Monday, February 06, 2006

Can we blame the British for Slavery and not our American Forefathers?

The latest issue of North and South came last week. I really like approach the editor’s use in this publication to publish articles with footnotes. I don’t know why publishers for Civil War Times and America’s Civil War can’t do the same.

Another element I like in N&S is the Crossfire section. I think the editors do a good job letting the readers express their positions on controversial issues. Some of the ideas put forth by the readers are laughable but other arguments are well thought out.

This month the letter from Chip Bragg of Thomasville, GA a self described “Confederate Partisan” on Slavery and States Rights is a worthy read. What struck me about his letter was his blunt assertion that “weather one believes in the constitutionality of succession or the righteousness of Lincoln’s invasion of the South, there is no escaping the relationship between slavery and states’ rights, and thus slavery can’t be ignored as the major causative factor of the war.”

Bragg goes on to explain and rationalize that because slavery was such a perilous topic going all the way back to colonial times that Southerners and even the founding fathers are not to blame for slavery. The blame for slavery, at least as far Mr. Bragg is concerned, goes back to the British “who allowed and encouraged slavery and the slave trade on this continent for their own economic benefit.” Bragg indicates his thoughts were shaped by Joseph Ellis’ Founding Brothers. (I will have to make a point of reading Mr. Elllis’ book.)

I give Mr. Brag all the credit in the world for putting his position out there for all to see. His declaration that slavery can’t be ignored as a major cause of the war is goes against the Lost Cause rants that tend to pop up in almost any discussion on the causes of the Civil War. What troubles me about putting the whole blame on the British and their desire for economic gain is that it was this same desire for economic gains that the upper echelons of southern society wanted to preserve. It motivated them to do everything they could to manipulate the political process (with help from the North) to keep the status quo and thus continue this “peculiar institution”. When that wasn’t enough southern leaders, who saw the growing economic and political power of the North as a direct threat, worked to create an antagonistic climate around the argument of ‘State Rights’ that a larger portion of southern society could support.

I have no doubt the Mr. Bragg’s letter will generate responses from all sides and that is what makes N&S such interesting reading every month.

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