Thomas Sowell

Those who seem most resentful of claims for reparations are those people whose ancestors died in the Union armies during the Civil War that ended up freeing blacks. A distinguished historian has estimated that there was a life lost for every six slaves freed.

No other war in the Western Hemisphere cost so many lives as the Civil War. Nor have so many Americans died in any other war, anywhere else in the world. No other country paid such a heavy price to end slavery, even though slavery was a virtually universal institution, involving people of every race, color and creed as both slaves and slave owners.

The sheer economic losses were only part of the story, though these were staggering enough that they probably left little or no net gain for centuries of slavery. The deep bitterness growing out of the Civil War continued to divide this country well into the 20th century.

When General Douglas MacArthur and some of his aides entered an Atlanta church one Sunday during the 1920s, the parishioners got up and walked out. Why? Because General MacArthur's father had been one of the Union commanders who took part in Sherman's devastating march through Georgia. After the Civil War, the Fourth of July was not celebrated in Vicksburg, Miss., until the Second World War. Vicksburg had fallen to the Union armies on July 4th, after a harrowing siege.

We all need to leave the past in the past. We have the present and the future to deal with, and wholly different problems to confront.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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