April 13, 2011 | Filed Under Editorial Cartoons
11 Responses to “Revisionists”
“If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign my commission and offer my sword to the other side”
— Ulysses S. Grant
Wow, you gotta be kidding me. How obtuse can an artist be?
Les, it’s not obtuse. It’s the truth. When SC seceded they produced two documents: The Ordinance of Secession and The Immediate Causes of Secession. The latter clearly spells out that the issue of slavery and the state’s right to continue employing slavery was the reason to go to war. So much of this history has been- and still is being- revised and romanticized and since we’re commemorating the beginning of the war this week and there have been some who are still denying (for what ever reason) that slavery was at the center of the debate, I decided to do this cartoon. So as much as some people- I guess you are one of them- want to contend this was about “States’ Rights” I counter with: Yes, states’ rights, but states’ rights to own slaves.
Close but no cigar Robert. Like today, hot political issues then frequently had little to do with the concerns of the public at large. Slavery WAS a hot issue by 1860, kept alive and nurtured by those high profile emancipation “agitators” akin to the later prohibition promoters several generations later. Most people in the North really did not care one way or the other.
States right’s however, had been THE critical enduring national issue since the creation of the US which caused a huge rift between Jefferson and John Adams while providing the basis of a career for John C Calhoun. Slavery had become of major concern to the south by 1860 but it was only one issue among many that the south would not tolerate the federal gov’t ramming down their throats. Indeed, even Lincoln would not make it a great issue and only announced the Emancipation Proclamation as a diversion from the bloody horror of Antietem and the (equally bloody horror of the) general mismanagement by the Union Army’s general staff. It has continued in this manner to this day to make a national tragedy into a “noble scarifice”.
The simplicity of calling slavery the cause of the war is understandable when teaching young children but it is a deceptive disservice to adults who don’t need an image whitewash for history.
BTW– I like your cartoons and I appreciate the fact that you don’t seem to be stuck in any political mindset. I look forward to reading many in the future.
Grant NEVER said what the unenformed and uneducated poster said.
The _Democratic Speakers Handbook_ (or, to give its full title, _The Democratic Speaker’s Hand-Book: Containing Every Thing Necessary for the Defense of the National Democracy in the Coming Presidential Campaign, and for the Assault of the Radical Enemies of the County and its Constitution_) does have something vaguely like the above quote on page 33, but the sourcing is very dubious, and I agree that the quote should not be given credence. From the Handbook, p. 33:
“The editor of the [Huntsville, Alabama] Randolph Citizen [a Democratic party newspaper] recalls some interesting reminiscences of the great Reticent. He had a tongue at one time, it would seem: In the summer of 1861 General Grant, then Colonel of the Twenty-first Illinois Regiment of Infantry, was stationed in Mexico [Missouri], on the North Missouri Railroad, and had command of the post . . . . Ulysses the Silent was then Ulysses the Garrulous, and embraced every fair opportunity which came his way to express his sentiments and opinions in regard to political affairs. One of these declarations we distinctly remember. In a public conversation in Ringo’s banking-house, a sterling Union man put this question to him: ‘What do you honestly think was the real object of this war on the part of the Federal Government?’ “‘Sir,’ said Grant, ‘I have no doubt in the world that the sole object is the restoration of the Union. I will say further, though, that I am a Democrat–every man in my regiment is a Democrat–and whenever I shall be convinced that this war has for its object anything else that what I have mentioned or that the Government designs using its soldiers to execute the purposes of the abolitionists, I pledge you on my honor as a man and a soldier that I will not only resign my commission, but will carry my sword to the other side, and cast my lot with that people.’” —This unsigned comment is by 188.8.131.52 (talk • contribs) . |
Revisionists hate to admit it but Grant did not say “If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign my commission and offer my sword to the other side” or it did not free his slave because of “good help being hard to find” at the same time you are wrong he was no lover of the black and before you start on me few in that period were. —
Slavery was a partial issue. Numerous categories of official Confederate documents affirm that slavery was indeed the primary issue that drove the secession movement and was central to the rebellion; it is therefore blatant and unmitigated revisionism to assert – as do Confederate apologists – that “one of the most important” of the “truths of history” is “that the War Between the States [Many southerners ardently insist on describing the conflict as “The War Between the States” and strenuously object to use of the descriptor “Civil War” (see, for example, “Let’s Say ‘War Between The States’ “ (at: http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/FAQ/wbts.html) ). However, cursory examinations of dozens of Confederate documents, as well as histories of the war written by Confederates immediately following the conflict, demonstrate that the descriptor they themselves most frequently used was “Civil War.” (Other descriptors used much less often by southern authors include “War Between the States,” “War of Southern Secession,” and “War for Southern Independence.”) Therefore, the assertion that the term “Civil War” is an inaccurate or biased title for the conflict is refuted by an examination of Confederate soldiers and historians who lived at the time of that conflict.] was not a rebellion [While the question of whether the conflict constituted a “rebellion” was not addressed by this work, a simple query raises a significant implication: If the “war between the states” was not a “rebellion” (as modern southern apologists assert), then why did southern leaders during the Civil War describe themselves and other southern participants as “Rebels” – a derivate of the word “rebellion”? The simple descriptor “Rebels” used by the Confederates themselves certainly suggests that they certainly viewed the Civil War as a “Rebellion.”] nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.”
Less than three percent of the United States owned slaves. Of that minority, it was only a few thousand families that were slaveholders. The Confederacy raised too many soldiers and faced to much suffering to die solely because a tiny aristocracy refused to work for a living.
To say that the Civil War was or was mainly about slavery alone says that all these people who did not own slaves died for something they didn’t care about and had no stake in. You cannot possibly say that every single non-slaveholding Southerner did it for naught.
The first slave owner in the United States was black, as was the first slave. The majority of southern Louisinana slavers were black freemen, including during the Confederate days.
Slavery was not a rallying cry in the Civil War until Abraham Lincoln needed to invent a rallying call to increase morale. The Emancipation Proclamation was convienently penned after several waves of tragedy bludgeoned the
Futhermore, the South never wanted to go to war. They wanted to walk away and be their own nation. They were invaded by the North, because the North wanted to force them to stay in the Union because of their coveted resources and ports, not for some ideal.
You accuse us of romanticizing the antebellum South and the war itself, yet you romanticize the Civil War as some noble cause to free slaves instead of a flat-out invasion of a populace wanting to govern themselves, like the framers of the original Union did to Britain. The North had no business or justification to attack the South when they walked because people, frankly put, have a right to secede and form a new government if they cannot or refuse to function in the old one. (I mean, it’s right there in the Declaration of Independence.)
The Civil War was initially, and officially, to “preserve the Union”, and that was the casus belli of the Civil War. Slavery was not an issue or a rallying cry from the North until the Emancipation Proclamation, which existed only to boost morale and rally the Union to fight harder and longer, not because Lincoln was a good person or actually cared about the plight of Southern black men.
The majority of Northerners were not active Abolitionists. They were the loudest voices and society listened to them accordingly. That is not to say that their cause was unjust (not at all), but it is to say that most Northerners either opposed it in their state or simply didn’t care. Lincoln didn’t focus all that much on slavery until late in the war, out of political neccesity.
“Less than three percent of the United States owned slaves.”
A thoroughly misleading figure, as you’re counting the spouses and children of slave owners, including those who would inherit slaves, as non-slave owners. You’re also including the slaveless (except for the 18 slaves in New Jersey) north in that total. Roughly one household in three in the south owned slaves — more in secessionist areas. About half the white families in South Carolina and Mississippi owned slaves.
When you further add in relatives of slaveholders living in other houses who had an interest in protecting the family wealth, and people who rented slaves, and people employed in the management or control of slaves (overseers, etc) the number with a financial interest in slavery climbs even higher.
Then there are the people who hoped to rise into the slaveholding class (American Dream, Andrew Jackson style), and non-slaveholders who approved of slavery as a means of social and legal control over blacks — all together, that gives you a rather large majority of southern whites who favored preserving the slave system, at least in the short term.
“Less than three percent of the United States owned slaves. Of that minority, it was only a few thousand families that were slaveholders. The Confederacy raised too many soldiers and faced to much suffering to die solely because a tiny aristocracy refused to work for a living.” Patently false. A quick look at the 1860 Census proves this to be a lie. There were 8% of Southerners who “held title”, which means they held the title to the slaves. If, however, you count in families, the numbers rise to 25% for the South as a whole & it was certainly more depending on the states. Not to mention, there was a 20 Slave Act that was passed by the Confederate Congress as part of an amendment to the 1862 Conscription Act that gave exemption to those slave owners with 20 or more slaves.
The war wasn’t about slavery alone, but it was the main cause of the conflict. Any standard reading of primary Southern sources will show that. The leadership of the South said it plenty of times in their speeches, letters, proclamations, sermons, & editorials. You ignore the South in your response Turtle.
For the North the war was about preserving the Union-in the beginning. Slavery was targeted from the beginning-see Butler’s “contraband” proclamation, the First & Second Confiscation Acts, & the destruction of slavery in Washington D.C. in April of 1862.
The South certainly made plenty of moves towards war. They called out 100,000 men 2 days after Lincoln was inaugurated. The had arms shipped south illegally. They took over Federal arsenals & banks illegally. The fired on Federal ships, forts, & men (Forts Barrancas, Sumter, & the ship “Star of West”). They had planned on attacking Fort Sumter from the beginning, no matter what the Federals did.
Lincoln certainly cared about blacks-he was consistently anti-slavery, but not abolitionist. He didn’t believe in their equality to begin with, but always maintained that they should be free.
Robert Ariail, you were right on the money. The only two “states rights” that the South cared about were the right to own slaves & the right to secede to protect the institute of slavery. The South certainly didn’t care about “states rights” when the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act ran roughshod over Northern civil liberty laws. And you didn’t hear them complain about it when the Dred Scott decision passed. They welcomed Federal intervention when it came to slavery. It was the election of an anti-slavery candidate who was against the spread of slavery that caused them to freak out.
And Robert, you were also right about the documents produced. Not only did South Carolina produce as much, so did several other states:
Then there was the Cornerstone Speech by VP Alexander Stephens. Then there were the “Apostles of DisUnion” who made it clear that slavery was the main reason for leaving. Your cartoon was right on the mark. Kudos.
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