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Happy Time Warp, tyrnn and ceruleanst!

Okay, for some reason LiveJournal thought the day was yesterday, but also thinks it's today. Makes no nevermind to me, have your Forgotten English (© Jeffrey Kacirk) anyway!

dephlegmedness
A state of being freed from water.
--Rev. John Boag's Imperial Lexicon, c. 1850


Juneteenth Observed
On this date in 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas, became the last to learn of their newfound freedom; Union soldiers reached the city and read Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, by then two and a half years old. Though Lincoln has received much of the credit for the liberation of American slaves, he could hardly have been characterized as being zealously against this evil, at least before becoming president. In the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates on August 21, 1858, he remarked, "I have no purpose, either directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no right to do so." And even as president four years later, just before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, he wrote to Horace Greeley, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."

That's something that drives me absolutely nuts about the Civil War as it's popularly taught and understood. Ask a dozen people on the street and they'll tell you it was to free the slaves -- but it wasn't about slavery and never was. It was about Federal power vs. State power -- from the government P.O.V. slavery was just a propaganda tool that the average Joe in the northern states would get behind. Sorta like WMDs in Iraq. If you are scared that the country is slouching towards totalitarianism [1], thank Abraham Lincoln, he's the one who laid the groundwork for it.

Of course, the reason slavery worked as a hot-button issue is because it was such an evil (duh), which is why the Civil War is still such a problem. Who do you root for, the Overreaching Government, or the Slavers? I'd say a fair assessment is that we all lost on that one. (Except for the slaves -- at least they got something good out of it! Eventually.)

-The Gneech

[1] Despite the best efforts of the Bush administration, and for that matter the Clinton administration before them, I don't believe we're slouching towards totalitarianism. The U.S. has long had a tendency to swing like a pendulum, going from libertine to puritan and back again, and averaging somewhere in the middle. The key is to try to avoid the evils of either extreme.

Comments

the_gneech
Jun. 19th, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC)
From my reading, you could make a colorable argument that it wasn't only about slavery.

Fair enough. Point is, the Civil War tends to be portrayed as the noble and righteous north versus the orcs who ran the south and only resisted the abolition of slavery 'cause they hated black people. The idea that the U.S. was supposed to be a voluntary allegiance of states, or that the people in the south may have had carefully-considered reasons for what they did beyond "dumb hickism" doesn't get much serious discussion.

An example: in Night at the Museum, a movie for kids and fairly typical of cultural attitudes, the main character sums up the Civil War as "Southern guys! You lose! Slavery is bad! Get over it!"

-The Gneech
level_head
Jun. 19th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
The idea that the U.S. was supposed to be a voluntary allegiance of states, or that the people in the south may have had carefully-considered reasons for what they did beyond "dumb hickism" doesn't get much serious discussion.

It is exactly this that Lincoln discusses at length in the first and later debates, granting them the courtesy of accepting that they had good and reasonable reasons for what they did. Nevertheless, he still hated the result, and sought to end it.

Characterizing Lincoln as using the issue of slavery merely for propaganda seems less accurate than the "Get over it!" remarks. The latter is a gross oversimplification -- the former is, in my opinion, poisonously wrong and a much greater disservice to history. I urge you to reconsider.

===|==============/ Level Head
laurie_robey
Jun. 19th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC)
I think the comment about "dumb hickism" was not supposed to apply to Lincoln. I think John was referring to attitudes of some people we have personally come across, living in various parts of Virginia. There's a certain group of people who do believe that the Civil War was only about the virtuous North fighting against the evil, prejudiced South, and that every southerner is a bigot who wishes the South had won the war. This is obviously wrong, but it doesn't change the fact that they're out there.

And, from the other side of the coin, there are Southerners who are bigots and do wish the South had won, but they are far less numerous than some people seem to think.

Living in northern Virginia, for example, we have personally encountered the attitude that because we live in Virginia instead of Maryland, that we are somehow inferior.
level_head
Jun. 20th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
there are Southerners who are bigots

Not only Southerners, of course. And probably not even primarily Southerners.

I've been sending a fair amount of time in conversations with a variety of people in West Virginia -- and it's struck me that they've moved in some respects further along than the northeast.

And elsewhere... Just today, I heard another in a campaign of commercials in California doing "public service announcements" about white Southern males -- "Bubbas," they're called. Watch out for them, the commercials say: They're lazy, they're stupid, and they smell bad. (Yes, they really said that.)

Just imagine them picking another ethic group and trying those adjectives.

===|==============/ Level Head
laurie_robey
Jun. 20th, 2007 01:20 am (UTC)
Just imagine them picking another ethic group and trying those adjectives.

Um, yeah.
level_head
Jun. 20th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)
I think the comment about "dumb hickism" was not supposed to apply to Lincoln.

I understood that. The "propaganda" comment was aimed at Lincoln; that's what disappointed me.

Like you, I've experienced pretty even-handed treatment of the South in general, as far as education is concerned. An example of this occurred yesterday: I saw the "Road Scholar" catalog put out by Elderhostel; there's a tour of Gettysburg which is quite tastefully done, and remarks on the courage of soldiers from both sides. (As well as the horrors of war and the inhumane practice of slavery.) The language was something like "170,000 men fought, and more than 70,000 died, in a battle that changed the nation."

Incidentally, the concept of secession from the Union is still active: here's an ongoing attempt. Foolish, I think -- but there has never been a shortage of foolish people.

===|==============/ Level Head
level_head
Jun. 19th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)
Point is, the Civil War tends to be portrayed as the noble and righteous north versus the orcs who ran the south and only resisted the abolition of slavery 'cause they hated black people.

Such notions are unfortunate. They are part of a set of "political truths" that have been shown to be untrue (such as some modern ones about Iraq -- probably not the ones you're thinking), but are still part of vehement beliefs. Happily, this sort of portrayal of the Civil War does not seem to be common.

===|==============/ Level Head

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