View Poll Results: Which narrative is the correct one for the cause of the American Civil War?

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  • The Lost Cause

    3 15.79%
  • Progressive

    4 21.05%
  • Emancipation

    3 15.79%
  • Unionism

    10 52.63%
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Thread: The Civil War Narrative?

  1. #16
    Herodotus
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    For a differing perspective I was taught as an undergrad (in Colorado even) the War of Northern Aggression...er Civil War...from a Southern point of view. The reason being; the prof. was trained in Missouri (it was a border state I know, but apparently still had some southern leanings, or at least they did, where and when my prof. went to school).

    At any rate I appreciated the perspective, mostly states' rights, with some sectional economic differences. I was taught in junior high the unionism and probably emancipation perspectives which balances nicely with what I was taught later.

    In truth I don't think there is one overarching perspective that is correct; perspective after all depends on who you are, who taught you, where you live, so on, etc. Slavery was the catalyst, but the underlying issue was the role of states vis-a-vis the federal government, and fundamentally what type of government the United States should have (never fully hashed out at the Founding).

  2. #17
    Global Moderator Defense Professional JAD_333's Avatar
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    Hero, I go along with pretty much everything you said. I think, however, that we can step back from regional biases and see the causes fairly well. All of them come into play at various stages before, during and after the war.
    To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

  3. #18
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    prior to the ACW three different economies had grown up. in the NE, free labor and rising industrialism which supplied goods to the Midwest/west free holders or small farmers who shipped their produce to the cites. Then there was the South who relied on salve labor for King Cotton and did business mostly with Europe.

    Most southerners did not own slaves, but the ones who were politically or economically important did. Those slave owners also controlled government and opposed any expansion of federal power than might threaten their golden goose. This opposition meant they kept the South out of an economic change occurring in America. They had fewer rail roads, no major canals, little flood control etc. To justify this they needed a narrative so that the bulk of the white population which had no vested interest in slavery would support them. This narrative took two forms one was states rights and the other was black males were dangerous.

    The Civil War should rightly be seen as the forces of unionism against the almost feudal aristocrats. One of the great tragedies of that war is that among the dead only the first part of that narrative died. The second part survived, crawled out from under reconstruction and then spent almost the entire next hundred years recreating the exact same social norms as existed in the Antebellum South; a few rich white planters, merchants and bankers using fear to turn the majority poor rural whites against the even poorer blacks when in fact poor whites and blacks have more in common with each other than a share cropper and a land lord ever will.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julie View Post
    The largest plantation owners (a.k.a. “planters”) were an
    aristocratic society; they were powerful people in their
    communities and were frequently active in state and national
    politics. Most of the wealthiest men in America lived in the
    south; nine of the first 15 presidents were born in southern states
    (most of them were slave owners).
    Non-slave owning farmers
    of the south wanted to climb the socio-economic ladder and thus
    supported the institution of slavery. Most southerners, whether
    they owned slaves or not, firmly believed that their economy
    and culture existed because of the use of human chattel
    (property).

    Slave owners really became rich after the invention
    of the cotton gin in 1793. Productivity increased fifty times.
    Most southern delegates to the Second Continental Congress
    (1776) were slave owners. They successfully removed a
    passage from the Declaration of Independence condemning the
    king and Parliament for allowing the horrific “Slave Trade.”
    Southern delegates to the Constitutional Convention (1787)
    argued that slaves should be counted in their population for
    purposes of representation in the new House of Representatives
    (the Three-Fifths Compromise). In addition, delegates decided
    to allow the new government to tax imports, including slaves,
    but forbid the Congress to consider other regulations against
    slavery until 1808 (the Slave Trade Compromise).


    Southern planters asserted that Africans were better off because
    of slavery. They were fed, clothed, housed, and taught
    Christianity; life as an American slave was better than life as an
    African “savage.” Any movement or legislation against the
    institution of slavery, the expansion of slavery, or the slave trade
    itself, was considered an attack on the southern way of life. To
    slave owners, the Missouri Compromise (1820) and the
    Compromise of 1850 were northern attempts to restrict slavery
    until it died. Abolitionists such as William Garrison and Harriet
    Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Toms’ Cabin) represented all
    northerners’ desire to end slavery altogether. John Brown’s
    militant attitude against slavery was misread as the attitude of
    all northerners. And the formation of the Republican Party (with
    Lincoln in tow) was practically a bugle call for war.

    http://lincoln.georgetowncollege.edu...lacard%202.pdf
    So a tax on slave imports up through 1808 led to secession in 1860? Not buying it.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Julie View Post
    Once again, states taxed slaves. Here's evidence that confirms that. This doesn't demonstrate that the federal government taxed slave owners for their slaves.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herodotus View Post
    At any rate I appreciated the perspective, mostly states' rights, with some sectional economic differences.
    How did he handle and present the Fugitive Slave Law, which was the most powerful federal piece of legislation ever to that point, which was clearly a pro-Southern piece of legislation and ran roughshod over state's rights as expressed in the personal liberty laws passed in the north to prevent free blacks from being rounded up and sold into slavery?
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    Shek,

    Didn't do Civil War at school, but did at Uni. I would have leaned toward 'unionism' with 'progressive' influence.
    I'm afraid it has been a solid decade since I did the course & having spent the intervening years overloading a failing memory with new trivia I've lost the nuances a bit.

    Others here have touched on major issues to do with the ways the different sections of the nation developed economically. My memory was that the ruling class in the Sth saw the continuation of slavery as crucial to the economic & social order. With the growing population & economic imbalance threatening their political power they chose to see any attempt to limit the expansion of slavery as a threat. Others in the Sth had these & other reasons for resenting what they saw as 'interference'. I think that your 'unionism' & 'progressive' threads are therefore linked.

    Sorry if that's a bit basic, working from memory here.

    Oh, and your avatar is starting to scare me. Halloween is over. Please stop. Please.


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  8. #23
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    I did not give a vote because it depends on what stage of my schooling studying the Civil War is how I interested the answer. When I was in grade school in Boston and Buffalo in the 1960s it was about emancipation. This was right after the centennial and right in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. When I was in high school and college in the 1970s it was more the progressive narrative. When I was in grad school in the early 1990s it was more about Unionism AND Sectionalism than anything else.
    I took a semester long graduate seminar on the causes of the Civil War and we all agreed it was a blending of all three of those.
    We did study the Lost Cause but only as one of the schools of historiography of the ACW.
    Oh, and Hero….except for the area around ST Louis, Missouri was VERY Confederate!
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
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    one of the big catalysts for the war was that there was the sense that the balance of power had shifted, destroying the compromise of 1850.

    the faster-growing, stronger industry/economy of the north, combined with the unionist tendencies of the new western states such as california, gave southerners a sense that it was now or never.

    an interesting scenario to contemplate is a Civil War following the Mexican War (had the compromise collapsed), or if there had been a stronger southern reaction to Andrew Jackson during the Nullification Crisis. the warfare would have been dramatically different...and i think the south would have had better success.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    one of the big catalysts for the war was that there was the sense that the balance of power had shifted, destroying the compromise of 1850.

    the faster-growing, stronger industry/economy of the north, combined with the unionist tendencies of the new western states such as california, gave southerners a sense that it was now or never.

    an interesting scenario to contemplate is a Civil War following the Mexican War (had the compromise collapsed), or if there had been a stronger southern reaction to Andrew Jackson during the Nullification Crisis. the warfare would have been dramatically different...and i think the south would have had better success.

    No argument...particulalry when the War Hawks and the Northeasterners had less drawing them together in 1847 than in 1861. Unionism was what they had in common, not abolitionism.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
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  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    prior to the ACW three different economies had grown up. in the NE, free labor and rising industrialism which supplied goods to the Midwest/west free holders or small farmers who shipped their produce to the cites. Then there was the South who relied on salve labor for King Cotton and did business mostly with Europe.
    Weren't the NE states mostly left out by S relations with Europe?What about the nature of S imports and percentage by origin?


    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    The Civil War should rightly be seen as the forces of unionism against the almost feudal aristocrats. One of the great tragedies of that war is that among the dead only the first part of that narrative died. The second part survived, crawled out from under reconstruction and then spent almost the entire next hundred years recreating the exact same social norms as existed in the Antebellum South; a few rich white planters, merchants and bankers using fear to turn the majority poor rural whites against the even poorer blacks when in fact poor whites and blacks have more in common with each other than a share cropper and a land lord ever will.
    Now that's almost a marxist view.I have books from the 60's or 70's that put the problem in exactly those terms.Sound a bit to simplistic(or it's my tendency to complicate things).
    Those who know don't speak
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  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mihais View Post
    Weren't the NE states mostly left out by S relations with Europe?What about the nature of S imports and percentage by origin?
    Not really. Plenty of Northern mills were using Southern cotton and Southerners were using Northern manufactured goods. As for exports...the export of grain and foodstuffs to Europe from Norhtern states outweighed anything that Southrn King Cotton could do. And as it would be shown Egyptian cotton was taking a lead over Southern cotton in European mills by the start of the war.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
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  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mihais View Post
    Now that's almost a marxist view.I have books from the 60's or 70's that put the problem in exactly those terms.Sound a bit to simplistic(or it's my tendency to complicate things).
    Its much more complicated but that narrative is correct. The big planters, bankers and merchants owned the South. They owned the mills, the capitol (credit) and best farm lands. it really was almost feudal. The process of turning poor white against poor black actually starts before the birth of America but it was a re-occurring theme and was highly successful.

    It only began to fall apart after WWI. During the war until the Great Depression some 1.2-2 million blacks migrated north and another million or so went west in search of Jobs. This caused a labor shortage which would thus drive up wages something the Planters did not want. How did they repsond? By changing the narrative. Up to the late 19teens there were lynchings almost daily. These had been sued since reconstruction to keep the blacks in line and give poor whites an outlet to their frustrations. However after the Great Migration caused a scarcity of labor the white elites put pressure on law enforcement to break up the mobs. In Arkansas from 1910-19 there were 140 lynchings, from 1920-29 there were 17 and on the 1030's just 2. But jsut as many mobs went out, they were intercepted and told to go home.

    Building on this labor shortage were the Rosenwald Fund schools. Rosenwald a German-Jewish immigrant and president of Sear and Roebuck knew something about discrimination. He asked his friend Booker T Washington what blacks needed and was told they needed schools. Ever since the Supreme Court had upheld Separate but Equal (segregation) funding for black schools started during reconstruction had dried up.

    The fund offered t pay for half the cost of a school, the African-American community had to pitch in 1/7th the cost (about $1000) and the white district the rest. Initially the plan was a failure, white districts could care less. However once the labor shortage arrived white became ponying up the money in order to encourage African-American families to stay.

    There is more evidence, a lot more of it but its all there. For exmaple it turns out that the most often heard accusation and reason for a lynching was rape of a white woman. In fact many lynchings were targeted at blacks who had made something of themselves- grocers, journalists etc.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Once again, states taxed slaves. Here's evidence that confirms that. This doesn't demonstrate that the federal government taxed slave owners for their slaves.
    From the 1776 attempt to draft Articles of Confederation to the end of the Federalist era, slavery intruded into every effort to create a tax system at the national level.

    The Continental Congress did not have the power to tax directly, but instead assessed amounts against various states who then voluntarily, paid requisitions out of their own funds. These funds were then passed on to the Continental Congress to fund the Revolutionary War.

    In 1783, for example, South Carolina was to pay 52% of its budget to Congress that year, to meet its requisition for Revolutionary War debts.

    After the adoption of the Constitution, Congress, on two occasions, imposed a direct federal tax on slaves. In 1798, Congress was preparing for a potential naval war with France in the wake of the “XYZ” affair. Since customs duties were not raising enough funds to support military preparedness, Congress passed a direct tax on land, houses, and slaves. The Act of July 14, 1798, imposed a federal tax on slaves between the ages of 12 and 50 at $ .50 each.

  15. #30
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    julie,

    regardless, it was not federal taxation of slaves that was an impetus for secession or southern displeasure. the south was upset over slavery limitations in new territories as set out by the Northwest Ordinance and the Missouri Compromise.

    they viewed it (rightly so) as an attempt by pro-business and abolitionist elements to isolate slavery to one corner of the US, with the understanding that this would speed up the day slavery became unprofitable and would thus disappear.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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