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Surge Summary: Slavery was and is wrong … but that doesn’t mean everything everyone is saying about the South during the Civil War is accurate. Black History Month doesn’t dilute the need to speak truth (versus feel-good falsehoods) about historic events involving African Americans.
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Well, it’s February so it’s Black History Month. During this month we will hear of the great accomplishments of legitimate Blacks as it should be since they made a lasting and impressive contribution to America’s success. However, unprincipled, insecure Blacks will embarrass honest Blacks maybe to the point of blushing. In trying to give Blacks heroes, they often deal in speculation and mythology to give Blacks a pat on the back when they speak glowingly of “great black civilizations” that never existed.
I will use this month to give a true and balanced perspective to reality—praise where praise is due and correction where necessary. After all, everyone should be interested in truth even if it hurts at times. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But He did not promise it would always be accepted.
No sane person defends slavery, but you would not know that when listening to non-thinking bigots who maintain the defense of the Civil War equates to the defense of slavery.
There is not a person alive in the U.S. that was a slave or anyone alive who kept slaves. No thoughtful person agrees with the collective guilt theory. Had I lived in Georgia during the Civil War, I would have done what Robert E. Lee did. I would have fought with the South even though, like Lee (who freed his inherited slaves in 1862), I disagree with, even abhor, slavery.
General Lee did not defend slavery, but he did defend the right of a state to decide for itself about the issue and about the right to secede from the Union. And few historians would suggest that the original thirteen colonies joined into a union with the knowledge that it would be treason to change their minds. And there is no legal or historical doubt that a state had a legal right to secede. There would have been no Union if it had not been understood that a state could leave once it joined.
New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island made joining the Union contingent on being able to leave. Their position was: peacefully if we can; forcefully if we must. Leave the Union.
During the war of 1812, more than one Northern state threatened to secede and refused to send troops to fight that war. No one accused them of being illegal because all informed people knew the states had the legal right to leave the union that they had entered voluntarily.
Moreover, it would have been better to have two successful, friendly nations rather than kill over 600,000 men—and destroy the South and deplete the North. While that position could be defended in the 1800s, it cannot, in my opinion, be defended today. The uncivil war was fought (and won by the North), and so much time has passed with us surviving financial disasters and numerous wars, it would not be wise to seek dissolution of the Union today.
While I would like to see California severed from the Union like deadly cancer, it would not be wise, in my opinion, for that to happen. I have noticed that the hypocrites on the left do not bring up the “one nation, indivisible” argument as it relates to present-day secession. They are very critical of the southern states who seceded but do not make the same argument for California in our day. They are hypocrites as usual.
Of course, slavery was not the main issue for at least a year into the war. It was taxes, state nullification of federal laws, and southerners fighting to keep the northerners out of their land. It is ludicrous to think that southern boys left their womenfolk at home unprotected with crops and cattle in the fields as they marched north with flags waving and bugles blowing for the purpose of guaranteeing about 3% of rich southern farmers the right to own slaves. Some southern boys were a little slow but not that slow.
Additionally, Lee was concerned about releasing thousands of slaves (without education, ability, life experience, and social skills) into a society damaged, disjointed, and almost destroyed by the War of Northern Aggression. Think: General Sherman’s almost 300-mile scorched earth march from Atlanta to Savannah.
Sherman’s 66,000-man army wrecked 300 miles of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, 13,000 head of cattle, and unknown numbers of chickens, turkeys, sheep, and hogs from civilians. They stole as much bread and potatoes as they could carry. What they couldn’t carry, they burned. They confiscated 9.5 million pounds of corn and 10.5 million pounds of fodder and destroyed numerous cotton gins and mills. Sherman expressed his desire to “make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.” Very principled Yankee!
It is interesting that Grant’s family had slaves (for whom he was responsible), and he did not release them until after the war! Should he be on the list of offensive figures to be removed and vilified? Grant did allow freedom to his personal slave in 1859, although he could have sold him for $700, a tidy sum in those days. Moreover, Grant was always in need of money, which made granting freedom to his slave even more admirable. Some Yankees have done commendable things.
However, in a letter to his father on May 6, 1861, Grant’s disregard for Blacks was obvious: “A few decisive victories in some of the southern ports will send the secession army howling and …. negroes will depreciate so rapidly in value that no body will want to own them …. The [n*gger] will never disturb this country again.” I suppose we should demand that they tear down all statues of Grant and remove his photo from the White House–and, as an act of public service, I will accept all fifty-dollar bills containing his offensive photo!
It seems every relationship between the white and black races always has the vile reality of slavery in the background; one of Lee’s letters to his wife is relevant. He wrote in 1856, “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country.” He added that slavery was “a greater evil to the white man than to the black race” in the United States.
After reflecting on his comment, I agree with him. While slavery has been a reality since man’s earliest days and has been defended by the world’s most esteemed philosophers, including many professing Christians, slaveholding showed man’s evil propensity and fallen nature. Of course, slavery harmed and destroyed thousands of people, and that can never be justified; however, there were some residual benefits from slavery. My boyhood idol, Booker T. Washington, strongly believed that was true.
Even Cassis Clay, better known as Muhammad Ali, who fought George Foreman in Zaire for the world heavyweight boxing title, realized his advantages because his ancestors were brought to America. Ali won the fight, and upon returning to the United States, he was asked by a reporter, “Champ, what did you think of Africa?” Ali replied, “Thank God, my granddaddy got on that boat!” Only a fool, a fanatic, or a falsifier would disagree.
Honest, informed people will recognize that there was wrong on both sides of the war, but the war is over, and the North won. Nevertheless, I refuse to permit northern hypocrites to rewrite history and denigrate everything southern and paint us all with the broad brush of bigotry. There was bigotry, hatred, and malice on both sides, just as there was courage, honor, and commitment, as reflected in the statues erected by both sides throughout the south.
To sustain a sane, safe, and stable society, we should treat all people fairly as originally created in the image of God with no special treatment for anyone because of their race or religion!
But then, no radical leftist will agree to “no special treatment” for Blacks, women, or the homosexual crowd.
(Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives who ran a large Christian school in Indianapolis and wrote columns for USA Today for 8 years. Boys authored 20 books, the most recent, Reflections of a Lifetime Fundamentalist: No Reserves, No Retreats, No Regrets! The eBook is available at Amazon.com for $4.99. Other titles at www.cstnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at Don Boys, Ph.D., and visit his blog. Send a request to DBoysphd@aol.com for a free subscription to his articles and click here to support his work with a donation.)
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” John Bunyan, Baptist Preacher
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Originally posted here.
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