Recently a Confederate heritage apologist declared:
Southerners, by and large, did not go to Africa and steal slaves — some of the the ancestors of some federal soldiers did that (primarily, the New England maritime flavor of yankees). The huge, vast majority of the folks of the South did not rape, rob, steal, kill and murder innocent men women and children as part of slavery, or for any other reason. Most slaves — men, women and children — were not raped, robbed, stolen, killed and murdered.
Let’s take a look at this, shall we?
The first sentence is a common claim made by defenders of Confederate mythology. As with other such claims, it has a grain of truth to it. Were New England merchants involved in the slave trade? Of course they were. That’s a fact. Guess who bought the majority of the slaves in question? That’s right, white southerners. Were there no buyers, there would be no sellers (I’m always amazed that so-called defenders of capitalism don’t understand this basic fact). Moreover, in 1787 it was white southerners who wanted to prolong access to the slave trade, and they secured a provision to prevent Congress from acting against it for two decades. Finally, who wanted to reopen that international slave trade in the 1850s? That’s right, white southerners, led by South Carolina’s Lawrence Keitt. Why did white Virginians oppose this idea? Because they wanted to sell their slaves south. The second largest export of Virginia in 1860 was enslaved human beings.
So let’s set aside the notion that Yankees alone were responsible for trading human beings when it came to slavery in the United States. It might warm the heart of a Confederate heritage advocate, but it isn’t good history. Pointing out that New Englanders participated in the slave trade does not absolve white southerners of anything.
After all, as Elijah Chastain said in the Georgia Secession Convention in 1861, he believed that “every man, woman and child in the Southern States should own a slave,” and that “the best plan to do so was to open the African slave trade.”(See Jonathan D. Sarris, A Separate Civil War: Communities in Conflict in the Mountain South , page 50.)
In short, a Chastain advocated the opening of the African slave trade so that every white southerner could own their own slave. That’s history, even if a Chastain wants to deny their own heritage.
The second sentence is rather problematic. The “huge, vast majority” of white southerners did not murder or kill enslaved blacks, in large part because that would prove counterproductive to their enslavement. Dead slaves do no work. Moreover, to do harm to someone else’s slave might involve one in legal proceedings for destruction of property. However, I’m sure no one will deny that some slaves were murdered in cold blood, and it’s true that once blacks were free, their lives didn’t seem to be worth quite as much to whites, as Reconstruction and its aftermath suggests.
That said, the vast majority of southern whites did, in one way or another, benefit from stealing the labor and the freedom of African Americans. Again, as slavery changed from an American to a southern institution, the vast majority of white southerners saw no problem with robbing blacks of their freedom, stealing them away from their families, and depriving them of the fruits of their labor. Indeed, they convinced themselves that slavery was a positive good for blacks as well as whites. Sometimes it appears that certain advocates of Confederate heritage continue to believe this.
As for rape, why, you would think that someone who claims to be an expert about rape accusations would know better. Do you really believe that enslaved women were not raped by their masters and other whites? Seriously? Were all those children of mixed race products of voluntary unions?
As for what happened to most slaves … well, no one argued that male slaves were raped. Female slaves were raped. We don’t know how many. And, as I’ve suggested before, it would be a bad idea to murder most slaves, because that would undermine the whole system (something our Confederate heritage advocate seems unable to understand, bless her heart). But it is painfully clear that enslaved blacks were robbed of their freedom, saw their loved ones stolen, and were deprived of the fruits of their labor by whites who stole it from them so that they could make a living.
That someone actually has to point this out amazes me. But then that’s what we’ve come to expect from someone who basks in her ignorance of history while claiming to celebrate a heritage that’s largely make-believe.
Of course, our Confederate heritage apologist seems to have overlooked what was said. First, this was the statement made on this blog: “… was it okay for “your” folks of the south land to rape, rob, steal, kill, and murder innocent men, women, and children as part of slavery?”
No one said that a majority of southern whites committed acts of rape or murder. That did not stop our favorite Confederate heritage advocate from setting up a strawman statement. By the way, she didn’t answer the question.
Second, that statement was offered in response to a declaration made by a Confederate heritage advocate, H. K. Edgerton, who recently proclaimed: “This is an army that came here raping, robbing, stealing, killing and murdering our people. The kinds of things that happened here under the sanction of Abraham Lincoln were for these men to commit total warfare against innocent men, women and children who could not defend themselves.”
Spare me such tripe. Moreover, using the standard of our favorite Confederate heritage apologist, I’d point out that the “huge, vast” majority of Union soldiers did not commit acts of rape. Nor did they “commit total warfare” against an innocent people, “robbing, stealing, killing and murdering our people.” Nevertheless, as that icon of Confederate heritage, Nathan Bedford Forrest, once said, “War means fighting, and fighting means killing.”
That our favorite Confederate heritage apologist doesn’t understand any of this is to be expected, I guess. But to complain about atrocities of war while ignoring the atrocities of slavery … well, I guess that is to be expected from a Confederate heritage apologist who is an avowed fiction writer.