I’ve lately been running into various slanders against Lincoln, many of them generated by the recent and brilliant film starring Daniel Day-Lewis (show stolen by Tommy Lee Jones, thank you very much). One person on Facebook suggested that, since there were major economic factors in the North’s desire to end slavery, therefore, somehow, neither Lincoln nor most of the abolitionists should get any praise from posterity. Of course, the Right is anxious to separate itself from anything that has ever been progressive about capitalism, so they must either disavow Lincoln or distort his positions. The pseudo-Left, meanwhile, is unspeakably offended at the notion of white males fighting for black freedom, and as Lincoln is a striking representative of the thousands who fought specifically to end slavery, a way must be found to vilify him.
With this in mind, I want to address a single point regarding Lincoln: to wit, was he right in going to war against secession? For purposes of this discussion by “right” I mean the following: necessary to preserve the United States, which, for all of its ugliness, brutality, and injustice, was nevertheless, at that time, a progressive force in world history. For those who disagree, I would prefer that argument be postponed for another occasion, if possible.
Here are some things that are not up for debate–which means I have no intention of debating them, and if we disagree, I think you’re an idiot.
1. The South seceded because Lincoln was elected.
2. Lincoln was elected on the basis of no expansion of slavery, and the southern slave oligarchy believed that without expansion, their economy would die.
3. There is no decision Lincoln could have made that would have prevented secession (I mean, you know, he wasn’t even inaugurated yet).
4. Lincoln, therefore had only one decision to make: let the South go peacefully, or uphold the constitution (yes, that’s right; we are not going to get into the whole “was secession a constitutional right?” debate. If you think it was, A) you’re wrong, B) I don’t care anyway, and C) we’ll talk about it another time).
So, then, here is what is up for debate: did Lincoln make the right choice in using military force to prevent the South from leaving? To me, the very fact that all of the tyrants of Europe were hoping for the success of the south, and the overwhelming masses of the people of Europe were hoping for its failure, is indicative. I concede that this, by itself, is not proof. So, then.
First of all, I believe that the south* was right regarding point 2 above. Slavery is economically viable for production that is labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive; in other words, for cotton, sugar, and tobacco, but not ranching; for certain kinds of mining, but not manufacturing. The proof of this, if proof is needed, can be found in the fact that, throughout history, slavery has only ended peacefully in countries where the economy was based on capital-intensive production (Argentina, for example). One thing that is common to labor-intensive production, is that it is temporary for a given region. That is, the labor-intensive crops exhaust the soil; mines run out. This means that the slave-holders must expand, or permit themselves to quietly sink into oblivion. Given that no ruling class has ever permitted itself to quietly sink into oblivion, I don’t think it reasonable to have expected the slave-owners of the south to be the first.
It is worth remembering that Lincoln, in one of his earlier speeches, admitted that, although he wanted to see the end of slavery, he would not know how to go about ending it even if he had the power to do so.
This is, in my opinion, key. If Lincoln had chosen to let the south go, the south still would have needed slavery to expand. Okay, then, expand where? South? Well, they really wanted Cuba, but even with the force of the US Government behind it under Polk, then later under Pierce, the effort never went anywhere. Other filibustering expeditions were attempted in Central America, and all of them failed. Is there any reason to believe that an independent south could have managed to acquire more territory to the south? Well, they didn’t think so; after the Central American disasters, the attention of the slaveholders, by overwhelming majority, turned west. Those who disagree are invited to study the history of Kansas.
It is valid to ask how much of the western territories would have actually been suitable for slave-based production. But, in a sense, that’s not the point; the point is, the south believed it needed the west.
And certainly, the North did. If the agricultural resources of the south were denied the northeast, then it absolutely required the west (what we now call the midwest) to feed itself.
During the leadup to secession, the south said over and over, from the mouths of numerous politicians and newspapers, “The South needs its whole territory.” In other words, it needed the border states (Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and the upper south).
So, then, at a minimum, the south would have taken with it, or fought for, all of the upper south and the west. The remaining United States, then, would have been crippled if not utterly destroyed, simply for lack of resources. And not just resources, also manpower. Let us recall that, militarily, the south was in better shape than the north at the very outbreak of the war–they had not only most of the West Point graduates[ETA: I was wrong about this], but the graduates of other military schools, of which the north had none. They had armed militias that had been training. Arms and ammunition were mostly stored in southern states. Is there any doubt that, had Lincoln chosen to let the south go, all of the manpower of the upper south and border states would have been arrayed against the US, forcing crippling concessions? The myth that, had Lincoln chosen to let South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Georgia secede there would have been peace is, just that, a myth.
So, even if we ignore the moral issue–the matter of walking away while hundreds of thousands of human beings are held in bondage–in my opinion Lincoln could not have done other than he did. If the United States were to survive, there would be war. The question was how to win it.
*When I say “the south” please take it as an abbreviation for, “the southern slave oligarchy;” in other words, the set of the largest slave-owners in the south, who functionally made all the decisions for the section.
215 thoughts on “The Civil War: Did Lincoln Make the Right Decision?”
Well said. I agree.
An initial quibble: the filibusteros were rather small operations. My suspicion is the South could’ve taken Cuba. Whether they could’ve held it is another question. Makes me want to write a story about Castro versus the CSA.
The slaveholding states were always willing and eager to enlist federal authority to privilege slaveholder rights over the laws and customs of non-slaveholding states (see: Fugitive Slave Act(s)). They had no fucking interest in any “states’ rights” but their own, and they were absolutely content to let the federal government swing a big club, so long as it swung on their behalf. Only when it became obvious that this power was trending permanently away from their control did they suddenly feign a deep-seated interest in the philosophical niceties of state vs. federal power.
Will: I’d read that.
Scott: So, in other words, you’re about as ambivalent on the whole North vs South thing as I am. Got it. And yes. I could do a whole nother rant just on “States Rights.” But you pretty much did it for me.
Hard to disagree with these points.
One question of interest for me with respect to Lincoln and the Civil War is the counterfactual “What would Lincoln have done if the South didn’t secede?” I’m afraid that there would have been no emancipation proclamation and no 14th amendment; and no congratulatory letter from Marx and friends, either.
I would like to say on principle that in Lincoln’s place I would have abolished slavery regardless of secession, but because that would clearly and without question provoke a terrible war — one whose outcome couldn’t definitely be known — I’d find it very hard to commit to that course. So in my imagined alternate history in which slavery continues well past Lincoln’s term in office, I find it hard to blame my eidolon of Lincoln for making the choice to avoid war.
Miramon: Well, I believe the south really did require slavery to expand in order for it to survive. So in your alternate history, slavery gradually dies out. To me, the notion that the southern ruling class would permit themselves to be peacefully ruined and ousted from power is absurd, so I’d have a lot of trouble with your alternate history.
Okay, I’ll be upfront here: If I’d been Lincoln, I wouldn’t have done it. Not saying everything would’ve been better that way, but it seems to me the South would’ve had to go down Brazil’s path. And if so, the racial situation would’ve been better: no 1% rule, for starters. That extremism was Defeated Nation logic.
I suspect things would’ve been better for American Indians, too. The Cherokees would’ve been seen by the South as loyal citizens. But it’s likely the Plains Indians would’ve just had to deal with two armies instead of one.
Don’t disagree with anything in your statement. I do think the artistic brilliance of the movie Lincoln has caused you to overlook some major problems with its history (and I’m not talking about nit-picking minor characters or minor details). But obviously, that is not this topic. On what Lincoln could have done, I think you have it exactly right. The choice he made was the best choice he had.
Hmm. Actually, things probably would’ve been better for the Plains Indians, because they’d have two Medicine Lines to move across.
skzb: I don’t doubt that in that alternate history some kind of conflict would have arisen, quite possibly a full blown civil war, for precisely the reason that you say; but what I was focusing on is what I believe would have been Lincoln’s reluctance to deliberately provoke a war by his own action, mainly questioning the terrible morality of the choice.
There’s also an interesting conflict that might have taken place down the road if the decision point about slavery took place later in the century when the union movement was gaining strength. That would add another element to the force equation. You’d have the growing Northern industrial/capitalist economy, the retrogressive southern slave economy, and the emerging anti-capitalist worker movement. It might have been very messy, but possibly also transformative.
And now I have a question. You say, “Slavery is economically viable for production that is labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive; in other words, for cotton, sugar, and tobacco, but not ranching; for certain kinds of mining, but not manufacturing.”
But why are you assuming the South would’ve kept its focus on labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive production? The South was industrializing, though not as quickly as the North. I think it was Mike Ford who pointed out that if the North and South had fought around 1850, they would’ve been on more equal footing.
Hmm. Is it possible that one of the results of the Civil War, with its destruction of Southern railroads and factories, was to keep the South focused on labor-intensive production?
Is it accurate to say that in your view those with power in the Southern states were driven by the ideological precursor to lebensraum, and that war was the inevitable consequence?
I suspect that there were other contributory factors; the fear of slave revolt, coupled with the reduction in the supply of slaves, was probably a potent generator of higher levels of paranoia in those who owned slaves. In those circumstances secession may have been perceived as self defence rather than aggression.
Of course, that would still make war inevitable…
How do you apply your theories to the fact that there are more slaves now than at any time in history?
Will: “But why are you assuming the South would’ve kept its focus on labor-intensive rather than capital-intensive production? The South was industrializing, though not as quickly as the North.”
Because there isn’t any way for those who had 90-95% of their capital tied up in land and slaves to make the transformation to raw materials, machinery, and capital with which to purchase free labor. How exactly do you make that transition? Who are you going to get to buy the slaves and the land if the economy in slaves and land is collapsing? Take a look at the history of De Bow’s Review. Founded in 1846 explicitly to encourage industrialization of the South, holding well-attended and popular conventions on the subject throughout the South, by the late 1850’s it had given it up as impossible and become simply another journal of slave apologists, with the last demoralized convention held in 1859. Also, there was, in the south, an acute shortage of free labor. For a fuller discussion, see Alfred H. Conrad et al “Slavery as an Obstacle to Economic Growth in the United States: A Panel Discussion” Journal of Economic History, 27 (1967) 518-60. Gavin Wright, The Political Economy of the Cotton South (New York, 1978)*
Stevie: “Is it accurate to say that in your view those with power in the Southern states were driven by the ideological precursor to lebensraum, and that war was the inevitable consequence?”
I wouldn’t put it that way. I’d say that those with power in the Southern states were driven by strict economic necessity. When they claimed slavery needed to expand, they were right. But, as Trotsky said, a drowning man is also right when he cries out.
*No, I didn’t read those, Will. Sheesh. I just copied McPherson’s footnotes from Battle Cry of Freedom. But you really need to read that. Just sayin.
Oh, I’ve read Battle Cry of Freedom. It’s great, but McPherson’s a little funny about things like tariffs, for example–he’ll say they didn’t matter, yet he’ll note that they were part of the discourse. This isn’t to say that slavery wasn’t the greatest factor. I just think McPherson, like all of us, has his prejudices, and while I’ll trust him on facts, I’ll think twice about his conclusions. Citing De Bow in the 1850s seems kinda odd, if that’s meant as anything more than an example of the pro-slavery obsession of the Southern oligarchy. As a red, aren’t you supposed to think economic pressures matter more than the opinions of pro-slavery economists from the 19th century? The oligarchs were pushing one way, but industrialization was pushing another, wasn’t it?
I keep wanting to test this against real world examples, and Brazil seems like the best. Many of the workers who replaced slaves were immigrants. What interests me most about Brazil’s example is that in the final stage, as in the US, there was no payment to owners for freed slaves. But I grant all analogies are imperfect.
Oh, one of your assumptions is that the South would continue to expand. But I don’t see any way that Lincoln or anyone would give up a US state that had not seceded formally. So if the slavocracy couldn’t expand, they would have only one option: industrialization. Hell, now that I’m on this track, can you think of any slave-owning countries where the ruling class didn’t adapt? Uh, besides Haiti?
The south was facing northern abolitionism. They thought they desperately needed at least a veto, at least half the Senate. So whether or not it was true that slave economies needed to expand to new land for economic reasons, and whether or not they believed they had to expand to new states, they felt extremely threatened without new slave states and would get new slave states or secede.
So I say that while Steven is probably right that their economy needed new land, the rest of his argument does not depend on that. They would secede and fight whether or not it was true, and whether or not they believed it was true.
If he’s right then it has profound implications. What happens in the old slave states? Their land turns bad and not worth farming. They keep slavery to vote slave states, but as states what happens to them? They fall into decay? Most of the young people move away, to where the wealth is? Most of the slaves get sold away? To the extent the South got a strong central government it might not matter much, but the weaker a confederation they maintained the more that, say, Virginia would look for ways to prosper without intensive agriculture.
OK, suppose that Lincoln wanted peace. What could he have done? He could have announced that he would peacefully remove the garrisons in the south. He could perhaps have spent months actually doing that, and the announcement might prevent things like the attack on Fort Sumpter that made it politically impossible for him to avoid active war.
Would the South have attacked anyway? The North would surely stop assisting them with escaped slaves etc, pretty quick. They might fight soon over Maryland etc. Could individual Yankee states impose tariffs? What about the US Congress? The more things fell apart, the more likely that southerners did things that gave Lincoln no choice but to fight, perhaps as quickly as it actually happened.
So let’s suppose Lincoln was conciliatory enough, and the South did not attack right away. They would have gotten into a better military position. And they would have had time to notice how bad their military position was. Would they still attack? To rescue their compatriots in the border states, maybe? I think probably. They might get some early victories, likely they could take DC. Again, Lincoln would have no choice but to fight. He would probably have a lot more support in the fight than he did in real life.
But in a later war with big early Southern wins, would Britain intervene? They were never convinced the South could avoid defeat, and didn’t want to support a loser. If the British navy prevented a blockade, and if Britain gave a little military support — as little as 10,000 artillery pieces/year along with a few million tons of shot and powder — it would make a big difference in the war. And early wins might have persuaded them.
I don’t know whether Britain would have given them that support. It doesn’t make sense to me that it would happen. But consider Israel — a tiny nation with no natural resources to speak of, surrounded entirely by enemies. A nation run on an ugly racist/ethnic/religious ideology. And yet they thrive given unconditional support by a superpower, a superpower that has nothing to gain and much to lose by that support. Who can say for sure that Britain would not do the same for Southern slavers?
So I imagine three possible outcomes.
1. The South fights anyway despite Lincoln’s restraint. The Union gets bigger early setbacks but has more resolve.
2. War is delayed. The South starts the war better organized and has bigger early wins. If that gets them lots of British support they might survive to the point that things are so different I can’t begin to predict them. Otherwise they lose.
3. Lincoln avoids fighting. So does the South. The South has a chance to industrialize and produce lots of war materials, and mostly fails to do so. They get a chance to build a functioning economy and do not. Eventually they fight out of desperation, anyway, because they know they are doomed and they have no better choice.
It seems to me McPherson believed the tariffs were extremely important; I’m not sure where he said they didn’t matter.
Am I misremembering, or wasn’t Brazil’s ruling class in that period mostly on Fleet Street in London? And wasn’t the economy heavily based on cattle, or am I thinking of somewhere else? I do not believe their vital economic interests were tied to slavery. In the US, as I said, industrialization wasn’t an option for the slavocracy; where were they supposed to get the capital to industrialize? De Bow’s journal, of course, is valuable as an important indicator of what sections of the ruling class were thinking, just as today we can learn important things from the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. De Bows was the leading proponent of exactly what you’re talking about, and it was forced to give up the idea. This has great significance, in my opinion.
And, another question you may wish to answer: If they could simply have solved the problem by industrializing, just exactly why did they secede upon the election of a president who had made it clear that he had no intention of interfering with slavery where it existed? I mean, you can’t have it both ways. Either the slavocracy could have made a peaceful transition to industrialization, in which case why didn’t they; or they were required to expand, in which case they had to either fully control or break up the union.
Actually, in order to start capital intensive production you do need lots and lots of capital; it’s one of those pesky little requirements which bankers have the annoying habit of pointing to when they refuse to provide the capital…
Apologies for the cross post but I’m going to let it stand since it reinforces Steve’s comment about the non/source of capital…
“In the US, as I said, industrialization wasn’t an option for the slavocracy; where were they supposed to get the capital to industrialize?”
“Opened in 1837, by 1860 it was the third-largest iron manufacturer in the United States. …. Anderson also began introducing slave labor to cut production costs. By the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, half of the 900 workers were slaves, including many in skilled positions. …. As a result of his difficulties competing with Northern industries due to his higher labor and raw material costs, Anderson was a strong supporter of southern secession and became a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army as the war broke out.”
It could be done. One thing that probably helped Tredegar was a series of government contracts, first with the US government, the Virginia state government, and then the Confederacy.
“If they could simply have solved the problem by industrializing, just exactly why did they secede upon the election of a president who had made it clear that he had no intention of interfering with slavery where it existed?”
Because they were ripe for it? I am not an expert, but it looks to me like southern politicians were not particularly known for sensible planning. They spent so much time at the national level obstructing, that when they got their own confederacy to do as they liked with, they spent most of their effort obstructing each other.
So I don’t think we can rely on arguments of the form “X must be true because otherwise the actions of Southern politicians do not make sense”.
Stevie: I think your crosspost was quite apropos.
J. Thomas: Um. I must be missing your point about the Tredagar Iron Works. I’m sure you’re not attempting to refute an argument about the general state of capitalization in the south by pointing to the existence of a factory, any more than you’d counter the argument that railroads weren’t as important in south by citing the existence of a rail line from Richmond to Montgomery. So, I’m obviously missing something. Could you clarify?
And we are not talking about a group of abstract politicians in some general sense; we are talking about representatives of an entire social class in a particular period of crisis carrying out the wishes of that class. In general, anyone who says, “This major historical event could have been avoided if this social class had only known what I know” is being, at best, silly.
Steve, I cite Brazil because its slave population was larger than the US’s. We’re talking a huge investment in slaves.
And no one is saying the Confederacy at the time of the Civil War was ready to abandon slavery. The economic circumstances weren’t right. We’re saying that what they thought in 1860 is not necessarily what they would’ve done in 1880.
And you seem to have failed to noticed that Tredegar was huge. The railways in the South were expanding. The Civil War set back the Southern economy by fifty years, I’ve always heard and have yet to find a reason to doubt.
Are you arguing that the South was anti-industrialization? And if you don’t think Brazil is comparable, do you think any country is?
Steve, I wanted to present an example, not to refute a claim. They did start an industrial enterprise. They did put a lot of slaves to work in it, some of them in skilled positions, to cut costs. They needed to cut costs because they could not compete on price with comparable Yankee businesses, and they supported secession because of that.
There are a variety of arguments that I think are weakened by this example, but of course this is not mathematics where a single counterexample is a disproof.
“And we are not talking about a group of abstract politicians in some general sense; we are talking about representatives of an entire social class in a particular period of crisis carrying out the wishes of that class. In general, anyone who says, “This major historical event could have been avoided if this social class had only known what I know” is being, at best, silly.”
There are various times when whole social classes might have saved themselves by changing their concept of themselves to something functional. But usually they do not do that. They would as soon be destroyed together than give up the roles they have assumed. To me, this looks like a big failure of imagination. But what do I know?
A couple of things on the Brazil example. Brazil had tons of rain forest and jungle that was constantly being cleared for agriculture during the whole time slavery existed. The South, without expansion, would have had no comparable area to expand to. In addition, a great deal of the value of slaves in the South was their value for resale to new territories open to slavery. (:Brazil had something of the same thing, but again there was constant clearing of new land taking place there.) In the absence of expansion, the :South would have faced a massive drop in the value of its capital stock, its slaves. That would not have been just a long term drop, but immediate – massive deflation and recession (or it was called at the time a “panic”). So without war and expansion, the South would have faced much worse circumstances for industrialization than Brasil. And Brasil never industrialized as successfully as Argentina.
Also an independent Confederacy would have been competing with an industrializing United States immediately across its borders..That is much more severe competition than Brazil’s immediate neighbor Argentina. So I can’t see an independent Confederacy industrializing successfully without a successful war that allowed it to maintain slavery for as long as it needed.
Incidentally, in terms of choices: suppose I’m wrong and a Confederacy could have maintained itself, gradually phasing out slavery. I don’t think there is a reasonable argument to be made for that counter-factual, but assume it for the moment. Then look at how truly horrible slavery was, the constant war against slaves it entailed. All slaves faced the constant threat and reality of torture (including but not limited to whippings). The constant threat and reality of murder. The constant tearing apart of families by force. The constant threat and reality of rape. I don’t think a reasonable case can be made that maintaining that brutality for another 30 to 50 years would have been better than a bloody war that ended it.
Gar Lipow, interesting data about Brazil. But when you talk about our history, don’t forget to include the 100 brutal years that followed slavery–Jim Crow was far more racist than the antebellum South had been. I tend to think a country that chose to end slavery would’ve treated its former slaves better than the defeated South did.
Will: “We’re saying that what they thought in 1860 is not necessarily what they would’ve done in 1880.”
Okay, now I’m really confused. How did we get to 1880? Lincoln was elected in 1860. As a result, the south seceded. I argue that had Lincoln chosen to let them go “peacefully” the result would have been war by the south to claim the upper south, then the border states and the west, then possibly New Jersey and maybe New York. I am arguing that such an action would have been forced on them. Therefore, in order to prevent the complete destruction of the United States and all of the misery that would have entailed, Lincoln made the correct choice in deciding to uphold the Constitution. Where does 1880 enter into this?
And the place that most clearly resembles the South is probably Haiti; just substitute sugar for cotton. Or perhaps Jamaica, although there you have the complication of a ruling class not actually living in the country.
I thought we were talking about Lincoln making the right choice in the long run. In the short, if we’re only talking about war, I’m inclined to disagree. Trouble would’ve come in the border states, where sentiment was fairly evenly divided, but then you would’ve had something like Bloody Kansas in Kentucky and Tennessee. Remember, the South’s tactic, with a couple of notable exceptions, was to defend the seceding states rather than invade those that hadn’t.
And I have to reject Haiti as a model. Ain’t no way a slave revolt could’ve succeeded in the South.
Thinking about this a teensy bit more, if you’re focusing on the psychology of the slaveocracy in 1860, their mythology had nothing to do with conquering the Union. If they went to war for land, they wanted to do what the Union had been doing, taking land from brown folks. Their concept of chivalry would make them much happier with continuing the work of the filibusteros. At least, that’s my notion just now.
I’m not focusing on the psychology, I’m focusing on the objective conditions. I believe the south would have had no choice but to attempt to wrest the upper south and border states–for starters–from the Union by force. You disagree. Okay, I can accept that.
>Jim Crow was far more racist than the antebellum South had been. I t
Horrible and murderous as Jim Crow was, it was NOT more racist than the antebellum South. One bit of evidence: you can find very few former slaves after the Civil War, even decades after the civil war, who preferred slavery. Not zero: you can always find an odd duck, but very very few. Also Black people had the option to LEAVE the South, something that could only be done at the risk of death, pre-civil war. And Brazil is a good counter-example to the idea that gradual abolition of slavery leads to better treatment of ex-slaves. Brazil’s slavery was never exactly like the U.S.’s in any case because there was intermarriage (as opposed to just rape and secret liasons) even during slavery. Different culture, different mythology. But open racism persist today in Brazil, in some ways more overt that in the U.S. – where there is still widespread belief that dark-skinned people are less intelligent than light-skinned, and all sorts of open employment discrimination persists. LuLu has taken some action against this.
Historically, even after the elimination of chattel slavery, debt slavery (peonage) persisted in Brazil very late. And the same kind of race riots that took place in the South under Jim Crow, took place regularly in Brazil. They were slightly more official – police and military action to evict “squatters”, but just as under Jim Crow in the U.S. they were mostly aimed at dark-skinned people in possession of economic resources that were seen as “above their station”. (Note: if you look at the history of lynching and race riots in the South, overwhelmingly that violence was aimed at Black people who had land White interests wanted, businesses that competed with White businesses, and generally Black people who were accumulating economic or political power of any kind. ) In terms of Brazil, there some great histories, but also Jorge Amado’s novels, especially his early ones portray the brutality of Brazil towards descendants of slaves.
The way racism works in Brazil is fascinating in similarities and differences from the U.S. Part of it is that the class basis is more obvious in some ways. That is much of the brutality, both historical and present is based on class and it just “happens”: that the working and peasant classes are overwhelmingly of Indian and African descent. But there are also overt racial attitudes. For example, 20 years ago (I’m not as sure about today) it would be commonplace to talk to a white Brazilian and hear something along the lines of “Of course I have nothing against N___ . They are very fine in their place. Nobody looks more handsome than a Black man in uniform carrying the coffin in a funeral processions, or acting as doorman in a big hotel. But you don’t want to trust them with jobs that require brains, or persistance.” Not that different from what you would hear from a U.S. white racist, but maybe a bit more overt than is typical in the U.S. Also there is the contradiction of racism in a highly mixed society, where the children even of two white parents will often be born with different skin colors because of Black people in the ancestry. And the reaction often is or was (again my info is about 20 years out of date) for families to treat differently colors children differently. So that in a middle class family, the light skinned kid is encouraged to try and go to college, whereas the dark skinned one is guided towards trade school. Or in an upper class family, the light skinned child is likely to be the heir, and the dark skinned one given some sinecure.
And the evictions and brutality is also often overtly tied to race – that part of the anger directed at squatters is anger at dark skinned people getting above their place. Much Brazilian police brutality, like much U.S. police brutality is openly racist. And Brazil’s time under military rule was based in part on military sympathy for Nazi ideology – with people of African and Indian descent as the main scapegoats, since the Brazilian Jewish community was so tiny.
So don’t think that Brazilian racism post slavery was more pleasant than Jim Crow.
OK, we need to consider time scales.
If Lincoln can put off war for 4 years, then he has done his job. At that point it is somebody else’s responsibility what happens to the remaining nation.
When he first gets elected, both sides start calling up armies. They don’t know whether they will have to fight and they need to be ready. If he can establish peace in those first months, then both sides will have a strong incentive to stand down. Neither side can afford a large standing army. It’s expensive and unpopular. They go on training, and then they tell the trained men they are now the reserve and to go home and be ready in case they must be called up.
At that point it’s pretty easy to avoid war. The reserves gradually fall apart, nobody really wants to mobilize them, and nobody does unless “incidents” happen that they can’t ignore.
Would the South mobilize armies to take the border states? I can’t really see it. They seceded themselves and nobody stopped them. If the borders states want out they should secede too, why do they need an army to help them? But reasoning that convinces me might not convince them.
Would they say, “The reason we’re poor is the damn Yankees have that tariff on our cotton, so if we just burn their capital and teach them a lesson they’ll let us get rich like God intended”?
If they had a chance to think about starting a war of aggression, the South would likely notice how weak they were. It’s different when they have no choice but fight. Then it doesn’t help them to count the odds. But when they are getting ready to start a war with a peaceful giant that is letting them alone, then they do get to think. Would that slow them down?
I tend to think that if Lincoln could get through the first six months he’d have an excellent chance to keep the peace for 4 years. If he couldn’t, then it turns out he didn’t really have a choice and so it’s irrelevant whether he made the right choice.
If the war had started sometime after 1865, and presumably somebody other thank Lincoln would be running the Union by that time, how would things be different?
Steve, I’m focusing on the psychology because you seem to be talking about the slaveocrats’ short-term view. If they’d been rational, they would’ve stayed in the Union. They loved to think of themselves as Walter Scott heroes, not followers of Machiavelli. I don’t see how they could rationalize going to war with white Protestant “brothers” who let them leave peacefully. If the clash came anywhere, I would expect it to come in the west, over New Mexico, and that sure wouldn’t happen during Lincoln’s time.
Gar, I’m separating racism and slavery–for people who think that can’t be done, remember that slavery existed before racism, and racism continued after. The percentage of free blacks varied from state to state, of course, but one of Django Unchained’s many lies is the notion that people would’ve been shocked to see a free black. Some free blacks were extremely rich slaveowners–google William Ellison of South Carolina and Sherrod Bryant of Tennessee.
During the antebellum period, there are two major areas where racism got worse:
1. To be “white” before the Civil War, you could have up to 25% “black” blood, rather than the 1% rule of Jim Crow.
2. Lynching targeted poor folks of all colors until Jim Crow. Wikipedia’s as good a place as any to start researching that: “By the 1890s and after the start of the 20th century, the vast majority of those lynched were Black people.”
I haven’t found whether things like the “back of the bus” convention existed before Jim Crow.
This doesn’t mean anyone wanted to go back to slavery. It just means that the way the US ended racial slavery made racism worse–a change in history might’ve made it better.
As for Brazil, I’m not suggesting there’s no racism there. Wherever slavery was racialized, racism persisted. I’m only talking about degrees of racism.
“When he first gets elected, both sides start calling up armies.”
No, the north did not call up any armies until Sumter was fired on.
“Would the South mobilize armies to take the border states?”
Yes, it’s pretty clear that was the intention.
“Steve, I’m focusing on the psychology because you seem to be talking about the slaveocrats’ short-term view. If they’d been rational, they would’ve stayed in the Union.”
I’m focusing on their short-term reality, not their short-term view. Their action was entirely rational. The anticipated (and 99.9% certain) overturn of Lecompton meant the loss of Kansas, which meant the loss of the west, which meant the end of slavery expansion, which meant the end of slavery. Their choices were die quietly, or fight and have a chance to live. Who wouldn’t, under those circumstances, chose the option that gave them a chance? It is worth remembering how close they came to winning; and winning would have meant a continuation of slavery for at least a generation; much more if they could have won more territory.
The Southern slave owners were not prepared to merely retain slavery in pre-existing areas; that much is clear. And of course, their capital was locked up in slaves and that capital could only be released by selling the slaves in America; Britannia’s command of the seas precluded selling them elsewhere. The slave-owners’ expansionist policies were driven by that economic reality.
In practical terms there was no chance of Britain recognising the Confederacy; as soon as it became clear that the Southern States would inevitably engage in war in an attempt to open up slave markets, those operating the cotton markets looked elsewhere for supplies, leading to the boom, and subsequent bust, in Egyptian cotton.
I have considerable difficulties in viewing the spread of slavery through the Union as an improvement on the status quo, but then my personal experience of the consequences of slavery does rather preclude the rose-tinted spectacles approach…
Steve, I’m not denying that the South would try to expand. I’m just saying I don’t think they’d try to expand into the country that had let them go. Why would they fight for states that rejected secession when Cuba and Mexico are so close?
Possibly of interest: http://mentalfloss.com/article/19105/confederacys-plan-conquer-latin-america
Hmm. An interesting question, perhaps, is whether all the slave states would secede if allowed to. Four of the border states never voted on the issue: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri.
Stevie, what held back European recognition of the Confederacy was the Union’s refusal to let it go. Governments tend to acknowledge political realities.
“In the absence of expansion, the :South would have faced a massive drop in the value of its capital stock, its slaves. That would not have been just a long term drop, but immediate – massive deflation and recession (or it was called at the time a “panic”).”
But had they already done all the expansion they could? Alabama wasn’t nearly full yet. If they kept expanding into the emptier slave states they needn’t have their massive deflation until the value of the slaves actually dropped.
But what about this — hadn’t the USA already forbidden importation of slaves? Their slave population was limited to the rate they could breed more. After secession wouldn’t they repeal that? So they could import new slaves as fast as they could afford them, provided anybody was selling. Would that cause a panic? The british navy was interdicting slave ships as late as 1860, which would cut the supply.
Would the South get an immediate panic because of an eventual prospect of reduced slave value? Kind of like automobiles suddenly were worth so much less when people saw that Peak Oil had passed? Well, but a slave represented an investment that might pay off over 50 years. It makes sense to look 50 years ahead when buying one.
“Also an independent Confederacy would have been competing with an industrializing United States immediately across its borders…. So I can’t see an independent Confederacy industrializing successfully without a successful war that allowed it to maintain slavery for as long as it needed.”
Their first attempts at industrialization would compete with Yankee exports. In line with the Tredegar example, they would at least need an independent nation that could impose tariffs on yankee industrial products.
Oops, another of my bads: Those four border states did vote: Delaware, Maryland, and Missouri chose to stay in the Union. Kentucky voted to remain neutral in the conflict, but when Polk invaded, the legislature chose to support Grant.
“When he first gets elected, both sides start calling up armies.”
‘No, the north did not call up any armies until Sumter was fired on.’
Oops, you’re right. So the Yankees did go to some lengths not to create incidents, and it did them no good.
When they did call up troops, 4 of the border states seceded and the rest did not.
“It is a misconception that the South held an advantage because of the large percentage of professional officers who resigned to join the Confederate States Army. At the start of the war, there were 824 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy on the active list; of these, 296 resigned or were dismissed, and 184 of those became Confederate officers. Of the approximately 900 West Point graduates who were then civilians, 400 returned to the Union Army and 99 to the Confederate. Therefore, the ratio of Union to Confederate professional officers was 642 to 283. …. The South did have the advantage of other military colleges, such as The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute, but they produced fewer officers.”
“I’m focusing on their short-term reality, not their short-term view. Their action was entirely rational.”
But their short-term view was what motivated them to do stuff.
“In general, anyone who says, “This major historical event could have been avoided if this social class had only known what I know” is being, at best, silly.”
You are saying that this major historical event happened because that social class did know what you know. Maybe they did.
But agriculture was against them, and they should have seen it. Their system would leave them with worthless land and poverty, with only the newest land on the edges making a decent profit. They had to expand or die, and where would they be when there was nowhere left to expand?
Perhaps they saw deeper. With adequate fertilizer they could restore their land and keep farming. Fish, horseshoe crabs, whatever. But it was more expensive to get fertilizer than to open up new land, so they couldn’t compete. Established slavers accepted that their own plantations could be profitable without expansion, but worthless with it, and they accepted the expansion because their own fortunes were less important than the change for huge profits for somebody else….
Maybe it’s because I don’t know enough about the topic, but it’s hard for me to see that there was one inevitable reality they had to understand and agree about.
Will – you have significantly missstated and even more significantly oversimplified the position and participation in the Civil War of Maryland. It’s hard to have a meaningful discussion on any act that surrounds the Civil War without understanding how Maryland influenced and was acted upon by both sides.
Jeff, got anything specific to offer? If you’re saying Maryland could’ve gone either way, sure. If you’re saying I’ve got some facts wrong, please correct me. I don’t mind disagreements of opinion, but I hate bad data.
Jeff, are you disagreeing with anything here?
[Comment deleted because I’ve deleted the stuff it was answering — skzb ]
J. Thomas: Okay, done now. I’m deleting that subthread. I’m going to work now and I don’t want this distracting me. Discussions as to the original subject (did Lincoln make the right decision) can continue. Apologies for slavery *or anything I might interpret as apologies for slavery* stop now. If you don’t know what I might interpret as an apology for slavery, err on the side of not saying it.
Will – I’m saying it’s an oversimplification of things to say that Maryland voted Union. It’s certainly true, but it ignores the facts stated in that wikipedia article, to whit that Maryland was an occupied territory that was deeply divided across the board between both sides.
Whether or not Lincoln could have done anything other than occupy Maryland is a separate discussion, and one that I don’t have any facts on, and so shall remain silent.
It is worth emphasizing that the seven cotton states were just that–cotton states. The upper south provided so much of the agricultural requirements of the cotton states, that they could not have survived without them, even aside from all of the other reasons the south required them. The idea that the south could have survived without the upper south and the border states is a fantasy.
Jeff, yes, Lincoln wanted to hold Maryland–the Union *needed* to hold it. I dunno where I suggested otherwise. But that doesn’t change the fact Maryland voted to stay, does it? It’s not like Lincoln put in a bunch of Quislings. My reading is that pro-Union sympathy outweighed pro-slavery sympathy. If you think that was fear rather than sympathy, okay, but Marylanders seemed, overall, to be among the few Southerners who were smart enough to realize Lincoln meant what he said. I’m not arguing that if Lincoln had let states secede, they wouldn’t have gone–it all depends on how you set up the game of If. I’m just saying it’s an interesting question.
Steve, whether the CSA could survive and whether they would invade are separate issues. As you’ve noted, sometimes people make the moment, and sometimes circumstances do.
This map of high cotton production areas seems interesting:
Maybe parts of that would be the Alsace-Lorraine for the Confederacy. But why don’t you think the Confederacy would go south? That’s where their focus was. Symbolically, turning their backs on the Union makes enormous sense, and their own love of manifest destiny would tell them to take from Spain and the natives, I’d think.
Governments have a tendency to do what suits them best; by the time the slave-owning states went to war there was a European wide consensus, particularly amongst the more vociferous citizens, that slavery was a barbaric activity practised by uncivilised people outside Europe.
There was nothing the slave-owning states had to offer which could outweigh the prospect of those vociferous citizens turning on their own governments, and Britain would never have endangered its’ naval power in support of the slave-owning states. Why should it?
Admittedly the Trent affair nearly blew it, but Lincoln had the sense to recognise the realities; the Confederacy never appears to have grasped that diplomacy mattered. The belief that ‘King Cotton’ would sweep all before it was delusional, as was the belief that the Atlantic slave trade could be reinstated. Unfortunately delusional people are far more likely to go to war than rational ones; I see no reason to believe that the slave-owners would have stopped before they were forcibly stopped.
Lincoln also recognised that free black Americans chose to marry other free black Americans; his speech on the Dred Scott case on June 26th, 1857 specifically tackled that question. His understanding of the non-consensual nature of white slave owners’ sexual relationships with their slaves was very clear. This is a slight detour from the original question but I think Lincoln deserves credit for recognising an aspect of slavery which some people still seek to minimise…
Stevie, this might interest you:
Having seen J Thomas’s opinions on employee management, I don’t see why I should waste brain cells on anything else he says.
Also, his opinions about women, sex, and unequal power relationships are (1.) odious, and (2.) grossly inaccurate.
Life is way too short.
I’ve read it.
However Norman Longmate’s ‘The Hungry Mills’* has a great deal more detail, and I do prefer to read original scholarship to Wiki articles where possible.
For example, Lincoln’s response to the cotton workers is well known, but the action of Prince Albert in amending the response on the Trent affair drafted by Lord John Russell, inserting the loophole which allowed the Union to honourably withdraw, are not mentioned in Wiki; it was his last action before his death since he was suffering from typhoid fever at the time.
*The story of the Lancashire cotton famine 1861-1865 pages 64-65
“Having seen J Thomas’s opinions on employee management, I don’t see why I should waste brain cells on anything else he says.”
Rather than add hateful comments with no information content, the option is present to say nothing.
You and I have occasionally had civil conversations over the years, one notable example about health insurance. You have often jumped to conclusions about my meaning, and sometimes you came to understand better.
I probably don’t fit your preconceptions.
My perceptions of the institution of slavery are profoundly influenced by the fact that my father was a slave on the Death Railway, but I have read extensively on the subject. A few minutes of research on the web would provide you with ample proof that your beliefs about slavery are not based on any understanding of how it actually worked in the real world.
Had the Japanese behaved towards their slaves in the way you believe that the slave-owners in the South did then the Death Railway would not have that title. Equally, the workers in Lancashire who suffered during the cotton famine were very well aware that their lives were infinitely easier than those of the slaves, notwithstanding the deprivations they endured.
They were willing to make those sacrifices because they did know that; in my view your willingness to dismiss them as dupes of propaganda looks like ignorance as well as contempt for the ordinary working people of the time…
Will – I don’t express an opinion either way on what Maryland would have done, or why Marylanders did what they did do. I merely say it’s an oversimplification to state that they voted Union. I’m also not saying that you stated anything contrary – mostly just that you ignored the issue.
And mainly I’m saying this to provide an alternate tract of discussion, not out of any real sense of opinion or offense.
But I will say that I was raised in Maryland and taught the Maryland state song, and taught that it referred to the *Revolutionary* War and not the *Civil* war, and that might be an interesting thing…. http://www.mdkidspage.org/StateSong.htm
Will, my point about racism and Jim Crow in Brazil was that, though different both were just as virulent as the American post-civil war South. That virulence is a counter-example to your argument that if there had been no war, and slavery had been eliminated more slowly and voluntarily that U.S. racism would have been less virulent. In Brazil, slavery was eliminated much more slowly, and (at the societal though not the individual level), voluntarily without war. Again, that makes Brazil a counter-example to your unproven assertion.
Stevie, I don’t know quite what you think I said but I don’t at all recognize my position in your mirror. Your claim that japanese behavior would be like somebody else’s in vastly different circumstances halfway around the world in a different century because we put a similar label on them, seems suspect to me. I don’t intend to discuss this topic at this time, since Steven might incorrectly interpret something I said as an apology for slavery. Let’s not go there.
Jeff, for me the most interesting thing about Maryland’s state song is that it was adopted in 1939. Who knows how Maryland would’ve gone without the Civil War?
Gar, just as virulent? I did some googling about racism in Brazil. The discussion here’s kinda interesting:
But where are Brazil’s anti-miscegenation laws? Where is its Ku Klux Klan? Where are its racialized lynchings? Did it have segregated schools, stores, bathrooms, and water fountains? It looks like the race disparities in Brazilian poverty are for a simple reason: the slaves were freed without compensation. Generational poverty works pretty much the same everywhere: if you got nothing, you’re not likely to get anything.
Well as to contemporary racism, the forum you linked to has a lot of argument that even today Brazil is worse than the U.S. And the U.S. has been moving right the last couple of decades through Democrats and Republicans both, while Brazil has been moving left – center left, but left. No segregation was not exactly the same as in the U.S. – instead of overtly racialized lynchings, it had class based lynchings. – evicitions that often include mass murders. It had police bruatality that easily exceed what the KKK did in US. And it had period of fascist dictorship with dissapearances. And in all these cases the victims were overwhelming dark skinned. So the racism was just a virulent. Was it as overt? WEll there were never the petty apartheid laws of Jim Crow. But there was plenty of taking the inferiority of people of African (and Indian) descent for granted. So you had racist attitudes accompanied by mass murder. And you had the same phenomena as the U.S. where almost nobody went to jail for killing a Black man. And you had peonage on a far greater level than the chain gangs and prison labor in the deep South. So the fact the class content that always lies behind racism was a bit more overt did not make the racism less virulent. And it is not as though that dark skinned people were immune from racism if the happened to be upper class. Because Brazil was rule by the Portugese rather than the English, slavery developed a different culture. The colonizers of Brazil would free some their slaves and marry them, without making slavery overall less brutal. So when slavery was abolished, of course Brazil’s racism was different from the U.S.. But I’d say the fascist period alone made Brazil’s racism at least as virulent as that of the U.S.
I’m not saying for certain that it is as bad today as the U.S. today, though even your own link includes strong evidence that it is. But before LuLu, when the fascist dictatorship was replaced by right wing former members of the dictatorship. Yeah, no question Brazil was worse. And the period of actual fascist rule – definitely worse. (Note – not using fascism as a meaningless term of abuse – the Brazilian Junta admired Hitler, incorporated Nazi theories of racial purity, also followed fascist economic policy – met any reasonable definition of fascism) And pre-facism – even though chattel slaver was over – large scale peonage, debt bondage – and I doubt one in 10,000 of those slaves was white. So from the abolition of chattel slavery, yeah Brazil was more virulent than the U.S. They did not need the illegal organizations and criminal terrorists, because they had debt slavery and formal police and military oppression to keep descents of slaves in check.
This is still clearly a painful and difficult subject, and I’m glad to see some honest, intelligent discussion of it, despite pain and difficulties. I live in a very small town in Central Texas and I think a lot of people living in the North and even in urban areas of the South would be shocked by just how alive and well racism is in many rural areas. My wife teaches school here, and she tells me that when the social studies teacher gave an assignment to listen to the State of the Union address, and the response to the address, five students’ parents were up in arms, protesting. This in a class of maybe a dozen! One of the parents is a public official, and he said in conference with this teacher, again and again, “that MAN is NOT my President!” WTF?!
But, that aside, except to disclose kind of where I’m coming from, I do want to put forth a few (semi-rhetorical?) questions about the original question.
Was or was not Lincoln “right” in going to war in what way? Strategically? Ethically? Morally? Professionally? Humanly?
These tend to get blended together, especially if we’re treating history all neat and tidy like fiction (well, hm.) Can these be parsed separately to aid a little clarity?
I think, strategically, it is mostly a guessing game because you never know what tactics and counter-strategies might have met even a slightly different strategy or delay in timing. The strategy maps are never the full territory, even given the hindsight of (an) actual history that occurred. We don’t have all the data and never will, short of a time machine and alternate timeline, and that would still be a single instance of “what if?” in the midst of a plethora of possibilities. There are more or less educated guesses of course, though, and that’s what makes alternate history fun… when it is on the more rather than the less educated side.
Ethically, morally… I tend to think it is still a guessing game–there are no single “right” choices, when dealing with psychopathy, whether it is a single psychopath or a whole system like slavery or fascism that functions like a psychopath and causes psychopathy to flourish. The only way to fight it seems to be to learn to function on the psychopathic level, even out-psycho the psycho, without somehow totally losing your “humanity” or losing too many present or future hostages/collaborators–and that means ugliness will ensue. A common SF theme…
We do know one thing from (more recent) history, though… there is often a point of no return, a point of “wrong” action which usually means taking no action while there would still be time to prevent a psychopathic system from making inroads where it is poising itself to do just that. We could argue until we’re blue and gray in the face and still not be absolutely certain we’d reached that point of no return when Lincoln was elected. But armament buildup is not a good sign; secession is not a good sign.
In other words, long-winded ones, I’m afraid, I agree with Steven’s original post, with very minor reservations that hinge more on epistemology than history or morality, and with no desire whatsoever to use any doubts about what we can and cannot know as a wedge to change anyone’s mind about any historical events or historical figures or speculations based thereon.
All I know at the moment is that I thought myself a fairly educated person, but this discussion makes me question that, which is a good thing. There’s something about living in the South that makes even the most enlightened person–or perhaps especially the most enlightened person–not want to delve too deeply into history, unless it is pure propaganda “comfort food” history.
It is said that “all politics is local,” so perhaps, by extension, “all history is local,” meaning interpretation of history always begins from “where” you grew up, in terms of historical mythos. Waco is the nearest major(!) city to us, and I really do not wish to know much more about Waco history… this, for example, happened a few dozen miles away from me less than a century ago, and it sickens and boggles the mind…
I wish I could get back to reading starry-eyed SF now… actual history can kind of screw with my suspension of disbelief there, though. Maybe some frothy passages from The Better Angels of Our Natures will help me forget what I know of the dark side of human history. For a little while.
I find the news from Brazil depressing. I had read a few accounts that claimed racism was not so much a problem there because of the widespread intermarrying, and I wanted to believe them. I wanted to believe that increasing interbreeding in the USA would make it less a problem, that increasingly seem like one population with many cultures. But now it looks like in Brazil it isn’t so much about race as about keeping the poor down, and in a mainly third world nation that means keeping the bulk of the people down.
Of course there are crusty conservatives who believe their in-group is superior. That happens everywhere and it doesn’t have to be important. One of my friends dated a nisei girl who kept it all secret from her father who believed that whites were so inferior he absolutely forbade her to marry one. But there are not many japanese men like that in the USA, and not many whites in Japan, and it all works out.
But everywhere the rich must avoid sharing with poor spouses or their wealth will be quickly diluted. And it makes no sense for them to live under the same laws.
“I think, strategically, it is mostly a guessing game because you never know what tactics and counter-strategies might have met even a slightly different strategy or delay in timing.”
I firmly agree. Still, it can be fun to make those guesses, and to look for evidence to support them. It can be fun to believe you’re right, and anybody who disagrees just hasn’t understood the evidence yet.
“I tend to think it is still a guessing game–there are no single “right” choices, when dealing with psychopathy, whether it is a single psychopath or a whole system like slavery or fascism that functions like a psychopath and causes psychopathy to flourish.”
I tend to think you are disagreeing with Steve here. Steve appears to me to be saying that there are objective economic realities which can force people’s choices, and people do respond to those realities. In this particular example, for the South to stay dependent on cotton they had to keep expanding to new land as the old land wore out. To do that they needed the border states and then more. So if the North tried for peace, the South would inevitably have to attack to get more land and there could not be peace.
It looks like you are saying that people do go collectively crazy sometimes, and there is no single guaranteed method to deal with crazy people.
I agree with you, and I say further that people are particularly likely to go crazy when they rationally see that anything they do will have a bad result. When rationality does not serve them, they try something else.
Let’s say there was a southern ruling class, and a northern ruling class. The southern ruling class saw that they were heading to get thrown out, disinherited, outcompeted by yankees who were going to rule the whole nation. The southern aristocrats could die out or be poor and work like poor people.
They had no realistic prospect to avoid that. If they tried to maintain the status quo they would go bankrupt. If they tried to industrialize the Yankees would outcompete them and they would go bankrupt. If they tried to secede and fight for independence they would lose. What could they do? Probably their best choice was to try to marry their daughters to rich Yankees, but that didn’t solve enough.
In one sense their only choice was to fight to grab land away from the USA. But in another sense they had no adequate choices. Nothing worked. Can you be sure what they would do in that situation? Which way will a cat jump?
I make that claim for other examples of mass insanity. Germany, WWII. They had tried begging for mercy and got no mercy. They were losing an arms race with the USSR which at some point would just roll over them. They utterly failed to get alliances with other western powers, which refused to even arm effectively. They had no adequate choices and they went crazy. This is not an apology for them.
Japan, WWII. They had a large population and no resources. They had no choice but a mercantilist approach, buy raw materials and sell industrial finished products at a profit. But established empires were monopolizing the markets they needed. The USA denied them the materials they needed to keep their own empire. From their point of view anything they did was wrong. Their only chance was to attack the USA and hope we would back down. A crazy hope. Again, not an apology.
And a generality — sometimes a nation’s men are just ready for war. Politicians who get in their way will be replaced. It doesn’t have to make sense. A lot of US history since 1980 could be interpreted as the US government desperately trying to supply wars to a public that simply can’t get enough small wars but will not accept war with nuclear nations. It doesn’t make sense? It isn’t supposed to make sense.
We are a long way from Lincoln but I really do feel moved to comment on WWII; for example, Stalin’s great advantage as an ally of choice was that he did not wish to export his ideology.
I have no idea how any rational person who had bothered to do any reading could believe that Stalin did wish to roll over Germany before the Germans attacked. On the other hand I am beginning to recognise that the entire idea of doing some reading before you form your opinions may be a bridge too far for some individuals…
“I have no idea how any rational person who had bothered to do any reading could believe that Stalin did wish to roll over Germany before the Germans attacked.”
The USSR was winning the arms race. Of course Stalin did not intend to attack Germany before Germany actually attacked — the evidence is incontrovertible, the USSR did not attack Germany before Germany attacked.
But as the USSR got stronger, German defensive positions got inevitably weaker. Wait too long, and Germany would not be able to defend.
I get the impression I am being unclear. I get condescending replies that do not respond to what I said. And yet when I reread it does not look unclear to me.
You are not being unclear, alas, you are clearly ignorant. Stalin’s commitment to socialism in one country is one of the most famous schisms in political thought in history; the fact that you do not even realise that it existed is downright ridiculous in someone pontificating about Stalin’s intentions…
Stevie, this is progress.
I am getting this sort of response not only from multiple people here but also from a physicist I have been on good terms with, about a physics question. Clearly, it isn’t you guys. It’s me.
It isn’t about the content I have been posting, which is mostly unremarkable and is not far from other people’s positions. Something about my attitude is creating unreasoning hostility in other people.
I can easily imagine that things which are happening in my personal life might leave me doing that. I don’t want to annoy innocent bystanders who are completely uninvolved.
I will think carefully about it. Any suggestions about what I’m doing wrong will get careful thought from me. I can’t promise to appreciate them, but I will definitely pay attention.
Trust me on this; it’s not ‘unreasoning’, nor is it ‘hostility’. The fact that you can make such a claim demonstrates only too clearly why you are in the position you are; whinging that other people do it ceases to be a viable option once you are out of kindergarten…
I may have missed this in the many notes, but I always thought that a major factor of Lincoln going to war was that Simon Cameron told him that it would be a swift victory.And while the south had all the military brains, no one knew how bad the Union generals were. That coupled with the huge advantage of the north’s ability to manufacture arms, I’m sure that “on paper” it looked like a sure thing.
Did Lincoln have other options? Probably not in his mind, but I don’t think he believed they could lose either.
Stevie, in that case, I will point out that I was not at all talking about Stalin’s intentions but about German belief about the USSR. They had strong reason to fear the USSR. They knew they were losing the arms race, and that their relative strength would continue to drop. The longer they waited, the more they would be dependent on Stalin’s good will for their survival. Communists had been strong in Germany until many of them were captured and put into camps; a number of conspirators escaped to the USSR where they trained to run a socialist government that in fact was installed after 1945. You can say that Stalin had no sympathy for spreading communism; many germans did not believe it.
I have no idea how you decided that I was talking about what Stalin was thinking. Of course Stalin wanted a nonaggression pact — he was still facing a potential japanese threat. And we can see that he expected Germany to honor that pact, that he was utterly unprepared for them to break it. Why you use that to vilify me is not at all clear.
Jo’din: “I may have missed this in the many notes, but I always thought that a major factor of Lincoln going to war was that Simon Cameron told him that it would be a swift victory”
That may be the case in Simon Cameron’s mind, but there is exactly zero evidence that it had any effect on Lincoln’s decision. It is the case that many individuals on both sides thought their side was bound to win quickly; there’s no reason to believe this played any part in Lincoln’s decision either.
J Thomas, I don’t know you, but I’m trying to read you with charity. I think you’re reaching for a nuanced position and falling badly. “Propaganda”, for example, was a terrible word to use in regard to the abolitionists; you may’ve meant that they focused on the worst examples, which is true in some cases, though one of the things I admire greatly about Uncle Tom’s Cabin is that Harriet Beecher Stowe shows very different examples of slavery with her choices of characters and locations. Your denunciation of slavery was buried in the explanation that not all slavery was extreme. Seriously, discussion of rape and slavery is damn tricky in person, let alone on the web, so if you do it, it helps to state often that you’re on the side of the angels. I should do that far more often, too. On the internet, if you quibble with A, A-supporters will assume you’re an evil B. So denounce B often while you’re trying to explain C or D or, God help you, QZ8398b(rev 3).
Please try and grasp that this is not about you.
You have adduced no evidence of any kind to support any of your assertions; instead you invite people to email you to talk about you.
I find it difficult to envisage anything duller…
Stevie: You are rapidly turning into my hero.
“You have adduced no evidence of any kind to support any of your assertions”
Ah! Stevie, I had no idea you were interested in evidence. OK.
Here is a link to a highly readable source about the arms race before WWII.
I doubt you’d agree with everything he says but he does provide lots of footnotes if you get interested.
What would you like evidence about?
For that matter I note that you have provided no evidence about anything you have said except to quote somebody else’s claims about the opinions of Lancashire textile workers. Would you care to play that game? I don’t see that it’s necessary, all of your claims have shown a superficial plausibility and they could easily be true. If it comes to what academic experts believe, when a topic is important to them often they disagree on subtle abstruse grounds, and when it is not important to them they are often sloppy. So when laymen go into tedious academic detail it often turns into just more details to argue over. I already consider all your claims to be possible.
Will, thank you. I will look carefully at how to do that.
Looking back, I can see various points at which I invited people to see me as other. When I step on people’s prejudices it’s unreasonable to expect they won’t kick back.
I’ve been carrying on the conversation in the reply box (unposted, copied and pasted to a journal) and in my own head, which seems safest, as I do not wish to entirely wear out my welcome here, nor encourage others to do so–an imaginary discussion ranging from the classic Ethan Allen quote about “those who invalidate reason” to a reference to the “you can’t handle the truth” speech from A Few Good Men. I’ll skip the tedious details, but basically things generally boil down to trite yet somehow always disturbing questions along the lines of “how much evil are you willing to employ, how evil are you willing to become, in order to defeat a larger evil?”
Thanks again for the patience of Steven and other contributors… this is a topic that deserves and garners attention, obviously, and the discussion here jumpstarts my creative process and inspires me to think and write outside the (reply) box. Eventually. Further replies will be in the form of a published novel. Eventually. Hopefully.
At the risk of one last bit of what some might see as truly boorish manners–recommending a different author on a writer’s blog–I would like to recommend Octavia Butler’s KINDRED for those who want a bit of the genuine “feel” of what it might have been like to experience one thin slice of the brutality of slavery in America. (Of course it goes without saying, yet bears repeating, that Steven Brust’s own Taltos novels deal in a most entertaining and darkly probing way into what it might do to a person and his people to be marginalized and brutalized on the basis of species or racial difference… this is at a further, slightly more comfortable remove, though, than KINDRED… much more entertaining, a little less educational.)
For those who had a strong enough stomach (and time enough) to look at the Wikipedia link I posted to the Jesse Washington lynching story… from what I know of human nature, and from what I “feel” or intuit about the conditions of slavery and the aftermath of slavery after reading KINDRED, among other things, I suspect the true Jesse Washington story involved adultery and murder rather than rape and murder, with the adulterer tortured to death by a mob and the murderer let go. Speculation, but it “feels” true and makes an even more horrific and poignant story, anyway, which is where any decent novelist would go. Decent horror novelist… is that an oxymoron? That smiling young man in the photo of the lynching… at any point did his thoughts, adjusted for gender and race, ever trend along these lines?
Brian: One thing I want to be very clear on: it is NEVER inappropriate to recommend other writers’ books in this blog; particularly books by writers as good as Octavia Butler.
“I suspect the true Jesse Washington story involved adultery and murder rather than rape and murder, with the adulterer tortured to death by a mob and the murderer let go.”
There can be no evidence at this point. I note that the medical evidence did not include any reported rape, but Washington confessed. If we assume his confession was valid, we get one story. Assuming it was a forced invalid confession, then there needn’t be any sex involved. If he did it at all, something like his other story would be plausible. She owed him about some mules, she unilaterally decided to pay him less, they argued, she decided to pay him nothing, he got angry enough to kill her.
If he didn’t do it then her husband was the next obvious suspect; the husband might have done it for any reason, and Washington would be the obvious scapegoat for the obvious reasons.
Obviously the lynching was wrong regardless what else happened. The people involved thought they were not wrong. They were wrong to think that.
Thanks for the clarification, Steven! :^)
Sorry… bit of a cross post above, but getting cross posting with J Thomas seems like a popular thing to do. Kidding aside, I plead the extreme distractions of a toddler in the house as extenuating circumstance.
J Thomas, you seem to be missing some social cues, in the observation or production thereof I’m not sure which. For example, you are painting a curiously digital or black and white view of the lynching, somehow lacking nuance or color. Washington confessed something or other, mumbling during the trial… for me it seems he truly thought he was deeply guilty of something horrible… but it could as well have been guilty of adultery which led to the woman’s death at the hands of a jealous husband rather than the direct guilt of actual murder on his part.
Your mind doesn’t seem to go there at all. It is more like the people are pieces on a chess board than real people you identify with.
Will and I are a little sympathetic–can’t speak for Will, but in my case it is because I miss a few social cues myself. However… in your case it seems particularly distressing to yourself and others. I suspect there could be something like autism spectrum disorder at play, but then I occasionally suspect that of myself, too, so maybe it is just psychological projection.
At the risk of being a little hypocritical, since I’m partly working out my own personal problem of “writer’s block” here, I’d like to suggest that instead of attempting to work the problem out here, or via any online blog or email interactions, therapy might do you a world of good. That is NOT a hypocritical statement, nor is it intended as any kind of insult. I avoided therapy for twenty years, and in the last couple of years since starting therapy and receiving an ADHD diagnosis I’ve made more progress with my personal (mostly writing) goals than I have in the previous twenty.
Yes, the quality of therapy and therapists and the best match for any individual varies… shop around, and do your homework. (Psychology Today and Psych Central blogs and articles are a couple of my favorite places to start learning about mental health care, and then there are the more highly recommended self-help books, if you can avoid the useless and over-hyped ones–the ones recommended by your own therapist are best, if your therapist is any kind of decent professional at all.)
Mental health care is gradually becoming far more affordable, especially if you consider the hidden costs of not getting it. And that’s all I have to say about that. I’m not even going to try to lamely connect this post to Lincoln with a speculation about what it might have been like if his wife could have had proper (by our standards) mental health interventions.
Thanks, Steven, for another lively and intriguing discussion! This is why I read this blog every day, even if I don’t always find time to join in.
Getting back to your original question, did Lincoln make the right choice in raising forces to retake Fort Sumter, I’d have to counter, “Did he really have any choice at all?”
The one thing nearly every critic of Lincoln can agree on was that he possessed an almost supernatural sense for the shifting moods of his constituents, always able to judge when the could be pushed to a choice and when the only option was to lay back and wait for the wind to turn. Lincoln haters hold this up as his chief character flaw and the prime reason he deserves no credit for moral character, but it is hard to find any serious student of history who thinks he had a tin ear for public opinion.
Before Lincoln ever got into office, Buchanan had declared the Secession invalid, although he had foolishly claimed that Congress couldn’t use force of arms to end it. That lead directly to the loss of the entire Texas militia. Still, he had declared it illegitimate, and with the resignation of the slave state congressmen, Congress immediately began passing bills thoroughly hated by the South, making it extremely unlikely that any Secessionist would act on remorse and beg for readmission.
So, by the time Fort Sumter was attacked, we had seven Confederate states committed and eight border states literally on the fence. Congress was completely dominated by pro-Union, Northern interests. Abolitionists, although still not a dominant voice in the North, were now vigorously supported by industrialists and nationalists in condemning the insurrection. The brand, new Republican party was feeling full of oats and the Democrats had practically ceased to exist as a political force. Add in fears of foreign intervention, which seemed perfectly plausible on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, and what else can a newly inaugurated President do except flex his muscles? Would anyone have let him do less than he did? Even in those halcyon days before American hegemony dominated the world, a chief executive cannot afford to remain meek in the face of military provocation. Raising a militia with the stated purpose of defending US property was about the least provocative step he could have taken.
And what was the result? Four more states seceded, one of which split in two over the decision, but the rest stayed in Union hands. The North united firmly behind the Union and Lincoln, and European intervention dimmed as a possibility. Did Lincoln have another choice? The balance of power between Congress and President at that time was not nearly so unbalanced then as it is now, or, rather, far more of the power was still in the Legislative branch. The Executive wouldn’t make it’s big gains until well into the Lincoln presidency. If Lincoln had wanted to appease, I really don’t think they would have let him, not with the echoes of Southern insult still ringing in the air of the capital. No politician of his skill would allow himself to be put in the position of being whipped into an inevitable action by others, not when he could get out ahead of the groundswell. So, I call the military option politically inevitable, and that in itself makes it the only rational choice. Could Lincoln have betrayed his own goals, instincts, acumen, and judgement by committing political suicide and sitting back and letting the South take whatever it wanted? Of course, but I think that would have only lead to a power grab by Congress and an escalation to full fledged war with far more chaotic results.
Lars: You make a very good point. I imagine Lincoln’s other choice was to act like Buchanan, but you’re probably right about what would have happened; congress only put up with Buchanan because it was lame duck, and because they knew Lincoln was coming.
(Speaking of Buchanan, one of my favorite stories of this period is of the congressman who wrote about him that he was like the father who said to his rowdy sons, “Don’t, but if I were you I would, and I can’t stop you.”)
Some of those I’m arguing with here remind me of Seward, who decided that all that was needed in 1861 was to provoke a war with Great Britain, and the seceded states would be filled with patriotic zeal and rejoin the union. It’s the sort of idea smart people get that has no connection to reality.
Buchanan is so useful historically. Any time any current combatant gets all het up about an incumbent as “worst ever” it is lovely to roll ones eyes and note that Buchanan retired the title.
You want an interesting alternate history novel. . . Fremont wins in ’56. There was never any chance that the South was NOT going to secede if Lincoln won –they were ramping up quite sincerely to do so if Fremont won. However, if he had and they had, what then? Fremont was not nearly as strong as Lincoln in a lot of ways. Otoh, the South made damn good traitorous use of those extra four years.
And guess what? If you’re a fan of freedom, a *fast* Civil War is probably at least as bad as *no* Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation was sold as a military necessity two years in. A South handed its ass in a few months in 1857 likely never gets there.
Lars, I pretty much agree with you. By the time Fort Sumter was attacked, Lincoln didn’t have much wiggle room.
So if he was going to do something unexpected, it needed to be before then. If he had, for example, announced that he would evacuate the various forts that might be attacked, would that have delayed attacks on them? Maybe not.
“President Davis, like his counterpart in Washington, preferred that his side not be seen as the aggressor. Both sides believed that the first side to use force would lose precious political support in the border states, whose allegiance was undetermined; before Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, five states had voted against secession, including Virginia, and Lincoln openly offered to evacuate Fort Sumter if it would guarantee Virginia’s loyalty.”
“The Confederate cabinet, meeting in Montgomery, endorsed Davis’s order on April 9. Only Secretary of State Robert Toombs opposed this decision: he reportedly told Jefferson Davis the attack “will lose us every friend at the North. You will only strike a hornet’s nest. … Legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.””
I read that a representative from Virginia talked to Davis and claimed that Virginia would definitely not secede until there was an open act of war.
So here’s Lincoln inaugurated on March 4 and the decision for war on April 9. Not a real long time for him to do something innovative, if he could think of something to do.
Geo: I agree about the short Civil War. I’ve been saying for a while that if you want to give the credit for ending slavery to one person, that would be General McClellan. Of course, it’s highly debatable if taking Richmond in 1862 would have actually ended the war. But.
Lars, excellent point that while someone else might’ve done something differently, Lincoln really couldn’t cave in to slavers who wanted to break the Union.
Steve, I’m still curious: why do you think the Confederacy, if allowed to go, would push north instead of south? Or do you mean they would’ve pushed north eventually?
Sherman was a volatile high-strung guy. . .but when he and Grant got to the point of actually discussing how to end the ugly thing (i.e. it was obvious the South had lost and just wasn’t ready to admit it yet, so post Gettysburg/Vicksburg), he noted there was a class of Southern aristocrats that would have to be killed in their saddles, and there was just nothing else to do about it than accomplish that as quickly as possible. He was right.
Which is to say, I agree with your original –war was unavoidable. Lincoln also knew that if he didn’t force the issue immediately he’d likely lose Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland in the mid-term. . .and just was not willing to do that. How do you fight for the West without Missouri? You don’t –not successfully.
“J Thomas, you seem to be missing some social cues, in the observation or production thereof I’m not sure which. For example, you are painting a curiously digital or black and white view of the lynching, somehow lacking nuance or color.”
I can see that for a fiction writer it would be useful to take a situation with few facts, and invent a complex dramatic story out of nothing. Yes, that is a useful skill. I don’t think it is the only useful approach to a historical situation.
“I suspect there could be something like autism spectrum disorder at play, but then I occasionally suspect that of myself, too, so maybe it is just psychological projection.”
You must judge your own circumstances for yourself — no one else can do that for you. However, some of what gets considered autism spectrum disorder is in fact a set of skills that can be cultivated. It can sometimes be useful to refuse to double-think, to fail to carefully avoid the thoughts your masters want you not to think.
Of course if you say true things that it is considered impolite to say in your social circles, you may suffer social punishments. Getting good at delivering those punishments is yet another useful skill. But it is often possible to vote with your feet. Find a different social group, and suddenly an entirely different set of truths may be considered too rude to mention.
Joanna Russ quoted John Jay Chapman: “If a man can resist the influences of his townsfolk, if he can cut free from the tyranny of neighbourhood gossip, the world has no terrors for him; there is no second inquisition.” Then she got accepted by a lesbian community. There was a correct lesbian hairstyle and a correct lesbian automobile make. Eventually she suffered self-criticism sessions in which she cried and admitted that none of her writing was correct lesbian writing, and she promised not to write until she could do better.
1) After the previous spectacular failures to expand to the south, there were no serious proposals to do so by 1860.
2) They said so. Scores of southern newspapers and dozens of politicians insisted on it as a necessity. “The south needs its *whole* territory.” To be sure, there were moderates who were not comfortable with secession (interestingly, Jefferson David was one of them), but of those who favored secession, you’ll have trouble finding many, if any, who felt the south could stop with the cotton states.
3) They would have had one hell of a time feeding themselves without the upper south, and probably the border states and I suspect even the west. I don’t think they could have done it. More significantly, neither did they.
4) The south (unlike the north) instantly upon Lincoln’s election–if not before–began gathering arms, building militias, and training troops on a large scale. Simultaneously, it is very difficult to find ANY contemporary account of anyone in the south who believed the north would fight to keep them. So, just exactly what were the troops for? If they were for moving south, they were massing in the wrong part of the country. And someone might have mentioned it.
1 Spectacular failures? To take the most famous example (I think), William Walker had a couple hundred men when he took Nicaragua. How many hundred thousand could the Confederacy raise?
2. Well, people then said a lot of things. Including going south. I read the call for the border states as wanting those states to join the CSA, not a threat to invade them. Wikipedia claims Missouri voted 98-1 against secession. I see no encouragement for the Confederacy there. Delaware’s governor and legislature were pro-Union. That only leaves Kentucky and Maryland–neither of them could be described as very promising for Confederate intervention around 1860.
It is, of course, possible that if the Union permitted secession and voted to outlaw slavery, they would secede.
But that particular If does not lead to war with the Union.
3. Mississippi was the biggest cotton-producing state. Wikipedia, flawed though it sometimes is, claims “By the middle of the 19th century, the Cotton Belt extended from Virginia to eastern Texas. The most intensive cotton production occurred in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, together with parts of Florida, Louisiana and Texas.” All of those were firmly in the Confederacy. Quick googling hasn’t told me much about the border states then, but I have found the ten most important cotton states today, None of them are border states, but some are western, so it continues to make sense for the Confederacy to push there.
4. 1860 was a military time. A new country would want its own military. Can you cite any writings of Southerners agitating for initiating war with the North? I haven’t read Edmund Ruffin’s book, but my understanding is he expected the Union to try to prevent secession, and therefore war would follow.
1.Hundreds of thousands? To invade Central America? Um. Okay.
2. I don’t understand what voting has to do with southern plans for invasion.
3. I must have been muddled. That is exactly my point. The deep south grew cotton. Cotton is not edible. They had no way of feeding themselves absent the upper south, the border states, and probably the west. Of the cotton states, Georgia was the one that could feed itself. And maybe Texas.
4. Right. They gathered an army because it was “a military time.” Okay. And, no, no southerners wanted to “initiate war against the North.” They merely wanted the whole south–including Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, probably Kansas…you know, the South. Like they said. “The South needs it’s *whole* territory.”
It’s at times like this that I feel obliged to note that taking a state with a few men is not, in itself, a military success. The tricky bit is holding it; Castro succeeded and Walker failed.
Having been ejected Walker tried again; of course, British economic interests in central America dictated that Captain Salmon would turn Walker over to people guaranteed to execute him. Had the southern slave-owners persisted they would have faced the war that the Union managed to avoid, and they would have lost…
“They would have had one hell of a time feeding themselves without the upper south, and probably the border states and I suspect even the west.”
They didn’t absolutely have to feed themselves. They could have imported food. That means trusting foreigners to feed them at a decent price, but lots of nations have done that. Of course, typically they prefer not to. Another choice would be to devote land and farmers to food. That would have worked. A whole lot of southern land is devoted to food today. It makes no sense to say that food was not profitable enough, and also that they had to have it.
Still, they would want whatever they could get. They had a minority of the population, and some of their fighting men would have to stay in garrisons and be ready to put down slave revolts. The more land they had, the more their population could grow into it and be better able to defend themselves in later generations.
“So, just exactly what were the troops for?”
The obvious rational answer is that they expected a war. They might not think the north would fight to keep them, but the north would at some point fight them.
One of the irrational answers is that they wanted parades. We don’t do military parades so much now, but traditionally the soldiers would proudly march down Main Street and show their town that they were ready to fight and kill for their government. It was part of having a government. Every southern state did it. After the Yankees called up troops they did it too. The southern states never arranged a unified command, each state’s soldiers were officially supposed to be commanded by their own officers and each state was supposed to supply its own troops. This caused them some trouble. I think they did it because each state wanted its own army to prove it was a nation itself.
If we suppose they were being rational, they must have built a big army because they intended to use it. But sometimes nations are not rational. In the 1950s through 1980’s, the USA built a giant expensive arsenal of nuclear weapons. When we ran out of Russian cities and military bases to aim them at, we aimed them at bridges. When we ran out of bridges we aimed them at crossroads. If we had a rational strategy it must have been to win a nuclear war. But in reality we simply had no plan to decide when to quit.
I appreciate that to those unfamiliar with large scale agricultural activity it may well look as if there’s an obvious solution; all they had to do was stop growing cotton and start growing food.
It doesn’t work like that in practise. The southern slave-owners had managed to convince themselves that they did not need to practive soil conservation growing cotton, and in doing so ensured that the land was incapable of supporting food crops at anything much above subsistance level.
They didn’t have the necessary intellectual capital either; growing food crops required skills which they simply did not possess. They were, to put it succinctly, screwed.
That only left them importation of food from outside America, and importing anything is expensive, irrespective of suppliers putting the prices up, because physical transport costs money. It’s so pesky little details again, the sort which bankers think about when turning down loans.
Particularly when the would-be borrowers are already screwed; it is a time-honoured maxim of bankers that they only lend money to people who do not need it…
1. Not saying it would take what it took to fight the Union. Saying the CSA had resources that made the filibusteros look like, you know, filibusteros. No one would look at Walker’s failure and conclude they had to fight the Yankees because the Yankees would be easier to beat.
2. Missouri thoroughly rejected secession. If the Confederacy invaded them, it would just piss them off more–no one wants invaders that they haven’t invited. Ditto for Delaware. The real questions, it seems to me, are Kentucky and Maryland–especially Maryland.
3. My point is the CSA didn’t need every inch of cotton-growing land. And if they did, they’d be looking south and west.
4. It wasn’t just military time. Ruffin was predicting war. I don’t know who else was. Are you really saying the South didn’t expect Lincoln to fight?
Are you saying that if the Confederacy sent a large force to hold Nicaragua, they would’ve had to fight the British or the Union? I don’t see either scenario. Good ol’ Wikipedia: “Great Britain, which had claimed the Mosquito Coast as a protectorate since 1655, delegated the area to Honduras in 1859 before transferring it to Nicaragua in 1860.” They were letting go right when a CSA might’ve wanted to grab hold.
Full agreement that the South was committed to cotton.
Here’s a quote from Ruffin before shots were fired: “The defense of the South, I verily believe, is only to be secured through the lead of South Carolina. Old as I am, I have come here to join her in that lead. I wish Virginia was as ready as South Carolina, but, unfortunately, she is not. But the first drop of blood spilled on the soil of South Carolina will bring Virginia and every other Southern State to her side.”
Just wanted to note that the South had already had a major victory with southern and western expansion in the Mexican-American War– which added a) Texas, as a slave-holding state with legal permission to split into as many as five states, and b) more territory for potential slave-holding states further to the West. (Most of which territory was fearfully useless for growing cotton, of course.)
Lincoln and many other Northerners objected to it both on that basis and because what had Mexico done to us, anyway?
Stevie, when mineral levels were too low to support food, they were too low to support cotton either.
You can say that entire states that grew cotton were too stupid to grow food. I doubt it was so.
Here are a collection of reviews of a book on the topic.
“Indeed, as Hilliard observes, in many ways the antebellum diet of lower class whites and blacks appears to be superior to the post-war diet of sharecroppers, who had little extra land or time to devote to supplemental gardens. Although the Old South failed to achieve its goal of political separation from the North, it did maintain independence in food production, and as Hilliard concludes, “As a region it was, despite the exceptions noted, largely feeding itself”””.
Perhaps you might have sources for your opinions, but it appears you have accepted a big dose of codswallop. And yet there’s some truth to it. Big planters did often choose to plant more cotton and buy food. That did happen. It made economic sense to them to do it that way, because they did not have to import large amounts of food from outside the USA.
You might care to quote further from the passage:
‘After writing an account of his Central American campaign (published in 1860 as War in Nicaragua), Walker once again returned to the region. British colonists in Roatán, in the Bay Islands, fearing that the government of Honduras would move to assert its control over them, approached Walker with an offer to help him in establishing a separate, English-speaking government over the islands. Walker disembarked in the port city of Trujillo, but soon fell into the custody of Captain Nowell Salmon (later Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon) of the British Royal Navy. The British government controlled the neighboring regions of British Honduras (now Belize) and the Mosquito Coast (now part of Nicaragua) and had considerable strategic and economic interest in the construction of an inter-oceanic canal through Central America. It therefore regarded Walker as a menace to its own affairs in the region.’
He handed Walker over for execution, and Walker was duly executed…
There is something so remarkably right in your quoting a fertiliser advertisement..
Stevie, you persist in making this personal. I quoted links to support my points. You provide nothing to support your opinions.
“You have adduced no evidence of any kind to support any of your assertions;”
So I provided evidence and you don’t want that either.
I have no idea what I did to attract your unreasoning hostility. But clearly at this point it is mostly not about me. You make yourself look bad.
Stevie, it was easy for Salmon to turn a filibustero over to the Hondurans–there’s an enormous difference between giving a private citizen to the local government and Britain going to war over land it did not claim. Walker and 300 adventurers are simply not comparable to anything like a Confederate general landing with troops.
Consider that British Honduras/Belize was part of the British Empire until the 1950s, and the Brits did not make a stink about US intervention in Central America. Or look earlier, at the Mexican-American War, which also happened next to land that Britain claimed, yet Britain did not intervene.
Stevie: You win the internet.
Will, I think everything you say is true, and still — Cuba is not that big. Honduras is not that big. If the South had to grow, latin america did not offer all that much north of Colombia. They had already taken what they wanted of Mexico, and that wasn’t so valuable.
The cotton they had, demanded a long growing season. They couldn’t take it much further north. They were starting to develop mexican cotton which needed less water, and that would have opened up some new land but probably not at high yields.
Cotton was simply running into geographical limits. The South might expand in various directions but that wouldn’t get them a lot more cotton. There were better prospects in north africa, india, asia, etc.
Why did the South get so dependent on cotton? In hindsight it was a big mistake. Maybe it was partly that cotton prices fluctuated so much. In a good year a planter could wipe out his debts. Hard to predict how it would go on average. But in a good year cotton was a lot better than anything else. There wasn’t much cash and vendors would often take payment in raw cotton. If you grow or manufacture something else and then to sell it you must take payment in cotton, you haven’t gotten away from the cotton economy after all.
Maybe it was one of those mistakes that’s easy to see but still hard to avoid even after you see it.
I think that you perhaps misunderstand the nature of British imperialism; it was never about merely taking territory. It was about making money.
For example, the East India Company was a commercial undertaking; the jewel in Victoria’s imperial crown 80 years later had been bled of vast sums with a comparatively minuscule force of British military. In many ways colouring vast tracts of maps in the world pink was accidental to the central aim of economic domination, and it was certainly argued at the time that imperialism was costing too much and that Britain should get back to the important business in hand ie making more money.
The slave-owners in the south never really grasped that fact; for them making money was part of an ideological commitment to a world view of white supremacy. Victoria was perfectly happy to entertain Indian princes to state banquets and as guests in her homes; can you imagine a Southern slave-owner doing that?
Stevie, I totally understand cui bono.
And I totally get the difference between race and class in Victoria’s time. One of my favorite illustrations, from Cannadine’s Ornamentalism: “Lady Gordon, the wife of Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon, the governor of Fiji from 1875 to 1880, thought the native high-ranking Fijians “such an undoubted aristocracy”. She wrote: “Their manners are so perfectly easy and well bred . . . Nurse can’t understand it at all, she looks down on them as an inferior race. I don’t like to tell her that these ladies are my equals, which she is not!””
Now, what you do not seem to get is that in the Old South, there were places where black slaveowners lived on the same block as white ones. Do not confuse the antebellum South with Jim Crow–it’s like confusing the sentiment about Jews in Germany in 1900 with the sentiment in 1930.
But put that aside for the moment. Southern racism was not as simple as you seem to think. There was at least one Chinese Confederate. The last general to surrender was Stand Watie, a Cherokee. Something like 10% of the blacks in parts of the South were free. This notion that Southerners treated free blacks and slave blacks alike is pretty much a Hollywood concept.
And just as many Brits thought of Indians as racial inferiors, the Confederates could be racist and still understand economic incentive. The question in this thread is whether their sense of self-interest would make them try to conquer US states that voted against secession, as Steve maintains, or southern lands occupied by brown Spanish-speaking Catholics, as I argue?
“The question in this thread is whether their sense of self-interest would make them try to conquer US states that voted against secession, as Steve maintains, or southern lands occupied by brown Spanish-speaking Catholics, as I argue?”
OK, if the Union fights them too soon, they don’t get to conquer anybody.
If the Union backs off, and then the South tries to conquer US states that voted against secession and ethnic-cleanse them to the point those states are actually usable, then they have to fight the Civil War or equivalent, and they lose. They don’t get good cotton land that way.
If the Union backs off, and then the South tries to conquer islands or small latin american nations, presumably they succeed and then they have a few little scraps of land that don’t help them much. They might run into expensive slave revolts, or revolts assisted by neighboring nations, revolts assisted by the British or the Union etc. But even if they win they haven’t won much.
If they can beat the Union armies then maybe they can do whatever they want. For that, they need to mechanize their agriculture so they can afford to take more soldiers off their farms. They need more military industry. They need more textiles. More railroads. In reality they ran out of uniforms. They ran out of shoes. A lot of rebel soldiers had heavy ceramic canteens because they couldn’t get light metal ones. Etc.
As near as I can tell, they didn’t do those things because they were too busy growing cotton. They did build ironworks all over — Selma, Macon, Athens, Columbus, all over. Then they drafted too many of the skilled men who should have been working there. They assigned quotas at fixed prices. Etc. They produced lots of gunpowder. But their population was too small, too much of it was slave, and they didn’t mechanize enough to use their people well. So they couldn’t win. Since they couldn’t win, it hardly matters what they would have preferred to do if they did win.
J Thomas, you seem to be assuming the South would not want all of Mexico. I disagree. I think their sense of Manifest Destiny–and it may be worth noting that the South was very much in favor of the Mexican-American War–would make them want as much of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean as they could grab. That’s a whole lot of good agricultural land, after all. See Steve’s point about labor-intensive vs capital-intensive.
Will, the South varied a great deal from place to place. New Orleans had a very different slave culture than the rest of the South. But it also varied over time. By the 1840s most Southern States had expulsion laws that required free men and women of color to leave the state. Of course it was not Jim Crown. The overwhelming majority of people of African descent in the South were slaves, so no Jim Crow was needed. And slaves were subject to rape, murder, break-up of families,torture, mutilation and a million other horrors. But that did not mean that free people of color were not subject to severe racial oppression. Segregation was not needed, because the oppression was strong enough to make it un-neccesary. But the idea that slavery was less oppressive than Jim Crow is not defensible.
Okay, I’m clearly doing something wrong, ’cause people keep telling me stuff I know. Yes, the South varied enormously from region to region. But so far as I know, there were rich black slaveowners in most states. See my earlier mention of Ellison and Bryant, neither of whom were in Louisiana.
Gar, your 1840s notion is off. The earliest expulsion laws weren’t enforced, and the later ones don’t seem to have been either, though they’re harder to judge because they came right before the Civil War.
Highly recommended: http://www.questia.com/library/1G1-132774337/party-politics-and-the-debate-over-the-tennessee-free
“IN EARLY 1860 THE TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ENGAGED IN A heated debate over a proposal to expel free blacks from the state. Tennessee was not the only slave state to consider this option. The Arkansas legislature had passed an expulsion bill in February 1859. After the Arkansas bill became law, the Florida and Missouri legislatures passed expulsion bills, and legislators in nine other states seriously considered similar proposals. Despite this legislative activity, the expulsion movement eventually failed. In Tennessee the House and Senate passed conflicting versions of what was referred to as the “Free Negro Bill,” but the issue died when the two chambers were unable to agree on a compromise. Both Florida’s and Missouri’s governors vetoed the bills passed by their states’ legislatures, and no other state legislature approved an expulsion bill. The Arkansas legislature suspended its expulsion act in 1860, even though by that time most free blacks had already left. (1)
“The standard account of the late antebellum drive for expulsion can be found in Ira Berlin’s classic Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South. Berlin argued that the movement developed during the 1850s out of the contradictions that arose between the economic advancement of free blacks and the growing acceptance of the “positive-good” defense of slavery.”
Also highly recommended, this page, which notes that many white Southerners opposed the expulsion laws:
Doublechecking this, I did find a cool fact about Loyalists during the American Revolution: “About 13,000 went to Britain (including 5000 free blacks).”
Just to be clear here, I am not saying the life was as easy for rich blacks in the South as it was for rich whites. I’m only trying to point out that the situation was far more complex than race-reductionists like to make it.
The Missouri situation was a great deal more complicated than represented upstream. The Missouri pro-Confederates made a hash of it, but they still largely controlled the state politically (the governor and lt-governor were both pro-secession) and were agitating towards secession and would have made it eventually if left to their own devices. The federal commander, Nathaniel Lyon, did not allow them to do so.
Mostly bad timing and out-maneuvered. If the special convention had still been in session when Lincoln called for troops, things might have been very different.
Missouri and Kentucky really wanted neutrality. It was a pipe dream –neither side intended to allow them it. But by the time that was clear, the Federals had seized control.
And even yet, a rump session (quorum is disputed) of the Missouri legislature voted to join the Confederacy, and *the Confederacy admitted them*. Also Kentucky. Whatever the reality on the ground during the war (mostly Union control in the major cities, disputed in the countryside), as far as the Confederacy was concerned, de jure, Missouri and Kentucky were members of the CSA and had representatives of those two states in the CSA legislature. The Union never officially (unofficially they were largely treated as occupied under martial law) considered Missouri and Kentucky to be “in rebellion”, but the CSA considered them to be member states. And the head of that Missouri convention that hoped to stay neutral –ex-governor Sterling Price– was the General-in-Chief of the Confederate forces just a few months later.
Will, I may be thinking too practically. For awhile the South did not want all of Oklahoma because they had put a bunch of Indians there. The land was not very good and it was covered with Indians; take that land and you have to put the Indians somewhere else. Similarly, the remainder of Mexico was full of Mexicans. Easier to leave them there than kill them or push them elsewhere, and the land wasn’t all that good anyway. Kind of like taking Gaza from the Palestinians.
But for all I know the South would have wanted to deal with those issues. It makes perfect sense to me that they should not, but if they had done what I think was best for them it would be a very different world….
Cuba was about 80% the size of Alabama, and it had a lot of land that was not worth much. Take Cuba and you have one more state. The Dominican Republic gives you maybe 40% of another state. Haiti another 20%. Lots of bad land and untamed natives. Honduras about the size of Tennessee, with several new climates to adapt to. Guatemala similar, with lots of mountains.
It does not look practical to me. Unless you fight Mexico you get the land area of maybe 4 additional states, a lot of it not good land, the good parts are tropical soil that loses its fertility fast. It’s full of disaffected hispanics etc. You ought to have a navy which can beat off the Union and the British both.
And in real life the Confederacy wound up fighting the Union right away. It didn’t matter whether they wanted to fight their way south, they didn’t get the chance. If they had fought until they were nicely pinned down in latin america, would the Yankees have attacked then? Blockade any resupply or extraction by sea, take Richmond and go from there?
The whole question of what would the independent armies of each Confederate state have done if they had a free hand, seems inherently counterfactual.
Sadly for your argument, relying on a romantic post-modern text created in a failed attempt to rebut the charge that profound racism permeated the British Empire doesn’t work; Cannadine’s unwillingness to accept the pervasive reality of racism across class borders was easily rebutted. Of course, some aristocrats were less racist than others, just as some members of the working class were racist. That does not detract from the sacrifices made by workers in the cotton trade who were prepared to make those sacrifices because of their moral revulsion from the institution of slavery.
Cannadine’s book was also derided as very New Labour, but then Tony Blair was the most belligerent Prime Minister since Palmerston so that is perhaps unsurprising; the conviction that they were killing vast numbers of people for their own good is a recurring motif in British history.
In fairness to Cannadine I should note that he admitted that he was painting ‘a partial (and partisan) picture’, and that he is therefore not to blame for your desire to adopt his work as an accurate picture of British society over a couple of centuries; equally, in fairness to myself, I should note that I don’t regard Hollywood as an accurate source of history anywhere.
Looking at real history I will cite the example of Sir William Gregory, MP, who had been educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford, which, for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the class structure in England, put him fairly and squarely in the upper class. He was one of the Confederate’s staunchest supporters; in May 1861 he urged the Government to recognise the Confederacy and in March 1862 he put down a motion asking Ministers to declare the blockade ineffective. He claimed in his autobiography that
‘The feeling of the upper-classes undoubtedly preponderated in favour of the South’..
When it comes to ideology, however, the Confederates really had signed up to white supremacy, amongst other things. One of the gems from Norman Longmate’s book is an impassioned appeal made by the London Confederate States Aid Association in December 1862:
‘Fairest and best of earth! For the sake of violated innocence, insulted virtue and the honour of your sex, come in woman’s majesty and omnipotence and give strength to a cause that has for its object the highest human aims; the amelioration and exaltation of humanity.’
The women of England resisted this call and the Association ground to a halt shortly thereafter; the one woman who mattered most, Queen Victoria, was mourning the death of her husband and profoundly unlikely to do anything which ran counter to his last wishes.
As I noted previously Prince Albert was responsible for the loophole offered to the Union, which he drafted on what proved to be his deathbed:
‘Her Majesty’s government, bearing in mind the friendly relations which have long subsisted between Great Britain and the United States, are willing to believe that the United States naval officer who committed this aggression was not acting in compliance with any authority from his government, or that, if he conceived himself to be so authorised, he greatly misunderstood the instructions which he had received.’
Lincoln took the chance offered and changed the world…
Stevie, did Lady Gordon say what she’s quoted as saying?
Yes, much of the British working class was opposed to slavery. And, yes, the British upper class included many racists. Have I said otherwise anywhere?
I doubt that Cannandine would deliberately misquote anyone; the careful selection of what to quote in support of his hypothesis is a different matter. Are you asserting that Cannandine did not admit that he was painting a ‘partial (and partisan) picture’?
As for your assertions what you said was:
‘I totally get the difference between race and class in Victoria’s time’
and you went on to give just one example involving an upper class woman asserting that her working class maid was both racist and inferior.
At no point did you provide a counter-example or concede that this might not have been typical of the upper classes and the working classes; in the circumstances you cannot be surprised that people reading you conclude that you thought this was typical…
Stevie, one of us is profoundly misunderstanding the other. Perhaps it’s me.
I quoted Lady Gordon asserting that a brown person of her class was her social equal and the person she employed was not. Perhaps Lady Gordon misquoted her nurse, but if you really think no working class Brits were racist, don’t look to see who signed up as crew on the Alabama.
As for Cannadine, I’m only citing the source of the quote. I have no opinion about his conclusions. Perhaps he underplays race prejudice. Perhaps his critics underplay class prejudice. That’s all irrelevant to my argument, which is that both matter, in Britain as well as the Confederacy, and sometimes one element is more important, and sometimes the other.
I’m a bit amused that you’re upset about this, because you brought up Victoria dining with darker-skinned nobility. I offered Lady Gordon’s example to show I agreed with you.
There’s a fascinating editorial from 1861 about Spain and the Confederacy here (from a Union source):
I especially admire the expression of this: “the Confederates take it for granted that they are to have war with Mexico, and that war is to be a successful one, and to extend their dominion over a country that has never injured or insulted them, and from the power of which they have nothing to fear. The glibness with which they assume that victory must be theirs in a Mexican war, is proof sufficient that they have no fear that their neighbor could injure them; and they do not say that she has any wish to do them harm. They want her lands, and they mean to steal them, as they have stolen the forts, the arms, and the money of the United States. Such is their morality; and foreign nations will see what sort of principles these fellows are about to introduce into the international code.”
Stevie, I just googled the phrase you quoted, and Google Books came to the rescue:
I think you failed to grasp Cannadine’s implication there. But I could be wrong, of course.
I categorically stated that there were racists in the working class; you are apparently so bereft of any kind of reasoned argument that you are reduced to straw man arguments in pseudo response to something that I had not said in the first place.
Frankly, in my view that is dishonest and I see no reason to waste my time on someone who is prepared to make stuff up…
Stevie, I’d noticed early on that you quickly resort to insults, but I felt sorry for you because of your mention of doctors, and I hate giving up on anyone. Go in peace.
Will if you admit that life for rich blacks was not the same as for rich whites, I don’t know what exactly you are proving. Race reductionism is an interesting accusation, but I’d be curious to know who is engaging in it and what your criteria are. Slavery was of course an economic institution at core, but it was also deeply racist. Nobody was enslaved (at least post-independence) who was classified as white. Though of course the “one drop of blood” rule meant that an occasional person classifed as Black was a light skinned blue eyed blondes. But race is, as we both agree, an arbitrary artificial classification.
At any rate your two arguments for alternatives to the Civil war seem to continue to fail. Brazil, which eliminated slavery more gradually, voluntarily and much later than the USA did not end up with a kinder gentler system. And pre-Civil War South did not have a kinder gentler system than the Jim Crow that followed – not if you count the treatment of slaves. So your argument that letting the South go its own way so that slavery could gradually wither away for 50 years or so would have lead to better results than the Civil War. Seems unsupported.
Gar, the “one drop” rule was not in effect in the antebellum South. That was a creation of Jim Crow. Wikipedia: “Despite the strictures of slavery, in the antebellum years, free people of mixed race could have up to one-eighth or one-quarter African ancestry (depending on the state) and be considered legally white.” When I say racism got worse, I’m being perhaps too precise: the definition of “black” expanded to include and oppress everyone who had the tiniest bit of black blood. I am not saying the racial situation wasn’t awful for free blacks during the antebellum period. It certainly was.
Race reductionism is the flip side of class reductionism–it just means leaving out or failing to notice complexities. Consider for example Stevie’s “Victoria was perfectly happy to entertain Indian princes to state banquets and as guests in her homes; can you imagine a Southern slave-owner doing that?”
Some Southerners made a major distinction between local blacks and Africans, which was why you had cases of African-Americans passing themselves off as Africans in order to be treated better. Here’s a case from 1959:
You keep saying Brazil was not better than the US, but you then cite class-based oppression rather than race-based oppression like anti-miscegenation laws, lynchings, and legally segregated facilities. I’ll repeat, I’ve never said Brazil was racially egalitarian, only that it was better than the US. If you’d prefer, look at the Bahamas or any country that peacefully ended race-based slavery.
And I bet the lurkers are supporting you by email as well..
“Wikipedia: “Despite the strictures of slavery, in the antebellum years, free people of mixed race could have up to one-eighth or one-quarter African ancestry (depending on the state) and be considered legally white.””
Yes, but didn’t a person’s legal status depend on how good his lawyer was?
People who were born to slave mothers might be kept as slaves, and unless the owner documented parentage, who would sue over it?
Still, the law would make a big difference to people who were in fact free.
There are people who make a big deal that there were blacks and native americans who owned a whole lot of slaves. I think the reasoning might be that if blacks fit into both sides of the equation then it wasn’t really racist, and it might be analogous to Franklin’s idea when he wanted to give up being a vegetarian, that if the fish eat each other then it’s OK to eat them. But apart from their unworthy rationale, still there were examples of wealthy black slaveowners for them to point to.
I know a bit more about the native american case than the blacks. When the Cherokees were removed, wealthy Cherokees who fit into white society easily stayed behind. When the Choctaw and Creeks were removed from Alabama, wealthy Choctaws who fit into white society easily stayed behind.
My tentative conclusion is that the usual rules do not apply to wealthy individuals who are accepted by wealthy white society and who can afford good lawyers. And the details of the laws also don’t tell us much about what happens to poor people.
Stevie, you seem to be trying to score a point. So, two responses:
1. When I was a child, I was beaten up for being a “niggerlover” because I spoke out against segregation, took part in civil rights marches, etc. This gave me a very strong opinion about racists and about people who enjoy insulting people.
2. Nope. When lurkers support me, it’s because they don’t want to say anything in public that the people opposing me might remember and use against them. Which is to say, I don’t think there’s anyone who’s worried about you hurting their career in some way.
J Thomas, has your googling brought up any examples of individuals whose genealogies were denied? There’s a famous case of a free black sold as a slave, where, I assume, false papers were involved, but in that case, the question wasn’t whether he was black, but whether he was free.
No one I’ve seen is arguing that because blacks could own slaves, US slavery wasn’t racist. Sometimes they’re sharing information because humans like sharing information. Sometimes they’re pointing out that the reality was more complex than “whites rich and free, blacks poor and slaves”.
“J Thomas, has your googling brought up any examples of individuals whose genealogies were denied?”
It had not. I was arguing from reasonable ignorance. A black slave and her daughters could reach 7/8 white ancestry in 3 generations, 45-60 years. If the owner of the 4th generation daughter didn’t want to free her, who would stand up for her rights? Who would even document the last 4 generations of ancestry?
As I remember it, Harriet Jacobs claimed to look as white as the white children she played with. She didn’t know she was a slave until her mother died when she was 6 and she was sent off to live with her kindly grandmotherly owner. Her parents were both slaves, and I don’t recall her describing their ancestries.
When you asked, I made a quick attempt at googling. I still haven’t refined my search terms well enough to avoid lots of false hits on BDSM “slaves” and modern-day white slavery. I did find this:
A blue-eyed blonde slave claimed that she should be free because she was in fact white. She had no documentation to show that she was white, but people were ready to believe it because she looked white and she acted white. Her owner claimed to have faced a potential lynch mob who objected to him trying to keep a white woman slave.
Please try and grasp the fact that this is not about you.
Oh, Stevie. You said, “And I bet the lurkers are supporting you by email as well.” Who was that about, if not about me?
You’ve used “this is not about you” twice now. It was unoriginal but moderately effective the first time. Now it appears to be shorthand for, “This isn’t about you; it’s about *me*.”
Here is a question that I haven’t noticed being addressed. If the South had wanted to get out of their slavery trap, is there any way they could do that?
Clearly, they didn’t want to. They had the problem that they had very little money, and their capital was largely tied up in slaves. While slaves were being imported, there was a lot of “sell the cotton and buy slaves the same day” sorts of thing, that amounted to barter. The money was not there to run a wage economy. Etc.
Imagine that they successfully seceded and avoided war. Imagine that the Union was sympathetic enough with them not to wage economic warfare. Imagine that they actually wanted to make a go of it. Was there a way?
My natural thought is, first establish some sort of workable banking system around confederate dollars. (As it happened they didn’t set up any effective taxation system so the money inflated. Some historians say that they handled the inflation just fine until the war economy collapsed with Sherman etc. I dunno. I figure they’d need some way to deal with that.)
Second, treat slaves as some sort of standard collateral for loans. Based on age and maybe purchase price, maybe establish some equivalent to a Blue Book value. This might free up a lot of capital.
Third, set the value as collateral for a freed slave as 2 to 3 times the value for a slave. This makes a kind of sense. It was claimed that in many circumstances slaves were allowed to work for themselves in their spare time. (This would not hold for plantation field slaves getting worked to death, but others.) They would grow intensive small gardens and sell their produce etc, and it was claimed that some slaves bought their freedom from such work. It is not unreasonable that a free man who looks for opportunities might be 3 times as productive as a slave who does as he’s told.
So slaveowners get an incentive to free slaves on an installment plan, and they can count that income stream as collateral for loans, more than actual slaves are worth. As they get used to the idea that their former slaves do work that is more valuable than they used to, former owners get an incentive to do things like mechanize their agriculture. Some phases of cotton were easy to mechanize — they didn’t need slaves picking cotton by hand, it’s just that when they had slaves there was no point spending money for machines so the slaves could sit idle. When former slaves are only available for that work at a price competitive with their other work, then machinery looks much better than before.
As increasing numbers of freemen got voting rights, and the old system looked increasingly unnecessary, there could be pressure to free young black women even before they could bring in much money. They could schedule more income as they got older. But importantly, if they were freed before they first gave birth then the number of babies born to slave women would go way down.
They would need a system of tariffs so their own start-up industries would have a chance. They couldn’t depend on a few agricultural exports to pay for lots of necessary imports.
If at all possible they should try to arrange for a labor shortage. Lots of possibilities for freed slaves and poor whites both. If there aren’t enough opportunities then poor whites get upset when blacks get chances, and things turn ugly from that.
I can imagine something like that working. Increasing prosperity. Disappearing slavery. The main thing they needed was a financial system that encouraged them to do the right thing. (On top of a set of attitudes that allowed them to change.)
I can’t really imagine the US South doing something like that. The will was missing. But I can imagine that the physical reality would have allowed it easily. It was only their culture that stopped them.
Wikipedia’s helpful here, too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compensated_emancipation
Will, I am talking about something different and much more clever, but it depends on stuff that might possibly not work.
If the government pays slaveowners for their slaves, it will skimp and still be too expensive for the cheapskate citizenry to accept.
If slaveowners have to free their slaves but pay them first, that does nothing much for them. They lose their capital.
My thought is to first consider slaves as collateral for bank loans. Owners who get into difficulties will take out loans, and then their slaves are not entirely theirs. Then when the owners need more loans, they get bigger loans by “freeing” slaves. The slave is “freed” first, and owes an income stream to former owner or bank. The freed slave gets to use his own initiative to find ways to provide that income stream, and very likely he can produce considerably more income than he did as a slave.
When that income stream becomes collateral for a bank loan, the former slave owner loses rights to his former slave. He owes the bank and the freed slave owes the bank. The bank has lots of Confederate money to do this sort of thing.
What potentially makes it work is that slaves were not very productive compared to their prices. So there’s a lot of room to offer better deals to all parties.
Since there’s little coercion involved, slaveowners might instead find other owners to sell their slaves to at high prices. But harder to sell slaves they already have loans out on. And it’s mostly in good cotton years that they can get a good price. In bad years when they need the loans, even the richer owners don’t have a lot of money to buy extra slaves.
I may have missed something important, but I believe something along this line could have worked. It’s less than ideal in that slaves would work to buy themselves rather than be given their freedom outright. But they would achieve freedom and self-sufficiency. In theory it could work without a war, and without giant economic disruption beyond the disruptions of increasing prosperity.
“Some phases of cotton were easy to mechanize — they didn’t need slaves picking cotton by hand, it’s just that when they had slaves there was no point spending money for machines so the slaves could sit idle.”
This is untrue. While the Combine was invented in 1830, and was in widespread use by 1860; the Cotton-picker was not invented until 1930 and was not in widespread use until the 50’s. The Combine is useful for most commodity crops, *except for cotton*.
And it WAS a race question, rather than a slavery question, by the time of the Civil War. Many things were causing a decline in the numbers of slaves. Due to British control over the areas where slaves were imported, new stock acquisition had declined to a bare trickle. Breeding your own replacement stock was an iffy proposition; hungry slaves had discovered early on that cotton root is an abortificant. This is why on many plantations, if you look at the old ledgers, you will find expenditures for Black Haw Bark. This was made into an infusion and slave women were made to drink it, to prevent miscarriage. The fight over slavery extended into these women’s BODIES as well.
At any rate, the point being is that by the time of the Civil War, slaveholders were not going to risk valuable slaves on tasks that were perfectly performed by poor immigrants. There were LOTS of poor, white immigrants at the time in the South, and when it came down to economics: If the slave dies, you are out a slave, and it will cost you to replace that slave. If the immigrant dies, there are a bunch more that want his job to take his place, at no cost to you. Which will you chose based purely on economic feasibility?
The difficulty had more to do with economical dependency on a single crop, and racism, than it had to do with a *necessity* of keeping slaves. Cotton *destroys* soils. I know this first hand. I am currently sitting on 10 acres of land that was last used to farm cotton in 1892 and *it is still burned out.* It is horribly mineral depleted, the topsoil is long gone leaving a hardpan clay, and the amount of amendments needed to make it fertile for anything but range grasses again are astronomical. Once cotton has burned out the soil, it is BURNED. (Which could explain the economic problems of many of the Southern states even today.)
So, by the time of the Civil War, “white” did not equate with “slave-owner” in the South. In 1860, the rough price for a slave was around $1200.00 ($700-$800 for youngsters, or field hands, ranging up to $3,500 for a skilled slave, or a beautiful one.). In other words, you could buy a 40 acre farm for the same price as a slave. They were a luxury of the truly wealthy.
The “slave economy” wasn’t the issue, as something has to be common to be a commodity. The “Cotton Economy” WAS at issue, as well as the personal, mental images the wealthy had of themselves.
Without new slave states, the wealthy lost political power. Without new slave states, the wealthy lost new lands to claim once the settlers had failed at them and wanted to go back home, thereby selling the land at fire sale prices. They obviously could not move themselves and their household to a Free State, now could they? They’d lose all of their slaves! Imagine the privation they had to endure just going to Washington!
When it came down to it, slave holding was a privilege of the wealthy, and they did not wish to let go of it. It was supported by the lower and middle classes for the same reason that tax cuts on the wealthy today are supported by the lower and middle classes: the hope that one day they might enjoy such wealth. That was also at the heart of Antebellum South racism, “One day, *I* might be your owner.”
And this was centralized among the wealthy white *male* society, as legally, at that time, women could not own anything. And property she may have or attain belonged to her husband. So, in a patriarchal society of wealthy people, and people coveting that wealth, it is rather easy to see why there were many who wished the status quo to continue.
Of the males here, of any race, creed, or ethnic background, how many of you HAVE NOT fantasized about having a bunch of slave girls to fulfill your every whim? Now, if you lived in a time and place, and had the necessary funds to support it, how interested would you be in *continuing* that lifestyle of slave girls fulfilling your every whim?
Think about it. Ponder it. Wonder about it.
“While the Combine was invented in 1830, and was in widespread use by 1860; the Cotton-picker was not invented until 1930 and was not in widespread use until the 50′s.”
You are right.
Looking at the details, I think the most important innovation was getting cotton plants that would mature at the same time. If you have to pick the same cotton stand four times without damaging it, that’s hard. If you can do it once and damage isn’t so important, that’s a lot easier. Could they have bred the cotton earlier to do that? Yes, but they didn’t have the will.
“And it WAS a race question, rather than a slavery question, by the time of the Civil War.”
That makes it harder, of course. But various people claim that the slavery problem was an unsolvable economic issue which made the rest inevitable. I say that a carefully-designed financial system could have defused the slavery issue. That would still leave the race issue etc.
“At any rate, the point being is that by the time of the Civil War, slaveholders were not going to risk valuable slaves on tasks that were perfectly performed by poor immigrants.”
This is the reverse argument. There were a fair number of underemployed poor whites. We have had the repeated claim that the South did not have the sort of money economy that would let them hire lots of employees , that slavery had the *point* that it did not require a big cash flow. Now you argue what looks like the opposite side of that. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I can’t make arguments until I get it straight what assumptions people are willing to go with, and all of a sudden I’m getting whipsawed about that.
“I am currently sitting on 10 acres of land that was last used to farm cotton in 1892 and *it is still burned out.* It is horribly mineral depleted, the topsoil is long gone leaving a hardpan clay, and the amount of amendments needed to make it fertile for anything but range grasses again are astronomical.”
Sure, and part of the problem is that we have so much good land that the marginal value of restoring what we’ve lost is not high. And of course they were trying to maximize short-run yield at the expense of everything else. People who want to make a hobby of restoration ecology could get some significant results here.
“So, by the time of the Civil War, “white” did not equate with “slave-owner” in the South. In 1860, the rough price for a slave was around $1200.00 ($700-$800 for youngsters, or field hands, ranging up to $3,500 for a skilled slave, or a beautiful one.). In other words, you could buy a 40 acre farm for the same price as a slave. They were a luxury of the truly wealthy.”
Yes, that seems to be the consensus in this forum.
Here is a link which describes all that in an exceptionally clear way. They are so clear that it becomes more obvious when they say things that look wrong, which is of course an advantage….
“While some slaves were rented out for farm and other types of work, most slaves worked on the farms and plantations of their owners. In both cases, the work they did was mostly unskilled, so a comparable measure of these services would be the unskilled wage.11. In other words, we can assume that to hire someone to do the work of a slave would cost the unskilled wage of that day. Thus, a measure of the average value of a slave would be the present value of the net rental cost over the life expectancy of the average slave.
“Thus the value in today’s dollars of a slave during the antebellum period ranges from $45,000 (in 1809) to $134,000 of a slave’s expected revenue less maintenance costs. If we assume, for example, that the average slave will live 20 more years, then today’s price for a slave valued at $400 in 1850 could be interpreted as the $82,000 in wages plus the 20 years of room, board, and clothing that it would take to hire unskilled workers today to perform the lifetime services expected of a slave.12. Unlike hired hands, slaves were responsible in large part for producing their own room, board, and clothing. Given that the work week today is significantly shorter than in 1850 and that slaves were made to work harder during the same amount of time as free workers, it would take more than one hired hand today to replace the labor supplied by a slave then.
“Even at these prices, some slaves, particularly those with artisan skills, might ultimately earn enough to buy themselves out of slavery. It was not uncommon, especially in the Old South, for masters to allow others to hire the services of his or her slaves. This was particularly true of slaves who lived in urban areas, independent of the master. They were expected to make their own arrangements. “The master fixed the wage that the slave must bring in. All above this amount the slave might keep himself. … employers frequently hired the slave’s time from the owner at a certain amount and paid the slave an additional wage contingent on amount of work accomplished.”
“It should be noted that wealth grows roughly 30 percent over the decade of the 1850s in both the North and South. However, in the South, the value of slaves grew about 40 percent over the decade, while non-slave wealth grew at only about 25 percent.21 Some economic historians have hypothesized that Southerners had so much wealth tied up in slaves that they did not invest sufficiently in other types of investments. This is a concept called “crowding out.” Whether that is the reason or not, it is clear at the start of Civil War, the North had three times the amount of non-slave wealth as the South, and this discrepancy would be at least partly represented in factories and other capital that was an advantage in waging a war.”
The South needed a way to liquify the capital they had tied up in slaves. They did not find a way to do that.
“The “slave economy” wasn’t the issue, as something has to be common to be a commodity. The “Cotton Economy” WAS at issue, as well as the personal, mental images the wealthy had of themselves.”
In 1860 the population of the south was about 40% slave. That makes the slave economy an issue. They may have been overvalued. As you point out it may have been cheaper to replace them with european immigrants who could be replaced at no cost with fresh immigrants as fast as they died. But they did not do that.
“When it came down to it, slave holding was a privilege of the wealthy, and they did not wish to let go of it.”
Yes! Was it actually an economic benefit to them? Could they have generated wealth faster another way? I’m not at all clear that I’m reading the numbers right, and I probably don’t have all the right numbers. In later decades they were more productive with tenant farmers and sharecroppers, who got worked harder and were kept poorer. But conditions were different then.
“Of the males here, of any race, creed, or ethnic background, how many of you HAVE NOT fantasized about having a bunch of slave girls to fulfill your every whim?”
Well sure, of course.
“Now, if you lived in a time and place, and had the necessary funds to support it, how interested would you be in *continuing* that lifestyle of slave girls fulfilling your every whim?”
Uh. No. This is a fantasy which does not work IRL. Men and women who enjoy that sort of thing can maintain a consensual fantasy along those lines. If it turns real, so that in reality a slavegirl must play at the fantasy when she doesn’t want to while pretending that it’s a consensual fantasy, the cognitive dissonance gets too big and things crack.
Households and institutions are mostly run by consent. Even when it looks like people are utter slaves. If your slavegirl does not actually consent, you can’t let her cook for you or you will get rat poison or digitalis in your breakfast cereal. If she does not consent then she needs way more guarding than a maximum security prison and she turns way expensive. Not to mention no fun.
Actual sexual slavery does not provide an adequate way for men to get along with women. If it did, it would have spread throughout the North and we would still have it.
In a way, I am arguing the opposite side. Steve mentioned that he was attempting to understand the psychology and sociology that kept the issue from being resolved peacefully. His interest was in WHY Lincoln had to make the choice that he did.
Slavery was the carrot that kept Antebellum Southern Society together. The wealthy owned slaves to do their bidding. The middle and lower classes could hope to one day be rich enough to own slaves to do their bidding. The wealthy did not wish to give up slavery and the comforts, both physical and psychological, that it brought, and the less-than-wealthy did not wish to abolish slavery at least until they, themselves, got to experience the joys of being a slave-owner. For the less-than-wealthy, it was something to aspire to…you know you’ve made it when you own a slave!
And do not diminish the sexual aspect for male slave-owners. We STILL have human trafficking and sex slaves in our modern world, and it is a real issue even in this country. In a place with cell phones and police everywhere, where slavery is completely illegal and socially unacceptable, WE, the U.S., has a very real problem with sex-slave rings and human trafficking. It is even worse in countries with more lax standards towards human life and rights.
Imagine if it were legal. Hell, such desires are driving innovation in technology. I promise that we will have a fully functional and reasonably human fem-bot for sexual services LONG before we have an android that cleans the house. (They are getting closer! Google “Sexbot” or “TrueCompanion”.) How is the desire for a fem-bot any different than wanting a sex-slave without the legal and moral ramifications of enslaving a human?
Now, why the need for Southern expansionism IS more economically driven. The South had switched to a single crop: Cotton. “Cotton is King!” The Southern economy had become completely and utterly dependent upon cotton. Cotton, however, is one of the greediest plants when it comes to soil nutrients, and it sucks cropland dry of them with a quickness. The wealthy folks of the South were caught up in an economic circle; they had gotten wealthy off of cotton. They wished to increase their wealth and keep it rolling in. Therefore, they needed more land with which to grow cotton. To do this, they needed control of new territories with cheap land available to them. This kind of social and economic control would not be accessible to them in Free States.
Could they have changed to different modes of agriculture and industry? Probably. Could they have revitalized their lands to grow more cotton with the knowledge available to them? Yes. More than a few of the immigrants flooding the South were Scots (In fact, our “southern drawl” evolved from Scottish brogue.), who were quite familiar with revitalizing poor soils with the use of bean crops and sheep in rotation. The knowledge was there. Could the slave-owners have freed up capital to do this? Yes, in fact it would have been cheaper than either war or expansion.
So why the hell DIDN’T they?
Because it would have meant a psychological and sociological culture change that they simply could not achieve in several generations, much less the couple of decades which they had. It’s been nearly a 150 years since emancipation, and the South STILL isn’t over it, and you will find more than a few that still believe that slavery should never have been ended. How the hell could they have accomplished a radical shift in culture in just a couple of decades?
Therefore, there were MANY forces that made Civil War a forgone conclusion; but the main ones were social and psychological.
Just to clear up a few mistakes in this thread:
1. Arkansas had a “one drop” law pre-Civil War, before the Jim Crow laws. Several other states had anti-amalgamation laws, however, that amounted to the same thing. No matter how much white blood a slave had, or how white he or she looked, he or she was still black according to law and society. It was illegal to enslave whites even in Slave States, so laws that amounted to the “one-drop” rule were enacted to keep slave-owners for having to free the offspring of slaves at certain “white blood” percentages. The Jim Crow laws were simply a continuity of this; they were nothing new.
2. The South was not united in its REASONS for slavery. Some fully believed in polygenesis (that backs were an entirely different species from whites) and thought that ALL blacks should be slaves. Others believed that freed blacks being slave-holders themselves prevented slave uprisings and revolts, because it gave even those that were slaves a stake in the game: they might become slaveholders themselves one day. Still others held an economic stake in slavery, and believed that they shouldn’t be limited to owning blacks….criminals, prisoners, and debtors should be able to be bought and made slaves, regardless of race. Others believed that only under the protection of an owner could blacks be safe and prosper. The only thing these disparate groups agreed upon was that slavery must continue, and that abolitionists were evil monsters set on destroying them and their way of life.
3. Post Civil War South, even with Jim Crow laws and lynchings (which continued though the last century. Black soldiers returning from WW2 were lynched *in their uniforms* to keep blacks from getting uppity and thinking that they were as good as whites), was not as bad as slavery. Blacks attained exceptionally important rights: they could protect their families from forced servitude. That was a HUGE thing for them.
CaliannG, when playing the alternate history game, it’s important to remember that defeated nations behave differently than victorious ones. Victorious ones often find it easier to be magnanimous. Defeated ones want scapegoats.
Arkansas passed the one-drop law in 1911: http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=5365 I suspect you’re misremembering something, but if you have a source, I’d love to know it.
Laws, statutes, and regulations are NOT just formally passed legislation, which I am sure you are aware. Legal precedence is a LARGE factor in the legal system.
Hypodescent rulings in the legal system were occurring before the first generation of mixed-race people on U.S. soil had even passed away. Here is a rather nice treatise by an AA lawyer on the subject, from an interesting viewpoint:
Arkansas, and many other Antebellum Slave States, had precedence, and regulation, regarding hypodescent. The Jim Crow laws simply formalized, through legislation, what had already been in legal practice for 200 years.
~smiles~ Please show a legal example or precedent of a court in any Slave State suggesting that, once a slave’s blood quantum reached a certain level, they could no longer be held as slaves due to laws that proscribed the keeping of whites as slaves? Anywhere?
If you cannot find such an example, then it means that the one-drop rule was in effect in all Slave States, whether it was formalized in legislation or not. I cannot find anywhere that states that even the child of a quadroon was considered “White”, but I can find many places where a quadroon is legally defined as a person with ” one quarter, or any trace, of Black ancestry”.
I will say that there is a particular famous case of a girl who was, I believe 1/64th black and being sold in New Orleans. Some Abolitionists raised large sums of money to free her because she was young, pretty, and white; but was still black enough to be sold.
I think we’re discussing two separate issues, what made a free person “white” and what made a slave free. More in the morning, perhaps. G’night!
Will, check out “Blood Done Sign My Name”, or “Eyewitness to History” for accounts of hypodescent.
A short, but interesting read……
Given that the overwhelming majority of Black people in the pre-civil war South were slaves.what made a slave free is the more important question.
Gar, according to this, NOTHING made *anyone* free after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and even suggests that the North went to war with the South to protect ALL people from slavery:
“Laws, statutes, and regulations are NOT just formally passed legislation, which I am sure you are aware. Legal precedence is a LARGE factor in the legal system.
“The Jim Crow laws simply formalized, through legislation, what had already been in legal practice for 200 years.”
This is important. We should agree that the laws on the books did not particularly represent reality. And particular court cases also did not particularly represent reality, when most situations never went to trial. Our data is not very good, and probably the reality was kind of diverse. It may have gotten less diverse toward 1850-1860.
I quoted a source which claims that runaway slaves lost 70% of their value at resale. To me this implies that runaways were relatively rare, and that the system to catch them and return them to owners was expensive and unreliable.
“Slavery was the carrot that kept Antebellum Southern Society together.” That sounds right. Then there was the flip side — if blacks thought of themselves as a special separate race, there could be a massive slave revolt where they tried to kill everybody else. They were a potential danger to everybody. And also there may have been the beginning of a caste system. If blacks were considered suitable for a particular range of jobs, then poor whites would have another range of jobs that were theirs, where they did not have to compete directly with blacks. If blacks were made equal to poor whites, then poor whites would be at the bottom — with the blacks. And after the war there was an attempt at that. There were jobs that were thought to be fit only for blacks, and others that blacks were not allowed to do.
In the old days, black slaves were important even to whites who had no prospect of ever owning one.
“The South had switched to a single crop: Cotton.”
Yes, mostly. I think it reached the point that cotton was 40% to 60% of all exports. They needed the unreliable cotton money to pay for their many imports. A classic third-world trap.
“The wealthy folks of the South were caught up in an economic circle; they had gotten wealthy off of cotton. They wished to increase their wealth and keep it rolling in. Therefore, they needed more land with which to grow cotton. To do this, they needed control of new territories with cheap land available to them.”
They already had the good cotton land. They had not nearly finished exploiting it. In 1860 Alabama had less than 1 million people, well under half a million slaves. To expand to new cotton land they needed to change their methods. I think the more important part of expansion was they needed to keep the national government from passing laws that exploited them, and for that they needed more states on their side. Note that right after 7 states seceded, Congress started passing a lot of laws they had been blocking until then.
“Could they have changed to different modes of agriculture and industry? Probably. Could they have revitalized their lands to grow more cotton with the knowledge available to them? Yes. …. The knowledge was there. Could the slave-owners have freed up capital to do this? Yes, in fact it would have been cheaper than either war or expansion.
“So why the hell DIDN’T they?”
You and I agree that they were not stuck in an inevitable economic trap that kept them from doing anything else. What kept them from saving themselves is somehow hidden, it wasn’t the iron laws of economics.
“Because it would have meant a psychological and sociological culture change that they simply could not achieve in several generations, much less the couple of decades which they had.”
I tend to agree with you. Maybe partly that people “knew how” to grow cotton. Just do it like everybody else does, and in a good year you make money. In a bad year you lose money but everybody else does too so nobody laughs at you.
I saw that more recently with pine farming. People would own as little as 20 acres of hills, and plant them in monoculture like everybody else. They figured in 18-20 years they could sell the clearcutting rights and make a nice profit. Then in 12-16 years they would hear that they had an insect infestation or something, and 60-90% of the value of their trees was gone. “Dammit if I didn’t have bad luck I’d have no luck at all.”
Maybe the laws subtly encouraged that sort of thing? Nowadays they plant lots of corn. The government guarantees them a price floor. Some ways it looks stupid to plant so much corn, but it’s the only way they get a guarantee not to lose much.
“Therefore, there were MANY forces that made Civil War a forgone conclusion; but the main ones were social and psychological.”
That sounds right to me. But then, it’s the default catch-all explanation. If you can’t find anything else you can say it was social and psychological. I want a better reason, but I don’t have one.
“Given that the overwhelming majority of Black people in the pre-civil war South were slaves.what made a slave free is the more important question.”
Depends on whether we’re talking morality or reality. Morally, life was awful for black folks for most of US history, and it still sucks for a lot of them. End of discussion.
But when you’re talking about hypodescent, you’re talking about something that didn’t legally apply to free blacks until Jim Crow. If you’re trying to understand race and class in the US, you have to look at the ways the rules were similar and different for the owners and the owned.
For an example of the complexity of hypodescent, race, and class: The first slave to be treated as a slave in what became the US was John Casor, owned by Anthony Johnson. Both were black. Johnson went to court to establish that Casor should be treated like a slave, not an indentured servant.
Doublechecking that led me to a relevant concept when discussing hypodescent:
Just had my comment go into moderation because of links, so here’s the de-linked version:
“Given that the overwhelming majority of Black people in the pre-civil war South were slaves.what made a slave free is the more important question.”
Depends on whether we’re talking morality or reality. Morally, life was awful for black folks for most of US history, and it still sucks for a lot of them. End of discussion.
But when you’re talking about hypodescent, you’re talking about something that didn’t legally apply to free blacks until Jim Crow. If you’re trying to understand race and class in the US, you have to look at the ways the rules were similar and different for the owners and the owned.
For an example of the complexity of hypodescent, race, and class: The first slave to be treated as a slave in what became the US was John Casor, owned by Anthony Johnson. Both were black. Johnson went to court to establish that Casor should be treated like a slave, not an indentured servant.
Doublechecking that led me to a relevant concept when discussing hypodescent, Partus sequitur ventrum, which established that the child of a slave woman was a slave.
“And do not diminish the sexual aspect for male slave-owners. We STILL have human trafficking and sex slaves in our modern world, and it is a real issue even in this country.”
I don’t want to discuss modern world issues. There are a lot of gross disgusting aspects to those, and somehow if I bring them up people will say *I* am gross and disgusting.
We agree that the male slave-owners were a small rich minority? I tend to expect there was a large element of scandal about that. An excellent way to get a bad reputation and sharply reduced status.
I’m sort of reminded of a story that JK Galbraith told. He grew up on a farm and the girl he later married lived on a neighboring farm. once when his family’s cows were being bred they both sat on the fence and watched. He noticed that she was rather intent on watching, and he leaned over and said “I’d like to do that.”. She replied, “Go right ahead. I have no objection. …. They’re your cows.”
I’m speaking without evidence, and yet it just makes sense to me. I imagine a rich young southern gentleman approaching a girl, after church. “In many ways I am the best man in these parts, and I want to marry the best woman and that is you. You are smart and beautiful, from good stock, and you have utterly charmed me.”
And she replies, “Well Johnny, you know that my brother has visited your place, and he tells me that four of your baby slaves look like you. So I’m sure if things do not work out between us you can console yourself with a number of the best black women in these parts. I’ll tell you something that concerns me a bit more than that. Louise’s family bought a girl from you, and girl was — diseased. They spent a lot on doctoring for her. I think when I marry I will try to find a husband who will not bring me african diseases.”
By various accounts slaveowners had a lot of sex with slaves. And I expect there were consequences that kept it from happening more than it did. It takes a certain — lack of fastidiousness — to raise your own children as slaves in your own home.
I’m guessing that the whole thing was about as sordid then as it is now. And likely as sordid in the South as it was in the North. The difference being that in the North they represented it as universal, an inevitable horrible result of slavery.
Well, had the American colonies remained colonies the slaves would have been freed in 1834; if you can face British weather then the Notting Hill Carnival in August each year gives you an idea of just how important that was and is.
Of course, the weather in the Carribean is a great deal better, so you may prefer to party there; emancipation is one of the great drivers of the Caribbean Carnivals and everyone is welcome. I’d recommend getting into training beforehand, though; start on a couple of rum punches a day and work your way up…
Ah, yes, Will, matrilineal descent and status. As Stevie would know, in Europe, if the father of a child was free, then the child was free. The U.S. changed that to status of the child being determined by status of the mother…however, not in all cases. If a free white woman gave birth to a mixed-race child, BOTH were enslaved. Therefore, the racial aspect was at work there as well.
However, both you and J Thomas ignored that neat little link that I posted that showed another aspect, and also that ties into Steve’s original post:
WHITE Northerners were being kidnapped into slavery. With such common mixing of races in the South, and a lot of “black slaves” being indistinguishable from whites, AND the Fugitive Act of 1850, poor, white Northerners were being enslaved with no hope of redress by the courts. Propaganda was being spread by the South that showed their desire to make slaves of nearly ALL of the working class, regardless of color.
That puts another racial aspect on things. The North might have let it go on for far longer if only blacks were involved, but once they saw their *own* freedom being threatened, it took on a whole, new look.
Viewed from that light, secession by the South could be viewed as a declaration of war. After all, as long as the South was part of the same country, they could not *force* states into slavery. However, as a different country, they could go to war and, if they won, force the laborers in the North into slavery. The Battle of Fort Sumtner takes on the view of a much larger threat then, it was the start of the South attempting to conquer, and enslave, both the backs AND the whites of the North.
So of course Lincoln had to go to war. What president could appear wishy-washy in the face of THAT?
Caliann, no time to go into this now, but ain’t no one saying there’s no racial aspect. Of course there’s a racial aspect, beginning obliquely with Anthony Johnson’s argument for treating John Casor differently, even though they were both of the same race.
Now, as for the notion that the North were protecting their own white citizens from being enslaved when they chose to hold the South, I have to say I think you’re reaching a bit far. Got any references to people of the time being afraid of that?
I had already posted it above, but for you, Will, I will post it again. :)
As an absolute, off-topic, side note, next week: I am getting two more goats in milk (lovely girls from a friend of mine), so I *should* actually have enough milk to make cheese that lasts longer than a couple of days around here. Which, of course, means that you and Emma need to tell me which herb combinations you favor…..
The last batch that I sent was rosemary and thyme, and I believe I added a touch of cilantro. I am thinking about experimenting with some of the flavored mints (Chocolate mint, apple mint, orange mint, pineapple mint, etc) once the herb garden is flourishing again.
There was no shortage of talk (I’m too lazy to look it up right now) of the North becoming slaves of their Southern masters–especially around the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law and the defense of Lecompton. There was also considerable talk in the South about the Northerners wanting to enslave THEM. The issue isn’t if this talk happened, but how much of it was hyperbole. I have no idea.
I’ve already cited Lincoln’s speech on the Scot Dred case; in that speech he noted that the effect of the decision of the Supreme Court was that the only people entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were the white people alive during the War of Indepence more than 80 years previously.
I appreciate that you are busy, and that it’s a long speech, but if you had made the time to read it you would have understood the factual basis of CaliannG’s post…
Lincoln wasn’t the only politico to cite white slavery. Most of the Northern Representatives and Congress-critters cited it from 1856 on. Plus, it was mentioned in working class newsletters.
Caliann, your source is polemical.
One man in the south published a book and a newspaper editorial suggesting that slavery shouldn’t depend on race, and that northern white wage-slaves would be better off in outright slavery. I did not see anything in your link that said any southerners seriously agreed with him. It should be clear that southern white laborers did not take him seriously — they fought hard for the South. They did not expect to be enslaved.
Many Republicans, Yankees all, fulminated about his work. They were propagandizing about it as late as 1864, when the chance that the South would enslave the white population of the North was remote. So what?
We could argue about how bad Israel is by quoting Meir Kahane. But Kahane never had a lot of support in Israel. It would not be fair.
We could argue about how bad the GOP is by quoting David Duke. But Duke never had a lot of support in the GOP.
We could argue that black culture is awful by quoting Ice T. But who gets to say he’s the main spokesman?
Very likely all this had a significant effect in the North. Stories about the Boche raping innocent Belgian women had an effect in WWI, stories about Iraqis killing Kuwaiti babies in incubators so they could steal the incubators had an effect on the Gulf war, etc. Why not this too?
“I’m speaking without evidence, and yet it just makes sense to me. I imagine a rich young southern gentleman approaching a girl, after church. “In many ways I am the best man in these parts, and I want to marry the best woman and that is you. You are smart and beautiful, from good stock, and you have utterly charmed me.””
This makes the assumption that women had much, if any, choice in who they married.
White women in the Antebellum U.S. could not vote, could not own property, could not engage in financial contracts, etc., without the express consent of their husband or a male relative. The could be beaten at any time for any reason by a male relative or their husband without any recourse. They could be wed against their will to a man not of their choosing, and raped by their husband, without any recourse.
They could be committed to a mental institution, a nunnery, or other types of prisons-that-were-not-prisons by their husband or male relative for any or no reason without recourse.
In the legal sense, white women had just barely more rights than slaves.
So, in other words, in your example, you are assuming that the lady in question would have any choice if her father or brother decided that the wealthy young man was a good match.
There is a very big difference between being concerned about nebulous possibilities and being concerned about a specific legal decision in the highest court stripping people of legal rights which they had hitherto enjoyed.
I appreciate that you are not a lawyer but you should be able to distinguish between the two; Lincoln was a lawyer and perfectly correct in noting that the judgement overturned the entire foundation of the United States…
“So, in other words, in your example, you are assuming that the lady in question would have any choice if her father or brother decided that the wealthy young man was a good match.”
Or assuming that they might likely decide he was not a good match. There are lots of ways things can go.
I have not found numbers, but I have the impression that in some times and places, if a husband mistreated his wife that was considered grounds for her father or brother to start a duel, and dishonorable for them not to.
It’s hard for an outsider to be sure they understand a foreign culture, and when that culture is thoroughly in the past it’s hard to confirm what you think you understand.
Stevie, Lincoln was a politician. The Dred Scott case was decided in 1857 and did not have a lot of time to serve as a precedent. It was so utterly unworkable that it might likely have been quickly overturned, though that hypothesis is now forever untestable.
I contend that white southerners did not think there was any likelihood they would be enslaved. (Though of course the Dred Scott decision did not apply to them after secession. And for that matter it said that they were citizens with legal rights while blacks were not.)
“I did not see anything in your link that said any southerners seriously agreed with him.”
~sighs~ You are only taking the one paper, and not looking at the sources.
What about Senator Downs of Louisiana discussing the enslaving of whites as favorable? Governor Miller of South Carolina also favorably discussed enslaving white laborers.
You can find examples of both pro-white slavery in Antebellum South, and the fear of such in the North, in pamphlets and newspaper articles, in “The Republic in Print: Print Culture in the Age of U.S. Nation Building”– By Trish Loughran
Meaning the the Southern sentiment, and Northern fear, seen in Fitzgerald’s books and the Richmond newspaper are not the ONLY examples in print from that time period, they are simply the main ones cited in that treatise.
I might add that Fitzgerald was considered a “Major Southern Influence” in my history classes in college. You haven’t truly barfed until you have been forced to read “Cannibal’s all!” for a grade.
I might also add that the White working class in the South was NOT universally in support of the Confederacy. Notable examples include Winston County in Alabama and the Beech Mountains in North Carolina, where white laborers refused to fight for a system that considered them “trash”, or the slavery that benefited them not at all.
Also, ask Stevie about the “Surplus Poor” in Britain during the 17th and 18th centuries. There are several treatise on that topic, and I will bet that Stevie is familiar with them.
“Southern sentiment, and Northern fear, seen in Fitzgerald’s books and the Richmond newspaper are not the ONLY examples in print from that time period, they are simply the main ones cited in that treatise.”
Sure. I noted that that particular link referred to a variety of examples of Northern fear, but mostly only the one southern author.
“You can find examples of both pro-white slavery in Antebellum South, and the fear of such in the North, in pamphlets and newspaper articles….”
The Northern fear I don’t dispute. That’s an obvious approach for propagandists to use.
I’m curious about southern enthusiasm for white slavery. As you pointed out, there were diverse opinions including the idea that blacks were so different that they should all be enslaved and only blacks should be enslaved.
When I think about it, one obvious approach for white slavery would be the claim that landowners can potentially take care of themselves, but people whose income is only from their labor cannot. They cannot hope to compete on an equal basis with slaves. They can do well in times of labor shortage, but inevitably become destitute as a class in times of labor surplus. Their best hope is to be taken in by kindly slave-owners.
This reasoning would be applied to Yankee laborers, not to Southern ones. The idea would be to claim that the failings of wage-slavery are worse than the failings of true slavery. Given their (silly) assumptions, their conclusions are irrefutable. So they would enjoy arguing the case with Yankees.
Was there any actual movement to enslave poor whites in the Confederacy? I have not heard of it but it would surely be interesting if there was. I can just imagine….
“Oh no, the Yankees came through and burned everything. They burned the farm. I have nothing left. My brothers died in the army.”
“Woman, is it true that after the Yankees burned your farm and stole the animals you have nothing left?”
“Yes! Oh, what will I do? What can I do? How can I take care of my old mother and my two younger sisters?”
“Don’t you worry your little head about that. We’ll just throw all four of you in the slave pen and sell you at auction, and some kind master will take good care of you.”
Violet Ludlow, Madeline, Sally Miller,Pelasgie, Patience Hicks, among others. There are numerous accounts of poor families selling their pure white offspring as “quadroon” slaves. More accounts of kidnapped white children being “rescued at the last moment” by enraged parents. Not to mention women whose reputation might be damaged giving their offspring to slave wet nurses to be raised as slaves.
Both the mistaken and intentional sale of pure whites as slaves in Antebellum South is well documented.
If you are truly curious about white slavery in the South, you know that you could research it for yourself. Try the book “The Forgotten Slaves: Whites in Servitude in Early America and Industrial Britain” — by Hoffman There are other treatise and literature available online, as well. Google is your friend.
Lincoln was a lawyer as well as a politician; perhaps you would care to point me to some evidence to support your claim that the Scot Dred judgement would have been overturned.
As far as I can see there is no such evidence; the Supreme Court went far beyond the points it was asked to rule on, but its judgement deprived people of the legal rights to bring such cases to challenge them. How then could they be made to overturn their decision?
I appreciate that you are not a lawyer, but even a non-lawyer should be capable of grasping that.
It was blindingly obvious to anyone who bothered to read the decision that the inevitable result was to put the United States back to a condition of despotism whilst the civilised world was moving on. The Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron intercepted and freed some 150,000 Africans headed for the slave blocks in America; it’s hardly surprising that people were concerned that the Southern slave owners might seek substitutes for those intended slaves from other sources.
Incidentally, the Scot Dred judgement did not guarantee the right of whites not to be enslaved, unless, of course, they had been living in the US at the time of the Revolutionary war, and on the whole people over the age of 80 are not usually thought of as a desirable workforce…
Caliann, I stopped here with that article: ” When one truly understands that the politics of slavery had no regard for color, it becomes clear that free laborers in the
North and others fought to abolish slavery, not out of altruism, but in order to insure freedom for themselves and their
You’d think that would’ve come up a lot in the discussion at the time, if true. I checked the footnote, and rather than document that, it merely mentioned the New York riots. I’ve read a bit about them, and never seen any New Yorker citing a fear of being enslaved, only of being drafted to fight for a cause that was not theirs.
You continue to focus on the situation for slaves, and I’m not disputing that partus was the principle there. The one drop rule is different. Partus was a way to keep slaves enslaved; it was irrelevant to free blacks. The one drop rule didn’t distinguish between mother and father, and it was a creation of Jim Crow.
An example of the distinction: If Jefferson had not freed his children by Sally Hemmings, they would have stayed slaves thanks to partus. But when he freed them, they were legally white because they were 7/8’s white, the legal rule of the time.
Racism does look stupider and stupider the more you examine the legal games that had to be employed to maintain it.
~sighs~ I will come back to this later, because I am getting a headache, and also because I think you and I are likely agreeing, Will, except that we may be having entirely different discussions.
That, and I am feeling a bit resentful that I have now wasted hours yesterday and today looking up and reading articles, treatises, and other works, ferreting out this and that bit of *peer reviewed*, and cited, work to display for people who either completely miss the point (not you in this case), or people who just “stopped reading” the piece because they got to a certain sentence, bibliography and cites sources notwithstanding.
I’m going to go talk about barbecue and goats now. :) And maybe art. :)
“…perhaps you would care to point me to some evidence to support your claim that the Scot Dred judgement would have been overturned.”
I argue that it caused a giant uproar and was not sustainable. So I claim there is a possibility that it would have been overturned if it had not become mute in around 4 years. I cannot give you anything like strong evidence for a counterfactual. If the war had not started when it did then something else would have happened. What arguments can we make about what had to happen if things were different?
It seems not implausible to me that given more time three or more judges would see what a mess they had made and be ready to try again. If they were ready to rule differently, they would find a way. Likely, a Dred Scott reprise that the South found less satisfactory would be the next cue for succession and war.
“Incidentally, the Scot Dred judgement did not guarantee the right of whites not to be enslaved….”
IANAL. Are you? It looks to me like it guaranteed that blacks had no right not to be enslaved. They were not allowed to be citizens and had no rights of citizens. I don’t see that it said that whites could not be citizens unless they were citizens when the Constitution was ratified. I really don’t see that it said that. But then IANAL.
“I am feeling a bit resentful that I have now wasted hours yesterday and today looking up and reading articles, treatises, and other works, ferreting out this and that bit of *peer reviewed*, and cited, work to display for people….”
Do it for yourself or don’t do it. It’s rare that people are convinced by evidence. They know that there’s a whole lot of “evidence” manufactured by people who already knew the conclusions they wanted, who looked for things that appeared to support them and threw away everything else. And there are lots of peers ready to review on that same basis. Ideally you will carefully judge each work on its merits independent of its conclusions, but often that’s hard. To do it right you need to know the source materials as well as they do. And if you do know the originals that well you don’t need to read their conclusions except to judge them….
This sort of discussion is like a hologram. When the bandwidth is low, you get a fuzzier picture of the whole thing. If you want lots of crisp edges, is it worth the work to pass that much information in this medium?
Arguing about historical cultures may be a good candidate for the Hedonists’ Creed.
If it feels good, do it.
Until it stops feeling good. Then quit.
Has it not occurred to you that the judgement in the Scot Dred case meant that the war was inevitable? It was obvious to those reading it at the time that it sought to destroy the principles upon which the United States had been founded, for the advantage of the wealthy slave-owners and their supporters. You yourself admit that it caused uproar, but the idea that it could be overturned by people bringing cases which the Court refused to hear is little short of lunacy.
It’s very late over here so I will quote a short section of Lincoln’s speech on the judgement. He’s funnier than I am, as well.
‘Now let us hear Judge Douglas’ view of the same subject, as I find it in the printed report of his late speech. Here it is:
“No man can vindicate the character, motives and conduct of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, except upon the hypothesis that they referred to the white race alone, and not to the African, when they declared all men to have been created equal—that they were speaking of British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain—that they were entitled to the same inalienable rights, and among them were enumerated life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration was adopted for the purpose of justifying the colonists in the eyes of the civilized world in withdrawing their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving their connection with the mother country.”
My good friends, read that carefully over some leisure hour, and ponder well upon it—see what a mere wreck—mangled ruin—it makes of our once glorious Declaration.
“They were speaking of British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain!” Why, according to this, not only Negroes but white people outside of Great Britain and America are not spoken of in that instrument. The English, Irish and Scotch, along with white Americans, were included to be sure, but the French, Germans and other white people of the world are all gone to pot along with the Judge’s inferior races.
I had thought the Declaration promised something better than the condition of British subjects; but no, it only meant that we should be equal to them in their own oppressed and unequal condition. According to that, it gave no promise that having kicked off the King and Lords of Great Britain, we should not at once be saddled with a King and Lords of our own.
I had thought the Declaration contemplated the progressive improvement in the condition of all men everywhere; but no, it merely “was adopted for the purpose of justifying the colonists in the eyes of the civilized world in withdrawing their allegiance from the British crown, and dissolving their connection with the mother country.” Why, that object having been effected some eighty years ago, the Declaration is of no practical use now—mere rubbish—old wadding left to rot on the battle-field after the victory is won.
I understand you are preparing to celebrate the “Fourth,” to-morrow week. What for? The doings of that day had no reference to the present; and quite half of you are not even descendants of those who were referred to at that day. But I suppose you will celebrate; and will even go so far as to read the Declaration. Suppose after you read it once in the old fashioned way, you read it once more with Judge Douglas’ version. It will then run thus: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all British subjects who were on this continent eighty-one years ago, were created equal to all British subjects born and then residing in Great Britain.”
And now I appeal to all—to Democrats as well as others,—are you really willing that the Declaration shall be thus frittered away?—thus left no more at most, than an interesting memorial of the dead past? thus shorn of its vitality, and practical value; and left without the germ or even the suggestion of the individual rights of man in it?
As I said, Lincoln is funnier than me.
Incidentally, you appear to be wholly ignorant about the way that scholars conduct historical research; hedonism rarely comes into it.
And CaliannG; your work isn’t wasted; I certainly have benefitted from it, and I am sure that I’m not the only one. Also, you’re funnier than me…
Apologies for not spotting the double quote of ‘And now I appeal to all’ before I ran out of fixing time:)
Well, then. On the topic of sexual fetishism of slaves in Antebellum South, I have found, and read, this article, which you can read the entire thing by signing up for the free membership of JSTOR:
One of the difficulties in engaging in conversation on topics with others when they ASK me to cite sources, or find evidence of something, etc., is that I pay for the membership on several sites that allow me to access full articles and studies in scientific, and other journals. While I might link to those pieces where I have read the entire thing, people following the link, since they may not be members and may not wish to pay the $29.00 for access to the article, only get to read abstracts or previews, that do not contain the information that I was citing. This becomes a problem in discussion.
Now, I find it interesting that people will say “cite your sources”, “I won’t believe you until you give me further evidence”, “could you find stuff that says this, because I am interested/curious”, or “I’d like to know where you got that information” , all of which are, at the base, the request for the reader/listener to do research for the requester…. but when FACED with the fact that they have requested work/favor of another person, attempt to deny responsibility for the request by saying, “Well, why did you comply with my request if it wasn’t fun?”
To lay out my expectations of people for the future, which I don’t think are unrealistic:
1. If a person joins a discussion of a book, article, etc., I expect them to have *actually read the material being discussed*.
2. If a person requests information on a topic, and someone is nice enough to comply, I expect the requester to actually *read the information that they requested*.
Discussions such as these can be handled in two ways; either in a debate format, in which citations are asked for, PERUSED, and then the merits discussed; or in a social discussion format, in which people do not automatically assume the person is talking out of their ass and demand proofs.
Neither of these formats condone inconsideration.
Now, if my memory serves me correctly, Steve prefers the Intelligent Parlor style of discussion, in which topics are politely discussed among presumed equals, in a congenial and non-adversarial way that promotes gentle discourse. Such a style would preclude the assumption that anyone is partaking in the discussion in order to win a debate rather than exchange ideas.
Stevie, you are officially My Heroine. :)
Caliann: “Now, if my memory serves me correctly, Steve prefers the Intelligent Parlor style of discussion, in which topics are politely discussed among presumed equals, in a congenial and non-adversarial way that promotes gentle discourse.”
You are correct. But I also cut people some slack because me, personally, falling short of that goal is, um, not unheard-of.
Yeah, it’s kind of part of being arrogant, academically inclined, and being self-identified as intelligentsia.
~grinz~ But that is somewhat different. If, in my impassioned discussion, I turn to debate and make the mistake of demanding citation…and get it…I WILL read what is offered and not try to make rationalizations of why I shouldn’t take the time and trouble to do so. I did ask for it, after all.:) It is only polite and considerate, if someone takes the time and trouble to give me what I asked for, to actually accept it, right?
I try to cut people slack for not having the resources that I have. I *need* those journal memberships to keep on top of the latest and greatest in goat management, health, and care of my caprine charges. That they also provide me access to other sciences and professional articles to expand my knowledge in other areas is a bonus.
Besides, this topic is near and dear to me. I AM a slave……..to goats.
Just ask the goats. :D
“Now, I find it interesting that people will say “cite your sources”, “I won’t believe you until you give me further evidence”, “could you find stuff that says this, because I am interested/curious”, or “I’d like to know where you got that information” , all of which are, at the base, the request for the reader/listener to do research for the requester…. but when FACED with the fact that they have requested work/favor of another person, attempt to deny responsibility for the request by saying, “Well, why did you comply with my request if it wasn’t fun?””
You must be talking about me since no one else has suggested that you have fun.
I once invited you to do “could you find stuff that says this, because I am interested/curious” because I was curious. You gave me a handful of names and references to much more, for which I thank you. I recognized one of the stories, about a german woman who was supposed to be indentured and was enslaved as a child. I had thought of it as an anomaly, while you considered it not an anomaly.
I have never demanded you cite your sources. (That was Stevie, who himself rarely cited sources.) I have never declared that I would believe you if you gave me further evidence. But several times I have believed you when you inspired me to look for further evidence.
“Discussions such as these can be handled in two ways; either in a debate format, in which citations are asked for, PERUSED, and then the merits discussed; or in a social discussion format, in which people do not automatically assume the person is talking out of their ass and demand proofs.”
I mostly stay out of debates unless *at the least* some particular individual or individuals have been chosen as the official judges and the purpose is to persuade them. Usually when I see people who think they are debating, they announce that they themselves are the judges who must be convinced, and they loudly claim that they are right and everybody else is wrong because nobody else has persuaded them. I don’t find such discussions fun.
I prefer social discussions where people discuss their ideas, and we perhaps consider what facts would have to be true for the ideas to be valid. Usually the most important facts are slippery and contingent, and it’s hard to disprove much. We can consider why our ideas might have spread independent of their truth. (And of course just because people want to believe something does not make it false.) Academic citations may have some use, but for big important questions they are often academic expressions of bias and it may or may not be fun to discuss how good they individually might be.
“Steve prefers the Intelligent Parlor style of discussion, in which topics are politely discussed among presumed equals, in a congenial and non-adversarial way that promotes gentle discourse.”
I prefer that too. Have I come across as too adversarial?
“Such a style would preclude the assumption that anyone is partaking in the discussion in order to win a debate rather than exchange ideas.”
Well, but if you think someone is trying to win a debate you could call them on it. If you do that, they might calm down and get more congenial. Although they might want to have a debate about whether they are trying to win a debate or not….
J Thomas, it was only partly directed at you. It was also directed at a belief that seems to inhabit the internet that if people do not automatically produce easy-to-read, condensed articles available in internet links that back up their position, their position is automatically wrong.
Speaking of easy-to-understand links, here is one both you and Steve might enjoy, that I have actually employed:
Do hit the arrows and go through them all, they are fun.
I do actually ENJOY research. This thread, in and of itself, has led me down paths of discovery that I would not have explored on my own. In that, it has served me. I have learned new things about a time period and culture that I would not have explored on my own, so this thread has provided me with the provocation to do so. You were a part of that.
BUT…that does not mean that I am not allowed to get annoyed with people who dismiss that research as inconsequential. :D
You know how Steve comments on practicing not getting his own way? It is sort of a philosophical condition, the practice of not getting one’s own way. :)
I practice recognizing, admitting, and accepting…rather than rationalizing, when I am wrong. Being wrong is also a philosophical condition, and it is damn tough to simply accept and admit it, to change one’s own thoughts and position, rather than rationalize why one should still be right. (It is easier the less committed you are to a position.)
The opposite side of that is being annoyed with people who do not put the same effort into it that I do. :) Such is the human condition. How dare you put your effort into facing faults that YOU deem important rather than the ones *I* deem important! You lazy bastard, you!
However, the human condition is that we must learn to socialize and accept those differences if we are to be civilized. In this case, I have chosen to share those traits which I find annoying in others, and those I find annoying in myself.
In another thread, you mentioned people finding you autocratic and arrogant, and being unable to see when you were being so and also inviting comment. Completely inappropriate to this venue, but if you can, and the site allows, you can contact me and I will discuss you, and your difficulties, if you wish.
“We must settle this question now,–whether in a free government the minority have the right to break it up whenever they choose. If we fail, it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.” — Abraham Lincoln, April, 1861
Steve, that reminds me of a cartoon I read during the Republican Primaries. The caption said, “Which one of these people who want to dismantle the government should we elect to run it?”
“We must settle this question now,–whether in a free government the minority have the right to break it up whenever they choose. If we fail, it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves.” — Abraham Lincoln, April, 1861
I don’t exactly disagree, but I want to look at an antithesis and see if I can make it plausible.
If you find yourself in a no-limit poker game, when is it OK to quit? Clearly nobody will be upset if you quit after you lose all your money. But if you win a big hand and you have a big profit right then, and then you want to get up and go, won’t the other players try to persuade you that you have an obligation to keep playing? They only want you to quit when you have lost as much as you can afford to lose, or more.
How much difference is there between a free government and a no-limit poker game? Well, the cards aren’t as important and the deck doesn’t get reshuffled as often. You tend to know the other guys’ hands. You get less choice about how much you put in the pot, and the players vote about who wins how much and who gets cut out entirely.
Ideally in a government with a legislature, you will be on the winning side about half the time, and so you will get a share of half the spoils. But what if the other legislators don’t give you that chance and you are usually on the losing side? They decide what they will take from you, and then they decide how to divvy it up. Year after year. How long do you have to take that?
I keep meeting Republicans who say that the US government is not a democracy. They say it is a republic and not a democracy, and the difference is that we do not just have majority rule but we have Constitutional systems in place to protect the minority. Apart from the other dubious claims there, the systems in place to protect small states and slave states did not work. Slave states got sometimes too much protection and sometimes too little, until it failed completely.
This is in general an unsolved problem. Lebanon had the issue that Christians were becoming a minority and they didn’t trust a muslim majority to treat them right. Their constitutional protections also failed, and they did all sorts of ridiculous things. They put off a census for a long time, because they didn’t want to officially admit there was a muslim majority and do reapportionment. The country fell into civil war and then an armed truce. It’s *hard* to protect a distrustful, well-armed minority.
Imagine for a moment that the North’s intention was that the South should produce *more* cotton, using an impoverished class to do the planting and picking, and the profits would go North. And Southerners with a minority of the vote could no longer keep laws from being passed that would make this happen. (And after the war this was in fact what did happen.) Should they have to accept it? Well, but there was the slavery issue. Southern white people were no angels, why should they get a choice? But just looking at them getting the money squeezed out of them because they had a minority of votes, should they have to stay in the Union?
Well, but they could vote with their feet. Move to Mexico or Argentina or wherever. Some of them did that, before or after the war.
I’m going to say the South had no right to secede because they were bad guys. But what if it was different? What if good people had worked hard and accumulated some wealth, and then the majority of the free government said “We’re going to take what you have and share it among ourselves. You don’t get any because we don’t need your votes.”. Should they have the right to secede, if they’re good people and that happens to them? Is there a way to arrange the government to keep that from happening?
Technically, our government is a democratically elected Representative Republic. This means we democratically elect people to go make our decisions for us. Unfortunately, once we elect them, they don’t actually have to make decisions that we like.
A direct democracy would be that we all voted on bills individually, cutting out the middle man. This, however, is logistically complicated.
For the rest of your post, I am assuming that you are going with a “What If?” scenario, that is kind of Alternate Universe?
Because the South was very, very powerful. Some of that power came from the fact that each slave counted as part of a vote. Yep, they were owned, and their partial vote was cast in whichever way their owner deemed fit, but legally those votes counted.
That is why Southern Politicians were slave owners. He with the most slaves gets the most partial votes. And he didn’t have to even try to please his constituents! He owned them, after all.
It was like my livestock counted as a partial vote. Lessee if each animal counts as 2/3 of a vote, I have 15 goats, 23 chickens, 18 guineas, and 2 horses, Even rounded down, that means I get to cast 38 extra votes for my choice of representation! And these are FREE votes, because if I, or the person I have given those votes to, decides to vote against vet care for goats and chickens, what are they going to say about it? Even if they could talk? They are livestock, so they don’t HAVE a say!
But not only that, because they each count as 2/3 of a vote, as well as 2/3 of a person, I can get MORE legislators in congress! Say it is set up that a geographical area gets 1 representative per 5 people. All by myself, I can’t even send a SINGLE representative to congress. However, if I count my livestock, I can send SEVEN representatives to congress, all of which need to please ONLY me to get elected again.
Look at how much political power I have gained! And if I get my livestock-owning friends in on this, we can control the ENTIRE COUNTRY. How cool is that?
What? Did you ask me about the livestock? What about the livestock? They are just stock. They live, eat, work, produce, and die at my whim. I own them after all.
“A direct democracy would be that we all voted on bills individually, cutting out the middle man. This, however, is logistically complicated.”
Yes, and apparently some of the Founding Fathers used the language that way, meaning by “democracy” only direct democracy. That isn’t how the language works today. Our government is a republic because we don’t have a king, and it is a democracy because we elect representatives. People who say it is not a democracy are using the language weirdly.
We do have the logistical machinery now to handle a direct democracy. If we wanted to.
I have seen various ideas along those lines I liked. One is that to keep the number of laws from getting out of hand, we should repeal one obsolete law for every new law that gets passed. Since we have such a backlog of laws now, we should probably repeal two laws for every new law that passes, until we get it down to a hundred or so.
Christopher Anvil proposed a Council of Dunces. Members would be chosen by lot for short times, and people with graduate degrees would be banned. For each new law, the Council would study it and veto it if they are not convinced the average voter can easily understand it.
Frank Herbert suggested making it be a capital crime to be a paid lawyer.
When a direct-democracy law is proposed, people could vote for or against it. If it keeps a majority in favor for a month, it passes. So laws that are about to pass would get publicity from people who are opposed, while laws that are not controversial could slide through. I could imagine it working. Maybe we wouldn’t get a lot of laws passed, but maybe we don’t need to get a lot of laws passed.
“Because the South was very, very powerful. Some of that power came from the fact that each slave counted as part of a vote.”
In 1860 that came out to about 8 million whites and 4 million blacks in the South. (I think that includes some border states like Maryland, which increases whites more than blacks.) The total white population of the USA was around 27 million. So those 3/5 votes were not enough to give them a veto in the House. It would not be enough if each black counted as a whole vote. The system was designed to give them an unfair advantage, but it did not give them enough advantage to protect themselves.
In my alternate history imagined story and in reality both, the North had the votes in the House to take the South’s cotton profits away and spend them in the North.
So the South depended on the Senate. As long as they could keep enough slaves states in the Union to vote down House rules to impoverish them, they could get by. But by 1860 they couldn’t depend on that. The Dred Scott decision was supposed to soothe them, but it did not. It said they could keep slaves in northern states, even in new states that before had been officially free states. But that did not give them control of the Senate votes of those states. They would still lose everything.
I don’t say they had the right to keep what they had. Particularly slaves. But try thinking about it as the cotton profits, where the profits come from the labor of people (slaves or sharecroppers) who don’t have many rights, and the big fight is about who gets to spend those profits. Then most of the nobility on either side just drains right out.
First of all, let’s hang all the lawyers.
At this point I think a reality check may be useful; war with Britain is unlikely to have resulted in the Confederacy taking over the other states. It is more likely that Britain would have taken back that which it had lost in the Revolutionary War, with a rerun of its’ tactic in offering freedom to slaves which fought for it. After all, there were a lot more slaves to be enlisted than 80 years earlier, and a lot more people afraid of being enslaved.
Steve’s quote from Lincoln suggests that Lincoln was well aware of what the stakes were; if the people were incapable of governing themselves then they must be governed by their superiors.
And, notwithstanding the desire of the Southern slave owners to perceive themselves as aristocrats, they were not viewed as aristocrats by the real deal ie the British aristocracy…
“At this point I think a reality check may be useful; war with Britain is unlikely to have resulted in the Confederacy taking over the other states.”
I tend to agree. But it would depend on what the british wanted, wouldn’t it?
The british would not want to own the South themselves unless they were willing to free the slaves. If they did that, who would pick cotton for them? Would they prefer to have the South owned by southern slavers? That might embarrass them down the road. I’m not sure what they’d want.
The british would not want the South to conquer the North, even if that was possible. If the South was in control they would want their own textile mills. They might have them in the North or in the South, but either way they would use their own cotton instead of sell it to Britain.
The british might want to conquer the North. But in reality the North built an army of over 2 million men. They could have had more if they needed them. They likely would not have draft riots fighting British invaders. Would the British want to put enough resources into North America to beat the North? Maybe if they had some special strategy….
By 1863 Britain had 5 seagoing ironclads, all of them experimental and not very good though very large. In 1865 they had 11. By then the North had 50 monitors which were not very good at sea but excellent for fighting in shallow harbors and rivers. I don’t understand that stuff enough to tell how a naval war would have gone, but would Britain risk their 5 ships? Maybe they could have built more quickly….
It might make sense for Britain to try to keep both sides fighting until they wore each other out. Supply just enough quiet aid to the South to prop them up as long as possible. But what could they do beyond what they did? The South’s last port was lost January 1865. Could Britain have done anything about Sherman? I don’t see that they could have done much, without a great big invasion.
I have already pointed out that the British would do what it had done in the Revolutionary War; offer freedom for all those slaves who volunteered to fight for them.
They were willing to free those slaves 80 years previously, and had subsequently freed all the slaves in British colonies. There was absolutely no chance of them not doing so in America; by then slavery was not something which the British Government would tolerate. Too many people had died in the West Africa Squadron for that.
As to finding troops, you seem to be ignoring the figures you quoted in your post. Obviously not all of the 4,000,000 slaves would be capable of fighting but it is still a very large number, and fighting to become free is a pretty strong motivator. Add to them the people who were afraid that they would become enslaved and that is one hell of an army…
Stevie, the precedent of promising to free slaves when they were losing an insurrection doesn’t count. But freeing all the slaves in British colonies does count. My guess is that the British could not support the South a whole lot because of slavery. So the Southern strategy of trying to show the British that they could get splashy victories so the British would support them enough for them to survive, was probably doomed from the start.
I don’t see the British successfully building a slave army. It mostly didn’t work during the Revolutionary war, but they didn’t give it a good try then. They did at that time control a fair amount of land with slaves on it, though. Harder when they have to get the slaves out of Southern-controlled areas to some place they can train them.
I can sort of vaguely imagine it, but not well. To free the slaves and turn them into an army, they need a solid foothold. They have to fight the South to get a slave army. They’ll probably find themselves fighting the North too. Maybe they can train a lot of infantrymen in 3 months, but they need british officers and british artillerymen and they have to supply it all by sea until they can conquer enough of an industrial base….
Would the Yankees put up with the British re-taking the South? They fought partly because the South had no right to secede…. If the British could beat *everybody* then they get their empire restored. They own most of North America. More likely they get their heads handed to them. It doesn’t seem like the kind of gamble they would go for, and in fact they did not try it. They hovered around the edges looking for signs of weakness, and they didn’t find enough to take big risks over.
This is just my take on it. I could be wrong. I’d be open to evidence but I doubt there can be compelling evidence. I think your idea is kind of plausible, just not plausible enough from my perspective which has no guarantees but is my own.
It is times like this that I have to remind myself that having both parents who were career military is not a universal trait, and that most people know very little about how wars are fought, much less how they were won or lost.
Thus I find myself looking at your reply and wondering why anyone in his/her right mind would imagine that the British wouldn’t attack the south as its’ first move in the war. If you are looking to pick up local support you land where that local support is going to be; you train them where they are. Millions of them, in the case we are discussing here, and you use them to subdue resistance there before moving on to the rest of the states.
The Southern slave owners had catastrophically bad judgement in cutting off the cotton exports before the Civil War started; forcibly taking it from them would have been perfectly reasonable and perfectly justiable in Britain’s view. And Britain had far more military power than the US, and was happy to use it…
Actually the British aristocracy supported the South to the extent they could. Fortunately for us, the British working class put huge limits on this. There was a huge Tory led movement during the Civil to support the slave owners. A large British faction hoped to play the great game, the way the did in India. But they made a mistake of calling public meetings to gather public support for this – on the grounds of job loss from the loss of cotton supply. And the British labor movement flooded the meetings, and pass resolutions in support of the North, ignoring narrow self-interest in favor of principle and long-term class self-interest.
The British still gave what support they dared to the South. They sold them weapons and bought cotton. But they extended no credit, and accepted only raw cotton not finished goods. British Labor and the American Civil War. By Philip S. Foner. is one decent work on this. There are nuances he overlooks, but it remains one of the best overview out there.
I commend to you ‘The Hungry Mills’ which I quoted above and which you must have overlooked; I really do not think that the Duchess of Argyle could accurately be described as a member of the working class, nor, for that matter, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.
You may also wish to bear in mind that those members of Parliament who supported the Confederacy were unable to get anything through Parliament to that end; I think you need to familiarise yourself rather more with the British aristocracy and the way it ruled.
The idea that Britain did not ‘dare’ to do things is nonsense; the cotton workers would have supported a war against the United States if the Government had announced that it was for the purpose of emancipating the slaves and re-opening the cotton trade with free labour…
Stevie, I don’t have that strong a military background and so there are various points I am uncertain about. I’d like to consider the question.
In 1860 the british staged an invasion of China with French allies. They used 173 ships to land 11,000 british and 7,000 french troops who beat Chinese forces 10 times their numbers. Since the USA is much closer, presumably they could easily land 30,000 troops supported by 500 ships.
Where would they make the first landing? To attack the South, Canada is not ideal. Perhaps they could put their staging areas in Mexico, and then fight their way through Texas? I think they would do better to start with a confederate port. Somewhere the South was weak, but still somehow kind of central. New Orleans seems to me too central and also in a way too isolated. Not a great place to fight out of by land, and the river would be hard for them to control. I would figure probably Mobile. Only 30,000 southerners there. Not as disease-ridden as New Orleans. It was the only port in the gulf the South even tried to defend, though, so maybe somewhere else would be better.
So they brush aside the Union blockade, sail into the harbor, they blast away at any defenses, they start sending troops ashore in rowboats, soon they have their beach head and expand from there, fairly quickly they have 30,000 troops landed and many supplies and they take Mobile or whatever town or city is near their landing. Now they have a port. Presumably this happens around 1862 or so, because it takes the British time to decide to do it and to actually get everything organized. If they wait until the South is already collapsing then they have to face the Yankees too soon.
Alabama had sent about 120,000 troops to war, leaving little force behind. So the British shouldn’t have much trouble at first. If they want to, they could cripple the Southern war effort by marching on Selma. But that is not their intention. They call for black slaves to join them and form a black army. They put ads in southern newspapers to tell the slaves about it? No, but they spread the word and the informal information network among the slaves will quickly let everybody know. They tell the blacks they only want strong young men, the women and children should stay home where they are safe. The Confederates will not use them as hostages.
In reality about 10,000 Alabama slaves did escape and join the Union army. A whole lot of those were among the slaves who marched with the Alabama army and built roads and fortifications etc. They got close to the Union army and they heard a lot about what was going on. Let’s suppose that 50,000 slaves hear about the British offer and join them near Mobile in 1862. There were 435,000 slaves there, minus the ones who left with the army. With a few months training the British have 50,000 new green infantry.
Meanwhile, what does the South do? The strategy they followed in reality would be gone. They cannot hope to get British support, Britain has invaded them. They stop attacking the Yankees and settle down to a defensive war? Could they free up troops to attack Alabama? Probably. British troops were worth more than 10 times their number of chinese. Were they worth that many Confederates? No. But they would have better artillery. Could the South afford to leave the British alone? No. They depended on Alabama for crops, gunpowder, ironworks etc, because it would not be a battlefield. With the slave army ravaging everywhere, burning farms and towns and killing every white they found, the South would have to stop them. (They would believe a slave army would do this, whether or not it was true.)
Meanwhile, would the Union agree to a British invasion of a seceding part of the USA? I think not. But what could they do about it? The Union navy was mostly converted wooden freighters, good enough for blockade duty but nothing compared to more than 100 wooden British steam warships. On the other hand, the british had 3 large ironclads, while the Union could build new ironclad riverboats in a few months and eventually built more than 60 of them. One of those in Mobile bay while the british fleet was doing resupply there…. But maybe there were design issues that would make the Monitor class gunships too unreliable. I dunno.
One obvious way to keep the North from interfering too much, was to invade them from Canada. Canada could do the resupply, reducing transatlantic supply problems. They could raise whole armies in Canada. Sweep right down, and by the time they took New York and Boston, the North would be crippled. But — with the South fighting a defensive war, maybe the North could also fight a defensive war on its southern front, and send half a million men toward the British? They didn’t have any artillery shortage….
I dunno. In 1860 the British sent a small force to China. They kicked ass and imposed a profitable treaty and they went home. By 1862 they could see that the American civil war involved giant armies of fanatics who stood in place and killed each other without mercy. It was predictable that if they could win against those it would take years. Maybe they could get black sepoys to do a lot of the dying for them, but that had its own problems. To me it looks like something they might easily choose to stay out of. As in fact they did.
You seem to have overlooked the highly ostentatious despatch of the Scots Fusiliers and Grenadier Guards to Canada in 1861; they would have hated that. The Guards have always prided themselves on looking really good as well as fighting really well.
The other obvious point which comes to mind is that Britain had professional military forces who got lots of practise; one of the reasons there were, as you put it, ‘giant armies of fanatics who stood in place and killed each other’ was because they were bloody useless at fighting wars.
Even the greenest of recruits led by experienced officers and NCOs can do better than that, and the British had those; attacking the southern states with the offer of freedom to the enslaved whilst the Guards deterred the northern states was an option. Lincoln’s declaration of emancipation removed that option…
Stevie: Canadian history is almost completely left out of schools in the US, possibly because Canadians kicked the USA’s ass at least twice.
“You seem to have overlooked the highly ostentatious despatch of the Scots Fusiliers and Grenadier Guards to Canada in 1861; they would have hated that.”
I’m not sure I get it. They sent 11,500 troops, and prepared to train over the next year or two 25,000 canadians. 8 batteries of artillery eventually reinforced to 18.
“The other obvious point which comes to mind is that Britain had professional military forces who got lots of practise; one of the reasons there were, as you put it, ‘giant armies of fanatics who stood in place and killed each other’ was because they were bloody useless at fighting wars.”
That’s interesting! So, are you saying that both sides in the Civil War were so poorly trained through 1862 that a small but normally-trained British force could chew them up taking only minor casualties itself?
My natural thought is that a small army attacking along a widening front would have some problems. Weak on cavalry they would need to protect their lengthening supply lines. Facing Yankees who had an extensive railroad system…. But I’m no kind of military expert.
Also, it seems to me that any major British attack in 1862 would change the game. The Confederates were looking for victories, particularly trying to reach DC from the south, west, north or even east. They hoped to show the British they were worth supporting, and they hoped to get the Yankees tired of war. If the British attacked them, they would have to do something different. Similarly, if the British attacked the North while the South was weak and had given up taking DC, would the South attack the Yankees hard? When the British were announcing that they were attacking the North to end slavery? It makes sense to me that both sides might fight the British as hard as they could, at least until Britain stopped looking like a big threat.
Is there some deeper game that I’m missing?
Well, the Guards were very good at their jobs, viz, killing people, and if they weren’t having fun killing people then they also had fun teaching other people how to kill people in an efficient manner, hence training Canadians.
The British government chose to despatch 3,000 of them to Canada in the largest and fastest British ship then existing, which was undoubtedly a way of reminding the US that more could and would come their way if the British Government chose.
One of the objections to this raised in Parliament was the concern that since ‘every trained soldier was worth almost his weight in gold in the United States’, British soldiers might desert and become exceedingly well paid mercenaries; Palmerston laughed it off, though he did not dispute the valuation. Nobody did, because it was true.
I am not a military expert either but, if two forces cannot think of anything better than standing face to face and slog it out with massive casualties, I would be inclined to let them get on with it and head for the resources I wanted to control. You might bear in mind that lengthening supply lines are not a concern when you are moving through and towards supplies; living off the land is not something which would have bothered British troops…
“I am not a military expert either but, if two forces cannot think of anything better than standing face to face and slog it out with massive casualties, I would be inclined to let them get on with it and head for the resources I wanted to control.”
Yes, that makes sense. That is what the USA should have done when they entered WWI, while the Fusiliers and Guards etc were slogging it out.
I guess we might find out how the British could have conquered the North and South from some military expert. It doesn’t look real plausible to me but I don’t know enough to say it wouldn’t work.
Yep, fast forward half a century and you have the first war in recorded human history in which generals congratulated themselves on the high number of their own casualties, on the grounds that they were weeding out the unfit within their own ranks. Social Darwinism has killed more people than any other ideology…
Stevie, I looked a little more at the Canada question. First, here’s an argument from an amateur expert about british ironclads.
He claims british guns were better than US guns and could shoot right through US ironclad turrets. And he claims that Britain could have had 10 functioning seagoing ironclads by 1863. I can’t begin to say whether he’s right about anything.
It looks to me like 15,000 combat troops plus 40,000 militia was simply not enough to defend Canada against a credible threat. But it was enough to show the Union they couldn’t take Canada without a fight. The Union did not want war with Britain. They already lost some ships to Confederate commerce raiders; they would lose a lot to the British navy. If they got into a war with the British empire, what did they have to win? Canada, perhaps Jamaica, possibly Oregon. In the best case. But they couldn’t just win a war with Britain, the war would not be over until the British negotiated a peace. Say the USA actually took Canada, after that the British could keep doing things to hurt the USA (like commerce raiding and maybe blockade) but what would the USA do for an encore? Britain would not agree that the USA could keep Canada unless the USA lost little from continued war. Which was not the case.
Neither side wanted war, both sides wanted the other to know that war would be costly. They had various tensions which in fact they smoothed over without war.
I note that Canada had transport problems. When part of their little British expedition arrived late (after the Trent issue had been defused) they took off their uniforms and covered the insignia on their trunks and took US railroads part of the way rather than slog on foot through the Canadian snow.
They wanted to show the Union there were costs to taking Canada. But if they ran a mobile defense, falling back as needed, Union losses would be predictable and not that large. If the British forces attacked they would lose faster but more spectacularly. They could tear up a lot of stuff in the northern USA while they lost. It was potentially a better strategy than fighting a defensive war.
When each trained man was worth his weight in gold to them, they couldn’t afford to lose those men. But if it came to a war they would lose them. If instead they could persuade the Union that the gains would not be worth the costs, then they would not have to fight and lose. That worked.
Ummmm, both of you are failing to take into account the War of 1812 and the lessons learned from it.
Stevie, after the abdication of Neapolitan in April of 1814, Britain turn those blooded, trained, *veteran* troops to the war with the U.S. Britain also promised, as it did during the Revolutionary War, emancipation of all slaves. How did that work?
The Battle of New Orleans ended up being 8,000 trained British Army troops against less than 5,000 defenders. How did that end?
Britain had tried slave emancipation, supporting and supplying the various Native nations, etc., and came back with?
But all of that pales with the fact that during those critical years of the Civil War, Britain was suffering crop failures. When it comes right down to it, the North was exporting grain to Britain, while the South was exporting cotton to Britain….so which would the average citizen rather have? Food or new clothes?
Hmmmmm, is it so amazing that food won out?
Britain could NOT take advantage of the situation and invade the North at that time, or the grain shipments would stop. Britain was *depending* upon those grain shipments at that time, and the North was supplying 40% of the wheat used in Britain.
Britain could not invade the South either, as it was made clear that the South, despite its disloyalty, was still the U.S. Any invasion attempt would do two things:
1. British blockades would no longer be recognized by neutral countries if Britain, claiming neutrality, disrupted U.S. blockades of the South.
2. The aforementioned grain shipments would stop.
So no, even if it wanted to do so, Britain was not in any position to take advantage of the conflict.
France toyed with the idea of supporting the South, and thus gaining cotton imports, but decided it would be MUCH more lucrative to take advantage of the Civil War as a distraction, and attempt to take over Mexico while the U.S. was too busy to do anything about it.
It might have worked, too, if France hadn’t attempted to establish a monarchy in Mexico. If France tried to put any of the forms of semi-democracy currently in use in Europe, the U.S. might have decided to lick its wounds and concentrate on restoration instead. But they didn’t, and the U.S. could NOT abide a monarchy right on its border. So in answer, Lincoln took Union troops (and some southern ones) and marched them straight down to Mexico nearly as soon as a Union victory was affirmed. Then the U.S. said in its best “Postergeist” voice, “Get…..out…..”
And France said, “Oh, holy shit!” and did so.
As for the British elites who had hoped that the South would win, their fears became true. The North had manage to pass, against Southern opposition, the law that allowed nearly all adult, white males to vote, regardless of property ownership in 1850. When the North won the Civil War, any hope that that particular law would be repealed was lost. This gave British subjects the precedent and encouragement to demand the same rights for themselves, and so the suffrage reform of 1867 gave voice to British laborers.
~smiles~ So one can’t say that the U.S. Civil War did NOTHING good for Britain, although I would bet that the aristocracy might still disagree. :)
“The Battle of New Orleans ended up being 8,000 trained British Army troops against less than 5,000 defenders. How did that end?”
8000 soldiers and sailors combined, with a divided leadership. Poorly led. I’m not clear on their objective. If they could burn New Orleans that would hurt the USA. If they could hold New Orleans then they would control the mouth of the Mississippi, and maybe parley that into control of the whole Louisiana territory. Or maybe it was more that they were just there, and being in the gulf and at war they were obligated to attack something. They felt they could not bypass the US troops. They were not used to Louisiana mud and their attempt to flank them failed. They repeatedly waited for the US troops to build defenses, and excellent troops attacking poor ones will do worst when the latter can shoot from behind walls. That battle didn’t make them look good but it probably wasn’t a precedent.
“Britain was *depending* upon those grain shipments at that time, and the North was supplying 40% of the wheat used in Britain.”
The Union supplied 40% of British wheat imports, but imports were only 30% of British wheat used. Still, 12% is vitally important.
If it had come to a war, could the British bring themselves to allow US wheat imports anyway? The British needed the wheat, the USA needed the money. They didn’t absolutely have to cut off trade just because they were at war. On the other hand, the Confederacy had officially cut off cotton exports to europe on general principle, out of stupidity, without being at war with anybody in europe. There was no guarantee the Union would allow wheat exports. They could let the wheat rot in the fields if they wanted to. But the important thing was that neither the Union nor the British government wanted to fight. And they managed not to blunder into war by accident.
“British blockades would no longer be recognized by neutral countries if Britain, claiming neutrality, disrupted U.S. blockades of the South.”
That was a worry, but it didn’t have to be a big deal. The British occasionally blockaded other nations because they controlled the oceans and they could do so. Neutral nations recognized the British right to do that because there was nothing they could do about it — the british controlled the oceans. If the world saw the British as hypocrites, if they saw that Britain claimed the right to blockade anybody they wanted but then refused to let the Union blockade anybody *they* wanted, what would they do different? There wasn’t much they could do, except talk.
Stevie suggests that the British could have conquered both the North and the South and restored them to the empire. I doubt the tactics. It would be hard to control a great big slave army without having a great big British army beside them. At the time everybody doubted the result of a successful slave revolt. Would the slaves try to kill all the whites? Nobody knew, except for the evidence from small unsuccessful slave revolts. Meanwhile, the North could easily field a 2 million man army and provide them with lots of supplies. The total canadian population was around 3 million (including New Brunswick etc, places which were not then canada). Perhaps some special battle tactics would let a much smaller army take over the USA? I don’t see how that would work. The whole idea looks very very risky to me.
But I don’t think the British wanted to restore the USA to the empire, for the same reasons that the Canadians did not want to join the USA. Basicly, the USA looked like a bunch of crazy fanatics. You don’t want them to rule you. You don’t want to rule them. Best if they ignore you while they kill each other.
This is the point where it is customary to point out that the Government of Britain didn’t give a toss about trifling details like a spot of malnutrition in the lower classes; you have to understand that democracy, in any way that you understand it, did not exist in Britain.
A few years earlier hundreds of thousands of people had died of malnutrition, and hundreds of thousands of people had died of epidemic diseases as a result of that malnutrition, in Ireland whilst Ireland carried on exporting food to England. Ireland was part of the United Kingdom; a million people died. Lord John Russell was the Whig prime minister who presided over those deaths.
What the lower classes wanted was irrelevant, which is why Britain did not declare war as a result of the Trent affair; there was widespread support for war simply because it was thought to be an insult to the country. It was Prince Albert who inserted the loophole in the document drafted by Lord John Russell that Lincoln exploited to avoid war, not the lower classes who, on the whole, were even more jingoistic than the upper classes.
By the time of the Irish famine England was the richest country in the world; industrialisation had generated wealth, as well as the ability to remove wealth from others, on a scale that was unprecedented in history. That wealth continued to grow, and the armed forces were a long, long way from Wellington’s Infamous Army.
So, whenever you find yourself analysing events by reference to what anyone other than the ruling class might have wanted, I recommend that you just repeat ‘one million dead’ to yourself until it goes away…
“So, whenever you find yourself analysing events by reference to what anyone other than the ruling class might have wanted, I recommend that you just repeat ‘one million dead’ to yourself until it goes away…”
And yet, as CailinG pointed out, in 1867 they gave the vote to laborers. They were starting to care what those people thought. Marx was preaching revolution. Not many laboring class people listened, but they might start listening at any time.
There were also people like Galton arguing that the poor needed to have bad sanitation because they were both prolific and genetically inferior, and without epidemic disease to kill off the weakest of them they would multiply and swamp out the good genes. But somehow there weren’t a lot of politicians repeating Galton’s claims in public….
Stevie, I agree that the aristocracy of England didn’t much care for the predicaments or nutrition of the poor.
However, they DID care about nutrition to themselves and, mostly, the artisan classes upon which they depended upon for their goods. They also cared about their horses.
France, from whom they had imported a lot of their grain, was in the same predicament they were in due to crop losses and were not willing to export much that was needed by their own people.
Yes, a million people died during the Great Irish Famine….but the government DID provide some relief efforts, and 734,000 people were employed by the State, as well as fed through other relief works from 1845-47. Britain also had Poor Laws and Poor Law Unions, in which the impoverished could apply for relief. (Which, typically, were ahead of the U.S., which had the motto of “Fuck em, there are 100 more just like ’em in the harbor awaiting immigration.
But even in that, the Irish Famine served British interests. The mass exodus and deaths settled the Irish countryside into the form most suitable for the capitalism that England *wanted*, so why should they do too much to stop that? On the other hand, England was *already* settled quite well into the capitalistic form that suited the aristocracy, and famine would disrupt that.
England didn’t want more food riots, or, may God forbid it, any more of an unsettled poor and working class than they already had. The French Revolution was still pretty clear and recent, and giving the masses all sorts of ideas that made the elite nervous. They did not want to add sparks to these barrels of gunpowder.
And besides, not all of the aristocracy were idiots. A good many of them understood the ideal so succinctly worded by the character Alan Shore to Denny Craig in the sit-com “Boston Legal”:
“Denny, if the poor don’t have any money, they will try to take *ours*.”
Amidst the oceans of ink which have been devoted to the 1867 Reform Act there are two relatively uncontroversial points; the first is that it was more or less accidental, and the second is that it resulted in greatly increased numbers of the very wealthy in the House of Commons.
Unsurprisingly the very wealthy members of the House of Commons were not exactly falling over themselves to better the circumstances of the not very wealthy…
It was more than 60 years on from the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution had changed Britain beyond recognition; nevertheless there were still massive disrupts between the essentially land owning aristocracy and the new capitalists who derived their wealth from industry.
Of course, there was some overlap between the two, and as the century went on there began to be intermarriage between the two groups, but there was no overarching identity of interest. For example, the 11th Duke of Hamilton ordered that a mine on the Isle of Arran be closed because ‘it spoiled the solemn grandeur of the scene’; his aesthetic sense may have been admirable but the people who lost their jobs probably disagreed.
During the 1860’s imported corn was around 24% of the total used, but a hefty chunk of that came from Imperial Russia; England had the money to pay for it because England was the richest country in the world. The US withholding grain was never a meaningful threat; as far as the ruling class was concerned people could emigrate if they didn’t want to starve.
The Poor Laws had been gutted in 1834; what people unfamiliar with British history tend not to realise is that pre-existing rights were taken away. The fear of the workhouse had become another tool in the arsenal of oppression, and the 1867 Reform Act ensured that the House of Commons was dominated by the wealthy, in much the same way that the US Senate is dominated by the wealthy.
All in all not exactly a Paradise on earth…
“All in all not exactly a Paradise on earth…”
~smiles~ Not ever thinking it was.
I was simply attempting to iterate the reasons WHY Britain was unable, at that time period, to take advantage of the Civil War and retake the colonies that they believed were theirs anyway. After all, they were QUITE happy to enter an agreement with France and Spain to take over Mexico, until they realized that they were not supposed to get a piece of it.
During the time period, Britain was not opposed to expanding everywhere ELSE. Many times with some really bloody conflicts, especially through Africa. So if, as you ascertain, Britain *could have* taken advantage of the U.S. Civil War and reclaimed the American Territories with their superior military power at any time they wished……why didn’t they?
It was not due to the benevolent charity of the aristocracy, of which you have rightly ascertained was a virtue that they did not possess. Therefore, there had to be real, * tangible* reasons why neither Britain nor France (or even Spain) decided to make a military move upon the new Nation.
All three of the major powers had reason to consider North America “theirs”. All three had had colonies here. All three were willing to band together to invade Mexico, taking advantage of the distraction, and at least co-operate with one another at first in that endeavor, and all of them were also willing to expand in other places in the world.
Yet none of them attempted to invade when it would seem that the time was ripe to do so. None of them officially recognized the Confederacy either. They did not do this out of their own, altruistic, feelings for the North. They did not do this because they did not covet North American holdings.
Which means that the North held SOME sort of power which these nations feared. And that power was……..what?
I cannot see that it was military. While the U.S. could stage one heck of a defensive war, it was not set up for a war of aggression past its own shores. And besides, there was no need for the U.S. to attempt expansion and control in Europe when it could still expand West, with only disease decimated indigenous tribes to fight.
It was not luxury trade, as the Confederacy had cut off cotton exports before seceding in the hopes of forcing military aid to their cause, on to find, to their dismay, that Europe had a stockpiled hoard of cotton cloth, and other avenues in which to achieve raw materials…and felt that they could wait out the “cotton siege”.
So, what was it? If it is, as you surmise, possible that Britain, or a combination of European countries, could have used the Civil War to stage a military take-over any time they wanted, then they would have. They didn’t. There has to be a reason for that.
I was fairly certain that the fact that all three of the major European Powers had *just happened* to have crop failures that coincided nicely with the situation was a pretty neat and tidy excuse, considering the North’s primary export was grain. However, you disagree with that assessment.
We agree that the elite in all of Europe held no altruistic motives for pretty much anyone. We agree it was a century of bloody expansion.
So, you tell me. What held Britain back?
When it comes to Britain that one is easy; Prince Albert.
It’s important to remember that the Crown still wielded considerable power; Prince Albert used it to give Lincoln his loophole, and Lincoln took it…
I dropped out of this because there’s so much confirmation bias at work when arguing what ifs–on my side, too, of course. But I’ll drop back in with this: Prince Albert died in 1861. Charles Francis Adams, no dummy, was concerned in 1862 that the British would intervene. The historians I’ve read agree that Antietam changed everything. Who would’ve thought cigars could be so important?
If I remember correctly, in the summer of 1862, Engels, the military expert of the two, thought there was a serious possibility that the Confederacy would succeed, but Marx, the political expert, disagreed. Perhaps a Confederate victory at Antietam wouldn’t have resulted in European recognition. But reality eventually trumps ideology, no matter how powerful the ideology. Even the US finally recognized the People’s Republic of China.
~sighs~ Very well, WHY did Prince Albert do that, when from the actions of Britain, he wasn’t against seizing other territories? If Prince Albert wielded such power, then he obviously wasn’t against the invasion of Mexico.
That is if the loophole was the ONLY thing that kept Britain from invading the U.S., which I do not yet concede. Still, you have given me a “how”, not a “why”.
The most likely answer to your ‘why’ is that he was dying.
To flesh it out somewhat:
Like Deana Troi I empathise with you, though obviously not enough to run to wearing her outfit, but I sense a certain desire on your part to fit the events into the epic grandeur of the sweeping tides of history, and so on and so forth.
I may well be wrong on that, but if I’m right then what you have perhaps failed to grasp is that the sweeping tides of history etc. is no longer the way in which historians do history, mainly because when they finally came to consider it they couldn’t actually find any sweeping tides in history, which was a tad embarrassing, so it was politely shunted off.
Albert exercised his power because he could; he was a highly intelligent and civilised man who had no desire to precipitate a world war inevitably resulting in vast numbers of casualties. After all, he was dying of typhoid which does tend to concentrate one’s mind wonderfully on the realities of death. He was at the sharp end, and until you’ve been at the sharp end you are fortunately free of the sort of decisions people at the sharp end have to make.
I appreciate that the sweeping tides of history are a great deal more romantic than the boring approach of trying to work out what actually happened, but that is what doing history actually is…
“If it is, as you surmise, possible that Britain, or a combination of European countries, could have used the Civil War to stage a military take-over any time they wanted, then they would have. They didn’t. There has to be a reason for that.”
I think there is an element of chaos in such things. You can look at something that seems to be such an obvious move that there is no reason they wouldn’t take it, and then they don’t take it. And sometimes just when you think there must be some reason they haven’t done it for the last 30 years so they aren’t going to, they do.
Nations do a lot of stuff at random and afterward you can come up with plausible-sounding reasons why they did them. We are so good at coming up with explanations for things that we tend to believe in our explanations even when in fact it is random.
No, there doesn’t have to be a reason. But I’m interested in plausible reasons too.
Stevie says it was Prince Albert, who let Lincoln wiggle out of a bind instead of going on to war. But Albert was soon dead, and there were a variety of other provocations that could have been used to start a war over. They could have even invented some real easy. But they did not. They let each opportunity for war dwindle away.
Here is one possibility. They had just won in china, 1856-1860. It took 17,000 troops and well over a hundred ships for a relatively short time, at the end. There was that dustup in Mexico. The british Raj in India dates from 1858. There was an Indian rebellion in 1857 and the British government decided the East India Company didn’t have what it took to run things, so the government was going to take on that job themselves.
If Britain got into a major war with the USA, it might take a million troops some years to win it. Maybe the british troops were so much better than US troops that it would only take half a million of them. Possibly only 250,000. They would presumably want to blockade US ports, which would tie up a big part of the navy. And after they won, they might need a big occupation force for a long time. What would happen in China and India and Africa while they were busy in the USA? While the British army and navy were busy, what would Russia do? France?
Taking the USA might simply be too big a project. Too big, too expensive, too slow, too slow to turn profitable. Assuming they even won. “Winning” would require they get control of the US landmass. The USA had little offensive strength and certainly couldn’t send armies to europe. So to get a result better than reasonable terms of trade and keeping Canada safe, Britain would have to control the USA the way they controlled India etc. A big project.
“To flesh it out somewhat:
Like Deana Troi I empathise with you, though obviously not enough to run to wearing her outfit, but I sense a certain desire on your part to fit the events into the epic grandeur of the sweeping tides of history, and so on and so forth.”
Whyever would you not wear that outfit? Come on! :D
I have less of a desire to fit events into a sweeping history than that I see things in patterns, and breaks in patterns disturb me in some fundamental way to the point that I want to dig out a reason WHY the pattern was broken that makes some sense, KWIM?
Okay, God-knows-how-many-hours-later, and after nose-deep immolation into histories I would not have otherwise read, some interesting, little known facts come to a head:
1. By the time that Prince Albert drafted that neat loophole which basically said, “Just deny that this was under orders, already!”, Steward had *already* sent a missive that stated “The idiot wasn’t acting under orders!” in the Trent affair. Both missives were sailing to their destinations at the same time.
2. You Brits had much better intelligence than we Yanks, which did a lot towards British public opinion. Lincoln had received word that there were nearly 100,000 troops amassing on the other side of the Canadian border, (when in fact, there wasn’t hardly 30,000) and sent out a call that amassed 485,000 troops nearly immediately to defend the border. Such numbers were *accurately* reported to Britain. U.S. over-estimated British forces massively and prepared accordingly, and Britain’s correct intelligence of those amassed forces nonplussed them.
3. Britain had a CLEARLY superior Navy……which would have wrecked havoc on U.S. vessels in blue water. It was, however, mostly deep drafted, and was completely unsuitable for close blockage of U.S. coastal waters, which were shallow, shoal-filled and had plenty of annoying canals and waterways to slip through, or engaging in shallow drafted U.S. ships in those same waters.
Which was why both countries breathed a heavy sigh of relief when they could say, “Oh, right then, carry on.”
Caliann: So, you and Stevie have passed well beyond the point where I’m able to keep up with the conversation, but I have to say, you have really impressed me with the amount of work you’ve put into this, and the level of your research. I’m not saying you’re right–I’m not following well enough to say–but in my life I have, more and more, come to admire anyone willing to do the work regardless of ideology, and you’ve done some serious work here.
Caliann, what Steve said. Also, if you’re not already aware of War Plan Red, you might find it interesting. (Uh, I’m not arguing that the situation in 1930 is particularly comparable to 1860. It’s just geekily fascinating when thinking about war and the Canadian border.)
“Lincoln had received word that there were nearly 100,000 troops amassing on the other side of the Canadian border, (when in fact, there wasn’t hardly 30,000) and sent out a call that amassed 485,000 troops nearly immediately to defend the border.”
I ran into that one. The Canadians and the British apparently made utterly unrealistic official plans independent of what they were actually doing.
The claim is this was *published* in mid-1862.
This one covers the British buildup after the Trent affair. The Canadians asked for supplies for 100,000 militia in addition to regular troops. The British agreed to send stands for 25,000 after the spring thaw.
“The campaign plan developed should war break out was highly flexible. If required, an invasion of the United States would be conducted using the two traditional routes, which were south through the Niagara peninsula and from Montreal via Champlain Lake. These forces would split the Northern States in half, and combined with those operations by the Confederate States and a Royal Navy blockade of the Atlantic ports, would likely result in a speedy victory. Otherwise, the plan was to defend the border against possible aggression by the North.”
At first sight this looks ludicrous. Far inferior numbers, and they split the attacking force? A small army to keep a big country split in half? But once they had strong Confederate allies, they could flexibly create a workable plan.
Nearly 7000 troops were sent to Quebec and Montreal, in case the USA attacked quickly. Not all of them made it across the stormy North Atlantic to Halifax, most of the 96th Regiment was forced back to England. A needed Canadian railroad was shut down for the winter; the usual alternative was to take a US railroad which they did not prefer. So they moved the men in small groups by sleigh over 300 miles in -20 degree weather. Also they had sleighs for their eighteen (18) artillery pieces. At night the troops and particularly the officers often stayed in private homes, something the US military was constitutionally forbidden to do. The group had no horses for any sort of transport, but would get them later in Canada.
There were only 70 casualties with 4 deaths, and only 11 cases of frostbite. Only 6 men deserted even though there were US army recruiters offering large bonuses.
If the US army had attacked that winter they would not have faced a strong military opposition. But the US army would probably not handle a Canadian winter well. And it was not a good time for them to handle a hostile occupation, either.
If I read it right, the regular army in Canada had no cavalry at all, but they did have 56 men whose job was to train militia cavalry.
“The North graciously offered the use of the Portland, Maine to Montreal railway link, which the British Authorities prudently declined. However, the Staff, which had sailed on a “lame duck” ship that took 29 days to reach Halifax vice the normal 12 or 13 (they did not reach Halifax until 5 January, 1862), made use of this offer. As they had to reach Canada quickly, they covered up their military baggage labels and took the next Cunard steamer to Boston and then the United States railway to Montreal.”
The irony is that Sewart had previously been regarded as hellbent on war with Britain, but I agree with your summation, and thank you for the workout; I have enjoyed it.
I shall leave you with one final thought.
The Union forces relied primarily on Indian sources of saltpetre for its ammunition, and Britain controlled India…
You are perfectly right to note that Albert was soon dead but Queen Victoria was very much alive; she had adored her husband and undoubtedly would have seen it as her duty to carry out his last wishes.
I think I would take your thesis that ‘stuff happens’ a little further; the desire to find patterns is a very powerful force in the human psyche, so much so that we will sometimes find them even if they aren’t there.
At one point it appeared certain to more or less everybody that Britain would go to war with the US; a short time later it appeared to be certain to more or less everybody that Britain would not go to war with the US.
If the people at the time could change their opinions so radically in such a short period it suggests that the school of history which looked for overarching patterns driving human behaviour was probably wrong; in reality ‘stuff happens’.
So, thank you for your insights; I now need to try to restore some books to the shelves, which is no easy task. For some reason books seem to expand to fill available space; obviously there must have been space in the first place since the books were there but it has disappeared, and my usual reserve, the floor, has also become somewhat overcrowded…
“The Union forces relied primarily on Indian sources of saltpetre for its ammunition, and Britain controlled India…”
But the South could not import much saltpeter because of the blockade, so they produced their own.
Virginia caves produced an estimated 500,000 pounds.
Large amounts were produced in Alabama and Tennessee, and some in Georgia. Local saltpeter was more expensive than the British versions, if you were not under embargo. Alabama gunpowder was higher quality than the Union varieties and a considerable amount was appropriated by the Union army after the war, but they would not pay to keep production going.
If the British had stopped selling to the North, I’m sure they could have made unlimited quantities of their own — given sufficient startup time. But it would have cost them more than the Indian saltpeter cost.
“….but I have to say, you have really impressed me with the amount of work you’ve put into this, and the level of your research. ”
~smooch~ Just remember that if you want to ask me something that you need research for on one of your books.:)
But in seriousness, what do I have to spend free time on besides learn things?
Will, you should see some of the scenarios and plans that we have for China nowadays. :)