“The War Between the States was fought for the same reasons that the tea party movement today is voicing their opinion. And that is that you have large government that’s not listening to the people, there’s going to be heavy taxation,” Fayard said Monday from his home in Duck Hill, Miss. “And the primary cause of the war was not slavery, although slavery was interwoven into the cause, but it was not the cause for the War Between the States.”
*Note: The emphasis on the first sentence is mine. The source for the above quote can be found here (and by the way, are we really surprised that Haley Barbour ignored slavery in his proclamation for Mississippi’s Confederate History Month? Oh, and it appears that both Barbour and Fayard are of the mind that Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession is really irrelevant to the whole Confederate history month thing.)
O.K., errors in the above quote? Anybody? Anybody? (I’m channeling Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)… How about, the “large government not listening to the people” and then the subsequent reaction being akin to a virtual tea party for the 1860s. Hmmm, let’s give a closer look to that part about the “big government” of the U.S. not listening to the [Southern] people before the war. Well, first, it seems that Mr. Fayard wants to present some picture of a solid South in the 1860s… which of course wasn’t at all the case (the county-by-county popular vote results from Southern states in the 1860s presidential election is but one example) . Secondly, the voice of the Southern people in the 1860s was not truly represented in the actions of those in secession delegations. The name slips me right now, but I’m remembering one high-up fellow from either S.C.* or Georgia who said, essentially, that those in high places knew what was best for the people… and that the people would follow. Considering the limited number of states that had a referendum, this appears to have dominated the scene in the majority of those states that seceded (anyone remember just how many states actually had a referendum on secession? Come on, easy answer… anybody?). Of course, it’s also quite entertaining to read about how the referendum wasn’t exactly a shining example of the Democratic process. Shall we begin to touch the taxation portion of the argument… nahhhh, not today… and we’ve already addressed the point about slavery in relation to the “Cause” (though I think I have something else coming about this next week). There’s enough here to make the point that a tea party movement is not an accurate way to portray the South as a whole.
Frankly, secession and the motivation to fight wasn’t a “grass roots movement”, but was sparked by those who benefited from slavery and saw the voice of the slave states/rights of these states (let’s call it the real threat to States’ Rights) to impact national legislation severely compromised. Furthermore, the common people were used as pawns. In the end it looks a lot like those in the Confederate government were pulling big government over on the Southern people as a whole (I also believe that the media had a hand in pulling the rug over the eyes of many Southerners). Yet, were they totally fooled? Think about this… if the Confederate government (or, aw heck… the individual states within the Confederate government) was the voice of the people, and the people were overwhelmingly fed-up with the U.S. government and, subsequently so supportive of secession and the new Confederate government, why was there a need for three conscription acts to be passed in less than three years of a four year war? There were many a common dirt farmer turned soldier that felt that the conflict was better defined as a rich man’s war, poor man’s fight. I think a fair number of these same common soldiers began to realize with the passage of the Twenty-Slave Law they were much better defined as pawns in the deadly game.
The use of the tea party analogy shows us even more that some Confederate celebrationists are out of touch with the reality of history, and continue to fail to understand the more complex picture of why Southerners were in the ranks of the Confederate forces.
* I remembered his name… A.P. Aldrich of S.C. Here is Aldrich on the common people and their opposition to secession: “But whoever waited for the common people when a great move was to be made?… We must make the move and force them to follow.” [my emphasis]. I first introduced Aldrich’s quote in this blog in one of my posts in July 2009.
FYI, Plain Folk in a Rich Man’s War [David Williams, Teresa Crisp Williams, and David Carlson] is an excellent work focused on class and dissent (dissent for the Confederacy, that is) in Georgia.