The Confederacy, America's Worst Idea, Stephanie McCurry, American History Magazine, December 2010, pp. 29-35.
On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, can we finally admit the truth about why the South lost? Stephanie McCurry asks this question and suggests a clear eyed examination of what the Confederate experiment attempted to accomplish. Discussions of the constitutionality of secession should not be the end but the beginning of the review. Why did secessionists insist on exercising the secession? What kind of nation did the Confederates aspire to construct? If they had peacefully departed or if they had successfully revolted, what kind of country would have been the result? Confederates seceded to secure the future of slavery.
Yet, they succeeded in producing the conditions that would produce the total and immediate destruction of slavery. War created the federal government sponsored emancipation of slaves. If the Confederacy had succeeded or if the war had ceased short of the Confederacy's total defeat and surrender, African-Americans' future would have included more generations of enslavement, more horrific assaults on their personal safety, their families, their human rights and dignity.
Near the end of the war Confederates considered the enlistment of black slaves in the military in order to secure the success of a slaveholder's republic. If slaves owed allegiance to the Confederacy, then could they also be traitors? To consider this is to move slaves from being property owned by masters to slaves with obligations to a government. This the Confederate Congress refused to do. Emancipation would never be the reward for blacks loyalty to the Confederacy. If they served the Confederate government, that service would be provided as the slaveholders' prerogative.
Slaves' resistance, slaveholders' prerogatives, and state sovereignty inhibited the success of the Confederacy. The war became the reckoning. Confederate vice-president to this. For him the original American republic rested on the equality of all men, no matter the ethnic or race. He stated that the new Confederate government "is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas: its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, on the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery is his natural condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great truth."
During the sesquicentennial and the Confederacy is remembered, McCurry believes every American should count themselves lucky that Americans were spared "the future the Confederate States of America promised."
Image Source: South Carolina News Sheet