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19 April 2011


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RS and Col. Lang; You both mention 'The Tea Party' as some separate entity from the one hyped by Dick Armey,Michelle Bachman,the Koch Bros.and Fox News. Please explain who they are.

William R. Cumming

Interesting post! Whatever the arguments as to the reasons the war was fought what sources help analyze the major impacts on the history of the US? Were those impacts economic, cultural, social, racial, whatever? Who are the none US experts on that war? Any? Why are they even interested? Did the war have any impacts on the international scene until the fact of a UNITED STATES made entry into WWI of significance? What difference might it have made if compensation to both slaves and their former owners had been paid? If the US lasts another 500 years what will be taught to high schoolers about this war? Do you have a favorite top 5 historians of the war?


It is important this coming year that moderate Americans not allow extremists control or frame the debates of our time.

There are times for extremism, but it is not this year.


"The South's secession was legal under the federal constitution...."

That seems highly doubtful, however extensively Alexander Stevens wrote justifying the actions of the Southern states.

There is no provision whatever in the constitution authorizing withdrawal of a ratifying state from the union, nor any process by which a state may leave the union.

There ARE specific constitutional provisions for entering the union (via ratification) and permitting the Congress to admit new states to the union (as well as extensive provisions dealing with how those new states may be formed, as well as giving Congress plenary power over the US territories).

So how a state enters the union is addressed, how new states may enter is addressed and the lands constituting any new states are addressed. But seceeding from the union is (somehow) not addressed. Nor does secession comport with the stated goals of the Preamble; indeed, it would undermine them.

Apparently the pro-secession argument is that it was so "clear" to the Founders that a state could secede that they saw no reason to mention it in the constitution. But if that is so, then there was no good reason NOT to mention and provide for such an obvious, uncontroversial "right". Especially when all other related actions ARE specifically addressed.

I would conclude from the above that one cannot say under the constitution that a ratifying state has some inherent "right" unilaterally to secede from the union, whatever one may think of the implied power(s) of sovereign states.

How the union may constitutionally be devolved is not clear---but unilateral secession by a state or group of states doesn't appear to be one of the permissible avenues....


Thanks. It's certainly refreshing to hear a take on the war removed from the simplistics of "common knowledge".

I ran across another essay recently also critically analyzing the war which discusses among many things, the "mote in the North's eye", an unratified 13th Amendment --endorsed by Congress and Lincoln in 1861--which would have left the issue of slavery entirely to the states, and the rights of secession and self-determination:

"In this context a willingness on the part of the United States to admit the possibility that the war was not the best response to Secession would be a healthy sign. (Recent books by Drew Gilpin Faust, -- This Republic of Suffering -- and Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club is encouraging auguries.) A willingness to grant this, even if combined with the severest stricture on slavery and Jim Crow, could help the US to find a post-imperial vocation and to defeat threats to free and thriving labor. It would also help to clarify how Washington would react to any future wish of a state to withdraw from the Union. If that wish was reached by clear majorities, after democratic debate, is it really conceivable that anyone would wish the matter to be settled by tanks and aerial bombardment?"


Patrick Lang


Ah! You want to have a partisan discussion about this... Well, I belong to neither party and despise them both. So, go talk to someone else. pl


A people appeal to theory to justify actions they are compelled to take. What compels them is that which is tangible, close, & dear - their lives & living.

The causes of the CW were as complex & manifold matters as any that any people can face. Slavery was in every part of those causes - in many deeply. Thus it remains central today - a prism then & now. Theory then (States Rights! Free Labor!) did not demand war.

But the tangible, close & dear did - one's life & living.


Not at all Col. I'm looking for specific policies this movement promotes. Googling 'tea party' I come up with Tea Party.org, Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Nation,etc. I was wondering if either of you had a specific organization in mind.ps I also despise what both legacy parties have become.

Patrick Lang


OK. I think of this as a movement, not an organization. I see this movement as seeking a reversal of the growth in federal power, a reduction in federal expenditures based on a changed foreign policy, elimination of the upper end Bush tax cuts and sensible measures in regard to entitlements such as older retirement ages. pl



Regarding the legality of secession, I have no doubt that lawyers (being one) could present sound legal arguments on both sides of the issue. I also recognize that the Supreme Court ruled on the matter--somewhat indirectly--in an opinion issued after the war regarding debt of the southern states.

Beyond that, if secession actually occurred what, exactly, would the US government do about it? Economic sanctions to be sure--which I suspect would be disregarded--but military action?

I quote from the article I cited above:

"It would also help to clarify how Washington would react to any future wish of a state to withdraw from the Union. If that wish was reached by clear majorities, after democratic debate, is it really conceivable that anyone would wish the matter to be settled by tanks and aerial bombardment?"


COL Lang,

I have yet to see any Tea Party manifestos regarding any sort of constriction of defense spending or a changed foreign policy. I also see no Tea Party activists pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy - quite the opposite. Frankly your platform seems more in line with Pres. Obama's recent deficit speech than any sort of Tea Party group.

I think Richard Sale severely underestimates the fear of Southern slaveholders who were certain that the "Black Republicans" were out to end slavery. This was always their central argument - that continued union with an ever-growing North would eventually result in a Federal government dominated by Northerners who would end slavery by fiat. Lincoln's election, wholly by Northern votes, seemed to them to inaugurate such a government.

Lincoln never was an abolitionist, but he, like the country, moved steadily leftward on this issue as the South moved steadily rightward. This process was accelerated by the war.

Alexander Stephens himself outlined the basic reason for the secession:


"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."

Charles Dew wrote an illuminating book on this called Apostles of Disunion. Some of the work in this book can be read here - the speeches of secession comissioners sent out to persuade Southern assemblies towards secession.



The Civil War: our national Rorschach test.

Here is another take, http://www.correntewire.com/truth_about_confederacy.

Implicit here too, but little considered is that the South seceded not FOR state's rights, but AGAINST state's rights, principally, the right of other states to NOT recognize, respect or participate in enforcing the southern states practice of slavery. And yes, the secessionist view was primarily that of the landed, slave-holding gentry and those they made fearful.


Some relevant polling from Marist:


70% of self-identified Tea Party supporters oppose cutting Medicare or Medicaid.

53% oppose increasing taxes on those making $250k or more vs 45% in favor.


Col, linked is an article reporting & analyzing a recent TP event in Idaho...


While I wish the TP were a movement focused on the features you named, I fear it is animated by enthusiasm for fringe beliefs.

Patrick Lang


"And yes, the secessionist view was primarily that of the landed, slave-holding gentry and those they made fearful."

Sure, all those southern soldiers who did not own slaves were merely manipulated by the planter class. They were afraid of the planter class!! Alexandria, Virginia voted overwhelmingly to ratify the ordinance of secession. Not too many planters here. I guess that according to your belief the soldiers and citizenry had been 'brainwashed." You sound just like the Yankee officials in my novels.. They were easy to deceive because they wanted to believe just what you want to believe. In the same way you want to believe that the desire to leave the Union was not real and so you believe it. In my government career I found that this trait of human nature is universal. People all over the world can be manipulated by telling them what they want to believe. pl

Patrick Lang


Let's see, your thesis is that the TP movement is a bunch of old folks who don't want their entitlements cut and who make over $250,000/year. Why don't you "throw in' racist for good measure? So, if polling showed them to be as you say you wish they were then you would be a TPer? I think that the TP movement is too inchoate as yet to be accurately subject to the kind of polling that you are citing here. pl


No, my thesis (& I don't think my opinions deserve that much credit) is that the TP sweeps in much shit along w/ the shinola... & I don't like the shit I've seen. I do admit to being hypersensitive & judgemental on occasion.

But I will grant that the TP movement DOES include lotsa old people - I think that's kinda novel in US popular movements (? maybe Prohibition? Women's Suffrage?).

On the income profile, here in 'Bama, people w/ that much money are on the golf course or, in the Fall, an SEC football stadium parking lot.

In practice, the entitlements issue boils down to "all entitlements - but mine - are bad"

I don't need to throw in racism, the TP crowd down here is shot-full of it (hurting the prospects for effecting worthwhile change). Maybe it's just a fringe minority hanging on for attention.

I wouldn't be a TPer under any circumstances... a) I view it as dogmatic, self-righteous & anti-intellectual, & b) I'm not a joiner.

{tequila posted the polls} I agree it is inchoate - I think it is likely to remain that way. It's influence may be to split, erode, even doom the GOP as we have known it since the WWI era. (both parties gotta go... question is who's 1st, how & what's next).

As to becoming its own thing in the tradition of major US political organizations, I believe it will peter-out. From its seeds may be the core of a future popular reaction (if indeed its participants are not TOO old).


"If the US lasts another 500 years what will be taught to high schoolers about this war?"

Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative.

Michael Moore

Col. Lang,

You wrote, "I see this movement as 1) seeking a reversal of the growth in federal power, 2) a reduction in federal expenditures based on a changed foreign policy, 3) elimination of the upper end Bush tax cuts, and 4) sensible measures in regard to entitlements such as older retirement ages."

I don't see the Tea Partiers supporting any of these items except the first one. However, I can solidly get behind all of them (with the possible exception of item four - lifting the cap on the Social Security wage base should put the program in the black forever).

BTW, I found your analysis of the causes of the Civil War very enlightening.

Michael Moore


Americans, like Germans, have a talent for organisation and group activity.

The danger, in my opinion, from the Tea Party is that someone will give it an agenda.


PL: "it should be stressed that the South’s secession was legal under terms of the federal Constitution. "

In Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869), the Supreme Court ruled to the contrary. In a 5-to-3 decision, it held that Texas had the right to bring suit because its ordinance of secession was void as it had no power to secede from the Union. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, writing for the court reasoned in part as follows:

"The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to 'be perpetual.' And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained 'to form a more perfect Union.' It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?" (pgs. 724-5)

And, "it may be not unreasonably said that the preservation of the States, and the maintenance of their governments, are as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and the maintenance of the National government. The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States." (pg. 726)

And, "[t]he act which consummated her [Texas's] admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States." (pg. 727)

It's also a good time to reread Federalist Papers Nos. 6-7, "Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States," and No. 8, "The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States, all by Publius [Hamilton].


"I have yet to see any Tea Party manifestos regarding any sort of constriction of defense spending or a changed foreign policy."

I don’t know about manifestoes, but some Tea Partiers like Rand Paul have come out in favor of defense cuts, even if they’re extremely vague on what should be cut and how much. To what degree such people represent the movement as a whole isn’t clear, at least to me, since a few Tea Partiers seem a bit confused to say the least, but they certainly do exist.

I would suggest another relevant quote is one from Lincoln:

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.”

The salient phrase for Lincoln being not “have the right” but “have the power.” You don’t have the power, you’re out of luck. The South did not have the power and Lincoln went to considerable lengths to prove it.

And Jon Meacham is a total fathead.

Patrick Lang


"Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase"

What a joke! This is justice? pl

Mark Logan


"The danger, in my opinion, from the Tea Party is that someone will give it an agenda."

Oh, they gave it one alright. The movement started as a protest on the bank bailouts, and could have reflected much better the growing middle class angst and the encroachments of the federal government that Pat pointed out, but that energy was re-directed towards partisan politics.

I believe Ryans budget revealed to many of them just how deeply they have been used. It should be much harder to lead them astray, next time.


Dear Col. Lang,

Respectfully (and sincerely), I was careful to say "primarily" the slave-holding gentry. I cannot speak about your area of Virginia and defer to your knowledge in that regard. I certainly am curious what their reasons were and can listen with an open mind, as I don't find myself particularly afflicted with the disease of imagining I know what others are thinking or feeling, or had thought or felt. Even to the point that I don't imagine others are so afflicted without real evidence.

I didn't say anything about "brainwashing", but historical evidence of the time shows that propoganda of and fear of black slave rebellion, insurrection and competition for skilled labor should slavery end were widely exploited in many areas of the South, if not Virginia. Is that in dispute? That would be news to the architects of Jim Crow. Plus, if it was a fruitless effort to fan those flames (because no one was concerned or moved by it) then why pursue that line of persuasion?

All that said, I am sure that the reasons for individuals not of the upper (slave-holding) classes choosing to support secession were myriad and often complex. Just as there appears ample evidence that the desire to secede from the Union was not uniform across the South. In many areas of individual seceded states, secession apparently was the minority view (excluding slaves). West Virginia and counties in southwest Virginia seceding from Virginia and realigning with the Union are case in point.

I started by describing looking back on the Civil War as an American Rorschach Test. I think this conversation proves my point.

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