Get PJ Media on your Apple

Ed Driscoll

Interview: Rich Lowry on Lincoln Unbound

June 11th, 2013 - 12:01 am

rich_lowry_lincoln_unbound_cover_6-10-13-1

Rich Lowry, the editor of the biweekly print version of National Review magazine, dubs our 16th president “the foremost apostle of opportunity in American history” in our 24-minute long interview to discuss his new book, Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream — and How We Can Do It Again, which is now available from Amazon.com and your local bookseller. As Lowry recently wrote at National Review: 

[Lincoln's] economics of dynamism and change and his gospel of discipline and self-improvement are particularly important to a country that has been stagnating economically and suffering from a social breakdown that is limiting economic mobility. No 19th-century figure can be an exact match for either of our contemporary competing political ideologies, but Lincoln the paladin of individual initiative, the worshiper of the Founding Fathers, and the advocate of self-control is more naturally a fellow traveler with today’s conservatives than with progressives.

In Lincoln Unbound, I make the positive case for Lincoln, but here I want to act as a counsel for the defense. The debate over Lincoln on the Right is so important because it can be seen, in part, as a proxy for the larger argument over whether conservatism should read itself out of the American mainstream or — in this hour of its discontent — dedicate itself to a Lincolnian program of opportunity and uplift consistent with its limited-government principles. A conservatism that rejects Lincoln is a conservatism that wants to confine itself to an irritable irrelevance to 21st-century America and neglect what should be the great project of reviving it as a country of aspiration.

During our interview, Rich will discuss:

● How politicians “Get right with Lincoln,” and why in 2008, it was the left that seemed more comfortable with Lincoln than many on the right.

● What did William F. Buckley think of Lincoln?

● In modern terms, what was Lincoln’s political worldview?

● Lincoln and the Civil War.

● What would Lincoln think about today’s Tea Party and Barack Obama’s myriad scandals?

● And what made Howard Dean attack Lowry personally late last month?

And much more. Click here to listen:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(24 minutes long; 22MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 4.16MB lo-fi edition. And for our earlier podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)

If the above Flash audio player is not be compatible with your browser, click on the YouTube player below, or click here to be taken directly to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.

Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I disagree with Mr. Lowry to this extent. Just as soon as mechanized farming became a reality, slavery would have died a natural (and well deserved) death. The informed self interest of the big land holders would have functioned as market forces do, and human chattel is a hell of a lot more expensive to use than steam and iron.

The need to force the issue was rabid impatience in the crusaders coupled with the reactionary in every politician. I don't fault Lincoln's motive to preserve the Union. Nonetheless, I agree with those who say he was NOT a federalist, nor should he have used force to preserve the Union. A decade of horror and 150 years of political strife could have been avoided. Steam power and traction engines were coming into general use late in the 19th century. With the patience to wait 10 or 20 years the bloodiest war in American history, one that tore apart families and friends, could have been avoided.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (37)
All Comments   (37)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
"The South had a close affiliation with the nation's founding, and held up the Founding Fathers in high regard."

They ignored the Founders' opinion that slavery was a shameful thing, and should fade away through manumission and ill regard. Before they betrayed the law and constitution through secession, they ignored the Founder's wishes.

"South Carolina expicitly listed a supposed non-enforcement of these laws as reasons for their secession, though not sure it was actual non-enforcement or fear of non-enforcement."

The power of juries in the North to nullify the slave codes of the South, whenever they sat for the question of whether a person accused was a thief--for the supposed crime of having escaped with themselves--was a reason for the tortured and obviously unconstitutional Dred Scot decision. There, a Supreme Court determined the whole of the United States was slave soil, including the whole of the North, whether the Congress would enact a federal slave code or not.

It was the SCOTUS ignoring the constitution which made certain there would be a civil war--because no law, not even the constitution, would be permitted to stand against the slavocracy of the South--and Taney lit that fuse.

Not Lincoln. All Lincoln did was win an election fair and square.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The colonists did not secede until they felt that British actions were intolerable. On the other hand, no one had done a single thing to the South when they seceded; the President was one of their own. Lincoln hadn't taken office yet.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What is everyone talking about? Lincoln was not a radical abolitionist. In the terms of the politics of the day (except possibly for New England) that would be like bombing abortion clinics. He did not attack the South until they fired on our men. It was the South that was paranoid.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"By then slavery was dead, for all practical purposes, in the South."
Not true, slave states were being created.
When you fight a war, you destroy your opponent. Something we have forgotten since WWII.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lincoln wanted to destroy States' rights, and that was his motivation. There was no need to attack the South and force a war that he was unwilling to end, even by Gettysburg, when the South wanted to negotiate an end. By then slavery was dead, for all practical purposes, in the South. He refused to even hear appeals from Southern delegates. He wanted all resistance destroyed, completely, and it caused 750,000 American deaths, and 100 years of hate in the South.
Lincoln is lauded by the University elites who wrote the victor's history, in the light of 20th Century mores. Slavery was common in the North when the war began, and most of the slave trade was conducted by Northern citizen ship-owners, but since one in three residents in the States was a negro, there was no great demand for their services in the U.S., and the slave ships worked the Brazilian and Caribbean slave market.
Motions to make secession unlawful continually failed at the Constitutional Convention, and New York was strongly against. Pennsylvania was the last State to sign, about six months after the other 12.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Lincoln wanted to destroy States' rights, and that was his motivation."

Having already exploded like idiocies below, I feel no more reply to you is needed, than to wearily suggest you name even one such.

"Motions to make secession unlawful continually failed at the Constitutional Convention, and New York was strongly against."

No such amendments were proposed, and the explicit language adopted forbids it--the power of the President unilaterally to call out the militia to execute the laws when required, and the supremacy clause. That's the actual law signed onto by the states, without any secession conditions in it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm sorry, who fired on Fort Sumter? Lincoln?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lowry is right. The idea that a state even could have a constitution that makes illegal or unethical a civil war is absurd. Wars are extra legal events by definition. The Founders believed in a right to revolution. You have to win those. There is no right to an uncontested revolution. Uncontested revolutions aren't revolutions at all. It is the dumbest thing I've ever heard, and that folks insist on repeating this uncritically is amazing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
this is why I hate the Rich Lowry's of the world - they actually believe the stupid tripe they spew.

Lincoln wasn't a hero, he was a tyrant and despot, and he didn't give a damn about the slaves, slavery was on it's last leg and would have been abolished without turning our government into our Master.

fools!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Slavery would have lasted a full generations' span longer at least, because the South of the Confederates had staked their whole economy and sense of honor and rectitude on preserving it. They could no more give it up than they could profane Christ--and they even made the argument, many of them, that God in the Bible had ordained their slaveholding. It was going no where any time soon, and might well have lasted until today, apartheid for example holding on longer than it had any right to.

Lincoln used no means Jeff Davis feared/failed to, and to a far better purpose--the preservation of the American Revolution and the its constitutional republic. He was no tyrant.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Someone should have told the people at the time, then. All of the poilics revolved around whether a territory would be free or slave.

And then why did the paranoid south need to secede? Lincoln hadn't even taken office yet. He didn't threaten slavery or State's rights. The idiotic Southern States fired on Federal territory. They started the war, not us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
i'm sick and tired about hearing about the greatness of lincoln. lincoln's greatness is a myth. lincoln pretty much threw out the constitution before and during the civil war. lincoln was responsible for more american soldiers deaths than soldiers killed in all of america's wars combined.
lincoln said the negro would never be equal to whites and he wanted negros deported.
the civil war had everything to do with taxation of the south, eliminating states rights, money and politics, and very little to do with slavery. i thank lincoln for the mess our country is in today. lincoln the legend? no lincoln the myth.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Name one way Lincoln through the constitution out. Just one.

And suspension of habeus corpus for sedition when at war is an accepted power and law still on the books.

Just to head you off at the pass.

"[strike]lincoln[/strike]Davis and Lee were responsible for more american soldiers deaths than soldiers killed in all of america's wars combined."

Fixed that for you.

"lincoln said the negro would never be equal to whites and he wanted negros deported. "

Puts him in good company, since the CSA wanted them owned.

"the civil war had everything to do with taxation of the south"

Tariffs are perfectly constitutional, and some claim they prefer them today as opposed to income taxes.

"eliminating states rights"

Lincoln never did, never proposed, and never under constitution would have considered eliminating so much as one power or "right" of the states.

"money and politics"

Absolutely, whether it was theft be damned, the South wanted to keep it's stolen wealth and pre-eminince in politics. The slavocrats wanted to stay the biggest fish in their pond by making the pond smaller. The CSA is no better or prettier than that.

"very little to do with slavery"

Every to do with slavery. The South admitted that a half dozen times, and explicitly endorsing slavery is one of the few differences between the CSA and USA constitutions. Slavery had everything to do with it.

" i thank lincoln for the mess our country is in today"

Nope, it's all Wilson and FDR's fault, Lincoln literally had not one thing to do with it.

'Lincoln the legend? no lincoln the myth"

Seems to me like the Lincoln in you head is all myth and Legend. You haven't said one true and relevant thing about him.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I disagree with Mr. Lowry to this extent. Just as soon as mechanized farming became a reality, slavery would have died a natural (and well deserved) death. The informed self interest of the big land holders would have functioned as market forces do, and human chattel is a hell of a lot more expensive to use than steam and iron.

The need to force the issue was rabid impatience in the crusaders coupled with the reactionary in every politician. I don't fault Lincoln's motive to preserve the Union. Nonetheless, I agree with those who say he was NOT a federalist, nor should he have used force to preserve the Union. A decade of horror and 150 years of political strife could have been avoided. Steam power and traction engines were coming into general use late in the 19th century. With the patience to wait 10 or 20 years the bloodiest war in American history, one that tore apart families and friends, could have been avoided.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Then the South should have waited, shouldn't they have? They fired the cannon, they forced the issue.

They got force back, which was what they bargained for.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Lincoln didn't force the issue; the Southern States did. He wasn't even in office yet.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Just as soon as mechanized farming became a reality, slavery would have died a natural (and well deserved) death."
Except that, "hind sight is 20-20". No one knew that at the time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Far too rosy a view. Machinists and mechanics both can be slaves, if their children's eating depends on it. And they will be held such, if those who can feel it upholds their honor to do it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Exactly. He was a lawyer, not a science fiction writer. They were fighting in out over whether finance was OK, for heaven's sake.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have to split this into multiple posts. Part 1:

I’m no neo-confederate, but I have serious issues with Lincoln as a conservative role-model. If I may:

“There wasn’t a right to secede. The Constitution said nothing about it.”

There was no British document stating such a right either, but we still declared our independence. The contractual obligation argument was shattered throughout the early 19-century as secessionists – both in the North and South – pointed out that the federal government had failed to uphold the Constitution. Secessionist belief was simple: ‘By what right must the states be contracted to a document that the federal government refuses to adhere?’ It is for this reason that secession is such an important issue now.

“[H]e was, in the context of his day…an activist…. [H]e wanted to provide government support to canals and railroads. He favored a protective tariff to foster industry. And he favored what some people pejoratively called government banking.”

Lincoln’s economic policies can hardly be called conservative, nor would it be wise to call them such. “[G]overnment support to canals and railroads” sounds a lot like ‘government support for the automobile, real estate and banking industries’ – which has not please most conservatives. Remember protective tariffs were a big issue in several presidencies, with the federal government regularly propping up failing Northern industries by taxing goods in the South. Once again, we see this issue today: ‘By what right must taxpayers be forced to pay for poor business practices?’ (And believe me, corruption was just as much a problem then as is now.)

“[O]ur founding fathers were secessionists. No they weren’t. They were revolutionaries.
And you have a right to revolution, if your cause is just, if your fundamental natural rights are being violated.”

I’m not sure that many of the founders would appreciate the title of “revolutionaries.” When independence was declared, yes, “unalienable rights” were noted, but prior to independence, the founders stated their grievances as British citizens. The founders approached independence using a British model, viewing the decision to break away as a last resort reserved for a government that refused to adhere to its own system.

“Without the union we never would have had any states, because the states didn’t come to exist — into existence until after the Declaration of Independence. Prior to that, they were colonies with a higher sovereign above them in the form of Britain.”

That’s bad history. An example:
South Carolina declared its independence on March 15, 1776
The Continental Congress declared independence on July 4, 1776.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"There was no British document stating such a right either, but we still declared our independence."

Of course we did. We did so as an act of rebellion against the laws of England and the British Crown, on the justification the King wasn't obeying the laws anyway, and we had no say in them besides.

The CSA can point to no abuse of them by the North or failure to respect the South's electoral rights or privileges, which can justify their rebellion to the just law in or writ under the Constitution.

"canals and railroads"

The Founders were mercantilist. This was written into the Constitution in the form of the patent and post road clauses, as well as the tariff power, among likely others. Clay, as did Lincoln, frankly had more the view of the Founders than the South's political elite had come to have by 1860. I prefer a flat rate or single bracket income tax to a tariff myself.

"And he favored what some people pejoratively called government banking"

Which since it was gold money, and the Congress is empowered to issue debt instruments, the Constitution provides for it.

The CSA simply had no moral or legal leg to stand on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Part 2.

I'll stop nitpicking here.

The problem I have with Lincoln is that he is a president whose entire character (in our collective memory) is built upon moral outrage – if slavery is bad then Lincoln is good. To me that’s too simplistic. Lincoln was not an ardent abolitionist or a believer in racial equality. Morality has always been touchy in regard to legislation and we must remember that Lincoln’s views on slavery were not based on morality. (For example, if the Emancipation Proclamation was drafted as a moral stance against slavery, why did it only apply to those areas of which he had no control? It went to great lengths to exempt slavery in US controlled areas.)

It is for this reason that I cannot look at him as a moral crusader; I look at him as a politician. As a politician, he ran on a platform that called for high tariffs (namely, the Morrill Tariff) and limiting slavery from new states out west (remember, Lincoln went to great lengths to say he wouldn’t touch slavery where it already existed). When several Southern states declared independence because of these issues, Lincoln called for an army of 75,000 to forcibly prevent their removal. Doing so resulted in even more states declaring independence.

He made an already tense situation worse. Having the opportunity to settle the situation peaceably, he instead opted to hold Charleston hostage and cried foul when the Confederacy forcibly removed the city’s garrison. As a historian, I have no doubt that slavery would have been removed with or without Lincoln, but a war was not necessary. Slaveowners were a small percentage of the American South, and even then, few slaveowners felt entirely comfortable with the ‘peculiar institution.’ (It’s continuance was based on economic necessity – which was rapidly changing.)

So, I guess my question is this: do the ends justify the means? Slavery, along with the ‘right of secession,’ was removed by extraordinary measures from the federal government. The founders were not monolithic in their beliefs so do not turn to them for an answer – James Madison and Alexander Hamilton are quite prominent in this interview, but not Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. The actions of FDR and LBJ have long sucked the taxpayers dry, but today they are heralded as heroes for their acts. Let me suggest that morality not be your sole guide to answering this question: LBJ may have signed the Civil Rights Act and Barry Goldwater may have opposed it, but it is quite clear that LBJ was no saint and Goldwater was no racist. When I think of Lincoln, I think of burned cities, shelled civilians, 600,000 dead, and an exponentially larger federal government following his presidency – most of which called on Lincoln’s example of using the federal government to achieve the ‘greater good’ – I have to weigh the costs. What did Lincoln achieve? He saw the end of slavery, established a precedent that the federal government held dominion over its states, and forever destroyed the notion that an American state could leave on its own accord. Abolition was, in my opinion, his only real success. Yet, I cannot credit him with that when I look at his motivations and methods and compare them to Great Britain’s William Wilburforce (an infinitely better man). In that regard, I cannot help but feel that the ends do not justify the means. (And I would add that, in my experience, conservatives who feel otherwise generally are not conservative.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'll bite. I do not, in fact, have a moral problem with slavery, but racism is something else. One of the main differences between Lincoln and Douglas in the debates was that Lincoln insisted that the Declaration declared racial equality - not in a social or even legal sense, as Lincoln did not dare question the extreme segregationist laws of Illinois - but in a philosophical sense, which ran square into the Dred Scott decision, in which the Supreme Court declared that the laws did not apply to Blacks, even if they were free.

The South seceded when there were no actual grievances to secede against, just suspicions. It was the South that fired on Federal territory; Lincoln didn't start it.

May I also point out that not only Lincoln, but the viciously racist, pro-choice Douglas gave his life for the union. People took these things seriously.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
First of all, obviously Lincoln was a politician. He was a political candidate who ran for public office. So were Washington, Jefferson, and every other American president. Many great issues were settled by political maneuvering.

Secondly, what Lincoln accomplished is simple: He kept the Union intact, without which the United States could never have become a superpower and accomplished so much.

Half a country could not have successfully beaten Germany. Half a country could never have defeated Soviet Communism.

You simply cannot be proud of the United States' track record, and simultaneously believe it would have been just as well if the U.S. had been broken in two by Southern secession. Because a United States that was broken in two would never have achieved that spectacular track record.

That's why any true patriot should admire Lincoln. He saved the UNITED States for us patriots to admire.

And Lincoln did begin the process of abolishing slavery, though it ultimately took a Constitutional Amendment to finish the job. Had that not happened, the U.S. would have split in two--and one half of it would have continued to enslave human beings indefinitely. That's not the kind of nation that would have inspired freedom-loving people around the world the way the slavery-free U.S. did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It was widely accepted prior to 1861 that the federal government did not have the authority to force a state to remain within the union.

Lincoln accomplished this feat - but he had zero constitutional legitimacy on which to do so.

As for slavery - Lincoln was absolutely not colorblind. He was quite the racist.

His motivation in keeping slavery out of the territories as they came into the union as states, prior to the civil war, was not due to any sense of racial equality - it was because he wanted those territories populated by exclusively by whites and said so quite explicitly.

His plan after the civil war was to forceably round up and relocate all of the slaves to some location outside of the continental United States.

He also was adamantly against intermingling or equality of whites and blacks in any capacity - and he can be readily quoted on that fact.

As for either north or South being a super power - not sure that can be said with certainty either. Both regions have more than adequate resources to rise above any other nation on the planet if they chose to do so.

After all, Britain was a single island nation with far fewer resources - yet built the only empire in history that completely circled the globe.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"It was widely accepted prior to 1861 that the federal government did not have the authority to force a state to remain within the union."

Tell it to General Jackson, you ignorant stooge, not to mention the Founders who wrote and the people voting to adopt the Constitution and the supremacy clause, the insurrection clause, and the half dozen other bits of the constitution which speak to your being abjectly wrong.

No, no actual student of the Constitution felt that when the states gave up powers and authority to the federal government in the constitution, that the state(s) retained unilateral power to retrieve such. Some pro-slavery partisans pretended such, and they never addressed the facts to the contrary.

"Lincoln accomplished this feat - but he had zero constitutional legitimacy on which to do so."

There is nothing in the constitution which says otherwise, there is no part which endorses secession, there are several phrases and clauses which act to forbid it--absent a nonexistent amendment permitting it.

"As for slavery - Lincoln was absolutely not colorblind. He was quite the racist."

Less so than most in his day, and less so still as time went on.

"His motivation in...so quite explicitly."

Of course! Are you claiming he or anyone should want the power of the slavocracy to expand? (Come to think of it, if you and your buddies all get together in your hoods, you probably say just that.)

"His plan after the civil war was to forceably round up and relocate all of the slaves to some location outside of the continental United States."

Which puts him in the good company of many of the Founders, such the cads he and they.

"He also was adamantly against intermingling or equality of whites and blacks in any capacity - and he can be readily quoted on that fact."

Which differentiates him how from most other people of his day? His saving grace is that when he could eliminate slavery legally, he did, and felt he was right to do so--which does differentiate him from, say, Jefferson Davis.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>> It was widely accepted prior to 1861 that the federal government did not have the authority to force a state to remain within the union.

That is absolute bunk, and you couldn't produce a single quote or piece of text to show it. And it would have been news to citizens across the East and Midwest who jumped at the chance to defend their government. They didn't need to be persuaded to do it, they knew it needed to be done. Lincoln had no reasonable other choice but than to wage war to destroy the army that was raised to wage war against it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So, according to you, the fact that the people in the South want to be free, and that they were not allowed self-determination is something to applaud. I gues you are for the Soviet empire staying together as well. Have you ever thought that if the US had not interviened in WWI that Europe would have been much more stable, like it is now with Germany having the same things it was denied in 1918. WWII would not have occurred and the Communist would have been taken care of. The US has done far more bad than good, you just have to take off the rose colored glasses.

As to Lincoln, ask the Indians if they appreciated his attempts at extermination. Ask those of us in the South if we appreciate this jerk and his "total" war. At every decision, Lincoln showed that he was a tyrant. Then we have the issue of slavery, the US was still a slave nation after the South left. So you are saying that one slave nation was fighting another slave nation to end slavery. That does not make sense.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"So, according to you, the fact that the people in the South want to be free, and that they were not allowed self-determination is something to applaud."

Absolutely! There can no more be a right to self determination to perpetuate slavery, then for a burglar to determine to go out a window with full sack. And the South's leading lights agreed almost to a man, that preserving slavery was the reason for the war.

"I gues you are for the Soviet empire staying together as well."

Absolutely not. It was as evil an empire as the CSA.

"Have you ever thought that if the US had not interviened in WWI that Europe would have been much more stable, like it is now with Germany having the same things it was denied in 1918."

How often are you right by accident? The good Democrat and exemplar racist Southern gentleman Wilson screwed that up if I recall.

"The US has done far more bad than good, you just have to take off the rose colored glasses."

Not even slightly true. 1775 is the single greatest shining light to humanity since Golgotha.

"As to Lincoln, ask the Indians if they appreciated his attempts at extermination."

Why should I give a d**n? No President prior to 1900 felt different, neither did most people in this country, the South not being different in the slightest.

"Then we have the issue of slavery, the US was still a slave nation after the South left."

Of course. Where a Union state was still slave territory, the supposed tyrant Lincoln had no power to end it and never pretended different.

"So you are...not make sense."

It makes perfect sense. Where the federal government had war powers to end it by declaring the "property" contraband and confiscated by right of conquest---then freeing said contraband--it did so. Lincoln observed the spirit and letter of the constitution quite scrupulously, where the CSA felt any threat to slavery the future of constitutional government might bring...well, the South took the Revolution of 1775, the Constitution, and well, they crapped on it.

Lee took a dump, philosophically, on the Founders and their laws. He did treason. So did the South.

They weren't paid less or more for their crimes than they were owed, which was the force required to bring them into obedience to the law.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"So, according to you, the fact that the people in the South want to be free, and that they were not allowed self-determination is something to applaud."
Total nonsense. Half the people in the south were NOT free.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Agreed as far as how things may have played out if the US had stayed out of European matters.

Would not go so far as to agree that "The US has done far more bad than good".

Once involved in European matters, I'd say we were obligated to see it through to the end - namely in defeating Germany in WWII.

Now that Europe is well past both WWII as well as the Cold War, however, I'd also say it's way past time for the US to withdraw from European matters entirely.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I should have clarified that I mean 'politician' as a pejorative. Obviously, Lincoln was indeed a politician.

As for your other points, I realize that we are wandering into "What if?" but the evidence points in the other direction. Economically and politically, the Confederacy was not bound to last; handled correctly Lincoln could have easily talked them back into the US. Like a child running away from home, the Confederacy would have learned that they needed the United States to survive.

As for slavery, that too was not bound to last. With the exception of the wealthy elite of coastal South Carolina, very few in the American South viewed slavery as a moral good. Thomas Jefferson expressed it best: slavery is like holding "a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go." Slavery's existence was based on economic necessity; the more people migrated to the South and the more the South industrialized (even if it remained tied to the textile industry) slavery was not bound to last. In a modern society, the lack of an educated work force, combined with the prohibitive costs of an unskilled workforce, doomed slavery's continuation.

You will find that every other slave-holding nation eventually did away with the practice on their own accord - why did we require a war? As I stated before, even though we are playing the "What if?" game, I strongly feel that we would have eventually followed Great Britain's route and abandoned slavery without serious bloodshed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Generally I'm agreeing with most of what you are saying with the exception of the idea that the South would have come back into the union of their own volition.

Given the hardships the South endured during wartime, and the fact the Southern armies had to be quite literally annihilated before they finally laid down their arms, the idea that simple economics would have caused them to swallow their considerable Southern pride and come back into the union is a bit of a reach in my opinion.

Instead, I suspect they would have figured out how to make the CSA work regardless of the challenges.

With a ready customer in Britain with whom they could resume open commerce, I believe their wealth would have continued to increase. I think the major change would have been they would have increased industrialization/manufacturing on their own when they realized how much the lack thereof placed them at a disadvantage with respect to their neighbor to the immediate north.

That industrialization, in turn, would have hastened the inevitable collapse of slavery as it just wouldn't make economic sense - sooner rather than later.

This fact may also account for the disappearance of slavery everywhere else in the western hemisphere in the 2nd half of the 19th century.

One thing that many people forget about regarding slavery and it's continuation in the South, which your Jefferson quote reminded me of, were the various slave uprisings that had occurred - the most violent of which included the Nat Turner rebellion as well as the Haitian revolution that killed some 4,000 whites.

There were plenty of people in the South who would have been quite content to see slavery ended - the question was how to do it. NOBODY wanted either of those slave uprisings repeated on an even wider scale across the region. While there were certainly voices that extolled the practice, and while those voices would have been from prominent individuals - that prominency would have been due to wealth that could afford the practice at the time.

The vast majority of Southerners were too poor to own a slave.

As for Lincoln being the one to talk the South into rejoining the union - I don't see that happening either as he was the last straw that saw the South leave in the first place.

His character was that of a tyrant, as was exposed in the subsequent war that took place because of his actions.

I could see a subsequent president trying to negotiate a reunion between the two countries eventually - but it could go either way as to how that would have worked out.

The South had a close affiliation with the nation's founding, and held up the Founding Fathers in high regard. The opportunity to rejoin that heritage with the nation that those Founders created may have been sufficient to overcome pride - but they would have definitely extracted concessions from the USA in return for any such reunion.

Still - it would have avoided between 600,000 and 700,000 military dead, God knows how many Southern civilian casualties, Reconstruction, racial animosity, and deep divisions that still affect the interaction between the north and South - and slavery would still have ultimately ended.

Those divisions are generally the topic of good natured jokes between northerners and Southerners - but I still see those divisions and sometimes the jokes are not all that good-natured.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"His character was that of a tyrant, as was exposed in the subsequent war that took place because of his actions."

Then you see the same means make Davis a like tyrant? Lincoln was no tyrant at all, he merely used the usual and traditional war powers as did Davis, to try to see the law he was freely and fairly elected up hold upheld.

"Still - it would have avoided between 600,000 and 700,000 military dead"

And would have destroyed the American Revolution and Constitution. 1775 might as well have never happened. The Left as begun by Rousseau would be the unquestioned philosophy of the West, and Locke forgotten.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"the idea that simple economics would have caused them to swallow their considerable Southern pride and come back into the union is a bit of a reach in my opinion"

Indeed. They had staked their whole honor and view of proper social order on the proper goodness of slaveholding. None born by 1860 would have given it up while breathing. Slavery would have lasted until the 1930's at minimum in the then unsuppressed crime called the Confederacy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>> That industrialization, in turn, would have hastened the inevitable collapse of slavery as it just wouldn't make economic sense - sooner rather than later.

Actually, what continuation of slavery required was forced repatriation of slaves that escaped North. That was the necessary element, because without that there weren't enough people in the South to farm and do business AND be a slave catcher. Read up on the Fugitive Slave Acts. They were crucial and both sides knew it. South Carolina expicitly listed a supposed non-enforcement of these laws as reasons for their secession, though not sure it was actual non-enforcement or fear of non-enforcement.

>> The South had a close affiliation with the nation's founding, and held up the Founding Fathers in high regard. The opportunity to rejoin that heritage with the nation that those Founders created may have been sufficient to overcome pride - but they would have definitely extracted concessions from the USA in return for any such reunion. ... Still - it would have avoided between 600,000 and 700,000 military dead,

Both sides had a high regard, but the South let "military necessity" trump every sort of limit imaginable. Like Lowry said, it created a social military state to try to keep men's families fed while their men fought the war. It was the largest social welfare project in American history up until the War on Poverty. See "The Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism" by Neely. This was a myth promoted by Jeff Davis and repeated ever since, but there isn't any substance to it. A good many books written by Southerners will attest to this as well.

There was no option that was not considered, including compensating slaveholders. They all failed. Why do people fault the politicians for finding a solution when even the clergy could not solve it in their churches and they all split except the Episcopalians who studiously ignored the matter entirely to avoid splitting? We might wish to think there was a non-violent solution acceptable to both side, but there wasn't as history shows if you just follow the many and extensive attempts for decades.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“The South had a close affiliation with the nation's founding, and held up the Founding Fathers in high regard. The opportunity to rejoin that heritage with the nation that those Founders created may have been sufficient to overcome pride - but they would have definitely extracted concessions from the USA in return for any such reunion.”

Nice post.

I will admit that my “child running away from home” analogy may have been a bit too strong. The quote I copied from you I think is a far more accurate assessment.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
View All