“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”
August 12, 2015 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor and Head of the Department of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point, explains that the American Civil War was fought over slavery. (Via)
posted by zarq (50 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm sure it's been said before, but this is the first time I've come across someone else putting the "states' rights" argument to bed so thoroughly. Yes. It was absolutely about states' rights. Specifically, the right to have slaves.
posted by Naberius at 1:17 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's too bad you can't turn a video into a t-shirt slogan: "If this video offends you, you need a history lesson."
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:17 PM on August 12, 2015


This video elides a central fact of the US Civil War: the slaves, to a substantial degree, freed themselves. The thousands of Black people, designated as "contraband," who fled their plantations and flocked to the Union lines when the army invaded the South, made it impossible (and illogical) to continue the war on any basis other than a war of emancipation. At the start, this was the intent of the North: to fight a short war, force the South to capitulate without ending slavery, and restore the status quo ante. The former slaves themselves took this off the table, and between that and their heroic actions in combat (fighting for the North and not the South) should be credited with their own emancipation.
posted by graymouser at 1:23 PM on August 12, 2015 [33 favorites]


This was put out by Conservative pundit/talk show host Dennis Prager's Prager University. (Not an academic institution.) Most of their videos push a right wing perspective.
posted by zarq at 1:25 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Relevant Simpsons joke.
posted by resurrexit at 1:30 PM on August 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


This was put out by Conservative pundit/talk show host Dennis Prager's Prager University.

Interesting, hadn't realized that. I guess some of the right wing is trying to educate/shut up more ignorant members? Pity facts alone won't do it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:31 PM on August 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


At the start, this was the intent of the North: to fight a short war, force the South to capitulate without ending slavery, and restore the status quo ante.

I don't even think McClellan was motivated to do even that much. Lincoln should have fired that asshat long before he did.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:32 PM on August 12, 2015 [7 favorites]




I am reminded of Ta-Nehisi Coates' article, What This Cruel War Was Over:
The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten.
Coates then provides citations from twenty-odd confederate states, papers and parties.
posted by standardasparagus at 1:40 PM on August 12, 2015 [29 favorites]


Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.

Whenever I hear some Romantic revisionist bullshit about "The Confederacy"(I'm looking at you, Savannah), my mind goes straight to Andersonville, Georgia.

Fuck the Confederacy.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:43 PM on August 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Coates: In citing slavery, South Carolina was less an outlier than a leader, setting the tone for other states, including 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…
Marx, on primitive accumulation:
This primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential. Never mind! Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defence of property. M. Thiers, e.g., had the assurance to repeat it with all the solemnity of a statesman to the French people, once so spirituel. But as soon as the question of property crops up, it becomes a sacred duty to proclaim the intellectual food of the infant as the one thing fit for all ages and for all stages of development. In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part. In the tender annals of Political Economy, the idyllic reigns from time immemorial. Right and “labour” were from all time the sole means of enrichment, the present year of course always excepted. As a matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic.
posted by standardasparagus at 1:44 PM on August 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


You can't have treason in defense of slavery without slavery.
posted by Gelatin at 1:44 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Instead of calling it the Civil War, I think we should use James Nicoll's more accurate term: The Slaveowner's Rebellion. Also, as an added bonus it enrages Confederacy apologists.
posted by happyroach at 1:53 PM on August 12, 2015 [62 favorites]


This was put out by Conservative pundit/talk show host Dennis Prager's Prager University. (Not an academic institution.) Most of their videos push a right wing perspective.

Great find, zarq. Thanks for posting. Might be a good link to save if Conservative Uncle on Facebook ever wants to get into this again.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:59 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


The US in 1860 had 31,184,000 people. 1 in 8 were slaves. If you leave out the free states and territories that were part of the census, 30.6% of the slave-holding states' population were slaves. As can be noted in the link, in some of the Confederate states, greater than 40% of families had slaves.

And my alternate history take on McClellan. Through his incompetence McClellan performed a great service. If McClellan were competent, Lincoln would never have declared the Emancipation Proclamation.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:00 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's only one Colonel Tigh I recognize.
So say we all.
posted by LtRegBarclay at 2:12 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


The headline of this post triggered me to think of a new recruitment advertisement the Dutch Army published this week. Not directly related, it's just the tag line they used that did it for me. Roughly translated: "Our freedom begins with the freedom of others."
posted by DreamerFi at 2:44 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


If the Confederate flag makes you sick to your stomach, the US flag must make you puke your guts out. Slaveholders rebelling against their motherland, but WINNING, which let them not only keep slavery alive, but go on to finish the genocide of the natives. And that was just the beginning. All this hoopla about the Confederate flag while here in the land of the free, the US flag flies unironically everywhere you look, even in the stupidest of places. The President of the United States wearing a flag pin? WTF. I guess we now know to which nation his allegiance belongs.
posted by king walnut at 2:49 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Here is my apology for the American flag: It has flown over the worst of what America has done, but also the best. It's planted on the moon for example. You need to acknowledge it has also flown over genocide and slavery, but the story of America is one of slow, agonizing progress to improve. As long as the complexity of the meaning of that symbol is acknowledged, I'm still willing to salute it. Of course, it often isn't acknowledged. We do need to point out what you did a lot more.

The Confederate flag never flew over anything good, it always flew over a country fighting for slavery and then it was revived to fly for continuing institutional racism.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:52 PM on August 12, 2015 [23 favorites]


I'm sure it's been said before, but this is the first time I've come across someone else putting the "states' rights" argument to bed so thoroughly.

It was said at the time of the Secession, by a Richmond, VA newspaper:
” ‘The people of the South,’ says a contemporary, ‘are not fighting for slavery but for independence.’ Let us look into this matter. It is an easy task, we think, to show up this new-fangled heresy — a heresy calculated to do us no good, for it cannot deceive foreign statesmen nor peoples, nor mislead any one here nor in Yankeeland. . . Our doctrine is this: WE ARE FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT OUR GREAT AND NECESSARY DOMESTIC INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY SHALL BE PRESERVED, and for the preservation of other institutions of which slavery is the groundwork.”
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:52 PM on August 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


I find this explanation a little too tidy and too much in line with modern neoconservative thought. Maybe I'm paranoid, but part of what's going on may be to subtly discredited modern peace movements, considering the source (Prager "University"). After all, if invading the South to stop obvious human rights abuses was the right thing to do, why was invading Iraq so bad? For a contrarian left-wing perspective, here are some of Howard Zinn's thoughts from a 2009 talk:

After all, when the war started, it wasn’t Lincoln’s intention to free the slaves. You know that. That was not his purpose in fighting the war. His purpose in fighting the war was to keep Southern territory within the grasp of the central government. You could almost say it was an imperial aim. It was a terrible thing to say, I know. But yeah, I mean, that’s what the war was fought for. Oh, it’s put in a nice way. We say we fought for the Union. You know, we don’t want anybody to secede. Yeah. Why no? What if they want to secede? We’re not going to let them secede. No, we want all that territory.
posted by tecg at 2:52 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I guess we now know to which nation his allegiance belongs.

We didn't before?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:59 PM on August 12, 2015


Matt Christman/@cushbomb:
People who think the Civil War was about slavery need to read a dang history book. No, not that one. Or that one. Or that one. Or that one.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:04 PM on August 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


Not only did the Confederate flag never fly over anything good, it never flew over anything but a bloody war in defense of slavery. The U.S. flag has been raised for many, many, many causes -- including slavery and genocide but also including democracy, civil rights and freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and on and on. It's impossible to identify with one thing the way the Confederate flag is indelibly tied to white supremacy.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:05 PM on August 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


Richard Kreitner of The Nation just posted a response to this video.

Stop Turning the End of Slavery into Army Propaganda: Yes, the United States army, “wearing this blue uniform,” helped destroy slavery. Doesn’t it matter what else that army has done?
 But on further consideration, it’s painfully and almost insultingly obvious that New Jersey-raised staffers for leftist publications are not the video’s target audience.

The premise and purpose of Col. Ty Seidule’s video is that a few ignorant dolts out in the land continue to insist that the war was not, in fact, about slavery, and that they are precisely the kinds of people who might be swayed to change their minds on the matter by the invocation of the prestige of the modern American military. When faced with the painful cognitive dissonance of being told an inconvenient truth by a person in uniform, the thinking apparently went, the hardliners, or enough of them to get it circulating on White Twitter, might finally concede the point.
posted by standardasparagus at 3:11 PM on August 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


Instead of calling it the Civil War, I think we should use James Nicoll's more accurate term: The Slaveowner's Rebellion. Also, as an added bonus it enrages Confederacy apologists.

The Suppression of the Slavocrats
posted by Apocryphon at 3:16 PM on August 12, 2015


If you leave out the free states and territories that were part of the census, 30.6% of the slave-holding states' population were slaves.

Slaves made up large proportions of the seceding states' populations in 1860: 45% of Alabama's population, 26% of Arkansas', 44% of Florida's, 44% of Georgia's, 47% of Louisiana's, 55% of Mississippi's, 33% of North Carolina's, 57% of South Carolina's, 25% of Tennessee's, 30% of Texas', and 31% of Virginia's. In the border states--Delaware (2%), Kentucky (20%), Maryland (13%), and Missouri (10%)--slaves made up smaller proportions, and none of the Northern states had slaves.

So, each of the states that joined the Confederacy had a slave population of at least 25%.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:33 PM on August 12, 2015


States ranked by enslaved percentage of population:
  1. South Carolina
  2. Mississippi
  3. Louisiana
  4. Alabama
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. North Carolina
  8. Virginia
  9. Texas
  10. Arkansas
  11. Tennessee
  12. Kentucky
  13. Maryland
  14. Missouri
  15. Delaware
States ranked in order of secession:
  1. South Carolina
  2. Mississippi
  3. Florida
  4. Alabama
  5. Georgia
  6. Louisiana
  7. Texas
  8. Virginia
  9. Arkansas
  10. Tennessee
  11. North Carolina
posted by kirkaracha at 4:03 PM on August 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Or we could just start calling it the War of Southern Aggression
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 5:09 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's interesting to consider the question: Why is it important for some people to believe that slavery wasn't the issue? My only real guess is that if you identify with the confederacy as "your side" (for lack of a better descriptor) then, by definition, they have to admirable. (This is the "It's not evil when we do it" theory.) Making the war about an abstract political argument, and relegating slavery to something that just sort of happened and then stopped, lets you think of confederates as admirable people, as opposed to a bunch of traitors willing to kill to preserve the ability to own other humans as property.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 5:28 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


If the Confederate flag makes you sick to your stomach, the US flag must make you puke your guts out. Slaveholders rebelling against their motherland, but WINNING, which let them not only keep slavery alive, but go on to finish the genocide of the natives.

Yes, because as long as you can draw parallels to the vague outlines of two rebellions, you can turn off the part of your brain that's curious about why they happened!
posted by tonycpsu at 5:30 PM on August 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yes, the United States army, “wearing this blue uniform,” helped destroy slavery.

Ironic, coming from a institution in cadet grey.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:32 PM on August 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess we now know to which nation his allegiance belongs.

We didn't before?


Kenya?
posted by carping demon at 5:36 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm paranoid, but part of what's going on may be to subtly discredited modern peace movements
well, another video from "Prager U.", featuring Dennis Prager himself* (who I really can't listen to for more than a minute) is about "The U.S./Iran Deal" and starts with the insistance that big-E Evil does exist, then blames the massive death toll of World War II on Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler, then hits it's main point: that "It's 1938 all over again". So, comparing Iran's Ayatollah to Hitler and Obama to Chamberlain (an analogy that fails miserably in more ways than I can count). And, apparently, the only way to stop the threat is to march into Tehran the way we marched into Berlin. So, yes, Prager University is a Military School.

Oh, looking further into P.U.'s video's, I found Adam Carolla. And a video he did titled "Why Bad Luck is Good"*, in which he credits his own success to Overcoming the Bad Luck Most of Us Have With Hard Work. And essentially saying "you can do it too (ALL of us?!?)... you're probably not working hard enough". He did mention his Hard Work/Not Good Luck in getting in the door of a particular radio station. As I have anecdoted here before, I got in the same door several years before him and ultimately walked out the same door, not because I didn't want to work hard, but because I didn't want to sell my soul there. If Carolla is an example of P.U.'s faculty... RUN... RUN AWAY.

But this video is a perfect example of "a stopped clock being right twice a day", or more accurately "a clock running backwards being right four times a day".

*no, I won't link to it
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:09 PM on August 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oneswellfoop,
Sorry for the derail, but here goes.

I had the unfortunate experience of seeing Adam perform a show with Dennis Prager. I didn't realize until I got the free ticket that is was really a Prager show featuring Adam. I went to the venue and I found out how many variations on the American Flag as clothing style there were. I swear someone was wearing shirt with red and white stripes running down the sleeeves, a torso that was a field of blue with white stars, and a huge Bald Eagle print on it.

I was OK for about half an hour until it was time for Adam to become Prager's second banana. Then he became a yes man to Prager's rants. Everyone who was there just for Adam started walking out at this point.

What made me walk was when Prager said something along the lines of "The best way to raise a child is in a family with a married man and women that goes to church every Sunday". Openly avowed atheist Adam's response was "Here here".
posted by Badgermann at 6:47 AM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


tecg,

Wow, that Zinn talk is bullshit, at least where it touches the Civil War. He bloviates about the number of dead, and asks if slavery could have been ended another way and offers no answers some vague nonsense about John Brown guerilla warfare.

The reason it's such bullshit is because, as noted above, it was the slavers themselves who started the war specifically to preserve the institution of slavery. 600,000 people died or were maimed because the Southern slave owners couldn't stand the idea of even the possibility of a peaceful phasing out of slavery as represented by Lincoln.

Let's say that again: the bloodiest war in US history was initiated by slave owners specifically and explicitly to preserve their slaves. An imperial aim?
It’s not that we’re saying, well, we shouldn’t have a bloody war because — "Just let people remain slaves." No, we want to end slavery, but is it possible to end slavery without a bloody civil war?


No, Zinn, that's exactly what you're saying. We shouldn't have a bloody war and just let the slaves be slaves, because somehow something would have happened and slavery in the US would have ended another way. In the United States, a bloody war was the only way slavery could have ended, because the slavers were prepared to go to war to defend their slaves, and had massive resources to do it with. The Union may not have been fighting to end slavery, but the Confederacy was damn well fighting to preserve it.

This is Confederate apologist nonsense. I've literally heard these exact same arguments from explicit Confederate supporters, it's bizarre coming from someone like Zinn.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:08 AM on August 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


That is weird. Maybe as an antiauthoritarian and pacifist, Zinn just couldn't bring himself around to the idea there could ever be a just war. Did he ever write approvingly of any military action? He definitely seems to have gotten this piece of history very wrong.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:25 AM on August 13, 2015


For the record, most socialists in the US have taken our tack not from Zinn or some abstract "imperial" notion, but from Karl Marx, who was an ardent supporter of the war and the North.
posted by graymouser at 10:36 AM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sangermaine:

You're misunderstanding Zinn's point. The argument is this:
It's clear that Lincoln's first and foremost goal was to "preserve the union", i.e. force the seceded states back into the union (this is the "imperial aim"). Ending slavery was a secondary goal. There's the famous quote where he says "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it."

Zinn asks: What if Lincoln's primary goal would have been to end slavery? Was there a way to achieve this goal without a bloody civil war, at the expense of the union?

It's not entirely unreasonable to speculate that the tide would likely have turned against slavery even in a seceded Confederate States. It would certainly have taken much longer. In any case, this is certainly not "apologistic nonsense".

Part of what bothers me about this discussion here is that the two goals "preserving the union" vs. "ending slavery" get amalgated into one, and so "preserving the union" is elevated to the status of a noble cause by proxy. But it's not: It's an imperialistic goal.
posted by tecg at 11:19 AM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


You're misunderstanding Zinn's point. The argument is this:
It's clear that Lincoln's first and foremost goal was to "preserve the union", i.e. force the seceded states back into the union (this is the "imperial aim"). Ending slavery was a secondary goal. There's the famous quote where he says "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it."

Zinn asks: What if Lincoln's primary goal would have been to end slavery? Was there a way to achieve this goal without a bloody civil war, at the expense of the union?


Lincoln's primary goal in the Civil War was to preserve the Union. But he was a known abolitionist, to the point that his election was the trigger event of the Civil War -- South Carolina first officially mentioned secession in a formal declaration by its General Assembly called the "Resolution to Call the Election of Abraham Lincoln as U.S. President a Hostile Act". The South knew that the tide was turning against their Peculiar Institution and decided to leave the Union, a month before Lincoln was inaugurated. Lincoln didn't have a choice between slavery and civil war, because there had already been shots fired by Southerners.

So no, there wasn't a way to achieve abolition in the South without a bloody civil war, and Zinn should know that.
posted by Etrigan at 11:32 AM on August 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I take issue with Zinn seeing the US war as "imperial" when the territory that the government was asserting authority on was recognized by being part of it. The South—despite what some would contend—was not a different culture but rather a subculture of American Culture. It's separation was based on rejection of future US abolitionist legal successes. The South was part of the US and was in rebellion against the national government for some of the worst reasons. Also, as others have mentioned, the Confederacy attacked a US Fort and armed themselves for war. Is it imperialist for the US to assert sovereignty over its own territory and to defend itself from reckless rebellion?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:18 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I take issue with Zinn seeing the US war as "imperial" when the territory that the government was asserting authority on was recognized by being part of it.... Is it imperialist for the US to assert sovereignty over its own territory and to defend itself from reckless rebellion?

Zinn had a long history of advocating fairly extreme self-determination. Even in the case of a subculture, he was in favor of letting groups go their own way if they want. That did require some twisting himself into knots when discussing a group that wanted to go its own way so as to continue not letting another group go its own way, but when discussing purely North-vs.-South, it's not that inconsistent with his overall beliefs.
posted by Etrigan at 12:34 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


In any case, this is certainly not "apologistic nonsense".
tecg

It most certainly is, and the framing is really bizarre. He, and you, are framing this as if the North were the aggressor trying to hold on to the South by force and refusing to consider other avenues to end slavery.

As Etrigan and others note, this is exactly backwards. It was the South that was the aggressor, and was so terrified of Lincoln and the abolitionist-minded Republicans taking power that they started a war rather than work with them. It was the South that for decades before the war had turned aside any effort to limit slave influence and almost came to succession over it earlier.

It wasn't that the North was unwilling to try anything other than bloody war, it's that the South was unwilling to consider anything other than war.

I understand Zinn perfectly, and don't want any part of his Confederate apology. Neither should you. Any time you find yourself defending the side of slavery, you might want to stop and consider what's going on.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:35 PM on August 13, 2015


Alleging that I am defending slavery or am a Confederate apologist is complete bullshit. I'm not going to discuss at this level.
posted by tecg at 12:49 PM on August 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wanted to add this:
In the United States, the regulation of slavery was predominantly a state function. Northern states followed a course of gradual emancipation. During the Civil War, in 1861, President Lincoln drafted an act to be introduced before the legislature of Delaware, one of the four non-free states that remained loyal,[2] for compensated emancipation. However this was narrowly defeated. Lincoln also was behind national legislation towards the same end, but the southern states, now in full rebellion, ignored the proposals.[3][4]

Only in the District of Columbia, which fell under direct Federal auspices, was compensated emancipation enacted. On April 16, 1862, President Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act. This law prohibited slavery in the District, forcing its 900-odd slaveholders to free their slaves, with the government paying owners an average of about $300 for each. In 1863 state legislation towards compensated emancipation in Maryland failed to pass, as did an attempt to include it in a newly written Missouri constitution.[1][5][6][7]
Also, I wanted to address this:

There's the famous quote where he says "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it."

That is something Lincoln said, but it's a bit disingenuous and is a classic item trotted out by Confederate apologists. It comes from a letter Lincoln wrote to the New York Tribune:
On August 22, 1862, just a few weeks before signing the Proclamation and after he had already discussed a draft of it with his cabinet in July, he wrote a letter in response to an editorial by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune which had urged complete abolition. Lincoln differentiates between "my view of official duty"—that is, what he can do in his official capacity as President—and his personal views. Officially he must save the Union above all else; personally he wanted to free all the slaves:

"I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free."[42]
The idea that Lincoln was some imperialist tyrant hellbent on preserving the Union and nothing else is just wrong. He had always deeply held abolitionist beliefs.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:52 PM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The notion that there was something "imperial" about the North's ambition is especially bizarre given that the aim of the slave-owners was explicitly and clearly to expand slavery into Latin America. The filibusters tried to do so by force of arms. It was a period of direct, armed and violent conflicts over whether slavery would expand or die. If the Confederacy had seceded, it would have had to invade either the US territories or another Latin American country. Read James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom if nothing else: it definitively shows that the issue was not just the continuation but the expansion of slavery.
posted by graymouser at 12:58 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


The idea that Lincoln was some imperialist tyrant hellbent

More secesh propaganda: "The despot's heel is on thy shore,"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:39 PM on August 13, 2015



"The notion that there was something "imperial" about the North's ambition is especially bizarre..."

Unless you look west of the Mississippi. In a narrow way, the foundation of the "Civil War" was based on maintaining slavery, but the ripples are many. Retaining slavery was the only way the seceding states could see to keep their economic base in order. That they might have had to expand to Mexico or Central America is perhaps arguable, and not entirely moot. They needed slavery.

The "North" wasn't just the northern part of the country. It was a westerly expanding empire, already having to contend with Great Britain, Russia, France, and Mexico for the spoils, both real and imagined, that lay waiting in that direction. An America boxed in on it's western coast was very different from an empire that reached from sea to shining sea. Where would one suppose Texas would align itself? Imagine a fifth nation on its eastern coast--the seceding states, newly separated and seeking allies.

Lincoln's wish to preserve the union is understandable on its face, and his rationalizations (printed above) are wholly in keeping with his priorities as President. I am amazed that anybody could think that a war of such magnitude would be undertaken simply to satisfy a moral stance. Everybody always claims that God is on their side, but that's only useful for the recruiting posters. The movers and shakers who manipulate the economic issues don't pray to that God.
posted by mule98J at 4:11 PM on August 13, 2015


Selected events from Wikipedia's timeline of events leading to the American Civil War, with some additions:

November 6, 1860: Abraham Lincoln wins the 1860 election as president; to take office on March 4, 1861
December 18: Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky proposes the Crittenden Compromise, which included proposed Constitutional amendments that would have:
  1. Permanently recognized slavery in any current or future territory of the United States south of the Missouri Compromise line (36 degrees, 30 minutes) and permanently prohibited slavery north of the line
  2. Forbidden Congress from abolishing slavery in places under its jurisdiction
  3. Forbidden Congress from abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia
  4. Forbidden Congress from interfering with the interstate slave trade
  5. Required Congress to provide full compensation to owners of rescued fugitive slaves
  6. Permanently prohibited any future amendments from changing these amendments or empowering Congress to interfere with slavery within any slave state
Hey, "states rights" fans! The compromise would also have declared that all Northern states' personal liberty laws were unconstitutional
December 20: South Carolina secedes; Vice President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky, appoints a Committee of Thirteen U.S. Senators (including Jefferson Davis) to consider the Crittenden Compromise
December 21: The four Congressmen from South Carolina withdraw from the House of Representatives
December 26: South Carolina state troops occupy Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson, and the battery on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor
December 27: South Carolina state troops seize Castle Pinckney
December 30: South Carolina state troops seize the U.S. Arsenal in Charleston
December 31: Congress tables the Crittenden Compromise after the Committee of Thirteen fails to reach agreement

January 2, 1861: South Carolina state troops take control of Fort Jackson in Charleston harbor
January 3: Georgia state troops take Fort Pulaski at the mouth of the Savannah River
January 4: Alabama state troops seize the U.S. Arsenal in Mount Vernon
January 5: Alabama state troops seize Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines at the entrance to Mobile Bay; seizures of U.S. forts and military installations continue throughout the seceded states
January 9: cadets from The Citadel fire on the unarmed merchant vessel Star of the West as it enters Charleston Harbor in a failed attempt to resupply Fort Sumter; Mississippi secedes
January 8: the garrison of Fort Pickens near Pensacola, Florida, repel local men trying to seize the fort
January 10: Florida secedes
January 11: Alabama secedes
January 12: Mississippi representatives resign from the U.S. Congress
January 14: Federal troops occupy Fort Taylor at Key West, Florida
January 18: Federal troops occupy Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas, Florida
January 19: Georgia secedes
January 21: U.S. Senators Clement C. Clay, Jr. and Benjamin Fitzpatrick from Alabama, David L. Yulee and Stephen R. Mallory from Florida, and Jefferson Davis from Mississippi withdraw from the U.S. Senate
January 26: Louisiana secedes
January 29: Kansas is admitted to the Union as a free state
February 4: a convention of delegates from South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana meets in Montgomery, Alabama to form a new Confederate government; U.S. Senators Judah Benjamin and John Slidell of Louisiana leave the U.S. Senate
February 4-6: a peace conference of delegates from 14 free states and 7 slave states (not including any of the states that had seceded) fails to come up with a compromise
February 8: The Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America formally establishes the Confederate States of America
February 12: The Provisional Confederate Congress approves a Peace Commission to the United States
February 18: Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as president of the Confederate States of America
February 23: Texas secedes
February 27: Confederate President Davis appoints three commissioners to attempt negotiations between the Confederacy and the Federal government
February 28: The House of Representatives approves the Corwin Amendment, a proposed amendment that would have prohibited Congress from amending the Constitution to abolish or interfere with slavery; Colorado Territory is organized; the Provisional Confederate Congress establishes the Provisional Army of the Confederate States
March 1: Confederate States take over the military at Charleston, South Carolina from South Carolina troops
March 2: The Senate approves the Corwin Amendment (if the states had ratified it it would've become the 13th Amendment); Nevada Territory and Dakota Territory are organized
March 4: Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as president
March 6: the Provisional Confederate Congress establishes the Army of the Confederate States of America (intended to be the permanent Confederate army, it only existed on paper); the Confederacy calls for 100,000 volunteers
March 9: the Confederate War Department calls for 8,000 volunteers
March 11: the Confederate States adopt the permanent Constitution of the Confederate States of America, to take effect on February 22, 1862. Hey, "it wasn't about slavery" fans! The Confederate Constitution, largely based on the US Constitution, replaces all references to "Person[s] held to Service or Labour" with "Slaves"
April 3: A Confederate battery on Morris Island in Charleston harbor shoots at the American vessel Rhoda H. Shannon
April 6: President Lincoln informs South Carolina that an attempt will be made to resupply Fort Sumter but only with provisions
April 8: the Confederate War Department calls for 20,000 volunteers
April 12: Confederate troops fire on Fort Sumter
April 15: President Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers to serve as militia for three months; the U.S. Army had approximately 16,000 men, mostly posted West of the Mississippi River
April 16: the Confederate War Department calls for 49,000 volunteers
April 27: the Provisional Army of the Confederate States begins organizing
May 6: Arkansas secedes
May 20: North Carolina secedes
May 23: Virginia secedes
June 8: Tennessee secedes

All of the aggressive acts--seizing forts and military installations, firing on ships (before the attack on Fort Sumter), and calling up troops--were committed by the South before Lincoln even took office. The Confederates had several attempts to stay in the Union and keep slavery. They chose war, and started the war.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:29 PM on August 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


Jacobin's 18th issue commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Union's victory over the Confederacy. The epigraph:
Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
—Frederick Douglass, 1857
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:44 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older A symphony of failure   |   ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments