Have you seen PragerU’s video featuring Col. Ty Seidule? If not, you should watch it before you read this.
Now, Col. Seidule is a history professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. That’s impressive and let me start by saying that I have a lot of respect for him. Clearly, he knows his stuff. However, that video was dropped in my lap as a counter to some of the things that I have been saying on the topic as of late. Basically, this video was an attempt to say “See, you’re wrong, David.” Ironically, not many are taking the time to research the history for themselves, which is why I’m writing about this today. Too many will take the five minute video and just run with it. This is especially true since the video says that he “settles the debate once and for all.” Which is fine I guess, but I think you’ll miss a few things if you do. No doubt, his credentials and position are impressive and no doubt he brings some impressive information to the table. So, maybe I should admit that I was wrong and just move on, right? Except that…
Col Seidule makes it seem that the Civil War was all about slavery and I think this is fundamentally flawed, a little back-handed and I believe I can effectively make the case to demonstrate why. This isn’t to say that he’s necessarily wrong, it’s to suggest that he’s not necessarily right and I think we all miss a VERY IMPORTANT point when we over-simplify. Let me state now that I understand the point of the video is to provide as much information in a very short video. However, I just think it misses some key points that I will share with you. First, define irony that a military man talks about the Civil War but doesn’t fully explain that the Emancipation Proclamation freed ONLY CERTAIN SLAVES that served a military purpose (as stated by Lincoln himself) and that the document DID NOT free slaves in the borders states that were double-dipping on the slave tray; all while trying to represent that document as some noble document of freedom. That’s simply insane or a deliberate attempt at indoctrination as far as I’m concerned.
Furthermore, I think it’s a little more than disingenuous to make this seem like the North was “so against slavery” when between the Census of 1840 and 1860, there was a net increase in slaves there. And let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. States like Delaware were playing both sides of the issue. Slave-owners freed their slaves alright… by placing their slaves into indentured servitude that kept them working through the most productive years of their life. I’m sure some think that was noble but I don’t. In some states, slaves were simply not counted after about 1840, but as history professor Joanne Melish (whose emphasis is in slavery and emancipation and nineteenth-century African American history) suggests in her work, that even when no slaves were reported some probably still existed.
Simply think about timelines for a moment. The Civil War ended in May of 1865. The 13th Amendment was ratified in February of that same year. You have states like New Jersey that celebrated their “emancipation” as far back as 1846, but what few will say out-loud these days is that they still had functional slavery until the 13th Amendment came to fruition almost two decades later.
True, many states in the North had “gradual policies” in regard to freeing their slaves. I concede to that point. So let’s get real about that too. Historian Kathleen Thompson, who specializes in Revolutionary and Civil War time periods, says “Under these gradual policies not much changed for slaves; many slaves remained in bondage, freedom was delayed for children, and much of the status quo remained in society.” So perhaps if we want to be real, we should simply stop talking about the nobility of the North because it wasn’t there. Any such nobility came from individual abolitionists with a mission and I’m sorry to say that Lincoln wasn’t one of them.
I would also like to address the secession documents of the South. Yes, slavery was an issue of contention however, it had been an issue in various forms since the late 1700’s when guys like Jefferson started drafting legislation to curb and/or end it. That part had not changed and was not new. Regardless, to discount or ignore the national tariffs that protected Northern manufacturers while increasing prices substantially for Southerns is simply wrong. That part was actually quite HUGE! For example, the Tariff of 1828 was dubbed the “Tariff of Abominations“. Think about that. In fact, the legislature of South Carolina declared the tariff acts of 1828 AND 1832 “unauthorized by the constitution of the United States” and voted them null, void and non-binding on the state. I want you to note the ON-GOING problem here and the aggressive tone surrounding it because it was clearly just a little bit bigger than a non-issue. This is just one example. In fact, let me further that point. In response, President Andrew Jackson (the father of the Democrat Party) responded with a Proclamation of Force, declaring, “I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one state, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.” The important part here is that you understand that Congress authorized Jackson to use military force if necessary to enforce the law. CLEARLY the tariff issue was a little bit bigger than what that video is leading everyone to believe and at the very least, it’s worth some consideration. That’s a lot of centralized government during that time and it fully demonstrates a building state’s issue outside of slavery.
Was the Civil War really about ending slavery? Well we know that in 1860, a man ran for president on a message of containing slavery to where it currently existed – not abolition. That’s right! Lincoln wasn’t an abolitionist and as History.com points out, he said “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,” he began, going on to say that he opposed blacks having the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold office and to intermarry with whites. We also know that shortly after Lincoln was elected, South Carolina seceded. We know the war started in April of 1861 and we know that emancipation papers and the 13th Amendment were written years later. This simply does not add up to the narrative being sold. Think about the narrative for a second. They want you to believe that “The North (Lincoln) freed the slaves, the South didn’t like it, the South tried to secede and a war broke out.” But clearly that is not what happened and all anyone has to do to prove this to themselves is to write out a timeline.
So let’s talk about what really started the war. Did you know that the Civil War officially began with the Battle of Fort Sumter? Fort Sumter was a UNION FORT in the harbor of Charleston, SOUTH CAROLINA; the state that just seceded – after expressing all sorts of tariff issues for years (among other things). South Carolina finally had enough when the incoming President promised to impose his will on the states. What a lot of people ignore is that South Carolina already had slaves and wasn’t really in threat of losing them. So what were they really mad about? South Carolina just didn’t like the idea of an ever-expanding government being able to tell the states what they could or could not do. Sure… the catalyst was slavery but it wasn’t the point. It was the straw on the camel’s back. The big overbearing government was a point. The state’s right to do what they wanted was a point. Suddenly, there’s a problem. U.S. Army troops inside the fort refused to leave, which means they were essentially trespassing. As a result, the Confederate forces opened fire on them with cannons. The war may not have even happened had the federal government allowed South Carolina the opportunity to cool off or if those troops simply got off South Carolina’s property… where they clearly were not welcome. It’s a simple cause and effect scenario.
So the war began and for the first two years of the Civil War, it looked as if the South had won. The South was really mopping up the Union Forces. Then someone got an idea. Out of nowhere, Lincoln used his authority to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863; a couple years after that whole war started and after everyone believed the South was winning. Think about that! It was nothing more than a strategic move. The problem I have is that Lincoln ran for President on keeping slavery where it was (again, not abolition) and then stated the military necessity of freeing the slaves IN CERTAIN AREAS when he wrote “This is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force which may be measured …Keep [that force] and you can save the Union. Throw it away, and the Union goes with it.” To be clear, this proclamation didn’t apply to states like Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri… which if you remember from earlier, states like Delaware were skirting the issue anyway.
The point is that to suggest that the Civil War was only about slavery is simply an out of control contortion or oversimplification. Yes, their secession documents all discussed slavery but they stated quite a few other things as well… why are any of those other things ignored? Because let’s face it, the South could have simply done what the North did… hide it, call it something else, pretend it wasn’t happening and do it anyway. But more than that… one has to really wonder what the South was fighting for when even their great General Lee wrote in an 1856 letter to his wife (five years before the war even began), that slavery is “a moral & political evil” or that he freed his own slaves a number of years before the war broke out. Or how about how his wife was helping slaves become educated and helping to free them? Does that really sound like someone trying to fight for slavery? Lee resigned from the U.S. Army, explaining in a letter to his sister that “With all my devotion to the union and the feelings of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.” That says a lot and it points to something much different that we are being sold. But what was it?
The timeline of events, the economic cries from the south, the threats of war from North and the timeline of supposed compassion from the North all paint a much different picture for me. Maybe I’m crazy but I think blaming slavery simplifies it way too much… and honestly, over simplifying is kind of what got us here in the first place. And to be blunt; if what I have provided thus far does not paint a good enough picture for you, then perhaps the following little fact will solidify the point for you. On July 25th, 1861, Congress passed the Crittenden Johnson Resolution which emphatically stated that the war was being waged for the reunion of the states and that it would not to interfere with the institutions of the South, (like slavery). Yes… I understand the want to simplify, but it does us little good when the factual information tells us different.
BOTH sides of this tragic war and the events leading up to it were terrible. There is no doubt about that. Yes, there were some who had a hard time accepting the change that was already underway in regard to technology and changing sentiment on slavery and/or “indentured servitude”. That is not in dispute and there is plenty more that we could discuss here on numerous different fronts. Also not in dispute is the reliance some states had on slavery. There is just so much more to it than slavery alone though. That’s why most Civil War books are rather large. The point is that the South is not the only one we should be pointing a finger at and there was a lot more to it than just slavery. To suggest otherwise is simply asinine, misleading or at the very least… disingenuous. The question I continue to ask myself is why must we continue to divide ourselves over this? What is this push to blame and smear a particular race? Let me remind everyone of the thousands of black slaver owners or the red slave owners. Let me remind everyone about the red, black and white slaves and “indentured servants” that never saw freedom. EVERYONE WAS AFFECTED ON ALL SIDES! No color or cardinal direction was immune. No race can cast that first stone. Many common folks wanted to be done with that institution… that was thrust upon the colonies by the BRITISH! Many of the Founders wanted to be done with it before this nation even began and worked hard to end that institution… that touched every major culture on earth, spanning thousands of years. With that being said, let me discuss a few facts that few want to pay attention to. To begin with, only a very small percentage of whites even owned slaves (roughly 1.4% of white American and that was at the HEIGHT of slavery). So the idea that white people in general are responsible or can be blamed is beyond ignorant. Furthermore, less than 6% of all black slaves actually came to America; most were shipped to the Keys and South America along with white slaves from places like Ireland and Scotland. Yes, there were white slaves in America and most scholars agree that most white’s came to America in some sort of bondage. And oddly enough, thousands of blacks in the United States owned slaves and did so disproportionately to whites – meaning they owned far more slaves than whites did. So how exactly do we reconcile all of that with the narrative being shoved down our throats?
In the end, my point is that it was jacked up all the way around but we figured it out. It’s over… well… except the ever-expanding centralized government and tyrannical institutions we have today that extort money from the people; ultimately ENSLAVING EVERYONE in a debt and taxation system so intense that even your mortgage should only be considered glorified rent. Does this sound familiar? It should, because throughout the history of the United States, people have risen up against tyrannical government imposing its will upon the people. This sounds strikingly similar to the Revolution itself and even the complaints of South Carolina. The ultimate irony is that here we are… fighting over details of something that NONE OF US were actually involved in, instead of uniting about what impacts ALL OF OUR LIVES most, right now. We are so distracted and some of us are so uninformed about history, that we simply buy into the narrative that displaces the actual blame. This is normally where the party platforms get pulled into the debate. For that, I present another PragerU video featuring Dr. Carol Swain, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.
And with that… I’ll tell you that I believe that the party system is just as bad as slavery in many way. Simply look at what it has done to us. It’s ripping us apart… just like Washington promised it would. Yes… it’s extremely important to learn from our past, but let us not fight about the horrors of things that we cannot change. Instead, let’s come together to secure our future.