CRITIC DISTORTS BOOK’S POSITIONS ON CIVIL WAR, SLAVERY ISSUE
by Mike Scruggs
published March 6, 2007
`During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a
— George Orwell
It is often repeated that the victors write the history of wars. Even
in democratic societies, the great preponderance of government,
commercial and media power are geared to justify the cause of the
victor and dismiss the cause of the vanquished. The greater the
tragedy and costs, the more powerful is the impulse to justify them
as righteous and necessary. Since about 620,000 soldiers and 50,000
civilians perished in the "Civil War," the impulse to post-war
propaganda and ongoing political correctness is powerful indeed.
This is why good people, including retired high school teacher John
Allen, who recently provided some misguided comments regarding my
book, "The Un-Civil War: Truths Your Teacher Never Told You," are
shocked when truth is uncovered from decades of propaganda.
Allen distorts many of my positions. He implies that I do not believe
slavery was an issue. My position is that other economic and
constitutional issues were actually much more important. Under the
Morrill Tariff, signed into law shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration,
the average tariff rate more than doubled to 47 percent.
This legislative implementation of shameless partisan greed would
have enriched the North but impoverished the South. The tariff
practically drove the major cotton states out of the Union, but
Northern political and business leaders were unwilling to give up
their tax revenues and subsidies. Southerners also felt their
liberties were threatened by the North’s ideological drift away from
a strong Constitution, limited government and states’ rights toward a
powerful, unlimited federal government.
Allen’s understanding of Southern slavery relies heavily on
exaggerated and often false accusations proliferated by Northern
propagandists with various political agendas.
My position is that although slavery was an institution that we are
all glad is past, its actual conditions in the South were much more
benign than is commonly believed. Support for this comes from two
highly-respected sources. The first is R.W. Fogel and S.L.
Engerman’s "Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro
Slavery." Both these Northern authors consider themselves to be
liberals. Fogel is a Nobel Prize winner in economics. The second
major source is "The Slave Narratives," a detailed account of
interviews with several thousand ex-slaves, compiled by the Roosevelt
administration from 1934 to 1936.
Allen’s false presuppositions about Southern slavery blind him to
anything but the most exaggerated partisan claims of the radical
abolitionists. Hence he rejects research findings indicating that the
literacy rate of slaves remained between 30 and 40 percent even after
the restrictive State codes that followed the Nat Turner slave
rebellion in 1831. This estimate comes from page 80 of John J.
Dwyer’s superb book, "The War Between the States: America’s Uncivil
War." Dwyer devotes 74 pages to various aspects of the slavery issue,
including literacy. Anyone interested in this subject should also
read Richard Williams’ book: "Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man’s
Taking a short paragraph from Confederate Vice President Alexander
Stephen’s March 1861 speech in Savannah, Allen concludes that slavery
was the only real issue. This brief paragraph, however, was not
representative of Stephens’ many other statements on the causes of
the war. It certainly was not representative of statements by
Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and a substantial majority of other
Allen may be surprised by the data in a new book by Terrell
Garren, "Mountain Myth: Unionism in Western North Carolina." Garren’s
thorough accounting revealed that 27,282 men from 21 Western North
Carolina counties served in the Confederate forces, while only 1,836
could be documented as having served in Union Forces.
Also, Allen is apparently unaware that early armed intervention by
Union troops prevented Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland from formally
seceding. In addition, many of his statements — especially that high
casualty rates among black Union soldiers prove they were almost all
volunteers — reflect sloppy logic.
Finally, politically correct history has attempted to erase the
important role played by African-Americans loyal to the Southern
cause. A common estimate is that 95,000 blacks served in the
Confederate forces. In 1862, a Union doctor observed more than 3,000
armed blacks among Stonewall Jackson’s forces. Many black cavalrymen
distinguished themselves under Forrest and Morgan. But that doesn’t
conform to the anti-Southern worldview.