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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

level_head
Jun. 20th, 2007 03:23 pm (UTC)
Small point of clarification, though I'm sure that you are talking about those states that were admitted before the Civil War, but Hawai'i was also an independent country before it was forcibly made a territory and then a state.

*chuckle*

I almost did. I had a paragraph on Hawai'i in the original writings, and decided at the last minute that the post was large enough without the additional distraction. Hawai'i had kings -- and a queen -- and some odd situations that would tend to argue the other way. But I'd grant them nationhood before they became a protectorate/territory/state -- a long process.

But I would, also, to Texas. Its independence was short, but every bit as valid.

Granted, I think I find Hawai'i's claim for nationhood stronger than Texas, since it was created by a white Southern attempt to rest the land away from Mexico and make it hospitable to slavery.

Are nations created by white people -- or white Southerners -- not valid? I'd note that a great many inhabitants of Texas had arrived directly, or nearly so, from Europe. The German and Irish contingents were strong. And there were many "Mexican" natives of Texas who were on the side of independence. A lot of Mexicans were unhappy about the Siete Leyes changes to the Mexican government.

But I'd also note that Mexico itself had just acquired territory from Spain by treaty at the end of a decade of war. If such arrangements aren't valid, then the land of Texas belonged to Spain, not Mexico. (A trivia point: Someone 30 years old born in California or Texas at the time of the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (the end of the Mexican-American War) was actually born in Spanish territory, not Mexican.)

Slavery was certainly a big issue -- but so was religion. In order to obtain land in colonial Texas, new arrivals had to convert to Mexico's official religion.

And corruption and dictatorships and megalomania hardly serve to make the Mexican government at the time more "noble" than that of the newly independent Texas.

The new Texas government, led by Sam Houston, wasn't primarily driven to independence by the slavery issue. In fact, Houston resigned at the beginning of the Civil War rather than fight against the Union.

Slavery was big in Texas, as it was in the Southeast. But Texas was so ambivalent about it that their agreement with the US, which allowed them to become up to five states, was argued about at length: there was no division they could come up with that would still allow a majority of slave-supporters.

The result was violent suppression of dissension at the start of the Civil War, to their eternal shame.

It was a grim time -- and one that I'm glad to see us past.

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

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