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What the North Got Wrong (Civil War)

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In the years and months preceding the Civil War, the Republicans in general and Abraham Lincoln in particular made many mistakes or misjudgments.

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The first error that the Republicans made was to underestimate the danger of secession. In the presidential contest of 1860, southerners warned again and again that a Republican victory would mean secession. Again and again the Republicans dismissed the warning.

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A second major error, closely related to the first, was to underestimate the danger, and the cost, of war, if and when it did come. The New York Tribune announced that in the event of war “a small fleet of seagoing steamers and an army of 20,000 or 30,000 men” would be enough “to hold the entire South in perpetual check,” while The Times believed that a month would be sufficient time to quell this “local commotion.”

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A third error was more subtle, but equally momentous. The Republicans were a new party ... its leaders insisted that its antislavery principles were coeval with the nation itself. They were the principles of 1776 and of 1787 and the new party was seeking merely to restore the Republic’s true, time-honored character.

This assumption was enormously important in the aftermath of Lincoln’s election in 1860. Historians have debated the new president’s motives when he assumed office. Was maintaining the union his top priority or was opposition to slavery uppermost? Lincoln himself can be quoted both ways and some scholars have even accused him of duplicity. In fact neither motive was uppermost. The reality was that maintaining the union and containing slavery (with a view to destroying it ultimately) were not distinct goals; they were in Lincoln’s eyes the same goal, since the union was itself an antislavery entity. To be true to the union was to oppose slavery. To accept the permanent existence of slavery was to betray the union.

This view of the Founding Fathers, it should be noted, was the antithesis of that of the secessionists, who were equally confident that they had the Constitution entirely on their side and that they alone were true to the spirit of 1776.

Who was right? Not surprisingly, the truth was somewhere in the middle. Most of the Founding Fathers disliked slavery and probably assumed that it would die out. But the Federal Constitution made provision for the enhanced representation of slaveholding states as well as the return of fugitive slaves. Nor did it prohibit the creation of new slaveholding states.

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Yet these Republican errors – underestimating the danger of secession or the cost of war and exaggerating the Founding Fathers’ opposition to slavery – should not lead us to pin the blame for war on Lincoln or indeed on any other individuals. It is not the case that wiser statesmanship could have averted the conflict.

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The misjudgments stemmed instead from a belief that formed an essential component of Republican ideology: the northern social order, unlike the southern, was “natural,” in accordance with the needs not merely of northerners but of humanity itself. It catered to the deepest aspirations of human nature. In a fair contest it would always triumph over slavery.

But here was the rub: contests had not been fair. The slave South, the “Slave Power” as Republicans derisively termed it, had thrived because northerners had been afraid to confront it.

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So southerners needed the union desperately. Slavery could scarcely function unaided. The white non-slaveholders of the South, in this view, were not truly loyal to a system that was so clearly contrary to their interests. Hence they would not put up much resistance if war did come and the northern social order would easily and quickly triumph. These were among the key Republican assumptions. And they underlay most Republican misperceptions.

What was it about slavery that made it so manifestly inferior to free labor? Lincoln was explicit on this point. The northern social order inspired all men to improve themselves. They would start as employees, then become independent, finally become employers in their turn. And this process, with wage labor at its core, was what, according to the president, the union and the Constitution had been created to facilitate.

But a slave system was contrary to human nature. It destroyed incentives, thus arresting a community’s economic development, to the detriment of most whites as well as blacks. It could survive the resulting unpopularity only by denying free men the right of free speech. Slavery was weak. Southerners would not secede. If they did, they would soon give up the fight. A Republican victory would then return the nation to the path from which it had recently deviated. It would then fulfill its glorious antislavery, free-labor destiny.

These were misperceptions, vitally important misperceptions. But they were also the product of current northern social conditions. And they bore the imprint of the interests that were thriving in the free-labor North in the final years and months of the antebellum Republic.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/what-the-north-got-wrong/?src=fbcivilwar

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It was cheaper to hire Irishmen then to own slaves.


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"I want to take this opportunity to mention how thankful I am for an Obama re-election. The choice was clear. We cannot live in a country that treats homosexuals and women as second class citizens. Homosexuals deserve all of the rights and benefits of marriage that heterosexuals receive. Women deserve to be treated with respect and their salaries should not depend on their gender, but their quality of work. I am also thankful that the great, progressive state of California once again voted for the correct President. America is moving forward, and the direction is a positive one."

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Filed: Citizen (apr) Country: Ukraine
Timeline

It was cheaper to hire Irishmen then to own slaves.

But productivity suffered.

Better to underatnd that the Democrats were, and are, the party of slavery. They fought to keep slavery, they fought against civil rights and they currently fight to keep people enslaved as illegal aliens working for Americans to circumvent labor laws and reduce costs.

It s currently far cheaper to employ illegal aliens than own slaves. Illegal aliens have about as much "freedom" and as many "rights" as slaves ever did and do not even count as 3/5ths of a person.


VERMONT! I Reject Your Reality...and Substitute My Own!

Gary And Alla

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