.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ol' Massuh in the Jet Age?

In a very interesting opinion piece in the Washington Post, titled "Five Myths About Why the South Seceded," a sociologist named James Loewen makes good cases about some commonly heard reasons about why the South seceded.   At least he does in the first four of the five he explores.

All the same, I don't understand how there can still be much mystification about why it happened.  I don't think it was any mystery to any American in 1860 or that it has ever been to any competent historian of the Civil War, say, one on the order of Bruce Catton (check out the first chapters in "The Coming Fury," the first of the trilogy of histories he wrote for the centennial of the Civil War), unless they have some sort of propagandist ax to grind, especially the ever-active one of giving the South's motivations more respectability in this later era than they ever actually had, except in their own minds.

The Confederate states seceded because, 80 years after the ringing pronouncements about freedom and liberty in the Declaration of Independence, too many people in the North were starting to get their backs up about the wisdom of having a large part of the country still clinging so tightly to such a cruel institution as slavery, and especially in a changing world.   The Southern planters and political heads resented that kind of thinking and the attacks it implied on their "good thing," and when they saw that they weren't going to continue to get their way on not only continuing but even expanding slavery, they decided to pick up all their marbles and swoop, and thereby teach the North a lesson.

That's the whole answer to why those states seceded, in a nutshell.   Nothing difficult to understand there.

Loewen does a good job of disposing of the first four of what he calls "myths" about the matter.  But then he falls flat on his face when it comes to the fifth and last, titled "The South couldn't have made it long as a slave society."

This opens the always very interesting question of what kind of country the Confederacy would have been if they had been allowed to go their merry way with a system based solely on gross injustice, and in trying to demolish that final myth as well as he had done with the others, Loewens says:

To claim that slavery would have ended of its own accord by the mid-20th century is impossible to disprove but difficult to accept. In 1860, slavery was growing more entrenched in the South. Unpaid labor makes for big profits, and the Southern elite was growing ever richer. Freeing slaves was becoming more and more difficult for their owners, as was the position of free blacks in the United States, North as well as South. For the foreseeable future, slavery looked secure.

"Difficult to accept"?   Is it?  "For the foreseeable future," all the way into the mid 20th century?   Did I read that right?    Or is this man as little acquainted as the slaveowners were with the well-established dictum that the future is already here?

Is he saying that, had the secession succeeded, 90 years later, in the U.S.'s  southern neighbor -- not Mexico but the Confederacy -- the plantation moguls, who of course would still be running everything in the Grand Old South, would still be buying, selling, and inflicting every sort of mistreatment and pain on darker-skinned human beings that the human mind has ever conceived?  In the mid 20th century, with the ages of radio and flying machines already old hat and with the atomic and television ages heating up, and the computer age almost at hand, were the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy still going to hold regular slave auctions in downtown Richmond, Memphis, and New Orleans, right next to all the fast food eateries?

Though the defeat of the South in the Civil War was a ringing victory of Good over sheer Evil, and an absolute necessity in not letting humankind be any worse than it already was, sometimes I wish the South had been able to make good its split-off anyway -- though in a parallel universe, never in this one.   Besides the obvious good it would've done for the current character of the United States, by making the country more like Canada and a lot less like Oklahoma, I would also have liked to have seen just what those Confederate misconceives thought they could do to slow down the world so that they could finish pissing and pooping on themselves and on everybody else around -- a world  that in any case would have kept speeding up exponentially and left them as little better than a sort of yellow-colonnaded, tobacco-stained wasteland, with only like minds in distant places with names like Bibi, Avi, and Zipi in a mood to share their moonshine, distilled in lead.


Post a Comment

<< Home