Background: The Civil war
January 25, 2013 22 Comments
I’m going to sidetrack General Lee for a few minutes, because we need to clear up a few misconceptions about American History. It will help us to understand the Civil War and why it was such a moral dilemma for so many both North and South.
1. The war was only marginally about slavery
I know, that’s not what your textbooks said. For some abolitionists it was, for most people on both sides it was about patriotism, and their view of the United States and/or their states.
If you were listening to the inauguration, you hear Sen Schumer use the construction “these United States”. It’s an archaic construction but, it was considered, by a large proportion of the population as the literal truth before the civil war. There were large numbers of people, north and south, that thought the union was something that the states (and people) joined voluntarily and could just as readily leave. That’s a lot of what the 9th and 10th amendments were about.
There were quite a few people who deplored slavery, don’t get me wrong but, the people scratching out a living in the north had no desire to have the freed slaves distorting the labor market either.
While we’re in the neighborhood let’s talk a bit about the 3/5th clause as well. I know, the Democrats keep telling you that it was a plot by the slaveholders to reduce the personhood of the black folks in slavery. As usual, they have it backwards. The slaveholders at the Constitutional Convention wanted their slaves to count as a whole person.
Why? Well there was no secret ballot anywhere until close to the 20th century, do you really think a slave was going to vote against his master’s wishes while his master was watching him? Really, you think he was openly going to defy the man who had an unquestioned power of life and death over him to attempt to elect somebody.
The northerners (especially the New Englanders) didn’t want to count the blacks at all, just ignore them. You see, it was all about representation in the House of Representative. The slaveholders traded 2/5 of the black vote for ending the slave trade, which was supporting a lot of New Englanders, and reducing the value of slaves, and thus the wealth of the south.
Along the same lines, everybody expected slavery to die out simply because it was a lousy use of capital, compared to wage paying, that changed when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. Raising cotton involved a lot of physical work easily performed by unskilled labor, which is what slaves really were. Also remember that there was slavery all through the colonies at the time the constitution was ratified, nor was it completely confined to blacks.
As we will see, chattel slavery doomed the south to be an agricultural land simply because it’s capital was tied up in slaves, where the rest of the country hired people as needed and if they were no longer needed or unsatisfactory they were let go without consequence, thereby freeing their capital for other projects, instead of having it tied up in caring for what could be called cost-centers without end.
Lincoln was a conservative Republican
Nothing could be further from the truth, he was the prototypical RINO. He was an abolitionist, yes, when it didn’t cost anything, before the war but, he was no friend of the black man, he wanted to free the slaves, after they had been shipped back to Africa, that was the point of Liberia. During the war he didn’t care, there were instances early in the war when he ordered the return of slaves to their owner, until a Philadelphia lawyer, Major General Banks, came up with the formula that slaves were contraband property to be confiscated from rebels. But the Emancipation Proclamation, I hear you cry. A worthless piece of paper, except that its propaganda value kept England and France from recognizing the Confederacy. It purported to free the slaves only where Washington’s writ did not run, in the areas controlled by the Confederates. The slaves in the Union held area were not freed until the 13th Amendment was ratified (de jure, anyway) and that was signed by Andrew Johnson. Who freed the slaves in the old Confederacy? Jefferson Davis the President of the Confederate States of America, as a war measure in 1865. Here’s a few other thing Lincoln did:
- Intercept telegraphic messages between private parties without a warrant
- Suspend the right of habeas corpus
- Detain American citizens without warrant for an indefinite time without charge or trial, in military custody
- Deport at least one American citizen (Clement Vallandigham of Ohio) to a foreign Country (Canada) without charge or trial.
- Use federal troops against civilians (in the New York draft riots). This one is sort of unfair, so did Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion, and the Posse comitatus Act wasn’t passed until 1878 mostly to get Rutherford B. Hayes elected President. Although the use of troops in the riots would also have been problematical under the Insurrection Act of 1807, which is about the only other basis.
Now you know why Obama and the rest of the Statists want to be like Lincoln.
But Lincoln saved the Union, you say.
Well sort of, he fundamentally reformed it. When he came it was a loose formed, non effective, and very unimportant part of life. Lincoln believed as wholeheartedly in crony-capitalism as Obama (or to be fair, Bush). He was a railroad lawyer (the only big-business there was in 1860, after all) He lobbied his senator (Stephan A. Douglass) for land grants for the Illinois Central Railroad, he had a very great deal to do with the Pacific railroad Act which was tailor-made for the corruptions that led to the Credit Mobliér scandal. If the transcontinental was to be built, it probably had to be done this way, it had really no commercial purpose.
The man who really saved the Union was Henry Clay. If either the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which is where the Mason-Dixon line came from, or the Compromise of 1850 hadn’t happened (and Clay was the driving force in both) the rebellion would have succeeded.
Why? Commerce. Any time before the trunk railroads reached Chicago, which is the mid 1850s, if the south had seceded, the Old Northwest would have gone with them, if they hadn’t they would have starved amid a flood of grain. You see, without the railroads, the grain production of the Old Northwest, which was prodigious, had to be shipped by water, to New Orléans, sort of. Actually what the Old Northwest was doing was feeding the Old Southwest, which was growing cotton for export to Europe. there was no other market for all that grain until the railroads made shipping bulk commodities to New York and Philadelphia economical year round.
This is also the cause of two other things
- The whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania suppressed by President Washington, which was a revolt connected with the excise tax on whiskey
- The production of whiskey in Tennessee and Kentucky
You see what Bourbon and most American whiskey is; is concentrated corn, and far easier to ship than hundreds of bushels by wagon.
This is also why support for the war in the southern (and most settled) parts of the old northwest (today’s Midwest) was so thin. In fact, it’s entirely possible without the strong Unionist Governor Oliver P. Morton, it’s entirely possible that Indiana and maybe Ohio and possibly even Illinois might have pretty much sat out the war.
OK, now that you know a bit about the situation, next time we’ll pick up our story about Robert E. Lee.
- 5 Things Hollywood won’t tell you about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation (congoayuk.wordpress.com)
- Why yes it is a holiday here in Texas, a holiday that the politically correct should leave alone (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- PBS series depicts American abolitionists as fired by faith (religionnews.com)
- Love of God, Love of Man, Love of Country (fredrickdouglass.wordpress.com)
- Ron Paul: Secession is right, Civil War maybe not (constitutioncenter.org)
- Matthew Pinsker: Was Lincoln Anti-Slavery or Pro-Union? (therecoveringpolitician.com)