“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,”
-Thomas Jefferson, Virginia
Seven score and six years ago, our nation was split and in the midst of a bloody war. Though often attributed to the issue of slavery, the War Between the States was fought for several reasons. The North and the South were very different. They had different opinions, and different viewpoints. When tension began building with the precarious balance of slave and free states, no one seemed to know what to do. When the southern states proposed separation, the northerners were infuriated. What?! Divide the Union? The North was more willing to fight rather than separate in peace. This is well illustrated in the words of John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster:
“Senators,” he began, “it can no longer be disguised that the Union is in danger. The southern States cannot remain as things are now with safety in the Union”—not unless, he said, there was equal division between the sections, and all anti-slavery talk by the Abolitionists was stopped. “If you who represent the stronger portion are not willing to settle on these principles, say so, and let us separate in peace.”
“Secession!” he [Daniel Webster] cried, facing Calhoun. “peaceful Secession! Sir! Your eyes and mine are never to see the division of this country without violent opposition. Why, sir, our ancestors—our fathers and grandfathers—would reproach us, and our children and grandchildren would cry out ‘Shame!’ No, sir! There will be no secession….Let the compromise be accepted, by all means, if need be, to save the Union!”
It is clear that there were two different ways of thinking in the North and the South. The South was for states’ rights, and believed that if a state was not happy with the federal government, it had every right to secede from the Union. However, the North was against any secession, and wanted to preserve the Union at all costs.
The words of Daniel Webster came true. When the southern states began to secede from the United States of America, a war began. The North fought in an attempt to preserve the Union, and the South fought back in order to defend southern independence—which was the lost cause.
The southerners were looked upon by the north as rebels. The United States never recognized southern independence, and was convinced that the southern rebels needed to be conquered.
Now step back a moment and put this in perspective. During the American Revolution, the colonies were obviously thought of as rebels by the home country, Great Britain. There is no doubt that the British sent soldiers to North America to stamp out the rebellion and to make sure the colonies remained loyal to the king. Consider also the Texas Revolution, in which Antonio López de Santa Anna, then president of Mexico, brought troops to Texas to fight the Texians and make sure that Mexico did not lose its northern land. The Texians were thought of as rebels, but yet they persevered, and Texas gained independence.
In these cases, as well as in the War Between the States, there were two parties: the home country, and the “rebellious” people seeking independence. Now, realize that the people seeking independence did not initially consider themselves rebellious. They were simply not happy with the current state of affairs in the government, and felt it was time to move on and establish their own. In the War, the southern soldiers were not fighting to rebel. From the southern perspective, they were simply exercising their sovereign right to separate from the current union and form a new one.
Unfortunately, secession led to war, and after the War, when the confederacy was conquered, the entire nation was devastated. The south especially suffered, because all the slaves were released. The work of the slaves was the entire southern economy—without it the economy was crippled.
It was a lost cause. The Confederate States of America were defeated, and peaceful independence was never achieved. Many soldiers had died in the War, both of the North and the South.
After the War was over, the north began to spread the notion that the War was one waged against rebel states to abolish slavery. It was said that the northerners were the “good guys,” freeing the slaves. However, the issue of slavery was actually just an excuse for the North to justify their relentless attacks on the Confederates.
How then should we view our forefathers who fought for the Confederacy? Should we view them as rebellious men, fighting for the furtherance of an evil institution? Should we view the Confederates as rebels and the “bad guys” in the War? I think not. They were simply fighting because of their strong beliefs and convictions, for the country they loved. We should not shun the Confederacy of old. Many people today have the stereotype that the War was fought over slavery, and that the South was fighting to preserve it. While that may be partially true, the south fought for other reasons as well, mainly states’ rights and unjust taxation. Also, though many southerners owned slaves, some were against slavery. Also, many black soldiers fought for the Confederacy.
We should view our Confederate ancestors who fought in the War as men fighting for a noble cause—southern independence. They were not rebels.
It is true that many white people in that time period were prejudice against black people. However, not all white masters treated their slaves cruelly, and many were very good to them. Southerners today should be ashamed of the slavery practiced long ago, but that does not mean they should be ashamed of the Confederacy itself. The Confederate States of America were formed when the Federal Government went too far with things, and secession was necessary. The Confederacy was not established for the furtherance of slavery.