The Civil War According to Pat Buchanan

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Pat Buchanan

THE SOUTH SHALL RISE AGAIN! - Conservative firebrand and pie magnet Pat Buchanan recently applied for a seat on the Texas Board of Education. He hopes to take charge of Civil War history textbooks to correct the idea that the war was caused by slavery.

At this point, I’m sure even Va. Goobernator Bob McDonnell rues the day he decided to reinstate Confederate History Month. People still get a little cranky over the Civil War – especially when you gloss over a nasty little thing like slavery as “insignificant”. After having a new butthole chewed into his backside, he apologized – weakly and not very convincingly – and probably hoped the whole thing would blow over before the next Shad Planking.

Luck must love an imbecile though, because Pat Buchanan put on his Screaming Head hat and rode onto Chris Matthews’ Hardball and provided enough cover for Bob-O to slink off the hot seat and back to a pig-pickin’ around back of the Gov’s Mansion.

I grew up in Virginia and was force-fed state history from the womb until the age of majority. Still, I had something to learn from Pat – slavery didn’t drive Virginia out of the Union! In Pat’s alternative universe, they just didn’t want to take up arms against the real crackers down Mississippi way.

Just Some 1860-Vintage Tea Partiers
“What took them out of the Union was when Abraham Lincoln said, we want 75,000 volunteers, your militia and your soldiers in Virginia, to attack the deep South and bring them back into the union,” Pat lectured. “They said, we’re not going to kill our kinsmen.”

And slavery?

Nah, not such a big deal apparently.  According to Pat, Virginians were just some good-hearted, 1860-vintage tea partiers yearning to be free of their oppressive government. “They wanted to be free of the Union,” Pat said.

But which side was right?

Pat, drawing on his best King Solomon Magic 8 Ball – split the difference. “I think in a way both sides were right. Lincoln had a right to save the Union. I think they [the South] had a right to go free.”

Now Pat is correct…a little. The founding fathers did keep slaves – and some were conflicted by it – though not enough to free any while they were alive. There were some states’ rights and economic issues having nothing to do with slavery. However, I’d guess if you asked the average person what the Civil War was about they wouldn’t say, “Why, a conflict between the central governing principles of states’ rights and federalism, of course.”

Instead, you’d get a one-word answer, “Slavery.”

Saying the Civil War was about anything other than slavery, is about as disingenuous as saying the U.S. and Japan went to war because of tariffs and balance of trade issues.

Tone Deaf or Just Plain Evil?
No one, least of all these men themselves, is stupid enough to not know that. So that leaves one of two explanations. Either they’re displaying the sort of tone-deafness that made Pat a favorite of the Nixon, Ford, and St. Ronnie of Reagan abominations administrations or they intentionally say these stupid-assed things because they believe them.

Pat thinks we’ve lost a teaching moment about the Civil War, and as much as it pains me, I agree with him. There is a place for Confederate History Month, but it isn’t as a forum to racially cleanse a shameful, embarrassing event by minimizing its biggest cause. We could use a true teaching moment that includes all the reasons and all the actions – north, south, black, white, rich, or poor. The lesson could be a powerful way to demonstrate why slavery was not right and how we can learn to avoid such hatred and stupidity today.

But before we begin preparing lesson plans I suggest that Bob and Pat take some refresher history courses if they expect to be teachers. Or at the very least, rethink what they know – because there is no place in America for people who are so ill-informed.

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13 thoughts on “The Civil War According to Pat Buchanan

  1. Craig,
    A clarification. It’s not strange that WVa. split from Va. at all. The western and central portions of what is present day Va. were dependent on slave labor, while the regions that are now W.Va. weren’t as much.

    That’s because the folks on the eastern side of the mountains grew cotton, tobacco, and other labor intensive crops on much larger, commercial farms while those on the western side (present day W.Va.) grew less labor-intensive crops and operated more family-owned, small susbsistence farms. That split left many fewer blacks in W.Va. than in the remaining parts of Va. and gave W.Va. more in common with the northern states around it.

    The barrier of the mountains between the two Virginias also created a different culture. In general, Virginia had many more blacks than whites, while W.Va. had almost none making slavery a much more up close and personal affair than in W.Va. Most people in W.Va. live along the borders with Ohio and PA where poor whites worked the more heavily industrial areas which also helped them to bind with the north.

    Now that I’m thinking about all this, it reminds me that the situation between these states is remarkably similar to the demographics of both today.

  2. Er, well, I do not argue against the proposition that Southern secession was primarily over slavery but I do argue against the proposition that the war was fought primarily over slavery.

  3. I do not argue that slavery drove secession. I argue that it did not drive the war. I do not, of course, say that slavery had little or nothing to do with the war, only that the war was fought primarily over the union, not over slavery. There simply were not enough people at the time in the North who cared about slavery to have gone to war over it.

  4. I’m a bit confused about your explanation of East and West of Virginia. West Va. split from Virginia and entered and remained within the Union throughout the Civil War. This is strange behavior for a region heavily dependent upon slave labor. Are you sure you don’t have your regions mixed up? Or maybe you didn’t mean the part of old Va. that split off to become West Va?

    Other than that I find your explanation clear.

  5. Craig,
    As a former resident of Va. who was force-fed state history from the womb on, I can tell you that whether Va would’ve stayed if they weren’t required to take up arms against the rest of the south, is open to interpretation by many citizens and historians. To understand what Va. did then, it’s instructive to look at Va. now, because the demographics are mainly unchanged.

    Most of the people lived in eastern Va., even back then. The east depended much more heavily on trade with the north and a burgeoning European trade along with manufacturing. Hence, little desire to leave the union.

    The central and western regions were and still are mostly rural and agricultural. Those farmers depended on slave labor to a much higher degree than in the east. Hence, the more strongly supported secession because it affected their bread and butter. And in that day (and in fact, still) the western representatives were much more vocal in their desire to leave, which forced the hand of the legislature as they tried to keep the state together, much less the union. Historically, the east also cared less about states’ rights too, except in how it affected their commerce. They want central currency and a central bank for existence.

    For those reasons, many if not most people believe that slavery was an issue that was equal to and probably greater than states rights. Also, consider this: in their formal declaration of sucession, Va. specifically cited the issue of slavery as the reason (along with others).

    I should also point out that his schism was true in the Revolution when most easterners remained neutral or Tory.

    You’re both right, both wrong idea is essentially what Buchannan said, so I’m not sure that watching the videos would’ve given you much more than you already know.

    However, I see the secession as the wrong side. The north had tried for years to appease them and couldn’t. The more firebrand politicians decided the time had come for a split and did so. But, the split was elegal and seditious by law then and now, so I don’t think anyone can make a case for it being “right”. It was against the law and I don’t think anyone would disagree that the long-term interests of the union and the confederacy were better served by apply the law (with force as needed) forcing the states to stay together.

    It seems to me you could make a reasonable case, and in fact, there was a reasonable case made that the south’s actions were treasonous.

    Put in a modern perspective, does Texas have the “right” to seceed?

    In any case, it DOES matter what people think, even if it is wrong. If you don’t understand their understanding there is no way to reconcile the differences.

  6. I agree with you, Poobie, on this, though: we would do well to educate ourselves on this era in our history. The problem I always had was that the teaching of history in school, including the history of our Civil War, was just so damn boring: all names and dates and this compromise and that purchase. It put me to sleep at the time. It took getting out of school where I had to answer questions on tests to actually learn to love history and, consequently, learn some of it. 😛

  7. By the way, I haven’t defended Buchanan for the simple reason that I am on a dial-up connection and I don’t watch videos and I haven’t seen a transcript of what Buchanan actually said. I merely gave my own opinion. If my opinion happens to be Buchanan’s as well, well, there’s nothing I can do about that.

    By the way, the Civil War is not the only war to which I have ever come out in opposition. As a preacher, shortly after 9/11/2001, as the U. S. was ramping up the rhetoric in preparation for ramping up for war in Afghanistan, I preached a sermon in a congregation on how dropping bombs on Afghanistan was not the way to deal with 9/11. This was a congregation in a town with a military base and in which a number of military personnel were in attendance. One could say that my sermon was not well received.

    If there was an issue that redeems those hundreds of thousands of lives, it is the ending of slavery but the North simply did not go to war to end slavery and had that been offered as the casus belli, there would have been next to no one, including Lincoln, who would have advocated war. As Lincoln put it, if he could have repaired the union without freeing a single slave, he would have done so. Presumably he meant that could he have negotiated a return of the seceding states without fighting the war that brought freedom to the slaves, he would have done that.

    I do not defend slavery. I do not defend the South — or the North for that matter — for keeping slaves but just because the war and the 13th amendment freed the slaves (formally at least), doesn’t mean either that the war was fought to free the slaves or that slavery was the cause of the war.

    I should also clarify that I do not say that slavery had nothing to do with the war or that the war had nothing to do with slavery, just that it was not the cause of the war. It was the cause or motive or rationale for secession of the Southern states and that secession precipitated the war but only because Lincoln was unwilling to live with the ‘two state solution’ as it were.

    Also, although I now reside in Florida, I am no Southerner. I was born in Chicago, IL and raised in a South suburb of Chicago and only moved South a year and a half ago so I am not the product of a Southern education or one with any particular sympathies for the South. This is all just how I see the historical issues.

  8. However, I’d guess if you asked the average person what the Civil War was about they wouldn’t say, “Why, a conflict between the central governing principles of states’ rights and federalism, of course.”

    The ignorance of the average person regarding the history of this country, indeed regarding just about any topic, is truly stupendous. Therefore, what the average person would say about the Civil War is pretty irrelevant to the actual historical facts. The actual historical facts are that when other southern slave states were seceding over their perceptions that slavery was going to be doomed if they stayed in the union, Virginia specifically declined to do so. It was indeed not until required to take up arms against their neighbors that Virginia took sides. In all likelihood, if they had not been placed in that position, Virginia might have remained neutral in the whole thing.

    As far as which side, the United States or the Confederate States, was right, I guess I’d have to say both were right and both were wrong. Morally, slavery was and is repugnant so the South was morally wrong to exist on the backs of slaves but constitutionally I think they were right: they did have a right to secede. As a constitutional issue, then, as opposed to the moral issue of slavery, had I been a Northerner, I probably would have opposed the war. I think that I would have thought that Lincoln should have taken the Confederate States’ offer to buy the federal lands within the C. S. A. and been done with it. Morally, of course, I recognize that this would have extended the period of time during which slavery would have continued and I could not have escaped my own moral position in counseling acceptance of secession. On the other hand, the war killed hundreds of thousands of citizens on both sides and there’s something moral — or immoral — about that, too.

    Just because you think the war was primarily about slavery and think Buchanan an ass, doesn’t make him wrong. You haven’t actually provided any evidence that he’s wrong; just assumed it because, well, because the average person on the street, when asked what the U. S. Civil War was about, would answer, “Slavery.” I generally find a lot about which to agree in your posts but these last two on the Virginia proclamation regarding the history of the Confederacy in that state haven’t been terribly convincing to me.

  9. pat also tells some whoppers about WWII and other assorted points in history — i used to think it was ok to have a piece of shit like pat on the air because you could learn from his lies – now i dont think that so much anymore

  10. The North, through the surreptitious financial assistance of the Southern slaves drawing on their vast cotton profit, were able to fund their bloodthirsty war machine and bring down the only polite and civil society in North America.

    – Lies My Hippie Teacher Told Me, Patrick J. Buchanan, 1st edition

  11. There is a wickedness about Pat Buchanan and all those who trivialize the most damaging and tragic years of American history, it was nothing but sedition and a vicious attack on the United States of America by domestic terrorists and there was nothing honorable about it.

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