I read this patiently, wanting to agree wholeheartedly, and waiting for the author to acknowledge the little detail that the North was fully and enthusiastically complicit in the “economics of slavery.” Without that little detail, I cannot imagine an educated Southern reader taking it seriously.
Slavery existed in the North for many years. It only died a slow death in the early 19th century and was never formally banned in Massachusetts until 1865. Boston shipbuilding contributed enormously to the slave trade and, after the slave trade was banned — initially by the English, not the Americans — continued to profit from the shipping of slave-picked cotton.
Hell, the North signed off on a constitution that counted a slave as three-fifths of a person, for purposes of determining how many congressmen the free landowners could have. That make it pretty explicit: “you guys can keep on doing what you’re doing.”
Yes, the ground was slowly shifting away from slavery in 1861. Abolitionist sentiment was strong in some Northern states, though certainly not all. Yes, the South rebelled because its aristocracy saw that there would be no more slave states established out West and feared that they would one day lose their right to enslave other human beings.
But there was no imminent threat, or any threat at all, of the Union ending slavery in the South any time soon. Hell, the North was complying with laws that made it possible for Southern slaveowners to come up and collect their runaway slaves.
Abraham Lincoln himself made it crystal clear what his real priorities were:
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”
The Union finally freed the slaves incrementally, selfishly, and opportunistically, justifying it not as human rights but as a way to confound the Southern army. Yankee sentiment on the subject of emancipation was mixed, even in 1865. Racism remained profound in the North as well, and still does to this day.
Do you want to oppose the display of the Confederate flag? Fine. I agree with you. It’s an inherently racist symbol. It needs to go.
But don’t you dare take this as an opportunity to distinguish our Northern heritage from the taint of slavery.
Especially 70's babies like myself. We should know better. We watched that Diff’rent Strokes episode where Mr. Drummond’s ancestor turns out to be in the slave shipping trade.