Abbeville Institute Review: It Wasn’t About Slavery

The Craggy Hill of Slavery

By Walter D. Kennedy

it wasn't about slavery, samuel mitcham, civil war book, civil war history book, abraham lincoln, american history book

A review of It Wasn’t About Slavery: Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War  by Samuel Mitcham

On a huge hill, Cragged and steep, Truth stands, and he that will Reach her, about must and about must go, And what the hill’s suddenness resists, win so. John Donne, Satire III

As John Donne so correctly informs us, truth is not something easily discerned, recognized, nor often embraced.  Often when the truth is found and it does not comport to man’s hoped-for meaning, instead of graciously embracing the truth it is attacked and those seeking it are scorned.  In today’s post-modern, politically correct society anyone who expresses the truth about slavery and the War for Southern Independence must be willing to be subjected to the most horrendous attacks from leftists in the media, and academia, as well as being harangued by establishment politicians and many religious groups.  But this is precisely what Dr. Samuel Mitcham has willingly subjected himself to in his latest book, It Wasn’t About Slavery.[1] 

In It Wasn’t About Slavery, Mitcham does not dance around the subject of why the War for Southern Independence was fought.  The good professor makes no attempt to flank the enemy’s stronghold or use “intellectual” drones to safely attack his opponent’s fortress of falsehoods.  At the front of his troops, the gallant “General” Mitcham makes an overwhelming and successful frontal attack upon p.c. ignorance and arrogance.

The Northern victors of the War for Southern Independence use two major myths to hide the nakedness of their aggression, conquest, and occupation of the once free Confederate States of America. They are: (1) Secession is equal to treason and (2) The South fought the “Civil War” (not my term, theirs’) to keep their slaves.  When it comes to truth-telling and the Yankee, Mitcham does not spare the rod of verbal chastisement: “The victor, it is said, writes the history, but these people have abused the privilege”[2] [emphasis added].  Mitcham makes an astute analysis of the true objective of “those people” as General Lee referred to Dixie’s invaders, as it relates to truth and history: “Their objective is not to ‘Seek the Truth’ (which should be the goal of every legitimate historian), but to serve an agenda.”  And what is the nature of the invader’s “agenda”?   I will simply let another great Southern historian enlighten us: “What passes as standard American history is really Yankee history written by New Englanders or their puppets to glorify Yankee heroes and ideas.”[3] Although the term “fake news” has become a commonly understood term today, Southerners must deal not only with “fake news” but most importantly to the survival of our culture, “fake history.”

The keystone to modern-day fake history is the myth that slavery and therefore racism was a cornerstone of Southern society; whereas, freedom, equality, and democracy were foundational to Northern society.  In essence this myth is used to explain away all the horrors imposed upon the people of the South.  Punishing the South was necessary to make America a truly free country—so goes the myth.  As Mitcham demonstrates, white-supremacy and racism were more pronounced in the North than the South.  Many European visitors to these United States testified to this reality.[4]  As one historian noted even in the State of New Jersey it’s legislature “had made ample provision by her own statue [protecting] the rights of the slaveholder.”[5]  In 1858 New Jersey a committee of the New Jersey Legislature declared, “slavery existed at the time of the adoption of the constitution in all States of the confederacy”[6] [Federal Union].  Racism was also evident throughout the North.  For example, in 1864, Republicans unanimously join Democrats in New Jersey and passed an anti-miscegenation law outlawing marriage between White and Black people.[7]  These examples could be repeated for virtually every Northern state ad infinitum.  Regardless of such examples of Northern slaveholding and Northern racism, fake history teaches Americans that it is the South that must carry the burden of slavery and racism—Mitcham exposes this myth.

This book also demonstrates that the War for Southern Independence was about more than slavery.   Mitcham’s book covers a wide range of causative factors in the invasion and conquest of the South.  An informative and revealing look at such issues as the Constitutional Right of Secession, North and South Cultural Differences, John Brown the Terrorist, and most importantly, The Costs and Results of the War, provides an understanding of the War that is lacking in modern America.

Mitcham concludes his book by firmly pointing out that any open-minded reader should understand “that the war was not just about slavery and certainly not primarily about slavery.”  Mitcham explains that it was control of a powerful centralized and unquestionable supreme Federal government that was the primary reason for the conquest of the South.  The War provided a victory of Hamiltonian big government over Jeffersonian small (local) government. “The Hamiltonian system called for principal loyalty to a strong, dominant federal government.  The Jeffersonian ideal that the principal loyalty was to the state and to the idea that ‘that governs best which governs least.’ The issue is now settled.  Hamiltonianism eventually (and naturally) evolved into the present Nanny State…. Since 1865, the only restraint to the federal government has been the federal government—an oxymoron that works for very few Americans today.”[8]

In his concluding remarks Mitcham has hit upon an issue even more important than simply slavery or secession. This issue is also one that most patriotic Americans are fearful to examine. After the conquest of the South, General Lee warned that with the concentration (consolidation) of all power into the hands of an all-powerful federal government, America would become “aggressive abroad and despotic at home.”[9]   As Mitcham points out, the United States of the founding fathers is not the United States that emerged victorious from the War for Southern Independence.  The truth about slavery, secession, and the post-Appomattox Yankee Empire are indeed mired upon that cragged hill.  We who would reach that truth, about must and about must go, And what the hill’s suddenness resists, win so. That cragged hill must be approached with care and courage but if real American freedom is to be known to a future generation, it must be approached.  Dr. Mitcham has made that journey a little easier by destroying one more myth about why the War was fought.

[1] Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., It wasn’t About Slavery (Regnery History, Washington, DC: 2020)

[2] Mitcham, xv.

[3] Dr. Grady McWhiney, Journal of Mississippi History, May 1980, ‘Jefferson Davis the Unforgiven,’ XLII, 124.

[4] Kennedy and Kennedy, Punished with Poverty: The Suffering South (Shotwell Publishing Co., Columbia SC: 2016) 25-26.

[5] James J. Gigantino, II, The Ragged Road To Abolition (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia: 2015) 241.

[6] Ibid, 241.

[7] Ibid, 245.

[8]  Mitcham, 179.

[9] Robert E. Lee, as cited in Kennedy and Kennedy, Yankee Empire:  Aggressive Abroad and Despotic at Home (Shotwell Publishing Co., Columbia, SC: 2019) ix.

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