Baptists and the American Civil War: February 12, 2012

J. D. HufhamWith the South’s race-based culture, social structures and economy at stake in what has become a lingering war, white Southern thinkers, politicians, writers and elites spend no little energy philosophically defending Southern life and speculating about the future. Defeat, at least in public discourse, is an impossible outcome of the war, for it would signal the end of the South’s identity. Few elites are willing to imagine Southern life apart from African slavery, for it would mean the end of their privileged lifestyles and social status.

Southern Baptist elites are a part of this regional chorus. Today, North Carolina Biblical Recorder editor Hufham addresses what he views as the two possible outcomes of the war: a quick victory for the South due to continued battlefield success, the threat of bankruptcy in the North, and imminent European intervention on behalf of the South; or a slow victory for the South brought about by some Union battlefield successes that prolong the inevitable, in the process creating a temporary financial boost for the North that (one assumes) cannot last in a nation led by a despot, and eventually driving European nations into the arms of the South. And when all is said and done, trusting in God seals the inevitability of Southern victory.

We think the events of the next few months, perhaps of the next few weeks, will go far to determine teh duration of the struggle in which we are now engaged. Our enemies evidently intend to make a general advance movement as soon as the state of the roads renders it practical….

Should our enemies be foiled in their attempts, and again be defeated in several battles, peace will soon follow. Two things will have a tendency to bring it about. The first of these is the effect which would be produced on their finances. These are now in a dreadful condition….

It would also hasten the action of the European powers, and secure for us early recognition….

If, on the other hand we should be defeated and driven back and any considerable portion of our territory occupied by the enemy, the struggle may be prolonged for a while. This would impart a temporary buoyancy to their funds, and furnish them the means with which to keep their army in the field. The same causes would perhaps delay, for a while, recognition by the nations of Europe.

We hope that no such things will follow, but we should be prepared for either event. Occasional defeats can not change the final results of the struggle; they may be a necessary part of the ordeal through which we must pass to reach independence and peace, and, so far from discouraging us, they should only cause us to press forward more earnestly and energetically, trusting in the Providence, which has thus far guided and protected us. If there were sufficient reasons for separation from our enemies of the North, those reasons are increased a thousand-fold. The despotism by which they are ruled, rendering life and property alike insecure, the hatred which they have manifested for us and the fearful doom which they have prepared for us should we be conquered, and the immense debt which they are daily increasing leave us no alternative, were we craven enough even to desire it, but to fight until our independence is secured.

Then let none be discouraged if we should be defeated occasionally, and portions of our country or State should suffer from the savages of the foe. The interests at stake, are so great, that no sacrifice necessary to secure them is too great to be made. Above all, let us exercise a firm trust in God, who has so mercifully interposed in our behalf, and let us continually and earnestly seek his guidance and blessing, and the desired end will at last be accomplished.

Hufham underestimates the will of the North to extend freedom to all, including the Lincoln administration’s commitment to fight the war via raising the national debt. Likewise, his assessment of European nations as inevitable allies of the South proves well overblown. Perhaps he also underestimates the role and place of God in the war.

Source: “The Future,” Biblical Recorder, February 12, 1862 (link)