If By Pro-Union You Mean, Pro-America

Richard Williams believes that I run a pro-Union blog, which I assume stands in contrast with a pro-Confederate blog.  It’s kind of funny to be labeled in a way that suggests that I am somehow still fighting the war.  On the other hand, I do not claim objectivity when it comes to this history.  Who could possibly do so given the issues involved and the scale of violence and destruction wrought.  No, I do not believe that the Union was wholly good and the Confederacy evil – that would be to apply an overly simplistic moral formula to a very complex subject.

So, if you have any doubt as to where I stand let me lay it out for you on a fourth-grade level:

  • I do not believe that secession was justified given the reasons presented. [I am speaking specifically of the lower South states.]
  • I also do not believe that secession was constitutional.
  • Abraham Lincoln was justified in using military force to suppress the rebellion of the southern states.
  • Lincoln and Congress were justified in going against slavery as a means to save the Union.
  • The abolition of slavery was a good thing for the entire nation.
  • The preservation of the Union was a good thing for the entire nation. [The right side won the war.]
  • The outcome of the war placed this country on track to becoming the leader of the free world.

I was born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey.  I was not raised on a pro-Confederate or pro-Union interpretation of the war; in fact, I don’t remember learning anything about the Civil War until I was well into my 20s.  If what I listed above makes me pro-Union than so be it.  It seems to me to be a pretty mainstream/uncontroversial view.

Rather than a pro-Union blog I prefer to see it as a pro-America blog.  Enjoy the increased traffic today, Richard.

22 thoughts on “If By Pro-Union You Mean, Pro-America

    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      What I like about Richard’s blog is that it expresses his personal worldview. I don’t really care whether every post is about the Civil War.

      I have no idea what point he is making in this particular post. My goal here was simply to pick up on one particular reference that makes very little sense when you leave “Old Virginia.”

      Reply
  1. Paul

    Hard to think of being pro-confederacy without being pro-slavery. Is Richard pro-slavery? Does he think that slavery was an incidental issue in regards the war? Does he wish the south had successfully separated and formed a new country? With the secession of South Carolina and the firing on Fort Sumter the Confederacy started the bloodiest war our country has seen, yes I’m glad the south lost and the north won. Is it more complicated than this, absolutely, and there is good and bad on both sides, but you can’t get around these 2 major points: the south forced the issue and they did it to protect the slave economy.

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    1. Michael Aubrecht

      Paul you said, “Is it more complicated than this, absolutely, and there is good and bad on both sides, but you can’t get around these 2 major points: the south forced the issue and they did it to protect the slave economy.”

      Exactly! That is the VERY realization that brought me back to reality when I was adrift in the world of Confederate apologists.

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    2. Kevin Levin Post author

      Only Richard can answer those questions.

      At this point we should be able to move beyond simplistic moral distinctions or a language of us v. them. There is absolutely no reason to talk as if we are still participants in this event. As Americans we need to understand how our own nation descended into civil war and how it has come to shape the present. The points that I outlined in the post are a reflection of my strong identification with this country and its history.

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      1. Michael Aubrecht

        Excellent points Kevin. The unfortunate reality is the “us v. them” mentality seems to have permeated every aspect of our culture in this country… politically, religiously, socially. On a related point, I find it incredibly odd when people today speak in terms of ‘us’ and ‘we’ as if they themselves participated in the Civil War. This seems to be more prevalent among those who are sympathetic to the southern perspective. It is as if they actually wish that they were around during the Civil War while fighting for the Confederate cause. AND that is where they lose me as there is no way to do that without acknowledging that they would have helped to perpetuate slavery regardless of any other motive.

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      2. Michael Douglas

        The us vs them model becomes even more ridiculous when people start conflating historical elements with presentist perceptions and assumptions.

        There is a non sequitur response to Mr. Williams’s post that reads: “Does Kevin realize Lincoln was a Republican? And that the Democrats defended slavery?”

        This is something I hear quite often from the more obtuse Confederate apologists. They particularly like to use it when discussing the subject with African Americans. It just pops up in the middle of conversations about slavery and the War as though it has actual relevance to the subject at hand.

        Best I can figure the way this particular straw man works is, if that crowd doesn’t agree with you or thinks you’re an “evilizer,” you’re a Yankee; if you’re a Yankee, you’re a Democrat (because Democrats hate the south and all good southerners are tea-party republicans); if you’re a Yankee and a Democrat then you idolize Lincoln. And the joke’s on you for idolizing Lincoln because Lincoln was a Republican, so why are you, a (presumed) Democrat of the 21st century, idolizing a Republican? Followed by a smug sense of, “guess I told *you!*” *sigh*

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        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          You may be right about what prompted that question. I honestly have no idea what point Williams was making in the post so any comment is likely to go over my head as well.

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  2. Michael Rodgers

    I agree with all of your statements in your list also. What’s important to mention is that there are some real arguments on the other side of those statments; those arguments are just not convincing. It’s not the case that people don’t know those arguments. People do know those arguments, and they are not convinced.

    One reason I’m not convinced by the arguments against your statements is because the USA won the war. One of the many reasons why the USA won the war is because the international community did not side with the seceding states against the USA. This situation is in contrast to how the international community supported the USA against England during the Revolutionary War. Along the same line of thought, I find — and I think the international community found — the Declaration of Independence to be inspiring and convincing while the Declaration of Secession is neither inspiring nor convincing.

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    1. Margaret D. Blough

      Michael-While I thoroughly agree with Kevin, I don’t think the two situations are comparable in terms of the international community. I would say that the Declaration of Independence was seen as threatening and appalling by many existing nation-states in 1776, especially France, which provided critical help to the fledgling nation. There were individual Frenchmen who were drawn to the natural rights philosophy of the Declaration (Montesquieu was an important natural rights philosopher). It suited the French crown’s purposes to help strip the UK of a significant chunk of its empire and a certain element of revenge for what it lost to the UK in the French and Indian War.

      However, there’s the practical element of when a would-be nation-state convinces others that it has what it takes to survive and prevail. Recognition tends to follow. The USA of the American Revolution succeeded in that task. The CSA of the 1860s never quite accomplished that.

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    2. London John

      I agree with Margaret D. Blough: in the War of American Independence the Americans had the support of Britain’s european enemies, who didn’t give a damn for the principles of the D of I. One thing the British and French were agreed on was that this wasn’t about the Americans; this was (as usual) about each other.
      During the Civil War those powers that resented or feared the rise of the United States couldn’t get away with supporting slavery. The one powerful ruler who could act without reference to any public opinion, the Czar of Russia, happened to be a liberal (as Czars go) who emancipated the serfs at about the same time as the US did the slaves (I don’t mean to suggest the two institutions were comparable).

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      1. Paul

        I would agree with Margaret and London John that governments don’t generally act for ideological reasons but more pragmatic ones. Didn’t England consider interjecting themselves into the civil war (Northern blockade) in order to procure cotton for textiles? I think if the Confederacy had been seen as a viable state it might have garnered more international support.

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    3. Michael Rodgers

      Yes, Margaret and John, you are right and thanks for the pushback. What I was trying to get to was what you stated better than I. 1) The CSA didn’t convince nation-states that the CSA had what it takes to survive and prevail (as Margaret said) and 2) One reason the CSA wasn’t able to do so was because those nation-states couldn’t get away with supporting slavery (as John said).

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  3. Roger E Watson

    “Enjoy the increased traffic today, Richard.”

    WOW !! Six posts by 3 posters and Richard had a third of them !! I hope his server doesn’t crash ;-)

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  4. Brooks Simpson

    It’s nice to hear that Richard keeps thinking about you. Indeed, the only time I think of him is when I read here that you’re reporting that he’s thinking about you. It must be nice to have such a devoted reader.

    Oh … that’s right … I have one, too. :)

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    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I like that Richard reads this blog and that he views me as representative of all that is wrong with education and the history profession. I actually enjoy reading his blog as well even though I think that he completely misses the mark 99.5% of the time.

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  5. Doug didier

    The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
    John F. Kennedy
    35th president of US 1961-1963 (1917 – 1963)  

    Reply
  6. Marty

    Kevin,
    good stuff.
    One question if I may;
    What’s you take on Lincoln’s stance and quote during the Mexican War and how it compares to his stance against Southern Succession?

    “…Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better– This is a most valuable, — a most sacred right — a right, which we hope and belive, is to liberate the world…”

    Thanks for your response!

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    1. Michael Rodgers

      Please read George Washington’s Farewell Address and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and please, please, please, learn how to spell secession. Did you just cut and paste, man??

      When you have “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” then you have the right — !!!and get to exercise it!!! — to try to shake off the existing government every four years. And if you lose, you’re stuck unti the next time because ,”The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”

      Reply

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