The Faith and Heritage blog has a fascinating review of The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant, by William W. Freehling. So much of what I thought I knew about the period leading up to the War for Southern Independence is a very simplified view. So often, we accuse the South-haters of oversimplification for their claim that slavery was the cause of the war. We usually counter with our own overly-simplified explanation of states rights, cultural differences, taxation, etc. This Faith and Heritage article has shown me an entirely new set of factors that led up to secession and the war. History is an incredibly complex thing to try to understand in depth. The only way that it can be presented in even a remotely understandable format is to over-simplify it – which is why two sides can make contrary claims and still be using factual information. It is up to us, as students of history and culture, to add layer upon layer of these simplified explanations until we get to a point of understanding beyond the norm of useless simplicity.
One matter that I was completely unaware of is that South Carolina was governed explicitly as an aristocracy, and there is ample discussion of that – enough that I look forward to learning more about it.
Another subject that caught my interest on a more personal level is the role – and rationale – of the abolitionist Cassius Clay, cousin of Henry Clay. These men are among my ancestors, and that is where my middle name came from (a middle name that I share with my father and my grandfather). Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay (who later changed his name to Mohamed Ali) was named after Cassius Clay with the understanding that he was an abolitionist. He was, indeed an abolitionist, but I am confident that his father who named him was quite unaware of exactly why the original Cassius Clay embraced abolition. The article points out that Clay hoped to make Kentucky into a White ethnostate, and outlawing slavery was the means to exclude Blacks from that state. History has many little nuances like that when we take the time to look beyond the official “approved” story. Was this motivation more wide-spread? Was that part of the North’s enthusiasm for abolition? Interesting questions that beg for answers.
At 4574 words, this is not a short article. If you are not prepared to read it in its entirety, then either understand that you may be missing key points, or don’t start at all. Read it with an open mind and you will gain a much deeper insight into the circumstances that led up to secession and the war, what the political landscape looked like, and perhaps even a few “alternative futures” had things gone differently. This is “Part 1″ – I look forward to reading what follows.