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Buzzflash: Ongoing Supremacy of White Supremacy

April 1, 2011- In a BuzzFlash commentary dated Aug. 25, 2009. (See here) I pointed out that the South had six principal war aims in the Civil War:

1. The preservation of the institution of African and African-American (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 Theory of White Supremacy on which the institution of slavery was established.

3. The establishment and strong prosecution of American Imperialism (a position much more strongly held in the South than in the North).

4. The South strongly supported the theory of "States Rights," primarily to maintain the institution of slavery, of course, the principal cause of the Civil War, but 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 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 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 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 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 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 uber alles."

Slavery 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 "states' rights.")  But if you read through the list of the other Southern Civil War aims, they won them all.  In terms of the maintenance of White Supremacy, 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, that is share-cropping.  For most, land ownership was out of the question and they certainly did not have the vote.  And while education was prohibited for slaves (wonder why?) after Reconstruction in the South it was never "equal" and in many parts of the country to this day is still not.



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