Monday, January 15, 2007

Yet Another Northern Aggression

Joe Biden wants South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. He thinks it's classy to demand this sort of thing on MLK Day, I guess. Northerners refuse to learn the meaning of the flag, the reasons for secession, or anything other than the history that gets put into textbooks. It's sad, because there's a lot to learn. And a lot that was gained. The South made huge headways for states' rights.

Yes, Lincoln "freed the slaves" during the war. Why is that in quotes? Mostly because he only freed those slaves in the states that had seceded. They weren't following his edicts, anyway, and those states not in rebellion were unaffected. The reasoning for the Emancipation Proclamation hinged far more on preventing European support for the South. It was a smart move, but hardly the same move the textbooks relate to our schoolchildren.

The agricultural South was being dominated in national politics by the industrial North. Tariffs, import/export laws, and taxes were being unfairly levied against the South's economy. The Southern states decided to use their perceived right to peacefully secede, which the North denied.

Would we have slaves today if not for the Civil War? No. Slavery was already doomed by advances that were making that much labor not only unnecessary, but also uselessly expensive. Also, the political pressures and Underground Railroad (which helped gain ground for abolitionist sentiment) were marking the death knells for the institution of slavery.

Was the War of Northern Aggression a bloody and dark war? Yes. Should we try to erase it? No.

By the way, I have not provided nearly enough of a history lesson for you here. Please do your own research. I'm tired and Northern.


Rogue Genius said...

Why is it that people who want to teach me history... never seem to know any history?

1) I don't care about the treason flag. They can fly it over the state house or roll it and shove it some place dark. I really don't care.

2) This one always kills me. You really have to not understand even the most basic parts of the constitution to make this mistake. Our greatest President was just that, a president. He was not a king, he can not make laws. Congress makes laws. Presidents make executive orders. Exectuive orders are easily overthrown. President Lincoln could not free the slaves in the area's under Union control, congress had to do that. He could, however, make an executive order about areas where congress no longer had jurisdiction. If he tried that in the north, congress would have fought him -- then freed the slaves themselves, but not at a good time for the war. Congress could have overthrown proclamation too, but they didn't have any real motivation to. You forget, politics was no less complicated then than now.

3) The Civil war was about slavery. I know that's not the popular version of history anymore, but it's the true one. Read your Calhoun, read the SC Justification for their treason. Taxes, states rights, never mentioned. Slavery (specifically the fugative slave law NOT being inforced in other states -- sort of anti-states-rights) and the 'slave econemy,' mentioned to death.

Please do more research before you repeat neo-confederate lies and propaganda.

Rogue Genius (Fellow Northerner)

Drew said...

Again with calling it a treason flag. Yeah, that really is a good way to try to start a discussion.

I never said that Lincoln had the power to actually end slavery, just that I'm tired of rewritten history books telling us he did. Also, had the South not seceded, Lincoln would not have let them continue to keep slaves (his reading of the Constitution made him believe the federal government had no power to stop slavery), but he would have stopped adding more slave states, thus shrinking the South's power in the Senate (and they were already vastly outnumbered in the House).

While the slavery issue was mentioned as a justification for secession, the real issues of that were that slave states were politically overpowered by non-slave states and non-slave states were refusing to honor agreements (such as the Fugitive Slave Act, which many parts of the North willfully ignored). In the South's eyes, the North had already broken the Constitution, so it was only a matter of time before they further abused their powers. It was time, in the Southern view, to get out of the already broken contract (which, the South argued, they had always had the right to abandon).

The biggest problem came with the draw of Northern industry. While slave states were equal in number to non-slave states, the population inequality had the South outnumbered by about 2 to 1 in the House. As Jefferson Davis put it (basically speaking to the North in general), "[…]it is that you may have a majority in the Congress of the United States and convert the Government into an engine of Northern aggrandizement… you want by an unjust system of legislation to promote the industry of the United States at the expense of the people of the South.”

Some interesting side notes: DO you know which group fought to stop the importation of slaves? The South. And which side had been shipping them in, mostly? The North (though they started landing them in Georgia once Georgia law finally conceded and allowed slaves to be imported). Why did the North not hold slaves? Climate...without a proper climate, the sorts of large-scale agriculture that were helped by slaver were impossible. Most Southerners loved the Union, specifically the Constitution, but they felt they could not remain a part of it if the North decided to honor only those parts it felt like honoring.

Would there have been a Civil War if not for slavery? Probably not. Was slavery what the war was about? No. Did the South fight for (and, in fact, make large gains for) states' rights? Undoubtedly.

Rogue Genius said...

Well, "War of Northern Aggression" actually started the conversation, I just picked it up in spirit. As for the word, it's just a technical term. The American Revolution was treason, and I'm damn proud of it. You shouldn't be so offended by the facts.

Technically, Lincoln DID end slavery. It was his work from the bully pulpit that brought about the amendments. He was as responisble for it as any president is for any law. You are right about the history books being rewritten. I doubt we agree about which way, though, and why.

You are absolutly right about the political situation that lead to the war, but that doesn't change anything. The north embrased the industrial revolution, the south didn't. Instead of trying to compete, Calhoun and others started obstructionist actions to preserve the 'slave economy.' His phrase, not mine. The south never so much weakened as it just fell behind economically and fought progress rather than competing in good faith. And as the numbers of voters in the north increased, the Souths ability of obstruct dropped. In the end, they chose seccession and war to actually competing. The fugitive slave act and such were the straw, but don't minimise that. It was THE reason they finally went the path of war. Davis was wrong -- he was perfectly happy with the system when it unfairly favored the south (from the beginning to about the 1840's), but suddenly didn't like it when the tables turned. (Note, the unfairness was written into the constitution and still exist today -- it's just that the numbers changed.) Today relocation to the south is changing the balance again. Are you going to reject it because it's unfair to the North?

I did NOT know the first two, though I am suspect of the benevolent motives of the first. I did know about the climate thing and I did know most southerns loved the union (and still do, I hope). I take that last sentence with a grain of salt: The south wanted 'states rights' for the south, but would deny the northewr states the same.

Rogue Genius said...

Hey Drew;

It's been an hour or so since that last post, and while I stand by it, I am sorry for the tone. You've got to understand that some of us had ansestors who fought and died on the other side of that war. I just get so damn angry when I hear their cause slandered. If what you said were demonstratively true it would be one thing, but I don't think it is. I realize there are two sides to each issue and I am trying to work though both sides.

Just wanted you to know I have nothing against you. It was just the choice of words that set me off.

Drew said...

The reason I tend to be offended by the term "treason flag" is less about what Secession was and more on the principle of the flag standing for treason. Yes, one could argue that Secession was treasonous, but one could also make the argument that any state could leave the Union, especially since some (such as New York) had already broken parts of the contract (such as Article IV, Section 2, which said that any "person held to service" would be returned if they fled). The Confederate flag no longer stands for treason any more than the US flag does.

Also, as to the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, it's important to note that 8 of the 11 states that seceded ratified it. Another noteworthy point is the original 13th Amendment, which would have gone to the states for ratification had there been no secession, actually affirmed slavery.

Yes, it was Lincoln and the Republicans who pushed through the 13th Amendment we have, but not without serious reservations. Northerners had as much reason to want the South to continue slavery as the South itself. After all, textiles were a huge portion of their economy, and cotton kept that industry booming. This was another of the problems the South faced with the North firmly in power. They wanted to be able to freely export and import (like states do today), but the North wanted to be sure that the cotton went to Northern industry and the South purchased goods from the North. In a way, this was an early fight over outsourcing (well, that's really pushing it).

As for your contention that the South should have embraced the industrial revolution, this, too, was discouraged by the North, since textiles needed their cotton (other agriculture, such as tobacco, was highly prized, too, but less important to industry). Cotton only became more profitable with the expansion of industry, so embracing industry meant creating raw goods. The expansion of this, though, was offset by the increasing technology, which would have caused slavery to crumble sooner had the industrial revolution not simply spread out the slaves.

You say that the system unfairly favored the South from the beginning, but this is inaccurate. The system was originally designed as a delicate balancing act, which sometimes tipped to one side or the other. Early on, it tipped to the South several times (probably a bit more often than it did the North), but as industry and the large cities of the North flourished, the fact that slaves were not counted the same as whites really skewed the population so much in the North's favor that there was no more balance. Always previously, either side could obstruct the plans of the other, but this turn of events allowed the North to strongarm their way into control of the economy.

Today, states' rights prevent the severe domination that could be exercised then. The exact nature and power of these rights changes slightly as the composition of the Supreme Court tilts the reading of the law one way or another, but states mostly control their own trade (the federal power of tariffs has been largely limited to very broad categories, rather than specific types of goods or areas), with the exception of banning importation from specific countries (it was ruled that this is one trade power limited to the feds, since it has broad implications for foreign policy).

While it's true that some of the fight to stop the importation of slaves was to prevent upstarts from gaining ground against existing plantation owners, as well as to cut off one source of dependence (the South didn't generally run the shipping companies--the North did), it's just interesting to note.

You say that the South wanted to deny Northern states their rights, but the only "rights" they fought were the right to admit more non-slave states so as to upset the Senate balance (the only balance that had, until then, been constant), the right to ignore Article IV, Section 2, and the right to control Southern trade.

Whether you agree with the original motives, the Secession shaped states' rights. Let the flag stand for that, not for slavery. When was the last time a Southern state fought to bring back slavery? You can't seriously think that the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse flies because they think they're going to bring back slavery.

Drew said...

Hey, no hard feelings about the tone. It's one of the more civil I've heard from either side on this subject. And I, too, have ancestors who died in the war. Both sides. I only call it the War of Northern Aggression sometimes because otherwise I offend those who only see the South's side. ANd because the South originally seceded peacefully (though they were largely aware it would lead to war).

Drew said...

Oh, yeah, and if I take an offensive tone, I really don't mean it. It's kind of hard to control tone in a medium that allows only text.