Confederate States of America
| The colorful pseudoscience|
|Hating thy neighbour|
|Divide and conquer|
“”Why is it so hard for people to just say "Robert E. Lee fought for a despicable cause and doesn’t deserve our admiration?"
“”Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery, the greatest material interest of the world.... There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union.
|—Mississippi Articles of Secession.|
“”No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.
|—Constitution of the Confederate States of America.|
The Confederate States of America (C.S.A.), also referred to as the Confederacy, an unrecognized, treasonous, white-supremacist regime, operated in the Southern United States between the dark years of 1861 and 1865. It was a belligerent in and the instigator of the War to Preserve Slavery (1861-1865).
The CSA formed in 1861 when seven (later expanded to eleven) slave states decided that armed revolt was preferable to tolerating the election of a Republican President whose anti-slavery opinions southern slaveholders deemed a threat to their livelihoods. The economy of the Southern states depended overwhelmingly 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"). A devastatingly effective Union naval blockade, however, made international trade almost impossible and as a result, the industrial powers of Europe turned elsewhere to more colonial climes for their raw materials and largely left the CSA to its own devices.
Between the strangling of foreign trade and the destruction caused by the war being fought mainly 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 dissolved a month later. After the war's conclusion, Washington lawmakers placed the rebel states under federal military occupation during a long, difficult period of social and political upheaval known as Reconstruction (1865-1877). 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
“”We ask you to join us, in forming a Confederacy of Slaveholding States.
|—South Carolina Legislature, Address of South Carolina to Slaveholding States.|
“”We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
|—Texas Articles of Secession.|
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 most 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.
Funny enough, there were numerous attempts to secede from the Confederacy as well. 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, Tennessee 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. There were also a lot of Union supporters in East Tennessee, who, as a whole, petitioned to become their own state, only to be crushed by Tennessee state troops.
“”Our new government is founded... 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.
|—Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the CSA.|
In 1861, delegates from the slaveholding states met in Montgomery, Alabama to write the constitution of the Confederate States. The finished product was largely identical to the existing United States Constitution with the exception of multiple explicit protections for the Southern slave trade, among them a ban on any state abolishing slavery and a guarantee of the rights for a slave-owner to travel between states with his slaves.
The Confederacy was a failure from the start, not only due to its return to the spirit of the Articles of Confederation, but also due to its egotistic leaders and its unstable politics. President Jefferson Davis, for instance, was by all accounts a impulsive, easily-angered, and abrasive man who surrounded himself with yes-men because he alienated everyone around him who had a shred of intelligence. His own Vice President, Alexander Stephens, spent much of his time at home writing angry letters to attack Davis' decisions. The Confederate government saw a shocking rate of turnover among its civil servants, and most of the South's genuinely talented thinkers chose to join the military instead to seek glory.
One of the more striking aspects of Confederate democracy was the lack of political parties. For much of its early existence, the primary political issue that divided the Confederate Congress was the overbearing leadership of President Davis; he vetoed any bill meant to limit his power in a way that his opponents described as "military despotism". Meanwhile, the lack of parties largely prevented the formation of any governing coalitions in the Confederate Congress with the result that individual legislators, and thus their local voters, were powerless to enact change. The divide between voters and their government was further emphasized by the Confederate Congress' insistence on holding secret meetings and refusal to publicly record its proceedings.
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.
“”In fact, the state rights defense of secession in 1860–1861 did not really appear in force until after 1865 as builders of the Lost Cause myth sought to distance themselves from slavery.
| —William C. Davis, |
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).
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!
- 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.
- It doesn't help that this flag was flown alongside swastikas and other Neo-Nazi symbols in the infamous 2017 Unite the Right Charlottesville rally.
- Good examples are manifesting as constant needless debates about the Battle Flag, "power" of the government, and the fact that the Southern strategy is a thing
- Speiser, M. (June 24, 2015). "Here's why the Confederate flag is flown outside the US". Business Insider.
- Sadly obvious.
- A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union Wikisource.
- Constitution of the Confederate States of America, Section 9, clause 4.
- Secession Britannica
- Industry and Economy during the Civil War National Park Service.
- King Cotton Britannica
- See the Wikipedia article on Anaconda Plan.
- Document: Address of South Carolina to Slaveholding States Teaching American History.
- Confederate States of America - A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union Avalon Project.
- Kentucky in the Civil War 1861-1862] Essential Civil War Curriculum.
- A House Divided: Civil War Kentucky American Battlefield Trust
- Guide to American Civil War in Missouri State Historical Societ of Missouri.
- See the Wikipedia article on Republic of Winston.
- The “Lost” State of Nickajack Civil War Omnibus
- See the Wikipedia article on State of Scott.
- The Switzerland of America]
- West Virginia created by secession from Southern Confederate state African American Registry
- East Tennessee's Civil War: Pro-Union with divided loyalties Knox News
- Document: “Cornerstone” Speech. Teaching American History.
- Background of the Confederate States Constitution
- On this day, the Confederate Constitution is approved National Constitution Center
- Union and Confederate Politics Michael Todd Landis. Essential Civil War Curriculum.
- Yearns, Wilfred Buck. The Confederate Congress, (1935, 2010) ISBN 978-0-820-33476-9, p. 218-219.
- Creating a Confederate Senate US Senate.
- "A Short History of Sam Houston", Sam Houston Memorial Museum
- Massacre on the Nueces, The New York Times
- The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy University Press of Kansas, 1996
- 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.
- Last Battles by Jelani Cobb (July 6 & 13, 2015) The New Yorker.
- The infamous Cornerstone speech, March 21, 1861, Savannah, Georgia