I would, first and foremost, like to thank my good friend Imrahil for engaging in a, mostly, civil manner, and producing a thought provoking, and, might I add quite long, blog post. However, it is my belief that my good friend's account is misleading in many ways, and as a result I have compiled the following response, which I believe is best read side by side in a separate tab alongside my good friend's post. If I have indeed, missed a certain point in my rebuttal then I encourage it be brought before me so that my good friend does not feel I am cherry picking among his arguments. Also, although I do appreciate the citations, they are of little use to me, since most are books and I am therefore unable to check them myself. For that reason I shall try to assume your facts are indeed truthful, except where I find glaring contradiction to all information I can unearth. Now let's begin.
First and foremost the post begins with a serious flaw, the use of the term Yankee in a derogatory sense, with little or no clarification on the meaning of the actual word. Indeed, my good friend uses the word in several separate contexts, one, to apply to the Union in opposition to the Confederacy during the civil war, two, to apply to any northern state prior to the civil war, and three, to apply to the entire USA after the war. This causes confusion to say the least, especially since you are clearly not using the term in the sense to apply to all American patriots, as you expressed support for the confederate ancestors who fought in the revolution. And so I wish to clear it up before I go further. The way you are using Yankee is purely in the first context, to the men of the northern Union, in opposition to the Southern Confederacy. It's unsure when exactly this distinction begins and ends, but I can still make safe estimates. Although the differences between the south and north go back to the settling of the colonies, and continue, in many aspects, to this day, it seems accurate only to use the terms in the context between 1850, and the presidency of Millard Fillmore, which began the downward slide toward civil war, and although an exact date of ending is harder for me because of my more limited knowledge of the later 1800s, it is quite safe to say your distinction of Yankee and Confederate is gone by the date 1900. Theodore Roosevelt was not a Yankee or a Confederate, he was an American, and the sentiment was reflected by the entire nation from that point on. Therefore your constant derogatory use of the word Yankee to apply the American government, specifically education, is simply not accurate. So to repeat a final time, there is no Yankee propaganda. There is only the admittedly biased patriotism the American government. I belief our discussion will benefit if we stop using the term entirely.
Secondly, you also begin with the question of "Was the civil war about slavery?" Such a simple question, and yet I've seen entire comment sections lit up at it's very mention. Why? Simply because it is so very ambiguous. The term "about" is so fickle the question becomes irrelevant. Surely only a fool would deny slavery was a cause in the conflict, yet surely too only a fool would deny there were many other contributing factors. So no matter how you phrase this questions, even in the form of the so called Yankee propaganda statement, "The South just wanted to keep it's slaves," it is simply irrelevant and unimportant to answer, because it has no answer without defining the term "about", something impossible with connotation. Therefore, both sides of the debate can safely drop the question of whether the civil war was "about" slavery, and instead focusing on investigating the details of both sides.
THE SOUTH FOUGHT THE WAR TO PRESERVE SLAVERY
And here again, we come across the ambiguity of the earlier statement, just this time in the form of, "Was the Confederacy fighting for slavery?" Again I can only give the same answer. The phrasing of the question makes it irrelevant to answer. The vast majority of the states did indeed cite the problem of slavery in their reasons for seceding. A simple knowledge of history confirms that for decades before compromise after compromise, disagreement after disagreement, had occurred between the north and the south simply on the basis of slave or free states. Of course it's a ridiculously gross and untrue generalization that the south were the evil oppressors ready to die in the thousands simply for slavery, but then again, this statement is so broad it's merely asking for a generalization to be given.
Now this is an interesting statistic, one that I will not dispute as I find no direct contradiction. However it is not, overall, very surprising, and it proves little about the nature of the confederacy itself. Indeed, only the aristocracy were rich enough to own enormous slave plantations, and similar to corporations today, the top got most of the wealth. The rest would have been small farmers, in cities, or farmhands, working alongside slaves in the pay of those aforementioned wealthy plantation owners. But this proves little about the nature of the confederacy itself, because of the influence possessed by those few. They were the representation in congress, the elite, the powerful, and eventually, the government of the Confederacy. Similar to the northern states, of course the majority of people were workers or owners of small businesses, not the industrial manufacturing and trade lords who's interests Northern congressmen were so impassioned to protect, but the few rich and powerful are just that, the rich and powerful. In both the north and the south the wealthy maintained most control, regardless of slave or free.
My good friend is correct, many Confederate generals were against slavery. In particular let's observe Robert E. Lee, since he is the example I am most familiar with. Yes, Lee reviled slavery. As did Jefferson, and so many other political minds of the south. And yet, this isn't overly impressive. His view, that the institution of slavery was immoral but was willed by god and thus a necessary evil, was a very widespread one among the educated class, north and south alike. To quote a letter from Lee to his wife in 1856,
"...In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence."
While this statement may be enlightened among the horrific advocates of slavery, it is still an immeasurably racist and elitist statement by nature, and it is little and less help to the oppressed.
Yes, this is one place where my good friend and I can agree unanimously. The civil war was the bloodiest war in American history. Neither side gave any mercy, and both sides were willing to sacrifice as many men as it took, often more. And you're correct, the men of the south would not have fought and died purely for the aristocracy. But I believe there is a fundamental distinction you're not making. Throughout the post you imply that the south was oppressed under a northern government. In truth both and around equal representation in the government, with the south often winning arguments simply through the threat of secession. The south was not fighting against oppression, they were just as powerful, if not more than, the north in the period before the war. Only after the civil war did the balance of power shift substantially to the north, and never move back. The goal of southern secession among the aristocracy was indeed to preserve slavery and southern power as a whole. However, the people of the south fought because they believed they were fighting to preserve their culture and way of life, which perhaps was a fair belief, considering the vast anti southern sentiment from the north and vice versa.
SLAVERY - THE MORAL HIGH GROUND
Here I will once again agree with my good friend. The north was indeed, just as despicable at the time of the civil war as the south, even without looking at your later points. Their violent anti-immigrant sentiment against the Irish and German people's was downright horrific, as well as the disgusting treatment of the poor, workers, unions, and indeed, anyone the elite could wipe their asses upon. Between 1830 and 1860 two parties dominated the political system, the Whigs and the Democrats. The former of which looked out for the northern industrial elite, and the latter of which looked out for the southern agricultural elite. The majority of both parties cared little for the poor, and less for slaves. There was no moral high ground.
WHO FIRST LEGALIZED SLAVERY/WHO MADE THE FIRST ATTEMPT TO END THE SLAVE TRADE
Okay, a lot here, so I'll break it down. First off, the role northern ships played on the slave trade. This may seem like a nefarious reveal of northern hypocrisy. In reality this is to be expected. The majority of the slave trade was carried out by ships from the north because the majority of all trade was clarified out by ships from the north, which in no way reflects a predisposition by the northern people towards slavery, merely a predisposition by northern people towards trade opportunism. And this is only in regards to pre revolution, when the colonies widely accepted the institution of slavery regardless of location. After the banning of the slave trade by congress, it was carried out only by illegal smugglers and slave traders, which happened to be primarily from the north because of more widespread trade corruption in the region. Virginia banned the slave trade early because of a strong sense of philosophical and moral principles in the colony. They were also one of the first colonies to propose a bill of rights, they don't represent an overall trend by southern states against the slave trade. Overall the slave trade ended in widespread legality in the USA with it's banning by congress, so it's prohibition by the Confederacy matters little, even if it is accurate, which I find suspicious.
Indeed, by focusing on the slave trade, which was widespread and not locational regardless, my good friend ignore's the more persistent crime that continued in the USA, the possession and horrid treatment of slaves, of which the south was a far greater perpetrator. Pennsylvania was the first colony to free all slaves, and the vast majority of pro slave laws passed in state constitutions were in the north in the years following. In terms of the cruel treatment of Native Americans, you ignore the movement by the Georgian government to completely disregard federal orders and force the established Cherokee nation to a death march west, while the old and sick died on the sides of the road. Again, the remarkably ethical people of Virginia are the exception, not the rule. It's no secret that Native Americans were treated horribly across the colonies, but it cannot be implied that the horrors were centralized in the north.
Finally the question is asked why we condemn the Confederate flag and not the flag of the USA, for it has provided over just as much horror and sorrow, more even, because of it's longer longevity. Before I answer, and I do intend to answer I would like to first establish another point. We are discussing the flag of the Confederacy, not the Virginian battle flag. In this case the history of the flag prior to it's use by the CSA does not pertain, it flew above the Confederate White House, it flew above the Confederate soldiers, and it flew above slavery. This is the Confederate flag, not the Virginian battle flag. The swastika is no less a symbol of the Nazi's because it was once a Hindu symbol. Similar to the swastika, yes, the Confederate flag was a symbol before it's use by the organization in question. However since we've established it's widespread use was for the Confederacy, that point becomes irrelevant. So the question becomes not a question of southern or Virginian pride, but a question of Confederate pride. So is it ethical to fly the flag of the Confederacy? I have heard it argued, as I suspect my good friend would argue, that the flag represents not slavery but the men who fought for freedom. But this does not accurately reflect the truth. The men who fought for the south were, on a whole, not even interested in the Confederacy or it's politics. They were fighting against what they considered a cultural and military invasion. They cared little about the politics in Richmond, but they were willing to fight and die to protect what they viewed as their land. They were not the Confederacy.
The Confederacy was the government of Richmond, and the men who chose to secede and rocket the nation into war. The Confederacy was the rich, white, racist, aristocracy, the slave owners who were responsible for the abuse of generations, in such horrid conditions that I make a conscious choice not to describe them here. So perhaps the Confederate flag was horrid, but how does it differ from the flag of the Union, which, as my good friend has said, was a symbol of slavery and much more? The difference is that the Union flag also represents the government that passed the thirteenth amendment. The government that changed the way government worked when it wrote the constitution. Perhaps the first example we have today of a still functioning republic. It's possible the Confederate flag eventually could have come to represent similar accomplishments, but it lived and died a symbol of the institution of slavery. If you wish to put a symbol of slavery above your bed, then that is your choice, not mine.
HOW WAS SLAVERY ABOLISHED IN THE NORTH
Once again my good friend begins by talking about self-righteous Yankees. At which point I am forced to refer once again to my clause at the beginning of this post, explaining the Yankee-Confederate distinction was gone by 1900. I have never heard a single person reenacting the elitism my good friend here describes, and I have visited some dark corners of the internet. In regards to the abolition of slaves in the north, it was a long and painful process. Again, the majority of the north cared little about slaves, and wanted to keep them in the south so they would not "steal" jobs. It was due to the efforts of a small few abolitionists from both north and south that slavery was eventually banned in most northern states. The efforts towards abolition in the north were far more successful primarily for two reasons. One, the north had a larger number of religious and ethnic minorities. Pennsylvania, the first of the 13 colonies to free it's slaves, was a Quaker founded colony, and thus had a very natural path to abolition. Two, the north was much less economically dependent on slaves, as industrialization became widespread. Because of this by 1800 northern children had been fostered into a system with far less slavery, southern children had not, and the ratio of abolitionists continued to tip towards the north.
In regards to the laws protecting property rights of northern slave owners, O believe this to be relatively common knowledge. Although I can find no citation of the laws prohibiting African American entrance to northern states, I would not be surprised. The majority of northerners at the time were indeed, not interested in having free slaves in their states. The primary interest I the north was industrialization, and similar to the hatred against Irish immigrants, the northern workers also did not want African Americans taking what they believed to be their jobs. Once again, across the map abolitionists were in the minority. Abolitionists in congress only got the 13th amendment passed by claiming if they abolished slavery the south would have nothing to fight for. But this does not represent the supposed greed of the Yankees. Slavery was banned in the north do to the efforts of abolitionists towards a more receptive populace than in the south. Slaves were discouraged from entrance by the same reason most immigrants were discouraged from entrance, Americans wanted to keep "American jobs."
Finally, in regard to the provisions allowing slave profit outside the northern states, I believe my good friend is reading far too much into it. It is one of many loopholes within early anti-slave laws, one which no doubt was taken advantage of by a few opportunists and few else. It is also a logical error, considering that the state legislature have little jurisdiction outside their state, and therefore banning slave markets outside their area of control would be difficult to accomplish legally. The idea that it was a ploy for wealth by the unscrupulous Yankee's outdated to say the least.
HOW WAS THE FREE BLACK TREATED IN THE NORTH?
The fugitive slave act, and a variety of others laws put into place to appeal to southern congressman as well as racial prejudices of the northern men made life in northern states unsafe for African Americans. This is the reason the majority of abolitionists used the Underground Railroad to bring slaves into Canada through states such as Wisconsin or Michigan. It is again, no secret life was perilous as an African American in any part of the USA, with the exception of the culturally divergent west.
I hope through this text I have managed to provide a well reasoned and fair response to my good friend's blog post, and an alternate and hopefully objective point of view as an egalitarian communist who, while he strongly condemns the Confederacy for it's defense of the institution of slavery, also recognizes the prejudices and human rights abuses his own ancestors faced in the Union.
Although I understand my good friend's choice to close his comment section for the purpose of preventing a flame war, I have made the decision to keep mine open in the hopes that it will encourage reasoned discussion. I will be happy to answer any questions or critiques, but I will not hesitate to close the comments or have certain comments removed should this discussion become disrespectful or belligerent. Please try to keep it mature.
Thank you all for your time.