Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight / by kevin murray

If you ever really wonder whether this is a land of equality without the peerage of England, you need only study the civil war to get a perspective.  While there were many men who volunteered on both sides of the conflict to fight in the civil war, because of the length of the war, each side was unable to get enough men to volunteer to fight and was therefore forced into conscripting men into the armed forces.  As you might imagined, there were propertied people who had little or no interest in volunteering to fight out of sheer survival instinct, cowardice, greed, inconvenience, selfishness, religious concerns, or other various excuses.  Both sides accommodated these people, probably because of their power within their respective communities.  In the South, there was no class of people more dependent on slavery than the rich property owners themselves with large slave plantations.  These specific people, in of themselves, were the primary impetus for secession and war in the first place, so it is a disgusting hypocrisy to find out that propertied owners having at least twenty slaves on their plantation were exempt from the confederate draft.  Consequently, many of the soldiers fighting on behalf of the confederacy were not slave holders or involved in any aspect of the slave trade, yet they were fighting  and shedding their blood to uphold slavery and their Southern traditions.


The North was far more populous, far richer, much more educated, and when conscription came to the North, there was given to certain privileged peoples andthoseof class and power, the opportunity to forgo the draft by substitution or commutating money for a deferment.   While in principle this substation or commutation was given to all peoples of conscription age in the North, in practicality, it only applied to those that had ready money or ready power.  So in both cases, of the North and of the South, privileges were extended to those who were already privileged to begin with.


None of this is particularly unusual, it is the history of the world after all that those in power, of influence, of the right family, have privileges that the commoners do not have.  However, in a country as young as the United States, in which our Declaration of Independence proudly proclaims, that "all men are created equal" it is quite disappointing to see this discrimination.  Additionally, it's disappointing that a man of the people, such as Lincoln, would allow such a thing to be offered, but the fact of the matter is that substitution is a historic practice, which has been utilized time and time again in wars of all ages.  This does not, however, negate the unfairness of such a condition, nor does it make it right as a matter of principle.  In fact, the point is this, if the rich, the elite, the American aristocracy, the propertied class, know that their brood will not be hurt or harmed during a war, but instead can profit from it, or by it, than it is all that much easier to support war for their purposes.


The civil war was justified, but it was still very much a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.