The Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, IL is just about 3 hours from here. So we decided to go give it a visit today.
Most of this is going to be pictures. But first a commentary. Conventional wisdom is that the result of the US Civil War was an unalloyed good. It preserved the Union, led to the end of chattel slavery in the US and began the road that led to full civil rights for various minority groups. And I would agree that those are good things. One can imagine the disaster had the US and Confederacy remained separate and each of those two nations taken different sides in the World Wars.
However, there is another side. When the US was founded, we were 13 sovereign states, with a central government both to be our “public face” to the rest of the world and to smooth interaction between the several States. But, within their own borders, each State being sovereign. “13 laboratories of Freedom” (34 by the time South Carolina became the first of the Southern States to secede).
The Civil War changed that. While the process was not instant, the Civil War reduced the States from states–“a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government”–to little more than provinces–“a principal administrative division of certain countries or empires”–in all but name. Instead of “These United States” it was “The United States.” With this began an inexorable increase in the size and scope of the Federal government, in its interference in the daily lives of the common citizen, and the increasing restrictions on individual liberty.
One could argue that there was no other way to preserve the union, particularly in hindsight. As I mention above, a United States and a Confederate States each taking a different side in one of the World Wars could well have been a disaster. However, I don’t think it was quite so cut and dried. For one thing, it took a very specific set of circumstances, circumstances that could not last, to make the “slave economy” viable. It could not last. And while the Confederate Constitution enshrined slavery, once establishing secession as a viable option for States there would be nothing stopping a Confederate State, once the changing economy renders it impossible to even pretend that slavery is economically viable, from seceding in turn from the Confederacy and rejoining the Union. I doubt the Confederacy would have lasted long as a separate nation.
But it didn’t happen that way so we’ll never know.
There’s a whole lot more that could be discussed but that’s enough for now. On to the pictures.
11 thoughts on “Memorial Day Weekend Road Trip: Lincoln Library and Museum (Photo heavy)”
I would like to express my complete disagreement with what I think is the point of your post, which I believe is that you wish the slave states had been allowed to secede. If that is not what you meant, then what follows is completely off the point, and should be disregarded.
Now, you say that it was a “good thing” that slavery ended, but if secession had been allowed to go forward, it would have continued for an indefinite period into the future. It would seem that slavery wasn’t so bad, in your opinion.
You say the South would have given up on slavery eventually, when it became clear it wasn’t profitable to them. The idea that white people should be allowed to buy and sell black people the way they sold farm animals, until they voluntarily stopped, sounds to me rather like saying bullies should be allowed to beat up those weaker than they, until they get bored with their sadism.
The reasons you give (apparently) wishing secession had been allowed to occur unopposed is the rise of the modern meddling state. This sounds to me like ‘I don’t care if the nigras, wops, spics, redskins, etc. get kicked around, as long as _*I*_ am not inconvenienced by Washington.’ This impression is reinforced by your talk about the potential disaster of Union and Confederacy being on opposite sides of the World Wars. In short, it seems to be, objectively, flat-out racism.
Purely as a matter of history and economics, I disagree with your belief that slavery would have ceased to be profitable for long. That position was very popular until the Civil Rights Act was passed (i.e., until the North stopped apologizing to the South for taking away their slaves, and stopped looking the other way as they violated black people’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights). Robert Fogel’s WITHOUT CONSENT OR CONTRACT is illuminating on this, as is the fact that mechanical harvesting of cotton was not practical until 1944. (And there’s still a fair amount of unskilled work in the U.S. economy, where slavery would likely be profitable. I used to manage in fast food, and I think I could run a McDonalds or Burger King quite profitably with slave labor. Slave household servants would almost certainly be cheaper than illegal immigrants. And slave whores, well, they’d definitely be profitable.) Nor do I think the states were ever really sovereign. And considering the ever-increasing scope of central govt. meddling in all nations, I can’t endorse the idea that we would have escaped it in the U.S. if only we’d not had the Civil War Between the States of Northern Aggression to Free the Slaves to Save the Union for Southern Independence of the Rebellion. But those are side issues. Even if you are right about all of that, I prefer the end of slavery in 1865, rather than whenever it would have pleased Southern whites to get rid of it.
Wow. That you get that out of what I said is…wow.
The problem was which was worse: the “cure” or the “disease”? You apparently think the Constitution can be ignored if you dislike something enough.
We’ve heard the argument before.
Fourth Amendment? We can just ignore that because “terrorists.”
Fifth Amendment? Same thing.
First Amendment? Doesn’t protect “hate speech”.
In this case it’s the tenth:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Yes, slavery was horrible. Terrible. But unless you can point me to the text in the Constitution, or in the ratified Amendments as of 1860, which granted the Federal government the power to retain a State against its will or forbid a State from leaving the Union, then it had no legitimate power to keep the States in the Union.
Slavery was abominable? You’ll get no argument on that score from me. But unless you want to claim that we should annex any nation that does abominable things, then, no, the Union did not have the “right” to force its will on the Confederacy. Because there was no designated power to retain a State in the Union against that State’s will.
Once you decide you can just dismiss the Constitution because someone is doing something “bad enough”, then you lose all legitimacy to complain when others do the same because at that point you’re just haggling over price.*
Slavery was horrible, an evil blight on US History. However, the savaging of the Constitution that was the Civil War and the aftermath thereof may not have been the best way to handle it. This is at least something on which reasonable individuals may disagree. Pity there are so many who are unreasonable people around.
Case in point:
This is bullshit right here. It’s not just me. It’s everybody. The growth of the Feds, the intrusiveness into people’s daily lives, the whole “three felonies a day” thing, affects everyone in the US, including the descendants of those slaves. Everyone. But, hey, slavery was bad so we can just insult anyone who questions whether the means used to bring about its end were the best when considered in the total balance of things. What’s next? “It’s for the children”?
*For those who don’t know the reference, allow me to explain. A man once asked a woman if she would sleep with him for $10 million. She enthusiastically agreed. A moment later, he asked her if she would do it for $20. The woman, outraged, said “What kind of woman do you think I am?” The man replied, “We have already established that, madam. Now we are just haggling over price.”
You say “Wow” when I say your position amounts to saying slavery wasn’t so bad, but you don’t say anything like “If slavery hadn’t ended by such and such a date, the North should have ended it forcibly.” I can only conclude that you if it came to a choice, you’d rather slavery existed today then the Civil War take place. You say I’m insulting you because you question whether the Civil War was the best way to end slavery. But that question necessarily implies that maybe slavery should have continued until white people voluntarily abandoned it. That’s where the pro-secession-but-anti-slavery argument always breaks down, and reveals itself as pro-slavery, as long as it’s someone else who’s enslaved.
You talk about me apparently thinking the Constitution can be ignored if I dislike something enough. I said no such thing. You are projecting your position on me. You think a state has a legal right to secede unilaterally. I don’t.
But since you bring it up, there is nothing in the Constitution that either forbids or allows secession. In the decades before the Civil War, there was much debate on the subject, with some saying a state had a legal right to withdraw unilaterally, and some saying it didn’t. James Madison said that any state could attempt to secede, but the Union was under no obligation to allow them to. If it decided against secession, the Union had an absolute legal right to attempt to stop them. In short, secession against the will of the Union as a whole was revolution, and there’d be nothing to do but take up arms and pray that God defend the right.
Madison also wrote a famous letter to Hamilton during New York State’s ratification convention. The convention had considered a provisional ratification of the Constitution, which would lapse if it wasn’t modified to New York’s satisfaction. Madison replied that the ten states that had already ratified had done so _*unconditionally, and permanently*_, and if New York tried to ratify with the option of picking up their marbles and going home anytime they felt like it, said ratification would not be considered valid. So right from the beginning, the view was expressed by the new federal government’s principal architect that secession was illegal.
Madison’s letters are online, and searchable. I suggest you look at what he says about secession and nullification. There’s also quite a lot more legal commentary by others on this subject too. Have you read any of it?
As for the horrors the descendants of slaves must put up with in today’s world, let’s consider. If not for the tyrannical federal govt., we’d likely still have states where a white man could attack a ‘black’ man, and the ‘black man’ would be legally prohibited from defending himself. Nor could he appeal to the law against the white man, because he was legally barred from testifying against whites. Even if he was free, he might suddenly be reduced to bondage if the state passed a law enslaving him. If he was a slave, any marriage he might make had no legal existence, and his owner could break up his family at will. I could go on, but I’ll sum up by saying his existence was rather like living in the Soviet Union under Stalin, including the possibility of being killed for imaginary crimes. I’ve yet to meet a single black person who thinks such a life would be better than the one he lives now.
For that matter, I’ve never heard a white person say that he’d be better off as a slave, or a ‘free negro’ than a citizen of the present U.S. But I’ve heard many a white person say that if slavery and racial discrimination had continued, but with a smaller, less intrusive federal govt. that put less restrictions ON WHITE PEOPLE, while discriminating against blacks that would be much better. If that attitude isn’t racism and “Fuck you Jack, I’m all right,” it will do till ‘real’ attitudes come along.
I take it, then, that you were utterly opposed to the removal of the slavery language from the Declaration of Independence? Of course, that would have meant that the Declaration never happened and the United States never formed. Clearly having slaves for the approximately 90 years that followed was too high a price to pay for there to be a United States. Otherwise “we’re just haggling over price”.
Actually it only “breaks down” because you are incapable of seeing past your own blinders. The only reason you are capable of seeing for someone to say “The US did not have the authority to hold a State against its will” is if they support slavery. That failing is yours. (And I’m going to stop with the blockquotes here.)
“You think a state has a legal right to secede unilaterally. I don’t.”
Then cite me the language in the Constitution that delegates to the Federal Government the power to force a State to remain in the Union or forbids a State from leaving. Because barring such language the 10th applies and that power remains with the States or the People.
“But since you bring it up, there is nothing in the Constitution that either forbids or allows secession. ” So, no such language. Therefore by the very clear wording of the 10th it remained a power reserved by the States or the People.
“God defend the right” God has a long habit of “defending” the side with the most guns. War doesn’t determine who is right,it determines who is left.
“James Madison said” That’s nice. Too bad that language isn’t in the Constitution. Powers not granted to the Federal government by the Constitution, nor forbidden to the States by it, remain with the individual States or the people.
“I suggest you look at what he says about secession” I prefer to look at what the Constitution says. That has legal weight. Madison’s letters do not.
“There’s also quite a lot more legal commentary by others on this subject too.” Since you apparently have, please point to where they cite the Constitutional authority in which the Feds are granted power to keep a State against its will. Go ahead. I’ll wait. But not forever.
People have written all kinds of “legal commentary” on some of the most ridiculous things.
There are two, and only two ways by which the Federal Government gets authority. One is by being granted that authority in the Constitution. The other is by Force Majeure, basically taking it and not having anyone with sufficient power to stop them. So either show me the Constitutional language or admit that you’re accepting that “might makes right”.
Indeed, Jackson invoked Force Majeure with “John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.” But the Civil War enshrined it.
“we’d likely still have” Because, of course, the only reason anything has changed is because the Federal government forced it. So, who forced the Northern States to give up Slavery? As of the 1790 Census ever State except Maine and Massachusetts had slaves (and as of 1776, all 13 of the signing colonies had slaves). Who forced Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, et al to give up their slaves? Obviously you can’t cite changing economy since you argue uptopic that such changes won’t force it so long as there’s a single (or at least a handful) of areas where it’s economic. So what forced them?
“legally prohibited from defending himself” Instead, we’ve got one where anyone can be legally attacked by an agent of the government and be legally prohibited from defending himself. Much more egalitarian, I do admit.
“I’ve never heard a white person say that he’d be better off as a slave,” Good price on scarecrows up there? If you’re going to build strawmen, you might as well make money at it. What I am suggesting is that people are worse off now than they would be had we taken a different pass. Hell, a poor person in the US is better off now by most every standard than a plantation owner in the Antebellum South (or North, for that matter) so the comparison between anybody now and anybody then is ridiculous.
The thing is, there’s a way one could have had the Civil War and not had the fallout that I’m decrying. It’s a matter of how it’s approached. Simply accept that, yes, the States did have the right to secede, but that Federal property obtained perfectly legally while those States were part of These United States remained under its owners. South Carolina may have seceded but Fort Sumter remained owned by the Union (one of the reasons I never refer to the “War of Northern Aggression”). One sovereign nation firing on another was at that time, and for quite a few years after in fact, was an entirely valid reason for a war of conquest. Fight your war. Conquer the territory. Retain it as a territory rather than a State (which gives you a “reconstruction” that might have been less oppressive than we actually had–or might not have been. Hard to say. When I took Ohio History back in school it was made clear that the territorial period was not pleasant). And the Federal government has a lot more control over a territory until such time as it becomes a State.
End result much the same except States Rights and the Tenth not given the mortal blow that the US Civil War gave it in reality. Instead of forcing recalcitrant States to submit to the Federal yoke, it would have been a conflict between two recognized sovereign powers. That difference is subtle, but important. One retains the concept of States Rights and the other discards it.
But they didn’t do that. They just declared that the Federal government has power to retain a State against its will regardless of the language of the Constitution but simply because they have the power to force compliance and nobody is strong enough to oppose them. That marks a turning point in American history.
Are there any other countries we should say this for? If Nigeria doesn’t end FGM by X date, we’ll go in and end it forcibly? If Saudi Arabia doesn’t end the stoning of rape victims we should go in and end it forcibly? For that matter and more directly comparable, if various nations of Africa and the Middle East don’t end slavery we should go in and end it forcibly?
While I recognize that you don’t consider the secession of the southern states to have been valid forming a new, sovereign nation, you seem to have difficulty recognizing that other people can legitimately reach a different conclusion.
I can hate what other countries do but it’s not our job to police every country out there. And one being geographically nearby doesn’t change that. And unlike some, I don’t shy away from the unpleasant aspects of conclusions I reach on things like the Constitution and Liberty. Just like someone that might use their liberty to do something horrible to themselves (like, say, drug use) doesn’t justify violating their liberty to do so, likewise, a nation might use its sovereignty to do horrible things within its borders, that still doesn’t justify going in forcibly to “fix” them. Because when you take either path, then where does it end? What else are you going to need to “fix”?
Kennedy said we would pay any price, bear any burden in the cause of Freedom. But even then, he didn’t mean it. There were plenty of places we could have invaded to further that cause if he did. John Adams, on the other hand, said “We are the friends of liberty everywhere, but we are the guardians only of our own”.
Once the southern states seceded, they stopped being “our own”. Adams philosophy was not that far in their past. Kennedy’s was farther in their future.
Concerning the 11:57 PM post:
First, you distort my words. I said you wouldn’t say “If slavery hadn’t ended by such and such a date, the North should have ended it forcibly,” implying that no matter how much you say slavery was horrible, in your mind it isn’t so bad as long as you and yours aren’t the slaves. I think the post I’m responding to shows the accuracy of my judgment.
Should the U.S. end slavery forcibly in foreign countries? I don’t think we can. But if I thought we could, I’d give it strong consideration. A sovereign country has the right to invade and conquer other sovereign countries. That’s what sovereignty means. And when a country adopts the position “The strong do as they will, the weak suffer what they must,” then they have no beef when someone stronger does as they will with them.
“While I recognize that you don’t consider the secession of the southern states to have been valid forming a new, sovereign nation, you seem to have difficulty recognizing that other people can legitimately reach a different conclusion.”
You’re right that I don’t recognize secession as legally valid. As for the conclusion that it was valid, I’ve had that argument with many a secessionist, asking for the evidence that unilateral secession was or ought to be a legal right. The reply invariably boils down to ‘Because I want it to be true,’ accompanied by a strained interpretation of something. As an example, the Tenth Amendment says powers not delegated to the Federal govt. are reserved to the states, or the people thereof. What states, what people? The Unionist argument was that the people of the several states had jointly created the Union, and legal dissolution required joint action. The secessionists replied that no, it meant unilateral action of any state’s people. But they could never come up with a quote from one of the people who signed the Constitution supporting that point of view.
“. . . it’s not our job to police every country out there. And one being geographically nearby doesn’t change that.” Which begs the question by 1) assuming that the Confederacy was a legally independent country, and 2) overlooks the fact that independent countries can invade other independent countries.
“Just like someone that might use their liberty to do something horrible to themselves (like, say, drug use) doesn’t justify violating their liberty to do so, likewise, a nation might use its sovereignty to do horrible things within its borders, that still doesn’t justify going in forcibly to ‘fix’ them. Because when you take either path, then where does it end? What else are you going to need to ‘fix’?”
Well, in the first place, the Union didn’t go in to ‘fix’ the soi-distant Confederacy, it went in to suppress an illegal rebellion by people who had attacked the United States. But assuming that the Union was attempting to ‘fix’ the Confederacy, the answer is, it stops wherever we want it to stop. As the philosopher Spillane said, many things are like a trolley: you get off the trolley wherever you want.
“Once the southern states seceded, they stopped being ‘our own’.” And there it is again. You assert that secession was legal (the North disagreed, as did four slave states, eventually). You assert that the Union was for some reason bound to allow them to exist. The U.S. has gone to war for far less reason than stopping the establishment of a hostile power on its border.
Concerning the 11:22 post:
“ ‘But that question necessarily implies that maybe slavery should have continued until white people voluntarily abandoned it.’
“I take it, then, that you were utterly opposed to the removal of the slavery language from the Declaration of Independence? Of course, that would have meant that the Declaration never happened and the United States never formed. Clearly having slaves for the approximately 90 years that followed was too high a price to pay for there to be a United States. Otherwise ‘we’re just haggling over price’.
Wrong again. “Ought implies can.” Could the opponents of slavery have ended it in 1776? No. Would hamstring the resistance to Britain have ended slavery sooner than it would end by revolting? Probably not, and they certainly had no reason to think so. Would revolution end slavery sooner? Probably, as Virginia’s attempts to end the slave trade had been opposed by Britain. One is always justified in doing what one can, rather than refusing to act because you can’t achieve perfection.
“ ‘That’s where the pro-secession-but-anti-slavery argument always breaks down, and reveals itself as pro-slavery, as long as it’s someone else who’s enslaved.’
“Actually it only ‘breaks down’ because you are incapable of seeing past your own blinders. The only reason you are capable of seeing for someone to say ‘The US did not have the authority to hold a State against its will’ is if they support slavery. That failing is yours. (And I’m going to stop with the blockquotes here.)”
Well, as a matter of fact and real existence, the people who argued for secession did it for the sole and only reason that they thought it necessary to prolong the existence of slavery. Varina Davis said Jeff Davis told her, before Ft. Sumter, that the Deep South states that claimed to have seceded would go back into the Union instantly if their “rights” were adequately guaranteed. The only rights they “worried” about was their right to enslave black people.
But for the sake of argument, I’ll concede that these non-slavery motivations for supporting secession exist. I stand by my statement that pro-secession was pro-slavery. The threat of the “Black Republicans” might succeed in ending slavery, legally, forty or fifty years down the road was one of the arguments used to support secession. The South obsession with honor, independence, and the money made off slavery would, imao, have ensured that slavery existed for decades to come, possibly till this day. And faced with the choice, the pro-secessionists were willing to have it last. Objectively, that’s pro-slavery.
“ ‘You think a state has a legal right to secede unilaterally. I don’t.’
“Then cite me the language in the Constitution that delegates to the Federal Government the power to force a State to remain in the Union or forbids a State from leaving. Because barring such language the 10th applies and that power remains with the States or the People.”
I’ve dealt with the Tenth Amendment above. And btw, the Founders clearly intended that Constitutional questions be settled by the Supreme Court. If the allegedly seceded states had gone to Federal court, they might have won. Instead, they appealed to arms, and the Supreme Supreme Court decided that they didn’t have any such right (see Grant v. Lee, 1865 Appomattox Court House for the decision).
Language of the Constitution? Article I, Section 8:
1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; . . .
3: To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes; . . .
5: To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures; . . .
15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; . . .
Section I, Article 10:
1: No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; . . .
3: No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War . . .
2: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; . . . any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
(Concerning that last, if the states had been sovereign and independent, then the ratification by any two would have put it into operation.)
That looks like the basis of an argument that no state can secede unilaterally to me. And when the Supreme Court ruled on it, they agreed that states have no power of unilateral secession.
“Who forced Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, et al to give up their slaves? Obviously you can’t cite changing economy since you argue uptopic that such changes won’t force it so long as there’s a single (or at least a handful) of areas where it’s economic. So what forced them?”
People who spent decades arguing that slavery was immoral and unchristian (except in Massachusetts, where the State Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional under the Mass. Const.; and to forestall your objection, in the South, it was illegal to make such arguments, and people were expelled, beaten and expelled, murdered and expelled for making them.)
Since most of the rest of the post consists of endless repetition of the argument that the Tenth Amendment guarantees a state’s unilateral right to secede, I’ll just close by noting that the man who wrote that amendment disagreed.
There are lots of horrible things in the world. But as John Adams pointed out, it’s not our place to be the guardians of everyone else in the world. You seem to think you’ve scored some kind of points because I point that out. So yeah, I don’t believe in issuing ultimatums to sovereign nations to “fix” internal problems, however abominable I see them, and invade and conquer them if they don’t comply with the ultimatum unless they directly threaten us. In that I follow the ideals of John Adams. So…point to you, may you have much joy of it.
So it’s only ability that stops you from going forth conquering and to conquer? Given the ability, you’d be all for it? They hypocrisy of this statement is breathtaking. By the tack you’re taking here the only reason we would not impose our will on other countries is lack of might. You think it would just stop with “ending slavery”? Bullshit. Once a nation develops a taste for conquest it doesn’t stop. There’s always something that’s “the worse”. Succeed in eradicating slavery worldwide and there’s some new “worst thing” to go conquering over.
Exactly backwards. The only justification for forcibly retaining a State against its will is that you want it to be so. All those parts of the Constitution you cite? None of them say “Congress shall have the power to retain a State as a member of the United States against its will” nor “No State shall be permitted to leave the United States except by approval of Congress” or similar. Barring such language then the Tenth applies. The Tenth is a direct indicator that the powers granted to Congress (and the President, and the Courts) are to be interpreted narrowly.
Are there things that States as members of the United States are forbidden from doing? Sure there are. I never said otherwise. Where I dispute is that one of those things they are forbidden to do is to leave the United States. Because the Constitution does not say that. Thus, from the Tenth, the Constitution not saying that, it’s not there.
And if you can’t see that and at least acknowledge that there is a point there–even if you disagree with the final conclusion–then the blind spot is yours
Now, here’s the thing. I can disagree with someone on a topic and yet acknowledge that they nevertheless have reasons that seem good to them for their position, that they have a point. I’ve done it. And here, I’ve tried to give you the benefit of the doubt on that. But your insistence in attempting to turn disagreement in such matters as sovereignty and States Rights into a moral failing and your inability to reciprocate has rapidly used that up. And this is not the first time you’ve done that.
Test post to see if I correctly understand how to do a blockquote with WordPress.
Ah, I do understand how to do it. Substantive post coming up.
Aaaaand line crossed (trying to pretend a post is “substantive” while suggesting I get my meds checked). The commenter is gone.
I don’t mind sharp argument, but that crosses the line.