Friday, April 15, 2011

21st Century Lost Cause Ideology Debunked

It looks like The American Conservative Magazine has a Neo-confederate, an actual 21st Century Lost Causer, on the payroll. And according to the internets, a Mr. Jack Hunter has taken the time to ridicule a Rachael Maddow segment discussing the 150th anniversary of the civil war and push 21st Century Lost Cause Ideology at the same time. This ideology is an attempt to redirect the narrative of the civil war from slavery to other reasons.

We should debunk this 21st Century Lost Cause Ideology - a struggle between “Decentralists” against Centralists. I am not making this up. Its 110% grade A pure winguttery right form the internets.

One of the myths lost causers push to move the civil war narrative away from slavery is that the Southern States seceded from the Union because of “States Rights.” Today, adherents of the 21st Century Lost Cause, have sneakily updated this myth to mean a struggle over the concept of “centralization vs. decentralization”. The “Decentralist” struggle against the “Centralists” takes the place of the old “States Rights” narrative which held that the 7 Lower South (cotton producing) states first seceded from the Union due to the encroaching Federal Power. The Civil War, or rebellion, occurred as a result of a conceptual battle over the role of government; sure slavery was likely involved but these abstractions were also a central cause. But this is not an accurate portrayal of the motivations behind secession.

Slavery was the cause of Secession. It is not a coincidence that the seven states producing the most cotton, sugar, tobacco, rice for international commerce seceded first. The men in the secession conventions who debated and voted to secede from the Union were not caught up in a “centralization vs. decentralization” debate. They were taking action to protect slavery where it existed and to reserve the right to extend it into new lands. If anything, secession advocates were offended by the lack of Federal power to protect slavery.

And it shows from the periodicals of the time.

Take this passage from a Richmond Newspaper, published in December 1860 just prior to South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession:

A constitutional Monarchy.

--A correspondent of the Columbus (Ga.) Times advocates that the proposed Southern Confederacy shall be organized as a "Constitutional Monarchy." Republicanism, he thinks, has been tried and found wanting, and the only safety of the South is in a "strong government." A correspondent of the Enquirer, published at the same place, thinks that if the South wants a King, it should "get a descendant of George the Third." Mr. Bartow, a secession leader in Georgia, advocates a "strong, consolidated government," and the abolition of all State governments in the Southern Confederacy. --"Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind."

A “Strong Government,” “the abolition of State Governments,” a constitutional monarchy under descendant of King George III are all proposed for the future governance of the Confederacy.

Want of a “strong government” or of a strong federal role to protect the Peculiar Institution of Slavery was not uncommon in many parts of the Southern States. The fear of slave revolts was one reason. Extension of the institution of slavery outside the Southern States and into the territories and beyond was another reason. The want of a FEDERAL slave code that would be enforced by the FEDERAL government was another. The common denominator was always Slavery. Without the want to extend slavery, do you think the folks from Georgia would be pining to be ruled by a king?

If one were to look at the South Carolina declaration of secession, you would see that one of the reasons used to justify secession was outrage over the lack of enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act in the Northern States. The declaration lists the states that representatives from South Carolina thought flaunted FEDERAL power. These Northern States were not doing enough to enforce the law States Rights grounds and the South Carolinians were Outraged by the lack of Federal Enforcement of the Laws. Again we are talking Slavery here. Without slavery would there be any Issues with enforcement of a "Fugitive Slave Act?"

Another example of the lameness of the Loss Cause Myth can be found by read the various Compromise measures debated in the lead up to secession. These compromise measures typically proposed increasing FEDERAL power in order to protect property interests in Slavery to calm the fears of secession advocates.

The war started because slavery folks. That’s just the way it was. But you don’t have to take my word. Just ask Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens what the Confederacy was about. He’ll tell you:

Those ideas [from the Declaration of Independence], however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it, when the 'storm came and the wind blew, it fell.'

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man. That Slavery, -- subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Ask Stephen H. Hale, Alabama Secession Commissioner sent to Kentucky to convince people to join seceding states. Does he talk of the great Decentralization v. Centralization struggle? He talks about White Supremacy instead.

And when you go back and read the periodicals of the times, you usually find that slavery, the extension of slavery and the economics of slavery were the motivations of the proponents of secession. Maybe there is also something in the literature about the arcane “centralization vs. decentralization” struggle, but I haven’t seen it. Probably because that theme would conflict with the rationale I provided above.

Those were the reasons they gave. And this 21st Century Lost Cause non-sense needs to be nipped in the bud and sent to a course of ultimate extinction.

6 comments:

  1. Did you actually read Hunter's post? I tend to think you're right that slavery was indeed the driving issue of the war. But it doesn't strike me that Hunter disagrees that much either. He admits it was a major issue, but explores a few other factors that might have played a role. You can disagree with him on this, but calling him a "Neo-Confederate" and associating him with "21st Century Lost Causers" based on the words of that post turns your entire response into a pretty flagrant straw-man argument.
    He actually doesn't even really argue that the South's secession was because of states rights or decentralization. His "other factors" argument is more about the North - that Lincoln's main agenda was not freeing the slaves but preserving the Union, which I think is true.

    In fact he makes some of the same points that you do:

    HOWARD S: “If one were to look at the South Carolina declaration of secession, you would see that one of the reasons used to justify secession was outrage over the lack of enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act in the Northern States. The declaration lists the states that representatives from South Carolina thought flaunted FEDERAL power. These Northern States were not doing enough to enforce the law States Rights grounds and the South Carolinians were Outraged by the lack of Federal Enforcement of the Laws.”

    JACK HUNTER: “In addition to Calhoun, some of the earliest examples of nullification in the United States were in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This act declared that slaves who escaped to free states must be forcibly returned to their masters. Many abolitionists became rabid advocates of nullification. When South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860 it specifically listed nullification of fugitive slave laws as one of its grievances. When US Senator Jefferson Davis left Congress to become the President of the Confederate States of America he specifically denounced nullification in his farewell address.”

    So his post is more about the idea of nullification, a word that's been in the news lately. Rachel Maddow associated the word with slavery and the antebellum South. Hunter counters (using the same arguments as you) that the South was AGAINST nullification when it came to the Federal Fugitive Slave Law that many Northern states chose to not enforce. And he wonders whether Maddow, who clearly doesn’t like the concept of nullification, would have condemned those defiant anti-slavery states.

    The thrust of Hunter’s argument is this:

    “Southern leaders denouncing nullification where it undermined the institution of slavery reinforces liberals’ argument that the Civil War was exclusively about slavery. It also seriously contradicts liberals’ argument that nullification is exclusively about slavery.”

    Really, I think you missed the whole point in your zeal to characterize Hunter as a “wing-nut.”

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  2. I agree that Hunter practices a softer more gentle form of States' Right doctrine. He acknowledges slavery as EVIL. There are no pulled punches.

    This is good. Applause. He is to commended from his post at the "Southern Avenger."

    My post addresses his distinction and transformation of the old timey state's rights rhetoric into this “Decentralists” against Centralists argument.

    This is the softer form of the states' rights doctrine.

    I agree he ain't your grandfather's lost causer.
    - But this just seems like an updated form of states rights for the 21st century.

    As for Maddow, I would have been in far better position to address whatever she said if he PROVIDED A LINK to read it. I can't address "the liberals argument on the exclusivity of Nullification" if I can't read it. Sure Calhoun was bathed in this philosophy as well the federalists in the north at the Hartford Convention in 1814. So what. Slavery caused the civil war. Hunter use whatever Maddow said to advance 21st century states right doctrine.

    Next point. Look at Hunter's switcheroo in his post swapping why the union originally fought war for why the south seceded. This deceptive. Of course different people fought for different reasons. Lincoln may have originally pitched as a battle to save the Union, but the South seceded over slavery. Period. Two different issues, but he treats them interchangeably. I think he knows better.

    This isn't the first post I've read from Hunter plodding down the 21st century States Right road; it is not an accident.

    That is why I rebutted it.

    Come on man. How many times have you said or even thought about the words "decentralist concepts" in a sentence? Jack Hunter uses it. That ain't right, man. It's an abuse of the english language.

    Next as far as Hunter as a wingut, I did't say that, however 21st century Lost Cause Ideology is winguttery. I was surprised to see it. I don't expect to see that when I read that blog. There are editors at there aren't there?

    This stuff need to be put down. Period.

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  3. I must agree with the first poster...Your rebuttal seems flighty and reactive to me.

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  4. Two of these Three Statements Go together. One does not belong. Which one does not belong?

    Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour

    “Slavery was the primary, central, cause of secession. The Civil War was necessary to bring about the abolition of slavery,… Abolishing slavery was morally imperative and necessary, and it’s regrettable that it took the Civil War to do it. But it did.”

    Jack Hunter AmCon Blog

    My entire adult life I have defended the Old South and the Southern cause in America’s bloodiest war. Not because I support slavery or racism, but despite it. The positive parallels between what the Confederacy was fighting for in 1861 and what the American colonists fought for in 1776 are many and obvious—republican democracy, political and economic freedom, national independence, defense of one’s homeland.

    Confederate VP Alexander Stephens

    Those ideas [from the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776], however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it, when the 'storm came and the wind blew, it fell.'

    Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man. That Slavery, -- subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

    Who to pick?

    It seems to me, that Barbour and Stephens are a better match.

    Although both Stephens and Hunter discuss revolutionary themes. Stephens is discussing a revolution to repudiate the “declaration of independence” and all that nonsense about “all men” being “created equal.” Hunter addresses a revolution by “Decentralists” against the northern Centralists and would likely be offended by such statements.

    Barbour and Stephens seem to be more consistent

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  5. I'm in agreement w/ the first poster as well. Not impressed w/ your attempt to mischaracterize Mr. Hunter's arguments. You seem a bit too reactive to be rationale and believable.

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  6. The first commenter wrote:

    In fact he makes some of the same points that you do:

    HOWARD S: “If one were to look at the South Carolina declaration of secession, you would see that one of the reasons used to justify secession was outrage over the lack of enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act in the Northern States. The declaration lists the states that representatives from South Carolina thought flaunted FEDERAL power. These Northern States were not doing enough to enforce the law States Rights grounds and the South Carolinians were Outraged by the lack of Federal Enforcement of the Laws.”

    JACK HUNTER: “In addition to Calhoun, some of the earliest examples of nullification in the United States were in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This act declared that slaves who escaped to free states must be forcibly returned to their masters. Many abolitionists became rabid advocates of nullification. When South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860 it specifically listed nullification of fugitive slave laws as one of its grievances. When US Senator Jefferson Davis left Congress to become the President of the Confederate States of America he specifically denounced nullification in his farewell address.”


    This is exactly the point. Southern States calling for more Federal Power to protect individual rights. How does this fit into a "Decentralist" narrative? It doesn't. It seems to me you can't say that the decentralism was a major factor when the participants are calling for more federal power to protect civil liberties, i.e., property rights.

    If anything the use of these two statements proves the opposite.

    The common debating tactic used by those supporting lost cause ideology (Hunter) is to switch discussion from why the lower southern states were motivated to secede i.e., slavery, to the original motivation of Lincoln in fighting the was i.e., to keep the union together. By doing this, one avoids discussion of the cause of the civil war.

    If the north fought to keep the Union together, then the war must not have been caused by slavery. Maybe other factors are to blame, etc. That is the trick.

    Use of the "decentralists vs the centralists" meme is just part of it. Google it the term and you'll see that it well established in Lost Cause Ideology. Look which fringe groups are pushing this line.

    If Hunter is pushing the same nonsense used by these neo-confederate fringe groups, what does that tell you? To me its wingnuttery - or a new face for yesterday's lost cause.

    I'm going with Haley Barbour on this one.

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