It’s About Slavery Not State’s Rights: Stop Putting Those People on Pedestals

It’s About Slavery Not State’s Rights: Stop Putting Those People on Pedestals August 19, 2017
The confederacy was all about slavery, not state's rights
Confederate Statue in Jasper, Alabama. Confederate flag made out of flowers.

Do not buy into the lie that the Confederacy was about State’s Rights. Not true. It was all about keeping the institution of black slavery in perpetuity.

And, as are most unjust causes, the Civil War was ultimately all about money.

Thanks to a correspondent who knew how to access the relevant historical archives for the State of Texas, I have now read the 1861 document called “A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union.”

Let me express myself as clearly as possible:

The idea that the Confederacy was not about slavery, but more about State’s Rights is a total load of horse hockey.

You can read the whole document here, but I’ve copied the more relevant portions below. The bolded texts are mine:

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated States to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility [sic] and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery–the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits–a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. 

. . .

The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States.

. . .

Please, please read the rest of it. There is one reason and one only: they wanted to keep their slaves into perpetuity because they were sure that was part of the God-ordained order.

The sky saw it all: never again, Auschwitz
Remembering Auschwitz memorial in Amsterdam. Nazi’s are not glorified here. Photo by Christy Thomas.

They are not “beautiful statues.”

So stop the silliness that a move to remove those monuments that celebrate the continued oppression of slaves is a way to “erase history” or destroy some beautiful statues without cause.

Those “beautiful statues” represent the worse of humanity. We have placed on pedestals those men who led a cause to keep a whole people group in chains, gave them the right to impregnate the women at will and sell off the children for a profit.

As I said at the beginning, it is all about money. Always.

Most monuments need to go, but those that stay should be relabeled as part of our shameful past so we may learn truth from them.

Germany does not have adoration-type memorials to Hitler around for people to venerate. Instead, Germans own their past disgraces.

We should do the same. It is the only path to a more just future.

Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith – Library of Congress Catalog, Public Domain.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Al Cruise

    You are absolutely correct. Very well written. That’s why we got Jim Crow after the civil war . There was no “state’s rights” movement , like the Jim Crow laws.

    • Chuck Johnson

      You are absolutely correct. Very well written. That’s why we got Jim
      Crow after the civil war . There was no “state’s rights” movement ,
      like the Jim Crow laws.-Al

      The struggle for states’ rights continued in the South long after the end of the Civil War.
      An enormous number of legal conflicts ensued. I saw some of these conflicts played out on my TV set in the 1960s.

      • Al Cruise

        Yes, but Jim Crow became law and was enforced with cruelty and many innocent people lost their lives because of Jim Crow laws . The legal conflicts for states rights is a false equivalency.

    • Josh

      Yes yes, people went and sent their children to die in a America’s bloodiest war so that 26% of families can keep their slaves.
      And, of course, the North sent their kids to die in a war to free people they still felt were worth 3/5 of a vote. You’re right, this makes perfect sense why a nation would lunge itself into war: to determine the outcome of persons whom they didn’t even view as persons.

      • Joshua Hauck-Whealton

        “Yes yes, people went and sent their children to die in a America’s bloodiest war so that 26% of families can keep their slaves.”

        Out of curiosity, how many of those 74% of families had members voting in the state legislatures? Versus how many large plantation owners? There’s a reason that the war was called a “rich man’s war”. Seriously, if we’re looking at the common soldier to figure out what the cause of a war is, then we have to conclude that the Iraq War was about getting help with college tuition.

        • Josh

          “we’re looking at the common soldier to figure out what the cause of a war is”
          So, you think the motive for these poor souls was motivated by a lie, or that the purpose of those sending them into war was ultimately about slavery?

          • Joshua Hauck-Whealton

            The motives of these poor souls were many and varied. It should be remembered that many slipped over the line and fought for the Union, or refused to fight, or became insurgents. Others fought because their homeland was invaded. And many fought because they were drafted or press-ganged, because they were scared of the reprisals and rioting that might follow a slave emancipation, because they were being paid, because they saw slave ownership as their path to wealth, because they were young and hotheaded, and so on.

            All I’m saying that that you can’t take all of these various motives and average them together and come up with the cause of the war. We don’t usually try in modern wars. The histories I’ve read of the the war in Iraq all start in the White House.

            In the end, the necessary and sufficient cause for the war was the secession, the secession was voted for by state legislature in the south, and we know from the various Declaration of Causes that they did so because they saw that their peculiar institution was being threatened. So slavery was the cause of the war.

          • Josh

            These two statements are vying for the same position:
            “In the end, the necessary and sufficient cause for the war was the secession”
            “So slavery was the cause of the war.”

            Obviously, they can’t both be true.

            Had the North let the South go, as per their constitutional right, why would there be cause for war?

          • Josh Hauck

            1. I think that works. Defense of slavery caused the secession, the secession caused the war, therefore slavery caused the war. That’s the communicative property, right? I can never remember formal logic, so I may be wrong.

            2. To answer your direct question, Lincoln and most of his allies believed that secession would lead to a breakdown on both sides that would eventually lead to anarchy or despotism. If states could withdraw unilaterally any time they got in a snit, how long could any group last? Remember, they’d watched the Revolutions of 1848 get reversed, and the French Revolution was still in their rear view mirror. The thinking was the republics were inherently fragile things, always prone to flying apart and getting dragged back together by tyrants. The original constitution had to be defended. Bringing us to …

            3. “as per their constitutional right”

            Lemme just quote that wide-eyed liberal Andrew Jackson: “To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union, is to say that the United States are not a nation because it would be a solecism to contend that any part of a nation might dissolve its connection with the other parts, to their injury or ruin, without committing any offense. Secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right, is confounding the meaning of terms, and can only be done through gross error, or to deceive those who are willing to assert a right, but would pause before they made a revolution, or incur the penalties consequent upon a failure. ”

            Wordy, isn’t he? Madison, Hamilton, Jackson and (of course) Lincoln argued that if was a fundamental property of compacts that they are reciprocal. Everybody is bound to everybody else, and no one may leave unless everybody leaves. Basically, you can vote to dissolve the Constitution, or you can declare a revolution and burn it, but you can’t pretend that it allows you to leave whenever you feel like it.

          • Josh

            1) Not to split hairs, but it is actually the Transitive Property:
            The proposed containment of slavery -> Secession of South Carolina -> Non-acceptance by the Federal Government -> War
            This is not communicative:
            Communicative would be that we could rearrange these events and have the same result.
            Of course, War first would not necessarily lead to proposed containment of slavery within newly created states.

            And as far as transitivity is concerned (it’s not transitive):
            This does not imply Secession of South Carolina -> War, because it fundamentally betrays the Federal Government’s (and the North’s) choice in reacting.
            We could see how ludicrous it is in me giving my son potatoes for billionth time in his life. Suddenly, I’m convinced that potatoes are bad while he’s eating Pringles. I threaten to slap him if he eats the potato chips and get real close to his face. He pushes me and eats a chip, so I slap him in the face.
            This is a pretty direct analogy (the South fired first while the North was stationing at Sumter, so the North slapped them in the face).
            Clearly, I’d be wrong in my aggression. It was Northern aggression (first threatening to limit what the South could do, and then refusal of THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT, and then threat of military action)
            We’ll return to this momentarily.

            2) The irony in this is astounding:
            “Lincoln…believed…secession would lead to…”
            Which is ironic, because the first thing that happened was the creation of a new “union”.
            Which is ironic, since He used federal policy to forbid the spread of slave states and then used the Northern military to threaten the South.
            “how long could any group last?”
            As long as one group does not impose on another group’s rights as determined by their constitution. Certainly, we have a case where this was not upheld.
            It’s kind of like asking how long can a friendship last? Until one quits being a friend (and then forbids the other person from NOT hanging out with them through force).
            In fact, this was the entire reason for the right of secession! It was to prevent that aggressive group from staying conjoined to the group they aggressed upon.
            “The thinking was the republics were inherently fragile things”
            Precisely as they should be, lest these leaders amass too much power lead on their own whims. Sound like Hamilton’s thinking.
            “always prone to flying apart and getting dragged back together by tyrants. ”
            Please tell me you get the irony here; it was dragged back together by forcing together a people who wanted to be apart–pretty tyrannical.

            3) “Secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression”
            Which is exactly what led to secession; now, Lincoln ran on a platform of not expanding slavery in the creation of new states. This alone, suffices to rob the southern states of their voice (if even their future voice) in Congress–a Congress which would no longer be representative of them.
            Thus, who first burned it?

            Now let me just quote that Thomas Jefferson:
            “If any state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation … to a continuance in union … I have no hesitation in saying, let us separate.”

          • PedasiPaul

            Look at what Texas wrote at the time animated secession.

          • Josh

            I’m willing to be enlightened.

          • PedasiPaul

            The article we are commenting on contains quotes from the 1861 document.

          • Josh

            Since when does the last state to secede from the Union become the primary spokesperson for secession?
            Sure, secession was spurred by the threat to the slavery industry.


            Had the North let the South go, as per their constitutional right, why would there be cause for war?

          • PedasiPaul

            OK fair enough. The LAST state to secede doesn’t become the primary spokesperson. How about the FIRST state to secede? South Carolina adopted its “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union to formalize its secession.” That document makes it pretty clear that protecting slavery was a prime motivation for seccession.

            Then there’s the Mississippi Seccession Statement, which says, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest in the world…There was no choice left to us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the union.”

            How about Alexander Stephens, vice president of the CSA. He wrote, “With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system…It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them…The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws.”

          • Josh

            “protecting slavery was a prime motivation for SECESSION.”

            “There was no choice left to us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the union.”

            “How about Alexander Stephens, vice president of the CSA…”
            Now we get to the problem you have with me: I’m not defending racism or slavery; both of those are horrid institutions along with any other prejudice and enslavement. To conflate the two is an abhorrent dishonesty.

            All I’m saying is that slavery wasn’t the cause of war; it was (or, rather, it’s importance for Southern economy–which should teach us a lesson about market intervention) a primary driver of secession, along with tariffs.

            The trash from Alexander Stephens mouth was just that: trash.
            Yet, there’d have been no need for war if the North left the South alone.

          • PedasiPaul

            I think we agree that secession was to a good degree over slavery. I think we disagree about whether Lincoln was wrong in holding the Union together.

  • Chuck Johnson

    In the 1960s I had a history teacher who told the class that the Civil War was about states’ rights and not about slavery.
    It was apparent to me that his claim was ignorant and dishonest, and I wondered who told him such a thing. I didn’t ask him.
    Now, Christy is inverting that same claim in saying that it’s not about states’ rights, it’s about slavery.

    That teacher and Christy are both wrong, and wrong in the same way.
    Both are pushing their own preferred politics by using incorrect logic and incorrect use of the English language to promote those preferred politics.

    The resolution is simple: The Civil War was all about states’ rights. The most important of those states’ rights is legalized slavery.

    • Guthrum

      I certainly agree with that. You can’t separate the two.

    • Joshua Hauck-Whealton

      I’d prefer to avoid crediting the Confederacy with any concern for State’s Rights. The south enthusiastically supported the gag rule in the national legislature, the use of the Federal Post Office to prevent the spread of abolitionist material, and most importantly the Fugitive Slave Act. The slaveholding states were always happy to ignore the principle of State’s Rights when it suited them.

  • Chuck Johnson

    As I said at the beginning, it is all about money. Always.-Christy

    Money is just a part of it.
    It was also about propping up the ancient pyramid of authority.
    It was also about conservative, or backwards-looking morals and values.
    It was also about upholding Christian principles. The Southern Baptist church was founded to be a church which was friendly and welcoming to slave owners.

  • Chuck Johnson
  • Redboyds

    Previous generations of Americans were, to put it mildly, much more generous toward Confederates than this current generation. I would say that they were much better examples of agape love than the present vindictive, accusatory mindset.

    FDR at the unveiling of the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park, Dallas, Texas, June 12, 1936:

    “I am very happy to take part in this unveiling of the statue of General Robert E. Lee. All over the United States we recognize him as a great leader of men, as a great general. But, also, all over the United States I believe that we recognize him as something much more important than that. We recognize Robert E. Lee as one of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen.”

    Woodrow Wilson, speech given at the dedication of the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, 4 June 1914:

    “My privilege is this, ladies and gentlemen: To declare this chapter in the history of the United States closed and ended, and I bid you turn with me with your faces to the future, quickened by the memories of the past, but with nothing to do with the contests of the past, knowing, as we have shed our blood upon opposite sides, we now face and admire one another.”

    Calvin Coolidge, speaking at the Confederate Memorial at Arlington Cemetery, May 25, 1924:

    “They were all Americans, all contending for what they believed were their rights. On many a battle field they sleep side by side. Here, in a place set aside for the resting place of those who have performed military duty, both make a final bivouac. But their country lives.
    “The bitterness of conflict is passed. Time has softened it; discretion has changed it. Your country respects you for cherishing the memory of those who wore the gray. You respect others who cherish the memory of those who wore the blue. In that mutual respect may there be a firmer friendship, a stronger and more glorious Union.
    “America claims them all. Her flag floats over them all. Her Government protects them all. They all rest in the same divine peace.”

    Jimmy Carter restores Jefferson Davis’ citizenship
    October 17, 1978
    “In posthumously restoring the full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, the Congress officially completes the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the States. Earlier, he was specifically exempted form resolutions restoring the rights of other officials in the Confederacy. He had served the United States long and honorably as a soldier, Member of the U.S. House and Senate, and as Secretary of War. General Robert E. Lee’s citizenship was restored in 1976. It is fitting that Jefferson Davis should no longer be singled out for punishment.”
    “Our Nation needs to clear away the guilts and enmities and recriminations of the past, to finally set at rest the divisions that threatened to destroy our Nation and to discredit the principles on which it was founded. Our people need to turn their attention to the important tasks that still lie before us in establishing those principles for all people.”

    Gerald Ford signs restoration of Lee’s citizenship
    August 5, 1975
    “I am very pleased to sign Senate Joint Resolution 23, restoring posthumously the long overdue, full rights of citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. This legislation corrects a 110-year oversight of American history.”
    “Lee’s dedication to his native State of Virginia chartered his course for the bitter Civil War years, causing him to reluctantly resign from a distinguished career in the United States Army and to serve as General of the Army of Northern Virginia. He, thus, forfeited his rights to U.S. citizenship.”
    “Once the war was over, he firmly felt the wounds of the North and South must be bound up. He sought to show by example that the citizens of the South must dedicate their efforts to rebuilding that region of the country as a strong and vital part of the American Union.”
    “As a soldier, General Lee left his mark on military strategy. As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty. As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.”
    “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.”
    “In approving this Joint Resolution, the Congress removed the legal obstacle to citizenship which resulted from General Lee’s Civil War service. Although more than a century late, I am delighted to sign this resolution and to complete the full restoration of General Lee’s citizenship.”

    I’m not seeing this sort of compassion coming from a lot of people right now.

    I thought Christianity was about mercy and forgiveness, not grudges.

    • John Smith

      Previous generations of Americans were, to put it mildly, much more
      generous toward Confederates than this current generation. I would say
      that they were much better examples of agape love than the present
      vindictive, accusatory mindset.

      Previous generations of Americans cared, to put it mildly, much less about Confederate’s past or present victims than this current generation. Siding with a monster who feeds on people does not make you more loving, it makes you a villain.

      I thought Christianity was about mercy and forgiveness, not grudges.

      Telling the truth about the Confederacy of Slave States is not about a grudge, but about bringing to an end the harm it’s legacy still causes. General Lee is long dead and getting whatever reward fighting for the Nazis of his day deserves, but his statue is here on Earth and serving as a rally point for neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and other assorted monsters.

      The ghost of the Confederacy is a malevolent spirit indeed, and thus needs to be busted.

      • Baby_Raptor

        You’re an enormous asshole. Even worse, you’re totally disingenuous. Somehow, you lived your entire life with these statues all around and you were ok with it. Suddenly in the last 6 months, you see the inherent evil in all of them. How come you didn’t see it last summer? Or anytime in the last few decades? Because you’re a disingenuous asshole, as I stated earlier.

        • John Smith

          I’m not an American. I haven’t lived with Confederate statues around me, though I’ve noticed my society’s worst elements have taken their flag as their own. I have to agree with them at that, if nothing else.

          Also, I doubt you’re actually Baby Raptor, rather than some, in your words, “enormous asshole” exploiting Disqus’s problems.

          Nonetheless, to address your point: the reason people didn’t see the evil in Confederate statues before it was pointed out to them is precisely that they have lived with that evil all their lives. The mask of respectability and normality has been finally torn off. The true face of the Confederacy of Slavers is visible now, and of course it’s making people recoil in horror, because it’s the face of a monster, and always was.

          • Baby_Raptor

            Translation – you’re full of shit. You lost the election in a humiliating fashion and are desperately clinging to any scraps to maintain the illusion of power.

  • Alexander Wayson

    It’s ALL about states’ rights!!! The southern states were much richer than the north. They had all of the agriculture and the north had all of the industry. What started the entire thing was the north being pissed off because the south wouldn’t share, and the south got tired of being bullied!! Slavery didn’t even come into the mix until towards the middle when Lincoln needed more support, otherwise he KNEW he was fucked. The states had EVERY right to leave the union. That being said, I believe that slavery was a despicable and heinous thing that should never be repeated. But as my good friend Tyler Durden once said “sticking feathers up your butt does not make you chicken.” Do some research for yourself, call things what they are, and stop being so fucking blind!! It’s what they want!!

    • PedasiPaul

      The Texan document makes clear that racial subordination was a prime purpose of secession from the start.

      • Alexander Wayson

        Well you edited your reply because originally you had cited the CSA Constitution. Which, you were wrong. The Texan document does mention it. You were right there. But that was one state. And I hate to break it to you but Lincoln didn’t give two shits about slaves, and didn’t until it was in his interests to. Despite what you may’ve seen on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter…

    • Nimblewill

      The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away… Those ideas, 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.”

      Alexander Stephens’ Cornerstone Speech

  • Brandon Roberts

    have to somewhat disagree let me preface this with yes slavery was a tragesty but the confederate flag mean different things to different people regardless of historical intent and erasing it isn’t going to change any of the bad things that happened