In a recent Huffington Post video, director-turned-historian Gary Ross, of the film “Free State of Jones,” debunks what he calls “4 myths of the civil war era.” And since I’ve shown a propensity to answer Mr. Ross in kind, I am quite likely the best candidate to tackle his latest re-writing of history.
Myth #1: “The Civil War was NOT about slavery.”
To this Ross states that the war “was absolutely about slavery.” Absolutely? To quote Obi Wan Kenobi, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” For me, at least, the conflict between North and South was much more complex and far too complicated to lay the blame on the placemat of one issue.
Ross’s evidence for his conclusion is the same old stuff we’ve heard for decades: The state declarations, like Mississippi’s, that say secession was all about slavery; and most notably the election of Abraham Lincoln, who Ross calls an “anti-slavery” candidate, cited as the immediate reason the South left the Union. So therefore it was all about a threat to the institution of slavery.
Lincoln’s Republican Party, though, was not an “anti-slavery” party and Lincoln was not an abolitionist, nor did he ever belong to an abolitionist organization. Furthermore, the party platform in 1860 did not contain an abolitionist plank, only a call to halt the spread of slavery into the federal territories. Northerners heavily favored this policy, not out of a concern for slavery, but out of a concern to keep the territories free of black people.
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