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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 11/30/18

The South Won the First Civil War --- Betcha Didn't Know That

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"Either our nation will kill racism or racism will kill our nation." Steven Jonas, July 4, 2018

I have been writing on this topic for quite some time. In an earlier version of this column, I began with an analysis by my friend and former editor, Mark Karlin (BuzzFlash, 8/25/09):

"[I]t [the Civil War] may have been won by the North, but in truth the South never emotionally conceded. The Town Hall mobs, the birthers, the teabaggers, are all part of that long line of 'coded' agitators for the notions of white entitlement and 'conservative values.' Of course, this conservative viewpoint values cheap labor and unabated use of natural resources over technological and economic innovation."

And so we come to the recent run-off election in Mississippi, won by a true Daughter of the Confederacy, Cindy Hyde-Smith. Indeed, her parents sent her to a "Seg." Academy, she has been photographed gleefully sporting a Confederate infantryman's cap while carrying a rifle of the time, she wanted to name a highway after the South's primary traitor, Jeff Davis, and etc., and has been totally unapologetic in any real sense. (It happens that in terms of Confederate nostalgia we have just had an Attorney General of the United States who was likely named after Jeff Davis as well as the third most important Confederate general, P.G.T. Beauregard. That would be Jefferson [Davis, P.G.T.] Beauregard Sessions). Of course, Hyde-Smith, almost choking on the words that she had to read from a script "apologized to anyone who was offended by" her "public hanging" remark. But she did not apologize for making it. She knew who her true voting base was and she blew her dog whistles loud and clear. And she won.

Confederate States of America battle flag. It replaced the original CSA flag which to many .looked too much like. the Union Jack.
Confederate States of America battle flag. It replaced the original CSA flag which to many .looked too much like. the Union Jack.
(Image by ..Russ..)
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Now she was perhaps the most openly racist of the various Repub. candidates who ran/run of from Trump on down (or up, depending upon your point of view), DeSantis in Florida, Kemp in Georgia, Rep. Steve King in Iowa, and so on and so forth. But racism/white-supremacy wins for Repubs. and has ever since Pres. Nixon developed the "Southern Strategy," as it had won since the end of Reconstruction for the Southern Democrats before the Big Switch of the "Party of Lincoln." And so further, the question arises: did the North really win the Civil War? Did those values of the South ever really go away?

Or put another way, did the South really lose? Well, yes, the North did win on the battlefield, with the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, the subsequent surrender of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina, and then the capture of Jefferson Davis, who was trying to flee to Mexico. But I would argue that in terms of its original war aims, except for just one of them, the South did win the Civil War and then some, right down to this very day. Just consider those war aims.

1. The preservation of the institution of African and African-American chattel slavery (through the activities of the slave-owners and the slave-masters from the time of the arrival of the first Africans destined for slavery in 1620, there were already many of the latter), and its uninhibited expansion into the Territories of the Plains, the Rocky Mountain region, and the Southwest. (California had already been established as a free state by the Compromise of 1850.)

2. The acceptance by the whole United States of the Dogma of White Supremacy on which the institution of slavery was established. Alexander Stephens was Vice-President of the Confederate States of America (CSA). Following the death of John C. Calhoun in 1850, Stephens became its principal politico-economic theoretician. At the beginning of the Civil War, Stephens said this about Southern slavery:

"Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race. Such were, and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's law. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the Negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Cain, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. Our new government is founded on the opposite idea of the equality of the races. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the White man; that slavery --- subordination to the superior race --- is his natural condition."

Thus, slavery as a general institution was immoral, according to Stephens. But for "Negroes" it was permitted, because they were considered to be "inferior beings."

3. It was the South that strongly believed in the establishment and prosecution of American Imperialism. Before the Civil War, much of the leadership for U.S. imperial expansion, first on the North American continent, came from Southerners. It happens that Thomas Jefferson, for example, who made the Louisiana Purchase in 1804 that enabled the major westward expansion beyond the Mississippi River, was also one of the first to advocate the annexation of Cuba. This was a position later taken up by Jefferson Davis when he was Secretary of War in the Pierce Administration (1853-57). President James Polk, a North Carolinian slave owner, prosecuted the War on Mexico (1846-48) with a claim that Mexico had attacked Americans on U.S. soil in Texas. The result of that war lead to a huge further expansion of U.S. territory. (Interestingly enough, his claim that "Mexico started it" apparently had as much legitimacy as the claim that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That claim was challenged by a little-known first-term Congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln. But it a] got nowhere and b] got Lincoln defeated in the next election [1848] largely because of it.)

4. The South strongly supported the theory of "States' Rights." From the outset of the Republic, one of its outcomes was to provide for the control of the Congress, through the control of the Senate by a minority of the national population. As well, of course there is that other provision of the original Constitutional Convention made specifically to protect the interests of the Slave States, the Electoral College. Obviously, both are playing out in major ways in current U.S. political history.

5. The South strongly supported low tariffs on foreign manufactured goods while the North wanted high tariffs to protect domestic industrial development.

6. A major element of Southern politics was the use of the Big Lie Technique. First that Africans and African-Americans were inferior beings, not "human." Second that the Civil War, initiated by the Forces of Secession in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, was about "Southern Freedom," to maintain slavery, among other things. (Defenders of the Confederacy from then right down to the present never seem to get the fundamental contradiction that the Southern ruling class wanted the freedom --- to perpetuate human slavery.) Of course, that "Southern Freedom" also meant the right to expand slavery to the Western Territories, without too much in the way of limitations. Jeff Davis would make the "freedom" claim right to the very end. At the same time that the CSA was fighting so bitterly and for so long primarily to defend the institution of slavery, it was able to get several hundred thousand poor white farmers and laborers to give their lives in the cause. How? By using the Doctrine of White Supremacy to convince them that they were indeed fighting for "freedom." Third, that the war was not a rebellion, but rather a "War Between the States," or, as a recent President of the NRA referred to it "The War of Northern Aggression," or "Abraham Lincoln's War," or "The War for Southern Independence."

See J.Q. Whitman's .Hitler's American Model. on how the Nazis learned from 20th century Southern race laws, descended from the Era of Slavery.
See J.Q. Whitman's .Hitler's American Model. on how the Nazis learned from 20th century Southern race laws, descended from the Era of Slavery.
(Image by Alex [Fino] LA)
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So, where does this all leave us now?

First, well, yes, chattel slavery was banned by the 13th Amendment, but in functional socio-economic terms in the South, it existed on a certain level well into the last century.

Second, perhaps most importantly for the modern U.S. political-economy, the Dogma of White Supremacy has come to dominate the national political stage since that time, waxing and waning in importance as it becomes of greater or lesser use to certain political powers over time. As Mark Karlin pointed out above, it was being used to a fare-thee-well by the national Republican Party in their battle-royal to bring down Obama, and sooner rather than later. Of course, Trump has put it, and its close relative, xenophobia, at the center of his own political philosophy (if one can call it that) and it is squarely at the center of Hyde-Smith's (also if one can call it that) as well.

Third, North American Continental Imperialism ended with the accession to statehood by Arizona in 1912. However, expansion beyond the boundaries of North America began with the annexation of Hawaii (1898). While the U.S. did not actually annex Cuba as a result of the Spanish-American War of the same year (it did annex Puerto Rico), it effectively controlled Cuba until the 1959 Revolution and did annex the Philippines as a result of that war. Very well-known is the subsequent history of American Imperialism.

Fourth, the "states' rights" basis of allotting seats in the United States Senate as well as votes in the Electoral College has had the major impact of which everyone knows in the Era of Trump/McConnell.

Fifth, the low tariffs doctrine has been turned around (well, certain days of the month it is) by Trump. But he uses tariffs as a weapon more because it is one of the weapons that Presidents have that is beyond the reach of Congress, at least to a certain extent, rather than that he really knows what he is doing.

Finally, of course, the Big Lie Technique in American politics never died and now is in the hands of a Past Master of it, one who reminds us of the work of Hitler and Goebbels.

So, who won the Civil War over the long haul? It seems quite obvious, doesn't it?

(Article changed on December 1, 2018 at 00:20)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a ├ éČ┼"Trusted Author,├ éČ Ł he is a Senior (more...)
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