Sorry, Yanks: Let’s Stop Pretending that the North Was Not Complicit in Slavery

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]When it comes to discussions concerning the Confederate flag, many, I suspect, are like me: we do not demand sameness of philosophy or agreement. We do, however, demand a conversation centered on historical and sociological understanding; in this discussion, emotion is an unacceptable substitute.[/vc_column_text][banner300 banner=”5517620b381df”][vc_column_text]Unfortunately, the vast majority of quips and talking points to emerge from the oh-so-enlightened left have centered on emotion with nary an understanding of history or Southern culture to be found in sight.

That, sadly, includes so-called “leaders” like South Carolina’s governor Nikki Haley and, unsurprisingly, President Obama.

However, in one of the most-fair discussions surrounding the Confederate flag I’ve witnessed since this became the most-urgent topic of the year (despite the fact that the topic has lingered for 150 years), Hugh Howard points-out the skewed narrative of the “Northern perspective” on this topic.

Howard begins his contention with an assertion that the Civil War was fought over slavery. I disagree with the simplified notion. Surely it was the catalyst for the break-up of the union and positively many in the South (and North) maintained an abhorrent stance that slavery was a right of landowners. Nonetheless, with such a small percentage in the South actually owning slaves, it cannot rightfully be said that the bloody war was over this issue, but fought over an issue of state sovereignty- a fight that, in many ways, continues today.

Still Howard continues his powerful assertion that too many are forgetting the North’s complicity:

Recall that when Lincoln took office, slavery had the official sanction of the U.S. government. Like it or not, slavery was a part of the economic history of the North as well as the South. Much of the nation’s cotton, its largest export, was taken north of the Mason-Dixon Line to be processed; for that matter, many of the South’s most successful planters were Yankees who adopted with alacrity the practice of slavery on their way to wealth.

 

In the antebellum years, there was nothing resembling an anti-slavery consensus in the North. America’s greatest philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, hesitated for years to decry what he called “the habit of oppression.” When he finally did so from the podium in Concord Town Hall, he was called a fanatic and worse. The word “abolition” made his neighbors angry. The idea rang radical even in Massachusetts, where many regarded those who espoused such views as dangerous.

 

It’s simply wrong-headed to presume that average, mid-19th-century farmers and factory workers in the North harbored abolitionist sympathies. They didn’t.

Howard notes the falsehood of the Great Lincoln Myth- that the Great Emancipator was a true egalitarian. Lincoln was not only an enemy to the foundations of our republic by suspending our basic civil liberties, he also only extended freedom to blacks as a necessary wartime measure to hobble the Confederacy- an inconvenient fact that the left has conveniently forgotten.

Even Lincoln’s racial thinking evolved in a slow and ambiguous manner. Until the very end of his life, the hero of the age resisted the notion that the black and white races were equal. In his famous 1858 debates — and elsewhere — he repeatedly rejected the idea of permitting black men to vote, serve as jurors, hold office or intermarry with whites. “There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality.”

 

That meant that, at its outset, the war for Lincoln was explicitly about union — until it became expedient to make it about emancipation. The Emancipation Proclamation was primarily intended to hobble the Confederacy’s war effort, which relied upon slaves for provisioning and other support.

 

Even among those who recognized that human bondage must end, few thought blacks were equal to whites. In the South, where 95 percent of the nation’s African Americans resided, slavery had been a fact of life for generations, fixing the black man’s inferiority in the minds of most whites. In the North, where less than 1 percent of the population was black, relatively few whites interacted with men or women of color; there, anyone of African descent remained very much other.

[/vc_column_text][banner300 banner=”553157113d3ff”][vc_column_text]No, we should not bend on the issue of slavery and forgive the slaveholder perspective on this specific topic. However, we should not pretend that this was a uniquely Southern (or American) idea. We should also not forget that from the beginning of our nation, the industrial North relied heavily upon the raw materials produced by the agrarian-based South.

To pretend that the North had no idea where the bulk cotton was coming is a willful ignorance of the North’s complicity and an unforgivable trespass upon those who toiled and died in the furtherance of this institution and those who fought and died in the war that emerged, in part, because of it.

Oh, and this dust-up over the Confederate flag? If we are to ban it, we must also ban the American flag, as well. Both flew over lands worked by human beings held in bondage.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

About the Author

Greg Campbell
Greg Campbell
An unapologetic patriot and conservative, Greg emerged within the blossoming Tea Party Movement as a political analyst dedicated to educating and advocating for the preservation of our constitutional principles and a free-market solution to problems birthed by economic liberalism. From authoring scathing commentaries to conducting interviews with some of the biggest names in politics today including party leaders, activists and conservative media personalities, Greg has worked to counter the left’s media narratives with truthful discussions of the biggest issues affecting Americans today. Greg’s primary area of focus is Second Amendment issues and the advancement of honest discussion concerning the constitutional right that protects all others. He lives in the Northwest with his wife, Heather, and enjoys writing, marksmanship and the outdoors.
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