Friday, February 18, 2011

Would We Be Better Off If the South had Won the Civil War

There is a cadre of so-called conservatives - I think they're mostly Libertarians - that have been lately arguing that Lincoln was evil and that we'd all be better off if the South had won because slavery would have ended "naturally".


The problem with that idea is that the South was NOT anything like a free market, pro-liberty democracy at the start of the civil war (or as my Libertarian friends know it, the "War of Northern Aggression"). The Old South was an Oligarchy back then, much like Mexico is today.  An elitist class of plantation owners dominated a poor peasant class of small farmers and merchants, who didn't argue much with their betters. The elite ruling class also owned the serf class (black slaves who were treated as little better than cattle).

You know, I might buy the argument about the South being all about "states right"except for that pesky Confederate constitution. That thing absolutely established slavery as a cornerstone of the new nation. You don't put something like that in a CONSTITUTION if you plan on letting it "die naturally".

Slavery was wrong and needed to be ended, period. The rather sudden and violent end it came to may have been God's own judgment against the South for condoning of slavery in its most vile forms. Religious leaders of the time argued that until the Union and the President came out against slavery, God would withhold His hand from blessing the war effort. Lincoln's reluctance to come out rock solid against slavery was because, as some Libertarians point out, he first wanted to preserve the Union. It was a mistake. It was like slowly pulling a band-aid off a healing wound. Better to yank it hard and quick. The war concentrated the misery over a few years instead of stretching emancipation out a hundred years or so.  It would have been a mistake to do so.  Even though the Southern oligarchy fought tooth and nail to maintain it's "good old boy" power structure for more than a century, the Civil War greatly reduced their ability to lord over the middle class the way they had before the war.  The middle class got a really clear look at how they had been used in the antebellum South by the fancy folks in Atlanta and Richmond and the local gentry in their slave-maintained mansion houses. When it came down to it, the plain folks were the ones that did most of the dying and for what. So the massa's could have their mint juleps served to them on the veranda by servants who properly knew their place?

This country was, I believe, established and blessed by God for the purpose of providing a harbor for his children - red and yellow, black and white. We've lumbered toward the freedom and respect for the rights of others for the past 200 years, making fits and starts and occasionally backsliding. In the process, His church has grown strong and mighty, protected within the borders of the United States. My own church, established here in the U.S., has over 150 some odd years spread throughout the world so that there are many more members of our denomination outside the U.S. than there are in it. I think that's the real reason God made this country the way it is.

I think God put Abraham Lincoln where he was, knowing full well He had a tool He could use to accomplish His will. I think He put Lee in place to punish the North for tolerating slavery for its own purposes and He put Grant in place to finish the work Lincoln started with the Emancipation Proclamation (despite its obvious initial inadequacies).

He put honorable men in the Southern ranks too, to be used as He needed them. There's that great story where, after the war, a black man entered the Episcopal church in Richmond and walked bravely down the center aisle and took his place at the communion rail to receive communion. Everyone was shocked and sat rooted in their seats. This was an all white church and only months after the end of the Civil War. The pastor stood frozen in place. Then a gray haired gentleman in the congregation rose from his pew and walked straight down the aisle. He knelt at the rail beside the black gentleman and waited for the pastor to administer the rites of communion to them both.

The pastor did so. After all, how could he not. The white gentleman kneeling beside the black man was Robert E. Lee.

I will not presume to second guess God's guidance in the events of the Civil War as some of my conservativish colleagues do. It was a horrible and bloody episode to be sure and no one had pure motives.  All the same, I am not sure letting the South go in peace as has been suggested, would have created the world we have today or given us the opportunities we have. The USA and CSA would likely have both been second rate powers in the world and dominated by the likes of Britain, Germany or Japan or some combination of those old European powers.

I don't think God was quite ready for the world to end and I think that He preserved the Union for His own purposes.

I, for one, having grown up in the South and having an intimate knowledge of how the white oligarchy works, even in its faded state 150 years after the Civil War and am heartily glad those arrogant gentleman took a thorough beating and had their power much diminished. I would not want to live in the CSA had they won their war. What a horror that would have been.

Texas should never have joined the South in seceding. Sam Houston, who was wrong about a lot of things (particularly his unreasonable hatred for the Texas Navy), was right about not seceding from the Union. He wasn't alone in that sentiment and after all the bigoted idiots went off to war and had their numbers thinned dramatically, I think Texas wound up with a better quality of human being living here. So, that too may have been God's will.

At any rate, I have good evidence that God used Abraham Lincoln, shortcomings and all at a time when God needed someone to stand in the breach.

I don't think God cares about capitalism or state's rights, socialism, libertarianism or whether or not an oligarchy gets preserved in the south or an industrialist robber baron dominated culture gets preserved in the North. "The King's heart is in the hands of the Lord and He turns it whichever way He will." I believe God works whoever thinks he is in power to God's own purposes, though we may not understand those purposes.

I admire Lincoln because he came to see that he was wrong about slavery and that it cannot be tolerated and he did the right thing. I admire Lee because he helped heal the damage done in the South by his example in the years following the war. I admire Grant for his tenacity and stubborn belief in the righteousness of his cause. I admire Sherman for his magnanimity toward the Southerners in establishing surrender terms (it almost got him arrested by Congress).

If letting the South win the war had been a good thing, then I do believe God would have let them win the war. You guys who argue that He was wrong, are braver than I. I wouldn't want to try and argue that God made a mistake - not when Scripture so obviously predicts the role the US will play in the ending of the world and the Second Coming.

Obama and his ilk, the country club Republicans and their cronies are nothing more than tools in God's hands. We are commanded to pray for them. Remember, it was God who hardened Pharaoh's heart and it worked out for His own purposes. I think it was for the purpose of turning the Jews from slaves into the mule-headed independent minded people they are today. He led them for 40 years in the desert and He helped them win when it helped that process and even caused them to lose in wars and campaigns when they needed to learn a lesson. It took hundreds of years for God to teach them to be who He wanted them to be. But, as a result of all this education, when it came time to spread the gospel to the world, Jesus was able to find 12 monumentally stubborn Jewish guys who would do just that in spite of the incredible odds working against them.

I think this country was designed by God to breed and train the stubborn, muley-headed people that stand today in the breach, prepared to fight the last battle in Earth's history. I think a lot of them are in the Tea Party movement, but there are a lot of them in the Democrat and Republican parties as well. There are plenty of these folk who are in no party at all.

God bless 'em and thank God for 'em, I say. So how about let's everybody quit second-guessing our Commander on the subject of history. He knows what he's doing. Perhaps what we should be doing is studying history to figure out just what God, in His wisdom was up to. I think that's a more profitable use of our time.

(c) 2010

* I use the term "conservative" loosely here noting that the logical abbreviation for both liberal and libertarian is the same. Coincidenc or vast left-wing conspiracy? You decide.

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