Former US Senator from Utah Robert Bennett has an article running in the Desert News about Lincoln, slavery and secession. In his article, Bennett demonstrates well his lack of historical knowledge as well as his statist perspective. Bennett begins with this incorrect statement:
In July, we commemorate the birth of America, the founding of Utah and, this year, the 150th anniversary of the Civil War [sic].
Of course, America was not founded on July the 4th. Independence Day celebrates the secession of thirteen British colonies in North America from the British Empire. The Union of the colonies-turned-states did not happen until some time later. Neither was this the “birth of America.” The land had existed long before it was settled by Europeans. The distinct Western cultures that took root here were not born on July the fourth. Both Southern and Yankee cultures were born more than a century and a half earlier in Virginia and Massachusetts.
Unfortunately, most Americans know little or nothing about the Civil War [sic], even though it was a major pivot point in American history.
It was caused by slavery. Some historians offer other reasons for it — economic, regional and philosophical ones, each of which was a factor — but I have always appreciated what my history professor at the University of Utah said: “Lincoln said slavery was the cause, and he knew more about it than anybody else, so I say slavery was the cause too.”
What evidence does the former Republican Senator give for his claim that Lincoln’s was was caused by slavery? He says that one professor at the University of Utah said so. He says that this history professor says that Lincoln said it was about slavery. In fact, Lincoln said in his inaugural address that the Union would go to war to maintain the tariff. Lincoln offered a law which would have protected slavery where it existed forever. Lincoln quoted himself in this address on slavery, repeating his opposition to interfering with it:
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
It was only half way through the war, with the Union struggling to keep the Northern (and international) public’s support for its aggression against the Southern people, that Lincoln attempted to make the war into a moral crusade against slavery.
Though Bennett’s article is titles “The Civil War’s Lesson on Secession,” he does not address any real lesson from the war on secession and self-determination. He merely concludes in the last line of the article:
As Lincoln said, those honored dead did not die in vain.
That’s worth remembering in this summer of bitter partisanship, 150 years later, when some political voices are again talking about secession. That issue has been settled
The former Big Government Republican takes a slogan “These honored dead [referring to the Union soldiers who raped, burned and murdered their way across the independent Southern States] did not die in vain” and concludes from this that the issue of secession is settled forever. This is not very deep or intelligent thinking. Bennett comes full circle with one blanket statement beginning and ending his article based on one line that someone once said on the subject. This is apparently the limit of Bennett’s contemplation.
One encouraging thing about the Bennett article is his recognition that secession is again part of the public discourse. “Some political voices are against talking about secession,” Bennett notes. How right you are, sir! And unlike you, many people are looking into the issue and considering it seriously.