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Captain Nate

The American Civil War

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If I understand your argument correctly, it sounds as if you are arguing that it is acceptable to appreciate a political act, as a political act, regardless of the context in which it was done. This attitude is incredibly dangerous.

Would it be morally acceptable to romanticize symbols of Muqtada Al Sadr's al-Mahdi Army in Iraq. His militia were fighting U.S. allied forces in Iraq as well as moderate Shiites in the present Iraqi government to impose a radical form of Shiite Islam in the Iraqi government. However, as a political act, the militia was merely fighting against a foreign occupier and a foreign installed government. Should emblems of his militia be worn by individuals who oppose Islamic Fundamentalism but wish to express admiration for courage against a foreign occupier?

What about how Hamas essentially swept the Palestinian parliamentary elections? Many have argued that Hamas, an infamous international terrorist organization whose stated goal is the total destruction of Israel, merely won the hearts of the Palestinian people from their promises to weed out the corruption of Yasser Arafat's Fatah Party. Would it be acceptable for a youth who opposes radical Islam to display a Hamas flag to symbolize a movement against political corruption?

Point conceded. I agree that it's dangerous to appreciate a political act regardless of context, or to appreciate anything regardless of its full context - including something like the Confederate flag.

The Confederate flag does stand for "the Confederate States of America," but that comes with the context that the CSA was formed fundamentally as a way to prolong slavery. (It is likewise true that saying the flag "stands for slavery," is dropping context.)

Lesson learned: You can't choose which parts of reality to pay attention to, and which to ignore.

I think people hold on to the Confederate flag as a symbol because it is the most obvious symbol of certain things they want to express - perhaps Southern pride (for Binni); for me, the fact that I do not give my moral sanction to the government. It's difficult to show some of these things otherwise - there aren't other symbols that seem relevant. But like I said, I've changed my mind about displaying the Confederate flag - if you don't have a symbol you want, that doesn't mean you can take another symbol and ignore relevant contextual information.

Following up to the previous paragraph, I don't think the examples of radical Islam are exactly analogous, because to drop the context of those symbols would be a tremendous evasion. I don't think an honest person could do it. With the Confederate flag, I do think people who don't take the time to thoroughly think about the issue (but are otherwise not necessarily bad people) would be (and are) strongly tempted to try to use the flag to symbolize something different than what it fully stands for.

Thanks to "y'all", I've made an important integration here, and I've come to agree with you on the fundamental issues. (Wasn't easy - took some feeling humiliated - but it was well worth it.) I'll continue to respond to other points in your posts, which I think are really valuable, and not all of which I agree with.

Anyway, all of this being discussed, it remains to be established that the Civil War was indeed a war over slavery. I really do not see a good argument for how it was not. Leading up to the war, essentially all of the disputes between the North and the South centered around slavery. For some examples, consider the disputes that ended in The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850 as well as the "Bleeding Kansas" incident.

I'd agree that the slavery problem was the fundamental cause of the Civil War. (sNerd's post was particularly helpful to me in identifying it as fundamental, as opposed to just "most important.") Applying the same lesson from above, though, I don't think it's correct or useful to say that it was only about slavery. Part of it was the assertion that states were higher on the food chain than the Union, and not the other way around (as was shown to be the case, at least in fact, if not in principle). One can't ignore that the states' rights question was the driving rhetorical question - that's what the Southern states claimed the purpose of the war was externally, even if not consistently internally. And politically, that would have been the means to the end of preserving slavery for a time.

Many claim that the Southern states seceded to assert "states' rights." Be this as it may, the main right the Southern states wanted to assert was the right to keep slavery legal. It basically seems that the North stood for a mixture of Statism, Abolitionism and a "One United States" policy. The Southerners essentially stood for popular sovereignty, which in other words is the right for a majority of the population to vote to enslave the rest of the population. In the case of the South, this was primarily to literally keep blacks in slavery.

To claim that the South stood for "states' rights" seems analogous to claim that the present Libertarian Party stands for "liberty". Both platforms are just floating abstractions. Any libertarian can arbitrarily define what liberty means for him as long as it involves some sort of non-aggression principle. Analogously, the idea of popular sovereignty allows state governments to essentially define whatever states' rights are for them regardless of what individual rights might be trampled on in the process.

I agree that "popular sovereignty" is a corrupt idea, a floating abstraction, and akin to the Libertarian Party's "liberty." I don't think states' rights is the same thing, though.

I understand states' rights to mean, very specifically, the idea that states voluntarily joined the Union, and thus could leave it at any time; and that all powers not specifically reserved for the federal government in the Constitution still belonged to the states (which I'm 99% sure is specifically stated in the Constitution). I don't see anything corrupt about such a claim to states' rights.

I'm not familiar with the "popular sovereignty" aspect of Civil War rhetoric; I thought "states' rights," as I defined it above, was the primary justification Southerners offered to the outside world for the war. I could just be wrong on that; it's a matter of historical fact. Now that you see how I'm differentiating the two ideas, let me know if you still think I'm wrong/if I have the history of the rhetoric wrong.

Anything significant the South stood for during the American Civil War seems to amount to justification for the right to own and trade slaves.

Incidentally, I definitely agree that "allegiance to fellow Southerners" was another strong motivating factor for most of the poor residents in the South. But this is just an observation on how it can be easy to get a large population of non-philosophical individuals to march in the same direction. Even today, there is an extraordinary number of individuals who are blindly pro-Democrat and a comparably large number of individuals who are blindly pro-Republican. This mentality was surely no different back in the mid-1900s.

I don't think it's "just another observation on how it can be easy to get a large population of non-philosophical individuals to march in the same direction." I think it's part of the context of the Civil War, and one of the factors that shaped it. It's not something to be ignored or thrown out as irrelevant. But again, I do agree that slavery was the fundamental cause of the war, and its importance pales in comparison.

But political acts have to be judged ultimately by the explicit ideas driving them. I agree that a great part of the motivation for the southern states seceding and especially for its citizens to fight and die for what they proudly saw as their own new nation was a devotion to the "Southern way of life." But intellectually that's no better than the Russian peasants who marched for bread and land or the Germans who supported the Reich (2nd or 3rd, take yer pick) because of their devotion to the German Heimat, etc. And this is what irritates me no end about the Southern propagandists who compare the secession of the Southern states to the American Revolution. Secession was by and large in the service of pro-slavery political thought, and when its philosophical roots were made explicit (rather than cozy fantasies of happy, well-tended slaves living under better conditions than Northern factory workers, as if the liberty of the workers was nothing compared to the supposed well-being of the slaves), they were tied in with such things as Aristotle's pronouncements on natural slavery and essentially aristocratic virtues like a touchy sense of honor; and if you look at the political thought of Jefferson, say, then of Calhoun, then of Calhoun's successors among the secessionists like Brown or James Henry Hammond (governor of South Carolina, 1842-44; U.S. Senator, 1857-60), you see a continual (and in my view repulsive) degradation of political argument in which the insistence on the equality of all men is sacrificed to the insistence on the superiority of white skin. By the 1850s, slavery had long since gone from being a shameful problem the new leaders had inherited from the dark past to an institution in the service of which the leading Southern political and legal thinkers twisted, distorted, and bastardized the ideas of liberty and a constitutional republic. And as I pointed to briefly before, in the service of slavery the Southern political leadership was perfectly happy to muzzle free speech, ride roughshod over the "states rights" of Northern states, and insist on running the country their way, even though they themselves proudly admitted they were only one section of a larger nation whose sole interests were paramount; when Lincoln was elected, they knew they couldn't get their way any more, so they precipitously went to war like a band of aggrieved feudal nobles. This bundle of political ideas is what the Southern nation was founded on and it is those ideas by which it and its flag should be judged, not unfocused love of one's native county and folkways, which you can find on the cheap in every corner of the globe--and at the root of those ideas was the overriding need to defend, protect, and expand slavery.

I don't have anything I disagree with you on here, but to be honest, I'm not as familiar with the history as you are (that, or you're very willing to make broad historical generalizations that aren't backed up - I'm pretty sure it's the former, though :thumbsup: ). For example, I wasn't aware of the degradation of political argument of which you speak, or that the Southern politicians were eager to "ride roughshod over the 'states rights' of Northern states."

I'd also like to point out that I didn't make most of the conceptual errors you mention above. I didn't say folk pride was a valid reason to support the South - I just said it was some people's reason. Nor am I "Southern propagandist" - to the degree I talk about the Civil War, I am fully willing to discuss it rationally, to the best of my ability; to learn from the experience; and to admit when I'm wrong. When you respond in this way, you seem to be implying that I did make those errors, and you seem to be pretty darn offended by it. This is a problem throughout your post. I think you definitely deserve the benefit of the doubt, though, so I'll assume you did not mean to imply those things.

What rights of Southerners (as opposed to the perceived political interests of the Southern sectionalists), and especially of Southerners in particular as opposed to people from other sections of the country, was the federal government infringing on before 1860? Forget the haggling over the tariff; this was couched in sectional terms by the 1840s and no one was arguing for its repeal, only for tilting it to the interests of one section or another. If you look dispassionately at the record, the most striking fact is that the federal government bent over backwards to support the slave system in the face of massive opposition by Americans outside the South (abolitionists within the South were gagged by law, of course, which tells us just how devoted to liberty the Southern slave-owners really were), and it was when this was threatened that Southerners rebelled. The fact is that it was an ideological battle, and both sides saw themselves as defending the principles of liberty and right and the good society, and thus no compromise was possible. But the good society that the Southern secessionists fought for was indissolubly linked to slave-owning, and the sectional interests that latter-day Southern propagandists play up, such as the tariff, were skirmishes over secondary issues, mere consequences of the fundamental ideas of the political systems of the North and the South.

I agree with you that slavery was fundamental and rights violations were tangential and unimportant by comparison. I do still think there were other rights violations. The only one I can put my finger on is tariffs. I suspect there were others; I know the issue of the federal government expanding beyond the powers expressly outlined in the Constitution was present almost from the beginning. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.

I should clarify that I think any expansion of any government beyond the functions of courts, police and military is a rights violation in some way; at minimum, it's an unjustified use of involuntary taxation; at worse... well, it can be much worse.

There were other important subsidiary issues, granted, some simply due to historical accident but most stemming from the fact that the Southern way of life was based on slavery.

More than a "very important influence"--it was the fundamental cause. Don't glom all the different historical factors together in one mish-mash. Historical trends and forces are not all equal--some are basic and active over a longer time scale, others are their consequences and shift or fade away as circumstances change, and all are driven by the basic ideas of the historical actors.

Conceded.

That's a very crude statement of the argument, verging in fact on a strawman. If you want to dabble in statistics...

That was not a statement of my argument, nor did I want to dabble in statistics (hence: "I tried (and failed, in a pinch) to find figures for the % of population enslaved before the formation of the CSA"). The point of that section of my post was to show "...that the decision to join the Confederacy was not tied directly to the number of slaves in a state." (the last line you quoted). You actually express your agreement with that particular conclusion - you said "The question was not whether they owned slaves and how many, the question was whether they felt they would continue to own slaves under a Republican administration and whether the federal government had the right to enforce its decisions by arms." That statement differs from my point in that you conclude that slavery was the fundamental cause of the war, whereas I was (mistakenly) downplaying its importance relative to other factors. I now agree with you that tt was the fundamental cause, so in a discussion like this, the other factors are not particularly important.

OK - whew - breath of fresh air. I didn't expect things to get nearly this lengthy, and I don't have the time to continue to commit this much time to this thread, so be forewarned. But I'm hoping "y'all" will find fewer things to pick on me for, rather than more :huh: , and that I therefore will have time to respond adequately. That said, don't hesitate to point out anything that's still wrong with my thinking.

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I understand states' rights to mean, very specifically, the idea that states voluntarily joined the Union, and thus could leave it at any time; and that all powers not specifically reserved for the federal government in the Constitution still belonged to the states (which I'm 99% sure is specifically stated in the Constitution). I don't see anything corrupt about such a claim to states' rights.

Just because a state voluntarily joined a union with other states does not empower it to break from that union under any arbitrary circumstances. What is the point of a binding legal agreement if any of the parties can voluntarily break the agreement at any time?

First of all, as we both know state governments are still governments and therefore do not have rights. Instead, they rule with permission of the governed, which is usually expressed in the form of a constitution. If a state wishes to secede from a union, it should only be morally permitted to do so under certain contexts. If a state wishes to secede so that it can greatly expand the violation of individual rights then that state government is not morally permitted to leave the union. However, if a relatively just state government wishes to secede from a relatively unjust federal government, then the secession is moral.

OK - whew - breath of fresh air. I didn't expect things to get nearly this lengthy, and I don't have the time to continue to commit this much time to this thread, so be forewarned. But I'm hoping "y'all" will find fewer things to pick on me for, rather than more :P , and that I therefore will have time to respond adequately. That said, don't hesitate to point out anything that's still wrong with my thinking.

Your time, your intellectual honesty and your input has been appreciated!

Edited by DarkWaters

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Just because a state voluntarily joined a union with other states does not empower it to break from that union under any arbitrary circumstances. What is the point of a binding legal agreement if any of the parties can voluntarily break the agreement at any time?

First of all, as we both know state governments are still governments and therefore do not have rights. Instead, they rule with permission of the governed, which is usually expressed in the form of a constitution. If a state wishes to secede from a union, it should only be morally permitted to do so under certain contexts. If a state wishes to secede so that it can greatly expand the violation of individual rights then that state government is not morally permitted to leave the union. However, if a relatively just state government wishes to secede from a relatively unjust federal government, then the secession is moral.

I agree with everything you've said here. Actually if I've ever expressed disagreement with any of it, I didn't mean to. If a relatively just state government wishes to secede from a relatively unjust federal government, then secession is moral - as you just said. That is the main thrust of the principle known to Southerners as "states' rights." (A misnomer, because states don't have rights, per se.) That is potentially a valid claim. Of course, it was misapplied in the Civil War, because it was not really a situation of relatively just states rebelling from a relatively unjust government - more the opposite. I made the mistake, among others, of thinking that one could appreciate such a "potentially valid claim" in a particular instance, even if it generally and fundamentally didn't apply.

Your time, your intellectual honesty and your input has been appreciated!

Same to you!!!

Adrian, thanks very much for your input as well.

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Just because a state voluntarily joined a union with other states does not empower it to break from that union under any arbitrary circumstances. What is the point of a binding legal agreement if any of the parties can voluntarily break the agreement at any time?

There was no binding legal agreement that said a state could not secede. The Constitution clearly lays out the purpose and powers of the Federal government. The tenth amendment clearly gives all other powers to the States or the people.

The Civil War (which is a misnomer by the way) was not about slavery. You merely need to look to the bills which address the use of force against the Southern States.

Whereas, the House of Representatives on the 22nd day of July, 1861, adopted a resolution in the following words, namely:

Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government, and in arms around the capitol; that in this national emergency, Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not waged upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States; but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States, unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease; and

Whereas, the Senate of the United States on the 25th day of July, 1861, adopted a resolution in the words following, to wit:

Resolved, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government and in arms around the capitol; that in this national emergency Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its own duty to the whole country; that this war is not prosecuted upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States; but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and all laws made in pursuance thereof and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease; and

Whereas, these resolutions though not joint or concurrent in form, are substantially identical, and as such have hitherto been and yet are regarded as having expressed the sense of Congress upon the subject to which they relate

Source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1866endfocivilwar.html

Edited by Drew1776

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There was no binding legal agreement that said a state could not secede. The Constitution clearly lays out the purpose and powers of the Federal government. The tenth amendment clearly gives all other powers to the States or the people.

The Constitution did not explicitly empower the States with the right to secede so that they could violate the inalienable rights of some of its populace. Furthermore, the discussion of legal rights here is not nearly as important as the discussion of moral rights. The Southern States had no right to maintain chattel slavery and therefore any action towards this end is itself moral.

The Civil War (which is a misnomer by the way) was not about slavery. You merely need to look to the bills which address the use of force against the Southern States.

The greater context of history indicates that the fundamental principle behind the war was whether some states could enforce slavery. These arguments have already been presented above. I am more than happy to help clarify the arguments, but I will not repeat them for you.

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Furthermore, the discussion of legal rights here is not nearly as important as the discussion of moral rights. The Southern States had no right to maintain chattel slavery and therefore any action towards this end is itself moral.

Agreed. I was merely pointing out that the act of secession in and of itself was and is not forbidden under the Constitution. My response was merely in response to your erroneous contention that "Just because a state voluntarily joined a union with other states does not empower it to break from that union under any arbitrary circumstances." Membership in the Union was completely voluntary and therefore a state could legally leave for any reason whatsoever.

The greater context of history indicates that the fundamental principle behind the war was whether some states could enforce slavery. These arguments have already been presented above. I am more than happy to help clarify the arguments, but I will not repeat them for you.

I would agree that the motive for some southern states for secession was an attempt to protect slavery. The question of the thread however, was whether the war (not the secession of the southern states) was caused by slavery or not. I have read your arguments but what I have not seen is evidence that the war itself was over slavery. If the purpose of the war was to free the slaves then show me a document which explicitly states that! The government (Senate, House, and President) at the time stated clearly that the purpose of the war was to keep the union together not to free the slaves. It appears to me that the war was over secession not slavery and I challenge you to present some to the contrary.

Once again I am not contesting that some southern states left the Union in an attempt to insulate themselves from laws that the federal government may have passed to forcibly end slavery. The question is what caused the war? Why did the North fight the south. The reason is cited, in more than one place, as the desire to preserve the union not to free the slaves.

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Drew, So, you're saying that some southern states left the union for reasons primarily related to slavery, and that the north could have left things at that and there would not have been any war. Instead, the north refused to allow secession, and went to war instead. Therefore the war was about secession, and not about slavery.

Is that the argument you're making?

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Drew, So, you're saying that some southern states left the union for reasons primarily related to slavery, and that the north could have left things at that and there would not have been any war. Instead, the north refused to allow secession, and went to war instead. Therefore the war was about secession, and not about slavery.

Is that the argument you're making?

Yes. (And once again I'm not saying the North wasn't justified in liberating the slaves. I'm merely saying that freeing the slaves was not the primary goal of the war.)

Edited by Drew1776

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But if keeping the southern states in the Union was more important to the North than the issue of slavery, why didn't they simply back down on this issue earlier? [i should add that this is not a rhetorical question. My knowledge of U.S. history is patchy.]

Edited by softwareNerd

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But if keeping the southern states in the Union was more important to the North than the issue of slavery, why didn't they simply back down on this issue earlier? [i should add that this is not a rhetorical question. My knowledge of U.S. history is patchy.]

The North did back down at least once to placate slave states.

In 1793 the Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the federal government mandating that runaway slaves be returned to their masters. Over the years free states passed laws which made it more difficult for slaves to be returned such as allowing trial by jury for slaves. Many juries would refuse to convict so many slaves were allowed to go free despite the law. In 1842 the Supreme Court ruled that states did not have to help hunting or capturing runaway slaves. So the movement up to that point had been the gradual weakening of the Fugitive Slave Act.

Then to 1850. The US has acquired large tracts of land during the Spanish-American War. The current Missouri Compromise would have opened much of that land up to slave states. The Compromise of 1850 was drawn up so that the land would not automatically fall into the hands of slave states. Part of the compromise was a bolstering of the Fugitive Slave Act. Officials were now required to arrest an alleged runaway slave or face a stiff fine. So the North did capitulate to placate the South.

What was important to the North and the South was power. Freeing slaves in the South would have destroyed the South's economic and political power base.

Edited by Drew1776

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What was important to the North and the South was power. Freeing slaves in the South would have destroyed the South's economic and political power base.
So, you're saying that the North wanted slavery abolished primarily to weaken the political power of the South (rather than some more noble motive)?

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The North did back down at least once to placate slave states.

In 1793 the Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the federal government mandating that runaway slaves be returned to their masters. Over the years free states passed laws which made it more difficult for slaves to be returned such as allowing trial by jury for slaves. Many juries would refuse to convict so many slaves were allowed to go free despite the law. In 1842 the Supreme Court ruled that states did not have to help hunting or capturing runaway slaves. So the movement up to that point had been the gradual weakening of the Fugitive Slave Act.

Then to 1850. The US has acquired large tracts of land during the Spanish-American War. The current Missouri Compromise would have opened much of that land up to slave states. The Compromise of 1850 was drawn up so that the land would not automatically fall into the hands of slave states. Part of the compromise was a bolstering of the Fugitive Slave Act. Officials were now required to arrest an alleged runaway slave or face a stiff fine. So the North did capitulate to placate the South.

What was important to the North and the South was power. Freeing slaves in the South would have destroyed the South's economic and political power base.

Who in the North and who in the South? They certainly didn't have identical minds or act from identical motives, and public opinion changed drastically between 1850 and 1860. And more basically, power for what purpose? Power to keep the Union together at all costs? Then all those Northerners wouldn't have voted for Lincoln. Power to rule the roost? Then why not bid the Southern states farewell and run the remainder of the country in accordance with northern wishes? Power to prevent the spread of slavery? Why? Why in the world would that have mattered in the least to Northerners for so many more slave states to be carved out of western territories if there weren't something wrong with slavery? (Besides the three-fifths rule, of course--and why was that there in the first place...oh, that's right, to help safe-guard slavery, so it wouldn't have been a later issue if it hadn't been necessary to defend slavery in the South...) Why not allow the Southern slave powers to send slave hunters and slave traders throughout the northern states if that was what was necessary for the South to prosper? (Oh, wait, the North didn't want the South to prosper, because that would have given them more power. Power for what? Blank-out and please, please, whatever you do, forget the three-fifths clause.) The North too was racist, historians and Southern propagandists point out (the latter ad nauseam), so why should they have objected in the least to helping escaped blacks stay free? (Oh, wait, now remember the three-fifths clause.)

I mean, this is precisely the range-of-the-moment focus on immediate instances and minutiae to the exclusion of underlying causes, political ideals, and philosophical ideas that sickens me in Southern propagandists. (I hasten to add I'm not accusing Drew1776 of this, but he follows in the tracks and retails the pet arguments of some quite odious Unreconstructed Southrons, as some of them like to call themselves.) Yes, slavery was constitutional while secession was arguable, so the Republicans followed their Democratic predecessors (it certainly wasn't Lincoln who first officially opposed secession in 1860, but Democrats under the leadership, such as it was, of the Buchanan administration) in defending the Union against rebellion by a pugnacious bunch of sectionalists-cum-separatists who made it clear that if the Union weren't four-square behind their ownership of slaves, then the North could screw itself--and it's certainly true that many Northerners didn't care about the fates of Southern slaves but were willing to die to preserve the Union, and it was necessary to secure their support. (Keep in mind that an honest Southern effort to parting ways would have consisted of honest efforts to settle the disposition of federal property in the South and offering to compensate the northern states for the money and man-years they'd contributed to defense throughout the Southern states, not bombing the hell out of Fort Sumter to prevent Union soldiers from eating.) But why in the world did it ever come to Secession versus Union in the first place? It most certainly was not an abstract discussion of Calhoun's Disquisition carried out for the sheer hell of advancing the state of republican political theory, but the fact, as I've mentioned several times before, that the South not only wanted to own slaves but wanted the North to be their willing, unjudging accomplices in this obscene trade, and being the pugnacious touchy aristocrat wannabes that they were, they kicked aside the game board when a reasonably uncompromising opponent came on the scene.

And note more basically still that the Compromise of 1850 antedated the Civil War by a decade, and in times of crisis a decade is a lifetime that in this case saw a sea change. The Compromise and the accompanying renewed enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act galvanized northern opinion and polarized the political scene by making it quite clear that the earlier compromises could not be continued (especially after the Dred Scott decision of 1857 stripped all blacks of national citizenship for the simple fact of their skin color, and thus declared free black citizens of northern states not citizens of the United States), and made the way for great advances in abolitionist sentiment. Note the most basic fact Drew1776 omits to mention, that the Republicans didn't even form and start running candidates until 1854, and more generally that after the Compromise of 1850 many Northerners realized and far more dreaded that the South would not be placated by letting each section mind its own affairs--the South insisted that the North would have to bow to Southern custom and law and give in on the most basic principles of Northern political thought and the Northern way of life. The 1850s were a time of boiling ferment in which both sides drew the lines much more sharply and uncompromisingly, and it is the necessary background to understanding just why the Civil War started as it did and became so bitter and based on such basic issues so quickly. In short, this is basic Antebellum history. And most basically, this was still a period in which political ideas of basic philosophical importance still ruled the political scene. It was clear to the actors precisely what the basic issue was, and they descirbed it forthrightly in their political tracts, never mind the constitutional limitations and conventions they abided by. It does a profound injustice to the Southern secessionists, in fact, to couch the issue in terms of Union versus Secession--they themselves saw these as only part of the issues and stood forthrightly for slavery against political developments that threatened the health of the Slave System and against the Union they vowed to uphold (despite their oaths when they were federal officers) only to the extent it upheld Southern ownership of slaves. That was what defined states' rights, that was what defined the Southern section (for an object lesson in the power of essential ideas in the historical context, try to define the Western states versus the Northern states nearly so easily), and that was what Southern secessionists seceded for.

Saying the Civil War was "not about" slavery is precisely and as obscenely beside the point as saying that World War II was principally about the need for the Germans to acquire enough Lebensraum (fresh new slave states in the West or subjugated Slav slaves in the East, call it what you will, it's the same thing at root) to live comfortably in a hostile world. Yes, in a short-enough range-of-the-moment view, that is an arguable thesis, but there's more to real history than looking only at what was directly staring in the faces of people in the past.

Edited by Adrian Hester

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This posting of mine is quite unsatisfactory, for while I stand behind the points I made, I should have been much clearer about when I was responding to something Drew1776 wrote versus similar arguments I have heard from others that fit in with his claim that the Civil War was not about slavery.

I mean, this is precisely the range-of-the-moment focus on immediate instances and minutiae to the exclusion of underlying causes, political ideals, and philosophical ideas that sickens me in Southern propagandists. (I hasten to add I'm not accusing Drew1776 of this, but he follows in the tracks and retails the pet arguments of some quite odious Unreconstructed Southrons, as some of them like to call themselves.)

In particular, here. A much fairer way of stating it is that to the extent Drew1776 states the Civil War was not about slavery (and it's worth asking what he and I mean by the Civil War "being about" something) he makes the same error of focusing on some of the details at the expense of the fundamental issues. And more generally, I should have made much clearer that you have to distinguish rigorously between the general question of secession under the Constitution and the specifics of Southern secession. The right to secession from a republic is an interesting issue; but it is largely discussed in the context of the American Civil War, in which secession was inescapably tied up with pro-slavery.

Saying the Civil War was "not about" slavery is precisely and as obscenely beside the point as saying that World War II was principally about the need for the Germans to acquire enough Lebensraum (fresh new slave states in the West or subjugated Slav slaves in the East, call it what you will, it's the same thing at root) to live comfortably in a hostile world.

This is true, but it's not the best example for my purposes, since the immediate cause of World War II was not a search for Lebensraum; that was one of the subsidiary issues, and in that respect it is comparable to, say, the struggle over tariffs before 1860. A much better example (and of course one more amenable to temperate conversation) would be the cause of World War I--the immediate cause was an assassination, but saying that the war was about the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand is an error on somewhat the same scale as saying that the Civil War was about preserving the Union, not slavery. You need only ask the same sorts of questions to see this: Why did the various European states stand by their treaty obligations, brooking no compromise, that time and not earlier, when the prospect of a world war was staring them in the face?

Edited by Adrian Hester

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I always assumed that the Civil War had something to do with slavery. If it wasn't then why did black people fight for the Union and give their lives in it?

Edited by dadmonson

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Lincoln said in many of his speeches prior to becoming president that he would allow slavery to continue (in the northern states were it existed in 1859 as well as the southern states) in order to preserve the union and felt that if letting slavery continue, it would prevent a war and preserve the union, then he would allow that. He lied. That is what liars do. He went on to become a US president that raised an army to invade his own people, is responsible for unleashing war criminals on the south, which led to the destruction of southern cities, mass starvation, and atrocities by Sherman, Grant and his other butchers.

The north was more than willing to let slavery continue in the south as long as that labor continued providing the northern factories (part of the mercantilist's trade monopoly) with raw materials as well as additional products to trade with Europe. Along with the fact that the south was allowed to continue slavery as long as they kept sending their tariff money north, and when that was threatened after Lincoln was elected, it meant war in the eyes of the north. All the south was guilty of at that point in time was not sending tariff money north, since slavery was still legal in 1860. Also, it is very touching how Lincoln "freed" the slaves in the south with his Emancipation Proclamation while allowing slaves in the north to still be slaves. I think he said in that speech that slaves were only free in states that were not in the union.

And if the main goal of the civil war (War of Southern Independence) was to "free" the slaves by the federal government, then why did it stop there. As far as civil rights is concerned, it took well over a hundred years after the civil war for black citizens to even have most of the rights they should have had in 1865. One would think if the goal was freedom for slaves that it would involve more than just rampaging through the south, raping women, burning crops, killing white confederates, etc and actually be a sincere form of freedom. The fact is that Lincoln knew if the south left the union, and northern states eventually freed all of their slaves, that refuge slaves from the south would ultimately flee and go north to freedom and northern states would have to deal with a "free" population of former slaves. Nobody in the north wanted that, so it made more sense to free them in the south and then know they would stay their once they were free. Fact is, Lincoln was a racist and wanted nothing more than power, to subjegate the south and he was a tyrant and a butcher. Period. Lincoln deserved to be assasinated. He chose to live by the sword, (although a coward that never served in the army like Jefferson) and so he also surely died by it.

Edited by jws1776

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Lincoln said in many of his speeches prior to becoming president that he would allow slavery to continue (in the northern states were it existed in 1859 as well as the southern states) in order to preserve the union and felt that if letting slavery continue, it would prevent a war and preserve the union, then he would allow that. He lied. That is what liars do. He went on to become a US president that raised an army to invade his own people, is responsible for unleashing war criminals on the south, which led to the destruction of southern cities, mass starvation, and atrocities by Sherman, Grant and his other butchers.

The north was more than willing to let slavery continue in the south as long as that labor continued providing the northern factories (part of the mercantilist's trade monopoly) with raw materials as well as additional products to trade with Europe. Along with the fact that the south was allowed to continue slavery as long as they kept sending their tariff money north, and when that was threatened after Lincoln was elected, it meant war in the eyes of the north. All the south was guilty of at that point in time was not sending tariff money north, since slavery was still legal in 1860. Also, it is very touching how Lincoln "freed" the slaves in the south with his Emancipation Proclamation while allowing slaves in the north to still be slaves. I think he said in that speech that slaves were only free in states that were not in the union.

And if the main goal of the civil war (War of Southern Independence) was to "free" the slaves by the federal government, then why did it stop there. As far as civil rights is concerned, it took well over a hundred years after the civil war for black citizens to even have most of the rights they should have had in 1865. One would think if the goal was freedom for slaves that it would involve more than just rampaging through the south, raping women, burning crops, killing white confederates, etc and actually be a sincere form of freedom. The fact is that Lincoln knew if the south left the union, and northern states eventually freed all of their slaves, that refuge slaves from the south would ultimately flee and go north to freedom and northern states would have to deal with a "free" population of former slaves. Nobody in the north wanted that, so it made more sense to free them in the south and then know they would stay their once they were free. Fact is, Lincoln was a racist and wanted nothing more than power, to subjegate the south and he was a tyrant and a butcher. Period. Lincoln deserved to be assasinated. He chose to live by the sword, (although a coward that never served in the army like Jefferson) and so he also surely died by it.

I believe all of these concerns have been addressed and thoroughly refuted by Adrian Hester's posts in this thread, beginning here.

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Your right to liberty and property includes the freedom from being forced to “liberate” other people.

I have a general question. How common was the practice of military conscription during the U.S. civil war? Was this was all major nations did at the time? Were there other major wars in recent history that fought with only a volunteer army? If I remember correctly, George Washington's Continental Army was a voluntary force.

I think we can all agree that military conscription is immoral. However, I do not know if this practice was common for the times or was a negative precedent established by the Lincoln Administration.

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The north was more than willing to let slavery continue in the south ...
And the south was willing to engage in it...so who is the guiltier one?

For all the issues with the act of war, the primary blame falls on the real perpetrators: i.e. the southern states. The Southern states should have freed slaves in 1790. Instead, they let the evil fester. It is with them that the brunt of the blame rightly begins. Nor can one blame a few people in the South. Clearly, if a simple majority in the South supported a change in the law, it would have happened. In other words, a majority of the voting population within slave-states were guilty. On what leg do such people stand when they say Lincoln caused their rights to be violated? On what basis do you claim that a person who thinks it is right to enslave others ought to be granted any rights?

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He lied.
Provide your evidence for that accusation. Your post is a lie. Either that, or you are mistaken. Your problem is that you don't understand the concept "lie".
He went on to become a US president that raised an army to invade his own people, is responsible for unleashing war criminals on the south, which led to the destruction of southern cities, mass starvation, and atrocities by Sherman, Grant and his other butchers.
More correctly, he commanded American troops who enforced the authority of the US government in the breakaway states. That is, he established, militarily, that states cannot freely secede. It's plausible, I think, that he would have acted to abolish slavery throughout the nation, but of course the South preempted the peaceful process of changing the law by attacking the US.

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Lincoln said in many of his speeches prior to becoming president that he would allow slavery to continue (in the northern states were it existed in 1859 as well as the southern states) in order to preserve the union and felt that if letting slavery continue, it would prevent a war and preserve the union, then he would allow that. He lied.

Lincoln said he would allow slavery to continue if it would preserve the union and prevent war.

Prior to Lincoln's Inauguration, seven states seceded.

By seceding, the union was broken before Lincoln had any ability to prevent it.

How did he lie?

Your logic is faulty.

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I have heard both accounts of the idealist Lincoln and the realpolitik Lincoln. As far as I know, Lincoln and his relation with white supremacy was complex. While he is on record for breaking down into racism during a few debates;

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything."

The thing is though, that whatever Lincoln said to get elected (He also claimed to be Christian, even though there is much evidence that he was a Deist if not a blatant atheist/agnostic), in the end he came out on the side of anti-slavery. From the accounts I have read, the question of Race and Slavery tore at Lincoln. Yes, as you said, Lincoln did start the war in the name of solidifying the Union, but by the end he had signed the Emancipation Proclamation and soldiers were singing hymns in the name of John Brown.

Now, as to the question of wether or not the war was justified... I will say that if it had been almost ANY other topic, I would support the south's right to remove themselves from a free government that they joined with willingly. There is nothing in the constitution about having to stay. If the North had honestly been oppressing the South, I would have cheered them on as they pulled away. The problem is, they were NOT being oppressed. I doubt Lincoln had it in him to take military action against the South had it not been forced upon him. Had it not been for the South's pigheaded idiocy, Slavery would have weeded itself out peacefully, or it would have kept on going, as Lincoln had said that he wouldn't split the Union over slavery.

No matter how you look at it though, the Southern states, acting as a foreign and sovereign power, shot first. If that is not an act of war, I don't know what is.

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*** Mod's note: Merged with existing topic. -sN ***

Hi, I've been lurking for a while ,but have read "Anthem" and "We the living", and am working on "The Fountain Head", and really like Rands views. Anyway one thing that has been troubling me since I learned a bit more about it was the American civil war. It would be wrong to say that it wasn't largely about slavery, which I feel is certainly wrong. However I feel that the overarching theme was self-governence versus central governance. The South felt bullied by tarrifs that were harmful to it, but not to the north. And resistance to laws that mandated the return of... lost property (runaway slaves) as well as other issues. In other words when Lincoln was elected the South felt that the federal government no longer worked well in the regard to southern interests. I certainly feel slavery was wrong (but at the time it was widely acccepted), but the south was justified in seceding. How do you guys feel about the Civil war? (Keep it civil no pun intended)

Edited by softwareNerd
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Wasn't it the war that emerged over the South's unwillingness to accept the forces of Capitalism and its desire to have government protect its inexcrable commerce?

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Wasn't it the war that emerged over the South's unwillingness to accept the forces of Capitalism and its desire to have government protect its inexcrable commerce?

In that respect, you've got it backwards - the North was operating a mercantilist policy towards the South, preventing them from selling their cotton to anyone they liked (specifically England) to force them to sell on favorable terms to Northern textile mills, like the ones in Massachusetts. So I wouldn't say the North was trying to bring capitalism to the South so much as to extract their resources for their industrial base. That said, the South was based on an agrarian, almost feudal economy in a way most of the North was not. But I don't think their agrarian economy, such as it was, was any less capitalist than agrarian regions of the North, for example the upper Midwest.

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