The Conflict Between the North and the South–A Book Review

Volume I – The North and the South and Secession: Who was in the Right? An Examination of Cause and Right

Adam Miller is a brave man to tackle this touchy subject — the American Civil War, or (more correctly) the War Between the States, or (as he prefers) the War of Northern Aggression. As he explains, it cannot correctly be called a “civil” war, because it is not. Such a war occurs when one side attempts to overthrow the government in place and take it over. In the United States in 1861 the Southern states did not attempt to overthrow the government in Washington, D. C. In fact, the South wanted no part of that government for reasons which are not understood by the majority of Americans today. Why is that? Well, as the well-known saying goes, “The victor writes the history books,” and that has certainly been done in this case.

In this first volume of four (three have been completed), Mr. Miller discusses the differences in the two sections of the country, the causes of the dissatisfaction of the Southern states with their Northern neighbors, the issue of secession, and, of course, he touches upon what most Americans today believe was the cause of the war, that of slavery. They would be incorrect in this analysis, and this first volume explains briefly why that is so.

From a Traditional Catholic perspective, Mr. Miller points out that there were great differences between the cultures and societies of the North and the South. While not specifically Catholic, Southern society was hierarchical, with an educated elite as the ruling class. This was actually Thomas Jefferson’s view of how American society should be structured. He was a Virginian, a highly educated and brilliant man who knew that — for all the talk of democracy and equality — all men are not created equal in actuality. True, under the law of the land, their treatment should be equal, but not all men are made by God with the capability of governing others or of leading them in universities or on farms or in business. Leadership belonged to a few who were given those talents by God. Mr. Miller calls the South the last society on earth that resembled the time in history that we call Christendom, when all of European life was built upon hierarchical concepts.

The Northern states, on the other hand, embraced the philosophy of the Enlightenment while rejecting the hierarchical principle that all authority comes from God. The power to govern came from the people — or so it was believed by those Revolutionaries who wished to be free from the rule of the King of England. Many of the early Americans thinkers embraced the ideas of European Freemasonry — to be free of Altar and Throne. (That is, they wished to overthrow the kings and the Church.)

A simple way of stating the issue is that the struggle was between a region that was agrarian, more religious and more family-oriented — the South, and a region that was more industrial and more secular, dominated by rationalism and skepticism — the North. The issue, naturally, is far more complex than this simple statement, but the fact remains that the two regions of the country could not have been more different. In fact, Thomas Jefferson held the firm belief that as the nation expanded westward, the differences would become so great between the various sections of the country, that there would be no choice but to separate into different nations, perhaps as many as four, because of disparities in philosophy, needs, cultures, and resources.

The real cause of the disagreement was economic. The South has historically been depicted by mainstream writers and commentators as poor and backward. This is an untrue and unfair picture. There was much wealth in the southern sector of our country with its fertile farmlands and temperate climate. Cotton was the primary money-making crop, but there were others, tobacco and food products among them. Mr. Miller points out that, if the South had been a separate nation in 1860, her economy would have been the third largest on both the European and American continents.

Because the South was an agrarian society, most of its manufactured goods had to be imported. The Southern planters were smart businessmen; they looked for the manufacturers who would give them the best deal on their cotton. These happened to be in the countries of western Europe — England, France and Germany — not in the North of the United States. Furthermore, the clothing manufactured in the Northern factories cost far more than that made in the European factories. It was actually cheaper to ship the raw cotton overseas and purchase the clothing made there than to send it to factories in the North and purchase their product. Northern bankers and manufacturers resented the fact that they were not making any profits from the cotton grown in the Southern states; so what was their solution? Congress, dominated by Northern interests, enacted stiff tariffs on imported goods, thus raising the price of the clothing made from the Southern cotton.

These unjust tariffs had serious negative effects on the Southern economy while benefitting the Federal government, which in turn, doled out the profits to bankers in the North. The tariffs became increasingly higher from 1822 to 1850. In 1828, when the “Tariff of Abominations” was passed, South Carolina threatened to withdraw from the Union. Although that issue was settled, the high tariffs on imported goods made with Southern cotton continued to rise. In 1833, the national government had a huge (for those days) surplus in the treasury, which the Congress, dominated by Northern interests, doled out to the states of the North with not one penny going to any Southern state. The discrimination was so obvious that President Buchanan observed in a speech to the Congress in1858, “The South has not had her share of money from the Treasury, and unjust discrimination has been made against her.”

These few examples show us that economic strangulation of the South was the intent of Congress. By 1860 it was clear to the Southern states that there was no Congress for the entire United States — only Northern interests were considered.

The issue of secession raises many questions: Was it constitutional? Is secession even mentioned in the Constitution? Had any state previous to the split between the North and the South attempted to secede? If so, why? Did President Lincoln “save” the Union as claimed or did he act unconstitutionally in forcing the issue? Mr. Miller spends a great part of this first volume explaining the issue of secession. Briefly, the Constitution does not specifically forbid, nor does it even mention, secession. Allowing for the Tenth Amendment — the one that states that all powers not specifically granted to the federal government retain to the states — since secession is not forbidden, the logical conclusion is that individual states can withdraw from the Union at any time. This was the understanding of the Founding Fathers. Hear James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” stating the fact at the constitutional convention in response to the proposal of such an amendment (which ended up being unanimously voted down): “A union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment, and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might have been bound.” (Debates…, Vol. V). John Quincy Adams stated in 1833 concerning secession, “It would be better for the people of these disunited States to part in friendship from each other rather than to be held together by constraint.”

It is interesting to note that two certain gentlemen on the other side of the world were paying very close attention to developments in the United States in 1860: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. They recognized that President Lincoln and the North were employing the very tactics that were recommended in Marx’s work, The Communist Manifesto, that being coercion by gunpoint. This fact will be more fully discussed in Book III of this series. Even Alexander Hamilton, advocate for a strong federal government, was against forced union.

During the War of 1812 with Britain, the New England states threatened secession from the Union to make a separate peace with Great Britain. The issue was resolved without secession, but the right of those states to secede was never in question. Later in the 1850’s there were abolitionists in New England who wanted to secede on the issue of slavery. The United States government and the Constitution had allowed slavery to exist too long, they said. They met in Boston and burned copies of the Constitution and disavowed the Union. No punishment was meted out to these protagonists.

An argument which bolsters the constitutionality of secession is the point, made very clear by Mr. Miller, that the individual states existed before the creation of the federal government. In other words, the sovereign states were in place first; then they met in order to create the national government. Stated differently: The states created the creature of the United States, the country. Therefore, the creature, the country, is subservient to the creator, the states. Even as more states entered the nation, they first existed as sovereign states, then they were admitted to the Union of their own will. Since each state is sovereign, it cannot be held by force if it wishes to exit the Union. This fact is emphasized again and again by the author.

The conclusion based on these two points — that secession is not forbidden by the Constitution and that the individual states are sovereign in their own right and were not meant to be subservient to the national government — is that it was perfectly within the rights of those states who wished to no longer be a part of a country that treated them as second-class citizens to withdraw peacefully from that country.

The issue of slavery is touched upon in Volume I and expanded upon in Volume II. So we shall save that discussion for the review of Volume II.

The first volume of The Conflict Between the North and the South ends with several interesting appendices on pertinent topics covered in the main body of the book. All are worthy of attentive reading.

Volume II: The North, the South, and Slavery: Corrections of Distortions, Myths, and Misrepresentations

In this second slim, but information-packed volume, Mr. Miller spends a long introduction and first chapter discussing the general subject of slavery itself. It is important to keep in mind that this is not an apologia for slavery nor it is a rationalization of it. It merely presents facts and opinion based on Catholic principles that destroy the commonly accepted post-Enlightenment thinking on the subject. In addition, it smashes the myths and outright lies regarding slavery in the Southern states that have passed for history for the lifetime of most of us reading this piece. In addition, we learn some well-kept secrets about the “Great Emancipator” that historians have conveniently neglected to include in books extolling his humanity.

Returning to the subject of a hierarchical structure of human affairs, we are once again reminded that it was not until the so-called Enlightenment that all men were considered equal. A quick inventory of even our own circle of friends and acquaintances will tell us that some are smarter, some stronger, some better leaders, others followers; that is, everyone has different abilities and talents. Civilization during the Middle Ages worked very well based on a hierarchical structure. Rousseau and his ilk destroyed all of this in the Revolution which brought France, eldest daughter of the Church, to her knees. The rest of Europe followed. Since the West is still in its Rousseauian mode we take pains to equalize everyone’s outcome so that no one “feels” inferior. Well, some people are inferior, and are meant by God to serve, while others lead.

The hierarchical structure has many examples in Scripture, both in the Old and the New Testaments. One of Saint Paul’s most discussed (even disliked) passages is in Ephesians Chapter 5 wherein Saint Paul exhorts the Christians to the virtuous life: vs. 22-25, “Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord: because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church. Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ: so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things. Husbands love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church and delivered Himself up for it.” The entire chapter speaks of the sacrament of Matrimony (as should be clear from the reading) as well as the sacrament of Baptism, besides exhorting against fornication, adultery and covetousness. Elsewhere Saint Paul refers to himself as “a slave for Christ.” Likewise, do we not call ourselves slaves of Jesus through Mary?

The revolutionary ideas of the Enlightenment have turned this heavenly hierarchical order of things on its head. Instead of condemning servitude, does not Saint Paul give instruction to the slave Onesimus who has come to him seeking refuge from his master to submit to him? Saint Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon charging him to become as good a servant as he can be thereby earning sainthood for himself (which he did). A final example is given by Our Lord himself when he stands before Pilate in shackles, “Thou would have no power over me were it not given thee from above.” Natural Law and Catholic doctrine teach us that all power comes from God, even earthly power. It does not flow upward from the people as Americans have been taught. This is why, in a Catholic government, a benevolent Catholic monarch is the natural ruler.

Mr. Miller includes many facts about the Southern part of the United States which will surprise the average reader who has been taught in the secular history books and by Hollywood of the brutal system of slavery that existed in the South. First of all, slaves were extremely expensive. No master with good business sense would mistreat his costliest investment. The strong men were needed on the plantation to earn the master his (and their own) living; they, in turn, had decent living quarters, adequate food, clothing for themselves and their families. The work day was not so long that there was no time for families to interact, and there were days off. Many adopted the religion of their masters so that they could attend church services together come the Holy Day. There was much social interaction between the races, slave and free, both within the little society that constituted each plantation and between the many free blacks that lived in the South. Slave owners were not allowed by law to turn out any slave due to illness or old age and inability to work. There were to be cared for as the master would treat his own family.

Contrast this with conditions in the Northern industrial states where no white person would even consider any kind of social interaction with blacks, free or slave. There were no laws against turning out old and infirm slaves in the Northern states, and in fact, this happened often. And, yes, there were slaves in the North.

Not every white man in the South was a slave owner. On the contrary, most worked their own farms with their families or a hired hand — who could be a free Black. In fact, it will probably come as a surprise that free Blacks also were slave owners. There were even a few Indians who owned black slaves. There are so many misconceptions regarding slavery in the South and how the slaves were treated, that I can only recommend that you avail yourself of this little book and read it many times. (I can hear some readers thinking about now: “Oh, so now she is telling us that slavery was great!” No. I am not. I am simply stating the conditions of the time.)

Now, let us just say a bit about the Great Emancipator. Everyone knows that Lincoln “freed the slaves” via the Emancipation Proclamation, right? Think again. The Proclamation was issued in 1862 to take effect in January of 1863. Were all the slaves freed? No! The only slaves freed were those in the states “still in rebellion.” The slaves in the border states of Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee (where the war was not taking place) were not freed. Why not? They would have been easier to set free than in the states where fighting was going on. The Proclamation did not make citizens of those freed slaves, either, nor did it provide for their welfare should they escape. In other words, only those slaves whose states were still fighting for their independence were “free.” This was an attempt to justify the freeing of the slaves as a cause of the war and to encourage the slaves in the “rebellious” states to turn on their masters and join the enemy. How surprised Mr. Lincoln must have been when most did not; they stayed to defend their homes.

By no means did Mr. Lincoln consider the “Negro” race equal to his own. In the 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas in Illinois he stated, “Free them and make them politically and socially our equals? …We cannot, then, make them equals. I am not, nor have ever been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office. I am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” Elsewhere he expressed his desire to send the black slaves to Liberia in Africa or to other places such as Haiti, Panama and Central America. As a leader of the “free-soil” movement in his home state, he hoped to “keep the West white” by preventing the extension of slavery to the western states. In 1862 in a speech to Negro leaders in the North, he stated that they “did not belong in this land of whites” and that it was “better for us both, therefore, to be separated.” Today we would call these the words of a White Supremacist and a thoroughgoing racist!

It is true that we must consider the time. Slaves — and working men in general — were not well educated. It would take time from the moment of freedom to bring a man to fend for himself through training and education. So perhaps we shouldn’t be so hard on Mr. Lincoln.

[Note: We did see in a previous article (see article about Pierre Toussaint) an example of a Haitian slave in Pierre Toussaint, now Servant of God, who was well educated by his French master and who, when the family moved to New York to escape the rebellion in Haiti, supported his master and his whole family by his many talents and vocations.]

Mr. Miller has succeeded in correcting many myths and downright lies about slavery and its practice in the South and in the North as well. Hundreds of interesting examples make this short volume well worth the read.

Volume III: The North, The South, and Lincoln’s War Policies

In this, the third of soon-to-be four volumes, Adam Miller lays out Abraham Lincoln’s dictatorial war policies and the price that the country paid for them — with no holds barred. It is a difficult read, not in the sense that it is difficult to understand; no, it is too easy to understand, but hard to believe that the sainted martyr, Honest Abe, actually did some of the things ascribed to him before and during the war. Mr. Miller’s bibliography, as with the first two volumes, is extensive. Although I had already read some of this information in other sources, I found myself reading in wide-eyed horror at many of the events and policies described.

Let’s cite a few examples:

In 1861, Mr. Lincoln declared war on the Confederacy without the consent of Congress. The Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress, not to the President. (Article I, Section 8) In fact, the Constitution specifically limits the Executive’s powers in order to prevent too much power concentrated in one person’s hands.

He suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus and ordered the arrest and imprisonment of thousands of persons in the North who had broken no laws while denying them legal counsel. Many of these were newspaper editors who were critical of his policies. These actions, in addition, entailed the suppression of free speech and free press.

He invaded several states which he declared to be still a part of the Union. If this were so, his action was illegal because the Constitution declares that Federal troops cannot enter individual states except at the request of the particular state. (Article I)

He separated the western portion of Virginia and made it a separate state illegally. (Article IV)

There are others, of course, which are spelled out in detail in the book. The Southern states which formed the Confederacy simply wanted to secede peacefully and form their own government because they recognized that they would always be treated as second class by Congress. They had no army and no navy to conduct war. However, they did have the wherewithal to become a separate country. There were several attempts to prevent war by coming to some kind of peaceful agreement, but Lincoln would not have it. Therefore, the reason he stated for going to war — a horrible war of attrition — was to “preserve the Union.”

A war of attrition? Yes, and vehemently so. Everyone knows of “Sherman’s March to the Sea.” It was not only Atlanta that was burned to the ground. The Union troops were under orders to enact a scorched earth policy — burn every town, village, and crop; kill every cow, horse, sheep, goat, chicken in sight. The reason for such utter destruction was to leave the civilians nothing to eat or make their living with so that they, too, would starve. And it was not only Sherman, but the majority of the Union generals who enacted the same policy. General Sheridan and his troops laid waste to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. His philosophy? “The people must be left with nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war.”

Lincoln, contrary to the humanitarian impression Americans have of him, approved of these brutal war policies. He actually sent Sheridan a message conveying “his personal admiration and gratitude for this month’s operations in the Shenandoah Valley.”

Unarmed civilians, women and children included, were shot wholesale at the beginning of the war in Missouri, Baltimore, South Carolina, New Orleans and other places. In 1862, Athens, Alabama was invaded by one of Lincoln’s “arsonist-loving” generals, Russian-born Robert B. Turchin, who informed his troops that he would shut his eyes for one hour while they “stopped” in this town. At the end of the hour, all seemed peaceful and quiet. No arson was reported. Turchin then told his troops that he would now shut his eyes for an hour and a half. Taking the hint, the Union troops proceeded to loot, plunder and burn the city. Turchin was then court-martialed and dismissed from service, a rare occurrence for a common practice. Upon hearing this, Lincoln rewarded the criminal by restoring his command and giving him a promotion — a lesson well taken by other Union generals.

General Turchin brings us to another little-known fact of this awful war: Many of Lincoln’s advisors, generals, and troops were foreigners, mostly refugees from the revolutions of 1848 that spread all over Europe. These men were the early communist and socialist revolutionaries who set fire to Europe in an attempt to topple “altar and throne.” In other words, they were revolutionary Freemasons who were the inheritors of the ideals of the French Revolution, now exporting their revolution to America. There were so many of them, they were called collectively “The Forty-Eighters.” One of the better known of these characters was Carl Shurz, a Prussian revolutionary who escaped to America via London after the failure of the revolutionaries in Germany. He was the first German-born person to be elected to the United States Senate; he served as Secretary of the Interior in the Hayes presidency and was appointed ambassador to Spain by Lincoln. He is only one example of the influence these German and Eastern European revolutionaries had during the war years and after. There were many thousands of foreign born soldiers in the Union Army, most of them of the revolutionary stripe. These men settled in the Midwest, home to Lincoln and his Republican Party. It is estimated that as much as one fourth of the Union Army was foreign born, most of them Eastern European revolutionaries. Marx and Engels watched with interest their progress in bringing their revolution to America.

Can it be doubted that our country has vastly changed since that awful war and Lincoln’s presidency? The recent imperial presidencies of the past few chief executives are proof of that. Our current president is so blatant with his executive orders that he acts more like a self-appointed dictator than an elected constitutional president.

A final topic discussed in Adam Miller’s third book of the series is that of the conditions of the prisoner-or-war camps. Much has been written of the horrors of Andersonville in Georgia, and yes, it was a terrible place. But how could the Confederates feed their Union prisoners well if there was nothing there to feed themselves and their families, their crops and livestock having been destroyed by the Union Army? When a prisoner exchange was offered, or even a freeing of the Union prisoners without an exchange, it was refused, almost as though they wanted their prisoners to be starved to death. In the Northern camps many prisoners were purposely starved and frozen to death — forced to stand out in the snow in bare feet with only rags for clothes.

The pages of the Official Records of the War of Rebellion are filled with atrocities at Point Lookout, Maryland, Johnson Island, and Camp Chase, Ohio, Elmira, New York (called “Hellmira”), Louisville Prison, Kentucky, Fort Pulaski, South Carolina, Camp Douglass, Illinois, Rock Island prison, Illinois, and Fort Delaware. It is on record from testimonies given by Union guards at these places that the prisoners were to be kept in “a famishing condition” by order of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Those orders approved by President Lincoln himself. Supplies sent from home to the starving men were often opened in front of them and anything resembling food was destroyed before their eyes. This is not only physical, but psychological torture as well. One camp commander, Colonel William Hoffman, was so expert at depriving the prisoners of food, blankets and clothing, that he returned a large portion of his budget to the Treasury, while the camp “doctor” boasted that he killed more Confederate soldiers in his hospital than any regiment in the Union Army.

Why are none of the documented facts found in “history books?” Why has the myth of a benevolent Lincoln taken hold? Why is this terrible war of attrition against the Southern states with the expressed intent to lay them waste not better known? As we said at the outset, it is the victor who writes the official history.

Much more is to be found in this volume, such as Mr. Lincoln’s attitude toward the Black race and what he wished for the freed slaves and those who were free men even before the war. It is not what we have been taught.

All three of Mr. Miller’s books contain extensive bibliographies. Some of these books are fairly recent and very much available. If you want to know the truth, the facts you were not taught in school, these short books are a fine beginning.

If you are interested in reading these books, click here.

For more history of the North and South, click here.