How the Civil War Is Related To The Current Partisan Political Conflict and Division In America
That Civil War is one of the most understood wars in history. Disputes over its cause have raged since before it broke out, and they continue to this day. Therefore, since the cause of that war is still disputed even today, and since its cause and impact still has a lingering aftermath, Americans should learn more about it.
It should be understood, however, that the critique in this analysis is directed only at the bigotry, racism and "religious" hypocrisy of those who instigated the Civil War and created the conditions that caused it, and also at those who have perpetuated the conflict even to this day. Thus it is directed at those Southerners who identify with and further the cause of the Neo-Confederacy. It is not directed at good people in the South.
It must be said that many people in the South are not like the misguided Neo-Confederates and right-wing theocratic "Christian" Dominionists who cause conflict and division as they fight for political power. There are many good, faithful people in the South who are not proud and militant but are instead humble and peace-loving. They abide by the Golden Rule, and they are not bigoted or intolerant regarding race, religion, or partisan politics.
Unfortunately, because Southerners who are good tend to be humble and meek, they unwittingly serve to enable hypocrites who merely masquerade as Christians, because when good people remain silent, demagogues and hatemongers are able to fight to gain political power.
After all, it is no coincidence that extreme right wing "Tea Party" members in Texas have proudly thumped their bible as they cause conflict and division and display the Confederate flag in parades and rallies, because it was their counterparts who were responsible for the Civil War. And today they perpetuate the theocratic "Christian" Dominionist example set by the leaders of the "religious right" that rose to political power in the years leading up to the Civil War, and rose again to political power with Ronald Reagan in 1982.
Largely because of that, the Reaganite war against national laws and government regulations that prevent wrongdoing in the states still rages, and bigotry regarding race, religion and sexual orientation is insidious in the South. And it's not limited to the South. In fact, as far North as Alaska, right-wing extremists like Sarah Palin demonstrate the same kinds of bigotry. And, just as it was in the 1800s, it is “justified” by a distorted idea of Christianity, which has been conspicuously demonstrated in recent time, not only by right-wing politicians, but by right-wing political activists in many other fields.
For example, one television personality popular with people in the South has openly claimed that before the Civil Rights movement black people were “happy.” Another Southern television personality brazenly called black people "Niggers." And such blatantly racist comments are clear indicators of how commonly acceptable it has become in the modern South to reveal and express racist attitudes and opinions.
Such remarks reveal to what extent many Southerners, and even those on the Southern “Christian Right,” are in denial and demonstrate an early 19th Century Antebellum Southern attitude. It is a typical point of view of Southerners who are, or identify with, right-wing “Christian” hypocrites who make a show of being “godly Christians” and act as if they are “holier than thou” while they harbor very un-Christian views and feelings. And while most of them know better than to reveal those views and feelings in public, sometimes they can’t restrain themselves even while on television.
Even though the mainstream commercial media in America appears to be unaware of it, some people in America realize what has happened and is happening in this regard. Some even realize it is the rise of a "Neo-Confederacy," or a "New Dixie Movement."
Later in this article it discusses how it was revived in the 1950s in defiant reaction to efforts at integrating schools, and revived again in the 1970s with a defiant Southern reaction to the widespread criticism of racism and apartheid in the South (which was so cruelly demonstrated in the 1960s). That criticism was perhaps best summed up in the great protest song, Southern Man, sung by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1971. And perhaps the best known defiant reaction to the criticism was a song called Sweet Home Alabama, sung by a Southern rock band in response, as they proudly displayed the Confederate flag.
The "Southern Pride" movement grew from that, and for more than three decades it has developed and expanded into a widespread right-wing "conservative" movement that is anti-government and even anti-Democracy, as you will see in this article. But for now, let's look at what others are saying about it.
Here is now the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) defines Neo-Confederacy:
“The term neo-Confederacy is used to describe twentieth and twenty-first century revivals of pro-Confederate sentiment in the United States. Strongly nativist and advocating measures to end immigration, neo-Confederacy claims to pursue Christianity and heritage and other supposedly fundamental values that modern Americans are seen to have abandoned.
“Neo-Confederacy also incorporates advocacy of traditional gender roles, is hostile towards democracy, strongly opposes homosexuality, and exhibits an understanding of race that favors segregation and suggests white supremacy. In many cases, neo-Confederates are openly secessionist.
“Neo-Confederacy has applied to groups including the United Daughters of the Confederacy of the 1920s and those resisting racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s. In its most recent iteration, Neo-Confederacy is used by both proponents and critics to describe a belief system that has emerged since the early-1980s in publications like Southern Partisan, Chronicles, and Southern Mercury, and in organizations including the League of the South, the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Overall, it is a reactionary conservative ideology that has made inroads into the Republican Party from the political right, and overlaps with the views of white nationalists and other more radical extremist groups.”
In Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction, edited by Euan Hague, Heidi Beirich, and Edward H. Sebesta, the following is expressed:
“An interdisciplinary team examines the mainstreaming of the New Dixie movement, whose calls range from full secession to the racist exaltation of ‘Celtic’ Americans and whose advocates can be found far north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“A century and a half after the conclusion of the Civil War, the legacy of the Confederate States of America continues to influence national politics in profound ways. Drawing on magazines such as Southern Partisan and publications from the secessionist organization League of the South, as well as DixieNet and additional newsletters and web sites, Neo-Confederacy probes the veneer of this movement to reveal goals far more extensive than a mere celebration of ancestry.
“Incorporating groundbreaking essays on the Neo-Confederacy movement, this eye-opening work encompasses such topics as literature and music; the ethnic and cultural claims of white, Anglo-Celtic southerners; gender and sexuality; the origins and development of the movement and its tenets; and ultimately its nationalization into a far-reaching factor in reactionary conservative politics. The first book-length study of this powerful sociological phenomenon, Neo-Confederacy raises crucial questions about the mainstreaming of an ideology that, founded on notions of white supremacy, has made curiously strong inroads throughout the realms of sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, and often ‘orthodox’ Christian populations that would otherwise have no affiliation with the regionality or heritage traditionally associated with Confederate history.”
Leading Neo-Confederate organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) claim, when speaking in public, that their activities are about Southern heritage and are purely historical in nature, and they deny that they have a long term agenda designed to further the bigoted and partisan political cause of the Neo-Confederacy.
There are, however, more blatantly racist Neo-Confederate groups like The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which is modern version of the old White Citizens Councils that were formed in the 1950s to battle school integration programs and perpetuate racial segregation and apartheid. In fact, it was the CCC that influenced the white supremacist and avowed Neo-Confederate terrorist Dylann Roof, who committed the mass murder of black people in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015.
It should also be noted that the verbal battle over the flying of the old Confederate flag on state capital grounds after the killing of black people in their church by Dylann Roof was very telling, because while Neo-Confederates who insisted that the Confederate flag was flown to honor the Southern veterans of the Civil War, the truth is that the display of the Confederate flag on state capital grounds began in the 1950s as a reaction to the Civil Rights movement and school integration. It was displayed deliberately as a bigoted, racist gesture and symbol.
By the way, to give you an idea of how the reality about racism was being shoved under the rug in the 1950s, see the movie ''Heart of Dixie'' (released in 1989 after the Neo-Confederacy was clearly on the rise). The movie is clear-eyed and affecting, about the emotional awakening of a white Alabama college coed in 1957 as she became aware of the great racial struggles that marked the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement. She was a reporter on her college newspaper, and she wanted to become a serious journalist, even though she was a sorority sister of other daughters of Alabama aristocrats who cherished the ways, traditions and attitudes of the Antebellum South. In other words, they longed for the days when all “niggers knew their place," and believed that black people should graciously accept segregation and apartheid and be grateful to be of service to such beneficent employers. They resented that the federal government was making concessions to the Civil Rights movement, and they especially resented that Southern universities were being forced to accept colored students.
However, perhaps the most ominous thing about what has happened and is happening is that the leaders of the Neo-Confederacy are usually rather sneaky about their real agenda. In fact, they use tactics that are deceptive, designed to create a distorted, slanted view of history to mislead people about the intent of America’s Founders.
One of the earlier example of that was when right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson claimed the America's Founders did not intend to establish separation of church and state. Even though facts, history and Article 6 and the First Amendment of the Constitution prove Robertson wrong, he insisted that the idea was a "lie of the Left."
Another example is Texas televangelist David Barton, a “Christian” Dominionist and a darling of the Tea Party, and he operates bus tours of government buildings in Washington, D.C. During his tours he distorts and puts a misleading right-wing spin on his narrative to create a revisionist history and give a false impression of the intent of America's Founders..
Another example is a leading Neo-Confederate, Thomas Woods, who wrote a book titled The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, and it was a bestseller because many gullible Americans do no know real history and are believing in the concocted, deceptive version that is being sold by Neo-Confederates because their goal is to mold mainstream consciousness to fit in with the right-wing extremist conservative movement.
That book’s author, Thomas Woods, is a faculty member of the intellectual group behind Neo-Confederate ideology, the Abbeville Institute. It is a group of Southern academic scholars who publish books and articles online to assert a obviously biased and often misleading Neo-Confederate point of view. They claim that the South has been wrongly maligned and misunderstood, and they strive to sound fair, objective and factual, which of course makes their narrative easy to swallow for gullible, prejudiced Southerners and other like-minded people. But anyone who understands American history can recognize how contaminated with biased, misleading statements and propaganda the Abbeville Institutes articles and publications are.
That Institute is named for the South Carolina town that was a hotbed of secession leading up to the Civil War. It was hometown of U.S. Senator John Calhoun, who before he died in 1850 was best known for his intense defense of slavery, and for pointing the South toward secession from the Union. And the modern Abbeville Institute was founded in 2003 by Donald Livingston, who has been one of the intellectual leaders of the secessionist movement.
A more recent example of history being revised by right-wing conservative ideologues was reported by the New York Times that published an article about How Texas Teaches History. It exposed how Texas school textbooks try to make slavery sound as if it was okay, even to the extent of omitting the fact that there were slave ships, and instead painting the Atlantic slave trade as if it was about bringing “millions of workers” to plantations in the American South. (When the publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, was questioned about it, they promised they would correct the error.)
So, America needs to awaken to what's been going on, because those and many other examples are indicators that the Neo-Confederate movement is part of a much wider conspiracy (which is explained in the article on The Real Right-Wing Conspiracy).
Now, that said, let us discuss the real causes of the Civil War, because that's what's really behind all this.
Many Southerners and particularly Southern "Christian" preachers have been saying since before the Civil War began that they were merely fighting for "state's rights" and against "abuse of power by federal government." But, that is really not true.
The truth is that the Southern states just didn't like the U.S. Constitution established in 1787, which gave the federal government needed and necessary powers regarding such things as regulating interstate commerce. Southerners preferred the old Articles of Confederation that the Constitution had replaced, because it had produced a weak federal government and given the states free license to do as they pleased. That, in fact, was why the Constitution was necessary for many reasons, especially to regulate interstate commerce and establish more cohesiveness and integrity to the union.
However, even though the South resented a stronger central government and the national regulations it established, the main cause of the Civil War was slavery. The history from 1619 to 1861 proves that.
There was indeed a secondary cause of the war, though, and it was the rebellious and seceding Southern state's refusal to recognize the central government's power to prevent the expansion Westward of the growing business of the slave trade. Most Americans were against that, and yet Southerners claimed it was a "violation of state's rights" for the federal government to prevent it, and they even claimed that slavery was approved by "The Word of God."
That was confirmed by what the Vice President of the Confederate States, Alexander H. Stephens, had said in a speech in 1861 (a month before the South fired on Fort Sumter to start the Civil War). He said that "slavery" was "the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution.”
Even more telling is that Stephens had the gall to say that unlike the U.S. Constitution, which states that all men are equal, "The Confederacy is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
Moral truth? Well, as you can see, that's what the religious and political leaders of the South claimed as they thumped their bible and claimed that "The Word of God" authorized slavery. And obviously Stephens proudly told a lie as if it were the truth because Southern "Christian" preachers had been saying that for generations, and therefore he probably believed it.
So, even at the time many Southerners acknowledged that slavery was the cause of the war, and there was no question about that in Abraham Lincoln’s mind. When he delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, at the end of the Civil War, he said that slavery was “the cause of the war."
However, this article doesn’t just discuss the Civil War and its causes that go back to 1619 in Jamestown Colony when slavery was introduced and "legitimized" by the wealthy British Anglican Christian aristocrats who had settled there and established plantations. It’s important that Americans are aware of that, but there’s much more to the story about the vast impact that has had on the whole country.
This article also covers all its subsequent consequences following the war and all the way into the 1950s, '60s and '70s, and even to the present day – which are not only about racism but also about the erroneous idea that the early Articles of Confederation were superior to the U.S. Constitution that replace them in 1787.
Slavery was the main cause of the Civil Way, but the conflict over slavery actually originated in 1619 when the first slaves were captured in Africa and brought to Jamestown and the British Virginia Colony to provide a free labor force for plantation owners. And even then many Americans thought it was wrong.
The conflict heated up when, in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that the British King "has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere."
Of course, Jefferson's words referring to slavery didn’t make it into the final version of the Declaration due to Southern opposition, specifically at the request of delegates from South Carolina and Georgia. However, a lot of Americans felt like Jefferson, and his brave proposal was the beginning of the "Abolitionist" movement to abolish slavery. (And you can read much more of the real truth about Jefferson's views and actions regarding slavery in the article on Jefferson and Jeffersonian Democracy.)
Abraham Lincoln certainly felt like Jefferson did about it, which is why Lincoln said: “The principles of Jefferson are the axioms of a free society.”
When Lincoln won the presidency running of a platform that included preventing the spread and expansion of the institution of slavery Westward, that enraged Southern slave owners who were in the business of selling slaves and wanted to expand the slave trade market Westward. That, in fact, is what ignited the fires of the Civil War in 1861, leading to the South’s attack on Fort Sumter right after Abraham Lincoln took office as president.
George Washington wrote, "Thirteen sovereign states pulling against each other, and all tugging at the federal head, will soon bring ruin to the whole." And before the Constitutional Convention in 1787, James Madison told Washington that the states had to be made "subordinately useful."
However, modern right-wing “conservative” propaganda has been a misleading attempt to essentially subvert or undermine the Constitution, and even restore the Laissez Faire principle of the Articles of Confederation, which had governed the new nation since 1777 but was replaced by the Constitution in 1787.
That’s what the Neo-Confederacy, the “Tea Party” and other right-wing Republican extremists want, despite their claims of fidelity to the Founders and Framers of the Constitution. For the Articles of Confederation had indeed made the states "sovereign" and "independent" and gave little importance to the federal government – which is why the U.S. Constitution became necessary. That's why it was established in 1787, in order to specify what the powers of the federal government relative to the states should be, to ensure compatibility, fairness and equity in interstate commerce, to preserve the integrity of the union, and to ensure domestic tranquility.
Now, the other main conflict is over religion, because since 1787 “conservative fundamentalist evangelical Christians” in the U.S. have misinterpreted the intent of the Founders and therefore misunderstood what religious freedom actually means. They think it means freedom for them to try to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else, which is actually the opposite of what religious freedom means.
Even back in 1800 right-wing "Christian" Dominionists accused Thomas Jefferson of being "anti-Christian" because he insisted that there can be no religious freedom unless government respects all religions, and he clarified that the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution was intended to "build a wall of separation between church and state."