Category Archives: people

Why We Still Debate the Civil War

Here we are, in 2017, we’re still debating the causes of the Civil War, which began in 1861 with roots that stem from centuries before. This blog post isn’t about statues, racism, social justice or the like, it merely is written to clarify the actual primary cause of the Civil War. No doubt there are many reasons, that were evident at the time, but those were subordinate in the grand scheme of events leading to the war.civil_war_stamp

The Civil War, also known as “The War Between the States,” was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. The CSA was a collection of eleven southern states who left the Union in 1860 and 1861 and formed their own country in order to protect their continued usage of the institution of slavery.

Slavery was introduced to North America by the British as far back as the early 17th century. The south believed in the dissolution of the Union after they couldn’t come to an agreement with the dominant north over the rights of states to control commerce. Slavery was a component of commerce, not in its entirety, but an essential component. It was legal at the time the country was formed, and the southern states saw no justifiable reason to change when they knew most of the northern leadership agreed with them. Negroes, as they were called, were not equivalent to Caucasians. They weren’t allowed to vote, own property, inter-racially marry, or if they lived in the south, couldn’t participate freely with the fruits of their labors.

The northern leadership believed, once the union of states were created, no one or more states had the right to leave that union. They were willing to negotiate, but when the matter came to a head, they willingly took up arms to preserve that union and stop the south from seceding.

events leading to the American civil war
The slavery extension question was thought to have been settled by the Missouri Compromise nearly 40 years earlier. The Mexican War, however, had added new territories, and the issue flared up again in the 1840s. The Compromise of 1850 provided a temporary respite from sectional strife, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, a measure Stephen A. Douglas sponsored, brought the slavery extension issue forward again. The Douglas bill in effect repealed the Missouri Compromise by lifting the ban against slavery in territories north of the 36°30′ latitude.

The Supreme Court decided a case brought forward by an escaped slave. He in effect was suing for himself and his family’s freedom. The Dredd Scott decision rendered in 1857, declared he wasn’t entitled to his freedom; that Africans were not and could never be citizens of the United States; and that the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had declared free all territories west of Missouri and north of latitude 36°30′, was unconstitutional.

This further set in motion the events leading up to the Civil War. In effect, it supported the institution of slavery, and the southern states now believed it was their personal right of sovereignty. In effect, the Constitution was a voluntary agreement, as easily broken as it was initially agreed upon.

The Douglas doctrine of popular sovereignty, was to permit new territories and states the right to self-determine their status as a free or slave state. This slavery extension proposal, provided the background for the Douglas – Lincoln debates of 1858. Their debate, addressed the problem that had divided the nation into two hostile camps which threatened the continued existence of the Union.

Slave_kidnap_post_1851_bostonIn 1859 John Brown, an abolitionist, working in concert with others, formed a rebellion in Harpers Ferry Virginia (now West Virginia). Brown had previously met abolitionists, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth while living in Springfield Massachusetts. Brown was convinced slavery wasn’t going to end through peaceful negotiations. Brown’s personal attitudes evolved in Springfield, as he observed the success of the city’s Underground Railroad and made his first venture into militant, anti-slavery community organizing. In speeches, he pointed to the martyrs Elijah Lovejoy and Charles Turner Torrey as whites “ready to help blacks challenge slave-catchers.”

The choice of allowing slavery for some admittedly was a compromise, so the fledgling nation had enough backing to form a binding union, and thereafter break away from British rule. As we see today in politics, challenging problems are pushed forward in hopes that someone will solve the problem in the future. Doing so, means a crisis builds until the inevitable fateful day, and it can no longer be ignored.

Flawed From the Beginning

Many of the Founders wished to abolish slavery in the Constitution. The irony and hypocrisy were not lost on them, and they weren’t shy about saying it. The compromises in the Constitution regarding slavery placed the short-term need to form a Union ahead of a contentious debate with no resolution. The alternative was two countries, one without slavery and one with. Several founders later emancipated their slaves.

In 1807, Congress passed a law and Jefferson signed banning the importation of slaves to begin on January 1, 1808, the very first day permitted under the Constitution. Some have argued that this only made existing slaves more valuable and the South already had sufficient slaves to breed to meet their needs. I give our Founders the benefit of the doubt. If for no other reason, a slaver would vote against this to maintain his right to hold slaves on principle.

After the law passed, US Naval forces commenced to patrolling the African coast and seizing slave ships. Great Britain was already doing the same.

Slavery, was officially ended by the British, and the US was trying to figure out how to completely eliminate it within its own borders, and not criminalize its own citizens. Those same citizens were part of the framers of the Constitution, and supporters of Independence. Virginia was the home of Thomas Jefferson and the cradle of independence. It was a natural place to be the capital state for the Confederacy.

tenth_amendment_states_rightsThe dilemma for America was from its very beginning. As an ideal, the framers and leaders knew that all men were created equal but their society, their practices, had accepted distinctive differences in race as a basis to allow slave holdings.

Slaves were the means by which the south could compete against the more industrial north. This economic disparity, along with punitive tariff’s against the south, created additional friction. After the insurrection by Brown, the southern states believed violent uprisings were going to part of their future, they also thought they had a legal right to secede, and no peaceful option in which to exercise that right.

“Historians agree that the Harper’s Ferry raid in 1859 escalated tensions that a year later led to secession and the American civil war.” Put down by Colonel Robert E. Lee of the United States Army, assisted by First Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart the temporary insurrection was quickly suppressed.

There are many who insist the Confederate States of America were formed through a common cause theme just as the United States did against Great Britain decades before. They believe the south chose independence because of the continued encroachment against states rights by a central federal government. They see Lincoln as a dictator not an emancipator. Lincoln, despite his Illinois state speeches against slavery in the 1840’s, and his famous debate’s against Douglas in 1858, stated if he could keep the Union, he would have accepted slavery as a compromise. History shows that he didn’t.

That’s the historical irony, the individual states agreed to be part of the union at the Constitutional convention of 1783, as long as they could keep slaves. By 1860, after decade of debates, court battles, and slave rebellions, the south’s insistence that slaves were property, not equal as humans, and they had every right to decide what they could do with their property. This property kept the wealthy land owners in business. It also increased their wealth, a wealth which was the driving force for southern economy, seemingly threatened by the more industrialized north. As in all things, contemporary, or historical, there are many reasons, and aspects to conflicts.

compromise_of_1850As much as some people want to “window dress” the motivations of the Civil War, the overwhelming unresolved problem was slavery. To say it was over states rights, economic factors, or encroachment of federal law into individual states commerce, is by varying degrees, true. The long-standing tensions and disagreements about the use of humans as a means to an end, in providing an economic base were the ultimate catalyst. None of those would have been significant factors if not for the conflicting arguments over slavery.

Between election day and Lincoln’s inauguration in March, seven states had seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. They were to be followed by four more: North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Missouri, and Tennessee were divided within specific geographic boundaries, depending on who were the predominant community leaders. Kentucky started out neutral, but voted to become part of the union. West Virginia broke free of Virginia in 1863 to become part of the Union.

Republicans captured over 60 percent of the Northern vote in 1860, and won three-fourths of its Congressional delegations. The Southern press said that such Republicans represented the anti-slavery portion of the North, “a party founded on the single sentiment…of hatred of African slavery“, and now the controlling power in national affairs.

Abraham_Lincoln_emancipation

The cause of rebellion – Civil War 1861-65.

Opening volley – Why Fort Sumter?

The Top Nine Events Leading to Civil War

An Educators Guide to the Civil War

Here is an excerpt of the Declaration of Secession by the State of Georgia.

“The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization.”

“For forty years this question has been considered and debated in the halls of Congress, before the people, by the press, and before the tribunals of justice. The majority of the people of the North in 1860 decided it in their own favor. We refuse to submit to that judgment, and in vindication of our refusal we offer the Constitution of our country and point to the total absence of any express power to exclude us.”

Continue to read this secession document.

” … It will be a glorious day for our country when all the children within its borders shall learn that the four years of fratricidal war between the North and South was waged by neither with criminal or unworthy intent, but by both to protect what they conceived to be threatened rights and imperiled liberty: that the issues which divided the sections were born when the Republic was born, and were forever buried in an ocean of fraternal blood.”

Lieutenant General John B. Gordon, CSA

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Religious Context

Many people want to fill in the gaps of their knowledge, without adequate preparation for understanding the questions, let alone the answers they derive. Many have questions which may include, why do humans exist, where did we originate, what happens after death?

planet forming eso-1301

Early civilizations tried to explain things they didn’t know

These are good questions but answers aren’t readily forthcoming without adequate education and sufficient training of the mind to discern fact from fiction.

From the earliest writings, we find creation stories, mythical explanations of the cosmos, and hopeful expression’s of a bright future, without first hand knowledge of exactly what that entails. Thus, religion is born. Religious thought attempts to fill in the gaps of what we don’t know, providing explanations by people who claim special insight and inspiration from a being or beings with unmeasurable, and eternal capabilities far beyond our mortal world.

Symbols and history

Religion & symbols

Religious thoughts, aspirations, ideals and convictions vary, but the most adherent are able to convince others through their willingness to suffer for the cause.

Searching the archives of religion, and checking it against accumulated knowledge over the centuries, often reveals contradiction and weaknesses within ancient explanations of the cosmos or originations.

To this day, we find people with a variety of beliefs battling for the hearts and minds of others, especially the young who lack life experience and adequate skills to question the answers. Institutions of government, media, and churches are constantly engaged in promoting their responses to the public.

Here’s what I’ve found to be prevalent on how people adhere to their religion.

  • In golf as in life it is the follow through that makes the difference.
  • The gap between contemplation and execution is measurable.
  • Many declare their sympathies for those with anxieties but are unable to explain the why & how. Religion does that, but for many, that’s not sufficient.
  • They later go on, clinging to the declarations, without adequate explanation, which serve outward appearance, but lack the original conviction.
  • That’s why in the end, very few could be convicted of being a devout anything other than fulfilling their wants, in spite of their declarations.

What is Memorial Day?

I failed to post this yesterday as a follow up to the Memorial Day 2017 dedication I posted on Twitter.

Yesterday wasn’t about me or others that have served, or are serving in the military.

Its about those soldiers, sailors, marines, and air corps, who gave everything they had to the cause of bringing conflict to a conclusion, and to allow people the opportunity to choose for themselves as to how they want to govern.

All the criticisms of the military, our government, our industrial, technological, or wealth, has nothing to do with Memorial Day. There were many people who chose to use it to support their political, ideological, and critical view points. It has nothing to do with that at all.

The United States, for all its flaws, shortcomings, and mistakes, has at its core a desire to keep the world safe enough for people to choose for themselves a way of life. Written in its foundational documents, are the basic humane principles of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

When a person enters the military, they become part of a history of a nation that wants to protect those foundations. and has been willing to do so at great personal risk, significant loss of life, wealth and reputation. To argue we gave blood for treasure is to ignore that no amount of industry, or military victory, has offset the price we spent, or the blood we spilt, not just for ourselves, but many other nations as well.

Our history as a nation has been to cede back the lands, rebuild the basic civil foundations, and for decades, donate vast resources & money in order for the weak to become stronger. We are not a conquering people, we’re a liberating people.

How do I know this to be true? I’m one of the millions, who over the centuries, left my home, voluntarily gave a portion of my life, to be trained, skilled, and willing to defend this country. We desired no lands, sought no riches, and did things few are willing or able to do.

I have this one day of the year to thank those who were required in the course of their service, to lay down their life to benefit, defend, secure, the liberty of others, including me. That’s Memorial Day. A day which we as a nation should remember those who died for us, yet we so soon forget in our normal, comfortable, and mostly peaceful journey.