When Elizabeth I established colonies in the New World, Britishers who settled in the Southern region found a soil and climate that favored large crops. But they lacked the manpower needed for planting and tilling. The settlers relied on New England slave traders who imported great numbers of slaves into their Boston seaport. Slave trading, and later Southern grown cotton, essentially created the wealth of New England.
Although commercial interests in the Northeast were heavily dependent on Southern planters, there was an absence of social relationships. Agriculture and industry require different kinds of workers. Northerners felt no remorse in castigating Southern plantations for using slave labor although the North frequently employed child labor in its factories.
Southerners eventually seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. The Confederacy had its own customs and traditions based on the concept of State’s Rights. But the Northern establishment has described them as “American pseudo historical mythology” or simply “The Lost Cause.” But it wasn’t a “lost” cause but a “different” cause from what was being promoted by the North.
These conflicting North/South versions of society, and not simply slavery, are what led to the ‘War Between the States.’ Abraham Lincoln himself stated the purpose for the ‘War’ was not to free slaves but to keep the Southern states in the Union. Lincoln also stated; "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists."
In fact, the ‘War’ raged for two years before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued and that document only freed certain slaves. Lincoln’s Proclamation was actually a war measure to maintain the support of European Nations. It only freed slaves in regions engaged in military actions against the Union. Slaves in other regions were not freed.
Roughly a dozen years after the ‘War Between the States’ ended, there was a contested presidential election involving Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. At that time, a couple of Southern states were still occupied by Union troops, attempting to enforce the failing Reconstruction efforts. Republicans made a deal with Democrats, the ‘Compromise of 1877.’ If their candidate, Hayes, could be made President, Republicans would withdraw the remaining Union troops occupying the South. So a backroom political deal ended twelve years of Reconstruction.
Currently, members of the Black community are demanding reparations based on the slavery of their ancestors. But two thorny questions plague 21st century demands for reparations. Should the current generation of Whites be held responsible for actions of a previous generation? And are today’s free Blacks entitled to reparations simply for being descendants of slaves ?
Gail Jarvis is a Georgia-based free-lance writer. He attended the University of Alabama and has a degree from Birmingham Southern College. His writing is influenced by years of witnessing how versions of news and history were distorted for political reasons. Mr. Jarvis is a member of the Society of Independent Southern Historians and his articles have appeared on various websites, magazines, and publications for several organizations. He lives in Coastal Georgia.