Historiography of the Civil War

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Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:27 pm

Also, I was on CNN today and I came across this concerning the political blunder VA made recently: Confederates Soldiers Were Domestic Terrorists. For all the "you're a leftist-hack" and "you're rightist nuts" thrown around recently..this is honestly what I consider leftist garbage. It engages in horrible analogies and poor logic. It attempts to jump on the "VA made a blunder" (which it did) band-wagon by trying to caste the Confederacy in the light of extremism.

Mod edit (James): split from Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby agga » Mon Apr 12, 2010 3:38 pm

Shikanosuke wrote:Also, I was on CNN today and I came across this concerning the political blunder VA made recently: Confederates Soldiers Were Domestic Terrorists. For all the "you're a leftist-hack" and "you're rightist nuts" thrown around recently..this is honestly what I consider leftist garbage. It engages in horrible analogies and poor logic. It attempts to jump on the "VA made a blunder" (which it did) band-wagon by trying to caste the Confederacy in the light of extremism.


i've heard this junk before. people who make these kinds of arguments see the Civil War as entirely ideological, slavers on one side, abolitionists on the other, good versus evil - in addition to apparently having a completely useless definition of "terrorism". i'd be fine with putting an organization like the KKK on a list of terrorist organizations (for whatever that's worth), but Confederate soldiers? makes no sense. this guy is an idiot.
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Mon Apr 12, 2010 3:45 pm

agga wrote:
i've heard this junk before. people who make these kinds of arguments see the Civil War as entirely ideological, slavers on one side, abolitionists on the other, good versus evil - in addition to apparently having a completely useless definition of "terrorism". i'd be fine with putting an organization like the KKK on a list of terrorist organizations (for whatever that's worth), but Confederate soldiers? makes no sense. this guy is an idiot.


I agree. And I hate him more because his article will serve to fuel more 'CNN is all leftist journalism' which will undoubtedly circulate on conservative news.
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:14 pm

Shikanosuke wrote:Also, I was on CNN today and I came across this concerning the political blunder VA made recently: Confederates Soldiers Were Domestic Terrorists. For all the "you're a leftist-hack" and "you're rightist nuts" thrown around recently..this is honestly what I consider leftist garbage. It engages in horrible analogies and poor logic. It attempts to jump on the "VA made a blunder" (which it did) band-wagon by trying to caste the Confederacy in the light of extremism.


agga wrote:i've heard this junk before. people who make these kinds of arguments see the Civil War as entirely ideological, slavers on one side, abolitionists on the other, good versus evil - in addition to apparently having a completely useless definition of "terrorism".


I agree with the narrow claims being made here, but not the broad ones. The language of 'domestic terrorism' in this case is wrong and serves to broaden the meaning of the term into complete uselessness, but the language of 'treason' is entirely appropriate, and I don't generally tend to think that history is or ought to be value-neutral. Along that road lies madness and a postmodern nightmare; you end up waging wars eternally over how people narrate history - we should at least acknowledge the facts that Southern states seceded from the Union (and a valid interpretation would say that they did so illegally), and then fired the first shots by attacking property which was not theirs. Any reference to a 'war of Northern aggression' is mendacity, a Big Lie of the highest degree.

And it would be intellectually dishonest to promote the idea that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War - a view much more popular (witness the language used by Virginia's governor and his complete lack of references to the 'peculiar institution'!) than the converse. I don't think you'll find a single respectable mainstream historian of note that will tell you that it was entirely about slavery, but the best ones, like James McPherson, will not downplay the ideological aspect of the Union cause, nor that the 'states' rights' that the Confederacy was so concerned with defending were the rights of its most affluent citizens to own other human beings and their labour.

(After all, if they were sincere in their defence of 'states' rights' as such, where were the Southerners who spoke out against the Fugitive Slave Act?)
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby agga » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:43 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:I agree with the narrow claims being made here, but not the broad ones. The language of 'domestic terrorism' in this case is wrong and serves to broaden the meaning of the term into complete uselessness, but the language of 'treason' is entirely appropriate, and I don't generally tend to think that history is or ought to be value-neutral.


the problem is in equating rebellion or secession, or even treason, with a term like 'terrorism', which is entirely inappropriate, and which carries all sorts of irrelevant baggage, and which essentially paints the entire confederacy as a 'terrorist state', which is moronic. 'value-neutrality' isn't at issue here. the problem is the apparent black-white arrangement of values, where apparently if you're on the negative side of the value continuum, you're treasonous, slavery-defending, *and* a terrorist, just because those things are of a piece.

it's weird that this is putting me on the absolute opposite of where i'd usually be in such an argument; i'm usually happy to, e.g., call the CSA a 'slaver state' along with all sorts of other negative superlatives, and usually last to defend the honor etc. of soldiers and armies, which i think need all the harsh criticism they can get. but terrorism is, whoever you are and whatever side you're on, usually recognized as ideologically-driven attacks on some part of society meant to effect political goals. i think that's a pretty broad definition, and yet it's easy to state that treasonous, slaver confederate troops were not engaging in terrorism; they were defending their homeland from invaders.
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:01 pm

WeiWenDi wrote: but the language of 'treason' is entirely appropriate, and I don't generally tend to think that history is or ought to be value-neutral. Along that road lies madness and a postmodern nightmare; you end up waging wars eternally over how people narrate history


I don't disagree that treason took place, after all the Confederate states were re-admitted to the Union. But Southerners typically don't view it through such a lens. How can they? In their view what others call "treason" they deem as self-preservation. The political process was skewed, and Prigg v. PA led the states to further be antagonistic in cooperation.

- we should at least acknowledge the facts that Southern states seceded from the Union (and a valid interpretation would say that they did so illegally), and then fired the first shots by attacking property which was not theirs. Any reference to a 'war of Northern aggression' is mendacity, a Big Lie of the highest degree.


Agreed.

And it would be intellectually dishonest to promote the idea that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War - a view much more popular (witness the language used by Virginia's governor and his complete lack of references to the 'peculiar institution'!) than the converse. I don't think you'll find a single respectable mainstream historian of note that will tell you that it was entirely about slavery, but the best ones, like James McPherson, will not downplay the ideological aspect of the Union cause, nor that the 'states' rights' that the Confederacy was so concerned with defending were the rights of its most affluent citizens to own other human beings and their labour.


Even in VA governor's misguided political blunder of downplaying slavery in the CW, I see no attempt to say the CW didn't involve slavery. The problem is that the CW is cast a war to protect slavery as an institution that is morally justified. Everything boils down to economics. States rights are paramount to those affluent citizens who served as the economic cornerstone of the South. I'm highly confused why you put states rights in quotation marks, as if because they were the right to do something now perceived as immoral, it somehow lessens their valid concern that they were a state right.

(After all, if they were sincere in their defence of 'states' rights' as such, where were the Southerners who spoke out against the Fugitive Slave Act?)


Point of a compromise is that you give up certain defenses to gain something.
Last edited by Shikanosuke on Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:20 pm

agga wrote:the problem is in equating rebellion or secession, or even treason, with a term like 'terrorism', which is entirely inappropriate, and which carries all sorts of irrelevant baggage, and which essentially paints the entire confederacy as a 'terrorist state', which is moronic. 'value-neutrality' isn't at issue here. the problem is the apparent black-white arrangement of values, where apparently if you're on the negative side of the value continuum, you're treasonous, slavery-defending, *and* a terrorist, just because those things are of a piece.

it's weird that this is putting me on the absolute opposite of where i'd usually be in such an argument; i'm usually happy to, e.g., call the CSA a 'slaver state' along with all sorts of other negative superlatives, and usually last to defend the honor etc. of soldiers and armies, which i think need all the harsh criticism they can get. but terrorism is, whoever you are and whatever side you're on, usually recognized as ideologically-driven attacks on some part of society meant to effect political goals. i think that's a pretty broad definition, and yet it's easy to state that treasonous, slaver confederate troops were not engaging in terrorism; they were defending their homeland from invaders.


I think I agree with everything you're saying here. I did not claim that Southerners in the Confederacy were 'terrorists', nor did I defend this guy on CNN for saying so.

The problem is that, as Shikanosuke was saying earlier, the nature of our political discourse is Overtonian on both sides. I often feel that if the arguments are not expressly and clearly made from the front end, the legitimate claims against (for example) a Confederate History Month will be delegitimised on account of people like McDonnell who want to give the 'Lost Cause' greater respectability even though it is wholly undeserved. I was merely claiming that it should be fine to use the language of, say, 'treason' even though 'terrorism' is inappropriate.

Shikanosuke wrote:I don't disagree that treason took place, after all the Confederate states were re-admitted to the Union. But Southerners typically don't view it through such a lens.


Well, therein lies the problem, doesn't it? It shouldn't matter what the subjective feelings of some Southerners might be on the actual history, what matters is the historical fact at the root of subjective memory, as the primary sources dictate - not the politically-motivated revisions being made by the supporters of the idea of a Confederate History Month.

Shikanosuke wrote:Even in VA governor's misguided political blunder of downplaying slavery in the CW, I see no attempt to say the CW didn't involve slavery. The problem is that the CW is cast a war to protect slavery as an institution that is morally justified. Everything boils down to economics. States rights are paramount to those affluent citizens who served as the economic cornerstone of the South. I'm highly confused why you put states rights in quotation marks, as if because they were the right to do something now perceived as immoral, it somehow lessens their valid concern that they were a state right.


I think you may assuming good faith where it didn't exist. I think the fact that the Fugitive Slave Act was supported largely by wealthy Southern politicians who then turned around and yelped about their 'states' rights' being violated once Lincoln was elected president, shows that they did not have valid concerns about states' rights, but rather that their concerns were for their institutionalised positions of privilege over blacks and poor whites. Nowadays also, it strikes me (and this is my interpretation, not fact) that 'states' rights' is generally Newspeak for suppression of the political rights of black people - since it always seems to be invoked against initiatives which benefit largely poor, urban communities.

Shikanosuke wrote:Point of a compromise is that you give up certain defenses to gain something.


Which compromise are you referring to? I'm afraid I don't follow.
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:51 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:
Well, therein lies the problem, doesn't it? It shouldn't matter what the subjective feelings of some Southerners might be on the actual history, what matters is the historical fact at the root of subjective memory, as the primary sources dictate - not the politically-motivated revisions being made by the supporters of the idea of a Confederate History Month.


What revisions? And we should always provide context. Yes, the South engaged in treason. I don't think the South is ignorant of that. They are, after all, called the 'rebels'. They were treasonous, but they feel they were justified in doing so. When we present the American Revolution in America history classes, we don't demonize the American Revolutionaries..even though the term treason can just as objectively be applied to them as well. We sing praise for them because their acts of betrayal we deem justified.


I think you may assuming good faith where it didn't exist. I think the fact that the Fugitive Slave Act was supported largely by wealthy Southern politicians who then turned around and yelped about their 'states' rights' being violated once Lincoln was elected president, shows that they did not have valid concerns about states' rights, but rather that their concerns were for their institutionalised positions of privilege over blacks and poor whites.


Why? The Fugitive Slave act was a duly elected Congressional Act, meaning representation existed for all states. Thus, once passed, the other states don't get to raise states rights issues. Supremacy Clause applies. There is nothing in this historical situation implying "whites over blacks". It is, again, economics. Moral justifications follow from economic ones. You're supposing bad faith where pragmatism should prevail.


Nowadays also, it strikes me (and this is my interpretation, not fact) that 'states' rights' is generally Newspeak for suppression of the political rights of black people - since it always seems to be invoked against initiatives which benefit largely poor, urban communities.


Just because it is invoked by those who we hate doesn't make it a valid constitutional issue.


Which compromise are you referring to? I'm afraid I don't follow.


Nevermind. I misunderstood your original statement. But to the point, see my above reasoning why the Southerners didn't oppose the Fugitive Slave Act.
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:07 am

Shikanosuke wrote:What revisions? And we should always provide context. Yes, the South engaged in treason. I don't think the South is ignorant of that. They are, after all, called the 'rebels'. They were treasonous, but they feel they were justified in doing so. When we present the American Revolution in America history classes, we don't demonize the American Revolutionaries..even though the term treason can just as objectively be applied to them as well. We sing praise for them because their acts of betrayal we deem justified.


The revisions are tacit rather than explicit - I object to the whitewashing of history which removes the issue of slavery and the social and economic struggles of blacks for freedom from the picture.

Secondly, I don't think we teach the War of American Independence well. Speaking from my Red Toryism, I see the WAI as largely a struggle between one group of elites (the gubernatorial class and the wealthy merchant class of the Mid-Atlantic port cities, supported by the British and allied largely with rural immigrant small farmers and Indians) and another (the plantation farmers in the South, allied with the radical anti-British independent merchant class of Southern New England). Strictly speaking, the WAI was treason, and I think we ought to be far more reserved in singing praise for them.

Shikanosuke wrote:Why? The Fugitive Slave act was a duly elected Congressional Act, meaning representation existed for all states. Thus, once passed, the other states don't get to raise states rights issues.


The same kind of argument could be made for the election of Lincoln - the electoral college represented all the states, and he was elected president under the full support of the law of the land. That does not an argument for secession make. And the states' rights issues with regard to the FSA were being made largely prior to its passing - in fact, the case Prigg v. Pennsylvania dealt with the issue of Federal vs. State authority explicitly, with Southern interests in favour of the supremacy of Federal law (but apparently, only when it suited their interests with regard to slavery).

Shikanosuke wrote:Just because it is invoked by those who we hate doesn't make it a valid constitutional issue.


I never said it did. But we certainly ought to be looking askance at those who seek to disenfranchise blacks using the code language of 'states' rights'.
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Re: Disasters, Discoveries, and other Small News

Unread postby agga » Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:50 am

WeiWenDi wrote:we don't demonize the American Revolutionaries..even though the term treason can just as objectively be applied to them as well. We sing praise for them because their acts of betrayal we deem justified.


when there's good reason, it's treason season.

i'm sorry.
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