Historiography of the Civil War

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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:31 pm

Sorry for double-posting, but these articles really are worth reading more in-depth: truth vs fiction on the character of Lincoln and on the Civil War in general. Not very nuanced, but quite insightful.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

And two more books for me to add to the reading list: David Potter and Allen Guelzo!
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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:00 am

WeiWenDi wrote:Sorry for double-posting, but these articles really are worth reading more in-depth: truth vs fiction on the character of Lincoln and on the Civil War in general. Not very nuanced, but quite insightful.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

And two more books for me to add to the reading list: David Potter and Allen Guelzo!


This is probably the crux of the entire three article piece I can agree with, and I probably should start with it:

Lincoln starts by saying that his main aim in the war is to preserve the Union. He sees a few options when it comes to saving the Union. He might be able to do it by freeing all the slaves. If that was the best option, he would take it. He might, though, be able to save the Union without freeing any slaves. If so, he would take that option. Or, he might be able to save the Union by freeing some slaves.


I don't think Lincoln was racist. I don't think he wasn't either. I honestly have no clue on his predispositions toward racism. I think he was a man trying to get a job done by whatever means he could. So to me this quote, and the author's explanation, seem sound. He was looking for whatever opportunity to save the Union he could. But that is why I don't understand some of the points the author is trying to make in this article.

On the one hand they attempt to extrapolate volumes about why he didn't do things, even though they seem to hint he was a anti-racist pro-abolitionist man..and then, as just mentioned above, he is just prudent. Slavery seems to have been a fine alternative to Lincoln so long as it ended the war. To me this undermines the EP being a grand move.

For someone so set on ending slavery, he did tons to not stop slavery. His first plan based on 'cold hard facts' lacked popularity, enforceability (as he lacked power over much of what he sought to), and a for something based in 'cold hard facts' a poor grasp on reality. In 1862, the slave population in South Carolina alone was more than double the whites. How the army intended to round up this size of population, put them on boats, and ship them to Africa is kinda hopeful at best.

He utilized the only power he had over territory he was uncertain he would actually eventually possess. I think the idea that the EP strikes people with a sense of a hollowness is highly understandable. Not that I can blame him (conducting a war and all) but he didn't make attempts to end slavery in the Union. I don't buy the rationale that Northern state laws outlawing slavery made a push for a federal law unnecessary. For one, that should be dismissed outright, as we codified it in the 13th amendment. If it was unnecessary, we wouldn't have done it. For another, I don't care that he feared a political battle with Taney. Convictions aren't proven by a lack of doing something based on a practical reason, they are proven by doing something despite the obstacles.

Lastly, and I could be reading this wrong so please correct if so, but he seems to allow alot of exemptions for places like TN, SC, TX, and VA to return to the Union without freeing their slaves. For someone who many people like to cast as a die-hard emancipator, he seems to be willing to give a lot of lee-way.


Been awhile since I've been here, school's dominating me, so my thoughts may not be very clearly articulated.
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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby Jordan » Wed Apr 06, 2011 6:44 am

That article really misses the fact that slavery was only one of the reasons for the Civil War, and that it wasn't the sole reason why the Confederacy was fighting.

As for Lincoln, I think he was a moderate and a pragmatist. I don't think he was an idealist crusading for the freedom of slaves. I think his main concern was to bring the South back into the Union. There were more radical (at that time) antislavery politicians than Lincoln, such as Seward.
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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Wed Apr 06, 2011 2:01 pm

Yes, I've been watching the Ken Burns doc all this week, I can't turn away for even a minute, but that really is something that it completely fails to articulate. It's too bad that many people today simply can't understand why anyone who had goals other than the end of slavery would have fought for the Union. Especially since, you know, somewhere in Pennsylvania some guy made a speech that explains it pretty well.
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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:13 am

SlickSlicer wrote:That article really misses the fact that slavery was only one of the reasons for the Civil War, and that it wasn't the sole reason why the Confederacy was fighting.


For all intents and purposes, slavery was the sole reason why the Confederacy seceded. Other wishful-thinking hypotheses of why the South seceded have been pretty thoroughly debunked, even though we still have people ignorantly clinging to such myths even today.

SlickSlicer wrote:As for Lincoln, I think he was a moderate and a pragmatist. I don't think he was an idealist crusading for the freedom of slaves. I think his main concern was to bring the South back into the Union. There were more radical (at that time) antislavery politicians than Lincoln, such as Seward.


Here you're on firmer ground, I believe. His actions seem to indicate that he was a principled pragmatist aiming firstly to preserve the nation, and secondly to push forward an anti-slavery agenda through legal channels if possible. I'm not a great authority on Lincoln, but I honestly think he underwent something of a personal transformation himself, between his rhetoric in the lead-up to war and his Second Inaugural (possibly the single finest piece of American political oratory ever crafted).
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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:04 am

WeiWenDi wrote:
For all intents and purposes, slavery was the sole reason why the Confederacy seceded. Other wishful-thinking hypotheses of why the South seceded have been pretty thoroughly debunked, even though we still have people ignorantly clinging to such myths even today.


I agree with your conclusion for the most part. I think the problem is the way people understand this when you say it as such. The Civil War was fought over slavery, but it had many aspects to it. It was essentially a war fought over economic and legal rights, which were intermingled. It certainly had more to do with with these two factors than anything else.
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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby princeherry » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:53 am

The Civil War is the defining event in American history. No previous American war came anywhere close to it in scale or in the casualties it caused. Its social and political consequences were vast. It preserved the Union, led to slavery's abolition, and dramatically altered the relationship between the states and the federal government.

But the war has also generated ongoing debates about the conflict's causes and outcome. Among the most bitterly contested issues are why the Southern states seceded and the extent to which it was slavery that motivated secession and why the North did not let the Confederacy peacefully secede. Historians continue to debate how to evaluate military leadership and strategy during the Civil War and the reasons for the North's victory and the South's defeat.
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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby Shikanosuke » Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:51 pm

Can we delete the troll?

EDIT: I'm assuming it's a troll.
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Re: Historiography of the Civil War

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:54 pm

One of the best blog posts / articles I've read on the Civil War in a long time:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?

Shows that there is much more going on in this history than is commonly asserted by either of the dominant narratives. I agree with him, though - the history of the Civil War really does belong to black people, since the war really was all about them.
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