/ September 27, 2023
Commentary by Mike Scruggs
Not long ago, I ran across a quote attributed to Scottish martyr and hero William Wallace, depicted by Mel Gibson in the 1995 movie, Braveheart. Wallace warned against the consequences of crushing the cultural heritage, symbols, and traditions of conquered peoples.
“Any society which suppresses the heritage of its conquered minorities, prevents their history or denies them their symbols, has sown the seeds of their own destruction.”— William Wallace, circa 1297-1305
Born in 1270, Wallace was a Scottish Knight who became one of the main leaders of the First Scottish War of Independence (1296-1328). Scotland had been independent until 1296, when England’s Edward I, tried to force the Scots to make him Lord Paramount of Scotland. Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army of King Edward I at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297 and was appointed Guardian of Scotland. In August 1305, Wallace was captured, sent to London, tried, and publicly executed for treason with barbaric cruelty.
Wallace was from Southwestern Scotland, which was the origin of many “Scots-Irish” (or “Ulster-Scots”) Protestant immigrants to America. Many identified themselves simply as “Irish” or “Scotch-Irish.” From 1710 to 1775, over 200,000 migrated from Northern Ireland to Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas. They now have over 27 million descendants, over 9 percent of the U.S. population, and are most heavily concentrated in Southern states, especially in those areas near the Appalachian mountain chain. They strongly sided for American independence and against British rule during the Revolutionary War. They are particularly noted for the fervor of their political and religious conservatism and fame as frontier settlers and soldiers.
The United States and many other Western nations are now going through an era where their heritage, traditions, culture, symbols, and religious beliefs are being suppressed to make way for globalist secularism, which has a strong anti-Christian bias. In fact, our “woke” and self-centered nihilistic trends are replacing truth with contrafactual and contra-logical ideologies and false historical narratives. Traditional values, free speech, and even clear-thinking analysis are increasingly subject to heavy-handed oppression, “cancel-culture,” and mean-spirited attack and demonization of those who dare oppose it. The American Republic is becoming a totalitarian American Empire under secularist globalism. Our elections, our courts, our social values, and even our armed forces are being undermined by widespread dishonesty, corruption, and unworkable ideological nonsense.
Critical Race Theory and its distortions of diversity, “equity,” and inclusiveness (DEI) are major sources of moral and intellectual confusion, but they are only a part of the stream of social poison that now threatens to collapse American and Western societies. Godless secular philosophies, self-centered nihilism, apathy, indifference to wisdom, and a failure of moral courage are destroying our institutions and dissolving the social and moral glue that is essential for unity and moral and political order. We are near the edge of self-destruction.
Southerners are particularly sensitive to globalist replacement of history with false historical narratives, but most Americans in most American regions are now seeing the same destruction of their identity. I have chosen a short list of historical quotes, which should at least cause rational reconsideration of presumptions about America’s popular but erroneous Civil War narrative.
The Reverend James Power Smith, the last surviving member of Stonewall Jackson’s staff had this to say in 1907:
“No cowardice on any battlefield could be as base and shameful as the silent acquiescence in the scheme which was teaching the children in their homes and schools that the commercial value of slavery was the cause of the war, that prisoners of war held in the South were starved and treated with barbarous inhumanity, that Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were traitors to their country and false to their oaths, that the young men who left everything to resist invasion, and climbed the slopes of Gettysburg and died willingly on a hundred fields were rebels against a righteous government.”
How did the role of slavery become so distorted and exaggerated as a cause of the “Civil War”? In the words of President Woodrow Wilson:
“It was necessary to put the South at a moral disadvantage by transforming the contest from a war waged against states fighting for their independence into a war waged against states fighting for the maintenance and extension of slavery…”
Two days before Lincoln’s election in November of 1860, an editorial in the Charleston Mercury summed up the feeling of South Carolina on the impending national crisis:
“The real causes of dissatisfaction in the South with the North, are in the unjust taxation and expenditure of the taxes by the Government of the United States, and in the revolution the North has effected in this government, from a confederated republic to a national sectional despotism.”
The Kentucky Resolution, the work of Thomas Jefferson, asserts States Rights in very strong terms:
“This Commonwealth is determined to submit to no undelegated and consequently unlimited power, in no man, or body of men on earth, even the President…When powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy; and every state has a natural right in cases not within the compact…to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits…In the questions of power then, let there be no more heard of confidence in man; but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”
As early as 1825. the right of secession was taught at West Point. William Rawle’s View of the Constitution specifically taught that secession was a right of each state and was used as a text at West Point in 1825 and 1826 and thereafter as a reference. Rawle was a friend of both George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and his 1825 text was highly respected and used at many colleges. A subsequent text by James Kent maintained the same position and was used at West Point until the end of the war in 1865. Several Union and Confederate generals were at West Point during the time Rawle’s text was used. Rawle even spelled out the procedure for a state to secede, explaining:
“The secession of a state from the Union depends on the will of the people of each state. The people alone…hold the power to alter their constitution.”
The right of secession was very well stated by an Illinois Congressman in 1848:
“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable and most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.”— Abraham Lincoln
The slavery issues of the 19th century are now very much misunderstood by the general public and most academics. It is politically and intellectually fashionable to distort the history of slavery in order to create a whitewashed narrative of American history that glorifies abolitionist radicalism and Northern aggression against the South while covering up the strongest underlying motivation for Northern opposition to the extension of slavery to new states. Northern whites did not want competition from black labor and wanted to keep the Northern states purely white. Don’t believe it? Check this source, one of many, below:
“The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these territories. We want them for the homes of free white people.” — Abraham Lincoln, October 16, 1854, in Peoria, Illinois:
In the September 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas in Ottawa, Illinois, Lincoln insisted vigorously that:
“I will say that I am not…in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people…Anything that argues me into his (Douglas’s) idea of perfect social and political equality with the Negro is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut horse.”
Writing in December of 1861 in a London weekly publication, the famous English author, Charles Dickens, who was a strong opponent of slavery, said these things about the war going on in America:
“The Northern onslaught upon slavery is no more than a piece of specious humbug disguised to conceal its desire for economic control of the United States.”
Karl Marx, like most European socialists of the time, favored the North. In an 1861 article published in England, he articulated very well what the major British newspapers, the Times, the Economist, and Saturday Review, had been saying:
“The war between the North and South is a tariff war. The war, is further, not for any principle, does not touch the question of slavery, and in fact turns on the Northern lust for power.”
More than 95 percent of U.S. tax revenue came from tariffs on imported goods. By 1824, Southern states were paying over 83 percent of it, while Northern states were receiving over 75 percent of the benefits. The Morrill tariff, proposed in 1858 and finally passed in March 1861, would more than double tariff rates over the next four years, also causing serious profit losses to Southern cotton, tobacco, and other agricultural exporters. Many apologists for the Union invasion and war against the South have dismissed the Morrill Tariff as a provocation to war because many Southern States had already seceded before it was passed by the Senate and signed by President Buchanan. However, British writer John Spence, addressing the issue in 1862, wrote:
“The cotton States had indeed seceded previously; but why? Because, as we have seen, political power had passed into the hands of the North, and they anticipated from the change, an utter disregard of their interests, and a course of policy opposed to the spirit of the Constitution, and to their rights under it. Was it possible to offer to the world more prompt or convincing proof than this tariff affords, that their apprehensions were well founded.”
The Confederate States had already put in their Constitution that free trade and low tariffs would be the backbone of their trade policies. Both the South and British would profit considerably from this. The result in lost tax revenues and lost shipping business would be disastrous to the North. In March 1865, Henry C. Carey, Abraham Lincoln’s chief economist, wrote House Speaker Schuyler Colfax:
“To British Free-trade it is, as I have shown, that we stand indebted for the present Civil War.”
It is to Carey’s credit that he did not characterize the war as a moral crusade to end slavery. That demagogic myth had not yet been fully developed. A more astute and honest admission, however, would have been that the “American System” of protectionist tariffs, and especially the Morrill Tariff — a product of his own hand and influence — had brought forth one of the greatest calamities of American history,
Five years after the end of the War, prominent Northern abolitionist, attorney and legal scholar, Lysander Spooner, put it this way:
“All these cries of having ‘abolished slavery,’ of having ‘saved the country,’ of having ‘preserved the Union,’ of establishing a ‘government of consent,’ and of ‘maintaining the national honor’ are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats — so transparent that they ought to deceive no one.”
The problem is that most Americans continue to be deceived by a false narrative about the Civil War that characterizes it as a moral crusade against slavery. False historical narratives and ideologies are inevitably divisive and a precarious foundation for freedom. Freedom without truth is an imposter.
Mike Scruggs is a columnist and former USAF intelligence officer and combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He is author of 'The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths' and 'Lessons from the Vietnam War: Truths the Media Never Told You'
Free Press International
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