"The South still lies about the Civil War", Does the North lie?

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WJC

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Burning Billy

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IMO, there are not northern lies and southern lies. There is a dispassionate side that either doesn't care at all, or if they do care, wants an accurate history of the Civil War. And then there is an emotionally-invested side that wants a southern slanted history of the Civil War.
Absolutely correct.

What are these supposed northern lies? That the northern states went to war to free slaves? If anyone on this forum has ever made the argument that abolitionism, rather than a desire to preserve the Union, was the primary reason the northern states went to war, I've yet to see it. I've only encountered it as a strawman deployed to knock down by those who are hypersensitive to any suggestion that the Confederacy went to war to keep it's slaves.

Is it that the north never had slavery or did not profit from southern slavery? Again, I've never seen anyone make that argument and have only encountered that in the form of strawmen or whataboutisms offered in rebuttal to an argument no one actually made.

If the supposed northern lies are that the primary driver for secession was fear/anger on the part of the slaveholders following the election of a presidential candidate from an antislavery party - well, the historical record does not lie. The men responsible for secession repeatedly proclaimed slavery and the election of a "Black Republican" the cause, while in the process of leading their states into secession. Uncomfortable truths are still truths, and anyone making an argument that slavery was not the primary driver secession is - knowingly or not - peddling a mythology that is at odds with what the Confederate leadership was saying and writing during the secession crisis.

I can't speak for every northern poster on this forum, but in general I also don't think most of the people who argue that the Confederacy went to war over slavery, dislike the south or southerners. The south has never been a monolithic entity, the Confederacy died in 1865, and people born a century or so after it's demise are not responsible for Keitt or Yancey's sins. There are however some who seem to take any statement that paints the Confederacy in a poor light as bashing the south or southerners, as if the entirety of southern history spanned from 1861 to 1865 and Confederate is synonymous with southerner, regardless of era. It is people being hypersensitive to history that reflects poorly on the Confederacy, and misinterpreting statements of fact as some sort of anti-southern agenda.
 

Andersonh1

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What are these supposed northern lies? That the northern states went to war to free slaves? If anyone on this forum has ever made the argument that abolitionism, rather than a desire to preserve the Union, was the primary reason the northern states went to war, I've yet to see it.
That the North went to war to free the slaves is a common belief in American society. I used to believe it myself. The members of this forum are a cut above the general population when it comes to historical knowledge, but I suspect in a minority.
 

wausaubob

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I don't see the alleged lies. I do see people thinking the events were exceptional, and not part of a world trend towards larger national units and even international arrangements. I do see people judging the Civil War without taking into consideration what happened in the 20th century with respect to unrestrained violence on civilian populations, joined with ethnic nationalism.
I do see a misconception that it was a war between the north and the south. It was a war between people. Many southerners were never on the side of the Confederacy. Others were not enthusiastic about it. And others gave up on the Confederacy only when faced with overwhelming evidence that it was not going to work.
The twentieth century provides a good deal of evidence that the alternative to the US Civil War was perpetual militarism and constantly recurring warfare. In that scenario, the poor people of both sections and all races do the bulk of the fighting and dying.
In some postings there is a strain of accusation that the paid labor states unfairly prosecuted the war in a way that was excessive.
That is a reflection that when it came to escalating the violence and making the result absolute, the paid labor states had much more force available. It was a bad idea for secessionist politicians to challenge the paid labor states to fight, when the northern economy had every advantage necessary to succeed.
 
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wausaubob

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I have written before that the lies were spread in the Ante-bellum era. Cotton was not king. Cotton became important when the ability to transport it, spin it, and distribute the resulting cloth, was all powered by steam engines. Engineers, mechanics and naval captains were the real nobility.
It was shear nonsense to think that the paid labor states who had resisted the British twice, pushed backed the Indians, bought out the French and Spanish, and stolen an empire from the Mexicans, would not fight to keep what they had taken.
The side that could build an unlimited number of gun boats, and supply an unlimited amount of hay and oats to a field army, had a huge advantage. And once rifles and artillery are part of warfare, individual courage becomes almost irrelevant.
Good thread though. :dance:
 
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Viper21

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That the North went to war to free the slaves is a common belief in American society. I used to believe it myself. The members of this forum are a cut above the general population when it comes to historical knowledge, but I suspect in a minority.
This has been my experience as well. That's how it was taught in school (my generation), or at least that's what I took from it. To the average person on the street, the ACW was about, The Virtuous Yankee freeing the slaves, from the evil, racist, Southerners.

That there is more to the story, is the rub. One has to have a real interest in the time period to become better educated on the subject. For many folks, a slogan, or meme will suffice. CWT is a great place to learn more, or expand one's horizons on the subject.

That everyone is so skeptical of opposing views, forces us all to dig deeper. I remember a thread not too long ago where Bee said, "Sour grapes make the best wine". She was right. :sneaky:
 

Andersonh1

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CWT is a great place to learn more, or expand one's horizons on the subject.

That everyone is so skeptical of opposing views, forces us all to dig deeper. I remember a thread not too long ago where Bee said, "Sour grapes make the best wine". She was right. :sneaky:
Completely agree. I have learned a ton of new things by reading, and then I've learned more by coming here and engaging in discussions and having to support and defend what I believe. Participating in this forum can often be educational.
 

unionblue

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True, Union Blue. My point is that those at the North (for the most part) really didn't care about slaves.

To say otherwise is to misrepresent history.
@Drew ,

And I agree.

When the war began, the North was all about restoring the Union.

But there can be no denial, no deflection, that the slaveholding South began the war over the issue of slavery.

Only when Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation did the North undertake the abolishment of slavery as a war aim.

I get it. It is not hard to understand or accept.

So why is it?

Unionblue
 
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byron ed

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The law that set up the Northwest Territory in 1787 made slavery illegal in the Territory.
Not relevant to this discussion. When a region was no longer part of a Territory (i.e. when it became a state) it was no longer beholding to U.S. congressional dictums applying to slavery in the Territories. Northern states allowed slavery for years before each one of them, separately over time, voted it out of their state.

This was not an example the South could bring itself to follow.
 
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Drew

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@Drew ,

And I agree.

When the war began, the North was all about restoring the Union.

But there can be no denial, no deflection, that the slaveholding South began the war over the issue of slavery.

Only when Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation did the North undertake the abolishment of slavery as a war aim.

I get it. It is not hard to understand or accept.

So why is it?

Unionblue
Slavery was never an end it itself, but a means toward an end. The institution was in no danger in 1860.

The issue on the table was slavery in the territories that would become states, over time, undermining Southern power in the national government (through expanded congressional delegations). Enough additional free states could also lead to a Constitutional amendment barring the institution. This confounds me as it would have likely been decades away. We do not plan our politics that far into the future.

Cotton was the most important and valuable industrial commodity in the mid 19th century. Nutty historian Howard Zinn has pointed out the North was going to destroy the South to get its hands on it, it was just a question of how and when. I happen to agree with him.

With respect to the bolded portion of your quoted post, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to the Border States, only those, "in Rebellion." The abolition of slavery was not a "war aim," but a political stunt.

These are my opinions.
 
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byron ed

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Slavery was not illegal then. as awlful as slavery was, the United States did nothing before 1860 to help get rid of it.To much money involved.
Dorothy used mantra to rewind her history "...there's no place like home, there's no place like home..." but mantra doesn't prevail in the real world.

So, rather, the United States did several significant things about slavery before 1860:

The U.S. government outlawed the external slave trade in 1808. Each Northern U.S. state had outlawed slavery well before 1860. The National and all the State Anti-slavery societies were formed before 1860 and all were active. The Abolition movement (that extreme movement not the same thing as the Anti-Slavery societies) had become a national player well before 1860. The "Underground Railroad" was in use long-before 1860 and increasingly active (unstoppable after 1850).
 
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ForeverFree

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I'm using this article as a launchpad to discuss some modern university historians practice of glamorizing the North's role in the War while vilifying the South. For example, James McPherson and his heavy emphasis on slavery and race in the War which is a weakness for the South and somewhat of a strength for the North. McPherson tends to shy away from the North's guilt in slavery and racism, but is heavy handed with the South. There are many more examples possible, McPherson is not alone in this practice. Even the Salon article is mostly focused on race more-so than the War itself.
My question is are some modern historians trying to glorify the North, teaching their own "correct" (Northern) version of history while preventing "incorrect" (Southern) versions. Isn't this exactly what Milly is accused of doing for the South? Are we being taught correctly? Or, are our current history books/lectures just another "Milly" version of history to exalt some people as heroes and make others out to be the villains and no other thought is allowed to be taught?
That the North went to war to free the slaves is a common belief in American society. I used to believe it myself. The members of this forum are a cut above the general population when it comes to historical knowledge, but I suspect in a minority.
RE: For example, James McPherson and his heavy emphasis on slavery and race in the War which is a weakness for the South and somewhat of a strength for the North. McPherson tends to shy away from the North's guilt in slavery and racism, but is heavy handed with the South.

RE: That the North went to war to free the slaves is a common belief in American society.

I mentioned earlier that in his book Battle Cry of Freedom, McPherson writes:

While northern soldiers had no love for slavery, most of them had no love for slaves either. They fought for Union and against treason; only a minority in 1862 felt any interest in fighting for black freedom. Rare was the soldier who shared the sentiments of a Wisconsin private: "I have no heart in this war if the slaves cannot be free." More common was the conviction of a New York soldier that "we must first conquer & then it's time enough to talk about the **** ni*****. While some Yanks treated contrabands with a degree of equity or benevolence, the more typical response was in difference, content, or cruelty.​

McPherson says outright that the Union went to war to save (commonly said, preserve) the Union. He's not saying the North went to war to save slavery.

I've read from a lot of history scholars for over a decade now. I would guess that over 95% of actual CW scholars say that Northerners had the goal of preserving the Union.

Does anybody think otherwise? Can anyone provide examples of scholars who say the North went to war to end slavery? I can think we can say for sure that McPherson is not one of those people.

If "modern university historians" are not saying that, then the question is, who is? Is the issue public schools? Or what?

- Alan
 
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byron ed

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Short skinny: this is not a hard thing to understand. At the start Northerners and Lincoln went to war to preserve the Union. By mid-war the circumstance had changed. Northerners and Lincoln simply had no choice but to concede that in order to win the war, it must be a war to free the slaves.

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Long skinny: here's what's behind the confusion of it. It's ignoring the virtual third front of the Civil War, African-Americans and their plight. Yet it is this third front that best explains why the North's stated reason for fighting had changed. For one thing, purely as a military strategy, Emancipation was a very real way to defeat the Confederacy on the ground. Politically it wasn't particularly helpful to Lincoln, but that was a risk he was willing to take to win the war and preserve the Union. (Of course Lost Cause viciously twists this so they can demonize Lincoln. They have their priorities)

With Emancipation announced, everyone knew the "only where it existed clause" would before long and irreversibly lead to full emancipation. The Confederacy was simply caught with its pants down; the outcome of the war precluded. About that time Confederate soldiers began leaving the ranks by the thousands, much to the chagrin of their Generals left holding the bag. Lee specifically mentioned this as a big reason he never recovered the initiative.

By mid-war everyone realized that slavery was done no matter what the outcome of the war. So many bondsmen and women had already freed themselves. There was no "putting the chickens back in the yard" at that juncture, especially as so many bondsmen had became Union soldiers; a sizable percent of the U.S. Army by that point. And by that time, in spite of the war, the canal, riverboat and road systems had become quite extensive outside of the South. An expanding intercontinental train network was a foregone conclusion. There was just no way in Edited that the South, even if the Confederacy prevailed, was going to be able to maintain its peculiar institution.
 
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Irishtom29

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Not relevant to this discussion. When a region was no longer part of a Territory (i.e. when it became a state) it was no longer beholding to U.S. congressional dictums applying to slavery in the Territories. Northern states allowed slavery for years before each one of them, separately over time, voted it out of their state.
No doubt some northern states once allowed slavery but I’m unaware that the states of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin ever allowed slavery. How about Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas?
 
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