Having defended Holocaust deniers and crusaded against gay parents, I shouldn’t be surprised that Martin Cothran, lobbyist for the Kentucky affiliate of Focus on the Family and occasional shill for the Disco. ‘Tute, would defend treason. In defending the secessionist States, Cothran mostly just whales away at a straw man, offering but one real person’s views to which he objects:
the comments of Bob Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service, who reminds us that “Slavery was the principal cause of the Civil War, period.”
That’s it. Yes, there’s much sanctimonious talk about unspecified and unnamed people who think the South – every person and every act – was uniformly evil and the North uniformly perfect, but he gives no evidence than anyone thinks that. All he has to object to substantively is that slavery caused the Civil War. And all he can offer against that is Lincoln’s oft-stated desire to preserve the Union and to maintain slavery if that was the cost of Union.
But the South disagreed, and so committed treason against this nation, seceding and waging war upon their once and future Union. And why did they do so? Let’s let them speak for themselves. Here’s the opening paragraphs of “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union“:
In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.
The declaration continues by listing the obstacles erected to slavery in the years between the Revolution and Mississippi’s treasonous act.
Georgia’s declaration of secession is equally replete with references to slavery and the obstacles to that institution posed by northern states. South Carolina begins its declaration with a rambling treatise on states’ rights, but in building a case for secession (issued before the Inaugural quoted by Cothran), refers only to slavery.
Texas, never willing to be overshadowed by other states, defends not only slavery as an institution, but specifically enlists racism to justify its secession:
We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.
These were the motivations laid out by the four states choosing to make a detailed accounting of grievances. All were driven principally by slavery, by the refusal of non-slave states to return slaves escaping to freedom, and by conflicts in Congress over the slave status of newly-admitted States. Only when the Confederacy formed and began casting about for foreign backing did slavery become secondary to slogans like “states rights.”
Cothran’s own Kentucky, of course, sat out the opening of the Civil War, declaring itself neutral until Confederate forces attempted to seize it. The state where Lincoln was born then petitioned for Union protection. I mention this only to note that Cothran’s defense of the traitorous Confederacy cannot be motivated simply from a sympathy for his state’s history and legacy. That legacy was never part of the Confederacy.
What other reason might motivate Cothran to defend the slave-holding states, I leave as an exercise for the reader.