Thoughts From An Alabama_Girl

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I came across a playful, but thoughtful comment this morning from one of Ta-Nahesi Coates’s readers, who goes by the name, Alabama_Girl.  Here is an excerpt from the comment:

The other day I went through the last books left on the shelves of my parents home and there was one about Stonewall Jackson. Now, as a child I loved that story. Shot by mistake, the brilliant soldier whose death might have turned things? I found it fascinating as a child, not yet delving into the cause of the battle or his beliefs. And Southerners know how to spin a tell [tale]. There’s a reason those live while tales of Grant languish. As an adult, I have to look at the cause he was fighting for, so was his death a sad thing, or thank you Baby Jesus that the dude died.

I love the way her story transitions from the child’s fascination with a key element of the Lost Cause narrative to a more mature reflection that acknowledges that the war was about something and that it mattered who was victorious.  Substitute any high level Confederate officer and you arrive at what I take to be her conclusion: “thank you Baby Jesus that the dude died.”  It’s not about celebrating any one individual’s death, but it is a simple acknowledgment that ‘death happens’ in war and that it matters who dies.  In the case of Jackson’s death it reflects the obvious point that the right side won the Civil War given the consequences of a Confederate victory.

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89 thoughts on “Thoughts From An Alabama_Girl

  1. Rob Baker

    It can be a sad but true realization though “Lost Cause” advocates and others will throw out certain officers like Jackson in the narrative of “defense of the homeland.” it is important to remember that despite that one individuals emotions and reasons for supporting the South, the underlying principle is that this war ultimately destroyed slavery in the U.S. due to the North winning.

    Good find Kevin.

    Reply
  2. dean

    The issue is, the misconception that the Civil War was about slavery…. it wasn’t, it was about a state’s right to choose, states rights to govern themselves. slavery would have been abolished with in a couple years of that time anyway without the war, without the racism and without the animosity.

    Reply
      1. English_Tory

        With all due respect Kevin, that article betokens someone who doesn’t understand economics – ‘wealth as generated through slavery’ is paradoxical. The idea that slavery would have been a perennial institution vouchsafed by nothing more than cultural symbolism is flawed reasoning; ultimately prosperity through wealth creation is the raison d’etre of capitalistic societies, and that is untenable in slave, rather than free, nations.

        Reply
          1. English_Tory

            Of course it would have been news; the totality of economic knowledge in the mid 19th century is clearly not parallel to economic understanding today.

            All those books show is how a slave society made use of slave labour – hardly surprising. Further to that, all they show is how contemporary men saw no contradiction between a slave society and future prosperity – again, hardly surprising.

            Reply
            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              Well then what is your evidence that slavery would have been phased out? Slaveholders generated huge amounts of wealth during the antebellum period and they did so in both rural and urban environments. The value of slaves continued to increase.

              None of this is really relevant to the point of the post, which is that Confederate defeat did lead to the end of slavery and that is something to celebrate. Simple point.

              Reply
              1. English_Tory

                How do you generate wealth Kevin? You think a man casting seed and harvesting is wealth creation? Well it isn’t, and this a simple point of economics. What is a slave? A capital asset – very good. I can buy a fixed asset, like a house – do I create wealth my purchasing of a property? Or do I hope for a marginal capital gain? So do capital gains on capital assets of slave-property constitute ‘wealth creation’? No it doesn’t.

                History is contingent, not ineluctable – the economic point is a priori; simply put, I’m not dealing with deductive science so I can’t ‘produce evidence that shows definitively slavery would have been phased out’, the only thing that can be said is: ‘given the axioms and principles involved, what would have been the most likely outcome etc..

                >>>None of this is really relevant to the point of the post, which is that Confederate defeat did lead to the end of slavery and that is something to celebrate.<<<

                Which is a post hoc fallacy.

                Reply
                1. Kevin Levin Post author

                  There is no fallacy just a simple descriptive statement that happens to be true. Thanks for the philosophical lesson and I especially appreciate the application of Kantian terminology. I appreciate the lesson in economic theory, but I will leave you to your armchair ruminations.

                  You have provided no evidence that slavery was even in the process of being phased out. All of the available evidence that is easily accessible suggests otherwise.

                  Reply
                  1. English_Tory

                    Could the war in 1862 as analysed in 1862 be said to have been contributory to the abolition of slavery? No it couldn’t. You’re suggesting, post hoc, that the entire conflict could be seen as the primary reason for its demise, but very few in the opening sequences of the conflict would have believed that.

                    I don’t care if it was ‘being phased out or not’, the question is whether or not it was tenable as an economic system, and the answer to that is an emphatic ‘no’. You’re erroneously linking a correlation in the marginal rise of the capital value of slaves to its preponderance as a viable economic system; the US has recently experienced a housing bubble where the value of the asset [property] was grossly inflated – i.e., it wasn’t reflective of its real value; it’s the exact same principle as it relates to another asset class: slaves.

                    But given that you allude to knowing all that much about economics, are you really in a position to challenge that claim?

                    Reply
                    1. Kevin Levin Post author

                      You’re suggesting, post hoc, that the entire conflict could be seen as the primary reason for its demise, but very few in the opening sequences of the conflict would have believed that.

                      Good point. I agree that contingency is always an important concept to keep in mind. If the war had ended in the spring/summer of 1862 it is likely that slavery would have remained intact given that Lincoln had yet to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Of course, it was issued and the war continued until 1865. As a result of Confederate defeat slavery ended. I still fail to see what is problematic about this claim.

                      I am not an economist so I admit to not being in a position to challenge your claim. You seem to think that the importance of slavery was entirely economic, but the institution also functioned as the foundation for southern society, including their notions of racial supremacy, their self-identification as Christians and their understanding of the very concept of freedom. That slavery generated wealth is but one piece of a much larger puzzle. I may not be a trained economist, but you haven’t demonstrated much of a grasp of the relevant historical studies on slavery.

                    2. English_Tory

                      Well it depends what the claim is: if you’re simply saying: ‘at the end of the conflict, 1865, the Federal Government passed the 13th amendment’ then that’s obviously a statement of fact. But the two events are independent – why? Because the conflict in 1861 & 1862 had a different set of politics in play in Washington; in other words, by suggesting that the entire War led to the 13th amendment I think you confuse the issue.

                      The Emancipation Proclamation was clearly a political tool – I don’t think anyone would deny that; so why was this particular political tool wielded? I’d say it was to mollify the European Powers, principally Britain and to a lesser extent France, so that’s something external to the conflict as it was being plaid on the battlefield / Richmond / Washington; in effect, its a piece of realpolitik that has no bearing on the ebb and flow of the conflict in its earlier years, or even in the events leading up to the war.

                      As for the last point – a Feudal Lord would have said the exact same thing, and yet the Manorial System didn’t extend all too long after the middle ages in much of northern Europe. And forgive me Kevin for not presenting an essay for your lofty inspection.

                    3. Kevin Levin Post author

                      I agree that the conflict evolved between 1861 and 1865 and that any number of outcomes were possible when we look through the lens of contingency, but once again I am simply stating the obvious: Confederate defeat meant the end of slavery in 1865. As an American who doesn’t believe in slavery I am pleased with this outcome. As a historian I appreciate that in 1860 such an event could not be predicted.

                      Your point about the EP is irrelevant to my point. Of course, it was political and of course, it was meant, in part to mollify European powers. It was also believed that it would help win the war.

                      I apologize for asking for a reference. Since I don’t have some magical connection to the past I like to make it clear as to which books have informed my view. From what I can tell, you have not read much about American slavery, but I appreciate the view from across the pond. :-)

                    4. English_Tory

                      >>Confederate defeat meant the end of slavery in 1865.<<

                      Which is wrong, as I've explained. The 13th Amendment meant the end of slavery, not the defeat of the Confederacy. The EP isn't irrelevant at all, as I explained, it was prompted by external events; it wasn't borne from the conflict itself.

                      I've read a lot about the war, so you're mistaken. You're a very haughty man, at least you're coming across as that; simply citing this or that book as an appeal to authority doesn't automatically validate your point: for example, citing two books on the development of southern railways somehow, in your mind, validates the view that slavery was a tenable economic system, and yet this can only be accepted if you're ignorant of some economic maxims. So why cite them in the first place? Just to bamboozle your readers?

                    5. Kevin Levin Post author

                      Confederate defeat and the 13th Amendment both took place in 1865. If it helps I am also happy that the allies defeated Nazi Germany in 1945. The right side won that war as well.

                      I am sorry that you feel defensive about being asked to share sources. No, I don’t believe it necessarily “validates” anything. Rather, I am simply sharing those studies that have informed my view. You seem to be content living in economic theory, which is fine, but history is about more than that.

                    6. English_Tory

                      This is a descriptive, not a normative point. What ended slavery? The surrender at Richmond or the 13th Amendment? The two are independent.

                      As I said before, I think you’re trying to bamboozle people as I made clear in my example. I’m not arguing over a subtle or finer point of descriptive history.

                    7. English_Tory

                      It’s no good saying ‘I’m pleased the Confederacy lost because it ended slavery’ because that isn’t true. For example, what started the War? Secession? Clearly not – rather the firing at Fort Sumter. So what ended slavery? The surrender at Richmond? Well of course not – it was the passing of the 13th Amendment; could that have ever been realised without the war or indeed the Confederacy? Yes, so your statement is flawed. In simple English, you’re implying that the South was a stumbling block to abolition – that’s clearly false.

                    8. Kevin Levin Post author

                      I guess it could have been realized without the fall of the Confederacy or even apart from a Civil War, but that seems unlikely. The fall of Richmond was part of a much larger story that culminated in the 13th Amendment and the end of slavery. That is all I am acknowledging.

                      Like I said, we seem to be talking past one another. Thanks again for stopping by.

                    9. English_Tory

                      How do you know? I’m not all that interested in counter-factual history and plotting an alternative narrative; but the only thing I’m saying is that your statement is flawed BECAUSE of the contingency of the events.

                    10. Kevin Levin Post author

                      I’ve already acknowledged the importance of contingency, but the post is simply a response to what, in fact, occurred.

                      I am happy that slavery no longer existed in the United States by the end of 1865. Looking back one can see that a war that included Confederate defeat helped to bring this about.

                    11. Rob Baker

                      Can I just point out that Contingency is a series of events that leads to the human phenomenon in question. Would the 13th have happened without the defeat of the CSA? Who knows? That is in fact Counter factual. The Confederacy lost, which created the contingency for the next development, the 13th. So on and so forth. Also, the EP did evolve from within. It was written by others before Lincoln issued it. Lincoln stole large portions of it from other people whose international intent did not exist.

                      You also cannot apply economic theory to history. You are teasing out factors in order to arrive at your destination. Social Sciences have that luxury. Though I cannot for the life of me figure out why. History has to take all things into account. The fact that the South was formed several million years ago is a contingency in and of itself which falls in line with the history of the South that leads up to the Civil War. We just pick an abstract of relevance from which to start from.

                      I know this thread is done but I just could not read and not say anything.

                    12. English_Tory

                      >>>Can I just point out that Contingency is a series of events that leads to the human phenomenon in question.<<<

                      Wrong, Rob, that's causality. Best of not said anything at all.

                    13. Ray O'Hara

                      Slavery was the cause of the sectional conflicts of the 1850s and the War.
                      The EP and 13th Amendments came into being to remove that threat to unity..
                      Yes the EP was a political document but it was much more than just an attempt to mollify Europe it was aimed at removing a CSA resource and casus belli.
                      The 13th Amendment just cleaned up the loose ends that the EP couldn’t address, those being slavery in some loyal States.

                    14. Bob Huddleston

                      “As for the last point – a Feudal Lord would have said the exact same thing, and yet the Manorial System didn’t extend all too long after the middle ages in much of northern Europe. And forgive me Kevin for not presenting an essay for your lofty inspection.”

                      And how many centuries did it take to convert the manorial system?

    1. Bob Huddleston

      I am always amazed — I guess I should not be! — by the failure of people like Dean to read the Confederate Constitution and see exactly how difficult it would have been to remove slavery from the CSA.

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      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        It’s one of those memes that people pick up on the way that is just accepted on faith. Can you imagine if you said such a thing to an American (north or south) in 1860? They would have laughed hysterically at you. I didn’t want to say anything more because the post doesn’t hinge in any way on that assertion. Again, we know that slavery died as a result of Confederate defeat.

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        1. Ray O'Hara

          Oddly Tory attacks your fact based pronouncements and then confidently asserts things that are pure conjecture. ie slavery was unviable and would have died out. , that slavery was tghe same as the housing bubble,etc, he offers no proof for these, he just claims they are truths.

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    2. Roger E Watson

      Hi Dean:

      Is it possible you’ve never been exposed to the actual secession documents written by the states themselves when they voted to secede? You might find them an interesting read. Of course, this would only be of interest to you if you wanted to learn the truth.

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      1. Ray O'Hara

        The claim that slavery would have died out eventual while possibly true presupposes the Union started the War with the aim of ending slavery.
        the Union accepted the war to preserve the Union.
        the Union would have been more than willing to wait out the South but secession and the establishment of the CSA was what forced the Union’s hand.

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    3. Michael

      Why were the slave states so adamant about abrogating the rights of other states in regard to slavery as laid out, for example, in the five Ultimatums? Or were these rights only applicable to the slave states? You say that slavery would have been abolished in a couple of years. How can that have been, when the demands of the Ultimatums had, as their concern, the spread of slavery into the territories?

      Reply
  3. Will Hickox

    Mort Kunstler is a supremely talented artist; his subjects always look exactly like the actors who portray them in movies.

    Reply
    1. Ray O'Hara

      funny how that seems to be.

      Kunstler and Gallon are two who depend on the Lost Cause, as those who adhere to it are the majority of their market.

      to be fair I saw an original Kunstler and it puts the prints to shame. a lot is lost in the conversion from painting to print.

      Reply
    2. Bob Huddleston

      Stonewall rivaled USG as a wearer of sloppy uniforms yet these artists portray him as Beau Brummel. I suppose no one would buy a picture of some dirty filthy guy wearign rags!

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      1. John Buchanan

        AS a former Infantry officer who spent a LOT of the time in the field in the South (FT Benning, Ft Stewart, FT Campbell, FT Knox, FT Hood, FT Jackson, FT Polk) I can tell you one point about the pose in the print…Jackson should be leanign forward and have more weight on his feet.

        ‘Cause I can guarantee that after a few days in the woods your butt hurts so bad you don’t want to sit on such a hard surface like a piece of wood like that!!!

        Thinking about it in sumer time in wool….I shudder!

        Reply
  4. Lyle Smith

    Yep, Stonewall was the enemy and he could be killed. I’m sure many a Federal soldier was thanking baby Jesus too.

    Reply
  5. PalmettoPatriot

    The pro-Empire propaganda war against the South continues.

    War is peace. Freedom is slavery. And ignorance is strength.

    Makes sense to me.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      The pro-Empire propaganda war against the South continues.

      Damn those pesky “Alabama girl” scalawags. :-)

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      1. PalmettoPatriot

        Scalawag indeed. Any Southerner who celebrates the Empire’s conquest and destruction of our land, homes, churches and communities, the subjugation of our people and the denial of our natural, God-given right of self-determination is a grade-A scalawag. A traitor.

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          1. PalmettoPatriot

            I made no “claim on the history of the South.” I pointed out how any Southerner who sides with the conquerors and oppressors of the South is a traitor. If a Pole sided with the German conquerors of his country he would be a traitor. If a Souix sided with the Federal conquerors of his people he would be a traitor. Likewise, when a Alabamian sides with the US conquerors and oppressors of Alabama she is a traitor.

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            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              Of course you are making a claim about the ownership of the past and/or what it means to properly interpret it. Your comments imply that all southerners even at the time believed that their state/region/country was conquered. I don’t know too many black Americans who today believe that the South was conquered. You are making normative claims that tell us nothing more than how you identify with the past.

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              1. PalmettoPatriot

                Of course my claim is normative. Your claims about the past the past are normative as well. And so are the claims of “Alamaba Girl.” Beyond stating that thus and such happened at a particular time on a particular day most of what we say about the past is normative.

                My comment did not imply that all Southerners believed the South was conquered. Not all Poles believed Poland was conquered by the Germans in WWII – some aided the Germans and thought it was for the good of Germany. Some Souix helped the US conquer and subjugate their people. Some Afghans help the US today subjugate their country and abuse their people. There are always traitors.

                As for what Black folks who you know believe, I can not speak to that because I do not know them.

                My statement stands. A Southerner who celebrates or approves of the Empire’s conquest and subjugation of our people and land is a traitor.

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                1. Kevin Levin Post author

                  My statement stands. A Southerner who celebrates or approves of the Empire’s conquest and subjugation of our people and land is a traitor.

                  I guess I just don’t understand what justifies such a claim. It seems to simplify the past and present in a way that is trivial, though I assume it’s not trivial. Like I said, other than telling us a bit about your own personal worldview I don’t see much at all that helps me to better understand how and why people identify with the past or the past itself.

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                2. Ray O'Hara

                  the South sent hundreds of combat units to fight for America, Tennessee alone sent more than 7 Union States did.
                  The Secessionists were a relatively small group who bamboozled many to fight against their own interests and who led them into defeat and ruin.
                  Support for the CSA was so thin that 100,000+ southerns fought in the Union Army

                  article on draft
                  http://www.civilwarhome.com/conscription.htm

                  a list of al regts
                  pay attention to the Union regts by state
                  http://www.civilwararchive.com/regim.htm

                  the truth is the odds of you having ancestors who willingly fought for America are as good as having ones that fought against it.

                  Treason against America was far from a universal trait in the South.

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        1. Rob Baker

          Any Southerner who celebrates the Empire’s conquest and destruction of our land, homes, churches and communities, the subjugation of our people and the denial of our natural, God-given right of self-determination is a grade-A scalawag. A traitor.

          I think she was celebrating the end of slavery there bud.

          Reply
          1. PalmettoPatriot

            Wrong. She wrote, “As an adult, I have to look at the cause he was fighting for, so was his death a sad thing, or thank you Baby Jesus that the dude died.”

            The cause that Jackson was fighting for was self-determination, the same cause that Washington, Jefferson and Henry fought for in the 1770s. Had the South wished to protect slavery it would have stayed in the Union. Lincoln promised not to touch slavery where it already existed. Leaving the once-voluntary Union put slavery at jeopardy with Lincoln (who violently opposed self-determination) at the helm in the North, knowing that an invasion was likely. Secession was the simple of act of Southerners exercising that “inalienable” right which the great Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the summer of 1776. Of course, the Union had long since turned its back on those principles, having chosen a course of protectionism and imperialism. Today we see where this course has led the no-longer-voluntary Union – to global imperialism.

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            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              Had the South wished to protect slavery it would have stayed in the Union. Lincoln promised not to touch slavery where it already existed.

              White southerners made it perfectly clear what drove them out of the Union between December 1860 and February 1861. You can read it in their secession documents. They believed that Lincoln and the Republicans constituted an immediate threat to slavery. You can read any number of scholarly studies, but I recommend vol 2 of William Freehling’s Road to Disunion as well as Charles Dew’s Apostles of Disunion, which tracks the commissioners sent from Deep South states to the Upper South to argue for secession. I agree that many white southerners believed that their actions were justified based on their reading of the Revolution, but that doesn’t tell us everything about what they did in 1860-61.

              Regardless of why Jackson chose to fight, what is indisputable is that the army functioned as an extension of a government pledged to protect slavery. In the end, they all fought for slavery.

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              1. PalmettoPatriot

                “Regardless of why Jackson chose to fight, what is indisputable is that the army functioned as an extension of a government pledged to protect slavery. In the end, they all fought for slavery.”

                I could easily make a similar statement about the no-longer-voluntary Union in the 1860s and today that regardless of why any particular Federal soldier chooses to fight, what is indisputable is that the army functions as an extension of a government pledged to conquest, expansionism and the exploitation of foreign resources. In the end, they all fight for imperialism.

                While I disagree with your statement about the South you would probably disagree with my statement about the Empire. Both are normative as you have pointed out. You spread your anti-Southern propaganda and I defend the South and spread propaganda against the Empire. This is what we do. We are support opposite causes. You hate the traditional South and support US imperialism while I as a Southerner love the traditional South and hate the Empire. I don’t wish to get into a p*ssing match with you. This is your site and you can promote your anti-Southern view of history here all you want. You can fill young Southerners’ heads full of mush and self-hatred at your school, sadly, with our tax money – at least as long as this awful system endures, which is probably not much longer, thankfully. Meanwhile, I will carry on with my defense of the traditional South and opposition to the Empire you love.

                I’ll refrain from further comments here on your site. My purpose was to point out how “Alabama Girl” is a traitor. That was all. I’ll leave now. Y’all can carry out with your South-bashing.

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                1. Kevin Levin Post author

                  Your understanding of the history of U.S. foreign policy is quite uninteresting. I am sure you do believe that my goal is “anti-Southern and in that regard you are not alone. At the same time I can just as easily refer you to just as many southerners who would disagree. That claim is about as interesting as your accusations against “Alabama Girl.” Good luck with the crusade.

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                  1. Harold Crews

                    Mr. Levin, whether foreigners live or die is ‘uninteresting’. That is about the most obscene thing I’ve ever heard. Are you truly indifferent to whether others live or die? You are truly a Yankee then if that is the case. Thank God that I am not. You condemn the Confederacy and her symbols and yet it is not the Confederacy or her symbols that have the deaths of tens of millions of innocents upon it. Nor did the Confederacy engage in human medical experimentation upon unknowing or unwilling subjects as the US has done. The Confederacy did not engage in ethnic cleansing, detention and genocide. The Confederacy did not engage in war crimes through the use of weapons of mass destruction including chemical and atomic/radiological weapons. Sir you truly have a twisted sense of right and wrong. I’d far rather have to answer for the evils of the Confederacy than the United States any day.

                    Reply
                    1. Kevin Levin Post author

                      Mr. Crews,

                      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am not sure I understand who you are referencing as a “foreigner.” That said, I am not indifferent at all to people dying, but as I stated in the post that is typically what happens during war. I also don’t remember stating that the Confederacy ever engaged in mass destruction or utilized atomic/radiological weapons. To be honest, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. Thanks anyway.

                      p.s. I do agree with you that the United States has not always behaved ethically/morally, which is why I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to ensure that our nation makes the right decisions.

                2. Ray O'Hara

                  Those who drove secession though Slavery was the cause.

                  Henry L. Benning, Georgia politician and future Confederate general, writing in the summer of 1849 to his fellow Georgian, Howell Cobb: “First then, it is apparent, horribly apparent, that the slavery question rides insolently over every other everywhere — in fact that is the only question which in the least affects the results of the elections.”

                  Cornerstone Speech

                  Savannah; Georgia, March 21, 1861

                  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.”
                  John B. Baldwin, Augusta County delegate to the Virginia Secession Convention, March 21, 1861: “I say, then, that viewed from that standpoint, there is but one single subject of complaint which Virginia has to make against the government under which we live; a complaint made by the whole South, and that is on the subject of African slavery….” [Journal of the Virginia Secession Convention, Vol. II, p. 139]
                  Baldwin again: “But, sir, the great cause of complaint now is the slavery question, and the questions growing out of it. If there is any other cause of complaint which has been influential in any quarter, to bring about the crisis which is now upon us; if any State or any people have made the troubles growing out of this question, a pretext for agitation instead of a cause of honest complaint, Virginia can have no sympathy whatever, in any such feeling, in any such policy, in any such attempt. It is the slavery question. Is it not so?…” [ibid, p. 140]

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                  1. English_Tory

                    Ray, the Cornerstone Speech isn’t as illuminating as so many people seem to think. If you understand the context and the preceding years, then a lot of the rhetoric can be qualified; to anyone who doesn’t understand the context or the preceding years, the language can seem bombastic, insipid & flawed. In short, I don’t really know why you’ve posted it.

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                    1. Kevin Levin Post author

                      It may not be entirely relevant to the post, but the speech is incredibly illuminating and dovetails with much of what was being said at that time as the government was being established. Stevens was very clear as to what the goal of the new Confederate government would be. Perhaps it just doesn’t fit into what you believe the Confederacy stood for.

                    2. English_Tory

                      It’s illuminating if the major actors and events are unknown to you; if, on the contrary, you’re fully appraised of the history, then the speech can be taken as nothing more than a repetition of anxieties that had been articulated many, many times before. However, what’s worse with the speech is that many of the points are unqualified and are an enigma unless your know the antecedent events; simply put, to the man in the room the nuances of the speech are obvious, to those studying post hoc, a clearer understanding of the immediate history is needed.

                      As for the claim that the speech doesn’t fit my own subjective whims of the Confederacy, then I have to protest over such a facile slur. Every event, every narrative in modern history that holds some cultural or political clout does have, whether you like it or not, an array of differing narratives. I take the speech with a pinch of salt, you embrace it because it satisfies your own prejudice.

                    3. Kevin Levin Post author

                      I agree entirely that the speech fits into “a repetition of anxieties that had been articulated many, many times before.” White southerners, especially those in the Deep South, were especially anxious over the election of Lincoln. Their decision to secede was a direct response, which they clearly stated. When it came time to convincing their neighbors in the Upper South they appealed directly to their fears of race wars and the possible end of slavery itself. I suggest you pick up a copy of Charles Dew’s Apostles of Disunion.

                    4. English_Tory

                      I’ve read it.

                      And I agree that the commissioners to the various Upper South conventions employed a hefty dose of political legerdemain – well, that’s politics.

                    5. Kevin Levin Post author

                      It’s more than just politics. Their speeches tell us quite a bit about their fears surrounding what they perceived as a direct threat to slavery. They also tell us quite a bit about why they wanted it preserved.

                    6. English_Tory

                      I’m talking about the commissioners, where verbosity and exaggeration were the order of the day.

                    7. Kevin Levin Post author

                      If you had bothered to read the book you would understand that the commissioners were not known for a radical stance before secession. In fact, they were chosen to travel to the Upper South precisely because they were viewed as moderates in comparison to the their “fire-eating” neighbors.

                    8. English_Tory

                      I have read the book – the consolidation of the Confederate government was through its more ‘moderate’ members; that isn’t an esoteric point. Kevin, are you suggesting that men of any political persuasion never detract from sober objectivity for the sake of political traction? What is it that I said? That the commissioners employed elaborate prose to sway the upper south conventions? Hardly a contentious point, is it.

                    9. Kevin Levin Post author

                      Of course that is not what I am suggesting, but you seem to be implying that their public pronouncements ought not to be taken at face value. I would suggest that much of what they expressed at this time does reflect how they viewed Lincoln and the North generally. White southerners were clearly worried about the future of slavery throughout the 1850s, but especially following John Brown’s failed raid and Lincoln’s election.

                    10. English_Tory

                      That’s not what I implied – I’m talking about the rhetoric employed by the commissioners; playing on fears and blurring the boundary between fact and fiction is what skilled politicians do: arguing that Republicans supported miscegenation or that Lincoln would seize their slave property – as was repeated in newspapers and by commissioners alike – was utilised to awake nascent ‘secession’ tendencies. The events of 58 to a sophisticated contemporary mind would have relegated any fear of rabid Lincolnites seizing property under the aegis of the Federal Government, but to the average man – especially with the backdrop of Browns aborted slave rebellion – such things were not beyond the realm of possibility. That’s all I’m saying – were there fears? Yes. Were the genuine? Yes, but do they bear any resemblance to ‘real’ threats? Not categorically, no.

                    11. Kevin Levin Post author

                      Thanks for the clarification. You make another good point. Of course, they played on fears and attempted to sway the emotions of their audience. I am not denying that. In fact, you are helping me to make my point, which is that we often act based on our fears. White southerners clearly did in the wake of Lincoln’s election.

              2. Corey Meyer

                Washington seems to have had a different take on that right of secession…

                From a letter to Hancock, 1783…

                “There are four things, which I humbly conceive are essential to the well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States, as an Independent Power–
                •1st An indissoluble Union of the States under one fœderal Head.

                •2dly A sacred regard to public Justice.

                •3dly The adoption of a proper Peace Establishment, and

                •4thly The prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among the People of the United States, which will induce them to forgit their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrafice their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.

                http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/constitution/1784/hancock.html

                These are the Pillars on which the glorious Fabrick of our Independency and National Character must be supported–Liberty is the Basis, and whoever should dare to sap the foundation or overturn the Structure, under whatever specious pretexts he may attempt it, will merit the bitterest execration, and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured Country.”

                Reply
                1. Ray O'Hara

                  Tory Stephans flat out says Slavery was the immediate cause of the rupture, He was the CSA VP and is therefore an impeccable source.
                  He also said this before Sumter so there was no post war revisionism involved. The CSA thought its cause was slavery, I’ll take their word over the likes of DiLorenzo, Charles Adams or the Kennedy Twins who’s views you are channeling.

                  Stephan’s speech style is typical of 19th century oration, a preamble followed by the meat of the issue, and the meat is clearly Slavery.

                  Reply
  6. Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.

    I have a question for you folks, defenders of the status quo. What interests of the U.S. government would have been harmed by letting the South go in peace, therefore precluding war? What was so important in keeping the United States together, north and South, that THEY chose war over peaceful separation? Had THEY let the South go in peace, the United States would have continued to exist as a country, albeit smaller in territorial size, but its existing structure would have been unharmed.
    So, what interests were so paramount, so overriding that lincoln and THEM would not let them go? What harm to the United States would there have been by letting the South go in peace?

    Reply
      1. Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.

        While I really do appreciate being made aware of the referenced book, which I am seriously considering purchasing, this is not the responce I asked for.
        I prefaced my post with “I have a question for YOU folks” (emphasis mine). So please, I implore all y’all, address the query. What do y’all think? Not what someone else thinks.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          I have not done any in-depth research on what average northern Americans thought of secession, which is why I referenced the McClintock book. Not surprisingly, their views fall along a very wide spectrum.

          Reply
          1. Corey Meyer

            I think Mr. Shirley is trying to start a discussion about the tariff and how it was the “main cause” of the war. Surely, (no pun intended) Mr. Shirley should know that slavery was the main cause of the war since it is discussed on SHPG on Facebook. However, they never seem to spend anytime to read the secession documents and come to grips with the cause of the war.

            Reply
            1. Kevin Levin Post author

              Corey,

              Is this really the best way to respond to a specific question? I don’t know what his real motive is in asking it, but this doesn’t seem to help. It just provokes.

              Reply
            2. Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.

              Corey, Kevin,
              My question had nothing to do with the causes of the war. My question was, “What interests of the U.S. government would have been harmed by letting the South go in peace…? …what interests were so paramount, so overriding that lincoln and THEM would not let them go? What harm to the United States would there have been by letting the South go in peace?”

              What interests kept THEM from letting the South go in peace? Why not let them go? Why not?

              Reply
              1. Kevin Levin Post author

                Yes, which is why I suggested that you look at the McClintock book, which offers a very detailed overview of where northerners stood at different points during the crisis. Thanks for the question.

                Reply
              2. HankC

                In 1776 our forefathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

                The civil war tested whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

                Reply
    1. Ray O'Hara

      A country that won’t defend itself is no country at all.
      Lincoln took an oath to uphold the CONUS and he did.
      Also the CSA chose war when it fired on Sumter, Davis saw the secession fervor was fading and also that something drastic was needed to get Va, NC. Tn and Ar to follow along and join the CSA. When you ask why a war you should ask that of the South, they chose to begin it.

      Secession is illegal under Article VI of the CONUS and the fact they added states shows that was the working premise. The States created after ratification weren’t independent entities that joing the Union, they were land held in common by the people of the country. Why would any country purchase territory or fight wars to gain it and then just let that land leave the country at a whim? the States were territories with boundries Congress drew up. and they had Constitutions Conmgress approved, if Congress disapproved the “State” remained a territory it didn’t become independent?

      Do you think Congress would create a State from US land with the idea that that State could then immediately declare itself independent from the USA? that makes no sense and had their been a right to secede they would never approve new states or acquire new land in the first place.

      Reply
      1. Kevin Levin Post author

        I understood Mr. Shirley as inquiring as to why northerners in 1860-61 objected to secession. Some of this is echoed in their speeches, broadsides, and private documents, but their outlook is so much richer. Once again, this is why I highly recommend McClintock’s book.

        Reply

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