“The foulest crime in history known in any land or age.”
That was how the great American poet Walt Whitman described the treasonous insurgency against the American republic in defense of slavery known as the Confederacy.
In one of his poems lamenting the assassintation of Abraham Lincoln written just a month after his death in May 1865, entitled, “This Dust Was Once a Man,” Whitman’s full phrase was “Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age, was saved the Union of these states,” extolling Lincoln’s successful prosecution of the war to defeat of the heinous pro-slavery Confederate insurrection.
In the current arousal of the American public against the video-taped murder at the knee of a police officer of a helpless George Floyd, the issue of America’s continuing condescension to advocates and institutions of white male supremacy has been raised in the general population to a new level of awareness and fierce opposition.
It presents us all with a terrific challenge and opportunity to shift some of the most intransigent and fundamental tenets of American culture, and it should not be missed. Many are asking what is the best way forward in this new environment to ensure that it does not flame out too soon.
To our advantage is the fact that we are only months away from perhaps the most consequential federal election in our history. It necessarily requires that a Herculean effort at driving home key points of a potential culture paradigm shift must occur.
Of course, the growing contrast between the morally and ethically degenerate President Trump and the fundamentally moral and competent former vice president Biden is helping set the stage.
But while the gaping contrast between the moral depravity (“depraved indifference” being the term used in the case of George Floyd’s murderer) of Trump and the powerful moral suasion of Biden is quite illustrative for all to see, there is more than just the personalities of these two candidates that needs to inform the American electorate this fall.
The ugly truths that need to be peeled away from the eyes of the American public involve the ways that, leading up to and since the Civil War, justifications for white male supremacy and the resulting grossest evils of racism have been systematically insinuated into our culture even to the present day.
The slaveholding Southern oligarchy who led the anti-American insurrection, the Civil War, in defense of slavery, and their European allies who benefited from their cotton fields, were pure evil, and that is no exaggeration. They were willing to sacrifice over 600,000 American lives in their effort to perpetuate the institutions of slavery.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, the Southern states that had been spoiling for a secessionist fight for decades (held off by the political genius of the “Great Compromiser” Henry Clay) forced the issue. They seceded and formed the Confederacy. They expected that would be it, but Lincoln and those who saw the primary value of the preservation of the Union as the world’s best chance at advancing democracy and eventually equality for all, couldn’t let that stand.
The armed conflict that ensued took its first worst turn in April 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee when the Confederacy threw 40,000 young men into an assault on General Grant’s Union forces, displaying for the first time the ferocity of the South and the willingness of its elitist leaders to subject their own people, non-elitist poor folks mostly, to a suicidal massacre of Biblical proportions.
Only with Union General Sherman’s successful siege of Atlanta ensuring the re-election of Lincoln to a second term in 1864 was the fate of the Southern insurrection sealed. The Union greatly benefited from the induction of 180,000 African-Americans, freed from slavery by Lincoln’s January 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, into their ranks.
But even before the war was over, a Southern apologetic excuse took words of their General R. E. Lee, “The Lost Cause,” to fabricate a lie that the insurrection was caused by Northern overreach into the state’s rights of the South, and not by a the South’s defense of slavery.
(To be continued)
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]