We're going to fight to the death against you and your nigra allies
--Nathan Bedford Forrest
Better to die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you and your nigra allies.
--John Bell Hood
Matt is in general sympathy of my point, but regards the War as sorta tragic, if only from an economic perspective:
That's a lot of money, and you can see why southern slaveowners were eager to safeguard their "investment" in human beings. But the Union spent $2.3 billion fighting the war and the South spent $1 billion fighting back. That right there is approximately the monetary cost of just buying all the slaves and freeing them. Except the war option was not only equally costly in narrowly fiscal terms, it also led to the deaths of 625,000 people and all kinds of other physical devastation.
Which is just to say that the war, like most wars, was a monumentally negative sum use of human capabilities and economic resources. Expending vast resources in pursuit of human freedom was eminently justifiable, but it's still the case that relative to other conceivable ways of wrenching slaves from the grips of their masters "fight a giant war" is a tragically wasteful way to do it.
Another, perhaps less loaded, way of putting this is that a war necessarily involves a serious miscalculation on someone's part. Either you fight and fight and fight and return to the status quo ante, or else someone loses and in retrospect it's clear that they shouldn't have fought. In this case, in particular, the white south made a giant mistake.
I think this is wrong. I don't know that the Civil War should, or shouldn't, have been fought. But it's worth pointing out that it didn't appear by magic. The years leading up to the war -- from the Nullification Crisis all the way to Lincoln's election -- were rife with attempts to forestall a violent sectional confrontation. In other words, it's valid to say the Civil War shouldn't have been fought, but then what should have happened?
Matt seems to nod toward compensated emancipation. Sounds like a decent idea, indeed one that many anti-slavery moderates floated at the time. Indeed, as Eric Foner notes in The Fiery Trial, Lincoln, himself, came into office believing in an anti-slavery alloy of limiting the institution's growth, colonization of blacks, and compensated emancipation. Slaveholders would hear none of it and immediately seceded.
Even in Delaware with a paltry slave population, Lincoln's gradual and compensated emancipation was frustrated:
Opponents warned that emancipated slaves would demand citizenship rights and that the end of slavery would lead to "equality with the white man." Fisher went to great lengths to fend off this charge, insisting not equality but colonization, of blacks already free as well as emancipated slaves would follow abolition. But by February 1862 it had become apparent that the bill could not pass and it was never actually introduced to the legislature. Slavery survived in Delaware until December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution (and the owners received no monetary contribution.)
Gradual compensated emancipation would, presumably, have been the better option. It would have saved the lives of soldiers, while leaving my grandmother's grandmother as property. This would, presumably, have been "untragic" or "less tragic." At any rate, Delaware -- a state where there were more free blacks than slaves -- rejected this option, preferring to grapple to the last. Compensated emancipation isn't a hypothetical. It was attempted. It failed for actual reasons.
To simply view the Civil War as a massive miscalculation, as Matt puts it, or a mistake is to, first, presume inevitably, and elide the fact that the Confederacy was very well could have won and made their calculation real. Beyond that, reducing the firing on Ft. Sumter to a "mistake" neglects to ask the hard questions--Why was the mistake made? What forces were at work, beyond economics, that would cause a society to make that mistake?
In other words, it fails to confront the antebellum South as not simply a place with economic roots in slavery, but a slave society. Slavery was not merely a matter of stocks, it was a matter of citizenship, suffrage, bearing arms, and the very nature of freedom itself. In 1860, the notion that a large swath of a state could consider itself free was novel, untested, and unstable. I don't want to repeat my post from yesterday, but I urge people to read James McPherson. Again:
[The Civil War] was fought over real, profound, intractable problems that Americans on both sides believed went to the heart of their society and its future.
Finally, I'd submit that there is justice in the fact that there was no compensated emancipation. If you read through the oral histories you find that the slaves themselves, like real Americans, never accepted their status as property. They never believed anyone had the implicit right to buy, sell, or barter them away.
I think of Jourdan Anderson writing to his old master who tried to coax him into returning:
I would rather stay here and starve, and die if it comes to that, than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.
P.S. --Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.
Mr. Anderson was among that last generation of a people who lived under a two and half centuries of perpetual war, of perpetual violence, of perpetual destruction of black families, of sexual violence and near-ritual torture. I will not privilege the last four years of that conflict over the preceding two centuries.
Perhaps it is right that we regard those last four as "The Late Unpleasantness." I don't want to valorize violence. I'm sensitive to the horrors of war--but, in this country, all wars are not regarded equally. I decline to lament that the federal government didn't go into the business of buying people, stripping them of their claim to America, after investing the profits of their labor, and colonizing them in parts unknown.
I decline all offers to mourn the second American Revolution. No one mourns the first.
The portrait is of Ellen and William Craft, two of the few slaves to escape out of Georgia. Ellen, passing for white, dressed up as a man and passed William off as her slave.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle and the forthcoming Between the World and Me.
More on the F-16 and Cessna crash, and whether the collision of a military and a civilian aircraft was also a collision of cultures
Early this month an Air Force F-16, under the command of an experienced Air Force pilot, rammed into a small-civilian Cessna 150 propeller plane, not far from Charleston, South Carolina. The Air Force pilot ejected to safety; both people aboard the Cessna were killed.
The next three paragraphs are background for the pointed and interesting reader-messages I am about to quote. If you’re already up to speed with previous installments (one, two, three), you can skip ahead to the messages. They highlight an aspect of the modern military-civilian divide I had not considered before this episode.
In an original item on the crash, I noted some of the perils civilians could face when flying near designated military areas—even though this crash happened in ordinary uncontrolled airspace. That is, it occurred when neither plane was within a Military Operations Area (MOA), where civilian pilots are warned about risks from high-speed military aircraft, nor inside the controlled “Class C” airspace that surrounds Charleston’s airport. (Medium-sized commercial airports like Charleston’s typically are ringed by Class C airspace, so the controllers can sequence in the airline, cargo, civilian, military, and other traffic headed toward their runways. The very busiest airports, like LAX or JFK, are surrounded by larger zones of Class B airspace for their more complex traffic-control jobs. In case you’re wondering, Class A airspace is the realm above 18,000 feet where most jet travel occurs.)
A newly discovered artifact buried with one of Jamestown’s most prominent leaders suggests he could have been a crypto-Catholic.
After 400 years in the Virginia dirt, the box came out of the ground looking like it had been plucked from the ocean. A tiny silver brick, now encrusted with a green patina and rough as sandpaper. Buried beneath it was a human skeleton. The remains would later be identified as those of Captain Gabriel Archer, one of the most prominent leaders at Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America. But it was the box, which appeared to be an ancient Catholic reliquary, that had archaeologists bewildered and astonished.
“One of the major surprises was the discovery of this mysterious small silver box,” said James Horn, the president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation. “I have to say, we’re still trying to figure this out. You have the very strange situation of a Catholic reliquary being found with the leader of the first Protestant church in the country.”
The paper of record’s inaccurate reporting on a nonexistent criminal investigation was a failure that should entail more serious consequences.
I have read The New York Times since I was a teenager as the newspaper to be trusted, the paper of record, the definitive account. But the huge embarrassment over the story claiming a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton for her emails—leading the webpage, prominent on the front page, before being corrected in the usual, cringeworthy fashion of journalists who stonewall any alleged errors and then downplay the real ones—is a direct challenge to its fundamental credibility. And the paper’s response since the initial huge error was uncovered has not been adequate or acceptable.
This is not some minor mistake. Stories, once published, take on a life of their own. If they reinforce existing views or stereotypes, they fit perfectly into Mark Twain’s observation, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” (Or perhaps Twain never said it, in which case the ubiquity of that attribution serves to validate the point.) And a distorted and inaccurate story about a prominent political figure running for president is especially damaging and unconscionable.
The new version of Apple’s signature media software is a mess. What are people with large MP3 libraries to do?
When the developer Erik Kemp designed the first metadata system for MP3s in 1996, he provided only three options for attaching text to the music. Every audio file could be labeled with only an artist, song name, and album title.
Kemp’s system has since been augmented and improved upon, but never replaced. Which makes sense: Like the web itself, his schema was shipped, good enough,and an improvement on the vacuum which preceded it. Those three big tags, as they’re called, work well with pop and rock written between 1960 and 1995. This didn’t prevent rampant mislabeling in the early days of the web, though, as anyone who remembers Napster can tell you. His system stumbles even more, though, when it needs to capture hip hop’s tradition of guest MCs or jazz’s vibrant culture of studio musicianship.
Has the Obama administration’s pursuit of new beginnings blinded it to enduring enmities?
“The president said many times he’s willing to step out of the rut of history.” In this way Ben Rhodes of the White House, who over the years has broken new ground in the grandiosity of presidential apologetics, described the courage of Barack Obama in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran, otherwise known as the Iran deal. Once again Rhodes has, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the president’s premises more clearly than the president likes to do. The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.
Orr: “Sometimes a thing happens. Splits your life. There’s a before and after. I got like five of them at this point.”
This was Frank offering a pep talk to the son of his murdered former henchman Stan in tonight’s episode. (More on this in a moment.) But it’s also a line that captures this season of True Detective so perfectly that it almost seems like a form of subliminal self-critique.
Remember when Ray got shot in episode two and appeared to be dead but came back with a renewed sense of purpose and stopped drinking. No? That’s okay. Neither does the show: It was essentially forgotten after the subsequent episode. Remember when half a dozen (or more) Vinci cops were killed in a bloody shootout along with dozen(s?) of civilians? No? Fine: True Detective’s left that behind, too. Unless I missed it, there was not a single mention of this nationally historic bloodbath tonight.
Even with the overwhelming recent New York cover story, the women pay a price for speaking out.
Who still defends Bill Cosby? After newly unsealed depositions revealed that the comedian admitted to acquiring sedatives to give to women he wanted to have sex with, his longstanding backer Whoopi Goldberg recanted her support for the man accused of dozens of rapes over the years. The singer Jill Scott, too, said she was wrong when she suspected a media conspiracy against him. And if Cosby’s former costars, including Phylicia Rashad, still believe him to be the target of an illegitimate smear campaign, they haven’t spoken up to say so in a while. Cosby’s lawyer is currently making the rounds in the media to say his deposition has been misconstrued—but that argument, even if believed, doesn’t refute the idea that he used drugs to take advantage of women.
The agreement doesn’t guarantee that Tehran will never produce nuclear weapons—because no agreement could do so.
A week ago I volunteered my way into an Atlantic debate on the merits of the Iran nuclear agreement. The long version of the post is here; the summary is that the administration has both specific facts and longer-term historic patterns on its side in recommending the deal.
On the factual front, I argued that opponents had not then (and have not now) met President Obama’s challenge to propose a better real-world alternative to the negotiated terms. Better means one that would make it less attractive for Iran to pursue a bomb, over a longer period of time. Real world means not the standard “Obama should have been tougher” carping but a specific demand that the other countries on “our” side, notably including Russia and China, would have joined in insisting on, and that the Iranians would have accepted.
U.S. officials are turning to Russia for help with Iran and Syria, even as the Ukrainian conflict persists.
If you believe all the talk out there lately, Vladimir Putin is not only duplicitous and hypocritical—the Russian president’s also been pretty damn busy recently. Busy cutting secret deals with the same Europeans and Americans he has been vilifying for years. And if you believe the rumors, the Europeans and Americans have also been busy selling out Ukraine to the Russians.
Not that any of this would be unusual or particularly surprising. Cynicism, duplicity, and hypocrisy are often the reserve currencies of politics, where interests tend to trump values.
There have long been suspicions that the United States and Europe might give Ukraine up in exchange for Russia’s support in securing a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Additionally, Washington has been seeking Moscow’s backing in securing a managed, orderly, and negotiated exit for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, which would go a long way toward ending the conflict in that country.