Slaves to 'Settled' History



When Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell declared April “Confederate History Month” he was quickly attacked for failing to mention slavery. On MSNBC’s Hardball, said an indignant Chris Matthews to his Confederacy-defending guest Pat Buchanan, “600,000 Americans were dead because you guys wanted to keep slaves.” Replied Buchanan:

“Virginia did not secede over slavery. Virginia stayed in the union when Lincoln was elected… at the time of Fort Sumter it was still in the Union. What took them out of the union was when Abraham Lincoln said we want 75,000 volunteers, your militia, your soldiers in Virginia, to attack the Deep South and bring them back into the union. They said we’re not going to kill our kinsmen. That’s how Virginia left the union… There were eight slave states in the union at the time of Fort Sumter and seven in the Confederacy… Lincoln’s first inaugural offered to make slavery permanent. He offered to help run down fugitive slaves if the seceding states came back…”

Ignoring all of Buchanan’s points, Matthews replied, “The point of the Civil War was slavery, let’s not get confused.” Yes, let’s not get “confused.” In fact, let’s never question, reflect, or reexamine any part of our history ever again. The Civil War was about slavery, period, any and all facts, logic or Pat Buchanans be damned.

Admittedly, only a fool or a Southern partisan would say that the War for Southern Independence had absolutely nothing to do with slavery. Likewise, only a fool or a blind partisan would say that it had only to do with slavery, and Matthews certainly fits this bill.

To reexamine the Civil War beyond the issue of slavery, inevitably invites questions concerning federalism, the nature of the union, state rights’, the Constitution’s delegation of authority, federal power and the scope of the executive branch-all questions that continue to be pertinent to modern American politics, including the Bush and Obama administrations. For liberals like Matthews, these questions are already settled because the Civil War settled them. Yet when Buchanan or anyone else attempts to unsettle them by making states’ rights or similar arguments on their own merits, the Left automatically dismisses the very legitimacy of any such debate on the grounds that it’s racist. Liberals, and quite a few mainstream conservatives, believe that any questioning of official Civil War history is not even to be permitted. “Let’s not defend the right to slavery,” MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney said during the spat between Matthews and Buchanan, ignoring the glaring fact that Buchanan did not even remotely approach defending anything of the sort.

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