Two articles and a Daily Tar Heel editorial in your August 23rd edition addressed the UNC “Silent Sam” controversy. The editorial revealed our nation’s collective ignorance of Civil War history. Are Confederate statues racist symbols of white supremacy, or the South’s courageous stand against government manipulation by powerful special interests? Did the Civil War start due to northern troops raiding southern plantations, liberating slaves, and escorting them to freedom in the North, or the blocking of Charleston Harbor at Fort Sumpter, forbidding southern trade with European nations due to the Morrill Tariff Act, the most unfair tariff since the “Tariff of Abominations” passed in 1828? Did Confederate soldiers fight to preserve slavery, for states’ rights, or private southern citizens’ rights to sell their farm crops, and buy manufactured goods in an unrestricted international marketplace?
Rise of the American Nation, by Lewis Paul Todd and Merrill Curti, the accepted history book for at least our region of North Carolina from the early 1960s through the centennial edition used beyond 1976, clearly proves that America’s Civil War was not fought over slave freedom, but profit from slave labor. Numerous other historical accounts prove this as well. If the northern cause was abolition, why was William Lloyd Garrison attacked, and Elijah P. Lovejoy murdered for abolitionist activity in the North? If northern manufacturers did not want southern slaves producing raw materials, if northern workers welcomed job competition from freed slaves, why were the northern Fugitive Slave Laws passed and implemented? Why didn’t the Underground Railroad stop at the Mason-Dixon Line, rather than the Canadian Border? Why did the North blockade the South from Virginia, around Florida to Texas in an attempt to force southerners to sell cotton only in northern markets at deflated prices, and purchase finished goods from northern manufacturers at inflated prices?
Yes, at least three southern governors included preservation of slavery in their declarations of war, but how many northern governors, if any, included abolition in theirs? Did the South fight to preserve slavery, or the right to buy and sell in a free global market? Did the Emancipation Proclamation apply to slaves in the four northern border states, which continued the practice during and even after the war, or only the southern states in rebellion? Were freed slaves welcomed in the North after the war, or faced with extreme discrimination for another century? Was the Civil War fought over cotton-raising slaves, or slave-raised cotton, and whether the northern textile industry or southern planters would derive the most profit from slave labor?
Yes, abolition became an issue in a brilliant attempt by Abraham Lincoln to at least discourage if not prevent intervention on behalf of the South by European Nations which had abolished slavery, but were not above purchasing southern slave-raised cotton. In a pious façade, Lincoln’s administration highly publicized the purchase and freeing of slaves still owned by slave owners in Washington, D.C. with tax money, but did he ever free a single slave by decree? Above all, if Abraham Lincoln “Freed The Slaves” in 1863, why did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. end his most famous speech with hope the “Jim Crow” descendants of slaves would be “Free At Last” in the North and the South, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963?
Are Confederate monuments symbols of a war to preserve slavery, which benefited the northern textile industry as much as the southern planters, or resistance to special interest control of government by northern manufacturers who wanted southern slaves in the cotton fields just as much as the southern planters did? Was the Civil War fought over slave freedom, or powerful northern special interests trying to eliminate European competition for southern slave-raised cotton? Competition which is defined today as free-market-capitalism! Did drafted Confederate soldiers, who did not own slaves, want slavery preserved, or the aristocratic southern planters and the northern textile industry?
But don’t take my word for it. It is right there in our history books! Please, please, please ignore the erroneous myths, and read true history for yourselves.
Robert C. Currie Jr.