“No, the Civil War really was about slavery.”

Ahoy! I’m back on the tubez, and in scrolling through the tubez’s more pleasant corners (because, honestly, leaping directly into “apparently now we’re using drones to assassinate American citizens” is not what I want to do, straight from the holiday and Shabbat glow), I wandered over to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Friday open thread and found this, written by fellow commenter HappySurge, in honor of Ta-Nehisi’s 36th birthday.*


This civil war was not about slavery
It was about states rights, specifically
The right of a state to be slave or free
Particularly if that state loved slavery.

Oh, the civil war was not about slavery
It was about a young man named Robert E. Lee,
A general who fought so courageously,
For some states who all just happened to love slavery.

If the civil war was about slavery
What about the black soldiers of the confederacy?
I read about them in poorly sourced histories
Citing slavemasters who loved slavery.

The civil war was just a tragedy
A case of misplaced empathies
See, all of these people trying to be free
Imposed their federalist authority
On poor lowly states, just preserving their rights
To keep men shackled for all of their lives.

So, the civil war was not about slavery
I wish I could say more but I’ve got to leave
I’ve got a plantation wedding this evening
After a war recreation at three.

Dude wrote a song (in about four hours, apparently) with the line “I read about them in poorly sourced histories.” Which he rhymed. History geek swoon!

I really, really recommend that you listen to more of HappySurge’s oeuvre, which can be found here. And then please invite him to play in a Chicago-area coffeeshop or bar, so that I can see him live. Kthx.

*For those who don’t know, TNC is writing a Civil War-era novel and has essentially turned himself into a self-educated scholar on the topic, often doing online battle with those who continue to claim that the Civil War was not, in fact, about slavery. (One of the best arguments against that position, by the way, can be found in the seceding states’ own ordinances of secession).

Crossposted at Emily L. Hauser In My Head.


5 Responses to “No, the Civil War really was about slavery.”

  1. That Guy With The Ponytail

    Anyone who displays a Confederate symbol is, to me, by definiiton a traitor to the United States. They are displaying the symbols of a group that took up arms against their country, and that it was to preserve their ownership of other human beings makes it all the more reprehensible.

    It is my hope that the “stars and bars” becomes as loathed here in America as the swastika, because there is something of a moral equivalency to them in terms of regarding other humans as disposable.

  2. Thanks for the link to the Civil War documents. Those statements from Texas et al about the Causes of Seccession were eye opening.

    BTW, there were Tenthers back in 1860. At least in the SC document.

    Just this paragraph alone floors me.

    Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

    BTW, did not know that there was an anti-fugitive clause in the constitution. I knew about actions leading up to the Civil War. I did not realize it was based on an actual clause.

    • A certain part of me doesn’t understand why anyone ever argues with those who say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery — all we should do is respond with cut-n-paste of the damn ordinances. Boom. They argue that those don’t reflect Johnny Reb? Cut-n-paste again. Boom. They argue that there were other issues? Cut-n-paste again. Boom. B/c it doesn’t matter what Johnny Reb thought he was doing or what other factors came into play — it matters why people committed treason against the United States and formed a new union, and that was: Slavery. Right there in the documents.

  3. I have a feeling most people don’t even know about those documents.

    But it seems pretty straight forward that without slavery, the Civil War would never have happened.

  4. The civil war was about the greed of the cave n!@@ers from Europe. That’s all folks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>