BY STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH, FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT & TGP
Fri, 04/01/2011 | Crosspost with: http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/12555
In a BuzzFlash commentary dated Aug. 25, 2009. (See here)
I pointed out that the South had six principal war aims in the First Civil War:
1. The preservation of the institution of African and African-American (the latter the courtesy of the slave owners and slave masters) slavery and its uninhibited expansion into the Territories of the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountain region, and the Southwest.
2. The acceptance by the whole United States of the Hypothesis of White Supremacy on which the institution of slavery was established.
3. The establishment and subsequent strong prosecution of American Imperialism outside of North America (a position much more strongly held in the South than in the North).
4. The full, irrevocable, placement in Constitutional law of the Southern version of the doctrine of “States Rights,” that before the First Civil War primarily was in place to serve the maintenance of the institution of slavery. That, of course, was the principal cause of the First Civil War. There were for other reasons as well. A major one of the latter was to provide for the control of the Congress, through the control of the Senate, by a minority of the national population.
5. The South strongly supported low tariffs on foreign manufactured goods while the North wanted high tariffs to protect domestic industrial development.
6. A major element of Southern politics was the use of the Big Lie Technique, first that Africans and African-Americans were inferior beings, not “human,” second that the First Civil War, initiated in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, was most ironically about “Southern Freedom,” that is the freedom to keep an element of the population enslaved. Third that whatever the war was, it was not a rebellion, but rather a “War Between the States,” as Pat Buchanan (who had relatives from Mississippi who fought for the CSA) still refers to it.
Alexander Stephens was Vice-President of the Confederate States of America (CSA), and following the death of John C. Calhoun in 1850, its principal theoretician. (At the same time, almost to the time when the guns of South Carolina were fired upon Fort Sumter, he was a Unionist.) At the beginning of the First Civil War, Stephens said this about Southern slavery: “Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race. Such were, and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s law. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the Negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Cain, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. Our new government is founded on the opposite idea of the equality of the races. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the White man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural condition.”
Thus slavery as a general institution was immoral, according to Stephens. But for “Negroes” it was permitted, because in his view they are inferior beings. Abraham Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, was a “War Democrat” who firmly believed in the preservation of the Union and who literally risked his life to defend and uphold that position in his native state throughout the First Civil War. That is why Lincoln, in serious trouble for re-election in the campaign of 1864 until Sherman’s victory at Atlanta at the end of August, chose him as his running mate. But Johnson was also a virulent white supremacist (Gordon-Reed, Andrew Johnson, “The American Presidents” series, Times Books, Henry Holt, 2011). It was that belief that led Johnson to the series of acts as Presidents which virtually assured that Reconstruction would not work to the benefit of the freedmen, but rather to their former masters. As Gordon-Reed says: “Though he had remained loyal to the Union, President Johnson was white southerner to the core.” One might say: “white supremacy ueber alles.”
Slavery in the United States was officially abolished by the 13th Amendment. (One wonders if the Tea Party Republicans, now lighting out after the second most important post-civil war Amendment, the 14th, may be going after that one next. After all it does violate the Southern view of “states’ rights.”) But if you read through the list of the other Southern First Civil War aims, they won the rest of them. In terms of the maintenance of White Supremacy, in major part because of the early actions under Reconstruction of President Johnson, which President Grant and the “Radical Republicans” in Congress tried, but ultimately failed to undo, African-Americans in the South were returned to what could be described as virtual slavery, which is share-cropping. For most, land ownership was out of the question and they certainly did not have the vote. And then came the ultra-discriminatory/separationist “Black Codes” (later given the more polite name of “Jim Crow”). For example, while education was entirely prohibited for slaves (wonder why?), while that is no longer the case for their descendants, after Reconstruction in the South it was never “equal” and in many parts of the country to this day is still not.
Major advances have been made since the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s, but above all, the Hypothesis of White Supremacy is still pervasive throughout the nation, indeed as it was before the First Civil War. Indeed, while before the First Civil War a majority of the national population did not want to see slavery expanded on an unlimited basis to the Territories, only a tiny minority wanted to see full civil rights, including voting rights, granted to any freed African-Americans, even those living in the North. And that included Abraham Lincoln who, well into the First Civil War was an advocate of gradual, compensated (to the slave owners) emancipation and then “colonization,” that is, the forced emigration of freed slaves.
At the present time, politically, white supremacy focuses on the person of the President. “He wasn’t born here” – he isn’t one of us. “He is a Muslim” – he isn’t one of us. “He is a socialist/communist/fascist” – he isn’t one of us. However it is put by his constant critics, “he isn’t one of us.” And what is the main message there? Why “isn’t he one of us?” Because he is “one of them (and you know what I mean).” Whites know best, always have always will. Oh yes, there are always Blacks echoing the white themes (and you know who I mean) but then again there were black slaveholders in the Old South.
Because of the Civil Rights movement and the real political advances of the 1960s, the White Supremacists have to be careful about how they put it. When one of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s staffers comes out to praise the Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who went on to found the Ku Klux Klan as the most well-organized, most violent force for the repression of freed blacks in the South as early as 1868, he is forced to resign. But that’s only symbolic. “We know what the truth is, don’t we.”
Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” was designed to replace the Democratic Party, which after a post-First Civil War century of championing the repression of African-Americans had come to be the champion of civil rights, with the Republican Party in that region. In one of the great ironies of American history, that strategy, ultimately based on the Hypothesis of White Supremacy which was at the center of the Southern justification of chattel slavery, has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its original inventors. The South has become the solid base of the Republican Party in the Congress and in the State Houses, but its essential racism has become national for the GOP.
Nevertheless, because there are certain political risks in using the very alive-and-well Theory of White Supremacy too openly Republicans have been forced to develop other hatreds for political purposes as well, such as homophobia (http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/206). However, it is Islamophobia (http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/203) that is the current “let’s hate ‘em” leader for the GOP and it is scary, folks. The talk, from the rabble rousers like Laura Schlesinger to the more “reasonable” sounding ones like Bill Bennett, is always about “The Muslims.” That’s as if they all came from one country (they don’t), came from a religion that does not have its share of sects that are sometimes literally at each other’s throats (it does), did not have as many different interpretations of its holy book as does the Bible (it does), speak the same language (they don’t, hardly), do not have as wide a range of political views, from monarchism to Marxism (they do). And so on and so forth. But “they” are all lumped together as “The Muslims,” and we must fear them. What was that similarly, monolithically, characterized international grouping of the last century? “The Jews,” wasn’t it? But that’s for another time.
Islamophobia will work for the GOP in certain sectors of the US population. But if it doesn’t, believe me they will always be able to fall back on the good old Hypothesis of White Supremacy, the most pernicious legacy of the institution of US slavery and of the Confederate states of America.
This is Dr. Jonas’ Commentary No. 171 for BuzzFlash, now at Truthout.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine (http://tpjmagazine.us/); a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad (http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/); a Senior Columnist for The Greanville Post (http://www.greanvillepost.com/); a Contributor to The Planetary Movement (http://www.planetarymovement.org/); a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com (http://www.opednews.com/), and a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter.
Jennifer Van Bergen Apr 3
Excellent piece. This relates strongly to my Burr Project and to the destruction of Burr by Jefferson. See Roger Kennedy’s book: “Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character.” Kennedy believes that Burr was dangerous to Jefferson because he (Burr) was an abolitionist and had the political strength and popularity to destroy slavery.
You can read about and join the Burr Project at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2081837095/burr-project.
Chris Bearde Apr 2
The myth of “Exceptionalism” lives on in the minds of the fearful millions who see their faith challenged as their numbers diminish and a multi colored multi denominational 21 st Century America creates itself by the sheer force of numbers.
Tomek Jastrzebski Apr 1
I wouldn’t be surprised. Even to this day rumors circulate about an old underground confederate movement waiting to seize the opportune moment to strike & restore what in their eyes was the glorious south.
Kimberly Butler Garrison Apr 1
I’ve been saying for a while now that what is going on in this country is the South’s revenge for losing the civil war. The majority of red states are past confederate ones and look which states have the most right wing legislators who are also the loudest and most influential voices. In my lifetime I predict we will have an economic civil war egged on by Fox and right wing radio. The right wing corporatists vs. the working class. The 2012 election can’t come soon enough. I can’t wait to find out what the American people really stand for. Get off your couches, hit the streets on April 4th show them we are the ones who want our country back from the corporatists and the right wing ideologues.