Understanding the lie that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery but for political power is critical

I have in my hands an original copy of J.T. Headley’s Scholar’s Choice award winning book The Great Rebellion; A History of the Civil War in the United States. First printing 1863, 1 of 2 volumes published by subscription only from Hurlbut, Williams and Company, Hartford, Connecticut. On page 10 in the Preface Headley lays out the causes of Civil War in Republics and how they were either to throw off despotism or were of a political character. He states: (underlining mine, italics original to text)

“Ours (civil war) is of a mixed character, and hence in some respects unlike all others that have preceded it; but like all Civil Wars in republics, it sprung from a faction who sought only political power. Those make a great mistake who suppose it grew out of a desire merely to perpetuate slavery. Slavery was used as a means to an end – a bugbear to frighten the timid into obedience, and a rallying cry for the ignorant, deluded masses. The accursed lust for power lay at the bottom of it. 

The entire North, including the Republican party, had repeatedly declared, in the most emphatic manner, that it had no intention to interfere with slavery in the states where it existed; for they had no right to do so under the Constitution. It’s perpetuity was therefore conceded, until the states themselves should get rid of it. Hence, the southern conspirators had no fear on that point, but they knew they could not carry the people with them unless they convinced them that slavery was to be assailed in their very homes, to be followed by a servile insurrection. They desired, of course, to extend slavery, because in that way alone they could extend their power. The perpetuity of slavery was a necessary consequence of this; because the power they sought to obtain was founded on it – it was the chief cornerstone. Here is where the mistake is made in getting at the true cause of the rebellion. 

The whole question may be stated thus: Southern politicians saw in the rapid increase of free states, both in number and in population, and the deep hostility to the admission of any more slave states, that the power they had so long wielded in the Government would be broken. The only course left them was to set up an independent government. Though weak at first, slave states could be added, as circumstances should determine. To effect their purpose they would seize on the tariff or slavery, or any thing that would unite the South. Calhoun tried the former and failed, they, the latter and succeeded. Thus it will be seen that the perpetuity and extension of slavery is a necessary consequence of the present rebellion, if successful; not it’s first cause, – just as free trade would have followed the attempt of Calhoun to take the South out of the Union, had it succeeded.”

Certain Southern leaders in league with the newspapers of the day waged a fear campaign against the people. The recent events of John Browns raid on Harper’s Ferry and the bloodshed in Kansas alarmed the average Southerner. Nat Turner’s rebellion and the genocide of all White people in Haiti gave further historical precedents to elicit fear.

One would have to be nearly blind to not see the parallels between 1860 and the current United States. A contentious election has divided the people along racial lines instead of geographic, threats to the President’s life, the refusal of one side to recognize his legitimacy; we are at the crossroads once again and will either split as a nation or fight for control unless cooler and wiser heads prevail. It’s still being done in the name of political power; white supremacy being the substitute for slavery. It was Democrats that started the Confederacy and once again it’s Democrats looking to discredit their opposition through demonizing them.

Understanding the lie that the Civil War was not fought over slavery but for political power is critical. The narrative of the left is built largely upon this idea and is driving the current rush to tear down Confederate monuments across the country. The military leaders and men of the South didn’t start the war; it’s unfair to place the blame on them for it. They gave their lives and fortunes for their country like all patriotic Americans will do. The past can harm no one, my suggestion is to leave history alone and work together on larger problems such as unemployment, poverty, drug incarceration instead of treatment. illegal immigration, the National debt and finding a meaningful place in society for all as well as a shared vision of what we want to become.

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