Monday, February 23, 2009

A Confederate Soldier's Revisionist Legacy

Around mid-February 2009, we received some unsolicited emails from fellow Texan Darrell McEver of Leander, "10 Generations" of whose "family have fought and Died for this Country, the Confederacy, and Texas." On the face of it, that's a very credible claim (I did the math), with the average span between generations being roughly 23 years and 4 months.

But in this story, that's where Mr. McEver's credibility both begins and ends.

His purpose in writing wasn't to boast about his family's role as fodder for the war mongers of American history, but to inform us that:
"The Civil war was about The Vast Majority of American Citizens voting to end Slavery by the election of Lincoln. It was about Americans wanting to end injustice. The rights of states to Secede was far outweighed by the rights of ALL Americans to be free. ...If there had been no slavery there would have been no Civil war."
Those four short sentences contain four abject falsehoods, to wit:
  1. Lincoln was elected by a "vast majority."
  2. Lincoln's election was about ending slavery.
  3. a state's right to withdraw from its voluntary relationship to the Union is somehow trumped by "Americans' right to be free."
  4. slavery was the cause of the War of Northern Aggression—popularly (and erroneously) called the American "Civil War."
When told his assertions were only popularized myths, Mr. McEver assured us of their reliability, because he was "quoting [his] Great Grandfather from Vidor Texas," who was "a very young private in the Confederacy."

With due respect to both Mr. McEver and his great grandfather, neither a man's having been a private ("very young" or otherwise) in any particular army, nor his being from Vidor, Texas, is a logical basis for substituting his beliefs for the scholarship and historically-informed writings of the likes of Shelby Foote (author of the three-volume "The Civil War"), Thomas DiLorenzo ("The Real Lincoln"), Charles Adams ("When in the Course of Human Events"), or Kenneth Stampp ("The Causes of the Civil War").*

So let's examine each of the four (false) claims of Darrell McEver and his great grandfather.

1) Did Lincoln receive the votes of the "vast majority" of Americans in 1860?

No, he received just under 40%. The remaining 60+% went to the other three candidates: Breckinridge (18%), Bell (12%), and Douglas (30%). Forty percent is not a "majority" of the available votes at all, let alone a "vast majority." Lincoln won because he received more votes than any other candidate, not because the "vast majority" of Americans voted for him.

2) Did Lincoln's election having anything to do with slavery?

No. He did not campaign against slavery. In fact, he was on record as having an opinion of Negro slaves as inferior folk who should be removed to another continent, and when pressed to the point, he explicitly stated that he had no intention of interfering with slavery in the South. The above authors have plainly and thoroughly documented all of this from the historical record. No one has rebutted the evidence they have published, because no rebuttal is possible—the historical facts speak for themselves, and expose the anti-slavery myth for the popularized lie that it is (at least for those unwilling to substitute opinion or myth for an objective examination the historical facts).

3) Is there legal or historical evidence that Americans' "right to be free" somehow trumps, negates, or nullifies the right of a state to secede (i.e., to voluntarily withdraw from its voluntary relationship to the Union)?

No. No such provision is found in either the US Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, the two documents articulating the laws and principles which comprise the foundation of the American republic. Nor is there a logical foundation for such a claim: A secession being an act undertaken by a state on behalf of the will of its people (presumably in the interest of their right to self-determination), it is a logical fallacy to assert that such an act may somehow be justifiably nullified by some alleged claim to "freedom" by the sum of the people not represented by that state, since the freedom of those outside the state is not substantially affected, threatened, or questioned by either the will of the people or the state acting on behalf of that will in executing the act of secession.

4) Was slavery the cause of the so-called "Civil War"?

No. The above authors (and many others) have demonstrated from the historical record that, although slavery in America existed as a highly controversial issue, both morally and politically, Lincoln's presidency was not founded on a resolve to end slavery, nor was the South's secession primarily motivated by a fear of any such resolve on Lincoln's part.

Instead, Southern secession was motivated primarily by what had become a long-brewing imbalance between Northern control of Washington power via higher population (and therefore voter) concentrations in the North, which, in turn, rendered Southern productivity and property subject to the whims (and taxes) of Northern industrialists. Southerners had grown weary after many years of Northern domination, in which their freedom to buy and sell was being controlled and manipulated through Congress by dominant Northerners. Lincoln had promised more of the same, so his election became the last straw for a great many Southerners.

To be sure, there were both Southerners and Northerners who wanted to end slavery, and there were both Southerners and Northerners who felt it was nobody's business to interfere with slavery. Many scholars agree that American slavery was destined to end soon in any case, and war was certainly unnecessary for that achievement: Slavery was abolished without armed conflict in most other Western nations around the same time as Lincoln's war on the South, bringing further into question the popularized myth that a bloody conflict was necessary.

During the 19th century, slavery was abolished (without war) in Argentina (1813), Colombia (1814), Chile (1823), Central America (1824), Mexico (1829), Bolivia (1831), British colonies (1840), Uruguay (1842), French colonies (1848), Danish colonies (1848), Ecuador (1851), Peru (1854), Venezuela (1854), Dutch colonies (1863), Puerto Rico (1873), Brazil (1878) and Cuba (1886). The notion that a nation-wide war was necessary for the same purpose in America is based purely on popularized, arbitrary opinion—not the facts of the historical record.

Finally, Mr. McEver saw fit to assert that "when it comes to States Rights and Secession today I remind you" that the Pledge of Allegiance contains the word "indivisible... Americans, by oath under the Hand of the Almighty, completely and purposefully acknowledge that the United States of American is indivisible."

It apparently doesn't occur to Mr. McEver that:
  1. not all Americans voluntarily recite or assent to "the pledge"
  2. with the exception of its mentioning "liberty and justice for all," nothing about "the pledge" reflects the spirit or principles of the American founders
  3. "the pledge" is neither a legal document, nor based in law, and as such, is not legally or morally binding on those coerced to mindlessly recite it at government "schools" and political functions
  4. "the pledge" was originally crafted (1892) by a socialist in the interest of fomenting a spirit of socialist nationalism in which individual liberty itself was to be subjugated to the supposed "greater good" of the whole nation
  5. the phrase "under God" had no part in the author's original text, and was only added 62 years later (1954)
  6. neither "the pledge" in general, nor its containing the word "indivisible" in particular, by any means carries any legal force whatsoever, let alone that sufficient to nullify the inherent right of a people to self-determination, as formally recognized in the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Texas Constitution.
Thanks to his Confederate soldier great grandfather, Darrell McEver is just one of many Texans (and other Americans) who have been conditioned to accept without question the mythologies of the American federal government. Too busy (or lazy) to examine the historical record itself, they are duped into believing — and repeating — outright falsehoods about American history, as popularized and perpetuated by our government, media, and academia, and (to his own shame) even a veteran of the Confederate army.

This habitual displacement of truth by such popularized myths in the public mind seems to go hand-in-hand with popular acquiescence to the big-government national-socialist agenda perpetrated from Washington by the twin ruling parties. That being the case, any hope for genuinely positive change awaits a popular awakening and abandonment of both habits.

* For those either unwilling or unable to examine the historical record as brought to light in the above cited books, a small sampling of the scholarship they embody may be found here.