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.
“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the far west side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.
The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me. The answer to this question is the record of the believers themselves. The answer is American history.
Female athletes have historically received very little attention from activists and advocates for gender equality. Why?
When I told my friends and family I’d be going to Brazil for the World Cup last year, they looked at me like I’d just won the lottery. In a sense, I had; I’d entered a lottery just to be able to purchase tickets. In Recife, I attended games at a brand-new stadium with a bright-green grass pitch, along with 40,000 other soccer fans from around the world. For months leading up to the event I saw news coverage on TV, in newspapers, and in magazines hyping Team USA, even though they had a virtually nonexistent chance of victory. By the time I left for Brazil, friends who I never knew to be soccer fans were telling me who their favorite players were, jealous that I would see “our boys” play against the tournament favorites, Germany.
In Sunday’s referendum, voters firmly rejected Europe’s plan to bail out the country’s economy. What’s next?
Updated on July 5, 2015 4:57 pm
On Sunday, Greek citizens took to the polls in a controversial referendum asking them whether they support a plan calling for continued economic austerity in exchange for debt relief. Their answer—with more than 70 percent of the votes counted—was a resounding “no.”The outcome means that next steps for the nation, which has fallen into arrears with the IMF and imposed capital controls to prevent a run on the banks, is largely uncertain. According to reports from Reuters, the country may next attempt to secure financing by asking for more emergency funding from the European Central Bank.
The referendum—which had asked Greeks to vote “yes” or “no” on a proposal from Eurogroup leaders to extend financing to the deeply indebted country— was called for by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras amid meetings of Eurozone leaders trying to come up with a deal to allow the country to avoid default. The call for the referendum effectively ended those discussions.
In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice?
The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.”
As the world frets over Greece, a separate crisis looms in China.
This summer has not been calm for the global economy. In Europe, a Greek referendum this Sunday may determine whether the country will remain in the eurozone. In North America, meanwhile, the governor of Puerto Rico claimed last week that the island would be unable to pay off its debts, raising unsettling questions about the health of American municipal bonds.
But the season’s biggest economic crisis may be occurring in Asia, where shares in China’s two major stock exchanges have nosedived in the past three weeks. Since June 12, the Shanghai stock exchange has lost 24 percent of its value, while the damage in the southern city of Shenzhen has been even greater at 30 percent. The tumble has already wiped out more than $2.4 trillion in wealth—a figure roughly 10 times the size of Greece’s economy.
A new book by the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tackles arguments that the two institutions are compatible.
In May 1988, a 13-year-old girl named Ashley King was admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital by court order. She had a tumor on her leg—an osteogenic sarcoma—that, writes Jerry Coyne in his book Faith Versus Fact, was “larger than a basketball,” and was causing her leg to decay while her body started to shut down. Ashley’s Christian Scientist parents, however, refused to allow doctors permission to amputate, and instead moved their daughter to a Christian Science sanatorium, where, in accordance with the tenets of their faith, “there was no medical care, not even pain medication.” Ashley’s mother and father arranged a collective pray-in to help her recover—to no avail. Three weeks later, she died.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Defining common cultural literacy for an increasingly diverse nation.
Is the culture war over?
That seems an absurd question. This is an age when Confederate monuments still stand; when white-privilege denialism is surging on social media; when legislators and educators in Arizona and Texas propose banning ethnic studies in public schools and assign textbooks euphemizing the slave trade; when fear of Hispanic and Asian immigrants remains strong enough to prevent immigration reform in Congress; when the simple assertion that #BlackLivesMatter cannot be accepted by all but is instead contested petulantly by many non-blacks as divisive, even discriminatory.
And that’s looking only at race. Add gender, guns, gays, and God to the mix and the culture war seems to be raging along quite nicely.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.