Some call it the Civil War. Others call it “the War of Northern Agression”. Whatever you call it, it’s an interesting subject to ponder. After all, is it really very similar to the Revolution, or what it would have been if the Brittish had won.
We talked about the reason for the war, that slavery, contrary to popular belief, wasn’t the cause of the war. The southern states, also known as slave states, objected to the new president. They believed Lincoln didn’t represent their best interests, so they chose to leave. The Emancipation Proclamation happened after that, and only applied to the states that left the union.
Because of this, I asked a simple question. Who were the “good guys”? Who was right in all of this? I know this is a complicated subject for a child to understand, but it’s good to think about. After all, if they don’t start thinking about it now, when will they?
Corde’s already had a good look at fair treatment. The American Revolution and women’s suffrage are both good examples of this. In both those cases, the people got what they wanted and it seemed like those fighting on the side of right won out. The situation was clear enough for a child to understand with a fair amount of certainty. This is just the next logical step.
When I was a kid I had it pounded into my head that the Union was right. They were the hood guys, fighting on the side of freedom for all. I never questioned it. It was just a fact. The Union was right. The Confederacy was wrong. There was nothing more complex than that.
Now I had Corde sitting in front of me. She was thinking on the subject, without someone telling her the answer. It wasn’t easy. She asked questions. She wanted to know why it mattered if the Confederate States of America succeeded. I told her the states in the south were pretty wealthy. It would be a dangerous risk if those states broke free and decided to attack the Union. It could be out of fear of aggression. It could be the need to keep getting income from those states without the cost of importing goods. There are any number of reasons. For all we know it could be that they thought land, wealth, and population meant power.
After getting her answers, there was a pause. First she said, “The Confederates were right. They should have been allowed to leave and rule themselves if they didn’t like the way the United States was working. If I were the Confederate States, I would have been pretty upset about being told I didn’t have the right to leave if I wanted to. It’s just not fair.”
There was a huge pause, and I have to admit, I felt a little guilty about what she said next. She declared, “Abraham Lincoln was kind of a bad guy. He wasn’t really all that nice, was he?” Okay, that’s not what I was going for. She was so proud of her Abraham Lincoln beard. The kids were both so thrilled with learning about him. He was a pretty cool guy as far as they were concerned. Now that was all gone. I’m starting to think she may come out next saying John Wilks Booth was a martyr. Wouldn’t that be something?
As much as my goal wasn’t to demonize Abraham Lincoln with the kids, I’m proud of her. She gave it some honest thought and picked an opinion most would find unpopular, but it was hers. She wasn’t coached or guided. She thought it out on her own.
Years of programming in me shrieked out. Abraham Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents. The Union had to be the good guys. It’s still hard for me to accept that the Civil War was really a war of aggression. I know in many ways it’s true, but that doesn’t make it go any less against the things I learned in school.
I’m so happy for the way my kids are learning. They’re proving themselves to be free-thinkers. I almost wanted to cry when my Yankee-born daughter said her opinion was with the right of a state to choose for itself. She’s such a bright girl!