Saturday, December 13, 2008


As I have read various guest editorials and letters to the editor published in The Albany Herald in recent years, I've wondered what purpose is gained by printing assertions of fact which are demonstrably false. On a page which is supposed to be devoted to opinions, I would hope that readers would prefer that The Herald maintain a modicum of integrity with regard to the facts on which those opinions are based. To paraphrase the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to his own facts. Whether one is discussing the Civil War, international terrorism, national or local politics, or civil rights, may we please have some basic starting points for the discussion? As a public service to Herald readers, especially any who are inclined to be swayed, not by specious and illogical arguments, but by false allegations of fact which are their underpinnings, I will endeavor to contribute to the cause of truth and reason and attempt to roll back the darkness of ignorance. I'll start with the American Civil War (1861-1865):

When guest columnists for the Herald assert the "nobility" of the Southern Cause during the Civil War and contend that it is important to honor those who raised arms against the United States of America, then they should have to deal with the fact that the South fought to preserve the institution of slavery and with the horrendous slaughter of that war. The final precipitating event leading to war was the November 6, 1860, election of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln. The Southern states which seceded opposed the anti-slavery platform of the Republican Party, founded in Jackson, Michigan in 1854 by persons who opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act that would have allowed the expansion of slavery into Kansas. South Carolina seceded from the United States a few weeks after Lincoln's election, and it was there where the Confederates fired the first shots of the Civil War on January 9, 1861, to prevent the resupply of United States troops in Fort Sumter near Charleston. This occurred two months before Abraham Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861. On December 24, 1860, South Carolina's legislature had adopted a "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union." The words "rights of states" were used- but in the context of arguing the rights of slave owners in the South to their "property." In addition, the "Causes" included a complaint about the Northern States failure to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Here is an excerpt:

"The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States. The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed.... The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor."

The Confederacy's one and only president, Jefferson Davis, defended slavery in a speech in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 29, 1861, arguing that Southern slavery “elevated [African slaves] from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers.” He justified the Southern States' decision to secede from the Union as being necessary to insure the continuation of “the labor of African slaves... under the supervision of a superior race” which was “indispensable” to the “wants of civilized man.” Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said that slavery was the "cornerstone" of the Confederacy.

The 1860 census counted 462,198 slaves in Georgia, which was 44 percent of the total population of 1,057,286. There were just under four million slaves in the Confederacy at the onset of the Civil War. After the North prevailed, there were zero slaves in the United States.

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, which freed slaves in any States still in open rebellion on January 1, 1863. On January 13, 1865, Congress enacted the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended all slavery in the United States. It became part of the United States Constitution after ratification on December 6, 1865.

The Civil War caused the greatest slaughter of American troops (Southern and Northern combined) in American history- an estimated 624,000 dead. The next highest totals were from World War II, 405,399 deaths, and World War I, 116,516.

Those are the historical FACTS. It is also a "fact" that many who fought for the Confederacy did not own slaves and that some African slaves fought on the side of the Confederacy. Those "facts" are as relevant to the "nobility" of the Southern Cause as the facts that many Germans were not Nazis and some Jews worked for the prison guards in death camps is relevant to the nobility of the German cause in World War II.

My OPINION is that the Southern Cause was not noble, and that those who engaged in treason against the United States by waging war against American troops, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths in order to preserve the "right" of Southern States to continue the institution of slavery, should not be honored. They may have otherwise been noble human beings, but their cause was not.


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