Confederate States of America
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“”Why is it so hard for people to just say "Robert E. Lee fought for a despicable cause and doesn’t deserve our admiration?"
The CSA was formed in 1861 by seven (later expanded to eleven) slave states which had decided that armed revolt was preferable to following the election of a Republican President whose anti-slavery stance (at the time), among other things, made them fear for their "lives" and "their freedom." The economy of the Southern states was overwhelmingly dependent on plantation agriculture, particularly of cotton, an important and valuable export commodity. Confederate politicians predicted that the value of cotton would guarantee the new nation's sovereignty and prosperity (a notion known as "King Cotton"). The Anaconda Plan, however, made international trade almost impossible and as a result, the industrial powers of Europe turned elsewhere for their raw materials.
Between the strangling of foreign trade and the destruction caused by the war being fought on its own soil, the CSA's economy deteriorated rapidly. The primary Confederate military force, the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee, surrendered after the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865, and the Confederacy was dissolved a month later. After the war's conclusion, the rebel states were placed under federal military occupation during a long, difficult period of social and political upheaval known as Reconstruction. The last slave states were finally re-admitted to the Union in 1877 after the shenanigans of the disputed election of 1876.
The Hall of Shame: the states of the Confederacy
It should be noted that in both Missouri and Kentucky, parts of the legislature broke from the official legislature and set up rival governments, which later went to exile in other parts of the Confederacy. In Kentucky, after a few years of avowed neutrality, the Unionist side won in elections, particularly because the South was the first side to engage in conflict in Kentucky proper. However, many Southern sympathizers formed a separate state government, with Bowling Green as its capital. Also, North Carolina was sort of bullied into it, as all surrounding states were Confederate and wanted them to join.
Missouri, on the other hand, while calling itself neutral was more pro-Southern, and battle broke out very quickly between Missouri troops and Union troops. The Union won, and removed the governor of Missouri, who also created an alternative, pro-Southern government in contention with the official pro-Union one.
Both states were represented, along with the "official" Confederate states, on the Confederate flag.
An "Arizona Territory", with a capital in Mesilla, was also created from the southern half of the pro-Union New Mexico Territory after the Confederates won the Battle of Mesilla (1861). However it was lost after the Battle of Glorieta Pass (1862), when this government also went into exile; the Union later created its own Arizona Territory from the western half of New Mexico Territory. Another territory to side with the Confederacy was the Indian Territory (later known as Oklahoma), largely inhabited by Native Americans.
Of the states to actually join the Confederacy proper, at least two (Texas and Virginia) ended up with a slight majority of the part of their population eligible to vote (not, of course, including any slaves) voting "no" on the secession referendum, at which point the state governments went ahead and seceded anyway. Additionally, at least one state (Georgia) attempted to secede from the Confederacy near the end of the war, and Winston County, Alabama, attempted to secede from its state, with the Nickajack region of North Alabama and East Tennessee attempting to do the same, and Scott County actually declaring itself independent of Tennessee and the Confederacy, this being forgotten after the Civil War until 1986, when they were ceremonially readmitted into Tennessee and the Union. West Virginia, formerly part of Virginia, actually managed to secede from its eastern neighbor, albeit with some help from Congress and the Union military. Tennessee and Virginia (outside the seceded territory) established their own rival pro-Union governments to the pro-Confederate ones controlling most of their respective states.
While ostensibly a "democratic republic" much like the United States, in practice the Confederacy was blatantly repressive[note 1] and authoritarian, with almost all political power held by the plantation-owning plutocracy and much of the country under strict martial law, at least for the period it was at war against the Union. While the North had a vibrant Democratic Party throughout the war, there were no Republicans (or at least none in political office) in the South and some historians actually believe this lack of parliamentary opposition to have contributed to the downfall of the Confederacy.
Jefferson Davis was the first and only President of the Confederacy, elected unanimously by the Confederate electoral college.
The Confederacy was a dangerously unstable nation — while a slight majority of the population had voted in favor of secession, the emphasis was on "slight," and pro-Union guerrilla bands thankfully began forming deep within Confederate territory before the Civil War had even officially started. The state of Virginia actually split in two, with the Appalachian section of the state voting to return to the Union. A full quarter of Union troops in the American Civil War were actually from the Confederate states themselves, and Southern Unionists included the governor of Texas, Sam Houston, who was deposed at gunpoint by pro-Confederate politicians and spent the entire war under house arrest. For all intents and purposes, the Confederacy was fighting two wars — one against the Union, and one against its own citizens.
The "heritage, not hate!" trope
The "heritage, not hate" slogan in reference to the numerous Southern monuments to the CSA, the various commemorations of the CSA, and the continued use of the Confederate flag are in fact an early form of American denialism.
To quote Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice President of the CSA:
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact.
But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away.
This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races.
This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew." Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone 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 and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us.
Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were.
They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men.
The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
And he was a moderate by Confederate standards. Fuck you, DiLorenzo!
Confederate apologetics in the form of historical revisionism continues to this day. As recently as 1996, Pastor Bobby Eubanks of Ridge Baptist Church along with 14 other clergy wrote and circulated a letter claiming that:
- The Confederate Flag is a Christian symbol.
- Leaders of the Confederacy are historical examples of Christian character.
- The Civil War was a fight between Christianity and Atheism.
- Removing the flag is part of a liberal conspiracy to attack traditional values.
- Race relations are better in the South than in the rest of the nation.
- The flag "represents the noble effort, of South Carolinians and Southerners generally, to resist the federal government’s unconstitutional efforts to subjugate sovereign states."
On February 14, 2014, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano claimed that the North started the "murderous" Civil War (despite the first shots being fired by secessionists at Fort Sumter, South Carolina), and that slavery should have been allowed to die a "natural death" (despite slavery not having ended in the world, and only having been de jure abolished worldwide since 2007).
- What Caused the Civil War: or, How to argue with a Confederate apologist Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 10:17 AM PDT Daily Kos.
- Whose heritage? SPLC documents how the US government still honors the Confederacy.
- Their entire economy was built on chattel slavery, after all.
- Uses of the confederate flag outside the US
- Sadly obvious.
- Sound familiar?
- Suspension of Habeas Corpus, Library of Congress (Lincoln's decision to suspend habeas corpus was decried by the CSA, though Jefferson Davis resorted to the same measure without a single thought.)
- Constitution of the Confederate States of America, wikisource.org
- "A Short History of Sam Houston", Sam Houston Memorial Museum
- Massacre on the Nueces, The New York Times
- Last Battles by Jelani Cobb (July 6 & 13, 2015) The New Yorker.
- The infamous Cornerstone speech, March 21, 1861, Savannah, Georgia
- Here’s how one pastor fought for years to keep the Confederate flag flying in South Carolina by Tobin Grant (June 24 at 4:30 PM) Washington Post.
- ‘Daily Show’ obliterates Fox News Confederate apologist: ‘I just un-f*cked your facts’ by Travis Gettys (25 Feb 2014 at 08:13 ET) Raw Story.