July 8th, 2012Some Civil Words on an Uncivil Warby Joseph Pearce
I arrived with my family in California yesterday at the commencement of a fortnight vacation. As such, I suspect that my posts over the next two weeks will be somewhat sketchy due to the presence of lovable distractions. By way of illustration, my four-year-old daughter is sitting at the breakfast table asking me intermittently why I am working when it’s supposed to be a playing day.
I wanted to comment on the civil exchange that I’ve been having about the Civil War with my fellow Brit and StAR blogger, Paul Adams. I am indeed somewhat amused that the two people who seem to be most passionate about this topic in the recent exchange are both native born Englishmen and only recently adoptive Americans.
A few comments:
Blessed Pope Pius IX supported the cause of the South in the War. He was clearly not doing so in order to support slavery but in order to support what he perceived as a tradition-oriented society, as opposed to the industrial-materialism and pluralist-relativism of the North. Pius IX was beatified by John Paul II in September 2000.
As for subsidiarity, I see a parallel scenario between the United States and the United Kingdom: Personally, as an Englishman, I would welcome Scottish independence. Certainly, if the Scots want independence, England has no moral right to force Scotland to remain within the United Kingdom. It would be an egregious act of imperialism if England were to invade Scotland to force it to remain part of the Union.
A true Civil War is a war in which the nation is divided amongst itself, i.e. when individual towns and even individual families are ripped asunder by the schism in the very heart of the nation. In this sense the English Civil War was truly a civil war; in this sense also, the American War of Independence could be seen as America’s first civil war and even arguably its only true civil war. The division between loyalists and patriots, who should really be called imperialists and secessionists, ripped whole communities apart. As regard the later “civil war”, there were such divisions in Maryland and some of the border areas between North and South but for the most part it was simply the case of the rich and industrialized North imposing itself on the South. A war in which an army from one geographical area invades a neighbouring area is not a civil war but a conventional one.
To reiterate: Slavery is an egregious wrong, of course, and it might be that the South was destined to lose the war because of its being tainted with this injustice. The point is that other important questions of justice were also at issue in the war. Slavery has long since passed away (Deo gratias!) and was doomed even if the War between the States had never happened. It was after all already a hideous anomaly in America by the mid-nineteenth century considering that slavery had already been banned by the British Empire and by other imperial nations. The usurpation of power by a burgeoning Federal Government has not been consigned to the dustbin or trash can of history, however, and this is the issue which needs addressing.