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Northern arguments

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by jgoodguy, Oct 19, 2016.

  1. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Northern arguments
    [17] James McPherson, This Mighty Scourge, pages 3-9. Speaking of alternative explanations for secession, McPherson writes (p.7), "While one or more of these interpretations remain popular among the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other Southern heritage groups, few professional historians now subscribe to them. Of all these interpretations, the state's-rights argument is perhaps the weakest. It fails to ask the question, state's rights for what purpose? State's rights, or sovereignty, was always more a means than an end, an instrument to achieve a certain goal more than a principle. [18] William H. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861
     
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  3. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    "The slave power"? Seriously? In any case, I disagree that the South was dominant... they always struggled just to maintain the status quo. They didn't win every battle, which is what I envision by use of the term "dominant". And that last sentence is just nonsense. "Maintaining its dominance of the Federal Goverment" by leaving? The South gave up all power in the Federal Government by seceding. They weren't trying to win control of the US government, they were walking away.

    That's not a very sound analysis by Mr. McPherson, unless he's taking Abraham Lincoln's view that secession was never a serious separatist attempt, but was just a strongarm tactic. McPherson should know better than that.
     
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  4. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Not Dominant? When exactly was the South not dominant?
    Seriously "Abraham Lincoln's view that secession was never a serious separatist attempt, but was just a strongarm tactic. " Perhaps a bit of verbiage will clear this one up.
    "The South gave up all power in the Federal Government by seceding. They weren't trying to win control of the US government, they were walking away. "Indeed. but not relevant in the antebellum period which is what is discussed in this part of the article.
     
  5. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    This is the letter I was thinking of when I typed that.

    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln...view=detail;type=simple;view=fulltext;q1=1860

    My dear Sir---Yours of the 6th is received. I answer it only because I fear you would misconstrue my silence. What is our present condition? We have just carried an election on principles fairly stated to the people. Now we are told in advance, the government shall be broken up, unless we surrender to those we have beaten, before we take the offices. In this they are either attempting to play upon us, or they are in dead earnest. Either way, if we surrender, it is the end of us, and of the government. They will repeat the experiment upon us ad libitum. A year will not pass, till we shall have to take Cuba as a condition upon which they will stay in the Union. They now have the Constitution, under which we have lived over seventy years, and acts of Congress of their own framing, with no prospect of their being changed; and they can never have a more shallow pretext for breaking up the government, or extorting a compromise, than now. There is, in my judgment, but one compromise which would really settle the slavery question, and that would be a prohibition against acquiring any more territory. Yours very truly, A. LINCOLN.

    Lincoln says "either they're playing us or they mean it", but his follow up would seem to indicate that he thinks they're just applying strongarm tactics, because they'll just demand more to "stay in the Union", when the South at that point had no intention of staying.

    When he starts talking about the use of military power, what else can he be referring to but the firing on Sumter? Or did the South use military strongarm tactics earlier than 1860?
     
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  6. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    The letter is dated Jan'y. 11th 1861. If you missed that, then you must be in error about the entire letter.
     
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  7. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    I'm not sure how the date would invalidate my analysis. SC had seceded, and in fact whether Lincoln knew it or not, three more had left by the 11th (MS, FL, AL), so the process was ongoing as he penned the opinion. I don't think he took the Southern actions seriously, but I'd be interested in how others view his thoughts. He very much seems to have assumed that it was a political pressure tactic.
     
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  8. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    I would recommend Leonard Richard's The Slave Power. He demonstrates that the South was able to dominate the federal government due to three factors: regional unanimity on the issue of slavery, the extra representation and political power derived from the three-fifths clause, and Northern collaboration due to Southern use of political patronage. The South could not dominate on their own but could garner enough support from Northern politicians that they effectively dominated national politics until the end of the 1840s when a series of variables began to break down their three-part strategy.

    Ryan
     
  9. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard 2nd Lieutenant

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    He is talking about during the decades before the war.

    The south generally controlled Washington until the election in 1860.

    One example is the fugitive slave law. Another is the simple fact that the Tarrifs in 1860 was very low...
     
  10. The Confederate

    The Confederate Sergeant

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    The South was dominant, every time they complained, the North would immediately satisfy them, the Missouri Compromise, reduction of tariffs after the Nullification Crisis, the Compromise of 1850, etc, shows that it was exactly the opposite of what Lost Causers claim.
     
  11. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    You said:
    The letter was written on Jan 11 '61 between a private citizen, a little known Springfield lawyer and Pennsylvanian Congressman Hale. The South did use strongarm tactics prior to this date in many instances.
    1860 election, November 6, 1860 to fall of Fort Sumter, April 14, 1861
    The date of the letter matters, your assertion is valid only if the letter was written Jan 1860, so that assertion fails on the face of it.

    Lets take a look at the letter.
    1. Lincoln is elected and the South starts to secede in protest. What is to be done. Lincoln resign so the South defeated in election can win by default?
    2. Either the country is to be defended against the secessionists or just as well give up US sovereignty.
    3. In the 1850s the South forced a series of crisis with the threat of leaving the Union and got their way. The Compromise of 1850, the Ostend Manifesto, the Kansas Nebraska Act, Popular Sovereignty and Kansas, Dred Scott, the Kansas Lecompton Constitution plus Lemmon v. New York headed for SCOTUS and Taney. Citizen Lincoln thought enough was enough.

    Lincoln on Democracy
    By Abraham Lincoln, G. S. Boritt

    p1.png
     
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  12. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    I said McPherson talked about military action, not Lincoln. I made no connection between Lincoln's comments and military action.

    Lincoln's opinion is clear. He views the secession of the South as a probable tactic, not a genuine desire to leave. He feels they are trying to overturn the results of the election, and given that view, he's rightly determined not to go along with it. The problem is that Lincoln's analysis is incorrect, because he doesn't understand the genuine desire to leave among so many in the South. His solution is wrong, because he's misidentified the motivation of the secessionists.

    I still don't understand your problem with the date. Lincoln is criticizing the secession movement in the South. Four states had seceded when he wrote the letter. He was commenting on what were to him current events. He was analyzing the motives of the secessionists as he saw them.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2016
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  13. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    You quoted Lincoln regarding military action not McPherson.

    Your point regarding citizen Lincoln's analysis seems pointless to me.
     
  14. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard 2nd Lieutenant

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    I actually think it is an interesting question if Lincoln at this point thought it was just a "trick" to get another compromise?
    And if others thought the same... With all the earlier crises and threats of secession and nullification and so on I do not think that it is that stupid to have this thinking during the period where SC was the only state who was seceding.
     
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  15. ivanj05

    ivanj05 First Sergeant

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    I'd agree that the notion that Lincoln at any point believed that secession was a feint and not a real movement to depart would certainly be worth digging into. Such a belief would be consistent with Lincoln's words and actions prior to Sumter.

    I for one would find it hard to fault Unionists in the period between December 1860 and April 1861 for thinking that events were just another example of slaveholders crying wolf, only on a larger scale.
     
  16. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Heck, up until the firing on Ft. Sumter, Lincoln believed that the secessionists were a minority that would be brought back to their senses by the Unionist majority. That's essentially why he attempted to maintain the status quo in order to buy time for the Unionists.

    Ryan
     
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  17. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    SC, FL and MS had seceded before the date of the letter; Alabama the date of the letter. It is obvious the deep South would secede. What is Lincoln's motive is the better question. Some historians think that Lincoln was unifying the Republican Part against compromise. I agree with that position. I would not look at the letter as an indication of analysis, but of politics and convincing a Republican Leader against compromise.
     
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  18. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Given the choice between business as usual and folks destroying the Union, business as usual seems plausible.
    Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern ... - Amazon.com discussed the case for avoiding compromise.
     
  19. Old_Glory

    Old_Glory Sergeant Major

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    That is only because you believe the Republican narrative of the Civil War, I do not. McPherson has mastered spinning it as fact and, if I believed in that garbage, I'd be crazy about him as well. He tells the best story of the Northern view of the Civil War I have ever seen.

    My problem with it is he presents it as a neutral perpective rather than the extremely biased, agenda driven, perspective that it really is.
     
  20. Old_Glory

    Old_Glory Sergeant Major

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    :rofl:

    I've absolutely no doubt at all you love McPherson's Northern biased perspective.
     
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  21. Allie

    Allie Captain

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    While not agreeing with the rest of this, I do have to say that characterizing secession as an attempt to dominate the federal government seems loony. The secessionists were creating a separate government in which their ideas would be dominant; at no point did they attempt to take over the United States, which is what seems to be implied in the quote.
     

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