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My Turn: The ‘Civil War’ and other lies

By Steve Poteat

The point of contention in recent editorials concerning the Salisbury Confederate monument is that some people see the monument as a symbol of slavery or as a commemoration of soldiers that fought to perpetuate the institution of slavery.

All of this is based on lies. First, the War Between the States has been called many things. It has been called the War for Southern Independence, The War of Secession, Lincoln’s War, and others. But the only name that makes no sense in any respect is a “Civil War.” Any argument that it was a civil war can be shot down in any discussion between logical people. How did the Southern states start a civil war by peacefully leaving a government that they had voluntarily joined? Yes, Lincoln did provoke the firing on Fort Sumter, SC, to instigate his unconstitutional war upon the South. Historical documentation can prove this. The Southern states did not try to overthrow the United States and they did not destroy the Federal Union when they left. To prove that, all you have to do is remember that the states that remained in the Union were still strong enough to militarily defeat the Southern states.

The various reasons for secession may be argued, but the war was fought when Lincoln invaded the Southern states that had seceded. The Southern states defended themselves against that invading force. For the sake of tariff revenue, Lincoln could not let the Southern states go. The irony is that the Southern states were forced by the point of a gun to return to a government that hated them. No matter what you read or hear, the war was political. Look at the three Constitutional Amendments that were enacted right after the war. The 13th amendment abolished slavery.  The 14th amendment stole state citizenship from everyone and made us “United States” citizens. It specifically punished the people of the South. The 15th amendment made voters of the freedmen. The war was about bringing the States into line of a consolidated central government, and to empower the Republican Party. Tariffs at the Southern ports would continue to flow to the North to fund the government. The South was punished and had to endure Reconstruction. Slavery was indeed ended, but not for altruistic reasons. It was all political.

The sources below will help you understand more than you were told by your school teachers, professors, or as seen on TV documentaries.

• A resolution was passed unanimously by Congress July 23, 1861: “The war is waged by the Government of the United States, not in the spirit of conquest or subjugation, nor for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or institutions of the states, but to defend and protect the Union.”

• Abraham Lincoln, in his Inaugural Address: “I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

• George Lunt’s “Origin of the Late War,” p. 432: “A war simply for the abolition of slavery would not have enlisted a dozen regiments at the North.”

• General U.S. Grant (Democratic Speaker’s Handbook, p. 33), said: “Should I become convinced that the object of the Government is to execute the wishes of the abolitionists, I pledge you my honor as a man and a soldier I would resign my commission and carry my sword to the other side.”

• Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, wrote to General Butler in New Orleans: “President Lincoln desires the right to hold slaves to be fully recognized. The war is prosecuted for the Union hence no question concerning slavery will arise.”

• Percy Greg: “To say that the South seceded and fought to hold her slaves is to accuse her of political imbecility.”

• Channing’s “Short History of the United States:” “The Union Army showed the greatest sympathy with McClellan for the bold protest against emancipation. Five States, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York went against Lincoln on this account. While Lincoln felt he could free the slaves as a war measure, he knew the North would not approve of freeing them.”

• George Lunt, “Origin of the Late War:” p. 10 (Introduction): “in presenting the cases which led to the war, it will be seen that slavery, though an occasion was not in reality the cause of the war.”

• George Lunt, P. XI, (Introduction): “Anti-slavery was of no serious consequence until politicians seized upon it as an instrument of agitation-an alleged diversity of interests between the sections involving political power.”

Steve Poteat lives in Salisbury.

 

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