The sentiment in the Union, the declaration complains, “denies the right of property in slaves.”
On the other side are those Mississippians who point out that their great-to-x-power granddaddy, who fought valiantly for the Rebel cause, owned no slaves — so clearly, he was not fighting for slavery.
Obviously, Mississippi and the other Southern states seceded and fought the Civil War to protect their “peculiar institution” — as they plainly stated in their documents of secession. When South Carolina seceded, three weeks before Mississippi, its declaration focused on the North’s attacks on slavery and the “election of a man to the high office of president of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.”
The Confederate Constitution contained a provision that no law denying “the right of property in negro [sic] slaves” could ever be passed.
Yet it should be almost equally obvious that the vast majority of those who fought on the Confederate side but owned no slaves were not fighting to defend slavery. Rather, they were duped by the planter aristocracy into fighting to protect the slave “property” of the rich.
Slaveholders riled the region’s less affluent whites by talk of a struggle to maintain their freedom from the federal government that, the planters told them, wanted to take away their liberty.
The slaveholders were able to persuade other white Southerners to fight, kill and die for a cause that was, in fact, against their own interests. Slavery worked against whites who owned no slaves. They had to compete with those who had this cheap source of labor. Protecting slavery also made the South hostile to other reforms, including industrialization, that could have benefited less affluent whites.
This story line should sound familiar to us now.