Dan Baldwin: On Confederate monuments and slavery | TheUnion.com

Dan Baldwin: On Confederate monuments and slavery

In response to Alan Riquelmy’s column (“… true story behind those monuments”) of Sept., 7, I would like to say “Huzzah!” and thank you.

I have been a Civil War reenactor for the past 21 years and a student of American History for the past 50 years. As such, I have been fascinated with the American Civil War (1861-1865) for decades.

It has always bothered me that so many “southern apologists” insist that the Civil War was not about slavery, morality, and political or Christian ethics. These apologists insist that it was about something they euphemistically call “the lost cause” or “states’ rights” and slavery had nothing to do with it.

This is nothing more than a very shallow overview of what was going on in the early to mid-19th century America. If you ask these apologists what they mean by “states’ rights” and keep asking them, they will eventually be forced to admit that the war was all about Southern economics and money. Money and wealth for a relatively small southern plantation aristocracy that was based on labor-intensive cash crops such as cotton, tobacco and sugar cane. Since it was true that a relatively small percentage of southerners owned slaves, how was the wealthy aristocracy to fill the ranks of thousands of soldiers to risk and give their lives so eagerly to support the “peculiar institution of slavery”? They did it by owning and controlling the only public media (newspapers) available in the mid 19th century. If you keep telling the general public that the “Yankees are invading your country to take away your heritage, your southern culture and your way of life,” you will eventually convince tens of thousands of young men to fight for you (note that by act of Confederate Congress, anyone owning more than 10 slaves was exempt from southern military service).

The continued presence of monuments to southern rebel leaders and blind adherence to “the lost cause” and “states’ rights” amounts to nothing more than revisionist history …

As Riquelmy pointed out, everyone interested in why 700,000 Americans died to settle a political argument needs to do a little research.

As he suggested, everyone needs to look up the Missouri Compromise, the Wilmot Proviso, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, as well as the Dred Scott and the Fugitive Slave Act decisions of the Supreme Court, the Merrill Tariff of 1861, and read Lincoln’s first and second inaugural speeches.

Or read the classic “The Coming Fury” by Bruce Catton. “Through the sheer beauty of his narrative style, this book was conceived as classic tragedy: as a series of ever narrowing circles of choice with few and fewer men to make them enclosing, finally [leaving] but two men faced with almost no choice at all.”

All these references show the constant, and ultimately futile, attempts to maintain the American Union with slavery. That effort was doomed as long as our elected representatives could not work this out to a nonviolent solution. Democracy cannot exist with slavery.

The continued presence of monuments to southern rebel leaders and blind adherence to “the lost cause” and “states’ rights” amounts to nothing more than revisionist history by 21st century apologists.

Let’s accept our history as it was — the good, the bad and the ugly — and try to learn from it before we are doomed to repeat it. Move the monuments out of public spaces and admit our true history as it actually happened.

God bless Abraham Lincoln, long live the Union!

Dan Baldwin lives in Grass Valley.

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