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What Issue Was Really at the Heart of the Civil War, and is it Relevant Today?

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Most Americans today have a romanticized (and extraordinarily narrow) historical understanding of the conflict that we call the Civil War. 

In their imaginations, it goes something like this:  With passions inflamed by a moral renaissance in the North regarding the institution of slavery in the South, the two sides decided to go to war over the issue.  In the end, the evil South was righteously razed by the armies of the North, and thus, slavery was ended, and the former slaves made American citizens, as Abraham Lincoln intended.

If you think this an unfair caricature of the extent of the average American’s knowledge on the subject, I’d wager you haven’t spoken to many people under 50 about the subject.  Our young and middle-aged enjoy a collective memory of this fantastic tale of good and evil, and so many of our countrymen believe that it actually occurred in this way that presenting any alternative or more nuanced version of the story earns a million accusations of supporting “white supremacy.” 

But the truth matters.  And the telling of it matters, perhaps now more than ever because, at the rate that the leftists who indoctrinated generations to believe that fable are now using academia to rewrite history and are controlling modern avenues for free speech, opportunities to do so may be scarce in the future. 

And, also, the true story is important because it’s incredibly relevant today.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I see the great liberaltarian lie that the Civil War was all about tariffs is upon us again. No, every Southern declaration of separation in 1860-61 said slavery and only slavery was the issue in the guise of states rights. Men didn’t die in “Bleeding Kansas” in 1856 for tariffs—that issue had been settled under a slave holding president Andrew Jackson in 1833 with a new tariff that stayed in place until after the start of the Civil War.
    The real reason for the Civil War was the decision by the South it was better off without the North, not so much on the tariff issue but the expansion of slavery into the West and into Latin America. The South realized that it was unlikely to get enough slave states to keep control after they were turned back in their attempt to take Kansas by force. The North would oppose Southern attempts to take over Cuba, Mexico, etc. to turn them into slave states, which allied with France or England, could have easily have been done.
    The United States was formed with the idea that eventually slavery would fade away. Instead, it had become more firmly entrenched, with slaves no longer having the right to learn to read and write or be freed, even upon death of a master. More over, any white man who criticized slavery was subject to lynching. The North looked at what the South had become and thought these people are ready to make us slaves, too.
    So when Lincoln, who thought blacks were inferior and should be sent back to Africa, pleaded with the South not to leave the Union because there was no thought on the part of Northern leaders to force abolition, the rejection of his pleas created a mood in the North that they had to reconquer the South lest the South, aided by Europe, conquer the North like they tried to do in Kansas.
    The Emancipation Proclamation happened a year and a half after the start of the Civil War and was more to try to head off English recognition of the South than appeasing the abolitionists, who were still a much smaller minority in the North than an England that had abolished slavery 30 years before.
    The other great lie of the Liberaltarians is that the Smoot Hawley Tariff created the Great Depression rather than the tight money of the Fed and tripling of income tax rates and spending under Herbert Hoover. We are seeing the end result of the “free trade” illusion—a nation under the thumb of CHINA that has only grown worse, not better with one sided trade (they cheat and our local businesses have to pay all the taxes for the infrastructure needed for that tradeinstead of using tariffs).
    Eliminating the social security tax with a revenue tariff would do more for economic security and prosperity than anything else we could do. But that would be “inflationary” by making the elites pay a little more in taxes they couldn’t avoid with loopholes. As usual with Trump, he had the right idea to complain about one sides trade and defense deals, but he did little but talk. Like immigration, where he never proposed a major change in our immigration laws, it was all tokenism.

  2. The North’s greater population gave the northern industrialized states a greater voice in Congress. This allowed then to pass bills to create and enforce tariffs on imports, both to increase revenue, and to pressure the southern cotton producers to sell fiber to the northern cloth mills at reduced prices.
    The southern planters had better-paying markets in Britain and France, and thus had a better balance of trade with those nations. This situation was not “acceptable” to the northern manufacturers, or to their paid-for congressmen.
    As said above, the tariff wars began in 1828. The “tariff of Abominations” almost began the secession of South Carolina in the 1830s. Southern congressman John C. Calhoun protested it to the point where it was finally withdrawn. President Andrew Jackson was ready to go to war to uphold it.
    The port of Charleston, South Carolina, refused to collect a tariff for the Federal government. SO, the Federal government began dumping rocks into the sea at a point just outside of Charleston’s harbor.
    When a large enough artificial island was built up, Fort Sumter was built on top of it, with the excuse that it would be “a harbor defense.”
    The Carolinians weren’t fooled. The knew it was an outpost designed to collect tariffs from all foreign ships before they could enter the harbor. Those tariffs would be collected under the threat of Sumter’s cannon.
    It is not by coincidence that the first shots of the Civil war were fired against Fort Sumter.
    It is why the south continues to call it “The War of Northern Aggression.”