Slavery & the Civil War – Part 2

Posted By Levi

April 24th, 2011 9:58am

In part 1, I attempted to show that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War. What is most remarkable is that 150 years after the War, crazy talk about secession, nullification and taxes- issues that divided the nation at the time, are becoming fashionable once again in the South. In particular, Republicans and Tea Party supporters claim that the federal government has become too big, too oppressive and too intrusive. They claimed that big government is the cause of much of the nation’s problems and since government doesn’t do anything good it must be reduced in size.

There is much talk about nullification. Nullification is the once discredited idea that states have the right to nullify or reject federal laws they don’t like. Of course, states do not have the power to reject federal laws. Article VI of the U.S. Constituion states that Acts of Congress “shall be the supreme law of the land…anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Secession, which led to the Civil War, is once again on the minds of many in the South.

On one of her recent shows, Rachael Maddow did an excellent segment on the rise of anti-U.S sentiments in the South.

From the show:
“Here’s what it looks like to run for governor in the state of Texas these days. These are two candidates for governor at a recent rally in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate that flag up there. That flag that’s above the Texas flag, that’s the United States flag. I hate the United States government. The U.S. flag is coming down from over Texas. It will not be part of Texas anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware. We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.

Watch video segment here. The transcript is below.

MADDOW:
But it’s not only fighting about what happened back then. What is remarkable 150 years after the start of the Civil War is how right now-now, so many of the hallmarks of the Civil War and of the Confederacy are in political fashion again. Nullification, which helped steer South Carolina into its militant anti-U.S. stance-nullification is now enjoying a remarkable renaissance.

Nullification is what Republican legislatures in states all across the country have been screaming in the face of the new health reform law passed by Democrats in Congress last year. Just within the past two months, Republicans in Idaho and in Montana moved through their nullification legislation. It’s not just anti-federal health reform legislation, it’s legislation that says that federal law doesn’t apply here in our state.

But it’s not just health care reform. A conservative group called the 10th Amendment Center has been pushing a lot of the anti-health reform stuff. But they put that in the context of nullification. And they’re pushing for other kinds of nullification, too. They’re also, for example, proposing nullification of things like food safety laws and gun laws.
In the state of Georgia, for example, Republicans are pushing the Georgia Food Freedom Act. Food freedom? Yes. It would exempt the state of Georgia from federal regulations on the safety of the food supply.

In Arizona, the state Senate there approved a bill exempting products from interstate commerce laws if they are made and used within Arizona. West Virginia attempting to do something similar-nullifying federal regulations on guns, as long as those guns are made and used within West Virginia.

Kentucky is trying to nullify federal laws regarding environmental safety. They are trying to proclaim themselves a sanctuary from the Environmental Protection Agency. Your federal laws don’t apply here, Yankees. United States, Schmunited States. Nullification is back.

During the Civil War, one of the ways the Confederacy separate itself from the Union was by minting its own currency, right? Confederate dollars, buy them today on eBay, or make new ones today.

In North Carolina, a Republican legislature is trying to move legislation to abolish federal currency in favor of North Carolina dollars. He wants a state currency, a confederate currency rather than federal currency. Your Yankee dollars are no good here.

Last year, a Republican state legislator in South Carolina introduced legislation mandating that gold and silver coins replaced federal currency in the state. According to a recent report from the Web site, “Talking Points Memo,” at least 10 states have introduced gold coins as currency bills.

Just last month, an Idaho man was convicted of conspiring against the U.S. government by manufacturing and selling his own Confederate currency called liberty dollars. Your Yankee money is no good here and your Yankee laws, they’re no good here, either.

All that is old, all that is Civil War era is new again in today’s politics. It is also now in today’s politics fashionable again for Republicans to flirt with even the ultimate Confederate idea, to flirt with seceding from the Union, the idea of breaking up the United States of America.

This is Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY ®, TEXAS: Texas is a unique place. When we came in the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Who knows what might come out of that? Former Republican Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee was even more direct about it last year when he was asked about his opposition to the Obama presidency. He answered, quote, “I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government.” Forced to.

Here’s what it looks like to run for governor in the state of Texas these days. These are two candidates for governor at a recent rally in Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate that flag up there. That flag that’s above the Texas flag, that’s the United States flag. I hate the United States government. The U.S. flag is coming down from over Texas. It will not be part of Texas anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware. We understand that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.
(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want freedom, total and complete. Freedom, secession! Secession is the answer!
(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hate the United States. Get out of our lives.
Get off our backs. Move on!
(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: Running for governor in the state of Texas. Secession is the answer, but it’s not just Texas. In the 2008 presidential race, it emerged that Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, had been a member of something called the Alaska Independence Party. Remember this? A secessionist party.

Quoting the party’s founder, quote, “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. And I won’t be buried under their damn flag.”

I’ve always thought that Civil War re-enactors are one of the great poetic mysteries of modern American life. In a country that goes to war all the time now, that has in my lifetime had many more years when we’ve been in war than years when we have not, in a country where real war is the norm and not the exception to the norm, why do we re-enact this one war? Why do we re-enact this war? Why do we literally act it out again? If you’ve never read Tony Horwitz’s book, “Confederates in the Attic” which is what the title of the segment refers, it is meant as a sort of homage to that book, you should read that book, you will love it. But it is one thing to study a war. It is another thing entirely to want to spend your weekends pretending you are fighting it, dressing up in period costume and acting it out.

But you know what? It’s a whole other thing all together, to not just want to study the war that nearly destroyed America, to not just re-enact it like a pageant, but to actually try it again, to live it out not in costume but in real life, once again taking up the cause of the side that lost. The Confederacy and its politics are in fashion again, 150 years on. Against that, who is standing for the Union side?

 

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