To The Editor:

Having recently caught up on the past month’s-worth of Missourian editorials, I was intrigued to find the Civil War as the forefront topic of debate in our community — the central premise being what the North and South were fighting for, and resultantly, what all of these contentious Confederate monuments represent. 

The writing instructor in me noticed that few of the editorials contained any primary sources, so rather than insert my own opinion as someone 152 years removed from the situation, I thought, “Why not let someone who was actually there speak?” 

So, without further ado, here is an 1862 letter to the editor of the New York Times written about the primary purpose and goals of the fighting during the Civil War. You may have heard of the author. His last name is Lincoln. 

“…My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. 

“What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union… I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men, everywhere, could be free. Yours, A. Lincoln.” 

Interesting, that despite all of today’s debate about the “war over slavery,” that neither the North nor South was primarily interested in slavery (as can be seen in the rejection by every single Confederate state of Lincoln’s offer to guarantee continued protection of slavery in Southern states in return for surrendering their right to secede, which was written into the misleadingly named “Emancipation Proclamation”). 

If we want to understand what these monuments truly represent, we must pick up some primary sources and think for ourselves rather than repeating unsourced Facebook posts or selectively  quoted statements. I also recommend looking at parallels between the South and the wonderfully traitorous patriots we celebrate on July 4, who not only believed in but exercised their right to secession to create our country.