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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Your Southern Heritage by Fr. James Thornton

Your Southern Heritage
by Fr. James Thornton

During his presidential campaigns, former Alabama Governor George Wallace was wont to say to his Northern audiences that the terms "South" and "Southern" designate not simply a particular region of America but, more importantly, a particular philosophy of life and outlook on the world of which the South is justly proud. 

By implication, he extended an invitation to non-Southerners around the country to adopt and share in that uniquely Southern point of view and way of life. His audiences, in such cities as Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Boston, always roared their approval at this invitation, indicating that they possessed some cognizance of the fact that the Southern way
of life still embraced positive attitudes about family life, religious truths, a sense of community, a sense of honor, individual liberty, and certain other special characteristics that evoke the flavor of an earlier age in American history. 

Wallace's efforts in the national political arena, before he was cut down by a would-be assassin, pointed to something that has long been recognized: The cultural underpinnings of the American South are in a number of respects different from those of their non-Southern compatriots.
All great nations are composed of regions that are distinct from one another. It is well known, for example, that a Frenchman born and reared in Paris is in many ways quite unlike his fellow countrymen from, say, Lyon or Marseilles. Certainly all are French, sharing many of the same historical memories, the same language, and the same love of France, but there are nonetheless substantial differences. Likewise, a German from Berlin is not the same as a German from Munich. There was a time, not so long ago, when Prussians looked on Bavarians or Austrians, even those from the cities, as somewhat rustic and as much too frivolous and easygoing. Conversely, Bavarians and Austrians saw their northern kinfolk as a bit dour and grim. The same is true of Britain, or Italy, or virtually any national entity. Regional cultures vary to a great extent; foods differ, aspects of the language differ, folk music differs, and even such things as temperament show many dissimilarities.
Our own United States is no different, even though it is much younger than the nations of Europe. As a body of facts that actually shaped (and continues to shape) the historical process in our country, the differences that grew up and that distinguish Americans of the Northern states from Americans of the Southern states were of the greatest significance.

For evidence of this one need only recall that the most terrible war in the history of our country was fought between the North and the South. The two regions viewed life and the world differently, and the predictable frictions that resulted proved useful to the demagogues who helped to usher in the war.
British Historian J.F.C. Fuller observed that at the time of the outbreak of war Southerners and Northerners "could no longer even think alike: the one was composed of field-men, the other of men of the city; and the one was an aristocracy, whilst the other was a pluto-democracy. In the South the military, religious and artistic spirits preponderated; in the North the commercial, matter-of-fact and practical. The South was eighteenth century, the North nineteenth century; the one looked backward to Cavalier and King's man, the other forwards to the Roundheads and Cromwells of an all-conquering mechanical age."
With regard to France, Germany, Britain, the United States, and every other country and its regions, we speak here in generalities, as one must always do with reference to any facts about large numbers of people; exceptions, needless to say, abound. As well, with all that we will here consider about the North and the South, the same is true. We speak here less of individual people and their individual attitudes than of general trends within regions. The dividing lines are never drawn with categorical finality and the regional characteristics we discuss are not rigidly applicable to each and every inhabitant of the North and South. As the South's great philosopher Richard M. Weaver wrote: "Within each [North and South] there will be dissidence and minority reports. It is plain that there were things done in the South which were not 'Southern,' and things done in the North that were not 'Northern,' as we are compelled to understand these terms."
At the time of the War Between the States, the great preponderance of Americans were of the same ethnic ancestry -- that is, overwhelmingly from the British Isles -- and spoke the same language, albeit with minor stylistic variations. Yet, despite strong common roots, the North and the South had each developed its own pattern -- or we might say, rhythm -- of life, its own culture, and its own attitudes and priorities. It may be that the great and bloody conflict that forms so enormous a rupture in our history was all but inevitable. Of course, we cannot say for sure.
To fathom accurately the possibilities and outcomes of a history different from that which actually took place is not possible. One relatively minor change may so alter the direction of innumerable other factors that predictions about alternative, imaginary outcomes to events in history are wholly speculative. Where would we be today had Charles Martel been crushed by the Moorish invaders at Tours? How might England have developed had Harold II defeated William the Conqueror at Hastings? Who can say what might have happened had Columbus' ships gone down halfway across the Atlantic? What if the War Between the States had never been fought or if the South had won? Such conjecturing belongs properly to the realm of fiction and romance. If trained historians disagree on the actual course of real events, how can anyone hope to divine what might have been?
History's decision in 1865 has thus far proven irrevocable. The Southern Confederacy and the antebellum way of life did not survive. Nevertheless, from the history of the antebellum period, the crisis of 1860-61, the war itself, and the Reconstruction, stem a myriad of developments with which we continue to struggle to this day. Moreover, that entire epoch is so rich a treasury of historical lessons that it has produced a veritable avalanche of literature.
So let us look for a few moments at the South, at Southern culture, and at the Southern view of the war and its causes. This we will do through the eyes of six Southern writers whose works are currently in print. By looking closely at the South and at her contribution to American life, we can learn how its culture and history enrich all of us. Those among us who are not Southerners might find ourselves disagreeing about certain specifics, but even then we will likely concede that the Southern contribution to the American way of life is both formidable and valuable.
John C. Calhoun's Union and Liberty: The Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun is one of the marvelous publications of Liberty Press of Indianapolis, Indiana, an organization that specializes in outstanding titles devoted to mankind's age-old struggle for freedom. One of the greatest American statesmen of the first half of the 19th century, Calhoun, a South Carolinian, served his country as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1811-17), U.S. Secretary of War (1817-25), and Vice President of the United States (1825-32). He served as U.S. senator from South Carolina beginning in 1832 and continuing until his death in 1850, except for a brief period in 1844-45 when he served as John Tyler's Secretary of State. He is remembered today chiefly as an inveterate defender of the South in a period that saw increasing tensions brought on by dramatic changes in the world. Born in 1782, he lived at a time of enormous transition as the United States grew in population, expanded in industry, and marched inexorably westward, slowly emerging as a continental power. Before we consider this collection of Calhoun's writings, let us briefly mention something about the philosophies that fathered America's free institutions and form of government.
Two streams of thought went into the creation of the unique American form of government as embodied in our U.S. Constitution. One of these represented what we may call the centralizing tendency. It was concerned that the newly created republic was too weak and might become an easy prey for one or more of the European powers, or else might fly apart as a result of centrifugal forces generated by the excessive dispersal of government power. It wished to make the United States a nation that could stand up to any challenge, foreign or domestic. Men such as Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Fisher Ames were exemplars of this point of view and were mostly affiliated with the Federalist Party.
The other school of thought represented the decentralizing tendency. It aimed to avoid the danger to liberty that comes from the excessive concentration of power in the hands of a too-powerful central government and desired especially to preserve the local prerogatives and local institutions unique to each of the states that made up the federal union. Generally, believers in this viewpoint tended towards Thomas Jefferson's party with its base of power in the Southern states.
The United States Constitution is a synthesis of these two outlooks and attempts both to bridge the differences inherent in each philosophy and to set up a system that combines "the best of both worlds."
For a variety of reasons, Southern statesmen tended strongly to be partisans of the decentralizing position. They recognized that Southern institutions had developed along unique lines and that the Southern way of life was based on a profoundly traditional agrarianism, totally at odds with the hustle-bustle, big cities, big business, and big industry of the North. Since the South, by the middle of the 19th century, had developed a distinctive set of institutions, in the Southern view only a rigorous preservation of a decentralized regime, with a preponderance of power left in the hands of individual sovereign states, would allow the ways of the South to continue and guarantee that the concepts of the American Founders about liberty would endure.
Calhoun was the great spokesman, before the war, for this Southern point of view. In Union and Liberty we read several of his great speeches and a number of his discourses and expositions on his theory of government, which was essentially the Southern theory of government. Significantly, many of his arguments resemble those now made by genuine conservatives. In the century and a half since Calhoun's death, conservatives have seen the relentless accumulation of power by the federal government. Consequently, the great Southern statesman's words retain all the relevance and power that they possessed when they were first written and spoken so long ago.
Union and Liberty is a masterpiece of American political literature. In the words of Ross M. Lence of the University of Houston, author of the foreword in the Liberty Press edition, Calhoun "understood liberty; he ardently defended it; and he spoke of it in a language and within a culture that are genuinely American. The defense of minority rights against the abuse of an overbearing majority, the cause to which he untiringly devoted himself, has rejoined constitutional discourse as a tenet of contemporary American politics. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of neglect, John Caldwell Calhoun calls upon us to renew our inquiry into the founding principles of the American system of government."
John Shipley Tilley was a Southern writer whose works initially appeared in the 1940s and '50s. They are apologia for the South's position before, during, and after the war. Lincoln Takes Command was the first of these to be published. It deals with the responsibility for the commencement of hostilities in 1861. Conventionally, it is the South that usually receives the bulk of the blame for the national catastrophe of war, since it was the South that apparently cast down the gauntlet by firing on Fort Sumter. The author remarks that after defeating the South, "the conquerors took up the pen to write the story for coming generations." However, since the "flush of success is not conducive to judicial bearing," the "official version" of the war lacked "the merit of impartiality."
Tilley shows that in the months immediately before the outbreak of hostilities, a veritable groundswell of opinion, on the part of the public as well as among prominent politicians, favored a compromise solution that would: 1) guarantee a policy of non-interference on the part of the federal government with respect to Southern institutions; 2) preserve the federal union; and 3) avert war. Among others, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Alexander Stephens, and scores of other Northern and Southern political figures and public officials spoke out for compromise. It was proposed that an extraordinary national referendum be held that would restore friendly feelings across the Mason-Dixon Line and forestall war. But it was not to be. Fanatics fanned the flames and the country was plunged into the most costly tragedy in its history.
Tilley considers Lincoln's policy in the crucial spring of 1861 excessively rigid and even provocative, so much so that Lincoln almost appeared to wish to drive Southern states into secession so better to carry out possible hidden agenda. According to Tilley, Lincoln, during the period immediately following his inauguration, endeavored to appear pacific, while subtly goading the Confederates into making the first move. The purpose of this policy was twofold. First, Lincoln had to assure public support in the North for his war policy; second, he had to take care not to lose the border states, whose allegiance was divided, since the loss of these states to the North would have greatly enhanced the prospects for Southern victory. Thus, according to Tilley, Lincoln's policy aimed cleverly to "play the Southerners into committing the first overt act of hostility" so that the new President "could go to the country with far stronger appeal." The author examines the intricate details of the political maneuvering on both sides.
Tilley's second book, The Coming of the Glory, is an inquiry into several aspects of the war. The work is divided into three parts, entitled respectively, "Slavery," "Secession," and "Reconstruction." The book is a comprehensive study of the Southern position, of state sovereignty, of the right of secession, and of the South's actual experiences during and after the war.
Southerners, then as now, put great store in law. The Constitution clearly and expressly recognizes the rights of the individual states as sovereign political entities. The South took the constitutional framers at their word. In Southern eyes, a solemn compact entered into by a free, sovereign state could be dissolved when it no longer provided sufficient benefit to that state, and particularly when the limited national government provided by that compact began to drift towards centralization and tyranny. The individual sovereign states would not have ratified the Constitution had they been told that once ratified, in no circumstances could they ever withdraw.
Reconstruction, which was a wholly illegal series of outrageous usurpations by the federal government, the author portrays correctly as "barbarism in power over civilization." All of the states in "rebellion," once subdued, were treated as "conquered provinces," ruled by a triumphant federal army. All citizens who had in any way participated in the war on the side of the Confederacy, or who had even given "aid and comfort" to the forces of the Confederacy (which included essentially every white adult), were disenfranchised and treated to myriad humiliations. The right to vote was then granted only to ex-slaves, most of whom were illiterate -- the helpless minions of ruthless carpetbaggers from the North.
At least two things strike one on reading this section on Reconstruction. The first is that for a time after the South's defeat, a frame of mind that can only be described as an absolute delirium of extreme vengefulness seized much of the Northern government during which a new kind of war was made on the helpless, disarmed Southern citizenry. The infamous Thaddeus Stevens, a U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania and a leader among the radical Republicans, insisted that the South must suffer "punishments quite as appalling and longer remembered than death." The second is that with such fanatics temporarily in control of things, it was extraordinary that a system of free government survived at all, anywhere in the country. All Americans should read The Coming of the Glory carefully to gain some impression of what a future American despotism might be like should we do nothing to prevent its victory.
Facts the Historians Leave Out: A Confederate Primer was John Shipley Tilley's last volume on the South and the war. First published in 1951, the current edition is the 25th printing of this small book. For those not inclined to read larger volumes but wishing to know something of the realities of the War Between the States, this book is the perfect answer.

Tilley has arranged Facts the Historians Leave Out into 28 short chapters, each two or three pages in length. In each chapter he poses a crucial question or statement having to do with the South's struggle, and then proceeds to answer the question or discuss the statement. Typical are the following: "What Are States' Rights?"; "Was Secession Treason?"; "Was George Washington a Traitor?"; "Who 'Began' the War?"; "Was There Suffering in Southern Prisons?"; and "Some Reasons for Secession." Obviously, this book is a condensed treatment of subjects discussed in much greater detail in the author's other volumes. It is nevertheless eminently useful in its many thought-provoking arguments.
Richard M. Weaver (1910-63) taught at the University of Chicago and became one of the leading 20th-century philosophers of conservatism. Weaver was born in Asheville, North Carolina and remained a vigorous defender of Southern tradition all of his life. A prolific writer, his most well-known work is his monumental Ideas Have Consequences, still published by the University of Chicago Press. Weaver is also remembered for two books dealing with the South and its heritage: The Southern Tradition at Bay and The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver.
Weaver's books are of a philosophical nature, looking deeply at the most primary questions involved in the South's struggle. The first of these books, The Southern Tradition at Bay, is an examination of the Southern mode of thinking and living after the war, as the South undertook to survive, adapt, and resuscitate itself after the debacle of 1865, in the midst of a radically changed set of circumstances.
The South, in Weaver's view, was "the last non-materialist civilization in the Western world." The Southerner, says Weaver, "has something of the attitude of the soldier: aware of the battle, he has only contempt for the tender, querulous, agitated creature of modern artifice, sighing for the comforts he is 'entitled to,' and protesting that the world cannot really be like this." It is not material success that counts, according to the Southern tradition, but the shaping of the individual characters of men. Given such a viewpoint, the author comments that "I am sure that Lee, so reserved in expression, so wise in thought, had this in mind when he called self-denial the greatest lesson to be learned. If part of our happiness comes through the transformation of the outward world, another part comes through the pruning of desire, and we return to the original proposition that civilization is a matter of inner conditioning and adaptation."
Southerners, especially of the rural South, grew up close to the soil, where life was harsh and a continual struggle. This was quite a different experience from Northern city folk, sheltered in what Southerners regarded as an artificial world. This made the Southerner disciplined and resilient in the face of adversity. Furthermore, the Southern mind was intensely realistic when it came to the place of man in this world. In Weaver's own words, "The North had Tom Paine and his postulates assuming the virtuous inclinations of man; the South had Burke and his doctrine of human fallibility and of the organic nature of society."
Given these qualities, how did the Southerner cope with defeat? That is the chief theme of The Southern Tradition at Bay. In each chapter, Weaver reviews the literature of the South during successive periods up to the beginning of the 20th century. During that time, as before, the South stood opposed to "materialist theories of history and society," asserts Weaver. Instead, it placed emphasis on "holiness and heroism," and strove to exalt these concepts. "The Old South," remarks Weaver, "may indeed be a hall hung with splendid tapestries in which no one would care to live; but from them we can learn something of how to live."
Weaver's second volume on his native South, The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver, is a further exploration of the Southern mind, temperament, and view of life. Among these 14 essays, two of the most revealing are the last, "The Southern Tradition" and "The South and the American Union." Again Weaver contrasts the regional characteristics of the South and North. He begins by noting that the break between Europe and the newly born United States was never as marked in the South as elsewhere. Where men of New England were inclined to attempt to cut themselves off from the culture of their European motherlands, this tendency was not so powerful in the South. Weaver observes that the South "played an important and valiant part in the Revolution, but this was a political separation." Therefore, he goes on to point out, "After the Revolution it settled down quite comfortably with its institutions, modelled on eighteenth-century England." Similarly, the South always tended to be class conscious and hierarchically stratified, unlike the more socially fluid North. The South flatly rejected radical egalitarianism, where the North always tended to embrace it in theory. Even ancient practices such as the code duello lived on in the South long after they had disappeared from the Northern states.
At the more foundational level, Weaver borrows terminology from German historian Oswald Spengler in describing the Southerner as "Apollonian" or "Classical," and the Northerner as "Faustian." Apollonian man, like the man of classical antiquity, prefers "a permanent settlement" and "a coming to terms with nature" in contrast to the "restless striving" of the Faustian man and his desire for "constant outreaching, the denial of limits, the willingness to dissolve all into endless instrumental activity...." The Southerner thus "accepts the irremediability of a certain amount of evil and tries to fence it around instead of trying to stamp it out and thereby spreading it." The Northerner strives to remake the world in his own image, to reform it, whereas the Southerner rejects such notions and clings to stasis. It is not surprising, then, that the Northerner, in the 19th century and again in the middle of this century, viewed Southern life as "a stumbling block in the road of progress."
Finally, with respect to the political realm, Weaver observes that in the War Between the States, Southerners "believed that they were fighting to defend the government as it was laid down at Philadelphia in 1787 and as recognized by various state ordinances of ratification. This was a government of restricted power, commissioned to do certain things which the states could not do for themselves, but strictly defined as to its authority." As long as each state was viewed as a sovereign entity, "the maximum amount of self-determination by the states" preserved, and states' rights rigorously upheld, any drift towards despotism was automatically nipped in the bud. That, according to Weaver, was ultimately the issue over which the South went to war since it held that the North "was rebelling against this idea which had been accepted by the members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Or to put it another way, the North was staging a revolution, the purpose of which was to do away with this older concept of the American government." The South rejected this revolution and sought to defend what it insisted were its God-given rights. When the War Between the States is seen in these terms, the issue of slavery, firmly fixed in the minds of so many Americans as the true cause of the war, is understood rather to be merely the catchword of the War Party in the North, and a shallow excuse to wage war and impose a social revolution.
Reading the superb works of Richard M. Weaver is always a journey to the inner core of things, a study of the essence and of underlying philosophical assumptions that made the South a singular and remarkable entity. No grasp of the American South is possible today without reference to Weaver's books.
A conscientious reading of Francis W. Springer's War for What? is extremely rewarding. This is first of all a history of early America, of the South, of relations between North and South, of the war, and of the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction period. It is also a rich commentary on certain unique aspects of the Southern way of life and outlook on life and on where the events of the past 130 years have led us.
Springer's writing, of course, reflects a Southern outlook. For example, he states: "The Union of Sovereign States, each state deriving its powers from its own people, and the federal government having only those powers granted it by the states, ended when Lincoln was allowed to eviscerate the Constitution. Lincoln did not save the Union, the Union that the delegates founded in 1788. A new Union was created in the 1860s with power over the states, power usurped by deception and maintained by force." This is a precise history of the South and contains a useful bibliography and valuable appendices.
In The South Was Right! authors James and Walter Kennedy seek to challenge the sundry myths about the true roles of the North and the South in the war and to inspire a "return of government as established by the Original Constitution." Point by point, the authors consider the major issues involved in North-South differences and come down squarely on the side of liberty as it was understood by the Founders of the American Republic and the Founders of the Southern Confederacy -- the conceptions of each being essentially identical.
Of particular importance here are the authors' tracing of the philosophical underpinnings of the Southern idea of freedom and constitutional government. Law and the Constitution are taken very seriously in the South. But a constitution is not merely a body of empty words without exact meaning. On the contrary, the authors remind us that "we must remember that there is no magic in the word 'constitution.' Even communist Russia had a constitution that guaranteed human rights and religious freedom. Yet, it availed the people very little!" So, the mere word "constitution," under a highly centralized type of government heedless of the rights of the individual sovereign states, is a mere trifle before the juggernaut of unscrupulous men determined to achieve personal power over their fellow citizens. In such a system, note the Kennedys, "the individual citizen stands naked and alone, unprotected against the might of a centralized federal government -- a government that has assumed unto itself the right to be the exclusive judge of the extent of its own powers. What monarch has ever asked for more?"
According to the authors, the answer to this dilemma "is not more power but the will to use the power at hand!" Like-minded citizens must unite politically and use the power conferred on them by their Creator to turn out corrupt politicians and "trendy Scalawags." From the standpoint of strategy, the authors insist that power must be regained by attaining control at the legislative, rather than the executive, level. Legislatures hold the purse strings and can thus bring bloated big government to a halt. Only then will the Old American Republic come to grace our land and our lives once again, a republic that was in truth founded and defended chiefly by Southern men.
It has been argued by partisans of the North in the War Between the States that the overriding issue was the persistence of the South's reliance on slavery. This, say adherents of the Northern position, was inconsistent with the ideals on which the United States was created and slavery therefore had to be abolished. Our purpose here is not to countenance slavery, but neither do we seek to condemn our own past. As Hilaire Belloc points out in his treatise The Servile State, slavery is an institution that had prevailed throughout the whole of the world since the dawn of civilization. It was not confined to the Western world, but was universal. It was the rule in many societies, from the most civilized to the most primitive, from the Far East, to cultured and sophisticated Europe, to the most savage tribes of Africa and pre-Columbian America.
As with other religions, historical Christianity tolerated slavery as part of the established order of things, a grim reflection and product of man's fallen nature. However, it was the Christian concept that all men are created in the image of God with God-given individual rights that inspired civilized nations to dispense with that institution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Still, slavery and the slave trade continue to exist, albeit somewhat surreptitiously, in places in the Levant and the Orient and, ironically enough, in the heart of black Africa, among the native peoples of that continent. Throughout nearly the entire Christian world, slavery was abolished in a peaceful fashion. The one conspicuous exception was the United States.
The War Between the States was depicted by Northern politicians as a "moral crusade" to destroy the intolerable social evil of slavery. Ignorant and fanatical elements in New England sentimentalized the slave in propagandistic fashion, conjuring melodramatic images of bullwhips and blood, and generally of savage inhumanity on a gargantuan scale. In the supposed anxiety for the human rights of slaves, radical abolitionists dehumanized Southerners into a caricatured image of heartless, sanguinary beasts.
That this was mostly sheer fantasy, not to mention hypocrisy, is easily shown. In Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, a modern study of Southern slavery, authors Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman demonstrate that in food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, Southern slaves were significantly better off than their free counterparts in the industrial North. The authors take great pains to assure readers that they are by no means arguing in favor of slavery, any more than they favor the severe treatment that prevailed among factory workers in the North at that same period. They understand, of course, that it is better to be free than enslaved; however, they eschew the exaggeration and propaganda which are so plentiful in discussions of the issue in order to present a more balanced treatment of the times.
It is also important to recognize that the North was not guiltless in the matter of slavery. John Shipley Tilley, in his Facts the Historians Leave Out, writes that "slavery was an ugly blot on American history," but he observes that the blame for this phenomenon must be shared by many, and not placed only on the shoulders of Southerners. Slavery remained legal in the Northern states just as long as it remained profitable. The Puritans of Massachusetts captured local Indians and sold them into slavery in the West Indies.
British and Dutch ships carried slaves from Africa to the New World. But American ships also participated, and these American ships were by and large Yankee vessels. Many a great family of New England, New York, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia built a giant fortune on the slave trade, and, after Congress outlawed the further importation of slaves, continued illegally to augment its fortune, right up to the eve of the war. Furthermore, Abraham Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation," however affecting it might have been for propaganda purposes, did not free any slaves that were under Union control, and did not have any tangible benefit for slaves residing in the South.
James and Walter Kennedy, in The South Was Right!, point to a most curious phenomenon uncovered in the 1930s. At that time the federal government sent writers into the South as part of an historical project by the WPA (Works Progress Administration), to collect the testimony of ex-slaves -- that is, their memories about a long-vanished past. The words of these men and women are poignant and arresting, demonstrating that these people were not the one-dimensional victims depicted in radical Northern propaganda, but fully-realized human beings in all their complexity and experience.
Astonishingly, more than 70 percent of these recollections by ex-slaves were positive. Some insisted that the events of 1865 did not set them free, since they had felt perfectly free already. Others pointed to the kindness shown them, as for instance when sick slaves were brought into the "Big House" to be nursed back to health by the mistress of the manor herself. One Simon Phillips of Alabama told the interviewer, "People has the wrong idea of slave days. We was treated good. My massa never laid a hand on me the whole time I was wid him.... Sometimes we loaned the massa money when he was hard pushed." Many were fiercely pro-South, one former slave insisting, "The Yankees didn't beat us, we wuz starved out!... I am a Confederate veteran...." One can scarcely think of anything today more calculated to reduce the "politically correct" to uncontrolled sputtering than the recorded memories of these former slaves.
It is necessary to recognize that the indictment of the antebellum South as nothing more than a haven for heartless slaveowners has been extended to include the Founding Fathers as well. How often are the insights of Washington or Jefferson parried by leftists with the facile refrain that because the Founders were slave owners, their insights are terminally infirm? How often are the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution dismissed in similar terms? The plague of "multicultural" education, which seeks to discredit our entire history and heritage as merely a product of a "white supremacist" culture, began with the assault on the South, and putting the Southern experience into the proper perspective will equip us to deal effectively with the broader attack on the heritage all Americans should cherish and preserve.
Once Reconstruction ended, the political and social revolution wrought by the crushing of the South in the War Between the States was not evident for a long time, except in subtle ways. Until the rise to power of Franklin Roosevelt it sometimes seemed that everything was the same as before. But it was not the same. The strange whimsies of our federal Supreme Court, especially since the 1950s, have shattered illusions about that. Particularly devastating was the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, illegally pushed through in the wake of the South's surrender. Under this amendment, the federal government has sought to acquire important new powers at the expense of the states.
That is not to say that the Constitution is no longer effective when properly understood or that it was damaged beyond repair. Such is not the case, most assuredly. But the perspective of many Americans seems to have changed after 1865, and has continued to change as the decades pass, so that the idea of sovereign states as a bulwark of freedom for every man has been forgotten by most people. In its place has been a tendency to think of the country in centralized terms, to exchange the concept of individual liberty for one of radical egalitarianism, and to exchange the concept of rights bestowed by God for one that incorrectly sees rights as emanating from government.
The influences of the educational system and mass media have vastly accelerated this process. All of these multifarious and baneful trends were on prominent display in the War Between the States and its outcome. They can only be reversed if we are willing to examine closely all that has sprung up and grown so luxuriantly in the past 130 years and to uproot all that is not legitimate, that is not wholly consonant with the intent of our nation's Founding Fathers. The men chiefly responsible for providing leadership to this country in its early decades were Southerners. Southerners were also chiefly responsible for the shape of the Constitution. The South was willing to cling tenaciously to the older and more accurate view of the intentions of the Founders longer than the rest of the country and fought a rear-guard struggle against federal encroachment and to preserve states' rights right up into the 1960s and '70s. Thus, we Americans, whatever region of the country we come from, do well to look to the South and its abundant store of literature supporting a traditional America. Our efforts in doing so will be handsomely rewarded.

Recommended Reading

  • Union and Liberty: The Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun, Ross M. Lence, Editor, Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1992, 626 pages, hardcover.
  • Lincoln Takes Command, by John Shipley Tilley, Nashville: Bill Coats, Ltd., 1991, 334 pages, hardcover.
  • The Coming of the Glory, by John Shipley Tilley, Nashville: Bill Coats, Ltd., 1995, 290 pages, paperback.
  • Facts the Historians Leave Out: A Confederate Primer, by John Shipley Tilley, Nashville: Bill Coats, Ltd., 1951, 80 pages, paperback.
  • The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, by Richard M. Weaver, Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1989, 400 pages, hardcover.
  • The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver, George M. Curtis, III and James J. Thompson, Jr., Editors, Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1987, 268 pages, hardcover.
  • War For What?, by Francis W. Springer. Nashville: Bill Coats, Ltd., 1990, 221 pages, paperback.
  • The South Was Right!, by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy, Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1994, 431 pages, hardcover.
  • Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery, by Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman, New York: W.W. Norton, 1989, 306 pages, paperback.