3 Responses to The Battle Hymn of the Republic

  • Thank you for posting.

    Memorial Day brings childhood memories. As a boy scout in the early 1960’s, our troop would march in each Memorial Day parade. It was special. Most of our fathers had served in WWII. Many of their sons would see action in Vietnam.

    On Memorial Day, I remember all the young men that gave their last full measure of devotion, and never got to raise families, like I have. And, I especially prayerfully remember Bill, Dan, Dave, and Paul who marched with me in those parades and never came home from their war.

    Flag etiquette: Memorial Day morning the flag is displayed at half staff. It is slowly raised to full staff and slowly lowered to half, in honor of the fallen. After noon, the flag is repsectfully returned to full staff.

  • Thank you gentlemen.

General Lee and Guerrilla War

Friday, May 7, AD 2010

Hattip to commenter Dennis McCutcheon for giving me the idea for this post.  We Americans today view the Civil War as part of our history.  If different decisions had been made at the end of that conflict, the Civil War could still be part of our current reality.  Just before the surrender at Appomattox, General Porter Alexander, General Robert E. Lee’s chief of artillery, broached to Lee a proposal that the Army of Northern Virginia disband and carry out a guerrilla war against the Union occupiers.  Here history balanced on a knife edge.  If Lee had accepted the proposal, I have little doubt the stage would have been set for an unending war between the North and the South which would still be with us.  Douglas Southall Freeman, in his magisterial R. E. Lee, tells what happened next, based upon Alexander’s memoirs, Fighting for the Confederacy.

“Thereupon Alexander proposed, as an alternative to surrender, that the men take to the woods with their arms, under orders to report to governors of their respective states.

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9 Responses to General Lee and Guerrilla War

  • Probably the greatest general America has ever had.

  • Lee’s quintessential decency saved America from a horrible fate. We owe him more than we will ever be able to describe.

    Not so BTW, Charles Harness’ excellent sci-fi short story, “Quarks at Appomattox,” explores a related proposal from time travellers with an agenda.

  • Charles Harness’ excellent sci-fi short story, “Quarks at Appomattox,”

    Apologies for the off-topic snicker, but was this a sequel to “Bosons at Bull Run?” Personally, “Gluons at Gettysburg” was a pretty good yarn, too. (Sorry! Couldn’t resist.)

  • “Guns of the South” was also a good alternative-history book where South African Apartheiders went into the past to ensure a Confederate victory (by Harry Turtledove).

  • The night before the formal surrender, General Chamberlain had decided to salute the Army of Virginia. The decision “was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?”

    The next morning, on April 12, the salute was rendered.

    “When General Gordon came opposite of me, I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to ‘attention’…The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. As the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment of its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation…On our part, not a sound of trumpet more, nor the roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breathing-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead.”

    After the war, General Gordon would address Chamberlain as “one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army.”

    As other units passed Chamberlain, one Confederate said as he was delivering his flag, “boys, this is not the first time you have seen this flag. I have borne it in the front of battle on many victorious fields of battle and I had rather die than surrender it to you.” Chamberlain replied, “I admire your noble spirit, and only regret that I have not the authority to bid you keep your flag and carry it home as a precious heirloom.” One officer said to Chamberlain, “General, this is deeply humiliating; but I console myself with the thought that the whole country will rejoice at the day’s business. Another officer said, “You astound us by your honorable and generous conduct. I fear that we should not have done the same to you had the case been reversed.” A third officer went even farther by saying, “I went into that cause I meant it. We had our choice of weapons and of ground, and we have lost. Now [pointing to the Stars and Stripes] that is my flag, and I will prove myself as worthy as any of you.”

    However, most of the Confederates were too humiliated to be reversed so quickly. General Wise told Chamberlain, “You may forgive us but we won’t be forgiven. There is a rancor in hour hearts which you little dream of. We hate you, Sir…you go home, you take these fellows home. That’s what will end this war.”

    Chamberlain replied, “Don’t worry about the end of the war. We are going home pretty soon, but not till we see you home.”

    No matter how ill Chamberlain’s salute to the fallen South may have been received, it still remains one of the greatest acts of honor in the military history of the United States.

    References
    Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence.“Bayonet! Forward” My Civil War Reminiscences.
    Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1994.

    Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence. The Passing of the Armies: The Last Campaign of the
    Armies. Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1915.

    Dllard, Wallace M. Soul of the Lion; A Biography on General Joshua L. Chamberlain
    Gettysburg: Stan Clark Military books, 1960.
    __________________

  • When the War ended, Robert E. Lee was a man without a home and without citizenship.

    Before the War, Lee and his family lived at Arlington House, a mansion on top of a hill in Alexandria County, Virginia. The place is across the Potomac River from Washington. Mrs. Lee had inherited the place from her father, who was related to George and Martha Washington. Mrs. Lee’s father had put together the largest private collection of George Washington memorabilia at Arlington House.

    When Robert E. Lee joined the Confederate Army, he had to abandon Arlington House, which the Union Army soon took over. Yankee soldiers looted the house, not sparing some of the Washington memorabilia. The Union Army buried dead Yankee soldiers at the front yard, at the backyard, and all around the house. This was to ensure that Robert E. Lee and his family would never again live at Arlington House. Thus, the place became Arlington National Cemetery.

    After the War, Washington College needed a leader to take it through the rough postwar years. The college, which had received an endowment from George Washington, asked Robert E. Lee to be their next college president. Lee accepted, and served at the college for five years until his decease in 1870. Later, the college would adopt the name Washington and Lee University.

    Interestingly, both Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were residents of Lexington, Virginia at different times, Jackson as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute before the War, Lee as president of Washington College after the War.

    In the postwar years, Lee’s citizenship was under a cloud. He applied for amnesty, but the federal government sat on it. In 1975, Congress finally restored Lee’s citizenship.

  • To suggest that the nation’s future balanced “on a knife’s edge” during that moment of temptation by Alexander is to besmirch the noble name of Lee. Even the quoted recouting of the story exposes the blatant lie in the suggestion that Lee considered it seriously, even for a moment.

    You might as well sully the reputation of Washington (another famous Virginian) by saying he was giving serious thought to keeping the presidency as long as he could.

    What’s this facsination with dancing on the graves of the South’s warriors? You don’t really want to bring up the issue of relative goodness here. Though slavery was certainly horrible, you have to stretch the meaning of words and tarnish your reputation for truth to suggest that the federal government entered into the war to abolish slavery. So what end must have been declared to justify the means of 75,000 volunteers in the spring of 1861? Was it really emancipation? If that were true, would any have been able to argue that it was the only way?

    Those of you who actually say the word “indivisible” in the Pledge certainly see nothing wrong in completely destroying the consent of the governed that had existed in the repuiblic until that day.

    Now Obama merely takes it all to it’s natural conclusion. If southern consent was not required in 1861 under Lincoln, his 21st century political descendent cannot be blamed for deciding that no consent is required today.

  • Kevin, you took offense where none was intended. The entire post was in praise of Lee. Some Lost Cause enthusiasts are just as quick to take offense against purely imaginary insults as devotees of other forms of identity politics.

  • i have lived in a country with guerrilla war that has lasted a hundred years,it never ends! this kind of fight has no honour,which is a reflection of our times.Lee was a model to all men of how to act-charity, kindness and true courage.Never thinking of himself,always of others and the greater good.His foundation his faith.Godbless Lee Godbless the south!

We'll Fight For Uncle Sam

Saturday, February 27, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  We’ll Fight For Uncle Sam sung to the tune Whiskey in the Jar.  A nice tribute to the Irish volunteers who were a mainstay of the Union Army of the Potomac.  The song is also celebratory of George Brinton McClellan who led the Army of the Potomac in 1861-62.  Little Mac was a good organizer and he made sure his men were well fed and clothed.  He took care of his men and they were fond of him as a result.  Unfortunately, although not a bad strategist, he was a lousy battlefield commander.  During the battles of the Seven Days, though McClellan outnumbered the Confederates under Lee, he allowed Lee to take the initiative and force him back from Richmond.  At Antietam, in spite of enjoying better than two to one odds,  McClellan’s uncoordinated attacks blew a prime opportunity for the Army of the Potomac to destroy Lee’s army.  As a battlefield commander McClellan was worse than having no commander at all.

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2 Responses to We'll Fight For Uncle Sam

Riding a Raid

Saturday, January 30, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  Riding a Raid, sung by Bobby Horton, the man who has dedicated his life to bringing Civil War music to modern audiences.  Stuart and his cavalry troopers were the glamor boys of the Army of the Northern Virginia.  Twice they rode around the Army of the Potomac, and until 1863 they completely dominated the Union cavalry, although they were usually heavily outnumbered on the battlefield.  This song captures well the spirit of the cavaliers in grey.

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Glory

Monday, January 18, AD 2010

“Once let the Black man get upon his person the brass letters US, let him get an eagle on his button and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.”

               Frederick Douglass

Blacks after the Civil War would be shamefully denied equal rights for a century.  However, that sad fact does not detract in the slightest from the heroism of black troops fighting to preserve a nation that had given them little reason to love it.  The great lesson of the Civil War is that we are all Americans, all part of this experiment in self-government, and it is a lesson to be remembered on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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12 Responses to Glory

  • It is a very noble thing to risk your life for a great cause.

    Yet among all the means of fighting for justice, MLK demonstrated the redeemed form, living the call that John Paul II made in his encyclical Centesimus Annus: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence”.

    Many abolitionists believed in Christian non-violence (or ‘non-resistance’ as it was known then), including William Llyod Garrison. His is a fascinating and contradictory story, and reminds me somewhat of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

  • Garrison abandoned his pacifist views at the onset of the Civil War Nate, and whole-heartedly supported the Union war effort.

  • Blacks have fought in every war this country has ever been involved in going back to the Revolutionary War, but none was more poignant than the civil war which their very freedom from slavery was at stake. In his second inaugural address Lincoln suggested that the war may be a divine punishment for the national sin of slavery;

    “He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

    How ironic that there is still economic and moral slavery being imposed on them by a President who claims to be one of their own. This slavery has two forms; economic slavery via the “community organizing” through groups like ACORN to implement Cloward/Piven Strategy inspired by Saul Alinsky, designed to foster dependence on government welfare with the intent to bankrupt the system and impose socialism; moral slavery through his unbridled support of Planned Parenthood which targets minority communities.

    Both of these are using “his own people” towards his political ends, so the ends justify the means. In that regard he makes Machiavelli look like a monk.

  • From what I know, Garrison upheld his commitment to ‘non-restance’ even while supporting the war. His speech on John Brown is interesting:

    “A word upon the subject of Peace. I am a non-resistant—a believer in the inviolability of human life, under all circumstances; I, therefore, in the name of God, disarm John Brown, and every slave at the South. But I do not stop there; if I did, I should be a monster. I also disarm, in the name of God, every slaveholder and tyrant in the world. (Loud applause.) For wherever that principle is adopted, all fetters must instantly melt, and there can be no oppressed, and no oppressor, in the nature of things. How many agree with me in regard to the doctrine of the inviolability of human life? How many non-resistants are there here to-night? (A single voice—”I.”) There is one! (Laughter.) Well, then, you who are otherwise are not the men to point the finger at John Brown, and cry “traitor”—judging you by your own standard. (Applause.) Nevertheless, I am a non-resistant, and I not only desire, but have labored unremittingly to effect the peaceful abolition of slavery, by an appeal to the reason and conscience of the slaveholder; yet, as a peace man—an “ultra” peace man—I am prepared to say, “Success to every slave insurrection at the South, and in every slave country.” (Enthusiastic applause.) And I do not see how I compromise or stain my peace profession in making that declaration. Whenever there is a contest between the oppressed and the oppressor,—the weapons being equal between the parties, —God knows that my heart must be with the oppressed, and always against the oppressor. Therefore, whenever commenced, I cannot but wish success to all slave insurrections. (Loud applause.) I thank God when men who believe in the right and duty of wielding carnal weapons are so far advanced that they will take those weapons out of the scale of despotism, and throw them into the scale of freedom. It is an indication of progress, and a positive moral growth; it is one way to get up to the sublime platform of non-resistance; and it is God’s method of dealing retribution upon the head of the tyrant. Rather than see men wearing their chains in a cowardly and servile spirit, I would, as an advocate of peace, much rather see them breaking the head of the tyrant with their chains. Give me, as a non-resistant, Bunker Hill, and Lexington, and Concord, rather than the cowardice and servility of a Southern slave plantation.”

    (http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?documentprint=569)

  • “The Civil War forced Garrison to choose between his pacifist beliefs and emancipation. Placing freedom for the slave foremost, he supported Abraham Lincoln faithfully and in 1863 welcomed the Emancipation Proclamation as the fulfillment of all his hopes.”

    http://www.biography.com/articles/William-Lloyd-Garrison-9307251

  • The sheep are at the mercy of the wolves if they don’t have sheepdogs guarding them. Occasionally, a sheepdog turns out to be a wolf in disguise. That doesn’t negate the need for sheepdogs.

    One of my favorite movies of all times is “Glory.” I own it; tonight would be a good time to view it again.

  • The death of constitutional government: the federal government by force of arms imposing its policy will on reluctant states. The only reason it is not condemned as it should be is that the policy in question was a good one: abolition. The means to acheive it were horrible and permanently changed our nation from one of limited federal power to nearly limitless federal power.

    That being said, Glory is a fine movie and the story of blacks in the War of Southern Independence has not been yet fully told.

  • The Union was worth a war to preserve Tom, and I can think of at least two Presidents from the South, Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor, who would agree with me.

  • I find the notion of a war to compel the states and their citizens to remain in a “union” by conquest contrary to very notion of freedom, self-determination, and subsidiarity.

    Nevertheless, I recognize that there are at least some viable constitutional arguments for military conquest to keep people in a union they do want to be in (though I find them inadequate). But Lincoln’s attempt to alter the war into a crusade against slavery was another matter entirely, there being not one shred of arguable constitutional authority to support it, anymore than the federal government could invade Virginia today to force her to abolish the use of or trade in tobacco; or, to put a case dearer to the hearts of Catholics, invade Massachussets to compel that state to abolish abortion.

  • The Constitution was not a mere Confederation Tom. It created a new nation. A majority of the people of that nation wanted to preserve it rather than to see it rent asunder.

    Lincoln of course had the power as a war measure to emancipate slaves in territory in rebellion. The Thirteenth Amendment made the abolition of slavery part of the Constitution, and ratified Lincoln’s action.

    The ironic thing, one of many actually, about the Civil War, was that slavery would have endured in the South for years to come, but for the secession stampede after the 1860 election. By attempting to dissolve the Union to preserve slavery, the Confederacy wrote out the death warrant for the peculiar institution.

  • Donald, I think history has misread Garrison. His beliefs were more complex than a simple pacifist-warrior dichotomy.

  • Nate, you don’t get to support the bloodiest war in our nation’s history and still get to call yourself a pacifist. I would note however that Garrison did support the right of some of his sons to avoid service, because they did not wish to fight with “carnal weapons” as Garrison phrased it.

The Irish Brigade at Fredericksburg

Sunday, January 10, AD 2010

A moving video of the Irish Brigade at the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, based on the movie Gods and Generals.  It was criminal military malpractice for Burnside, perhaps the most incompetent general in the war, to assault the fortified Confederate positions, but his idiocy does not derogate in the slightest from the extreme heroism of the Union troops who suffered massive casualties while attempting to do the impossible.

The Irish Brigade was one of the units called upon that day to do the impossible.  One of the regiments in the Brigade was the  69th New York, the Fighting 69th as they would be designated by Robert E. Lee for their gallant charge at this battle, a unit faithful readers of this blog are quite familiar with.   This day their chaplain personally blessed each man in the regiment.  They called him Father Thomas Willett.  That was as close as they could get to pronouncing his actual name.

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Marse Robert

Friday, February 13, AD 2009

Some of our readers south of the Mason-Dixon line no doubt have perhaps felt left out in my many posts regarding Abraham Lincoln.  I am fully aware that great Americans fought on both sides of the Civil War, and one of the greatest of Americans, of his time or any time, was Robert E. Lee.

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8 Responses to Marse Robert

  • Don,

    As a Union loving Yankee, let me second your praise for Lee. It was a man (Lee) going up against boys for most of the war until Grant was finally given total command.

  • “He repeatedly expelled white students from Washington University, of which he was President after the war, who engaged in attacks on blacks.”

    Now of course Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. A beautiful town and campus. You can still see Lee’s office as it was on the day he died. A nice museum in the basement of the Chapel.

    Also located in Lexington is VMI where Stonewall Jackson taught prior to the War.

  • Lexington is worth a trip for any history buff. Also of note is that Sam Houston was born there. Just outside of town is Natural Bridge, once owned by Mr. Jefferson. The initials of George Washington can be seen carved into the rock of the Natural Bridge … grafitti from his youthful days as a surveyor of the Virginia wilderness.

  • Lee was a great man and a great general, and were it not for the depletion of good corps and brigade commanders by 1864, as well as the sheer weight of troop numbers, Lee would certainly have bested Grant, who if I remember right, as much as conceded the point. Grant’s genius lay in the observation that if he remained engaged continuously with Lee, constantly reinforced his troop levels, attrition would eventually force Lee back to Richmond and ultimately to surrender. Thus Grant was willing to suffer horrific casualty counts in the Overland campaign from Wilderness to Petersburg. He was vilified by the northern press as a butcher, but Lincoln loved him because he was not afraid to remain engaged with Lee’s army, something that many lesser federal generals never dared.

    In perfect hindsight, it’s almost too bad Lee was such a great commander, because by all rights, the North should have won the war as early as 1862, which would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

    One thing Lincoln deserves credit for is that he had a very good strategic military mind, all the more remarkable since he was not a professional soldier. He recognized the weaknesses of the Confederate military situation, but could not find agressive, smart generals to exploit those weaknesses, until Grant.

  • Hey, Tom and I agree on something regarding the Civil War. 🙂

    Seriously, Tom is exactly right on Grant’s genius. It’s amazing that it took, what, six Union commanders before there was one who realized, “Hey, we have a lot more guys than the other side.” Reading the history of the war is an exercise in frustration because you want to slap the Union generals upside the head for their complete inability and/or unwillingness to act.

  • Wonderful way to cap off the week, Don. Gen. Lee was truly a great American. Making the best of of an untenable situation in the southern states regarding the inhumanity of slavery. Conducting himself as a true Christian gentleman even in engineering battles. Continuing a life of service well into the winter of his years. Just as I marvel at the Revolutionary era- that world class giants like Washington, Franklin, Adams and Jefferson were active simultaneously- so how wonderful God gave Lincoln and Lee to our torn and abused nation during its most fundamental trauma. He has been better to us than we to Him. Or ourselves.

  • Henry Halleck, who was a pretty bad general himself, once told Sherman that it was “little better than murder” to give command to such men as Benjamin Butler, Nathaniel Banks, Franz Siegel, George McClellan, and Lewis Wallace. The Union had decent division and corp commanders in the east throughout the war, but the Army command level was truly pathetic until Grant arrived. McClellan wasn’t bad as a strategist, but as a battlefield commander, he was worse than having no one in command. Burnside deserved a place of dishonor on Halleck’s list. Pope was almost at Burnsides’ level of ineptness. Hooker, a good corp commander, not a bad strategist, but fell apart facing Lee. Meade lucked into a defensive victory at Gettysburg. His Mine Run campaign indictated how poorly he would have performed if Grant hadn’t come East to effectively make him a field chief of staff.

  • Marse Bob is a favourite of mine too. One of the highlights of a 1991 trip to North Carolina was a visit on the return home to Lexington, VA, home of Washington and Lee Univ. as well as VMI. My husband and I spent time at Stonewall Jackson’s house, then enjoyed a short walk to the University campus, down the road to VMI, then to the hall where the Lee Family crypt is located. The office of President of Washington University, which Lee occupied at the time of his death, is kept as it was during his term of office. My father was also an admirer of Gen. Lee, and I thought much of Dad while on the visit. An added treat was locating the grave of Traveller, Lee’s beloved horse, in the grounds adjacent to the Chapel. Marse Robert was the true Southern Gentleman; a worthy adversary and a loyal friend.

Battle Cries of Freedom

Saturday, February 7, AD 2009

Something for the weekend.  The Battle Cry of Freedom was a popular song North and South during the Civil War.  Of course, they sang different lyrics to the song.  The Union version was such a favorite among the Union troops, that President Lincoln, in a letter to George F. Root, the composer, wrote:  “You have done more than a hundred generals and a thousand  orators. If you could not shoulder a musket in defense of your country, you certainly have served her through your songs.”

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8 Responses to God, Lincoln and the Second Inaugural Address

  • Something for Mr. Obama to consider following his Abe-O-Rama inaugural. Note the somberness and sobriety, not to mention economy, of Mr. Lincoln’s address. Reminded me of nothing less than Dr. King’s final speech in Memphis, the night before his assassination. Trusting in God’s Will, proclaiming that it didn’t matter his fate, having ascended to the mountaintop. Still not sure that Mr. Obama approaches his office with the grave responsbility as these two great Americans. Too much of the air of Bill Clinton’s Party Presidency about him. We pray he will get far more serious.

  • Donald, I think you underrate this. This was not just the greatest inaugural address over, I believe this was the greatest political speech in American history.

  • “I believe this was the greatest political speech in American history”

    I’m not sure the Gettysburg Address doesn’t merit that honor. Or King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

  • I’ve always preferred this to the Gettysburg Address, though, really, it’s like choosing between prime rib and porterhouse.

  • Since we’re on the subject of great speeches in American history, I have to say that the Virginian in me is also somewhat partial to Mr. Henry’s speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond.

  • I intend to do a fisking of the Gettysburg address prior to February 12. As for Patrick Henry, I have always regarded him as the greatest American orator of the Eighteenth Century. People who heard Henry speak reported that the cold text of the speeches failed to give any indication of the enormous impact he had upon his listeners.

  • One hesitates to deprecate so [rhetorically] fine an address but there are a few flaws. Thus: “One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it”.

    While slavery was generally localized in the rebellious Southern states, there were slaves in the Union border states. And there were slaves in New England and the North. The last auction of slaves in New Jersey was held in 1846.

    As slavery persisted until the 1960s [v. Douglas Blackmon’s SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME], there is little to congratulate ourselves upon. Roger Taney has been vilified for the Dred Scott decision. But all he did was to point out the truth: blacks were not recognized as full U.S. citizens in no state.

    Samuel Johnson sneered at the DECLARATION: “Virginia slavers preaching equality”.

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Douglass on Lincoln

Monday, January 19, AD 2009

frederick-douglass

Part of my continuing series on Lincoln leading up to his 200th birthday.  I thought on the observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it would be appropriate to take a look at remarks about Lincoln made by the foremost black American of his day Frederick Douglass.  These were made on April 14, 1876, at the unveiling of the Freedmen’s Memorial to Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln Park in Washington DC  An analysis by me will follow the remarks.

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4 Responses to Douglass on Lincoln

  • I lived 3 blocks away from Lincoln Park in the late ’80’s-early ’90’s, walked our dog there every day, saw the Memorial a thousand times – and this is the first time I’ve come across Douglass’s fine address.

    Thank you for posting this, Donald (and also thank you for the book tips in the other thread.)

  • Thank you Donna. I have read quite a bit about Lincoln and I have always been surprised at how little has been written about the speech of Douglass. I think the speech has some interesting insights into Lincoln and also provides a response to modern day critics who attempt to downplay the importance of Lincoln in regard to emancipation. I also like the understanding that Douglass displays for the limitations imposed on a head of state in our republic by public opinion, something that critics of presidents frequently overlook.

  • Another interesting Douglas (one s) with regards to Lincoln is Stephen. Lifelong political opponents, I think Stephen Douglas provides a model for how opposition leaders should act in a time of war. It is truly a shame that he died so young and so soon after the war commenced.

  • Douglas, whatever else could be said about him, was a patriot.

Abraham Lincoln-A Tribute

Saturday, January 17, AD 2009

Something for the weekend.  As we approach the 200th birthday of the Great Emancipator on February 12, 2009, I intend to be submitting various posts regarding Lincoln.  The above tribute is to the tune of Ashokan Farewell, a modern composition now forever linked with the Civil War due to its use in Ken Burn’s Civil War.  I think Lincoln would have found the music moving.  He also would have found the use of his image howlingly funny.  Lincoln considered himself ugly, as did most of his contemporaries, and I can imagine him saying that although the tribute was well intended that it should focus instead on those he regarded as the true heroes of the war:  the common Union soldiers and sailors.

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51 Responses to Abraham Lincoln-A Tribute

  • Thanks Paul. Actually Lincoln didn’t think much of his first name either. A sure sign that someone didn’t know Lincoln was if he referred to him as “Abe” which Lincoln especially detested. His male friends, as was the custom among men of his time, referred to him as Lincoln if they were on close terms with him and Mr. Lincoln if they were not. Interestingly enough, Mary Todd Lincoln usually referred to him as “Mr. Lincoln” or Father. He invariably referred to her as Mother.

  • Thanks Donald. I’m going to enjoy these writeups, I’m sure. I was going to do something similar, but I’ll probably save it for the 12th. In preparation for the big day I’m re-reading Sandburg’s biography, a collection on Lincoln’s writings, and pretty much anything else I can get my hands on.

    Now how cool would it be if baby Zummo arrives on Lincoln’s 200th? I’m not calling him Abe if it’s a boy, though.

  • What of Thomas Di Lorenzo’s two books on Lincoln? Di Lorenzo argues that Lincoln’s underlying goals – despite his rhetoric – were those of a well-paid lawyer [there’s an oxymoron] defending business interests – particularly those of the railroads. He seems to make a good case.

  • Actually Di Lorenzo makes a terrible case.

    Here is one of many good critiques of his work that can be found on-line:

    http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.736/article_detail.asp

    Di Lorenzo is a polemicist and a rotten historian to put it bluntly.

  • A good site analyzing DiLorenzo’s Real Lincoln:

    http://hidhist.wordpress.com/lincoln/thomas-j-dilorenzos-the-real-lincoln-a-rebuttal/

    Lincoln is the most studied President in American history. Our wealth of knowledge about him is vast. DiLorenzo is a libertarian crank who is clearly unfamiliar with most of the scholarship on Lincoln, and uses him simply as a platform to expound his political beliefs. He can hold any political tenents he wishes, but his mangling of history is unforgivable, at least to someone like me who cherishes accurate history.

  • It’s amazing that every single person who has a negative view of Lincoln immediately cites DiLorenzo. You would think that if the case against Lincoln were stronger, his critics would be able to find someone else – anyone else – to cite as a critical source. I think Donald’s sources adequately explain why DiLorenzo is crap.

    To the people who keep using DiLorenzo as a sledgehammer, I would simply retort that I also have a real good book written by some dude named Dan Brown that has some interesting insight into Catholic history.

  • I read the Sandburg biography many years ago. Can anyone point me to an excellent recent one? There is an embarrassment of riches where Lincoln is concerned – so much has been written about him that it is difficult for an interested person who is not a Civil War buff to pick and choose among them.

    I am currently reading a book about another great president and war leader -“Washington’s Crossing” by David Hackett Fischer (I strongly recommend anything written by Fischer). The admiration I had already for Washington has increased tenfold.

  • Donna, the best one volume recent bio of Lincoln in my opinion is With Malice Toward None by Stephen B. Oates. I would also put in a plug for an oldie but a goodie, John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet, an epic poem on the Civil War that has been called the American Iliad, which has first rate sections on Lincoln that capture the man well. Shelby Foote’s three volume history on the Civil War also has excellent passages that bring Lincoln to life with a skill that only a master novelist like Foote could muster.

    As to the Father of our Country, he is the greatest man in secular history in my estimation. I think Freeman’s multivolume bio of him remains the best.

  • Im one of those guys whose opinion of Lincoln has taken major hits in the last few years. After all, we were all raised to believe he was by far the greatest of presidents! Yeah, I was a Ron Paul supporter… I guess that makes me a ‘crank’.

    The fact is Lincoln transformed what the Union meant. It went from a voluntary and free association between states, to a union kept together by the force and will of a centralized authority with its own interests.

    People love to quote Jefferson to brandish their love of liberty, but the fact is this is Lincoln’s land more than any president before or since him. He opened the door to using some mystical idea of “union” as the justification for an American brand of unquestionable executive power and disregard for our social contract – the Constitution.

    There were many possible outcomes to the tragic divisions between North and South. War and the damage it did to our culture and our liberty, did not have to be one of them.

    As to the comments about DiLorenzo and others less than thrilled with Lincoln – I find their analysis of the Lincoln Administration and its consequences to be much more intellectually robust and relevant to our current predicaments and political philosophies than the sentimental authority worship of Lincoln’s admirers.

    Even some of those admirers will admit that Lincoln was a dictator. They just think he was a ‘good dictator’. Its unfortunate that not enough people recognize (or even care) how contrary to the American conception of liberty that is.

    Lincoln is the patron saint of both modern political parties more so than FDR or Reagan, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

  • “Yeah, I was a Ron Paul supporter… I guess that makes me a ‘crank’.”

    No, but it does mean that you supported a crank.

    http://michellemalkin.com/2007/05/19/trutheriness-and-ron-paul/

    “It went from a voluntary and free association between states, to a union kept together by the force and will of a centralized authority with its own interests.”

    Untrue. Sentiment in favor of keeping the Union together by force long pre-dated Lincoln.

    “The Constitution… forms a government not a league… To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation.” President Andrew Jackson. During the Nullification Crisis of 1832 Jackson proclaimed that he would march into South Carolina with an army if it seceded and hang every secessionist he could get his hands on.

    In February of 1850 President Zachary Taylor at a stormy conference with Southern Leaders advised them that if they attempted to secede he would personally lead the army against them and hang every one of them taken in rebellion.

    Lincoln’s attitude towards secession was precisely the same as those two presidents from the South.

    “As to the comments about DiLorenzo and others less than thrilled with Lincoln – I find their analysis of the Lincoln Administration and its consequences to be much more intellectually robust and relevant to our current predicaments and political philosophies than the sentimental authority worship of Lincoln’s admirers.”

    Then you need to read more. Dilorenzo is bone ignorant about Lincoln, the events that led up to the Civil War and the Civil War. He is truly a blind guide.

    “War and the damage it did to our culture and our liberty, did not have to be one of them.”

    Sure it did if we were not to be a pack of squabbling mini-Republics, easy pickings for foreign aggressors. Thank God the Union army and navy prevented that from happening.

    “Even some of those admirers will admit that Lincoln was a dictator.”

    Name one. Lincoln was elected by popular vote twice, once in the midst of one of the greatest civil wars in history. It is nonsense to say that Lincoln was a dictator.

  • I sat in Barnes and Noble tonight reading one of DiLorenzo’s little pamphlets, and I actually felt bad for the guy. I guess he had a weekend to himself and he figured he’d write some kind of book about Lincoln, and ran out of material after about page ten, and then he had to start vamping. If I had attempted to write something as shoddy as that my advisor would have probably given up on me after the first draft.

    Listen, I am someone who is not exactly above writing negatively of American heroes. Thomas Jefferson is essentially the villain of my dissertation. But sometimes the consensus is right, and those who attempt revisionist history are wrong. And even if you are wrong, it would be nice to attempt something that actually had things like sources. You know, because then it wouldn’t make you out to look like some kind of joke.

  • “Untrue. Sentiment in favor of keeping the Union together by force long pre-dated Lincoln.”

    Sure it did. By people who admired and dreamed of grand central authority, but couldn’t bear to recognize its temptations towards tyranny- namely on the backs of those not politically connected or in the pockets of monied interests.

    The Constitution would not have been ratified had it been understood as Lincoln knew it. There’s a reason those Bill of Rights exist, and the south clearly understood itself to have a moral right to succeed if it so chose. The Constitution is silent on the issue. Its irrelevant what various people thought, because its right there in front of you in black and white. The Constitution was written in plain speak so that all could read it and understand. It does not require mystics in black robes or in white houses to tell us what it means.

    If you don’t like that, then change the document.

    “Even some of those admirers will admit that Lincoln was a dictator.”

    “Name one. Lincoln was elected by popular vote twice, once in the midst of one of the greatest civil wars in history. It is nonsense to say that Lincoln was a dictator.”

    James G. Randall I think referred to him as a ‘benevolent dictator’. Michael Lind I think goes as far to admit that Lincoln’s example in following the Constitution set a bad precedent.

    In terms of Lincoln’s popular election…errr. aren’t there all sorts of irregular voting stories, particularly in New York, where he only won by less than 1%? Oh, and its a little disingenuous to claim that his political victories were something to be proud of, considering half the United States no longer saw itself in the union all the while he’s invading and destroying said half.

    Love Lincoln and his use of power all you want, I just don’t think its wise to deny the reality and consequences of his decisions.

  • Ever wish you could go back and spell ‘succeed’ , ‘secede’? Dang it! 🙂

  • Secede is a cumbersome word Anthony. I continually have difficulty with it since my brain wishes to spell it seceed. The Civil War spellings were all over the map so I take some small comfort in that.

    “By people who admired and dreamed of grand central authority, but couldn’t bear to recognize its temptations towards tyranny- namely on the backs of those not politically connected or in the pockets of monied interests.”

    Andrew Jackson in favor of the monied interests? Please! The man who destroyed the National Bank? No Anthony what we had at that time was a simple difference of opinion between those who wished to preserve the Union and those who wished to break it up, those who understood that the United States was one nation and those who thought that it was merely a breakable alliance. The Constitution was silent on the issue, as was the Confederate Constitution ironically enough, and the great question was answered on the battlefields of the Civil War.

    As to the right of secession, this from James Madison in 1833 who had a bit of knowledge about the Constitution:

    “The conduct of S. Carolina has called forth not only the question of nullification, but the more formidable one of secession. It is asked whether a State by resuming the sovereign form in which it entered the Union, may not of right withdraw from it at will. As this is a simple question whether a State, more than an individual, has a right to violate its engagements, it would seem that it might be safely left to answer itself. But the countenance given to the claim shows that it cannot be so lightly dismissed. The natural feelings which laudably attach the people composing a State, to its authority and importance, are at present too much excited by the unnatural feelings, with which they have been inspired agst their brethren of other States, not to expose them, to the danger of being misled into erroneous views of the nature of the Union and the interest they have in it. One thing at least seems to be too clear to be questioned, that whilst a State remains within the Union it cannot withdraw its citizens from the operation of the Constitution & laws of the Union. In the event of an actual secession without the Consent of the Co States, the course to be pursued by these involves questions painful in the discussion of them. God grant that the menacing appearances, which obtruded it may not be followed by positive occurrences requiring the more painful task of deciding them?”

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/James_Madison,_Letter_to_William_Rives

    I also find this statement on secession by Robert E. Lee compelling:

    “Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of out Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for “perpetual union” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by a revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession, Anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and the other patriots of the Revolution.”

    Robert E. Lee, from a letter written to his son, January 23, 1861

    “In terms of Lincoln’s popular election…errr. aren’t there all sorts of irregular voting stories, particularly in New York, where he only won by less than 1%?”

    Actually in 1860 Lincoln won New York by over 50,000 votes out of some 640,000 and some odd cast:

    http://www.etymonline.com/cw/1860.htm

    In 1864 Lincoln won New York by 0.92% but even if New York and its 33 electoral votes had been won by McClellan it wouldn’t have made any difference. Only 117 electoral votes were needed to win. Even if the states of the Confederacy had been included and given to McClellan it wouldn’t have made any difference. Without New York Lincoln still would have had more than the 152 electoral votes needed to win if the Confederate states were included in the electoral totals.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1864

  • Donna, I forgot to mention in my earlier post Vindicating Lincoln, a superb new book that came out last year which does a superb job of defending Lincoln from his detractors.

    http://www.amazon.com/Vindicating-Lincoln-Defending-Politics-President/dp/0742559726/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232281887&sr=8-1

  • The flood of books about Lincoln continues unabated. Here are thumbnail reviews of just a few of the recent books published about the sixteenth president.

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6581809.html

  • The Constitution is silent on the issue. Its irrelevant what various people thought, because its right there in front of you in black and white. The Constitution was written in plain speak so that all could read it and understand. It does not require mystics in black robes or in white houses to tell us what it means.

    On the one hand the Constitution is silent on the issue of secession, on the other it’s plainly in favor of it? But it’s irrelevant anyway? Whuh?

    Donald’s citation on Madison is on the money. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, Madison was actually at the constitutional convention, and was one of the prime architects of the document. He completely opposed both secession and nullification, two tools trotted out at various times by both the north and south.

    A further problem with the confederate cause is that even if one admits the right of revolution, where exactly is the long train of abuses that would have justified it in the southern case. Every single development during the 1850s favored the south. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the harsher fugitive slave acts, and the Dred Scott decision all worked out in the South’s favor. I’m not even including the Lecompton Constitution in there, although I think you can throw that on the fire.

    The south seceded when something finally didn’t go there way, at that was the election of an anti-slavery Republican who nonetheless had no intention of interfering with slavery had the confederate states not seceded. Which is another problem with DiLorenzo’s theory. He spends a lot of time proving that Lincoln was not an abolitionist, which is one of the few things he gets right, but he ignores the fact that this actually hurts his case. If Lincoln had no intention of interfering with slavery – and he didn’t – why did the southern states so hastily secede. How can you prove a long train of abuses against a tyrant when he hasn’t even done anything to prove his tyranny?

  • Curious that so much scholarly opinion is given to rhetorical comments [“polemicist, rotten historian” etc etc].
    It does seem clear that Lincoln wished that “the Negro problem” would go away [to Liberia, or somewhere].
    Of greater interest, it seems to me, is the claim that he acted as a lawyer, chiefly in the interests of such capitalist enterprises as the railrods. And that he was for high tariffs to protect industrial companies.

    I am perplexed by the statement that he issued a warrant for the arrest of Roger Taney. I though warrants could only be issued by judges.

    And what of the complaints that he arrested some who opposed him, closed down newspapers, and the like.

    He seems not to have been upset by total war, such as that waged by Grant and Sherman.

  • Curious that so much scholarly opinion is given to rhetorical comments

    We’re merely noting the inadequacy of a couple of the “scholars” cited as experts on Lincoln’s supposed

    It does seem clear that Lincoln wished that “the Negro problem” would go away [to Liberia, or somewhere].

    This was an idea that he had thrown out there – and it was one tossed around by earlier American statesman – but one which he had abandoned well before he was assassinated. By the time the war was winding down, Lincoln was committed to granting civil rights to free slaves. In fact his last public speech made reference to this fact, and that just helped to further antagonize John Wilkes Booth. So yes, Lincoln once thought about sending freed slaves to Liberia, but no, this was not the policy he was pursuing at the conclusion of the war.

    I am perplexed by the statement that he issued a warrant for the arrest of Roger Taney.

    There is no evidence that Lincoln actually did this.

    And what of the complaints that he arrested some who opposed him, closed down newspapers, and the like.

    America was engaged in a civil war. Considering that fact, Lincoln was actually rather lax in prosecuting people for speaking out against the government. He tended to show leniency towards people brought up on such charges, but it is true that he suspended habeas corpus – and Congress later backed him up on this decision.

    He seems not to have been upset by total war, such as that waged by Grant and Sherman.

    The confederacy seemed not to have been upset about instigating a needless war based upon absolutely no justification. That Lincoln’s generals did everything in their power to bring the war to a close is to their credit, not discredit.

  • end of the first sentence above should read “supposed faults.”

  • “On the one hand the Constitution is silent on the issue of secession, on the other it’s plainly in favor of it? But it’s irrelevant anyway? Whuh?”

    If its silent the right can be understood to fall to the states via the 10th amendment. If the Constitution was permanently binding, don’t you think that would be a point the framers would insist upon being actually in the document? Or maybe creating an amendment about?

    Again, quoting the opinions of others, whether Lee or Madison or whomever does not change the fact that to this day the Constitution makes no statement for or against secession.

    Frankly it would seem to me the threat of secession should always be present as a hard check against an overstepping Federal government – which we now have in spades.

    Winning a war doesn’t settle the intellectual question, it just means you won a war. Might does not make right. The Southern states, despite their deep and obvious faults, did have a natural right to their own self determination, in the same way the United States did from Britain.

    Was it a rebellion/revolution? Yes, but I would reiterate that it did not have to turn so tragically violent.

    Had the south been allowed to peacefully secede, who knows what steps could have also been taken towards a peaceful reconciliation? Who knows what could have been done to peacefully abolish slavery? Or bring the south further into the industrial revolution? Or avoid the Spanish-American war?

    It might be pointless to consider these things past, but it ought to give us strong pause when considering the ever increasing amount of moral, political and financial issues that currently divide the nation. It certainly seems difficult to imagine these problems reaching genuine resolution in D.C.

    (Note to Don: my reference to monied interests was more with Hamilton’s intellectual children in mind. I’m aware of Jackson’s opposition to the bank, and agree with his ending the bank’s charter. I’d like to see the same happen to the Fed. Fat chance, though.)

  • “He seems not to have been upset by total war, such as that waged by Grant and Sherman.”

    Total war? There were no mass executions of the Southern population, no liquidation of the Southern leadership class. Crimes committed against Southerners such as rape or murder were rigorously prosecuted by the Union army, as the Union soldiers executed for those offenses could attest. Sherman’s “bummers” on the march to the sea did destroy private property and were guilty of a fair amount of looting, but I do not recall any Union commander demanding ransom of a city and then burning it when the ransom was not paid as Conderate commanders did to Chambersburg Pennsylvania on July 30, 1864. I also do not recall Union commanders detaining free blacks and selling them into slavery, something that Confederate armies did routinely when they encountered blacks in Union territory. I will not spend time to detail the many depredations of Quantrill’s Raiders. If someone is going to condemn the Union for waging Total War, there is a counter-argument as to the Confederates.

    Of course all of this is so beside the point. The big lesson for this nation from our bloody Civil War is that we are one nation. The Union soldier, the Confederate soldier, the enslaved black field hand: all one nation. When I read Civil War history I read it as the history of my nation and my fellow Americans, whether I am reading about the Union, the Confederacy or the enslaved blacks. We paid a terrible price to learn the great truth that we are one people, and it should never be forgotten.

  • If its silent the right can be understood to fall to the states via the 10th amendment.

    Complete and utter balderdash.

    We have to consider the context of the Constitution. It was established in order to strengthen the federal government (a fact often under-appreciated by conservatives). The Framers were vexed by the complete inability of the Articles of Confederation to achieve much of anything. The new Constitution was designed to give the federal government greater powers – though also to narrowly tailor said powers (a fact completely unappreciated by liberals). It would have made no sense to grant a right of secession given that context.

    Again, quoting the opinions of others, whether Lee or Madison or whomever does not change the fact that to this day the Constitution makes no statement for or against secession.

    So now the thoughts of the people who actually framed the document are irrelevant?

    Winning a war doesn’t settle the intellectual question, it just means you won a war. Might does not make right.

    No, but having the Constitution on your side does. Again, you provided absolutely no justification for the confederacy’s rebellion – no long train of abuses that justified secession. What exactly would have been the grand compromise that would have kept the south in the Union absent the war? Considering that the Confederate states largely seceded before Lincoln even took office, I’m not exactly sure what he was supposed to have done, other than not take office. Considering the fact that southern Democrats split off from the main party after Douglas was nominated in 1860, I’m not exactly sure who they would have accepted.

    So pardon me if thinking that not liking the results of a single presidential election are not sufficient justification for secession. Otherwise, I guess Texas and several sister states can start making their exits from the Union right now.

  • “If its silent the right can be understood to fall to the states via the 10th amendment.”

    No, the right would have to exist in the first place for it to come under the 10th amendment. The 10th amendment cannot be used to create a right to secede ex nihilo. Every part of the constitution presumes that it will be a perpetual charter. Article I section 10 has this striking provision: “Section 10. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation;”. If a state could withdraw from the Union why have them specifically banned from entering into any treaty, alliance or confederation? Section 10 further bans the states from ” enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.” Once again if the constitution presupposed a right to secession why ban the states from entering into compacts or agreements with other states? The Constitution has several such provisions which make no sense if a right to secede is presupposed. Of course this all comes down to the fundamental question of what happened when the Constition was adopted. Was a new nation created or was a mere temporary alliance entered into? This was the question decided by the Civil War.

  • This was the question decided by the Civil War.

    Okay, you’re explanation was much better than mine, but I just want you to clarify this sentence. Are you saying that the war settled what was a disputed question, or it just demonstrated what was basically an essential truth of our national existence?

  • Ugh, that’s your explanation. I hate doing that.

  • Both Cranky. The question was clearly disputed by a majority of whites in the seceding states at the time of the Civil War, although it is interesting how slender that majority was in certain states, for example Tennessee and Virginia. Once these states withdrew, or rather attempted to withdraw, from the Union, all the legal arguments in the world were not going to bring them back. That required a massive military effort and an appalling death toll. That the Union was willing to pay that price established that we had indeed created a nation under the Constitution and not a mere temporary alliance. In theory I think we had a nation prior to the Civil War, but the Civil War proved that we also had a nation in fact. If the Civil War had went the other way, the theory would have been tried and found wanting.

    I greatly appreciate your able assist in this thread, just as I also appreciate Anthony’s opposing view and that of Mr. Austin. It has been a lively, and civil, debate. Just what I like to see on this blog.

  • Ditto, Donald. I appreciate Anthony and others’ feedback. I love this stuff.

  • The 10th Amendment expressly gives rights not delegated to the United States to either the individual states, or the individual.

    Thats what it says, in plain speak. Its really that simple. End of story.

    So yes, it IS irrelevant what those framers thought beyond what actually ended up in the contract the states signed up for, particularly when you have a statement so unambiguous as the 10th amendment. Thoughts and opinions made after the fact are just that- thoughts and opinions.

    Under that understanding… would the south require grievances against the north? They certainly didn’t like the political winds the country was taking. And, like their Revolution-era counterparts, did have issue with the tariffs on cotton exports, pushing upwards the cost of goods. Did not the tariff’s place undue taxation upon the south to the benefit of the north’s political classes?

    Indeed while Lincoln was at first ambivalent on the issue of slavery, he was insistent on collecting tariffs.

    The south, like the 13 colonies, no longer desired to be dominated by the coercive central power of the United States. The north, conversely, would not have justification because they were attempting to IMPOSE their domination which by that point was officially rejected by the south. And thanks to ‘total war’ and their arbitrary conception of political ‘union’, impose their domination they did.

    I never said a compromise could have been reached – just a reconciliation. A peaceful separation would not have eliminated the undoubtedly close trade relationship would have had. Over time slavery in the south, like the rest of the world, would have been done away with; if not for moral reasons then for industrial ones. With these issues fading away over time, it would not have been surprising to see the two sides reunite willingly.

    The slaughter of the Civil War simply did not have to happen.

  • “If a state could withdraw from the Union why have them specifically banned from entering into any treaty, alliance or confederation? ”

    Was not one major reason for the federal government’s creation specifically for diplomatic relationships with foreign powers? What about that suddenly eliminates the right/possibility for a self-determined state to dissolve political union with the U.S. and then establish relationships with other nations?

    You’re making a presumption that is simply not answered in the text of the Constitution. The states willingly entered into a contract whose provisions delegated the job of foreign diplomacy to a central authority. Turning that into a backdoor way of negating an unmentioned right to secession makes no sense.

    The United States was, and ought to be, a perpetually voluntary union of willing states, not a geographical space with 50 meaningless borders chained together by force and coercion.

  • “The 10th Amendment expressly gives rights not delegated to the United States to either the individual states, or the individual.

    Thats what it says, in plain speak. Its really that simple. End of story.”

    The right to secede had to exist first Anthony. The 10th Amendment could not create such a right. It created no new rights. End of story.

    “Indeed while Lincoln was at first ambivalent on the issue of slavery, he was insistent on collecting tariffs.”

    Actually Anthony that is the most laughable part of DiLorenzo’s argument: that the war was fought so Lincoln could collect tariffs. Lincoln was in favor of compensated emancipation, something that the South rejected. Either compensated emancipation or the cost of the war far dwarfed the revenue received from the tariffs.

    ” The south, like the 13 colonies, no longer desired to be dominated by the coercive central power of the United States.”

    In other words they lost an election and they wanted to destroy the nation as a result. How long do you think it would have been, if the South had prevailed in the Civil War, before disgruntled states in the Confederacy would have sought a similar remedy when they were on the losing end of a hotly contested national election over some major question of the day? Once allow secession as a remedy, it will not be used only once. That no democracy or republic can long endure if portions may withdraw at will is self-evident.

    “Over time slavery in the south, like the rest of the world, would have been done away with; if not for moral reasons then for industrial ones.”

    Indeed? The Southern leadership showed no such inclination. Here is Alexander Stephens vice president of the Confederacy:

    “But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other —though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

    Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind—from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just—but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.”

    The idea that the South would have peacefully abolished slavery flies in the face of the statements of almost all of the leaders of the South at the time of the Civil War. The treatment of blacks as fifth class citizens in much of the South after reconstruction, a state of affairs that endured shamefully for almost a century, belies any inclination towards emancipation without outside interference.

    “The slaughter of the Civil War simply did not have to happen.”

    Yes if either the Union was to be preserved or the slaves were to be freed. A terrible price was paid to accomplish these goals, but it was well worth paying.

  • “The right to secede had to exist first Anthony. The 10th Amendment could not create such a right. It created no new rights. End of story.”

    Says who? You’re trying to say that an amendment specifically dealing with powers not mentioned in the Constitution must first have those powers mentioned in the Consitution? Wha-?

    The right to self determination (and logically, secession) does exist. It exists naturally. As natural as living, being a free human person and pursuing happiness. It would be contrary to any sincere belief in human liberty to require something as mediocre as a political entity to recognize something that simply is.

    “Actually Anthony that is the most laughable part of DiLorenzo’s argument: that the war was fought so Lincoln could collect tariffs. Lincoln was in favor of compensated emancipation, something that the South rejected. Either compensated emancipation or the cost of the war far dwarfed the revenue received from the tariffs.”

    Two points. One, is it wrong to consider the economic contributions to the conflict between north and south? Slavery was an immoral institution. It was also an economic one. Its not surprising that matters of tariffs and taxation would be of great concern both to the southern states and Lincoln’s central government.

    Regarding compensated emancipation. This certainly would have been a moral way out of the Civil War, especially considering other parts of the world did it. Heck, I’m all for it. But, how genuinely did Lincoln pursue this course? The idea only got as far as border states (like Delaware), and didn’t he toy with it around 1861-1862 when the war was a.) already in full swing and b.) going badly for the Union? Seems more like a tactic for war, than a grand vision. Plus, weren’t ex-slaves to be deported in the proposal? What a great ‘solution’ for all parties.

    “Room in South America for colonization, can be obtained cheaply, and in abundance; and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be so reluctant to go.”

    Lincoln’s words to the border states. Awesome.

    If Lincoln were the masterful leader we are supposed to believe he is, why did he not insist on this course of action and use his considerable political skills ( manipulating, etc.) to persuade?

    And yes, slavery in the south likely would have gone away in time, persistent racism on the part of the Confederate leadership (who I believe added slavery to their Constitution. See, nobody gets away scott-free). Why you ask? Because the rest of the entire world did it. Are we really to believe that there would have been zero pressure from other countries to do away with it? Zero pressure from their trading partners? Or that rising levels of production would have made it cheaper to simply not own slaves? That the south would have gloried in being the single abysmal slave-holding nation in the world? Or that, heaven forbid, the racism would have naturally subsided as opposed to the resentment generated by a humiliating military defeat?

    We’ll never know, because force was chosen. Emancipation cost over 600,000 American lives. What an undeniable horror that should never be glossed over by artful historical narratives.

  • “Says who? You’re trying to say that an amendment specifically dealing with powers not mentioned in the Constitution must first have those powers mentioned in the Consitution? Wha-?”

    No Anthony, what I am saying is that the 10th Amendment created no new rights by its very text. It was a statement that the states and the people retained the rights they had unless delegated to Congress. You are attempting to bootstrap this into a creation of a right of secession which it did not. The 10th Amendment presents an additional obstacle to you. If the people had a right to secession, which people? The people of the state or states attempting to secede, or to all of the American people to say yay or nay to secession? If to the states, each individual state or to all the states of the Union to say yay or nay to secession?

    “The right to self determination (and logically, secession) does exist. It exists naturally.”

    Completely untrue as any study of human history will establish beyond question. There is nothing natural about free institutions. They have been established at great cost in human blood and are maintained in the same coin. Your belief would lead to chaos in any free state after any hotly contested election where great issues are at stake. Actually taken to its logical extreme it is the philosophy of the head cases who occasionally show up in court and announce they have seceded from the Union and are not subject to “mere code law”.

    “Why you ask? Because the rest of the entire world did it.”

    Actually the rest of the world did not. Slavery persisted in the Arab world until it was driven under ground by the European powers before and after World War I. In the Soviet Union, the Third Reich and Imperial Japan slavery was practised on an unprecedented scale and probably still would be but for the defeat of the Axis in World War II and the victory of the US in the Cold War. Slavery still exists under another name in Chinese labor camps where the inmates are state slaves in all but name. Slavery is an institution that existed throughout all of human history, and I would wager that the World will never see the complete end of it. The idea that there was anything inevitable about the end of slavery in a victorious Confederacy is merely wishful speculation on your part. The defeat of the Confederacy was a major nail in the coffin of slavery in the Western world. A Confederate victory might have given slavery a new lease on life. Fortunately we will never know.

  • “No Anthony, what I am saying is that the 10th Amendment created no new rights by its very text.”

    Don’t agree.

    Obviously the text does not specify or call out the ‘right’… but it does deal with things unsaid, and together with the 9th amendment acknowledges the existence of ‘other’ rights and powers that by their absence in the document are reserved for the states and the people. The state need only declare it, as the southern states did.

    I do believe that the principles of liberty upon which the revolution rested are indeed natural. That does not mean they are never fought for or that they come at no cost. If liberty is not man’s natural right or his natural state, then is tyranny and subjection? That to me is the actual distortion of our lives and societies.

    Your observation regarding chaos is interesting. I’m not convinced man needs the ‘state’; certainly not in the way Lincoln saw it – complete with monolithic entities, quasi-religious reverence and headed by some mysterious power that gets to interpret our rights and liberties as they see fit. It undercuts, corrupts and waters down any adherence to private property rights, sound money, etc.

    Without this form of ‘state’ I’m also not convinced ‘chaos’ would result as you say. Human beings are naturally organizing and naturally cooperative for each others benefit in all areas requisite for their prosperity. Why is it so difficult to allow these things to develop naturally without creating unproductive and parasitic bodies (central government) that try to organize our society according to its interests, sometimes hundreds if not thousands of miles away? So yeah, I’m a bit open-minded towards what’s sometimes referred to as anarcho-capitalsim. Do I think it will ever happen? Not really. People tend to talk about liberty, but rarely do they seem to believe it can work.

    “Actually the rest of the world did not.”

    Yes, yes forms of slavery exist even today. But within the 19th century both the British and Spanish empires (who exported it to the Americas) ended the practice. So we’re talking Argentina, Colombia, Chile, all of Central America, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, the French and Danish colonies, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. All peacefully.

    You’re in essence arguing that ending slavery in the United States (and by extension the western world) required war and all its horrors; that there was no smarter way to navigate the times which did not involve human slaughter. That seems more like emotional sentiment than reality to me.

    I simply don’t believe that the Civil War is some kind of divine tragic event that could not have been avoided. Instead, like nearly all wars it was the result of hubris, political blunders or just plain stupidity. I look at these events and have a difficult time finding things to admire.

  • ” The state need only declare it, as the southern states did.”

    Untrue Anthony. They would have the burden of proof in establishing that such a right existed.

    I find Lincoln’s arguments on the subject in his war address to Congress on July 4, 1861 compelling:

    “It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called “secession” or “rebellion.” The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They know their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is, that any State of the Union may, consistently with the national Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.

    With rebellion thus sugar coated, they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.

    This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency from the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred supremacy pertaining to a State — to each State of out Federal Union. Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution — no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence, and the new ones each came into the Union from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas; and even Texas in its temporary independence was never designated a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the old ones in and by the Declaration of Independence. Therein the “United Colonies” were declared to be “free and independent States;” but even then the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another or of the Union, but directly the contrary, as their mutual pledge and their mutual action before, at the time, and afterward, abundantly show. The express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of “State rights,” asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the “sovereignty” of the States, but the word even is not in the national Constitution, nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a “sovereignty” in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it “a political community without a political superior?” Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty; and even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union, by which act she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States and the laws and treaties of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution to be for her the supreme law of the land. The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and in fact it created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and in turn the Union threw off their old dependence for them and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union.”

    http://facweb.furman.edu/~benson/docs/lincoln.htm

    “I’m not convinced man needs the ’state’;”

    There we have a clear philosophical difference between us. I think overweening government is clearly a problem, but men, not being angels as the Founding Fathers dryly observed, need government. Representing hundreds of clients accused of felonies over the years, I know quite well what many men and women are capable of when left to their own devices. I actually have some sympathy for libertarian utopias which have been conjured up in science fiction I have read. I agree with you that their being realized outside of the pages of fiction are unlikely.

    “You’re in essence arguing that ending slavery in the United States (and by extension the western world) required war and all its horrors; that there was no smarter way to navigate the times which did not involve human slaughter.”

    There is always a smarter way Anthony and you have no quarrel with me on that score. However whether such a way was possible has to be determined by a close examination of the historical record and weighing the likelihood of what would have occurred if a different path were taken. I find the whole idea of counter-factual history fascinating, as long as we distinguish between the likely and the fanciful alternates of the historical path we actually trod.

    ” I look at these events and have a difficult time finding things to admire.”

    The Civil War was a great tragedy Anthony but I find much to admire in it. I admire the Unionists for fighting successfully to preserve the Union. I admire the Confederates for fighting valiantly against impossible odds for their homes and a way of life that was precious to them. I admire the slaves for their role in achieving the freedom that was their denied birthright as our fellow Americans. I admire the nation as a whole for going through such a terrible trial without giving birth to such animosities that there would still be constant turmoil, hatred and blood today. Many nations, perhaps most, that go through such a bloodletting as our country went through in the 1860s engender a legacy of hate that remains a permanent part of their national character. Through the grace of God and the good sense of many Americans, north and south, black and white, we did not.

  • “Untrue Anthony. They would have the burden of proof in establishing that such a right existed.”

    [Lincoln:] “Of course it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union.”

    ****

    And there lay the entire problem I have with the argument, which is entirely based on reading between the lines and toying with historical context, as opposed to simply reading the plain language of the document itself.

    The states declared their existence prior to the creation of the Union, then consented to the creation of the federal government.

    Additionally, the federal government itself treated the states as foreign entities until they consented to the Constitution. Both Rhode Island and North Carolina didn’t consent to the document until after Washington was installed in office!

    It would be unfair to each generation that came afterwards, to burden them not only with the document itself, but a host of un-ratified opinion and ‘spirit’ meant to be taken as true meaning. You only need look at what that same attitude has done to the Constitution in other areas.

    It terms of burden of proof, did the founders have to prove that they required air to breathe in order to have access to a right to life? The south determined that political independence was required to obtain access to their natural right of liberty, a right expressly and implicitly recognized by the founding documents.

    I agree that the question that dogged the union up to the Civil War is settled. But it was settled by force of might and will, not by force of argument or truth. While there is no detailed mechanism or procedure for secession, we still have the Constitution’s silence and the principles of liberty that brought about the revolution.

    ****

    “I actually have some sympathy for libertarian utopias which have been conjured up in science fiction I have read.”

    ****

    The thing is I think its more utopian to believe things are better, or ‘fixed’, under the shadow of a federal government. Would a stateless world give us a utopia? No, far from it. But it would allow us to create a moral one based upon contract. Like I said before, human beings naturally organize. Not having a state does not eliminate the creation of contracts and private organizations dedicated to people’s physical protection or settling disputes. The state has its own interests, namely increasing its power, influence and control of resources.

    This brings to mind the question of what a ‘more perfect union’ even means. Its been taken my most I think to mean a strengthening of the legal bonds between us. But whose to say stronger is ‘more perfect’, to say nothing of being moral? Why are not weaker bonds a step towards bettering our union? We should be answering these questions with a mind towards our principles of life, liberty and property/happiness, not in favor of our political desires or ambitions.

  • “as opposed to simply reading the plain language of the document itself.”

    The meaning of a document is usually plain Anthony to the person reading it. The problem is that the plain meaning of a document often tends to differ from person to person. The truth of course is that the Constitution, including the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, is utterly silent as to any right to secession, so reference is automatically made to outside sources to determine what this silence means in reference to secession.

    In regard to Lincoln his contention is that the states did not declare their independence separately but as a Union, as is clearly indicated in the Declaration of Independence. The Union existed from the inception of the Country and predated the Constitution. If the founders intended that a right to secede from the Union under the new Constitution, wouldn’t they have specified the right in the actual text?

    Lincoln’s statement is persuasive to me also on the strange desire on the part of secessionists to exalt one level of government, the states, over the Union. Why? Well obviously because they could not persuade a majority of the citizens of the Union that they, and the states they controlled, should be allowed to withdraw from the Union. This is especially strange since all but the 13 original colonies are clearly creatures of the Union, created by the Federal government pursuant to the powers granted by the Constitution. How these creatures of the Federal government had any right to secession has always been a weakness in the secessionist argument, and Lincoln put his finger on that weakness.

    “It would be unfair to each generation that came afterwards, to burden them not only with the document itself, but a host of un-ratified opinion and ’spirit’ meant to be taken as true meaning.”

    Sola Constitution Anthony works as poorly as Sola Scriptura. Both end in chaos because people simply do not agree on “the plain meaning of the text” when great issues are involved and/or the text itself is ambiguous, or does not clearly deal with an issue that arises.

    “No, far from it. But it would allow us to create a moral one based upon contract.”

    What happens when one party claims the contract is breached? Who would enforce the contract? What if a decision regarding a breach is rendered by a third party and the party held to be in breach refuses to be bound the decision? A regime of contracts always needs a governmental authority to enforce the terms of the contract.

    “Why are not weaker bonds a step towards bettering our union?”

    Articles of Confederation. Been there, done that. Didn’t work.

  • Anthony,

    “Why are not weaker bonds a step towards bettering our union?”

    To a limited extent, I think that may be the case. Many current problems stem from domination of the states by the federal government. This was significantly enhanced by the 17th amendment which took the power of controlling the senate away from the states, and the 16th amendment which gave the federal government enormous sources of revenue. This combination allowed the feds to invade state areas of authority without restriction by the senate. The states generally could opt out of these “offerings” but the citizens would still be taxed to provide for all of the other states. Restoring the balance of power to some extent would allow states to be diverse and give citizens options. If you don’t like the environment in your state, move to one which is more to your liking. At the same time, this mobility would force states to adopt the best practices or become depopulated.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • “The Union existed from the inception of the Country and predated the Constitution. If the founders intended that a right to secede from the Union under the new Constitution, wouldn’t they have specified the right in the actual text?”

    Conversely why did they not comment at all? Obviously the question would have arisen, and the threat of break-off was always present. If the concept of Union was to be understood as permanently binding, then why not give us SOME kind of starting place, up or down, on the matter? Why leave it to be inferred or left to court cases as opposed to a clarifying amendment?

    Lets also not forget that the phrase “United States” was originally understood as plural. Its only now, post-Civil War that a new common, singular understanding came into use.

    To say that the road to union only goes one way and not the other is still a valid question. All parts of the U.S., north and south have played with the idea over time. Would it not be easy to understand that the Constitution is silent because those entering the contract wanted that possible power reserved to their local governments?

    “Sola Constitution Anthony works as poorly as Sola Scriptura.”

    Hmmmm…but Scripture and the Constitution are not the same thing. Scripture, taken as a whole body is not limited to contracts (though it contains ‘covenants’) the Constitution on the other hand, is nothing more than a contract. It’s not built to make any kind of expression other than being a document of willing and ratified consent.

    “A regime of contracts always needs a governmental authority to enforce the terms of the contract.”

    How so? Thats a genuine question I have. What role does government play that cannot be played by private entity? Or even in a competitive market? Why can’t dispute-settling or other forms of ‘justice’ be handled entirely in private?

    And if we agreed that government is necessary, or simply preferred for this role… whose to say it must be federalized? Why not try to keep it as local as possible, even in the extreme? I would think the whole of the nation would benefit from conflicts, even grave ones, being as geographically contained as possible.

    “Articles of Confederation. Been there, done that. Didn’t work.”

    Well, I’m not going to defend the Articles, simply because of my own ignorance of them. Though I do occasionally come across people who like to discuss the Articles.

    To say it simply ‘didn’t work’ begs the philosophical question. Some saw it ‘not working’ as a good thing. Why not create a government that has immense difficulty taking action as a way to preserve liberty? The trend now seems to be more and more in favor of dictatorial executives complimented by a willing Congress with little to no responsibility.

  • The discussion has certainly wandered all over the place.
    That about whether the states preceded the union seems to me obvious from the fact that they were generally treated separately by Britain.
    It is certainly true that the Articles were not effective. The question is whether the Union [as created by the Constitution] was much better. [I note an occasional inclination to confuse the Declaration with the Constitution].
    Another question is simply whether the War was worth the result. The conditions of service in the Union army were not particularly democratic; O.W. Holmes could, in disgust, buy his way out of service. This, it seems to me, explains his cynical attitude towards law and the Constitution [It is what I say it is”].
    As to the status of blacks in the Union after the War, one aspect of the subject is covered in horrifying detail in SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME. One recalls that it was only Truman who integrated the armed forces by presidential fiat. There is much truth in the anecdote that after the Civil War, when one black [negro, colored] was asked why the blacks did not quickly join the Union army to gain freedom, he replied “Did you ever see two dogs fight over a bone? Did you ever see the bone fight?”.
    One aspect not touched upon is Lincoln’s work for the railroads. This is mentioned by Mr. DiLorenzo. Merely to call him names is not an adequate response.

  • “What role does government play that cannot be played by private entity? Or even in a competitive market? Why can’t dispute-settling or other forms of ‘justice’ be handled entirely in private?”

    Because a private entity cannot utilize force to enforce its judgments. If you are ever involved in a lawsuit against a party and obtain a judgment you will quickly learn how difficult it is to enforce the judgment even with the full power of government behind it. Of course this does not even touch on the necessity of government to enforce criminal law or to provide for a military so good libertarians may blog in safety.

    “It’s not built to make any kind of expression other than being a document of willing and ratified consent.”

    The Constitution must be interpreted as any other document is. The phrase “the document speaks for itself” is usually uttered in court by parties just before they go at it hammer and tongs to convince a judge that their interpretation of a passage in a document is the correct one.

    “Conversely why did they not comment at all?”
    Because they understood that no government will provide for its dissolution. The Constitution indicates how states may enter the Union. It speaks not a word about how a state may leave the Union. I find that compelling.

    “Some saw it ‘not working’ as a good thing.”

    Very few. Even most of the anti-federalists who opposed the Constitution admitted that the Articles produced a completely ineffectual federal government.

  • “That about whether the states preceded the union seems to me obvious from the fact that they were generally treated separately by Britain.”

    Colonies existed prior to the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration transformed them into states composing the United States of America. The Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War was negotiated between the United States and Great Britain not between Great Britain and the 13 individual states.

    “One aspect not touched upon is Lincoln’s work for the railroads.”

    Yes. The Illinois Central Railroad. In his most important railroad case, he won a property tax case for them in McLean County which is the county to the southwest of my home county here in Illinois. Lincoln had to sue the railroad in order to collect his fee. Lincoln in his legal career argued cases both for railroads and for people suing railroads. Contra Mr. DiLorenza, Mr. Lincoln’s railroad representation had no impact on his conduct of the Civil War other than perhaps sharpening his appreciation of the importance of railroads for conducting military operations.

    “O.W. Holmes could, in disgust, buy his way out of service.”

    What in the world are you talking about? In the Union, as in the Confederacy, rich men could avoid service by hiring substitutes, which I agree was bad policy. However Holmes served for three years as a combat officer, almost dying of his wounds at Antietam, rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and only went home after his three year term of enlistment expired in 1864. He did not buy his way out of the Army, and was always proud of his military service.

    “As to the status of blacks in the Union after the War, one aspect of the subject is covered in horrifying detail in SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME.”

    Blacks were treated shamefully after the Civil War, but they were infinitely better off as free men than as chattel, as I am sure you would agree if you had ever been a slave.

    Blacks did quickly join the Union army once they were allowed to. 186,000 served and not a one was conscripted: they were all volunteers. Except for limitations placed on the number of black troops to be enlisted, the Union could have raised many more.

  • “Because a private entity cannot utilize force to enforce its judgments.”

    Says who? I never said anything about getting rid of ‘force’. We have all sorts of private security forces that in essence protect property, investigate problems and enforce the policies of their employer. Your argument in essence is “Hey, enforcing justice is hard work!”. Well, I’m certainly not arguing with that!

    “Of course this does not even touch on the necessity of government to enforce criminal law or to provide for a military so good libertarians may blog in safety.”

    Aww now c’mon. Leaning libertarian doesn’t make one ‘weak’ or limp-wristed. The physical protection of liberty is essential to any free country. But, my issue is with the conduct of that protection. Today it easily slips into militarism pointed in the direction of political interests. Thats hardly a just use of force, to say nothing of how its deployment was intended to occur under the Constitution.

    To bring it back to Lincoln – he opened the door for all of this crap with this political maneuvering and war conduct. What we are dealing with now are the predictable consequences.

    You’re not making any compelling argument for Lincoln’s greatness, only that he made long-winded justifications for a political union superior to all other concerns.

  • You’re not making any compelling argument for Lincoln’s greatness,

    Thus far you have made no compelling arguments at all that Lincoln was a tyrant – which is your original supposition. You have failed in any of your comments to address the inadequacy of the confederacy’s cause, in particular the lack of a “long train of abuses” that would have justified rebellion. You have made many “long-winded” “arguments” about the ninth and tenth amendments, none of which have demonstrated that secession is in fact constitutional.

  • “We have all sorts of private security forces that in essence protect property, investigate problems and enforce the policies of their employer.”

    Nope they perform their functions under law. They would have no authority to perform anything against the will of anyone, as numerous successful lawsuits against many rent-a-cop outfits attest. The idea that they could take the place of government is risible.

    “The physical protection of liberty is essential to any free country.”

    And that requires government. Even the militia of the eighteenth century were a product of the civil authority. Libertarianism always breaks down when a few seconds thought is given to enforcement of criminal law and defense. Private associations can’t carry out those functions.

    “To bring it back to Lincoln – he opened the door for all of this crap with this political maneuvering and war conduct. ”

    Nope. The secessionists of the South panicked after losing one election and gambled that Lincoln and the rest of the Union would prefer to let them go rather than respond to their firing on Fort Sumter. They gambled poorly.

    “You’re not making any compelling argument for Lincoln’s greatness”

    Yes I am Anthony. The preservation of the Union and the ending of slavery were vastly important accomplishments for the United States and accomplished with great skill by Lincoln. That you do not agree diminishes not a whit the greatness of Abraham Lincoln.

  • “Thus far you have made no compelling arguments at all that Lincoln was a tyrant – which is your original supposition.”

    “The preservation of the Union and the ending of slavery were vastly important accomplishments for the United States and accomplished with great skill by Lincoln. ”

    Lincoln’s brand of tyranny lay in his insistence upon a superior union and a total disregard of the Constitution throughout the war. His allowing ‘total war’, his nationalization of the money supply, his efforts in censorship, suspension of habeas corpus and confiscation of property are closer to the characteristics of a tyrant than a defender of freedom. His own views on race and rhetorical willingness to retain the institution of slavery to preserve union, reveal him to be much more a product of his time than a man worthy of the ages. His disingenuous and arbitrary reading of the Constitution’s spirit as opposed to its letter reveal an agenda to preserve a political system rather human liberty. All of these would seem to me gashes against his presidency.

    “Yes I am Anthony.”

    Er… and where would that be? Against what truth? What philosophy or criteria are we using?

    You both Don, you seem to like central government. Of course you like Lincoln! If you, like myself and Mr. DiLorenzo, are deeply skeptical of central government’s virtues, then is it really surprising that we would look upon Lincoln with less than admiration?

    People tend to see greatness in figures who find ways to impose their will over others and actually get away with it. Its admiration and worship of power wrapped in poetry, bloated self righteousness and at times force of arms, nothing more. Liberty and independence be damned in the face of strength of force and authority.

    The near Lincoln-worship in the country says more about our view of power, victory and success than it does about our concern for freedom and liberty.

    We now live our lives with a dominant federal government feeding off the labor of its citizens and smaller states all thanks in one way or another to Lincoln’s actions. Sure, the union was preserved and slavery was finally, yet violently, abolished. But was that worth over half a million lives, massive economic set backs and a set of new precedents that completely reversed much of our understanding of national self? Was this indeed the moral means to a moral end?

    I’m unsure of the answer… but I know that Lincoln admirers, civil war buffs and lovers of power don’t hesitate to say yes, and I find that a bit unnerving on a purely human level. I guess our history does begin in 1865 as opposed to 1776.

    At this point I’m going to exit the debate, as I’ve been in enough internet flame wars to know they can go on perpetually. You’re more than welcome to the final word. I’ve enjoyed reading the disagreeing posts and do think both of you brought up many good and interesting points, even the ones I heartily disagree with.

    Perhaps we will find ourselves on the same side of a debate some other time. We are Catholic after all!

  • “Lincoln’s brand of tyranny lay in his insistence upon a superior union and a total disregard of the Constitution throughout the war.”
    That charge is often hurled by Lincoln detractors Anthony, but it simply isn’t true. Everything that Lincoln did he received Congressional authorization to do, either before of after the fact. The Thirteenth Amendment was passed abolishing slavery. The courts continued to function during his term and he was scrupulous in obeying their judgments. The people of course gave their verdict on Lincoln in 1864. Lincoln honored the Constitution and he was not going to allow the Union it oversaw to be destroyed. That he was successful is what truly irks most of his critics.

    ” you seem to like central government”

    Actually my political philosophy, that of a conservative republican, emphasizes the role of the states in our federal union. However, I do love the Union and I honor Mr. Lincoln for leading the successful fight to preserve it. Latter-day critics who paint Lincoln as some sort of early version of FDR are as wrong-headed as their historical analysis is poor. The expansion of the size of the federal government was purely a function of the war and faded away after the war was won and the Union preserved.

    “But was that worth over half a million lives, massive economic set backs and a set of new precedents that completely reversed much of our understanding of national self?”

    Worth half a million lives? Most certainly yes. The rest of your contentions I disagree with on a factual basis.

    “Perhaps we will find ourselves on the same side of a debate some other time.”

    Hope springs eternal Anthony. I have enjoyed our discussion.

  • You both Don, you seem to like central government.

    You obviously are not very perceptive if you think either Don or I are big proponents of centralized government. We’re just not fans of no government at all.

  • The discussion seems to be winding down, It has been a good discussion. I amnow clearer in my mind about Lincoln’s attitude to slavery and to blacks.

    That which will never be decided is the question of whether the Union was worth the effort, and whether Lincoln had the authority on his own bat to determine that the Union must be preserved at all costs. Did it not come from “Jimmy Polk’s war’ [against Mexico] and did it not lead to various military adventures in the Phillipines, Cuba, Hawaii, Venezuela, and again Mexico?

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General Lee's Greatest Victory

Wednesday, November 12, AD 2008

robert-e-lee-hosrseback

“It’s a warm spring Sunday at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. As the minister is about to present Holy Communion, a tall well-dressed black man sitting in the section reserved for African Americans unexpectedly advances to the communion rail; unexpectedly because this has never happened here before.

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10 Responses to General Lee's Greatest Victory

  • Thanks for bringing a tear to the eye of this old Texan/Virginian transplanted to Ohio.

  • My Dad was always an admirer of Robert E. Lee, and I agree that he was definitely a class act. as we would say. Some years ago, I visited the campus of Washington and Lee University in Virginia, and saw the Lee Family crypt, as well as the General’s office, which was left as it was during his tenure as president of the University. He was, in every sense of the word, a true Southern gentleman. Would that there were many more like him.

  • Donald,

    I remember reading this in Warren Carrol’s History of Christendom about General Lee. Just as Jay I became a bit emotional when I first read this.

    Thanks for posting this today in your column.

  • Beautiful story. As a native Virginian, I’ve always had a particular fondness for Robert E. Lee, although it seems to me that his decision to fight for the South probably led to a longer war. According to Wikipedia, he’s a descendant of St. Thomas More…had not heard that before.

  • A lovely story about one of Virginia’s finest. Lee was no supporter of slavery, and as I recall either never owned slaves or freed them early on.

  • I first read this in a book called Lee: The Last Years. I highly recommend reading this. Most histories end the story of Lee at Appomattox but this book starts there and gives the rest of the story of his life. Fascinating and admirable man.

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  • This is, indeed, a great story–one of my favorites about General Lee. I used this same anecdote in a recent lecture on “The Episcopal Church in North Carolina During the War Between the States.” However, I was a bit taken aback by your gratuitous criticism of President Obama. You had cited his election as proof of America’s racial progress. The sort of off-the-cuff comment–“a calamity for the unborn, and, I believe, for the nation”–detracted from the overall effect of your essay. Whether Obama is a great president or a terrible president has nothing to do with Robert E. Lee.

  • “The sort of off-the-cuff comment–”a calamity for the unborn, and, I believe, for the nation”–detracted from the overall effect of your essay. Whether Obama is a great president or a terrible president has nothing to do with Robert E. Lee.”

    I call ’em like I see ’em E.T., both in history and in politics.