As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really not a big fan of moral equivalency. That’s a tendency on the Left to try to justify egregious evil on the part of their fellow Leftists by bringing up something supposedly as bad on the American or conservative side. “Yes, communism murdered a hundred million people, but we had Jim Crow in the South!” The best argument I’ve found against that? Instead of going back and forth about who did worse things, I have a simple test: Voting with one’s feet. With all our problems vs. the problems of communist countries, which side needed walls and guards with guns to keep people in?
Conservatives are supposed to be better than that, and for the most part we are. We know how to make a distinction between 1) a good country which sometimes does bad things vs. 2) a thoroughly bad country. That’s why we love this country, not because we think it’s perfect, but because we compare to the viable alternatives, not to Heaven or Utopia,
But when it comes to their precious Confederacy, Neo-Confederates indulge in—quite frankly—some of the goofiest moral equivalency arguments I’ve ever heard. Yes, the South had over one-third of its population in slavery and was shooting at fellow Americans over their beloved Institution, but the North was bad too! We’ve already dealt with the “Blacks were discriminated against in the North as well” argument earlier. But in this posting I want to deal with the fact that there were slaves in the loyal states as well.
I’m not exactly sure where NC’s are going with this, or how it’s relevant at all to the discussion at hand, but I’m going to take a stab at it. There were four states (aka "border states") in which slavery was still legal but which remained loyal to the Union. Two of them kept their slaves until the 13th Amendment was passed. Therefore. . . .what?
· Slavery wasn’t nearly as bad we think it is? Is that what you’re claiming? OK, once again, I need to ask, why did you have hundreds of thousands of slaves who risked their lives and left behind everything they’d ever known to escape north? Why did slaveholders lobby so hard for Fugitive Slave Acts which commandeered bystanders into being their slavecatchers? True enough, the way slaves were treated varied greatly from master to master and even on a plantation. Some were treated as family, while others were tortured slowly to death for the slightest transgression. But if you want to publicly make the claim that slavery was basically not that bad, then go ahead and make it. But please do us a huge favor and quit calling yourself a fan of liberty.
· That slavery wasn’t the real cause of the Civil War? Ok, this is a little bit more coherent, but I heartily disagree. As I’ve tried to make clear, as far as the Southern leadership and governments were concerned, it was virtually all about the preservation and expansion of slavery based on white supremacy. They said so over and over and over and over and over. The Union didn’t fight to end slavery, at least not at first. Lincoln made it clear over and over that he was fighting to protect the “Union,” by which he meant the rule of law and the Constitution which he swore to uphold. We had a free and fair election—in which the South participated—and their guy lost. Southern secessionists started firing on American soldiers, so Lincoln sent in troops to enforce the Constitution. Two sides can fight in a war for different reasons.
· Or maybe therefore slavery wasn’t just a Southern thing. There’s a real point there. Yes, slavery existed in the North long before the Civil War. It existed in New York and other northern states before being peacefully abolished in the decades before the War. And yes, there were slaves in the North, and as Lincoln pointed out in all honesty, the North profited from slavery almost as much as the South did. The North benefited from the enormous cotton trade from the South, along with other exports. No state was entirely blameless in this regard.
So how do we deal with the fact that four loyal Union states had slaves? Well, first we need to understand that although they had slaves, the slave population was much much much smaller as a proportion of the population of the four states. Maryland, for example, had about 87,189 slaves, a little more than 0.02% of the state population. In stark contrast, Kentucky had almost 20% of its population in chains (the most of any border state). Lumped altogether, the border states had about 20% of their population in slavery at the beginning of the War. Keep in mind, this is in stark contrast with the South which had about a third of its entire population in chains. For more details, check out this web page.
Out of the four border states, two of them gave up slavery voluntarily before the War even ended: Maryland and Missouri. Yes, Maryland, where pro-Confederate sympathies were strong enough to turn violent and which forced Lincoln to suspend Habeas Corpus.
The other border states, Delaware and Kentucky, took a bit longer, not abolishing slavery until the 13th Amendment was passed a few months after the War. Delaware in particular vigorously protested against it, claiming that it wasn’t legitimately passed. In the end, however, they got rid of slavery (mostly) peacefully, which is a point in their favor.
Yes, we tolerated that evil institution in our midst, way longer than we should have, but in the case of every single Union state (those with slavery and those without), slavery was abolished peacefully without a single shot being fired. In other words, the system worked the way it was supposed to work, the way the Founders and Lincoln and countless others longed to see.
Not so the Confederate states. They had to have the 13th through the 15th Amendments forced upon them at the point of a gun.
For the life of me, I’m not really clear on why this is supposed to be an argument for the Confederacy instead of against it. It seems to me the existence of four states which 1) had slavery but 2) didn’t shoot at American troops over it, and 3) removed it peacefully is evidence of the obsession and rank paranoia of the Confederates over this. Or am I missing something?