View single post by Mark
 Posted: Fri Jun 10th, 2011 03:44 pm
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Joined: Mon Mar 30th, 2009
Posts: 434

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Pender, I appreciate you remaining so civil with me on this topic, as it tends to ruffle feathers! First off, you are quite right about emancipation as a wartime measure. There is no question that for Lincoln (and for most of the North) the preservation of the Union remained the primary war aim throughout the conflict. With this in mind, you are also correct that the Lincoln administration would have likely readmitted the Confederate states into the Union before mid-1862 with no change to their domestic institutions (though, it seems highly unlikely to me that the radical republicans in congress would have allowed this ). However, with this being the case, the fact that the Southern states did not quickly return to the Federal Union indicates to me the depth to which Southerners distrusted Lincoln’s guarantees to not meddle with slavery where it already existed. Even though Lincoln maintained he could not alter slavery in existing states, most Southerners believed that he would, and even if he did not, closing the territories to the expansion of slavery (which the administration did intend to do) would be tantamount to eliminating the institution itself. I certainly agree with you that McPherson’s book, “For Cause and Comrades” is excellent. As indicated in that book, most Civil War historians agree that the vast majority of northern soldiers were not fighting for emancipation and the vast majority of southerners were not directly fighting to keep slaves. However, most southern soldiers would tell you that they were fighting to preserve their way of life and democracy from encroaching northern civilization. All I am saying is that this way of life that southern soldiers fought and died for was based on the institution of racial chattel slavery. Antebellum Southerners, whether they owned slaves or not, held to an idea of democracy that roughly ran as follows: all societies require a class to do menial labor. If this labor is done by free men, it reduces them to an underclass of citizen and virtual slavery (as immigrants and the urban poor in the north). But, if slaves do the menial labor, it elevates and equalizes all white men by allowing them to become yeomen farmers and artisans. That explanation is based on Sean Wilentz’s book “The Rise of American Democracy.” All this is a very roundabout way of getting to your question about Longstreet’s comment in “Gettysburg.” I cannot find any contemporary sources to suggest that quote is accurate to any Southern thinking (whether from Longstreet or anyone else) before or during the war. In the southern mind of the 1850s and 1860s, asking the white southern population to lay aside slavery would be tantamount to asking them to give up their democracy and reduce the yeomanry to what they perceived as a state of virtual slavery. I hope that helps to clarify my position, and thanks again for the civility.


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