Comments: The South Was Right (James and Walter Kennedy)

Sorry to hear your views on this book were so negative. I was born southern and have experienced many things southern. The south is very different from the northern states in culture and beliefs. The difference may or may not be more than at the time of the souths war for independence. I took something very different from what I read.

I read of a people who believed that they should have the right as to how much money was given to the central government, how much authority that goverment should have, and how the voice of the people should be reflected by the government they are paying to continue. As far as slavery I agree it is wrong for one person to own another, but now we face the current situation in which our government has included itself. It is wrong for one country or entity to decide what form of freedom another country or entity should have even if it is morally wrong to them. It is their choice and that was the choice of the southern states. Although it may have been wrong to the northern states the southern states wanted the right to control their destiny. They were seeking a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. The very ideas this country was founded upon.

I'm very proud of my southern heritage and I believe in individual rights, but I also have a problem with government telling how much of a crop to grow to keep the dollar amount where they want it, or to set limits on the amount of gas that can be sent to market. Our government is controlled by rich people getting richer. I implore you to read the web site of moveon.org and read a little about the things our government is putting over on us while we stand by watching. I also invite you to come to the south and see the true southerners in all our hospitable glory. You are always welcome here!

Posted by Mark M at August 3, 2004 01:42 AM

Mark - I'm interested to see what you brought away from the book.

For instance, the not-so subtle racism and the contempt for all things Northern that was so prominent to my eyes seems to be irrelevant to your memories of the book.

You don't address the name-calling or the quoting out of context that the authors were using to demonstrate their "moral" right to freedom.

You don't address the dichotomy present in the country at the time of how "freedom" could be worth dying for for some but so irrelevant for others that slaveholding was considered acceptable.

Any case the authors were trying to make for a "legal and moral" right to freedom was undermined by their defense of slavery. They didn't want to give "the South" the right to a voice in government, just selected parts of it.

The fact is that in the north, we've learned to accept and regret the nationwide policy of racism that was fundamental to the founding of our country, but parts of the south are still pretending there's no dissonance between, to use the words you quoted, "of the people, for the people, and by the people" and enslavement of some of the people.

That argument is morally bankrupt. It was a fallacy from the beginning, not just from the time of the Civil War.

Sticking with our topic, the situation at the time was far more complex than either you or I have the space to address here, but my review of the book is not an indictment of the south. It's an indictment of a poorly written piece of propaganda.

I'm no expert but I habitually spot-check facts and quotes from the books I review, so I can get a sense of how honestly authors are citing source material. The very first quote I checked from this book turned out to be a fragment of a sentence lifted out of context to create an illusion of the "persecution of the south" the authors were trying to claim existed.

This is not a well-written book and it's not a reliable source of information. That's what I'm saying.

(P.S. Whatever the government is "putting over" on "us" they're "putting over" on the entire country, not just southern states. Nor am I certain what the rest of your argument is actually saying.

As far as slavery I agree it is wrong for one person to own another, but now we face the current situation in which our government has included itself. It is wrong for one country or entity to decide what form of freedom another country or entity should have even if it is morally wrong to them.

I don't understand what you're saying here, for instance.)

(P.P.S. I may be mistaken, but as I understand it, if you're not taking government handouts in the form of subsidys or something, the the government can't control what you grow, so the argument, as phrased here, is inaccurate.)

Posted by Anne at August 3, 2004 08:38 AM

Well,

The fact is, States did have a right to succeed! So legally, the Souths rights were trampled on. But also intersesting is who was freed in the Emanicipation Proclamation....only the slaves in the South. Why didn't He free the slaves in the North? He didn't have the authority to make any laws in the South.

But you ask any schoool kid who freed the slaves, and its "Honest Abe" and the E.P.!

Posted by Buzz at August 3, 2004 11:26 AM

The Revolution established the concept of secession, if you have a just cause and can win the war. Ironically, I think the South's right to secede could be a bit stronger under a 20th century 'self-determination' argument than under the 'Constitution doesn't say' doctrine, which can cut either way. Except that the South does not constitute an ethnic 'nation' in any meaningful sense of the word. Oh, and the South had nothing resembling a 'just cause' except the natural decay of an agrarian slave society facing the rise of rights and the efficiency of industrial wage labor. (Yes, I know that's a simplification, but it's not wrong, for all that).

Yes, the Emancipation Proclamation referred to slaves in the Confederate States: most of the Union states didn't have legal slavery, except for the doctrine of return, so the number of slaves left in slavery at that point was very small. Final abolition was under the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified by all Union states before Lincoln's death (so he should get a little credit for it) and enough former Confederate states to make it the law of the land December 6, 1865. Anyone think it should be repealed or invalidated? I didn't think so.

Posted by Jonathan Dresner at August 4, 2004 12:43 AM