I’m sure that this has been debated many times since the ending of the Civil War. I’m sure scholars and people much smarter than me, have voiced varied opinions on this subject. These are my thoughts, my unprofessional analysis of a different outcome to the plight of the newly freed (I use the word freed with sarcasm, because freedom then was only an illusion, that would soon disappear.) There was so much optimism, so much hope, and dreams, of a future where equality was a promise, the yoke and the burden of oppression lifted from the backs of a kidnapped race! These people, these beautiful people, living in the land where civilization began, where men first started to walk upright, and wander into their own new worlds, ripped from their version of Eden, into a nightmare of violence and greed and chaos! I’m sure they never imagined or foresaw any of that! Into a strange land of changing climates, where they were chattels, their lives valued below that of even animals, on the rung of the white man’s point of view, and that only grew worse after the Civil War ended!
What if Lincoln wasn’t assassinated right after the war? Would things have turned out differently for black people? What if Lincoln and General Grant had decided that General Lee, Jefferson Davis, and all the Southern confederacy were to be treated as the traitors they were, and not the honorable adversaries they were portrayed to be? What if they had been prosecuted and found guilty and hung, as they should have been, for taking up arms against a legitimate government? What if all the rebels’ guns, and whatever other armaments they possessed, had been confiscated? What if all those plantations, built on the backs of, and with the help of the slaves, had been confiscated and subdivided into plots of lands for each slave’s families? There are a lot more what ifs, but let’s just begin with these.
I understand that civil wars are the worse kind any country could face: brothers and friends and neighbors, killing and spying against each other! I understand also, that after the North won that struggle, they longed for peace and reconciliation; I get that. But I also believe in peace through strength! I believe that every visage of slavery, the romanticizing of the antebellum South, should never been allowed to flourish, as it did. The South should have paid for their treachery with a well-deserved, and unforgiving humiliation! Sure, they would’ve raised hell, but to the victors go the spoils!
Instead, after the loss of over six hundred thousand lives, hundreds of thousands more maimed and damaged for life, things got better for the traitors and worse for the ”free” slaves! Their short-lived freedom during Reconstruction was quickly snatched away from them by a racist, emergent New South! Even then, fake news was prevalent. The traitors didn’t fight to keep their slaves, but for State’s rights! What a joke! They took away all the rights of the freemen, built statues and monuments commemorating their fallen, all traitors! This was accepted by the North, by the United States government, mainly in the name of peace, but also because they themselves were racists! They didn’t believe in slavery, but they also didn’t believe that black people were their equals! So all that promise of equality was taken away through Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, state legislators, and through terror!
I believe that if the government had treated these people as they should’ve been, as traitors, had protected the rights of black people, made sure that the war had not been just a waste of time and lives, I believe that what is happening today with Trump and his traitors, would not be happening, not even an issue! Now, I’m not branding all of Trump’s supporters as traitors. I’m talking about the insurrectionists, the election deniers, and those trying to change the honorable way in which elections are conducted! These, these are the traitors, the racists afraid of change and equality! If Lincoln and those that followed, had been firmer, had treated the vanquished with a little less equanimity and respect, and deference, we would live in a different, much better America!
“Mine eyes hath seen the glory!” What glory?