Yeah, a pretty provocative question first thing in the morning. Hopefully you have had you first cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or in my case my first can of Pepsi. A subject such as “Civil War” requires a little ingested motivation, or at least stimulation, to tackle.
But, the question is valid and I get asked that, not often, but enough to make me think about it. What prompted me to write this particular series of posts was my reading of an article that got my brain spinning on the situation our country is in right now. So, if you are not into reading an article that paints a picture of societal reality in the USA right now, you better stop reading before you get drawn into my world.
While I may have posed a valid question, what does it have to do with prepping for emergencies, disasters, or a grid-down event? Come on, if you are one of my website regulars you should know the answer by now. Actually, if you are any kind of prepper at all you should easily be able to answer that relationship question.
Let me start off by saying…Any level of conflict based on the concept of civil war will be devastating to our country. The last civil war we had in this country cost the United States over 600,000 lives! That number would be over 6,000,000 in today’s numbers relative to our country’s population. Over 2% of the entire population died during that bloody conflict. Can you imagine 6million people dead today based on running gun and artillery battles?
And that was only the beginning of the destruction inflicted upon this country. It also began the era of “big government” as well as the rise of extreme racial bigotry on the part of Democrats which lead to groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. It took our country 100 years to recover from the racial damage done by the Democrats.
Today we look at our country and we do see problems, lots of them. We also see conflict in many aspects; political, racial, ethnic, economic, etc. But it is enough to spur another civil war?
To answer that question we have to start somewhere. Looking at the current national situational facets is a start, but where do you go next? You look at history and how we handled similar situations.
What we know as the “Civil War” was about money and economics more than anything else. And that difference was fueled by a wide chasm of ideology. The north was a big industrial power and growing more wealthy. The south was a huge agricultural power and growing more wealthy. The north depended on large numbers of industrial workers, including child labor…as young as 9 and 10, sometimes even younger. And those children, as well as all workers, were working in jobs for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. It was brutal and wages were poor to say the least.
The south’s economy on the other hand was almost entirely driven by agriculture, specifically cotton. And with the recent invention of the cotton gin, the south could produce even more cotton for world markets. Collectively, the southern states was already the world’s leading supplier of cotton and growing in that role annually. But, the south depended on slaves to provide the labor that produced that cotton.
By definition the slaves were not paid, although varying degrees of room and board was provided. All aspects of slavery was abhorrent, and was revolting to many who lived in the north.But, the northerners didn’t recognize child labor in horrific conditions as a bad thing…but slavery in the south was.
While this was transpiring the country was continuing to grow, its national sights set on the vast western frontier. And here is where the foundation of the Civil War began…would the western states be slave or free states. The economic and ideological foundation for conflict was now set.
You had a country with two vastly different views of slavery. You had a country with two vastly different economic bases. You had both sides wanting more economic opportunity for growing more wealth. Conflict was inevitable, the question was, would it be settled at the ballot box or with weapons of war.
With the election of the Republican Abraham Lincoln the decision was made, the die was cast, it would be with weapons of war. The newly elected Republican president was anti-slavery and pro-industry. His next steps were inevitable. But that was not the first instance of civil war.
During the American Revolution the colonies racked up a large debt to fund the war effort. After independence was won from England the colonies had to pay that debt. The answer by the newly appointed Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was to tax people. Not just people, but agricultural producers, the economic backbone of the new United States. He imposed a tax on the production of whiskey. That may sound like a reasonable tax but you have to put in the context of the day.
First, Americans drank, and they drank a lot, whiskey was the most popular drink of the day. Farmers produced the crops that not only fed fellow Americans but the surplus crops were sold to foreign countries to bring back hard currency into the US. Also, when many small farmers would have surplus corn, they would often distill it into whiskey and sell it to raise money for living expenses and to expand their farming operations.They could make more money turning surplus crops into whiskey than selling it as a food product, domestically or overseas.
Another aspect of this post-revolution issue was “no taxation without representation.” Maybe the most defining slogan of the original American Revolution was exactly that…“no taxation without representation.” It spawned hatred towards England that turned into violence.
It is human nature, that we want, we demand to at least be heard by our government. Taxation is something that you have no say in, no recourse in, is against human nature as well as being oppressive. The farmers felt all of that and then some, they felt betrayed. Most farmers had supported the revolution against the English tyranny with goods and blood. And now, the new government was doing the same as the old government had done. Same old tyranny with a new face.
And, as an interesting side note to this, Alexander Hamilton was a big government advocate, a big believer in a strong centralized banking system, and supported the taxation of production. He would be the modern day equivalent of a big government liberal Democrat. Hamilton was now implementing the same polices in a recently freed America that the tyrannical English King had done. He was not very popular with the common man.
Back to the Whiskey Rebellion, the farmers basically intimidated federal officials from being able to collect the tax. The federal government, Hamilton, pleaded with Washington to crush the resistance to pay the tax. The federal government responded by placing an Army General in charge of collecting the tax and gave him armed tax inspectors/collectors. The distillers/producers responded by raising a militia to march against the armed government agents. The tensions were rising and conflict was inevitable.
President Washington responded to this new citizens challenging of the federal taxing authority by raising a large army of 13,000 men. This tax collecting, citizen crushing army marched against the tax protesters. Fortunately, the protesting whiskey producers backed off and dispersed before an armed and deadly conflict could take place. But big government philosophy and a burdensome taxation policy had won.
Those were the first two major incidents of civil war in the United States. Arguably the case could be made for the civil rights era being another civil war as well. For 100 years after the Civil War blacks suffered from a serious lack of civil rights…to the extreme. Anti-civil rights advocates, almost all Democrats, prevented equal rights and civil rights from being accorded to blacks. Led by mostly white Republicans, civil rights for blacks were promoted and advocated for, but equality wasn’t coming fast enough.
For a number of years in the 1960’s blacks “revolted” in the United States. Sometimes the protests were peaceful, sometimes there were deadly violent. Most of the violence originated at the hands of police being driven by Democrat political leaders. But there were also large race riots that were both violent in terms of deaths and property damage. Finally Republicans were able to overcome the objections of Democrats, mostly white southern Democrats, and pass laws that we now know as civil rights legislation.
It is interesting to note what drove the civil rights rebellion. For the most part is was pure ideology. The bigotry and hatred of the mostly southern Democrats wouldn’t, couldn’t, let go of the defeat from the Civil War. Southern Democrats simply refused to recognize the equality of blacks. The north was not exempt from this problem either. But it was slightly different in the north.
Part of the issue was whites seeing blacks migrate from the racial hatred of the south to the more accommodating north where jobs could be found. But the jobs these newly arrived blacks found often meant a white man lost that employment opportunity to a black man. Animosity and bitterness grew against blacks for the white man’s loss of potential employment.
This racial divide was even apparent in the early 20th century when a “rebellion” broke out in 1919. During 1919 race riots broke out in Chicago and were both deadly and destructive. But once again, we see that the primary issues were economic, in terms of job competition and housing.
Whites saw blacks and taking job opportunities away from them. Blacks saw rampant inequality when it came to job opportunities. Whites saw black neighborhoods as horrible dangerous slums. Blacks saw they were locked out of moving into nicer neighborhoods and were trapped in their wretched slums. Violence was once again inevitable. The mayor of Chicago was a Republican that was only interested in maintaining power, and doing so because it was very financially rewarding to him in terms of bribes, payoffs, and graft.
Where are we today in the United States and are we setting up for rebellion or civil war?
That will be the question I answer in my next post when I finish up this article on “How close to Civil War are we?”
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