We Southerners tenaciously cling to our myths long after all rationale for doing so has past, if there ever was any. I suppose it’s part of our culture and heritage. But the most ridiculous belief that some Southerners still nurture is the idea that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery at all, but states’ rights. That senseless, bloody, cruel war, especially from the South’s perspective, was about slavery and little else.
The Southern states did not secede from the Union in a body, but individually. Each state held a secession convention, voted on the question and issued a secession declaration which included their reasons for leaving the Union. In none of the 11 declarations was there any mention of states’ rights. They complained about the Northern states’ disrespect for the South’s lawful institution of slavery, their refusal to return runaway slaves, their denial of the right to transport slaves across free states and into the territories and similar grievances. Don’t believe this? Google Georgia’s secession declaration and read it yourself.
The real reason for leaving the Union?
With each succeeding election the South had become increasingly disturbed by its loss of political power. By the “three-fifths compromise,” the South had always exercised political power disproportionate to its actual white, voting population. Through seniority rules on congressional committees, Southern senators and congressmen were able to prevent antislavery legislation from coming to a vote and pack the Supreme Court with sympathetic justices. With Lincoln’s election, they saw this fast-eroding, cozy arrangement coming to an end. If the South couldn’t have things its way, it wouldn’t play.
Just Yankee talk?
My credentials as a Southerner are unimpeachable. My great grandfather was a Confederate officer who fought in every major battle in the east after First Bull Run and also Chickamauga. He died while home on sick-leave following the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864. I am also a direct descendent of an Alabama slave-holding family. I’m not particularly proud of it, it’s just a fact.
George B. Reed, Jr., Rossville