- Hardcover: 356 pages
- Publisher: Hess Pubns (December 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0873779290
- ISBN-13: 978-0873779296
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #803,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Defense of Virginia and the South
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Top Customer Reviews
It should be noted that the grounds by which Virginia elected for secession were different from that of the Carolinas and the rest of the South who had already made the break beforehand. Through Dabney's methodical explanation of American history, with official federal and Virginia state government records as his sources, it is revealed that Virginia's very stake on the issue of slavery was unique and more often in opposition to the trade that ultimately made it possible. By contrast, the profiteering by way of man-stealing (aka kidnapping) by that of the so-called New England colonies both before and after the Union was established eclipsed that of even the Carolinas. Massachusetts, in particular, shares in a good deal of the guilt with regards to thousands upon thousands of Africans being stolen from their homeland and shipped to the Americas in the most deplorable of conditions, which lends sympathy to modern day black activists thumbing their nose at uppity Northerners who wave the bloody shirt for some political end.
As the book progresses, several issues are discussed at length, including but not limited to the vast hypocrisy displayed by New England and England in the closing days of the once lucrative slave trade, the Bible's general attitude towards slavery according to Dabney, and an impressive collection of statistics regarding the social progress of African descendents in the Northern vs. the Southern states. Through it all, Dabney is very clear and concise regarding the nuances of Virginia's position and how it conformed itself the best to the Constitutional form of government that they had agreed to participate in a little less than a century prior. By contrast, a less than flattering but all too true picture of Northern greed, mercantilism and dishonesty is established that, to this very day, is echoing its curses throughout the avarice steeped Northeastern states as they struggle to keep their books in order while buying off enough votes from the public through wealth redistribution to maintain the present political balance.
Perhaps the most compelling argument in the entire book and ultimately what swayed me to view the South with a less prejudiced spirit is his references to examples of justice being visited on cruel slave owners who abused their slaves to the point of death and deformity. As a student of the Pennsylvania school system this was information about the history of a state not more than a 4 hours drive from where I live that was never taught to me or anyone else in my family, and I definitely felt cheated by the so-called school system for this sort of suppression of history. At the same time, Dabney admits that the institution was subject to abuse and that no excuse for such behavior was defensible morally or by the scriptures.
Perhaps the most bittersweet aspect of this opus is its conclusion, where like the prophet of a defeated people, Dabney announces that in time the South will be vindicated in spite of the evil that brought about its demise, making analogies to scripture no less, and here ultimately proves to be the place where the fundamental flaw in his position manifests. Dabney asserts that the South is being punished for its sins and that hoards of barbarians comparable to the ones that God used to chasten Job were incarnate in the Union army. What was the sin that the South and particularly Virginia committed? The answer, ironically enough, is their participation in the slave trade.
There is a certain moral dissonance that comes into play when a nation condemns a trade yet erects an institution to maintain the spoils of it. This becomes clear specifically when the one principle flaw in Dabney's biblical reference to slavery comes to be. The institution of slavery observed by Israel was not a lifetime affair for any except for the nations of Canaan that God specifically commanded to be subjugated. To assert that this is still in effect after the passing of the Old Testament and the coming of Christ is to fall into the error of Dispensationalism, which is the same theological error that continues to inspire the USA to blindly stir up conflicts in the Middle East, irrespective of the irreparable damage that has been done to scores of Orthodox Christian Churches in said region. Dabney does not argue this point directly but never fully reconciles the glaring differences between the Old Testament concept of debt slavery or enslaving criminals and social deviants and that of simply accepting as lifetime laborers people who were knowingly kidnapped by people of evil intent.
It is important for any reader of this book to understand that while the case here is compelling and the facts are well in order, that if God truly found the institution of slavery blameless and the Southern people to be impeccable keepers of God's law, they would not have lost the war. For further perspective on the actual biblical position regarding slavery, the tract of Alexander M'Leod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of New York called "Negro Slavery Unjustifiable" (it's available online) provides the case for why not only the trade, but the institution that came out of it was fundamentally flawed morally. But to be clear, M'Leod was no abolitionist in the sense that the term denoted decades later and professes the same Christian faith and mode of church government as Dabney, and the proposed solutions of the former in no way square with the wicked imperialism and piracy of the Union military and the body politic of Lincoln's Republican Party. In war, as in history, the quickest way to get the story wrong is to assume it a matter of good guys vs. bad guys, and it always results in a poor understanding of the present and a less than hopeful future. Dabney provides an important counterbalance to what has too long been a one-sided issue, and also arguably the most articulate defense of the Confederacy. If the United States is ever to fully come to terms with its own past and forge a better future, it must understand that being right does not automatically mean that one will do or is doing right, and in the context of the Civil War, "A Defense Of Virginia and The South" should be taught in every classroom to make that point.
Of particular interest to those interested in the religious aspects of the issue is Dabney's argument that slavery is not condemned as a sin in the Bible. In fact their are rules for its operation. But don't fall for the misinformation that under these Biblical rules slaves were more like servants to be held only for a set number of years. That was only for Hebrew slaves held by other Hebrews; all other slaves could be held in perpetuity. This will be unsettling to modern preachers who have found it easier to indoctrinate their flocks with what is politically correct rather than teach the word of God. Dabney argues that treating a slave badly was the sin, not the institution itself, at least not according to God's Word. And no, I am not in favor of slavery. I am just saying that it does not make anyone who had slave evil or a sinner for participating in an institution 100 percent legal at the time under the Constitution, and not once condemned in the Bible .
This book will be condemned by some as racists. and by today's standards it is. But we should not judge other times by our own standards. The readers should remember that the views expressed by Dabney on the capabilities and character of the African race were also held by Abraham Lincoln and the great majority in the North at the time. Whether they were right is not here the question. The point is that the great majority of Americans before the war, North & South, believed that blacks, if freed, were incapable of assimilating into the culture without a detrimental effect, socially, political, and economically. The North, according to Dabney, acted hypocritically by originally profiting from the slave trade, then selling most of their slaves down South, passing black codes to keep free black populations at a minimum in their states, and then condemning Southerners for continuing the practice. Abolitionist only protested actively for emancipation when the North was safe from the expected consequences. On the other hand, most slave owners, while admittedly motivated by their own self interests, also had a genuine concern for their slaves, who they did not feel were prepared to operate in a free society without becoming eternal economic dependents to be used as pawns on a new sort of plantation by the political elite.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I first read this probably 25 years ago, and i haven't ceased to be challenged by it ever since.Read more