Who Gets to Decide the PRIMARY Cause of South Carolina's Secession and the War that Followed?

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James Lutzweiler

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Hi James,

I will try to get a more detailed response to you as soon as I'm able. But a quick response/clarification to one of your points:



You had previously posted the below:

(emphasis is mine)

I may have misunderstood what you meant, but I thought you meant that you wish to insulate yourself from such historians, historical figures and their opinions that disagreed with yours.
Thanks for this clarification. What I meant was that I try to insulate myself from "self-deception," NOT from the views of other historians or posters or any evidence whatsoever. The exact opposite is true of other historians. I read them, all of them, as carefully as I can.

James
 

James Lutzweiler

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I hear you! I'm from a history/economics background, so it's all about what you can prove for me :smile:
I would argue, but not here, that the economics of the TRR dwarfed cotton, tobacco and rice by exponential margins --and the South knew it. Edited. But I do argue it in my book.
 

James Lutzweiler

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Hi James,

Thanks for your response.

I think Charles Beard is a great place to start with respect to the "who decides" on history question. Indeed Beard was no historical slouch, in fact he could be claimed as a titan of his time. However, he died in 1948 and received his PhD in 1904. Are you saying that our state of knowledge, interpretation, etc. has not changed since this time? Or in your view is history a static thing, once a conclusion is made it becomes unchangeable?

As you decry McPherson et al. for not looking at the TRR, Beard (by my reading) didn't spend a lot of time discussing slavery, as he deemed it less important (or even non-important) comparative to economic factors. How, in your view, is it okay for Beard to not focus on an important factor (slavery) and not okay for McPherson et al. to not focus on an important factor (the TRR in your view)? These are good illustrations of the ever changing landscape of Civil War historiography.

Beard focused on the economic factors that led to conflict between the sections, there has been a significant volume of study since his time regarding the importance of slavery as causal to secession. This is a supposition, and as such pretty well useless, but I wonder if Beard was working today, would his views have changed? It's an idle question, impossible to answer, but I hope that it makes my point that history (as with most fields of study) is an evolving environment.

Personally I haven't declared as to who "decides" on history as I believe that 'decision' implies a finality that I don't believe exists in the study of history. We are constantly finding new information, continually developing new interpretations. I agree with some and disagree with others. Evidence and solid analysis wins the day, until new evidence and analysis arises (which it often does).

Being academically trained, I have tended to view the consensus of historians as the most important. But I really like @jgoodguy 's assertion that it's the consumers of history that decide. That seems most complete to me, as consumers change so do 'decisions' then change.
Friend Strat,

No, of course I would not say that things have remained static. Not in the least. For one thing alone, with a site like newspapers.com, one can pull up more history than Charles Beard was ever able to do, and more than many still living but retired teachers like the honorable James McPherson were able to do. And while I am at it, my criticism of James McPherson et al. is not wholesale and without qualification. For discussion purposes it is only with respect to their failure to consult and incorporate the works I have mentioned. Or are we to assume their infallibiltiy? Are we Papal or something? Not I. One major problem with the historical profession is that not enough historians have owned vast pieces of property and know little of land lust in the first person, as a developer does. Just a thought --and a valid one.

I did not say what was OK for Beard to do. I have no idea how much time he spent studying slavery. Do you? I would wager lunch at your favorite restaurant that he had studied it in depth in order for him even to draw the conclusion that he did. But I still don't know. Maybe someone on this thread knows. I don't even know what Beard did with the TRR. I am only one person and I can only shake down just so many of the historical brotherhood. If I had the time, I would do a comparative chart on how all the historians from Herbert Baxter Adams forward handled the TRR. It would make a good dissertation for some aspiring PhD. But you might ask yourself what it was that made you think I forgave Beard for any such omissions when I never said any such thing. It comes out as straw men, and knowing you as I have come to know you, I can't believe that you would want to do that.

But I am sure if Beard were alive today, he would subscribe to my position (joke). You and I would both agree that interpretations evolve but facts don't.

I thank you for adding your specific answer to my specific question. And I don't disagree with you about the finality of it all. My question was prompted by the "slam dunkers" who consider the case closed and beyond debate. Big lies are as possible today as they were in the 1930s --and the 1860s.

Fraternally,

James
 

James Lutzweiler

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Nothing missing, just that your definition of simplicity seems a form of special pleading.
Far be it from me to special plead.

Would you not agree that a simple declaration, "That proves nothing," to a proof that I provided a bit on the vacuous end of things? If that is substance for you, I can assure you it is not for me. But I don't think it is for you either unless I err.
 

James Lutzweiler

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Whether legal or not, the practice aroused strong emotions. On the one hand, this led to the abolitionist movement; on the other hand, it forced slaveholders to 'double down' to protect their investment. As often happens in life, emotions have the power to cause people to do irrational things. In 1860/61, fear of losing their slave-based fortunes was enough to cause slaveholders to believe that the only sure way to save the institution and thus their fortunes was independence.
They were wrong.
Thank you.

Did you ever answer how independence and the corresponding creation of a new powerful enemy were factors contributing to the preservation of slavery? Call me hard-headed, that's ok, but I still don't comprehend their sequitur. And I am not alone, if those Southerners were correct who argued that slavery was safer in the Union than out of it. I will happily read all that you or anyone else writes on this subject.
 

WJC

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***Posted as Moderator***
These several 'flashbacks' to other threads on the transcontinental railroad repeat past arguments but do not address the topic, "who gets to decide the primary cause of South Carolina's secession and the war that followed".
Again, please limit posts to answering that question.

Off-topic posts will be edited or deleted.
 

jgoodguy

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Far be it from me to special plead.

Would you not agree that a simple declaration, "That proves nothing," to a proof that I provided a bit on the vacuous end of things? If that is substance for you, I can assure you it is not for me. But I don't think it is for you either unless I err.
Convincing an advocate is a difficult activity. A debate needs a common language to be effective.
 
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the economics of the TRR dwarfed cotton, tobacco and rice by exponential margins --and the South knew it.
I don't agree that traffic volumes on a single track railroad could approach the combined traffic of all Southern ports and rivers.

Furthermore, the TRR was connecting the West to the entire railroad network of the East, not just the Northeast. Efficient traffic flows to/from the South would have been aided by the completion of the Blue Ridge Railroad, which was interrupted by the war and has never been finished. Other shorter lines could have been built to assist with interconnection.

We didn't have massive quantities of materials moving east/west until we had multiple double track rail lines operating.
 

jgoodguy

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I don't agree that traffic volumes on a single track railroad could approach the combined traffic of all Southern ports and rivers.

Furthermore, the TRR was connecting the West to the entire railroad network of the East, not just the Northeast. Efficient traffic flows to/from the South would have been aided by the completion of the Blue Ridge Railroad, which was interrupted by the war and has never been finished. Other shorter lines could have been built to assist with interconnection.

We didn't have massive quantities of materials moving east/west until we had multiple double track rail lines operating.
Good points, but the mods have asked us not to discuss the TRR here.
 

Pat Young

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Dear Posters,

I seek commentary from any of you on who gets to decide the PRIMARY cause of South Carolina's Secession and the War that followed. I do so in the context of many comments on a couple of posts in which I have read that slavery was the PRIMARY cause, hands down. It is not my objective to argue for my own viewpoint but to understand yours, if "PRIMARILY slavery" is your position. My impression is that the reason many people opt for this position is because of the Secession Declarations in which case I would assume that the answer to my question is, "The Seceshers themselves get the privilege of saying what was PRIMARY." If that is the case, a simple answer to this post would be "SC's Seceshers, period. They get to decide. No peer review necessary. No second guessing. No presentism. No pastism either" --by which I mean to say that posters are also ruling out other contemporaneous antebellum literature that might call into question the truthfulness or accuracy of those Declarations.

In short, I am asking you to put yourselves in the shoes of an 1860 Professor of History, let's say a Professor with a PhD in a German university, who would put a letter grade on SC's Declarations, if they were turned in to him for a term paper.

If not the Seceshers themselves, then who gets to decide? A majority of present day historians? Posters on this thread? Who? Who gets to decide what was the PRIMARY cause of all of this? And if it is so simple as that, i.e., just to say the Seceshers themselves, how is it that so many other books have been written citing other causes? Why is there not universal agreement, if slavery is such a simple no-brainer of an answer?

Ah, but that mires me in multiple questions. I intend only one of which all these others are simply cognate: Who gets to decide?

James
I have occasionally checked into this thread over the last few days. While the OP seems straightforward, it is not. Contrary to what has been asserted here, it does not simply ask "who gets to decide the PRIMARY cause of South Carolina's Secession and the War that followed." It also asks "how is it that so many other books have been written citing other causes," and "Why is there not universal agreement." These are actually questions separate from that of "who gets to decide the PRIMARY cause of South Carolina's Secession and the War that followed."

So, let me answer what I think are the more easily answerable questions here:

1. "How is it that so many other books have been written citing other causes." Authors have been able to write books citing other causes because we have a First Amendment that does not require that a book adhere to a particular line. The authors may have written out of genuine belief or they may have been writing what their audiences wanted to read. There was a large industry, beginning in 1865, in denying that slavery had anything to do with the secession crisis. A writing need not be true or based on facts to be published in the United States.

2. "Why is there not universal agreement." My Jewish friends have a saying "Two Jews, three opinions." I think this is pretty universally true. I hold views that are divergent from some people. The less I know about a subject, the more likely I am to hold a view on that subject that is in opposition to the expert consensus on that subject.

Having answered those two questions, I have also answered the question in the title of this thread, a proposition that I am sure will be met with universal agreement.
 
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WJC

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I do like Br'er Occam's razor, but the razors I have seen against my TRR thesis have been as thick as 2 x 4s.
Thanks for your response.
Again, often the simplest answer is the right answer. The simplest answer for the root cause of secession and thus for the war is the one that is supported by the overwhelming preponderance of evidence: slavery. Given that evidence, historians, sociologists, educators and the general public can decide. I submit that that 'jury' has decided, even though some refuse to accept that 'verdict'.
 

MattL

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Thanks for your response.
Again, often the simplest answer is the right answer. The simplest answer for the root cause of secession and thus for the war is the one that is supported by the overwhelming preponderance of evidence: slavery. Given that evidence, historians, sociologists, educators and the general public can decide. I submit that that 'jury' has decided, even though some refuse to accept that 'verdict'.
Well said. It's hard to get simpler than South Carolina secessionists said it was slavery.
 

civilken

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not being a German professor it appears to me that you are looking for someone to agree with your position. Which I cannot nor defend your rationale behind it. But good luck finding someone to understand the war had nothing to do with slavery. Just a different opinion.
 

James Lutzweiler

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Slavery caused SC secession and was the primary cause of the war that followed.

It was in all the papers.
Ok, I guess you alone get to decide. But I thought you were leaving because of disinterest in the question. What happened?
"He who is giddy thinks the world turns 'round."

Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew
And those giddy Seceshers thought it was slavery!

A good quote and on topic.
 

James Lutzweiler

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Thanks for your response.
Again, often the simplest answer is the right answer. The simplest answer for the root cause of secession and thus for the war is the one that is supported by the overwhelming preponderance of evidence: slavery. Given that evidence, historians, sociologists, educators and the general public can decide. I submit that that 'jury' has decided, even though some refuse to accept that 'verdict'.
So the jury decides --and has decided. Thank you for that direct answer to my specific question.

I have no interest in debating your answer, as the purpose of my post was NOT to share my opinion but only to elicit the answers of others. Simply as a service I remind you that juries can be tainted and tampered with. But one of your skills knows that already. But Others reading your answer might unwittingly overlook that fact. And, as you also know, jury decisions must be unanimous. There is hardly unanimity on this subject. Would you agree with that?
 
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