Gettysburg at 150: Some Essays

by Jeffrey Polet on November 19, 2013 · 33 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Articles,Politics & Power,Writers & Poets

Lincon gettysburg

Holland, MI

My wife will be the first to point out that I’m not much of one for marking anniversaries, but it seems – to use Lincoln’s language – fitting and right to take note of the fact that today is the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address. Like many Porchers, my views concerning Lincoln are conflicted. At his best, he had the ability to lift ordinary people to “the better angels of their nature.” (There’s a lovely film depiction of this in John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln). He is clearly the greatest rhetorician in the history of American politics. He presided over the nation at the knottiest moment of its history – and no matter how critical of Lincoln one might be, one ought to acknowledge the difficulties he had to face. My own view is that he would have been better off letting the South go, but I also acknowledge that is not a simple proposition which would have had no long term consequences. In many ways he was a shrewd and practical politician who understood the complexities of political life (Steven Spielberg’s otherwise execrable “Lincoln” at least got that right).

At the same time, he was a man too ready to make war. His whiggish views on economics and politics are problematic. He was a man whose ambition was “an engine that knew no rest.” He abused executive power. He had complex and often contradictory views on race and slavery. Perhaps most significantly, he has enshrined in national consciousness a civil theology that is, from the Christian side, heretical, and from the political side, a justification for the accumulation and exercise of power. It is a theology that is as comprehensive as it is sloppy, for he’s not a coherent thinker. But it resonates deeply in our collective consciousness.

Around the web today are a variety of reflections on Lincoln’s speech. Over at The Public Discourse Matthew Holland borrows on Gary Wills’ brilliant reading of Lincoln while arguing for a renewed understanding of what it means to be a nation “under God.” (I’m tempted to ask if there’s any other kind.)

Tommy Kidd, over at The Anxious Bench, asks what happens when “the new birth of freedom” is “tied to a nation’s history, rather than a redeemer’s saving work.”

Richard Gamble’s “Gettysburg Gospel”  at The American Conservative ought to be read by everyone troubled by civil religion, for it sees in Lincoln’s speech “the 19th-century’s potent ideologies of nationalism, democratism, and romantic idealism.” Gamble writes:

The point is to draw attention to how much Lincoln compressed into his brief speech. His civil philosophy, indebted to German Idealists like Parker, distilled something as complex, diverse, untidy, and contested as the formation of the American republic into one proposition, and then from that fragment of a fragment of the past extrapolated both the essence of America in 1863 and its purpose in the future. No part of any sentence of any document, even if that document is the Declaration of Independence, can carry this load.

In dissociating Lincoln’s politics from his rhetoric, Sean Wilentz  at The New Republic accomplishes in some ways the opposite. Reviewing much of the secondary literature on Lincoln, Wilentz downplays the speech’s significance but plays up Lincoln’s Machiavellian tendencies. Still, even Wilentz concedes that Lincoln wasn’t about power alone but about an idea, and the unrestrained use of power in service of that idea. The essay is a useful reminder about the reality of political life and that disagreement can’t be made to go away, and frustration with political bickering often leads to the use of force. One is reminded of Hegel’s observation that tragedy involves a conflict between two sides when there is no clear right, or two conflicting rights. The essay further serves an important democratic principle: that cults of personality are death-knells of self-governance. It’s a long essay, but worth reading.

I’m not an American propositionalist. Whatever America is, it can’t be reduced to a simple or basic proposition. Whatever is true of Lincoln, he is a signal contributor to the ongoing American attempt to understand politics within the general context of redemptive history, to see politics in its microcosmic representative fashion. For that reason alone, and the utter compactness of its formulation, the Gettysburg Address remains relevant.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Siarlys Jenkins November 19, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Richard Gamble’s “Gettysburg Gospel” at TAC is a muddled fantasy resting on false premises validated by their own logical conclusions. I won’t repeat here what I’ve written there, refuting his entire interpretation.

I’m genuinely curious how Lincoln “enshrined in national consciousness a civil theology that is, from the Christian side, heretical.” What civil theology? How is it heretical?

Now his Whig business development connections is a more fertile ground for revealing the flaws that Lincoln, like all of us, certainly had. But its interesting that he took an interest in developing railroads and other transportation infrastructure, after seeing how his father remained dirt poor from intensive labor as a small farmer, due to having no affordable means to get a crop to market. Only a generation later, farmers like Thomas Lincoln were in revolt against the usurious rates charged by the government-subsidized railroad monopolies, to get their crops to market. For every solution, there is a new evil.

avatar Charlieford November 20, 2013 at 12:26 am

“and the unrestrained use of power”

Unrestrained?

I missed that. Are we talking about cancelling the 1864 election because, well, you know, there was a rebellion, and thus a national emergency? That would be unrestrained. Or maybe executing–not just arresting–his major northern enemies? That might be categorized as unrestrained, too.

But, if you really think it would be best to just let the South go, maybe any exercise of power to prevewnt that would appear “unrestrained”?

avatar David Smith November 20, 2013 at 8:03 am

While Lincoln’s army was – supposedly – dying for an idea, a “proposition”, I can’t forget that my kith and kin were dying for something far less abstract, namely, their homes! We can debate what the brilliant sham called the Gettysburg Address meant and means, but this was no debate at some gentlemen’s club.

avatar Thomas McCullough November 20, 2013 at 8:35 am

The only issue that brought up the subject of “States’ Rights” and the only reason for secession was the South’s fear of losing their “peculiar institution.” It was indeed no debate at some gentlemen’s club. I feel certainly, as any Porcher might, that the worst result of the Civil War was the concentration of greater power in Washington. However, that kith and kin might’ve talked themselves into a belief they were defending their homes while in fact they were dying to defend slavery.

avatar David Smith November 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

Mr. McCullough:

Curious. With all due respect, you seem to know my peoples’ minds better than they do. My ancestors would be VERY surprised to discover they were fighting in order that some rich boy up in the big house could keep his slaves. And, frankly, they were too busy making a living from the land to expend an ounce of energy in self-deception about such things. They didn’t have time for abstractions and of necessity had to stay very firmly planted in down-to-earth reality. The self-deception you seem to think my folk engaged in seems far more plausible coming from the other side when one starts hearing about all the abstractions the boys in blue were supposedly fighting for.

But I’ll agree to disagree.

avatar D.W. Sabin November 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

“For every solution, there is a new evil”. Ho ho Ho.

With this in mind, Foggy Bottom is an Anvil of Evil, to paraphrase a phrase. What we are left with however, is a block of the nation which complains loudest about the Federal Government whilst sucking most furiously at her teat. As a result, there is no clarity and no solution, just another junkie claiming the status of victim.

Subsidiarity reamins overlooked

avatar robert m. peters November 21, 2013 at 11:55 pm

I prefer H.L. Mencken’s understanding of the Gettysburg Address as articulated in the excerpt infra:

“…that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — “that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves….”

The full text can be read at the link infra, among others:

http://blog.nj.com/njv_paul_mulshine/2013/11/hl_mencken_on_the_gettysburg_a.html

James Bovard’s understanding is perhaps even better articulated than that of Mencken:

http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/11/19/gettysburg-adress-still-balderdash-after-150-years/

avatar Gregory Butler November 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm

@ Mr. McCullough:
I think you are wrong. My great great grandfather James volunteered for the 17th Virginia Cavalry only after Lincoln called up his troops and prepared to invade. My great great uncle Hieronymous never had the chance to enlist; he was shot in cold blood on his own farm by a Yankee regiment with a taste for Virginia apples. I would guess that neither one, poor and illiterate as they were, had ever even seen a slave before. In fact, most folks in western Virginia bore considerable animosity toward their Piedmont brethren. According to the 1860 census, approximately 95% of slaves were owned by about 5% of the population, and no more than about 25% of the entire population of the South had any immediate economic interest in supporting the institution of slavery or large-scale commercial plantation agriculture. The legendary courage and perseverance of the Confederate soldier were qualities born out of an abiding attachment to “the old home place,” not to some ideological abstraction. Would Mr. McCullough have preferred that my Uncle Hieronymous invite that Yankee regiment in for Sunday dinner? The only motive to do so would be cowardly appeasement – and I trust that Mr. McCullough is not so ethically obtuse as to recognize such a thing as one’s only option. Why is it so difficult for so many to understand the obvious? People do not like being invaded, and will try their best to stop it from happening. My guess is that the unwillingness to recognize this simple truth says more about the conqueror’s guilty conscience than it does about the real motives for their victim’s resistance.

avatar robert m. peters November 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Mr. Butler,

What “these people” do not recognize, yea cannot even apprehend is that we Southerners are essentially a people of kinsmen. When our deep ancestors spilled out of the palisades of Jamestown, of Wilmington, of Charleston, of Savannah, of St. Augustine and other points of departure such as New Bern, North Carolina, and move inexorably westward to the Mississippi and beyond into Texas, they did so in groups and bands of blood kin, of marriage and of friendship, establishing settlements along the way, settlements into which they transplanted into the new idiom of the American wilderness traditions, customs and habits whose origins lay in the synthesis of Roman, Celtic, Saxon and Norman Britain, naming settlements in Alabama after those on the Virginia coast, namely settlements in Louisiana after those in Alabama and naming settlements out in Texas after those in Louisiana, and maintaining in sentiment and letters close ties with kinsmen back in Virginia, in the Carolinas and in Georgia. Thus, a war on Virginia was a war on our kinsmen. Louisiana sent thousands of her boys to fight with their kinsmen in Virginia. Jefferson Davis, in a speech to the Mississippi legislature in December of 1862, stated that “our enemy is a nation of strangers,” not meaning thereby that they were strangers to us only but to one another, capable of being drawn together only by abstractions and ideology as in Lincoln’s creedal or propositional nation, a fata morgana which he conjured up as a thrall to unit his nation of strangers, atomized into would-be Promethean selves creatures of Rousseau.

Down here we fought simply because they came, looting, pillaging, burning, confiscating, raping and enriching along the way, leaving thousands of Louisianans -white and black – homeless, destitute and starving, dying diseases born by the vector of war. Had it not been for the valiant efforts of Governor Henry Watkins Allen, thousands more would have died than did; for Allen opened hospitals and food stores across Confederate controlled Louisiana; he established refugee centers; he stabilized the medium of exchange; and he ensured that the law was enforced even as things fell apart.

The three of my ancestors – great great grandfathers – stood with General Taylor at Mansfield and helped throw Banks, who had burned and plundered his way up the Red River, competing with Admiral Porter to see how much cotton they could steal and send to their cronies in New England textile mills, back down the Red River to New Orleans. None of those three owned slaves. They were yeoman farmers.

One of my great great grandfathers who fought in Virginia and whose family had originally come from Virginia did own one slave, an orphan whose labor he purchased for fifty dollars. At seventeen, he had married my great great grandmother who was fourteen. He had built her a single-room, clay-floored, pine-slab house deep in the woods of the western march of Louisiana about a two day walk from Texas. Nine months later, the war started and activated his sense of duty to his kinsmen in the Old Dominion, so that is when he purchased the young, about six-year-old orphan slave, to help my great great grandmother to run an upland farm with no other help in addition to having the burdensome joy of a new-born daughter, my great grandmother. Together, over the course of nearly four years, the two of them, my great great grandmother and the young slave, grubbed out a living in the rocky hills of western Louisiana and managed to take a cash crop, once a year, to Logansport on the Texas border. At the end of the war, the former slave continued to work for my great great grandparents and was granted the request to be buried near them when he died in the 1920′s.

No, Mr. Butler, “these people,” a creedal or propositional nation of atomized ideologies whose identity is tied up in a myth of no essence cannot understand, and if they did, they could not admit it because to understand would destroy their myth and to lose the myth would destroy their collective identity, for many the only identity which they have. They must, at every turn, with the mantra of “slavery,” having defined “slavery in the abstraction” as a venal sin, fight the reality of who we are because as long as we exist we remind them of who they are not.

avatar Thomas McCullough November 23, 2013 at 8:26 am

What I primarily mean is that those persons in the seceding states, the rich and powerful, chose secession because of and only because of their desire to retain slavery. I should have said and do now say that the defense of slavery was, if not the reason, the CAUSE of your ancestors fighting and dying.
I find little in your postings to actually disagree with. It doesn’t however change my opinion as stated above. I find more and more that there are two great wrong opinions held about the Civil War. Northerners tend to think we went to war to end slavery. We didn’t. We were led to war by empire-minded visionaries (which Lincoln certainly was) who saw the structure of their expansion undercut by the loss of all that rich agriculture and anthracite. Southerners tend to assert they went to war for regional autonomy. They didn’t: they went to war to keep slaves. (Here I believe the objection could be that the South did not go to war, but rather simply seceded. I think it is obvious they knew they were starting a war.)
I am distressed by all this. This forum is my favorite and have read many postings here to induce, insofar as this slim connection can induce, feelings of fraternity. I even have good memories of Mr. Peters’ postings, he who here relegates me to a status of less-than-fully-human wielding shallow mantras.

avatar Jeffrey Polet November 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

Mr. McCullough:

To my knowledge Robert M. Peters has not written any articles for the Porch. Jason Peters has written many, but these are different persons.

In my judgment, the comments reflect some harsh realities: that war requires the demonization of the other side; that war leads to and stems from deep misunderstandings; and that wars don’t end when the peace treaty is signed. “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.” I recall my father – a man who had never been in a fight in his life – being sent home from work one day for punching a co-worker. It turns out the man was a German, and my father had spent his teenage years living under Nazi occupation. The German had approached my dad about something, to which my dad responded by throwing a fist that sent the man to the floor. I remember clearly my dad’s words as he explained to my mom what had happened: “The only thing a German will ever understand is the back of your boot on his neck.” That’s not my view, I’m glad to say, but I can understand from whence comes the sentiment. the fact that it has changed in a generation is a hopeful sign.

I have no Southern kin, but it seems to me that part of what makes the wounds fester is the fact that in this instance the defeated people were made pariahs, and that stigmatization has endured to this day. To use a parlance I don’t much care for: it is a stunting of identity formation. This is also why Southern literature is so vital (in both meanings of the term). The fact that 150 years later these issues can still cause hurt, even among “kin” on the Porch, is a testimony to the destructive power of war.

In any instance, I think all of us will do well to remember and take to heart Lincoln’s words: “With charity for all; with malice toward none.”

avatar robert m. peters November 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

Mr. McCullough,

Your assertion which the South went to war to keep slaves does not stand up to any historical scrutiny. The South, first of all, did not go to war. Lincoln did. Had the South wanted to keep slaves, the South would have rallied behind Mr. Lincoln’s original thirteenth amendment which passed the Congress and went to the states, forbidding forever that slavery could be challenged even constitutionally. The Upper South, including Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee had rejected secession and did not secede or attempt to secede until Lincoln openly planned to invade the South. Here in Louisiana, the majority of the big planters opposed secession because they thought it would be bad for business. Some like Richard Taylor, the son of Zachery Taylor, opposed it because, having studied in New England, he knew their mind and warned that they would never let us go peacefully and they would press the war until they won. I merely scratch the surface of the overwhelming information which stands withershins your assertion. Secession did not cause the war. States had every authority to seceded, regardless of the reason. The colonial republics had seceded from the British Crown; those same republics had seceded from the old union under the Articles of Confederation and simultaneously acceded to a new union under the Constitution. Lincoln unnecessarily chose to go to war on the pretext of an incident, the firing on Fort Sumter, which he had set up. There had been other incidents which both President Buchanan and President Davis had worked through: Major Anderson’s breach of trust by moving from Fort Moultry to Fort Sumter; the sending of the Star of the West, and the firing on the Star of the West. At the end of the day, Mr. McCullough, if nothing but slavery was the reason that all Southern states seceded, which it was not, they had every authority to do that. If as you rightly assert the North did not go to war to prevent slavery, then for what? The mantra of “preserving the union” won’t wash. Even abject statists like Hamilton said that it was unthinkable that a state would be coerced to remain in the Union.

At the end of the day, Lincoln and the reconstituted Whigs, New England ideologues, and radical aliens from Central Europe destroyed two Unions of constitutionally federated republics: that of the United States of America and that of the Confederate States of America. In many ways, the real civil war was in the North with Lincoln’s legions preventing legislatures from meeting, unilaterally suspending habeas corpus while the civil courts were still functioning, putting people in jail without warrants, closing down opposing newspapers, exiling members of Congress to foreign countries, issuing arrest warrants for Supreme Court justices. This civil war would come to us after the collapse of the Confederacy in the form of Reconstruction which, though it officially ended in 1877, continues in insidious forms even today, but not just in the South but across the territory which we call America, structurally, economically and politically rooting out the last strongholds of those who have a sense of place, of tradition, of custom and of habit which nourishes the soul. It seems that as Richard Taylor said in Louisiana in 1861 as he warned against secession that “those people” will not rest until they have conquered us and as Jefferson Davis said in 1862 “they are a nation of strangers,” who are driven to make us all a nation of strangers.

In this context, the Gettysburg Address, the subject of this thread, is utterly disingenuous.

There are obviously rooted people in regions of that territory which is commonly referred to as America, people who value place, local, intimacy with the land and the creatures with which they share it. Lincoln and his corporatist cronies along with the ideologues from New England and the new intellectual elites of Midwest, having been overrun by Central European 48er’s who had failed to wrest power from the city-states, princes and kings and who now saw again in America the chance they had missed in Europe, namely create the Jacobin ideal of a nation, one and indivisible, which we in Pavlovian fashion genuflect to in our “Pledge of Allegiance, made war North and South against the old verities.

At the end of the day, the reason that people in the North who shared the same or similar verities could not prevail is because they were no longer the majority in their respective states. Industrialism, corporatism, internal migration of high-minded New Englanders into the Midwest and the influx of radical aliens from Central Europe has already transformed the North. In the South, the people holding to those verities were in the majority; and they peacefully resisted the encroachment by seceding. But the forces which had crushed the verities in the North had another agenda; and it is their agenda which has prevailed and against which an ever small remnant of us protest as best we can.

avatar robert m. peters November 23, 2013 at 11:51 am

Mr. Polet,

You are correct. Jason Peters I am not. I believe that he and I did exchange e-mails, one of those searching-for-a-kinsman e-mails, to find that we are not kin but share some few things in common.

The editors, about two years back, allowed me to post two little “memorettes” on my hometown of Pollock on FPR.

War does indeed have a destructive power which undulates across history and in whose destructive rhythms future generations are caught and thrashed about. Yet, the fault line on which the War of 1861-1865 was fought was present at the very beginning of European America and was certainly present throughout the War for Independence and in the constitutional convention itself. The fault line with all of the tensions and animosities did not end in 1865. It continues to course its way through American history, through American hearts and, I would suggest, through the Front Porch Republic. When topics such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address are placed for discussion one must reckon with the fact that the tensions of the fault line will make themselves manifest. It is the nature of the thing.

avatar Jason Peters November 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Not to muddy the waters, but I am not the Jason Peters some have assumed me to be. Nor was I born, like Steve Martin, a poor black child.

It is true what Mr. Robert M. Peters reports: he has published here, and the two of us have corresponded, only to discover that we share a surname but not hemoglobin.

Mr. McCullough once called me “boring,” but I think (and hope) he was being ironic.

As for Polet: I read his posts only in the hope of catching him in grammatical impertinence– so that I can give him fertilizer.

avatar Thomas McCullough November 23, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Briefly, I was consciously referring to robert m. peters and my appreciation of his comments on articles on this site. I did not confuse him with Jason Peters.
I don’t like this. I appreciate that mr. peters latest post is more informational and less of a snarl, though I still think he is wrong, but will certainly not be moved by me, a New Englander, I am pleased to say, though not high in any way, certainly not high-minded. If I identify with anyone dramatically from that era it would be the character Abner Beech from “Copperhead.” When younger, though, it would probably have been Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

avatar robert m. peters November 23, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Mr. Peters,

The Jason Peters in the link which you provided supra has an uncanny resemblance to my uncle Willie who, as very young man, prudently left town with a circus after negligently blowing up a laundry which he and a business partner had acquired. There are many things the family does not know about Uncle Willie. What we do know is that he had a black wet nurse and was the only member of the family who could dance or roller skate. He married a Yankee from Detroit, an Italian/German, who worked for the IRS, a wife whom he brought back home to Louisiana twenty years after the laundry and some adjacent building had blown up. He again with prudence waited until Great Grandpa Peters, who had served with the 12th Louisiana in the Army of Tennessee had died before he presented to the family. Uncle Willie had himself acquired a Yankee accent which he would lose about the third day home.
He contributed to my acquired acrophobia by setting a sage patch on fire with a cigar the smoke of which he rarely inhaled, not unlike Bill Clinton. I was a toddler. As the fire raced toward our house, my father threw a ladder on the house to remove the pine straw so that the roof would not catch. When he returned to fight the fire, I, a mere toddler, climbed the ladder and fell off the roof. The therefrom acquired acrophobia made itself manifest about eight years later when I was climbing a fire tower with some boys. The physical symptoms came before the fear washed over me. Uncle Willie lived in a cracker-box house (That’s what Daddy called it.) in Detroit. (We always said “Detroit City,” as if there were a Detroit other than the city.) Uncle Willie also started a fire with the ashes of a cigarette which he, of course, like President Clinton, did not inhale. He and Aunt Anne got a call about mid-morning that there had been a fire in their home. It seems that Uncle Willie’s ashes had fallen on a small sofa in the bedroom which was on the second floor of the cracker-box house. It had burned through the floor and had fallen, burning into the living room; there, still smoldering right hot, it had burned through the floor of the living room and had fallen into the basement. Once, in the basement, Uncle Willie, good with his hands, built a boat, only to discover that it was too big to get out of the basement. There, among many things which he made for his nephews and his nieces, having no children that we knew of (Jason?), he made me a coin bank out of a dried coconut shell and some junk which he had found in the ally. He was an ally scavenger. The walrus faced coconut coin bank fifty-four years after Uncle Willie created it staring down at me from a shelf in my office right now. Uncle Willie liked squirrels. He liked squirrels in gumbo; and he liked squirrels as pets up in Detroit. He fed them peanuts. Once, bending down to feed a yard pet, the squirrel bit him on his balding head, the bit requiring about seven stitches. Uncle Willie, according to his tale of it, got to Detroit quite serendipitously. It seems that during those lost twenty years he was, among other things a caddy in Hot Springs which had been a neutral zone for the warring Indian tribes and for the warring mob tribes. Uncle Willie claimed to have been on more than one occasion the caddy for Al Capone and some lesser known mobsters. That, however, did not get him to Detroit. A vice-president for Ford Motor Company was taking vacation in Hot Springs with his wife. His chauffeur died, and he hired Uncle Willie to drive them back to Detroit, so the story goes. Uncle Willie worked for Ford Motor Company for forty years, having gotten his initial job through the VP. Uncle Willie died as he lived. One cold January night in Detroit, he went out for some beer and did not get back home. The infamous “they” surmise that he had a stroke and drove around, looking for home, until his car ran out of gas. He then apparently began walking home. He was struck and killed in the early morning hours by a car being driven by an old bowling buddy taking his son to the airport for an early morning flight. His body was brought back to Louisiana and he was laid to rest beside his mother, his father, some of his siblings, some nieces and nephews and Great Grandpa Peters who had never met his Yankee wife. Uncle Willie’s story does not end there. About ten years later, Aunt Anne, his wife died. Although she was a native of Detroit, as native as an Italian/German can be, she wanted to be buried by Lee. Yes, “Lee” was his middle name, the one she preferred. One wonders where Uncle Willie could have gotten the middle name “Lee”! Well, we all got ready for a grave-side service for Aunt Anne, with a Catholic priest because she was Catholic and with a Baptist preacher because her Lee was Baptists. The problem was that Aunt Anne did not show up. Her body had been lost. It took two days to find her and finally bring her to repose. She had been missent to Mobile, Alabama. It was a not July day. The number of mourners who would have attended had been truncated because of the delay. Some of her relatives from Detroit, nieces, had to fly back before we could bury her. So we had a Catholic prayer and a Baptist prayer and were about to put her into the ground beside her Lee; but Aunt Bessie yelled, “Open that casket! There is no telling who might be in there!” We opened it with no little trepidation because Aunt Anne had been on the lam for several hot and humid Southern days. But, there she was, cool as a cucumber. My daddy had another reason for even more trepidation. The undertaker had called him that morning asking what to do about the jewelry which seemed to be quite expensive. Daddy had said to bury it with her. He sensed a fight between families over it. She was wearing the jewelry or fakes with which the undertaker had replaced the originals; but nobody noticed. She and her Lee are awaiting the Second Coming not too far from the spring from which Uncle Willie had drunk as a little boy before the laundry, the twenty-year sojourn, the fires and the Yankee wife.

I visited them in Detroit only twice. Once in the summer of 1958 and once again on this weekend before Thanksgiving exactly fifty years ago, under the cloud of the Kennedy assassination and in anticipation of my birthday which is tomorrow as it was in 1963. Kennedy brings us neatly back to Lincoln, with the myth of the latter incorporated into the myth of the former. Kennedy had his inaugural address which was compared to Lincoln’s second. He never got his Gettysburg Address, however. So, I suppose that Uncle Willie’s story, most abbreviated must end there, bringing us back to the thread. I still wonder, however, about that Jason Peters!

avatar Jason Peters November 23, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Whew!

avatar robert m. peters November 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Mr. McCullough,

When I posted to Mr. Butler supra, I had no idea that you were a New Englander; and although I had the content of your post as well as his counter post in mind, I was not directly addressing you. The language is blood-up boiler plate down here. Had I known, I would have written the same thing in a somewhat different way, drowning my kittens, as my daddy would have said, in somewhat warmer milk. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is a highly respected Union officer in our climes, and I am glad to come to know that he is your historical mentor. I have mine, including Marcus Aurelius, Charles Martel, King Arthur as legend or historical figure, King Alfred, John of Bohemia, Robert E. Lee, and my daddy to name a few.

avatar Jeffrey Polet November 24, 2013 at 8:07 am

My mistake. I had not recalled Robert Peters writing for us, and I didn’t see anything when I ran a search.

avatar jamesthethickheaded November 24, 2013 at 5:59 pm

RE: Civil War. As an infrequent reader of FPR, I didn’t realize the F in FPR now stood for Fantasy. I mean seriously… the march to war was a one man megalomaniacal effort? Well… I guess if you say so. But as one with border state families on both sides and quite a number of casualties, secession is/was divorce, and with marriage at the time as strictly an “until death do us part” affair… maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the marriage of 13 colonies might end badly if some of the co-habitators had other ideas decided to bail. In many places now and more at the time, “dem’s fightin’ words” and folks were typically well armed and ready to use them. No “real” man would let another take his girl without a fight btw… and back then… they didn’t have duelin’ exhausts on a big ol’ 440 Dodge, so they had to make do with duelin’ pistols, dawn and all that. So what part of this secession bit were we supposed to think was going to go without a fight? Huh? As if!!! I mean… Shelby Foote said it right… and you paraphrase him at your best… but he was a realist.

As to those pesky cannon balls that fell on Ft. Sumter.. I certainly understand how a slight bombardment between friends can lead to a misunderstanding. Sure. After all, think of it this way: If a donut shop owner gets taken advantage of too often by the cops who “borrow” his product for something to dunk in their coffee… maybe a guy’s gonna come unglued. Yeah, I get it. And what with all the four and five star restaurants in the Holy City, the unpaid bills really, really do pile up. No doubt quite a tab. Even have a letter from my relative, “Sly”, who at the time wrote: “And it’s like the “cops” are jus’… y’know… sittin’ there… holed up on some stinkin’ island an’ all. An’ sheesh… I’m lookin’ at all these honkin’ big shore batteries? An’ like… they ain’t even Delco… or what. An’ I go: ‘Whaddya dudes think, we load these stinkers up, and do a bit of that Elvis… Return to Sender… Address… definitely known… bit?’ And they’re like, “Wicked… let’s do this!” and “You be the man” and stuff. And we did it.”

Sly aside… only hitch in that wagon is … I jus’ don’ remember reading about the Union “Boys in Blue” bombarding the city (since the guns pointed out to sea)… so “Return to Sender” wasn’t quite what was going on. On the other hand, Naval History makes it rather clear… that almost ALL the fortifications across the Southern ports were taken shortly by the JR Ewing… only to be essentially retaken before the 1st year’s end. And yeah… no one shot at anyone in those takings… unless they had similar unpaid bills… and it was always the Yanks shooting first… ’cause like they’re rude and pushy and stuff.

Now you can quarrel with the premise that Lincoln “started it”… or maybe I will… but if you check any movie or even real world news… seems folks who fire on the “cops” don’t usually find that works out all that well for them in the end. I mean seriously… whether its NYPD Blue, constables, British Bobbies, FBI, or… yes.. in this case Federal Troops… these guys do have “attitude” and when they respond… they borrow from FTD, and “Just say it with lead.” Lots of shooting usually stems from the premise that “they had it coming”… whoever “they’ is (or “were” as the case is or more accurately…was). Fair trial? Bullets are quicker, resolve a lot of those pesky “witness” and evidence issues.. and all that.

Which of course brings me to the end point: The lack of evidence. ‘Cause seriously… there ain’t any. I mean… historians have pretty much debunked the States Rights bit, decoding it as “State’s right to hold slaves”, and today you find it that way whether your historian is at Ole Miss, Georgia or even… Berkley, Yale and the rest. Wasn’t always so… back in the day. But times change, the civil rights re-hashes fade once the Tide loads up a few wide receivers, and new realities set in. But I get that you’re still mad at Saban… dude… I can feel your pain. So for some… there are no new realities.

As Americans we’ve always been trendsetters – even when we didn’t know it. Think of that crummy knock-off French Revolution. We were first then, and in the Civil War we beat the Europeans (again) in blowing out aristocratic/romantic brains… they had to wait until World War Uno. And if you wanna talk style points, our guys were at again… clearly our call…. just reference “The Legend of Ricky Bobby”. And with that, I close in three words: Lighten up, bub.

avatar JimWilton November 25, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Acknowledging the truth that the Civil War was a war fought to preserve the union and to end slavery does not have to make the residents of southern states “pariahs.” At the Otis House in Medford, Massachusetts are slave quarters. Citizens of the North profited from slavery — as did citizens of the South. It is the great sin on which our nation was founded. Our Constitution was drafted to accommodate slavery and, as Thurgood Marshall famously said, the best things about our Constitution are the changes we have made to it.

avatar robert m. peters November 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Mr. Wilton,

The war was not fought to preserve the Union. The war destroyed the Union and ushered in a centralized Hobbesian state. The war was not fought to end slavery. Slavery is not the melodramatic sin on which the nation was founded for no nation was founded. The Constitution was merely a compact among principles, namely the states, attempting to adjust their relationship to one another and to create an agent to act in their common interests. Putting the creation of men, namely a union of states which was at best an experiment into the language of theology, sin and redemption, is at best a subtle form of blasphemy against the Creator against whom alone one sins.

avatar Gregory Butler November 26, 2013 at 11:30 am

It is hard to improve upon Professor Parrington’s account:

“…Alexander H. Stephens was an honest gentleman who bravely defended the traditions of the South in the face of a new order. He was of an earlier generation, instinctively hostile to all consolidation, which, under the impulse of economic evolution, was obliterating state lines, gathering financial power in great reservoirs, and creating a new alignment between labor and capital. With such evolution it was axiomatic that political practice should follow economic fact; that a consolidating wealth should create a consolidated political state. Great enterprises with ramifications in every section would not long tolerate a multitude of state sovereignties; sovereignty must be centralized at Washington where it could be guided and controlled. The war only hastened what in the nature of things was inevitable. Stephens rightly insisted that slavery was only the immediate casus belli. The deeper cause was the antagonistic conceptions of the theory and functions of the political state that emerged from antagonistic economic systems. That the principle of local self-government should have been committed to the cause of slavery, that it was loaded with an incubus certain to alienate the liberalism of the North, may be accounted one of the tragedies of American history. It was disastrous to American democracy, for it removed the last brake on the movement of consolidation, submerging the democratic individualism of the South in an unwieldy mass will, and surrendering the country to the principle of capitalistic exploitation.”

avatar robert m. peters November 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Mr. Butler,

Mr. Stephens had his antecedents in Thomas Jefferson, John Taylor and John Randolph. He also had intellectual contemporaries who understood what he understood: William Gilmore Simms, Basil Glidersleeve, Robert Dabney, John Palmer, John Girardeau, among others. He also had his descendants: the Southern agrarians and now the Abbevillians.

They understood the dangers of consolidation not only in the creation of the Hobbesian state but in the atomizing of the person, disconnecting him from kith and kin, home and hearth, tradition and custom and the other verities of reality which would lay him vulnerable to market forces – capitalism and corporatism – and their equally dangerous antitheses – emerging Marxism and socialism. Allen Tate articulates it best in the sequel to “I’ll Take My Stand,” namely in “Who Owns America.” There he notes that Marx understood that corporatism is a stalking horse for socialism because the general stock holders legally own the company but it is the board and the senior managers who effectively own the company. So it is with a socialist state. Marx was, of course, pro-Lincoln. In fact, the Republican Party as it emerged in 1860 was a unique synthesis of corporatists, stock jobbers, and paper aristocracy on the one hand and radical socialists, mostly from the German states on the other hand. In addition, there were the New England abolitionists as anti-Southern as they were anti-slavery and the Free Soilers who wanted the western territories for “white labor” only, anti-slavery being anti-black. Alexander Stephens understood all of this.

avatar JimWilton November 26, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Mr. Peters, it is hard to know where to begin in responding to your unique perspective on history.

But perhaps we can start with an area of agreement. Contrary to recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that hold that for profit corporations are persons with free speech rights and that, based on a case for which a writ of certiorari has now been granted, corporations might have religious views, governments and corporations cannot sin or experience grace. However, people can. And unless you are among the ranks of antebellum Biblical apologists for slavery, slavery and its embodiment in law is certainly a sin. Moreover, it is a sin for which much blood has been spilled.

That secession was effected to preserve slavery is fact. It resulted from the break down of a series of difficult political compromises that sought to balance federal political power through selected admissions of slave and free states and to impose enforcement of legal rights of slave owners in free states through the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision.

I have developed great sympathy for the ideals of FPR. I don’t think these ideals are well served by revisionist history.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins November 26, 2013 at 10:53 pm

David Smith, as I never tire of pointing out, MY kith and kin were fighting for THEIR homes too… in the 11th Tennessee Cavalry, United States Army. And don’t forget the Jones County Scouts in Alabama, and the counties in Georgia that sent as many volunteers to the United States Army as to the armies of the confederacy. Nothing abstract about that — nor about taking a shotgun to the “gentlemen” ‘s dogs chasing you through the swamp.

D.W. Sabin… I think you’re trying to say something profound and meaningful… only you don’t quite seem to have articulated it yet.

H.L. Mencken, however brilliant and witty, was a fatuous self-centered intellectual who never stopped to consider whether the thought that entered his head had any basis in fact. The leadership of the confederacy had to resort to conscription within a year of beginning their rebellion, because there wasn’t enough “self-determination” to the confederate cause to raise armies large enough to keep the cause going.

Now Gregory Butler is closer to the truth… once a war is going on, people don’t like being invaded, so those in the path of invasion naturally tend to resist the invader, without a thought for why they are there or what started it all. That was probably the confederacy’s greatest strength. But in other parts of the south, confederate forces were detached to invade counties in open resistance to confederate authority, full of deserters and people who, if not pro-union, had had enough of the “rich man’s war and poor man’s fight.” Certainly the experience for each was quite personal.

we Southerners are essentially a people of kinsmen What a pathetic fable. Kinsmen who break each other’s skulls every Friday night, or war with the opposing kinsmen across the mountain. Further, the south was settled as much from Connecticut as from Virginia, just as southern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio were settled in part by southerners.

The Constitution was merely a compact among principles, namely the states, attempting to adjust their relationship to one another and to create an agent to act in their common interests.

When we all get to heaven (although Calvinists object strenuously to that hymn), you might want to discuss that with Andrew Jackson, who famously observed “The United States is a government, not a league.”

That the principle of local self-government should have been committed to the cause of slavery … Aye, THERE’s the rub. The rebellion was all about slavery, but that it wrapped itself in the mantle of local self-government did a great disservice to the latter, which has its benefits.

The rebellion was occasioned by the Republican plan to close the territories to slavery. This, as Jefferson Davis heatedly pointed out to the confederate congress, would have rendered millions of dollars of property worthless. He was referring to property in slaves — without an expanding market to keep up demand, and therefore price, the value of the commodity would fall, just like stock or real estate. So much of the CAPITAL of the southern gen’mun was tied up in this form of property that they would rebel to prevent such a calamity. And then, once a war was under way, they could indeed appeal to “patriotism” and “love of home,” aka “we’ve been invaded,” to get themselves an army. But not enough responded even to that, to keep the thing going more than a year without putting a gun to the head of yeoman farmers, hog-tying them, and dragging them off to camp, while their wives and children starved, for lack of labor, and because confederate “tax in kind” agents came and plundered what little food they could grow.

avatar David Smith November 27, 2013 at 11:09 am

Mr. Jenkins:

Honestly, what’s your point? How is your ancestors’ dissent from the vast majority of their fellow Tennesseeans any different from the sorts of dissent found in any other country, in any other war throughout history? The others you’ve addressed in your post can respond for themselves if they wish to, and, given what I’ve read from them both here and in others of their responses, they are more than capable of doing that! But I find nothing particularly new in your assertions that would even begin to change my mind about anything I’ve believed or written about the Confederacy and her people.

This is really pretty simple. We were illegally and un-Constitutionally invaded, and we fought back. We had problems with our central government and our elites, just like every other society has had; but if we had gained our independence, they would at least have been the devils we knew ( and much more virtuous devils I’ll assert than the Yankee variety that we were forced to deal with!).

As I said to Mr. McCullough, though, I’ll agree to disagree with you.

avatar robert m. peters November 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Mr. Wilton,

My perspective on American history is hardly unique. It is shared and it is substantiated by some of the best minds and intellects who have put their scholarship to its study, including scholars such as Dr. Donald Livingston, Dr. Thomas Fleming, Dr. Clyde Wilson, the late Mel Bradford, the late Thomas Landess.

Yes, only people, individuals can sin. A thing in the abstract, such as slavery in the abstract, cannot be a sin. You cannot, however, refute the antebellum diviners because their theological arguments are frankly unassailable; however, you can and must repudiate their arguments because they undermine the necessary narrative an an enormous evil, namely Lincoln’s total war against not only the Confederate States of America as well as the United States of America and the thousands, likely the millions if one includes civilian mostly thereof Southern and ironically mostly thereof black, who died or were utterly impoverished by the war which he unleashed. For that enormous evil, namely Lincoln’s war, and the Hobbesian state set up in its aftermath, the one whose narrative you seem to champion, to be “justified,” it must be rationalized as having been used against a greater evil, namely, “slavery.” To maintain your narrative and the Hobbesian state based on your narrative, you cannot allow a countervailing narrative to rise to the public consciousness.

Of course, if you accept the breezy ideas of the Enlightenment as your moral touchstone as did many Americans, in one form or the other, in the late 18th and 19th century, Americans from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln, then you might make a case for slavery being a “sin.” If, in fact, Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence, words which at least paraphrase the words of Locke, that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights….” are taken as an absolute, as a fundamental principle of the created order, then slavery must appear in that context as an incongruity, a moral evil or a sin. Both Lincoln and Jefferson struggled with this moral dilemma. Both understood, in the context of Enlightenment philosophical principles, that slavery in the abstract was an incongruity, a moral evil, and even perhaps, in your vernacular, a sin. Both came to terms with the incongruity by saying that Africans who were subordinates in American households and in the political order thereof had these rights; they did not have them in the social order of America which was predicated on primarily British antecedents but could only enjoy them on their own soil. This moral dilemma predicated on Enlightenment precepts permeated American political thought. There are scores of examples, but one will suffice for the point. The state of Oregon, in its constitution outlawed slavery; however, it virtually outlawed blacks from the state. This link will, I believe, suffice.

http://www.upa.pdx.edu/IMS/currentprojects/TAHv3/Content/PDFs/OR_Constitution_1857.pdf

That secession was effected to preserve slavery is not a fact. Slavery was certainly an issue although the overriding issue was, based on the historical evidence, the tariff which was a transfer of wealth scheme to Northern business interest. Also in the mix was the issue of internal improvements, the building of the transcontinental railroad, and the very nature of the polity itself. Secession itself was brought about or triggered by the fact that the Republican Party, representing the antithetical position of all of the aforementioned issues, which did not even bother to run in the South, was a party of the North and was anti-Southern and has seized as a minority party in terms of the presidential election, the apparatus of government. That having been said, even a Republican President and a Republican controlled Congress could not have outlawed slavery. In 1860, regardless of who controlled the Presidency and the Congress, slavery in the South was safe. Lincoln even went so far as to guarantee slavery in perpetuity with his 13th amendment. Were slavery therefore the trigger for secession, which it was not, then Lincoln’s 13th amendment should have brought the majority of states which had seceded back into the fold. Of course, the last evidence, compelling evidence that slavery was not the trigger for secession, is that the Upper South and the Border States certainly did not secede over slavery but over Lincoln’s unconstitutional actions, those states having previously rejected slavery. I am also reminded that the last slave state to join the Union, although the actions therewith associated were by any objective standard unconstitutional, was the Lincoln created and Republican controlled state of West Virginia.

Your words, Mr. Wilton:

“I have developed great sympathy for the ideals of FPR. I don’t think these ideals are well served by revisionist history.”

It is good that you have developed a great sympathy for the ideals of FPR. I took those ideals in with my mothers milk long before the FPR was thought of. No one narrative of history can threaten the ideals of FPR. It seems that by “revisionist history” you mean a narrative which does not agree with your narrative. Historically narrative, i.e. history itself which is merely the telling of stories about historical events based on the events themselves and the evidence available are by their nature subjective, although not relative, my narrative as well as yours. There are others outside our two antithetical narratives which might also illuminate the events, the evidence and the facts which we have been discussion. I welcome your narrative in this discussion, although both of us should now understand that our positions as articulated in our narratives are utterly incommensurable.

avatar robert m. peters November 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Mr. Jenkins,

On the Confederate Army being an army of kinsmen, I suggest that you thoroughly read General Richard Taylor’s “Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War.” He is an excellent primary source.

You put a lot of stock in Andrew Jackson’s opinion, a man who betrayed his Indian friends and enriched his cronies behind the facade of “fighting the national bank.”

Yes, the Republican Party wanted to ban slavery from the territories because it was wanted for “white men only,” that being the primary reason for the anti-slavery rhetoric of the Free Soilers; and the Republicans had a plan and executed it to give the public land away to its cronies (Lincoln’s railroad buddies) and constituents, including veterans and aliens who had been brought it to as gun fodder and cheap labor for the factories rather than to sell the land to pay off the national debt which the Party driven up.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins November 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm

David Smith, your righteous indignation runs in a pathetic tautological circle. Among other things, you assert without proof that “the vast majority” of Tennesseeans were all out for secession. Based on such facile assumptions, you could easily dismiss almost any inconvenient fact. My point is that there was no “confederate people.” There were people who favored secession and reconfederation, and people who did not. For the former to claim any right to the allegiance of the latter begs belief, except that they believed it. Hundreds of thousands of southerners who were born citizens of the United States of America had no intention of giving up that citizenship, and there is no reason on God’s green earth they should, nor that they should become refugees from their homes to keep it.

My ancestors were illegally and unconstitutionally invaded by a self-appointed rebel armed force having no writ but of their own devising. But of course, you wouldn’t begin to recognize that they had any rights, you and your ancestors adhere to the medieval notion that “liberties” are what those wielding power are entitled to because nobody else is strong enough to deny them. Your choice of words can as easily condemn as uphold your party in this matter, and thereforce do little to justify your thankfully lost cause.

Of course we must agree to disagree — we can’t even agree on the facts, let alone on what conclusions may be validly drawn from them.

That having been said, even a Republican President and a Republican controlled Congress could not have outlawed slavery. In 1860, regardless of who controlled the Presidency and the Congress, slavery in the South was safe. Lincoln even went so far as to guarantee slavery in perpetuity with his 13th amendment.

All true, Mr. Peters. And the foolish nabobs who dominated the southern states threw all that away on the chimera of secession, because the Republican platform would have sharply reduced the resale value, and therefore the investment value, of their human chattel.

I cite Andrew Jackson, not because he was the Son of God who lived a sinless life on earth for the salvation of all mankind (he was far from that, and perpetrated significant atrocities), but to highlight

a) the notion that the United States was a permanent government, not a league to be dissolved at will, was not created out of whole cloth by A. Lincoln, but was prominent in American political discourse at least thirty years before the guns fired on Fr. Sumter — indeed, South Carolina stood alone at that time, unsupported by its neighbors — and,

b) a great body of yeomanry in the southern states, being by inclination and family tradition Jacksonian Democrats, were not in the least disposed to fight for secession.

Your notion that federal lands might have been sold to plutocratic speculators with insider political connections, rather than given away for little or nothing, raises a whole new pattern of corruption and oppression. Yes, the railroads made out like bandits, and became the targets of the yeoman farmers who got the smaller homesteads.

While I don’t wish to get in the way of your separate dialog with Mr. Wilton, I think it worthwhile to note that while slavery, like, e.g., murder, cannot sin, slavery, like murder, could well BE a sin, as also, adultery, fornication, coveting, etc.

avatar David Smith November 28, 2013 at 10:10 am

Mr. Jenkins:

And based upon your reasoning, we should still be colonies of Great Britain (I’ll freely admit, I’d much prefer King George’s and Parliament’s tyranny of the 1700s to what we have now, but that’s for another discussion!), since perhaps a third of the colonial population, from what I can gather, actively favored separation, another third were ambivalent, and the last third were against it. Still, their representatives voted in assembly to secede from the Empire! Fast forwarding to the 1860s, as the representative government of this state stood at that time, the majority of the Tennessee assembly resisted secession until 8 June 1861. After that, the majority voted for separation from the union as a result of Lincoln’s un-Constitutional demand for 75,000 volunteers to put down the “rebellion”.

That your family wasn’t in agreement with that is no doubt a tragedy, and once again, I don’t automatically approve of everything the CS government did in pursuit of its aims (That would be an impossibility at any time in history!), but it is entirely accurate to say the vast majority of Tennesseeans, in terms of their representation in the assembly, agreed with secession. We were founded as sovereign states, the people being represented in that sovereignty at the state level; if the ratifiers ever thought they were surrendering that ultimate sovereignty to a central government, they never would have consented to the passage of the Constitution in the first place. In fact three states made that very explicit as conditions of their ratification of the Constitution, that they could at any time take back the powers they had delegated to the new central government (i.e. secede), namely, New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island. This is a fact, not my mere “tautologically circular” assertion.

Righteous indignation? Unashamedly, yes! I’ll confess I used to be much more charitable to Lincoln and his cronies in pursuit of their aims. Again, I am capable of regretting the possibly unjustified cruelty and mistreatment of those Southerners, like your family, who were not in agreement with secession, and still remain in essential agreement with the CSA’s goal in separating – originally peacefully had Lincoln stuck to his oath. But how exactly am I, or any other Southerner for that matter, supposed to feel that it’s somehow okay for Lincoln’s Leviathan to invade our sovereign states, with an after-the-fact disingenuous claim that it was about “freeing the slaves”? My people just wanted to be “let alone”, as President Davis said. My gg-grandfather and his son, for example, bore no ill will prior to that war toward the North, I’m sure; being taken into captivity for refusing to take what they considered a traitorous oath to the Union by the commandant of the occupying forces in Dover, TN, isn’t exactly the best way to sow harmonious feelings! And how am I to be all right with what I consider the un-Constitutional slaying of 350,000 (and possibly more!) of my countrymen and kinsmen, the vast destruction of their economy and lands, etc.?

Look, we’re not going to agree on this, but I would ask you to consider that I do sincerely believe what I have written and am not merely being disputatious for its own sake; that it would be a craven surrendering of my convictions to simply go along with the PC narrative about my people’s past and their actions when I honestly believe that too much of it is a lie. This is as harmful no doubt as remaining bitter over a war that ended nearly 150 years ago. But the foul precedents that were set by Lincoln and his centralizers are with us to this day, and I sincerely believe they must be repudiated if there’s any hope of our returning to our heritage as free men.

I sincerely bid you a blessed Thanksgiving.

avatar robert m. peters November 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Mr. Jenkins,

At the end of the day, Southerners followed the formula of their ancestors, not a prefect formula, for no political formula devised by man can be perfect, for fallen man is not perfect, and assembled in conventions which is where they understood their sovereignty to lie as had their ancestors when they seceded from the Crown and as they seceded from the initial union which they had created, and once again seceded from yet another union, peacefully.

While grievances articulated in the ordinances of secession varied from state to state, and some aspect of slavery can be found in many of them, at the end of the day, they had every authority to secede whatever the reason and the main reason was that a political party which was anti-Southern on almost every burning issue of the day, had come to power. The union was at the election of that party dead because it could no longer be a union of equals when the general government would now, in control of an anti-Southern party, pass legislation and execute policies unequally against the South, be it slavery, be it the tariff, be it internal improvements, be it the railroads, etc.

Although Lincoln as his Republicans certainly had their antecedents in Hamilton, Marshall, Story, Webster and Clay, they are the ones who successfully created the nascent Hobbesian state, right on time actually, with Bismark in Germany and Garibaldi in Italy, each using war and its attendant destruction to sweep away under the guise and with the stalking horse of nationalism the last vestiges of political subsidiarity, subsuming free republics, principalities, free cities and even the Papal States. These bellicose national states, created in the crucible of war., would go on to engulf the world in WWI and WWII. The German version of the Hobbesian state, created by Bismark, reached its apex under Hitler and was severely weakened by its defeat in WWII. The Italian version of the Hobbesian state, created by Garibaldi and his cronies, reached its apex under Mussolini and was severely weakened by its defeat and collapse in WWII; however, both live on in the context of the emerging European Union, a monster, if the Europeans of each country really had a say, would vote away. Lincoln’s Hobbsian state has not been defeated. It is now shedding its nationalist skin because like all serpents it has gotten too big for that skin and is revealing its globalist agenda. (I am amused at nationalists like Pat Buchanan, although I agree with Buchanan on much, who lament the globalist reach of the Hobbesian state to the demise of the national state, not seeing or willing to admit that the Hobbesian state created the national state by destroying other polities and is now getting rid of that concubine for which it no longer has a use.

So, the Confederacy is gone, never to return. Slavery in the form of domestic servitude with Africans being subordinate members of Southern households is dead. The South as a place of unique traditions, cultures and habits is all but dead, existing only in enclaves, redoubts and sanctuaries, its traditions there nurtured by an aging and dying remnant. That union which was known as the United States is dead along with its Constitution which is regrettably is trotted out as the consort of the empire, the Union to which she was once the handmaiden having been murdered. Yes, Lincoln’s Hobbesian state, now the full-grown Leviathan is now with us and in us, with its fiat money, its wage slavery, its world-wide reach through its surogates – the U.N., NATO, the WTO, the World Bank, etc.; its drones plying the skies and killing across the world; its submarines lurking under the seas with the capabilities of utter destruction. Worship the god and the party of the god by whom this monster was spawned if you will. Pilgrim if you will to his temple on the Mall and have a thrill at reading the his address. My people and I will worship the God of Our Fathers.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins November 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Smith and Peters, I have no doubt at all that you sincerely believe what each of you are saying. It never occured to me that your arguments were some Machiavellian deception lacking any honest commitment on your part to the veracity thereof.

It is only because you put these arguments forward in public and call on the rest of us to take them seriously as history that I challenged your facts, premises, and conclusions.

My reasons for denouncing secession do not rest on the argument that if a substantial minority disagreed, therefore, a political act should not happen. I merely question the mythology that “the southern people” were united in anything at all. One difference between the American Revolutionary War and the War of Southern Independence, is that the former was victorious, the latter failed. Reasons include, that a far large portion of British public opinion favored the American revolutionaries, than the not insignificant, but not sufficient, portion of northern public opinion that favored the confederacy. Charles James Fox was thrown out of a London dinner party for openly offering a toast to George Washington in December 1777; although there were respectful conversations under flag of truce between fellow West Point graduates on either side in our own Civil War, I know of now case where anyone in Washington, D.C. offered a toast to Robert E. Lee at a dinner party during the war.

Another reason is that the population of the southern states was far less committed to secession than was the civilian population of the united colonies to independence. After the first hurrahs, the numbers enlisting in the armed forces of the rebellion were simply inadequate. (The armies on both sides were of course larger in the civil war). While your gggrandfather was not kindly treated, there were substantial areas where U.S. forces were actually welcomed. Cornwallis won battles all across Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, but he couldn’t hold any of them, lost a large portion of his army by attrition, and was then bottled up at Yorktown. No federal army suffered similar strategic losses. I only know of one confederate army that was literally dispersed and never pulled itself together again: that would be Hood’s Army of Tennessee, routed by George Thomas (a Virginian) at the Battle of Nashville.

Its true that in time of war, any army will to some extent oppress civilians in its way, and incur resentment. Its true that if civilians are actively or even passively resisting that army’s cause, the army will tend to be harsh about it. In that limited sense, I can’t blame the confederate forces for hanging southern unionists. But, that being part of the history, you can’t with any credibility argue about what “The North” did to “The South.” There were no such entities. There was, the government of the United States of America, and, those who sought to take their states into secession from the United States of America. There were minorities in EVERY state who favored the opposite cause. It was no “war between the states,” but a true CIVIL WAR.

I have never heard of any state reserving the right to secede. For purposes of responsing to comments on a web page, I did a quick Google search. I came up with this:
http://studycivilwar.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/did-the-states-reserve-a-right-to-secede/
This is not a published, peer-reviewed book, but it does contain extensive citation to original language from the ratification conventions. At the least, it appears that your assertion is far from a well established or generally accepted fact. The extensive quotes from Virginia and other delegates raise a point I have generally found relevant to any discussion of “state’s rights.” The rights of a state and the rights of the people are two very different things. Reservation of rights to the people includes reservation of those rights in the teeth of state tyranny as well as federal tyranny.

There is in fact no way that an independent confederacy would have simply left alone or been left alone. They were motivated to secede by a desire to expand slavery into new territories. Thus, an established Confederacy and the United States would have been fighting over territory for the next hundred years, making Bleeding Kansas look like a ladies social. “We just want to be left alone” is one of the most transparent lies in human history.

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