Now the mere mention of the Civil War, slavery, Confederates and white Southerners sends some people into tizzy.
But should it? A question I love to ask-- what should we teach our children about the Civil War? Was it about slavery? States Rights? Economics?
My personal opinion was that it was indeed about slavery--but not the evil, we hate black people slavery so often touted by some. For better or worse, to understand the thinking of white, slave holding Southerners, slavery was a matter of economics and a way of life. They did not enslave people merely for fun, but for profit. Does that shock anyone? The entire Southern economy was built on plantation and slave labor. If you really try and understand the thinking and political philosophy of Southerners at the time, it isn't too hard to see why the would be terrified of a President who THEY BELIEVED was trying to economically and socially ruin them.
Correctly or incorrectly, that's what they were thinking...we can't conceive of a time when slavery was, in fact, protected by the Constitution and had a SUPER-DUPER precedent for being protected in EVERY single political Compromise enacted in previous sectional crises. Does this make it right? Not to a 21st century American, 150 YEARS LATER.
Oh, and by the way, most Northerners were just as racist as their Southern counterparts...they may not have wanted slavery, but they sure didn't want freedmen living next door to them either.
Not pretty, and certainly unacceptable in the 21st century, but that's how things were in the 1860s. Unfortunately, we are so blinded by racial politics and political correctness that we don't study the causes of the Civil War in the context of the times, in my opinion.
Civil War history is one of my favorite topics and for a military historian, it's a source of boundless study. Does that mean we should ignore slavery? Certainly not...does that mean that EVERYTHING we study about the Civil War has to revolve around slavery? I don't think that's true either.
If we don't study the causes of the Civil War, secession, the role of slavery, and the perils encountered in Reconstruction, how will we understand our history? Sadly, I think racists on both sides use the Civil War for their own purposes and don't try to really do their history. Unfortunately, I doubt our public schools or universities are helping.
By the way, modern Americans are pretty smug in our sophisticated self-righteousness when we judge our backward, evil ancestors. I wonder what our descendants will think about us in 150 years, if we survive that long.