'Secession Ball' is grotesque; it's the slavery, stupid

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Today is the 150th anniversary of the day South Carolina seceded from the United States, starting the Civil War. As a history buff, this writer has no problem with S.C., or any other state, commemorating the events of the Civil War. It was a horrendous, tragic war that still impacts the U.S. to this day — in effect, a second American Revolution that utterly changed the country forever — and as such, has to be commemorated as the seminal national event it was. Commemoration becomes a problem, however, when it turns into a festive celebration, which is one of the things South Carolina has planned; namely, a privately sponsored "secession ball" tonight in Charleston. Considering that the secession they’re celebrating resulted in the deaths of around a million Americans (the equivalent of six million deaths today, in terms of our population), the very idea of a festive ball to commemorate it is obscene, pure and simple. And that doesn’t even take into account the momentous fact that they’ll also be “celebrating” American history’s most hardcore defense of slavery.

I can hear the defenders of the Old South now, just as I’ve heard them all my life: “The war wasn’t about slavery, it was about states’ rights.” As the author, and native Charlestonian, Edward Ball wrote yesterday in a New York Times essay titled “Gone With the Myths,” “I’ve heard it from women and from men, from sober people and from people liquored up on anti-Washington talk. The North wouldn’t let us govern ourselves, they say, and Congress laid on tariffs that hurt the South. So we rebelled. Secession and the Civil War, in other words, were about small government, limited federal powers and states’ rights.” As Ball goes on to report, it’s hard to take those arguments seriously when the very declarations of secession by Confederate states make it clear that those states were acting to protect the practice of slavery and, not just coincidentally, the profits to be gleaned from it.

Here are excerpts from three states’ secession documents, as reported by Edward Ball:

South Carolina: “The non-slaveholding states ... have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery” and “have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes.”

Mississippi: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. ... There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union.”

Georgia: “A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia.”

You figure it out for yourself — but don’t ever expect the celebrators of secession to believe it; or rather, don’t expect them to admit it.

civilwarseries

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