The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The "Great Truth" about the "Lost Cause"
Most Americans hold basic misconceptions about the Confederacy, the Civil War, and the actions of subsequent neo-Confederates. For example, two thirds of Americans--including most history teachers--think the Confederate States seceded for "states' rights." This error persists because most have never read the key documents about the Confederacy. These documents have always been there. When South Carolina seceded, it published "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union." The document actually opposes states' rights. Its authors argue that Northern states were ignoring the rights of slave owners as identified by Congress and in the Constitution. Similarly, Mississippi's "Declaration of the Immediate Causes " says, "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery--the greatest material interest of the world." Later documents in this collection show how neo-Confederates obfuscated this truth, starting around 1890. The evidence also points to the centrality of race in neo-Confederate thought even today and to the continuing importance of neo-Confederate ideas in American political life. The 150th anniversary of secession and civil war provides a moment for all Americans to read these documents, properly set in context by award-winning sociologist and historian James W. Loewen and co-editor, Edward H. Sebesta, to put in perspective the mythology of the Old South.
Excellent set of primary source documents
By Kim - November 23, 2010
In short, this book is a compilation of primary sources documenting southern perspectives on slavery, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction period. It focus is on prominent figures and government issued statements rather than on 'man on the street' diary entries and such. The gist is that many of us have learned through our US History classes in high school that the Confederacy seceded and fought the Civil War over the issue of States' Rights, and that their view on States' Rights was unwaivering and consistent for the entire century. Through the reading of primary source documents (such as the declarations of secession from southern state governments and speeches of prominent figures of the time) we can fairly easily establish that States' Rights evolved into the reason after the fact, that secession, at least for southern governments, was primarily about maintaining slavery as a system and anger over northern states refusal to accept that.
Historians have long preached the need to go to primary documents (often eye-witness diaries and letters) to understand history. Moreover, they want us to know that the study of history is an ongoing plunge, as author Loewen wrote in his popular 1996 book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong into "arguments, issues and controversy."
In this book Loewen and his co-author collect and quote the original documents the seceding states and their prominent politicians issued in 1860-61 in which they expressly said that protection of slavery was their primary motivation for secession and that they were explicitly opposed to the "states rights" of Northen states to tamper with it by refusing to enforce the federal Fugitive Slave law.
Nor do you have to take the authors' word for it. All of the documents are available on the Web.
This is a superb collection of Confederate leaders' writings and speeches.
Do you want to know whether the Civil War was really about slavery? Read what Confederate leaders said when advocating secession. Read the resolutions state conventions adopted in 1860-61 when voting to secede. (The South Carolina resolutions are particularly thorough, carefully reasoned, and well written. What better source could you find?)
The Civil War left slavery in disrepute. So Confederates created the myth that they had seceded to uphold states' rights and defend themselves against "Northern oppression."
The original sources in this book tell a different story. Confederate leaders' words and deeds showed the overriding importance of slavery. The Confederates gave other reasons too: freedom, democracy, states' rights, and the rule of law. But protecting and expanding slavery was their highest priority. They favored states' rights as long as that benefited slavery. (The... read more