Winthrop University released a poll this week to gauge where Southerners stand on the removal of Confederate monuments and the cause of the Civil War. The results point to a significant shift in regional identification with and memory of the Civil War. Well, sort of.
The poll offers the following assessment of attitudes toward monuments and the Confederate battle flag:
Forty-two percent of Southerners said to leave those memorials alone, while 28% said to add a plaque for context and historical interpretation. Nearly one-fourth want to move the statutes to a museum. Huffmon notes, “All told, 56% want to do something other than simply leave the monuments and statues as they are, but these folks are very divided on what should be done. A strong plurality advocate leaving them as they are.”
As far as statues honoring leaders and politicians who supported racial segregation, 30% said to leave the statues in public spaces. One-fourth said to add a marker, another fourth said to put them in a museum, while 13% said to remove them. Thirty-seven percent of black respondents said to put them in a museum, while a fourth said to remove them.
On the cause of the Civil War:
Even though the American Civil War ended in 1865, the causes of the war continue to be debated. A fourth of all respondents said it was caused by slavery; 21% said states’ rights; and half said both were equal causes. Thirty percent of black respondents said slavery was the cause, while 58% said both slavery and states’ rights were the cause.
The results fall in line with other recent surveys, but this and other polls obscures what is likely a much more interesting and revealing set of attitudes in the South today.
One of the things I would very much like to see is a poll that tracks generational shifts in Civil War memory. As it stands the Winthrop poll frames this issue along racial lines. We learn what whites and blacks think about Confederate monuments and the flag, but there is every reason to believe that there are significant fault lines specifically among white Southerners.
In addition to salient differences between different generations of white Southerners, we also need to better understand other factors, including:
- regions within the South
- urban v. rural
- recent arrivals v. established families
The larger concern is that the very titles of many of the news articles reporting the Winthrop poll today obscure a much more complicated story. I venture to guess that when most people read a headline that references ‘Southerners’ they immediately think ‘white Southerners.’ Yes, the poll surveys black Southerners, but what about communities, including recent immigrants, that now make this region their home?
Guess what, they are Southerners too.
If we’re going to be technical, the Civil War started because forces of the CSA in South Carolina attacked the United States Army at their outpost at Fort Sumter. Granted, Fort Sumter is clearly in South Carolina territory in Charleston Harbor… but the attack on the fort started the war. The CSA states seceded ONLY to protect their culture of slavery from a growing national and federal desire for emancipation (they could see the writing on the wall.) We could get into the weeds about what is a “cause” and what “led to a cause”, but the facts aren’t disputable. Thank you for the unwavering defense of your assertions Phillip C. Jordan and Kevin.
I moderate one of these discussions(slavery vs. something else as the cause of the Civil War) just about everyday. Currently its either the transcontinental railroad or the industrial revolution. And the Constitution!
OK, generally, I think it is rude to post in all caps, but I cannot help it: NO ONE IS SAYING THE SOUTH DID NOT SECEDE. THE KEY QUESTION IS THIS: WHY DID THE SOUTH SECEDE? THEY (SOUTHERN STATES) ALL SAID THEY BELIEVED THEY HAD TO SECEDE IN ORDER TO PRESERVE SLAVERY. THEY DID NOT MAKE A SECRET OF THIS FACT. IT IS CLEAR IN EVERY DECLARATION OF… I’M GOING TO SAY IT AGAIN… SECESSION. YOU SHOULD TRY READING THEM (AND NOT JUST THEIR TITLES).
I think most White Southerners recognize that the war was fought over the right of self-government and political independence, just as White Southerners recognize that these were the same thing the colonists fought for in 1776. I wonder what White Northerners think.
The right of self-government to do what exactly? The population of the South in 1860 was roughly 9 million, half of which was enslaved. Please, explain again this right of self-government.
To do all acts and things that nations may of right do. As for slavery, before you point an accusing finger at someone else, clean up your own mess. Slavery was perfectly legal in the United States, and the war was fought between two slave republics.
What year is this? LOL
Dude, you are waaaay in over your head. Before you presume to debate someone such as Kevin Levin, you might want to at least read a history book. I would suggest starting with anything by James McPerson.
Did you read the declarations of secession I posted? They ALL reference slavery.
And they all referenced secession too. The difference was that slavery was perfectly legal, but the unionist claimed secession wasn’t. So a war was waged to prevent the confederates was achieving political independence.
Secession to do what?
Political independence to do what?
Secession and political independence to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity (just like the Americans wanted self-government and political independence
when they seceded from the British Empire in 1776).
Correct. They all basically say that they are seceding in order to preserve slavery (and white supremacy). While it is unquestionably true that the Union’s goal (which is to day the United States’ goal) at the beginning of the war was not to abolish slavery in southern states, it is equally unquestionable that the southern states believed secession was necessary to preserve slavery. Had southern states not seceded to preserve slavery, there would not have been a Civil War. Therefore, the desire of southern states to preserve slavery is THE (not even just “a”) underlying cause of the Civil War.
By “correct” I only mean that you are correct in saying the declarations of secession reference secession — not that you are correct in your other points.
Remarkably, you seem to be deeply offended at the idea of slavery and white supremacy in the CSA, but at the same time, you seem to be utterly unconcerned with slavery and white supremacy in the USA. And had Lincoln simply permitted the CSA to pursue a course of political independence and self-government, there would not have been a war. The war was fought over the right of secession, and nothing else.
My recommendation is to spend a little more time reading this blog.
Your ignorance of what people actually stated were the reasons for secession is astounding, but not surprising.
Why do you keep saying Gerry is wrong? Of course the states seceded due to concerns over slavery, but secession is not war. The war occurred because the North did not want to allow secession, but the North was perfectly willing to allow slavery.
Gerry isn’t making this decision.
Here, nice and simple: “There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin…”
Mississippi, Declaration of Secession
Hard to read this anyway other than as stating that they are seceding to avoid “abolition.”
And you do know that northern states had already abolished slavery – and that Lincoln ran on a free soil platform… right?
Now, I am retiring from the field as it is impossible to argue with imaginary, “alternative facts.”
If you don’t want to read a book, you might want to at least check out Wikipedia: ” By 1804 all of the northern states had abolished slavery or had plans in place to gradually reduce it”
It seems that you are making his case for him. You reference the Mississippi Declaration of SECESSION, not the Mississippi Declaration of slavery. Slavery was perfectly legal in the United States, and there was absolutely no lawful basis to wage war against a state because of it. I’m afraid he’s right; the war was fought over the right of secession. It had nothing to do with slavery.
What exactly do the individuals who contributed to the state’s decision to secede have to do for you to believe them? They couldn’t have been any clearer.
I would like to see age brackets included in the survey. I have a very strong suspicion about what the responses were based on age.
I know you’ve written about this before but I cannot find the post – I’m curious how this poll matches up with polls of the past. That might give a little insight into changing mindsets over time.
Number one problem with these polls on the “southerner” is that so many fail to recognize the complexity of what is a Southerner.
Simple. It was a failed war of independence that killed off most of the male population, and the loss stung the Southern psyche for a century afterward.
But seeing how this blog and Mr. Levin’s twitter loves to paint white southerners as cardboard villains (yes, some of us saw your guffaw at Forrest’s family having the gall to think they have a right to sue over an ancestor’s grave being desecrated) I think this is just another bait post.
Assuming this is true for a second and yet you continue to come back for more. Pretty pathetic if you ask me. 🙂
I don’t understand including state’s rights as an option. Is it because that’s one of the tired tripes? I’m glad tariffs wasn’t an option. But, “state’s rights” doesn’t explain anything.
State’s rights is a very vague term. However, the question of whether a state has the right to secede is certainly a state’s right issue. Secession is a central issue causing the war in that it is the issue that both sides were willing to go to war over. I don’t think the North was willing to go to war over slavery itself.
I suppose it was included because it’s a primary (white) Southern evasion. The only right that Confederate states wanted to protect was the right to own people. It helps to remember that (white) Southern politicians had demanded and gotten a draconian Federal fugitive slave law in 1850 and then split the Democratic Party (thereby helping to elect Abraham Lincoln) in 1860 over northern Democrats’ rejection of their demands for a federal slave code. Future Confederates were just fine with federal legislation and government when they benefitted from the former and controlled the latter.
Scott, I think you meant “tired tropes.” But “tripe” fits, too.
The ordinances of secession made it very clear that secession was about slavery. Tariffs and so-called states rights are just excuses to distract from slavery. Also states do not have rights. They have certain powers as designated in the Constituion. All powers federal and state derive from the people.
The generational info should be available since the poll asked for the age of the respondent. You should ask the pollster for crosstabs or for a breakout by age. Explain your academic interest and Winthrop might do it.
That’s a good idea.
I’m sure most White Southerners would agree if asked that the War was caused by Tariffs. The Lincoln Administration refused to increase tariffs to save American Jobs, and the South had to seceded in order to raise them.
Did they ask that question?
Yes, I am sure you believe this. 🙂
Hi, White Southerner here…
I wouldn’t agree with that – because it isn’t based in reality. That’s a modern political view and you are projecting it on the past.
Umm… you do know that southern states opposed hgher tariffs… right? Ever hear of the “Tariff of Abominations,” the Nullification Crisis or John C. Calhoun? Might want to google them…
“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations”
A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union.
A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.
In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world…These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin…
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
Cornerstone” Speech, Alexander H. Stephens (VP of the Confederacy) March 21, 1861
You about finished proving Rob Baker’s point?
Not sure — ask Mike Furlan and other lost causers whether or not they are ready to rejoin historical reality…
Secession ordinances clearly cite slavery as central cause. People here already knew that. Nobody here will take your word over the contemporaneous statements of the traitors themselves.
My word about what? I cited the “contemporaneous statements” of the traitors (their declarations of secession) to prove exactly the point you make — that slavery was the central cause of the war.
I was NOT disagreeing with the article, I was taking issue with the response of “Mike Furlan” who (incorrectly) seems to think the war was caused by “Tariifs” and who even gets that issue wrong by suggesting that the South supported high tariffs…
Not sure what your point is, as we seem to be in agreement… I would suggest that Mike Furlan and other lost cause believers are the ones with whom you should be arguing… I think you need to read his post to see what I was objecting to. Here is what he wrote: “I’m sure most White Southerners would agree if asked that the War was caused by Tariffs. The Lincoln Administration refused to increase tariffs to save American Jobs, and the South had to seceded in order to raise them.”
Oops, aimed my remarks at the wrong person. Sorry!