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The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War

Civil War Slavery 19th Century America

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#1
caltrek

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I am not quite sure why, but somebody sent me as a gift the book entitled The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. The civil war in question is the American conflict of the 1860'sIt is written with great sympathy for the South's point of view in that conflict, hence its reference to being politically incorrect. I actually agree with many of the points made, Yankee liberal that I am.  For example, yes the right to secede from the union was a legitimate motivation, as argued by the author H.W. Crocker III.  Yes, the North had economic motivations and was very much acting in an imperial fashion. Although I did not fully realize it before reading the book, it is entirely plausible to me that many of the northern generals were actually indifferent, or even supporters, to the institution of slavery.  They were simply more loyal to either the notion of a union or to their own states than they were to the South.

 

The book's greatest failing is the manner in which it deals with the whole question of slavery.  Crocker is very much supportive of states rights, but very much indifferent to the rights of blacks to be free men.  To be sure, he does not argue in favor of the institution of slavery.  Rather he argues that the institution would have simply withered away had the South been allowed to go its own way.  This is a very curious line of reasoning.  The argument of the South was that slaves were rightly considered to be property.  A notion that they were willing to fight for, if only indirectly.  The whole Dred Scott decision reinforced the idea that slaves were property, even when they accompanied their masters to "free" states.  Further, the North was expected to respect the right to own such property even to the point of returning escaped slaves. In that sense, the South was actually trying to impose the institution of slavery upon the north.  Even in the expansion to the west, the South wanted to at least maintain a balance between "free" and "slave" states.  For some, this trumped whatever feeling the locals might have on that matter. So much for state's rights. Not a promising beginning to the path toward liberation, even if such a path was envisioned by the likes of a Robert E. Lee

 

Crocker raises the objection that the North should not have forcibly imposed its views upon slave owners of the South, but does not seem to recognize that slave holders very much forcibly imposed their views on the slaves over which they claimed ownership.  Crocker acknowledges this force only in the same breath that he excuses it on paternalistic grounds.  The slaves, having been deprived of the right to an education or to practice the art of self-sufficiency, needed the slave owners just in order to carry on, or so the argument goes. The self-perpetuating aspect of this vicious cycle is not explicitly acknowledged, but rather is left to the reader to piece together.  Slavery is further excused on the grounds that slave owners often were protective of their slaves, if only to care for their investments in these beings.  In this manner, slaves were little different from horses or pet dogs. 

 

When we clearly see the hypocrisy in the argument that the South should have been free to go its own way in order to be able to perpetuate the the institution of slavery, Crocker's whole argument falls apart. This has implications for the attitudes of today. Consider this among his concluding comments:

 

"Imagine that there had been no war against the South and subsequently no Reconstruction putting the South under martial law disenfranchising white voters with Confederate pasts,and enfranchising newly freed slaves as wards of the Republican Party.  Without that past, race relations in the South would have been better, not worse, and the paternalist planters would have arranged, over time, to emancipate their slaves in exchange for financial compensation." 

 

His objection here starts out as a condemnation of the policies of the North against the South.  Yet, it ends up excusing the poor race relations of the South by blaming the North for the racist attitudes of the South.  As if racism had nothing to do the origination of the institution of slavery.  As if racism were simply a matter of "the devil made me do it".  As if racists of the South are not culpable for their own racist attitudes. Adding to that insult is the notion that slave owners should have received financial compensation for the freeing of their slaves. It is not enough they they often gained great wealth through the efforts of their slaves, but they should have also been compensated for then agreeing to free those slaves?

 

Politically incorrect indeed. 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#2
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Even though i'm not a great expert in US history, i'll comment this. Just two notes:

 

Yes, the North had economic motivations and was very much acting in an imperial fashion. Although I did not fully realize it before reading the book...

 

I thought it was self-evident. Civil war wasn't pro/anti-slavery conflict, slavery was oficially abolished TWO YEARS after the war began. Hovewer, Notrhern propaganda successfully used this "slavery issue" to gain sympathy in European public opinion, so that European governments (GB and France) couldn't openly support South anymore. If there was a slightest chance to retake South without abolition - then this slavery could last in re-united USA for another one or two decades.

 

To be sure, he does not argue in favor of the institution of slavery.  Rather he argues that the institution would have simply withered away had the south been allowed to go its own way.

 

Most likely. Slavery was eventually abolished in all South American countries, which were the closest analogues of CSA. If South was allowed to go its own way, the country could evolve in something like northern twin of Brazil (agrarian export-based economy with no slavery but with very sharp social stratification and impassable borders between social classes). Sooner or later, South could once again become the economic colony of (smaller but still much more developed) USA.



#3
caltrek

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On the topic of slavery :"withering away", I think both of you may, to some extent, be right.  Still:

 

1) In the interim, blacks would have continued to suffer the oppression of slavery.

 

2) I wonder if slavery "withered away" or was the consequence of protracted struggle in all areas where it existed?

 

Mind you, it would have been nice if the North and the South could have resolved their differences without the carnage involved in the war in question.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#4
Cody930

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The generals were probably indifferent. The North went into the war just to maintain the union. Lincoln had the same mindset. The Republican Party that now came to power at the time was mostly rallying for preventing the expansion of slavery into the territories. Most of them really didn't want to abolish slavery except for a vocal minority wanting to do so. The progression of the war ended up causing the party and Lincoln to shift toward emancipation even though they never really supported it in the first place. 
 

I thought it was self-evident. Civil war wasn't pro/anti-slavery conflict, slavery was oficially abolished TWO YEARS after the war began. Hovewer, Notrhern propaganda successfully used this "slavery issue" to gain sympathy in European public opinion, so that European governments (GB and France) couldn't openly support South anymore. If there was a slightest chance to retake South without abolition - then this slavery could last in re-united USA for another one or two decades. 

 

Slavery was not abolished at that point. It wasn't technically abolished until the 13th amendment in 1865. Unless you're referring to the Emancipation Proclamation which is usually misinterpreted quite a bit. It helped free slaves once the Union armies moved into Confederate lands but it didn't include slaves in the border states. It wasn't until that same year as the 13th amendment did the border states end up passing laws themselves to abolish the institution. 

 

Slavery may have withered away as an institution and indeed it would've been nice if both sides talked it out but the way US history played out, it was bound to blow up in this manner. The Revolution rallied around "Freedom" yet allowed southern states to continue with slavery because dual federalism was in full force. A country with literally two different economies lasting for decades was not going to last. Many administrations also kept kicking the can down the road, especially after Andrew Jackson, whenever issues came up. Horrible Supreme Court decisions and compromises only delayed the inevitable. 

 

I also have a hard time seeing how other causes were the main issue and slavery was not. A few excerpts from the time reveal a different attitude: 

 

Charleston Mercury (South Carolina newspaper): "the issue before the country is the extinction of slavery" 

 

Alexander Stephens, VP of the CSA, said "our new government" was founded on slavery, "its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - submission to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth." 

 

Quite a few other crystal clear examples exist. Many new state constitutions in the CSA also explicitly wrote that they were leaving the union to protect the institution. Before anyone brings up that only a handful of whites were slave owners (which is true), poor whites who weren't still supported slavery because it meant not being at the bottom of the social ladder where slaves were. Yes many causes led to the war but slavery was still the overarching issue. 


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#5
caltrek

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I also have a hard time seeing how other causes were the main issue and slavery was not

 Yes many causes led to the war but slavery was still the overarching issue. 

 

 

Slavery was definitely intertwined with some of those other issues.  Certainly, northern whites did not want to compete with southern slave holders in the settlement of the west.  For many, it was a matter of having to compete with the slaves.  This explains why some were both racists and opposed to slavery.

 

Anther overarching issue was that of the desire to preserve the Union.  This would have mattered whether or not slavery was an issue.  The North may have been more populous and powerful than the South, but the loss of the South would have weakened its international standing.  United we stand and divided we fall and all of that.  There was also a lot of low intensity warfare going on with the native Indian populations, so being united would expedite imperial designs in that regard. In fairness to the North, such imperial designs were sometimes shared by southerners, though perhaps not as high a priority as some of the other issues that irritated them.

 

Finally, there was the ever present issue of taxation.  I am not an expert enough on that era to know if the argument is valid, but Crocker maintains that there were unfair tariffs being levied against the South by the North, and that the South was therefore paying an unfair share of the tax burden. 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#6
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It is pretty clear that he is making his argument based on ties to the past of a region he was born in. If he was born in germany would this have been about nazis? If in Japan defense of nanking? In south africa of apartheid? Just because someone has the right to publish inflammatory things and uses shock for the exploitation of money doesn't mean that person is legitimate and that their views should be given credence.

#7
Cody930

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I also have a hard time seeing how other causes were the main issue and slavery was not

 Yes many causes led to the war but slavery was still the overarching issue. 

 

 

Slavery was definitely intertwined with some of those other issues.  Certainly, northern whites did not want to compete with southern slave holders in the settlement of the west.  For many, it was a matter of having to compete with the slaves.  This explains why some were both racists and opposed to slavery.

 

Anther overarching issue was that of the desire to preserve the Union.  This would have mattered whether or not slavery was an issue.  The North may have been more populous and powerful than the South, but the loss of the South would have weakened its international standing.  United we stand and divided we fall and all of that.  There was also a lot of low intensity warfare going on with the native Indian populations, so being united would expedite imperial designs in that regard. In fairness to the North, such imperial designs were sometimes shared by southerners, though perhaps not as high a priority as some of the other issues that irritated them.

 

Finally, there was the ever present issue of taxation.  I am not an expert enough on that era to know if the argument is valid, but Crocker maintains that there were unfair tariffs being levied against the South by the North, and that the South was therefore paying an unfair share of the tax burden. 

 

To preserve the Union because slavery remained as an institution sharply dividing how economics was done. That said, it is true that preserving the Union was a big arc in the two decades preceding the war as you see a lot in historical literature. However, many administrations sat on that and never actively tried to do so. I'm not saying slavery wasn't the only issue. Like I said, many causes were at play but they all tended to make their way back to the institution itself. The North also was not the untouchable shining light to guide the nation. Both sides had their histories with natives for instance and later the nation continued it unfortunately. The North indeed had their own prejudice (even Lincoln) and sometimes malevolent ways of approaching the situation. 

 

As for tariffs, I don't see that even among the secondary causes. Yes parties went back and forth between high and low tariffs but democrats were in control in the two decades preceding the Civil War thus tariffs kept falling pretty substantially satisfying the South quite a bit; that is until the GOP came into the scene by the late 1850s for the first time calling for high tariffs. The problem is that the increased tariff was no where near the rate it was let's say during the Andrew Jackson's time and by the time this occurred, some southern states were already discussing secession so it was already after the fact. 


"Since we first emerged, a few million years ago in East Africa, we have meandered our way around the planet. There are now people on every continent and the remotest islands, from pole to pole, from Mount Everest to the Dead Sea, on the ocean bottoms and even, occasionally, in residence 200 miles up - humans, like the gods of old, living in the sky."


#8
caltrek

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^^ I don't think we are all that far apart. My main point is that the North had economic motives for its actions.  Yes, there were definitely abolitionists who added their moral qualms to the mix. Still, as you point out, the North and the South had radically different economic systems that could not easily co-exist.  Some of those reasons for not co-existing were due to abolitionist objections, but in good part  the underlying economics of the situation was the determining factor. A capitalist system based on "free labor" simply could not readily co-exist with a society that was based on slavery. So an idealized view that the Civil War was some sort of moral crusade on the part of the North to end slavery is simply too simplistic.  Further, you do not seem to subscribe to such an oversimplified view of the situation.

 

Interesting commentary on the tariff situation.   


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#9
Cody930

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^^ I don't think we are all that far apart. My main point is that the North had economic motives for its actions.  Yes, there were definitely abolitionists who added their moral qualms to the mix. Still, as you point out, the North and the South had radically different economic systems that could not easily co-exist.  Some of those reasons for not co-existing were due to abolitionist objections, but in good part  the underlying economics of the situation was the determining factor. A capitalist system based on "free labor" simply could not readily co-exist with a society that was based on slavery. So an idealized view that the Civil War was some sort of moral crusade on the part of the North to end slavery is simply too simplistic.  Further, you do not seem to subscribe to such an oversimplified view of the situation.

 

Interesting commentary on the tariff situation.   

 

Okay I see where you're coming from now. Yeah I'm just pointing out that slavery was sort of the tie to many of the causes but those other causes do indeed exist. The economic motives were indeed part of it. The Republican Party rallied around the "Free labor" you're talking about. Howard Zinn used that cause largely in his book The People's History of the United States. Although mind you he didn't really discuss many of the other causes since he was describing it from a very leftist viewpoint. An example of that being he viewed the North's economic goals as mischievous in that a civil war was pursued instead of letting the smaller slave rebellions take place which could've created anti-capitalist sentiments if it had gone too far. While I don't see it as the overwhelming factor given his position in the book, it certainly was a factor for the North. 

 

Yeah you kind of threw me off with the tariffs because I don't see it much in discussions just before the Civil War. It was an issue more so in the early 1800s, especially with the Nullification Crisis, and it whipped up Southern sentiment but by the time the 1850s rolled around it was way on the back burner as the South was largely satisfied with the current tariff situation. 


"Since we first emerged, a few million years ago in East Africa, we have meandered our way around the planet. There are now people on every continent and the remotest islands, from pole to pole, from Mount Everest to the Dead Sea, on the ocean bottoms and even, occasionally, in residence 200 miles up - humans, like the gods of old, living in the sky."


#10
caltrek

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To switch gears a little, I dug out my old copy of Douglas F. Dowd's The Twisted Dream.  Dowd looked to Karl Marx and, more crucially, to Thorsten Veblen to help formulate his understanding of the U.S. economy beyond that of what more classical economists could teach him.  Citations that follow are his take on the Civil War:

 

 

 

Labor was in short supply; workers were wanted in shipping, trade, fishing, petty industry, and agriculture.  This was an especially severe problem for those who wished to exploit the valuable agricultural possibilities of the southern colonies. Serfdom was impossible; slavery was not...

Estimates of the numbers of Africans enslaved and carried to the Americas range from fifteen to twenty millions; it is estimated that from 50 to 85 percent of these died en route...

For the South, the western lands were both a life-saver and a boon - a life-saver because the South's techniques f cultivating tobacco and cotton had depleted the soils, a boon because the new and ever richer lands fitted most profitably into rapidly expanding markets in the Old World (most importantly, cotton for England's burgeoning textile mills).  The South's movement westward into Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana meant, of course, the wholesale destruction of native Americans and of their remarkable and healthy societies, as well as a vast increase in the number of black slaves imported and bred for plantation cultivation...

The importance of the South's economy in the United States was well reflected in the federal government.  By any measure of population, land, or capital, the Suuth's power was disproportionate, whether referring to the legislative, judicial or executive branch of government.  The South's power, not the moral issue of slavery, was the central issue leading to the Civil War; when the South lost, it was because the the economic power of the northern industry, agriculture, and finance had surpassed it.  If we may judge the intentions of warriors by what they do after victory, the organization and functioning of the American federal government during and after the Civil War tells us that northern intentions were to adapt federal power to the needs of industrial, not planter, capitalism.

 

Dowd goes own to quote Veblen:

 

 

 

The slave trade was never a ‘nice’ occupation or an altogether unexceptionable investment — ‘balanced on the edge of the permissible.’ But even though it may have been distasteful to one and another of its New England men of affairs, and though there always was a suspicion of moral obliquity attached to the slave trade, yet it had the good fortune to be drawn into the service of the greater good. In connection with its running-mate, the rum trade, it laid the foundation of some very reputable fortunes at that focus of commercial enterprise that presently became the center of American culture, and so gave rise to some of the country’s Best People. At least so they say. Perhaps also it was... in the early pursuit in this moral penumbra that American business enterprise learned how not to let its right hand know what its left hand is doing, and there is always something to be done that is best done with the left hand. (Absentee Ownership [1923])

 

 

For more of Dowd's take on these issues as well as upon subsequent historical developments:

 

http://www.dougdowd....nWorstEnemy.php


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#11
caltrek

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Well before Howard Zinn, favorite historians popular on the left were Charles A & Mary R. Beard as well as their son William Beard.  I finally obtained a copy of The Beard's New Basic History of the United States.  The book has some interesting things to say about the Civil War.

 

On the subject of tariffs:

 

 

Congress raised he duties on imports twice - 1824 and in 1828. The second act...produced a revoy in South Carolina. In 1832 the state legislature called a convention. and that assembly...condemned the protective tarrif as contrary to the Constitution of the United States and hence null and void.  The delegates further resolved that, if the federal government tried to coerce the people of the state into obeying the law, they would withdraw from the Union and establish an independent state...

 

Under the leadership of Henry Clay a compromise was reached in 1833.  Congress provided that the tariff should be gradually reduced until by 1842 it would be about on a level with the rates set in 1816...It was only a truce..in 1840...the Whigs broke the compromise of 1833 and reaised the protective duties on imported manufactures...Democrats accpted the challenge.  In their platform of 1856 they enodrsed the idea of prgessive free trade throughout the world.  their triump at the polls they followed up by enacting the law of 1857 which...made substantial cuts in many protective duties.

 

...the Republicans in 1860 drafted a platform ...(and) inserted two new planks.  One of these endorsed the device of a protective tariff to encourage the development of "the industrial interests of the whole country." 

 

So, the south may well have been satisfied "with the current tariff situation" that "current situation" was in fact threatened by Lincoln and the Republicans.  

 

Still, subsequent discussion in the book focuses on the issues of slavery and secession, suggesting that slavery was by far a more problematic issue than tariffs.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#12
caltrek

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The Beards also have some interesting things to say about how much actual support there was in the South to leave the Union, which I found interesting:

 

 

 

As a matter of fact in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana a strong opposition to secession had appeared in a large minority vote against it. In Virginia western counties were so opposed to it that they withdrew from the Old Dominion and later entered the Union as the state of West Virginia.  In the western part of North Carolina, Unionist loyalty widely prevailed.  In the eastern parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, Unionists were undoubtedly in a majority and thousands of the joined the Federal army.  Although opinion in Maryland and Kentucky was sharply divided, little force was needed to keep those states in the Union.  Secessionists in Missouri were numerous enough to create a civil war in that state but at length they were driven out or suppressed, after several pitched battles.  Less than a year after the firing on Fort Sumter the hope of Confederates that the border states would come to their aid in the struggle for independence had been dispelled.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#13
caltrek

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As for the attitude of European powers:

 

 

Confederate bonds to the face value of about $15,000,000 were sold in Britain and France.  British shipyards, defying an old rule of international law, built war vessels for the Confederacy and the British government allowed them to escape to sea, where they preyed on the commerce of the United States.  the sympathies of the British aristocracy and government, of the ruling classes of France, and of Napolean III, Emperor of the French, were overwhelmingly on the side of the South.  In both countries aristocrats hoped that "the upstart Yankee Republic" would be destroyed in the war and many British and French newspapers rejoiced in the prospect. But working people in English cities held mass meeting in protest against giving assistance to slave owners; and Queen Victoria counseled her Cabinet to be cautious.

 

Napolean III attempted to form a European coalition for intervention in the war.  In 1861 he suggested to the Czar of Russia that certain great Powers take joint action respecting America, but he met a firm if polite refusal.  Meanwhile the British government was toying with the idea.  Yet when Napolean proposed intervention to the British in 1862, he was told that the time was not ripe.  One member of the British Cabinet openly declared that the Confederacy was in effect a success; but the Prime Minister, who was watching closely the course of the war in America, was unwilling to take the plunge in aid of the South...

 

Napolean sent a message to Lincoln offering his services as a mediator between the North and the South.  Lincoln responded courteously, declining the offer...

 

If it had not been for the decisive Northern victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, British and French intervention might have come.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#14
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Is the disagreement with secession in itself, or with the institution of slavery? Because both can exist on its own, without being reliant on the other.

 

See Calexit, Vexit, Nexit, New York exit, and others. Secession is just libertarianism, which can be left or right wing depending on the context.

 

An interesting thought experiment I had for the first civil war is, say it was the North that was the slave owning states, and it was the south that was anti slavery. Then you play both histories side by side (you see both the true history and the thought experiment.)

 

Then it becomes, is succession OK or not OK?

 

In other words, Texas Vs. White seem to be slanted toward the union, regardless of what the unions motives may have been.

 

And now it's shooting us liberals in the foot with Bonne Nuit De L'Orange in office.


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#15
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Then it becomes, is succession OK or not OK?

 

To me, the issue of secession is an interesting one. Roots of this issue can be traced back to well before the Civil War. Almost immediately upon entering the Union, with the ratification of the Constitution in 1789, states began threatening to secede. In 1790, the House of Representatives received a petition from a group of Pennsylvania abolitionists that included Benjamin Franklin. In response, members of the Georgia and South Carolina Congressional delegations intimated that if Congress attempted to manumit slaves, their states would leave the Union.[i]

 

In 1799, the Kentucky legislature passed a set of resolutions proclaiming the right of states to nullify “unconstitutional” acts of Congress.[ii]  This implied that sovereignty rested with the states and that they were not obligated to recognize the authority of the federal government on all issues. 

 

In 1804, members of the declining Federalist Party in New England and New York plotted secession from a country ruled by the Republican Thomas Jefferson. [iii]

 

In November, 1814, Governor Strong of Massachusetts dispatched an emissary to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to meet with a British commander there, John Sherbrooke.  The emissary asked Sherbrooke whether Great Britain would “afford military assistance” to Massachusetts if it were to secede from the union.[iv] Clearly, Strong expected that a move to secession would be greeted as treasonous and in that sense not accepted as legal. In 1815, at the Hartford Convention, where New England Federalists considered (though they ultimately rejected) secession as a means of promoting the sectional interests that they thought President James Madison's prosecution of the War of 1812 was harming.[v]

 

In 1832, the state legislature of South Carolina called a convention. At that assembly, delegates condemn the protective tariff enacted by Congress in 1828 as contrary to the Constitution of the United States and hence null and void.  The delegates further resolve that, if the federal government tried to coerce the people of the state into obeying the law, they would withdraw from the Union and establish an independent state. In response, President Andrew Jackson issued a proclamation branding such nullification as a violation of the letter and spirit of the Constitution.  He made clear that he would enforce the federal laws in question by the hanging of those who violated those laws.  Eventually, the matter was resolved by a compromise reached in Congress whereby the tariff was to be gradually reduced.  In turn, South Carolina repealed her nullification ordinance.[vi]

 

In 1833, Justice of the Supreme Court Joseph Story published his Commentaries on the Constitution.  Among other points made by Story is that the Union could not be lawfully dissolved by state action.[vii] In 1840, Nathaniel Beverly Tucker, professor of law at William and Mary College, argued in favor of the right of secession in A Discourse on the Importance of the Study of Political Science as a Branch of Academc Education in the United States.[viii] So we see that the whole issue of secession festered along as a potential threat to the union and to the adherence by the states to the laws put forth by the federal government.

 

The military resolution of the secession question by the Civil War was given legal force by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1868 case of Texas v. White. The Court ruled there that even Texas--an independent republic before it joined the Union in 1845--had no right to secede. "The Constitution," the Court said, "in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States."[ix]

 

The Supreme Court in Texas v. White recognized that secession by mutual agreement stands on a different footing from unilateral secession. After finding against a state's right of unilateral secession, the Court acknowledged an exception for secession "through revolution, or through consent of the States." [x]

 

In 1877, the Williams v. Bruffy decision was rendered, pertaining to civil war debts. The Court wrote regarding acts establishing an independent government that "The validity of its acts, both against the parent state and the citizens or subjects thereof, depends entirely upon its ultimate success; if it fail to establish itself permanently, all such acts perish with it; if it succeed and become recognized, its acts from the commencement of its existence are upheld as those of an independent nation."[xi]

 

From the perspective of the early twenty first century the issue has already been discussed in this forum in regards to the possibility of California seceding from the rest of the country.  Here is a link to the thread in which that discussion occurred: 

 

http://www.futuretim...-of-trumps-win/

 

Personally, I can actually sympathize with the South in arguing that it had a right to secede.  One of the few areas in which I am probably more aligned with conservatives is concerning state’s rights and the notion that authority should be given to the lowest feasible level of government.  To me, that is the best way of ensuring the legitimacy of government and to allowing government the maximum chance to be responsive to its citizen’s interests.  Where I do differ from conservatives in this regard is the issue of civil rights.  To me, state’s rights should not supercede the rights of individuals.   So obviously seceding to protect the “right” to own slaves is a repugnant idea. The civil right of slaves to be free takes precedence over any inclination I might otherwise feel to favor local government over the federal government.  In the mid to late twentieth century, states’ rights as a doctrine was most often evoked as an argument to protect the “right” of states to deprive minorities of their civil rights.   There again, I favor civil rights of individuals over states’ rights where such states’ rights are asserted to deprive a class of citizens of their civil rights.

 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#16
caltrek

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Today, there are fears that the U.S. may descend into another civil war or intense crisis involving massive violent rebellion.  We forget how intense feelings became prior to the U.S. Civil War. The article and interview linked below gives us a better sense of the intensity of those feelings.  We have a ways to go before we reach that level.

 

If You Think Congress Is Bad Now, You Should Hear About What Happened in 1838

 

https://www.motherjo...charles-sumner/

 

Introduction:

 

(Mother Jones) In 1838, Rep. William Graves, a Kentucky Whig, shot and killed Rep. Jonathan Cilley, a Democrat from Maine, and became the only member of Congress to murder one of his colleagues. The events that led to the fatal duel were convoluted and—even by today’s standards—almost breathtakingly stupid, but in her new book, Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War, Yale historian Joanne Freeman distills the incident to its essence. The duel, and others like it, was both a reflection of and a driving force behind partisan and sectional divides that would ultimately cleave the nation in two.

 

The product of 17 years of research and writing, Field of Blood tells you something you don’t know about something you may have thought you knew—the nation’s long march to the Civil War. Though a few incidents, such as the Graves-Cilley duel and the 1856 caning of Sen. Charles Sumner, have lingered in the history books, the full scope of antebellum violence in Congress has gone untold. Poring through old letters and diaries, Freeman found more than 70 incidents of violence—or threats of violence—between 1830 and 1860. And the violence served a purpose: Threats and brute force were tools by which the Southern slave power exerted its will on the federal government—until the North began to fight back.

 

Freeman spoke with Mother Jones in December about the book, historical memory, chaos in Parliament, and a man with the nickname “Extra Billy.” (See linked article for interview).

181220_Sumner.jpg?w=990

Library of Congress


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#17
caltrek

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More than one hundred and fifty years later, and the U.S. Civil War still leaves a legacy that forces itself upon our consciousness. How to tell and remember the history of that war still rages as a topic of controversy today. So, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this thread, especially after coming upon this 2017 article that first appeared in The Atlantic.

 

The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

 

https://www.theatlan...ral-lee/529038/

 

Introduction:

 

(The Atlantic) The strangest part about the continued personality cult of Robert E. Lee is how few of the qualities his admirers profess to see in him he actually possessed.

 

Memorial Day has the tendency to conjure up old arguments about the Civil War. That’s understandable; it was created to mourn the dead of a war in which the Union was nearly destroyed, when half the country rose up in rebellion in defense of slavery. In 2017, the removal of Lee’s statue in New Orleans has inspired a new round of commentary about Lee, not to mention protests on his behalf by white supremacists.

 

The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.

 

There is little truth in this. Lee was a devout Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.

 

But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. Lee’s elevation is a key part of a 150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. That ideology is known as the Lost Cause, and as historian David Blight writes, it provided a “foundation on which Southerners built the Jim Crow system.”


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#18
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All the Monuments to Racism That Have Been Torched, Occupied, or Removed

 

https://www.motherjo...ied-or-removed/

 

Introduction:

 

(Mother Jones) For all the handwringing over the “senseless” property destruction that has accompanied the past week of protest, a number of the damaged sites have a perfectly sensible connection to the protesters’ chief grievance: anti-Black racism. Throughout the South, protesters have burned buildings and toppled statues that have stood for years as overt reminders of the country’s history of chattel slavery, racial apartheid, and the war fought to uphold it. 

 

Most of these Confederate monuments were built not immediately after the Civil War but in the Jim Crow South of the early 20th century, as a part of white Southerners’ cult of the “Lost Cause.” In this relitigation of history, Confederate soldiers were not landed gentry fighting to maintain their right to own other human beings (which they were). Instead, they were posited as noble rebels, fighting outmatched against a tyrannical government for a right to “maintain their way of life.” The plaques and obelisks and statues that dotted cities around the South in memory of this myth were designed as points of nostalgic pride for white Southerners and ominous reminders of systemic racial terror for Black Southerners.

  

We’ve debated for years about whether these symbols of the Rebel South should continue to exist, but now, perhaps emboldened by the historic moment, people around the country (and now around the world) have taken matters into their own hands. Here’s a running list—updated June 8—of what’s been hit so far.  (See article linked above the quote box for the list, which includes brief background discussion). 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#19
caltrek

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By Any Other Name?

 

https://www.vox.com/...cy-marines-navy

 

Introduction:

(VOX) The US Army currently has 10 bases and facilities named after leaders of the Confederacy. Within the next few months, that number could possibly drop to zero.

 

On Monday, Army spokesperson Col. Sunset Belinsky told Politico that “The secretary of defense and secretary of the Army are open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic.”

 

That’s opened the door for the Army to reverse its long-held position on keeping the names honoring Confederate officers. The Army defended such a stance as recently as February, with a spokesperson telling Task & Purpose, “The Army has a tradition of naming installations and streets after historical figures of military significance, including former Union and Confederate general officers.”

 

But the nation’s oldest military service has come under renewed pressure in recent months to change that practice. In February, the Marines signaled that Confederate-related items — including the Confederate battle flag — would no longer be permitted on its bases and officially followed through last week. In May, the New York Times editorial board wrote a scathing piece arguing the military celebrated white supremacy, in part because of the 10 installations’ names.

 

https://www.vox.com/...ederacy-twitter

(Vox) President Donald Trump just said his administration “will not even consider the renaming” of 10 US Army facilities named after Confederate leaders (the link is to the article cited above), even though top Pentagon leaders said earlier this week that they were open to discussing such a change.

 

The first article brings up many interesting issues regarding the naming of military installations. A main question being posed is was it ever appropriate for such installations to be named after Confederate generals?  

 

It has been observed that while the North may have won the Civil war, the South won a victory in how the history of that what war was remembered.  This was, it has been argued, an aspect of reintroducing segregation into southern society. Recent protests regarding racist police practices has also served to cause a re-examination of this whole issue.  The two article cited are a manifestation of that development. 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#20
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Calls to remove controversial Abraham Lincoln statue in Boston

 

https://www.msn.com/...TSQFqRP3To-dlHk

 

Introduction:

(WCBV Via MSN) The dismantling of controversial statues and monuments in the city of Boston is a mounting subject in the ongoing push for racial justice in the nation.

 

Calls to take down a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Boston's Park Square, between the Park Plaza and the Transportation Building, are growing. The statue of President Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, is depicted with a slave on his knees.

 

A petition to remove the statue was spearheaded by an African American man from Boston named Tory Bullock who says he's been seeing the statue since he was a kid.

 

"It says that it's a statue that's supposed to represent freedom. But, to me, it represents submissiveness," Bullock said. "It represents: 'Know your place, because that's where you belong.'"

 

Conclusion:

"This is a great opportunity to get some local black artists involved in the creation of (a new) statue, to come up with something new that represents equality," Bullock said. "Right now, I have the momentum and leverage with everything going on in the world, that we can actually make a difference here." 

 

(Editorial Note: A spelling error was detected in the MSN introduction and the correctly spelled word inserted in place of that typo – caltrek).


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Civil War, Slavery, 19th Century America

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