A Response to Mr. Fisher

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Let’s shake on it!

Yesterday I took an admittedly snarky couple of jabs at Ben Jones, former Georgia state legislator and actor who portrayed Cooter on The Dukes of Hazzard. In it, I questioned Jones’s and the SCV’s vague assertions of state rights and heritage in connection with the Confederate Battle Flag and asked if I might have a few specifics. Really, I just wondered why – though I am certain that Confederate soldiers served under arms for many reasons and that they exhibited any number of virtues – descendants of these soldiers always seem to leave slavery and the the reasons for secession out of the heritage story.

I received two comments from one Mr. Michael Fisher, which I provide below (n.b. grammar and syntax are left in the original)

Wow all that crap you are spewing you must know exactly what happened in the Civil War. Me personally I think you’re freaking full of it. That crap they taught you in school is lies. So what you are saying is this country went to war with itself to stop slavery. Okay then explain to me 1 thing. Why did the North not relinquish there slaves before the war, during the war, but instead wait till somewhere about 3 years after the war. I mean really the North think they can have their way but insist the SOUTH cannot. Or how bout this in the 1800’s the South covered 70 percent of all the income in the United States at that time and the North threw another 40 Percent tariff on the South because the North was greedy and wanted more that’s what we went to war over. You see the South was the first to free all slaves in the South where you yanks kept them till after the war. PROVE ME WRONG I DARE YOU.

A few hours later…

Oh arguments pretty thin huh. Sure don’t see the one I put up there this morning. Got no come back for it nor does it fit your lying ass agenda right. Just one sided history. And you want it to be yours.

I was away from my desk much of the day, so I promised Mr. Fisher that I would respond once I returned to the convenience of my study. I trust he has not grown impatient.

I have never once claimed that the country went to war with itself to stop slavery. Slaves were protected constitutionally as property. Abraham Lincoln knew it and so did most everyone else. What I have said is that people in the slave states perceived a growing threat from elements outside of the South, namely the tiny abolitionist crusade and the much larger free labor movement, championed by the Republican party. Their perception was that a growing anti-slavery (white southerners often conflated free labor and abolition) sentiment in the North aimed to come after slavery eventually. The election of Lincoln suggested this to white southerners in profound ways – and thus they motioned to secede from the Union with the explicitly articulated intention to preserve the institution of slavery. Eleven of those states carried out this motion – and in their secession documents you can read why they did it. Hint: it was to protect slavery. I can’t see how you can dispute this…it’s crystal clear.

The loyal states sent soldiers to war to preserve the Union. They fought, not so much to free slaves (until it became apparent that freedom would help the Union cause) as they did to suppress a rebellion initiated to preserve slavery. I hope you can see the difference here. Suffice it to say: no slavery, no war.

Now on to your points about slavery in the North. In 1861 there were four slave states that remained loyal to the Union. The US Constitution protects citizens’ property in many ways. So there you have it. However, the Republican party did take steps to amend the Constitution to address specifically and be rid of slavery across the whole nation. We call that the 13th amendment. It passed both houses in January 1865 and was ratified by the states in December.

Regarding the tariff you mentioned  – there were a number of protective tariffs that spurred political debate from the nullification crisis in the early 1830s through the Morrill Tariff in March, 1861. I am not sure to which you refer – please be specific and we can talk. I am not really clear on your numbers, however. It would help if you provide citations so we are both working from the same documents.

I am equally confused about the South being the first to free all slaves. I double checked the Confederate constitution and sure enough it says in Article I, section 9: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.” Also, in Article IV section 2: “The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.” It seems to me that slaves were around for good…so long as the Rebs won the fight, which of course, they didn’t.

Finally, I’m not a Yankee. I’m from Alabama.

So I hope this answered your questions. I am not forwarding any agenda that I can see – just reading from the historical documents.

With compliments,



27 thoughts on “A Response to Mr. Fisher”

  1. Interesting read as well as the links check them out and also remember that the history of the war was written by the North. “Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision… It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.”
    Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA, January 1864

    1. Mr. Fisher – if you really believe that the history of the war was written by the victors then you haven’t done much reading. Citing an 1864 document written by a Confederate does very little to counter the secession documents that clearly explain what is going on. I ask you, specifically what “rights and liberties” does Cleburne suggest are being violated?

    1. Interesting theories – especially the one about Lincoln maliciously contriving to reduce the agricultural South to dirt-poor colonies of the North. It’s strange, but I do not remember seeing any of that in his papers. He must of whispered it to Seward over whiskey sours in a secret room of the white house.

  2. There are so many things wrong, inaccurate and downright silly in Mr. Fisher’s diatribe that no matter how convincingly you counter them and show them to be false, he will still believe them. He is one of the first stringers on the “hate not heritage” team.

    1. I know Roger – the only reason I engage people like this in the first place is so the rest of my audience can see what some of the folks (claiming heritage not hate) out there are really doing. I certainly do not think that everyone who flies the Confederate battle flag does so with a hateful agenda. But I do think many of them have misplaced loyalty to a failed political experiment and want to honor their ancestors without acknowledging what the war was about. And I believe that others are just plain stupid. I understand that glazed over fanatics like Mr. Fisher will never be convinced. It would be futile to try and do so.

    2. Let me set one thing straight Roger. I hate no one without cause to hate. Just because we have conflicting opinions does not mean I hate anyone.

  3. Looks like the usual cop out from a neo-confederate. The moment facts get used they run fleeing in terror because they don’t have any.

    More victimization mentality. The guy must be a Chastain reader. I’m still waiting for the list of state’s rights to be presented.

    1. You know this name calling crap we can play it if you want, but I suggest we do this in a civilized manor. Neither am I neo – confederate or a Christian, I am however a Southerner and I was reared on Christian belief. Have also read the Bible, and the Quran just because I wanted to know what was in it. And just to be clear, I feel that no-one is inferior to me. Even your belittling of me doesn’t make me better than you because I refuse to stoop to such stupidity. This is my states right. Any state in this Union if deemed necessary to the well being of any said state has an reserved that said right to seccede from said union says so in the Constitution article 1 not necessarily in those exact words but you understand since you’re so smart right. That is the list of our states right. Right or wrong whether you like it or not it’s any states right. It does not make us a traitor no more than it makes you a selfish egotistical bastard. But since I don’t agree with you, I refuse to lower myself to your level and resort to name calling just because I don’t believe what you believe, but I have the right to say what I want thanks to the Constitution of the United States of America. I stand for the United States under any circumstance other than if it comes to my home state then I’m a NORTH CAROLINIAN because my home and my family is first and foremost to me. Sorry if you don’t feel like your home isn’t worth you’re time or effort. AND JUST SO YOU KNOW I RUN FROM NO-ONE. Sorry for the rant Kevin Harris but I thought we were civilized adults having a conversation. I will finish the topic we started just have had a few things happen the last couple of days been kinda hectic. And then Mr. Dick kinda ticked me off.

      1. I am not even sure where to start with this one. But Jimmy – since it’s addressed to you, I’ll let you have at it.

      2. Oh where to start? Let’s see. The failure to interpret the US Constitution seems to be the main issue here. Secession is not in the Constitution because it was not the intent of the Founders to allow a state to leave the Union. See, the Founders pull a little trick here and placed the source of the government’s power with the people, not the states. Patrick Henry noted this and many other things such as secession not being possible. He brought it all up in the Virginia ratification convention. You may have noticed that the people of Virginia ratified the Constitution. So did the people of North Carolina once the Bill of Rights was proposed.

        So in looking at Art. I we see nothing about secession. It is not implied at all in the document. The Founders made that choice pretty clear. Secession is not a state right. It is not a state power. The matter has been taken to the Supreme Court and ruled upon. Their ruling which stands to this day is that no state can leave the United States unless it has consent of the federal government.

        That’s it. It does not matter if you like the decision or not. That is the ruling and it stands. Here’s the thing. Just because you may disagree and that is your right to disagree or agree does not mean it carries the force of law. You and I do not have the authority to make interpretations of the Constitution that bind others. That privilege is held by the Supreme Court.

        You may not like me. That’s okay with me. I really don’t care. I don’t like it when people show up and start making claims that are not true. I go to lengths in my classroom to back up what I say with facts. I tell my students that they are free to challenge me on anything I say. I want them to do that. It is not because I am smart either. It is because I want them to see the facts that I base my statements on.

        If you want to make claims, back them up with facts. If you cannot do that, do not make the claims. If you have a question, by all means ask it. I’m pretty sure you would find a lot of people would be very happy to answer the question. I answer questions all day long. It is part of my job.

        However, when you make a claim you have to back that claim up with facts. The three years ending of slavery thing was an example of a claim that is wrong. The tariff claim is wrong. The secession claim is wrong. The claim that Christians would not own slaves is wrong. So that is that.

        Thanks, Keith. Jump in and add to the carnage!

        1. I think you covered things pretty well, Jimmy. I would like to point out a humorous aspect of his citing Article I – noting that it doesn’t really say anything about secession, but that’s what they were thinking. I got a kick out of that one.

  4. It seems to be one thing wrong with all of the arguments from both sides of the story your’s as well as mine it’s that you believe one thing and I believe another and it appears that we are not going to change either one’s minds. At the same time none of us were there first hand to know any answer for sure but I do believe this knowing enough about the Christian faith as well as living in the Bible Belt is that any real believer in Christianity would not stand for slavery for it says that we are all created in his likeness. And if you believe there were no SHADY BACK ROOM conversations about what went down during the war then you believe Hillary didn’t hide any emails and BILL didn’t get a blowjob.

    1. No sir. The problem is that one of us uses evidence in the form of historical documents and the other makes things up to support a delusional fantasy. Whenever anyone makes outlandish statements I ask them to produce evidence in support. They never do. I’ll be happy to change my mind if you can illustrate any of your claims with the historical record. I gave you mine – now it’s your turn.

    2. The slave owners and most of the people in the seceding states saw nothing wrong with owning slaves and being Christians. That is why the Baptists split apart and the Southern Baptist Convention created. They were not the only denomination to do so either.

      So far you have delivered a grand total of nothing to back up your claims. I was going through primary sources with my students today and showed them this set of posts from this blog while explaining why primary sources are so important. We went through the South Carolina secession declaration and it left no doubt in their minds that the reason the delegates chose to secede was slavery.

      This is not about choosing what to believe. It is about using facts to develop interpretations. Historians use facts. Lost causers and neo-confederates reject facts that prove them wrong. They rely instead on what they want to believe.

      It is sort of like what I asked my students. “If you want your house wired for electricity who do you call?” “An electrician.”

      “If you want your pipes installed for plumbing, who do you call?”
      “A plumber.”

      “If you want to learn history, who do you ask? The historian with a few college degrees in history or the guy with no college degrees?”

      1. Huzzah! And knowing that you used my blog in the classroom makes me exceedingly happy. Mission: accomplished. Thanks!

  5. http://www.teachingamericanhistory.org In these interpretations of the Constitution has anyone even looked into the day to day debates that took place in the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in which on May 31,1787 several delagates including James Madison mentioned about the amount of power the executive and legislative are to maintain not to mention the ratification convention of the Constitution in 1788 in which they plainly state “That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same.” Most of the original colonies had the same effects written in them. With that the earliest supreme court ruling I could find that was Texas v. White which was in 1869, 4 years after the war was only about Texas not being able to secede. Then you have Antonin Scalia which is modern day wasn’t a supreme court justice until 1986. Personally I would think that the day to day debates and the actual radification documents would be better for interpretation rather than just the not so clear constitution what do y’all think. I mean those are the people who wrote it, discussed it and founded it right wouldn’t those be actual documents. If I’m not mistaken they call those minutes or do we go by someone else’s interpretations?

    1. The book you want on the ratification conventions is Ratification by Pauline Maier.

      If you want Internet sites, I’m pretty sure I can take care of that as can Keith and many others. The problem with the Internet is that just as much trash is on it as is good solid information. I strongly suggest these two sites which I direct students to all the time: The American Yawp at http://www.americanyawp.com/index.html
      or http://www.ushistory.org/us/ . Both sites have been constructed by historians.

      Your quote is from the New York ratification documents. Al Mackey had this to say on his blog: https://studycivilwar.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/did-the-states-reserve-a-right-to-secede/

      In any event, no state withheld the right to secession which is what you are driving at in a roundabout way. They all accepted the Constitution as is. Amendments were suggested and obviously the suggestions were acted upon as evidenced by the Bill of Rights. This has been brought up by those who support the idea of secession as a right and has been thoroughly rejected. No state has that power.

      Texas v. White applies to all states, not just Texas.

      Please note that Walter Williams is an economics professor, not a historian or a constitutional scholar. He has written many things reflecting his opinions and those have been rejected by almost all historians. His opinions on secession are basically wrong. He shows the documents, but he gives his opinions on them which are not supported by constitutional scholars who reject Williams’ opinions.

      Basically Walter Williams cherry picks what he wants to support his opinions and butchers history to support his ideology. What do you expect from a guy who imagines thousands of black confederates fighting for the confederacy when the proof shows that almost none did? Williams has credibility issues and should stick to economics.

  6. I want to address this compact theory crap. First of all, I want to point out that Mr. Williams flat out lies in his article when he suggests that everybody in 1788 thought secession was a state power. That is incorrect and actually, the exact opposite was true. That was part of the ratification debates in the conventions.

    As for the compact theory, just read Wikipedia to save time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_theory To sum it up real quick, the Supreme Court of the United States has rejected the compact theory several times with most of them being before the Civil War. Some southern states challenged this with an insurrection and the issue was decided by arms.

    The US was not created via a compact and Mr. Williams is lying when he says it was. Again, what we have here is a man who is trying to push his political agenda and is cherry picking from history. Sorry, but history as a whole rejects the compact theory and secession.

    While I tell my students not to use Wikipedia as a source, in this case it says what needs to be said and has links for the SCOTUS cases. Note that Mr. Williams conveniently left out anything the refuted his opinion. That is because he cherry picked what he wanted to use in supporting his opinion. Historians use everything to build an interpretation. There is a big difference isn’t there?

    1. Thanks for pointing out the cherry picking problem. Historians, good ones anyway, do not tend to come up with the answers first and then go back into the record to find supportive evidence. If you really what to reconstruct the past, start in the archives, analyze the documents – then you can draw your conclusions.

  7. “We can do nothing with these German regiments who won’t fight and, worse, ruin all with whom they come in contact.”

    Referred to his troops as “these miserable creatures.”

    “I’ve always been down on the Dutch. I do not abate my contempt now.”

    Was it a Confederate officer or Union officer that said/wrote these? Go….

      1. Not exactly. I just think it conveniently gets forgotten to promote a narratives in the media etc. The North wasn’t an army out to purge the Earth of the evils of racism and slavery either. At least not until sometime in 1862 (the Emancipation Proclamation was approved by 14 state governors 153 years ago tomorrow in Altoona, Pa.). I highly doubt that the Federal Armies would have started marching through the South liberating plantations. They for sure didn’t. Once Sumter was fired on, the objective was to quell the rebellion. The news media conveniently leaves such things out for specific reasons. Just like NBC News did upon reporting the flag initially being adorned atop the South Carolina State Capitol building when it was in actuality just on the state grounds and part of a war memorial. Stuff is drummed-up to motivate people behind their keyboards i.e. all of us. The news only tells us what it wants to in order to complete its own ends. Remember, there’s an election coming up and the liberal news media needs to hype up it’s own race war to get votes to a certain side of the political spectrum. Thus, it reports that certain groups or agencies kill or put down members of other certain groups and only those certain groups, yet conveniently doesn’t report what said groups or agencies do that would negate the initial claim. What happens is the public perceives something differently than what it actually is. That’s when we blame objects and not people. Both sides of the Civil War seem to get painted with broad brushes for particular reasons and this is why all of us are bickering. Not all Confederates joined because they wanted to preserve slavery and not all Union soldiers joined to abolish it, as I mentioned earlier. As a matter of fact, several Union commanders seemed more occupied with themselves and their perceived images rather than fighting to end slavery. The news wants us to think that the Union picked up its arms in this glorious cause to set others free when in reality it wasn’t like that at all.

        1. Thanks for the comment, Bill – I do not think that anyone who has taken even a cursory look at the historical record would would deny that the primary motivation for Union soldiers was saving the Union. But your agenda seems to be discrediting the “liberal” media and turning history into a political football. I might remind you that the moralizing self-righteousness you perceive is not a modern invention but rather something cooked up by Union veterans themselves. Immediately after the war, they recognized that by waging a war for freedom, they had not only saved the Union, but made the Union worth saving.
          I think we can avoid the race war you mention only if we can 1) admit that eleven southern states seceded from the Union for the sole reason of preserving slavery and if 2) we can work toward understanding the legacy of that decision. Until we can do that, who says what about whom and for what reason doesn’t really amount to much.

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