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Saturday, October 12, 2013
The English word canard derives from the Old French word caner, to quack as a duck, hence a hoax. John Cahoon’s op-ed essay, “Committed to many causes” (Sept. 3), contains several Confederate canards.
Historically, Southerners fought the Civil War for the Lost Cause, which Northerners and Southerners then, and most people nowadays, except neo-Confederates, attributed to secession and slavery. But now Cahoon’s essay claims that “the Southern soldier . . . fought for many reasons, the least of which was to eternally perpetuate slavery.”
Two responses expose this hoax.
First, Cahoon’s essay never specifies what these “many reasons” were, for only neo-Confederates need to know them. Second, the essay conveniently fails to mention that the Confederate Constitution perpetuated slavery in the South. The only way slavery could have been abolished in the Confederacy was for the states to pass such an amendment by a two-thirds vote. To imagine that Confederates would have fought a war to maintain slavery, and then later abolish the cause of its secession, affronts the logic of the intelligent and strains the credulity of the ignorant.
Cahoon is at pains to cite luminary early 19th century Virginians who “desperately searched for gradual emancipation.” Cahoon fails to mention the leading orators and statesmen of the 1860s Confederacy, such Jeff Davis, Alex Stephens and Bob Toombs, who committed the South to preserving slavery as the cornerstone of the Confederacy.
Cahoon allows that Confederates “took up arms to defend their homes and families,” and then fails to mention that Virginia joined the Confederacy before it was invaded by federal troops.
Cahoon’s essay did get it right that Northerners, as well as Southerners, were racists. In truth, Northerners wanted to preserve the Union at the beginning of the war, just as Confederates wanted to secede from the Union in order to preserve their peculiar institution. But the war eventually evolved to an abolition of slavery, whereas the South never wavered from its commitment to human bondage.
But Cahoon’s most troubling claim is his attempt to rationalize the Civil War. “Like the Vietnam veteran, the Confederate soldier did his duty as he understood it to be in his era . . . all deserve to be honored by us irrespective of what we today think of their wars or the governments that asked them to fight.” Surely, the ends for which soldiers fought must be considered. Go figure why Germans do not celebrate Nazi History Month or the Nazi heritage of hearth and home.
Weather JournalMany very icy despite 'bust' claims