The Civil War Fairy Tale

The Civil War Fairy tale 

By Peyton O’Laughlin 

On Monday, February 12, 2018 the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, delivered remarks at The Abraham Lincoln Foundation Of The Union League Of Philadelphia’s Annual Lincoln Day Celebration. 

During the deliverance, Sessions stated that, “Though many Southerners try to say otherwise—and I love my people—slavery was the cause of the war. It was not states’ rights or tariffs or agrarian versus industrial economies. Those issues were all solvable and would have been solved. The cloud, the stain of human bondage—the buying and selling of human beings—was the unsolvable problem and was omnipresent from the beginning of the country.” Sessions followed up that comment by saying, “And the failure, the refusal of the South to come to grips with it—really to actually change this immoral system of enslavement—led to the explosion,” and, “As to slavery, it had to end. The nation could stand the disgrace no longer. And Lincoln came. And the war came. Lincoln’s moral and legal clarity, like that of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s a century later, produced the will, the power, which sustained the war and propelled the nation to union and emancipation. This was a monumental conflict indeed.” 

From the context of the remarks that were given by Sessions we can defer that he means that the disgraceful and immoral actions that were being taken by slaveholders and slaveholding states was the reason that The Civil War began. 

We know, from our class content, that this is not entirely true. In the beginning of the war, The North’s intention was not freeing the slaves and we know that Abraham Lincoln only considered freeing the slaves when it became beneficial to him in winning the war. This is evident because Lincoln tried many strategies to prevent a war. Strategies that involved gradual emancipation, which still incorporated slavery, and even persuading black individuals into moving to Africa. 

This brings us back to the discussion to how slavery in the United States and The Civil War is portrayed in the U.S. and how we, as Americans, have constructed a fairy tale in our nation’s history. 

The fairy tale consists of the valiant and righteous North, led by the awesome Abraham Lincoln, saw the evils of slavery that the immoral South were partaking in and by God’s Grace needed to stop those evils forthwith, but in actuality we had two racist armies fighting over representation, white labor, and white supremacy. Yes, the war did eventually involve freedom to slaves, but this wasn’t moral, this was again strategy. 

Sessions and other just perpetuate the idea of The Civil War Fairy Tale, which is another form of American whitewashing of history. We, as the citizens of this nation, need to be able to look back on our history with honesty and realism. We need to stop living in a fairy tale. 



Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks At The Abraham Lincoln Foundation Of The Union League Of Philadelphias Annual Lincoln Day Celebration. (2018, February 12). Retrieved February 13, 2018, from  

Bedard, P. (2018, February 12). Southerner Sessions: ‘Slavery’ alone caused the Civil War. Retrieved February 13, 2018, from  

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