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"Misplaced Honor"
May 27, 2013 10:41 PM   Subscribe

NYT Editorial Filter -- "Now African-Americans make up about a fifth of the military. The idea that today we ask any of these soldiers to serve at a place named for a defender of a racist slavocracy is deplorable; the thought that today we ask any American soldier to serve at a base named for someone who killed United States Army troops is beyond absurd. Would we have a Fort Rommel? A Camp Cornwallis?"

Author Jamie Malanowski's blog.
posted by bardic (767 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Navy's naming scheme is superior, unsurprisingly:

Naval Air Station Jacksonville
Naval Station Norfolk
Naval Base Ventura County
Naval Submarine Base Groton

No question about where the bases are or what is located there, unlike, say, Fort Rucker or Camp Shelby.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:47 PM on May 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I suppose we could rename one of them to "Fort Redskins."
posted by Nomyte at 10:49 PM on May 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Change the names. You don't name things after traitors, and that's what the Confederates were.
posted by robot_monkeys at 10:56 PM on May 27, 2013 [79 favorites]


Dan Carlin, in his Hardcore History podcast, makes the point that most historical 'heroes' or ambigious figures like Alexander and Genghis KHAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNN were, in their own time, closer to someone like Hitler. But time has made the brutality of their actions fade.

This has no excuse. The Civil War was hardly ancient history. Hell I'm a bit puzzled by Confederate heroes in fiction, like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Jonah Hex, or the crew of the Firefly.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:58 PM on May 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yeah, they should rename Fort Benning to Fort Sherman.
posted by empath at 10:58 PM on May 27, 2013 [22 favorites]



Change the names. You don't name things after traitors, and that's what the Confederates were.


What about eggs benedict?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:58 PM on May 27, 2013 [24 favorites]


Braxton Bragg, for whom Fort Bragg in North Carolina is named, was irascible, ineffective, argumentative with subordinates and superiors alike, and probably would have been replaced before inflicting half the damage that he caused had he and President Jefferson Davis not been close friends.

Rename it for Billy Bragg.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:59 PM on May 27, 2013 [30 favorites]


I live near Fort Gordon. Were the DoD to change the name, it'd still be up to the City to rename Gordon Highway, a major arterial road that runs from downtown out to the base. And if the city did that, then I can think of a couple of car dealerships that would need to change their names too, not to mention every other business along that stretch needing to update their addresses.

Not that these are reasons not to change the name, it'd just be an interesting ripple effect to watch.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:04 PM on May 27, 2013


I saw this via Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, he pulls no punches.

Coming from my point of view, it genuinely seems outrageous that Confederate generals who were - let’s not paper over the facts - traitors are honored by having massive U.S. military bases named after them.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:04 PM on May 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd support changing them to something snappy like Fort Fuck You Cracker.
posted by klangklangston at 11:13 PM on May 27, 2013 [64 favorites]


On the one hand, I'm like ok, sure, while we're at it let's also rename Jefferson County, Colorado, and Madison, Wisconsin and Washington, District of Columbia (a twofer!). On the other hand, if there's a perception that naming things after Confederates is particularly injurious, I'm all right with expediting those cases.
posted by threeants at 11:16 PM on May 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Also, I find any "traitor" framing somewhat bizarre; were the French Resistance traitors? Were the Freedom Riders traitors? Treachery as a pure concept seems pretty extra-moral to me. It's what you fucking do that counts! The Confederacy was bad because it kept a class of people as chattel slaves, not because it made some sort of legalistic blemish on the US' honor.)
posted by threeants at 11:18 PM on May 27, 2013 [58 favorites]


Interesting. Having lived a long time in a city where the people still call renamed streets by their colonial names, I'm curious about the urge to rename.

Of course, in this case, there's the additional wrinkle of federal vs state vs local jurisdiction, too.
posted by bardophile at 11:22 PM on May 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


This goes way deeper than place names. A good book on it is Confederates in the Attic.
posted by stbalbach at 11:29 PM on May 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


Personally I think the fact that black soldiers are "defending" (is that the right word for robobombing children?) a country where 1/3 of their fellow brothers are in the penal system is more deplorable than the name of a fucking base.

But hey maybe that's just me.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:39 PM on May 27, 2013 [62 favorites]


I think Lee deserves a fort. He ended the civil war with his unauthorized surrender at Appomattox, saving thousands of lives. He may be a traitor to the US, but if he had joined the Union, he would have been a traitor to his native Virginia.
posted by foobaz at 11:42 PM on May 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


This goes way deeper than place names. A good book on it is Confederates in the Attic.

It's like a mixture of Flowers in the Attic and Anne Frank?
posted by jaduncan at 11:45 PM on May 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's like a mixture of Flowers in the Attic and Anne Frank?

Or Cash in the Attic and Ayn Rand.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:51 PM on May 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


He ended the civil war with his unauthorized surrender at Appomattox, saving thousands of lives.

That's a weird way to say he lost a battle.
posted by empath at 11:53 PM on May 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


Personally I think the fact that black soldiers are "defending" (is that the right word for robobombing children?) a country where 1/3 of their fellow brothers are in the penal system is more deplorable than the name of a fucking base.

BREAKING NEWS: It turns out that you can disagree with two things at once! No more either/or!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:59 PM on May 27, 2013 [40 favorites]


I think Lee deserves a fort.

As a U.S. Army engineer, Lee helped redraw the map between the United States and Mexico. I mean it wasn't like his entire military career was spent defending the indefensible acts of politicians.
posted by three blind mice at 12:02 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally I think the fact that black soldiers are "defending" (is that the right word for robobombing children?) a country where 1/3 of their fellow brothers are in the penal system is more deplorable than the name of a fucking base.
But hey maybe that's just me.


Please let me make sure I understand what you're saying. You are contemptuous of people fretting about how the US accords military honors to famous dead racists, because the US is still, 150 years on, a country that systematically oppresses black people. You deplore that the US asks black people to serve in its military even as it unjustly and disproportionately imprisons black people (particularly young to middle-aged black men). You are *not* saying that you deplore black soldiers as quislings. Is that right?
posted by gingerest at 12:03 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fort Django, because it's about time that Python web development frameworks receive the official recognition that they deserve.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:05 AM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


What about eggs benedict?

Freedom Eggs!
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 12:09 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Navy's naming scheme is superior

Well, they did name a few ships after a drunkard who recommended detaining the families of his opponents and the execution of POW's without a trial.
posted by peeedro at 12:11 AM on May 28, 2013


I hate also that we have racist fort names, but news media is a limited platform bounded by the human attention span. We must deplore atrocities in the media according to their deplorability. Naming ranks far down on that list.

I am categorically not saying black people are traitors. Traitors have a choice. Black people join the military for the same reason all poor people join the military; for lack of a better option. That this supports an institution that oppresses them is rather besides the point. Most large empires have used the military, at least in part, as a way of killing off the poor fringe youth of society that would otherwise seek rebellion. In a race-class based society that also includes a whole mess of black people.

I can't wait for the day when our robots are so efficient at killing that we stop recruiting for the army. The schadenfreude of bourgoisie machine efficiency directly leading to an excess of young unemployed fueling civil unrest will be so sweet my teeth will hurt.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:13 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


empath: "Yeah, they should rename Fort Benning to Fort Sherman."

We did have Fort McPherson before they closed it.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:13 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I lived for three years on Route 1 in northern Virginia, which others will know as Jefferson Davis Highway. And I grew up in Houston, in a school district that didn't try to glorify the confederacy at all but did try to paint some confederate "heroes" as noble, such as "Stonewall" Jackson. To be fair, we got a hell of a lot of Native American history from their perspective, some degree of insight into Santa Ana (it's tough to teach the Battle of San Jacinto as not at least a little dishonorable) and even some nuance regarding Hiro Hito.

I agree that the names should be changed post-haste. Not just the forts but the strrets, schools (dear god) all of it. But not solely because of the treason and racisn inherent in the Civil War, but because the South too easily goes to that - their most shameful era- in order to find their pride of history.

So instead of continuing to mythologize a schism that arose over slavery, rename these forts after local Southern heroes of more recent times. You know that evefry one of these towns has sons and daughters who have fought bravely and fallen in recent conflicts. Aren't they more deserving of the honor than those who fought against the U.S. in the war that threatened the U. S. More than any other? Honor them (and name at least one after a woman while we're at it.)
posted by Navelgazer at 12:19 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


What about eggs benedict?

Named for either a stock broker or a pope, not the noted turncoat.

I'm not sure whether that's actually better.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:21 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fort Mathowie, Jessamyn Air Base, Cortex Naval Station - you get the idea.
posted by Cranberry at 12:22 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


He may be a traitor to the US, but if he had joined the Union, he would have been a traitor to his native Virginia.

You can't be a traitor to a state. You can be a traitor to your nation.

Yes, I realize Lee felt differently. Which is why he's a traitor.
posted by Justinian at 12:32 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


(Thanks for clarifying, ishrinkmajeans. I was pretty sure I was overreading.)
posted by gingerest at 12:42 AM on May 28, 2013


If being a traitor is the problem, haven't you guys got a state and a capitol to rename?
posted by pompomtom at 12:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


How about Fort Traitor?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:59 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I got a letter from the government
The other day
I opened and read it
It said they were suckers
They wanted me for their army or whatever
Picture me giving a damn
I said never
Here is a land that never gave a damn
About a brother like me and myself
Because they never did
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:01 AM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wouldn't consider Lee a traitor, he simply had multiple allegiances to which he had pledged himself. It's not morally his fault that he wound up on the losing side (although being on the side of slavery is another matter). Being a traitor cannot be determined ex post facto of a conflict. Betraying is defying allegiance for personal gain.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:04 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're only a traitor if you lose.
posted by empath at 1:13 AM on May 28, 2013 [18 favorites]


I still wouldn't expect the U.K. to name any forts in honor of Washington regardless of the outcome of the revolutionary war.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:14 AM on May 28, 2013


I still wouldn't expect the U.K. to name any forts in honor of Washington regardless of the outcome of the revolutionary war.

I'm pretty sure the UK is full of places named after failed revolutionaries.
posted by empath at 1:18 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Furthermore, to assume the extremely-southern spin on the civil war which insists on calling it "The War of Northern Aggression," the idea is that the soth peacefully secceeded and it was only the union which turned it into a conflict (because of course this was the one time in history where seccession wasn't understood to be an act of war.)

In this narrative, why would those who proudly proclaimed their Independence only to be defeated by the invading U.S. forces even want to be "honored" in t his fashion?
posted by Navelgazer at 1:28 AM on May 28, 2013


Funny, they have no Fort Quisling here in Norway.
posted by grajohnt at 1:28 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Black people join the military for the same reason all poor people join the military; for lack of a better option.

Are you seriously saying that all black people have no better option than the military?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:31 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Britain seems far more comfortable with ambiguity, perhaps because their national narrative is longer and much less easily reduced to a single point of view. I'm pretty sure for example that there's no conventional wisdom on whether to regard Cromwell as a good guy or a bad one. Pretty much everyone agrees that he did appalling things, but in historical context this puts him in an awful lot of good company. Admiration for Gandhi is normal and there's hardly been a time when it wasn't. Try to imagine an American equivalent.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:31 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If being a traitor is the problem, haven't you guys got a state and a capitol to rename?

The difference between being a hero and being a traitor is whether you're asking the people you betrayed or the people you aided. To many of the descendants of people who fought under Lee, I guess he and his gang are still family heroes. I suppose they figure he led their great-grandfathers (gg-grandfathers?) into battle against people who were burning their towns, stealing their crops, and raping their great-grandmothers, so how could he be the bad guy?

That war isn't going to go away soon. But renaming things is a good start. I'd also like to see them recontextualize a few monuments. Don't necessarily tear down a statue of Lee, but build a bigger monument or museum around it to put it in proper perspective. Sort of "Here's the way people around here used to feel about this guy, and the monument itself is an important part of our local history, but here's the bigger picture, the way people feel about him today given the perspective of all these years."
posted by pracowity at 1:33 AM on May 28, 2013


Also, I find any "traitor" framing somewhat bizarre; were the French Resistance traitors? Were the Freedom Riders traitors?

Thing is, it was treachery in the defense of slavery, not resistance against a foreign occupation or civil disobedience in the cause of getting the country to actually live up to its constitution. It's mildly offensive to compare the Slaver State Rebellion with the latter two.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:34 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


Also, renaming the bases will do nothing but stir people up, for no good reason. Let sleeping dogs lie, no good will come of this.

Branding these men purely as traitors is simplistic at best.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:38 AM on May 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


The recognition of Oliver Cromwell in the UK is a long and complicated one even up to fairly recent times. Churchill wanted to name a ship the Cromwell only to be vetoed on direct order of the King, both for the republican connections but also because of his bloody reputation in Ireland. History is rarely simple and black and white.
posted by brilliantmistake at 1:41 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


More troubling than naming forts after Confederate generals, IMO, is the naming of weapon systems after native peoples that were very nearly completely exterminated by the United States. As Noam Chomsky points out, we would be horrified if the modern German Luftwaffe named a new fighter aircraft the Juden, yet barely bat an eye at naming attack helicopters Apache and Comanche. It's the twisted pathology of ancient Rome: "we crushed you and continue to do so, but we admire your resistance, so we'll name a new weapon in your memory."
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [81 favorites]


Black people join the military for the same reason all poor people join the military; for lack of a better option.

Are you seriously saying that all black people have no better option than the military?


I read the comment to mean that the majority of black people who join the military do so because they don't have better options. The ones who have better options don't join the military.

Admiration for Gandhi is normal and there's hardly been a time when it wasn't.

Gandhi is actually a highly contested figure in Pakistan, for a variety of reasons, not all of which are religious chauvinism.
posted by bardophile at 1:52 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Admiration for Gandhi is normal and there's hardly been a time when it wasn't. Try to imagine an American equivalent.

Yeah, I'm stumped.
posted by empath at 1:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hell I'm a bit puzzled by Confederate heroes in fiction, like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Jonah Hex, or the crew of the Firefly.

In this narrative, why would those who proudly proclaimed their Independence only to be defeated by the invading U.S. forces even want to be "honored" in t his fashion?

The postwar effort by Confederates and Confederate sympathizers to reify the Civil War as a conflict between nobly doomed agrarian individualists and an all-consuming industrial monolith is one of the great propaganda machines in any era; as noted, the Lost Cause of the Confederacy even continues today to significant effect.

The Confederacy was bad because it kept a class of people as chattel slaves, not because it made some sort of legalistic blemish on the US' honor.

Yes, that's why the Confederate States of America were bad. Many of their soldiers, and most if not all of their generals, were Union-trained professionals who had all taken oaths to defend and protect the Union. That declaration of allegiance has no term limit; so despite formally resigning commissions to join the secession, taking arms against that Union would have been in violation of their sworn promise. Regardless of how one feels about the USA and whether it needs, needed, or deserves protection, we can probably all agree that violent action against a government to which one has previously sworn unswerving allegiance counts as treason, if the word treason means anything at all. They're definitely bad because they broke their oaths in order to protect the right to own people, but they're traitors for forswearing their declarations of service.

schadenfreude of bourgoisie machine efficiency

I was really hoping you'd call it fascism and complete the loanword trifecta, this betting slip is useless now.
posted by Errant at 1:57 AM on May 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


"History is rarely simple and black and white."

Actually in America it's always been black and white.
posted by bardic at 1:58 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fair enough, empath, but I was reaching for a more narrowly defined equivalent. A foreign figure who opposed our explicit global military and commercial objectives. Though that's not to say I disagree with you.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:00 AM on May 28, 2013


You can't be a traitor to a state. You can be a traitor to your nation.

That's true now, because the Union won.
posted by atrazine at 2:01 AM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yes, that's why the Confederate States of America were bad. Many of their soldiers, and most if not all of their generals, were Union-trained professionals who had all taken oaths to defend and protect the Union.

I'm not a military expert but I believe the army was mostly state organized militias, and that the officers swore an oath to uphold the constitution, not the union. One could at least make a argument that secession was legal under the constitution. Whether it was a good argument or not became a moot point after the war started.
posted by empath at 2:06 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this word "traitor" is troublesome. Traitor to that ideal, hero to the other. The guys who tried to assassinate Hitler were traitors too.
posted by Decani at 2:06 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Branding these men purely as traitors is simplistic at best.

I don't think think Lee was purely a traitor. He was a complicated figure. But he is more or less directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed all in the service of the right of men to legally own, enslave, rape, kill, and otherwise abuse other human beings.

What possible reasoning can justify that?

Yeah, this word "traitor" is troublesome.

Is "one of the greatest and most effective champions of pure evil in American history" better?
posted by Justinian at 2:08 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is "one of the greatest and most effective champions of pure evil in American history" better?
posted by Justinian at 10:08 AM on May 28


If that description is fair, then yes. It's a more direct description of the problem than "traitor", which, as I attempted to illustrate, has an unhelpful double-edged nature to it. "Traitor" is the sort of word that is often used by people with an agenda to push, where the aim is to demonise those who oppose the agenda rather than to meaningfully criticise their position.
posted by Decani at 2:13 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think think Lee was purely a traitor. He was a complicated figure. But he is more or less directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed all in the service of the right of men to legally own, enslave, rape, kill, and otherwise abuse other human beings.

What possible reasoning can justify that?


All of those things were true, but I think the one thing you can't call him is a traitor. The man opposed slavery and opposed secession and fought the war out of a feeling of loyalty to the state of Virginia. That's not a man with treason in his heart. I wouldn't defend anybody morally who took up arms for the confederacy, but I think calling them all traitors is not accurate.
posted by empath at 2:16 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's fair that, for example, Decani and others feel like the word "traitor" should be avoided. One can make an argument for that. But to say it is inaccurate to call Lee a traitor is a non-starter. He took up arms against the United States after swearing to defend it. He was clearly a traitor if the word traitor is to have any meaning at all.

As I said, I understand the position that the word traitor doesn't in fact have much of a meaning since, as empath says, you're only a traitor if you lose but that's different than saying Lee was not a traitor at all.
posted by Justinian at 2:19 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I always thought that the standard definition of a traitor was someone who tried to overthrow the government of their parent nation. Washington was a traitor to Great Britain, Lee was a traitor to the United States.
posted by dazed_one at 2:21 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh. You wrote that comment as well. I guess you know what empath says.
posted by Justinian at 2:21 AM on May 28, 2013


Given that slavery is abolished and they're not going to have much luck reinstating it, my attitude about the modern secessionist movement is "by all means, go for it; please, can we help you pack?"

As far as I'm concerned secession in itself is as legitimate as any other devolution -- it's the the fact that in the process they were effectively permanently kidnapping a helpless subset of the population, who were at that time American subjects (I use that word as you can hardlly call slaves "citizens"), beyond the reach of liberation or aid.

Lincoln was careful to speak of it, particularly at first, as a war to preserve the Union, but I'm not persuaded that such a war has any moral force without the issue of slavery.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:24 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, if we're going to argue about the definition of treason, the Constitution will come to our aid here -- Treason is the one crime explicitly defined there, precisely because of its historical abuse (and not just historical: petty kings and presidents-for-life routinely bang up people for "treason" for as little as voicing opposition to a particular policy); defining it was a practical and straightorward way of securing the rights that it does not exclude.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
So yeah, Confederate officers were traitors by law the moment they took up arms against the United States.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:44 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


By American law, but by the law in force in the south, they were no longer part of the United States.

Let me be clear: The south and the people who fought for the south fought for an evil cause, but that evil cause wasn't treason, it was slavery.

For many of them, fighting for the union would have been the treasonous act. All things considered, I wish more people would have put morality over loyalty in the civil war (or hell, even today). There were a lot of people who fought for the south, Robert E Lee included, who opposed slavery, or were at least neutral to it, but they fought for it because they didn't want to be labeled as traitors.
posted by empath at 2:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


There were a lot of people who fought for the south, Robert E Lee included, who opposed slavery, or were at least neutral to it, but they fought for it because they didn't want to be labeled as traitors.

Lee's loyalty was always to the State of Virginia and his views on slavery irrelevant. A traitor is one who pretends fealty whilst actively working against a government. Benedict Arnold was one of George Washington's generals. Lee wasn't a traitor, but he led the Army that fought the Union so he was definitely a rebel and a revolutionary.

"Arlington, Virginia
April 20, 1861

Mrs. Anne Marshall
Baltimore, Maryland

My Dear Sister:

I am grieved at my inability to see you. I have been waiting for a more convenient season, which has brought to many before me deep and lasting regret.

Now we are in a state of war which will yield to nothing. The whole South is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for the state of things, and would have forborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native State.

With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relative, my children, my home. I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State (with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed) I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword.

I know you will blame me, but you must think as kindly as you can, and believe that I have endeavored to do what I thought right. To show you the feeling and struggle it has cost me I send you a copy of my letter of resignation. I have no time for more. May God guard and protect you and yours and shower upon you everlasting blessings, is the prayer of

Your devoted brother,
R. E. Lee"
posted by three blind mice at 3:21 AM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Just for the record, I think that Fort Rommel tank school would be a perfectly acceptable name.
posted by jaduncan at 3:24 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Remind me again why Cromwell would be more of a gray area than Lee?
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:29 AM on May 28, 2013


Thank God for the South. I don't know what this nation of genocide and warmongering and environmental criminality would do without a place to project its darkness.
posted by Karmadillo at 3:38 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Using the same logic we should change the names of all military bases named after those traitorous American Revolutionaries.
posted by DBAPaul at 3:39 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pedant's corner: 'slavocracy' would be rule by the slaves, or possibly the Slavs.
posted by Segundus at 3:50 AM on May 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


To clarify my remark about Cromwell: if such a thing as treason exists, then Cromwell committed it. This is to say nothing of his affection for ethnic cleansing, religious oppression, and the selling of people into slavery.

Many in Britain consider Cromwell to be great. This is unsurprising. People are very willing to create new narratives about historical figures, especially when they see themselves as being in some way linked to those historical figures.

The only way to think of Cromwell as a gray area is to conclude that he was hardly worse than most other leaders of the time. Funnily enough, this is an argument shockingly similar to many that I have heard about how the Confederates really weren't all that bad, or how the North really wasn't all that good.

The South in the US is not unique in how it self-servingly slants its own history. That doesn't make it right, but it's no use pretending that that's an especially Southern trait.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:56 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pedant's corner: 'slavocracy' would be rule by the slaves, or possibly the Slavs.


Pedant's corner within pedant's corner - rule by slaves is "doulocracy". Well, slaves or new-age birthing consultants.

(It feels super weird to me that people actually call themselves doulai. What's up with that?)

"Slavocracy" was a neologism coined in the 19th century specifically to described a group of people whose power and prestige was maintained by their access to slaves, just as plutocrats' power and prestige was maintained by their access to wealth.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:23 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


What the flip?!? Did I just enter into some dystopian alternate universe with a MetaFilter where everybody has gone batshit insane?!?

Things that I find especially troublesome and factually incorrect.
... traitors, ... that's what the Confederates were.
You can't be a traitor to a state. You can be a traitor to your nation.
one of the greatest and most effective champions of pure evil in American history

Listen, I get it... the South is bad, they had slaves, end of rational thought, boogety boogety. But you guys have just delved into some seventh level maniacal stupidity with this type of revisionist one-liner history bullshit.
posted by Blue_Villain at 4:25 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Most Ironic "By Appointment To Her Majesty" ever.
posted by marienbad at 4:29 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


As Noam Chomsky points out, we would be horrified if the modern German Luftwaffe named a new fighter aircraft the Juden, yet barely bat an eye at naming attack helicopters Apache and Comanche.

I'm assuming he said this in 5th grade in the throes of a cinnamon buzz.
posted by fleacircus at 4:32 AM on May 28, 2013


A little perspective....Cumberland County (where Ft. Bragg is located) is named after Prince William, Duke of Cumberland..(Nicknamed Butcher Cumberland.) The people who actually settled this area were mostly people related to the folks he slaughtered. (This was a dude who ordered wounded soldiers on the opposing Jacobin side to be slaughtered. See Battle of Culloden.)

Forgive me if I can't get all upset about Bragg.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:34 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


You can't be a traitor to a state. You can be a traitor to your nation.

Bear in mind that the construction of the United States of America as a nation first and a collection of individual states second (the old "the United States is," not "the United States are" distinction) became dominant after the Civil War.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:36 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


A little perspective....Cumberland County (where Ft. Bragg is located) is named after Prince William, Duke of Cumberland..(Nicknamed Butcher Cumberland.) The people who actually settled this area were mostly people related to the folks he slaughtered. (This was a dude who ordered wounded soldiers on the opposing Jacobin side to be slaughtered. See Battle of Culloden.)

Jacobites, not Jacobins. The Jacobins A) were French and B) would only become important from 1789 onward, twenty-four years after Cumberland's death. The Jacobites were trying to replace the Stuarts on the English throne after William, Mary, and Parliament had unseated them in 1689.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:47 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Given that slavery is abolished and they're not going to have much luck reinstating it, my attitude about the modern secessionist movement is "by all means, go for it; please, can we help you pack?"

As far as I'm concerned secession in itself is as legitimate as any other devolution -- it's the the fact that in the process they were effectively permanently kidnapping a helpless subset of the population, who were at that time American subjects (I use that word as you can hardlly call slaves "citizens"), beyond the reach of liberation or aid.

Lincoln was careful to speak of it, particularly at first, as a war to preserve the Union, but I'm not persuaded that such a war has any moral force without the issue of slavery."
The South was not kidnapped, in any meaningful sense of the word. Each of the southern States that willingly entered into the Union in 1787 with a constitution that had no exit clause did have a legal way to meet their legal and moral obligations to the Union while leaving it without bloodshed - namely change the constitution to include an exit clause. Indeed, Lincoln was elected on a platform that included an emergency constitutional convention to do exactly that in a peaceful and orderly way as one of its central planks, which is what made him so dangerous to the Southern leadership. Any compromise capable of gaining the support of the 3/4ths majority of states necessary could not have done what Southern plantation owners so desperately needed the war in order to do; specifically allow the South to continue bullying northern States into returning escaped slaves and expand as an Empire into Spanish territory while abandoning federal debt obligations and stealing federal property to finance it all. The natural alternative to war that Lincoln's election represented was a fair deal, which is exactly why the inhabitants of Fort Sumter needed to be murdered to avoid it.

I'll share what I tell my stars and bars type friends in Richmond,

You know all of that massive federal spending Northern and West Coast states have been bankrolling that keep their kids literate, their elderly fed, their adults employed and their infrastructure intact? Those trillions of dollars that Southern states have wrung from our brows, all the while complaining about how they spend our money? I'll be happy to let them secesseed when they pay up, agree to assume their fair share of the Federal debt, leave us with the nukes and treaty rights/obligations as is now set as precedent in international law, leave us with all of the other military hardware we can cart back but let us maintain what we cant, promise to sign the declaration of human rights and maintain Universal Suffrage, and preferably not whine to much when the madness doesn't work out so well.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:47 AM on May 28, 2013 [18 favorites]


The South was not kidnapped, in any meaningful sense of the word.

He was referring to the slaves.
posted by empath at 4:48 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


The South was not kidnapped, in any meaningful sense of the word.
He was referring to the slaves.

Let's remember that both terms "The South" and "slaves" were multitudes. Using one-liner modern-day emoti-bits to lump them all together is ridiculous.
posted by Blue_Villain at 4:50 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"He was referring to the slaves."

Whoops, I totally read that wrong, sorry George_Spiggott
posted by Blasdelb at 4:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dan Carlin, in his Hardcore History podcast, makes the point that most historical 'heroes' or ambigious figures like Alexander and Genghis KHAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNN were, in their own time, closer to someone like Hitler. But time has made the brutality of their actions fade.

Regardless of the death toll in their wars, comparing the guy who industrialised the killing of people he did not even consider humans (and tanked Germany too) to Alexander who married non-Macedonian women and adopted a number of foreign customs to the point that a faction resented him for that or to the Mongols who believed that their gods were tied to their land and so they didn't care about proselytising during their conquests sounds rather misguided to me.
posted by ersatz at 4:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never mind making a Wrath of Khan reference right in the middle of an apparently earnest comment.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:52 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Back to the article at hand... I never got past the first few paragraphs, the one-sided-ness of it all was just too overwhelming.

"the United States Army maintains bases named after generals who led soldiers who fought and killed United States Army soldiers; indeed, who may have killed such soldiers themselves."

He bears no mention to the fact that things named after Union generals were also named for people who killed "Americans".

"The idea that today we ask any of these soldiers to serve at a place named for a defender of a racist slavocracy is deplorable;"

So the obvious assumption is that anything named after a slave owner should be changed, but as mentioned previously in thread he has not laid this same requirement out for things named after George Washington.

It's almost as if the author believes that slave-owning was okay prior to the Civil War, because the only other option is that the didn't really understand the implications of the theories he was putting forth. That lack of thorough thought sheds light on the validity of the other claims laid forth in the article.

tl;dr: 2 stars out of 10, would not reread, would not suggest others to read.
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:00 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I always thought that the standard definition of a traitor was someone who tried to overthrow the government of their parent nation. Washington was a traitor to Great Britain, Lee was a traitor to the United States.

Americans will see a difference between rebelling against a nation that isn't giving you Democratic representation and rebelling against one that is. We just don't see other forms of government as fully legitimate and deserving of the same respect. That's why it's still so easy to convince Americans other places will be better off if we invade them and bomb them but give them the vote in the end.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:03 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this article is a result of recent events in Memphis, TN, where the city council voted to rename three parks that commended people and events of the civil war, including the burial place of Nathan Bedford Forest. That led to protests by the KKK and write-in votes for new names that ranged from bland to whimsical to denial.

The most controversial of the parks was the Forest park, which includes a statue of him on horseback. The statue coverings the tomb of Forest and his wife. Interestingly, he is buried there despite his expressed wishes to be buried in a local cemetery.

Another of the parks, Confederate Park, while poorly named, does observe an important event in the history of the city: the naval bombardment , defense, and capture of the city by Union forces.

I have friends who no longer speak to one another, divided by there opinions on perceived 'white-washing' of history vs. a desire to restate the city's past.
posted by grimjeer at 5:03 AM on May 28, 2013


I just got done reading a description of Mohs surgery, where they shave off some cancerous cells and they keep shaving down deeper if there are more beneath it. Shave shave shave, till all the cancer is gone, and maybe your whole nose is gone by then too.

We could shave our slave-owning history the same way too.
posted by surplus at 5:05 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think whoever owns the rights to the Dukes of Hazard should delete the General Lee car and all mentions of it from the master tapes and put in some other car. Actually let's just delete the master tapes and pretend the whole show never happened.
posted by orange swan at 5:12 AM on May 28, 2013


the thought that today we ask any American soldier to serve at a base named for someone who killed United States Army troops is beyond absurd

Yet, as noted above, we ask American soldiers to crew AH-64 Apaches, UH-72 Lakota, and UH-60 Black Hawks. Whether this is a great idea is another question, but all those various nations and leaders killed US Army troops.

You can't be a traitor to a state. You can be a traitor to your nation.

Lee would have said that his nation was Virginia and that the US was no more his nation than the UN is a modern American's. It turned out he was wrong, and his refusal to consider exactly why his beloved Virginia was seceding (ie, to keep black people enslaved) is to his shame.

we can probably all agree that violent action against a government to which one has previously sworn unswerving allegiance counts as treason

Nope. The various Free French forces at times engaged in combat against the government of France, but none of us would call them traitors since they won, and since the Vichy government at the time was complicit with Germany. Instead, people who supported their duly ordained government are seen as filthy collaborators for honoring their oaths.

Similarly, if Hugh Thompson had actually fired on US forces in his defense of Vietnamese civilians, he would still be correctly acknowledge as a hero rather than traitor.

Treason, patriotism, and all that stuff is complicated.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:15 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Lee's opposition to slavery was a bit...shaky. He fought for the Confederacy, which had enshrined slavery in its constitutive legal documents, and his problem with slavery seems to have been mostly that he thought it made whites cruel and vicious people. He thought that slavery was good for Africans and that it was a divinely-ordained hardship they would have to endure for an unknown time in order to better them.

Lee was no abolitionist, and his argument that slavery was ultimately beneficial to the enslaved is widely recognized as a racist talking point, one still floated by the likes of Dinesh D'Souza today to try and retroactively justify the practice. The best one can say of him was that he had a naive morality that was troubled by what was, even in that time, the obvious cruelty and injustice of the practice, but that he was quite capable of rationalizing this moral sensibility away so that his sympathies remained entirely with white Southern slaveowners. I doubt he could have fought so effectively for the Confederacy otherwise.
posted by kewb at 5:15 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


orange swan: I think whoever owns the rights to the Dukes of Hazard should delete the General Lee car and all mentions of it from the master tapes and put in some other car.

You mean the General Grant?
posted by hangashore at 5:17 AM on May 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


The only way to think of Cromwell as a gray area is to conclude that he was hardly worse than most other leaders of the time. Funnily enough, this is an argument shockingly similar to many that I have heard about how the Confederates really weren't all that bad, or how the North really wasn't all that good.

So you claim that the only way to think Cromwell was a mixed bag is to use the same argument used for Confederate apologetics. Conveniently, you seem to forget that curbing royal privilege by beheading was a pretty big deal at the time.
posted by ersatz at 5:20 AM on May 28, 2013


The Dukes of Hazzard car was called The General Lee, hangashore.
posted by orange swan at 5:22 AM on May 28, 2013


As Noam Chomsky points out, we would be horrified if the modern German Luftwaffe named a new fighter aircraft the Juden, yet barely bat an eye at naming attack helicopters Apache and Comanche.

I'm assuming he said this in 5th grade in the throes of a cinnamon buzz.


Yet, as noted above, we ask American soldiers to crew AH-64 Apaches, UH-72 Lakota, and UH-60 Black Hawks. Whether this is a great idea is another question, but all those various nations and leaders killed US Army troops.


we name the helicopter 'apache', like a big game hunter might name a rifle 'tiger.'
posted by ennui.bz at 5:29 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not just Army bases and aircraft.

There have been a lot of Navy ship naming controversies. Whilst certainly not of the ranks of Grand Wizard of the KKK Nathan Bedford Forrest, the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Carl Vinson are named after segregationists.

Vinson, a Democrat, was a staunch segregationist who signed the Southern Manifesto opposing racial intergration in public spaces. Stennis, another Democrat, was also an ardent supporter of segregation who vigorously opposed the 1964 civil rights act.
posted by three blind mice at 5:30 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Generally, an army base is named for a general or a politician; moral disappointment seems inherent in the enterprise.
posted by kewb at 5:32 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Dan Carlin, in his Hardcore History podcast, makes the point that most historical 'heroes' or ambigious figures like Alexander and Genghis KHAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNN were, in their own time, closer to someone like Hitler. But time has made the brutality of their actions fade.
Frank Herbert made the same point (I think in Chapterhouse Dune?) by showing Hitler being revered as a great emperor and military general in the distant future.
posted by deathpanels at 5:33 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's almost as if the author believes that slave-owning was okay prior to the Civil War, because the only other option is that the didn't really understand the implications of the theories he was putting forth. That lack of thorough thought sheds light on the validity of the other claims laid forth in the article.

I think it's more like the Civil War as a conflict was very much about the issue of slavery and these are powerful and influential people who decided to be on the wrong side of morality and (in hindsight) history. Yes, there are others like Washington and Jefferson who owned slaves, but they a) were lucky enough to be deceased by the time of the Civil War so they didn't have to make that decision and b) did enough things in addition to owning slaves to give the guys in PR something to work with.

Maybe if Robert E. Lee had done a little more to pad out his Wikipedia article he could be known as someone other than that really honorable guy who just happened to lead an armed rebellion in defense of a deplorable institution, and maybe if the issue of slavery had been decided during the Revolutionary War we'd have a very different impression of our Founding Fathers.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:34 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


orange swan: hangashore was referring the the other car
posted by djeo at 5:36 AM on May 28, 2013


orange swan: "The Dukes of Hazard car was called The General Lee, hangashore."

Why oh why do you MeFi's always cite so many Wikipedia pages with atrocious spelling. Then I have to waste time fixing up pages.
posted by Samizdata at 5:37 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, that's like permanently injuring your spouse when they try to leave you, then mocking them for being dependent on your income. It's nothing to be proud of on your part.
posted by michaelh at 5:37 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


So you claim that the only way to think Cromwell was a mixed bag is to use the same argument used for Confederate apologetics. Conveniently, you seem to forget that curbing royal privilege by beheading was a pretty big deal at the time.

Yes, and that is exactly what makes him a mixed bag (at best). Britain is better off with their royalty aware that they can and will be deposed if necessary, just as we are also better off knowing the full scope of Cromwell's "accomplishments" and goals. Tyrants should be afraid of not only their people, but also the world's history books.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:38 AM on May 28, 2013


Why oh why do you MeFi's always cite so many Wikipedia pages with atrocious spelling. Then I have to waste time fixing up pages.

I see what you did there, with the grocer's apostrophe.
posted by sweetkid at 5:39 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Black people join the military for the same reason all poor people join the military; for lack of a better option.

This is very insulting to the many black people who serve and have served because they want to serve their country.

You're treating black people as having no agency, no autonomy, and being motivated solely by economic deprivation, which is insulting and essentially treats them as animals unable to choose to serve.
posted by Unified Theory at 5:40 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


Using the same logic we should change the names of all military bases named after those traitorous American Revolutionaries.

Those guys didn't betray America though is the point. Makes sense to names American bases after them.

On the other hand, it is sort of weird to name United States Army bases after guys that raised an army in opposition to the United States
posted by Greener Backyards at 5:42 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Times is a savvy newspaper, and this author is savvy as well. The ultimate goal is getting eyeballs and discussion, and as evidenced by the fact that almost 100 comments exist here, the author has done a good job.

The problem is that there is little or no substance here. The argument in the article is childish and absurd as Blue_Villain points out. So we're to rename anything that is named after someone who supported some form of institutional injustice in the past, but only if they were evil Confederates? Furthermore, is renaming places named after questionable people even that important, anyway?

Alas, the author has found himself an article to publish that will get people pontificating and "taking sides." That's what a great article does. I mean, he's a former managing editor of Playboy. He had better know how to go for eyeballs without worrying much about substance.
posted by Old Man McKay at 5:44 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


jaduncan: "Just for the record, I think that Fort Rommel tank school would be a perfectly acceptable name."

But they should keep you out unless you've read his book.
posted by jquinby at 5:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


"someone who supported some form of institutional injustice in the past"

Nope. What he's saying, very specifically, is that US military bases shouldn't honor people who actively killed US soldiers and waged war against the United States.
posted by bardic at 5:49 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Many people of all races join the military because of economic pressures. It isn't the only reason, but it's pretty common. "Serving the country" isn't even in the top five of frequently cited reasons for first-term enlistment, but there are certainly reasons people join beyond economic pressures. (Serving the country is much more commonly a reason people make a career out of the military)

Education benefits (43%), Training for civilian employment (18%), Travel and experiences (18%), Personal growth (15%), Figure out what to do (14%)

I think purely from a practical point of view the military should reconsider honoring racists and segregationists because the young people who they need to recruit are the most likely to reject those sorts of people. It's just good PR to offer potential recruits an environment they will be comfortable working in. The military is full of hard jobs, no need to make them unnecessarily harder with social pressures based on gender, orientation, race, etc.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:54 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


foobaz: I think Lee deserves a fort. He ended the civil war with his unauthorized surrender at Appomattox, saving thousands of lives. He may be a traitor to the US, but if he had joined the Union, he would have been a traitor to his native Virginia.

Lee lost all claim to be merely defending Virginia when he invaded Maryland.
posted by spaltavian at 5:59 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


As Noam Chomsky points out, we would be horrified if the modern German Luftwaffe named a new fighter aircraft the Juden, yet barely bat an eye at naming attack helicopters Apache and Comanche.

Oh God, I remember reading this worse than expected article in some conservative magazine right after September 11th, dreaming of the day when we would name our space marine transport vehicles the "Bin Laden" or the "Al-Qaeda" in honor of our glorious victory over them, just as we named our helicopters for our vanquished foes of the past. It was like a racist knuckleball, you might have thought you knew who it was going to be racist about, and then boom, it took off and hit somebody else.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:16 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The man who wrote the article. Has he ever served on a military base? No? Then that explains the goddamn staggering stupidity.

You have Confederate cemetaries on some of those bases, asshole. Occasionally, the people are actually buried there. Maybe we should dig them up? We could always expose the bones outside the gates, you know. I mean, it might be offensive if black soldiers had to walk past a road with hundred-year-dead Confederates.

You don't name things after traitors, and that's what the Confederates were.

You mean, say, like what the English would have called what we call Revolutionary Heroes?
posted by corb at 6:20 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


A quick pointer to the 1913 Gettysburg reunion ceremony is useful in looking at this topic:

President Woodrow Wilson's July 4 reunion address summarized the spirit: "We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten—except that we shall not forget the splendid valor."

As I recall, the last room of the museum in the Gettysburg visitor center is very clear that African-Americans were almost entirely absent from this grand celebration of reconciliation.
posted by mediareport at 6:24 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're only a traitor if you lose.

"Treason doth never prosper; what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

Thing is, it was treachery in the defense of slavery, not resistance against a foreign occupation or civil disobedience in the cause of getting the country to actually live up to its constitution.

No, no it was not. Because slavery was not illegal at the time of the secession. The Emancipation Proclamation came after the Civil War had already begun, and only applied to the rebellious states. It was absolutely resistance against a foreign occupation - that is why they fired on Fort Sumpter, which was not only occupying, but resupplying troops - in many ways believed to have been a way for the North to force a conflict.
posted by corb at 6:27 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


You change the person a place is named after without changing the place's name. King County, Washington, was originally named after William Rufus King but in 1986 they changed it to be named after Martin Luther King Jr. instead.

This is the most convenient way to handle it because then no one has to change their signs.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:29 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: You don't name things after traitors, and that's what the Confederates were.

You mean, say, like what the English would have called what we call Revolutionary Heroes?


The point is that there isn't a Fort George Washington in the United Kingdom. It's not about treason qua treason, it's that the Confederates were traitors to those naming the damn base.

It was absolutely resistance against a foreign occupation

They considered the Union to be "foreign" because Lincoln was elected, which was problematic to them because they suspected Lincoln would make a play to limit or abolish slavery. And they were right!

in many ways believed to have been a way for the North to force a conflict

Sumpter was after succession. The Union didn't need to "force" a conflict at this point.
posted by spaltavian at 6:30 AM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relative, my children, my home. I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State (with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed) I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword.


Thank you, this choked me up and was lovely.

Sumpter was after succession. The Union didn't need to "force" a conflict at this point.

They did if they wanted to reclaim the South. They knew it would be a politically hard sell to invade the South without a reason to rally the troops to do so, thus they made the choice to resupply Sumpter with a large number of troops, entering Confederate waters to do so. The Confederacy was forced to fire on Sumpter in order to prevent the troops from arriving and entrenching themselves.

You know all of that massive federal spending Northern and West Coast states have been bankrolling that keep their kids literate, their elderly fed, their adults employed and their infrastructure intact?

You mean all that spending that will never make up for the amount we bankrupted them by taking their property without recompense and seizing and/or burning their stores? A lot of people love to pull out the trope of the "poor South" being helped by the "richer, wiser North" but the plain fact is that the South was never poor until we made it so.
posted by corb at 6:37 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


You have Confederate cemetaries on some of those bases, asshole. Occasionally, the people are actually buried there. Maybe we should dig them up? We could always expose the bones outside the gates, you know. I mean, it might be offensive if black soldiers had to walk past a road with hundred-year-dead Confederates.

If we formally agree not to start desecrating graves, would you be more okay with this?
posted by Drinky Die at 6:41 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Blasdelb, that's like permanently injuring your spouse when they try to leave you, then mocking them for being dependent on your income. It's nothing to be proud of on your part."

"You mean all that spending that will never make up for the amount we bankrupted them by taking their property without recompense and seizing and/or burning their stores? A lot of people love to pull out the trope of the "poor South" being helped by the "richer, wiser North" but the plain fact is that the South was never poor until we made it so."

Modern Confederate sympathizers talk a big game about how the Union destroyed the South in the process of the war, but the war was largely fought in the Tennessee and Ohio valleys where the conduct of Southern generals made Sherman's march look like a parade. No, the South was destroyed by a neo-Feudal kleptocracy that shat its own pants with right honorable corsetted rage when it could no longer impose its will on the North or function without a middle class. The view of the South as a lilly white woman battered by the negro sympathizing North is a racist trope older than the civil war, but its no less ridiculous today. No, the old south is more like a drunken little dog of a man with a larger wife who was willing to accept the most insulting peace but would not accept violence lying down.

The South started the war because in their collective delusion they thought they could not only win but invade the North and impose peace on terms that would restrict the rights of northern States like the Senate had since slavery had become an issue but slowly no longer could without bloodshed.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:41 AM on May 28, 2013 [26 favorites]


You mean all that spending that will never make up for the amount we bankrupted them by taking their property without recompense and seizing and/or burning their stores?

Nope, not going to cry over destroying an economic system that was based on people owning other people. I don't blame Jonas Salk for ruining the iron-lung industry either.
posted by Etrigan at 6:46 AM on May 28, 2013 [40 favorites]


For the record, the name of the fort is Sumter. As with South Carolina's polytechnical university, Clemson, the 'p' is understood to be spoken in the name, but it is not written.

As a southerner, I personally would gladly see all Confederate generals' and politicians' names removed from military bases, roads, and absolutely, positively public schools. Change them all to the names of civil rights heroes, please.

That said, the jokes about substituting Sherman's name are pretty gross. What Sherman did destroyed the lives, homes, and livelihoods of an awful lot of poor people who had the misfortune to live in the South when it seceded but didn't have a thing to do with slavery or succession (most southerners didn't), and the scars of that march remain to this day. The violence of the Civil War was horrible, horrible actions were taken by both sides, and triumphant celebration of what would today be considered war crimes is pretty gross.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:49 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


"You mean all that spending that will never make up for the amount we bankrupted them by taking their property without recompense and seizing and/or burning their stores?"

So when you say property you mean human beings right? Like, your the ancestors of your neighbors? People who, like you, belonged only to their God (or of course, I guess, lack thereof)?
posted by Blasdelb at 6:50 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


corb: South was never poor until we made it so.

By ending slavery. What the hell is wrong with you?

To get technical, everyone in the South was poor, regardless of race, except for a small group of plantation owners and associated hangers-on. The South did not have a functioning economy, and was only propped temporarily by their ability to own people.

The idea that destuction waged in the Civil War is behind the South's stagnation is too stupid to accept you seriously believe in. But you know, Atlanta was totally destroyed and is now a bustling metropolis. Because it developed a real economy after the war.

Everywhere else, the economy was based upon sweetheart tariffs, slavery and strict caste system that keep the money artificially restricted to a small upper tier. The antebellum South was the exact opposite of the libertarian utopia you have previously indicated you believe in.

For real destruction, check out what the Confederates were doing on the Ohio valley, or what both sides were doing in the West. Or almost every other war ever. General Sherman was Ghandi compared to how must wars are run.

Thank you, this choked me up and was lovely.

It is not possible to overlook the ignoble cause Lee was fighting for. He waged
war under the banner of slavery. Regardless of whatever personal feelings he may have had, Lee cast his lot with the forces of evil. He was not tragic. At best he was a coward, at worst, a true villian.
posted by spaltavian at 6:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [31 favorites]


Also, let's not forget that, even with slavery, the South barely had a viable economy. They more or less needed to start the war, because there was no way that they were going to thrive on their own.
posted by schmod at 6:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "You mean all that spending that will never make up for the amount we bankrupted them by taking their property without recompense and seizing and/or burning their stores?"

Oh hey if we're talking about modern day reparations for historical wrongs now, then how much wealth should we transfer from the descendants of slave owners to the descendants of slaves to compensate them for all that back pay their ancestors were morally owed?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:59 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Tt is not possible to overlook the ignoble cause Lee was fighting for. He waged
war under the banner of slavery. Regardless of whatever personal feelings he may have had, Lee cast his lot with the forces of evil. He was not tragic. At best he was a coward, at worst, a true villian.


The point at which I want to start screaming, "Our enemies have fucking honor and bravery too and destroying them is half the awfulness of war" is the point I realize that I think I'm still way more affected by yesterday's Memorial Day than I thought I was. I'm going to step out of this thread for a while - I will be back, but this is a subject that I think cannot be anything but emotional to me, especially today. I don't believe in the Iraq War - I thought it was the wrong cause - but I lost friends in it. Good men, fathers, husbands, generous and bold and brilliant and funny and nerdy men. They also knew it was the wrong war, but they fought like hell to keep the people next to them safe. And they're dead now, and they're never going to come back, and someday in the future somebody's going to make some comment about how cowardly they are, and again I'm doing it. I just can't.

tl;dr: corb will be back when she's stopped crying for her dead friends. Move on.
posted by corb at 7:00 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


hydropsyche: "That said, the jokes about substituting Sherman's name are pretty gross. What Sherman did destroyed the lives, homes, and livelihoods of an awful lot of poor people who had the misfortune to live in the South when it seceded but didn't have a thing to do with slavery or succession (most southerners didn't), and the scars of that march remain to this day. The violence of the Civil War was horrible, horrible actions were taken by both sides, and triumphant celebration of what would today be considered war crimes is pretty gross."

What Sherman did was end the war. He destroyed Courthouses, blacksmiths, cotton gins, plantations houses, mills, and railroads while confiscating food and livestock. His defence of his actions in a letter to the Mayor and Councilmen of Atlanta is compelling:
"Gentleman: I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a petition to revoke my orders removing all the inhabitants from Atlanta. I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your statements of distress that will be occasioned, and yet shall not revoke my orders, because they were not designed to meet the humanities of the cause, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest. We must have peace, not only at Atlanta, but in all America. To secure this, we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war, we must defeat the rebel armies which are arrayed against the laws and Constitution that all must respect and obey. To defeat those armies, we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses, provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose. Now, I know the vindictive nature of our enemy, that we may have many years of military operations from this quarter; and, therefore, deem it wise and prudent to prepare in time. The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes in inconsistent with its character as a home for families. There will be no manufacturers, commerce, or agriculture here, for the maintenance of families, and sooner or later want will compel the inhabitants to go. Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for the transfer, instead of waiting till the plunging shot of contending armies will renew the scenes of the past month? Of course, I do not apprehend any such things at this moment, but you do not suppose this army will be here until the war is over. I cannot discuss this subject with you fairly, because I cannot impart to you what we propose to do, but I assert that our military plans make it necessary for the inhabitants to go away, and I can only renew my offer of services to make their exodus in any direction as easy and comfortable as possible.

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feeling. This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union. Once admit the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the national Government, and, instead of devoting your houses and streets and roads to the dread uses of war, I and this army become at once your protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come from what quarter it may. I know that a few individuals cannot resist a torrent of error and passion, such as swept the South into rebellion, but you can point out, so that we may know those who desire a government, and those who insist on war and its desolation.

You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.

We don't want your Negroes, or your horses, or your lands, or any thing you have, but we do want and will have a just obedience to the laws of the United States. That we will have, and if it involved the destruction of your improvements, we cannot help it.

You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers, that live by falsehood and excitement; and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters, the better. I repeat then that, bu the original compact of government, the United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have never been relinquished and never will be; that the South began the war by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, etc., etc., long before Mr. Lincoln was installed, and before the South had one jot or title of provocation. I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, hundreds and thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi, we fed thousands and thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands, and whom we could not see starve. Now that war comes to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect an early success.

But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any thing. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.

Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse them, and build for them, in more quiet places, proper habitations to shield them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down, and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes in Atlanta. Yours in haste,

W.T. Sherman, Major-General commanding"
posted by Blasdelb at 7:00 AM on May 28, 2013 [31 favorites]


You mean all that spending that will never make up for the amount we bankrupted them by taking their property without recompense and seizing and/or burning their stores?

I've got some pretty good bona fides to be taking the pro-Southern position in a conversation like this. I was born and raised in the state that regularly boasts about having lost the most men in the war; we're very, very proud of that. I come from a long line of Southerners, including individuals who fought in the Army of Northern Virginia. I was raised fairly immersed in the "Lost Cause" ideology as my boyhood collection of tiny Confederate flags of different types attests.* I also fairly regularly defend the notions of Southern pride, including being proud of Confederate era ancestors, on Metafilter.

That having been established: can we please not refer to "taking their property"? I'm sure you meant taking food and stores and such while foraging, etc., but it sounds an awful lot like you're talking about slaves. The most valuable "property" that the North took from the South were the people who should never have been property in the first place; the impoverishment of the plantation owners, who were pretty much the only Southerners who weren't poor ever, is mostly on account of depriving them of their slaves, which was 100% the right thing to do.

*Proud Southern vexillology nerds really have a gold mind of flags to collect. Despite the hegemony of the battle flag among neo-Confederates, the Confederacy went through a ton of flags.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:02 AM on May 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


Sherman's legacy is complicated, and can be debated at length.

I'd be happy stripping his name off of anything that doesn't have a huge asterisk next to it. We don't celebrate the "legacy" of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I think that it's equally inappropriate for us to pay any sort of homage or reverence toward Sherman.
posted by schmod at 7:09 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Agree 100% with these articles. Knew a guy in school who went to VMI. When I told him Lee was an oath-breaker, he didn't like it. But he couldn't deny it.

Thank god for George Thomas.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:13 AM on May 28, 2013


The point at which I want to start screaming, "Our enemies have fucking honor and bravery too "

Lee had no honor. He was an educated man you knowingly took up arms for slavers at the exact moment in history when the issue couldn't be ignored. He may have had physical bravery, but he did not have intellectual courage; if he truly was not personally supportive of slavery. A man of his means could have at very least sat out the war, but he didn't.

As for your typical Confederate grunt? Certainly many of them were brave, and like any soldier, were caught up in forces they had no control over. It would have been nice if slavery could have been ended without their deaths, and I don't have any animosity towards drafted farmboys 150 years after the fact. But Lee? Confederate leadership? Their modern defenders? To hell with them.

and someday in the future somebody's going to make some comment about how cowardly they are, and again I'm doing it. I just can't.

Don't you dare lecture me. Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney. The generals who never voiced objections. They are cowards and/or villians. I didn't say one word about real soldiers.

schmod: We don't celebrate the "legacy" of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I think that it's equally inappropriate for us to pay any sort of homage or reverence toward Sherman.

Absurd comparison; the levels of destruction are not remotely similiar.
posted by spaltavian at 7:14 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thing is, it was treachery in the defense of slavery, not resistance against a foreign occupation or civil disobedience in the cause of getting the country to actually live up to its constitution.

No, no it was not. Because slavery was not illegal at the time of the secession. The Emancipation Proclamation came after the Civil War had already begun, and only applied to the rebellious states. It was absolutely resistance against a foreign occupation - that is why they fired on Fort Sumpter, which was not only occupying, but resupplying troops - in many ways believed to have been a way for the North to force a conflict.


This is a bizarre argument you're making. States left the union because of slavery (connected via state rights and economic arguments).

Fort Sumter was a federal fort. Secession is one horrible thing, but attempting to take things that didn't belong to you is another, as South Carolina did with Fort Sumter, is another.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


hat having been established: can we please not refer to "taking their property"? I'm sure you meant taking food and stores and such while foraging, etc., but it sounds an awful lot like you're talking about slaves.

Grant and Lee also lived off the land. Sherman just did it over longer distances. If you're in open rebellion with the central government because you lost a democratically-held election and fear that your property of human beings in slavery will be taken, hell yes the central government's army is going to live off your land.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:17 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


The confederate leaders were people who devoted their lives to killing other people in the name of defending the right to own slaves. Like in most other large organizations, the rank and file had a number of reasons for fighting, some good and some bad. But there is no moral ambiguity when it comes to the confederate leadership. Fuck honoring them in any way.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:18 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, no it was not. Because slavery was not illegal at the time of the secession. The Emancipation Proclamation came after the Civil War had already begun, and only applied to the rebellious states.

Somebody hasn't read the Articles of Secession. They all mention the protection of slavery as the reason they are going out of the Union.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:20 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


If anyone wants to take the King County approach to renaming the bases listed in the article, here are some of our choices:

Fort Lee

Fort Hood

Fort Benning

Fort Gordon

Fort Bragg

Fort Polk

Fort Pickett

Fort Hill

Fort Rucker

Camp Beauregard

Surely we can find some people more worthy of this honor from those lists?
posted by Jacqueline at 7:21 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fort Bruce Lee
Fort The Red Hood
Fort Annette Benning
Fort Flash Gordon
posted by elizardbits at 7:22 AM on May 28, 2013 [30 favorites]


Will also accept Fort Gordon Lightfoot
posted by elizardbits at 7:23 AM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm just glancing at these lists, but I love the idea of renaming it "Fort Darius Rucker." I would accept it being called "Hootie" as a slang term.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:24 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Fort Spike Lee, surely?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:25 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Here in South Korea the US bases are usually named after "local heroes" of a sort -- US troops, usually officers but not generals, who served gallantly during the Korean War.

Not sure if that's the new MO or not for the US military, but it seems like a pretty good idea. It's appropriate too -- why not honor the "little guys," so to speak?

I mean, it's not like we're going to name anything after David Petraus, ever, thank Allah.
posted by bardic at 7:26 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fort Wilson Pickett
posted by elizardbits at 7:27 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


that is why they fired on Fort Sumpter, which was not only occupying, but resupplying troops - in many ways believed to have been a way for the North to force a conflict.

Its almost like mind control, isn't it? Those Yankee's concentrated so hard on my mind, they made me order the firing of cannon!

Anyone whose studied this history knows how desperately Lincoln wanted South Carolina not to fire on that fort and for cooler heads to prevail.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:27 AM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Maybe let's just reduce the number of Army forts by those 10 forts?
posted by notyou at 7:28 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fort Anita Hill
posted by shakespeherian at 7:28 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Fort Stan Lee, end of story.
posted by elizardbits at 7:28 AM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


FORT HILL OF BEANS it can fight our flamewars for us omg
posted by elizardbits at 7:29 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't believe in the Iraq War - I thought it was the wrong cause - but I lost friends in it. Good men, fathers, husbands, generous and bold and brilliant and funny and nerdy men. They also knew it was the wrong war, but they fought like hell to keep the people next to them safe.

The good people who died prosecuting the Iraq war were overwhelmingly there because they were already in the armed forces when we decided to send them there, and any shame or cowardice belongs to the leaders who made that decision and the American people as a whole for ratifying it in 2004.

The otherwise decent people who died for the Confederacy, up until conscription began in 1862, fought and died because they actively chose to join a military they were under no compulsion to join, at a time when any fool should have recognized that war with the US was overwhelmingly likely. This implies a necessary approval of the government of the CSA and its war aims, with all the moral problems that entails.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:31 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


If Canada doesn't have a Fort Geddy Lee then they really need to make me Supreme Canada General stat.
posted by bardic at 7:31 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fort Wilson Pickett
posted by elizardbits at 10:27 AM on May 28


FORT BOBBY "BORIS" PICKETT OR NO FORT PICKETT AT ALL.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:37 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Camp Violet Beauregarde
posted by shakespeherian at 7:46 AM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


the South was never poor until we made it so

This is untrue. The south chose to be poor. The south made a losing bet: they bet all of their capital on the slave industry and slave-worked agriculture on the premise that this would make them rich and wealthy. It turned out to be a losing bet at the advent of the industrial revolution, to the point where they were massively outclassed in terms of wealth, population, and industry by the advent of the civil war: most all of their capital wealth was tied up in slaves and the slave economy. And they maintained their agricultural economic orientation until the New Deal and WWII. What I think happened is that by the mid-1800s, they were still working from the premise that they were still the wealthiest, fastest growing states of the original colonies.

Louis Wigfall, on the eve of the civil war explained the mindset:
“We are a peculiar people, sir! You don’t understand us, and you can’t understand us, because we are known to you only by Northern writers and Northern papers, who know nothing of us themselves, or misrepresent what they do know. We are an agricultural people; we are a primitive but a civilized people. We have no cities—we don’t want them, have no literature—we don’t need any yet. We have no press—we are glad of it. We do not require a press, because we go out and discuss all public questions from the stump with our people. We have no commercial marine—no navy—we don’t want them. We are better without them. Your ships carry our produce, and you can protect your own vessels. We want no manufactures: we desire no trading, no mechanical or manufacturing classes. As long as we have our rice, our sugar, our tobacco, and our cotton, we can command wealth to purchase all we want from those nations with which we are in amity, and to lay up money besides."
They thought they were wealthy, but even then, they were dependent on the Union. To say that this is the Union's fault is ridiculous. They never thought anything was wrong.
posted by deanc at 8:08 AM on May 28, 2013 [26 favorites]


They were equally dependent on the Union as they were on their own slaves, pretty much. In the absence of both, of course they're going to flip out and break shit.
posted by elizardbits at 8:10 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thing is, it was treachery in the defense of slavery, not resistance against a foreign occupation or civil disobedience in the cause of getting the country to actually live up to its constitution.

No, no it was not. Because slavery was not illegal at the time of the secession. The Emancipation Proclamation came after the Civil War had already begun, and only applied to the rebellious states. It was absolutely resistance against a foreign occupation - that is why they fired on Fort Sumpter, which was not only occupying, but resupplying troops - in many ways believed to have been a way for the North to force a conflict.
corb, you can get answers directly from the Confederates themselves about why they were defending their own secession by reading what they said about themselves: they were on a crusade to both defend and expand slavery and felt that Lincoln's election endangered that. You don't have to guess or read minds-- the Confederates before and during the Civil War were pretty up front about that. I don't know why you're getting all agitated that we're simply accepting their own words as truth and believing what the Confederates were saying.
posted by deanc at 8:11 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


The otherwise decent people who died for the Confederacy, up until conscription began in 1862, fought and died because they actively chose to join a military they were under no compulsion to join, at a time when any fool should have recognized that war with the US was overwhelmingly likely. This implies a necessary approval of the government of the CSA and its war aims, with all the moral problems that entails.

Has there been any systematic study of why people joined the military of the CSA? There's plenty of letters from the Civil War, so it would seem possible. I think assuming that people joined because they approve of the defense of slavery* seems a little tenuous without other evidence. There's almost certainly other factors, including public pressure and a general sense that when your country goes to war, so do you. It's a little difficult in 2013 to see, but the pressures on someone living in the South in 1865 must have been strongly titled toward fighting with all of the notions of honor, duty, and manliness that fighting entails. Staying behind would likely have been very difficult for someone, even someone who was opposed to secession and slavery.

You obviously can't really separate fighting for the Confederacy from slavery, but for each individual, it was a very likely to be more complicated than simply approving of fighting a war to defend slavery as an institution.

*I have little doubt that the majority of them approved of slavery, I'm only questioning their motives for enlisting to fight.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:13 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a little difficult in 2013 to see, but the pressures on someone living in the South in 1865 must have been strongly titled toward fighting with all of the notions of honor, duty, and manliness that fighting entails. Staying behind would likely have been very difficult for someone, even someone who was opposed to secession and slavery.

There were plenty of areas that had a pro-Union orientation and it was precisely because many poor whites resented the idea that they should be fighting and dying for a pro-slave-owning wealthy landed aristocracy. Granted, because of the nature of the southern slave-based-economy, these were whites who were, by nature, on the margins of society... and that is what allows us to understand what was really going on: the Confederate volunteers were people who had a stake in the system, and they were trying to defend the overall system, because even if they were not slaveholding plantation owners, they themselves had a stake in the slave-centered system they lived in and participated in. The ones who took up the cause of the confederacy were signing up because they lives and livelihood depended on maintenance and perpetuation of the slave-economy. And, yes, it would have been difficult for them to do otherwise, but they were part and parcel of that system, and without it they would have been in trouble.

Areas were beyond the reach of the slave economy for geographic/economic reasons (the Appalachians, for example, were incompatible with a slave economy) tended to be pro-Union. If Confederates were only joining to "defend their homes and their states", then you'd have seen west Virginians taking up arms to defend Richmond.... but the exact opposite happened: they took up arms to stick with the Union and turned west Virginia into West Virginia because they wanted nothing to do with this cause.
posted by deanc at 8:25 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


But you guys have just delved into some seventh level maniacal stupidity with this type of revisionist one-liner history bullshit.

No, you don't get to do that. The only revisionism is that deliberately undertaken after the war (and unto this day) by Southern historians and politicians to misrepresent the history of the Civil War. They have in many ways succeeded as witnessed by the number of otherwise knowledgeable people who buy into the whole tragic hero lie regarding Lee and other Confederates. Look at this thread!

The war was about slavery. Full stop. Other things too, yes, but slavery was the prime mover. Lee and the other generals were fighting in an evil cause and everyone would have been better off if they'd simply eaten a bullet instead of betraying their nation over their right to enslave other men.
posted by Justinian at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


Why is it that the British never get mad over the Revolutionary War the same way Americans do over the Civil War? Do we need another century of cool-down time and for a special relationship to develop between North and South?
posted by Apocryphon at 8:38 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


“I read the comment to mean that the majority of black people who join the military do so because they don't have better options. The ones who have better options don't join the military.”

So given the logic that follows from the piece, that series of comments, and the incarceration figures in the U.S., why are there black police officers?

“we would be horrified if the modern German Luftwaffe named a new fighter aircraft the Juden, yet barely bat an eye at naming attack helicopters Apache and Comanche.”
A pathology more broad than weapons and the military really. We cut down forests, pave them over and name the streets “Elm” and “Oak.”

“They're definitely bad because they broke their oaths in order to protect the right to own people, but they're traitors for forswearing their declarations of service.”
"Traitor" - in general

I think that was part of the genius of the reconstruction. At least in spirit. The statement the country made (albeit not the popular one which was ‘gut the bastards’) was that you cannot divide the country by any means even a Civil War. Secession was an impossibility. It never happened. Therefore there was no treason, in the sense of treason by a soldier or force of arms. And only a few Confederate politicians (Lee’s position was political by necessity and constraint, not his own design) were put up for treason and they were given amnesty.
It was in part forgiveness, but in large part that the Union cannot be dissolute by any means. And recognizing that means recognizing that it was, although it seems trite to say now, a war between brother. You can kill your brother. But you cannot unmake the genesis of your relation.
And the reconstruction was (again in spirit and despite the unpopularity) about bringing siblings back into the fold. Asserting that there was no division because there cannot be a division.
Which, during the war is one of the things that had really pissed the South off and may have prolonged the war. There was zero wiggle room on that point.
You're not traitors because you didn't secede. You didn't secede because you can't secede.
I mean hell, a lot of them wanted the term "rebel." That spirit still reverberates around. The reason it reverbs mostly as the ghost of an idea, one mostly now alloy with an American sense of the "rebel" spirit is because of that absolute refusal to recognize a split can exist in the United States.


From the FPP: “Would we have a Fort Rommel?”

This question really points to how oversimplified the thesis of the piece is.

Rommel was one of the greatest generals of all time. Respect for that skill doesn’t change because of who he fought for. And indeed, he fought with honor and adhered to the laws of war within his bailiwick. Told the high command to go fuck themselves when they told him to kill unarmed Jews and POWs and aided in trying to kill Hitler.

The idiocy of these ideas ignore the absurdities of war itself. Not that “war is bad so it’s ok that everything else be bad” but rather, let’s recognize from the outset that while we can dislike several things at the same time, there needs to be some prioritizing for immediacy and for egregiousness; and there needs to be a hierarchy.

Surely we would have killed Rommel during the war. But would we have made him a higher priority than the political high command? No. Hitler, Goering, Himmler, even the least of the high command, even worse generals were higher priority targets even though they were less effective military commanders they were good Nazis. Rommel wasn't.

I’m reminded of Kurtz’s statement (from Apocalypse Now, not the original) we train pilots to drop napalm on people but we don’t let them write “fuck” on their airplanes because it’s obscene.
Certainly the naming doesn’t help. But it doesn’t perpetuate war, genocide and other absurdities.

Naming a weapon platform “Apache” can at least bring to mind some concept of history and what is being brought to bear when we take those weapons in hand.

What most certainly DOES perpetuate war is the simplification of the past that allows us to think that we’re cleverer than our forebearers or more sensitive or empathic because we’re not so callous with the use of names.
Ridiculous.

We have Ft. Bragg and other Forts because we don't have "Ft. Karpinski" or "Ft. Sanchez" or Rumsfeld Air Force Base

It's necessary to have a non-descript and vaguely martial history related name that invokes a sense of history and legitimacy. One that we need not think too deeply about. One that need not address the reality of the place (Fort Stinkin' Desert) or the reality of the utility (Fort Bomb the Shit Out of You). And one that is not too obviously covering the reality like Fort Ponies and Ponies and Ponies and Ponies!

And for some reason this simplification is championed by Malanowski.
What "values" are inherent in an instrument of war or a place where war is staged?
Indeed - I challenge him to define what "defense of the United States" is and find a way to name bases after the 10 or so commanders of pure defenses come up.

But that still does not address that warfighting is a dirty business that, even when absolutely necessary, requires going on the offensive and perhaps breaking things and killing people to save many more.

The best possible naming system would be purely utilitarian. Base #1414. Base #1415. Base at grid coordinate whatever nicknamed by the local command as Camp Hard On. Or whatever.
Any other naming system, even the most polite one, whitewashes and simplifies the significance of the instrument or the organization.

What is "good" can subjective and hard to separate out, particularly where military history is concerned.
What is honorable, lawful, indicative of martial spirit, is not.

...of course, I'm not contesting that there are so many damn names that can't even rise to that simple standard.

If the demand is high enough though, we will probably completely obliterate the past and remembrances of blood. We will eliminate even the simplistic references that bring little to mind beyond the vague sense of history with a more modern vague sense of ongoing history.

Much like we've done with sports stadiums.

And we could probably lower taxes by getting sponsors. A good deal all around, no?
So we'll have Fort Blackwater and Camp CACI. General Dynamics Air Base. The ExxonMobil Gunship.

FOB Bechtel. Everyone can enjoy that!
posted by Smedleyman at 8:39 AM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


For those wondering what secession was about, check the Articles of Secession each state passed to leave the Union. They all flat out say it was to protect slavery.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:40 AM on May 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


Why is it that the British never get mad over the Revolutionary War the same way Americans do over the Civil War?

The ocean between the two countries helps mend things, plus we didn't force the UK to become Americans or vice versa. I really think the war being fought here allows for the scars of war being present until this day, along with southerners still being americans after the war would lead to some animosity.
posted by mathowie at 8:41 AM on May 28, 2013


It seems very odd to me that, so far in this thread, everyone seems to be missing the elephant in the room: the reason this op-ed exists, the reason it has any relevance at all, is that the Confederate ideology was never fully defeated. Rather, it went underground, and has been waging a covert cold war against the United States--read "the Federal government", in contemporary political jargon--ever since. And rather successfully, I'd add.

The brand of right-wing Christianity and "leave us alone" values based on "honor" and "freedom" that have been exported to all rural areas of the US at this point, which are the main features of the contemporary American right and which have virtually taken over one of our main political parties, are fundamentally the values of the Confederacy. Values based on a nostalgic yearning for a glorious agrarian past that never was, values that see the dominance hierarchy of the old south as an encoding of God's own virtue, values that heap glory on those who uncritically defend their land and tradition from outsiders--even if by "outsiders" one is really talking about "laws enacted by the citizens of a centralized, constitutional, democratic republic". The name we have given to such a system of values in the modern world is fascism.

If the south had behaved more like Germany did after WWII, seen the error of its ways and taken steps to actually change its deep cultural misconceptions, I doubt anyone would give a damn about the names of the forts, or parks, roads, statues.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:41 AM on May 28, 2013 [29 favorites]


FOB Bechtel. Everyone can enjoy that!

For a moment I read that as Fort Bechdel, which would be awesome.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:43 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


The only revisionism is that deliberately undertaken after the war (and unto this day) by Southern historians and politicians to misrepresent the history of the Civil War. They have in many ways succeeded as witnessed by the number of otherwise knowledgeable people who buy into the whole tragic hero lie regarding Lee and other Confederates. Look at this thread!

It is perfectly acceptable to argue that, in the name of national reconciliation, we had to make up a few noble lies that would allow the vanquished to accept defeat with honor and "look forward, not backward," rather than engaging in ongoing recriminations and punishments for past sins. I might not agree with that, but I wasn't there in the late 1800s and wasn't faced with that dilemma. But don't go around denying what we did and why we did it. You can argue that it was good policy and good politics to pacify the defeated south with this kind of mythmaking in order to give them something to "hold on to" and that doing so was better than the alternatives. Don't claim we did something other than that, though, and mistake the myth for the facts of the matter.
posted by deanc at 8:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it that the British never get mad over the Revolutionary War the same way Americans do over the Civil War? Do we need another century of cool-down time and for a special relationship to develop between North and South?

Because the Confederacy didn't take 100 years to cool down. It took 13. All this stuff is mostly reaction to the civil rights movement. Mostly this was dead and buried before the civil rights movement came about.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not a military expert but I believe the army was mostly state organized militias, and that the officers swore an oath to uphold the constitution, not the union.

This is the commissioned officer's oath of allegiance from 1830 until 1862:
"I, _____, appointed a _____ in the Army of the United States, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States."
This is the revised oath from 1862:
"I, A.B., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have never borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof; that I have voluntarily given no aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto; that I have neither sought nor accepted nor attempted to exercise the functions of any office whatsoever under any authority or pretended authority in hostility to the United States; that I have not yielded voluntary support to any pretended government, authority, power, or constitution within the United States, hostile or inimical thereto. And I do further swear (or affirm) that, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God."
From 1862, the sworn allegiance was to the Constitution (and it was revised in 1884 to take out all the "I swear I wasn't a Confederate" stuff). But before then, the oath was only to the United States of America. So, yeah, resigned commission or not, taking arms against the Union is fairly clearly a violation of that promise. Lee may have felt loyalty only to the state of Virginia, but that isn't the entity he swore to protect upon receiving his commission. Whether or not Lee was a traitor to the Union is not, or shouldn't be, a matter for debate. He may have been serving a higher cause (I don't think so, not by a long shot, but you might), but that doesn't make him less treasonous. The treason part sticks either way; to bristle at the idea that we might call him and his fellow forsworn officers traitors is to say that you think their treason was justified. We already know they thought so.
posted by Errant at 8:49 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Fort Bechdel, which would be awesome.

Ongoing firefight at FOB Dykes to Watch Out For.

GySgt Alexandra: "Goddammit bring it up - three o'clock!"
LCpl Charline: "Roj! Eat this motherfucker!" rat tat tat tat
GySgt Alexandra: "... girl, do you think Chad likes me?"
1stLt Diana: "Watch that talk, gunny!"
posted by Smedleyman at 8:55 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Apocryphon : Why is it that the British never get mad over the Revolutionary War the same way Americans do over the Civil War? Do we need another century of cool-down time and for a special relationship to develop between North and South?

You're kind of question-begging here, because the situations aren't very similiar. As such, there are many, many reasons why the relationships aren't the same.

One is that the Revolution didn't end in American defeat and British occupation. Another is that Americans were actually fighting for a political and economic outcome which was more or less what the British already enjoyed. The Union (thankfully!) imposed a different economy and social struction or the South.

Also, pragmatic considerations. North America stopped being critical to the British Empire's security, and was never critical to their economic considerations. America and Canada were no India. However, the North and South had the same inherent tension between an agricultural economy and a manufacturing economy within the same political system after the war.

Of course, the Atlantic and seprate history have a lot to do with it. We tend to think of "America" had beginning in 1776. But really, Americans had by and large ruled themselves for 150 years at that point. They were loyal to the Crown, but distant London's voice was faint.

The "treason" was to the crown; it was legal rather than emotional.

Finally, many Loyalists fled to Canada. Day-to-day tension after the war was minimal.
posted by spaltavian at 8:56 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Were the Freedom Riders traitors?



what




No, the Freedom Riders weren't fucking traitors! What kind of a question is that?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:00 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


I drive home on Lee Highway every night. I'd like to rename it. However I also have to fly our of Reagan National Airport. I grew up along Squaw Creek. I watch the local football team, but I try not to say their name anymore. There are just too many things to rename.
posted by humanfont at 9:09 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it that the British never get mad over the Revolutionary War the same way Americans do over the Civil War? Do we need another century of cool-down time and for a special relationship to develop between North and South?
The truth is that many people in the UK at the time, and moreso afterward, didn't really disagree with the US or the notions behind it. Thomas Paine and John Paul Jones are only two of the better known US revolutionaries who were from the UK, but there were many many more. The US didn't do anything more outrageous than what many folk from the UK would have done themselves, or did do only a hundred or so years earlier.
posted by Jehan at 9:12 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm always amazed that so many libertarians can hold up the pre-war South as a shining example of something. Hey so-called freedom lovers! They fucking OWNED PEOPLE! They had massive police states designed to keep PEOPLE AS PROPERTY! These states used the power of the federal government to force non-slave states to also treat people as property and force people back into slavery if they escaped it. They weren't anti-federal power at all! They just feared not being the ones controlling that federal power.

Somehow those human beings aren't even in the equation. If you support freedom, then consider the massive horrific deprivation of freedom imposed on the slaves. And then read the actual documents about secession that clearly point out why the South seceded.

This is why I think Ron Paul and his supporters are kooks. He actually went in front of a Confederate flag and talked up how the North was wrong for taking the South's property without paying for it. This property being people, of course. Completely insane, or racist, or pandering to racists. Any way you look at it, it's very very far from being pro-freedom.
posted by jclarkin at 9:13 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


from the op-ed:

All these installations date from the buildups during the world wars, and naming them in honor of a local military figure was a simple choice.

Political expediency. When Roosevelt kicked off the New Deal programs in the 1930's they were customized for local customs. In states with Jim Crow shit the benefits were rigidly segregated. Roosevelt knew it was fucked up but he did it for political expediency. People who talk about the war of northern aggression are a strange political breed. The occupation of the south with Reconstruction and the carpetbaggers and the scallywags and whatnot was up until the Compromise of 1877 when the Southerners allowed Hayes' presidential election ratified (with bogus Florida votes!) in exchange for the Yankees going home. The minute the Yankees left the locals began to systematically relentlessly legally oppress their Negro neighbors but if you mention this inconvenient truth at the wrong place at the wrong time somebody may punch you in the face, today, in fucking 2013.

Fort Bragg shouldn't be called that but it's way down on the list of stuff to fight for.
posted by bukvich at 9:14 AM on May 28, 2013


Arriving late to this thread, I'll just look at elizardbits to say:

Fort Bruce Lee probably would have a multi-year transfer request list to get into it.
posted by datawrangler at 9:14 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm always amazed that so many libertarians can hold up the pre-war South as a shining example of something.

Oh, they are a shining example of *something*. I think everyone can agree on that.
posted by jaduncan at 9:18 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


> "I'm always amazed that so many libertarians can hold up the pre-war South as a shining example of something."

As a long-time Libertarian Party hack, I'd like to note that most libertarians do not think this nor does this have anything to do with libertarian ideology.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:21 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


They fucking OWNED PEOPLE! They had massive police states designed to keep PEOPLE AS PROPERTY!

It was just ten days back that an FPP demonstrated that slavery was so ingrained into the culture and economy of the South that they found ways to keep going for decades after the Civil War ended. Previously.
posted by kewb at 9:21 AM on May 28, 2013


Fort Bruce Lee probably would have a multi-year transfer request list to get into it.
Kick ass track suits. Elvis glasses. Nunchucks. Yeah.
Getting to walk around without a shirt on, that alone would be worth it.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:27 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants wrote: "Hell I'm a bit puzzled by Confederate heroes in fiction, like The Outlaw Josey Wales, Jonah Hex, or the crew of the Firefly."

Trade Agent: You all are Browncoats, eh? Fought for independence? Petty thieving ain't exactly soldiers' work.

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: War's long done. We're all just folk now.
posted by 1367 at 9:29 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jacqueline -- When Ron Paul gets in front of a Confederate flag and claims the North could have avoided the war by paying the South for their "property", then I have to believe that an awful lot of libertarians do believe this. Ron Paul is very likely the most popular face of libertarianism. To argue otherwise seems all "no true Scottsman" to me.
posted by jclarkin at 9:30 AM on May 28, 2013


He actually went in front of a Confederate flag and talked up how the North was wrong for taking the South's property without paying for it.

God damn, how did I miss that one? I hope Rand Paul runs for national office soon so I can link that anytime somebody wants to get into apologetics for the racist history of that family. He even ends his argument by talking about how the Union actions regarding the war constituted a violation of "the consent of the governed" as if any state that legalizes slavery of a large chunk of their people can have any claim to having the consent of the population they rule.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:30 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Has there been any systematic study of why people joined the military of the CSA? There's plenty of letters from the Civil War, so it would seem possible. I think assuming that people joined because they approve of the defense of slavery* seems a little tenuous without other evidence."

Yeah, there have been a couple of books written about it. I wish I'd kept the citations — basically, this woman went through a huge fucking corpus of confederate letters, and found that the main motivation was to "defend our way of life," i.e. slavery. There was widespread belief that if the slaves were freed, they'd start killing white folks and raping white women in retribution for the huge amount of abuse they'd taken.

This stuff has been out there for a while, so I know that someone can find it — I brought it in to class because I had a (coincidentally, Randian libertarian) journo prof who was spouting off a lot of the weird debunked talking points, like that slaves had it better than poor white people, and that the war was about opposing Northern aggression. He based it off some book he read; I brought in a handful of articles that were directly about debunking claims made in that book. I thought that I'd linked to some of them before, but a cursory search of my comment history hasn't turned them up.
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ron Paul is a Republican!
posted by Jacqueline at 9:32 AM on May 28, 2013


Have you, uh. Have you googled him lately? I mean for serious.
posted by elizardbits at 9:34 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, and I'm a Democrat, which must mean I'm cool with double-tap bombing runs in far Pakistan. Ron Paul's libertarian streak is well known and well avowed.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:35 AM on May 28, 2013


Jacqueline -- So you're going for the "No True Scottsman" defense?

Republican is a party label. He's in that party (now), but he has run as the Libertarian party candidate for president as well.

Philosophically, he's always presented himself (and been presented) as a Libertarian.
posted by jclarkin at 9:36 AM on May 28, 2013


Hey, the Osma killing was justified.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:36 AM on May 28, 2013


I'm always amazed that so many libertarians can hold up the pre-war South as a shining example of something.

When Ron Paul gets in front of a Confederate flag and claims the North could have avoided the war by paying the South for their "property", then I have to believe that an awful lot of libertarians do believe this.


Those two things are not really the same thing, you realize. Not to apologize for Ron Paul's (at best) ideological-purity-driven racist bullshit, but I have to agree with Jacqueline in that I've never heard a Libertarian say that the antebellum South was a shining example of anything. The slavery regime of 19th Century America invoked a nearly-Godwinesque reaction in the Libertarian circles I used to travel in.

(On the other hand, Jacqueline, Ron Paul was the Libertarian nominee for President in 1988, so it's not like he can't be held up as any example of "A Libertarian.")
posted by Etrigan at 9:37 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


the crew of the Firefly

The crew of Serenity. Firefly is a class, not a ship. Which, yes, makes the series title kinda dumb when you think about it; sort of like naming your series "YT-1300" when it's about the adventures of the Millennium Falcon.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:39 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


The crew of Serenity. Firefly is a class, not a ship. Which, yes, makes the series title kinda dumb when you think about it; sort of like naming your series "YT-1300" when it's about the adventures of the Millennium Falcon.

I wanna sit next to you at the premier of JJ Abrams' first assault on Star Wars.
posted by notyou at 9:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [21 favorites]


The fundamental principle at the heart of libertarian ideology is non-aggression. Several of Ron Paul's stated positions violate that principle, so it's obvious that he's arriving at his positions via a different belief system than core libertarian principles. That belief system may lead him to some positions that happen to be the same as those held by libertarians, but just because he's with us on ~80% of stuff doesn't mean that we're with him on the rest of it.

Gary Johnson is a much more representative face of (moderate incrementalist) libertarianism.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:48 AM on May 28, 2013


You do realize that you are committing the no true scotsman fallacy, right?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:50 AM on May 28, 2013


One side effect of a hyper-individualist ideology is that there are more genres of Libertarianism than there are of electronic music.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:54 AM on May 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


I would argue that there have been many libertarians who have defended secession. Ron Paul is likely the most famous, but he is not alone. Defending secession as a justified response to "federal tyranny" certainly seems to be holding the slave states up as a positive example to me.

These defenders of secession of course abhor slavery. But the rights of the slaves were immaterial. The principle of "consent of the governed" is primary (except it ignores the consent of the slaves). And of course secession had little or nothing to do with slavery according to these defenders of it.

I'm not alone in pointing out the stupidity of libertarians defending secession.
posted by jclarkin at 9:54 AM on May 28, 2013


This is not a "no true Scotsman" argument because "libertarian" foremost describes an ideological belief system, not a group of people.

If someone called him/herself an atheist but then also declared a belief in God, would you point at that person and say "There are atheists who believe in God"? No, you would say "Then that person is not actually an atheist."

People like Ron Paul calling themselves libertarians is part of a long-running deliberate marketing effort by the GOP to get Libertarians/libertarians to fall in line under the "big tent" of the Republican Party.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:57 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Atheists, by definition, do not believe in god. It is not the case that libertarians, by definition, do not support any one specific political position.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:00 AM on May 28, 2013


You do realize that you are committing the no true scotsman fallacy, right?

Jacqueline very clearly said "most libertarians do not think this". Trotting out one person as the standard-bearer for "an awful lot of libertarians," with the clear intent of using "an awful lot" as "the most significant portion" is itself fallacious.
posted by Etrigan at 10:01 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The libertarianism of the Pauls is an ideological false flag operation. They're neo-Confederates, and intelligent libertarians would not allow them to pass themselves off as representatives.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:01 AM on May 28, 2013


Your definition of libertarian precludes Ron Paul from being one. But you don't get to define the term to only mean what you want it to.

Anyone who defends secession? Not a real libertarian! The fact that Ron Paul got the nomination for Libertarian presidential candidate is irrelevant! The fact that many libertarians recognize him as one of them is irrelevant! Only you get to decide who is really a libertarian!

Sorry, your argument is exactly what the expression "No True Scottsman" is about. Your idiosyncratic definition doesn't prove your argument.
posted by jclarkin at 10:02 AM on May 28, 2013


> "Atheists, by definition, do not believe in god. It is not the case that libertarians, by definition, do not support any one specific political position."

Libertarians by definition oppose the initiation of force. If you are using the term to describe anything else then you are using the term incorrectly.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:03 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If someone called him/herself an atheist but then also declared a belief in God, would you point at that person and say "Atheists believe in God"? No, you would say "Then that person is not actually an atheist."

People like Ron Paul calling themselves libertarians is part of a long-running deliberate marketing effort by the GOP to get Libertarians/libertarians to fall in line under the "big tent" of the Republican Party.


You are underselling Paul's influence among Libertarians. This is closer to a Catholic Bishop saying there is no God and someone saying, "Why do influential Catholics not believe in God?"

The Libertarian Party constantly nominates Republicans for President, see Paul and Johnson and Barr. Libertarian voters vote for Republicans instead of Democrats or third parties constantly. They supported Romney at record high levels instead of Obama or Johnson. The link with Republicans is not Republican PR efforts, it is what the bulk of Libertarian voters want.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:05 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Libertarians are not necessarily pacifists, so your assertion is wrong.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:06 AM on May 28, 2013


At best, the Pauls' Libertarian leanings only apply to the federal government.

Like many American libertarians, they're quite content to enable large and overbearing governments at state and local levels.

If we're going to continue the Star Wars streak in this thread, the musings of most small-government advocates today are a trap. They believe in "States' Rights," not small government.
posted by schmod at 10:06 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Libertarians by definition oppose the initiation of force."

Gotta LOL hard at that one. In the lead up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq you had tons of Libertarian bloggers cheerleading for the war. Not just cheerleading, but one Ms. Jane Galt calling for New York cops to beat anti-war protesters with 2x4's.

I get that Ron and Rand (get it?) Paul might not be your cup of tea, and there's room for differences, but a) most Americans definitely associate the Pauls as "Libertarian Republicans" and b) plenty of Libertarians were vocal advocates for the disaster that was the occupation of Iraq.

Probably around 2007 or so they had a change of heart, but even most Republicans had by then.
posted by bardic at 10:08 AM on May 28, 2013


> "Libertarians are not necessarily pacifists, so your assertion is wrong."

Libertarians oppose the initiation of force. This is not the same as pacifism (no force, period). We can hit back.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:08 AM on May 28, 2013


I think where y'all are getting confused (above and beyond the confusion created by the GOP hijacking the term libertarian) is over the fact that libertarians do support the right to self governance, including secession. But we don't support the right to own slaves, or to secede for the purpose of continuing to own slaves.

Basically, if you want to secede to create a new country that is more free than the country you are seceding from, great. If you want to secede to create a country that is less free, not allowed.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:12 AM on May 28, 2013


Usually Crooked Timber is way too intellectually high strung for me but this post was pretty good. They used a term "bleeding heart libertarian" I had never heard before. There is an argument in there that Rothbard and his cohert stole the term "libertarian" while your true scotsman type libertarian was more of an anarchist and these other guys really ought to be described as "propertarians".
posted by bukvich at 10:12 AM on May 28, 2013


"Libertarians oppose the initiation of force."

Sorry, but most Libertarians disagree with you. As noted above, they overwhelmingly vote Republican.
posted by bardic at 10:13 AM on May 28, 2013


I can't decide if this libertarian derail is terrible or informative.
posted by elizardbits at 10:14 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


> "One side effect of a hyper-individualist ideology is that there are more genres of Libertarianism than there are of electronic music."

The 24 Types of Libertarian. :)

(I'm second row, far left.)
posted by Jacqueline at 10:14 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I vote for No True Libertarian as being the most hilarious derail in a Civil War thread I've seen in a long time.
posted by rtha at 10:15 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


Libertarians oppose the initiation of force. This is not the same as pacifism (no force, period). We can hit back.

I'm not sure why this would be the defining characteristic of libertarianism. Every violent asshole thinks they're just hitting back. To tie this back to slavery, you know the Civil War happened because the North was treading on the South, right? The South had to defend itself and slaveowners had to preserve their way of life from an unjust assault on liberty!
posted by leopard at 10:17 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


[I'm not sure that continuing the "what is a libertarian?" derail is helping a thread about military bases being named after confederate generals, could you all take it to mefi mail or drop it?]
posted by mathowie at 10:18 AM on May 28, 2013


There's an awful lot of armchair-history-revising going on in this thread. I for one am petitioning that the whole thing be removed from the interwebs, including all comments and links.

Because clearly that is what you do when someone you disagree with does something in public. Amirite?

/dumbfounded that this is the discussion that MetaFilter has brought forth.
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:19 AM on May 28, 2013


slavery was the prime mover

Or a cornerstone!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:21 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"an awful lot of armchair-history-revising going on in this thread"

Where?

"Because clearly that is what you do when someone you disagree with does something in public."

You can go to Metatalk. Or you can engage beyond "I don't like what people are saying but cannot refute anything specifically."
posted by bardic at 10:23 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just name one or all of them "Fort Skynyrd". Now everyone's happy.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:23 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


> "The Libertarian Party constantly nominates Republicans for President, see Paul and Johnson and Barr. Libertarian voters vote for Republicans instead of Democrats or third parties constantly."

Ugh. Sadly, you are correct about this, and I hate hate hate how frequently my party gets corrupted in this way. It makes me miss the period immediately following 9/11, when all the LINOs who were really Republicans went scurrying back to the GOP for a few years. It was hell on our fundraising and membership levels, but so blissfully peaceful in the relatively low levels of intra-party ideological strife.

Basically, whenever Republicans get pissed off at their fellow Republicans, their knee-jerk "well then I'm gonna take my ball and go home!" reaction is to join a third party. So whenever there is a higher-than-average level of intra-party strife in the GOP, we (the LP) get a sudden surge in membership. Unfortunately, given how small our party usually is to begin with, sometimes these surges overwhelm our ability to properly socialize and educate our new members into what libertarianism is actually about and then for a while the Libertarian Party gets converted into the Cranky Ex-Republicans Party.

It seems like we need a new word for real libertarians, like how liberals rebranded themselves as "progressives" after the word "liberal" had been mis-used into meaninglessness. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 10:26 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Because clearly that is what you do when someone you disagree with does something in public."

What are you talking about? deleted comments or not honoring people who killed other people to defend slavery?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:28 AM on May 28, 2013


Blue_Villain: There's an awful lot of armchair-history-revising going on in this thread. [snip] /dumbfounded that this is the discussion that MetaFilter has brought forth.

Can you stop being coy? State your case plainly. What you're doing right now is the internet version of a teenager rolling their eyes while sighing exaggeratedly. I promise most people here will be able to understand your point if you make it, even if they don't agree with it.
posted by spaltavian at 10:30 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"our way of life," i.e. slavery.
That's it... I'm flagging each and every post that reiterates this bullshit from here on out. It's simply not true.

It's a convenient one-liner, but it's absolutely not true.

(Is that better?)
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:34 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Alright, I've had some pie, played some non-violent videogames, and return to the thread hopefully with a cooler head.

Basically, if you want to secede to create a new country that is more free than the country you are seceding from, great. If you want to secede to create a country that is less free, not allowed.

Jacqueline, I think you ascribe to a very particular brand of libertarianism that is not necessarily even very common. The idea of "libertarianism, except if something is morally wrong" is not one I've even heard before, and I'm relatively involved with libertarian stuff.

The idea that I am most familiar with is actually more like, "You can always secede to create a new, smaller unit of government, whether or not it is more morally sound than the one you are seceding from. However, everyone else also has the right to secede from your unit of government as well, whether or not it is more morally sound than your new one."

Thus, I would have supported the right of the South to secede, whether or not they were morally right in keeping slaves. However, I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South. (Which apparently, is what West Virginia did?)
posted by corb at 10:35 AM on May 28, 2013


Blue_Villain (Is that better?)

Not really. What are you talking about? Are you saying that the research klagklangston referred to is wrong? Do you think he's making it up?

What is your actual point of view? That the Civil War wasn't over slavery?

If you want to be understood, you should try quoting more than small half phrases of what you are responding to, and explaining yourself with more than one or two clauses of unclear meaning.

That's it... I'm flagging each and every post that reiterates this

Flagging isn't for things you disagree with.
posted by spaltavian at 10:37 AM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


> "Thus, I would have supported the right of the South to secede, whether or not they were morally right in keeping slaves. However, I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South."

How do you support the slaves' rights to secede while simultaneously supporting their owners' rights to own them, when ownership includes the legal right to imprison, beat, or kill slaves who attempt to secede (escape)?
posted by Jacqueline at 10:39 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Thus, I would have supported the right of the South to secede, whether or not they were morally right in keeping slaves. However, I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South.

This strikes me as analogous to supporting the right of white restaurant owners to refuse service to black patrons but also supporting the right of black patrons to refuse to eat at those restaurants.

It's not the same. Black slaves had no power to secede from anything. They were slaves. You are essentially condemning them to a lifetime of horrific servitude on the basis of ideological purity.
posted by Justinian at 10:40 AM on May 28, 2013 [30 favorites]


Blue_Villain seems to be saying that you can't just say that the South was an evil place where black people were enslaved and where there was a violent secession from the rest of the country so that the economic system of slavery could be maintained. I still don't understand *why* you can't say that; apparently it's "childish," the "end of rational thought," "boogety boogety." I guess the point is that life is complicated and George Washington owned slaves too. That doesn't exactly seem like an argument to me but please feel welcome to flag this comment if you don't like it.
posted by leopard at 10:41 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South.

How do you even define the rights of a class of people categorized as property to "secede" from a government? Why not, you know, just not support the rights of anyone who wants to own a slave?

on preview justinian has made my point far better
posted by elizardbits at 10:42 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


the rank and file had a number of reasons for fighting, some good and some bad.

Were I to go back in time and attempt to speak with them, I'm sure most of the Confederate rank and file soldiers would have little pleasant or civil to me, but I can't help but feel profound sadness when I think of how so many of them died in such horrible ways on behalf of the Confederate elite.

I wish that in addition to thundering against the evils of slavery -- and its many evils should always be thundered against, especially since it's a scourge that still affects the world -- at least a handful of abolitionists had concentrated on advising non-slave owning whites that even though they weren't the ones in shackles working those fields under the deathly hot Southern sun, they were also being fucked over tremendously by the system. And that, further, the gentlemanly, noble plantation owners they were taught to view simultaneously as both their betters and brethren had a lot more in common with the Northern captains of commerce than they did with the poor Southerners. (I can't claim to be very well-read in abolitionist literature, so it's very possible that some of them did these very things and I'm simply ignorant of their efforts.)

On a somewhat related note, immediately after the war and even today, you see a great many leaders from the North and from the "left" in America who speak respectfully of the Confederate dead and acknowledge their bravery and sacrifice. It seems though that you rarely find former Confederates and neo-Confederates doing the same for fallen Union soldiers. Are there any examples of this type of conciliatory behavior from prominent Southerners then or now?
posted by lord_wolf at 10:42 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South."

Wow. Just wow.

You do realize that, due to their status as slaves, the only way to "support" them was through a direct military invasion?

I mean, it's nice of you to try and sound like a high-minded idealist but try and think through the consequences of what you're saying -- "Aw shucks, slaves have just as much a right to secede as their owners! Libertarian pizza party afterwards!"
posted by bardic at 10:43 AM on May 28, 2013 [23 favorites]



"I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South."

Wow. Just wow.


Yeah I don't understand how someone could go away and have a think and come back with a comment like that. Unless we're all dramatically misunderstanding what it means.
posted by sweetkid at 10:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's it... I'm flagging each and every post that reiterates this bullshit from here on out. It's simply not true.

I strongly urge you not to use flags that way unless you want to annoy the mods very much.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey I hate to derail this completely original and never before seen refutation of some people's wrong-headed notions about the Civil War, but I thought of a question for those who believe that the problem with naming things after Lee and other Confederates was not their treason against the United States but their support of slavery:

Do you think we should demolish the Jefferson Memorial? If not, please distinguish between that case and the case of Lee.
posted by Justinian at 10:51 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


> "Jacqueline, I think you ascribe to a very particular brand of libertarianism that is not necessarily even very common. The idea of "libertarianism, except if something is morally wrong" is not one I've even heard before, and I'm relatively involved with libertarian stuff."

You can't even join the Libertarian Party without pledging "I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals." So the brand of libertarianism I ascribe to is common enough that it represents the entire Libertarian Party (if all our members actually followed their certification of our core principle).

If you secede to form a government that will use the state's monopoly on the legitimate use of force to force people to work for you against their will, that is a pretty big libertarian fail because you are supporting the initiation of force against the enslaved people.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thus, I would have supported the right of the South to secede, whether or not they were morally right in keeping slaves. However, I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South. (Which apparently, is what West Virginia did?)

Well, corb, would you be willing to take up arms to defend the rights of those slaves, or would you consider that to be "initiation of the use of force" that is interfering with the God-given rights of the South to defend their property?

It's not clear why you would have supported the right of the South to secede, either. There was no legal framework in place that enshrined such a secession right.You can't invent a right at of whole cloth that what not really accepted at the time in the mid-19th century. The best we can come up with might be Wilson's post-WWI appeal to ethnic self-determination, but that was more about an advocacy for community autonomy in the context of democratic states. To a large degree, this is exactly what the federal government provided that to the southern states, except for the fact that the southern states did not extend this kind of autonomy and self-determination to their own residents, the slaves, and they sought to export this system to the rest of the nation, undermining their own autonomy.
posted by deanc at 10:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Justinian: It's not the same. Black slaves had no power to secede from anything. They were slaves.

This is why it's so important for people like corb to insist that the war had nothing to do with slavery. Because if the Union didn't care about slavery, then the Federal government wasn't acting on behalf of Americans caught in rebel territory.

The Emancipation Proclaimation didn't spring up over night. The North was moving towards limiting slavery, and rolling it back for decades at this point. They were moving lightly in part because they wan't to avoid war, and in part because the South held political power. But the idea that Lincoln suddenly only cared about abolition has a Hail Mary in the middle of the war has been shown wrong time and time again. They would have been cool with it dying slowly over a generation or two, but the insitution was always on borrow time. Even the South acknowledged this with the end of the slave trade built into the Constitution, penned by Jefferson.

Give the Confederates their due: when they suspect the North of trying to suffocate slavery, they were right.
posted by spaltavian at 10:56 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Do you think we should demolish the Jefferson Memorial?"

No. But we should talk about slavery. And Jefferson's thoughts on the subject are complicated, to say the least. (He blamed George III for the American slave trade in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, which is a pretty huge mind-fuck coming from the man who built Monticello.)

But naming US military bases after the generals who actively fought against and/or killed hundreds of thousands of US soldiers seems like a bad idea. That's really the core idea of the editorial.

It's history. There are shades of wrong-doing. Jefferson and Washington deserve their pretty huge share of blame, no doubt. But this doesn't contradict the notion that US military bases shouldn't be named after secessionists.
posted by bardic at 10:59 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


You do realize that, due to their status as slaves, the only way to "support" them was through a direct military invasion?

This has been said a lot of times, in a lot of places, and I think it is categorically not true each and every time it has been said. There are always ways to help others without invading to free them.

As has been said elsewhere: England ended slavery categorically and finally, without any bloodshed whatsoever, through the expedient of paying each slaver the market price in dollars of the slaves they possessed.

Well, corb, would you be willing to take up arms to defend the rights of those slaves, or would you consider that to be "initiation of the use of force" that is interfering with the God-given rights of the South to defend their property?

Absolutely. If I lived in the South, I would absolutely have decided my land was free land, and anyone who came to take any refugees to it would face the end of my rifle. I wouldn't go out to other people's land to drag anyone away, but yes, I would refuse to allow slavery to be enforced upon my land. I would provide arms and military training to anyone who wanted to engage in the same. I probably would have become very, very dead in short order, but I would have gone out fighting. But I would not have initiated the use of force on other people in their homes.

then the Federal government wasn't acting on behalf of Americans caught in rebel territory.


This would be a fair point if in fact the Federal government had recognized slaves as citizens at any point before the war - which they did not.
posted by corb at 10:59 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"That's it... I'm flagging each and every post that reiterates this bullshit from here on out. It's simply not true."

Flag it all you want. I've tracked down the book that came out of the papers that I read, by Chandra Manning.

Manning explicitly ranges far and wide to capture as much rank and file sentiment as possible, and the answer is SLAVERY SLAVERY SLAVERY. That's why the Confederacy fought, though not why the Union fought until near the end of the war.

Sorry, but by getting all het up like you are, you're (likely inadvertently) acting as an apologist for slavery and racism. Get thee to a library.
posted by klangklangston at 11:00 AM on May 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


But naming US military bases after the generals who actively fought against and/or killed hundreds of thousands of US soldiers seems like a bad idea. That's really the core idea of the editorial.

But isn't that my point? That the reason to rename the bases is that Lee and the others took up arms against the United States? (ie treason). It's not like Lee's thoughts on the subject weren't "complicated".
posted by Justinian at 11:01 AM on May 28, 2013


corb: then the Federal government wasn't acting on behalf of Americans caught in rebel territory.

This would be a fair point if in fact the Federal government had recognized slaves as citizens at any point before the war - which they did not.


Did you not actually read this comment, or are you just ignoring that my entire comment was me anticipating the argument you just put forth?
posted by spaltavian at 11:03 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


England ended slavery categorically and finally, without any bloodshed whatsoever, through the expedient of paying each slaver the market price in dollars of the slaves they possessed.

What?!? That's compeltely ahistorical! The British, to their eternal credit, didn't just buy the slaves out. They seized every damn slave ship they could get their hands on and blew the shit out of slave trade posts on the African coast! They were killing slavers!
posted by Justinian at 11:03 AM on May 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


"As has been said elsewhere: England ended slavery categorically and finally, without any bloodshed whatsoever, through the expedient of paying each slaver the market price in dollars of the slaves they possessed. "

England's polity and economy were strikingly different from the United States despite a common language. Were you aware of that?

"Absolutely. If I lived in the South, I would absolutely have decided my land was free land, and anyone who came to take any refugees to it would face the end of my rifle. I wouldn't go out to other people's land to drag anyone away, but yes, I would refuse to allow slavery to be enforced upon my land."

It's always a nice fantasy to think that one would be immune to the prejudices and ignorance of the past, but it's hard to square with the statements you've made here, which seem mightily mired in the prejudices and ignorance of your present.

"But I would not have initiated the use of force on other people in their homes. "

Bad, bad, John Brown. Bad, bad Nat Turner.
posted by klangklangston at 11:04 AM on May 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


This has been said a lot of times, in a lot of places, and I think it is categorically not true each and every time it has been said. There are always ways to help others without invading to free them.

I am not a great historian, but if you are positing that the North invaded a sovereign South specifically to free slaves, and that this is the genesis of the war, I do not believe that you are correct.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Spaltavian: Even the South acknowledged this with the end of the slave trade built into the Constitution, penned by Jefferson.

I want to clarify this somewhat. Madison, of course, was the primary writer of the Constitution. I believe it was Jefferson who wanted the slave trade to end on a predetermined schedule. Even if it was Madison's idea, he too was a Virginian.
posted by spaltavian at 11:06 AM on May 28, 2013


"I would refuse to allow slavery to be enforced upon my land"

Then you'd have been breaking the law. Hell, the Fugitive Slave Law applied to northern states as well.

No person is an island. If we could time-machine back to the 1850's South, you are implicated in a economic network that rests on slavery. Even if you don't own a plantation, you're going to eat food or buy products that were made on one. To fantasize about being the one true defender of slaves is, frankly, pretty damn childish.

And making an analogy between a centuries long institution of southern slavery and civilians in Iraq is interesting, to say the least.

Slaves had absolutely zero degree of the vaunted Libertarian volition that allows each of us to grow into Randian superbeings. It was immoral, it was criminal, and it was a genocide to boot. Nice of you to think it's perfectly reasonable to just let shit happen like that.
posted by bardic at 11:06 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


They seized every damn slave ship they could get their hands on and blew the shit out of slave trade posts on the African coast! They were killing slavers!

Ah, the same famously bloodless approach that the Empire-era Royal Navy would use when dealing with piracy.

/s, just in case that is needed.
posted by jaduncan at 11:07 AM on May 28, 2013


> "But I would not have initiated the use of force on other people in their homes."

So when parents are beating/raping their minor dependent children and keeping them locked up at home, are you also opposed to police intervention to rescue the imprisoned children? You determine the "initiation" of force in that scenario to occur when the police enter the home to take the children and arrest the parents, and not earlier when the parents began to abuse the children?
posted by Jacqueline at 11:07 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reducing an entire populace into the phrase "they owned slaves" is disingenuous regardless of the implications of slavery. You could reduce it into they phrase "they like cake" and it would still be simply wrong.

Anybody who reduces an entire way of living into "they owned slaves" with the implications that they are evil both misses out on the concept that the large majority of people in the south DID NOT own slaves AND the concept that there were other things that were important to the people.

Citing someone that says plantation owners benefited from slaves is fine, that's factually true. But it's also not the only thing that plantation owners benefited from. So either parlay the entire concept or indicate that it is only one of the things that identifies the population, otherwise I feel completely justified in flagging it for being disingenuous and offensive.

Ironically, that's the same criticism I have of the original article.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:08 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thus, I would have supported the right of the South to secede, whether or not they were morally right in keeping slaves. However, I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South.

Well then, I secede from all governments the minute they do something not in my own perceived best interest and rejoin them immediately after I don't have to do that thing I don't like. So I will be taking in all of the law enforcement to protect myself, but will be seceding mid-April every year. Also if they bust me with anything, I secede, and rejoin after any chance I may be punished by the state has passed. I refuse to believe this will have any negative effect on the power of the government to do anything.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:09 AM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Give the Confederates their due: when they suspect the North of trying to suffocate slavery, they were right.

Kind of. But I think the south realized that slavery would be suffocated unless they could turn the country into a slave nation. They were against ideas of popular sovereignty in the territories to determine slavery and against the federal government's ability to make determinations about whether slavery would be allowed in their territories. When they realized that their ideas about the spread and expansion of slavery with respect to their interpretation of the Constitution were going to lose out, their solution was to blow up the system, as they had threatened to. You can't unilaterally decide to nuke the Constitution and then expect that the enforcers of Constitutional order aren't going to hold you to its terms. The pre-confederate south's stance was, "If we're going to live together, you have to live by our rules," and they pulled out when they realized that wasn't going to happen. Well and good, it sucks to lose elections, but the Constitution was a framework for allowing disputes to be worked out democratically. There was no "alternate method" of resolving disputes by flipping over the chessboard.
posted by deanc at 11:10 AM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


"But I would not have initiated the use of force on other people in their homes."

West Africa?
posted by spaltavian at 11:11 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


We are falling into the unfortunate thread-encrappening derail of refuting line by line all of a single person's predictably terrible comments and while understandable from a logic and reason standpoint it has not proven from past examples to work out very well.
posted by elizardbits at 11:13 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


> "Well then, I secede from all governments the minute they do something not in my own perceived best interest and rejoin them immediately after I don't have to do that thing I don't like."

Welcome to Seasteading! Complete freedom to attach and detach your floating homestead to and from your choices from a dazzling smorgasbord of oceanic independent city-states! What could possibly go wrong?!

(Top row, far left in the "24 Types of Libertarians.")
posted by Jacqueline at 11:14 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've tracked down the book that came out of the papers that I read, by Chandra Manning.

Klangklangston, I think putting the onus on others to go find a book that is inaccessible from the internet is a bit much for the thread. I would be interested in reading this book - genuinely! - but I think chastising people for not being aware of the claims it makes without more accessible papers is kind of not the best.

The pre-confederate south's stance was, "If we're going to live together, you have to live by our rules," and they pulled out when they realized that wasn't going to happen. Well and good, it sucks to lose elections, but the Constitution was a framework for allowing disputes to be worked out democratically.

The Constitution was kind of silent on the idea of whether or not states could leave the union afterwards if they felt that they were not able to be a part of it. I think the idea of "We clearly cannot live together - the northern half of this country is opposed to us and we are opposed to them" is an exactly reasonable cause for splitting. A national divorce, if you will. And I think it would have been advantageous for both new countries, in fact. The North would not need to be bound by any fugitive slave laws if it didn't care to - it could open itself up as an asylum country. It could impose economic sanctions on the South in order to attempt to impose its national will on them.
posted by corb at 11:14 AM on May 28, 2013


"Anybody who reduces an entire way of living into "they owned slaves""

Who is doing that?

Slavery was THE issue in the south, and that is the biggest reason why the south fought. At least, that is more or less the beliefs that academic historians who study the civil war hold. Why are they wrong and why are you right?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:15 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anybody who reduces an entire way of living into "they owned slaves" with the implications that they are evil both misses out on the concept that the large majority of people in the south DID NOT own slaves AND the concept that there were other things that were important to the people.

You are really underplaying the role that slavery played in the south. It was not a society that happened to have slaves. It was a slave society. Slaves were the pivot around which the entire south revolved. It affected all aspects of their economic system from top to bottom. It defined the economy, the culture, and the daily life.
posted by deanc at 11:16 AM on May 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


?What?!? That's compeltely ahistorical! The British, to their eternal credit, didn't just buy the slaves out. They seized every damn slave ship they could get their hands on and blew the shit out of slave trade posts on the African coast! They were killing slavers!

I think you're both right, possibly? Britain made slavery illegal in Britain itself early, and then founded the West Africa Squadron to patrol for slave ships, but slavery was still legal elsewhere in the Empire until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was signed into law in 1834. At that point it became illegal to hold slaves, and slaveowners were (at least theoretically) compensated for the slaves they lost.

Although it was a bit of a chiz, because slaves over the age of six were redesignated as "apprentices", and continued to lack self-determination until a set future date. And the East India Company got to keep using slave labor until 1843. Kind of a mess, but it was achieved without a war, I guess.

Reducing an entire populace into the phrase "they owned slaves" is disingenuous regardless of the implications of slavery. You could reduce it into they phrase "they like cake" and it would still be simply wrong.

OK...

Anybody who reduces an entire way of living into "they owned slaves" with the implications that they are evil both misses out on the concept that the large majority of people in the south DID NOT own slaves AND the concept that there were other things that were important to the people.


Like... cake?

Citing someone that says plantation owners benefited from slaves is fine, that's factually true. But it's also not the only thing that plantation owners benefited from.

They also benefitted from... cake?

Seriously, I am totally lost.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:16 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Citing someone that says plantation owners benefited from slaves is fine, that's factually true. But it's also not the only thing that plantation owners benefited from. So either parlay the entire concept or indicate that it is only one of the things that identifies the population, otherwise I feel completely justified in flagging it for being disingenuous and offensive."

Most of your better-known Confederate generals were, in fact, from the plantation class. The editorial isn't saying we shouldn't level all US military bases in the south, but that we shouldn't directly honor these people at the ones that already exist. Better yet, name them after people who made sacrifices for the US military, not against it.
posted by bardic at 11:16 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


And I think it would have been advantageous for both new countries, in fact.

Except for the millions of enslaved men, women, and children of course. But they don't actually count in this worldview.
posted by Justinian at 11:18 AM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


And I think it would have been advantageous for both new countries, in fact. The North would not need to be bound by any fugitive slave laws if it didn't care to - it could open itself up as an asylum country. It could impose economic sanctions on the South in order to attempt to impose its national will on them.

What is the advantage to the enslaved people in this halcyon scenario.
posted by elizardbits at 11:18 AM on May 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think the idea of "We clearly cannot live together - the northern half of this country is opposed to us and we are opposed to them" is an exactly reasonable cause for splitting.

That was not what the issue was. It wasn't that the north was "opposed" to southern states doing what they were doing. It was that the southern states wanted the northern states to abide by their norms and insisted that every constitutional dispute on issues outside of slave states be resolved in their own favor. I also think you're reading back this right of secession from your own 20th century standpoint.
posted by deanc at 11:18 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kind of. But I think the south realized that slavery would be suffocated unless they could turn the country into a slave nation. They were against ideas of popular sovereignty in the territories to determine slavery and against the federal government's ability to make determinations about whether slavery would be allowed in their territories.

I don't think the powerbrokers of the South thought that slavery could be adapted to either the North's factories or the West's ranches.

I've always taken their refusal to accept abolition in the West as more of a principled argument/slipperly slope argument. (Washington has no right to do this/ if we let them do it there, one day they'll do it here.) I don't think Evertt Smithington T.B. Calhoon really thought he was going to make money with slaves in Colorado, or that doing so was fundementally vital to keeping his interests in Alabama secure.

The North, converserly, seems to have had a containment strategy, but was certainly ambivalent about it.
posted by spaltavian at 11:19 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


So either parlay the entire concept or have someone like me flag it for being disingenuous and offensive.

First of all, stop flagging things. The mods are already reading every comment in this thread and will delete stuff that is not allowed by metafilter standards, don't worry.

Second of all, what do you mean by "parlay the entire concept"?

Saying that the culture of the antebellum South was steeped in evil because of a racist system that exploited human beings to the benefit of an aristocracy is an opinion based in historical fact, and a moral reading of that history. It isn't just wildly made up. I happen to believe that the North for the most part should also be painted with that brush, for letting it continue for as long as it did until it because obviously that slavery was as economically unstable as it was politically. But evil doesn't just sit quietly in one corner of the room, it has to expand endlessly or it will whither. And in the end the only thing that makes it stop is a fist full of war whether actual or threatened.

I'm sorry that it insults you to find the average people of the south impugned by the actions of slave-owners, but that is the fact of the culture that was in place at the time, and then back in place until the late 60s. And then sort of still in place now with the Drug War but everywhere. People are still good apart from the evil system they live in sometime. But the leaders don't get to say that--we at least get to hold their names responsible for evil, and take them off our forts and parks and monuments. And I hope we eventually get them all.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:20 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Most of your better-known Confederate generals were, in fact, from the plantation class. The editorial isn't saying we shouldn't level all US military bases in the south, but that we shouldn't directly honor these people at the ones that already exist. Better yet, name them after people who made sacrifices for the US military, not against it.

Obviously every Metafilter conversation that touches on the Civil War will always be a referendum on the causes of the war forever and ever, amen, but I feel like this is such an obvious move that there's very little conversation to be had about it. Don't name United States Army installations after people who fought against the United States Army; this doesn't require you to settle any traitor/revolutionary determinations or even give a fig about the causes of the war. There are plenty of people who fought against the US in what were fairly unambiguously justified wars of independence/defense, but I still wouldn't expect there to be a fort named after them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:24 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The mods when they see a Civil War thread appear on the blue.
posted by Justinian at 11:25 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


More on the slave society:
Slaves were the principal form of wealth in the South--indeed in the nation as a whole. The market value of the four million slaves in 1860 was close to $3 billion--more than the value of land, of cotton, or of anything else in the slave states, and more than the amount of capital invested in manufacturing and railroads combined for the whole United States. Slave labor made it possible for the American South to grow three-quarters of the world's marketed cotton, which in turn constituted more than half of all American exports in the antebellum era.
...
"The conflict between slavery and non-slavery is a conflict for life and death," a South Carolina commissioner told Virginians in February 1861. "The South cannot exist without African slavery." Mississippi's commissioner to Maryland insisted that "slavery was ordained by God and sanctioned by humanity." If slave states remained in a Union ruled by Lincoln and his party, "the safety of the rights of the South will be entirely gone."
...
Whites of both classes considered the bondage of blacks to be the basis of liberty for whites. Slavery, they declared, elevated all whites to an equality of status by confining menial labor and caste subordination to blacks. "If slaves are freed," maintained proslavery spokesmen, whites "will become menials. We will lose every right and liberty which belongs to the name of freemen."
So, yes, I think it is fair to point out that the problem of the south was that it had slaves. It was a society and culture whose very premise was based on the existence and perpetuation and spread of slavery. I'm not just making this up... the confederates and advocates for the primacy of southern society and culture in the early to mid 19th century said this themselves.
posted by deanc at 11:25 AM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Was slavery a big issue? Yes, clearly. Nobody is denying that. Was it the ONLY issue? Absolutely not.

You simply cannot say "the issue was slavery" and expect anybody with an objective thought to not dispute it.

And this is still ignoring the fact that the large majority of the enlistees were people who did not own slaves. Plantation owners did not go to war, they hired people to do that for them. And for the people that were hired to actually shoot the weapons at other people slavery was not an issue, but an invading army from the north was.

The fact that quite a few of you guys can't get past the "they owned slaves, they're bad people" is ridiculous.

tl;dr: If you say that slavery was the only reason for the war you're factually and morally incorrect.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:26 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the idea of "We clearly cannot live together - the northern half of this country is opposed to us and we are opposed to them" is an exactly reasonable cause for splitting.

That was not what the issue was. It wasn't that the north was "opposed" to southern states doing what they were doing. It was that the southern states wanted the northern states to abide by their norms and insisted that every constitutional dispute on issues outside of slave states be resolved in their own favor.


I would say that you're mostly right, but the slave states knew that the abolition movement was growing. Hence their insistence on keeping the balance of power in the Senate (and therefore the Supreme Court) in their favor, or at least tied. The election of Lincoln -- a known abolitionist -- clinched it for them.
posted by Etrigan at 11:27 AM on May 28, 2013


If you say that slavery was the only reason for the war you're factually and morally incorrect.

If someone says, "the cornerstone of my society is about slavery, and I'm seceding to protect slavery in my society," I tend to believe them.
posted by deanc at 11:28 AM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Was it the ONLY issue? Absolutely not. "

Who said it was the only issue? It certainly was the biggest and most important issue, but it wasn't the only one.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:28 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


They have in many ways succeeded as witnessed by the number of otherwise knowledgeable people who buy into the whole tragic hero lie regarding Lee and other Confederates

I just want to point out that I was in no way apologizing for Lee. He fought for an evil cause. The south was an evil empire, built on an evil instituation. I was only arguing that 'treason', or even 'killing american soldiers' wasn't the reason that Lee was a bad person.

John Brown was a 'traitor' who killed American Soldiers, too. 'The Union' wasn't and isn't a good in-and-of-itself, and if the civil war had been avoided by compromising on slavery, and there was no treasonous south to fight against, the constitution wouldn't have been fit for toilet paper, imo.
posted by empath at 11:28 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


tl;dr: If you say that slavery was the only reason for the war you're factually and morally incorrect.

I would like you to go read the articles of secession and list the reasons for secession enumerated by each state, however you like to interpret them, backed with citations from the text. Go ahead, we'll wait.
posted by empath at 11:30 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you say that slavery was the only reason for the war you're factually and morally incorrect.

Let's grant (trigger word warning) that Slavery wasn't the only reason for the war. Lee and Bragg and the other generals were still enemies of the United States and don't deserve to be honored by the Army they fought against, for whatever reason that they fought. Do you agree with that? If not why not.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:30 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know, empath, I wasn't referring to you.
posted by Justinian at 11:31 AM on May 28, 2013


I was just in Harpers Ferry a few weeks back. The evidence of John Brown is limited to a couple of small signs in the African American museum in the "Downtown" area. Frankly I'd be OK with at least something named after him... maybe a donut shop?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:32 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doing some research on this point, would appreciate if anyone can clear this up, because I genuinely do not know what they are talking about - it's referenced by several states.
"An incursion has been instigated and actually perpetuated into a sister State the inevitable consequences of which were murder rapine and crimes even more horrible. The felon chief of that murderous band has been canonized as a heroic martyr by public meetings by the press and pulpit of all of the Northern States – others of the party have been demanded by the Governor of the State they invaded and their surrender refused by the Governors of two States of the Confederacy, demanded not as fugitives from service but as fugitives from justice charged with treason and murder."
posted by corb at 11:33 AM on May 28, 2013


It's not that I would give Robert E. Lee a "pass", but rather that he generally tried to be an advocate for peaceful reconciliation after the war. He didn't go off and found the KKK like other confederate generals. He wasn't an advocate for segregation or denying blacks the vote. So I think it is ok to commemorate the "post war" Robert E. Lee.

I like the idea of "Fort Bruce Lee" and the "Bruce Lee Highway", though.
posted by deanc at 11:33 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The John Brown memorial gun store. "Registered Voters Only"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:33 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you say that slavery was the only reason for the war you're factually and morally incorrect.

Find us another cause that can't be tied directly and predominantly to slavery, then. Hell, I'll take "fear of spiders" if you can prove that plantation owners weren't mostly worried about black widow bites putting their field workers out of commission.
posted by Etrigan at 11:33 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: John Brown.
posted by Justinian at 11:36 AM on May 28, 2013


Lee and Bragg and the other generals were still enemies of the United States and don't deserve to be honored by the Army they fought against, for whatever reason that they fought. Do you agree with that? If not why not.

Let's imagine instead that Lincoln compromised with the south, and instead some northern states seceded from the union, on the premise that they would no longer be a party to the institution of slavery. And that Robert E Lee marched through upstate new york, burning down farms and towns on the way to Albany. Would you say that the northern generals who fought and died in a noble cause would be worth commemorating?

If the civil war isn't about slavery, if it's about some abstract principle like states rights, loyalty to your family and local government, then there was nothing wrong with what they did.

Of course it was about the right to continue to own and torture and murder millions of human beings and force them into labor, to steal babies from their mothers and sell them, so we don't have to imagine a scenario where they fought for a noble cause. They fought for almost the worst cause imaginable. And for that reason, and not because they failed to uphold their oaths to a piece of paper, that they deserve no honor or respect.
posted by empath at 11:37 AM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thus, I would have supported the right of the South to secede, whether or not they were morally right in keeping slaves. However, I would also have supported the right of those slaves, and anyone else who had issues with that government, to secede from the South. (Which apparently, is what West Virginia did?)

This is how Libertarians end up off the rails. The ideology of individual rights is fine, but in politics flawed people have to try and figure out how to balance individual and group rights that are in conflict with each other. The best way to support the right of the slaves to be free from a slaveowning government was to make war against the South and enforce their freedom. There was not going to be individual freedom for the South otherwise.

Our nation had already violated the principle of consent of the governed in regards to the slaves for so damn long that it's a complete joke to say the outbreak of the civil war should be the exact moment where it must not be violated now that the slaveowners were the target. Completely absurd. It shows a balance in favor of one group over another instead of an unbiased attempt to balance competing concerns.

So, I see someone like Paul giving a speech on this subject in front of the stars and bars. I have a hard time trusting that he is just trying to balance individual rights when the speech if full of historical revisionism. He says the violence and financial cost of the war could have been avoided if the Union had just bought freedom for the slaves. Well, Lincoln in fact supported compensation for slaveowners in various forms both before and during the war. That would be a compromise he could have worked with. Paul brings this up while he is arguing lots of other countries didn't need wars to end slavery, and it was the Union's fault war was chosen as an option.

corb echoes that point: As has been said elsewhere: England ended slavery categorically and finally, without any bloodshed whatsoever, through the expedient of paying each slaver the market price in dollars of the slaves they possessed.

In fact, there was a war because unlike in those other countries here in the US we had a wealthy and powerful region willing to fight and die to stop any attempt to end slavery. If such a group in England would have reacted to the change by going to war with England, then England would have had a war over this too.

One time compensation would not have given the South a functioning economy in the future. The plan would not have worked here. Of course, if you mention that you aren't going to be invited to give speeches in places where they are given in front of a giant Confederate battle flag.

Time and again Paul type Libertarians find a balance that somehow is in favor of Southern racists instead of African Americans. You see the same thing with the Civil Rights Act. One person's fundamental right not to serve blacks at a business along a highway balanced against the right of an oppressed class to travel on the public highways their tax money supports and to enjoy the economic freedoms that travel allows. You have to pick which freedom should be protected when you can't pick both, and too many influential Libertarians make choices that don't make sense unless the scales for some reason are weighing one group's rights as more important than another group's rights.

So, to get this vaguely back somewhere in the area of the topic. I think if we have to strike a balance between honoring the Confederate legacy of bravery to whatever degree is appropriate and making the military a better place for modern minority folks we can do that by treating the Confederacy as a cautionary tale that bravery and a fighting spirit, while necessary for a soldier, are not enough to be considered an American hero when you are fighting against your own brothers and your cause is shit. Every successful fighting force has brave men, that doesn't make them worthy of having their name on a base or a ship. If that might look like disrespecting accomplished Confederate figures, that's tough. However, it's the fault of the Confederacy that history has turned on them, not our fault for finally noticing.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:38 AM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


Doing some research on this point, would appreciate if anyone can clear this up, because I genuinely do not know what they are talking about - it's referenced by several states.

With all due respect Corb, if you don't know who John Brown is, you really have no business talking about the causes of the Civil War. Read more and type less, please.
posted by empath at 11:38 AM on May 28, 2013 [20 favorites]


It's not that I would give Robert E. Lee a "pass", but rather that he generally tried to be an advocate for peaceful reconciliation after the war. He didn't go off and found the KKK like other confederate generals. He wasn't an advocate for segregation or denying blacks the vote. So I think it is ok to commemorate the "post war" Robert E. Lee.

Not naming things after Nathan Bedford Forrest would seem to be the most sensible possible first step. His legacy is as a war criminal and founder of a terrorist organization; he also ran a lot of horses to death. I'm a Southerner who can barely get myself to play as the Union in a video game, and I would be uncomfortable being in a place named for him.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:39 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would you say that the northern generals who fought and died in a noble cause would be worth commemorating?

Yes, but not by the weird Vichy America in your hypothetical. I don't expect the UK to name things after the signers of the Declaration of Independence. And this is despite the fact that they have pretty much come over to our side regarding virtual representation.
posted by spaltavian at 11:39 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]



If you say that slavery was the only reason for the war you're factually and morally incorrect.

If someone says, "the cornerstone of my society is about slavery, and I'm seceding to protect slavery in my society," I tend to believe them.


Blah-blah-blah. Y'all are trying to simplify something that is not simple. Recommend we all pause, watch ALL of this, then reconvene in a week or so.
posted by philip-random at 11:40 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then you'd have been breaking the law. Hell, the Fugitive Slave Law applied to northern states as well.

What a piece of shit that law was. It required that any citizen, even in the North, could be forced to help catch a suspected fugitive slave, even if that citizen was opposed to slavery. It was a terrible blow to the abolitionists.
posted by homunculus at 11:41 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, Lincoln in fact supported compensation for slaveowners in various forms both before and during the war. That would be a compromise he could have worked with[...]In fact, there was a war because unlike in those other countries here in the US we had a wealthy and powerful region willing to fight and die to stop any attempt to end slavery. If such a group in England would have reacted to the change by going to war with England, then England would have had a war over this too.

It's worth noting that the significant actions of the governments in England and America towards slavery were very similar up until the 1830s.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:42 AM on May 28, 2013


I also don't understand the argument that the war wasn't about Slavery as a justification for the Confederacy.

"They seceded because the North was being bossy!"
About what, about slavery?
"No other stuff!"
Well then bad job North. Slavery is a Top 5 Worst Thing that ever happened in America. Definitely worth going to War over. If the War about about some other shit, shame on the North for NOT marching down there and clearing out the plantations with flame-throwers. But I mean, still more shame on the South for perpetrating it in the first place right? Either slavery was that bad or it wasn't. When you say "The Civil War wasn't about Slavery" I hear "Slavery wasn't that bad." And I bet a lot of black soldiers hear that literally and figuratively in military bases named after Southern generals. And that sucks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:43 AM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


With all due respect Corb, if you don't know who John Brown is, you really have no business talking about the causes of the Civil War. Read more and type less, please.

I know who John Brown is, thankyouverymuch, what I did not know was how to translate Southern hyperbole about John Brown. But way to shit on someone actually engaging in effort to try to bring substantive discussion to the table.
posted by corb at 11:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems that not all Navy installations follow the PURPOSE_LOCATION pattern.

NAS Whiting Field is named after Kenneth Whiting, one of the early naval aviators. NSA Crane is home to the NSWC Crane Division, near the town of Crane, IL and named after Commodore William Crane (brother to Ichabod), who famously fought in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812. NWS Earle was named after RDML Earle, former Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. Generally ship names get the political treatment, but I can't quite imagine a USS Tojo.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Slavery is a Top 5 Worst Thing that ever happened in America.

Top 2, surely? Slavery and the native american clearances?
posted by Justinian at 11:45 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Top 2, surely? Slavery and the native american clearances?

Arrested Development getting cancelled.
posted by empath at 11:47 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you treat Jim Crow as contiguous with Slavery then sure. I hate ranking things though.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:48 AM on May 28, 2013


Top 2, surely? Slavery and the native american clearances?

I can sign onto that with the proviso that I might remember something else incredibly evil later on.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:48 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Empath: You misspelled Firefly.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:48 AM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the Blue from meeeee.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:49 AM on May 28, 2013


Slavery is a Top 5 Worst Thing that ever happened in America.

Top 2, surely? Slavery and the native american clearances?


Everything went to shit in 1492 and it's all been downhill from there.
posted by elizardbits at 11:49 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd put in the Depression and the end of manufacture of Jell-O Pudding Pops.
posted by Etrigan at 11:49 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "Arrested Development getting cancelled."

Fortunately, our long national nightmare is finally over.

Thanks, Obama!
posted by Jacqueline at 11:52 AM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


#1. Disco
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:53 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Slavery was THE issue in the south, and that is the biggest reason why the south fought. At least, that is more or less the beliefs that academic historians who study the civil war hold. Why are they wrong and why are you right?

I think this is a really important argument to add cites for, if you are going to make it. So let's take a look at the documents.

South Carolina - cites the Declaration of Independence , particularly the "form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government" piece. Also cites, interestingly, the treaty that England made with the Colonies - citing that each singly was a free and independent state. It goes into the right of compact - that if one person fails in their obligations, the other can break the bond. This begins to discuss slaves, but primarily, failure to uphold obligations then existing in the Constitution.

Mississippi: does state that the primary reason is protecting slavery, but cites the economic consequences more than any other factor.
Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.
Florida: Ordinance of succession doesn't go into it, but a possible draft appears on the internet that cites the support for John Brown (thanks Justinian), nullification, hilariously an uncivil Congress, the ignorance of Lincoln, slaves, the North failing to pay adequate and fair import taxes, the South sending more soldiers to die in the Mexican war, fishing bounties, "monopoly of coast navigation."

Alabama: Lincoln and the Republicans hate Alabama.

Georgia
: Other states are threatening our security and engaging in constitutional violations against us, not letting us into the Territories. Also, we hate Republicans, and they hate slavery. But mostly, rampant corporate protectionism.
Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade. Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually for the support of these objects. Theses interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually, throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency. The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors. This interest was confined mainly to the Eastern and Middle non-slave-holding States. Wielding these great States it held great power and influence, and its demands were in full proportion to its power. The manufacturers and miners wisely based their demands upon special facts and reasons rather than upon general principles, and thereby mollified much of the opposition of the opposing interest. They pleaded in their favor the infancy of their business in this country, the scarcity of labor and capital, the hostile legislation of other countries toward them, the great necessity of their fabrics in the time of war, and the necessity of high duties to pay the debt incurred in our war for independence. These reasons prevailed, and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country.
posted by corb at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's worth noting that the significant actions of the governments in England and America towards slavery were very similar up until the 1830s.

Even to the point of the US sending ships to support the West Africa Squadron, and eventually forming their own slavery interdiction squadron.

(I've missed my window for "the cake will rise again", haven't I?)
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, my great-great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy. He was a replacement soldier, meaning a wealthy white man who had been conscripted paid him to fight in his place. We have the certificate for this. On it are my great-great-grandfather's name and that he was white. Both of those are most likely lies. The last name he gave was common among white people in the area of Eastern NC where he was from, but nobody with his given names ever seems to have existed until the day he signed that form, and nobody with that last name from that small town claims him as a relative. My best guess is that he was either Lumbee or a mixed race freeman who took the best chance he could get to change his life and chose what to him was a prosperous, white-sounding name.

After the war, he settled in Georgia with his wife, who was identified as Indian in the census (I guess it was okay for her to be, as long as he was "white"). He went on to become the mayor of a small city in Georgia and to send his kids to college, including my great-grandfather.

As far as I can tell, my great-great-grandfather, whatever his name may have really been, was not fighting for slavery. But he did manage to temporarily profit off of some rich white guy and permanently change his fortune and that of his descendents. On the Union side, there were plenty of replacement soldiers as well, and probably lots of volunteers and conscripted folks who really didn't care about slavery.

In conclusion, holy shit! the Civil War was complicated. Yes, the leadership seceded because of and the generals fought over slavery, and they were fucking assholes. However, saying that the average soldier was fighting for or against slavery seems like a vast oversimplification. Like I said before, yes, please change the names of every single thing in the country named after Confederate generals and leadership. But don't tell me that the rank and file on either side was fighting for or against slavery.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:03 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Alabama: Lincoln and the Republicans hate Alabama.

Excerpt:
avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama,
What kind of "domestic institutions" are they talking about, do you think? I'm pretty sure it wasn't debutante balls.
posted by deanc at 12:03 PM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


Breaking this up a bit. Georgia does cite slave concerns, but not slavery within Georgia - more that the division of Texas land is not fair and equitable.
This insulting and unconstitutional demand was met with great moderation and firmness by the South. We had shed our blood and paid our money for its acquisition; we demanded a division of it on the line of the Missouri restriction or an equal participation in the whole of it.
Which again seems a really fascinating issue - I really do not know about how the manpower for the Mexican war was drawn up, but that seems a much more reasonable reason as to why the Territories were so hotly contested. Also John Brown, again.

It's interesting to think of how much John Brown might have actually helped cause the war, by creating something so shocking and offensive on the one hand, yet lauded by the other, thus convincing the Southerners that the North wouldn't stop them from being murdered in their beds.
posted by corb at 12:04 PM on May 28, 2013


corb, I didn't say that the consensus of decontextualized historical documents have a consensus or explicitly point to one conclusion, only that academic historians more or less agree that slavery was the primary issue motivating the south.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:05 PM on May 28, 2013


corb, yes, if you don't count the parts in the secession resolutions where the states discuss slavery, then obviously they're not seceding over slavery.

It's interesting to think of how much John Brown might have actually helped cause the war, by creating something so shocking and offensive on the one hand, yet lauded by the other, thus convincing the Southerners that the North wouldn't stop them from being murdered in their beds.

Because of the tariffs that would come in and kill them at night? What are you referring to, here?
posted by deanc at 12:07 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


South Carolina - cites the Declaration of Independence , particularly the "form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government" piece. Also cites, interestingly, the treaty that England made with the Colonies - citing that each singly was a free and independent state. It goes into the right of compact - that if one person fails in their obligations, the other can break the bond. This begins to discuss slaves, but primarily, failure to uphold obligations then existing in the Constitution.

The 'obligation' that the S.C. Declaration refers to is the obligation to return escaped slaves. It goes on to state:
On the 4th day of March next, this party [Lincoln's] will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:08 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


thus convincing the Southerners that the North wouldn't stop them from being murdered in their beds

By slaves? By people trying to free slaves? So not only should they have the right to own people, but the right to sleep soundly while doing it?
posted by spaltavian at 12:10 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


It was all John Brown's fault for helping slaves revolt and kill slaveowners really. If everyone had just waited a bit longer we could have peacefully gotten rid of slavery by the turn of the century instead and Jim Crow by mmmm right about yesterday.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:10 PM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Or, since we covered this already:

Georgia:
The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property.
Mississippi:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
South Carolina:
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the *forms* [emphasis in the original] of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
Texas:
In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on May 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


From the Journal of American History:

"Few mainstream scholars would deny that Abraham Lincoln got it right in his second inaugural address—that slavery was “somehow” the cause of the war.

...

Charles Joyner penned a report on Civil War causation for release at a Columbia, South Carolina, press conference at the peak of the Palmetto State's Confederate flag debate. Endorsed by dozens of scholars and later published in Callaloo, it concluded that the “historical record … clearly shows that the cause for which the South seceded and fought a devastating war was slavery.”

...

Rather, they have rightly concluded that there is not much of a consensus on the topic after all. Elizabeth Varon remarks that although “scholars can agree that slavery, more than any other issue, divided North and South, there is still much to be said about why slavery proved so divisive and why sectional compromise ultimately proved elusive.” "

Why are you right and they are wrong?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:12 PM on May 28, 2013


Corb -- so slavery then?

economics == South's economy was based on slavery
settling the west == South wanted slavery expanded into it
Lincoln == not supportive enough of slavery
Not living up to Constitutional requirements == not returning slaves, not protecting slave states against slave rebellions

Georgia's statements have this as the very first line:

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slaveholding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.


Seriously, we can read the sources too. And Slavery is very central to many of the claims. Why is it so important to you to deny this?
posted by jclarkin at 12:12 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don’t think it’s a great idea to have bases named after Confederate generals. I’m not a defender of the Confederacy. I’m not a Libertarian. But there have been some silly histrionics here.

I get that you really, really want everyone to know how righteous you are, and that you care more than others, but demonizing others though simplistic arguments rarely works out well, even if you have God behind (or your own equivalent).
posted by bongo_x at 12:14 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


who/what are you talking about
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]



I get that you really, really want everyone to know how righteous you are


I'm surprised it took us this long to get to this part of the thread
posted by sweetkid at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, no it was not. Because slavery was not illegal at the time of the secession. The Emancipation Proclamation came after the Civil War had already begun, and only applied to the rebellious states. It was absolutely resistance against a foreign occupation - that is why they fired on Fort Sumpter, which was not only occupying, but resupplying troops - in many ways believed to have been a way for the North to force a conflict.

What possible reason do you imagine for the secession if not the preservation of slavery?

It is made clear in the secession that the new confederacy will be exactly like the original constitution, except that this time, there is an explicit right to own black people. The timing is not random: the issue was gaining ground all through the first half of the 19th century, and Lincoln's election was a clear answer to the direction the country would take.

It's hard to think of an equivalent, but consider something like gay rights - when there finally is a federal law passed that gay marriage is a national right, it won't come out of nowhere, right? It's been a major national issue for about two decades now, and a background/ activist issue for another couple decades before that. The Emancipation Proclamation was the end of a very long struggle, so although the actual signing didn't take place until 1863, as soon as Lincoln was elected, the south knew what was happening. ln response, they broke with the union to avoid having to follow federal laws about slaves.

The fight over gay marriage is not nearly as heated, and more importantly, not as geographically determined, but if you can imagine a candidate winning after a famous series of debates in which s/he defends marriage equality, and then the DOMA states seceding to avoid federal regulations, then we're in the same territory.

Is that about gay marriage or state's rights? You can call it state's rights, but ONLY insofar as the states want the right to deny marriage equality. There is truly no meaning to the idea of "state's rights" unless we ask what rights they are interested in upholding, and in the case of the Civil War, they are interested in upholding the right to own slaves. If they seceded when the women's right to vote was on the table, it would be "state's rights" in an abstract sense, and whether women can vote in particular. The use of the abstraction of state's rights is a red herring. It's the "state's right" to deny black people rights.
posted by mdn at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, they did name a few ships after a drunkard who recommended detaining the families of his opponents and the execution of POW's without a trial.

At least they would not be so gauche as to name ships after someone who put American citizens in concentration camps.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's okay to be upset about more than one egregious injustice at the same time.
posted by elizardbits at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


cI think this is a really important argument to add cites for, if you are going to make it. So let's take a look at the documents.

South Carolina - cites the Declaration of Independence , particularly the "form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government" piece. Also cites, interestingly, the treaty that England made with the Colonies - citing that each singly was a free and independent state. It goes into the right of compact - that if one person fails in their obligations, the other can break the bond. This begins to discuss slaves, but primarily, failure to uphold obligations then existing in the Constitution.


Holy shit corb, that was the most dishonest quoting from a source document that I have ever seen. Why don't you just do a ctrl-f on slave or slavery in that link and tell us what you get?

What, I'll do it for you, since you linked to it and made it fucking easy for me.

They mention slavery SEVENTEEN FUCKING TIMES.
posted by empath at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2013 [24 favorites]


By slaves? By people trying to free slaves? So not only should they have the right to own people, but the right to sleep soundly while doing it?

I'm not a big believer in federal government, or government at all, but I am given to understand that one of the things people do expect of their government is that it will not support them being murdered in their beds. I could be wrong, here.

And Slavery is very central to many of the claims. Why is it so important to you to deny this?

I'm not suggesting that slavery isn't central to many of the claims - what I'm essentially saying is that it's not as simple as "The South wanted to keep slaves, the North didn't want them to." There are a lot of really fascinating small pieces in here that I don't think can be simplistically reduced to that narrative. The overarching theme, reading these, seems to be, "The North is happy to take our money, but unwilling to allow us equal treatment." And yes, slavery plays into that, but it's far, far from the only thing going. To a large extent, it's a fight between an agrarian society and an industrial one - which also, interestingly, explains why a lot of the tensions persist. Because we have mythologized it as a fight of slave vs free, the industrial vs agrarian tensions were never resolved, but only put to sleep. And those tensions /are/ still around. Should large, sparsely populated agrarian regions have equal power with small, densely populated industrial ones? If not, should industrial areas make rules for industrial areas, or agrarian for agrarian, or should industrial rule all? If you are willing to look beyond slavery for the causes of the Civil War, it is really clear that the war is not, in fact, actually over - it's just slow-simmering these days.
posted by corb at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get that you really, really want everyone to know how righteous you are

I feel like not liking slavery is considered at best a warm-up in most righteousness-offs.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:20 PM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


By slaves? By people trying to free slaves? So not only should they have the right to own people, but the right to sleep soundly while doing it?

I'm not a big believer in federal government, or government at all, but I am given to understand that one of the things people do expect of their government is that it will not support them being murdered in their beds. I could be wrong, here.


Uh, corb, you know Brown went to the gallows, right?

I assumed you knew this, and were talking about the prevailing opinion of his actions in the North. Because, you said that it was "lauded", and you know, they hung Brown by the neck until he was dead.

Was that not enough for you? Should they have hung him and then read every slave owner a bedtime story?
posted by spaltavian at 12:21 PM on May 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


"hat I'm essentially saying is that it's not as simple as "The South wanted to keep slaves, the North didn't want them to." There are a lot of really fascinating small pieces in here"

No shit, the biggest event in US history is more complex than 12 words. But if you can only use 12 words to describe the civil war, those are the best ones to use.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:22 PM on May 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


The overarching theme, reading these, seems to be, "The North is happy to take our money, but unwilling to allow us equal treatment." And yes, slavery plays into that, but it's far, far from the only thing going.

The 'equal treatment' that they want, as explained in the Declarations, is the right to decide for themselves whether to own human beings as property. The Federal Government telling them that they can't is, they think, unfair. That's what the Declarations say. You just read them. You know this.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:22 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


corb: The overarching theme, reading these, seems to be, "The North is happy to take our money, but unwilling to allow us equal treatment." [emphasis mine]

Holy fuck, but is that a comment to make in defense of the Southern states during the Civil War.
posted by Len at 12:23 PM on May 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


"Anybody who reduces an entire way of living into "they owned slaves" with the implications that they are evil both misses out on the concept that the large majority of people in the south DID NOT own slaves AND the concept that there were other things that were important to the people."

No, but the myth of Southern Aristocracy and the coming race war if slavery was abolished was important to them. The lifestyle that poor Southern whites aspired to was a racist, slave-owning one. Sorry, dude, their correspondance on the issue is pretty clear about this.

(To rebut a tangent: I'm not chiding you for not having read a book that's not online, nor for not tracking down the preceding papers by Manning. I am pointing out that the information is out there, has been for about a decade, and is well reviewed and commented upon.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:24 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


The North didn't care nearly as much as the South. The war wasn't started or prosecuted by the North to end slavery.

But secession clearly was related to one big big issue to the South -- slavery. The only way to get some other major reason is to completely decontextualize the source documents.

The arguments are old, tired and dishonest. It was economic! It was about protecting the Constitution! The Federal government wasn't living up to its obligations! They hated Lincoln!

Any one can look at the source documents and find out what the economic issue was. Or what part of the Constitution is being discussed. Or what obligations aren't being fulfilled. Or why they didn't like Lincoln.

Individuals fight for individual reasons. Many in the South fought to protect their homes. But the war was not started by them.
posted by jclarkin at 12:25 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know, it is possible that the Confederacy had several drams of 'legitimate beef' on the one hand, against 87 million octillion gajillion hogsheads of 'shameful, sinful atrocity' on the other. We should teach both sides!
posted by Mister_A at 12:25 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


TEACH THE NONTROVERSY
posted by elizardbits at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm not a big believer in federal government, or government at all, but I am given to understand that one of the things people do expect of their government is that it will not support them being murdered in their beds. I could be wrong, here.

Which would make sense if slaves weren't actually being murdered in their beds (when they had them), making a reading of your justification quite problematic.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:28 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


corb, why are you turning yourself into knots to prove that slavery was not at issue during the American Civil War, a conflict before, during, and immediately after which slavery was acknowledged to be the central problem?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:28 PM on May 28, 2013


Individuals fight for individual reasons. Many in the South fought to protect their homes. But the war was not started by them.

Right. I genuinely don't believe that Robert E Lee fought for the south for the purpose of defending slavery. But he didn't start the war.

The people who actually started the war, he people who wrote and voted on the secession documents and ordered soldiers in to battle, they fought the war to defend and preserve slavery, and dragged a lot of people in the south into their bloodbath to defend that murderous institution who probably wouldn't have made that decision on their own.

But they ultimately did join the cause of defending slavery, and they were almost certainly morally wrong to do so, no matter why they did it.
posted by empath at 12:29 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Constitutions of USA and CSA, side by side
posted by shakespeherian at 12:31 PM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm not a big believer in federal government, or government at all, but I am given to understand that one of the things people do expect of their government is that it will not support them being murdered in their beds. I could be wrong, here.

I want you to know that it is really difficult for me not to type in all caps here.

There were millions of people in slavery in the south who were being murdered and tortured and passed around as property by these people every single day. It was an ongoing holocaust that had lasted centuries with no apparent end in site. They were not just 'slaves' -- they were human beings, who had right to life and freedom and pursuit of happiness, just like every one else. I'm sorry, but I think someone who claims the right to own people has forfeited the right to sleep soundly at night.
posted by empath at 12:33 PM on May 28, 2013 [27 favorites]


I would totally support naming a place Camp Cornwallis.

Oh wait...my family were loyalists, still are monarchists and I married a British monarchist. Never mind.
posted by jb at 12:33 PM on May 28, 2013


Also, from way up thread, posted by corb: Thus, I would have supported the right of the South to secede, whether or not they were morally right in keeping slaves.

I really hope that it's a misunderstanding on my part (though I sadly suspect not, given the rest of the thread), but this sentence very much implies that there's a question over whether it is, indeed, "morally right" to keep slaves.
posted by Len at 12:33 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, but the myth of Southern Aristocracy and the coming race war if slavery was abolished was important to them. The lifestyle that poor Southern whites aspired to was a racist, slave-owning one. Sorry, dude, their correspondance on the issue is pretty clear about this.

(To rebut a tangent: I'm not chiding you for not having read a book that's not online, nor for not tracking down the preceding papers by Manning. I am pointing out that the information is out there, has been for about a decade, and is well reviewed and commented upon.)


I haven't read Manning's book, although it sounds interesting and I'll probably pick it up, but looking at reviews, her conclusions about rank and file white Southerners are subject to some criticism, namely that she perhaps reads too much slavery into references to people fighting to defend their homes. That's a defensible reading, but not an unambiguously obvious one. It sounds like she also concludes that Union soldiers turned on slavery early than you'd expect, which is interesting.

I think the argument "why did poor whites enlist" is an interesting one that is not settled or likely to be settled (if only because you're talking about hundreds of thousands of individuals), but the "why did the Southern states secede" conversation is easily settled and resolved; the answer is slavery.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:34 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the Constitution of the Confederacy, Section 9.4: No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

Not only was slavery legal in the Confederacy, it was part of the Constitution that slavery could never be made illegal.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:35 PM on May 28, 2013 [18 favorites]


METAFILTER: I can sign onto that with the proviso that I might remember something else incredibly evil later on.
posted by philip-random at 12:35 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


"The overarching theme, reading these, seems to be, "The North is happy to take our money, but unwilling to allow us equal treatment." And yes, slavery plays into that, but it's far, far from the only thing going."

Oh, Christ, that's special pleading!

Here's a review of Manning's book.
Pull quote: "Anyone who has read soldiers' diaries and letters to any extent — that is, the soldiers' immediate thoughts and concerns unfiltered by memory and postwar experience — will likely agree with her emphasis on slavery as what this cruel war was over."
Civil War prof discussing his classroom work on Manning's article.
Pull quote: "“Nonslaveholding Confederate soldiers fought to safeguard slavery,” according to Manning,”because they believed that survival–of themselves, their families, and social order–depended on its continued existence, and because they believed that otherwise, race posed a dangerously insoluble problem.” The survival of their families also included the hope of one day becoming a slaveowner."
More commentary:
"Ultimately, the frustration over Manning’s article is more a reflection of our tendency to remember these men as fighting for values beyond the political and racial realm. In a sense, our frustration is our problem not theirs."
The same author addressing his classroom work in a separate post.
Pull quote: "Perhaps the most controversial claim that Manning makes is that while Union soldiers identified in numerous ways with the nation as a whole, Confederates were routinely distracted by more local concerns such as the conscription bill, taxes, and impressment. This distinction is not designed to make a point about whether Southerners forged bonds of nationalism, but to emphasize that it was the preservation of slavery that could and did unite them. “Potential conflicts between personal interests and Confederate necessities were troubling, but resolvable,” argues Manning, “as long as Confederate troops remembered that the Union meant abolition, and abolition was worse than anything even the most disappointing Confederacy would impose.”"
Finally, from the same source:
It is sure to spark debate, not with academics who understand the centrality of slavery to the war, but with many lay readers who continue to imagine or wish for a sanitized narrative.
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, corb, I would also like to hear your thoughts on violence as a means to self defense. For example, if I was kidnapped, could I attack my abductor in order to flee?

What if, after I was kidnapped, I was forced to do menial agricultural labor. Would you think it was okay for me to attack my kidnapper and flee?

What if, it was my grandfather and grandmother that was kidnapped, but they were unable to escape, so their children were born into captivity, and subsequently, so was I. All being forced to do menial work in the meantime. Would I be able to defend myself then?

What if someone helped me escape through violence?

What if an Army helped me escape through violence?

By the way, what did you want the Union to do to John Brown other than kill him?
posted by spaltavian at 12:37 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


By the way someone asked the question above if I would support an army base named after a secessionist general who fought a US government devoted to preserving slavery. No I obviously wouldn't. To me this argument about Army bases has 2 parts:
1. Black military members shouldn't have to face the shame of serving in a place named for a dude who fought for slavery (whether they did or not is being debated herein).
2. ALL military members shouldn't have to serve somewhere named for a general who fought against the US Military. Nobody has offered much of an answer to that last one. Debate slavery all you want, the article still makes #2 very clear--that's a weird situation that we could change just based on common sense.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:37 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The south seceeded to defend their rights...

to hold other human beings as chattel, to beat, maim, rape, and kill other human beings in the name of racism and profit.

The war was about slavery. It started with slavery as the key issue. The first secession declarations explicitly reference slavery. Every single southerner knew what they were fighting for. They may have had other reasons as well, but they knew what the end goal was: the preservation of slavery and its extension to new states.
posted by jb at 12:38 PM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


From one of klangklangston's links:

"(3) One of my students discovered that Manning is now teaching a course on the history of baseball; he thought that was pretty cool."

Are we sure this Manning person isn't just Ken Burns in a clever disguise?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:41 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm slowly panning over a sepia-toned portrait photo of Manning, looking for tell-tale signs of Ken Burns-ism...
posted by Mister_A at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


No, none of the photos I've seen of her pan around.
posted by klangklangston at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


DAMN YOU MISTER A!
posted by klangklangston at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm reading klangklangston's comments in the voice of David McCullough.
posted by Len at 12:43 PM on May 28, 2013


corb, why are you turning yourself into knots to prove that slavery was not at issue during the American Civil War, a conflict before, during, and immediately after which slavery was acknowledged to be the central problem?

I don't know how to say this better - it absolutely was an issue, but not the only issue.

Protectionism of industrialists and unevenness of war is an issue cited in multiple state documents, for example - that the densely populated, superior votes of the North, allowed them to set up a system advantageous to them, funded with the money of the South.

Yes, those votes also went against slavery - that is a real thing. But all of the anti-slavery voices of the North would not have succeeded in imposing their will on a South that had an equal voice in decision-making. If the South were equal to the North, it would not have mattered what the North thought of slavery. The problem - the problem that has never been resolved - is what amount of decision-making authority less densely populated states should have. I also think you cannot separate that decision making authority from the fact that slaves were counted for the purposes of representation. If slaves were ruled out of that, the South would be even less represented than its already minority position. And again, that is a real question.

It seems easy from this side, because we hate slavery, but think about it from the other side. Let's suppose that the South had the voting control - that geographic area, not population, controlled the vote. And the North said, "Hell no" and seceded. Would that have been about slavery? Or would it have been about freedom?

What if, it was my grandfather and grandmother that was kidnapped, but they were unable to escape, so their children were born into captivity, and subsequently, so was I. All being forced to do menial work in the meantime. Would I be able to defend myself then?


That depends on what you mean by defend yourself. I would view that you had the absolute right to leave - but not to randomly kill anyone on your way doing it. You would be ethically right to defend yourself against anyone who physically attempted to stop you from leaving - but no, it would not be okay to kill your former kidnappers, along with their wives and children, on your way out.
posted by corb at 12:43 PM on May 28, 2013


ALL military members shouldn't have to serve somewhere named for a general who fought against the US Military. Nobody has offered much of an answer to that last one.

Potomac, I'm willing to answer this one, but before I do - have you ever served in the military?
posted by corb at 12:44 PM on May 28, 2013


"I don't know how to say this better - it absolutely was an issue, but not the only issue."

YES BUT IT WAS THE BIGGEST ISSUE.

Do you disagree?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:45 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


It seems easy from this side, because we hate slavery

I am genuinely not sure that you do.
posted by empath at 12:45 PM on May 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


but think about it from the other side.

There is no other side where continuing slavery is right and ending slavery is wrong.
posted by elizardbits at 12:46 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


THE MYTHS OF GRAY: WHAT GIVES THE CONFEDERACY ITS STAYING POWER? - David W. Blight is professor of American history and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery and Abolition at Yale University.
There were deep, long-term causes, as well as immediate, short-term catalysts that precipitated secession and armed conflict in 1861. But virtually every issue that caused disunion pivoted on the question of slavery's future in an expanding republic.
The Civil War and Reconstruction (HIST 119). David W. Blight. Wherein he also states the cause of the Civil War to be unequivocally slavery.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:46 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


That depends on what you mean by defend yourself. I would view that you had the absolute right to leave - but not to randomly kill anyone on your way doing it. You would be ethically right to defend yourself against anyone who physically attempted to stop you from leaving - but no, it would not be okay to kill your former kidnappers, along with their wives and children, on your way out.

I think the reality of slavery in America is something that is really not amenable to the reality-less world of the thought experiment. No matter what you think about the "right" of the enslaved to walk away, that was impossible absent the use of significant force. There was no way that that enslaved person was going to be free without bloodshed.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:46 PM on May 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


corb: I also think you cannot separate that decision making authority from the fact that slaves were counted for the purposes of representation. If slaves were ruled out of that, the South would be even less represented than its already minority position. And again, that is a real question.

Jesus Christ, this is insane. If the South didn't have the voting power that it had – which was inflated by the fact that they were counting people who were considered actual property and couldn't fucking vote – then they'd have been even worse off and reduced to a system in which only those who were eligible to vote were counted as being voters, and that would be a terrible affront to democracy?

Are you fucking serious?
posted by Len at 12:49 PM on May 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


corb: Potomac, I'm willing to answer this one, but before I do - have you ever served in the military?

This is a nonsense question and whether Potomac Avenue – or anyone else – has ever served in the military has absolutely no bearing on the validity or otherwise of his response.
posted by Len at 12:51 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I mean it's cool and all that I get to collect favorites for saying obvious things like "Slavery was wrong" but it's kind of weird that we have to actually kind of verbally establish that baseline instead of like assuming it.

So, I guess I'm going to ask:

Corb, do you think slavery as an institution was worth killing people to end, and why or why not?
posted by empath at 12:52 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Protectionism of industrialists and unevenness of war is an issue cited in multiple state documents, for example - that the densely populated, superior votes of the North, allowed them to set up a system advantageous to them, funded with the money of the South.

"Protectionism of industrialists" was only an issue because it helped to equalize the economic advantages conferred by slavery.

"Unevenness of war" was claimed because the slave states felt their greater sacrifices in the Mexican-American War should give them more power in deciding whether the territory acquired in that war should enter into the Union as slave states, which they cared about because every new non-slave state probably meant two more abolitionist Senators, which would draw the nation closer to abolishing slavery entirely. (And that's the best possible interpretation of it -- it's just as defensible to say that they wanted to expand slavery just because they hated Africans and wanted more of them to suffer.)

We can do this all day long. Slavery was the base issue of the Civil War. Period. Everything else grew out of the plantation owners wanting to keep their relatively cheap labor base.
posted by Etrigan at 12:52 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Protectionism of industrialists and unevenness of war is an issue cited in multiple state documents, for example - that the densely populated, superior votes of the North, allowed them to set up a system advantageous to them, funded with the money of the South. "

Sorry, that's an insane, ahistorical reading. The South economically dependent upon the North, not so much the other way around. Declarations to the contrary — even official proclamations — are bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 12:52 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Potomac, I'm willing to answer this one, but before I do - have you ever served in the military?

I'm going to go ahead and answer your question but before I do - you must answer my question: did you and I used to be married?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:53 PM on May 28, 2013 [24 favorites]


I remember a raft of revisionism going around in the late '90s, when lots of (even liberal) history teachers tried to be more broadminded about the South (I dunno, Clintonian haze?) but it's pretty well debunked.

The cause of global climate change is humans; the cause of the Civil War was slavery.
posted by klangklangston at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems easy from this side, because we hate slavery, but think about it from the other side. Let's suppose that the South had the voting control - that geographic area, not population, controlled the vote. And the North said, "Hell no" and seceded. Would that have been about slavery?

In this scenario the South is going to be imposing slavery on the North right? I'd say it's still about slavery then.
posted by Big_B at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: I mean it's cool and all that I get to collect favorites for saying obvious things like "Slavery was wrong".
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


it would not be okay to kill your former kidnappers, along with their wives and children, on your way out.

The funny thing is about slavery is that the whites were generally looking forward to an outcome where they'd die in a hail of bullets bravely defending themselves from the rapacious now-freed slaves because that would have been an honorable way to die. But instead, after emancipation, slaves generally just wanted to run away and start their own lives. But it is true that the entire culture and society and legal system of the south revolved around how to prevent and protect against violent slave rebellions-- and that resulted in the enmeshing and further perpetuation of slavery. The reason that their legal system and institutions developed this way is because their entire society and culture was about slavery. The southern states, literally, had no economic, legal, ethnic, or societal interests with respect to their relationship with Washington that were not in some way related to slavery.
posted by deanc at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would that have been about slavery? Or would it have been about freedom?

what you seem to keep missing is that what matters is the stance of the people seceding. If they had seceded in order to avoid slavery, it would have been about avoiding slavery. Since the south seceded in order to preserve slavery, it was about preserving slavery.

The abstraction of the war into "the right of a governing body to govern" is completely meaningless. Yes, a governing body governs. But the key issue is, which governing body do we want and what laws are we choosing to have? To say that the south just wanted to govern itself for the sake of governing itself is avoiding the actual reason that it was willing to go to war (and to pretend seceding isn't starting a war is ridiculous - sometimes there are peaceful secessions, but if not done mutually there is every reason to expect you are beginning a conflict).
posted by mdn at 12:55 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I also think you cannot separate that decision making authority from the fact that slaves were counted for the purposes of representation

Of course! But the slaves themselves couldn't select their representatives, and were denied (obviously) participation in the government structures at the same time as their existence was used to justify the political power of the South. The Confederates knew this was unsustainable, which was why slavery had to be expanded: the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and Bleeding Kansas were all results of the South's drive to expand slavery and maintain political power.
but before I do - have you ever served in the military?
You should be wary of claiming special knowledge due to military service. You're not the only one.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:55 PM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm going to go ahead and answer your question but before I do - you must answer my question: did you and I used to be married?

I think it very unlikely! But anything's possible, I suppose.

You should be wary of claiming special knowledge due to military service. You're not the only one.

Sure - and if your position is identical to Potomac's, I'll also answer you. It just affects how much detail I'm going to go into in my answer, really.
posted by corb at 12:59 PM on May 28, 2013


rosf: MetaFilter: I mean it's cool and all that I get to collect favorites for saying obvious things like "Slavery was wrong".

It's May 2013. I got home from work, watched the Djokovic match in the first round of the French Open, had my tea, called my dad to talk about Goffin's cross-court game, and here, on MeFi, is someone openly defending going to war to preserve slavery. I mean, I know that MeFi, like Whitman, contains multitudes, but even so. It's not what I expected of this evening.
posted by Len at 12:59 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I kind of feel once you're adding comments to a thread just to negotiate with a given user the preconditions of your future comments to them we're in "maybe go ahead and write each other email" territory.
posted by cortex at 1:01 PM on May 28, 2013 [17 favorites]


^That.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:02 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


My MeMail is turned on, everyone is welcome to use it. I generally don't MeMail people privately about threads because I've found that for many, the public performance is what they enjoy; though ostensibly they may be addressing comments to me, they do not actually want to have a conversation. (There are a few exceptions, one is in this thread, I'd call him out except I don't know if he wants to be so called.)

At any rate. You honor the bravery and honor of your enemies. You treat them with honor. Their good qualities are not negated by the simple fact of your being on opposing sides of a war. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, these are men I learned about with the rest of my military history. They were good men and good generals, and I would be more proud to be posted at a base bearing their name than I would at one named for some random civilian.
posted by corb at 1:05 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good men?
posted by agregoli at 1:07 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


You honor the bravery and honor of your enemies.

I can think of at least one mefite with a terrifying wealth of personal experience who would likely disagree with that belief, but on the other hand I wouldn't wish this thread on her in a million years.
posted by elizardbits at 1:10 PM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


[At the risk of sounding like a broken record, boy does this need to stop being a conversation about corb. That goes for corb and everyone else.]
posted by cortex at 1:14 PM on May 28, 2013


Sorry cortex. Consider it dropped.
posted by Len at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2013


Rommel was by many accounts a good man and a great general. Hell, Tran Van Tra was the son of a bricklayer who fought against hypocrisy in the Communist government in Vietnam almost as well as he fought the Americans as commander of the Viet Cong. And he actually won too, making him a much better general than both Rommel and the Confederates. I would hate to see a base named after them.

You can honor your enemies in Military History class. When you name a place of military service there are plenty of military commanders who fought for the US Military we can choose from. I think we could agree that plenty of recent vets deserve it. How about Lieutenant John Kerry?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm hoping this falls under the original point of the FPP. If not, mods, please feel free to delete it.

I would be more proud to be posted at a base bearing their name than I would at one named for some random civilian.

Those are not the only two choices. There was a similar number of honorable generals who fought in the Civil War who did not wage war upon the United States and its Army; there have been many more who fought in the other wars our nation has waged and had waged upon it; there have been hundreds of men and women who fought, even died, honorably in our nation's service. Why not a Fort Murphy, a Fort Munemori, a Fort Kapaun? Why is the South filled to bursting with bases named after Civil War generals in particular, virtually all from the Confederacy?
posted by Etrigan at 1:16 PM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hell, John McCain deserves it more than Nathan Bedford Forrest.
posted by elizardbits at 1:17 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Their good qualities are not negated by the simple fact of your being on opposing sides of a war.
Are they negated by their supporting a corrupt, corrupting system of human slavery? Remember, we're not talking about the rank-and-file soldiers, but the generals: Lee, Jackson, Forrest.

Lee, Stonewall Jackson, these are men I learned about with the rest of my military history. They were good men and good generals,
What you assert here is what people are strongly disagreeing with, i.e. an officer who willfully abrogated his oath to the United States in order to fight a war to preserve slavery is "good" in an absolute sense.

and I would be more proud to be posted at a base bearing their name than I would at one named for some random civilian.
This is one of the dichotomiest false dichotomies I've read today! There are plenty of US soliders, sailors, airmen and marines who could have bases named after them. Try the list starting here.

I wouldn't want to set sail on the USS Dönitz, that's for fucking sure.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:17 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I keep thinking, "So does that mean we should honor the 9/11 hijackers?" Confusing.
posted by agregoli at 1:18 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not so sure that honoring the bravery of an enemy met on a battlefield offsets the dishonor of a pro-slavery stance on their part.
posted by disclaimer at 1:18 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


So... wandering back ontopic, there is no way this is ever going to change, right? I mean, not to be defeatist, but there is no political or military will to change the names of these forts, and anyone seriously proposing it would get Fox Newsed to death, yes?
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:19 PM on May 28, 2013


I mean, not to be defeatist, but there is no political or military will to change the names of these forts, and anyone seriously proposing it would get Fox Newsed to death, yes?

We can't even change the name of the fucking Redskins, so
posted by shakespeherian at 1:20 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think that is right.

But then culture may change. Also, demographics may change too.

I bet it is much more likely that a local road or monument might be changed by some ambitious mayor.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:21 PM on May 28, 2013


I think the amount of political capital it would cost to have it changed could be better spent elsewhere. It sucks, and will continue to suck, but it would be a shitshow comparable to the one in this thread.
posted by elizardbits at 1:21 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


So... wandering back ontopic, there is no way this is ever going to change, right? I mean, not to be defeatist, but there is no political or military will to change the names of these forts, and anyone seriously proposing it would get Fox Newsed to death, yes?
Particularly given the current president under the circumstances.
posted by deanc at 1:22 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


*sticks head into thread*


*backs on out again, whistling John Brown's Body*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:23 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is one of the dichotomiest false dichotomies I've read today! There are plenty of US soliders, sailors, airmen and marines who could have bases named after them.

Sure, I was more responding to some of the suggestions upthread. I do think though that the renaming of a base would be a huge, huge deal, a lot of people would be mortally offended, and it would just plain be confusing. I think that if something like that is going to be decided, it should be left to the inhabitants of the base, not to those voting on it from afar. It should also be for someone who was actually worthy, too - not to change the name just to change it. For example, I'd support renaming a small base for SSG Giunta, but there aren't many bases named after Confederate generals in Iowa.
posted by corb at 1:23 PM on May 28, 2013


there is no way this is ever going to change, right?

BRAC is still kicking, and scheduled for 2015. There's a little push to start a new round early, and Congress is pushing back. I think the base names probably won't change, outside of closure or joint basing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:25 PM on May 28, 2013


I appreciated that link, deanc, especially the bit about Stone Mountain, since it's not that far from my house. It is my dream to sand blast those assholes off the side of the world's largest single piece of exposed granite, get rid of the laser light show, and restore the cool granite-outcrop ecosystems of our state park. Stone Mountain makes me feel like I'm on the moon every time I catch a glimpse of it on the way home from work. I would prefer my moonscape with fewer Confederates.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:29 PM on May 28, 2013


Sure, I was more responding to some of the suggestions upthread.

I don't think someone was seriously advocating renaming a fort for "Annette Benning" or "Flash Gordon." The fact that you reacted so sensitively to such a clearly facetious suggestion instead of yourself coming up with a better military suggestion is kind of a red flag.
posted by deanc at 1:29 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


agregoli: "I keep thinking, "So does that mean we should honor the 9/11 hijackers?" Confusing."

Well, that might be a little much since they weren't American citizens. But all day I've been trying to think of a difference between this and eventually naming something Fort Hasan. Except in orders of magnitude of Amercans killed. And History, of course.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:29 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is about slavery is that the whites were generally looking forward to an outcome where they'd die in a hail of bullets bravely defending themselves from the rapacious now-freed slaves because that would have been an honorable way to die. But instead, after emancipation, slaves generally just wanted to run away and start their own lives.

What actually did happen to slaves after emancipation is an immense tragedy in and of itself:

Dying for Freedom
There were no protections, no refugee programs or public health services, in place to help freed slaves ward off the disease that plagued the Confederate South. As one 19th-century reformer observed, “You may see a child well and hearty this morning, and in the evening you will hear of its death.”

Without a proper place to live, adequate nutrition or access to basic medical necessities, freed slaves became more vulnerable to illness than Union soldiers, and as a result, hundreds of thousands of slaves became sick and died at the moment of freedom — a bitter irony often ignored in favor of a more triumphant narrative about emancipation.

Liberation as Death Sentence
At least one quarter of the four million former slaves got sick or died between 1862 and 1870, Professor Downs writes, including at least 60,000 (the actual number is probably two or three times higher, he argues) who perished in a smallpox epidemic that began in Washington and spread through the South as former slaves traveled in search of work...

In honor of Memorial Day. This is a great speech by Fredric Douglas:

Frederick Douglass on Decoration Day, 1871
On Decoration Day, 1871, Frederick Douglass gave the following address at the monument to the Unknown Dead of the Civil War at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a short speech, but one of the best of its type I’ve ever encountered. I’ve posted it before, but it think it’s something worth re-reading and contemplating every Memorial Day.

[...]

Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country.

[...]

We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:33 PM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Lee, Stonewall Jackson, these are men I learned about with the rest of my military history. They were good men and good generals

They were good generals. They were awful men. Lee wasn't a grunt. He wasn't drafted, or an ignorant farm hands who just knew you fought when the call came up.

Nor were they Washington or Jefferson, men who had serious qualms about slavery but were no where near a society when ending such a thing would be possible.

These were leaders. Educated men. They saw the world. They lived in the obvious, ultimate time of recknoning. The moment was at it's starkest. They cast their lot with evil, at a time when the choice could not be clearer. They set their skills towards the preservation of slavery, and of destuction of the forces of liberation.

Note, I'm not saying Lee had to fight against his beloved Virginia. He could have just told Jefferson Davis good luck, but he was going put his feet up and sip mint juleps for the next four years.

Do you get how incredibly morally lenient I'm being? And Lee still doesn't pass that test.
posted by spaltavian at 1:37 PM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think that if something like that is going to be decided, it should be left to the inhabitants of the base, not to those voting on it from afar.

First, I don't know how many bases you've established, but I haven't voted on a name ever. I shudder to think how many Fort Rambos would be on the books right now if we did that.

Second, who qualifies as an "inhabitant" of a base? People assigned to it? I'm an "inhabitant" of Fort Knox, then, and I've been there three times in my life. People who lived on it for some arbitrary amount of time? Then I'm an "inhabitant" of several bases, most of which have names that I would dearly love to change.

It should also be for someone who was actually worthy, too - not to change the name just to change it.

Both can be accomplished simultaneously. There is a veritable plethora of deserving names under any criteria anyone can come up with.

P.S. Fort Jackson wasn't named after Stonewall. It was named after Andrew.
posted by Etrigan at 1:39 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


So... wandering back ontopic, there is no way this is ever going to change, right? I mean, not to be defeatist, but there is no political or military will to change the names of these forts, and anyone seriously proposing it would get Fox Newsed to death, yes?

Yes. Any real attempt to change these names would be met by a political shitstorm. Hell, the new president of the NRA publicly refers to the Civil War as the War of Northern Aggression. It's not an uncommon sentiment.
posted by homunculus at 1:41 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


i can't read another refighting of the civil war here, but i know the proper means of renaming forts that have been named after confederate leaders

we name them for those who have sustained our modern war effort the most

fort dow
fort general electric
fort boeing
fort haliburton
fort general motors
fort monsanto

we could probably even get them to pay for the signs

why not honor those who are really responsible for our glorious world empire?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:42 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Fort Jackson wasn't named after Stonewall. It was named after Andrew.

Yes, which is pretty much the same as naming it Fort We're Okay With Genocide.
posted by elizardbits at 1:45 PM on May 28, 2013 [22 favorites]


pyramid termite: we name them for those who have sustained our modern war effort the most

fort dow
fort general electric
fort boeing
fort haliburton
fort general motors
fort monsanto

we could probably even get them to pay for the signs

why not honor those who are really responsible for our glorious world empire?


It's the Infinite Jest approach!
posted by Len at 1:54 PM on May 28, 2013


P.S. Fort Jackson wasn't named after Stonewall. It was named after Andrew.

Even worse, IMO
posted by shakespeherian at 1:58 PM on May 28, 2013


Why not a Fort Murphy, a Fort Munemori, a Fort Kapaun?

Kapaun is taken; it's part of the K-town military metroplex. I can't remember what's there but honestly, naming something that houses combatant forces after him seems kind of disrespectful. Better to have named the Landstuhl complex after him.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:00 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do think though that the renaming of a base would be a huge, huge deal, a lot of people would be mortally offended, and it would just plain be confusing. I think that if something like that is going to be decided, it should be left to the inhabitants of the base, not to those voting on it from afar. It should also be for someone who was actually worthy, too - not to change the name just to change it. For example, I'd support renaming a small base for SSG Giunta, but there aren't many bases named after Confederate generals in Iowa.

I'm quite comfortable in stating that, if someone is mortally offended and just plain confused by replacing, say, Fort AP Hill with Fort James Daniel Gardner, they can go fuck themselves. And furthermore, if service to their country at said location is contingent upon same, that they are not particularly serious about upholding what their country stands for.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:11 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sherman's legacy is complicated, and can be debated at length.

I grew up a proud Yankee in a conservative Ohio suburb. I wasn't taught to question the history that I was told. Sherman was a hero. His acts and methods may have been extreme, but that's what it took. He cut through the South in his March to the Sea and, in so doing, ended the war. I had beautiful visions of him burning crops and freeing slaves.

Over 4000 people lost their lives what would become, nearly 150 years later, my neighborhood just outside of Atlanta. It was the Battle of Peachtree Creek. John B Hood, now memorialized with Fort Hood Texas, led the Confederates in the battle. He lost 2500 men in this first attempt to save Atlanta.

Two days later, the North were in Atlanta. Maybe a tenth of the buildings remained standing when they marched out of the city. Many of those were only left untouched because of a Priest who begged for mercy for hospitals and churches. War is brutal, yes. But that is beyond measure.

To call Sherman's legacy "complicated" is... well, true, but a bit off somehow. As a Yankee, he was a hero. He did what he had to do. I never knew him any other way. I will never consider myself a Southerner and I certainly do not agree with slavery, but I can truly understand why Sherman will never be seen as a hero to many in the South. He is no longer a hero to me.

I'm still a Yankee. The South was wrong. Not just with slavery, but with the way they went about their political change. If they had won, they would have struggled. The North & South needed each other - they still do, even if we like to think otherwise, but they very much did back then. I'm glad the North won the war. But the complete destruction of Atlanta is not something that should be celebrated. It was wrong. The entire city, sans a few hospitals, churches & houses, was not a strategic target - we have rules about these things. I don't know any Northern liberals who would advocate turning the Middle East into a parking lot. Ironically, I know many conservative Southerners who would. But then again, why wouldn't they? Isn't that what the North has taught them to do... that destroying entire cities is good. That it's how you win wars.

I can also understand why so many Confederates were memorialized with military bases. It's not because they stood up and fought against the country, it's because it was a way to tie the country back together. If you grew up in the South - hearing a Yankee history that left out the brutalities of the war. A history that left out the very human impact of having your parents, grandparents, and/or great-grandparents livelihoods destroyed... their shops and stores and factories, not just their plantations (which not all Southerners had). A history never mentioned in textbooks but passed down through family stories and town legends. These bases were a way, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to say that all was not forgotten and that despite all of this horrible crap our country has gone through, despite what we have done to each other, we can come together. We can recognize your heroes, if you can recognize ours. We can forgive your sins, if you can forgive ours.

(We still struggle with the forgiving part.)

That said, I could get behind a renaming. But I wouldn't just rename those named for Confederates. Let's rename all those memorializing Civil War heroes. Let's memorialize those from more recent wars... unfortunately, it's not like we're lacking in those.


Interesting side note: James McPhearson, who was memorialized with Fort McPhearson just outside of Atlanta, was one of the Generals leading Union troops into Atlanta. He and Hood, fighting to save Atlanta, were buds in their days at West Point. It's sometimes easy to forget that these guys all knew each other and had worked together, sometimes for decades, before the war.
posted by imbri at 2:17 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Jeez, just number them: Fort Gordon = Army Base 1917-33N-82W. Problem solved.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:21 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now if we can just stop naming publicly financed sports arenas after banks that foreclose on mortgages they don't even own...
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:22 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


From my experience in the U.S. Navy, I can't imagine anyone I served with expending too much thought on the moral character of the person that our ship was named after. But then, I'm not a person of color, and the ship I served on was named after a War of 1812 hero, not a Confederate general.
posted by ogooglebar at 2:23 PM on May 28, 2013


The Emancipation Proclamation came after the Civil War had already begun, and only applied to the rebellious states.

As a reminder: the proclamation could only apply to the states in rebellion, because it was issued under Lincoln's authority of Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The president's war powers allowed him to direct the seizure of enemy resources, including slaves, so as to deny them to the enemy.

The president had no such authority in the states not in rebellion. Therefore, the proclamation could not have affected them.
posted by SPrintF at 2:59 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The entire city, sans a few hospitals, churches & houses, was not a strategic target - we have rules about these things.

Atlanta was an industrial and logistical hub, one that supplied soldiers, food, arms and materiel for the war. I wrote about Sherman's conduct before. Your conflation of "turning the Middle East into a parking lot" with a calculated act to eliminate the industries that war requires is a quaint but completely inaccurate and ahistorical way of viewing the Siege of Atlanta and the March to the Sea.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:02 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I can also understand why so many Confederates were memorialized with military bases. It's not because they stood up and fought against the country, it's because it was a way to tie the country back together."

This really is a thing and started right at the surrender of Lee's forces at Appomattox,
The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured? Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from the "order arms" to the old "carry"—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!"
— Joshua L. Chamberlain, Passing of the Armies, pp. 260-61
However, while this perspective of a split country of free white combatants who need only mutual understanding and respect to be tied back together might be appropriate in some limited circumstances, it still erases the experience of 12% of the country - which was indeed also split but in a much more profound way. While there is certainly a place for honoring Confederate war dead, and might indeed be a place for honoring Confederate "heroes", that place is not on our military bases where the men and women who choose to dedicate themselves in service to our country become obligated to work.

The Americans who get left out of this narrative, conveniently forgotten then and now and at the time were quickly abandoned to re-enslavement, are much more worthy of honor; while the forgetting dishonors the experience of Americans today in a way much more profound then deciding that the names of incompetents, oath-breakers, terrorists (the real kind not the boogeyman on tv), and genocidaires are inappropriate for the military we want our armed forces to be.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:23 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Seems like there are more important ways to spend our social justice/civil rights capital. Then again I've got plenty of room in my invisible backpack so perhaps my opinion should be discounted. If there is a genuine push to rename these facilities: I'm on board.

I kind of like the suggested replacement of auctioning naming rights as it adds a little transparency to how the whole operation functions anyway.
posted by Fezboy! at 3:23 PM on May 28, 2013


My head hurts. I vote for Fort Polk Salad Annie (SLYT)
posted by CincyBlues at 3:27 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I vote for Fort Paisley, and the nearby Fort LL Cool J.
posted by Killick at 3:42 PM on May 28, 2013


If we really care about our service members, maybe we should worry about more important things, like shortening the turnaround time for VA claims, or not sending them off to fight in stupid wars in the first place, instead of trivia like whose stupid name is on the sign at the main gate, when everyone enters through the side or rear gates anyway.
posted by ogooglebar at 3:44 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I challenge America to believe in at least two things at once: that we should provide for our veterans and that we should rename infrastructure in a way that doesn't perpetuate the myth of heroism in treason.
posted by klangklangston at 3:54 PM on May 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't think someone was seriously advocating renaming a fort for "Annette Benning" or "Flash Gordon."

I was semi-serious about Camp Cornwallis. Sure, he was an incompentent blaggard who probably contributed greatly to Britain's loss in the American War - but he was loyal.
posted by jb at 4:03 PM on May 28, 2013


I think it's a good point that our enemies can sometimes exhibit heroism and bravery worthy of being officially honored. For example, I might name a Nuclear Warfare related base after Stanislav Petrov. Proper performance of his military duty helped prevent a potential nuclear crisis. That's an example for every American or Russian or anyone else with a role in Nuclear Warfare of what their job really is.

So, if we wanted to name some bases to honor Confederate military men who contributed to making our country safer through their actions during the war, who might they be? Who went out of their way to protect civilians regardless of who they were? I don't think just being good at beating Union armies is good enough to qualify for a base anymore. I'm not trying to make a point by implying they don't exist, there are some even among the Nazis, I'm honestly curious if the civil war buffs here have some names we could look at. That might be a good FPP all by itself.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:07 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


"YT-1300" when it's about the adventures of the Millennium Falcon.
Kenworth K-100 is a much better name than BJ and the Bear.

…what, I think it’s obvious Lucas stole the trucker with monkey sidekick while it was stuck development at NBC. C’mon, Grand Moff Tarkin is Sheriff Lobo. "Stacks" the busty blond is Alec Guinness - Oh, please it’s obvious.

“Libertarians oppose the initiation of force. This is not the same as pacifism (no force, period). We can hit back.”
You know who else struck back?

“Lee and other Confederates was not their treason against the United States but their support of slavery”

N.Virginia was sort of a special case. And Lee had some things to say against slavery and it being abolished (“There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil" - And others). It’s a contestable point as to where he stood ideologically, but he fought hard for peace before and reconciliation after the war. It’s also contestable whether he owned slaves. But there were Union generals who did. So sort of a moot point.

“But naming US military bases after the generals who actively fought against and/or killed hundreds of thousands of US soldiers seems like a bad idea. That's really the core idea of the editorial.”

Bad idea as contrasted with what? The otherwise good Native American genocide helped along by Gen. Liggett? (Ft. Liggett is in California).

The point is, the only standard is a military standard. Robert E. Lee as an example is an excellent standard for an American officer. He fought with honor, he treated prisoners well (as well as he could given the circumstances), he did not plunder or deliberately cause unnecessary collateral damage. The assumption here is that because he was on the “wrong” side none of those things should be recognized as desirable in a military officer.
Ridiculous. If we demand a moral high ground than any officer that commits no war crimes is on the hook for being on the wrong side of any war. And there is no right side. Anything that gets accomplished gets accomplished politically.

That’s an entirely different ball of wax. Was Lee a sympathizer or a fanatic for the southern cause? I don’t think he was and most of the evidence bears that out.

And there are degrees. Look at Field Marshal Fedor von Bock. Nazi general. Hated the Nazis. Absolutely hated them. There is a plethora of evidence from his personal effects to public statements that he hated the Nazis and that Hitler was a son of a bitch.
Fought honorably, was horrified at how Jews were treated in Poland…Didn’t do a damn thing about it though.

He was an excellent general. Attacked Moscow. All about the samurai ideal (in Teutonic terms of course) of serving and dying. He would have fought the same for a king or for the president had he been born in an Allied country.

So.
Slavery had to end. It had to be done politically. Lincoln did it. And a war had to be fought to cause enough pain to make people go along with it. Lee didn't think he could cause that pain to the people in his home state and states were very different from how we think of them now. So he fought for his home and his family.
That doesn’t make the war good or bad, it makes it a necessity to achieve certain political ends. That’s all war ever is, at its best.

“Don't name United States Army installations after people who fought against the United States Army”

Yeah, easy enough standard. I don’t know that this is the sole point he’s making. He seems to have brought “slavocracy” into it.

"All right, here's your last question. What was the cause of the Civil War?

Apu: Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter--

"Wait, wait... just say slavery."

Apu: Slavery it is, sir."


Easy enough to rename the bases too.
But I don’t know that that would stop the U.S. military from spending lives recklessly or abandoning people after they serve. Or experimenting on them. Or selling out their college funds to online “colleges.” Or letting them die from poor medical treatment, lack of equipment, etc. etc. etc.
Frankly, I prefer my incoming fire coming in from the front, not from a supposedly friendly direction. And in some ways this is another of those "care" arguments about "the troops" where somehow the troops still take hits in the ass over someone else's pet cause.

At least bullets are honest about what they say and intend to do.

"It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it." — Robert E. Lee

If that quote isn't relevant to American values, especially now, I don't know what is.

But yeah, plenty of other honorable soldiers out there to tack names on bases.
I have to say I’m pretty happy with the renaming of Camp Buckner.
Nothing against Buckner, but it was a more socially sensitive choice for the local base.

Personal bias aside of course.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:32 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was not totally serious about my earlier suggestions but I am 100% in favor of renaming the bases after legendary pokemons.
posted by elizardbits at 4:34 PM on May 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


To be fair, the rest of that quote is:
In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.
I mean, it's not exactly "slavery yay!", but it's also hardly "abolition now!"...
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:54 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would like to name them all "Army".
posted by disclaimer at 4:55 PM on May 28, 2013


he fought hard for peace before and reconciliation after the war.

I wonder what he would have fought for after the war had he won the conflict for the slaveowners.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:58 PM on May 28, 2013


Smedleyman: "And there are degrees. Look at Field Marshal Fedor von Bock. Nazi general. Hated the Nazis. Absolutely hated them. There is a plethora of evidence from his personal effects to public statements that he hated the Nazis and that Hitler was a son of a bitch. "

Well, I don't believe von Bock has been memorialized in any way by Germany, nor have any of the other Nazi generals. In fact I believe Germany made a point of not honoring their Nazi history in any way, making it illegal to do so outwardly, even outlawing performing of Wagner.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:10 PM on May 28, 2013


...even outlawing performing of Wagner.

No, that didn't happen. Performances of Wagner are not banned in Germany. Germany celebrated the 200th anniversary of his birth last week.

I mean, there's been an annual Wagner music festival in Germany for the past century.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:27 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


...even outlawing performing of Wagner.

Performances of Wagner, if not outlawed, have been strongly discouraged in the state of Israel.
posted by dhens at 5:34 PM on May 28, 2013


His thoughts were red thoughts: "No, that didn't happen. Performances of Wagner are not banned in Germany."

I guess I misunderstood that. I could have sworn I read an article some years ago about the first public performance of Wagner in Germany since WWII.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:36 PM on May 28, 2013


Yeah, as dhens says, that was Israel.
posted by Justinian at 5:37 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He was an excellent general. Attacked Moscow. All about the samurai ideal (in Teutonic terms of course) of serving and dying. He would have fought the same ... he been born in an Allied country.

This is not a positive character trait to me. "I was just following orders" was not accepted as a defense at the Nuremberg trials.

Speaking of the Nuremberg trials, were they "victors' justice?" Yup, and damn good justice too! The "victors' justice" the Axis would have meted out would have been horrific. The post-Civil War "victors' justice" of Reconstruction might have hurt the rebellious (ex-)slaveholders' feelings, despite being relatively tame. But would we really have wanted those slavers to win?*

*Given the operation of Jim Crow and the recent FPP on the continuing virtual enslavement of blacks in the post-Civil War South, we might say that they did win in many respects.
posted by dhens at 5:40 PM on May 28, 2013


Gay marriage isn't going to provoke another civil war in this country. Abortion might.

So the interesting question is: what do you call heroism in the service of a moral evil? The argument above about von Bock is basically to say, "look, not all the Nazis were out-and-out murderers, some of them felt a regrettable but intractable loyalty to the land and government of their birth, and some of them honestly felt that waging a war of expansion was the only way to save their homeland from the post-WWI degradation caused by the armistice and recover their sense of place and pride." All of that is true.

So fucking what? The Nazi regime was not and could never be morally justified. Whatever legitimate concerns held by the general populace were sublimated and yoked to a terrifyingly evil, utterly irredeemable ideology. All of those things are true of the Confederacy as well.

So what is Rommel, or von Bock, or whoever else we drag up as evidence of some shrinking good amid the worst atrocities of their era? Good people do bad things. They were either knowingly complicit in the preservation and defense of an unquestionable moral wrong, which makes them bad actors regardless of their sense of guilt, or they were utterly unaware of the larger causes to which they had pledged their name, in which case tough shit.

Whitewashing the Civil War and repatriating the Confederacy's most notable characters and emblems was a political necessity in 1865. It's 2013. We don't really have to do that anymore. It doesn't really matter if Robert E. Lee was a noble man, kind to his followers, honorable to his enemies, with education and grace and wit. He was the commander of the largest rebellion in US history, explicitly declared in order to protect the institution of slavery. Maybe we wouldn't call him a traitor if he'd won. He didn't. The loss of his reputation is only the most slight of the injuries suffered in that struggle, and a general of his education and experience would have understood that the only outcomes for a rebel are vindication or condemnation. He lost, and he should have lost. That makes him a traitor. Whether he won or lost, he still would have been shedding his and others' blood in order to preserve the institution of slavery. Would I be saying that if he'd won? Might I have been taught to think that slavery was a regrettable but necessary and unavoidable requirement for stability, growth, and the common peace? Maybe. But he lost, and we know slavery is terribly, horrifically evil, so fuck him.

Yes, there were other concerns during the Civil War. Not everyone fought with the issue of slavery foremost in their minds. But none of the other concerns matter in this context, because for no other concern would the Southern states have seceded and made war on their former nation. Virginia would not have declared independence because industrial issues were taking precedence over agrarian ones. Georgia would not have rebelled because the traditions and culture of the agrarian South were being supplanted by an increasing urbanity. Without the issue of slavery, the Civil War would not have happened. That's why we pretty much just talk about that.

I know people don't like to talk about it, and we're embarrassed and ashamed by it, and we want to believe that these noble men and these ancestors fought for worthy, justifiable causes. They didn't. They fought for slavery. They took arms against their brothers, literal and metaphorical, and killed them by the hundreds of thousands, so that slavery could persist. That's what actually happened. They might have otherwise been nice people. I'm sure I would have enjoyed a drink with many of them in 1859, presuming they let my brown skin touch their upholstery. Lee, Jackson, and others were absolutely great men, in the sense of historical presence. But they were great men serving evil, and that their service was honorable does not exculpate their knowing association with a terrible institution.
posted by Errant at 5:59 PM on May 28, 2013 [19 favorites]


*a fiddle plays Bonaparte's Retreat*


My Dearest Martha,

With every fiber of my soul, I miss you. It has been more than eighteen months since we parted, and yet my memory of you is as fresh as clear water from a cold mountain brook. It nourishes and refreshes me, even in my darkest thoughts. It is Spring in this country, as I think it must now be where you are. The nights still have a chill to them, but the days are gloriously warm. I imagine back home that those who remain are trying to get the summer crops planted as best they can. At night, as I lie under the canvas, I can almost smell the freshly turned sod, and the lilac bush next to our porch. I hope that you are putting in vegetables again this year, and I hope that the gophers do not take your parsnips and carrots again, as they did the year before I left you.

The fighting today was especially hard, and shows no sign of abating,. Though several approaches against our foe were tried throughout the morning, all were repulsed, and their positions remained as resolute as ever. Such has been the pattern throughout this terrible war, as reason and fellowship are thrown aside and ill will triumphs. A secondary front was opened during the afternoon, but to no avail. Against such an implacable opponent as this, the result was further stalemate. Many, finding themselves in a perilous state and short of supply, in their desperation even advocated resorting to cannibalism. How as it come to this, that two parties so alike in traditions and spirit, should find no meeting ground on this one matter, and should remain so intractable, despite our commonalities? At times I wonder how long we can continue in this way, and if we shall ever again be able to embrace one another as fellow Mefites and say "I am your brother."

Nevertheless, the conflict continues unabated. I am no longer comforted by the thought of victory, only that I might one day be returned to you, to fall into your arms, and to forget this terrible struggle, and the destruction it has brought about. Until I can gaze upon you again, you are forever in my thoughts.

I Remain Your Devoted Husband,


Lt. Ephraim Hosea Josephus Skull

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:31 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


He could have just told Jefferson Davis good luck, but he was going put his feet up and sip mint juleps for the next four years.

No, he couldn't have.
The Union had to invade Virginia. They had to take Richmond.

It takes a certain kind of extreme personality to be a general. One of the best American commanders in history isn't going to sit on his porch while troops march through his backyard.
History isn't science, but military history you can see inevitabilities in. Caesar was not going to not cross the Rubicon.
Not simply because of who he was, although again, men like that are subject to extremes, but because the circumstances lift certain people into those positions.
They will do what their life experiences have led them to do.

I mean, Brett Favre has a hard time retiring.
Then it so happens the stakes are far beyond a game.


I mean, it's not exactly "slavery yay!", but it's also hardly "abolition now!"...


To be fair there are a ton of Lee quotes and information on Lee's stance against slavery including the fact that that letter was to President Pierce and that Lee had freed his slaves. Before the Emancipation Proclamation.

But again, it's partly my point that the slavery point is debatable. Plenty of "white man's burden" thinking going around back then. And indeed setting up Liberia, Lee sent his former slaves there, Lincoln was on board with this concept too, instead of emancipation.
It's all pretty convoluted.

But mostly the point being what speaks volumes are Lee's actions after the war in settling the peace. He wasn't vested in slavery, politically or economically, whatever his doofy outmoded ideas.

Well, I don't believe von Bock has been memorialized in any way by Germany,
No, but again the point is not the tactics but the politics. von Bock was not a war criminal. He hasn't been vilified. One is not evil simply because one fights on the wrong side.
von Bock invaded Moscow in '41 and so the U.S. fought him.
Ten years later we would have been cheering him on against the, now evil, Communist threat.
Not literally of course, but it's illustrative of the difference between the tactics in war and the political interests that make war necessary (or desirable for certain interests).

Lee wasn't one of those. Just a general on the wrong side.

I've always thought it's that kind of acceptance of the enemy that might blunt the drive to continue to prosecute a war.
It's always been useful tactically to understand one's enemy.

But yeah, doesn't mean you have to name bases after them. I'd argue it was unquestionably a necessity after the Civil War. Hell, even into the 1960s.

Now, meh. There's no real reason not to other than inertia.

But again, all initiatives have consequences, sometimes unintended. Sometimes the motives occlude the shadow those motives themselves cast however laudable they seem.

Lee probably genuinely felt that black folks were physiologically different from whites and a great deal of the informed opinions and what was considered modern science then bore that out, or at least contested the other more enlightened opinions. And well enough to have miscegenation laws a century later.
I think Darwin was printed only a few years before the Civil War.

And indeed, the miscegenation laws were developed by those who had an interest in slavery and spreading ideas that would spread it.
Just as there are interests today that push ideas that create misinformation and, at least, confusion over the actual facts, science, what have you.

Propaganda is a powerful thing. And plenty of people get crushed by the press of ideas.

Again, not to say I care about renaming bases. But there are ways of going about it. Preferably slow and easy.
But that the proper way to do it is not to say "well fuck the people who oppose this because they're wrong" and run them over.
Because who you going to get to run them over?

Yeah, "the troops." We gotta use the troops to fight these assholes who oppose our ideas. Y'know, for the good of the troops.

I think Lee was as hosed by the clash of history as any other confederate.
Either way, he was given amnesty and recognized as an American general, not a Confederate general.
And of course he was an American. That's the tragedy of it.


"I was just following orders" was not accepted at Nuremberg."

That's right. I forget we prosecuted every German soldier at Nuremberg. Oh, wait... =no, we didn't. We prosecuted those who committed war crimes. Unlike, say, von Bock. (To be fair he was dead, but he's just an example)

So what would you have liked us to do to Germany? When, precisely is the war supposed to end?
The unreasonable peace at the end of WWI was one of the initiating factors of WWII.

Of the almost 400 of the high command, how many were war criminals?

So not von Bock. Take General Heinrici. Fought to the end. Refused to waste Smolensk and destroy Berlin though.

He was captured as a POW. That to me is perfectly fair.
Then he was released. Because he was a military prisoner, not a war criminal or a political sympathizer.

General Speidel, and others (Beck, Heusinger, etc) were involved in the plot to kill Hitler on July 20.
Where do they stand?

Because by the criteria presented in some comments here they would be traitors. They were military officers who fought against, in some cases, their own country's soldiers and most certainly tried to kill its leader.

So if Lee had served with the Union, but then tried to assassinate Lincoln, would he be a traitor?
What if he assassinated Davis?

von Rundstedt was probably the most interesting and instructive on that point.
He was recruited by the people who tried to kill Hitler, but didn't betray them. But he was appalled that military officers would try to interfere in the political workings of the government.

He was a POW. He was exempted from prosecution at Nuremberg. For a bit. Their argument was that though he wasn't a war criminal, the Hitler regime was and so participating in it was criminal for someone as high up as he was. He had command responsibility to a degree that he was culpable.

While I think Lee, in particular, would be subject to that (he was in charge of the Confederate Army) I don't think one can make the argument that the South was an illegitimate government, or a criminal one, in the same way the Nazi regime was.

Indeed, that was one of the things the Civil War settled which appeared to be an open question beforehand - that is, do states have autonomy to the extent that they can secede.

That was one of the carrots for the Constitution and the inception of the U.S. government. Hey, it's a big country, the states aren't going to be dominated by a strong federal government the way they were under the King. You guys can go it alone for the most part.
Tacitly.
Then the question was tested.
The question itself was of legitimacy.

The South thought they were a whole new country unto themselves. The North said "no you're fucking not!" Which is is the correct political solution given by the constitution?

Until then there really wasn't one. Or rather, there were too many. From the inception of the country, since the articles of confederation, politicians and lawyers had been arguing that one.

Therefore where is a general of that era or under those circumstances to know where legitimacy lies? Beyond obeying the laws of war. Fairly treating prisoners. Not targeting bystanders, etc. And obeying the lawful orders of leadership. Barring their obviously illegal orders.
As far as I'm aware there were some nasty atrocities from both sides but Lee wasn't in them.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:52 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


missed preview again.

The Nazi regime was not and could never be morally justified.

How about that Bush administration? We're of course going to rise up against the U.S. government because we were so opposed to the war and... oh never mind.

So what do you call atrocity in the service of a moral good?

Because I don't think being right is a bulletproof morality shield to justify any actions you might want to commit. A war crime is a war crime. No matter how wonderful the utopia it goes to support.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:59 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Gay marriage isn't going to provoke another civil war in this country. Abortion might."

Nah. Without major changes in economy and geography, there is simply not going to be another civil war in America. It'd be all terrorism from here on out, if there's ever any armed conflict.
posted by klangklangston at 7:11 PM on May 28, 2013


I mean, Brett Favre has a hard time retiring.
Then it so happens the stakes are far beyond a game.


But Barry Sanders handled it. You always have a choice.

But mostly the point being what speaks volumes are Lee's actions after the war in settling the peace.

If we are talking about great generals on this current of history to excuse their joining the fight as if they had no choice, how can we praise individually how they handled themselves AFTER the current crushed them in defeat? He's either his own man all the way or not.

Lee wasn't one of those. Just a general on the wrong side.

He had more freedom than the vast majority of generals in history to choose his side, having been an officer for three decades in the army he eventually decided to join a rebellion against.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:13 PM on May 28, 2013



No, that didn't happen. Performances of Wagner are not banned in Germany. Germany celebrated the 200th anniversary of his birth last week.

I mean, there's been an annual Wagner music festival in Germany for the past century.


Not to derail, but Stephen Fry address every single response to this in his new documentary on Wagner, even speaking to a Holocaust survivor. He concludes that Wagner's music still has value.



Fort Django, because it's about time that Python web development frameworks receive the official recognition that they deserve.


Fort Django, to remind people of the proper moral response to slaveowners.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:13 PM on May 28, 2013


This thread hasn't been educational one iota. It's a bunch of oversimplificafied one-issue one-liners that can't get past their one issue to believe that anybody else would have any other reason other than the one issue that they have cites for.

And the fact that the waves came in and said "nobody said it's the only issue" and then not 50 posts later came in and said "so it's the only important issue" is just maddening.

Neither Corb, nor myself, nor anybody else posting in here has every said that slavery wasn't an issue for wealthy land owners. I'm not sure how much that can be repeated, and yet a large number of posters in here simply can't get past it.

What we are saying is that wealthy land owners weren't the only people involved in the secession movement. And as such those poor people who didn't own slaves also had some reason (that wasn't slavery) to fight for the Confederate army.

Backing up to the now 68x favorited statement: Change the names. You don't name things after traitors, and that's what the Confederates were.

That statement is factually incorrect and offensive to the hundreds of thousands of human beings who died. The fact that this came on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, a day where we remember the lives of those who sacrificed fighting for their country... the concept that the Civil War cost more American lives than every other war we've ever participated in combined, including every act of terrorism both foreign and domestic... means that several people in here simply can't see the whole picture.

If I could go back and flag that thread I'd do it again a thousand times. Because it's spurned this "slavery bad, anything discussion past that is nonsense" conversations that are so narrow minded that it quite literally does an injustice to every person that's ever served in the armed forces. Why, because if you follow that logic you also have to say that people who died in Iraq were morons who believed that there were WMDs there. Why? Because WMD bad, hur durr. Need clarification? Here you go: Slavery wasn't the issue for hundreds of thousands of people who died... and yet this discussion can't get past "slavery bad, here's some citations" posts.

Again, Tuesday after Memorial Day, and you guys have taken anybody who's dared to point out a different aspect of the same story and buried them in straw man arguments.

Shameful nonsense, the lot of you.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:25 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


He had more freedom than the vast majority of generals in history to choose his side, having been an officer for three decades in the army he eventually decided to join a rebellion against.

Yeah, it seems like this is the key point. Lee was part of the Union Army and was offered a command in the Union Army in the civil war. He purposefully turned down this offer, resigned his commission, and joined the opposing army.

But he himself may have been playing both sides of this "I was just on the wrong side!" game: after leaving the Union army, he didn't say, "I'm joining the Confederacy!" He technically "only" commanded a regional Virginia state militia in the beginning of the war. So he wasn't a confederate officer at all, in the beginning, just a commander of a local militia defending his home state from an army that just happened to be invading.

And THEN the Confederate Army became formally organized. And, what do you know, Lee was just a hometown Virginian commanding a local militia in defense of his homeland, and he just happened to get command as a General in the Confederate Army. Not that he CHOSE this, mind you, but only that he was a member of the military in the land of his birth, and was called to the confederate military. Could have happened to anyone!
posted by deanc at 7:34 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread hasn't been educational one iota.

I was kind of hoping that the concept of how the south was a "slave society" that all but the most economically marginalized in the south (who were, surprise, Unionists!) participated in and benefited from and were determined to defend, would have gotten through to you.
posted by deanc at 7:36 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Change the names. You don't name things after traitors, and that's what the Confederates were.

People who take up arms against their own government are most certainly traitors. That is the definition of traitor.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:37 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Because it's spurned this "slavery bad, anything discussion past that is nonsense" conversations that are so narrow minded that it quite literally does an injustice to every person that's ever served in the armed forces.

Seeing as how you're so wrapped up in our proximity to Memorial Day, do me a favor: don't tell me what's "literally an injustice" to me, okay?
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm getting kind of sick of the "Memorial Day!" stuff as if the Confederate generals these bases were named after didn't help kill hundreds of thousands of American soldiers. I just spent my holiday with family members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, you don't care about them more than I do just because of some civil war debate.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:39 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Because it's spurned this "slavery bad, anything discussion past that is nonsense" conversations that are so narrow minded that it quite literally does an injustice to every person that's ever served in the armed forces.

Yes, let's put aside the 60 million some people in slavery for a second so we can salute the people who fought to keep them enslaved.
posted by empath at 7:49 PM on May 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


"I was just following orders" was not accepted at Nuremberg."
That's right. I forget we prosecuted every German soldier at Nuremberg. Oh, wait... =no, we didn't. We prosecuted those who committed war crimes. Unlike, say, von Bock. (To be fair he was dead, but he's just an example)

So what would you have liked us to do to Germany? When, precisely is the war supposed to end?


I don't think we should have prosecuted those who didn't commit war crimes. But we shouldn't call them honorable.
posted by dhens at 7:54 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Again, Tuesday after Memorial Day, and you guys have taken anybody who's dared to point out a different aspect of the same story and buried them in straw man arguments.


Memorial Day commemorates those fallen US soldiers who died to protect the United States of America and its people. Those who died serving the Confederacy did neither. They waged war against the United States in order to subjugate an American populace, disenfranchised though they were. Precisely what memorial should I afford them, when they would have preferred not to be part of my government of the people and would have killed me to be able to say so? The idea that seeing a single issue as the majority cause of a devastating internal conflict is not sufficiently "supporting the troops" is utterly mind-boggling.

The argument isn't "slavery bad /thread". The argument is that slavery was the main, overriding, and predominant cause for secession and the resulting civil war. Why good men and true joined that cause is an interesting question. Was the Civil War was a massive boon for industrial capitalists, and did they push for armed action as fiercely as their plantation counterparts? That's an interesting question. Was slavery the reason that the slaveholding states seceded from the Union and went to war against their former nation? Yes. It was. Asked and answered, by them. Lee fought because he believed his allegiance to be first and foremost to the state of Virginia, but Virginia asked him to fight so that they could keep owning slaves. This wasn't a matter for debate while the war was happening; it's quite strange that it is somehow an unsteady premise now.

How about that Bush administration? We're of course going to rise up against the U.S. government because we were so opposed to the war and... oh never mind.

There are perhaps ways to morally oppose one's government that fall shy of armed insurrection.

So what do you call atrocity in the service of a moral good?

An atrocity. If your argument is that honor serving evil is similar to atrocity serving good, I submit that atrocity is an evil in and of itself, while honor is relative to the values of the adulator or detractor. There was a time when "he treats his slaves well" was a credible indication of a man's good honor. We don't think that's quite enough now.

Because I don't think being right is a bulletproof morality shield to justify any actions you might want to commit. A war crime is a war crime. No matter how wonderful the utopia it goes to support.

I agree. What, precisely, is your point? I haven't defended Sherman's March to the Sea or suggested that Pickett was any less of a bumbling idiot for serving the Union. I haven't said, suggested, or implied that every man in the Union was good or that every Confederate was an unrepentant killer. I have said that Lee's reputation and measurable values do not disqualify him from complicity in the violent defense of an irredeemable institution. Lee himself thought slavery was an unmitigated moral evil. What would you call a man who says that freely, and then takes up arms to defend the right to perpetrate that evil?
posted by Errant at 7:57 PM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


And as such those poor people who didn't own slaves also had some reason (that wasn't slavery) to fight for the Confederate army.

Such as? The only one I can think of is "protecting one's home and family" from Union troops, and these troops would not have been in the southern states if the Southern powers-that-be had not seceded and attacked a federal outpost because they were afraid that Lincoln would move toward emancipation.
posted by dhens at 7:57 PM on May 28, 2013


"Gay marriage isn't going to provoke another civil war in this country. Abortion might."

Nah. Without major changes in economy and geography, there is simply not going to be another civil war in America. It'd be all terrorism from here on out, if there's ever any armed conflict.


Oh, I agree. There was an unexpressed "if anything is going to" in there that I should have added. I don't believe a civil war is really possible without much, much more than where we are now.
posted by Errant at 8:02 PM on May 28, 2013


Without major changes in economy and geography, there is simply not going to be another civil war in America.

If congress keeps being incapable of functioning, I wouldn't consider breaking up the union a complete impossibility.
posted by empath at 8:05 PM on May 28, 2013


If something is missing from the analysis of the Civil War, feel free to provide it. This "it was about so much more, but I'm never going to come out and say what exactly, I'm too busy reveling to how 'offensive' everyone else is" ploy is pretty transparent.

Nearly 150 years have passed, and people still get the vapors because someone suggested a country shouldn't honor generals who fought against them to defend slavery. What a disgrace.
posted by leopard at 8:07 PM on May 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


"Neither Corb, nor myself, nor anybody else posting in here has every said that slavery wasn't an issue for wealthy land owners. I'm not sure how much that can be repeated, and yet a large number of posters in here simply can't get past it.

What we are saying is that wealthy land owners weren't the only people involved in the secession movement. And as such those poor people who didn't own slaves also had some reason (that wasn't slavery) to fight for the Confederate army.
"

Chutzpah to complain about how you haven't been educated when people (including me) have replied (at length) to these exact points.

That plenty of people who served the Confederacy didn't own slaves does not mean that their primary motivation — their determinative motivation — was not slavery. And since there's a fair body of evidence — their own letters — that gives SLAVERY as the unifying answer (in fact, what led them to be able to cohere as the Confederate States), if you want to argue contrary, the burden of proof is on you and you have not made any sort of reasonable case.

Deriding other people for one line answers is pretty rich when it looks like the only answers you read were one liners.
posted by klangklangston at 8:09 PM on May 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


or suggested that Pickett was any less of a bumbling idiot for serving the Union

George Pickett was a major general in the CSA.
posted by Justinian at 8:12 PM on May 28, 2013


Yeah dude, Pickett's Charge. Faulkner even has a famous spiel about it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:21 PM on May 28, 2013


Just as poor white folk can contribute the perpetuation to a system that oppresses both themselves and black people, there were plenty of non-slave owning whites in the confederate states who were willing to defend the rights of slave owners and a system that depended entirely on slave labor. I believe the relevant term is "Only A Pawn In The Game".
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:22 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


or suggested that Pickett was any less of a bumbling idiot for serving the Union

George Pickett was a major general in the CSA.


Goddammit. Ok, here's what happened. A couple weeks ago, at pub trivia, there was a question about George Pickett, and I couldn't remember his name, and it made me really mad. So now, when I should have said George McClellan, I said Pickett instead. It is not an excuse; my apologies.
posted by Errant at 8:23 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thing is, this got in to slavery because people insisted that the CSA was an honorable cause.

Being a traitor is not an honorable cause. The point isn't that joe shmo was motivated by slavery (although he was, see Battle Cry of Freedom), but that bases in the US are named after former US Army officers who broke their oath to the Army and chose to take up arms against it. And that's treason. Check Article III of the Constitution. Taking up arms against the US is specifically enumerated.

This is about officer-traitors. The fact that they took up arms in defense of human bondage just makes them even worse.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:41 PM on May 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Re: Why poor southern whites enlisted in droves, it's worth remembering that both sides thought this would be a short affair. The Union thought it would smash the South in months, the Seccessionists thought that a few good early victories would break the spirit of the North, among which plenty of people were skeptical of any armed conflict at all. (Lincoln had plenty of northern critics, some of whom served as his generals).

But no matter how you parse the southern "cause," slavery is inescapable. States' Rights? States Rights to do what, exactly? Own slaves and expand American slavery to the west. Federal over-reach? Well, just what exactly where the specifics of southern grievances in the letters of secession? Slavery, slavery, slavery. A rapidly industrializing north vs. an increasingly backwards agrarian south (speaking purely in economic terms)? Yup, that's also 100% an issue regarding slavery.

And if somebody made me president, I'd be happy to rename a Fort Lee or Hill to Fort Kirkland.
posted by bardic at 9:14 PM on May 28, 2013


There are a number of northern generals who committed serious war crimes during the civil war? Shall we tear down their statues and strike their names off military bases and ships as well?
posted by humanfont at 9:18 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fine with me.

More light.
posted by bardic at 9:21 PM on May 28, 2013


What we are saying is that wealthy land owners weren't the only people involved in the secession movement. And as such those poor people who didn't own slaves also had some reason (that wasn't slavery) to fight for the Confederate army.

Sure, the (white) peons weren't slave owners, but they still benefited from slavery, both in direct economic terms (e.g. they got jobs from the wealthy slave holders), and in social-psychological terms (they might be poor, but at least they weren't black slaves). This is one way social hierarchies function to create mass action. It still works that way today, so that ruling elites can get people to vote against their own interests (à la What's the Matter with Kansas).

Is this really so complicated? I mean, Karl Rove's been using this crap for years, right before your eyes. That's what the "southern strategy" and "culture wars" and "wedge issues" are all about.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:21 PM on May 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


But again, it's partly my point that the slavery point is debatable. Plenty of "white man's burden" thinking going around back then. And indeed setting up Liberia, Lee sent his former slaves there, Lincoln was on board with this concept too, instead of emancipation.
It's all pretty convoluted.


It's not debatable, and with regard to slavery, it isn't that convoluted. The argument seems to me to be that Lee and co. were products of a less enlightened time, such that their "archaic" [my quotes] ideology is presently despicable but historically sympathetic. This simply isn't the case. One of the weirder results of Reconstruction is a near-total erasing of the prominence, prevalence, and pervasiveness of the abolition movement in that era. No one from the Civil War era can claim to not have known better or not have been exposed to a better ideology. Abolition was the political issue of the day; Douglas and Lincoln's debates were largely centered around it. It is simply ridiculous and ahistorical to argue that slavery proponents were simply products of a more savage time. One, that's not an excuse; two, they chose quite willingly to oppose abolition, a major political issue and movement. The passage of years cannot erase or excuse them from their participation and allegiances.

He wasn't vested in slavery, politically or economically, whatever his doofy outmoded ideas.

Regardless of anything else, I would like us to please remember that opposition to slavery is not a new, modern concept, and that the second chapter of the Bible is Exodus.

I think Lee was as hosed by the clash of history as any other confederate.

I do absolutely agree with this. Lee was going to be a traitor no matter what he did: either culturally and emotionally, if he fought Virginia; legally and presumptively, if he warred against the Union. Lee's biggest problem was that he was a fantastic military commander without clear allegiance to either side of an armed conflict but with bonds to both. He got fucked by history. I don't think he made the right choice, and I don't think we should name bases after him, but for that predicament, he does have my sympathy.

There are a number of northern generals who committed serious war crimes during the civil war? Shall we tear down their statues and strike their names off military bases and ships as well?

One, tu quoque hasn't been an acceptable form of rebuttal for quite some time. Two, I'm not very far removed from the notion that "all wars are crimes", so yeah, but I'd more prefer not to have a new class of destroyer that we have to name.
posted by Errant at 9:28 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Southern Whites aspired to slaveholding status. A lot of the South spent the war hiding from conscription. It was uplands against lowlands. West Virginia, East Tennessee, the uplands of North Carolina, had Union societies and sent few troops to the war.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:32 PM on May 28, 2013


Memorial Day commemorates those fallen US soldiers who died to protect the United States of America and its people. Those who died serving the Confederacy did neither.

The reason this is offensive the day after Memorial Day is precisely because Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, itself is a holiday that was expressly created for honoring the dead soldiers of the Civil War, blue and gray alike.

In addition, on a sidenote, I'm not sure how anyone can view the Civil War as a "War to End Slavery", given that four slaveholding states fought on the side of the North during that war, and kept their slaves throughout it.
posted by corb at 9:36 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason this is offensive the day after Memorial Day is precisely because Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, itself is a holiday that was expressly created for honoring the dead soldiers of the Civil War, blue and gray alike.

This is simply not factual. I direct your attention to the full text of General John A. Logan's 1868 proclamation referred to in that history link:
General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
Logan was Commander-in-Chief of the Army, whose primary task was Reconstruction. That's why he talks of defending the flag against the Rebellion. He directly mentions slavery being gone. There is no provision for honoring the dead of their enemy of three years earlier. None.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:46 PM on May 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


The confederacy is referred to as "Rebellious Tyranny in Arms" in that document. The decoration day later got assigned to the South in the South only.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:49 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"four slaveholding states fought on the side of the North during that war"

Nothing but weasel-words and phrasings from you Corb.

My home state of Maryland had both Union and Secessionist units. Being a border state this isn't all that surprising. But it doesn't change the fact that the South started the war to protect slavery. The North came around, reluctantly, to realizing that slavery had to be dismantled and this could only be done through military action since the other side was in armed rebellion.

As for Memorial Day, it's very significant in America today due to the efforts of freed slaves and colored US servicemen of the Civil War who explicitly wanted to pay homage to the fallen soldiers who had freed them from bondage:

"But for the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city’s official surrender.

Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war.

The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, 'Martyrs of the Race Course.'”
posted by bardic at 9:49 PM on May 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


There is a separate Confederate Memorial Day for those inclined to celebrate it for whatever reason.
posted by burden at 9:52 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


In addition, on a sidenote, I'm not sure how anyone can view the Civil War as a "War to End Slavery", given that four slaveholding states fought on the side of the North during that war, and kept their slaves throughout it.

First, if you oppose that view, please tell it to the proponents of the term "War of Northern Aggression". Second, a hilariously tragic part of the Civil War is that the Union was nowhere near absolute abolition. It was the paranoia of those Southern slaveholding states, convinced that the election of Lincoln was a sign that abolition was immediately imminent, that provoked the Civil War. If Lincoln had has his way, abolition would not have been on the table. The secession, and the stated reasons for it, forced his hand.

As regards the first part of your comment, I note only that your habit of selective reading continues unabated. And, also, that if Memorial Day is meant to commemorate the fallen Confederate, it's somewhat excessive to maintain a separate Confederate Memorial Day. In true states' rights fashion, no one can quite agree on when it should be.
posted by Errant at 9:53 PM on May 28, 2013


I know who John Brown is, thankyouverymuch, what I did not know was how to translate Southern hyperbole about John Brown. But way to shit on someone actually engaging in effort to try to bring substantive discussion to the table.

If you recognize "Southern hyperbole" in that, maybe you can see it in all the talk about economics, agrarian vs industrial lifestyles, Lincoln being mean, and all the rest. It's a manner of speech that in actual fact is talking about slavery.

The South thought they were a whole new country unto themselves. The North said "no you're fucking not!" Which is is the correct political solution given by the constitution?

If secession were possible as a one-sided decision, then any group or individual could just declare themselves separate whenever they feel like breaking a law. Starting a new country is done either by war or by mutual agreement. If the north had accepted the secession, it would have set a precedent of any group opting out of the federal law when it did not suit them.

I'm not sure how anyone can view the Civil War as a "War to End Slavery", given that four slaveholding states fought on the side of the North during that war, and kept their slaves throughout it.

It was a war to preserve the union, but the union was breached by the confederacy in the interest of preserving slavery. If a slave-owning state did not consider slavery so fundamental as to reject the constitution over it, they were caught in the middle.
posted by mdn at 9:53 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have an ancestor who fought in the Union Army. My parents are donating his possessions to a Civil War museum, so today I looked over these items for the first time in many years. One of the best is a diary, though we had remembered the content as being rather uninteresting -- mostly a tally of how he spent his money.

This recollection turned out to be totally inaccurate. He described marching through Georgia, liberating slaves, taking cattle, and torching everything else, including fields full of cotton. I had had no idea that this had been part of his experience. I was proud. I came home and excitedly told my husband, who is black. (I am white.) He was proud, too. Our son carries the history of both sides, and happens to have the same first name as my Union soldier ancestor. Full circle.

I know some Southerners are still sore about the destruction of "property" 150 years ago. No shame about slavery from those people, though.
posted by gentian at 9:58 PM on May 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


It seems like we went over this just a few weeks ago in the "Accidental Racist" thread. Framing the debate in terms of the motivations and character of the dead men who fought the Civil War seriously misjudges the motivations and opinions of living Southerners about the place of the Confederacy in Southern culture, the treatment of it in day-to-day life and the built environment, and how that is changing in the 21st century.

If I can be forgiven for quoting myself:
In all seriousness though, it might be hard for people from other places to even understand where ["Accidental Racist" singer and songwriter Brad] Paisley is coming from.

For example, here in the Empire State of the South, you will find that there are people—white people, obviously—who still stand when Dixie is played. Although in fairness not as many as there once were, especially in the Atlanta area where, like Los Angelenos, we all come from somewhere.

Still, the Southern Heritage™ movement runs deeper and deeper the further you get from the cosmopolitan areas around the cities. Not an hour's drive from the Atlanta airport you can find rebel battle flags flown without a shred of irony. There are whole swaths of native Southerners who see displaying the Battle Flag simply and wholly as an expression of reverence for their ancestors who fought in what I was taught in school to call The War of Northern Aggression. That their neighbors who are from the North or West, not to mention their African-American neighbors, see it as a symbol of racism and oppression never really entered their minds until relatively recently.

They were supported in this belief by the official actions of the legislature. The rebel Battle Flag was part of the State flag of Georgia for 45 years. It was only 12 years ago that it was changed. The current flag of Georgia is in fact just the original Stars and Bars flag of the Confederacy with 13 stars instead of 7 and the state seal in the middle. The fact that Georgians didn't get to vote on the new flag design, as was promised by then-candidate Gov. Sonny Perdue, is commemorated by signs you can still sometimes find nailed to trees along the roads in the hinterlands proclaiming Sonny Lied!

There were also the holidays. Until 1984 Confederate Memorial Day was an official state holiday. All state offices were closed and state employees got the day off with pay. In 1984 the Official Code of Georgia Annotated was amended to change the official holidays to match whatever the federal holidays were, eliminating Confederate Memorial Day from the calendar. However, the Governor could still designate public holidays and the law required at least one of January 19 (Robert E. Lee's birthday), April 26 (Confederate Memorial Day), and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) be chosen every year. In 2009 the O.C.G.A. was further amended to designate April as Confederate History and Heritage Month. This year, as usual, by proclamation of the Governor April 26th [was] Confederate Memorial Day in Georgia. Also as usual, the University of Georgia [displayed] the Constitution of the Confederacy from 9am to 5pm on the third floor of the library.

The way Georgia history was taught in the schools also has contributed to these misunderstandings. Utterly revisionist textbooks with their basis in the turn-of-the-century Lost Cause narratives were combined with reverent trips to the Cyclorama and Stone Mountain. In my day we went to the now defunct War in Georgia exhibit. These days if kids go at all it's to Confederate Hall to view a short documentary and the Antebellum Plantation.

My own position on this has evolved over the years. When I was a kid we had neighbors who were related to the original settlers of the area. They proudly displayed in their hallway a photo from during the war of the namesake of my neighbor in his Confederate uniform. These were genteel southern people whom I admired greatly and that to my knowledge were not prejudiced or bigoted in any way. They certainly never displayed any such behavior in my presence, despite numerous opportunities. I identified with and understood why so many of my friends and neighbors were desperate to hold on to the best parts of Southern culture.

As a teenager and adult though, I was exposed to the ugly side of that same Southern culture. I remember having to have a particularly egregious joke about baiting fields with watermelons explained to me and being genuinely shocked that the teller of the joke would harbor such sentiments. Eventually, I grew to understand why, for example, my childhood dream of driving a replica of the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard was in fact unneighborly and insulting to a great many people.

All of which is to say, I honestly think that Paisley's heart was in the right place, but that he may not understand where all of us are coming from. Walking around in a Skynard shirt with a rebel flag on it just isn't okay anymore but there are millions of white Southerners—and at least one black one—who don't understand why. To them, it's a symbol of heritage instead of hatred and the only people they hear complaining are politically correct leftists.


P.S. The Stone Mountian Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision® runs most nights during the summer months. As was recounted in the 8185 comment ultra-mega-epic-thread from Election Night 2012 by hoyland among others, it's a surreal experience for people who aren't native or naturalized southerners. I think the differences between the real laser show and the Squidbillies parody of it visually illustrates the difference in what the phrase Southern Heritage invokes among southerners [3:30 - 7:55] as opposed to everyone else [1:21-2:10].


In the aftermath of the fallout from "Accidental Racist", Atlanta reporter Paul Crawley filed this report for local station 11Alive: Petition wants Stone Mt. Confederate carving removed. It should be noted that it's a violation of O.C.G.A. § 50-3-1 to alter, remove, or cover any monument to a Confederate in Georgia. Paragraph (c) seems to lay the matter to rest permanently,
Any other provision of law notwithstanding, the memorial to the heroes of the Confederate States of America graven upon the face of Stone Mountain shall never be altered, removed, concealed, or obscured in any fashion and shall be preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.
There's your answer.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:58 PM on May 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


It should be noted that it's a violation of O.C.G.A. § 50-3-1 to alter, remove, or cover any monument to a Confederate in Georgia. Paragraph (c) seems to lay the matter to rest permanently,

Or until the law is changed.
posted by empath at 10:08 PM on May 28, 2013


Confederate women put a regional call to their sisters, and launched Decoration Day, also called Confederate Memorial Day, in April of 1866, as a way to remember their dead and decorate their graves.
"They died for their country. Whether their country had or had not the right to demand the sacrifice is no longer a question for discussion. We leave that for nations to decide in the future. That it was demanded-that they fought nobly and fell holy sacrifices upon their country's alter, and are entitled to their country's gratitude, none will deny."
However, in Columbus, Missouri, 1866, women are said to have first began the tradition of decorating both graves.
Late in April they carried flowers from their gardens and began decorating Confederate graves. A young widow in the group walked to the section where Union men were buried and laid flowers on their graves. Soon she was joined by the others and it was told the young woman said, “Let us remember them all alike, the men in blue and the men in gray.”

Over the years other cities have declared they were the first to decorate graves but it is noted at the Library of Congress, “Columbus, Mississippi, thus, can rightly claim to be not only one day (April 25) ahead of Columbus, Georgia, in its observance of Memorial Day, but more generous in its distribution of the tributes of honor and mourning.”
In the North,1868, a request sent by a Northern girl to honor a rebel grave was widely reprinted, even in the New York Times.
The Layfayette (Ind.) Courier, in its account of the decoration of soldiers' graves in that city on the 30th ult., says a wreath of flowers, accompanied by a note from a little girl about ten years of age was exhibited. The note was addressed to Col. Leaming, Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, and was as follows:

Col. LEAMING: Will you please put this wreath upon some rebel soldier's grave? My dear papa is buried at Andersonville, and perhaps some little girl will be kind enough to put a few flowers upon his grave. JENNIE VERNON

The reading of the note created a profound impression, the wreath was deposited upon the grave of an unknown rebel soldier -- the only one remaining in the cemetery.
posted by corb at 10:17 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


And those things have nothing to do with Memorial Day, if we're talking about the official US holiday.
posted by bardic at 10:22 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


empath: “Or until the law is changed.
Indeed. However, as a practical matter, this is not going to swing the other way in Georgia law for... I'm going to have to go with many, many decades.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:32 PM on May 28, 2013


However, as a practical matter, this is not going to swing the other way in Georgia law for... I'm going to have to go with many, many decades.

Since Georgia is going to be majority-minority soon, maybe sooner than you think.
posted by empath at 10:37 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


And those things have nothing to do with Memorial Day, if we're talking about the official US holiday.

If we're talking about the official US holiday, it was only codified in its present form relatively recently - in the late sixties, actually, as Memorial Day, and around a weekend rather than being the floating holiday of May 30. General Logan, of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans organization) is also often credited with starting Decoration Day in the North, from which Memorial Day was drawn from - but according to his wife, he himself got the idea from the observances in the South.

The idea of honoring the Confederate and Union dead together is one that did take hold after the Civil War - having seen a nation at war, its youth, hope, and dreams blighted for at least a generation, it was very easy for people from both sides to accept the senselessness of the war and the deaths that occurred there, with the healing that needed to come. One of the best pieces around this and of the mourning for both sides is "The Blue And The Gray", by a judge from New York.
No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.
posted by corb at 10:40 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"its youth, hope, and dreams blighted for at least a generation"

Freed slaves beg to differ. (Although as noted, it wasn't all milk and honey due to ongoing southern racism and hostility.)
posted by bardic at 10:49 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Freed slaves beg to differ. (Although as noted, it wasn't all milk and honey due to ongoing southern racism and hostility.)

Not just Southern hostility:

Missionaries of Freedom, Part 2
Indeed, Wilder’s testimony indicates, by Spring 1863, the greatest threat to the freedom of escaped slaves in Virginia came not from the Confederate Army but ironically from corrupt Union soldiers that for a price would cooperate with slaveholders seeking to recover their slaves. The captain complained that troops in the 99th New York Infantry “between Norfolk and Suffolk have caught hundreds of fugitives and got pay for them. . . . The masters will come in to Suffolk in the day time and with the help of some of the 99th carry off their fugitives and by and by smuggle them across the lines and the soldier will get his $20. or $50.” Clearly, despite the Emancipation Proclamation, and a law by then a year old, specifically prohibiting the Union Army personnel from cooperating in the return of slaves to their owners, some northern troops were willing to help planters, in all likelihood rebels, recover their slaves.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:14 PM on May 28, 2013


empath: “Since Georgia is going to be majority-minority soon, maybe sooner than you think.
I'm sure everyone thinks the politics in their state are the dirtiest in the country, but Georgia politics are downright mean.

Even if every Atlanta metro county becomes majority-minority by 2030 and starts electing Democrats (which, let's face it the Georgia Democrats couldn't organize a two car funeral right now), the white, Republican Senators and Representatives from the rural, southern districts will block all movement on amending § 50-3-1 until long after I'm dead. I think there's a better chance that someone will shoot a rocket at the carving in an attempt to deface it.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:14 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Not just Southern hostility"

Of course. Slavery corrupted everything it touched. The violence necessary to end it forever as an institution on American soil was more than worth it, and there was nothing tragic about ending it.
posted by bardic at 11:17 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


They died for their country. Whether their country had or had not the right to demand the sacrifice is no longer a question for discussion. We leave that for nations to decide in the future. That it was demanded-that they fought nobly and fell holy sacrifices upon their country's alter, and are entitled to their country's gratitude, none will deny.

This is the lovely lie of the Lost Cause, already in effect. There wasn't a country, according to they who began the war. There were two countries, and still would be if the Confederacy had had their way unopposed. But you are correct. They are entitled to their nation's gratitude. Find me a citizen of the Confederate States of America, and I will implore them to honor their heroic dead.

As for nations who will decide in the future, we are that nation. We still have politicians delivering screeds behind the banner of righteous enslavement. Some celebrate Robert E. Lee Day, 24 hours before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Some believe the South will rise again. The information war continues. We appear not to have decided yet. That is a stain on our national character.

Confederate soldiers were not soldiers of the United States. They did not want to be, they took up arms in order not to be, and they begrudgingly repatriated when the US was the only game in town. I'm not weeping for them, and I resent the implication that I should.
posted by Errant at 12:11 AM on May 29, 2013 [16 favorites]


No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day,
Love and tears for the Blue,
Tears and love for the Gray.


This should totally be the offical poem for MetaTalk.
posted by jaduncan at 1:49 AM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am sad for the deaths of the individual Confederate soldiers, deaths which were of course caused by their own leaders and generals which is one reason why I don't feel they should have bases named after them.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:50 AM on May 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


What we are saying is that wealthy land owners weren't the only people involved in the secession movement. And as such those poor people who didn't own slaves also had some reason (that wasn't slavery) to fight for the Confederate army.

Indeed. Wealthy land owners were merely the leaders of the secession movement - and to quote the second sentence of the Mississippi causes of secession "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world." (Corb somehow fails to cite this sentence when claiming that Mississippi's reasons for secession were economic).

As for the people claiming that the Confederate volunteers weren't that deeply involved in slavery, Ta-Nehisi Coates has gone into this in detail, and quotes the actual numbers from Joseph Glattar. Remember that the slaves were owned by the heads of the family - and in two states of the Confederacy more than 50% of people were slaves.
Even more revealing was their attachment to slavery. Among the enlistees in 1861, slightly more than one in ten owned slaves personally. This compared favorably to the Confederacy as a whole, in which one in every twenty white persons owned slaves. Yet more than one in every four volunteers that first year lived with parents who were slaveholders. Combining those soldiers who owned slaves with those soldiers who lived with slaveholding family members, the proportion rose to 36 percent. That contrasted starkly with the 24.9 percent, or one in every four households, that owned slaves in the South, based on the 1860 census. Thus, volunteers in 1861 were 42 percent more likely to own slaves themselves or to live with family members who owned slaves than the general population.

The attachment to slavery, though, was even more powerful. One in every ten volunteers in 1861 did not own slaves themselves but lived in households headed by non family members who did. This figure, combined with the 36 percent who owned or whose family members owned slaves, indicated that almost one of every two 1861 recruits lived with slaveholders. Nor did the direct exposure stop there. Untold numbers of enlistees rented land from, sold crops to, or worked for slaveholders. In the final tabulation, the vast majority of the volunteers of 1861 had a direct connection to slavery. For slaveholder and nonslaveholder alike, slavery lay at the heart of the Confederate nation. The fact that their paper notes frequently depicted scenes of slaves demonstrated the institution's central role and symbolic value to the Confederacy.

More than half the officers in 1861 owned slaves, and none of them lived with family members who were slaveholders. Their substantial median combined wealth ($5,600) and average combined wealth ($8,979) mirrored that high proportion of slave ownership. By comparison, only one in twelve enlisted men owned slaves, but when those who lived with family slave owners were included, the ratio exceeded one in three. That was 40 percent above the tally for all households in the Old South. With the inclusion of those who resided in nonfamily slaveholding households, the direct exposure to bondage among enlisted personnel was four of every nine. Enlisted men owned less wealth, with combined levels of $1,125 for the median and $7,079 for the average, but those numbers indicated a fairly comfortable standard of living. Proportionately, far more officers were likely to be professionals in civil life, and their age difference, about four years older than enlisted men, reflected their greater accumulated wealth.
They knew what they were fighting for (and those who didn't merely had to pick up a newspaper). Except some of the poor sods who enlisted to have food to eat. And others who were fighting because after they had launched an attack on the United States of America now had an army invading them.
posted by Francis at 4:02 AM on May 29, 2013 [26 favorites]


This thread hasn't been educational one iota. It's a bunch of oversimplificafied one-issue one-liners that can't get past their one issue to believe that anybody else would have any other reason other than the one issue that they have cites for.

So, I feel like a bit of a jerk for bringing up someone's posting history, but it seems kinda important to mention here that in the other open Civil War thread, you berated someone as "just plain stupid" for describing a Confederate general as a white supremacist, and "educated" them by linking to a Wikipedia article that you very clearly did not read. I know you didn't read it for one very simple reason: the article you linked as proof that this general was not a white supremacist states quite clearly that he was, in fact, a white supremacist, and quotes the man's own writings on the subject as definitive proof.

At the time, I responded to you asking if you were making a joke, because it was pretty confusing. However, it's clear based on your interactions in this thread that you weren't. It's also clear that you have zero interest in honest debate or education on this topic, and are pretty much throwing out one-liners and whatever weak justification you can while plugging your ears with your fingers yelling LA LA LA I'M NOT LISTENING.

There have been numerous posts in this thread refuting the claims you've made, and you've ignored every one of them. Then again, if you can't even bother to read the links you're pulling out of google to try to retroactively justify the position you've taken, I suppose that's not much of a surprise.
posted by tocts at 5:42 AM on May 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


On the plus side, nobody has I think suggested that The Haunted Tank should no longer be haunted by the spirit of the Confederate General J.E.B "Jeb" Stuart...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:02 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


*a fiddle plays Bonny Portmore*



My Dearest Martha,

I have only a few moments to write this, before I must fly. During the night, our enemy renewed their attack, and now threaten our positions on Memorial Ridge. Our actions yesterday did nothing to lessen their ardor or combativeness, and they are as resolute as ever in the prosecution of their cause. It seems that nothing will dissuade them from the course they have chosen, and my men and I must to the line with all due haste. Kiss my little nephews and nieces for me, and know these things: that I love you, that you are the entirety of my heart, and that I will return to you.

I Remain Your Devoted Husband,


Lt. Ephraim Hosea Josephus Skull




*narrator's voice*

"Lt. Ephraim Skull of E Company, 13th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was killed in the fighting on Equivocal Hill. He never returned to Rockford, or to his beloved Martha. Later, he became a vampire and was used in a bad television series. Martha Skull, now a widow, moved to Wisconsin, where she married a dairy farmer outside of Kenosha, and changed her name to Lundegaard."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:52 AM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


General Logan, of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans organization) is also often credited with starting Decoration Day in the North, from which Memorial Day was drawn from - but according to his wife, he himself got the idea from the observances in the South.

Your claim was that it was terrible to knock the Confederacy because the day was specifically set aside by Logan for both sides. You claimed a link to the History Channel said just that. It did not. In fact, reviewing the actual proclamation you claimed showed it was for both sides demonstrated conclusively it was not. Now you claim that Logan got the inspiration from Confederates. That is not the same as saying it was created to jointly honor Union and Confederate war dead as you claimed. The text of his proclamation makes that clear.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:26 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's something horribly fascinating about the "what about the slaveowners who were scared of getting murdered in their own bed" and "it is disrespectful to soldiers who didn't own slaves to not honor their slave owning generals" comments. I guess the thing about a racial caste system is that it makes it easier to put aside our common humanity. The Civil War is always about "us" and "our" feelings and how "we" are disrespected and never about "them". I mean, none of us were there, none of us were responsible even indirectly, but that's still how we talk about it...
posted by leopard at 8:05 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Civil War is always about "us" and "our" feelings and how "we" are disrespected and never about "them". I mean, none of us were there, none of us were responsible even indirectly, but that's still how we talk about it...

I think I've told this story on Metafilter before, but I went to high school with a kid with the surname Pickett who was related to General Pickett. Someone (possibly me, I don't remember) made a joke once about Pickett's charge and sort jokingly blamed his family for the Confederacy's defeat. He responded with a tirade, about Robert E. Lee's incompetence, about how Pickett was just following orders, a whole big long thing that he had clearly given many times before. It wasn't just an academic argument, it was personal. Opinions held with the same kind of force as if you blamed his father for something.

Without defending the attitude at all, I can say that, in the South, people do still think that it's about them, as in them personally, and not distant ancestors. The connections are still there, despite the century and a half remove and the fact that there's not really a logical reason for it. It's easy to miss if you're outside the South, because it's not the typically American way of dealing with the past.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:15 AM on May 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Your claim was that it was terrible to knock the Confederacy because the day was specifically set aside by Logan for both sides.

No, I'm sorry if I was unclear. I said that the day originally honored both sides of the Civil War, that it was created in that history, but I was not referring to Logan as creating it - I was tracing its history back to the Confederate Decoration Day where the women lay flowers on the graves of the Union and Confederates alike.
posted by corb at 8:37 AM on May 29, 2013


Shameful nonsense, the lot of you.

It is shameful to use the memories of fallen soldiers who died defending America as virtual human shields to defend people who fought and killed and led the fighting and killing of those same people.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:50 AM on May 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Without defending the attitude at all, I can say that, in the South, people do still think that it's about them, as in them personally, and not distant ancestors.

This, this, this. That comes from a couple of the things about slavery -- 1) slave-holders had to think of their slaves as somehow (Biblically-ordained, genetically, intellectually) less than you (check out the Texas ordinance of secession for an example of this), or else they would be forced to realize that they owned people; and 2) breeding was weirdly important, both for the slave-holders themselves ("I am the son of Plantationowner Beauregard, therefore I deserve the benefits of that plantation") and in their slaves ("that one is strong; I bet his children will be strong").

When abolitionists agitated to end slavery as an institution, they had a reason for it -- that slaves are people, and therefore owning and oppressing them is wrong. If slave-holders accepted any limitation on slavery, they had to accept this premise, which meant A) that thing 1 is wrong, which means they are wrong, and B) that thing 2 meant that they were descended from people who were wrong, which means they are genetically (yes, I know, this word wasn't around, but you know what I mean) wrong: that there is something fundamentally wrong with them.

That is a hard pill to swallow. For a Southerner to admit that the Civil War was about slavery means that he has to admit that his forefathers were horrible people, and that deeply ingrained issue of breeding means that he is a horrible person. It translated to Jim Crow, and it persists to this day.
posted by Etrigan at 9:01 AM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


No, I'm sorry if I was unclear. I said that the day originally honored both sides of the Civil War, that it was created in that history, but I was not referring to Logan as creating it.

This is what you said:

The reason this is offensive the day after Memorial Day is precisely because Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, itself is a holiday that was expressly created for honoring the dead soldiers of the Civil War, blue and gray alike.

You claimed it was offensive for persons to knock confederate officers in this thread because the holiday was "expressly created" to honor confederate and Union dead and then you linked to a History Channel page referring to Logan starting the holiday. You brought General Logan into the discussion. The actual delcaration was obviously only for the Union. Then you claimed Logan was inspired by Confederates. This cannot support your claim of offense. That is the only point I'm making. Do you withdraw that others were being offensive?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:33 AM on May 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


It translated to Jim Crow, and it persists to this day.

Which is why I want to clarify my comment about "trivia like whose stupid name is on the sign at the main gate." How we remember the Civil War is a serious matter, and what think about those who fought the Civil War is a serious matter, because these things have real-world consequences in terms of how we think about and behave towards each other today. My beef is with this line from the article: "The idea that today we ask any of these soldiers to serve at a place named for a defender of a racist slavocracy is deplorable." Anyone who justifies their cause with "I'm only thinking of our troops" needs to start by actually listening to what our troops have to say before presuming to know what their priorities are.
posted by ogooglebar at 9:38 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


...what we think about those...
posted by ogooglebar at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2013


“He purposefully turned down this offer, resigned his commission, and joined the opposing army.”
Because the alternative was taking arms against his home state and his family.

And others who were fighting because after they had launched an attack on the United States of America now had an army invading them.

This.
I think Lee saw it coming. And he was handed a no-win situation. So he chose his home.

“I just spent my holiday with family members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, you don't care about them more than I do just because of some civil war debate.”
Yes. Some people care so much they’re willing to send them needlessly into harms way over out pet issues.

Do none of you get it? Reconciliation is how you end wars. Forgiving your enemy is how you end wars.

Speaking for myself, I have no beef with changing the names of bases. What I take issue with is this “fuck ‘em, we’ll do what we think is right regardless of what anyone thinks” attitude.

Because that’s exactly the attitude people will fight over. Not over the thing itself. Not over something like renaming a base (although wars have been fought for dumber reasons), but over the fact that they’re just going to get rolled over.

That’s why so many people became insurgents. Became radicalized. Not because they were for or against either faction, but because they didn’t like someone they saw as foreign coming into their neighborhood and telling them what they should and shouldn’t do with their lives.


“I don't think we should have prosecuted those who didn't commit war crimes. But we shouldn't call them honorable.”

&
“while honor is relative to the values of the adulator or detractor.”

Words have certain meanings. I use it in the sense of adhering to the laws of war. Fighting in an honorable fashion is not relative. It is used to denote a specific behavior. Not as a generalized “good” meaning. The term has a specific meaning in a military context. Given this bit concerns military officers, the term applies.

“I submit that atrocity is an evil in and of itself… What, precisely, is your point? I haven't defended Sherman's March to the Sea or suggested that Pickett was any less of a bumbling idiot for serving the Union.”

Then we’re on the same page.
One can serve honorably in a disreputable cause. Just as one can serve dishonorably no matter how noble the circumstances. The cause of war itself is not a reflection on the men who do the fighting. Unless everyone who benefits from the cause is on the same hook.
I get a kick out of people who say "well, the troops benefit" and then turn around and say they have no responsibility even though they pay taxes to the same government, the same social injustice that they too benefit.
If that's the level, than at least the people doing the fighting risk something.

But I'm not 100% hooked into all that.
I just know war is horrific and trying to say who's more -morally- justified in marching into someone's neighborhood and kicking over their tea wagon and shooting up the place is a pointless, and antagonistic, endeavor.
The violence is only a good when its necessary. Politics necessitate it. Therefore the morality lay there.

“I have said that Lee's reputation and measurable values do not disqualify him from complicity in the violent defense of an irredeemable institution.”

And I agree with you. My point on von Rundstedt. Command authority. I think in both cases they were on the hook for that, not for the immoral nature of their nation’s cause. There is a difference.

“Lee himself thought slavery was an unmitigated moral evil. What would you call a man who says that freely, and then takes up arms to defend the right to perpetrate that evil?”


A man of his times who was conflicted between serving the right cause and not invading his home land and taking arms against his family. So what was Lee to do if a Union general decides to massacre Richmond?

I’m not defending Lee as a moral paragon. Only as a law-abiding, honorable general. If he was captured by the Union, then he would have sat in a military prison. If he had committed atrocities he would have been prosecuted. But he didn’t.

After the war, the country had the option to prosecute him and punish the South and deepen the rift in the country or pursue peace, which Lee aided in.
And he, and others, were given amnesty. Forgiveness. In order to pursue peace. Which, as in the pursuit of war often requires withholding moral judgment in favor of acting to end the violence.

That’s my point.

Don’t take it personally, I’m not arguing against you. Again, my issue is with rolling roughshod over long settled issues from a century and change ago. It’s not the right way to go about things.
Doesn’t seem to have worked too well for the middle east, say.

“This is about officer-traitors.”

Well, no, it isn’t. The FPP opinion piece and some other opinions cast about are about that.
The question itself was settled by the Amnesty proclamation in 1863. In fact, the proclamation stipulates that those who were not in CIVIL OFFICE and those troops that had fought honorably (specifically – had not mistreated Union POWs) would be given amnesty.

They are by an act of the United States, and so by definition, not traitors.
Contrast this with Jefferson Davis who was going to be on the hook for treason for the conspiracy to kill Lincoln.

Or Capt. Wirz at Andersonville. Wirz was arrested as a war criminal by the Union for mistreatment of POWs, convicted of war crimes (murder by starvation and exposure among them) and was hanged. Or Champ Ferguson who was pretty much the real life Josey Wales. There the Union made the fine point – and well – between his guerrilla tactics and his targeting of civilians. Guerrilla war, nasty but lawful. Killing civilians, no. Also hanged.

Josiah Pillsbury, also an instructive case. He was an officer. But he also held political office. He had to apply personally (with some others) for amnesty because many confederates couldn’t get blanket amnesty, mostly the CSA high command.

But you had diplomats from the CSA who got it, low ranking civil officers, etc.
Where do we place judges, for example, in the South? Are they supposed to leave or be traitors? Or do they stay there and do the rank and file work of government?

They’re in the service of their country just as soldiers were.

So the Union’s solution, which whether one agrees with it morally or not worked since we didn’t have another Civil War, was that everyone (with some exception) gets amnesty except those who acted dishonorably, that is, treated POWs or (former, from the union POV) slaves “as otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war.”

The distinction is between criminal action of an egregious nature and serving lawfully, albeit rebelliously.

assage of years cannot erase or excuse them from their participation and allegiances.”
Not the argument. Lee’s perspective on slavery was debatable. I am not arguing he was for or against it. I am arguing there is evidence for both cases.

“I do absolutely agree with this. Lee was going to be a traitor no matter what he did”

Well, then we see eye to eye. That is my point on the convolution of the political and social situation.

“One, tu quoque hasn't been an acceptable form of rebuttal for quite some time.”
Except that’s not my point. There’s been enough gainsaying in the thread. I think it’s obvious the distinction I’m making is between serving an honorable cause dishonorably and serving a dishonorable cause honorably.

If one serves dishonorably, one is a war criminal, no matter the cause.
If one serves honorably, one is not a war criminal, although one is still subject to military law.
Lee was not a war criminal. End of point.

Motivations, morality, everything else, not the issue, at least for me. With the exception that the moral castigation is counterproductive when the argument is to steamroll over any tangential point of view.
That leads to more fighting.

The base thing, again, meh. Rename them. It’s not going to change warfare, which, I agree, is usually a crime in itself.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:06 AM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


This idea that the average confederate soldier wasn't fighting for slavery because they didn't own slaves is a red herring. All you have to do is look at a century of violence defending Jim Crow when nobody owned slaves to realize that the average confederate didn't need to actually own slaves to find a reason to fight. They were fighting for their depraved and immoral way of life and defending their racial caste system. They continued this fight long after the last slave was freed.
posted by JackFlash at 11:14 AM on May 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


“I just spent my holiday with family members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, you don't care about them more than I do just because of some civil war debate.”
Yes. Some people care so much they’re willing to send them needlessly into harms way over out pet issues.


What?
posted by Drinky Die at 11:17 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die, everyone purports to care about the troops. Typically those with the grindiest axes are the first to put them in harms way, because y'know, they care so much.

Among Blue_Villain's points was that the war in Iraq was started over (among other things) the false assertion that there were WMDs there.
The idea being there is a moral equivalency inherent in the "slavery" assertions with any illegitimate war.

The idea being - if the war is immoral in its cause, then anyone who fights it is also acting immorally.
Which I believe has been implied in a number of comments here.

I disagree with that idea. And I think there's a great deal of hypocrisy in arguing what's best for "the troops," asserting obedience (in some comments without regard to opposition POVs - "fuck them" I believe has been cast about mostly) to a given idea (whether it's great or bad), while demanding moral autonomy from them.

Yeah, doesn't work for me.

But I'm attacking the idea, not you personally. Although you seem to have a real hard on for me for some reason. Even when we essentially agree on points.
But I should stop pulling quotes to point up the idea I'm arguing/championing. It's sort of a mental placeholder for me more than a "noooo! you're wrong!" sorta thing. But it seems to be provokativs. No offense to your family of course. Been there myself.
Probably more of a brown discussion there.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:48 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really know what my previous purporting to care about my family members has to do with any of this but I don't think another "What?" is going to help so we can drop it there.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:57 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I’m not defending Lee as a moral paragon. Only as a law-abiding, honorable general.

I will again submit that breaking your oath of allegiance and committing treason as defined by the Constitution does not square with the idea that he was a law-abiding man. With that, unless there's something new to add, I'll refrain from belaboring the point further, as I think I've made my position sufficiently clear.

One, tu quoque hasn't been an acceptable form of rebuttal for quite some time.”
Except that’s not my point.


Sorry, Smedleyman, I wasn't responding to you there. I was writing a few responses to different people in the same comment. I apologize for the confusion.

Do none of you get it? Reconciliation is how you end wars. Forgiving your enemy is how you end wars.

Of course. The Civil War has been over for 150 years. Repatriation and reconciliation sped the process of recovery. That was then. Now, I have no martial enemy. Now, we have the advantage of historical hindsight. We can see that industrialization was an inexorable consequence of technological advances, and that menial labor could never have kept up. We can see that slavery did not elevate the black person into the possibility for advancement as a race, as Lee thought it might in mitigation for its terrible offense. I do not have to reconcile with heartbroken, divided, conflicted men and women, because they are all dead. I won't reconcile with their modern-day descendants, who adopt positions no one of the time would have, and with those who believe that allowing for the freedom to enslave is a regrettable but necessary consequence of general liberty.

Do I think Lee was a monster? No. Do I think Lee as historical character is an emblem of a tragic, destructive, genocidal practice? Yes, I certainly do. I understand that some people at the time thought slavery was a mandatory and elementary part of the American dream. They weren't right. I'm in no rush to excuse them or their champions, regardless of the purported difficulty they faced.
posted by Errant at 11:57 AM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


The idea being - if the war is immoral in its cause, then anyone who fights it is also acting immorally.
Which I believe has been implied in a number of comments here.

I disagree with that idea. And I think there's a great deal of hypocrisy in arguing what's best for "the troops," asserting obedience (in some comments without regard to opposition POVs - "fuck them" I believe has been cast about mostly) to a given idea (whether it's great or bad), while demanding moral autonomy from them.


Actually, no, it wasn't particularly implied by anyone. In fact, the first person to bring it up was corb, who tried to use it as an emotional bludgeon, and was quickly refuted on both the assertion and the tactic. The next time it was independently brought up was Blue_Villain asserting a line in logic that no one had made, and as illustrated, actually did not agree with.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:58 AM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


“He purposefully turned down this offer, resigned his commission, and joined the opposing army.”
Because the alternative was taking arms against his home state and his family.


And yet other officers from Virginia did not do this. George Thomas, to his honor, rose to high command. General Scott also did not.

“This is about officer-traitors.”

Well, no, it isn’t. The FPP opinion piece and some other opinions cast about are about that.
The question itself was settled by the Amnesty proclamation in 1863. In fact, the proclamation stipulates that those who were not in CIVIL OFFICE and those troops that had fought honorably (specifically – had not mistreated Union POWs) would be given amnesty.

They are by an act of the United States, and so by definition, not traitors.


You guys never do read the actual things you cite, do you? Again, a cite:
The persons excepted from the benefits of the foregoing provisions are all who are, or shall have been, civil or diplomatic officers or agents of the so-called Confederate government; all who have left judicial stations under the United States to aid the rebellion; all who are, or shall have been, military or naval officers of said so-called Confederate government above the rank of colonel in the army or of lieutenant in the navy; all who left seats in the United States congress to aid the rebellion; all who resigned commissions in the army or navy of the United States and afterwards aided the rebellion; and all who have engaged in any way in treating colored persons, or white persons in charge of such, otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war, and which persons may have been found in the United States service as soldiers, seamen, or in any other capacity.
(emphasis added)

Lee and every other officer-traitor was specifically excluded from the provisions of the Amnesty. So no, he is still a traitor and remains so to this day.

Lee was not a war criminal. End of point.

No, he was not a war criminal. He was a traitor to the United States of America. Military bases should no more be named after him than George J. Dash, an American citizen who returned here from Nazi Germany to spy on the United States.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:46 PM on May 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well if we're technically arguing about whether or not Lee is legally a traitor in 2013 (which seems silly to me, to be honest), then wouldn't he be covered by the 1868 amnesty that contained no such reservations?

I mean trying to figure out whether or not a long dead general is technically guilty of a crime would seem beside the point to whether or not we should name bases for him, but if he rose from the dead I think he'd be legally in the clear.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:59 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The fact that a person has received a presidential pardon does not mean they did not commit the crime of treason. This is amnesty for acts of treason. Not saying the person did not commit treason, which they most certainly did. And the fact that they were amnestied doesn't make it proper to name a military base for them.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:03 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


How about Fort Tender?
posted by Apocryphon at 1:34 PM on May 29, 2013


Fort John Walker Lindh
posted by Omon Ra at 2:05 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lindh had no choice but to be a traitor. Members of his own religion, most of them totally uninvolved with the 9/11 attacks, were facing a foreign invasion and occupation. Should he be a traitor against his understanding of his faith or against his country instead? There was simply no option but to choose a side and fight for he was clearly carried by the current of history. How could he simply stand by and sit out the war? In the end he made his choice and joined with a group responsible for murdering thousands of Americans that wanted to keep women and members of different faiths in a state of extreme oppression in a time where most of the world knew that was morally wrong, but we must not forget that he fought against our fellow countrymen with bravery and honor. It is not worth sacrificing our chances for reconciliation with our enemy by not sufficiently honoring the positive aspects of his legacy a century from now.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:19 PM on May 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


Lindh had no choice but to be a traitor. Members of his own religion, most of them totally uninvolved with the 9/11 attacks, were facing a foreign invasion and occupation. Should he be a traitor against his understanding of his faith or against his country instead? There was simply no option

Another traitor. Shooting at US troops is being a traitor. Nobody made him go to Afghanistan. Nobody made him join the Taliban.

As for people not being involved there, that is war. Afghanistan state-sponsored the 9/11 attacks, which killed thousands. You bet you are going to get invaded.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:05 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe you may have accidentally gotten some satire in that sandwich, Ironmouth.
posted by klangklangston at 3:59 PM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


He could have just told Jefferson Davis good luck, but he was going put his feet up and sip mint juleps for the next four years.

No, he couldn't have.
The Union had to invade Virginia. They had to take Richmond.


He didn't have to lift a finger to stop it. George Thomas commanded an entire Union Army. Virginia born and bred.

Keeping an oath is about the hard choices. Otherwise it means nothing. This whole idea that he had zero choice is just crap. He did have a choice. Others had the same choice as he, Winfield Scott, for example. They did not do as he did. The claim Lee had no choice but to betray his country is simply non-factual. He could have made the other choice. A hard choice is still a choice.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:09 PM on May 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


George Thomas is a good example of a Virginian who was loyal to the Union. Another good example would be the naval officer Samuel Phillips Lee (cousin of Robert E.), who famously said "When I find the word Virginia in my commission I will join the Confederacy." Samuel Lee's in-laws, the Blair family, were headed by Francis Blair, Sr., a Virginia-born slaveowner who supported the Free Soil party (!), supported the Union (and had two sons who were abolitionists* and supporters of the Union), and who himself manumitted his slaves, albeit somewhat late (1862).

*Montgomery Blair had given advice to the (losing) prosecuting counsel in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford case -- a case in which Southern states wanted to abolish "states' rights" when it came to the Northern states' rights to determine who was and was not free.
posted by dhens at 7:42 PM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sorry, Smedleyman, I wasn't responding to you there. I was writing a few responses to different people in the same comment.

I of course, never make such mistakes *sheepish grin*

but I don't think another "What?" is going to help so we can drop it there.


My. Mistake. Sorry. I was being unclear. Ok?

Lindh had no choice but to be a traitor

Tongue in cheek sure, but Lindh was a terrorist regardless of whether he was a traitor. And yeah, I do think engagement and reconciliation are appropriate tools before what should be the last resort of using force. I think communication is far more effective than the policy of "we don't negotiate with terrorists."

I think taking him in and prosecuting him in a civilian court was much more productive and conducive to social stability and legitimate government than the endless war policy we have going on now.
I think Lincoln saw the potential for endless war back then and I think they did what they needed to do to achieve a just and lasting peace.

And I think Santayana was right in both of his most famous quotes.


Repatriation and reconciliation sped the process of recovery. That was then. Now, I have no martial enemy. Now, we have the advantage of historical hindsight.

Now, I have no argument against renaming the bases.

They weren't right. I'm in no rush to excuse them or their champions, regardless of the purported difficulty they faced.

From my perspective it's not about excusing them, it's about delineating the difference between a military wrong and a social wrong.
But there's no question the social wrong can be further addressed now.
In fact I think that's the only reasonable assertion here. That the names of the bases are needlessly socially insensitive given the change in circumstances.

This doesn't mean that different circumstances didn't exist at the time though. Everything has a simple solution after the fact.

“Actually, no,”
Actually, yes:

“I'm quite comfortable in stating that, if someone is mortally offended and just plain confused by replacing, say, Fort AP Hill with Fort James Daniel Gardner, they can go fuck themselves.”

&
“The Nazi regime was not and could never be morally justified….Maybe. But he lost, and we know slavery is terribly, horrifically evil, so fuck him.”
Etc.

“Lee and every other officer-traitor was specifically excluded from the provisions of the Amnesty. So no, he is still a traitor and remains so to this day....No, he was not a war criminal.”

So then again, the quibbling here is needless.

The only difference that concerns me is Lee the soldier vs. Lee the confederate leader. I’ve stated that Lee is on the hook for the political question but not on the hook for his military leadership.

As far as his political leadership goes though, I don’t know if working for settling the peace the way he did gets him a break for his actions in defense of slavery. I think it was a legitimate call for the Union to make – at the time.

Now? I think it’s a moot point either way. It’s been settled by history and demanding that people recognize him as a traitor or evil or whatever unnecessarily stirs up shit for what could be a much simpler operation in renaming bases.
(But almost everything said here is academic. So, sure have at it. In terms of actually going and renaming them, I think leaving out the "traitor" thing is just tact to grease the wheels.)

Renaming the bases, again, I think that’s cultural respect. The rest of the dross by the author is unnecessary and overly simplistic.

I mean, if people were aware of the history, why not a base named after Rommel? He made some hard choices. He resisted assassinating Hitler (although he was involved) but wanted to capture him and make him stand for war crimes (it makes Rommel a traitor though, does it not?).
Certainly simple social courtesy though means you don’t name a base after one of the Nazi high command.
But to assert Rommel's case is cut and dried because he was a Nazi military commander is overly simplistic. The author does that. I disagree with it. And by extension other oversimplifications.

The claim Lee had no choice but to betray his country is simply non-factual


Of course he had a choice. I'm merely expressing a non-judgmental understanding of that choice as more complex than illustrated here.

And that that choice is different for a warrior, particular of Lee's caliber, than it is for someone who doesn't possess that skill set. He wasn't a tailor or butcher or lesser commander who could assert his impotency in the matter.
The odds of Lee not being involved in that war in one way or another were negligible.
And either way, given either your argument or the obvious way his people in VA would feel about it, he'd be considered a traitor.
Again, that's the tragedy of it.


“Keeping an oath is about the hard choices.”


Like when to obey the otherwise lawful orders of one’s superiors in favor of the morality and conscience concerning a given cause?
Because I’ve seen a lot of shit handed to American troops by some people on Metafilter (and in other quarters) for participation in the Iraq (and other) wars.
Perhaps I'm offbase, but I distrust moral arguments meted out that way. Whatever the intent.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:14 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, if people were aware of the history, why not a base named after Rommel?

Because people who know the history realize the only important thing he ever did in history was try to win a war and new territory for a nation engaged in a horrific genocide of the impure.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:39 PM on May 29, 2013


the only important thing he ever did in history was try to win a war
The whole, plot to kill Hitler thing, protecting the Jews, all that, no account?

“You may proclaim, good sirs, your fine philosophy, But till you feed us, right and wrong can wait!” - Brecht

People will believe what they want to believe if they think it is in their survival interest to believe it.
Lee differs from the people who more tangibly benefitted from slavery, at the very least, because he was more in harms’ way than they were.

And because the nature of warfighting is, at least when there’s a division between politics and the military – and there isn’t always, and in those cases it doesn’t apply – that the warriors don’t make the political choices as to where and when to fight.
This is an excellent firewall in a citizen-led government, but even despots have found it useful to separate their edicts from the naked force of their execution.

So while there’s no question Lee served a cause that – even regardless of the immorality of slavery – was willing to initiate force to destroy the Union (in contrast the Union accepted war, although they pursued it pretty vigorously, but that was more a feature of the North vs. South’s respective arguments), anyone becomes willing to believe they are doing what’s necessary in order to preserve their home or protect their people.

Even to the point that they will throw in with slavers, pirates, radical religious fundamentalists, etc. and fight to the death for a cause they otherwise find repugnant.
I cut Jihadists all kinds of breaks on that basis. Understanding that their suffering is that not caused because they have no choice, but rather that they have a choice and have blinded themselves to it. (That’s what makes it a tragedy there Oedipus).
And sometimes death is the only escape for them.

I’m fine with making the introductions. But I think part of the reason the absurdity of it hasn’t driven me crazy is because I try to understand, soak in, and see from the enemy perspective.
Rommel was an enemy, surely. As was Lee. But this does not reduce them to only those terms.

I can cede or table pretty much all the other arguments.

But if I didn't think that was an important point to make, or for someone to understand, I wouldn't be wasting my time.

Although, as it is...
posted by Smedleyman at 7:36 AM on May 30, 2013


“Lee and every other officer-traitor was specifically excluded from the provisions of the Amnesty. So no, he is still a traitor and remains so to this day....No, he was not a war criminal.”

So then again, the quibbling here is needless.


You brought up the 1863 Amnesty and claimed it meant Lee was no longer a traitor. I just read what it actually said.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:46 AM on May 30, 2013


The whole, plot to kill Hitler thing, protecting the Jews, all that, no account?

No, not next to the "Try to stop the Normandy invasion" thing that would have prolonged the horror of the genocide and the rest of Hitler's crimes had it worked better.

anyone becomes willing to believe they are doing what’s necessary in order to preserve their home or protect their people.

Anyone might be tempted to believe the safety of their own state is worth actively participating in a key and essential leadership role in prolonging the mass enslavement and genocide of other races? Well maybe, but the great people are thoe who refuse to fall to that temptation and make their priority to fight against those wrongs. We have many examples of Lee's contemporaries who made better choices.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:56 AM on May 30, 2013


The flip side of the split between civilian political leadership and a non-politicised military is that you can't judge people by the flag they were fighting for. The political decisions of the home state are not and should not be a matter for the military who fight under their command.

To think otherwise invites a military coup.
posted by jaduncan at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The flip side of the split between civilian political leadership and a non-politicised military is that you can't judge people by the flag they were fighting for. The political decisions of the home state are not and should not be a matter for the military who fight under their command.

Many of the Confederate generals who now have bases named for them were U.S. Army officers who renounced their oath (Bragg was a U.S. Army officer for more than 20 years and Hood for three, to pick two of the larger bases). I believe that all of the remainder signed up to fight the Civil War specifically.
posted by Etrigan at 8:48 AM on May 30, 2013


Well maybe, but the great people are thoe who refuse to fall to that temptation
I'm not disputing great. Pretty sure I'm talking there about not being a war criminal and the contrast between serving in the military for a country vs. driving the politics of that country.

Pretty sure it's clear I'm talking about anyone anyone, not Generals anyone.
And more than maybe, it's manifest that the vast majority of Germans were not engaged in the resistance. But again, I cut them some slack.

Can we take illustrations as illustrations and not cut up sentences and gainsay them?

"actively participating in a key and essential leadership role"
Military leadership. Not political leadership. Again, there's a difference. That's my fundamental point. Has been from the outset.

No, not next to the "Try to stop the Normandy invasion" thing that would have prolonged the horror of the genocide and the rest of Hitler's crimes had it worked better.

How can you demand a soldier have a political conscience and get involved in politics, and yet condemn them when they do?

I think the trouble here is you think I'm holding Lee up as some paragon. I'm saying he fought lawfully. Rommel fought lawfully.

Rommel should not be condemned as a participant in the war crimes of his political leaders - most particularly because he actively disobeyed illegal orders - and indeed, tried to help kill Hitler.
The military orders to attack the enemies of/defend Germany were in all other ways according to the laws of war.

The tangent, as far as I see it, is that I think "ONLY important thing EVER did" type words lay a moral absolute over the division of military service and political leadership.

So, your friends and family who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the only important thing they ever did in history was to try to win a war and new resources for a nation engaged in a horrific illegally initiated war?

If your position is that this isn't the case, then there's no beef.

Because I'm arguing they didn't. I'm arguing that their officers didn't, even though I think the political leadership at the time should be prosecuted for it. The only people who should be prosecuted for war crimes are war criminals. You are not a war criminal merely because you fight in a given war.

You brought up the 1863 Amnesty and claimed it meant Lee was no longer a traitor. I just read what it actually said.

No, I'm with you. My mind can be changed. My end of it was more the division between solder/politician though. I see what you're saying. I don't think it's productive as far as my end goes.
In terms of renaming the bases, again, I think it's moot. And there are better arguments, or at least arguments more conducive to actually changing the bases.

And it takes two to quibble, so yeah, I'm not laying it all on you IM if that's what it reads like.

.... Man, I've got to work on being more brief.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:33 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Military leadership. Not political leadership. Again, there's a difference. That's my fundamental point. Has been from the outset.

Not a difference that excuses taking the key role in defending the practices of genocide and slavery.

How can you demand a soldier have a political conscience and get involved in politics, and yet condemn them when they do?

I don't condemn them for taking the "political act" of not making the choice to take key military roles in propping up and expanding the territory of regimes as they proceed to industrially slaughter 6 million people. I can't imagine why I would.

So, your friends and family who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the only important thing they ever did in history was to try to win a war and new resources for a nation engaged in a horrific illegally initiated war?

I can't fathom why you think phrasing your argument this way is even close to a good idea.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:56 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't fathom why you think phrasing your argument this way is even close to a good idea.
Because it's illustrative that this isn't an abstract or academic concept. It's a concrete, legal, and enforceable matter. Because it would apply to me as well. I've served. I've led men there. I know how the chain of command works. You're wrong about how it works. I'm attempting to educate you. Period.

Maybe I shouldn't take it personally, but maybe you should ask one of your people what would happen to them if they jumped the chain of command out in the field and went political. Even as an enlisted man.



I don't condemn them for taking the "political act" of not making the choice to take key military roles in propping up and expanding the territory of regimes as they proceed to industrially slaughter 6 million people.

You're being too clever here for me to discern your meaning.

Not a difference that excuses taking the key role in defending the practices of genocide and slavery.

What does "key" even mean? High military command? High political office? Showing up to work as a guard and gassing people at the concentration camp?

I agree, and have stated, that Lee would be subject to command responsibility for his leadership.
Rommel is a different story.
Perhaps I'm not as familiar with military history as people who would boil down long, complex and varied and expansive roles in history into one overly simplistic concept, but it's funny you mention Normandy.
Hitler actively interfered with Rommel at Normandy.
In fact, he actively interfered with the entire command structure of his military leadership.

There was no Supreme Axis Commander counterpart to Ike.

Rommel did not have command responsibility any more than any other general. Certainly nowhere near Lee.
Hitler was supreme commander of the military. Keitel maybe under him. But the navy and air force all had autonomy from Keitel's commands. Even within the army - von Rundstedt commanded the west and it was unclear whether he was subject to Keitel's orders. But his outfit was responsible for the Atlantic sea wall along with Rommel. As was the third air force. And Goering ran the air force and he was a political animal, so obvious command responsibility there.
But the Nazis had a multitude of commands set at odds with each other over the structure of the chain of command. Probably by political design.

So even given the - wrong - idea that serving under a given leadership in a war automatically means you're responsible for war crimes, Rommel (who didn't commit any personally) doesn't even meet the Yamashita standard.
He wouldn't meet the more modern Medina standard either since he did, in fact, take action (or rather, actively refused the order to take action) where he was aware of war crimes.

You're wrong about this in every way that matters.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:50 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dude, can you really not not find a way to "educate me" about high ranking Nazi war leaders and Confederate generals without using my family members?
posted by Drinky Die at 11:06 AM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


“I don't condemn them for taking the "political act" of not making the choice to take key military roles…”

So, thinking about this here’s my answer as clearly as possible:
Military leadership does not make political choices. They serve at the pleasure of the civilian leadership as an agency of the government. If they do not then either there is a military dictatorship, or open rebellion.
Rebellion can be right, wrong, or indifferent, but it is a separate thing from the commission of war crimes.

“Dude, can you really not not find a way to "educate me" about high ranking Nazi war leaders and Confederate generals without using my family members?”


Not my intention. I thought that was clear. But ok, my apologies. Again, I’m in earnest here, not just trying to piss you off.

If you want me to phrase my ideas better than indicate to me in some way that you have an understanding of the separation between the military and civil functions of a government and that policy is made by the political leadership.

Based on that, I (and countless others) place responsibility for government policy squarely on civil leadership, not on the military.

If you agree we have no argument. If you disagree, I’m apparently at a loss to explain clearly the difference between lawful or illegal actions on a battlefield and policy making.

But y’know, a clear straightforward indication would help.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:22 AM on May 30, 2013


Some people just like to... hear themselves talk.
posted by leopard at 11:39 AM on May 30, 2013


Military leadership does not make political choices.

Rommel made all kinds of political choices. His ability to rebel is plain evidence he was willing and able to make them. His political decision to defend the foreign imperial holdings of his genocidal homeland is a more historically significant choice than his political decision that someone besides Hitler should lead that empire.

Lee's choice to resign his commission was purely a military one? As a military officer of the United States it was a military imperative that he rebel? No, he made a political choice to align with the military of a different political entity and forsake his military obligations.

“Dude, can you really not not find a way to "educate me" about high ranking Nazi war leaders and Confederate generals without using my family members?”

Not my intention. I thought that was clear.


It's not complex in the least dude. Just stop it.

Based on that, I (and countless others) place responsibility for government policy squarely on civil leadership, not on the military.

I think you are focused on some legalistic argument and I am focused more on the moral arguments and the honoring via base naming which is the actual topic of the thread. To a large degree we may be talking past each other. Usually I would leave it there, but I think in pursuit of your legalistic argument you have made some extremely flawed assertions that I am pointing out. If you are strictly focused on arguments regarding violation of international rules of war, it would be best if you did not respond any further unless I make specific points along those lines. I'm not Ironmouth, bless him, my perspective is usually not as concerned with legalism.

Everyone in the military has responsibility for their own actions independent of the legal judgements of the day. Some people have roles much bigger than others. If your role as a general is essential to the preservation of evil, your responsibility to the law should be the least of your concerns. If you can sacrifice your life for your country, you can sacrifice it for the end of slavery or ongoing genocide.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:48 AM on May 30, 2013


I am focused more on the moral arguments and the honoring via base naming which is the actual topic of the thread.
Well again, I think I pretty well clearly ceded that end of it.

We disagree on what a "political decision" is by a military commander and I'll let it table.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:03 PM on May 30, 2013


Well again, I think I pretty well clearly ceded that end of it.

I guess, while still asking, "...why not a base named after Rommel?"

You assert that it is oversimplified to suggest his role as a Nazi military commander is enough to say no, I disagree. I think that was our area of debate, not his adherence to war crime conventions.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:10 PM on May 30, 2013


I don't get the Rommel thing. Of course the US wouldn't name a base after him. He fought against the US in living memory. And we don't have any political reason to suck up to Germany (assuming a world where this would please Germany) like the US did to "heal" the wounds of the Civil War.

Of course, healing the wounds of the Civil War ignores the wounds of the slaves and their descendants. But of course, as has been pointed out over and over, those who seem most to defend the naming of these bases, the actions of the South wrt. secession, etc all seem to ignore this.

The actual human beings most harmed by slavery are only a far second to the feelings of the poor (figuratively) white men (and a few women) who get the vapors when confronted with the horrific nature of the South under slavery.

I don't even know if I would spend the money to rename these bases if I were emperor of the universe. But to claim that these names are perfectly fine and that honoring those who took up arms in defense of slavery as heroes is a morally problematic stance.
posted by jclarkin at 1:08 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that was our area of debate, not his adherence to war crime conventions.
And I took pains to illustrate that this was not my POV.

Why Germany wouldn't name a base after Rommel is, to me, obvious because of the social concerns.
Why Germany shouldn't name a base after Rommel because he's "evil" and only evil and will be forever is a simplistic position that, additionally, ignores the (usually) separate operations of the state and the military.

The question "why not name a base after him" would refer to the latter as a basis.

His ability to rebel is plain evidence he was willing and able to make them.
Sure, right before he chose to commit suicide. After choosing the gestapo to threaten his family with torture and execution. Apparently this cuts zero ice with you. Meh. I'm not arguing his individual constraints or moral action, just his military service.

If you see no discernible difference between General Keitel's service and Rommel's, then I have no faith in either your knowledge of the subject or my ability to convince you the laws and customs of war are an actual thing.

As far as I can see your argument is that military service, at least as an officer, or perhaps only as a high ranking officer - you refused to answer my more general questions, is always political involvement.

I disagree. Simple as that. Anything else is digression. Mostly on my part in an attempt to explain. Didn't pan out. Got bogged down in detail.

I don't get the Rommel thing. Of course the US wouldn't name a base after him.

...yeah.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:46 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I took pains to illustrate that this was not my POV.

No you didn't, you spent your time asking us to explain to you why Nazi war leaders should not have bases named after them while playing mind numbingly stupid word games.

Why Germany wouldn't name a base after Rommel is, to me, obvious because of the social concerns.

Obviously we shouldn't name a base after him! That is clearly SOCIALLY wrong! Rommel committed...social crimes! This is an intelligent and deep and complex brilliant thought brought to you by Smedleyman, educator of those ignorant about military chain of command and how your family members are similar to Nazi war leaders.

Why Germany shouldn't name a base after Rommel because he's "evil" and only evil and will be forever is a simplistic position that, additionally, ignores the (usually) separate operations of the state and the military.

Evil? OMG LOL. Wtf. So dumb. Industrial murder of six million people, evil? OMG. It's not EVIL. What don't you understand about "socially wrong?"
posted by Drinky Die at 4:51 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: "Camp Violet Beauregarde"

You are SO asking for trouble with that one.

Camp Violet, you're turning violet, Camp Violet.

Just saying ware thee well of spontaneous decorating.
posted by Samizdata at 1:38 AM on May 31, 2013


ROU_Xenophobe: "the crew of the Firefly

The crew of Serenity. Firefly is a class, not a ship. Which, yes, makes the series title kinda dumb when you think about it; sort of like naming your series "YT-1300" when it's about the adventures of the Millennium Falcon.
"

Not to mention the ship was named for the Battle of Serenity Valley which was when Captain Malcolm Reynolds lost his faith in causes when the Browncoats command rolled over to The Alliance despite the desperate battle Mal and company suffered through.
posted by Samizdata at 1:52 AM on May 31, 2013


Yeah, I am a big dork. What of it?

(BTW, two of my PCs are Kaylee and River.)
posted by Samizdata at 1:53 AM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey I went overboard on that last comment, some RL stress getting to me last night. Sorry Smed.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:40 AM on May 31, 2013


“Industrial murder of six million people, evil? OMG. It's not EVIL. What don't you understand about "socially wrong?"

Public defenders defend child rapists and murderers. Rape and murder is evil. Public defenders are officers in the legal system, not murderers or rapists themselves.

No you didn't, you spent your time asking us to explain to you why Nazi war leaders should not have bases named after them while playing mind numbingly stupid word games.

Well what does “libertarianism” have to do with the civil war? Did I leap to score points when people made factual errors? No. I was asked questions and I answered them. There was a debate, and I contributed.

Obviously we shouldn't name a base after him! That is clearly SOCIALLY wrong!
I can see how people would be offended by it. There’s no reason to needlessly offend people.

“by Smedleyman, educator of those ignorant about military chain of command and how your family members are similar to Nazi war leaders.”

Your position read to me as servicemembers are responsible for the policies of their government and the moral basis of the wars they are asked, or conscripted, to fight.
I’ve served with high ranking officers. Your moral judgment applies to my friends, my family and me. Any understanding there as to why I might be offended?
But that's based more on my assumption than your direct statement. Which, again, there was confusion and we blew past any clarification.

But we’ve been in these threads discussing similar issues. I can’t imagine you haven’t read American troops being blamed for fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan on here. If I recall correctly Chris Kyle, snipers, and military servicemembers in general were called a number of things on that basis. You said nothing.

Now, we’re way down where next to no one reads, so again, I’m not calling you out or anything. And I try to keep the thread’s argument in the thread. But I’m human and I as subject to making assumptions as anyone else.
So that end of it colored my perspective on this. It shouldn't have.
But either the mods go nuts and erase the comment - which I've f'ing hated since dragging Paris Paramus' ass up and down threads or no one else steps up and defends that line.
Here people did comment, but I seem to always draw the lightning.
To be fair though (I don't plan to run for office) I don't blunt my tongue and that can be a lightning rod type problem.

“Hey I went overboard on that last comment, some RL stress getting to me last night. Sorry Smed.”


Yeah, we’re all human. I only get computer time when I’m dinged up, resting or stuck doing a desk so I’m always fighting out from under it. You can't let it bleed over.

The problem is, if one doesn't take this at all seriously then why bother commenting? And on the other hand, if one takes it too seriously, it can bleed over from other threads or other threads can bleed into it. Like I say, about 90% of my perception of a problem with you, apart from the passion for what I'm trying to say.

Working out is good. Or get a heavy bag. Always a good stress reliever.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:57 PM on June 1, 2013


sic semper fures fizzy lifting drinks.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:02 PM on June 1, 2013


Wow, what a discussion! I came into it unsure how I felt about bases named after confederate generals, and I can't say as that's changed, but I will say that this thread, itself, is sort of a metamirror of how brothers and sisters can fight tooth and claw and then, after hurting one another, try to reconcile and maybe even forgive.
posted by MoTLD at 6:17 PM on June 2, 2013


So long as the darker siblings are forgotten it all works.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:33 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, if that's directed at my comment, it came across as mean-spirited sentiment-shitting. I meant what I said in good faith.

If I'm misunderstanding you or it was directed elsewhere, I apologize, but you're gonna need to elaborate if you want your point to be clear.
posted by MoTLD at 3:32 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


With the Firefly references, I'm surprised nobody has specifically mentioned the episode "Jaynestown" or Mal's line to Jayne that "It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of 'im was one kinda sumbitch or another."

For those unfamiliar with the episode or the show, Jayne is certainly one kinda sumbitch or another, and he inadvertently became hero to a town of downtrodden serfs. When they make great sacrifices for him ("You guys had a riot? On account a me? My very own riot?") and he, though quite the oaf, actually feels guilty about it later, it's a character building moment in all senses of the term.

I think it's also quite a parallel with the arguments made above that the south needed their heroes recognized in order to move beyond the humiliation of their loss. Whether that is still the case seems to be in dispute, and must be balanced against the idea that these "heroes" of the confederacy did, indeed, fight against the USA. Is that worse than the horrible deeds done by a few other "heroes" after which bases are named?

There are no simple answers.
posted by MoTLD at 11:54 PM on June 3, 2013


I think it's also quite a parallel with the arguments made above that the south needed their heroes recognized in order to move beyond the humiliation of their loss.

Judging from the modern South, it didn't work.
posted by Etrigan at 3:54 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Judging from the modern South, it didn't work.

Because we never genuinely tried to rehabilitate the South. We still have them under a different rule than the rest of the nation in terms of their voting laws - they are still subservient to the Federal government in a way that most other states aren't. A hundred years later, we are still declaring them more in need of federal paternal guidance. We still make jokes about them and talk about them in ways that wouldn't be cool for other regions.

And once again, we still haven't resolved the issue of what happens when a geographically large and culturally homogenous rural region has a lower population than a vastly geographically smaller urban population. This is affecting Presidential races and other votes today. A non-South example would be the way New York City gets to effectively make law and choose the Presidents and Senators for the rest of the state. Even when a majority of the other counties oppose a law, it doesn't matter much.

So if we are trying to judge from the modern South, maybe we can judge that token gestures are not enough; but judging that the answer to that is taking away even those token gestures is not an awesome idea.
posted by corb at 4:16 AM on June 4, 2013


"Because we never genuinely tried to rehabilitate the South."

Cf. Berlin and/or Tokyo ca. 1946. Granted, those weren't civil wars but The Union wore kid gloves when it came to (not) punishing an openly treasonous rebellion.

"we are still declaring them more in need of federal paternal guidance"

What we, white man?

Southern states usually take a lot more in Federal cash than they actually contribute back through tax revenue.

They are welcome not to do this. For all the dogwhistling that continues even today about young urban bucks buying T-bone steaks with their food stamps, it's overwhelmingly rural whites who are in need of Federal assistance of some sort (and they are perfectly entitled to it, IMO).

To put it another way, without contributions from California and New York the south would be in even worse shape than it already is given it's higher rates of poverty per capita.

"we still haven't resolved the issue of what happens when a geographically large and culturally homogenous rural region has a lower population than a vastly geographically smaller urban population"

Um, the United States Senate was specifically designed to give "small" states a voice. Also, it wasn't just southern states that were worried about under-representation 200 years ago, it was your Rhode Islands and Marylands and New Hampshires as well.

"token gestures are not enough"

Seriously, what do you suggest then? With notable exceptions like (blue to purple) Florida and a lesser extent Texas, southern states need the northern and western ones a lot more than vice versa, financially speaking.

"New York City gets to effectively make law and choose the Presidents and Senators"

This is rich. Democrats would have taken back the House easily in 2012 if not for decades of ridiculous gerrymandering by Republicans.

I mean, the libs in Austin don't get who they want for senate or congress thanks to the fine residents of Dallas and Houston.

This is a feature, not a bug, of democracy.

Republican gerrymandering has worked like gangbusters no doubt, but it's only putting off an inevitable political realignment based on a) racial and age demgraphics (objectively) and b) a GOP that has become post-policy, in effect only acting in terms to thwart Democratic initiatives (less objectively).
posted by bardic at 5:34 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]



Land doesn't get a vote, nor should it.
posted by empath at 6:08 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because we never genuinely tried to rehabilitate the South.

We did, but the people it failed were those the North was trying to help, and it was blocked by the racists in power in the South.

We still have them under a different rule than the rest of the nation in terms of their voting laws

Yes, because they had proven that they did not believe in equal voting rights for over a century, and in many cases still haven't effectively proven that. It is no coincidence that all but two of the states challenging the VRA before SCOTUS are southern states and that the Chief Justice has himself argued against the VRA when he served with the Reagan DOJ. Contrary to the belief you espouse that the South is powerless, it is crystal clear that their power in Congress and SCOTUS is at or near maximal levels. Almost the entirety of the elected GOP (and a good number of those appointed), especially at the Federal level, are reading pretty much directly from the script provided by Southern states. It is near impossible to be a moderate, let alone progressive, on pretty much any issue.

they are still subservient to the Federal government in a way that most other states aren't. A hundred years later, we are still declaring them more in need of federal paternal guidance.

Yes, because in a lot of ways, they have proven and continue to prove unable to adhere to basic civil and even human rights granted by decades of laws (including several in the Constitution) and legal decisions, and as bardic points out, their intake vs contributions is still in the negative.

We still make jokes about them and talk about them in ways that wouldn't be cool for other regions.

And in a lot of ways (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-intellectualism) their loudest members and many if not most of their elected officials seem bound and determined to live up to the stereotypes.

And once again, we still haven't resolved the issue of what happens when a geographically large and culturally homogenous rural region has a lower population than a vastly geographically smaller urban population. This is affecting Presidential races and other votes today. A non-South example would be the way New York City gets to effectively make law and choose the Presidents and Senators for the rest of the state. Even when a majority of the other counties oppose a law, it doesn't matter much.

So you want to effectively make urban voters worth a fraction of the rural vote--let's say, oh, I don't know...3/5 sounds good--just because a majority of people live there. I wonder why so many black folks in urban areas see this as a bad idea and white landowners in rural areas would be happy...
posted by zombieflanders at 6:09 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


"We still have them under a different rule than the rest of the nation in terms of their voting laws - they are still subservient to the Federal government in a way that most other states aren't. A hundred years later, we are still declaring them more in need of federal paternal guidance."

This is because there are still, to this day in 2013, states in the South that are demonstrably incapable of safeguarding the freedom to vote regardless of race that is guaranteed by our Federal constitution. All states are subservient to the rights of their inhabitants, and the freedom to violate the rights of others and subjugate them is not a freedom at all in a meaningful sense of the word.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:01 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Blasdelb, if that's directed at my comment, it came across as mean-spirited sentiment-shitting. I meant what I said in good faith."
I'm sorry if it came across as mean spirited, but there is indeed a terrible rotten core to the 'peace' and ultimately racially exclusive sentiments of brother/sisterhood that emerged after the war, which reeks through any amount of nostalgia one might want to wrap it in. The legacy of that re-found brotherhood is one of manipulative deceit and abject betrayal, genocidal tyranny and callous abandonment, along with a shared gorging between on the labor of millions forced back into slavery. While the re-enactment of Picketts charge in 1913 by veterans exchanging hugs rather than bayonets, Chamberlain's salute of Lee's surrendering forces at Appomattox, and even the naming of our military installations after the Confederacy's incompetent generals are indeed each beautiful in their own way but they cannot hide the stench at the heart of what they represent. They never really could, and they certainly can't now.

The dishonesty of the claim that Americans came back together after the Civil War when so many could not, which southern enlistment and the New South in general were built on, is the topic of this FPP and ultimately itself shittier than anything my ass could hope to contribute to. To continue to aggressively ignore it here of all places is not a pleasant thing, even if done in otherwise good faith.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:03 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


A hundred years later, we are still declaring them more in need of federal paternal guidance.

A hundred years later? Are you dating from the Civil War, or from the mid-1960s, when active disenfranchisement of black voters was still common across the southern US? Either way, the comment is absurd: the passage of the "paternal" Voting Rights Act was a direct response to active, continuing attacks on basic Constitutional rights at the time.

Implying otherwise is nothing but ignorant, and additionally, disgusting.
posted by mediareport at 7:38 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, Blasdelb, thank you for sharing.

You missed my point by a mile, but all the same, you made it perfectly for me.

I was talking about us, here on MeFi, in this very thread. Many have said hurtful things, but many have also been gracious and magnanimous. Others have misunderstood (sometimes on purpose) or been hateful. But we're still a family, warts and all.

We're all the same color here, except for those who choose to express a color.
posted by MoTLD at 7:39 AM on June 4, 2013


Also, by after hurting one another, try to reconcile and maybe even forgive I meant that we may never truly succeed, and I certainly never meant to imply that we're anywhere near reconciled.

But we can't stop trying.
posted by MoTLD at 7:57 AM on June 4, 2013


And once again, we still haven't resolved the issue of what happens when a geographically large and culturally homogenous rural region has a lower population than a vastly geographically smaller urban population. This is affecting Presidential races and other votes today. A non-South example would be the way New York City gets to effectively make law and choose the Presidents and Senators for the rest of the state. Even when a majority of the other counties oppose a law, it doesn't matter much.

We actually have answered the question, on the federal-government level at least. For federal elections, landmass trumps population: votes count more when they're cast in low-population, rural states than high-population, urban ones. And the electoral college doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. On the state level the principle doesn't apply as much because of the existence of statewide popular-vote elections, but we only take action to enforce anti-gerrymandering laws when it gets really, ridiculously blatant.

As far as the NYC example goes, the city contains 44% of the people in New York State. Of course it's going to sway statewide elections. There's only so far you can take the principle of One Acre, One Vote.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:52 AM on June 4, 2013


Southern states usually take a lot more in Federal cash than they actually contribute back through tax revenue.

A large portion of the assistance probably goes to fight poverty within the "black belt", which I suspect the South would be happy to see deteriorate even further without federal interference, perhaps under the guise of "libertarianism."

Within the South, it is the Black Belt's 623 Counties that contain most of the larger region's poverty, low levels of education, and unemployment. In fact, the Black Belt, by itself includes more poverty than any of the other three major regions of our nation - the Northeast, Midwest, or the West. There is more poverty in the Black Belt - black and white - than in the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Furthermore, the Black Belt matches any other region in persons who have not finished high school, and the Black Belt challenges the other U.S. regions in unemployment.

It is Ironic that when we talk about civil war reconciliation it is between northern and southern white people only. I think part of this is natural denial and repression. Slavery and its aftermath are so horrific that it is just easier not to think about it or know about it. Maybe this is why many of us learned so little about African American history in school. But the extent to which we fail to acknowledge this history is one of the extents to which we are still a racist country, imo.

Perhaps the massive growth of Southern Baptism (both white and African American versions) was the primary way the South dealt with slavery, psychologically. It is interesting if you listen to some of the WPA slave narratives, how the first slaves invited to white churches were primarily just taught to obey their white masters. So the church was used as a way to maintain the status quo. But slaves had their own church gatherings, and black congregations were eventually created after emancipation with help from the North which probably did more than any other institution to help newly emancipated slaves, have produced some of the greatest Americans (MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, etc.), and made awesome cultural contributions to our country.

Interview with Aunt Harriet Smith, Hempstead, Texas, 1941
Harriet Smith: Yes, I remember church time. I remember how [John Henry Faulk interrupts]

John Henry Faulk: You remember during slavery times [Harriet Smith interrupts]

Harriet Smith: Yes, I remember how our folks, they had prayer meeting from one house to another.

John Henry Faulk: Uh, the colored folks.

Harriet Smith: Yes, I think it was [unintelligible]. And over at the houses you know, they'd be in the section, a house, and at different places they'd go and we'd have prayer meeting. Ma and pa and them would go to prayer meeting. And dances too.

John Henry Faulk: And dances too?

Harriet Smith: Yes. I've seen pa and ma dance a many a time.

John Henry Faulk: Is that right? During slavery times?

Harriet Smith: Right. My grandma too. My grandma was name R. P.
[...]
Harriet Smith: They was good to us. Good. They never whipped none of their colored people, our colored people. They'd take big saddle horse, Mrs. B's saddle horse, big gray animal, and she'd have them riding. Grandma would ride to Mountain City to church. They had white preachers there. Mr. P., he was one of the preachers that lived across from us.

John Henry Faulk: Well would the white preacher tell you to behave yourselves and be [Harriet Smith interrupts]

Harriet Smith: Oh yes, they [John Henry Faulk interrupts]

John Henry Faulk: Be good to your master and mistress?

Harriet Smith: Oh yes. That's what they preach. We, sure, didn't know there was any such thing as God and, and, and God, you know. We thought that was a, a different man, but he was our master. Uh, our white folks, you know, preachers would refer to the white folks, master, and so on that way. Preach that way. Didn't know no better. All of them, all of them would go up there to church. Then after we come to be free, you know, they begin to, preach us, you know. They, we begin to know, you know, there was a God and so on.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:10 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


"These political leaders who now act with incredibly conscious planning, who shower us with arguments of destiny, redress, security - call it what they will - toss us the lures of wishful projection, and in the world-frame the eventualities are horrifying. That men and women are at their finest for these causes - and they are, foot by bloody foot, friend by bloody friend - is as true as it is heartbreaking."
posted by Smedleyman at 10:16 AM on June 4, 2013


But we're still a family, warts and all.

Well, I took a lot of issue with your casual comparison of the bickering in this thread to the actual genocidal violence of slavery and the massive amounts of blood spilled to overcome it, because that's an extremely facile view of a terrible conflict. But if the US was a family, it would have been jailed a long time ago for domestic violence and child abuse.

Anyway, no, we're not a family, not here, not in the country at large. It's a nice idea, which has at its core the notion that these are just dinner-table squabbles, and after a little bit we can all shake hands and go into the drawing room for brandy. They are a lot more serious and consequential than that.

We're all the same color here, except for those who choose to express a color.

This is about as purely privileged and racially insensitive and ignorant a comment as I can imagine from someone who probably means well. You might want to reconsider this sentiment, because it reads like you are saying, "we're all white and happy together, unless you choose not to be, then that's on you". And, uh, that's not how that actually works.
posted by Errant at 3:41 PM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


Thank you, Errant, for giving me something to meditate on.
posted by MoTLD at 4:03 PM on June 4, 2013


Errant, I would welcome the chance to study my prejudice and privilege in private, with your help, so please MeMail if you care to dig deeper with me. My history is complex, and I have experienced hate and poverty firsthand, so I might understand a minority point of view better than the average white male, but as a white male I lack a certain perspective. I'm sure that shows.

However, there is one thing you said which I would like to address here:

It's a nice idea, which has at its core the notion that these are just dinner-table squabbles, and after a little bit we can all shake hands and go into the drawing room for brandy.

I actually feel this way about life. When it's over, we will indeed come together as whatever lives on after death and have a nice post-game wrap up. Possibly after many, many lifetimes spent living, learning, and maturing as beings. Call it new-agey claptrap if you like, I won't take offense, but I do indeed approach a minor squabble and a bloody civil war as different only in degree.
posted by MoTLD at 5:38 PM on June 4, 2013


"When it's over, we will indeed come together as whatever lives on after death and have a nice post-game wrap up."

Do we get to have slaves?
posted by bardic at 6:41 PM on June 4, 2013


Yes. We get to own the souls of snarky blog commenters.
posted by MoTLD at 7:14 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll take snarky over ignorant.
posted by bardic at 7:32 PM on June 4, 2013


I'd rather be neither. I know I still have a ways to go, but I'm trying.

You're also invited to join me in a private exchange if you want, as is anyone else here, especially if something I said offended you.
posted by MoTLD at 7:35 PM on June 4, 2013


Metafilter: join me in a private exchange
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:43 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reason why we still have the South under voting laws (and should be regardless of what Roberts+4 says) number eleventybillion:
It’s obvious that the efforts of the Democrats’ Battleground Texas are making some Republicans nervous. And that’s leading to some unforced errors that are creating some very bad publicity for the Texas GOP.

Take Texas GOP chairman Steve Munisteri‘s efforts to drum up support for “Battlefield Dallas,” an attempt by Dallas Republicans to counter the Battleground Texas push. Munisteri flew up to Dallas for an event and said all the right things during his speech.

It was billed of “the first public meeting of Battlefield Dallas.”

But a Tea Party Republican made the headlines when he had this to say about GOP voter outreach efforts.

“I’m going to be real honest with you, the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats,” Ken Emanuelson said.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:40 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean just 40 or 50 years ago, they were still murdering people in the south over letting blacks vote or use the same restrooms as white people. You all act like the south has been minding its own business since 1870 and the north started bullying them for no reason. If it weren't for the federal government's intervention, the south would still be under apartheid.
posted by empath at 6:09 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


If it weren't for the federal government's intervention, the south would still be under apartheid.

Yet remarkably, none of the US's top ten most segregated cities are in the south. By another measure, of the top 22 most segregated US cities, just five are in the former Confederacy.

Perhaps federal intervention is due north of the Mason-Dixon line?
posted by Tanizaki at 6:35 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yet remarkably, none of the US's top ten most segregated cities are in the south.

A link from your link that replies better than I could.
posted by Etrigan at 7:03 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yet remarkably, none of the US's top ten most segregated cities are in the south.

A link from your link that replies better than I could.


Notably (emphasis mine):
Race is still an incredibly important part of southern politics. And unfortunately, it’s an increasingly important part of national politics. In that sense, the South has served as a pioneer in exporting its politics nationwide,” says Feldman. “Nationwide, people are being distracted from their common class and economic interests, whether race is the flavor of the day, or prayer in public schools, or abortion, or the tax rage associated with the Tea Party. What you have is a kind of disconnect where working-class and middle-class people are having a difficulty understanding that their support of conservative politicians is not in their economic interest. That is the story of the South in a nutshell.”
It's especially notable that 7 of the 10 cities mentioned are in states with GOP governors, most of whom have what could generously be called a problem with non-discriminatory public policy and voter ID regulations. This is bolstered by quotes from the first Salon link stating that the current GOP is in essence the South:

Philadelphia:
Discussions about race in Philly are usually met with a deafening backlash from local whites, and the comments sections of the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are locally infamous for their bigotry. Witness the letter to the editor written in response to this reporter’s recent article on regional segregation for Philadelphia Weekly:

“Between my wife and I, we work 3 jobs in one household so we can live as far as possible from Section 8 housing. Keep your brave new world, liberal views to yourself. I don’t want section 8 anywhere near me. I don’t want anyone receiving any type of government assistance living near me,” wrote Steve Arlo. “I pay THOUSANDS of dollars a year in Federal, State, City and property taxes to keep it away from my neighborhood. I’ll say it. They don’t deserve to live in or near my neighborhood. When are we going to stop this ‘free money’ mentality? I don’t care how horrible their neighborhood is. You made your bed now sleep in it. Remember, neighborhoods are made up of those that live in them.”

For the besieged white subdivision dweller, the American dream means freedom from society’s poor and black.
Cincinnati:
Which brings us back to Over-the-Rhine, where many displaced blacks moved in the 1960s. In 2001, the neighborhood was the epicenter of major riots that exploded after the police killing of an unarmed black teenager. The neighborhood is now gentrifying. Meanwhile, the region’s segregation remains intact and the matter is not considered a priority for newly inaugurated Republican Gov. John Kasich.

“Right now, we’ve got a pretty reactionary governor,” says Stradling. “And he’s not interested in the urban core. There are a lot of places growing in Ohio, but the problem is how they grow at the expense of other parts of Ohio. I see years of expanded highway spending, and not spending in the urban core.”
New York:
In 2009, the Obama administration signed a landmark consent decree with Westchester County, which is nearly 80 percent white. A lawsuit filed by the Anti-Discrimination Center had charged the county with misrepresenting its affordable housing efforts to the federal government. The suit received widespread media attention and was seen as a blow to racially and economically exclusive municipalities nationwide. But Gurian says the decree hasn’t been enforced.

“The problem is not just a Westchester problem: Over 1,000 jurisdictions across the country are looking to see whether the federal government will … hold Westchester’s feet to the fire,” he wrote. “It is especially critical that there be enforcement because the [Republican] Westchester County executive, Rob Astorino, has publicly defied lawful federal authority.”
Milwaukee:
If you’re wondering if this can somehow, some way, be blamed on union-busting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the answer is yes. Walker took the lead in a campaign against public transit to connect the suburbs to the city during his time as county executive. He thought the funds would be better spent on highways.

“There is virulent opposition in these exurban counties to any kind of regional transit system, particularly a regional rail system. There have been proposals over the years, but they’re always DOA,” says Levine. “Governor Walker’s big issue as state representative and county executive was ‘Over my dead body light rail,’ and he fought with Milwaukee’s mayor over funds for regional rail. He very much represents that suburban and exurban base.”

Levine has done some fascinating research into Walker’s political base. Of the nation’s 30 largest metro areas, Milwaukee had the biggest partisan vote gap between city and suburb, with city-dwellers supporting Obama 31 points more than suburbanites.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:18 AM on June 5, 2013


A link from your link that replies better than I could.

I do not know why you would want to set the bar for yourself so low.

most of whom have what could generously be called a problem with non-discriminatory public policy and voter ID regulations.

In your view, what is the causal connection between voter ID regulations and one's choice of neighborhood? Was it a factor in your choice of neighborhood? Also, in evaluating segregation in cities, why do you look to the party affiliation of governors instead of mayors? The mayors of three of the four cities you called out are Democrats, and two of them are black. Bloomberg is the only Republican but I do not think many would argue that he is importing southern racism into NYC. You can make that argument if you want, but the north has enough domestic production that they don't need the imports.

"In that sense, the South has served as a pioneer in exporting its politics nationwide" is weak sauce. "Oh yeah, I was a normal non-racist person until my Republican governor imported it from the south." It's like the parents who homeschool to protect their kids from bad influences in schools. If things are being done right at home, all the bad school environment in the world will not corrupt.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:35 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


In your view, what is the causal connection between voter ID regulations and one's choice of neighborhood? Was it a factor in your choice of neighborhood?

Because many of the voter ID regulations focus on installing barriers to organization along neighborhood lines or even modifying or precincts that disrupt neighborhoods to create segregated districts, so the choice is being taken out of their hands. There are also onerous restrictions being placed that have been empirically proven to be an extra burden to minorities and youth that do nothing to combat the voter fraud they purport to be in place for. The problem isn't people's choice of neighborhood, it's the effect the voting law changes have on the neighborhoods themselves. Trying to distract from the latter by claiming it's all the fault of the former is some pretty appalling victim-blaming.

Also, in evaluating segregation in cities, why do you look to the party affiliation of governors instead of mayors? The mayors of three of the four cities you called out are Democrats, and two of them are black.

I see you didn't read the article you posted, which is why the quotes I provided from it above include helpful illustrations of how both conservative state policy and local opposition has contributed to segregation or been an obstacle to integration.

Bloomberg is the only Republican but I do not think many would argue that he is importing southern racism into NYC.

*cough*

You can make that argument if you want, but the north has enough domestic production that they don't need the imports.

You can keep on trying to use "the North" as what you apparently believe is subtle code for "liberals are the REAL racists," but the evidence is overwhelmingly against you. Is there racism and de facto segregation in the North? Thanks mainly to widespread acceptance of the "Southern Strategy" and the language and politics of the South amongst conservatives in the last couple decades, there totally is.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:10 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there racism and de facto segregation in the North? Thanks mainly to widespread acceptance of the "Southern Strategy" and the language and politics of the South amongst conservatives in the last couple decades, there totally is.

I would disagree with this causality. De facto segregation in the North predates the Southern Strategy by decades (I highly recommend Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns, about the Great Migration, which has a really disheartening section about how Chicagoans reacted to integration in the 1950s and 1960s). I would agree that the Southern Strategy and the increasingly racially polarizing rhetoric and policies of the nationwide GOP (in service to the former Dixiecrats and their progeny) have increased these things in the non-South, or at least slowed their decrease, but it's not all the fault of Nixon and his ilk.
posted by Etrigan at 8:19 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's hard to say that New York City, a place which was about to declare secession pre-Sumpter, and which has had some of the worst race riots in America, has "imported" racism from the South. I don't think liberals are worse racists than conservatives, but I do think some are racists; Phil Ochs had some choice words to say on that.
In every American community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects, ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.

posted by corb at 8:23 AM on June 5, 2013


Is there racism and de facto segregation in the North? Thanks mainly to widespread acceptance of the "Southern Strategy" and the language and politics of the South amongst conservatives in the last couple decades, there totally is.

I'm with you on the idea that the fact that the cities in the North are more segregated is not evidence of the South's innocence or that the North is the real racists, but the statement that there is racism and segregation in the North "mainly" due to the widespread acceptance of Southern politics in the last couple decades is absurd. Chicago has been among America's most segregated cities since the 60s, at a minimum. In fact, if you read the original article on the most segregated cities it does a good job detailing the history of segregation in each city, which generally predates the "Southern Strategy" by a few decades. If you read the all of the paragraphs comparing Southern and Northern cities in that "Myths" article other than one you quoted, it also does a good job explaining all the reasons why segregation developed in the North that have nothing to do with importing it from the South.

The South has plenty of segregated cities, and plenty of racists, but the North does too, and it didn't get the idea from the South.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:24 AM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


True enough re: racism and segregation in the North, historically speaking, which I guess I should have clarified a little, since I do believe that most of the change (or resistance thereof) that supports continued segregation in the present day depends a good deal on the Southern Strategy, or at least it gave them a structure to use.

I guess what I was trying to do was pull the conversation away from the political rules-lawyering and back towards the recent discussion, which is that the South (and by extension the policies it has imported) has not proven themselves to be rehabilitated when it comes to race, among many other things. Depending on how it was written, I'd support expanding VRA pre-clearance nationwide, since voter suppression at the state and local level, especially that aimed at minorities in historically prejudiced areas, has proven to be a problem that is many orders of magnitude worse than that of voter fraud.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:40 AM on June 5, 2013


I think it's hard to say that New York City, a place which was about to declare secession pre-Sumpter, and which has had some of the worst race riots in America, has "imported" racism from the South

Very interesting link, and I won't argue the very well made point in it that NYC business interests had a large investment in seeing the slave trade continue. But the article also makes another interesting point, in that this charge for succession was led by New York Mayor Fernando Wood:

"Fernandy," as Wood was known to fellow New Yorkers, owed much of his success to Rynders. A Virginian by birth and a gambler by trade, Rynders had reportedly left the South one step ahead of a lynch mob before landing in New York, where he quickly became a gang boss and a "fixer" for the crooked Tammany Ring, the Democratic political machine that ran the city. There was not an election that wasn't influenced—either through bribery or force—by "Captain" Rynders and his gangsters.

So yeah, the guy actively promoting was certainly imported from the South.
posted by Big_B at 8:43 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I think it's hard to say that New York City, a place which was about to declare secession pre-Sumpter,"

I think it's hard to say that New York City was legitimately about to declare secession pre-Sumpter, given your link.

Perhaps federal intervention is due north of the Mason-Dixon line?"

Tanzi, can you please find someone at your local library to explain Jim Crow to you? Because of your efforts to spin the discussion of the Voting Rights Act far afield, I fear you might not actually understand it that well, and it's distracting to have you confuse carping with argument.
posted by klangklangston at 8:54 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tanzi, can you please find someone at your local library to explain Jim Crow to you?

Klangklangston, you're doing that thing where you're being kind of a dick again, but don't actually have to because you could pretty easily be on relatively solid ground, but the dick thing kind of overshadows the argument you could make - which I know can actually be really intelligent and well-thought out and are a delight to read. I am sure I am not the only person who loves reading those.

the South (and by extension the policies it has imported) has not proven themselves to be rehabilitated when it comes to race

I would say that nowhere in the US has proven itself to be fully rehabilitated when it comes to race; vestiges of racism and actual racism lurk everywhere. If your goal is defeating racism, though, I think it actually hinders the purpose to have the South as a convenient scapegoat to point to and say "It only happens there". For example, the SPLC (which I don't always agree with, but quote here because it's patently not a conservative-leaning group) cites California, of all places, with the most hate groups.
posted by corb at 9:21 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would say that nowhere in the US has proven itself to be fully rehabilitated when it comes to race; vestiges of racism and actual racism lurk everywhere. If your goal is defeating racism, though, I think it actually hinders the purpose to have the South as a convenient scapegoat to point to and say "It only happens there".

Which would make sense if anyone was saying it only happens there.

For example, the SPLC (which I don't always agree with, but quote here because it's patently not a conservative-leaning group) cites California, of all places, with the most hate groups.

Adjust for population and get back to us.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:29 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Klangklangston, you're doing that thing where you're being kind of a dick again, but don't actually have to because you could pretty easily be on relatively solid ground, but the dick thing kind of overshadows the argument you could make - which I know can actually be really intelligent and well-thought out and are a delight to read. I am sure I am not the only person who loves reading those. "

Tanzi was resorting to a weak tu quoque and ignoring historical context, and has a history of posting disingenuous critiques rather than plainly stating his argument. As such, I don't generally treat his comments as very serious, and don't feel bad at all about being condescending toward him. If he showed that he respected his interlocutors here, I might care about unfairly dismissing him, but until then, I'm comfortable meeting dickery with dickery.
posted by klangklangston at 9:37 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, you don't respect him, thus you don't care to be respected, yourself?
posted by MoTLD at 10:11 AM on June 5, 2013


Without turning this into a MeTa, could we collectively perhaps agree that stooping to the lowest demonstrated level of mutual respect is not the best idea?
posted by Etrigan at 10:21 AM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


You can keep on trying to use "the North" as what you apparently believe is subtle code for "liberals are the REAL racists," but the evidence is overwhelmingly against you. Is there racism and de facto segregation in the North? Thanks mainly to widespread acceptance of the "Southern Strategy" and the language and politics of the South amongst conservatives in the last couple decades, there totally is.

It has nothing to do with pointing out who are the "real racists". Rather, it is about northern preening about racial enlightenment when the practice of actual northerners show that they are just as comfortable with segregation. And if you are going to blame segregation in northern cities on southern politics, the principles of the northerners weren't very strong to begin with.

ignoring historical context

How much does historical context play into your choice of neighborhood?

rather than plainly stating his argument

In that case, I will spoon-feed it to you. If you want to know what a person really thinks, look to their actions rather than their words. I find it comical when the enlightened ones look down their noses at the racist southerners from their homes in Portland, Austin, Seattle and other locales that are disproportionately white or at least from segregated neighborhoods. Surely you have noticed the segregation in Los Angeles?
posted by Tanizaki at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2013


You win. We're all just as bad for allowing the very complex system of society we have today that makes people of similar races live in the same areas as the people who used to chain up black people in the fields all day.

Well done.
posted by Big_B at 11:20 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"the practice of actual northerners show that they are just as comfortable with segregation"

The legacy of the practice of slavery, which was a literal genocide, has done no favors for any part of America.

That said, while many northerners were complicit in the slave trade via trade companies, and while Lincoln himself had to fight hard to be re-elected due to war fatigue, I would suggest that for all the crap freed slaves had to deal with even when they "made it" north (cf. Invisible Man), it's funny how they weren't, ya know, slaves any longer.

So sure, let's put light on the fact that the North wasn't hardly a bastion of tolerance post 1865. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Let's also look at the rate of lynchings and where they have occurred since then.

Two wrongs don't make a right. And the evil that was slavery remains, as always, evil.
posted by bardic at 11:22 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like whenever people talk about "preening" they are being disingenuous. I wish people would get over the idea that people are just pretending to have liberal or progressive values and are really super racist and sexist inside or really just have the exact same values as conservatives because those are "right" or "natural."

I mean, maybe you're preening. It seems super important to you that we all understand how not-liberal you are.
posted by sweetkid at 11:22 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


"It has nothing to do with pointing out who are the "real racists". Rather, it is about northern preening about racial enlightenment when the practice of actual northerners show that they are just as comfortable with segregation. And if you are going to blame segregation in northern cities on southern politics, the principles of the northerners weren't very strong to begin with."

But if not for preening, how do you align your feathers, Tani? And aren't you rather conflating which Northerners are which? And conflating demographic segregation with voter suppression? Finally, isn't this all tu quoque reasoning where you dismiss the suppression of African American votes and a history of actual, legislated segregation without acknowledging that it was federal intervention in the first place that broke up segregation in the South?

"How much does historical context play into your choice of neighborhood?"

Quite a bit, actually. Have you truly never heard of redlining? Or was this a facetious attempt to remove scrutiny from your views by being dismissive of others' comments?

"In that case, I will spoon-feed it to you."

See, I find that your views don't actually survive much actual scrutiny, and I think that's why you consider it such a burden to speak plainly. With snide comments, we might suspect you of being an ignorant ass; with plain argument, we can see it demonstrated.

"If you want to know what a person really thinks, look to their actions rather than their words."

Right, so, like, disenfranchising black people under the rubric of preventing voter fraud? You'd be against that, right?

"I find it comical when the enlightened ones look down their noses at the racist southerners from their homes in Portland, Austin, Seattle and other locales that are disproportionately white or at least from segregated neighborhoods. "

That's a mighty broad brush, and you haven't demonstrated that the neighborhoods us MeFites are snarking from are actually the segregated ones in said cities.

I have noticed the segregation in Los Angeles — and I know its history. But I actually live in the most diverse neighborhood in LA. Where do you live, Tani? Do your actions show that you don't value diversity and have moved to a segregated enclave?
posted by klangklangston at 11:22 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Portland, Austin, Seattle"

Hipsters are the real slave-owners, dontcha know.

Pathetic.
posted by bardic at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


It has nothing to do with pointing out who are the "real racists". Rather, it is about northern preening about racial enlightenment when the practice of actual northerners show that they are just as comfortable with segregation.

I'm sorry, I don't see how your second sentence doesn't contradict your first.
posted by Etrigan at 11:29 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


It has nothing to do with pointing out who are the "real racists". Rather, it is about northern preening about racial enlightenment when the practice of actual northerners show that they are just as comfortable with segregation.

This doesn't even make sense. You're continuing to conflate Northerners with liberals and minimize the effects and influence of the racist South on both current segregationist policy and the perception of the South itself. The continuous refrains of "Why is everybody making the South out to be the bad guys?!" that have been the mark of racists and slavery apologists for centuries now is repugnant, and the fact that it's being used in this thread repeatedly is getting increasingly more awful.

And if you are going to blame segregation in northern cities on southern politics, the principles of the northerners weren't very strong to begin with.

This has already been addressed, and at there's data that does indicate that the segregation in Northern cities now seems to be as much if not more of a function of the Southernification of conservatism over the last several decades as pre-Nixonian policy.

In that case, I will spoon-feed it to you. If you want to know what a person really thinks, look to their actions rather than their words. I find it comical when the enlightened ones look down their noses at the racist southerners from their homes in Portland, Austin, Seattle and other locales that are disproportionately white or at least from segregated neighborhoods. Surely you have noticed the segregation in Los Angeles?

Well, then you've done a truly poor job of explaining, considering your original argument was active (segregation policy) rather than passive (intercity migration). This is evidenced by initally providing a list of cities where segregation policy existed, then providing a link talking purely about ethnic diversity, then providing yet another link where you cherry-pick one city yet avoid a number that contradict your argument in either your first or second link, or both. For instance, both your first and third link hold up Los Angeles as a poor example of integration, but your second link compares it very favorably to Portland and Seattle. Or what about Houston and Miami, which also appear as smugly self-satisfying examples of how former Confederate states are doing so well with diversity, but show up as comparable or worse to Los Angeles in terms of dissimilarity scores?

But again, this all seems like a poorly-disguised attempt to pull the conversation away from the very real effects of slavery and Jim Crow in the South, the legacy that exists there today in plain sight, and the way that all three of those are being used as cudgels by a conservative movement that shows very little difference with them.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:33 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


[klangklangston, Tanizaki, go to your separate corners or take it to email, don't make everybody else watch you two do this dance.]
posted by cortex at 11:35 AM on June 5, 2013


I think that there are a lot of causes for de facto segregation. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know all of them. I do think though that it's quite possible such strong segregation exists in the North is because, for the most part, the black population of the North was much smaller than that of the South pre-Civil War, and post-Civil War, recently freed slaves often travelled to areas which had existing black populations. Some of that might have been out of a desire for security, some of it might have been out of poverty.

But it means that you have entire states in the Northeast that are 94%, 95%, or 96% white. Which is sharply in contrast to the remainder of the USA. Should we say those states are racist? Probably not. Segregation cannot be the only standard used to measure racism - particularly when so much of it is economic rather than racial. (Yes, I know that the one helped impact the other, but I'm talking about how it actually plays out in immediate impact today.)
posted by corb at 11:39 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"the black population of the North was much smaller than that of the South pre-Civil War"

Gee, I wonder why?
posted by bardic at 11:45 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'll be the first to admit that I don't know all of them. I do think though that it's quite possible such strong segregation exists in the North is because, for the most part, the black population of the North was much smaller than that of the South pre-Civil War, and post-Civil War, recently freed slaves often travelled to areas which had existing black populations. Some of that might have been out of a desire for security, some of it might have been out of poverty."

There's that, and there's also that a lot of the North was only "not-racist" compared to the insane levels of racism in the South, tied to, yeah, slavery's abhorrent legacy.

People sometimes forget that there was an active civil rights movement in the North too, and that a lot of the endemic racism of the North was only challenged by, yup, those self-same liberals that are somehow dismissed by pretending they all live in Livonia, Mi.

One book I'd recommend for talking about how Chicago's racist structure came about is Boss by Mike Royko, which is all about Mayor Daly. He was a racist and basically enforced a redlining scheme in Chicago for many years, the legacy of which is still felt today.
posted by klangklangston at 11:51 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


People sometimes forget that there was an active civil rights movement in the North too, and that a lot of the endemic racism of the North was only challenged by, yup, those self-same liberals that are somehow dismissed by pretending they all live in Livonia, Mi.

Hey, Livonia's under 92 percent white as of 2010.

That one "Guamanian or Chamorro" person has been in the Census results since 1960. I so desperately want to find him or her.
posted by Etrigan at 11:58 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's that, and there's also that a lot of the North was only "not-racist" compared to the insane levels of racism in the South, tied to, yeah, slavery's abhorrent legacy.

The thing is, what I have a really hard time with is what seems like "washing hands" of the whole mess. Honestly, for me it's probably tied a lot to my personal feelings about war experiences - where people who give the orders or arrange for troop movements (or vote for or fund the war) don't feel like they're guilty of anything or even responsible for how the war happens - they blame the trigger-pullers or the intel folks or even the civil affairs guys or just anyone but themselves. So this idea of "It's not us, it's these other guys" just really resonates strongly and leaves a bad taste in my mouth, maybe more of a bad taste than someone else would get.

And it's the same bad taste that I get from what seems like the North's frantic distancing from how tied they were to slavery. Yes, slavery wasn't as prevalent there - largely I think due to how unprofitable it was - but it still existed. The slave ships came out of here. New York City was a major slave hub (called by some the capitol of American slavery). We sold the goods to the slaveholders that they used to continue and profit from slavery. Slaves and the money obtained from their traffic built our cities.
To be clear, King Cotton's home was Wall Street. Thus, by 1860, nearly 4 million enslaved Africans in the U.S. were valued at $3 billion, which, according to authors Farrow, Lang and Frank, was "worth as much as all the country's factories, railroads, and livestock combined. Cotton was the single largest U.S. export, and New York City was the financial capital of the cotton kingdom," with worldwide implications.
We plowed over slave graveyards. (That article notes that New York had more slaves than any other city but Charleston, SC in the 18th century, though I'm not sure if that's accurate) We were morally guilty as much as anyone, and the whole "At least I'm not that guy" stuff gives us a free pass that I really don't think we should have.
posted by corb at 1:35 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


who is washing hands or saying "I'm not that guy"?
posted by sweetkid at 1:41 PM on June 5, 2013


Well, it feels to me - and I stress the subjective word feels, because this is an emotional impression rather than something quantifiable - that the amount of condemnation of the South for being slaveholders is largely due to two factors: ignorance of the extent to which slavery permeated the North as well, or a desire to wash hands of the guilt/blame for slavery because there's a convenient target. And I think this sort of thing flares up a lot in Civil War threads - people have very, very visceral reactions to the South and the secession that to me, seem like they must be rooted in one of those two. I tend to assume the latter is more responsible than the former, though it could be either or both, certainly.
posted by corb at 1:46 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But it means that you have entire states in the Northeast that are 94%, 95%, or 96% white. Which is sharply in contrast to the remainder of the USA.

Yes, the remainder of the USA which imported black people en masse for slave labor or was annexed from Mexico and Spain.

Believe me, no one has to tell me that there's plenty of racism in the North, or that there were also slaves in the North, or that some of the states fighting for the Union were themselves slaveholding. But the Civil War was only 150 years ago, which is really not very long at all ("two 70-year-old ladies living and dying back to back") and most people tend to keep their new families close to their old ones. There wasn't a lot of slavery in Connecticut. Hey, look, there's not a lot of black people in Connecticut. How about that.

Besides which, "you're racist too!" or "you're more racist than me!" is a self-incriminating tu quoque argument, so I don't think it's a strong rhetorical tactic. But hey, knock yourselves out.

I don't see anyone here saying that the North wasn't wildly complicit in the practice they then warred to abolish. I don't see anyone saying that racism is confined to backwards Southern states. I see a lot of people, in response to people saying the Civil War wasn't about slavery, saying, yeah, it very was, and the effects of that divide are still being felt, in part because the South and its predominant political party can't stop talking about how they'll rise again and slavery wasn't the issue and actually white business owners should be able to refuse services to black people because something something free market and actually we shouldn't even have a 14th amendment because obviously people born here are citizens and no one's ever disputed that fact and also anchor babies aren't though.

When they stop doing all that and the other shit, maybe they'll finally start to shed their incredibly well-deserved reputation. Until then, sorry you feel the need to defend a government and a region founded on and inextricably tied to the practice of slavery, that's a bad break for you.
posted by Errant at 1:50 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it actually hinders the purpose to have the South as a convenient scapegoat

a desire to wash hands of the guilt/blame for slavery because there's a convenient target


The South isn't a target of "convenience" when it comes to slavery, racism, and segregation. The more you keep on saying that (and the more you claim people are saying it's "exclusive" or "the only reason" when they don't) the more it sounds like the self-same apologia and hand-washing that you claim is so abhorrent.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:51 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Errant, you were doing great until you stepped into your own rhetorical trap. Nobody has been saying those things in that way either.
posted by MoTLD at 2:05 PM on June 5, 2013


I'm not sure what rhetorical trap Errant stepped in. "Slavery wasn't the issue" is a popular revisionist comeback even amongst genteel conservatives, there's ample evidence of Southern triumphalism that at best doesn't distance itself from neo-Confederacy, attempts of people like Rand Paul to get away with criticism of major pieces of civil rights law are well-documented, and the nativist/"anchor babies!!!" crowd is about to collect Rubio's scalp on their merry way to destroy immigration reform.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did anyone here spout revisionist nonsense or quote Rand Paul?

Putting words in others' mouths is the trap to which I refer. Don't jump in it feet first yourself!
posted by MoTLD at 2:20 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Slavery wasn't the issue" is a popular revisionist comeback even amongst genteel conservatives, there's ample evidence of Southern triumphalism that at best doesn't distance itself from neo-Confederacy, attempts of people like Rand Paul to get away with criticism of major pieces of civil rights law are well-documented, and the nativist/"anchor babies!!!" crowd is about to collect Rubio's scalp on their merry way to destroy immigration reform.

And, see, this is the problem.

You, and some others, don't seem much like you're interested in an actual discussion with some of us with differing views on the Civil War, and whether or not its heroes deserve to be honored, so much as you're angry at a lot of other things, and this is a trigger issue for you. You're (per your statement) angry about proud Southerners, angry about what you perceive as revisionism, angry about Rand Paul's politics, and angry about anchor babies. And those all may be, depending on your life experiences, completely valid and reasonable things for you to be angry about. But the bulk of that isn't really what is being talked about here - but you seem to be bringing it to the table anyway. I don't think you're alone in this - I think this is part of a larger issue that even speaks to the heart of a thread, of why, a hundred years later, people are even thinking of renaming bases.

But it's not really awesome when you or anyone is fighting with these people that we can't see, because they're not even in the conversation, and it makes the whole thing more heated when it doesn't need to be. We can have a gentleman's disagreement, as it were, without being out for blood.
posted by corb at 2:29 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did anyone here spout revisionist nonsense or quote Rand Paul?Apart from the fact that corb has been and still making the "it's really Northern economic tyranny" argument, it looks like Errant was talking about conservative arguments in general rather than ones on this thread specifically.

Putting words in others' mouths is the trap to which I refer. Don't jump in it feet first yourself!

Pot, kettle, etc.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:30 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pot, kettle, no!

Show me where I made generalizations and then attributed them to someone specific, like you just did to corb, or back off.
posted by MoTLD at 2:35 PM on June 5, 2013


Did anyone here spout revisionist nonsense
Yes.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:37 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is historically inaccurate in that comment, tmotat? I see opinion aplenty, but no revisionism.
posted by MoTLD at 2:43 PM on June 5, 2013


What's historically inaccurate? Seriously?

"No, no it was not. Because slavery was not illegal at the time of the secession.

Yes, the treason was in defense of slavery, which was the HUGE FUCKING REASON for secession.

The Emancipation Proclamation came after the Civil War had already begun, and only applied to the rebellious states.

This does not demonstrate that secession was not over slavery. And the seeds of a battle over slavery were pretty much set by the Compromise of 1850. And more to the point, the immediate catalyst was Lincoln's election on a platform of not expanding slavery to new states, and the presumptive failure of Northern states to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act to South Carolina's preference.

It was absolutely resistance against a foreign occupation - that is why they fired on Fort Sumpter, which was not only occupying, but resupplying troops - in many ways believed to have been a way for the North to force a conflict.

That's flat bullshit. Sumter was federal property — not state property — and the Confederacy's illegal attempt to siege Sumter is what led to the war. Calling it "foreign occupation" is nonsense and relies both on a presumption of legitimacy for the Confederacy and ignoring that the Confederacy was essentially attempting to commandeer Union military bases. That "many believe" it was the North trying to force a conflict is both weasel-words and pretty facially inaccurate; Buchanan wanted to avoid a war even as he was resupplying Sumter.

So, yeah, it's revisionist bullshit dressed up in a "some say." That you haven't been able to glean that from the several hundred comments prior addressing that is frustrating.
posted by klangklangston at 2:59 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


And, see, this is the problem.

You, and some others, don't seem much like you're interested in an actual discussion with some of us with differing views on the Civil War, and whether or not its heroes deserve to be honored, so much as you're angry at a lot of other things, and this is a trigger issue for you.


You just claimed that how your emotions might be affecting your argument, and now you want to make it seem like emotional reactions are what's problematic with everybody else's arguments? You can't have it both ways, either emotions are part of the discussion on both sides, or neither.

You're (per your statement) angry about proud Southerners, angry about what you perceive as revisionism, angry about Rand Paul's politics, and angry about anchor babies. And those all may be, depending on your life experiences, completely valid and reasonable things for you to be angry about. But the bulk of that isn't really what is being talked about here - but you seem to be bringing it to the table anyway. I don't think you're alone in this - I think this is part of a larger issue that even speaks to the heart of a thread, of why, a hundred years later, people are even thinking of renaming bases.

Actually, I think the real problem is that you and others are trying very hard to divorce the Civil War and the worship of its heroes from all the myriad problems that are inextricably tied in with that. You can't just strip the war and the generals from the context of the centuries that surround them on either side and call it a day. I wouldn't be angry at the oh-so-innocent "proud Southerners" if that pride didn't revolve around worshipping people who supported and fought for slavery and segregation and racism, often times rather enthusastically because of the Civil War. I'm angry about Rand Paul's racial politics because they defend systems like segregation that are the direct descendants of slavery and those who fought to protect one or the other or both. I'm angry about people who complain about anchor babies because it comes from a protectiveness of an insular lifestyle that was aided and abetted by slavery and racism and segregation.

So, yes, the bulk of that really is what is being talked about here, over and above your vehement protestations that we shouldn't be talking about them because it interferes with arguments about honor and economic tyranny. Just because you and others don't want to bring it to the table For Reasons doesn't mean that it should be. In fact, it really does need to be discussed, because going out of the way to avoid talking about all of the surrounding factors is a large contributor to the white-washing (in several ways) the history of race and culture in this country, something a lot of people seem rather anxious to do.

But it's not really awesome when you or anyone is fighting with these people that we can't see, because they're not even in the conversation, and it makes the whole thing more heated when it doesn't need to be. We can have a gentleman's disagreement, as it were, without being out for blood.

Maybe you can't see these people, which is a damn shame, because they are part and parcel of the conversations we should be having about the history and legacy of the Confederacy. Most of this thread have already tried the gentleman's disagreement, but you don't want that, you want to have arguments that sound reasonable but have very ugly underpinnings.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:00 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll be back when I calm down. Y'all are maddening.
posted by MoTLD at 3:01 PM on June 5, 2013


Pot, kettle, no!

Show me where I made generalizations and then attributed them to someone specific, like you just did to corb, or back off.


The very post I responded to looked very much like putting words in Errant's mouth. And as for supposed "generalizations" of corb's arguments? I shouldn't really need to remind your that there's quite a few times where she makes the war out to be the economic tyranny or imposition of anti-slavery "will" of the North, since it appears you've read those parts of the thread.

What is historically inaccurate in that comment, tmotat? I see opinion aplenty, but no revisionism.

The claim that the North forced the war by resupplying Ft. Sumter, for starters, which was debunked shortly after.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:03 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The characterization of the war as "resistance to a foreign occupation" is a revisionist stance. The "nonsense" would be determined by the tack one takes on the War.
I am getting a lot of anti-revisionist stuff in the search, the core would seem to be from The Rise Of American Civilization by Charles and Mary Beard (via Lew Rockwell)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:05 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


This does not demonstrate that secession was not over slavery.

One of the authors mentioned in the Rockwell link above makes the point that really it should be separated into 2 questions: "Why Did The Confederacy Secede?" and "Why Did The Union Go To War?" Stromberg's paper The War for Southern Independence: A Radical Libertarian Perspective (PDF) marks itself out as one in the 'revisionist' camp: "as such, it will disagree in many ways with existing interpretations. It will be frankly evaluative in libertarian terms and will not assume that things "had to" turn out just exactly as they did pace the Locomotive of History)"
Inside the paper:
Concrete interests of state power combined with the potent ideology of nationalism, then, account for the Lincoln administration's policy of war and subjugation. Unsurprisingly, the political and ideological reasons were inextricably intertwined with economic motives
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:15 PM on June 5, 2013


People in this thread have said that the Civil War was not primarily about slavery. People in the public record have made the arguments I attributed to "the South and its predominant political party". People in this thread, including myself, are responding to the current political context as well as specific statements in this thread which play off of that context. I do not believe I have misidentified the proponents of any arguments I mentioned, and I don't believe that MetaFilter is some vacuum where contemporary rhetoric does not exist and only the things said here matter.

But the bulk of that isn't really what is being talked about here - but you seem to be bringing it to the table anyway.

It wasn't zombieflanders who started the whole "but the North and smug liberals in white cities are just as bad" thing. It seems like a derail to me too, but it seemed like a derail before, and it didn't bother you then. Anyway, the point is, it's still really bad, and Southern pride justifying Lost Cause revisionism is a big part of the reason why.

But it's not really awesome when you or anyone is fighting with these people that we can't see, because they're not even in the conversation, and it makes the whole thing more heated when it doesn't need to be.

The author of the article and the authors of the article's rebuttals aren't in this thread either, but we may respond to their arguments as presented. All of these things are most certainly part of the conversation. I'm not sure why you think gentle whitewashings of slavery and the Civil War should not provoke heated responses, but this appeal to decorum isn't going to work with me. You are not the arbiter of how heated the opposition to your arguments should be. I do not believe I have been uncivil, which is about as good as you can reasonably expect.

You, and some others, don't seem much like you're interested in an actual discussion with some of us with differing views on the Civil War, and whether or not its heroes deserve to be honored, so much as you're angry at a lot of other things, and this is a trigger issue for you.

I would love to discuss differing views on the Civil War, when you present some that aren't historical lunacy. I do not believe there are such things as Confederate heroes, and even if we disagree on that point, I do not believe the Union has any responsibility to honor them and indeed has a responsibility to disavow and decry them. I don't believe in banning speech, but if I did, displaying the Stars and Bars would be pretty high on my list of things you don't ever get to do again. From which part of that would you like to differ?
posted by Errant at 4:28 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


You just claimed that how your emotions might be affecting your argument, and now you want to make it seem like emotional reactions are what's problematic with everybody else's arguments? You can't have it both ways, either emotions are part of the discussion on both sides, or neither.

When I realized emotions were affecting how I was interpreting things, I owned up to them and tried really hard to think about why and how it was affecting them, and then disclosed that, while trying really hard to make sure they don't. I don't think that's a bad model. Everyone has emotions, but it's important to be self-aware and also externally accountable. I will also admit that I was responding very quickly, rather than thinking things out and giving a lot of measured cites. I think that tends to happen when folks dogpile, but it wasn't great on my part either.

The claim that the North forced the war by resupplying Ft. Sumter,

Here's some reading on the North's decision to resupply Sumter rather than surrender it as a tactical decision to force the South to fire - even given that there was an offer to buy Fort Sumter from the governor of South Carolina - and the fact that most actually wanted it surrendered. Remember, again, that the South had seceded four months before the Civil War began and actually, before Lincoln had officially taken office. Also, that Lincoln had sent a man down there to see the lay of the land - while ostensibly advising that the North would surrender the fort. I really strongly urge you to read the whole thing of my first link, I cannot adequately summarize but it is a really educational read.

Some interesting points:
How is it possible to reconcile the declaration that he (Lincoln) would occupy "the property and places belonging to the government" with the promise that his government would not assail his dissatisfied fellow countrymen who either held or claimed the right to those places? While ostensibly addressing the Southerners, was he really directing those last soothing words to the anxious antiwar elements in the North? ...

...In the letter which Lincoln wrote the chagrined captain on May 1 to console him for the failure of the fleet to enter Charleston harbor, he said, "You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail, and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result."
posted by corb at 4:46 PM on June 5, 2013


More importantly, the account of the Sumter incident (from Lincoln's own secretaries)
The intervening time was spent by him in consulting his Cabinet and his military and naval officers about possible plans for relief and reenforcement...watching the culminating treason in the South and the slowly swelling loyalty in the North...using the delay which the rebels supposed they had contrived for their own benefit for preparing the Sumter expedition...and finally, by all this, to gain a coveted "choice of position" and compel the rebels to attack and thus consolidate the North.

When he finally gave the order that the fleet should sail he was master of the situation; master of his Cabinet; master of the moral attitude and issues of the struggle; master of the public opinion which must arise out of the impending conflict; master if the rebels hesitated or repented, because they would thereby forfeit their prestige with the South; master if they persisted, for he would then command a united North.
posted by corb at 4:58 PM on June 5, 2013


You mean, some reading by well-known (first wave, even!) revisionist Charles Ramsdell, who held that slavery was a non-issue and had reached its historical limits, and despised Lincoln for what he saw as an atrocity forced upon the South?

I mean, it's kind of hard to avoid the charge of revisionism when the man you look to for interpretation was explicitly a Southern revisionist recasting the then only decades-old consensus on what had happened.

Here, here, here, here, and here.

Notably, Ramsdell held that a civilized, separate Confederacy would have been possible "had the Confederacy won a single battle."
posted by klangklangston at 5:04 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank goodness for Wikipedia's disambiguation pages...

When I hear "historical revisionism," I think "historically inaccurate." If y'all were using it to mean "an unorthodox reinterpretation of history," I don't see where all the vitriol is coming from. If you don't want to lump those who reinterpret history in with those who flat deny it, please disambiguate.

If you did it on purpose, shame on you. But I admit, corb was being revisionist by disagreeing with the orthodox interpretation of history. However, we should all be revisionist in that way once in a while unless we want to call ourselves conservatives.
posted by MoTLD at 5:08 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The South Still Lies About the Civil War.
posted by klangklangston at 5:16 PM on June 5, 2013


Yeah, I think the charge of "historical revisionism" is often one, per that Wikipedia article at least, I interpret as meaning the negative sense - the deliberate misrepresentation of history in order to cover up an awful event or a war crime. They list deliberate mistranslations of texts, falsification of documents, etc etc.

I would never assign the charge of "revisionism" to "someone who sincerely, using evidence, comes to a different conclusion about historical events than I do." But it seems that's a handy way for historians to attack each other - instead of saying, "I think you're wrong, and here's my evidence" they can say, "You are a revisionist, so none of your work matters."

Klangklangston, on a sidenote, do you think that Lincolns' South-hating secretaries were also engaging in historical revisionism to protect the South's narrative, when they said Lincoln's act was deliberate and brilliant?
posted by corb at 5:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"If you did it on purpose, shame on you. But I admit, corb was being revisionist by disagreeing with the orthodox interpretation of history. However, we should all be revisionist in that way once in a while unless we want to call ourselves conservatives."

Come on. That's facile excuse-making that disagrees with the fundamental problem — She's not merely "reinterpreting history," she's positing flattering lies that absolve the legacy of racism and slavery for the South, especially in order to continue honoring traitors.

Honestly, it's like commenting about Holocaust denialism that we should all deny some things from time to time — it's a facile, contentless dodge that squares well with your previously stated valuing of comity over honesty. That's why people are upset.
posted by klangklangston at 5:19 PM on June 5, 2013


klangklangston, check yourself.

You are the one using the wrong definition of revisionism, and being facile, by bringing Holocaust deniers into it.
posted by MoTLD at 5:25 PM on June 5, 2013


she's positing flattering lies that absolve the legacy of racism and slavery for the South,

Klangklangston, when you say this, I want you to be aware of how you are coming off. To my eyes, you're not saying, "You're wrong, and here's why." You're saying, "You are a lying liar what lies - you damn well know the truth, and are deliberately spreading falsehood."

Is that actually, genuinely, what you believe? Do you really think that I genuinely believe that the North fought a gallant, heroic war to end slavery, but am somehow, for some mysterious reason (given I'm not even from the South, and have spent less than four months total south of the Mason-Dixon line) lying about my true beliefs on Metafilter?
posted by corb at 5:26 PM on June 5, 2013


your previously stated valuing of comity over honesty

Please cite.
posted by MoTLD at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2013


"You are the one using the wrong definition of revisionism, and being facile, by bringing Holocaust deniers into it."

Well, no. I'm using a pretty standard definition of historical revisionism, one that's been used for over 50 years. And Holocaust denialism is historical revisionism. And, guess what? To me, a defense of Nazism and a defense of the Confederacy is morally pretty much the same thing.

As to where you value comity over honesty:"I actually feel this way about life. When it's over, we will indeed come together as whatever lives on after death and have a nice post-game wrap up. Possibly after many, many lifetimes spent living, learning, and maturing as beings. Call it new-agey claptrap if you like, I won't take offense, but I do indeed approach a minor squabble and a bloody civil war as different only in degree."

"Klangklangston, when you say this, I want you to be aware of how you are coming off. To my eyes, you're not saying, "You're wrong, and here's why." You're saying, "You are a lying liar what lies - you damn well know the truth, and are deliberately spreading falsehood.""

I think that you're a remarkably poor reader of history and politics, and are overly credulous of actual liars, and repeat their lies either out of naiveté or misapprehension. I don't think you're originating flattering lies; I do think you're repeating them.

"Is that actually, genuinely, what you believe? Do you really think that I genuinely believe that the North fought a gallant, heroic war to end slavery, but am somehow, for some mysterious reason (given I'm not even from the South, and have spent less than four months total south of the Mason-Dixon line) lying about my true beliefs on Metafilter?"

Even there, that's a bizarre misread — if I thought you were deliberately lying, I'd think that you thought that the South was unjustly invaded and occupied by the North and willing to present things that you knew were debunked and misrepresent other things, in order to buttress that view. As for motivation, a "states' rights" view would certainly support that reading even if you weren't from the South.

But, like I just said, I don't think you have that deliberate malice.
posted by klangklangston at 5:36 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


the North fought a gallant, heroic war to end slavery

I am not aware of anyone claiming this. Could you link to them? "The North is a pure uncorrupt freer of slaves" and "The South was a noble society, defending their traditional way of life" are both pernicious, false, readings of a complex historical subject.

But only one of these is seriously defended.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:37 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


klangklangston, I think you are just a remarkably poor reader. I only said one of those things, and it doesn't support your claim. Try again.
posted by MoTLD at 5:40 PM on June 5, 2013


tmotat, I don't think either of those have been seriously defended here.
posted by MoTLD at 5:44 PM on June 5, 2013


I'm using a pretty standard definition of historical revisionism, one that's been used for over 50 years. And Holocaust denialism is historical revisionism.

You are not using the standard definition. You are using the emotionally charged colloquial definition. Please check my Wikipedia links if you don't understand the difference.
posted by MoTLD at 5:50 PM on June 5, 2013


On my fifth re-read, klangklangston, I see that I was the poor reader here. I mistakenly thought you were trying to use two quotes from me to support your accusation of my valuation of comity over honesty, when in fact you were quoting two different people in quick succession with no segue. My bad.

But still, how exactly do you define either comity or honesty to get that interpretation of my statement?
posted by MoTLD at 5:56 PM on June 5, 2013


I don't think either of those have been seriously defended here.

There's a big narrative about "agrarian societies" and "agriculture vs. industry" and "lightly populated rural areas" and their relative political power. And, of course, the unspoken assumption that slaveowning is a defensible civil right.

Anyway, that narrative is part of the "Lost Cause" and "Noble South" story of of antebellum plantation society, with benevolent masters and happy slaves, and a beautiful, vibrant and unique civilization that was destroyed by a warmongering Lincoln. Comments that completely deny the agency of Confederate forces in choosing to fire on Fort Sumter are also part of it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:59 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


of course, the unspoken assumption

You're arguing against someone who is not here!
posted by MoTLD at 6:02 PM on June 5, 2013


"You are not using the standard definition. You are using the emotionally charged colloquial definition. Please check my Wikipedia links if you don't understand the difference."

Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about an historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light. For the former, i.e. the academic pursuit, see historical revisionism.[1] This article deals solely with the latter, the distortion of history, which—if it constitutes the denial of historical crimes—is also sometimes (but not commonly) called negationism.[2][3]"

I am, in fact, using a standard definition. Standard enough that the Princeton history department uses it. As does Noam Chomsky. And even more to the point, many Holocaust Deniers call themselves Holocaust Revisionists. I might suggest that in this case, a quick google and wikipedia page were insufficient for your comment.

As to comity over honesty, the idea that one would desire or be able to sit down to some metaphorical posthumous postprandial brandy shared between Confederates and Union soldiers — the comity — has to come after the acknowledgment and acceptance of blame. It's a nice thought, but one directly obstructed by the ongoing effort to revise the historical record to make the Confederacy into a noble Lost Cause rather than the honest verdict of history that the Confederacy was a racist Slaveocracy and that the failure of Reconstruction means that it's a wound whose pain is still felt, even as many Southerners work to keep it open and dirty.
posted by klangklangston at 6:18 PM on June 5, 2013


Ok, then, if that's what you consider the standard definition, you are applying it incorrectly to anyone here, in this thread, unless you can point out where they have claimed historically inaccurate "facts," rather than unpopular interpretations. Either way, my point stands. You are ambiguously using whichever definition suits you at the time, and that is disingenuous.

Shall we have another semantic debate?

And what part of "posthumous" and "after lifetimes of maturing" doesn't square with "has to come after the acknowledgment and acceptance of blame"? Duh.
posted by MoTLD at 6:27 PM on June 5, 2013


I don't think you're originating flattering lies; I do think you're repeating them.

I really appreciate that clarification; thank you for offering it. Obviously, I don't think I am, but there's a world of difference between the two - and one allows a genuine conversation to continue and the other really doesn't.

If you offer facts to support your arguments, I am absolutely willing to consider the possibility that I am wrong. Personally, I tend to place a really strong value on older sources, both because they had access to more primary material, and because I think it's harder to get facts, at least, deeply wrong when you still have people who lived through the events who can contradict you. But I'm willing to read any kind of evidence-based refutation. Salon articles don't really live up to that standard, for me - they read more like snappy editorials than serious scholarship.

Anyway, that narrative is part of the "Lost Cause" and "Noble South" story of of antebellum plantation society, with benevolent masters and happy slaves, and a beautiful, vibrant and unique civilization that was destroyed by a warmongering Lincoln.

This is kind of what I was trying to say to zombieflanders, above: I think that some people, possibly yourself included, are fighting this entire piece of cloth that is woven of a lot of different threads. But no one that I can see in this discussion agrees with that piece of cloth - the people you're refuting just aren't here. For example, I certainly don't think slaves were happy; I don't think slaves - or anyone, really - can be genuinely happy under servitude. I think that slaveholders probably ran the gamut of humanity, with some as benevolent as they could be, some average, and some violent and cruel. I do think that there were aspects of Southern culture that were - and are - beautiful and vibrant, and I don't think anyone could really deny that Southern antebellum society was certainly unique. So it's a mixed bag.

From here, it seems like you're violently opposing small pieces and perspectives on history simply because they might be used as a part of that cloth, or are used so by other people. Even when they're simple and what seem fairly obvious facts. For example: that the South was rich before the war and poor after, largely as a result of the North's actions and the freeing of slaves without recompense. Whether or not that was morally just to do shouldn't affect our examining of whether or not that was a fact which happened. That agricultural, less densely populated rural societies have less voting power than urban, more highly populated ones should be a fact that we can examine for truth or falsehood regardless of what moral ideas we would like or would not like to take from it.

the idea that one would desire or be able to sit down to some metaphorical posthumous postprandial brandy shared between Confederates and Union soldiers — the comity — has to come after the acknowledgment and acceptance of blame.

This is your idea, but I don't know if it's always true, honestly. I think that at a certain point in a war, or after one, even your enemies can seem closer to you than your allies, because you have known the same experience from different ends. (I'm reminded of how some of my Vietnam veteran friends will talk in glowing terms about the Vietcong, despite the amount of losses they took in their platoons.) I can see where you would want it to be true, but I think that the bonds of war can draw people together even without admitting or acknowledging blame.
posted by corb at 6:46 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're arguing against someone who is not here!

corb is absolutely in this thread. Read "property" as meaning "slaves."

and the freeing of slaves without recompense

And again.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:48 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


And, of course, the unspoken assumption that slaveowning is a defensible civil right.

You're arguing against someone who is not here!


No, he isn't.

Because slavery was not illegal at the time of the secession. The Emancipation Proclamation came after the Civil War had already begun, and only applied to the rebellious states. It was absolutely resistance against a foreign occupation - that is why they fired on Fort Sumpter, which was not only occupying, but resupplying troops - in many ways believed to have been a way for the North to force a conflict.

But all of the anti-slavery voices of the North would not have succeeded in imposing their will on a South that had an equal voice in decision-making.

I think the idea of "We clearly cannot live together - the northern half of this country is opposed to us and we are opposed to them" is an exactly reasonable cause for splitting. A national divorce, if you will. And I think it would have been advantageous for both new countries, in fact. The North would not need to be bound by any fugitive slave laws if it didn't care to - it could open itself up as an asylum country.

Thus, I would have supported the right of the South to secede, whether or not they were morally right in keeping slaves.

corb, you're still around, right? corb believes that it is an open question whether or not keeping slaves is "morally right". corb believes that because slavery was not illegal at the time of secession, the South was within their civil rights to secede in order to protect that institution if they so chose. corb believes that the Civil War was a resistance against a foreign occupation, which sought to impose with might what could not be firmly established by vote. corb thinks that a peaceful secession would have been beneficial for both nations, and that just as the South had the right to own slaves, the North would have had the right to not own slaves, and the superior will to power would prevail. The only thing that the man of twists and turns got wrong is that this isn't an unspoken assumption.
posted by Errant at 6:48 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why don't y'all ask corb what she believes, or better yet, try reading what she has said without inserting your own commentary before her thought has had a chance to percolate?

Claiming someone believes something based on your interpretation of what they said is also historical revisionism. If your interpretation is flatly opposite of what they actually said, it's both kinds of historical revisionism.
posted by MoTLD at 6:57 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why don't y'all ask corb what she believes,

Why would I ask a question that was already asked and ignored?

Why would I ask another question when my first one remains open?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:07 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Try asking in good faith, then.
posted by MoTLD at 7:09 PM on June 5, 2013


And with that, I'm taking another self-imposed time out. Y'all be safe.
posted by MoTLD at 7:10 PM on June 5, 2013


We've asked whether she thinks slavery was wrong multiple times and she won't answer.
posted by empath at 7:11 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


But I will anyway.

corb, when you say "property" in the comments I and Errant linked to, do you mean "humans?" (like the State of Mississippi does, referring to "property worth four billions of money")

empath, that's not true. Slavery is an evil to be guarded against with force and at the cost of one's own life.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:12 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I think it would have been advantageous for both new countries, in fact. The North would not need to be bound by any fugitive slave laws if it didn't care to - it could open itself up as an asylum country.

I know you really want to hang on to that definition of historical revisionism because you think it bolsters your righteousness, but Errant just parroted back exactly what corb typed. It's not an "interpretation" when somebody says that she thinks that a peaceful secession would have been beneficial for both nations and her actual statement is "I think [secession] would have been advantageous for both new countries." You are asking us to deliberately misinterpret actual statements because you think to do otherwise is shameful, which makes no sense at all.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:14 PM on June 5, 2013


Wow, I said I was going, but fuck.

empath, do you really, honestly need that one answered?

Do you actually try to have discussions with people who believe slavery is ever acceptable?

And do you really have that low of an opinion of corb? Because the insinuation is just...mean.

Out.
posted by MoTLD at 7:15 PM on June 5, 2013


And do you really have that low of an opinion of corb?

She can answer it. And again, I don't think she said slavery was wrong. She said she wouldn't allow it on her property, because she just cares deeply about property rights. She seems to clearly think that the only acceptable way of ending slavery was to buy the slaves from people, because I guess she thinks that people had a right to own them and be compensated.
posted by empath at 7:18 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to ask, at the risk of derail, what of Roman slavery? Can we not discuss the culture of the antebellum south in the same dispassionate way historians discuss the gladiators? After over a century, I'm beginning to feel that it's still "too soon."

Do we have to pass judgement not only on those who lived in that culture, but even those who might defend the noble parts of that culture without defending its evil side? Or those who seek to understand the evil side in all its nuance, while still knowing it to be evil? And I'm saying this as someone who really doesn't personally identify with southern culture, but lives among those who do (including some hardcore racists) and can see some nobility in it nonetheless.

Can we not appreciate Latin without approving of feeding people to lions? For that matter, can we not discuss feeding people to lions without being rhetorically fed to lions ourselves?
posted by MoTLD at 7:55 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The antebellum South is not a millennia-dead historical curiosity. There are black Americans with memories of freed-slave relatives still living. There are extant black Americans who lived through Jim Crow. There are, among many others, black Americans now who are disenfranchised due to the historical legacy and continuing persecution of which slavery was emblematic. Your desire for dispassion is the white American desire to put it all away. It is understandable, and it is wrong. You speak of "over a century" as if that were some extraordinary period of time.

What nobility in Southern culture is unique to Southern culture? Hospitality? Honor? Civility? Love of family? Love of community? As far as I can tell, the only unique quality of Southern culture is its contribution of the mint julep, which is a superb addition to the shared history and I honor that. Otherwise, the defense of the "noble parts" of Southern culture is designed solely to imply that other cultures are not so noble, and specifically that the Northern culture is one of alienation and impersonality.

As for understanding the evil in all its nuance, you have yet to describe a nuance of this evil that has not been covered. Please, tell me what we are missing.
posted by Errant at 8:55 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your desire for dispassion is the white American desire to put it all away.

My gut reaction to that was to say "you presume too much, and you're racist to boot." But you have already gut-checked me once in this thread, and I feel the need to meditate more on this as well. You might be right.

I wasn't being snarky when I said "too soon." Apparently it is, but what would you have us do, wait another century or ten? Is discussion off limits because doing it right is really difficult? That's why I came to MeFi in the first place, because as bad as we are at this delicate stuff, everywhere else seems to be worse.

But as far as the nuance of evil thing, I don't claim to have contributed to this thread in that way. I was mostly referring to the way corb seems to be striving to analyze the evil of the south in in a (mostly) dispassionate, scholarly way, and is being excoriated for it.
posted by MoTLD at 9:13 PM on June 5, 2013


"If you offer facts to support your arguments, I am absolutely willing to consider the possibility that I am wrong. Personally, I tend to place a really strong value on older sources, both because they had access to more primary material, and because I think it's harder to get facts, at least, deeply wrong when you still have people who lived through the events who can contradict you. But I'm willing to read any kind of evidence-based refutation. Salon articles don't really live up to that standard, for me - they read more like snappy editorials than serious scholarship."

First, I already offered a handful of links that all contextualize Ramsdell's research; while not refuting his specific claims, given that he was writing in the early part of last century, knowing that his revisionism is now seen as biased and that his theory has been set aside for more comprehensive theories is a decent start.

Second, valuing older sources has some huge pitfalls, that you're pretty obviously falling into. We actually have access to more primary documents now than historians working in earlier times, especially given modern communication technology. And the idea that people in the past are less biased is also fallacious — in this case, they're more likely to be biased, as they're more likely to have an interest in the establishment of a narrative.
posted by klangklangston at 9:16 PM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is discussion off limits because doing it right is really difficult

Do you want us to tell you when it's okay to say slavery wasn't that bad? Is that what you're asking?
posted by empath at 9:56 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


empath, for the nth time, slavery is bad. We all agree on that. Duh. Now grow up so we can actually talk about slavery with just a smidge more nuance than good/bad.
posted by MoTLD at 9:59 PM on June 5, 2013


Now grow up so we can actually talk about slavery with just a smidge more nuance than good/bad.

This thread is 650 comments long and much of them about slavery. How can you say we're not having a conversation about slavery yet? If you have another way to characterize slavery that is more "nuanced" than "good/bad," why don't you just come out and say it?
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:04 PM on June 5, 2013


Have you ever had or watched a conversation where everybody talked past each other for hours and then walked away with the same views they had before, plus an ulcer? 'Cause that's what this thread was for almost all of those 650+ comments.

The same thing happens in almost every thread on slavery (or guns, or abortion, or...any delicate subject). You can't say you haven't seen it, over and over and over, and grown weary. I know I have.
posted by MoTLD at 10:11 PM on June 5, 2013


"well-known (first wave, even!) revisionist Charles Ramsdell"

Yeah, I spilled my coffee on this one.

"Allow me to show the north was the actual agressor by quoting a prominent Confederate revisionist."

As for emotions, no doubt we all have them. Me, I can't help but think that for all the northerners complicit in slavery via the slave trade (as klang noted, abolitionists spent most of their time criticizing fellow northerners for being either complicit or complacent), and granting the fact that Lincoln wanted to preserve the Union against a traitorous rebellion above all else, and had to be dragged into a directly abolitionist mode after the carnage of Antietam (a battle fought on northern soil, natch), it's still fair to say that the institution of southern slavery was an evil genocide and ending it, while costly in terms of lives and money, was absolutely a necessity.

Godwin-alert: Hell, even the Nazis didn't institutionally breed their captives.

The fact that ca. 2013 there are still those who refuse to admit the obvious is sad and telling.
posted by bardic at 11:59 PM on June 5, 2013


"slavery is bad. We all agree on that."

Um, let's just say that that's not entirely clear given this thread. If you came in late, it's worth looking at the whole thing.
posted by bardic at 12:04 AM on June 6, 2013


"then walked away with the same views they had before"

Speak for yourself. I've learned a hell of a lot from this thread.
posted by bardic at 12:05 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The antebellum South is not a millennia-dead historical curiosity. There are black Americans with memories of freed-slave relatives still living. There are extant black Americans who lived through Jim Crow. There are, among many others, black Americans now who are disenfranchised due to the historical legacy and continuing persecution of which slavery was emblematic. Your desire for dispassion is the white American desire to put it all away. It is understandable, and it is wrong. You speak of "over a century" as if that were some extraordinary period of time.

My brown father would not take his white wife on business trips he went on in the Deep South in the early and mid '60s because he could not trust that they would find a hotel that would rent them a room, and he could not be assured of her safety. They delayed having me for several years because they didn't know if it was the right thing to do to bring a mixed-race child into that world. And I'm not even black.

This is not ancient history. I'm not bitter, but I can't and won't be dispassionate about this. It's not a luxury I can afford.
posted by rtha at 12:33 AM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


And again, I don't think she said slavery was wrong... She seems to clearly think that the only acceptable way of ending slavery was to buy the slaves from people, because I guess she thinks that people had a right to own them and be compensated.

Here you are taking one piece of data, and attempting to work backwards from it in a way that is not accurate. But it's possible I didn't explain clearly enough, so I will attempt to do so now.

I believe that slavery is wrong - one of the most immoral things that can happen, or that one person can perpetrate on another. At the same time, I believe that Southern slaveholders should have been compensated for their slaves, in a system similar to how England did it. And I believe this for a few reasons - none of which are approval of slavery. The first is that I am a strong Constitutionalist, and it violates the Fifth Amendment, which is about more than just self-incrimination.
"nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation"
Constitutionally, thus, the South should have been compensated for their slaves. An argument could be made that the South was a sovereign nation, and thus her citizens were not bound by Constitutional Law - an argument I would even be sympathetic to - but it is certainly not the position of the Union at the time, which can be evidenced by Lincoln's inaugural address nullifying the secession. This amendment does not address whether said property is moral to possess or not - it simply states what will happen.

It also violates Article One, Section 9: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed."

Bills of attainder were generally used to punish individuals for perceived treason, and involved the denial of civil rights and seizure of property from a person and their heirs, while ex post facto laws punished individuals for shifting legal circumstances - punishment for their prior legal actions having been transformed into illegal ones.

Both of these events were clearly violated by the First and Second Confiscation Acts
all such property is hereby declared to be lawful subject of prize and capture wherever found; and it shall be the duty of the President of the United States to cause the same to be seized, confiscated, and condemned.
This seizure of property is not a lawful fine - which is set at a specific amount, not a percentage of the person's worth. Nor is it a forfeiture-of-stolen-goods type law - which I also would have been strongly sympathetic to. It is purely a punitive act of seizure, which either gives the lie to the idea that the citizens of the Confederacy were still citizens of the United States, or contradicts the idea that the seizure was just. The second act lists a fine, but an extremely large one - up to 10,000 dollars,
That every person who shall hereafter commit the crime of treason against the United States, and shall be adjudged guilty thereof, shall suffer death, and all his slaves, if any, shall be declared and made free; or, at the discretion of the court, he shall be imprisoned for not less than five years and fined not less than ten thousand dollars, and all his slaves, if any, shall be declared and made free; said fine shall be levied and collected on any or all of the property, real and personal, excluding slaves, of which the said person so convicted was the owner at the time of committing the said crime, any sale or conveyance to the contrary notwithstanding.
which is difficult to calculate but a calculator I like marks it as having a historic standard of living value of $269,000, with an economic status value of $3,500,000 and an economic power value of $34,100,000. (The latter two are important for mental comparing of what type and level of person we are thinking of. Economic status measures the relative "prestige value" using the income index and per-capita GDP, while economic power measures the percentage of the size of that money against the size of the economy - that person's "weight", as it were. This means that it would impact what we would essentially view as anyone but high millionaires, up to the total value of all of their property - which is essentially total land seizure under a different name. It also means that, as the act of attainder was set at the time of the act, any internal transfers after the act could be arbitarily declared worthless or not, depending on pique.

This also affected the families of the guilty, (another notable fault of bills of attainder) by extending it to those who "shall give aid or comfort thereto"

Much also like a bill of attainder, it deprives the individuals of civil liberties, forever.
And be it further enacted, That every person guilty of either of the offences described in this act shall be forever incapable and disqualified to hold any office under the United States.
It could be argued that this still fails to meet the standards of a bill of attainder because it doesn't refer to specific individuals but wait they got to that too.
That, to insure the speedy termination of the present rebellion, it shall be the duty of the President of the United States to cause the seizure of all the estate and property, money, stocks, credits, and effects of the persons hereinafter named in this section
posted by corb at 5:50 AM on June 6, 2013


Dear Lord. Atrocities against humanity don't outweigh cash money?
posted by bardic at 6:11 AM on June 6, 2013


PEOPLE ARE NOT PROPERTY
PEOPLE ARE NOT PROPERTY
PEOPLE ARE NOT PROPERTY

I mean, what in fuck's sake the actual fuckity fucking fuck, corb? How many times does this have to be repeated to you?
posted by zombieflanders at 6:12 AM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


If only the Allies had cut a check to free the Jews in concentration camps.
posted by bardic at 6:13 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe that Southern slaveholders should have been compensated for their slaves.

The Confederate slavholders disagreed with you. We know this because they, after the election of Lincoln, seceded. No motion had been made to abolish, limit, or otherwise modify slavery. No effort would have been countenanced - they seceded before it could even be attempted.

They went to war to defend their "property." As far as your preferred personal method of dealing with a slaveholding society, South Carolina specifically marks it as an unnacceptable reponse and reason for secession:
Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
Emphasis mine.

The South, in their own words, denies the efficacy of your solutions. Rather than face any modification whatsoever to the slaveholding system, they 1) seceded and 2) started a war. Contrary to your assertions, the Confederate garrison at Charleston actually does have agency of their own, and is responsible for firing on Fort Sumter. And as far as Ramsdell goes, citing Belgium as an example of a breakaway state that cannot abide territorial non-contiguity is very, very funny.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:19 AM on June 6, 2013


People are not property now, no - but they were at that time, and were acknowledged so by both the North and the South. Arguing that the legalistic issues of whether confiscation of slave property is irrelevant because "people aren't property" is like arguing that since we no longer acknowledge divorce by consanguinity, all of the English children of Eleanor of Aquitaine were illegitimate and should have been ruled out of the succession. And it is just as relevant.

More importantly: you are accusing me of ignoring historical fact for revisionism, but you seem to be sticking your hands over your ears and saying historical fact doesn't matter, only your personal moral fact does. Which, I suppose, explains why you're so angry - not because you view my historical interpretation as factually wrong, but because you view it as morally wrong. So in that case, I'm not even sure what you are discussing, if not the substance of the Civil War. You think I'm a Bad Person Who Is Wrong And Should Feel Bad? Is that what you want to tell me? Well, I get that you feel that way, so no need to repeat that. I'd be happy to discuss further with anyone who actually has points to refute.
posted by corb at 6:26 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, the point is, people are fundamentally not property. Ever. Even when slaveowners claim they are. You seem to be saying it wasn't fair for them to be deprived of slave labor without compensation. Which is fucked up.
posted by agregoli at 7:04 AM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I believe that Southern slaveholders should have been compensated for their slaves.

It seems that this position is the same as Lincoln's in 1862. It was rejected by the slaveholding border states as "not practical nor specific." The scheme was first floated for Delaware in 1861, for obvious geographic and population-based reasons. The response? "Rumor of its inception invoked such strong opposition that its backers declined to bring it before Delaware's legislators at all." (via and various other pages therein)

In The Negro Problem (from 1909), William Pickett examines Lincoln's speeches and correspondence, concluding that LIncoln was in favor of gradual, compensated emancipation. Like he did in 1862, with the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act.

Smithonian Magazine: Fort Sumter: The Civil War Begins
This one is really good! Covers secession, the patterns of historical interpretation, "Fire-eaters," et al. Inside:
In the early hours of April 12, approximately nine hours after the Confederates had first asked Anderson to evacuate Fort Sumter, the envoys were again rowed out to the garrison. They made an offer: if Anderson would state when he and his men intended to quit the fort, the Confederates would hold their fire. Anderson called a council of his officers: How long could they hold out? Five days at most, he was told, which meant three days with virtually no food. Although the men had managed to mount about 45 cannon, in addition to the original 15, not all of those could be trained on Confederate positions. Even so, every man at the table voted to reject immediate surrender to the Confederates.

Anderson sent back a message to the Confederate authorities, informing them that he would evacuate the fort, but not until noon on the 15th, adding, “I will not in the meantime open my fire upon your forces unless compelled to do so by some hostile act against this fort or the flag of my Government.”

But the Confederacy would tolerate no further delay. The envoys immediately handed Anderson a statement: “Sir: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the provisional forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.”

Anderson roused his men, informing them an attack was imminent. At 4:30 a.m., the heavy thud of a mortar broke the stillness. A single shell from Fort Johnson on James Island rose high into the still-starry sky, curved downward and burst directly over Fort Sumter. Confederate batteries on Morris Island opened up, then others from Sullivan’s Island, until Sumter was surrounded by a ring of fire.
The resupply forces arrived after the bombardment started, and in contravention of the Confederate's offer of holding their fire if the Union commander could provide a date for surrender. The lesson: Traitors are not to be trusted.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:14 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


And just to bring this back full circle, by my last line I am referring to PGT Beauregard, who abrogated his oath, resigned his commission, and made war upon the United States. The memory of his "service" is commemorated at Camp Beauregard, a former US Army installation now operated by the Louisiana National Guard, which has troops deployed in Afghanistan. They trained up at Fort Hood.

But there's no Fort Grierson. (Grierson, previously)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:37 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you, the man of twists and turns, that Smithsonian article is actually a good read and I learned from it; I hadn't realized for example that Lincoln wanted to settle former slaves in Central America, out of America. (Also, Seymour and Doubleday! Priceless.) But it does seem to agree with my position, saying, "Lincoln may have concluded that war was inevitable, and it would serve the federal government’s interest to cause the rebels to fire the first shot."

It was rejected by the slaveholding border states as "not practical nor specific."

I read that; though it seems a portion of that at least was because it hadn't been legislatively funded yet, and also because the valuation was not by individual value but rather averaged. Lincoln had proposed valuing all slaves at 400 in a private letter, but DC had been emancipated at 300$ each
Again, it seemed to us that this resolution was but the annunciation of a sentiment which could not, or was not likely to, be reduced to an actual tangible proposition. No movement was then made to provide and appropriate the funds required to carry it into effect; and we were not encouraged to believe that funds would be provided...while this resolution was under consideration in the Senate, our colleague, the Senator from Ky. moved an amendment appropriating $500.000 to the object therein designated, and it was voted down with great unanimity. What confidence, then, could we reasonably feel that if we committed ourselves to the policy it proposed, our constituents would reap the fruits of the promise held out? And on what ground would we, as fair men, approach them, and challenge their support?
posted by corb at 7:44 AM on June 6, 2013


Wow, still chugging along here, I see.

Here's my drive-by:

People are not property. This I firmly believe. But let's make it clear: this is a statement of values, not logic, because it is clearly historically true that people can be treated as property.

So I would even go further in confronting my libertarian brothers and sisters: at an axiomatic level I dispute the idea that "property" is some sort of sacred value that people have a right to, above and beyond all other rights. Indeed, that belief is an inversion of the truth ("my truth", if you prefer): the World is not merely the set of all privately-held property. The World (the environment), and the access to its riches, is the birthright of all humanity, and even nature itself has rights to be unmolested and "unowned".

The idea that property is an intrinsic linchpin of economic theory, in itself, does not have the status of physical law. It is, instead, part of the human social construct we call "economics", and we are seeing just how flawed that construct can be. Furthermore, the fact that our economics (and law) has historically been based on property is primarily the cause (and effect) of the perpetual struggle of a dominance hierarchy to maintain itself. That is, the people who had (and have) property, made (and make) the rules in which merely having it confers special rights. This should come as no surprise to anyone with even the most passing knowledge of human nature. And, it is not some commie opinion--Adam Smith understood this very well, when he said that (paraphrasing) governments exist primarily to protect the rich from the poor.

The main point here being that the claim that the North aggressed against the South and was in the wrong because it violated the South's property rights has no moral standing whatsoever, regarding people or other forms of "property". A system of law and civic values based fundamentally and primarily on property rights alone is barbaric, notwithstanding the contrary opinions of contemporary libertarians, objectivists, and Austrian School afficionados.
posted by mondo dentro at 7:45 AM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


No, the point is, people are fundamentally not property. Ever. Even when slaveowners claim they are.

The slaveowners could only claim a property right in their slaves because the government recognized this right. The Fugitive Slave Act shows that this form of property right was recognized at the federal level. You may wish to say that it is immoral for people to be property (I would agree with this position), just as many today argue that it is immoral for information to be property. However, the fact is that at the time, people could be property.

On the other hand, it is quite common for people to claim a property interest in their own persons. Under this theory, some would like to sell their own organs. Some people have even filed lawsuit asserting property rights in research where their tissue or blood was used to conduct the research. However, this sort of property right is not recognized in the US.

Property is only what the state says it is. You think you own a parcel of land? That's cute. What evidence do you have to prove your property interest other than a deed recorded with the state?
posted by Tanizaki at 8:37 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh, woulda pegged Tani as following the natural law precept of a fundamental right to property, preceding the state.
posted by klangklangston at 8:45 AM on June 6, 2013


"My brown father would not take his white wife on business trips he went on in the Deep South in the early and mid '60s because he could not trust that they would find a hotel that would rent them a room, and he could not be assured of her safety. They delayed having me for several years because they didn't know if it was the right thing to do to bring a mixed-race child into that world. And I'm not even black.

This is not ancient history. I'm not bitter, but I can't and won't be dispassionate about this. It's not a luxury I can afford.
"

My mom and dad had been doing some genealogy research on her side, and while we'd known that one of her grandfathers was black without being able to really prove it, we found out through census records that two others (making three out of four) were also black. (Interestingly, one was only black up until after WWII; census records after that have him claiming white.) She gets pretty excited, especially when she finds out that she had an aunt (that nobody talked about) who was a civil rights leader at a black church in Detroit.

Her cousins freaked the fuck out, and sent her letter after letter about how she shouldn't make any of this public. The funniest/saddest one comes from an aunt in Tennessee who wrote my mom to say that she could lose her job if anyone found out that she came from a black family. Other cousins worried about losing friends and not being able to carry on their lives in their small towns.

This was, like, six months ago.
posted by klangklangston at 9:00 AM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Whether it was legal or not to CALL people property is immaterial; thinking that slaveowners deserved compensation for losing slave labor is so bizarre that quoting law of the time doesn't do anything for me, sorry. People aren't property, and this idea that slaveowners were wronged by the government for not receiving compensation for doing something so abhorrent, that THEY are an injured party, is...ugh. I have no more words.
posted by agregoli at 9:36 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Why Did The Confederacy Secede?" and "Why Did The Union Go To War?"

I don' think anyone is doubting very seriously that the South went to war primarily to protect slavery. If there is still any doubt, there is a ton of documentation on the Virginia 1861 Convention and their decision to Secede. If Virginia had not seceded (and this was by no means a sure thing), I don't think there would have been much of a Confederacy. I guess the libertarians of today are cursing the confederates for firing the first shots, making it that much more ridiculous for them to paint the civil war primarily as an evil violation of personal property by "the State." It seems that it would have been smarter for the Confederacy to just declare itself independent and kindly ask the U.S. army to leave. I guess maybe they felt they should strike while the North was less prepared for war.

I think a primary motivation for Lincoln to go to war was to prove Democracy as a viable form of government for the world. The American Experiment was still very new in the 1860's, and allowing the South to secede might be a fatal blow to the perceived tenability of a democratic government. You can see this sentiment clearly in Lincoln's own writing both at the beginning of the war and later in the Gettysburg address:

Lincoln's Message to Congress (1861)
Our adversaries have adopted some declarations of independence in which, unlike the good old one penned by Jefferson, they omit the words "all men are created equal.'' Why? They have adopted a temporary national constitution, in the preamble of which, unlike our good old one, signed by Washington, they omit "We, the People,'' and substitute "We, the deputies of the sovereign and independent States.'' Why? Why this deliberate pressing out of view, the rights of men, and the authority of the people?

This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures from necessity, this is the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend.

Our popular government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it, our people have already settled,--the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains,--its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it.
It's interesting to think about how long slavery would have lasted had the Civil War been avoided. (Though as mentioned previously, life did not get much better for many former slaves after the Civil War anyway.) William Freehling (linked to above) speculated that it might have lasted into the 1960's!!!! That seems unlikely, but I would think into the 1920's is very likely. And the South was actively working to sustain a healthy slave market in Latin America, so as technology and morality reduced the demand for slavery in the Southern states, slaves could be 'sold down the river' to sugar plantations. There could have been a situation where even as slavery was phased out in the South, the South would still be actively working to retain it in South and Central America.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:43 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


But it does seem to agree with my position

The actual sequence of events disagrees with your position. The Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, unprovoked, in contravention of the surrender terms they themselves offered and agreed to.

Before you quibble about reprovisioning, firing on blockade runners is entirely different, as running a blockade is itself an act of war.

I believe that Southern slaveholders should have been compensated for their slaves

What could possibly lead you to think that slaveholders would accept any change in the composition of their society? After the Missouri Compromise, after Bloody Kansas, after the vigorous abrogation of "States Rights" that the Southern states applauded and called for in the Fugitive Slave Act, after the Confederate Consitution explicitly rejects any law impairing "Nego slavery," after Alexander Stephens (elected vice-president of the Confederacy) proclaimed "Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition." After Lincoln was elected on a platform that explicitly said "That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of each state, to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depends."

corb, why do you think slaveowners would have embraced a Federal project that would manifestly change their society, economy and political power - as all three rested on the back of slaves? I think they would have resisted any such change - because that's what they said and did, through secession and the instigation of war.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:45 AM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Jesus Christ.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:13 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don' think anyone is doubting very seriously that the South went to war primarily to protect slavery. If there is still any doubt, there is a ton of documentation on the Virginia 1861 Convention and their decision to Secede.

This is another one that I think needs delicate separation, honestly. "Why did the South secede?" is a different reason, in my view, from "Why did the South go to war?" And I think the South was far more heavily influenced by slavery in the secession decision than they were in the war decision.

corb, why do you think slaveowners would have embraced a Federal project that would manifestly change their society, economy and political power - as all three rested on the back of slaves? I think they would have resisted any such change - because that's what they said and did, through secession and the instigation of war.


I don't think they would have. I think I agree with you that they would have resisted such a change. But in my eyes, that doesn't change the fact that it was the morally right thing to do, and also that it would have stopped the immense amount of poverty the South faces today.

It's kind of like when eminent domain is used for a highway project, or a shopping mall. People protest it up and until the moment they are tearing down the houses, and yet they are still justly compensated. Even the guys that hold out and try to stay by force in their own house are still justly compensated.

It's how I think the Union should have acted - if not during the war, then afterwards. Even though they were the victor in the war, if they truly were welcoming the Southerners back as members of the family, I feel they had an obligation to uphold the law and justly compensate them for the loss - in particular, as the North upheld Confederate mortgages and credit for or on buying slaves, even as they had taken the slaves for which they had gone into that debt.
posted by corb at 12:36 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Golden Eternity: “It's interesting to think about how long slavery would have lasted had the Civil War been avoided.”
It's not really relevant to this dicussion, but just as a point of information there are tens of thousands of people currently enslaved in the United States, and tens of millions worldwide.

Invisible: Slavery Today, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Slavery Lives on in the United States, Dan Archer, Truthout, 15 February 2012

Global Slavery, by the Numbers, Quentin Hardy, The New York Times Bits, 06 March 2013
While slavery is illegal across the globe, the SumAll Foundation noted, there are 27 million slaves worldwide, more than in 1860, when there were 25 million. Most are held in bonded servitude, particularly after taking loans they could not repay. Slaves cost slightly more now, with a median price of $140, compared with $134 per human then. Debt slaves cost on average $60; trafficked sex slaves cost $1,910.
Slavery’s Last Stronghold, John D. Sutter, CNN, March 2012
In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery. Activists are arrested for fighting the practice. The government denies it exists. “On this land, everybody is exploited.” The vast Saharan nation didn't make slavery a crime until 2007. Only one slave owner has been successfully prosecuted.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:41 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's how I think the Union should have acted - if not during the war, then afterwards.

So when we speak of the Confederacy, its important to do so dispassionately and without moral judgement. When we speak of the Union, moral considerations are given full weight. Is this your position?

in particular, as the North upheld Confederate mortgages and credit for or on buying slaves, even as they had taken the slaves for which they had gone into that debt.

I would enjoy reading more on this subject. Can you provide links or other resources?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


But in my eyes, that doesn't change the fact that it was the morally right thing to do, and also that it would have stopped the immense amount of poverty the South faces today.

To be clear you are stating that the 'morally right thing to do' was to pay people money for all the people that they owned.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:48 PM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


To be clear you are stating that the 'morally right thing to do' was to pay people money for all the people that they owned.

URGH. Makes my face hurt.
posted by sweetkid at 12:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


People are not property now, no - but they were at that time, and were acknowledged so by both the North and the South.

I am not the the first to point out that the words "slave" and "slavery" do not appear in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. In fact, there are some very elegant constructions used to avoid those terms. Also, those references don't explicitly state whether the persons referred to are held legally or illegally. It seems to me this leaves some wiggle room as to whether slavery was actually legal under the Constitution.
posted by ogooglebar at 12:56 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


...or whether slaves were legally property.
posted by ogooglebar at 1:07 PM on June 6, 2013


I am not the the first to point out that the words "slave" and "slavery" do not appear in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights... It seems to me this leaves some wiggle room as to whether slavery was actually legal under the Constitution.
Article I, Section 2: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
By excluding "other Persons" from "free Persons," the Constitution admits that they are not free. By excluding "other Persons" from "those bound to Service for a Term of Years," the Constitution admits that there are persons who could be "bound to Service" for their entire lives.
Article I, Section 9: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
That was the very first limitation put on Congress. Before it enshrined habeas corpus, before it disallowed bills of attainder and ex post facto laws, before it disallowed titles of nobility. The fact that the Constitution put a time limit on when "Importation" could be outlawed is a pretty compelling argument that it was legal.
Article IV, Section 2: No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due. (emphasis added)
By admitting in the text that a person could be held to service or labor under the laws of a state, the Constitution implicitly authorizes it.
Article V: ...Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article...
There are three citations of any year in the original Constitution: these two instances and the date it was voted on by the Constitutional Convention. The framers knew that abolition would come. They kicked the can twenty years down the road, giving the slave states plenty of time to figure out how to kick it another fifty years down the road.

As for whether slaves were property, that's another issue, but the framers definitely made allowances for slavery.
posted by Etrigan at 1:30 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


And yet they were very careful to avoid the terms "slave" and "slavery." Why were they so squeamish?
posted by ogooglebar at 1:37 PM on June 6, 2013


I guess what I'm really saying is that they seemed to be leaving a loophole that a clever legal mind could exploit. Why risk that, instead of explicitly stating "slave" and "slavery"?
posted by ogooglebar at 1:39 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess what I'm really saying is that they seemed to be leaving a loophole that a clever legal mind could exploit. Why risk that, instead of explicitly stating "slave" and "slavery"?

The non-slave states didn't want to admit that their new country would allow such a thing, and the slave states didn't like talking about it either. Hence formations like "our peculiar institution" (back then, "peculiar" meant "one's own" or "particular" rather than "strange"). Same reason they put that 1808 rule in there -- "Let someone else figure it out; we don't even like talking about it if we can avoid it. The important thing is getting a better system than the Articles of Confederation."
posted by Etrigan at 1:42 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Not editing to add:)

Like how abortion is discussed in modern America -- one side calls itself "pro-life," the other calls itself "pro-choice" or "pro-women," because no one even likes admitting that we're talking about that thing.
posted by Etrigan at 1:47 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Because the framers sought legitimacy in the eyes of the world, and they understood the paradox of allowing slavery in the name of freedom?
posted by ogooglebar at 1:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, pretty much. Washington, Jefferson and Franklin were famously conflicted on the issue (at least partially because they knew that the Southern states would never join the United States if slavery weren't explicitly protected, but also for moral reasons). Madison, on the other hand, was a straight-up racist who believed that Africans should be slaves because they were inferior to Europeans, and only their benevolent white masters could take proper care of them.
posted by Etrigan at 1:57 PM on June 6, 2013


The framers knew that abolition would come. They kicked the can twenty years down the road, giving the slave states plenty of time to figure out how to kick it another fifty years down the road.

Perhaps they believed they were leaving enough of a loophole to make abolition easier? The cotton gin hadn't been invented, and "King Cotton" didn't exist, so maybe they didn't see the obstacles down the road.
posted by ogooglebar at 2:01 PM on June 6, 2013


The framers knew that abolition would come. They kicked the can twenty years down the road, giving the slave states plenty of time to figure out how to kick it another fifty years down the road.

Perhaps they believed they were leaving enough of a loophole to make abolition easier? The cotton gin hadn't been invented, and "King Cotton" didn't exist, so maybe they didn't see the obstacles down the road.


At best, they could have been thinking, "Slavery is economically necessary now, but the future is going to be awesome and things will be better and we won't need slaves anymore," but I wouldn't call that "a loophole to make abolition easier." It was purely a matter of practicality over morality.

Not that I would have necessarily made a different choice, given the situation (though I like to think I would have argued a little harder agains the three-fifths compromise).
posted by Etrigan at 2:08 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Madison, on the other hand, was a straight-up racist who believed that Africans should be slaves because they were inferior to Europeans, and only their benevolent white masters could take proper care of them."

Uh, Madison WAS famously conflicted on the issue. Moreso than Jefferson, even.
posted by klangklangston at 2:10 PM on June 6, 2013


Jason, your references to Sections 1 & 9 of Article I remind me of the IRS rulings on income from illegal activities. Just because it's taxed, that doesn't mean it's legal. That's the "loophole" I was looking at, even if it was unintentional.
posted by ogooglebar at 2:20 PM on June 6, 2013


in particular, as the North upheld Confederate mortgages and credit for or on buying slaves, even as they had taken the slaves for which they had gone into that debt.

I am having some difficulty turning up instances of personal debt during Reconstruction - most of the articles and sources are concerned with Confederate government debt. The only instance of personal debt scholarship I've turned up so far is The Reconstruction of Southern Debtors: Bankruptcy after the Civil War by Elizabeth Lee Thompson, reviewed in The Florida Historical Quarterly and Humanities And Social Sciences Net Online:
In this insightful monograph, Elizabeth Thompson explores the role of the Bankruptcy Act of 1867 in maintaining the "economic, social and political hierarchy," in the post-Civil War South. Historians have characterized the measure as a "failure" that drew "continuous opposition" from southerners during the Reconstruction Era.[1] Thompson successfully rebuts both contentions. She also dismisses literature that suggests the act represented a punitive measure inflicted on former rebels by the vengeful Yankees. Instead, Thompson establishes that this legislation helped more than hurt southern debtors. She provides a striking example of the complex relationship between the former Confederates and the federal government during the Reconstruction Era. More broadly, she shows the pragmatism that dominated the economic lives of nineteenth-century Americans.
And also reviewed in Civil War History:
Thompson argues that the federal government's 1867 Bankruptcy Act was not a failure but proved very useful to "white male propertied southerners" and that "one of the law's consequences was the reinforcement of the South's economic hierarchy" (7). Her conclusions are well grounded in thorough research, including a review of more than 3,800 cases filed in federal courts for the District of South Carolina, the Southern District of Mississippi, and the Eastern District of Tennessee. Her research encompasses a large database and areas that were politically and economically diverse.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:22 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is easily the most depressing thread I've ever read on Mefi.

Yay, I guess.
posted by bardic at 9:19 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


That probably means we're doing it right.
posted by MoTLD at 10:19 PM on June 6, 2013


That's really not how Mefi works, champ.
posted by bardic at 10:27 PM on June 6, 2013


Yeah, well, that's how discussions of slavery work. Did you expect this to be fun?
posted by MoTLD at 10:35 PM on June 6, 2013


RTFA. It was a post about the naming of US military bases.
posted by bardic at 10:37 PM on June 6, 2013


It was a thinly veiled invitation to discuss slavery. And I think any more of this should be taken to MeTa.
posted by MoTLD at 10:45 PM on June 6, 2013


This is another one that I think needs delicate separation, honestly. "Why did the South secede?" is a different reason, in my view, from "Why did the South go to war?" And I think the South was far more heavily influenced by slavery in the secession decision than they were in the war decision.

In Virginia's case the decision to secede pretty much came hand in hand with a decision to go to war, it seems.

Wikipedia:
At Lincoln’s invitation, unionist John B. Baldwin of Augusta County, met with Lincoln on April 4. Baldwin explained that the unionists needed the evacuation of Fort Sumter, a national convention to debate the sectional differences, and a commitment by Lincoln to support constitutional protections for southern rights.[20] Over Lincoln’s skepticism, Baldwin argued that Virginia would be out of the Union within forty-eight hours if either side fired a shot at the fort. By some accounts, Lincoln offered to evacuate Fort Sumter if the Virginia convention would adjourn.[21]

On April 6, amid rumors that the North was preparing for war, the convention voted by a narrow 63-57 to send a three man delegation to Washington to determine from Lincoln what his intentions were. However due to bad weather the delegation did not arrive in Washington until April 12. They learned of the attack on Fort Sumter from Lincoln, and the President advised them of his intent to hold the fort and respond to force with force.
[...]
Virginia's ordinance of secession was ratified in a referendum held on May 23, 1861, by a vote of 132,201 to 37,451.[32]
[...]
The reaction to the referendum was swift on both sides. Confederate troops shut down the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, one of Washington, DC's two rail links to Ohio and points west. The next day, the Union army moved into northern Virginia. With both armies now in northern Virginia, the stage was set for war.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:34 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was a thinly veiled invitation

a thinly veiled invitation
delivered by a half-dressed postman
arrived in my baby's mailbox yesterday
it said "you're kind of invited
to halfway come to dinner
and will there be dessert?
well, yes, there may"

so she asked would i come with her
but i had some reservations
one never can be sure
if one'll wanna go
so i mumbled, "well, um, maybe"
then i went back to my crossword
what's a two-letter word
that starts with N, and rhymes with so?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:39 PM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


But in my eyes, that doesn't change the fact that it was the morally right thing to do

Question: How do you think the slaves should have been compensated for the years of slave labor that were extracted from them, for the ones that were murdered, maimed, tortured or beaten by their 'owners', and for having their children ripped from their arms and sold?

What would the morally right thing have been to do for them?
posted by empath at 12:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I mean I know you guys don't think we need to establish that slavery was wrong, but for people who claim that they think it was wrong, you sure seem to be concerned a lot more by how unfair it was to the owners to free the slaves than how unfair it was for the slaves to be, you know, slaves.

Honestly, the white, land-owning south was lucky we didn't summarily execute all of them for treason and distribute their land to the slaves as reparations.
posted by empath at 12:06 AM on June 7, 2013


Honestly, the white, land-owning south was lucky we didn't summarily execute all of them for treason and distribute their land to the slaves as reparations.

Yes, well, I reckon the failure to do so might be ascribed to the fact that the government was the instrument of the white, land-owning *north*. Emphasis on the "white" and "land-owning".

And, what you mean "we", kemosabe?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:33 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Madison WAS famously conflicted on the issue.

It's been a while since I read Garry Wills' book on the Federalist Papers, but I recall coming away from it thinking that Madison was one of those pseudo-scientific old-timey racists like DiCaprio played in Django Unchained who was convinced that there was like a "structure in the brain that makes the Negro incapable of higher thought" or somesuch nonsense. Wikipedia agrees with my memory of Wills, at least:
In terms of slavery and the Constitution, Madison viewed African American slaves as an "unfortunate race" and believed their true nature was both human and property.... Madison believed that slaves, as property, would be protected by both their masters and the government.
(each sentence is cited to Wills (but not quoted))

I think that montpelier.org, run by a foundation that "derives its purpose and inspiration from James Madison", is almost certainly shading its interpretation a bit, and even its interpretation shows that Madison was at best a separatist: "the two races cannot co-exist, both being free & equal."

But I'm willing to accept that Madison did have some moral qualms about the issue, and I retract my overly judgmental statement that he was a straight-up racist. Even Lincoln said some pretty racist shit based on the standards of our time.
posted by Etrigan at 4:05 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am having some difficulty turning up instances of personal debt during Reconstruction - most of the articles and sources are concerned with Confederate government debt.

It is difficult - it's one of the driest possible subjects. That part is something I had to piece together from multiple sources - my initial links about slavery in New York City cite some of the Northern bank financing on slaves (most notably, what would evolve to be Citibank, Lehman brothers, and Brown Brothers Harriman). Here is another source. I'm most familiar with New York City history, so this is kind of New York-specific, sorry.
The financing and operation of the Southern cotton trade, and its ties with New York City merchants, was detailed..in 1859...According to the Chamber of Commerce, even when the Europe-bound cotton trade was not shipped through the port of New York, New York City merchants and bankers financed the exchange...Southern planters owed Northern merchants and bankers an estimated $200 million dollars at the outbreak of the Civil War (Ellis, 1966, pr 287)
It is harder to find documents of the repayment of debt after the war during Reconstruction, not least, I think, because people weren't talking about it. You see Southerners complaining post-war about having to pay the same debt twice,
As it happened, debts owed to northerners constituted a large part of the confiscated property. Loyal Confederate citizens came forward voluntarily to pay their debts to the government. In the postwar years, the U.S. Supreme Court viewed all of these transactions as null and defeated Confederates found themselves paying their debts twice: first in obedience to the Sequestration Act and later to their northern creditors.
per Sequestration (which was a crazily ridiculous law the South initiated in 1861, declaring they owned all Northern debt, and so Southern creditors owed the Confederacy instead. (Hamilton's The Limits of Sovereignty: Property Confiscation in the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War is a great read as well for how EVERYBODY SUCKS)

This would imply, I think, that the repaying of these debts continued into Reconstruction, as only then would post-Sequestration debt be able to be repaid.

How do you think the slaves should have been compensated for the years of slave labor that were extracted from them

It's an interesting question, not least because there were so many people in the chain of custody, so it's difficult to resolve - particularly if ex post facto law cannot be initiated. I think the simplest one to answer is that the first link in the chain - the people that kidnapped the slaves illegally and sold them - should be forced to pay recompense. I'm not sure how that recompense should be calculated, though - you could use lost labor earnings, but that would either go off the original African economy specific to where they came from, which I'm not sure if it was even capitalist/worked like that. Emotional damage seems better, but that's notoriously hard to calculate; juries struggle with that all the time. But then there's the question of how that chain progresses.

Importation technically stopped in 1808, which means that by 1865 most of the original slavers would be dead. However, this was not well enforced, and slavers were still operating out of New York harbors up to and even during the Civil War.
Congrssional records show at least eight vessels intercepted while engaged in the trans-Atlantic slave trade between 1850 and 1858 were registered in New York CIty, and that a suspected twenty or more slavers sailed out of New York in 1857 alone. The last documented New York registered vessel to deliver enslaved Africans to Cuba was the Huntress in 1864.
I would argue that in the case of slavers operating post 1808, that any slaveowner initially purchasing them should be held equally liable, as they would be knowingly engaging in illegal enterprise. As for the dead ones, I am not sure personally at which point you can't sue someone's estate anymore - is it after it's been resolved? Jt's a really hard question. I think the closest we come to it are the Holocaust suits, but those are generally around reclaiming art and property, not claiming personal damages.
posted by corb at 5:24 AM on June 7, 2013


Clearly, slaveowners felt that owning slaves was advantageous over paying free laborers, or else they would have hired people instead of owning them. Therefore, the balance of "property" vs. "labor" tilts toward the "labor" side of the scale, and the slaves were owed more for their loss of wages than the slaveowners were owed for their loss of property. We didn't make them pay that, so no one should say that their loss of property should be compensated without the caveat that such compensation would have immediately been paid to the former slaves plus the delta between the value of the property and the value of the wages owed to them.

The South got off easy from a purely financial standpoint.
posted by Etrigan at 7:03 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the simplest one to answer is that the first link in the chain - the people that kidnapped the slaves illegally and sold them - should be forced to pay recompense.

Good lord, that's despicable. Every time a human being was bought and/or sold, the people doing the buying and selling should be forced to pay recompense. For folks born into slavery *and kept there* every owner should be forced to pay recompense.

*That*, corb, would be the "simplest" solution. Your solution does nothing but protect slaveowners from the moral consequences of their actions. It's a disgusting, indefensible position from someone claiming to be oh-so-concerned with morality.
posted by mediareport at 7:08 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think corb is trying to do some dispassionate "it's just business" "feelings don't matter" approach to this topic but you kind of can't do that with questions of morality.
posted by sweetkid at 7:16 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think corb is trying to do anything "dispassionate" here at all.
posted by mediareport at 7:29 AM on June 7, 2013


I wasn't defending it, I just thought that was the libertarian way.
posted by sweetkid at 7:30 AM on June 7, 2013


Loyal Southerners wouldn't have paid the Confederacy anything, what with the Confederacy being a shitpile of racist traitors. That they complain about paying twice after paying the wrong party first would be, in modern parlance, too fucking bad.

And stanning for the slave owners to be compensated while ignoring the slaves is straight up racist, sorry. Andrew Johnson was a pusillanimous shit and his intransigence fucked the South more than if Lincoln (and Sherman) had gotten their way with the Reconstruction.
posted by klangklangston at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


from someone claiming to be oh-so-concerned with morality.

In the absence of other evidence, it is clear we should be dearly concerned with any possible moral violation by Union forces, while completely discounting any moral judgement of Confederate, slaveowning, policy.

Also, if property rights were the highest concern, the Confederacy should have purchased instead of seizing by force various Federal forts, customs-houses, courts, and other properties.
If we were actually defending a pricinciple of property rights, rather than one of slavery.

Finally, corb, your characterization of the Confiscation Acts as unconstitutional is invalidated by actually reading the Constitution: Article III Section 3
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.
I know that you know this because it was the first paragraph of the h-net link you linked. The first Confiscation Act says: "to be used or employed, in aiding, abetting, or promoting such insurrection or resistance to the laws" and the second: "That every person who shall hereafter commit the crime of treason against the United States, and shall be adjudged guilty thereof,"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:09 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, if property rights were the highest concern...

I won't repeat my comments on the emptiness of property-rights-based "moral" arguments, but doesn't a person have a right to their own self as "personal property"? I mean, how the hell did the slave-holders get slaves without violating the living shit out of the most basic of all property rights?

The entire argument is a sham wrapped in farce inside of a lie.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:27 AM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Every time a human being was bought and/or sold, the people doing the buying and selling should be forced to pay recompense. For folks born into slavery *and kept there* every owner should be forced to pay recompense.

Why? No, really, why? Try to think of it outside your moral outrage for a second. These people (for the most part) took part in a completely legal and socially sanctioned transaction. They had no reason to believe they were breaking any laws, because they were not at the time. So either you are arguing for ex post facto law - or there should not have been any punishment, including compensation, for their actions during the time, if you believe in the rule of law.

(Obviously, if you don't believe in the rule of law other things will apply; the same if you generally believe ex post facto law is fine. But I'm going on the assumption that most people tend to disapprove of both.)

This is essentially similar to, for example, "Should pedophiles get jury trials with standards of evidence?" or similar arguments. No one argues that being a pedophile is morally vile. But some people view that being a pedophile is so vile that they should receive no rights whatsoever. However, if you are not willing to accord the rights some people are legally entitled to, while acccording those legal rights to others, you undermine the entire function of the law.

This is often quoted here, but could stand it again:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
posted by corb at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: either you are arguing for ex post facto law

Ex post facto clause applies to criminal law, not civil. "The object of civil law is the redress of wrongs by compelling compensation or restitution."

I don't trust you to correctly explain ex post facto, either, since you previously misapplied it to the Confiscation Acts, when treason was obviously already a crime in 1861.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:10 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why? No, really, why? Try to think of it outside your moral outrage for a second. These people (for the most part) took part in a completely legal and socially sanctioned transaction. They had no reason to believe they were breaking any laws, because they were not at the time. So either you are arguing for ex post facto law - or there should not have been any punishment, including compensation, for their actions during the time, if you believe in the rule of law.

The Thirteenth Amendment freed the slaves legally without being ex post facto. It is, by definition, completely legal. The Twenty-Sixth Amendment didn't compensate eligible voters over the age of 21 for watering down their electoral power.

Your argument that slaveowners should have been compensated for the loss of their property is financially, legally and morally indefensible.
posted by Etrigan at 11:14 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Thirteenth Amendment freed the slaves legally without being ex post facto.

So, the slaves were re-characterized as no longer property, instead of property that was taken from their owners? Is that how the seizure of property issue was avoided? Also, how and by whom is "just compensation" determined? Seems to me a just compensation would be $0.00.
posted by ogooglebar at 11:28 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Comment removed. If you want to talk about what can and can't be talked about on Metafilter, you know very well to do it in Metatalk.]
posted by cortex at 11:40 AM on June 7, 2013


[bardic, I do not know what has gotten into you but cut it out.]
posted by cortex at 11:48 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, the slaves were re-characterized as no longer property, instead of property that was taken from their owners? Is that how the seizure of property issue was avoided?

I think the main method of avoiding the issue was "We just kicked your ass, and we got a whole 'nother barrel of kick-ass right over here." Unconditional surrender and all that.
posted by Etrigan at 12:02 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, if you are not willing to accord the rights some people are legally entitled to, while acccording those legal rights to others, you undermine the entire function of the law.

Your continued prioritization of the rights of slave-owners over the rights of the people they enslaved puzzles and disgusts me.
posted by rtha at 12:13 PM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your continued prioritization of the rights of slave-owners over the rights of the people they enslaved puzzles and disgusts me.

It may help if you look at it in a context of defending ideals regardless of whether or not we personally like the person or instituations we are defending when we do so. See: Skokie, Illinois.
Those who assert that civil rights and constitutional safeguards (to free speech) are inalienable quite properly note that it is easy to defend protest movements that have a broad constituency and popular support. It is another matter to defend the civil rights of a miniscule group of fascists lacking both a noble cause and popular support. Hence, it may be Skokie, not Selma, which turns out to be the touchstone of our faith in constitutional government...

We need also to be reminded how fragile and tenuous our commitment is to the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and assembly, when we are dealing not with bloodless abstractions but with the flesh-and-blood case of an obnoxious individual's or group's right to express ideals totally offensive to all the decent folk in our community. Skokie is a disturbing symbol to remind us that the shallowness of our commitment to those principles could ultimately jeapordize the rights of all of us.
posted by corb at 12:33 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your philosophy requires that the property rights of slaveowners be privileged over the personal liberties and rights of slaves, you have a deeply rotted, vile philosophy. These contradictions should be a sign that you are wrong and need to revise your priorities, not that the Union should have compensated slaveowners. That might have been a more practical solution; it is by no means a more just solution.
posted by klangklangston at 12:34 PM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


And the reason why comparing that to Skokie is bullshit is that in Skokie, the individual rights to expression did not diminish the rights of others to expression. In American slavery, you cannot simultaneously defend the property rights of slaves and owners — you must choose. That you are choosing slave owners is, again, a sign of a rotted philosophy, not consistency or dedication to ideals. If your ideals lead you to support the rights of slave owners, you have reduced to absurdity your ideals and proven them bankrupt, with neither the wisdom nor compassion required for justice.
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


In American slavery, you cannot simultaneously defend the property rights of slaves and owners — you must choose.

I think that is the place many are coming from, but I do not agree with this position - I think it's simultaneously possible to defend the right-to-liberty of slaves and the property rights of their owners. And that is, essentially, why I was trying to suggest a compensated emancipation plan would have been the most just overall - because it would support the rights of both.

But I think many people are objecting on the idea that any payment to a slaveowner is morally wrong, somehow - that any defense of property rights is wrong, somehow - not that the two cannot be reconciled, but that there is no wish for the two to be reconciled.

Aside from the practicality of whether or not it would have been possible: if a solution could have been achieved wherein slaves and slaveowners were both justly compensated, and liberty guaranteed in perpetuity from that day forward, would you view that as a good solution? Or would you view it that the moral wrongness of slavery means that morally, no one should ever be compensated for losses incurred because of it - essentially, that they deserved to be impoverished because of perceived moral failures?
posted by corb at 12:41 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


context of defending ideals regardless of whether or not we personally like the person or instituations we are defending when we do so

corb, what is your take on the Confederate confiscation of Federal properties? Upthread, you completely abandon the idea of the property owners, that is, the Federal government ("voters from afar," as you put it) determining what to do with legally and wholly-owned pieces of land.

Why is property the overriding aspect, an "ideal," in upholding a system of human chattel, but not in real estate?

Talk about "Misplaced Honor."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:47 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


corb, are you defending ideals? or laws? These two things are (frequently) not the same, as I am 100% sure you understand. So, I find it extremely odd and ethically inconsistent that someone who is "relatively involved with libertarian stuff" would so strongly seek to exculpate behaviors because they are merely lawful, even when these laws egregiously violate the most basic right, that of the integrity of one's self. If you're like most libertarians, you certainly don't justify "confiscatory taxes", even though they are also lawful. But slavery, well, that's OK if it's the law?

By the way, comparing Skokie, in which an abhorent minority was allowed to express itself, to state-sponsored oppression and genocide is ridiculous--and, again, not very libertarian.

Frankly, you come across as a Confederate apologist rather than "principled". If you're making the more gentle point that citizens of the Confederacy only knew the culture they lived in, and so were people "of their time", so that we should have a modicum of understanding towards them... well, sure. But I think you've very much overplayed your hand if that was your intent.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:50 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I think many people are objecting on the idea that any payment to a slaveowner is morally wrong, somehow...

No, no, no, no, NO! Of course, I can't speak for all, but many are objecting to the inconsistency of your analysis. OK, so let's stipulate that property rights trump all other values (which you know I disagree with), and it would have been good to pay the slave-owners for their slaves. Why do you stop there? How much should the slave owners have paid the slaves? Include that in your spreadsheet, and then maybe you'll come across as principled. As it is, your incomplete analysis lets the slave-holders off the hook, even from within the narrow perspective of property rights.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:54 PM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I think that is the place many are coming from, but I do not agree with this position - I think it's simultaneously possible to defend the right-to-liberty of slaves and the property rights of their owners."

No, because if a slave has a right to liberty, they have no owner.

"And that is, essentially, why I was trying to suggest a compensated emancipation plan would have been the most just overall - because it would support the rights of both."

This is in no way more just, as it perpetuates the myth that it is possible, lawful and just to own another human being.

"But I think many people are objecting on the idea that any payment to a slaveowner is morally wrong, somehow - that any defense of property rights is wrong, somehow - not that the two cannot be reconciled, but that there is no wish for the two to be reconciled."

The two cannot be reconciled. The idea that people are objecting to any defense of property rights is bullshit, easily demonstrated by asking after the property rights of the enslaved human beings. Theirs trumps the rights of their putative owners, yet you consistently ignore it. Which makes you read, honestly, as if your ideology has led you to an apology for slavery.

"Aside from the practicality of whether or not it would have been possible: if a solution could have been achieved wherein slaves and slaveowners were both justly compensated, and liberty guaranteed in perpetuity from that day forward, would you view that as a good solution?"

I believe a solution was justly arrived at: The slaves were emancipated, their putative owners got now compensation, and were not themselves placed under the ownership of their former slaves.

"Or would you view it that the moral wrongness of slavery means that morally, no one should ever be compensated for losses incurred because of it - essentially, that they deserved to be impoverished because of perceived moral failures?"

Framing objections as purely moral, thereby diminished, ignores that you're operating from a position where you believe it is morally just to compensate slaveowners. Framing it as you are is special pleading that ignores any equal claim to justice because of your fixation on artificial property rights. Again, if your moral stance requires you to ask for compensation for slaves being freed, you are valuing property over people and should reconsider, lest you be treated as an apologist for slavery and a perpetuator of deep, racist injustice.

This is the fundamental vacuity of the libertarian conception of rights understood as property, property and maybe liberty.
posted by klangklangston at 12:58 PM on June 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


corb, are you defending ideals? or laws? These two things are (frequently) not the same, as I am 100% sure you understand. So, I find it extremely odd and ethically inconsistent that someone who is "relatively involved with libertarian stuff" would so strongly seek to exculpate behaviors because they are merely lawful, even when these laws egregiously violate the most basic right, that of the integrity of one's self. If you're like most libertarians, you certainly don't justify "confiscatory taxes", even though they are also lawful. But slavery, well, that's OK if it's the law?


It's kind of complicated. The simplest way I can explain it is: no, I don't believe in a broad swath of the entire structure of the system, or even an overarching state itself. I've practiced civil disobedience in the face of rubber bullets. At my deepest level, I think unjust laws are wrong and should not be obeyed - and I do not blame any individual for refusing to obey a law they feel is unjust. I'm not even sure whether or not I believe in the rule of law (without explicit consent), period, at a deep and theoretical level.

But at the same time, I have to live in the world we have, not the world I want - and so I am required to adapt my moral compass to the reality that exists to a certain degree. How do I, morally, feel about the state and the actions of the state? Does the fact that I think the state is unjustified and possibly tyrannical mean that, say, I have to oppose the state getting rid of DADT just because the state has acted? In my view, it means that you have to operate on two levels - one the theoretical ideal, and the other the compromise ideal. In the world that you live in, how do you act? What do you think? What do you endorse? And in that world, I come to the conclusion that if there must be laws without consent (and I do not I think this will ever be eliminated in my lifetime) then at least those laws should be applied evenly. I embrace the Constitution not because it is a holy document inspired by God or somesuch, but because it is a strong protection against tyrannical abuses, and I hate tyrannical abuses.

I also have been to war, and had the idea of a "war of liberation" stuck so far in my craw that I doubt it will ever get out again. My actions have killed people in the name of liberating other people. And I was wrong to do it. So that always affects Civil War discussions, for me. I can't think of one without the other.

So from a pure libertarian standpoint: yes, I endorse freedom, always freedom. But I am not justified in making war on my neighbor to gain the freedom of others. I am not even justified in stepping onto his land to do so.

From a living-in-this-world perspective, I feel people should not be held to suffer for past actions which they could not have predicted, even with all available data, would lead to that end.

Why do you stop there? How much should the slave owners have paid the slaves?

I included my speculations there above, based on my understanding and questions about how things worked. I don't have all of the answers - which is why I asked for anyone with more knowledge of estate law to chime in.

When you receive stolen goods*, you are not held liable for their use during that time. We don't have any rules about stolen people - I think. It doesn't mean that the laws on the books about stolen property are right - I also have issue with how they are handled - but it provides kind of a stepping stone for thinking about how slaves should have been compensated: and I do think they should have been. It just isn't as easy to calculate in numbers how they should have been compensated, and who should have done the compensating. Nor is it easy to judge who is responsible in the case of people who were born into slavery as a result of their parent being enslaved. Who is legally responsible is a tool to go to, not because The Law Is Always Right, but because, in the absence of a compass, you can get ideas and decide whether or not they are good ones.

* Before anyone gets ideas, I am not saying goods are the same as people, I'm saying I don't have any caselaw or moral precedent for how to handle the latter case, so I'm going off what I do have.
posted by corb at 1:14 PM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


It may help if you look at it in a context of defending ideals regardless of whether or not we personally like the person or instituations we are defending when we do so. See: Skokie, Illinois.

I got no problem defending their right to march and speak. If the WBC loonies want to come march around the Castro, I got no problem defending their right to do so, as vile as I find their views.

I have a problem very specifically with your sole focus on compensation to the poor beleaguered slave-owners and apparent refusal to acknowledge the compensation owed to their "property."

On preview: not as easy to calculate? What were farm laborers paid in non-slave states? Who had to pay them (hint: the people they worked for). Seriously, why is it hard to figure out who should have paid them? We already had a longstanding system in place for that.
posted by rtha at 1:21 PM on June 7, 2013


Your entire libertarian argument rests on the notion that slaves are not agents in full possession of the right to self-ownership. It is only if slaves are fully non-autonomous that they can be considered to be wholly private property for which use must be compensated.

But even in the context of slavery culture, slaves were not held to be fully non-autonomous. If they were, there would be no fear of slave rebellion and no concept of liberation; chairs don't rebel, and wallpaper cannot be freed. Being agents with moral standing, then, they acquire personal autonomy a priori. The very presence of their sentience immediately invalidates and delegitimizes any claim to external ownership.

Your argument is that it would have been morally correct to recompensate slaveowners for the loss of their property. It is illegitimate to deny entities held to be agents, by virtue of their moral standing, their essential right to autonomy. Slavery is, therefore, a moral transgression, and it is not ethical to compensate the transgressor upon amendment of their abrogation.

Or, without the fancy words, crime shouldn't pay, and slavery is a moral and ethical crime; therefore, slaveholder recompense would be an ethical error in libertarian philosophy. No, it would not be morally correct to compensate slaveholders for the emancipation of their slaves.
posted by Errant at 1:46 PM on June 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


corb, thanks for the thoughtful response. Maybe I get it, or maybe I'm just making up a story in my head, trying to understand you: you've fought along side brothers and sisters in a shitty war, men and women whom you loved, many who lost their lives or were injured. And many of these (maybe including you) were from the South, so you are in some sense "sticking up for them". I dislike the military institutionally speaking, and would have never fought (or let my kids fight) for, effectively, the property rights of plutocrats--but I can empathize with and respect such honorable impulses. But, like I said, maybe I'm just hallucinating.

I've gotta say, though, this might not have been the best FPP to attempt to work out very real traumas related to your military service, by presenting a nuanced view of the state, laws, individual liberties, property rights, etc. during the Civil War. I mean, we are dealing with slavery here, right? A blot on our country that continues to undermine our Republic to this very day. I suspect if you reread a lot of your comments you'll see you didn't do yourself any favors.

I hope you figure out a way to put together some FPPs of your own that explore what you're trying to say. I know I'll be interested in reading them.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:49 PM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


"So from a pure libertarian standpoint: yes, I endorse freedom, always freedom. But I am not justified in making war on my neighbor to gain the freedom of others. I am not even justified in stepping onto his land to do so. "

Bullshit. Justice precedes license. If my neighbors are holding slaves, and for whatever reason the state is powerless to free them, I am justified in going on their land and, yes, engaging them with force. Again, by privileging property over justice, you show your philosophy to be rotten at its core.
posted by klangklangston at 2:08 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


At the risk of derail, the parallel is so obvious I can't resist...

klangklangston, did you support the invasion of Iraq?
posted by MoTLD at 2:26 PM on June 7, 2013


In case it's not as obvious as it seems, let me elaborate:

It sounds like you would support the invasion of Iraq if the stated purpose of said invasion was to free the people Saddam was oppressing, which he was doing in an even more vile way than slaves were oppressed. Shredders come to mind.
posted by MoTLD at 2:30 PM on June 7, 2013


I haven't been able to find my opinion columns on the Iraq War — my college paper seems to have terrible online archives — but my position was that while I support humanitarian intervention, including the use of force, the dubious legality, precedent and practicality of the war made it impossible to support as it was constituted. I would have had little problem with a broad coalition acting under UN remit deposing Saddam. But it was too big a project, based on lies to the American people, and fairly wholly illegitimate.

I'll also say that I'm more comfortable with "imperialism" and the use of force than many other MeFites, so I wouldn't stand for them.

"It sounds like you would support the invasion of Iraq if the stated purpose of said invasion was to free the people Saddam was oppressing, which he was doing in an even more vile way than slaves were oppressed. Shredders come to mind."

You don't know what you're talking about, either with regard to my views or the treatment of slaves; your ignorance is making you blithe.
posted by klangklangston at 2:42 PM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


MoTLD: "the people Saddam was oppressing, which he was doing in an even more vile way than slaves were oppressed."

I'm going to entertain yet another stupid derail here. Even if we believe this stupid "shredders" nonsense actually occurred (even though it seems to have been debunked), you think that is worse than living a lifetime (literally! People BORN AS SLAVES) in slavery? Please find a mirror, and look long and hard into it.

I grew up in the South. I love visiting there. But I should thank the several people in this thread that remind me why I have a hard time dealing with some of my relatives that still live there. An absolutely twisted and morally repugnant worldview is not something I will tolerate anymore.
posted by Big_B at 2:51 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"you think that is worse than living a lifetime (literally! People BORN AS SLAVES) in slavery? Please find a mirror, and look long and hard into it."

And it's not like those lives were absent hideous fucking cruelty.
posted by klangklangston at 2:55 PM on June 7, 2013


Sorry if I came across as blithe, either on your (klangklangston) obviously nuanced views on the Iraq war, of which I am indeed ignorant, or on the evil that is slavery.

However, what I said seems like a direct application of the logic you expressed when you said "I am justified in going on their land and, yes, engaging them with force."

I will go meditate before I shove my foot in deeper.
posted by MoTLD at 3:02 PM on June 7, 2013


And if the shredders thing was indeed debunked, sorry. I've been living under a rock for years now. Please MeMail me details if you have them.
posted by MoTLD at 3:06 PM on June 7, 2013


Yeah, sorry, tempers are high. However, I believe firmly that there is no God to give us justice, justice must be built on earth by human striving. There is no God that proclaims property, either, and property, while valuable and generally a good in society, cannot be used as an excuse to abrogate more fundamental rights. It is a far greater crime to deprive someone of liberty than of property.
posted by klangklangston at 3:12 PM on June 7, 2013


Where does life factor into liberty vs. property? You would kill to protect another's liberty?

What about another's life? Do the millions of lives lost to slavery not count as lives here? The Civil War was not the beginning of the violence. There was a war on against black people for hundreds of years, a war that cost many lives and continued to threaten many more.
posted by Danila at 4:43 PM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


From a purely practical standpoint, as horrible as slavery is, it is in the slave owners' best interest not to kill their slaves. Those who did were monsters, plain and simple, but most slaves lived out their lives.
posted by MoTLD at 4:45 PM on June 7, 2013


So that always affects Civil War discussions, for me. I can't think of one without the other.

Ah! Bad framing. This explains a lot. The United States Civil War was explicitly not a "war of liberation" when it started.

The Confederacy started a war to ensure they could continue to exist as a slaveholding nation. For evidence thereof, I'd refer you to all of my prior comments in this thread.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:51 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how this factors in, but I was taught in school that most slaves who weren't born into slavery were sold into it by other tribesmen (black, of course, though I'm trying not to "blame blacks for slavery" here). It was common in African cultures in those days to conquer other tribes and enslave the vanquished. If I was taught incorrectly, someone please correct my public school education with some appropriate cites.

But if I am correct, there were black folks on both sides of that war, though of course almost no white folks on the enslaved side. But it was not a race war.
posted by MoTLD at 4:54 PM on June 7, 2013


[Folks, please do not do the "interrogate one single person about his/her beliefs" here. If you really want to have the conversation, have it privately. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:56 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, r_n, I believe I instigated that derail. It won't happen again.

But an FPP about libertarianism will be really interesting if anyone can make a good one! ;)

posted by MoTLD at 5:00 PM on June 7, 2013


Ah! Bad framing. This explains a lot. The United States Civil War was explicitly not a "war of liberation" when it started. The Confederacy started a war to ensure they could continue to exist as a slaveholding nation.

I want to stress as hard as I can; this is not me trying to be anything but genuinely understanding where you are coming from. This seems to me to be a contradiction, and I would really, really like to have it resolved because I think it would be really helpful in understanding why we are disagreeing so hard for things that don't seem to make sense to me.

It has seemed like people were saying, as they often do, that the Civil War /was/ a war of liberation earlier - that anything was justified by going in to free the slaves, because of how awful slavery is. And I think, though it could be a bad read, that that's why we got into the morality of slavery, and that's why klangklangston and others are saying that any morality that doesn't justify an invasion/humanitarian intervention to stop such an enormous wrong as slavery is a bad one. And I definitely got caught up in arguing against that point, but I have never thought that the North went to war to free the slaves. It has seemed to me that I've been saying that, and been really confused as to why people were arguing with me: I've always thought that the North went to war to regain their territory and protect their integrity as a nation.

Do we agree on this, or is there more? I'm not trying to play "gotcha", just that I find it's a lot easier to have discussions starting from a mutual point of agreement, as it lets people understand each other better.
posted by corb at 9:27 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The difference is that the Confederacy saw Lincoln's election as the final straw in a growing pile of abolitionist sentiment that threatened their way of life, so they seceded. For the Confederacy, it was about slavery.

The Union, on the other hand, wanted to keep the United States united. For the Union, it was about secession.

To make another easily mangleable metaphor, imagine that your neighbor is sick of a tree that grows in your yard, for whatever reason. So he threatens to poison the tree. One day, you see him stepping out of his back door with a big bottle with a skull and crossbones on it. You tear ass out of your back door to intercept him. When the police come to break up the fight, the two of you have two different (but related) motives for the fight. For him, it's about the tree. For you, it's about his trespassing on your property. Later, it becomes obvious that you were defending the tree, but that wasn't why the fight started.

I will actively and maliciously ignore anyone who tries to extend this metaphor to make a point.
posted by Etrigan at 10:36 AM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


So from a pure libertarian standpoint: yes, I endorse freedom, always freedom. But I am not justified in making war on my neighbor to gain the freedom of others. I am not even justified in stepping onto his land to do so.

So the real tyrants in the Cleveland sex slave case were not the people who kept the sex slaves, but the people who broke in to free them and the police who arrested the slaver.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:37 AM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, for the South the objective of secession and war was clearly to protect slavery. For the North the war was to save the Union and democracy - though I suspect ending slavery as an ultimate objective of the war was on the minds of many of the Republicans from the beginning and probably Lincoln's as well (if subconsciously).

The Republicans and the Civil War
The Republican party in 1861 was a coalition of disparate elements. Formed only 7 years earlier, it contained men who had been Whigs, Anti-Slavery Democrats, Free-Soilers, Know-Nothings, and Abolitionists. By the outbreak of the war, these fragments had coalesced into 3 basic factions: conservatives, moderates, and radicals. President Abraham Lincoln's task was to mold these factions into a government that could win the war without destroying the South politically and economically.
The most aggressive and, eventually, most influential of the three was the Radical Republican faction. All Republicans were against slavery, but this group was the most "radical", in its opposition to the "peculiar institution." While conservatives favored gradual emancipation combined with colonization of Freedmen, and while moderates favored emancipation but with reservations, Radicals favored immediate eradication of an institution they viewed as iniquitous, and saw the war as a crusade for "Abolition."
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:01 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, yeah, point being people will often put a great deal of time and effort into disputes that at first seem obvious and have no bearing on practical function, but have a great deal of potential for misunderstanding and other negative results - and a focus on understanding an individual’s position without associating the acrimony of the conflict with the individual, can yield more productive results for all parties.

But I could be wrong.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:37 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fort Snowden
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:26 AM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've always thought that the North went to war to regain their territory and protect their integrity as a nation.

Right, but they wanted to protect their integrity as a nation that was in the process of ending slavery, and the south seceded in order to avoid being part of that nation.

The north wasn't planning to go to war over it - they probably would have gone down the slow, legal-compromise style route you referenced above. But the confederate states tried to opt out of the constitution altogether rather than accept that.
posted by mdn at 8:54 AM on June 12, 2013


I think we may underestimate how much the world was watching, and how aware the North was about how continuing slavery would affect America's place in the world. Slavery was rapidly becoming an anachronistic evil in the developed world.

The Contest In America
John Stuart Mill on emancipation

John Stuart Mill, 1862
The world knows what the question between the North and South has been for many years, and still is. Slavery alone was thought of, alone talked of. Slavery was battled for and against, on the floor of Congress and in the plains of Kansas; on the slavery question exclusively was the party constituted which now rules the United States: on slavery Fremont was rejected, on slavery Lincoln was elected; the South separated on slavery, and proclaimed slavery as the one cause of separation.

It is true enough that the North are not carrying on war to abolish slavery in the States where it legally exists. Could it have been expected, or even perhaps desired, that they should? A great party does not change suddenly, and at once, all its principles and professions. The Republican party have taken their stand on law, and the existing constitution of the Union. They have disclaimed all right to attempt anything which that constitution forbids.
John Stuart Mill on “the sacred right of insurrection” (1862)
Secession may be laudable, and so may any other kind of insurrection; but it may also be an enormous crime. It is the one or the other, according to the object and the provocation. And if there ever was an object which, by its bare announcement, stamped rebels against a particular community as enemies of mankind, it is the one professed by the South. Their right to separate is the right which Cartouche or Turpin would have had to secede from their respective countries, because the laws of those countries would not suffer them to rob and murder on the highway. The only real difference is, that the present rebels are more powerful than Cartouche or Turpin, and may possibly be able to effect their iniquitous purpose.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:17 AM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


More I look at the thread, the more I think the Ship of Thesus is apt.

Certainly as far as the civil war is concerned: is this the same “United States” we’re living in as the “United States” that existed with slavery?
If yes, then do we not owe money to slave owners? Or by the same argument the slaves or their descendants for their labor?

If no, then why haven’t we changed our name? Or recognized the altered form to make it clear we’re not responsible for the abuses and atrocities of the past? That the former "United States" that was ok with slavery is not the "United States" now that abhors it?

A base by any other name is still a base. It’s only when we change the function that we can –universally- recognize change. Otherwise we remain wrangling over the subjective notions, shifting though which causes and perspectives of cause, etc.

I think there's much more to be said about the effects of major shifts in thought and payments in blood. But I'm not smart enough to come up with something universally satisfying.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:57 AM on June 12, 2013


corb: We still have them under a different rule than the rest of the nation in terms of their voting laws - they are still subservient to the Federal government in a way that most other states aren't. A hundred years later, we are still declaring them more in need of federal paternal guidance.

SCOTUS fixed that for you.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:18 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A remembering of the pathetic General Braxton Bragg whose namesake is in need of changing.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:45 PM on June 25, 2013


A remembering of the pathetic General Braxton Bragg whose namesake is in need of changing.

Wait, it sounds as if his efforts helped preserve the Union. Aren't those the people we want to name bases after?
posted by ogooglebar at 1:22 PM on June 25, 2013


SCOTUS fixed that for you.

Relevant thread.
posted by homunculus at 1:25 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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