Washington Post Criticizes My Lee-Jackson Speech: Part I

(January 30, 2020) On January 21st Washington Post reporter Courtland Milloy wrote an article about my “Defending Confederate Monuments” speech at the January18th Lee-Jackson Day event in Lexington, Virginia. His “Lee-Jackson Day with a bit of history and context” article portrays me unfairly. Today’s post responds to one Milloy comment excerpted below:

Before giving his keynote speech, Civil War book author Phil Leigh made an offhand remark discounting the role of slavery in the war. Another man overheard him and pointed out that nearly all the states that seceded from the Union had cited the preservation of slavery as a main reason.

That was it. End of the exchange. 

I do not recall this exchange. Mr. Milloy could have contacted me before writing the above to see if I had any response. He had my email address since he asked me to send him a copy of my speech, which I did before even taking the podium. (We were sitting next to one another during the preliminaries.) Before he left the lecture hall after my speech he told me, “I will be in touch.” But he never contacted me. If he had, I would have responded with the remarks below, which I asked the Washington Post to print as an Op-Ed. The Post declined yesterday. 

Why Did the North Fight the Civil War?

Even though most secession declarations provided by the first seven states to join the eleven-state Confederacy cited protecting slavery as a prime motive, the reasons for Southern secession cannot be equated with the reasons for the Civil War. There would have been no war, for example, if the North had permitted the seven cotton states to depart peacefully. Everyone knew there was no danger that the South would invade the North to overthrow the Washington government. Confederate President Jefferson Davis put it succinctly: “All we ask is to be left alone.” To identify the cause of war it is as necessary to understand why the North chose to fight as it is to recognize why the cotton states seceded.

Contrary to popular belief Northerners did not decide to fight in order to end slavery. Before the shooting started, the legislatures of at least ten Northern states adopted resolutions explaining their objections to Southern secession. None stated they wanted to end slavery. Most specified a desire to “preserve the Union,” which was a euphemistic way of saying that they wanted to avoid the economic consequences of disunion.  They realized that a truncated Union separated from its Southern states would face two major economic problems.

First, it could not hope to maintain a favorable balance of payments. The slave states accounted for two-thirds of America’s exports. Without the South’s export economy America might become a perpetual debtor nation forever at the mercy of its stronger trading partners that would deplete her gold supply in order to settle persistent trade deficits.

Second, since the Confederate constitution outlawed protective tariffs her lower tariffs would confront the remaining states of the Union with two consequences. First, since ninety percent of Federal taxes came from tariffs the government would lose a significant proportion of its revenue. Articles imported into the Confederacy from Europe would divert tariff revenue from the USA to the CSA. Second, and more importantly, a low Confederate tariff would cause Southerners to buy manufactured goods from Europe as opposed to the Northern states where prices were artificially inflated by protective tariffs. Consequently, the market for Northern manufactured goods in the South might nearly vanish. That market was estimated at $200 to $400 million, which was much more than America’s $54 million in tariffs collected in 1860.

Finally, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas did not join the Confederacy until after President Lincoln required that they provide soldiers to militarily force the seven cotton states back into the Union, which they believed to be unconstitutional. Although each had previously refused to secede, they doubled the Confederacy’s white population and military capacity when they rejected Lincoln’s coercion demand.

Even Eric Foner admits that most historians don’t understand why the North chose to fight. In reality, they don’t want to concede selfish motives among our Northern ancestors because that would contradict the zeitgeist vouchsafed by the cultural elite.


Sample my books at my Amazon Author Page.

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh


1 thought on “Washington Post Criticizes My Lee-Jackson Speech: Part I

  1. chevelle1

    Many people confuse the “declarations of secession” with the official Ordinance Of Secession but they are not the same. The declarations carried no legal weight whereas the ordinances do. Of the state Ordinances, only a few mentioned slavery, and then only in passing, as in “our sister slave-holding states”. Photographs of the ordinances are the accurate way to read them since many websites and facebook pages have altered the original wording.

    Nonetheless, secession was not the cause of the war. After the seven Southern states seceded, there was peace for several months. It was only after Lincoln and Seward conspired to start a shooting war (see “Truth Of The War Conspiracy” by H W Johnstone, free ebook: http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/georgiabooks/pdfs/gb5130.pdf ) and then called for 75,000 volunteers to invade and subjugate the seceded states that caused the next four states to secede. The Union invaded Virginia at Manassas, and the war started. It was the invasion of the CSA by the US that caused the war.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.