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April 26, 2015, 03:29:51 AM
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Author Topic: 150 Years Ago Today . . .  (Read 380 times)
indianasmith
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« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2015, 11:52:10 PM »

Well said.  I do believe that it is certainly possible to have a rational and civil debate about Lincoln's legacy without resorting to
name-calling and cheap rhetorical tricks.  So let's do it!   TeddyR
Here are my thoughts, Ulthar -
   Lincoln hated slavery his whole life.  That's indisputable from everything I have ever read about him, most notably his own words.
   The South seceded primarily because they perceived the election of Lincoln as a threat to slavery, especially to the expansion of slavery into the Federal territories which was the single biggest point of political debate in the 1850's. Again, this is going from the editorials and speeches made by Southerners during the Secession Crisis.
   Lincoln believed secession was illegal and went to war to save the Union, first and foremost.  NOT to destroy slavery. He said so himself.
   As time went on, however, it became apparent that it would be impossible to win the war against the South and preserve slavery at the same time.  Lincoln could do, as commander in chief, what he could not do as chief executive: abolish slavery by means of his war powers, but only in the regions engaging in rebellion.
   That being done, his next goal, aside from winning the war, was to make sure the 13th Amendment was passed through Congress before the war ended, so that no Federal judge could undo Emancipation, and so that it would not form a pretext for another Civil War twenty years later.  Also, this would bring the border states which had slavery but remained loyal to the Union to the Emancipation table.
   Along the way, the powers of the Federal Government were greatly expanded and the Executive Branch became more powerful than it ever had been before.  These consequences of the war have formed a mixed legacy, with some good and bad results.
   All that being said, did the South have a right to secede?  Scholars are split on the legality of secession; Lincoln quoted extensively in his First Inaugural from Andrew Jackson and Attorney General Roger Taney, who had ruled during the 1832 tariff crisis that secession was patently illegal.  However, the Founders were silent on the subject, for the most part.
    Assuming secession was legal, did the South have just cause to secede?  Obviously they thought so, they had been threatening to do it since 1856 if ANY "Black Republican" ever won the White House.  But that is because they saw the Republican Party as a threat to the "peculiar institution" they so cherished.  That comes back to the reasons for secession being primarily concerned with slavery.
    Ironically, had the South agreed to abide by the results of a legally conducted Presidential election instead of packing up their beards and leaving the Union, they likely would have lost the right to expand slavery into the territories, but kept slavery legal in the South for another generation.

   I think Texas Senator Sam Houston summed it up best during the Secession Crisis: "These damned fire-eaters will stir up a civil war to save slavery.  What they do not see is that the first shots of that war will be slavery's death-knell."
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« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2015, 12:13:04 AM »

Quote
Lincoln believed secession was illegal and went to war to save the Union, first and foremost.

that's baffling when you think about it. "The union" was supposed to be the opposite of the old systems where the people were essentially the subjects of the rulers.

"Our non elitist , minimally coercive form or government is so important i have to act like a pharoah to keep it together."

It's like when they bailed out the banks to "save capitalism". If they aren't allowed to fail it's not capitalism.


Quote
But that is because they saw the Republican Party as a threat to the "peculiar institution" they so cherished.

the reason is besides the point though. these were their states. If they wanted to leave the union for absolutely no reason they should be able to vote and do so.


Also, Lincoln thought it was secession was illegal: and for THAT he wanted a war? because he thought that according to the law what they were doing was against the law. Isn't that a little random? There are laws about fraud and murder and so forth but when you get to secession...I think you're kind of talking about something else. It's a political issue moreso than a legal one.

People don't normally get arrested for secession.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2015, 12:17:00 AM by lester1/2jr » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2015, 01:10:35 AM »

There are apparently many arguments against LINCOLN's presidency.  My own father stated that the reason for the Civil War was "economics".  I am still left with LINCOLN was an abolitionist, politician, and one who hated slavery.  He died for his beliefs. 

The thing is, he was not really an abolitionist.  He used abolition as an expedient to justify the war against secession.  His quotes on this topic and the time line of those quotes are very, very telling.
...
You're right enough, but not entirely.  This is why I wrote "abolitionist, politician".  I know more than some may give me credit for.  "Abolitionist" is my own word choice, but certainly not LINCOLN's.  I still believe if he had not been a politician, he would have been an "abolitionist".  If there had not been a Civil War, what politician would have had the guts to abolish slavery?  I believe LINCOLN was great morally and politically. 
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indianasmith
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« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2015, 06:24:40 AM »

Here's my thoughts on that, Lester -

The Constitution was created to form "a more perfect Union" because the Articles of Confederation, which preceded them, had created a system in which the central government was too weak to function and the states were so strong that ONE state could prevent any amendment to the Articles from being passed.

If a State can storm out of the Union anytime it wants for any reason, then the Constitution is meaningless.

The idea that Lincoln "wanted" a war is a hard sell. Again, if you read his first inaugural, especially the last two paragraphs, he was BEGGING the South not to start a war.  They did anyway.  Once they fired on the American flag, the blood was no longer on Lincoln's hands.
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« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2015, 07:53:02 AM »


If a State can storm out of the Union anytime it wants for any reason, then the Constitution is meaningless.


That's not true at all and that's what lies at the very bottom of the secession question. 

The Constitution spells out how a new state is formed or added to the Union, but there is NOT ONE WORD in the Constitution that says anything, yea or nay, about States leaving the Union.

Until, however, we get to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

The question is fundamentally: "Are the citizens of individual states sovereign individuals with unalienable, natural rights, or are they Subjects of the Federal Government."  And, are Freedom of Association and Freedom of Movement not included in those unalienable, natural rights?
 
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« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2015, 09:39:22 AM »

Quote
All that being said, did the South have a right to secede?

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

---Sir John Harington

So often in history, might makes right, and the victors tell the tale. Whatever may be said about the causes of the 1861 rebellion, or its arguable merits, it's always seemed hypocritical to me that the United States, having its origins in rebellion against a functioning government, could declare that a revolution against itself was illegal.

If preserving the union was a cause someone wanted to succeed, then I don't think anyone alive at that time could have done as good a job of achieving that goal as Abraham Lincoln did. Clearly he was an extraordinary person. He was a complex person who did many questionable things, but he was by any yard stick a great man, and utterly American in his soul.
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lester1/2jr
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« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2015, 10:41:00 AM »

indiana- I don't think Lincoln wanted war either. What did he want? He probably wanted to keep the economically beneficial to all system of the South raising cotton and the north making shirts and wall street selling them and so forth in place. He wanted to end slavery, but must have realized that black people were the ones who picked the cotton and the southern society was racist and it would be extremely hard to figure out where to go from there.

I don't think he was a maniacal dictator but he chose a course of action and it was carried out. Just because it worked doesn't mean it's like a perfect model. He got what he wanted but at great cost, I mean immediate cost not like symbolically yadda yadda.

Imagine you immigrate to America from Europe for greater religious freedom and the minute you get there you're told you have to leave you family and go fight and most likely die over a political dispute in another part of the country that doesn't involve you.

Also, the South "starting" the war is problematic they didn't want to take over the north.
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ER
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« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2015, 01:46:42 PM »

Quote
southern society was racist

lester, I live in an area that is ground zero in Underground Railroad history, and by the mid-19th century this region had the tone of Vichy France, with slave catchers and bounty hunters and abolitionists and harried lawmen all mixing it up locally in a climate of tension and paranoia and strife, and one of the most thriving cottage industries was the cruel luring of runaway slaves (and even free blacks) into supposed safe houses, and then turning them in for the reward.

I mention all this because one thing I've come to believe from living here and studying the local history of that era is that blacks were hated at least as much in the north as in the south, and maybe more. In the south they at least had some economic value, while in the north free blacks were often seen as competition for the lowest-paying jobs, making them instant enemies of immigrants and poor whites. Think of the New York draft riots, for example, and who was targeted by mobs. That was the tip of the iceberg.

Abolitionists were the scum of mother earth in many white northerners eyes, and were frequently attacked, harassed, run out of town, and their homes burned. Churches split up over the issue, certain newspapers had readership based solely on how rigorously abolitionists were condemned in editorials. I suspect they were looked on much as extreme pro-Lifers are nowadays, only with less tolerance. Whatever Lincoln's true feelings might have been, for him to step up on a podium and call himself an abolitionist would have been politically unwise. I don't think Lincoln had a final plan in mind for slavery or freed slaves. He flirted with sending them to Liberia, he spoke about gradual emancipation, about leaving the institution alone, he said many things, but it's clear in his heart of hearts he was not pro-slavery, and I also have never seen evidence that Lincoln was all that money-motivated. In all honesty I think he was a shrewdly brilliant man who did an extraordinary job under the most difficult conditions imaginable. I also think he was a pragmatist who didn't let what was right get in the way of what was best.

As for the south not starting the war.... I think southerners would have been content to leave the union in peace, true, but the first shots in 1861 were fired on southern soil, by southerners, in Charleston Harbor, and not at Fort Sumter, but even before that when South Carolina militia shot at a US ship, the Star of the West. Southerners felt they'd been terribly wronged, that their culture was in danger, and were spoiling for a fight.

Personally I think the southern states had a right to freely leave the union, just as they freely entered it, but it's been better for the United States and the world that this did not happen.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2015, 01:49:03 PM by ER » Logged

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« Reply #23 on: April 16, 2015, 04:00:05 PM »

I wasn't implying that the North was like enlightened. They didn't have slavery because they didn't have cotton fields. I meant Lincoln knew that post slavery the southern societal structure would be radically different.

My unease with Lincoln's legacy is less with his perhaps heavy handed way of ending slavery and more with how he has become a secular religious figure.
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ER
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« Reply #24 on: April 16, 2015, 06:56:38 PM »

Quote
My unease with Lincoln's legacy is less with his perhaps heavy handed way of ending slavery and more with how he has become a secular religious figure.

I agree there, lester. I hate when someone is turned into an icon, because the person loses all humanity. Sadly it still goes on, of course, in our own time.
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indianasmith
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« Reply #25 on: April 16, 2015, 08:29:51 PM »

Harry Turtledove wrote a series of novels set in a timeline in which the South won its independence after Lee trounced McClellan at Antietam Creek in 1862.  His flow of events is entirely plausible, indeed believable, and reading it made me all the more glad that the South did not win the war.  I highly recommend the series - it begins with a prequel called HOW FEW REMAIN, and then continues in the Great War series.  The first book is called THE GREAT WAR: AMERICAN FRONT.

One of the things that has always impressed me about Lincoln is his ability to grow and adapt.   He began the war by proposing colonization of freed slaves and ended it proposing that certain freedmen be given the right to vote.  It would be fascinating to see how he would have handled Reconstruction - certainly it would have been with greater skill than the ham-fisted, virulently prejudiced Andrew Johnson.

ER - I think you probably have a good handle on how blacks were regarded in the border states.  However, in many parts of New England, they were treated with much greater respect and consideration.
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« Reply #26 on: April 17, 2015, 08:42:20 AM »

Watched a documentry on Netflix recently based on the south winning the ACW and how it would have affected the modern world. Found it quite interesting. If anyone fancies watching it, I believe it was called CSA The Confederate States Of America (2004).
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indianasmith
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« Reply #27 on: April 17, 2015, 05:40:46 PM »

I've seen that one.  It's pretty tongue-in-cheek but kinda fun, too.

Turtledove's works are much more realistic . . . and darker.
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