"Politics, n. Strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." ~ Ambrose Bierce
Who Invaded Whom?
A recent blog discussion at Reason On-Line Hit and Run (link thanks to Karen De Coster on the lewrockwell.com blog) concerning the recent book The Politically Incorrect Guide To History by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. evolved primarily into a discussion of The War Between The States. The central point argued by many could be summed up in the following sentence from one of the posters: "The CSA's raison d'etre was to defend slavery; your argument forgets this fact. It took the actual invasion of the South to break the slavocracy's hold over the slaves." I found this government-school version of the war peddling righteous glorification of the victors somewhat troubling and thus responded:
The purpose of all states is to provide a means for the richest guys to protect their economic interests. The rich guys who controlled the State governments in the South wanted to protect their economic interests that included slaves as property. The rich guys who controlled the State governments in the North wanted to protect their economic interests, which included taxing the Southern States in order to pay for "internal improvements" in the North as well as restrict foreign competition for their "emerging industries." When these interests could not be reconciled in Washington, D.C. under the "social contract" that States from both factions had entered into voluntarily (several with caveats that they could indeed secede at a later time if the Constitution didn't work out), then secession was the peaceful and legitimate (consent of the governed/Tenth Amendment) course chosen by the Southern rich guys to protect their economic interests. The CSA was no libertarian haven; indeed, it was still a means to provide control by the most concentrated economic interests.
However, the central mitigating factor in this conflict has not been mentioned directly. That is: Who invaded whom? Any discussion of the purpose behind an aggressive act (especially war) must center on the purpose of the aggressor, not the aggressed. The party being aggressed against must be able to defend against that aggression if there is to be any sense of justice. The "dynamite" argument above that slavery may have been the "why" behind secession does not make it the "why" as to the aggression that subsequently occurred is very pertinent. That not a peep about wanting to free slaves was mentioned while the opposite offer of maintaining slavery was made by Lincoln before invading the Southern States; that the Emancipation Proclamation had an out clause that Southern States could keep their slave institutions if they would just stop rebelling; and that Lincoln constantly assured the slave owning States that remained in the Union he would not interfere with their slave owning if they continued to support his war are all most telling.
To suggest that Lincoln and his racist rich guy clients in the North had some benevolent purpose in mind to "free the slaves" when they invaded the Southern States instilling a policy of genocide against the Southern civilian population is intellectually dishonest. Indeed, it is a myth created by the victors to provide comfort from the evil effects of murdering, raping and pillaging that harmed blacks as well as whites in the South to a self-righteous Northern population. How could self-anointed crusaders otherwise maintain an air of superiority to this day without upholding the shibboleth of "evil slave owning southerners deserved everything they got and that's why we did what we had to do."
The naïveté inherent in believing politicians and their sycophant intellectuals who come up with crusading propaganda long after they have made a decision to murder for money like common thugs, especially in order to soothe one's ego, is all too prevalent today. Just because the propaganda has been around for a very long period of time is no excuse. I fear that many of our grandchildren will likewise believe that the U.S. Imperial Federal Government invaded Iraq to bring them "freedom" and sneer at the fact that Iraq was a sovereign state that posed no threat. This leads to ideas like, say, supporters of Iraqi "States Rights" are simply terrorists.