“Why was there the Civil War? Why couldn’t that one have been worked out?”
This question has never been asked before. It took the biggest best genius and the most successful President of ever to actually think to ask such a meaningful and poignant question. But, of course, it makes sense that Donald Trump would be the one astute enough to ask the hard questions of history, questions that college professors, historians, and third graders would never think to ask. So we, here at The NYRD, will attempt to do our civic duty and be the Google that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have. So, why did we “Civil War?”
Slavery. It’s Slavery.
Case closed, right? It was slavery. The Civil War was fought over slavery. Any idiot not sitting in an a round shaped office in some whitish building would know that, right? The quick answer is: “Yes,” and the longer answers is: “Yes, but…”
Slavery was certainly the main catalyst, despite what Confederate reenactment actors tell you. In fact South Carolina’s Declaration of Succession, mentions slaves or slavery 18 times in one form or another. In contrast, it only mentions the word “Union” or the words “United States” 16 times combined. A lot of South Carolina’s grievance can be distilled down to this line: But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. Mississippi wrote: A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. When Texas seceded they wrote: That the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations… Which is pretty screwed up.
As you can see, Mr. Trump, it took some hard-investigative digging, but we were able to come up with a passable answer, slavery. -If anyone asks you, in the future, just say slavery– However, we do need to acknowledge that the Civil War was not just an open and closed case of the North saying, “Slavery is bad,” and the South going “God doesn’t care.” As the quotes above suggest there were other factors coming into play, States rights versus Federal rights, economics, and even religion. So, this leads us into that “Yes, but…” territory we were talking about earlier.
It’s Still Slavery, But…
One the eve of the Civil War some 4 million African Americans were enslaved in the Southern States. This represented a significant economic factor for Southern elites and their plantations. The ruling class of the South needed to keep slavery in order to keep their wealth. Meanwhile, Northern States had abolished slavery one by one, mostly because it was just no longer financially reasonable. Industrialization and a wave of immigrants -specifically from Ireland and Germany- made slavery obsolete in the North. Abolitionist movements grew in the cities and urban centers, and publications like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Dred Scott Case further influenced politics of the region. As such this drove a division between Northern industrial states and Southern slave states.
As America grew, Southern States and their congressional representatives wanted to expand slavery into the new western territories, which Northern States opposed. It is worth mentioning that this was not so much about morality, as it was about political power. Creating more slave states would tip the balance in Congress toward the South, but creating more non-slave states would tip the balance toward the North. Slavery became the lightning rod of American politics, and by the mid-1800’s everyone was forced to pick a side. There were attempts at reconciliation, like the Missouri Compromise, where Missouri was allowed entry into the US as a slave state, but only when Maine was admitted as a non-slave state, but they often didn’t last long. Ultimately the question of slavery was irreconcilable. As Abraham Lincoln said, I believe this Government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
Lincoln was an anti-slavery northerner. Our first Republican President –Most people don’t even know he was a Republican. Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that– won without a single southern electoral vote, and once in office he made it clear that the institution of slavery would not be allowed in the western territories. On top of that, many Northern States and abolitionist disregarded laws, like the Fugitive Slave Law, and others that were passed as a further compromise to keep balance between the North and the South. States like South Carolina and others saw all this as a violation of their State’s rights. Yet, we need to acknowledge that at the core these issues was slavery. It was a financial, class-based, and even religion-based institution that was ingrained in the Antebellum culture of the Southern States.
Think of the Civil War like a McDonald’s hamburger. First of all, we didn’t really want it and it wasn’t really good for anyone’s health. -The Civil War had a terrible calorie count- Yet, in the end, it doesn’t really matter what sort of bread or other dressing we try to apply to hide the real meat of the issue. Slavery, the meat-byproduct patty, is always at the center of it. It’s the main reason we buy a hamburger, and slavery is the main reason we had the Civil War. Without that cause it would have been just been a lot of salad and State-Rights-Mystery-Sauce.
In a lot of ways, the tensions of the 1800’s mirror today’s tensions. Today we don’t argue over slavery, but other key and majorly divisive issues -one of which is still race relations. Our country is split, not along northern and southern borders, but along class, gender, and economic lines. Today’s “Civil War” is more about the city versus country, or the coasts versus the center, or Progressives versus Conservatives. Mr. Trump, it is a little ironic that you so often paint yourself as a Jacksonian figure. -Most people don’t even know he was a Democrat. Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that- Jackson was an embattled and impatient President who rode a populace wave into the White House, and wound up hurting the American economy and hardening relations between whites and other races, specifically Native Americans… Hmm.
Yet, like Lincoln you find yourself faced with a divided nation, and since you like to equate yourself to Jackson, it is worth wondering then how you would have negotiated away our Civil War? What would you have done if you had been you in the power instead of Abraham Lincoln? Would you have let the South keep their slaves? Would you have allowed 4 million human beings, and their descendants to remain in bondage just to keep a tense peace? Would you have allowed slavery to expand into the West? Would you have let the Southern States secede? Would the United States of America, today, be bordered on its south by the Confederate States of America? What would the world and our nation look like had you been at the helm?
You claim Andrew Jackson -and by proxy, yourself- would have handled the Civil War better, but how? Jackson was a man who pledged support and troops to Aaron Burr when he tried to build his own Empire. He invaded Spanish territory without authorization, and nearly started a war between Spain and the United States. He started a banking war that strangled American business interests. He was a proud slave owner, and even placed advertisements for the capture of a runaway slave. He forcefully removed 125,000 Native Americans from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida. He forced them to march the Trail of Tears, in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. He was responsible for the largest holocaust in American history. Is that who you wanted in charge in our nation’s darkest hour? Is that who you claim to be, Mr. Trump?
Anyone who does not know history is doomed to repeat it, and if there is one thing you have made abundantly clear, it is that with you in charge we might be doomed to repeat a lot of it.