“The Civil War was fought over slavery.” If you want verification of this “known” fact, this politically correct “given” all you have to do is ask a typical Southern politician, educator, media personality, minister or just about anyone you meet on the street. That such an opinion would be held by the children of the invader and occupier of the Confederate States of America is not surprising. Yankees holding and expressing such a negative view of the South should be expected. But why would Southerners meekly accept and repeat such erroneous opinions?
Southerners who know the truth about the War for Southern Independence usually blame Yankee education for the failure of modern day Southerners to understand and to willingly defend the truth of our heritage. Southerners who know the truth about the War for Southern Independence will try to correct the error of Yankee propaganda by announcing that the War was fought over states’ rights not over slavery. Unfortunately, this retort—while technically correct—plays into the hands of Yankee propagandists. This answer—in my humble opinion—puts the South in a no-win position on the stage of world opinion. “States’ rights” when given as the reason for the War, allows Yankee propagandists to command the emotional narrative about the War. It allows Yankee propagandists to command the emotional “high ground.” It allows the Yankee to paint himself as a defender of humanity; a compassionate Yankee who freely entered the struggle against evil men of the South who were oppressing African slaves; a race that the Yankee claims he naturally respected and loved so much that the Yankee was willing to spill Yankee blood and treasure in order to purchase freedom for the African slaves.
States’ rights is a constitutionally sound principle, a principle so important that a constitutionally limited, federal republic of republics, as given to us by America’s Founding Fathers cannot exist without real states’ rights. By real states’ rights I mean states’ rights inclusive of the right of nullification and secession. Absent real states’ rights any federal republic will eventually evolve, or more correctly devolve, into an empire controlled by ruling elites and those with close connection to the ruling elites. While constitutionally sound, using the doctrine of states’ rights to defend the Southern Cause has been a disastrous failure! When competing for the emotional support of the American people as well as the people of the world—merely claiming that one is fighting slavery and struggling to liberate the oppressed always wins over reason and logic. Unfortunately, on the stage of world opinion, emotion trumps logic!
Suppose one is walking along a city street and you come upon an individual viciously beating someone. Out of a sense of honor and Christian charity you demand that the man cease beating his victim but the man looks at you and tells you to mind your own business because he has “a constitutional right to beat the victim.” Now don’t think outside of the scenario—with just the facts as given—how would you feel even if the person doing the beating did in fact have a constitutional right to beat the victim? Legal technicalities do not stand up well against an emotional appeal.
The South made a major strategic blunder when, post Appomattox, it began to insist that the War was fought over states’ rights. By so doing it surrendered the emotional narrative about the War and allowed Yankee propagandists to inform rising generations of Southerners and the world at large that the War was fought to free the slaves—an emotional appeal that was based in slanderous falsehoods, but such falsehoods easily overcomes truthful legalistic arguments from enfeebled Southern political and social leaders. In the world of propaganda, an emotional appeal can only be rebuffed by an equal and cogent emotional appeal—something post Appomattox Southerners never realized.
Post Appomattox Southern political leaders, social leaders, writers, educators and commentators abandoned the struggle for Southern independence. They took the decision of Appomattox too literally. Instead of maintaining the struggle for the principle of Southern freedom; the right to be the masters in our own homes; the right of self-determination; and the right to live under a government ordered upon the free and unfettered consent of the governed—all of which was boldly proclaimed in 1776—Southern spokesmen meekly declared that the men in gray were fighting for states’ rights. Instead of challenging each successive generation of Southerners to break the chains of political and economic bondage fastened upon the people of the South by the ruling elite of the Federal Empire, our “leaders” sought to assure the Northern majority that “we the people” of the invaded, conquered and occupied Confederate States of America were once again 100% loyal Americans—meaning that we were obedient subjects of the newly created Federal Empire. Southern “leaders” gave lip service to states’ rights, the Constitution, limited Federalism but they no longer took such political matters seriously. Hence forward all political decisions would ultimately bow to the will of the Federal Empire—“we the people” of the Sovereign States no longer existed.
Why did those men in gray, the majority of whom were not part of the plantation system, why did they fight for four long years against overwhelming odds with not a single friend in the community of nations to offer encouragement? Why were they willing to expend so much blood and treasure? The answer is as simple as it is eye-opening; they were fighting to be free; to prevent an aggressive and culturally dissimilar Yankee majority from making political and economic slaves of the Southern minority. They were fighting to prevent Yankees from turning Southerners, both black and white, into political and economic vassals of their newly created Federal Empire! They were fighting to drive back an aggressive and evil invader (the United States of America) and to preserve the independence and freedom of their country the Confederate States of America.
The post War failure of the South to continue its struggle for the principle of Southern independence allowed our Northern masters to set the narrative of the War—a narrative composed of self-serving slanderous lies serving as a smoke-screen behind which they could hide their naked aggression. We the people of the South became weak, timid, defensive, and acted as if we were afraid that should we tell the truth about the United States’ cruel invasion, occupation, and continuing oppression of our homeland, we might hurt our master’s feelings! Damn his feelings—what about our freedom!