Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The War between the States

I am currently in the midst of a book published in 2007, by Donald McCaig, called Rhett Butler's People (RBP). I am reading this as a follow up to Gone with the Wind - which I finished last month. I also watched the award-winning movie produced in '39, and I LOVED it.

This latest book is written from Rhett Butler's perspective: it has flashbacks as far back as Rhett as a 9 year old (12 years before the War between the States) and I believe carries on beyond the end of GWTW. The book was authorized by the estate of Margaret Mitchell, as the estate had reportedly been searching for an author to complete such a project.

I'm in the beginning of this book, but there are a few things I've been thinking over since I started it.

First of all, there is a rather startling difference between GWTW and RBP, which becomes apparent in the first few pages of this book. I've often commented that GWTW can be rather misleading, as it shows a kind slave owner and his family, along with slaves who feel to be part of the family. While I am certain that this likely existed in parts of the deep South, I was disconcerted at the lack of balance Mitchell displayed (or didn’t) in regard to slave treatment. As previously noted, this was not necessarily the point of the book - to debate the morality of slavery - but the lack of objectiveness caught my attention.

However, RBP, surprisingly, comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. Rhett's father, a rice plantation owner outside of Charleston, is a vicious man, who treats his slaves as property, and punishes them accordingly. The reader is introduced to Will, an incredibly hard-working, efficient, and honorable slave (second in command at Broughton), who is shortly whipped to death for throwing a white man (who was intending to rape his wife) out of his home.

Even the white man's father, who was the overseer of the planation, disagreed with Mr. Butler's decree; however, Mr. Butler stood by his decision to reinforce the idea of authority.

Reading through the Antebellum section of this novel, I am barraged by different historical occurrences preceding the War between the States. I find that I'm intrigued by all of these different happenings - whether national or local, political or social, etc. I've been doing some research in regard to this war and its happenings (we were taught this information at far too young of an age, and likely by biased teachers - regardless of their origins).

I began to consider the North and their side of the war. In no way do I support slavery and its ideas, its lack of morals, its complete disregard for humanity. I was raised within the Southern perspective, which I tried to balance out with my sense of cynicism towards the older people of the Deep South. I find myself surprised, in one aspect, that the North was so insistent upon keeping the nation together. Surely, there were economical, political, and social reasons for the unity of the North and the South - I cannot deny this reality. However, a mere 90 years before this War was an even more famous one: The Revolutionary War.

The children and grandchildren of those who fought for our freedom from Britain were now refusing to let a part of a nation choose its own destiny, its own freedom, its own methods of operating.

I find irony in that, despite the fact that the AR addressed colonialism and the CW addressed the division of a new country. I'm certain that a good historian could cite 100+ significant, worthwhile reasons that the North fought to keep the South within their nation, but the irony is irrefutable.

I am also fascinated by the differences in perspective between the North and the South in regard to the secession. I was interested to read that during Andrew Jackson's presidency, South Carolina threatened secession (those South Carolinians are always leading the revolt!) over tariffs. Andrew Jackson's response was a threat to send Federal Troops to quell this riot and to: "hang the leader of the secessionists from the highest tree in South Carolina." Even more bizarre was the response of Calhoun, who was Jackson's vice president: he fully supported the secession and resigned upon the threats from Jackson. (I feel it worth mentioning that SC also threatened to secede over California's statehood.)

And so, the Union saw the South and its secession as a mere rebellion, incited by numerous traitors within their own country. Lincoln himself gave the south 20 days to 'disperse and retire peacefully' to their homes, on April 15, 1861.

But the South, as continually evidenced by my grandparent's generation, believed that they had successfully seceded, becoming a new nation with the other 10 (debatable, the actual number, as 2 of the 13 attempts were never approved by state governments) seceded states.

History is written by the winners, as they say, and so you will always find it told that the South attempted secession, but never able to consummate it by winning the war.

A final note regarding secession: There was a US Supreme Court ruling in 1869 in which the Court determined the Constitution did not permit states to secede, that the ordinances of secession were absolutely null. The Chief Justice was a former Cabinet member of Lincoln's, and obviously the South felt that he was partial and unfair in his decision. Wikipedia notes that the decision was extremely controversial, remaining so to this day.

A few more interesting facts from Wiki to conclude your history lesson in the fascinating War between the States:

On April 1, 2009, the Georgia State Senate passed a resolution 43-1 which affirmed the right of States to nullify Federal laws. The resolution also included the assertion that if Congress took certain steps, including restricting firearms or ammunition, the United States government would cease to exist.

In April 2009, Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, raised the issue of secession during a speech at a Tea Party Protest: "Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that...My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that."After Perry's comments received considerable attention and news coverage, Rasmussen Reports polled Texans and found that 31% of them believed that Texas has the right to secede from the United States, although only 18% would support secession.

In March 2008, the comptroller of Suffolk Co, New York once again proposed for Long Island to secede from New York State citing the fact that Long Island gives more in taxes to the state than it receives back in aid.

There have also been proposals for New York City to separate itself from New York State citing the vast political and economic differences between the two.

In Florida, there have been calls in the past and present to separate the state into north (a more southern culture) and south (a more northern culture).

About Me

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I live amongst the dragons and the warriors of the 21st century. I surround myself with both the peasants, the aristocrats; the knights and the maidens. For a long time (now quite in the past), I wove the structure of my life around the mold others saw for me. I've since learned to live for God and myself. Freedom comes and goes as I remember this lesson of mine. But my life is MY life: a series of events and remembering such. And this, this beautiful montage, is why I wake up every morning. God willing.