“The Birth of a Nation” comes to Phoenix, Part 1

In 1916, A.  J. Sampson of Phoenix Arizona, was Assistant Adjutant General of the Grand Army of the Republic’s (G. A. R.) Department of Arizona. He probably influenced the G. A. R. in the Grand Canyon State to wade into a dispute over whether a popular but controversial movie should be legally shown. The dispute within the state was hottest in Phoenix.

Sampson left Ohio to fight in the Civil War, and at one point commanded U. S. Colored Troops. After the disaster of the Battle of the Crater, Sampson wrote a newspaper account of operations in Petersburg in which he praised the courage of the black fighters. After the war, he began moving west, working as a lawyer in Missouri, in the Colorado Territory (where he became Attorney General), and in Phoenix, where he also invested in ranching and mining. Additionally, Sampson had a distinguished career as a Republican campaign speaker, a G. A. R. activist, and (probably not coincidentally) a holder of diplomatic appointments.[i]

Leaders of Phoenix’s small black community were pressing for a ban on “The Birth of a Nation,” D. W. Griffith’s stylistically groundbreaking but morally questionable film about the Civil War and Reconstruction. The Department Encampment of the G. A. R. of Arizona joined the call to censor the film, saying they’d seen it and “[i]t has not a single feature to commend it” and ought to be banned. The resolution quoted Democratic Governor Woodbridge Ferris of Michigan as calling the movie “an insult to the colored race and to the soldiers who fought under the Stars and Stripes.” Sampson delivered a copy of the resolution to Phoenix authorities.[ii]

It took until 1916, a year after its initial release, for “The Birth of a Nation” to reach Phoenix. As soon as the movie came out, Griffith’s publicity effort was nearly as comprehensive and masterful as the effects and artistic craft which went into his film itself. Griffith arranged showings in Washington, D. C. In addition to a private White House showing, Griffith exhibited “Birth” at the Raleigh Hotel in a late-February 1915 event in honor of Chief Justice Edward Douglass White, a Confederate veteran.[iii]

This showing symbolized the great public demand which the movie would attract. But the same Chief Justice who witnessed the showing in his personal capacity joined in giving a cautionary message to the movie industry in his official capacity. Right after attending Birth of a Nation, White joined a 1915 Supreme Court opinion denying movies the protection of constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press. Movies were a public exhibition like boxing matches, and could be regulated – and banned – like other exhibitions. [iv] And there were plenty of people who wanted state and local governments to use their Court-recognized authority to prohibit Griffith’s film, which they denounced as false and tending to provoke clashes between the races.

Like the Thomas Dixon novel on which it was based, “The Birth of a Nation” portrayed the South fighting a valiant struggle in the Civil War. After the South’s defeat, designing Northern politicians – eschewing the conciliatory ideas of the martyred Lincoln – plagued the Southland with evil carpetbaggers who exploited ignorant black voters and promoted misgovernment and lawlessness. Then the Ku Klux Klan rose up to fight carpetbag misgovernment and black crime, succeeding in liberating the South. Such was the historical tale given by the movie, through the viewpoints of the good-guy and bad-guy characters.

The movie attracted large audiences beginning with its 1915 release, though not everyone reacted in the same way. A new Ku Klux Klan, inspired in part by the movie, started up. Black organizations and activists, including the recently-formed NAACP, denounced the movie as defamatory to their people and unfit to be shown. Unsuccessful in most communities, the censorship effort worked in some places like Ohio and Kanas, which banned the film. While his movie was legal – and profitable – in most of the country, Griffith was incensed at the censors. Griffith published an eloquent pamphlet against censorship – a pamphlet which might have been issued by a modern civil-liberties organization.[v]

Phoenix shared America’s tension between embracing the new entertainment medium and guarding against films which exploited the public’s baser impulses.

In January 1912, on the eve of Arizona’s statehood, Phoenix set up a committee to refer sexually-immoral films to the City Council for banning. A stronger censorship law met a mayoral veto on free-expression grounds in 1913, but in 1915 the local government passed a new censorship ordinance. This law created a seven-member censorship board consisting of the four Commissioners (as the members of the now-renamed City Council were called), the mayor, the City Manager, and the chief of police. In addition to immoral or sexual-improper films, the new ordinance provided for banning movies which “shall in any wise tend to excite race hatred or prejudice.” This ban on racially-incendiary pictures was apparently provoked by a movie called “The [n-word],” based on a play of the same name.[vi]

The Arizona Republican, opposing the 1915 ordinance, represented Phoenix boosterism in favor of movies. The area was a great place to shoot western films, and besides, the movie industry provided a sources of jobs – and advertising, the paper noted. Specifically, the newspaper praised Romaine Fielding’s company and the free advertising his movies were providing for Phoenix and the surrounding area. The Republican averred that the movie industry had an effective self-censorship system, making state and local censorship unnecessary. The paper was sympathetic to an industry-supported Congressional censorship bill to displace the patchwork of local censorship regulations – though cautioning that the bill might infringe on states’ rights to decide what public entertainments were suitable for their communities.[vii]

The Birth of a Nation belatedly reached Phoenix in early 1916. As usual, the movie got saturation publicity – the Republican’s pages included fulsome praise of the picture. The Elk theater was reserved for showings of Birth.[viii]

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the new cinematic arrival. The small black community in the city, though subject to segregated schools, still had the vote, and thus could get attention from municipal officials.[ix] Mrs. Ella White wanted to make sure that the black community called the local government’s attention to Griffith’s movie.

Ella White’s husband George was a Pullman porter, a comparatively prestigious position within the black community at the time. He had a shocking experience when visiting Temple, Texas in 1915. A mob lynched a black man accused of multiple murders. At one point the mob accosted George White, but left him alone after being satisfied that White wasn’t involved with the murders. George White brought this vivid experience back to Phoenix and shared it with his wife Ella. Birth of a Nation had a lynching scene in which the Klan lynchers were portrayed sympathetically.[x]

Mrs. White got to work among her connections to mobilize the black community in favor of censoring Birth. She started with the Arizona Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, a civic organization which had been founded (coincidentally?) shortly after the Texas lynching the previous year, and of which Mrs. White was president. With the clubwomen mobilized, Mrs. White also enlisted the support of local black churches and a prominent black businessman, William P. Crump. City officials now got a large number of petitions from blacks who wanted the inflammatory movie banned in Phoenix.[xi]

At a meeting of the city Commissioners, the Commissioners and the mayor considered the petition and promptly constituted themselves a censorship board. They ordered Birth of a Nation banned.[xii]

A Republican editorial complained that the authorities were censoring a pathbreaking movie merely to please black voters. In its news columns, the Republican ran an article covering different perspectives on the issue. John Walthall, whose brother Henry starred in the movie, said that the activists misunderstood Birth – the villains were not the blacks, but the carpetbaggers. The “ignorant and supersititous” blacks of Reconstruction simply showed forth the presumably better qualities of “the negro of today.” The paper also interviewed Ella White so as to get “The Colored Viewpoint” (as a subhead in the article put it). White, in the paper’s seemingly-accusing words, “admitted” starting the local campaign against the film. Denouncing “the terrible effect of that picture,” White appealed to city residents: “We are working for the uplift of our people. Cannot the public sacrifice its desire to view a production for the general good? All we ask for is fair play.”[xiii]

William P. Crump wrote to the Republican calling attention to an apparent election dirty trick – a purported “Colored Voters Committee” had credited the mayor with banning Birth, but Crum said no such committee existed. Crump’s main point was that the movie incited racial violence and hatred. If Birth was  popular, it was popular among the same kind of people as “those who crowd theaters to view ‘Sapho,’ ‘Hypocrite,’ ‘Damaged Goods,’ and other potentially immoral and licentious plays.”[xiv]

To be continued…

————

[i] “God Alone Knows the Degree of Their Misery: An Ohio officer at the Crater,” Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles, July 13, 2019, https://dan-masters-civil-war.blogspot.com/2019/07/god-alone-knows-degree-of-their-misery.html.

[ii] Sampson to editor, The Arizona Republican, April 22, 1916, p. 4; “Gov. Woodbridge Nathan Ferris,” https://www.nga.org/governor/woodbridge-nathan-ferris/. The Arizona Republican would change its name to the Arizona Republic in 1930, see Arizona Republic – Ballotpedia.

[iii] The Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W. Griffith, starring Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh and Henry B. Walthall, 1915. The movie was based on Thomas Dixon, The Clansman; A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (New York: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1905). “Chief Justice and Senators at ‘Movie’,” The Washington Herald, February 20, 1915, p.4; “Edward Douglass White, 1910-1921,” https://supremecourthistory.org/chief-justices/edward-white-1910-1921/. The story of the movie’s reception is told (though without the Phoenix events) in Melvyn Stokes, D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation: A History of “The Most Controversial Motion Picture of all Time” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007) and Dick Lehr, The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War (New York: PublicAffairs, 2014). My general discussion of the movie’s censorship odyssey comes from these sources.

[iv] Mutual Film Corp. v. Industrial Comm’n of Ohio, 236 U.S. 230 (February 23, 1915). This decision was overruled almost four decades later, in Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 495 (1952).

[v] “How ‘The Birth of a Nation’ Revived the Ku Klux Klan,” https://www.history.com/news/kkk-birth-of-a-nation-film. David Wark Griffith, The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in America (Los Angeles: No publisher given, 1915).

[vi] “Ordinance No. 501,” Arizona Republican, January 22, 1912, p. 2; Arizona Republican, January 19, 1913, p. 16; “Commission is Censor Board,” Arizona Republican, June 5, 1915, p.6; “Ordinance No. 50,” Arizona Republican, June 5. 1915, p. 9. The play on which “The [n-word]” was based was a vivid melodrama with a lynching, a Southern governor who is secretly black, and a racial-uplift theme. Edward Sheldon, “The [n-word]”: An American Play in Three Acts (New York: MacMillan, 1915). The play’s author called the play’s title “ironical.” Eric Wollencott Barnes, The Man Who Lived Twice: The Biography of Edward Sheldon (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1956), 65.

[vii] “Romaine Fielding’s Payroll $15,000 a Month to Phoenix,” The Arizona Republican, April 6, 1915, p. 1; “The Movies,” The Arizona Republican, June 8, 1915, p.4; “We Always Have a Remedy,” The Arizona Republican, June 9, 1915, p. 4; “A Federal Censorship,” The Arizona Republican, January 14, 1916, p. 4.

[viii] “Birth of a Nation is Booked Here,” Arizona Republican, February 28, 1916, p. 10.

[ix] Bradford Luckingham, Phoenix: The History of a Southwestern Metropolis (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989), 62-65.

[x] Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 58-59; “Negro Burned at Stake in Temple,” Arkansas Democrat, July 31, 1915, p. 10.

[xi] “Colored Women of Arizona Organize,” Arizona Republican,August 15, 1915, p. 10; Crump’s Letter to the editor, Arizona Republican, March 4, 1916, p . 4; Luckingham, 63-64; Flamming, 59; “Proscription of a Picture,” Arizona Republican, March 3, 1916, p. 12.

[xii] “Commission Votes to Stop Birth of Nation,” Arizona Republican, March 2, 1916, p. 12; “A Ban on a Picture,” Arizona Republican, March 3, 1916, p. 4.

[xiii] “A Ban on a Picture,” “Proscription of a Picture.”

[xiv] Crump’s letter to the editor.

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9 Responses to “The Birth of a Nation” comes to Phoenix, Part 1

  1. Rod says:

    Sometimes historical truth is indeed disconcerting and uncomfortable, especially when it deviates from a carefully crafted narrative used to sanitize a war and subsequent reconstruction to make it all appear to be morally motivated.

    That Birth challenges the fabricated sanitized narrative makes it immediately a target for both political extremes that use that same narrative for distinct agendas. The neo-Marxist Left, committed to a neo-Marxist style analysis of history, where a focus on race and oppression dictates historical interpretation, dismisses Birth’s portrayal of black ignorance and submissiveness after recently escaping their condition in slavery, as racially insensitive and oppressive. The neo-Conservative Right has neatly packaged American identity in a wrap of “American Exceptionalism” where the sanitized narrative includes a US Government that went on a moral crusade to free slaves led by the greatest of egalitarians Abraham Lincoln and his Republican Party. To challenge that narrative is serious business; historical fact must take a back seat.

    Birth of a Nation makes clear that slavery’s end was an unintended consequence of a war of Northern economic and political conquest of the South. And that the subsequent reconstruction was designed to make political advantage of a people whose ignorance was a consequence of their prior condition (and NOT a permanent physical difference as Lincoln had claimed).

    The original KKK was created as a counter to those Republican designs that sought to intentionally divide the races, disenfranchise most Southern whites, and create a Republican voting block to maintain political control of the South. Former members of the USCT were used by Washington’s KKK, The Union League, to intimidate Southerners against any resistance to Northern rule ( A good study on this is New Yorker John Chodes’ book “Washington’s KKK: The Union League”). The formation of the original KKK was in direct response to strong arm tactics. And when it became violent beyond its founding purpose, the KKK was disbanded. The second edition of the KKK was something far different from the first, and had the majority of its membership in Northern States, with its greatest concentration in Indiana.

    That Southern blacks were mostly an ignorant people, as portrayed in Birth, was affirmed by leading blacks who experienced reconstruction first hand:

    Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American to serve in the United States Congress, stated, “Since reconstruction, the masses of my people have been . . enslaved in mind by unprincipled adventurers, who, caring nothing for country, were willing to stoop to anything, no matter how infamous, to secure power to themselves and perpetuate it… My people… A great portion of them have learned that they were being used as mere tools… My people have been told by these schemers when men were placed upon the ticket who were notoriously corrupt and dishonest, that they must vote for them; that the salvation of the party depended upon it; that the man who scratched a ticket was not a republican. This is only one of the many means these unprincipled demagogues have devised to perpetuate the intellectual bondage of my people… The bitterness and hate created by the late civil strife… would have long since been entirely obliterated were it not for some unprincipled men who would keep alive the bitterness of the past and inculcate a hatred between the races, in order that they may aggrandize themselves by office and its emoluments to control my people, the effect of which is to degrade them….”

    Booker T. Washington uttered a prophetic analysis of his reconstruction experience. ““THE YEARS from 1867 to 1878 I think may be called the period of Reconstruction. This included the time that I spent as a student at Hampton and as a teacher in West Virginia… Though I was but little more than a youth during the period of Reconstruction, I had the feeling that mistakes were being made, and that things could not remain in the condition that they were in then very long. I felt that the Reconstruction policy, so far as it related to my race, was in a large measure on a false foundation, was artificial and forced. In many cases it seemed to me that the IGNORANCE OF MY RACE (emphasis mine) was being used as a tool with which to help white men into office, and that there was an element in the North which wanted to punish the Southern white men by forcing the Negro into positions over the heads of the Southern whites. I felt that the Negro would be the one to suffer for this in the end.”

    Carl Schurz, Republican senator from Missouri, admitted: “The stubborn fact remains that the negroes were ignorant and inexperienced . . . that in spite of the best intentions they were easily misled, not infrequently by the most reckless rascality. . . . [W]hen universal suffrage was granted . . . [to blacks] . . . universal amnesty [including voting rights] ought to have been granted [to ex-Confederates] to make all the resources of political intelligence and experience available for the . . . welfare of all.”

    And the last Republican installed Northern Governor of South Carolina would later admit the true Republican reconstruction strategy:

    “In the mass of colored voters in South Carolina in 1867, what forces could have existed that made for good government? Ought it not to have been clear that good government could not be had from such an aggregation of ignorance, inexperience and incapacity… Underneath all the avowed [Republican] motives lay a deeper cause the determination to secure party ascendency and control at the South and in the nation through the negro vote. If this is hard saying, let anyone now ask himself if it is possibly credible that the [1867] reconstruction acts would have passed if the negro vote had been believed to be Democratic.” Daniel Chamberlain

    In “A Complete History of the United States,” by Clement Wood, he reports it was to field hands that the Radical Republicans gave the vote and, subsequently, governorship of the South. “Nearly four million slaves had been freed overnight. Very few of these were equipped to meet the rudimentary responsibilities of citizenship.” Confessed one freedman: “I can’t read, I can’t write. We go by the [Union League’s] instructions. We don’t know nothing much.” (In their strong-arm, violent tactics, Union League members were most definitely the Antifa arm of Reconstruction-era Republicans.)

    Were the slaves loyal to their masters as Birth displays. A former member of the USCT says yes and explains why:

    “That the negroes did not revolt is one of the incomprehensible features of our Civil War. Every chance for success was theirs, nor were they ignorant of their opportunity for striking an effectual and crushing blow against their oppressors.  Why was it not done? Several potent causes combined to render any widespread insurrection at that time impossible. There was in the first place a genuine affection for the white race, implanted in hundreds of thousands of negroes by amalgamation, there was, in no less degree, a race love created by the foster parental relations which negro women sustained toward white children; there was also a genuine desire on the part of the negro men to discharge worthy the duties with which they were entrusted by their absent masters.  But the supreme and all-pervading influence which restrained them was rooted in their religious convictions; for the slave negro, unlike the modern freedman, was a being in whom religious fervor was intensely and over-
    whelmingly manifest.” William Hannibal Thomas, 5th United States Colored Troops, in “The American Negro,” published 1901.

    The Republican had a lot of work to do if it was to break those bonds and solidify its control of the black vote in the South. Its tactics to divide the races were a direct cause of the rise of Jim Crow.

    That Lincoln’s war, and the subsequent reconstruction, held no real concern for the slaves is evidenced by the number of slaves who perished as a result of the displacement of that war, and a reconstruction which held little plan for their welfare. Professor Jim Downs study “Sick From Freedom” bears this out. The shocking Senate testimony of the Republican reconstruction Governor of Mississippi, William Sharkey, reveals the enormity of a war and reconstruction that was indeed a crime against humanity:

    “I believe that there are now in the State very little over half the number of freedmen that were formerly slaves— certainly not more than two thirds. They have died off. There is no telling the mortality that has prevailed among them; they have died off in immense numbers.”

    This sampling of the vast historical evidence lends validation to the themes in “Birth of a Nation!” Unfortunately the PC sanitized narrative suppresses this evidence.

  2. nygiant1952 says:

    The Union League was a secret organizations that mobilized freedmen to register to vote and to vote Republican.
    The KKK evolved into a terrorist organization. It would be responsible for thousands of deaths, and would help to weaken the political power of Southern blacks and Republicans.
    The Ku Klux Klan, a secret alliance of white supremacists that opposed civil rights and terrorized black voters, sometimes assassinated leaders of the Union Leagues.

    Southern laws were enacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by white Southern Democrat–dominated state legislatures to disenfranchise and remove political and economic gains made by African Americans during the Reconstruction period. This was Jim Crow.

    The theme of Birth of a nation continued racism in they country.

    Nice try though.

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  4. Douglas Miller says:

    It’s nice to read the conservative politically correct version of the intensely racist film “Birth of a Nation”. If anyone doubt this writer knows only white history, check out this line from his article: “Birth of a Nation makes clear that slavery’s end was an unintended consequence of a war of Northern economic and political conquest of the South.”

    What else do you need to know? To this writer, the intensely racist screed from one hundred years ago “makes clear”, apparently, the Old South’s justification for calling our Civil War “The War of Northern Aggression”.
    My ancestors called it “The War Against the Slaveholders”, because they KNEW that without slavery there would have been no war. Nada. Never would have happened.

    The truth is that all Southern society was based on a profoundly evil premise that they defended to no end (just read The Cornerstone Speech by the Confederacy’s Vice President). As an historian, it is clear to me that the South, despite all the surface destruction, actually got off easy for its centuries of horrible human slavery.

    But it is sobering to see there are still Southerners out there who think the war was caused by some meanies up North for no reason at all! What’s that say about Lincoln, Grant, and the Southerner Sherman? Were they all evil liars with a secret agenda?

    Remember, as he also says, “the PC sanitized narrative suppresses this evidence”! Please tell us who, specifically, is suppressing this evidence? Is it “they”?!!

    Ha ha!

    • Hugh De Mann says:

      Sir, we’ve never chatted on this page before. Allow me to please acknowledge you and your post above.

      I will first state herein that I’m aware that this thread pertains to the novel and 1915 film, ‘Birth of a Nation’, by D.W. Griffith, but that aspect is not what propels me.

      I am going to first state that I posit absolutely no argument of any kind about Reconstruction, the Union League, etc, etc, etc. I posit nothing whatsoever the question, for the reason being that I simply do not have the knowledge of the era of 1865-77 to form an opinion, let alone, put a scholarly argument down. The vast bulk of the small amount of info I do possess about Reconstruction figures around Robert E. Lee; that’s obviously nowhere near amounting to a well-grounded, holistic knowledge of the era. I can’t comment on what I don’t know.

      I’m also not going to ‘wade in’, so to speak, on the substance of the author you refer to above; I have no doubts that said author can engage in his own dialogue with you, if he and yourself, should so choose.

      Rather, I invite you to engage with myself in a discussion, even robust, scholarly debate, about some of the comments you mention in your post above about:

      -The title of the war, (I grew up being educated it was appropriate, given the historical evidence, to call it as either/both, ‘The Civil War/War Between The States’).
      -Relevant aspects of pre-war history.
      -The factors that made the war occur.
      -Alexander Stephens.
      -Stephens’ 21 March 1861 ‘Cornerstone Speech’, other evidence that can elucidate comprehension of it and other relevant factors in its context.
      -Figures relevant to the war as should arise in the flow of discussion/debate, (you cite President Lincoln and Generals’ Grant and Sherman, for example, above).
      -Methodology and Historiography of the War.

      I invite you to such a discussion/robust debate. Are you agreeable?

      • Douglas Miller says:

        Sure, though it’s still a little vague to me. However, I love all of this stuff and it is truly connected anyway.
        Let me know your ideas and I’ll give you mine. I’m just a little unreliable recently, as I am on the road for a while and far from home.
        At present I am staying near the Antietam and Monocacy battlefields with my daughter’s family, and soon will be heading to Atlanta for a while.
        Sincerely,
        Doug

  5. Hugh De Mann says:

    Very well. Please attend to your family, enjoy your trip and be safe, above all else.

    First off, I put dispute to your stating the title of the war, and by inference, the reason it ever occurred, should be seen as 100% connected to slavery and that this be seen as 100% the South’s fault.

    In my mind, given the actual historical evidence, there can be no question that slavery and race were hugely significant factors in the war coming and by the time it actually occurred in 1860-61, these can be argued to be the most prominent.

    However, a couple things; (A) Other factors were also extremely important in the war occurring. (B) Even w/o slavery and race, the war would have come and would have been just as horrific due to technological advancements. (C) There is no moral high ground between the North and South in the terms of slavery and race to speak of.

    Slavery was an all American feature, institution and responsibility.

    States rights/federalism, tariffs/economics, regionalism/culture all were vital factors in the war occurring, too. It’s perfectly true that all these other things could and did converge into slavery. But all of these things could and did just as surely diverge from slavery to be factors in their own right.

    Alexander Hamilton provides us with the earliest insight that an inter-American conflict would occur in his Federalist Papers in 1787 and he is the first to coin the term, ‘War Between The States’, and utilises ‘civil war’, as well. Due to the times and conditions, it can’t be argued that slavery was the reason he foresaw the war to come.

    This is an opening statement.

    • Douglas Miller says:

      Dear Mr. Hugh De Mann,
      I have finally arrived in Atlanta after driving across a number of Southern States, which is always interesting. Last Sunday I was at the Monocacy battlefield in Maryland, which I highly recommend. It’s a beautiful site with plenty of preserved buildings, a nice visitor center, and a very helpful electronic map.

      I previously repeated an old name for the war, “The War Against the Slaveholders”. I didn’t make it up. It was commonly used, probably as a reply to Southerners calling it “The War of Northern Aggression”.
      You and I agree that slavery was the cause of the war. You believe there were other factors involved, but I believe they were all minor and never would have caused the bloodiest war in American history.
      You mentioned “B”, that the war would have occurred anyway. You’re going to have to come up with some actual strong facts to support such an extremist idea. You really think the war would have occurred over tariffs and trade?!
      I guess your argument “C” helps explain your point of view, that the North and South were equal morally in the conflict. Your statement that slavery was an all American feature is false—you truly cannot see ANY difference between those states that banned slavery, and those that actively encouraged it?! And your sort-of quote from Alexander Hamilton confuses me, because it doesn’t give us his exact words so we can make our own judgement.
      Maybe you can tell me, specifically, how a massive war would have occurred between the North and South WITHOUT slavery. How many accounts have you read, for example, about the “debates” in the South when Secession was being passed? They will tell you all you need to know, as they are chock full of justifications for slavery. The South KNEW that Lincoln’s election, by anti-slavery forces, meant the end of their beloved and embattled institution, and they were willing to start a war over it. And start it they did.
      If you want to talk about who had the “moral high ground”, let’s start by discussing the various slave pre-war narratives you have read. Which are your favorites? When these accurate accounts about the South were published, they angered Americans of all sorts. In reply, the South turned to strict censorship because they were so afraid of the truth getting out.

      I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but are you saying that if you had witnessed a family being torn apart at a slave auction, you would have concluded “well, they do equally bad things up North.”?
      Well, my great grandfather Andrew Tow DID witness a slave auction in New Orleans, and it so outraged him that he enlisted in the Union Army as soon as the war broke out. He had a tough war, but he survived.
      So, sorry to disagree with you so completely, but the North and South were not even remotely equal morally in this war. And slavery was NOT an “all American feature, institution and responsibility” by 1860—it was wholly a Southern one.

      And that is why, as I said before, I feel the South got off easy in the Civil War, considering the incredible evil they had perpetrated for so long. Of course the North could have done better— and divided up the plantation estates into small farms for ex-slaves (40 acres and a mule), and it should also have extended Reconstruction for many more years.
      But there is no doubt of their great achievement, completely crushing slavery once and for all, finally freeing millions and millions of Americans in the process. And they did it all while lustily singing that great anti-slavery tune, “John Brown’s Body”.

      Let me know what you think!

      Sincerely,
      Douglas Miller

      web page: DougAMiller.com

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