May 8, 2017

Wait. I thought the Civil War was inevitable and no President could have averted it.

"Just before Franklin Pierce took office, in 1853, his son died in a train accident, and Pierce’s Presidency was marked by the 'dead weight of hopeless sorrow,' according to his biographer Roy Franklin Nichols. Morose and often drunk, Pierce proved unable to defuse the tensions that precipitated the Civil War."

So writes Evan Osnos in a New Yorker article that considers, among other things, whether the 25th Amendment procedure (for removing a President who is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office") could be used against a President with a psychiatric disorder.

But last week, Trump was sneered at as ignorant (if not racist) for saying that Andrew Jackson, if he'd been around "a little later" would have prevented the Civil War.
Jim Grossman (American Historical Association): [Trump] starts from the wrong premise - the premise that the Civil War should somehow have been avoided, and that someone more skilled on the White House could have avoided it. If one sees the Civil War as a war of liberation, which is what it was, then it shouldn't have been avoided. Had you compromised out the differences between the government and the confederacy, or between anti-slavery forces and southern slaveholders, the victims would have been the enslaved people of the south. If the president has the notion that it would be desirable to compromise that out, without emancipation, it is frightening.

David Blight (Yale): If it reflects anything, it reflects a kind of great man idea of history, that if you just have the right man with the right strength you can change the course of history. And that is plain nonsense.
In that view, what's the problem with hopelessly depressed, drunk Franklin Pierce?

By the way, the historians were also contemptuous of Trump's statement that Jackson "was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War."
Grossman: Jackson died 16 years before the Civil War began. You can quote me on that.

Blight: He was dead even before the compromise of 1850 for God's sake. He was dead at the time of the Mexican war....
This contempt led me to read "AMERICAN LION: Andrew Jackson in the White House." Here are a few excerpts that show people in Jackson's time speaking of civil war:
[Jackson] believed to his core that [South Carolina] was about to destroy the nation... [I]n Charleston, radicals were raising an army to defend South Carolina’s right to nullify federal laws it chose not to accept— the first step, Jackson believed, toward secession, and the destruction of the Union. “I expect soon to hear that a civil war of extermination has commenced,” Jackson said, musing about arresting the Southern leaders and then hanging them....

“I seriously apprehend a civil war if something is not done to conciliate the discontents which prevail at this time and for aught that I can see will increase,” William Crawford of Georgia wrote Van Buren the month after the Jefferson dinner.....

Alexander Speer, a former comptroller general of South Carolina, wrote.... “I will not be at all surprised if at the next presidential election Mr. Calhoun’s name should be brought forward as a candidate.... The understanding appears to be that Mr. Calhoun’s name is to be run as a candidate, not because it is expected he can be elected, but to defeat the election by the people, and thus throw it into the House of Representatives, where it can be managed as to their best … interests.… This junto are at this time making open declarations of hostility to the Union, and expect roundly that … civil war must and shall be the consequence. As to Genl. Jackson their hostility is unequivocal.…”...

Three days after the passage of the nullification ordinance, Samuel Cram Jackson, a Presbyterian minister from New England who happened to be in South Carolina and kept a diary of events, thought Charleston more worried than exuberant. “Aspect gloomy,” he wrote. “Anxiety and fear pervades many hearts. Many are looking for civil war, and scenes of bloodshed. The general government has ordered troops to the forts in the harbor.”...

Jackson sympathized with [his South Carolina ally Joel] Poinsett, and, on Sunday, December 2, made his own opinion as clear as he could: “I fully concur with you in your views of nullification. It leads directly to civil war and bloodshed and deserves the execration of every friend of the country....

[Chief Justice John] Marshall, no alarmist, took the prospect of disunion seriously. “Insane as South Carolina unquestionably is, I do not think her so absolutely mad as to have made her declaration of war against the United States had she not counted on uniting the south— beginning with Virginia,” Marshall told Gaston... “Were an open declaration in favor of a southern league to be made by the governments and supported by the people, I believe the terms of separation might be amicably adjusted,” he told Gaston— a remarkable admission, coming from one of the architects of American nationalism. “But the course we seem inclined to take” — meaning Jackson’s refusal to give in— “encourages South Carolina to persevere and the consequence of her perseverance must be civil war....”...

“If there be any who want civil war, who want to see the blood of any portion of our countrymen spilt, I am not one of them,” [Henry] Clay said. “I wish to see war of no kind; but, above all, I do not desire to see civil war.… God alone knows where such a war would end.”

Jackson sought the preservation of the Union, not personal vengeance; a powerful presidency, not a military dictatorship. He achieved that on Saturday, March 2, 1833, when he signed both the compromise tariff and the Force Bill into law. “We have beat the Nullifiers and things are quiet for a time— I verily thought we should have had a struggle and a short civil war, and was prepared once more to take the field,” Joel Poinsett wrote a friend on Monday, March 25, 1833. “I was exceedingly indignant with these Radicals and rather desired to put them down with a strong arm.… I have fought the good fight manfully and zealously, and now I am laying out grounds and making a garden.”

100 comments:

rcocean said...

BTW, Grossman is not an student of the Civil war. He's an expert in 20th Century "African-American History". Blight is an expert in Slavery, Frederick Douglas, and African-American emancipation. Needless to say, both are extreme liberals/leftists.

Neither of them have written books on Andrew Jackson or the Coming of the Civil War.

Whatever journalist decided to set up them up as "experts" knew what they going to get before they opened their mouths.

doofus said...

One of the other things he wrote about the South Carolina secessionists—"the tariff was only a pretext, and disunion and southern confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the negro, or slavery question." This was in 1833. So, lookee! He wrote about the Civil War, and he was quite angry about it! Man, that Trump guy is such an ignoramus!

David

Roy Jacobsen said...

The narrative must be sustained.

Sebastian said...

"If one sees the Civil War as a war of liberation, which is what it was, then it shouldn't have been avoided." Trump says: CW could have been avoided. Historian says: it should not have been avoided. Because logic.

Of course, no serious historian generally believes anymore in laws of history or explanations that rely on notions of necessity--except when necessity comes in handy for political reasons. The inevitable prog responses to Trump are explained by the famous historian Pavlov.

Expat(ish) said...

I have been pilloried for years by my history nerd friends for calling Lincoln, like FDR, a president who failed to avoid a terrible war. (I do giving them credit for winning their wars, against odds.)

But I think that "great man" history is actually a valid field of study: what happens on a presidents watch (for example) rebounds to their glory or disgrace.

Lincoln, like Washington, only won the battles that mattered - the final ones. I believe a better politician than Lincoln could have avoided the Civil War. I'm not sure Jackson could have, but he'd have won the war faster than Lincoln did. I think we could draw a lot of parallels between Lincoln/CW and Johnson/Vietnam.

It used to be pretty commonly held history that the CW was avoidable. Probably, as we have seen, that is double bad ungood thought.

-XC

rcocean said...

I didn't realize the nullification crisis came so close to civil war. And had it occurred, it wouldn't been about slavery, but about secession vs union.

Virtually Unknown said...

If you want to get an academic to spew spittle, just say "Trump!" Hopefully they would flunk a student who presented a paper as poorly reasoned, but I am thinking that I doubt they would.

Ann Althouse said...

"I didn't realize the nullification crisis came so close to civil war. And had it occurred, it wouldn't been about slavery, but about secession vs union."

It was still about slavery.

Michael K said...

Lincoln, as we have discussed before, proposed compensated emancipation. He wanted to pay the slaveowners to free the slaves.

Few modern "historians" as they like to call themselves, have any concept of the value of slaves in a property sense. Morality had nothing to do with it. Many slave owners' entire capital was invested in slaves.

A friend of mine , who took a job as professor of OB GYN at U of Alabama, told about a guy he met there who told him stories of his family's life before the Civil War. They would haul wagons of bales of cotton to a bluff above the river. The slaves would push the bales off the edge and they would be caught at the bottom by Irish laborers who loaded them on riverboats to take the cotton to market in New Orleans. He asked the friend if they also used slaves to catch the bales at the bottom and load them and was told no. That was too dangerous. Slaves were too valuable. They used Irishmen for the dangerous part.

I'm sure the stories of mistreatment were true but probably not the majority.

The political left would have you believe that only America had black slaves but that is propaganda. Slavery is widely practiced today in Muslim countries.

Matthew Sablan said...

But Trump is a moron, and historians aren't, so stop thinking about it and just beleive them.

Virtually Unknown said...

rebounds to their glory...

That is a nasty little spellcheck substitution for "redounds."

Comanche Voter said...

Avoiding the Civil War (yet freeing the slaves) was something devoutly to be wished for.

I've just finished reading excellent biographies of U.S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln--both written by Ronald C. White.

When you consider casualty figures in the Civil War--now pegged at something like 750,000 dead; and extrapolate that to today's US population, the Civil War--if fought today would have 30 million men under arms and 7.5 million dead.

As for the opinions of the two academics--you can always get two progressive academics all wee wee''d up for less than the price of a pint of beer.

Michael K said...

it wouldn't been about slavery, but about secession vs union."

It was still about slavery.


Quite a bit of the nullification crisis was about tariffs, not slavery.

Slavery was always in the background but an educated discussion of history includes other factors.

New England had very poor soil and was not suited for agriculture. This resulted in an economy that focused on shipping and business. The South was better suited for agriculture until cotton monoculture ruined the land.

Michael K said...

My great grandfather's two brothers died in the Civil War. I have visited the grave of one of them and plan to go to Memphis in June to find the other, I have his letters to his wife, including one after he was wounded at Vicksburg on May 22, 1863. He told her it was not serious and he would be evacuated soon. He died June 2.

traditionalguy said...

I have eagerly waited on this post, wondering how the Professor would react to a Scots-Irish warrior dedicated to preserving the Republic under the Constitution once upon a time. His method had been to attack and to defeat his enemies.

But Jackson dealt with Calhoun and the coastal southern planters with a compromise authored by Clay rather than take the field against them and hang them. Which compromise Jackson' later said was his biggest regret in life.

As I understand it a dorky NORK now wants to destroy the USA. I bet he will end up hung very soon.

BDNYC said...

Removing Trump pursuant to the 25th Amendment would be a coup d'etat. The woke #resistance radicals might wish to explore this route, but the end result would be President Pence. And if Trump disputes the action, Congress would have to vote 2/3 against him for the coup to succeed. I don't see how this is preferable to impeachment.

But yes, go ahead and stoke the flames of #resistance. Using trumped up charges of mental instability to remove Trump would be a much disgraceful use of constitutional powers than using the Lewinsky affair in an attempt to remove Clinton. These are serious measures that should be used rarely and only when necessary, lest the Constitution be transformed into a cynical tool or plaything.

The New Yorker is "normalizing" a coup plot against our democratically elected government.

wwww said...


The Nullification Controversy was interesting. It, however, was not predictive of the magnitude of the the War of the Rebellion, or the specific ways it unfolded.

While someone could see tensions, it wasn't the extreme sectional tension that would arise in the 1850s.

It's quite possible Jackson would have been one of those slave-holding Constitutional Unionists who attempted to preserve the Union in 1860. As did many others who failed.

As a President in 1860, I agree Jackson may have been able to change the timing of the War. In fact, if a slave-holding Democrat had been elected instead of Lincoln in 1860, I am quite positive the War would not have begun.

Trump didn't suggest Jackson would have been able to postpone the timing of the War.

Trump suggested Jackson could have forged a permanent solution. Many compromises in the 1850s DID postpone the conflict.

After Jackson finished his hypothetical term, the War would have occurred in 1864 or 1868 -- unless the Republicans and Free-soilers decided they were OK with slavery in the new western territories gained as a result of the Mexican-American War.

I am not an absolutist on this. Historical circumstances is not predestination. History is not written in advance. But the historical circumstances needed to shift in a drastic way to avoid armed conflict.

That was not impossible. But it was not likely, nor probable.

CJinPA said...

Always interesting when a blogger commits more journalism than a paid journalist.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"If it reflects anything, it reflects a kind of great man idea of history, that if you just have the right man with the right strength you can change the course of history."

It seems to me that the idea that "great men" do not change the course of history is absurd. Of course, the timing has to be right and those individuals have to understand and seize the opportunity and the prevailing public sentiment at the time, but I don't see how you can argue that Lenin or Hitler or Napoleon did not change the course of history.

traditionalguy said...

For the record, 1832 was before the steam engine railroads and the Morse telegraph had shrunk the world in 20 years time.All we had was an Erie Canal miracle by 1832. And cotton industrial mills were just beginning to spread wealth then, thus making slavery into THE ISSUE it had never been before.

Dave from Minnesota said...


Comanche says. "When you consider casualty figures in the Civil War--now pegged at something like 750,000 dead; and extrapolate that to today's US population, the Civil War--if fought today would have 30 million men under arms and 7.5 million dead."

That would be 5,000 killed a day. Every day for 4 years. Plus the destruction of the south. Imagine modern-day Atlanta looking like Berlin - May 1945.

Jupiter said...

Ann Althouse said...
"I didn't realize the nullification crisis came so close to civil war. And had it occurred, it wouldn't been about slavery, but about secession vs union."

"It was still about slavery."

The arguments that Southern secessionists made, regarding the legality of secession, were the same ones that New Englanders had made a generation earlier, when they were considering seceding from a Union they felt was dominated by Virginians, to their economic detriment. No doubt that would have been about slavery too.

Dave from Minnesota said...

Blogger CJinPA said...
"Always interesting when a blogger commits more journalism than a paid journalist."

Recall the Susan Komnen/Planned Parenthood issue from about 4 years ago? The reporting was basically PP press releases. Very few relevant facts about PP. But the internet had the facts.

AJ Lynch said...

But but but Trump is a dope says every librul.

MikeR said...

"If it reflects anything, it reflects a kind of great man idea of history, that if you just have the right man with the right strength you can change the course of history. And that is plain nonsense." I'm astonished. Can anyone who ever studied history not know that important men and single important events can completely change the course of history?
The battle of Vienna (1683)? Gustav Adolphus at Lutzen (1632)? Spruance at Midway?
For that matter, I believe the North would have faltered in the Civil War without Lincoln's absolute stubbornness and resolve.
Unbelievable willful ignorance.

eric said...

Did Mohammed not change the course of history?

Did Christ, who must certainly be considered just a man by these people, not change the course of history?

How about Hitler?

Napoleon?

Are they saying had these men not existed, things would have happened the same way? The crusades were bound to happen, for example?

Chuck said...

I am completely unconcerned about the competing sides' ultimate merits, in any debate about the origins of the civil war.

What is so striking about President Trump is how far away he is from someone like Professor Atlhouse, who, like, reads books and has an intellectual curiosity. Who has some ideological notions, and who seems to like to have them regularly tested with a wide range of competing information.

No one would be mad if Trump had an interesting outside-the-box notion of history that had been based on his own reading and study. But that isn't the issue. Trump hasn't done any reading and study. (Some people who have met privately with Trump do say that the President is an engaging and curious person. I presume that Trump is engaging and curious in the way that good salesmen are engaging and curious. Good salesmen ask lots of questions about who you are and what you do and what things you might have in common. And that is to raise your comfort level and to test you, in order to facilitate the sale. It isn't about any serious thought.)



Bob said...

"David Blight (Yale): If it reflects anything, it reflects a kind of great man idea of history, that if you just have the right man with the right strength you can change the course of history. And that is plain nonsense."

It's funny that radical leftists themselves seem to hold to the "great man idea of history". When their pro-proletariat revolutionary statist solutions fail (Stalin comes to mind, Pol Pot, many others), they brush it aside and complain they just didn't have the right person in charge.

You can also disprove Blight by going Godwin, though not in the usual way. A certain Austrian turned German leader was just "the right man with the right strength [to] change the course of history". Yep. WWII didn't just start itself.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Whatever journalist decided to set up them up as "experts" knew what they going to get before they opened their mouths.

At one time I would have thought that it was common knowledge that there were tensions between the industrial Northeast and the agrarian Southeast going back to the drawing up of the Constitution and continuing onward. Tensions that caused talk of Civil War and actual violence. That is, if you had graduated from High School.

Bleeding Kansas
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleeding_Kansas

Or the Missouri Compromise

"In an April 22 letter to John Holmes, Thomas Jefferson wrote that the division of the country created by the Compromise Line would eventually lead to the destruction of the Union:[107]

...but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. A geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.[108][109]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri_Compromise#Impact_on_political_discourse

wwww said...



This whole argument is silly.

Any historian asked will say it was the election of the Republican, Abraham Lincoln, in 1860 that precipitates the war. Republicans were against the expansion of slavery into the west.

Any historian would agree that the election of Andrew Jackson -- a slave-holding southerner -- would not have resulted in a Civil War.

The real question is: If Jackson was a retired President, hanging out on his farm in TN, would he have been able to stop the War?

Because, at some point, Jackson isn't going to be President.



traditionalguy said...

As for great men theory of history, in the War of the Southern Rebellion, the great man was named Tecumseh Sherman who out flanked the most fortified city in the world after a 3 month siege with a movement around Atlanta to cut the Macon RR at a 2 day battle in Jonesboro Ga on August 31, 1864 leading to Lincoln's reelection.

About that factoid there is no dispute. The Battle of Jonesboro decided the War.

DKWalser said...

If it reflects anything, it reflects a kind of great man idea of history, that if you just have the right man with the right strength you can change the course of history. And that is plain nonsense.

Alexander the Great didn't change the course of history? Nor did Julius Caesar? Did Hitler not alter history's course? How about Mao?

You have to be awfully well educated to believe this stuff.

The Godfather said...

Thank you sir may I have another, say the "historians".

Sammy Finkelman said...

wwww said...5/8/17, 10:31 AM

As a President in 1860, I agree Jackson may have been able to change the timing of the War...

It's quite possible Jackson would have been one of those slave-holding Constitutional Unionists who attempted to preserve the Union in 1860. As did many others who failed.


I read in the past week a piece that said that if Lewis Cass, and not James Buchanan, had been president, it might have been avoided (or, let me say, limited only to South Carolina.) But Lewis Cass was not president and theer was a reason that was not the case.

Lewis Cass has been Secretary of War in 1832 and was Secetary of state in 1860 When his advice was not followed in 1869, he resigned.

While someone could see tensions, it wasn't the extreme sectional tension that would arise in the 1850s.

Someone brought out that in 1833, Andrew Jackson almost predicted it (although Donald Trump probably had no idea about this - anything this specific.)

http://www.civilwarcauses.org/jackson.htm

What Andrew Jackson predicted was that secession would or could be attempted on the issue of slavery, not that it would succeed or cause a war. He thought he had it licked.

I have had a laborious task here; but nullification is dead, and its actors and courtiers will only be remembered by the people to be execrated for their wicked designs to sever and destroy the only good government on the globe, and that prosperity and happiness we enjoy over every other portion of the world. Haman's gallows ought to be the fate of all such ambitious men, who would involve the country in civil war, and all the evils in its train, that they might reign and ride on its whirlwinds, and direct the storm. The free people of these United States have spoken, and consigned these demagogues to their proper doom. Take care of your nullifiers you have amongst you. Let them meet the indignant frowns of every man who loves his country. The tariff, it is now known, was a mere pretext.... Therefore the tariff was only the pretext, and disunion and a Southern confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the negro, or slavery, question.

The only question I guess, is if this letter is a forgery. Andrew J. Crawford was a real person, nominated to be register of the land office at Demopolis Alabama. The letter says that people don't know he was related to Andrew Jackson and so long as they don't he should have no difficultly being confirmed by the Senate, and he understands he doesn't want to move, (or that he wanted anotgheer office) but now that is better than withdrawing the nomination. He assures him he cannot be removed by the Senate.



bagoh20 said...

Lots of wars, including many considered to be mistakes, were wars of liberation. That does not mean that liberation could never have been achieved with less bloodshed. Would it have been better to have avoided the hundreds of thousands dead and maimed if it meant liberation came a few years later, or even a decade or more? Maybe that was not possible, but it is at least worthy of discussion.

David said...

This discussion is getting tedious. There are many persistent fallacies that crop up in historical analysis, but the fallacy of inevitability is the most pervasive and in many ways the most distorting. These so-called "great" historians know that, but they retreat into ignorance of the concept when their progressive bona fides are on display.

There are many ways the Civil War might have been avoided. Quite a number of them would have involved better and far seeing leadership in the South. These outcomes would not necessarily have been better in the long run for the nation than the war, or for the blacks, even if the outcome had involved ending slavery. If anything was inevitable, it was the end of slavery. How and when it was to end was up for grabs.

The notion that the Civil War was unavoidable is ridiculous.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The comments about growing cotton ruining land and having all their capitol tied up in slaves reminded me of why Southern slave owners absolutely needed slavery to continue and new territories to allow slavery.

Having ruined the land for further agriculture, they needed to move on to new territories with their slaves.

Unknown said...

Chuck, we all know that you hate Trump with the fires of a thousand burning hells. In fact, I'm pretty sure you would vote Hitler instead of Trump at this moment.

So spare us your "How can I bash Trump for no reason other than to bash him" posts.

To the point of this post.

I'd like to point out that in 1832 Joseph Smith prophesied the Civil War as starting in South Carolina, and he reiterated that in 1841 (after the nullification crisis died down), including details such as the South calling on Great Britain.

At the time Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, he was running for US President and as part of his platform he proposed the same thing apparently Lincoln tried: that the US government should buy all the slaves for fair value and free them. That policy probably could have prevented the civil war.

--Vance

Matthew Sablan said...

"Someone brought out that in 1833, Andrew Jackson almost predicted it (although Donald Trump probably had no idea about this - anything this specific.)"

-- That darn stupid Trump, constantly stumbling into millions of dollars, the presidency, and convenient quotations from a historical president to back up his own opinion about said president. He's like the Inspector Gadget of politics!

Bob said...

Chuck said, " It isn't about any serious thought."

Chuck, I disagree. I think Trump is a serious man, just not in the way most of us perceive and regard politicians.

In any case, it doesn't matter. If things go well while Trump is president (if the econonmy improves, prosperity increases, wars are avoided or resolved), Trump will become a widely admired figure whether he deserves it or not. If things go south, it will be the reverse, again whether he deserves it or not. If he makes a really big boo boo, his supporters will probably turn on him.

It's just like Reagan. Many folks thought him a dunce, but under his watch the US grew quickly out of recession, employment soared, and the Soviet Union retreated and finally fell. How much or how little Reagan had to do with it (and I think it impossible he had nothing to do with it), the Reagan years are associated generally with a successful presidency.

Christopher said...

If it reflects anything, it reflects a kind of great man idea of history, that if you just have the right man with the right strength you can change the course of history. And that is plain nonsense.

There are so many cases in which the right man with the right strength has changed the course of history that I can only bow in awe to the scale of intellectual rot.

Sammy Finkelman said...

In fact, if a slave-holding Democrat had been elected instead of Lincoln in 1860, I am quite positive the War would not have begun.

Trump didn't suggest Jackson would have been able to postpone the timing of the War.

Trump suggested Jackson could have forged a permanent solution. Many compromises in the 1850s DID postpone the conflict.


What some people don't understand is that the war had many chances to occur. World War I was prevented in 1911.

Nuclear war has been prevented at least 6 times, according to this article: (some of them actually probably never were close)

http://nypost.com/2017/04/18/6-times-the-world-was-on-the-edge-of-nuclear-war

1. The Cuban Missile Crisis in Oct. 1962

2. The Yom Kippur War in Oct. 1973

3. Korean Airlines Flight 007 in September, 1983

4. A NATO war game in November 1983

5. Pakistan vs India in 1999.

6. North Korea vs U.S in 2013

Sammy Finkelman said...


I am not an absolutist on this. Historical circumstances is not predestination. History is not written in advance. But the historical circumstances needed to shift in a drastic way to avoid armed conflict.

That was not impossible. But it was not likely, nor probable.


It could actually get too late.

Of course the Civil War could have been avoided. To say otherwise is to say it was inevitable, and almost nothing is. There are probably numerous scenarios that could have avoided it.

It was indeed avoided for 40 years maybe, but it got progressively harder to avoid, and the people good at preventing it, or motivated to prevent it, passed from the scene.

Sammy Finkelman said...

5/8/17, 10:22 AM

It was still about slavery.

That wasn't the real reason the south seceded.

It was about the fact that no southern politician could hope for any position in the executive branch of he federal government.


Jon Burack said...

I see lots of good comments here, including the ones Ann makes and the passages she includes.

It is outrageous that so many in my profession (history) see fit to politicize these Trump comments. As to the idea of a great man theory, how theoretical of these historians - who so often obsess over theory. Trump simply labors under the wild-eyed idea that U.S. presidents do shape events in key ways. Gosh. I guess you have to work hard at "history discourse" to convince yourself this is wrong. As to Jackson's decisive "Great Man" effort to stymie civil war during the Nullification Crisis, this does a decent job of making it clear how decisive that was, and how reasonable it was for Trump to speculate about it.
http://www.dailyinterlake.com/article/20170506/ARTICLE/170509880

To get a sense of how ideologically theoretical academic historians can get, a couple of years ago the official Outline for AP U.S. History was revised (and then revised again in response to criticisms). The first revision included a paragraph on how history teachers were to cover World War II. That passage described the war without ever once mentioning the name of FDR, Churchill, Hitler or Stalin. Neat trick, eh? Don't try that at home, kids.

Fernandinande said...

Lincoln - worst president ever - would've been an excellent activist masquerading as a judge:

"I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself."

His imaginary, unexpressed "universal law" overrides the fact that the Constitution doesn't prohibit states from leaving the US, therefore the unexpressed "universal law" must prevent them from doing so because otherwise states might leave: the feeble logic of an activist.

The Colonists managed to violate his imaginary "fundamental law of all national governments".

Unknown said...

And another brick in the democrat media wall crumbles. Your best option these days is to assume upon first reading that the democrat media is wrong, then secondly that they are boasting the narrative and then thirdly, ignore them anyway.

Michael K said...

Any historian asked will say it was the election of the Republican, Abraham Lincoln, in 1860 that precipitates the war. Republicans were against the expansion of slavery into the west.

No, it was the coming war and the irreconcilable differences building up that caused Lincoln to appear at that time.

What was not inevitable was the election of Lincoln. The Kansas Nebraska Act had more to do with the war than Lincoln.

Four previous attempts to pass legislation had failed. The solution was a bill proposed in January 1854 by Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. He was the Democratic party leader in the United States Senate, the chairman of the Committee on Territories, an avid promoter of railroads, an aspirant to the presidency, and, above all, a fervent believer in popular sovereignty: the policy of letting the voting (almost exclusively white male) residents of a territory decide whether or not they would permit slavery to exist.

Ever hear of "Bleeding Kanas ?"

Fernandinande said...

Sammy Finkelman said...
"It was still about slavery."
That wasn't the real reason the south seceded.


Lincoln was clear that he would've had the war regardless of whether it ended slavery or not*; his interest was preserving the Union, and his quasi-religious reasons for that are stated above.

*I know I've posted his statements here a while back...can't find them now.

Hagar said...

It was not a question of "skills" or "forging compromises."
In the 1830's the secessionists believed Jackson when he said he was going to call out the army, defeat them in the field, and hang their leaders.
In 1860 they were on a roll after the annnexation of Texas and the Mexican landgrab of 1846-48, but most importantly they did not think Lincoln would fight - or could with only 34% of the vote behind him.
They were wrong.

It's like Al Capone said: "You can get so much more with a gun and a kind word than a kind word alone" - but they have to believe you will use that gun.

Michael Brand said...

Everyone forget that Trump spent his youth at a military academy? Think the might have covered some history in depth?

Jon Burack said...

Sammy, good point, if very tepidly stated.

"Of course the Civil War could have been avoided. To say otherwise is to say it was inevitable, and almost nothing is. There are probably numerous scenarios that could have avoided It."

Infinite scenarios, in fact. One example. Suppose the Democrats had united behind a compromise candidate. Lincoln almost surely would have lost the 1860 election. Or perhaps he might never have been born. Or drowned one day floating one of those flat boats down the Mississippi.

As to the absurd idea there is something immoral about thinking perhaps the war could have been avoided, if so, these idiot historians need to direct their ire at Lincoln himself. He tried VERY hard to avoid it by getting the border states to adopt gradual, compensated emancipation schemes, which might well have convinced other Southern states not to secede, or give up secession once started, since Lincoln kept pushing this idea right up to the very month he finally settled on the Emancipation Proclamation. The Republican Party's notion, after all, was that simply hemming slavery in to the states it was confined to already would in the end have been enough to end it slowly and peacefully. Was that an immoral goal? Only if you think 600,000 dead, exhaustion of Northern idealism as a result, bitter hatred throughout the South fueling the KKK and Jim Crow for a century, were all worth getting it settled as it was. As I say, Lincoln did not think so. Trump apparently does not either. I will take both of them over these numbskull historians any day.

Chuck said...

Unknown said...
Chuck, we all know that you hate Trump with the fires of a thousand burning hells.

I don't know how hot "a thousand burning hells" might be. You could be right. But you are probably wrong, since I have noted my great satisfaction with a number of Trump things. (The nominations of Gorsuch, Sessions, Gorsuch, DeVos, Gorsuch, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Scott Pruitt, Gorsuch, etc. Although Trump gets very little personal credit for Gorsuch, who was handed to Trump by the Federalist Society and Heritage, with the confirmation being handled by Mitch McConnell & Co.)

In fact, I'm pretty sure you would vote Hitler instead of Trump at this moment.

Well, I voted for Trump instead of Clinton. Does that count? And I have never regretted the vote. I hope I never have to vote for Trump ever again.

So spare us your "How can I bash Trump for no reason other than to bash him" posts.

Sorry.

To the point of this post.
I'd like to point out that in 1832 Joseph Smith prophesied the Civil War as starting in South Carolina, and he reiterated that in 1841 (after the nullification crisis died down), including details such as the South calling on Great Britain.

At the time Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, he was running for US President and as part of his platform he proposed the same thing apparently Lincoln tried: that the US government should buy all the slaves for fair value and free them. That policy probably could have prevented the civil war.

That wasn't any stroke of genius. It's what the United Kingdom did much the same, following passage of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. But at that time, the UK was the richest nation on earth, with a tiny fraction of the number of slaves on southern American plantations.

The topic is explored in great detail, in a fairly new and very well-reviewed (and also provocative) book called "The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry" by Ned and Constance Sublette. It is one of the top ten African American history books I've ever read. Which is almost certainly ten more books than Donald Trump has read in this century.

And, you can get it at Amazon through the Althouse portal.

richard mcenroe said...

Dave from Minnesota...or like Detroit,yesterday.

Virtually Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bay Area Guy said...

I don't think the Civil War was "inevitable." I'm skeptical of folks, even noted historians, who assert this.

I believe that the Civil War as a DECISION made by President Lincoln. Honest Abe decided that making war on the South was better than allowing the Confederates to secede.

The question is whether that DECISION (make war) was better than the alternatives: (a) not making war, (b) negotiating with the South to stay, (c) quelling the Radical Republicans, who were pushing for abolition, (d) spending Northern money on buying slaves, and then freeing them, (e) accepting slavery in the South.

A more narrow question is: could we have ended slavery without the Civil War?

I don't know. Maybe, it would have taken too many decades to phase out slavery in the South.

So, facing terrible options, Honest Abe chose war, won the war, got murdered, but kept the Union intact. In general, I conclude that this was the best course of action.

But, I'm certainly open to other historical hypotheticals that show a pathway to abolition, and retaining our Union, short of the War.

chuckR said...

Walter Russell Mead wrote on schools of American foreign policy in Special Providence. He describes the contention and compromise that arises out of the interaction of Congress and the Executive.

https://www.amazon.com/Special-Providence-American-Foreign-Changed/dp/0415935369

I've lent my copy to a neighbor and so can only paraphrase a Congressman's observation on European and American governance. More or less, the Congressman said European rule is like a large well-founded ship that sails true and on course - until it hits a rock and sinks. The American ship of state is like a raft, wandering here and there under a variety of contending forces. It never sinks, but our feet are always wet. What is remarkable to me is that the Congressman said this in the late 1790s.

We've had some great men as president, but relying on a great man, or woman, means hoping that events don't get out of hand while a no-so-great one is at the helm. We have had our share of those too.

Char Char Binks said...

"If one sees the Civil War as a war of liberation, which is what it was, then it shouldn't have been avoided." If we hadn't had the Civil War, then hundreds of thousands of white men wouldn't have died fighting it. Grossman wouldn't have liked that.

wwww said...

No, it was the coming war and the irreconcilable differences building up that caused Lincoln to appear at that time.


Of course. We do not disagree.

Given the events of the 1850s, the Mexican-American War, and the formation of the Republican Party...

My point is that after the formation of the Republican Party in '54, a party which was against expansion of slavery into the West -- at some point a Republican would be elected President of the USA.

The person elected does not need to be Lincoln.

The election of that Republican almost certainly causes South Carolina and/or other states to leave the Union.

The problem of the federal arsenals in those states still exist. Most likely there are border states that are loyal to the Union, that are filled with irregular Confederates and Unionists. An easy separation is not possible. War is a likely result.

My point was that the election of a slaveholding Democrat (Jackson in 1860) would merely postpone a conflict that breaks out when a Republican is elected at some point during a presidential election. Jackson cannot be President-for-life.

Virtually Unknown said...

If one sees the Civil War as a war of liberation, which is what it was, then it shouldn't have been avoided

Which of today's political parties would have supported a "war of liberation" do you think, and which would oppose it? That's why I say that the liberals are completely wrong when they say that the parties have switched since the Republicans ended slavery.

Virtually Unknown said...

Which of today's political parties would have a member that could have written "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"?

James K said...

If one sees the Civil War as a war of liberation, which is what it was, then it shouldn't have been avoided

Of course it was no such thing. It was a war against secessionist states, to maintain the union. No secession, no war. Liberation of the slaves was an outcome, not necessarily one that was even fervently desired by Lincoln, who had never been keen on the idea of simply freeing the slaves, even though he opposed slavery. It was more of a military strategy.

Michael K said...

Which is almost certainly ten more books than Donald Trump has read in this century.

For a minute there, chuck, you had me agreeing but you just can't help yourself. The Trump Derangement always comes out.

My point is that after the formation of the Republican Party in '54, a party which was against expansion of slavery into the West -- at some point a Republican would be elected President of the USA.


Probably true but imagine for a moment that the Democrats had nominated a real union candidate. Douglas could have been that candidate.

In 1860, the conflict over slavery led to the split in the Democratic Party in the 1860 Convention. Hardline pro-slavery Southerners rejected Douglas, and nominated their own candidate, Vice President John C. Breckinridge, while the Northern Democrats nominated Douglas. Douglas deeply believed in democracy, arguing the will of the people should always be decisive.[4] When civil war came in April 1861, he rallied his supporters to the Union cause with all his energies, but he died of typhoid fever a few weeks later.

The South was convinced of its superiority in military matters. That was what Sherman tried to disabuse them of.

You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with.

They wanted the war because they thought they would win.

Had they been allowed to secede there would have been a century of war as the Confederacy had designs on Mexico and Cuba.

readering said...

Althouse missing the point on Trump tweet on Jackson. The criticism wasn't that he espoused a theory about antebellum America. It's that he came off sounding like Mr. Spicoli in class.

Chuck said...

Michael K said...
"Which is almost certainly ten more books than Donald Trump has read in this century."

For a minute there, chuck, you had me agreeing but you just can't help yourself. The Trump Derangement always comes out.


I can't tell you how much I'd love to ask Trump, "Can you name ten books you have read, since the year 2000?"

You are very clearly a book reader. I am honestly surprised that my comment would bother you.


cubanbob said...

Fernandinande I acquaint you with the Articles Of Confederation And Perpetual Union. The legal entity known as the United States Of America existed prior to the Constitution.

As for Lincoln, supposed the South had restrained itself and not fired upon Fort Sumter? Would Lincoln been able to gather the support to initiate the war against the South? What if McClellan had won the election of 1864? A negotiated peace with the South? Had Douglass won in 1860, could the war have been avoided? Other than cotton, slavery didn't make much economic sense so even if there had been expansion of slavery to some of the territories, most of the territories were not suited to cotton growing so what would have been the incentive to permit slavery in those newly admitted States? Ultimately it may well have turned out that the South would still have lost its influence and power in Congress with respects to tariffs had the war never been fought. Slavery ultimately was unviable and overtime would have collapsed on its own. As to whether or not it would have resulted in less of the race evils that nation had (and has) suffered in part as a result of the war is also unknowable.

Read and Enjoy said...

Little known reason the War was inevitable. The Slave Codes imported from the horrible Sugar Islands absentee owners were intended to work the blacks to death and then import new younger ones. No old folks down upon the Suwanne River for them. That capitalist ethic lead directly to a brand new determination to NEVER EDUCATE blacks.

The Nat Turner Rebellion was from educating blacks in Christian ( Pauline) scriptures. And Calvinist Christianity is where all slavery meets its match. Which is why did the slave based world called The Bishop of Rome's Church forbade Christian scripture translation.

Once blacks working in the fields were reduced to beasts, it was too late to find a solution to fix it without a lot of blood shed. And then 70 years later Atlanta University Center's Morehouse College had a graduate from the King family who held passionately to Martin Luther as a hero.

grackle said...

If Chuck were on a tour of the Taj Mahal he would no doubt be complaining to all around him about how the spires were just too pointy or the towers too skinny. He would insist that Dolly Parton needed breast reduction surgery, that Tom Brady is an overrated quarterback and that Mohammed Ali was just another boxer.

Chuck reminds me of the worker at a field office complaining about being “isolated.” But if you move him to the home office he’ll bitch about management “breathing down his neck.”

There’s at least one in every barracks. Shit-disturbers. In the Navy we called them “sea lawyers.” Every order is doubted, every decision second-guessed, every action criticized.

At a restaurant the food is always overcooked, undercooked or too cold. Chuck’s the diner who makes a big show of having the waiter send his steak back to the kitchen where it gets redone and also angrily seasoned with spit, snot or worse.

Trump’s real political enemy is not the Democrats, who are a minority at every political level and should thus be politically weak, but the Republicans, who seem hell-bent on blocking Trump’s agenda anytime they can do so without getting their own hands publicly dirty. That this serves the interest of the Democrats and the fake news peddled by the MSM seems not to matter at all. Chuck is typical of the type.

cubanbob said...

They wanted the war because they thought they would win.

Had they been allowed to secede there would have been a century of war as the Confederacy had designs on Mexico and Cuba."

Doc,
Fantasies aside, the CSA never had and probably never would have had the military capability to even undertake such a design. And that is presuming an unchallenged invasion.

Bay Area Guy said...

@Michael K,

That's a great quote by Sherman, thanks. He really nails the big picture.

Has anyone even visited Ft. Sumter in South Carolina? Going there (by ferry in Charleston Harbor) really helps explain things. You control Ft. Sumter, you control the entire harbor. You control the entire harbor, you control the most important port on the Atlantic Coast, arguably the second most important port in the US after New Orleans.

If you control Ft. Sumter, no ship enters or exits Charleston without getting sunk. If no ships, then no food, no supplies, no medicine, and the South starves.

When the South captured Ft. Sumter, they understood perfectly what was at stake, but miscalculated what Sherman ably describes as the incoming wrath they would face.

It's a great historical discussion, and Trump should get credit for engaging in it, not these snarky historians who are trying to play "gotcha."

buwaya said...

" but the fallacy of inevitability is the most pervasive and in many ways the most distorting."

True. Human affairs are dynamic, and often turn on entirely random events, like a personal judgement at a given time. The "horseshoe nail" theory is the best way to put it.

buwaya said...

"the CSA never had and probably never would have had the military capability to even undertake such a design."

Maybe not Cuba or Mexico, but a lot else there, weak countries with weaker governments, was vulnerable to a minimal force, if well led. The career of William Walker is instructive. He got remarkably far with remarkable few men, with only private resources.

karlpopperghost said...

Interesting article by Steve Sailer here:

Andrew Jackson, Anti-States Rights Nationalist

On April 13, 1830 at the traditional Democratic Party celebration honoring Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, Jackson chose to make his position clear. In a battle of toasts, ...Jackson’s response, when his turn came, was, “Our Federal Union: It must be preserved.

Jackson would have the final words a few days later when a visitor from South Carolina asked if Jackson had any message he wanted relayed to his friends back in the state. Jackson’s reply was:

“ Yes I have; please give my compliments to my friends in your State and say to them, that if a single drop of blood shall be shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can lay my hand on engaged in such treasonable conduct, upon the first tree I can reach.


With President Jackson maybe the Civil War would have been repealed and replaced with "OK everybody, lets go beat up South Carolina!"

Michael K said...

You are very clearly a book reader. I am honestly surprised that my comment would bother you.

It doesn't but I get disappointed when you post intelligent well reasoned comments and then add a dash of TDS.

"the CSA never had and probably never would have had the military capability to even undertake such a design."

I agree that western states were probably not a good climate for cotton but Cuba and Mexico might have been and the Confederacy thought they had the wherewithal to conquer those places. Maybe they would have failed although I am not so sure.

Had the North allowed them to go or if Lee had won in Virginia they might have had enough confidence to try.

In any event, there would have been war, not peace. Remember France was occupying Mexico during the Civil War. They might have cooperated with the Confederacy as a counterweight to the North.

Bay Area Guy said...

The more our recollections are refreshed by Jackson's quotes, the more the Donald was on to something. James Buchanan was a terrible president, without much of a backbone. Had Jackson been Prez or someone like him, would the South have better understood the horrors they would soon face by Sherman et al? Maybe so.

Lincoln was a lawyer; Jackson a fighter. The lawyer got tested, the fighter might not have.

wwww said...

Probably true but imagine for a moment that the Democrats had nominated a real union candidate. Douglas could have been that candidate.


Most definitely, but Douglass wan't enough for them by 1860 and they did split, fracturing the party.

There as an opening for a Constitutional Unionist candidate.

But I don't think slaveholding Democrats were ever going to accept a Republican candidate winning the Presidency.

wwww said...

I agree that western states were probably not a good climate for cotton but Cuba and Mexico might have been and the Confederacy thought they had the wherewithal to conquer those places. Maybe they would have failed although I am not so sure.


They had their eye on Cuba.

There are some Confederates who went to Brazil & Cuba during the War.

sinz52 said...

Michael K: "I'm sure the stories of mistreatment were true but probably not the majority."

Mistreatment isn't the issue. Liberty is the issue.

"Give me liberty or give me death!" applied to black slaves as well.

buwaya said...

" and the Confederacy thought they had the wherewithal to conquer those places. Maybe they would have failed although I am not so sure."

History is a good test - as it happens both Cuba and Mexico either revolted (Cuba against Spain, Spain won ugly) or were invaded (Mexico by France, France lost ugly) in the 1860's, and in both cases they fought nasty, very expensive guerrilla wars, which doubtless would also have happened had they been invaded by the CSA. The CSA may well have invaded them in a fit of optimism, but I don't think the CSA would have had the finances or the will to sustain such foreign wars.

sinz52 said...

I find Dr. Blight's assertion that world-historical figures don't really matter to be absurd on its face.

Does he think that World War II had nothing to do with Hitler?

then Dr. Blight should tell us how world history would have run in the 1930s and 1940s if Corporal Hitler had died in World War I.

Would Germany have still invaded Russia? Why? Would there still have been the Holocaust of the Jews? Why? Carried out by whom?

If Germany had just been led by some Bismarck-style nationalist rather than an anti-Semitic lunatic like Hitler, would Einstein have still fled to America and written his famous letter to FDR urging the building of the atomic bomb? If not, would America have still built the bomb? For what purpose?

buwaya said...

Cuba's "Ten Year War"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Years%27_War

Graham Powell said...

Talking about Pierce, the article understates how tragic his son's death was. His son was killed right in front of him in a train accident, suffering a catastrophic head injury. As the father of two sons, I'd have a tough time getting past that, too.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse missing the point on Trump tweet on Jackson. The criticism wasn't that he espoused a theory about antebellum America. It's that he came off sounding like Mr. Spicoli in class."

To my ear, the historians — who parade themselves as erudite experts — came across as Spicolian. Trump has a way of talking that's idiosyncratic. Call it stupid at your own risk. I believe he smoked out the historians in a way that hurts them and unwittingly over-empowers the President.

readering said...

Sure, but who listens to academics?

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, can we classify Trump Derangement Symdrome as a form of psychosis? It surely looks that way to me!

dreams said...

Yeah, Trump is more thoughtful and foresighted than the average historian. See Brian Lamb's CSPAN Q&A with David McCullough for more proof.

The Godfather said...

The 1850's were a terrible time for the anti-slavery cause: The Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Fugitive Slave Law, the Dred Scott Decision. Many abolitionists had concluded by the end of the decade that the abolition of slavery in the South was impossible, and that the free states should secede from the Union so that they would no longer be party to the abomination of slavery (e.g., slave catchers from the South would no longer have the right to enter free territory to capture escaped slaves and drag them back to their "owners"). Lincoln, an opponent of slavery but not an abolitionist, believed that the federal government had the constitutional authority to decide whether new states would be admitted as slave or free, as under the Missouri Compromise, but he did not think that the federal government had the power under the constitution to abolish slavery in the states where it existed. Even if you reject the Dred Scott ruling (as you should), Lincoln was almost certainly correct. But even if you think he was wrong and that Congress had the power to abolish slavery, you could not have gotten such legislation through Congress -- the representatives of the slave states would have voted solidly against it, and enough "moderates" in the free states would have done so, too, to prevent such legislation from passing.

The Thirteenth Amendment could only be passed because the Confederacy was defeated in the war. Northeners who had been willing to tolerate slavery in the South before 1861 were anti-slavery after four years of war, and the federal government controlled the ratifcation in the states of the defeated Confederacy.

It's highly unlikely that even a hypothetical abolitionist Andrew Jackson could have persuaded the slave states to accept any form of emancipation in 1860. A hypothetical Jackson might had persuaded the southern states from seceding, and if he had, slavery would have remained unmolested for (at least) another generation.

Nancy Reyes said...

This was not just a tweet about the Civil war, you know.

Jackson stopped SC from their idea they didn't have to follow federal laws (on tariffs) and the idea they could secede.

This was a "Headsup" to California's snowflake that refusing to follow federal laws or threatening secession might be a bad idea.

Martin said...

This reminds me of when all the "smart" people laughed at Sarah Palin telling a Tea Party rally to "party like it's 1773" (the year of the Boston Tea Party, but all the smart idiots had to show off that they knew the Declaration of Independence was 1776), and again when she said Paul Revere was captured on his famous ride (which he was).

And the idiot Grossman might have more sympathy for prohibiting slavery in the territories and new states, and the a program of compulsory compensated emancipation--if he was a sympathetic human being and considered that over 600,000 troop died and about 2 million were severely injured. OTOH, it's not clear the South would have gone for that, though if anyone could have made a persuasive case it was Andrew Jackson.

Michael K said...

Mistreatment isn't the issue. Liberty is the issue.

"Give me liberty or give me death!" applied to black slaves as well.


Oh, I agree but the point was that slaves were very valuable and the stories of cruel overseers, etc are often exaggerated.

It goes along with the matter of compensated emancipation.

I have also read arguments that slavery was not going to fall of its own weight. The slave states needed territory for political reasons as well as agricultural.

I despair of any decent education in history in present day schools up through grad schools.

It is all "critical studies" and PC.

Spaceman said...

Yes, the civil war could have been avoided. The government federal had abandoned all the military forts except Fort Sumter and 1 other fort. Lincoln chose to re-enforce Fort Sumter purposely provoking an attack. "Preserving the Union" sounds good, but why was that really necessary considering the US had split from England 90 years previous into a viable nation. It is noted that slavery was steadily on the way out throughout the European empires in the mid-1800's and it is hard to imagine that the same would not occurred in America within 2 or 3 decades considering there was wide spread opposition to the practice in both the North and South. Of course the morality of another 20 or 30 years of slavery is certainly hard to defend, but the known alternative - war is equally abhorrent and the country suffered deep divides long after the war. An interesting question if the result would have been better or worse in the long run if simply Lincoln had let the South split off.

Mac McConnell said...

Chuck, "That wasn't any stroke of genius. It's what the United Kingdom did much the same, following passage of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. But at that time, the UK was the richest nation on earth, with a tiny fraction of the number of slaves on southern American plantations".

Whose cotton do you think was being shipped to English mills from American's northern ports? Cotton from southern plantations financed by northern banks stored in northern warehouses.

FYI, King Cotton was always the USA's number one cash crop till 1945.

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Erik said...

What Caused Secession and Ergo the Civil War?
Was It Slavery and/or States' RIghts?
Or Wasn't It Rather Something Else —
the Election of a GHASTLYK Republican
to the White House?

https://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/2017/05/what-caused-secession-and-ergo-civil.html

…/… debate over the causes of the Civil War veer between the South's defense of slavery and the South's (alleged) fight for state rights.

How about a much simpler solution?

Isn't the truth looking at us from the center of the room?

Isn't the main reason that, then as now, Democrats (ever "fighting for the American people") did not want to be ruled by such low-life scum (reptiles, outlaws, pirates, murderers, terrorists, haters, etc) as Republicans, as abolitionists, as Tea Partiers? …/…

Jefferson-Jackson-Who? said...

I haven't read all the comments and discussion so this may have been covered elsewhere in the discussion.

This is parallel to the topic of Jackson. When I was a child in Kentucky we were taught in history classes that Henry Clay's efforts including his role in the Nullification Crisis prevented the Civil War from happening for forty years. Jackson was around then. FWIW

So Trump may have been inartful in what he said but to say that invalidates everything he meant is a yes/no standard nobody can meet in real life. Only armchair pundits, Monday morning quarterbacks, and I guess, critical theorists have that sort of pristine perfection.

Scott said...

I find the Left's position here rather amusing. If we are to believe these wise myrmidons from the academic left, the notion of a single man changing history is nonsense. If they are correct, then their own unhinged mania regarding Trump is pointless and irrational. By their own arguments, he cannot change the unchangeable course of history...

Harmon said...

Lots of interesting comments here. I majored in American history, became a lawyer, & have been interested in Constitutional law & American history for all the nearly 50 years since. And yet, it seems there's always something else I can learn about the Civil War.

My own conclusion about the War and its causes is this:

Slavery was the cause of the war in the sense that had it not existed, there would likely have never been a War. As lawyers say, slavery was "necessary but not sufficient" as a cause of the War. The triggering cause, I think, is that the Southern power elite was faced with a permanent loss of political and economic power if the South stayed in the Union. The Southern power elite consisted of people whose wealth was grounded in slavery, and whose national power was diminishing as the nation expanded west and the north expanded economically. Ultimately, the South would lose the Senate as well as the House, and be unable to elect a President. They decided on succession in order to establish a nation in which they would continue to be in control. Believing that the North would never fight (or at least not for very long) they chose a path that they thought would lead to independence, knowing that Southerners would fight back against any attempt by the North to forcibly keep the South from succeeding.

I'm not sure that anyone could have prevented the War, since I think it was the result of a correct understanding of the political situation by the South power elite, but a big miscalculation by the Southern leaders concerning their military strength & the North's lack of will. The South, not Lincoln, chose war, and I think a large reason for that choice is that they didn't think Lincoln would fight, much less be able to win. But had Jackson been president, they would have damn well known he'd fight, and understood that he would win. So at a minimum, they would have deferred the choice, and who knows what would have happened in the election of 1868?

BTW, I think Trump's remarks show a familiarity with the popular biographies of Jackson. I suspect he's read at least one of them, and it appears to me that his apprehension of Jackson's beliefs & hypothetical actions is correct. The two "experts" the BBC serves up are just another instance of people who willfully misunderstand what Trump says rather than attempt to honestly engage his remarks. What dopes.


Douglas Malcom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Gipper Lives said...

1.) Why fault Peirce or Buchanan for being weak if a strong leader would have made no difference anyway?

2.) Liberals wish and even claim that Truman should or could have avoided the Bomb. Why is it heresy for Trump to voice a similar hope?

3.) I maintain that this is Trump thinking about avoiding casualties in Korea. Remember when Liberals thought that was a good idea? Before they lost their minds?

Rich Rostrom said...

Douglas Malcom said... "We're basically alone in sending the numbers we did through the Sausage Grinder of History known as the Civil war."

Spain had three destructive civil wars (the Carlist Wars) in the 1800s, and the extremely bloody Civil War in the 1930s. Russia had the Revolution and Civil War. China had the Tai Ping Rebellion (coeval with our Civil War), which killed over 20 million people - and was only the largest of several rebellions that killed over a million people. England had its Civil War, and earlier, the War of the Roses. The Mexican Revolution killed over a million people, at a time when Mexico had only 15M people.