Politics

The Article That Started the California GOP Controversy

Here is the full text of the article titled "What If the South Had Won the Civil War?" by William S. Lind that has caused so much national controversy in connection with the election of a new California Republican state chairman. John Gizzi discusses the role of this piece in the chairmanship contest in his article on page 7. Mr. Lind is director of the Free Congress Foundation’s Center for Cultural Conservatism, and is co-host of the television program "Next Revolution" on which program this commentary was made July 8, 1999.

If the South had won the Civil War, where might our two countries be today? It is of course impossible to know, and as someone who proudly wears his great-grandfather’s GAR ring-he served in the 88th and 177th Ohio Volunteers, and his diary records the monitors bombarding Fort Fisher as he watched from a Union transport-I’m not entirely comfortable asking the question. But given how bad things have gotten in the old U.S.A., it’s not hard to believe that history might have taken a better turn. Slavery of course would be long gone, for economic reasons. Race relations today in the Old South, in rural areas and cities such as Charleston, S.C., are generally better than they are in Northern cities, so we might have done all right on that score. When Southerners say they have a special relationship with blacks based on many generations of living together at close quarters, they have a point.

The real damage to race relations in the South came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won. And since the North would have been a separate nation, the vast black migration to Northern cities that took place during World War II might not have happened.

Certainly Southerners would not be living under the iron rule of an all-powerful federal government, as we all do now. Northerners might not be, either. A Union defeat would have given states’ rights a boost in both countries. The 10th Amendment might still have the force of law even up North.

It is possible that both countries might still be republics, instead of a single empire. That transformation traces to America’s entry into World War I, which might not have happened. Southern sympathy would probably have been with Britain and France, but the North, with a large German population, might well have lined up with the Kaiser (the Irish would have liked that, too).

No American entry into the war would have meant no communism in Russia and no Hitler in Germany. That’s not a bad bargain. It is highly unlikely that the Confederacy would have embraced the cultural Marxism of Political Correctness that is fast becoming the official American state ideology. So at least part of North America would still stand for Western culture, Christianity and an appreciation of the differences between ladies and gentlemen. Decency might have taken its stand in Dixie, along with some other good things such as an appreciation for the merits of rural life.

Perhaps most important, Americans North and South might have a choice. If the North had turned left, as the United States has during this century, Northerners who didn’t care for that development could cross the Mason Dixon line and become Southerners. That’s an option more than a few of us Yankees would appreciate having, even if it did mean having to eat grits.

What would my great-grandfather, Union Army Sgt. Alfred G. Sturgiss, say to all of this? If he could see the sorry mess the country he fought for has become, I think he might sadly say that he’d fought for the wrong side.


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