Two weeks have slipped into history since the tragic events transpired at Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina and I still struggle for understanding and a way forward. At today’s Services at my own little Church in West Concord we continued to pray for that grieving congregation, offer cards to be filled out to be sent southward, and collect what monetary contributions our members wish to selflessly offer. But I find myself stuck searching for the “why” of it all. They say that ‘the devil is in the details’ and so I go in search of his left behind DNA, evidence that will point to one causal item for the horror wrought two weeks ago but I find only the words that other men and women have written about the origins of American Hate. Many have tried to point to a single cause of our society’s great divide but few have succeeded. The closest content that I’ve been able to gather is documented here; apparently it all began on August 20, 1619 with the arrival in Virginia of a Dutch Man o’ War carrying 20 or so African captives who were subsequently sold as involuntary laborers, and so began our great suffering.
Of course we, the American people, have much in our history to be proud of but equally much that we need to ask forgiveness for. Some articles that I read recently have called for the removal of the Confederate States Flag from all governmental buildings and grounds; I think this an idea whose time has come. After One Hundred Fifty years it is time to place the Stars and Bars in a Museum, honor the dead but not the hateful regime for which it was a banner.
Some other articles that I’ve read called for a similar elimination of any and all monuments and Southern Ante Bellum memorabilia in a futile attempt to rid ourselves of the painful memories of our history. Rather than facing up to our brutality, seeking forgiveness through Restorative Justice we seem to wallow in a ‘sweep it under the rug’ mentality that will only fester in darker hearts and return to inflict further harm at a later time. America, it’s time to face the horror of our past deeds and seek forgiveness and restitution for the harm we’ve inflicted on our fellow citizens of color, Black, Brown, Mexican, and Native American. We will never be fully free until we’ve addressed these injustices.
Being a bit of a history aficionado, having read all three tombs of Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War A Narrative” I’ve attempted to view the American Civil War from both sides, an impossible task for a Boston born and raised liberal, but I made the effort and that is what matters most.
The History of American Brutality
Burned at the Stake: A Black Man Pays for a Town’s Outrage
The Waco Horror: A Report on a Lynching
“Top Five Causes of the Civil War
The US Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865 and led to over 618,000 casualties. Its causes can be traced back to tensions that formed early in the nation’s history. Following are the top five causes that led to the “War Between the States.”
- Economic and social differences between the North and the South.
With Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793, cotton became very profitable. This machine was able to reduce the time it took to separate seeds from the cotton. However, at the same time the increase in the number of plantations willing to move from other crops to cotton meant the greater need for a large amount of cheap labor, i.e. slaves. Thus, the southern economy became a one crop economy, depending on cotton and therefore on slavery. On the other hand, the northern economy was based more on industry than agriculture. In fact, the northern industries were purchasing the raw cotton and turning it into finished goods. This disparity between the two set up a major difference in economic attitudes. The South was based on the plantation system while the North was focused on city life. This change in the North meant that society evolved as people of different cultures and classes had to work together. On the other hand, the South continued to hold onto an antiquated social order.
- States versus federal rights.
Since the time of the Revolution, two camps emerged: those arguing for greater states rights and those arguing that the federal government needed to have more control. The first organized government in the US after the American Revolution was under the Articles of Confederation. The thirteen states formed a loose confederation with a very weak federal government. However, when problems arose, the weaknesses of the Articles caused the leaders of the time to come together at the Constitutional Convention and create, in secret, the US Constitution.
Strong proponents of states’ rights like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were not present at this meeting. Many felt that the new constitution ignored the rights of states to continue to act independently. They felt that the states should still have the right to decide if they were willing to accept certain federal acts. This resulted in the idea of nullification, whereby the states would have the right to rule federal acts unconstitutional. The federal government denied states this right. However, proponents such as John C. Calhoun fought vehemently for nullification. When nullification would not work and states felt that they were no longer respected, they moved towards secession.
- The fight between Slave and Non-Slave State Proponents.
As America began to expand, first with the lands gained from the Louisiana Purchase and later with the Mexican War, the question of whether new states admitted to the union would be slave or free. The Missouri Compromise passed in 1820 made a rule that prohibited slavery in states from the former Louisiana Purchase the latitude 36 degrees 30 minutes north except in Missouri. During the Mexican War, conflict started about what would happen with the new territories that the US expected to gain upon victory. David Wilmot proposed the Wilmot Proviso in 1846 which would ban slavery in the new lands. However, this was shot down to much debate. The Compromise of 1850 was created by Henry Clay and others to deal with the balance between slave and free states, northern and southern interests. One of the provisions was the fugitive slave act. Another issue that further increased tensions was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. It created two new territories that would allow the states to use popular sovereignty to determine whether they would be free or slave. The real issue occurred in Kansas where pro-slavery Missourians began to pour into the state to help force it to be slave. They were called “Border Ruffians.” Problems came to a head in violence at Lawrence, Kansas. The fighting that occurred caused it to be called “Bleeding Kansas.” The fight even erupted on the floor of the senate when anti-slavery proponent Charles Sumner was beat over the head by South Carolina’s Senator Preston Brooks.
- Growth of the Abolition Movement.
Increasingly, the northerners became more polarized against slavery. Sympathies began to grow for abolitionists and against slavery and slaveholders. This occurred especially after some major events including: the publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the Dred Scott Case, John Brown’s Raid, and the passage of the fugitive slave act that held individuals responsible for harboring fugitive slaves even if they were located in non-slave states.
- The election of Abraham Lincoln.
Even though things were already coming to a head, when Lincoln was elected in 1860, South Carolina issued its “Declaration of the Causes of Secession.” They believed that Lincoln was anti-slavery and in favor of Northern interests. Before Lincoln was even president, seven states had seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.”
Causes of the Civil War
“The Northern and Southern sections of the United States developed along different lines. The South remained a predominantly agrarian economy while the North became more and more industrialized. Different social cultures and political beliefs developed. All of this led to disagreements on issues such as taxes, tariffs and internal improvements as well as states rights versus federal rights.
The burning issue that led to the disruption of the union, however, was the debate over the future of slavery. That dispute led to secession, and secession brought about a war in which the Northern and Western states and territories fought to preserve the Union, and the South fought to establish Southern independence as a new confederation of states under its own constitution.
The agrarian South utilized slaves to tend its large plantations and perform other duties. On the eve of the Civil War, some 4 million Africans and their descendants toiled as slave laborers in the South. Slavery was interwoven into the Southern economy even though only a relatively small portion of the population actually owned slaves. Slaves could be rented or traded or sold to pay debts. Ownership of more than a handful of slaves bestowed respect and contributed to social position, and slaves, as the property of individuals and businesses, represented the largest portion of the region’s personal and corporate wealth, as cotton and land prices declined and the price of slaves soared.
The states of the North, meanwhile, one by one had gradually abolished slavery. A steady flow of immigrants, especially from Ireland and Germany during the potato famine of the 1840s and 1850s, insured the North a ready pool of laborers, many of whom could be hired at low wages, diminishing the need to cling to the institution of slavery. Learn more about Slavery in America
States’ Rights refers To the struggle between the federal government and individual states over political power. In the Civil War era, this struggle focused heavily on the institution of slavery and whether the federal government had the right to regulate or even abolish slavery within an individual state. The sides of this debate were largely drawn between northern and southern states, thus widened the growing divide within the nation. Learn more about States’ Rights.
That was not enough to calm the fears of delegates to an 1860 secession convention in South Carolina. To the surprise of other Southern states—and even to many South Carolinians—the convention voted to dissolve the state’s contract with the United States and strike off on its own.
South Carolina had threatened this before in the 1830s during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, over a tariff that benefited Northern manufacturers but increased the cost of goods in the South. Jackson had vowed to send an army to force the state to stay in the Union, and Congress authorized him to raise such an army (all Southern senators walked out in protest before the vote was taken), but a compromise prevented the confrontation from occurring.
Perhaps learning from that experience the danger of going it alone, in 1860 and early 1861 South Carolina sent emissaries to other slave holding states urging their legislatures to follow its lead, nullify their contract with the United States and form a new Southern Confederacy. Six more states heeded the siren call: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Others voted down secession—temporarily. Learn more about Secessionism “
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
“ THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”