The following article was forwarded by Dragoon Tyrone Crowley. This article was published in "Chronicles, A Magazine of American Culture" on December 12, 2014, authored by Chilton Williamson Jr.
The Revenge of the Confederacy
THE AMERICAN POLITICAL DIVIDE is no longer between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, religionists and secularists. It is between roughly two halves of the country, each of which would be perfectly happy to see the other wiped, by violence if necessary, from the face of the earth.
That was not how the North and the South felt about each other when President Lincoln ordered the
invasion of Virginia by Union troops in 1861, and perhaps not four years later when Lee surrendered his sword to Grant at Appomattox. Politics in America is no longer political, or even ideological. It is
existential, the existence of one side having become a moral and personal affront to the other. Each
can no longer tolerate the sight, sound, smell, or thought of the other.
Civil war would certainly occur today, should the lines of political opposition correspond more or less with the nation’s internal boundaries, as they did in 1861 when pro-Confederates and pro-Unionists had the benefit of geographical representation. The American nation was “polarized” then as it is today, but in a way that was plainly and simply manageable by unilateral secession, or by amicable agreement between the two regions of the country. If the United States were ever to separate, then was the logical moment. And indeed they did separate and remain separated for four torturous years, following which they were forcibly reunited by the victors led by a determinedly ideological commander in chief for whom the concept, more even than the fact, of union prevailed over history, the Constitution, and social and political common sense. Abraham Lincoln compelled American unity where there was no unity by forcing two fundamentally dissimilar and incompatible civilizations together again, while making one effectively subservient to the other “in perpetuity.” His was an error characteristic of a lawyer with a bat in his stovepipe hat, an error no careful and imaginative historian could ever have made, and one whose consequences America has been suffering these past 150 years.
The peculiar institution, as Lincoln well knew, was merely an aspect of the far broader institution that
was Southern civilization. The South was of a traditional mind; the North of a revolutionary one. The
South was deferential; the North egalitarian. The South was pious; the North transcendentalist, or
nothing. The South was agricultural; the North industrial. Finally, the South, politically speaking, was
strictly constitutionalist; the North latitudinarian and expansionist. These differences had existed from the beginning, but they had grown much wider between 1789 and 1861, as honest men over that period had observed. With or without slavery, the South did not wish to live in the future as the North
contemplated it, while the North was determined to drag the South along, as a distinctly junior partner, with it into that future. Northern politicians, men of business, and public men generally saw in victory no more than the chance to convert the South to its way of thinking, as a foolish person contemplating marriage expects confidently to bend the prospective spouse into someone more conformable to his own way of thinking. It never occurred to them to recognize a God-given opportunity to ditch the unsuitable partner by legally sanctioned divorce and go their own way unburdened by backwardness, superstition, and sloth. An aristocratic lady, a close friend of my parents, often expressed regret that the South had lost the war, since, had it won, “Southerners would need visas to come North.” Mrs. Potter, who in many respects was a very wise woman despite being an enthusiastic supporter of the United Nations and a liberal, in retrospect imagined an opportunity that never occurred to the besotted Lincoln, his admiring contemporaries, and his subsequent apologists.
History has proved the insistence of the North in reuniting the South to itself in 1865 to have been an
unanticipated disaster for America north of the Mason-Dixon Line as well as America south of it, in two decisive ways. The first is that the reconstituted United States deprived herself of a safety valve for internal discontent by assuring herself the advantage of a neighboring territory that could have served her in precisely the same way that the Americas had historically served the Old World: as a magnet and a dumping ground for social and political revolutionaries, general troublemakers, religious dissenters, and intellectual eccentrics. The second is that by vanquishing a traditional society whose values to some degree still survived in the North and rededicating itself to progressivism, materialism, industrialism, and Wall Street finance, it developed in a manner that left no possibility for the survival on its native ground of other interests, viewpoints, activities, and values, and therefore no social and political space in which traditionalists and other dissenters might take a stand.