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September 24, 2022


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Thanks Steve. It is one of the most inspiring songs I have heard in my life.

Anonymous Bosch

That's just false and the historical record's abundantly clear about it, too. The South certainly seceded to protect slavery, but the WAR was propagated by the North to preserve the Union.

The South would not have fought a war if the Confederacy would have been left alone, as it knew it was outgunned, out-manned, and out-industrialized. It furthermore believed, on good grounds, that an empirical social contract in the form of the Constitution included within the 10th Amendment the right to secede.

In turn, the North's rhetoric didn't include slavery for quite a few years - and Lincoln's own remarks about preserving the Union at the cost of preserving slavery make it clear where he stood (in terms of his official aims, if not in terms of his personal moral preferences). Further, as you surely know, the Emancipation Proclamation didn't end slavery in the states that remained within the Union. But why not abolish the institution in those states at the same time, if the whole thing is just about ending slavery? And had McClellan won in 1864 and ended the conflict shortly thereafter, almost no historian today would be claiming that the war had been fought to end slavery.

By the by, England now has a new king if you want to talk to someone about treason.

James Turner

The Battle Hymn of the Republic is, indeed, an inspiring song. This rendition, sung at the St Paul's memorial service for the September 11 victims, always brings a tear to the eye:

One must, however, set the historical record straight: The North initially went to war to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery. Remember that the institution of slavery was constitutionally protected in the southern states. Without this protection the southern states would never have joined the Union.

Not until 1862 did the abolition of slavery in those states come to the fore. After the Union victory at Antietam Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation threatening the South with abolition of slavery if it did not lay down its arms within 100 days. The South did not, so, on January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. It freed the slaves in all the rebellious southern states except for the areas of those states occupied by Union forces.

Neither Lincoln nor Congress had the power to abolish slavery; that step required an amendment to the Constitution (the 13th Amendment). Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation under his authority as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces as a “necessary war measure.”

As for the issue of states’ rights or slavery, that is a false dichotomy. The two were intertwined. “States’ Rights” refers to the question of whether states had the right to secede from the Union. On this question the Constitution was silent. There were reasonable legal arguments on both sides of the question.

At various times prior to the Civil War states both north and south had threatened secession. For example, in protest of the taxes enacted during the 1812 War several New England States threatened to secede (see the 1812 Hartford Convention). The drafting history of the Constitution shows that the secession issue was discussed but not resolved.

The southern states did secede over the slavery issue. That much is clear from the various secession proclamations of those states and no one can deny it.

Did the southerners commit treason when they took up arms in support of their claimed right to secede? I’ll let History answer that question. I will, however, note that no one was ever tried for treason. Jefferson Davis alone was charged but never brought to trial. On the other hand, Clause 3 of the 14th Amendment did bar from holding any federal or state office any person who had engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution or given aid or comfort to the enemies of the Constitution. "Treason doth never prosper; what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

I’ll close by stating that nothing herein is intended to be supportive of the institution of slavery which I unreservedly condemn. My only motive is to provide historical context. Condemnant quo non intellegunt.

Anonymous Bosch

If the South had indeed seceded (rather than subsist within the Union in a state of rebellion, as the North generally insisted), then the Emancipation Proclamation was of no legal effect there, as it was a different country. It's tantamount to issuing a proclamation trying to authorize and legitimize wide-scale property theft in Canada during the War of 1812, or in Mexico in 1845, by claiming that the stuff is ultimately subject to American jurisdiction. That couldn't be a constitutionally valid "necessary war measure."

The Proclamation's patina of legality - and it's a very thin one indeed, at best - only holds if you think the South was in a state of rebellion, not secession. Still, either way (secession or rebellion), given slavery's constitutional status, there are better reasons to think that the Proclamation was ultra vires of POTUS' power (as the Commander in Chief or otherwise) - not that Lincoln respected the Constitution throughout the war. So, if as you say, no one can deny that valid/constitutional secession happened, defense of the Proclamation becomes problematic under any theory of POTUS power.

None of that changes the fact that (1) the war wasn't about ending slavery and (2) the North ultimately didn't give a shit what happened to a newly emancipated slave class, as it left most of them with their former masters to basically do the same work. (Don't care if it took 10 years or so for the radical Repubs to quit. Quit they did.) Sometimes it's hard to think that Lincoln wouldn't send the liberated population back to Africa simply because he preferred for the Southern agricultural economy to be able to retain its cheaper than cheap labor. This is NOT about making men free - certainly not about DYING for that.

Anonymous Bosch

"The former U.S. president who was more traitorous than Trump"

Since Steve is now keen on trolling the blog's readers while simultaneously preventing comments on such posts (in a straightforwardly authoritarian fashion), the answer to the question of which president was more traitorous, which is obvious, must be presented here: President George Washington. Brevet brigadier general and turncoat. He actively fought against, and directed the killing of, thousands of members of his former military.

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