Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

How the Confederates Won

I always begin my classes on the Civil War with a discussion of how the war is "remembered." The fact is that there are a number of competing narratives of the war, as responses to my Civil War posts make clear.

Several years ago, I reviewed Race and Reunion by David Blight, which does a good job of tracing the origins and evolution of three narratives:

1) the "emancipationist" interpretation, arising out of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, which remembered the war as a struggle for freedom, a rebirth of the Republic that led to the liberation of blacks and their elevation to citizenship and constitutional equality;

2)the Blue-Gray reconciliationist view, which focused almost exclusively on the sacrifices of the soldiers, avoiding questions of culpability or the right and wrong of the causes;

3) the "white supremacist" view, arising in part from the Democratic Party’s counterrevolution against radical Reconstruction, and reinforced by the Lost Cause narrative, the South’s response to physical destruction and the psychological trauma of defeat.

While the white supremacist view has declined in importance, the Lost Cause narrative has become entrenched. Indeed, as I have argued, the Lost Cause narrative has dominated Civil War historiography until recently.

For those who are interested, my review of Race and Reunion is here.

My next piece will be on the various controversies about Gettysburg. These include, on the Confederate side: the decision to invade Pennsylvania in the first place; the performance of Longstreet during the battle; the effect of losing Jackson at Chancellorsville; Lee vs. Longstreet on the question of defense; and Lee’s decision on the third day to attack the Union center on Cemetery Ridge; and on the Union side: the charge leveled by Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles that Meade was forced by his corps commanders to stand and fight rather than retreat after the second day; and Meade’s failure to pursue Lee after the battle.

Discussions - 28 Comments

I think you are basically on the right track here. But one should remember that the "Lost Cause myth" was not just a southern affair. The reconciliationist and the white supremacist view were in many ways one and the same. The South agree to stop talking about independence; the North agreed to stop talking about slavery; and everyone agreed that it would be a good idea to keep black people throughout the country as second-class citizens.

The "Lost Cause myth" bears comparison to the "American exceptionalism myth" and the "American innocence myth": both North and South applied them when they found them useful. The myths hold us together. They have a basis in some sort of lived reality. And when we abandon them things can get very nasty, as some of the discussions on this website have shown. But, of course, at the end of the day they are still just myths.

I also disagree with this assertion: "the Lost Cause narrative has dominated Civil War historiography until recently." I can't think of a serious book by an academic historian that advances such a "Lost Cause" interpretation. No real historian has written that sort of stuff for eighty or more years.

I am concerned. Someone who calls himself "Brutus" seems to agree with something I have written, which makes me wonder: who are you and what have you done with the REAL Brutus?

Are you questioning my identity? I hope we don't have to go through that whole code duello thing again....

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, dang Yankee holiday though it is....

The "emancipationist" interpretation is of course obvious historical revisionism, but it is the version all the Jaffaites peddle. Saintly Abe freeing the slaves in the name of equality and all that. Got to advance that "noble lie" I guess, truth be damned.

I am not sure how there could be a "white supremacist" view that arose in the Democratic counter-revolution against Reconstruction since that term wasn't even used back then. "White supremacy" is a term of recent coinage that is used significantly more by cultural-Marxist detractors than it is by anyone who self-identifies as such.

If you want to be credible, you need to come up with a different name.

The reconciliationist view was agreed on by both sides for many years. The South would be loyal Americans, fighting in disproportionate share in the military for example, and both sides would be allowed to honor their past, their dead, and their respective heroes. This was going along fairly well until the liberals broke the truce. It was the cultural Marxist who started demanding the Flag be taken down, Lee not be honored, etc.

This is to be expected I guess from cultural Marxist, but the most shameful thing is that certain people calling themselves conservatives jumped on the bandwagon and started courting favor from the cultural Marxist PC right think enforcers and threw the real conservatives under the bus.

Why Dr. Owens are you in bed with such people? Throwing around a smear word like white supremacist is beneath you.

Clyde Wilson has a very good article on the truce and who broke it. I will try to find it.

I would add some wink emoticons but I just can't stand those things.

Here is the link to the Clyde Wilson article I mentioned. It is also in the link under my name. (I can't get the link function to work.)

"The Compromise is broken. Why this happened would take several books to explain. Northern society has periodically gone through fits of fanaticism which have focused upon us. When was the last time you thought about telling people in New York or Seattle what to do? Never, because it is not a part of our national character as Southerners. But hundreds of thousands of Northerners are thinking about you and about their right to suppress your evil ways. In their fantasy world, which is the only culture of any significance they have, you are the evil obstacle to making the world perfect. They have always been that way.

It has nothing to do with you. It is their problem. It has nothing to do with the South except that the South lies convenient for their aggressions. They cover up their emptiness, hatred, hypocrisy, and insignificance by identifying you as the Enemy. This is the way Puritans behave when they lose their religion. Our forefathers saw this clearly. It was that kind of society and people that they fought to be free of!"


You do bring out the odd commentators.

Nice touch on Brutus.

Actually (correct me if I am wrong, Mac) the emancipationist view is not the "neo-con" view you are attacking at all. The emancipationist view usually upholds the (imprudent) radicalism of a William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and Co., and usually despises Lincoln as a racist who did little to free the slaves and looks to other causes. It often says that the abolitionists forced Lincoln to come around - usually reluctantly - to their view and free the slaves. The Jaffa argument is one in which Lincoln is rooted upon the founding of our natural rights republic.

I think I agree with Tony that none of the three views in the post is completely on the money. Nor is even one that exaggerates or miscontrues Stephens' "Corner Stone" speech. I'm still waiting for one the captures the injustice, imprudence, honor-obsessed indignation, and latent fearfulness of the Southern leaders. Here there's a lot to learn from Tocqueville, and from post-agrarian analyses of Southern Stoicism, such as that given by Walker Percy. I'm okay with a sort of chastened, anti-aristocratic, anti-racist emancipationist narrative, but I'm not sure it's really been given yet.


The name of something is less important than the underlying concept. I am not a nominalist. For instance, in my line of work, I talk about "strategy." The fact is that the word "strategy" is a nineteenth century coinage, attributable to such military writers as Clausewitz and Jomini. But the CONCEPT of strategy is present in Thucydides and Machiavelli.

"White supremicist" may be a recent coinage, but the concept was identifiable long before the words were invented. Do you deny that slavery and the social system that was imposed after the failure of Reconstuction was based on the concept of white supremacy? Of course, the concept was not limited to the South. It was rampant in the North as well.

I despise the multicultural left as much as you do. I despise them because they hate America. Their narrative is that America is racist to the core. They would prefer not only to haul down the Confederate battle flag but also the Stars and Stripes. But while there have always been racist Americans, the country is founded on principles that are completely at odds with the idea that one race is naturally superior to another.

What Lincoln understood and Jaffa has emphasized is that the "equality" spoken of in the Declaration of Independence means simply that one man does not have the natural right to rule over another without the consent of the latter, that according to a metaphor that was popular among the founding generation, some men are not born "with saddles on their backs" to be ridden by others born "booted and spurred."

The target of the DI was the concept of natural aristocracy and the divine right of kings. But it applies as well to the idea that some are born to be the natural masters of others. Indeed, there is no more emancipationist document in the history of mankind than the DI. Jefferson, despite his ownership of slaves, understood this quite well.

BTW, one of the reasons that I have never objected to the Confederate battle flag is that it is not the so-called national flag. To my mind, the Confederate battle flag represents the valor of the Southern soldier, not the cause for which he fought. It is interesting to note that when the South Carolina controversy broke, The Sons of Union Veterans came down on the side of those who wished to keep the flag flying over the SC capitol.

Some might be interested in the fact that what is today often called the Confederate battle flag is really the naval ensign. While both share the same general pattern--a blue St. Andrew's cross with 13 white stars, timmed in white, on a red field--the actual battle flag, carried by regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia, was square, not rectangular. In the Army of Tennessee, regimental battle flags often sported the cross of St. George rather than the cross of St. Andrew.

There were, as I recall, three different national flags. The first was the Stars and Bars. When carried in battle early in the war, it led to confusion because of its similarity to the Stars and Stripes. The second was the battle flag, boxed in the upper left corner of a white flag. Later, a red stripe was added to the right side.

"I'm okay with a sort of chastened, anti-aristocratic, anti-racist emancipationist narrative, but I'm not sure it's really been given yet."

It shouldn't be about what you are OK with. It should be about what is the truth. History should not be about myth making or propping up a particular version.

"arising out of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, which remembered the war as a struggle for freedom, a rebirth of the Republic that led to the liberation of blacks and their elevation to citizenship and constitutional equality"

Tony, that sounds like straight Jaffaite revisionism to me.

One has to wonder if all those capitalists up North that made millions off the Southern Slave trade really thought that the War for Southern Independence was all about the "emancipationist" interpretation, arising out of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, which remembered the war as a struggle for freedom, a rebirth of the Republic that led to the liberation of blacks and their elevation to citizenship and constitutional equality;

After all the Northern companies held the majority of slave insurance policies and also had the monoploy on the shipping and trading of slaves. More slave ships resided in the North than in the South. Lincoln's EP set the slaves free, but did nothing to help them assimilate into society. The slaves that traveled North endured much more racism and bitter treatment than they ever did in the South. Sorry, can't buy the fact that the North's and Lincoln's major concern was the freedom of the slaves in the South. If it was, why did the North and Lincoln not help them assimilate into society? Because it wasn't about slavery - it was about power and greed.

However, I do appreciate your comments and facts about the Confederate Flag. The Confederate Flag has been abused and misunderstood. Have a great Turkey Day!

Dear Ms. Cowgirl et al

Several points: Lincoln NEVER blamed slavery exclusively on the South. It was, he understood, a national, not a regional problem, but one that violated the founding principles of the United States. He was also aware of the role of greed in "blowing out the moral lights" of the country. At the very end of his 1857 speech on Roger Taney's Dred Scott decision, he wrote:

The plainest print (the DI?) cannot be read through a gold eagle; and it will be ever hard to find many men who will send a slave to Liberia, and pay his passage, while they can send him to a new country, Kansas, for instance, and sell him for fifteen hundred dollars, and the rise.

But slavery is still morally wrong, he held. The question with which he grappled during his presidency was how to end it. As I wrote in my piece on the EP, Lincoln's preferred approach was gradual, compensated emancipation. But his scheme was rejected, even by the loyal slave states (BTW, Ms. Cowgirl, you should read the actual articles rather than merely the NLT posts and comments. You may still disagree, but your comments will be more focused on the arguments I actually make.)

The war was to preserve the Union, but the dissolution of the Union was the result of the South's insistence that slavery could be spread to the federal territories. Lincoln never claimed to have any power to abolish slavery where it existed, but he contended that Congress could prevent its expansion.

As a result, the South concluded that the institution of slavery could not be protected within the Union. So the South invented a "constitutional" right to dissolve the Union. This was a continuation of a policy of blackmail, going back to the 1830s.

In 1833, the minority threatened to break up the Union over the tariff. The majority gave in. In 1835, it threatened to break up the Union if Congress did not prohibit discussions of slavery during its own proceedings. The majority gave in and passed a "Gag Rule." In 1850, the minority threatened to break up the Union unless Congress forced the return of fugitive slaves without a prior jury trial. The majority agreed to pass a Fugitive Slave Act. In 1854 the minority threatened to break up the Union unless the Missouri Compromise was repealed, opening Kansas to slavery. Again, the majority acquiesced rather than see the Union smashed.

But the majority could only go so far in permitting minority blackmail to override the constitutional will of the majority. At the Democratic Convention in Charleston, held in April 1860, the majority finally refused the blackmailers' demand — for a FEDERAL guarantee of slave property in all US territories. The delegates from the deep South then walked out, splitting the Democratic Party and ensuring that Lincoln would be elected by a plurality.

As I have suggested before, there are two ironies here. The first is that the real "secession" was that of the South from the Democratic Party. The resulting split in the Democratic Party was instrumental in bringing about the election of Lincoln, which the South then used as the excuse for smashing the Union. The second is that the South's demand at Charleston, far from having anything to do with States' rights, was instead a call for an unprecedented expansion of federal power.


"Several points: Lincoln NEVER blamed slavery exclusively on the South"

Then how come the EP of 1862 only freed the slaves in the South that were not already under Union Control. Why did the EP of 1862 free slaves in the North? General Grant kept his slaves 2 years after the EP of 1862.

Lincoln supported the Fugitive Slavery Act while Senator of Illinois and also said that he would keep slavery if it
meant keeping the Union intact. In many of his debates against Douglas he sat on the fence on whether he was for or against slavery. Matter of fact Lincoln was for sending slaves back to Africa. I believed you might have missed this part of Lincoln's speech on the Dred Scott Decision which I can't seem to find the idea of assimilation anywhere in it:

"I have said that the separation of the races is the only perfect preventative of amalgamation. I have no right to say all the members of the Republican party are in favor of this, nor to say that as a party they are in favor of it. There is nothing in their platform directly on the subject. But I can say a very large proportion of its members are for it, and that the chief plank in their platform -- opposition to the spread of slavery -- is most favorable to that separation.
Such separation, if ever effected at all, must be effected by colonization; and no political party, as such, is now doing anything directly for colonization. Party operations at present only favor or retard colonization incidentally. The enterprise is a difficult one, but 'when there is a will there is a way;' and what colonization needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is morally right, and, at the same time, favorable to, or, at least, not against, our interest, to transfer the African to his native clime, and we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be. The children of Israel, to such numbers as to include four hundred thousand fighting men, went out of Egyptian bondage

Dear Ms. Cowgirl

The EP freed only slaves in the rebellious states because it was a war measure, a way to end the rebellion. It did not affect slavery in the loyal slave states or those parts of the states in rebellion that were occupied by Federal troops. In the absence of his preferred scheme, gradual, compensated emancipation, the EP was the only viable option left to him. Of course, it had to be completed by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Re Grant and his "slaves," his wife, Julia Boggs Dent of Missouri, a state not covered by the EP, had some household servants, with which she could not part, and since they legally belonged to her, Grant chose not to make an issue of it. She kept them until 1863. Grant did come into possession of one of his father-in-law's slaves, William Jones, in 1858 after Colonel Dent had moved and left the family farm in Grant's hands. Although he badly needed money and could have sold William for a substantial profit, he emancipated him a short time later (March 1859).

I said nothing about "assimilation." Where did that come from? Lincoln, like most Whigs, was an advocate of gradual emancipation coupled with colonization before the war. The fact that freed slaves would fight for the Union and their freedom, plus the influence of Frederick Douglass, caused Lincoln to change his mind on the issue.

As I said, you should read more than just the NLT posts and comments. Also you should avoid "cherry-picking" your evidence.

What Lincoln understood and Jaffa has emphasized is that the "equality" spoken of in the Declaration of Independence means simply that one man does not have the natural right to rule over another without the consent of the latter, that according to a metaphor that was popular among the founding generation, some men are not born "with saddles on their backs" to be ridden by others born "booted and spurred."

Not this again.

1) Lincoln "understood" no such thing.

2) Those words by Jefferson are taken completely out of context. At the time he uttered them, he was a slave owner. He was NOT referring to the state of race relations in America. He WAS attacking the concepts of aristocracy and of religion. Trying to hijack those words into the service of the anti-slavery movement is pure historical revisionism.

3) Given the intense hostility of the Jaffist movement to majority rule, their alleged concern "that one man .. not have the natural right to rule over another without the consent of the latter" rings rather hollow.

John, if you have some time this holiday weekend, maybe you can see that Lincoln believed in natural rights and equality by reading some of the documents on this very website. Go to the original sources, my friend. As for Jefferson's supposed contradiction between not being able to be against slavery while he was a slaveowners, I thought to myself, "not this again." Sounds like all the fourteen-year-olds I've ever taught. Read some of Jefferson's comments about slavery (and all the other Founders for that matter). Humans do things all the time that they know are wrong - it's called sin.

Cherry-picking my evidence - and what are you doing. Addressing the whole basket?

Your first point. Again Lincoln signed the EP because he was losing the war. Not because he loved the slaves. Furthermore, the Confederate States already had formed a government with the Articles of Confederation. Lincoln's EP had no legal affect on the southern states. According to the U.S. COnstitution they rightfully seceded from the Union and were no longer under Lincoln's Government. The South was defending themselves against Lincoln's illegal invastion. So the EP was meaningless. It was only meaningful to Lincoln and his unmitigated desire to win the War and keep the Union in tact. He used slavery to win the war, not because he was against slavery.
Regarding Grant's slaves - you are making excuses for him. He owned slaves - ones that were not covered by the EP - if Lincoln really was against slavery, then all slaves should have been set free, not just the ones in the South. AGain the EP was a tactical war decision - nothing do with whether slavery was wrong or right. Gradual emancipation and assimilation into society is the same thing. The slaves could not read, write or take care of themselves - remember the North didn't want the freed slaves. To free the slaves without giving them a form of education, etc would have horrible for the slaves. Lincoln really wanted to ship them all back to Africa - let's face the facts.
Lincoln needed the money from the Abolutionists to finance the war. The EP was all about getting that money and using it as a tactical war maneuver. Again 13,000 people in the North were thrown into jail for speaking out against Lincoln's war. No one was ever thrown into jail for supporting slavery in the North because the North was profitting from slavery.


You have never posted a comment here which would lead me to think that you know anything at all about the subject under discussion.

Read some of Jefferson's comments about slavery (and all the other Founders for that matter).

You mean, like these?

Or these?

Jefferson was an advocate of expanding slavery to the western territories. An odd position for a man supposedly eager to see the practice end.

Jefferson, like many of our Founders, were complex.

With Jefferson, even though he was a master, he did write this ...

"The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other." - Jefferson on Manners,

Was he condemning himself in that statement?

Jefferson, like many of his time, also believed that a possible solution to the mess that would supposedly happen after ending slavery would be to send the freed blacks to the West Indies.

But, was Jefferson truly against emancipation of the slaves and was he truly against making his words on the Declaration of Independence mean something to these people?

"The love of justice and the love of country plead equally the cause of these people, and it is a moral reproach to us that they should have pleaded it so long in vain, and should have produced not a single effort, nay fear not much serious willingness to relieve them & ourselves from our present condition of moral & political reprobation." - Jefferson in a letter to Edward Coles, Monticello, August 25, 1814,

That is eloquent, but did he actually do anything to help the slave, the black?

"In the first or second session of the Legislature after I became a member, drew to this subject the attention of Col. Bland, one of the oldest, ablest, & most respected members, and he undertook to move for certain moderate extensions of the protection of the laws to these people. I seconded his motion, and, as a younger member, was more spared in the debate; but he was denounced as an enemy of his country, & was treated with the grossest indecorum." - Jefferson in a letter to Edward Coles, Monticello, August 25, 1814

From the same letter ...

"I had always hoped that the younger generation receiving their early impressions after the flame of liberty had been kindled in every breast, & had become as it were the vital spirit of every American, that the generous temperament of youth, analogous to the motion of their blood, and above the suggestions of avarice, would have sympathized with oppression wherever found, and proved their love of liberty beyond their own share of it."

And here's another from the same letter ...

Yet the hour of emancipation is advancing, in the march of time. It will come; and whether brought on by the generous energy of our own minds; or by the bloody process of St Domingo, excited and conducted by the power of our present enemy, if once stationed permanently within our Country, and offering asylum & arms to the oppressed, is a leaf of our history not yet turned over."

Overall, I would say Jefferson is generally against slavery even though he was a slave owner himself.

Another document to check out would be Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence. Many references to slavery. Thank you again, Professor Owens, for your post and your comments. Have you thought at all about eventually writing a book, or at least a collection of essays?

What else did Jefferson say about slavery, the slave trade, and slaves in general (not using John's link from above?

"I am very sensible of the honor you propose to me of becoming a member of the society for the abolition of the slave trade. You know that nobody wishes more ardently to see an abolition, not only of the trade, but of the condition of slavery; and certainly nobody will be more willing to encounter every sacrifice for that object. But the influence and information of the friends to this proposition in France will be far above the need of my association. I am here as a public servant, and those whom I serve, having never yet been able to give their voice against this practice, it is decent for me to avoid too public a demonstration of my wishes to see it abolished. Without serving the cause here, it might render me less able to serve it beyond the water. I trust you will be sensible of the prudence of those motives, therefore, which govern my conduct on this occasion."
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to J. P. Brissot de Warville, Feb. 1788

"The clause respecting slavery was lost by an individual vote only. Ten States were present. The four Eastern States, New York and Pennsylvania, were for the clause. Jersey would have been for it, but there were but two members, one of whom was [sick] in his chambers. South Carolina, Maryland, and! Virginia! voted against it. North Carolina was divided, as would have been Virginia, had not one of its delegates been sick in bed."
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Madison, April 25, 1784

"There were ten States present; six voted unanimously for it, three against it, and one was divided; and seven votes being requisite to decide the proposition affirmatively, it was lost. The voice of a single individual of the State which was divided, or of one of those which were of the negative, would have prevented this abominable crime from spreading itself over the new country. Thus we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and heaven was silent in that awful moment! But it is to be hoped it will not always be silent, and that the friends to the rights of human nature will in the end prevail."
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to M. de Meunier, 1786

Here's one more from Jefferson ...

"It was found that the public mind would not bear the proposition [gradual emancipation] , nor will it bear it even at this day (1821). Yet the day is not distant, when it must bear and adopt it, or worse will follow. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate, than that these people are to be free; nor is it less certain, that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion have drawn indelible lines of distinction between them. It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation and deportation, peaceably, and in such slow degree, as that the evil will wear off insensibly, and their place be, pari passu, filled up by free white laborers. If, on the contrary, it is left to force itself on, human nature must shudder at the prospect held up. We should in vain look for an example in the Spanish deportation, or deletion of the Moors. This precedent would fall far short of our case."
Thomas Jefferson in Jefferson MSS

"Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people [blacks] are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them."
-Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821

Thomas Jefferson, while owning slaves, wanted slavery to end. That should be clear from his own writings.

Dear Ms. Cowgirl

I am sure you have heard the saying that you are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts. Your posts consist of claims that are not supported by the evidence.

Here are some of the most egregious. To begin with, there was no constitutional right to secede. The people who claim that there was are confusing revolution with secession. But revolution depends on a claim to the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That was the basis of the American Revolution. The Founders did not claim to “secede” from the British Empire; instead they stated a long train of abuses to justify to a candid world the justification for their revolution against the Crown and Parliament.

The EP was indeed a war measure. It was Lincoln’s response to the failure to end the rebellion after two years as well as the rejection of compensated emancipation by the loyal slave states. The time had come, as he wrote to Cuthbert Bullitt, to stop waging war “with elder-stalk squirts, charged with rose water.” But the North was hardly “losing the war.” The emergence of Lee had led to significant Union setbacks in Virginia, but in the West, Union arms were ascendant. New Orleans and Memphis were in Union hands. Indeed, the entire Mississippi River with the exception of the stretch between Vicksburg and Port Hudson had been wrested from the Rebels, rendering the trans-Mississippi region strategically irrelevant. Most of western Tennessee and much of northern Mississippi had fallen to Union forces, including the key rail junction of Corinth, lost to Grant by your husband’s ancestor, P.G.T. Beauregard, who was never quite able to actually implement his grandiose strategic schemes.

You claimed in an earlier post that “in many of [Lincoln’s]debates against Douglas he sat on the fence on whether he was for or against slavery.” Utter rubbish! He was always opposed to slavery, but he understood that the Federal government had no power over the institution where it currently existed. Under the Constitution, slavery was left to the states. That’s what you must understand to grasp his grand scheme to end slavery: convincing the legislatures of the slave states to end the institution, while having Congress provide funds to compensate slave owners. He did believe, however, that Congress could prevent its expansion into the Federal territories, and this was the line to which he held after his election.

Gradual emancipation and assimilation are NOT the same thing. And your lament that slaves could not read or write is rich. If they couldn’t it was because teaching a slave to read or write was against the law in most Southern states. Hey. They might read that pesky Declaration of Independence and get a bunch of dangerous ideas in their heads. It’s rather like the young man who murdered his parents and then appealed to the court for leniency because he was an orphan. Please!

If I seem a little impatient with your arguments, it is because I once made them all, just as self-assuredly and uncritically as you do. I understand them because I was raised on them. But they don’t stand up to scrutiny. That is the reason I changed my mind and rejected the arguments you make. So while I am an apostate, you bring the fervor of the convert to the table.


Congratulations on trotting out the old Roger Taney argument—that Jefferson could not have believed that the words he wrote in the DI applied to blacks since he himself owned slaves. I actually prefer Calhoun’s take. Jefferson DID believe what he wrote but he was wrong.

I did my doctoral work on Hamilton. I have read every word that Hamilton wrote. To understand Hamilton, it is necessary to read Jefferson as well, so I have read just about every word that HE wrote as well (and he was one wordy son-of-a-gun). If you can find any defense of the institution of slavery in his works, I’d like to see it (thanks to Tony and Dale on this). For Jefferson, the question was how to end a practice that most Americans understood to be wrong but to do it in a practical and constitutional way. After all, with slavery we had “a wolf by the ears.”

Jefferson’s changing position on the expansion of slavery had to do with the changing status of the institution. Under the Articles of Confederation, Jefferson wrote legislation that would have prevented the expansion of slavery into any of the territories formed when the original states gave up their western claims, i.e. the original US territories east of the Mississippi. It narrowly failed. Jefferson then penned the Northwest Ordinance that prohibited slavery in the territory northwest of the Ohio River. It was enacted by the First Congress. Jefferson’s thinking at this point was that slavery was on the road to extinction, as Lincoln said.

But the cotton gin changed things. Expansion became a national issue with the Missouri debate. Jefferson was concerned that the sectional debate would wreck the country. He concluded, falsely I believe, that the diffusion of slavery into the Louisiana Territory would help to end the sectional impasse, and that once again, the institution could be ended.

And what in the world are you talking about when you invoke ”the intense hostility of the Jaffist movement to majority rule?” Lincoln’s position was that there are certain principles that are beyond the vote of a majority. For instance, the majority cannot decide to abolish the rights of the minority. A majority of John’s neighbors may not vote to hang John merely because he is annoying. Majority rule is limited in this regard. I am reminded of H.L Mencken’s description of a lynch mob as perfect democracy at work: the majority is happy and only the individual dangling at the end of the hemp rope is dissatisfied.

The silence from those that espouse the Southern Confederacy line is defeaning.

Yeah ... I am trying to stir things up. I may not be eloquent, but I know how to get into a fight ... heh.

One other thing ...

I don't think the Confederates won in regards to how the Civil War was remembered.

Maybe I am wrong, but the reason that Brutus and others take such strong offense to the "normal" view of the Civil War is that it makes the South to be totally at fault and, sometimes, almost evil in its desires to keep slavery running and expanding.

Just a though.

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