Celebrating Secession Without the Slaves





ATLANTA — The Civil War, the most wrenching and bloody episode in American history, may not seem like much of a cause for celebration, especially in the South.

And yet, as the 150th anniversary of the four-year conflict gets under way, some groups in the old Confederacy are planning at least a certain amount of hoopla, chiefly around the glory days of secession, when 11 states declared their sovereignty under a banner of states’ rights and broke from the union....

Jeff Antley, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Confederate Heritage Trust, is organizing the secession ball in Charleston and a 10-day re-enactment of the Confederate encampment at Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the war were fired on April 12, 1861. He said these events were not about modern politics but were meant to honor those South Carolinians who signed the state’s ordinance of secession on Dec. 20, 1860, when it became the first state to dissolve its union with the United States....

Mr. Antley said he was not defending slavery, which he called an abomination. “But defending the South’s right to secede, the soldiers’ right to defend their homes and the right to self-government doesn’t mean your arguments are without weight because of slavery,” he said.

Most historians say it is impossible to carve out slavery from the context of the war. As James W. Loewen, a liberal sociologist and author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” put it: “The North did not go to war to end slavery, it went to war to hold the country together and only gradually did it become anti-slavery — but slavery is why the South seceded.”

In its secession papers, Mississippi, for example, called slavery “the greatest material interest of the world” and said that attempts to stop it would undermine “commerce and civilization.”...

Editor's Note: Ta-Neishi Coates at The Atlantic wrote that "It really annoys me that Times used someone who they felt they had to ID as a"liberal sociologist" to counter Antley.

James Loewen noted in an email that the Times article did not mention that he is one of the editors of The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader.



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