Reviews for The American Civil War: A Closer Inspection
AlysonSerenaStone chapter 1 . 6/29/2011
Thank you! Finally someone who states that the South wasn't fighting over slavery! I support the CSA, but not slavery. I live along the Mason-Dixon Line and there's still a lot of upset over this war. You should have discussed taxes. At Gettysburg, we were told that the Union was taxing the Southerns heavy and that's part of the reason they left the union. No, just because you live in the North, but support the South doesn't make you a traitor, racist, or anything like that as long you can back up your reasoning. Overall, not bad at all.
Mandi chapter 1 . 2/26/2011
It took a lot of guts to publish this. I wrote an essay (it was about 4 pages single spaced) about what the Civil War was fought over (Southern rights/preserving the Union). Not only did I get an F, but I also got an in-school-suspension.

So well done.
Leon Trotsky chapter 1 . 1/22/2010
I really think your argument is quite weak. You're acting as if slavery wasn't a leading cause of the war when it clearly was. I'll accept that states' rights is also a cause, because it is, but you can't just ignore the facts, such as that the south seceded because Abraham Lincoln, -an abolitionist-, was elected president. Recall that he didn't even appear on the ballot in most (or all? I really don't know. It's either most or all, but I'm not sure which one) Southern states.

Honestly, you've got such a callous attitude towards slavery. You act as if everything was all hunky-doory for the slaves, when clearly it wasn't ( albums/b242/shadepaw14487/Cicatrices_de_flagellation_sur_un_ ?t1264209925-a slave, thanks to his master).

Concerning the economy, you don't back up your statement that the southern economy was "better." You just say it was and expect us to believe it when it's common knowledge that the north was MUCH stronger, at least in industrial terms. You bring up the tariff and act as if it's some malicious thing meant to keep the south down, when it was a protective tariff. Generally the tariffs from around the 1810's onward were protective tariffs (as opposed to tariffs whose purpose was to meant to protect various industries from foreign competition. It did have some negative effects on the south which is why the Nullification Crisis happened with the Tariff of Abominations, but the tariffs certainly weren't put in place with that as their purpose.

It's funny how you say that the north took away the south's freedom, when that's precisely what the south did to blacks, to a much greater degree.

And concerning the constitution, yes slaves were considered property under the law, I know Dred Scott v. Sanford (Which, of course, basically defeated the whole purpose of having free states. Under that ruling you could pretty much just go buy a slave in the south then head up to New York and hang out there). I'd say denying men (and women, I shan't forget the women) their freedom is much more wrong than denying Southerners an apparent right to property. I don't believe a person can be property and the Constitution today clearly agrees with me. There's a reason it's open to amendment, because sometimes we're wrong.

I'm running out of steam and really don't feel like addressing any further points you may have brought up that I don't remember, but I'd like to include with this: I concede (in fact I already believed) that states rights was one of the big issues that caused the Civil War, but you really do try and brush aside slavery, which was perhaps an even larger cause.

Finally, check out this song: watch?v6DVetsSldQw And check out his other stuff! Why all the presidents sucked!

By the way, I'm not a fan of Lincoln at all. Probably should of mentioned that earlier.
Rebel chapter 1 . 9/8/2008
I don't get, exactly, what it is you think the South lost that we (by 'we' I mean Southerners) need back so badly. I know that the South would have eventually abolished slavery and I'm sure the 1860's Southerners knew it too, but it was still a major, if secondary issue.

Most of your essay is about the South being in the right during the Civil War, and I just don't agree with that. I don't think either side was fully in the right or there was a 'good side' and a 'bad side'. It was a war; maybe one that was bound to happen, but a war nonetheless and having this characteristic means, at least to me, that there is no right side.

If I had been a Southerner back then instead of now (I live in Texas) I probably would have fought for the Union, not because I don't believe in state's rights or don't love my beautiful Texas, but because I would have believed in keeping the Union together so that the issues could have been dealt with in a more peaceful manner than they were. A sort of 'we're doing this for your own good' sort of thing.

Also...I haven't ever heard anything about the Confederate President having adopted a black son before reading this so I'm just curious where you got that little tidbit of information.
Lorendiac chapter 1 . 6/2/2008
Your essay was interesting enough that I went through and made notes on any comments that occurred to me along the way. When I quote from an essay I’m responding to, I normally put the quoted material inside a pair of asterisks - * like this * - to make it easier to see which words are part of the original text, and which words are my reactions on where there’s room for improvement.

* We’ve all heard the same story. The South seceded because it wanted to keep its slaves. The North fought to preserve the Union, and later to free the slaves. The South is the obvious bad guys. And Lincoln was made one of our greatest presidents by defeating them, as seen in his memorial in Washington, D.C. Maybe some of us know South views things a little differently. But they’re just mad because they lost and can’t get over what happened 150 years ago, right? We shouldn’t listen to what the “bad guys” have to say. There’s no way they could possibly be right. *

You make it sound as if you are working on the following assumption: Everything I ever read about the history of the American Civil War (and related issues such as slavery, Reconstruction, Abraham Lincoln’s personal beliefs, etc.) must have been written by Northerners, and every single Northern historian to touch upon the subject must have said, “The Civil War was all about getting rid of slavery, and that’s final!”

To put it mildly: That assumption is incredibly sweeping and inaccurate. Heck, back when I was a schoolboy – probably in Junior High, though I’m not sure exactly what grade I was in – one of the books my class was assigned to read was a novel called “Across Five Aprils,” in which the central character is a farm boy living in the North during the Civil War. Some of his older relatives joined the Union Army, but one headed south to join the Confederate Army – not because that guy had any real interest in preserving slavery, but because he strongly believed that, as a matter of principle, the individual states had the right to secede from the Union any time they happened to feel like it, and he wanted to support that right. He was presented sympathetically, as a pretty likeable guy who just happened to disagree politically with most of the family. So in my childhood education – in a Northern state, if it matters to you – I was DEFINITELY exposed to the idea that SOME of the people fighting in that war thought they were fighting mostly about “state’s rights.” Beyond that, I’ve read plenty of other things (fiction and nonfiction) on my own initiative which talked at length about the Civil War and how various people felt about it when it was happening. I know perfectly well that not everyone felt slavery was the Key Issue in the entire conflict.

Incidentally, when I see an essay start out by talking about “we,” I naturally ask myself: “Who’s ‘We’?” Remember, many of the people who participate on FictionPress are not U.S. citizens. I am, but I have no idea just what (if anything) is taught about the American Civil War in the textbooks used by students in the United Kingdom, or France, or Mexico, or Italy, or any other nation on Earth. If by “we” you mean “people who grew up in the U.S. attending its public schools,” then you ought to say so. It’s a mistake to just start out by saying “we” – it makes it look as if you take it for granted that everyone who reads your essay will be part of the same group you are talking about when you say “we.”

* Well, why not? Why is it so impossible that the South is actually right? Why would they, for so long, hold onto their claim that the Civil War was about more than slavery? What if it was really about states’ rights? What if the North really was blatantly ignoring the Constitution and continues to today? Well, then we’d have a big problem. That would mean we have been lied to for 150 years. It would be the biggest hoax in U.S. history. It would mean we’d have to do something to get things back to how they should be. *

It’s interesting to see the way you seem to assume it was either all of one and none of the other, or the other way around. Couldn’t this statement be true? “The issue of slavery was very important to many of the people fighting in the Civil War, and the issue of state’s rights was also very important to many of the people fighting in the Civil War”? Instead, you make it sound as if it had to be all about just one thing, and never about the other, instead of both motives possibly being all tangled up together at the same time.

* I think we find it so hard to believe that the South is right because the very idea scares us. Who wants to believe that the government is corrupt and has been lying to us all these years? That would just be inconvenient. It’s easier to believe nothing’s wrong and to get back to our immediate gratification lives, not worrying about anything, and just saying to those who do see something wrong, “oh, it’s just the changing times.” *

I think practically EVERY U.S. citizen I know – whether a Northerner or a Southerner or something else - would AGREE with the following statements:

1. “There is a serious amount of corruption in the federal government.”

2. “People in the federal government sometimes lie through their teeth in their statements to the public.”

That does not mean that every U.S. citizen would agree on WHICH officials were particularly corrupt, or WHICH public statements were especially dishonest, but they don’t scream in fear at the very idea that such problems exist! You make it sound as if most U.S. citizens – or maybe just most Northerners? – worship the federal government and think it’s almost perfect. That does not match my own experience!

* If you look at the facts, it doesn’t make sense that the South fought to keep slavery. Only about 20 of Southerners owned slaves, and of them, the majority owned one or two. *

I’m pretty sure I know what happened there. You probably typed the percentage sign after “20.” I’ve had the same silly thing happen to me – for some reason, the software on this site filters out that symbol. My advice is to replace that with “Only about 20 percent of Southerners” in order to make your meaning clear.

* In fact, blacks were the ones who sold their fellow Africans into slavery in the first place. *

Is this relevant? Why does it make any difference who sold captured Africans to those slave traders when they were visiting the west coast of Africa? How would that knowledge change anyone’s perceptions of what the key issues were in the American Civil War, on the far side of the Atlantic from where those slave-selling transactions had taken place?

* Another thing, slaves weren’t treated as cruelly as we tend to think. Slaves were expensive. Slave owners wouldn’t want to risk them getting badly injured, so they didn’t use them for dangerous jobs. Some slaves even liked their masters. After they were freed, many former slaves stayed on their plantations and continued to work for their masters. It was also common for former slaves to take care of their former masters and visa versa (John’s Politically Incorrect Page). *

Is this relevant? Whether or not some former slaves stuck around on the plantations after they were legally free – and I have no idea just how many of them actually did that – DOESN’T prove anything about why the Civil War happened in the first place.

* If the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, what was it about? The real causes were mostly economical. The South has always been better in this area than the North. The economy of the South is based on agriculture trade. The North had to rely on industrial trade. With a great influx of immigrants, representation became a problem. The North simply couldn’t keep up with the South (Aaron). So what did they do? Take their freedom away. That is where states’ rights come in. *

That’s unclear. “The South has always been better in this area.” In what area? In running a local economy? In making money? Something else? The North couldn’t keep up with the South in what way, exactly?

* The slavery part should be noted here. You have to keep in mind that, like it or not, slaves were considered property back then. The North didn’t object to this. That was just simply the way of thinking. That being said, it was wrong for the North to try to deny slave owners the right to bring their property wherever they want. They denied the South the right of property, which is strictly against the Constitution. It’s important to forget the detail of slavery and focus on the principle of what the North did. This is only a small part of the wrongs done to the South. *

I’m confused – what exactly do you mean when you say, “The North didn’t object to this”? I thought most Northern voters, in the years just before the Civil War, expressed strong objections to the whole concept of human beings as property – which was one reason that the Democratic Party was only able to win the Presidential elections of 1852 and 1856 by running Northerners as their candidates, and the party then cut its own throat by splitting itself down the middle between a Northern Democrat and a Southern Democrat in the 1860 election, thereby making it easier for Abraham Lincoln to go the distance even though he got less than 40 percent of the popular vote. Power brokers in the Democratic Party of that era – the last three presidential elections before the Civil War – generally understood that Northern disgust over the slavery issue made it virtually impossible for a Southern candidate from a slave state to carry enough votes in the North to let him win in the Electoral College (except that Vice President Breckinridge, in 1860, apparently refused to recognize that political reality).

By the way, I think you need to clarify that bit about the North trying “to deny slave owners the right to bring their property wherever they want.” I believe I know what you’re talking about there, but I suspect MANY of your readers wouldn’t. (Including readers from outside the USA, but probably many of the ones who do reside in the USA!) And how does

* The South didn’t give up just yet. They held onto the hope that the government could change. This hope increasingly diminished as more and more rights were taken away. *

It would help if you were more specific about exactly what rights were being steadily “taken away.”

* The South knew it was time to leave when Lincoln had it in mind to send troops and supplies to Fort Sumter to impede shipping to and from Charleston, the very thing he said he would not do (Aaron). The South knew that as long as they stayed in the Union they could kiss their liberty goodbye. That’s why the South seceded. *

What was it he said he would not do? I’ve read some things about the events happening at Fort Sumter before and after the shooting started, but I don’t offhand recall Lincoln making a promise about what he wouldn’t do down there, and then breaking it. Didn’t a bunch of Southern all the rebellious state to THEN decide to secede, but I don’t think that was the actual sequence of events.

* The South fought for the same principles the colonies fought for in the American Revolution. The North fought to keep the Union together. Why? Economically, they needed the South. When asked, "Why not let the South go in peace?" Lincoln replied, "I can't let them go, who would pay for the government?” (Lenzini). *

I don’t think I had heard that Lincoln quote before. It’s interesting! I’d like to know more about the context in which he said it, because it occurs to me that it wasn’t necessarily his biggest reason for insisting upon pressing forward with the war. (For all I know at this moment, he might even have been joking!)

* Northern economy would have crashed if it didn’t get the South back. *

I don’t think you’ve demonstrated that. Even if losing the revenues from the South would force the federal government to do some serious downsizing, why would the “Northern economy” in general have been so hard hit? Wouldn’t businessmen on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line be likely to keep buying and selling necessary resources even if they technically now lived in two separate countries?

* It was only until later, when Northern support for the war started to decline, that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to gain national and international support (Aaron). Curiously enough, Lincoln was quite the racist. After the war, he planned to send blacks to the jungles of Central America. He didn’t want blacks in the U.S. and he knew Africa wouldn’t take them back. He would have followed through with this if he hadn’t been assassinated (Lenzini). Please remind me why blacks revere Lincoln so much. *

“He planned to send blacks to the jungles of Central America” is vague. Are you saying he meant to FORCE all the black people he could find to go down to Central America no matter what? Or only that he planned to offer to pay for such colonization efforts if some black people CHOSE to participate in them? Offering to buy someone a ticket to another country (if he wants it) is very different from holding a gun to his head and saying, “Get out of here before I shoot you!” – but from your phrasing, I simply can’t tell which approach you THINK Lincoln wanted to take after the war was over.

* The South is simply amazing. For 150 years, it has continued to hold onto our founding principles. *

You need to be more specific. Just what are those founding principles which the South still hangs onto after all these years, and the North doesn’t? By the way, where do the Western states fit in?

* As Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who adopted a black son who was later taken by the Yankees and never heard from again) said, “Truth crushed to the earth is truth still and like a seed will rise again.” I believe the time is near when we will gain back everything we lost from the Civil War. I believe the South shouldn’t secede, but rather lead America towards a better future. *

That’s interesting about Jefferson Davis’s adopted son – I don’t think I had heard about that one before. Although it could be argued that it’s completely irrelevant to your thesis about why the Civil War was actually being fought.

About the part where you said: “I believe the South shouldn’t secede.” I just find myself wondering why you even felt the need to mention this. Has anyone been going on speaking tours in the Southern states recently, arguing that this IS a good time for the South to secede from the Union? I hadn’t heard about it. (Although I admit that even if I did hear about it, I wouldn’t take it seriously.)

* The South is the only one who can lead America out of the darkness that has engulfed it. The South will rise again and save us all. *

What sort of darkness, exactly? That’s so vague that you could be complaining about anything at all. (For example, some people would argue that America is in terrible danger because so many people have handguns, and other people would argue that America is in terrible danger because so few people have handguns.)
Christopher Rivan chapter 1 . 5/31/2008
It is interesting to see someone whose vision of the Civil War parallels my own.

While I agree with the majority of your premises, there are a few things that could have been better researched. An example is the line, "only about 20 Southerners owned slaves and most owned only one or two." In reality, about three percent of the South owned the majority of the slaves, and about five percent of the total population were slave owners.

This is a well-written essay overall. You might also consider adding in your insights on:

Why the Emancipation Proclamation wasn't signed until 1862 if the war to end slavery began in 1860?

Why did two of Lincoln's generals under Grant resign after blacks were allowed in the Union Army in 1863?

Well done.

Chris
Lolita-Chan chapter 1 . 5/29/2008
It's funny. You talk as if the North and South parts of the US are still in disagreement. Most southerners (as I am one) will tell you that it's a good thing we didn't secede from the US and it's a good thing slavery was done away with.

Anyone who knows anything knows that all wars are a result of political, religious, or idealist differences. Lots of countries have civil wars.

Not all southerners wanted to secede and not all believed in owning slaves either. Just like some people in the North supported slavery and such.

It's not so clean cut that you can just blame one half or the other. And in the present day situation, EVERYONE knows the government is full of shit and corrupt.

All of our most recent presidents have come from the South as well. How do you explain that? If the "North" holds so much power...why don't we have leaders coming out of Michigan or Rhode Island?

I believe the time is near when we will gain back everything we lost from the Civil War.

Does this include taking away all the rights of black people and letting white males purchase and trade them again?

And I really think you don't know anything about the Constitution, because it was against the Consitution to have slaves in the first place.