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 Posted: Tue Feb 26th, 2013 02:52 pm
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MildMan-

  Very well. Here, then, is the: "Last word." In the first posting on this thread, I explained the reasons why more people have studied Mr. Lincoln than have Mr. Davis, which you have repeated.

  In the almost 150 years since Mr. Lincoln was assassinated, he has been canonized, while Mr. Davis has been villainized. My view is that both were complex men, and neither should be placed on the extreme end of the stick as either a saint or a scoundrel. But, in this case, it is a simplistic view of history that has won out.

  It is very easy for you to moralize about the institution of slavery in the 21st Century. You are correct in saying that some in the north in the 19th Century risked all to try to end slavery. But even though the abolitionist movement grew in strength starting in the 1830s and more so in the 1840s and 1850s, the abolitionists represented only a small percentage of the northern population.

  In 1860, most in the north tended to be indifferent about the plight of slaves, wherever they might be. Even during the war in 1862, when the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was written, the idea that the war would be fought to end slavery wasn't popular. Newspapers, both foreign and domestic lashed out against it. The Republicans took large losses in the November election. The stock market went down. Some Union troops protested and others deserted, because the idea of them risking their lives to free the black man was repugnant to them.

  To his critics, Mr. Lincoln cynically answered that if they didn't want to fight for the black man, they could fight: "Exclusively to save the Union." (See his letter to James Conkling, often linked to on this forum). Mr. Lincoln admitted that the Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure meant to weaken the CSA's ability to continue the struggle. But in the past 150 years, the document has been elevated to some kind of holy missive, which at the time, Mr. Lincoln admitted that it was not.

  You say that slavery was a : "Bad idea, " but it was one that was practiced in human societies for thousands of years. (And continues to be in some areas of the world). In America, it had its origins some 240 years before the outbreak of the Civil War. It can be said that it was a bad idea from a moralistic standpoint, and I certainly won't dispute that. But in some places, it was a good idea from an economic standpoint, which is why it continued.

  I would say again that most people in the north in 1860 were quite willing to see the institution of slavery continue where it already existed. Mr. Lincoln could never have raised an army to invade the southern states if the war had been presented as a war to end slavery in America. Indeed, that was not his objective.

  It was Mr. Lincoln's objective always to preserve the Union. It was this that was his achievement, and his impact on history. But all these years later, most people still know little about what his thoughts were at the time, or the methods he employed to obtain his objective.

  Similarly, few people know very much about the thoughts and struggles of Mr. Davis. They know little about all of his service to the United States, only that he was the President of the CSA, which is portrayed as an evil entity. Sadly, most people in this country know very little of its history, or the complexities involved in the era of the Civil War. They can only see those times in terms of: "Black and white."

Last edited on Tue Feb 26th, 2013 03:01 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Thu Feb 28th, 2013 12:33 am
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I would certainly not say Davis was villanized, in fact I would say the reverse is true. The man is an all but cannonized saint to the SCV, LoS & other like minded organizations. While they spare no effort to destroy Lincoln.



 Posted: Thu Feb 28th, 2013 01:19 am
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Johan Steele-

  What you say about the SCV and similar organizations might well be true, but they represent only a miniscule percentage of the general population. The vast majority of citizens know little if anything about the SCV, and probably couldn't care less about anything that its members had to say.

  One person that every citizen knows about is Abraham Lincoln. Partly due to his martyrdom, he has been elevated to almost godlike status over the past century and a half. In one famous painting, Mr. Lincoln is welcomed to Heaven by George Washington.

Washington & Lincoln (Apotheosis)

  Most people know little of Mr. Lincoln's history, beyond that he: "Saved the Union," and: "Freed the slaves." He has his own memorial and appears on Mount Rushmore, as well as the national currency. His image is iconic, and no one, not the SCV or anyone else, is going to destroy it.

  Jefferson Davis, on the other hand, is identified in most peoples' minds only as President of the CSA, which was fighting against the godlike Mr. Lincoln. The vast majority of people today have a negative view of the CSA, and thus of Mr. Davis.
  I certainly don't canonize Mr. Davis. I've said many times that he had his share of human faults. The same can be said for Mr. Lincoln. Neither man, in my view, belongs on the extreme end of the scale as either a saint or a scoundrel.


  You, yourself, on other threads in this forum, have said that you regard Mr. Davis as having committed: "Gross treason." That, in my view, is villainizing him. As I recall, you said directly: "I think  I might call Davis one of the worst villains of US history." You would probably extend that judgement to most prominent Confederates, and in this you are not alone. One article that I read that discussed the recent movie: "LINCOLN" said that his CSA enemies were portrayed as: "Minions of Satan."

  I have no connection to the SCV or any such organization, but I am certain that they will have little success in tarnishing the image of Abraham Lincoln. They might hate him, but I think it is quite likely that there are fewer people in America now that hate Mr. Lincoln than there were 150 years ago.


Last edited on Thu Feb 28th, 2013 04:23 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Thu Feb 28th, 2013 11:40 pm
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There are fewl that know anything about Lincoln IMO. Most HS students wouldn't know him from Jeff Davis.  The SCV, LoS, DoC etc represent themselves as the defenders of "Southern" heritage and as representatives of a majority of "true Southerners."  Their effect has hardly been miniscule over the last 150 years.

And yes I do believe Davis one of the worst villains in US history. And yes I do believe him guilty of gross treason. I've voiced it often; he should have been made a man w/out a country. Never again allowed to set foot on US soil, or any soil living out his years as a passenger on a US ship of War where he could never again do damage to the country and when he died a simple burial at sea.

Both Lincoln & Davis were humans w/ faults and both were politicians. But I firmly believe Davis betrayed his country at every opportunity from about 1856 on. I can think of few other politicians who have lionized as Davis has been by the American South and fewer more undeserving of it.

IMO a lot of that is the legacy of Early and his modern followers.

But as a caveat I'm cynically somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan.

Last edited on Thu Feb 28th, 2013 11:44 pm by Johan Steele



 Posted: Fri Mar 1st, 2013 12:33 am
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Johan Steele-

  When I started this thread, my purpose was to present an article that had as its thesis that people today know virtually nothing about Jefferson Davis, beyond the fact that he was President of the CSA. I happen to agree with that thesis, as the more than half a century of Mr. Davis' life before the Civil War is something that is overlooked, while the life of Mr. Lincoln is extolled (Coming from humble origins, rising to the top position in politics, saving the Union, "freeing the slaves,"etc, etc.).

  I was interested in presenting the facts of Mr. Davis' hisory (Obviously, we also disagree about those: "From about 1856 on"). You have come onto the thread only to attack his character. You say here that he was: Self absorbed," self-aggrandizing," and:" had a penchant for cronyism." On other threads, you have said much worse things, such as throwing the charge of: "Treason" around (Which you now continue to repeat here).

  On another thread, you said something along the line that you couldn't see anything from the Confederate point of view because you couldn't see where the Confederacy was ever right. You also said that while Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis were both politicians, you could: "Stomach one," but not the other. Well, I can stomach both. I view both men as interesting historical characters and seek to understand as much as possible where both were coming from. I think that if you want to understand the war and the history of that era, you have to start with a study of the two main characters. Both were convinced that they were right and were steadfast in defense of their causes.

  Presumably, someone taking a similarly unbalanced and incendiary approach to Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis, but coming from the opposite direction (An SCV member, perhaps) could say some of the same things about Mr. Lincoln that you say about Mr. Davis. What I can't stomach is such bitter invective aimed at either man. I prefer to try (As much as it is possible a century and a half later) to look objectively at both. Neither is a great hero or a great villain to me. Both had their strengths and their weaknesses.

  I cannot agree that Mr. Davis: "Betrayed his country" any more than any other Confederate did. I get the feeling that there would not have been enough ships in the U.S. Navy to put on each a Confederate that you would have wished to be punished in that manner.

  I have great respect for your expertise in areas such as small arms and artillery of the Civil War area. But I cannot have the same regard for your evaluation of individuals. So, I'm glad that you put your caveat at the end. Our profound disagreement about the character of Mr. Davis will continue.

Last edited on Fri Mar 1st, 2013 12:46 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Fri Mar 1st, 2013 12:54 am
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My problem with Davis stems from my reading of the man, his own words are what IMO damn him so readily. His auto-biography, if you will, and his words as SoW (which IMO he may well have been the finest in US history) paint a real man who had real problems. I can over look a lot of personal issues with a politician but I firmly believe he was a political machine w/ a taste for power. He fell into the trap of both trusting his friends to the extreme and favoring them at all costs. He was neither the first to do so & certainly not that last.

As to the charge that I believe all Confederates should have been treated poorly post war is hooey. I have a lot of respect for many a CS officer and even some of their politicians. Hampton, Forrest, Mosby, Longstreet, Johnston, Brown etc & many others were honorable men who did their best post war.

I see Davis as the self made figurehead of the CS, I believe the idea that he didn't want to be President of the CS & that he didn't see it coming as... political spin intended to make him look good. His treason was betraying a nation that had given him much. There are others who also deserve the charge of treason. Men like Wigfal & a particular US then CS general the next morning after he had surrendered his command. Those were the kind of men who betrayed their country.

I can respect a man who resigned his commision then went on to serve honorably in the CS military, but men who did their best to harm their nation from within... not so much.

I believe firmly that Davis was one of that crowd that began seriously looking, planning and prepping for the creation of the CS as early as the 1856 election. I believe that those plans came to fruitition in the 1860 Democratic Convention where the Democratic party was split from w/in in a coordinated plan that allowed a catalyst to be created that would be the excuse they needed for Secession. I consider that treason.

I'm not one of those who believe Davis or anyone else should be dug up & hung. I'm also not one of those hugely proud of US history as something to be looked at and idolized. I'm a realist who see's many a sin in our history as well as the context in which many of those sins were done. While that context doesn't excuse them it helps to better understand them and to realize that as corrupt and messed up as politics are in 2013... that corrupt mess is nothing new.



 Posted: Fri Mar 1st, 2013 03:33 am
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Johan Steele-

  To the charge that Mr. Davis was too trusting of his friends, we are in total agreement. I have said as much earlier on this thread.

  My: "Charge" that you cited did not say that you would punish every Confederate. I certainly wasn't including common soldiers. I am a bit surprised to hear that you have a positive view of some high ranking CSA officers. In addition, I am surprised that the list includes JEJ and James Longstreet, who were formerly U.S. officers.

  I remember a thread about General Thomas where you claimed that: "There is no end date" to an oath of office that an officer takes. I maintained that the oath of office only applies to the time that the office is held. As long as the officer faithfully performed his duties while in office, he had every right to resign his commission (And join the CSA if that was his choice).

  I certainly see a great contrast between the behavior of Robert E. Lee and that of David Twiggs (Who I presume you are referring to in your last posting). But as long as you are allowing for a U.S. officer to honorably resign, then join the CSA and fight against the U.S. Government without it being: "Treason", then perhaps our positions aren't too far apart.

  As for your charge that Mr. Davis wanted to be President of the CSA, I invited you to present proof that that was his wish, but none was given. Indeed, I know of nothing in the writings of Mr. Davis that indicated that desire. I know of nothing in the writings of any that knew him that maintained that he had expressed that desire.

  I also do not believe that Mr. Davis was part of a plot to: "Throw" the 1860 Election by splitting the Democrat party. In fact, Mr. Davis approached ex-President Franklin Pierce and asked him to seek the nomination because he was acceptable to both factions. But Mr. Pierce had no desire to do so.

  I also do not believe that there was some grand conspiracy starting in 1856 to: "Set up" secession and the war that would probably result from it. However, I am willing to examine any evidence you might have to that effect (Beyond what you: "Firmly believe").

  I might be guilty of being: "Hugely proud" of U.S. History in general. (Though there is much of it to not be proud of). For example, I am proud of the Founding Fathers, who I believe conceived a masterpiece in the U.S. Constitution, and began what I consider to be the best system of government yet devised (Even with all its imperfections).

  Obviously, I know the Founding Fathers only from studying them. But I am also proud of the World War II generation, and in their case I knew a great number of them personally. That does not mean that the individuals in these two groups did not have their flaws, just as all human beings do. But as a group both were exceptional.

  One thing we agree on is that there have always been corrupt humans. They are, I fear, the rule rather than the exception. We are also of a like mind, I believe, in having a cynical view of politicians in general. I have been around for a long time, having seen most of the 20th Century. I have seen many corrupt politicians, but I have to say that those running the show now disgust me more than any that I have seen before. So I am less and less: "Hugely proud" as time passes.

Last edited on Fri Mar 1st, 2013 03:36 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Mon Mar 4th, 2013 08:35 pm
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Sorry it's taken me this long to reply... missed the post TD.

I do believe that if an officer resigns his commision and then heads home to join the enemy he is a man w/ honor. Wheras a man who resigns his commision AFTER he's worked against his nation is an entirely different manner. You hit the nail w/ Twiggs.

There was no doubt that had Fremont won the 1856 election there would have been Secession. But that has been gleamed from my readings on the Fremot campaign when I was trying to learn more about the man. It was about that time when I started coming upon hints & rumblings that 1860 was in the mix as early as 1856.

As to Davis and his postwar writings... I view them as largely political spin done in a effort to make himself look good and about as trustworthy as a... well you get the picture. I do believe that he was in it for the long haul towards the presidency of the US as I do feel strongly that he was an ambitious politician w/ an eye on the most powerul seat in the land. That he so suddenly removed himself from the 1860 Democratic ballot stumped me for quite a while and other readings over the years have led me to believe there was some backroom dealing to get him set as President of the fledgling CS. Davis was a political machine, a friend refers to him as "Bill Clinton w/ morals..." not something I quite agree w/ but upon reflection I can understand that view.

I had an opportunity to spend some time reading on his actions as Sect of War and he really was amazing in that role, accomplishing a LOT w/ almost nothing. To me there is a night and day difference between his political and Sect of War correspondence to the point that it almost seems like 2 different men... but that may just be me. His post war writings were not those of the same man who excedlled as a Sect of War, to me that makes sense as he was rather embittered and experiance had changed him, though I still see the political double speak that made him the politician he was in 1860.

Davis was an extrodinaryly (sp?) charismatic man, a superb speaker w/ a strong voice. Upton, while commandant of West Point, referred to him as a superb Company & Regimental level commander because of his charisma. I defer to Upton in that.

As I grow older I grow more cynical & jaded. I see a LOT of good that has come out of this country and would be quick to idolize the WW2 generation if I didn't believe they also gave us the 1960's generation. The treatment of the black, red & asian peoples by this country are IMO shameful, the tolerance of slavery and other such should make no man proud. But at the same time this country is better on so many levels than so many of her contempories & as disgusted as politicians make me I can think of no other place I'd rather live.

I hope that makes sense... I'm too !@#$% sober.



 Posted: Mon Mar 4th, 2013 09:43 pm
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Johan Steele-

  It seems that we agree that if an officer resigns honorably and goes home, that he has not performed a treasonous act, even if he later joins the other side. As I have said elsewhere in this forum, I admire both General Lee and General Thomas though, as Virginians, they made opposite decisions as to which entity their highest loyalty was to.

  I'm not sure what would have happened if Mr. Fremont had been elected in 1856. I really don't see how that could have happened. It would have been a different country if the first Republican candidate had been able to win. I think that the pot had to: "Cook" for a few more years before the lid came off.

  We still don't agree on the idea that Mr. Davis sought the presidency of the CSA. If there were backroom dealings going on, I don't think that he was a participant. (Just as Mr. Lincoln avoided taking part directly in the 1860 Republican Convention). This difference is, of course, that everyone knew that Mr. Lincoln wanted to be President (Almost as much as his wife wanted him to be).

  It took Mr. Davis a number of years before he made the decision to write about the rise and fall of the CSA. Publicly, at least, he kept out of the postwar uproar over Reconstruction and other issues. By 1881, when he completed his work, he was in his 70s and in poor health, so it might not have happened except for the fact that he was greatly encouraged and assisted by Mrs. Dorsey (And a few others), and he also had a strong desire to tell his side of the story.

  As for Mr. Davis' military abilities, I think that he could have ably commanded a division. More than that I'm not too confident, but when the shooting starts, some people just step up. Davis certainly did when he commanded a regiment in Mexico. At any rate, we'll never know.

  As for the World War II generation, I also would consider that their one negative aspect was that they were too permissive as parents. But that is understandable since they went through the hardships of the Depression and then World War II, and wanted a kindler, gentler, world for their children. Sadly, they didn't get one.

  I agree that by our present standards, the majority culture in this country mistreated the minority cultures. But I think that it wasn't much different in that regard from other countries that developed out of: "Western Civilization" in those times.

  We are both cynical about the citizenry of this country, and with good reasons, I believe. However, I, too, can't think of another country where I would prefer to live. Within the country, I chose long ago which state I believe is the best for me to live in. However, as people move here in great numbers, there is more and more pressure building as some try to make this place more like other places.

Last edited on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 01:15 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Mon Mar 4th, 2013 11:36 pm
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I really wish this site had a "Like" button...

Now just to figure out a way to get back into SD or Wyoming...



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