Reconsidering the Southern cause —resisting the imposition of arbitrary power…
(CUSA) – The end of the Civil War was noted by forgiveness and the unwillingness of the victors to treat the losers as unworthy of participation in the Union.
With wisdom and insight our favorite living philosopher reflects on the current attempt to whitewash the nation of Confederate history and how this is a symptom of a growing national centralized power. —Ed.
JAMES V. SCHALL, S.J.—
What I see appears to be a vengeful elimination of any memory or dignity in the South, a dignity the peace after the Civil War thought it wise to allow.
Secession, as a constitutional theory, was thought to be the final legal and political defense against the imposition of arbitrary power.
The victory of the North, in this sense, settled the issue by blood, not by argument.
From this angle, Lincoln was not looked on as a hero but as the harbinger of the absolute state in which presidential directives, not congress or the people, ruled.
Today we add the Court to this issue of imposing unconstitutional power on the people and the states.
To insist that the only cause of the war was slavery—and it was a cause of the war—obscures a number of things.
People still argue whether war was the best or only way to eliminate slavery. Others think that economics—not politics or war—was the real cause of slavery’s end.
If we look at many of the reactions to the Supreme Court’s imposition of its will on the nation in cases since at least Griswald and Roe to Casey and Oberfeldt, we see a rather desperate search for grounds to resist this imposition of arbitrary power by the central government on its states and citizens.
Removing any signs of the existence of a Southern Cause, seeing only its hated “peculiar institution” has its irony. It comes at a time when the other side of the Southern Cause, its concern about unlimited central power able and willing to impose its ideology on everyone, is, for many, at the center of our attention.
Without secession and without army, many look for ways to withdraw from this state power; they want to practice what is held to be true. An unforgiving relentlessness appears in this imposition of power. It is mindful of the efforts to remove any sign of dignity in the Southern Cause to see only evil in it.
The spirit of the day at Appomattox was dignified finality and forgiveness. This ending allowed hard fighting men to return to their homes if they could.
They did not seek vengeance.
Most people since the War’s end have seen the wisdom of this decision.
Read more: Catholic World Report