Saturday 18 July 2015

Why I support the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War


In 1864, Confederate General Patrick Cleburne said that  if the South lost,
It means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy. That our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by all of the influences of History and Education to regard our gallant debt as traitors and our maimed veterans as fit subjects for derision.
Of course this is what has happened, especially since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

The Second Iraq War, however, I hope has cast new light on the U.S. Civil War. There are many parallels between Lincoln and Bush. Both launched unnecessary and from a legal point of view probably unjust wars that overturned the elites and social structures of the conquered peoples, with disastrous long-term consequences. The Civil War was a terrible tragedy and could have been avoided, by statesmanship on both sides, but Lincoln could have allowed the South to secede. One therefore has to blame him mostly for this unnecessary and unjust war.

Half a million people died because of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Lincoln is responsible for a war in which 800,000 died. It was followed by a settlement which led to a hundred years of racial disharmony in the South and a race problem that has still not been solved. I hope the evil consequences of overthrowing Saddam do not last a hundred years or more. I suspect they will.

I have always unreservedly supported the Southern States in the Civil War and find it hard to understand how any informed fair-minded person can do otherwise. This is not because  particularly like the South or think their slave society was pleasant but because they had the legal and moral right to leave the Union. Reader, if you doubt this, imagine that the Scottish parliament were to vote to secede from the UK and the UK were to fight a bloody war for four years to prevent them doing so.

Gladstone, the great British Liberal, called the Confederacy

'a nation rightly struggling to be free'.
Lancashire mill girls, unemployed because of the Northern blockade of the South and consequent Cotton Famine, supported the North, but though poor people are usually wiser than rich ones Gladstone was right and the mill girls wrong.

The war by the north was not fought to free the slaves but to preserve the Union. By the South it was not fought to preserve slavery, which they could have preserved while remaining in the USA, but to gain independence. Supporting the Confederacy does not mean supporting slavery.

Had Lincoln let the South secede In time the South would have emancipated the slaves, though not, we can be sure, given them the vote. (Lincoln only came round to thinking some blacks should have the vote towards the end of the war, in gratitude for their military service.) The South might have had something like apartheid, which in fact is what they did have - after huge numbers of deaths [during and after the war] and years of conflict and misery. 

Stalin is supposed to have said 
'One death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic.' 
I very much doubt he said it but it is true that every single death is a tragedy. From what I can find perhaps 388,000 slaves were brought direct from Africa to North America, of whom between ten and twenty percent (but it's a guess) perished horribly in the voyage. Thousands more died shortly after landing. The numbers of slaves killed in coming to America, the unspeakable conditions in which they came and the numbers who died on arrival seem to have been the worst aspects of American slavery, whether measured in terms of loss of life or in terms of horror and suffering. In terms of deaths, the Civil War which killed 600,000 was therefore the worst consequence of slavery. In addition to those 600,000 very many former slaves died of hunger after emancipation. 

What certainly perished in this dreadful war was the idea of the original USA with a weak central government, strong states, diffused power and social cohesion. I suppose Switzerland is the one country that lives up to some extent to republican ideals. The South did exactly what the American rebels had done in 1776 and Lincoln reacted to secession exactly as King George III did. The difference is that Lincoln, unlike George III, won. But by the time Lincoln did so the USA had changed in its essence. It was no longer a republic but an empire under the form of a republic. The same thing happened with Rome.

Lincoln was the USA's Cavour or Bismarck. I regret his success as I regret theirs. Lincoln's war cost far more lives than theirs and left scars that still haven't healed.

Since the recent massacre of blacks in a church in Charleston by a young white man there have, unfortunately, been many killings of blacks by blacks in the USA and even at least one massacre of blacks by blacks. These did not attract much attention. Racist murders of blacks by whites in the USA are, fortunately, very rare - but the massacre was important for what is symbolised, the memories it stirred, the deep wound it re-opened. I wonder when or whether blacks and whites will live together in amity in the USA and why they do not do so 150 years after Lincoln's famous victory.


  1. There's a tradition in the U.S. Of twisting the facts surrounding the Civil War to excuse racism and slavery

    You've fallen into it.

    A fascinating aspect of the development of America is the role of the Ulster Scots, who now dominate the South, but who were also not treated well by the English planter class who'd moved in from the Caribbean, and who were the prime movers in the slave trade.

    Here's a notion that you might not have considered - that the Revolutionary War was in effect prosecuted in part so that southern slaveowners could escape growing abolitionist sentiment in England.


  2. Because white people owned black people and could treat them as they liked.

    I's worth pointing out that some black people in the South owned slaves as well. And slavery was an established institution in black Africa.

  3. Jefferson Davis and co wanted to EXPAND slavery - so war was inevitable even if secession had been allowed.
    Paul Marks

  4. Gladstone had a weird notion of freedom, saying that the Confederacy was 'rightly struggling to be free', when both he and they ignored Southern slavery's lack of freedom. Why would Lancashire mill girls become unemployed, when the mills had stockpiled a billion bales of cotton before the Civil War (CW) started? Afterwards, they could count on India's 700% increase in cotton production.

    The Confederacy fired the first shot in the CW, not Lincoln nor the North. Lincoln wasn't about to let the Union desolve, any more than George III was about to loose thirteen American colonies. The difference is, Lincoln won and George lost.

    OF COURSE supporting the Confederacy means supporting slavery!! In the Confederacy, you can't historically have the one without the other, nor have it both ways. The Confederacy didn't have an exclusive on slavery and it didn't originate there. Great Britain (GB) had their share of slaves and wasn't about to complain about Confederate slavery, as it guaranteed cotton exports to GB. Slavery, anywhere, was wrong, is wrong and still ongoing.
    Your ancestors were Irish. My earliest ancestor was from Yorkshire, immigrated to Orange County, Colony of NY in 1720 and owned a slave and her child, who were freed when he died in 1755. I'm not an apologist for him, nor his sons, who fought in the American Revolution. I also have two great-grandfathers; one fought for the Union, the other for the Confederacy. That calls for a balanced view of both sides, which is lacking in some quarters and I don't propose re-fighting nor getting involved in "what if" games about the CW at this late date. You've an anti-US bias, which doesn't allow for a logical view of more than just one side of any question and have a tendency to yo-yo all over the globe to justify a blind-sided opinion. You're welcome to it.

  5. Had the South won the war people would be much harsher on Lincoln for waging it, but that's true of all wars.

  6. Of course Paul the British did fight a particularly bloody little war for much of the 20th Century over the leaving of the Union with atrocities committed on both sides, I do not think for one moment if the SNP ( or the Welsh come to that ) in the 1970's had gone all the way as their Irish cousins did, that the establishment would have acted any differently .

    1. When the Irish rebelled in 1798 the British crushed them - though I am not sure what support Wolfe Tone had and he was allied with our enemy France. Had the Irish tried to secede in 1860 Britain would certainly have prevented them by brute force, it's very true. That's how countries like Britain behaved - but the USA was supposed to be a republic not an empire.

      I think my point, though, is that nowadays a bloody war to stop half a country leaving the other half would not be considered acceptable by people who admire Lincoln unthinkingly.

      As for the IRA they were a minority within a minority.

  7. Interesting perspective!

    I am a little partial to the idea that although the Civil War had a catastrophic number of casualities and many unsavory consequences, it was necessary to preserve the Union. Although "what if's" in history are problematic, I question the viability of the Union if a Confederacy was allowed to prosper in the American South. Of course, this is the perspective of a white, middle-class woman educated in New England - I have a glaring bias in favor of a Union victory in the Civil War.

    That's not to say I think you are wrong. I think you have a lot of valid points. In fact, anyone that thinks there is a right or wrong in this case is inherently wrong - all we can work from is what happened, and how we can interpret it.

    I wrote about similar issues here:

    What do you think?


  8. I suspect that Prof. Downs's book may be leaning on the 1870 census, which did show a sharp decline in the black population of the south. Later studies by statisticians concluded that in fact the apparent decline was not due to excess deaths, but reflected the difficulty of census work in a country not yet recovered from the war, and where in parts a guerilla was being carried on against the freedmen and their northern patrons.

    1. Really? I can find nothing on the net to suggest that he has changed his mind. The book only came out in 2012.
      How bad tempered historians of the US Civil War are, as if still fighting the war.

    2. Later, that is, than the popular print of 1871 or so. The item I read was published probably around the beginning of the 20th Century.

  9. Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist. Slavery was sanctioned by the Constitution, which Lincoln swore to defend as president. So, it couldn't have been an immediate issue with him as he couldn't do anything about it.

    1. Lincoln didn’t believe blacks should have the same rights as whites. “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.”

    2. Lincoln thought colonization could resolve the issue of slavery. His first instinct would be “to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia.”

    3. Emancipation was a military policy. As much as he hated the institution of slavery, Lincoln didn’t see the Civil War as a struggle to free the nation’s 4 million slaves from bondage.

    4. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually free all of the slaves, as the only places it applied were places where the federal government had no control.

    The South perceived Lincoln as a threat to their way of life, including slavery. In that respect, slavery was the CAUSE for the South's secession and their first shot that started the war. Slavery wasn't an immediate issue with Lincoln. But, he gradually came around to the point of issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. I agree that Lincoln's FIRST priority was to preserve the Union.


  10. President Buchanan attempted to provision Fort Sumpter with the aid of a commercial vessel, which was fired upon and retired. Prior to this, South Carolina had made it clear to Buchanan that they would do so if an attempt was made to supply the fortress. Buchanan desisted from any further action. Eleven weeks into the Lincoln administration, President Lincoln ordered the navy in with motorized launches. This was like throwing a switch, inviting the subsequent attack. Fort Sumpter was shelled. Eleven more weeks passed and Lincoln's army tried to March on Richmond, in retaliation for the attack upon Fort Sumpter. Apparently, he needed the appearance of being the victim of aggression before he could move on the South.Unfortunately, Lincoln was over confident that the rebellion would then be easily crushed by his federal troops. One of our government's greatest miscalculations — like stabilizing the Middle East through democratization.

  11. Is this an anomaly? I don't believe it is. It's one of those sparks of real hope that the race divide may be easing out. Not all blacks swallow the current manufactured narrative. Sad though that he has been killed, probably due to his views: