Enockson: It is quite evident that slavery was the critical issue for the seceding states
In a Feb. 4 column, Ross Nelson raised his concerns about political correctness and the current controversy over monuments dedicated to Southern war heroes. He also schooled us on secession and the history of the Civil War. Nelson says political correctness has caused us "to dump American history down the memory hole" and declares that the Civil War was not about slavery but about the right to secede from the Union.
Nelson states, "the great Robert E Lee and others didn't fight to defend slavery, but to defend their homes from invaders." He later says, "confederate monuments were put up as remembrances to brave men fighting for their homes." So, there you have it, the Lost Cause of the Confederacy in a nutshell.
Nelson signs off with this statement, "Political correctness robs us of truth." Nelson got one thing right. We have been robbed of truth. However, it was groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy starting at the turn of the 20th century and films like "Birth of a Nation" and "Gone with the Wind" that robbed the truth about the cause of Southern secession from the American consciousness by offering a "new" sanitized narrative about slavery and the Civil War.
I invite Mr. Nelson to read the Articles of Secession published by the withdrawing states. In those papers, there is no question as to what their grievance and motivation was for separating from the United States.
Mississippi declared, "our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world." Texas asserted that governments in all the United States were "established exclusively by the white race, and that the African race [was] rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race." Georgia's declaration had 123 sentences in which 35 of them allude to slavery. None of the sentences mentioned states' rights. South Carolina and Virginia declarations each referenced the issue of slavery as the reason for secession. Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederate States, pronounced "that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition."
It is quite evident that slavery was the critical issue for the seceding states. Southern monuments to Confederate soldiers, largely funded by the Daughters of the Confederacy and other like-minded groups, served two purposes as Reconstruction ended. One, a symbol of terror enforced by unconstitutional laws and white supremacists to keep the formerly enslaved and their offspring in their place. Two, help spur a "new" myth of the Lost Cause. This re-education campaign of the Daughters was highly effective, not only in the South, but nationwide.
So, yes Mr. Nelson, we have been robbed of the truth for too long and it's time to rectify that theft.
Enockson is a former Forum Readers Board member who lives in Fargo.