Among other stellar exhibitions of conservative values, this year’s CPAC featured, hilariously, a presentation that dared to ask the important question: “Abraham Lincoln: Friend or Foe?” Now, it’s altogether too easy to make fun of isolated presentations at a conservative fringe event. And it’s probably unfair to generalize on that basis alone.
But Human Events, a fairly mainstream conservative outlet (how sad is that?), sent around this e-mail to subscribers yesterday:
No, I do not know who signed me up for Human Events updates. And that’s not the point. The point is that the motivations for and the outcome of the Civil War are somehow now controversial, in a mainstream conservative paper. It gets worse, too. The e-mail goes on to offer a few revelations. DID YOU KNOW:
- That secession was legal
- That the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave
- That leading Northern generals — like McLellan and Sherman — hated abolitionists
- That bombing people “back to the Stone Age” got its start with the Federal siege of Vicksburg
- That Stonewall Jackson founded a Sunday school for slaves where he taught them how to read
- That General James Longstreet fought the Battle of Sharpsburg in his carpet slippers
- That if the South had won, we might be able to enjoy holidays in the sunny Southern state of Cuba
These are all pretty bad, and pretty wrong. There’s a good reason you didn’t know about #1: because it’s not true. Although we can query whether Justice Chase had a conflict of interest, he was right to conclude, after the fact in Texas v. White, that secession was an illegal act utterly hostile to the values and the theory of the Constitution. And whether the Emancipation Proclamation was conceived as a military or a moral act is an interesting debate, but doesn’t alter, as this author seems to think, the conclusion that it was the Right Thing To Do. But unequivocally the worst has to be number four, which deserves its own highlight. The author finds it significant that:
Stonewall Jackson founded a Sunday school for slaves where he taught them how to read
Why would this fact be significant? Why does the author think I should care? Why does he care? Presumably, because it rehabilitates Stonewall Jackson as a partially moral man. But it really doesn’t. It shows that General Jackson was, at best, a benevolent slaver who believed in the “White Man’s Burden.” Partially benevolent slavery is still slavery. It’s still premised on the idea of black inferiority, and it still holds out human beings as property. Accordingly, it’s still grievously immoral, and the absence of physical cruelty doesn’t change that, or make it better. The cruelty we so often see in slavery is wrong, to be sure, but it’s a wrong that’s separate from and not necessary for the sin of slavery. By trying to argue otherwise, our author, a valued contributor to Human Events, seems to suggest that we should see where Stonewall Jackson was coming from. And that’s truly terrifying.
Bottom line: Human Events doesn’t understand the Civil War, a turning point in American history, a “constitutional moment” that improved the daily lives of every American, black or white, in a thousand different ways. They don’t care. Not about that, and not about the fact that half a million American soldiers died to secure those benefits. For them, it’s more worthwhile to tell your readers that, if the South had won the Civil War, maybe we wouldn’t have a country anymore, but hey. We’d always have Cuba.