Worthwhile reading. Doug Muder illuminates the history of Reconstruction and argues that if you view the Civil War as beginning in 1861 and ending when Federal Troops packed up and went North in 1877, the SOUTH WON. Everything put in place after that nullified the rights of freed slaves to own property, vote, or seek redress in the courts. And the Tea Party is an outgrowth of the guerrilla warfare the South maintained to preserve what they could of their ‘unique way of life’.
I’d note one other idea here that I’ve come to understand as a result of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and the history they’ve been sharing. Before Fort Sumter, Lincoln probably felt the country couldn’t afford to let the South secede. It was their exports that buoyed our larger economy, and at least half of that export economy was based on slave labor. Absent a significant European boycott of US goods over slavery (something that was apparently brewing in England), the US was doing quite well economically as a result of that ‘peculiar institution’. Lincoln made this clear in his famous 1862 letter to Horace Greeley regarding the fact that the Union was not confiscating slaves and freeing them: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and 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.” The next month, Lincoln would issue the Emancipation Proclamation. But it seems clear that Lincoln went to war for a variety of reasons, of which slavery was not the primary one.
Tea Partiers say you don’t understand them because you don’t understand American history. That’s probably true, but not in the way they want you to think.
Late in 2012, I came out of the Lincoln movie with two historical mysteries to solve:
- How did the two parties switch places regarding the South, white supremacy, and civil rights? In Lincoln’s day, a radical Republican was an abolitionist, and when blacks did get the vote, they almost unanimously voted Republican. Today, the archetypal Republican is a Southern white, and blacks are almost all Democrats. How did American politics get from there to here?
- One of the movie’s themes was how heavily the war’s continuing carnage weighed on Lincoln. (It particularly came through during Grant’s guided tour of the Richmond battlefield.) Could any cause, however lofty, justify this incredible slaughter? And yet, I realized, Lincoln was winning. What must the Confederate leaders…
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