So much has been said, written and played out about the “Civil” War, many times with “slavery” in the same breath during this 150th year commemoration. Betty Stone got it right. If slavery had been the issue, that war never would have existed. Neither the Confederate States nor the Union would have initiated such a massive war that resulted in the death of 620,000 men for that reason. Besides that, there was no anti-slavery law to protest against. Lincoln had no intention of freeing the slaves at that time. So forget about the Dixie flag being a symbol of slavery.
Let”s leave out all the little side issues that tend to cloud the matter and discuss just the most salient point. The Confederate States had a major commodity known as cotton. The significant market for that cotton was in Europe. Yes, the Northern states constituted a market too, but let”s focus on the real issue. In order to sell this cotton in Europe it was required to be taxed by the federal government in the form of tariffs. This siphoned off 20 to 30 percent of the revenue from the cotton. Cotton even had to be shipped out of New York instead of Charleston to implement this tariff. Lincoln”s euphemism for this excessive greed was “unity” – the nation had to be “unified.” He did not want to lose that Southern cotton revenue that in some cases was funding activities in the North.
To say that the war was fought over secession is to reverse cause and effect. Secession was an effect. The cause was the federal greed and the South”s objection to it. The Confederate States just wanted to be left alone to market its product. Secession seemed like the only effective means of bringing that about.
Fast forward a half million dead bodies later, we find this carnage to be terribly disproportionate with the original cause. Lincoln was about to go down as one of history”s terrible despots because of this. This was near the end of a war with inertia that could only be terminated by the bitter end of one side being defeated. He needed to change the mission. The military has a term for this – mission creep. I prefer to call it mission leap. So he decided to free the slaves in only the South by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation establishing slavery as the issue before the war ended. Freed slaves were inducted into the Union army. The war ended on that note, and a beautiful monument was erected in honor of Lincoln in Washington. He is known as the president who ended slavery requiring a huge war to fight it out; when in fact it was only a ploy near the end of the war to cloak his despotism. Lincoln imprisoned those who wrote, printed or spoke against him and suspended habeas corpus, so there was no hope of a fair or unfair trial. They were left to languish in prison.
In my lifetime there has been only one war without mission creep – WWII. Does anyone remember why we started a war in the Middle East? We had anthrax in our post offices. Our nation was threatened with diseases like small pox that could wipe us out. We had to find out where it was coming from. President Bush threatened to enter by force if we were not allowed to inspect Iraq. After about six months of threats, we finally went in, and President Bush was embarrassed by the absence of these weapons. Well, duh, they had six months to dispose of a small laboratory which could have amounted to a couple of trailers. Now enter the mission leap. Did we leave and come home? No, we stayed and said we would rid that nation of its terrible despot, Saddam Hussein. Okay, we did that. He was hanged. Did we come home? No, there was another mission leap. We would democratize this nation of factions that have been hating each other for thousands of years, so they could all love one another. I now have lost count of all the mission leaps, but one thing stands out – they are always created by the politicians, not the military.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.