Of the Devil’s Side (and Knowing It)


J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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168 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Would you have gone Nazi in 1936?

    Would you have joined the Party in 1930? 1940? 1950?

    Would you have informed for the Stasi in 1975?

    It’s funny how few people would do things that huge numbers volunteered for.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      I think it all depends on what you mean by “you” when asking these questions. If “you” were a young white man living in the South in 1861, “you” would not be you as you understand it now.

      That said, Foote is making excuses for participating in evil “you ha have to understand …” Sure you do. Empathy, compassion, forgiveness, all great things. It doesn’t mean we have to make excuses.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:


      Was slavery morally permissible in 1861? If not then, how about 1800? Or 1701? Or 1601? Or 601 or 61?

      It’s one thing to say that it would have been easy to succumb to the political and social pressures of the day. I get that and I can’t say that I would have been proof against them myself. But that doesn’t mean that we who came later in history (and are subject to political and social pressures of our own) must refrain from making moral judgments about those who succumbed to those pressures in the past.

      A Nazi who later regretted being a Nazi was still a Nazi. Foote saying, with apparent alacrity and enthusiasm, that he would have fought for the Confederacy, looks awful.

      “You know, if I’d been raised in Mississippi from 1841 to 1861, I’d probably have not seen slavery in the same light that we do today, I’d probably have thought of myself more as a Mississippian than an American, and I’d probably have had a mother and a girlfriend who’d have insisted that I join up and defend our state from the northern invaders. So I probably wouldn’t have felt like I had much choice in the matter.” Same answer, at least as honest, and a different tone.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        It’s not as though everyone in 1800, or 1700, or 1600, or 60, though slavery was moral. One of the problems with those who cry, “You have to understand them as they understood themselves,” (and there will be people in this thread who will do it) is that in order to get the proper view that way, you have to pick who, in particular, you want to understand as they understood themselves (forget, of course, that the people who say this are rarely the relativists this implies they are).Report

      • Avatar michael reynolds says:

        Foote’s always been a Confederate apologist. He’s not a historian, he’s a writer. A good writer, but evidently not a thoughtful, honest or moral one. He fell in love with his own romanticized narrative and if he rejects that romanticism, what’s he got left? I think this is about a writer defending his work and honest analysis or insight be damned.Report

    • Avatar Jon says:

      Except, Foote says he would have done the same thing today. That destroys any relevance of your claim about who would have done what when.

      Did a lot of Germans join the Nazi party in the 1930s? Yes. But how many German Nazis are there today? A small handful.Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    Anyone from south of Tennessee, or one of its western or eastern neighbors, who thinks, had they been white males born and raised in the same place in the 1840s and 50s, they would not have fought for the confederacy, is fooling themselves, of course. And it is precisely because, conscription or not, they wouldn’t really have had a choice. They would probably have been gung ho at first, but that’s more a matter of human psychology than ideology. Which, of course, says nothing about whether they would have been pro-slavery (they almost certainly would have been), or whether the war was about slavery (it was).

    My relatives who fought in the war fought on both sides: those in Georgia fought for the Confederacy. Those from Kentucky and Ohio (that I’ve been able to find) split, four fighting for the Union, two fighting for the Confederacy. I grew up in Middle Tennessee, which was mostly pro-secession, but had a substantial unionist minority (not as big as East Tennessee). I suspect I’d have fought for the Confederacy, but I like to think maybe I’d have sided with the just.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Great point Chris. There was southerners who stayed loyal to the US. While Lee, choose Virginia over the US there were many virgiians who choose the US. Just as many people correctly note there was plenty of racism in the north, there were those in the south who were against secession.

      Foote appears to be taking the South’s State’s Right argument as completely valid and not hypocritical which doesn’t fly.Report

    • Avatar Jon says:

      Everyone whose attempt to relativize this away in defense of Foote is ignoring that he said he would do the same thing *today*.

      I don’t know if it’s more horrible that such a famous American historian would say this, or that there are 10 pages of “arguments” trying to justify this position.

      I’m sorry if some aspects of history make you feel bad, or feel bad about yourself, or about your country, or your ancestors, but all of the excuses in the world are not going to make the Confederacy noble or shunt the moral issue of slavery to one side.Report

  3. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    Since Foote’s premise is that the Civil War was not about slavery, I’m not sure moral judgments fit what he’s saying here.

    “The causes were so nebulous and so diverse. Lincoln said plainly: What I do about slavery I do because I want to win this war. If I could win this war by freeing all the slaves tomorrow, I’d do it. If I could win this war by keeping them all in slavery, I’d do that. I’d do anything to win this war. The emphasis was on war, “this mighty scourge.” Almost everybody realized that the various bickerings and arguments and the fire-eaters in South Carolina and the abolitionists in Massachusetts, were sort of outside of things really. All they did was cause it.”

    I also found interesting his argument that life for the black man under Reconstruction and eventually Jim Crow was abominable as well, the black man thrown out into his “freedom” with just the clothes on his back, no education, no assets.

    I don’t quite buy that the 100 years after slavery were as bad as the 100s during it, but it’s a musable point. The Civil War solved slavery, but it didn’t solve the plight of the black man by any means.

    Also found his challenge of the common narrative of the Fort Pillow massacre and of Nathan Bedford Forrest himself worthy of further investigation.

    “For instance, he was probably Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, but he dissolved that Klan in 1869; said that it’s getting ugly, it’s getting rough, and he did away with it. The Klan you’re talking about rose again in this century and was particularly powerful during the 1920s. Forrest would have had no sympathy with that later Klan.”

    I would think an historian of Foote’s caliber is not making this up from whole cloth.

    Thx for the link, EDK.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Life for blacks under reconstruction would have terrible due to pro-slave terrorists, not because reconstruction was unworkable or wrong.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        Yes, Mr. Gregniak, although it’s difficult to assert the Reconstruction was indeed workable. Regardless, it didn’t work, even after the Union Army occupied the South for over a decade.

        I understand Foote’s argument; since it demurs from accepted wisdom and narrative so much, I’ll have to chew on it. Half a million dead, the South in ruins, a greater federal Leviathan, and the black man not much better off than where he started.

        Would we find a half-million dead acceptable today for “freedom?” Perhaps “soft” diplomacy instead…Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I don’t quite buy that the 100 years after slavery were as bad as the 100s during it, but it’s a musable point. The Civil War solved slavery, but it didn’t solve the plight of the black man by any means.

      Liberty is an inherent good. Emancipation was intended to make the black man free, not to make him prosperous.

      Consider a forced-choice hypothetical: In Option A, you are poor, black, uneducated, and living in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1840. In Option B, you are poor, black, uneducated, and living in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1870.

      In both options, you’re poor, black, uneducated, and stuck in Birmingham with no likely way to improve your circumstances in life. Your life sucks in either scenario; the difference is in option A you’re almost certainly a slave and in option B you’re at least nominally emancipated. Given that neither choice is particularly attractive, what possible reason might exist for you to prefer option A?

      If you want to change the hypothetical and say the slave enjoyed a relatively easier life with not only all material needs provided for but even access to some material comforts whereas the free person lives in poverty so bad that survival itself is imperiled, that’s an interesting moral choice and we might question just how many slaves that question realistically describes. My point is not to play the parlor game of “jus thow important is freedom anyway?” but rather to point out that all other things being equal, liberty is better than slavery.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        “…that all other things being equal, liberty is better than slavery.”


        I’ll just repeat what I think is Foote’s argument, what makes all things not equal. The last thought is mine, and I think it’s a live question.

        Half a million dead, the South in ruins, a greater federal Leviathan, and the black man not much better off than where he started.

        Would we find a half-million dead acceptable today for “freedom?”

        Shirley we agree there are many who would argue otherwise in our own day and age. Foote’s job, as the historian, is to help us understand the people of that age as they understood themselves. As you know, judging them by our contemporary moral standards is bad history, and I would add the question here whether even those on the victorious Union side looked back and said, “yes, it was worth it.”Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          Many Union soldiers did say “Yes, it was worth it.” U.S. Grant never apologized for his role in the war. Sherman never apologized for what he did to Georgia. Many Union soldiers were proud of their service and the cause(s) for which they fought.

          So were many Confederate soldiers. Grant’s counterpart R.E. Lee spent most of his post-war career offering a moral gloss under which Confederates found a way to burnish their sense of personal honor. Perhaps that was necessary at the time. But that doesn’t mean we have to buy in to Lee’s apologia today. No one alive today has had their honors besmirched by what they did during the Civil War, no one alive today has anything to apologize for with respect to the events of 1861 to 1865 (or, for that matter, during Reconstruction).

          The premise “…and the black man not much better off than where he started” is false. Blacks were free after the war, where before they had been enslaved. When Foote changes the focus from liberty to prosperity with that sentence, Foote moves the goal posts — judging the Union’s activity and motives during the war by the actions of the Reconstructionists after the war and using a modern, economic calculus to the moral evaluation of the war rather than considering the moral and legal arguments about freedom and slavery that contemporaries applied.

          …Oh, and please don’t call me Shirley.Report

          • I love when white people decide they can determine better than blacks whether or not freedom is really that important to them.Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              I hope I’ve misunderstood you. Being white does not mean that one lacks standing to opine on the relative values of freedom and bloodshed.

              Lots of white people fought and died in the Civil War for their respective visions of freedom. If a white man from Wisconsin in 1863 could decide that he was willing to give up his own life to help secure the liberty of a black man in Georgia, then it seems to me that it doesn’t take membership any particular racial group to opine on the value of freedom as measured in blood, laws, money, economic opportunity, or whatever other metric one might propose, in this or any other context one might propose.

              Besides, arguments ought to be evaluated on the basis of their intellectual merit first and foremost. Anyone can offer an opinion on the effect of the Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow. I remain unconvinced at the end of the exchange, but TVD is hardly coming out of Bizarro World when he defend Foote’s proposition that we ought to look at these things as a set piece instead of as discrete historical events.

              TVD is an able and good-faith sparring partner; he kept me on my toes for the discussion and offered a good-faith and different way of looking at the issues than mine. I’m still not convinced that Foote is right about this point, and it’s not clear that TVD buys the argument himself. But he’s certainly allowed to try the idea on for size to see how it fits, and convention dictates no hard feelings afterwards as well as the promise that his arguments (and mine) will be evaluated fairly along the way.

              We had a productive exchange today, and race is not relevant to the value of that exchange.Report

              • You misunderstood me.

                I took issue with the retroactive psychoanalysis of long-dead African-Americans who lived during Reconstruction — the idea that their freedom wasn’t worth so much (despite the vast amount of historical evidence to the contrary). There’s a glibness to the arguments of those who use Reconstruction as an excuse to minimize the Confederacy’s evil that I think deserves challenging.

                And if you’re trying to argue that a white person of privilege is just as capable of understanding what it’s like to be a poor, oppressed racial minority as an actual poor, oppressed person of color; well, I hope I’ve misunderstood you.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s either possible to understand other people or it is not.

                If you’d like to argue that a reasonably thoughtful person cannot *TRULY* understand what it’s like to be someone else, that’s fine.

                I find that there’s more to be mined in the assumptions that reasonably thoughtful people can reasonably understand things.

                Perhaps not to the point of a 1:1 understanding… but like translating languages, it’s possible to understand where someone else is coming from.

                But I understand if, from your perspective, you can’t understand people and go on to project your own inability onto others. I’ve seen that more than once too.Report

              • You recognize what a strawman this is, right?

                Nowhere did I argue that it’s impossible to understand others. I’m arguing instead the eminently reasonable and commonly believed position that we should not be so patronizing as to assume we can determine whether or not something was “worth it” for people whose experiences we know effectively nothing about.

                If you want to argue that someone in this thread right now actually can understand what it’s like to be a former slave-hand, then go right ahead. But I’ll give you more credit than you’ve given me and assume that’s not the case.

                Just to make it really clear, so you don’t accidentally put forth another passive-aggressive argument with little to no value as far as it concerns my original point: I’m of the opinion that just because we have the capacity to reason and perhaps read a book or two on the misery of bondage, that doesn’t mean we can claim with any authority whether or not the freeing of millions of people was “worth it.”

                And I guess it’s not even worth getting into the fact that a bunch of ostensible libertarians are struggling with the idea that individual freedom is a transcendent, inherent, near-holy good…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m arguing instead the eminently reasonable and commonly believed position that we should not be so patronizing as to assume we can determine whether or not something was “worth it” for people whose experiences we know effectively nothing about.

                If we can reasonably say that “of course it was worth it”, then we can, in fact, be so patronizing as to assume that we can determine whether something was worth it.

                And, for the record, I’m one of the folks who argues that the Civil War should have been fought because the abolition of slavery is something worth starting wars over.

                But that’s because I imagine what I would want if I were a slave.

                As such, I can reasonably conclude that the Civil War was, in fact, worth it.

                I do not, for the record, hold that it’s not possible to claim “with any authority whether or not the freeing of millions of people was ‘worth it.'”

                Of course it was worth it.

                Of course we can know that.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Sir, you have poisoned every well you have touched. Please stop.

                Moi would not write what he did as from the black man’s perspective. I can quite put me Irishself into the slave’s perspective. Half a million dead crackers? Not tragedy. Justice.

                But Frederick Douglass, one of the most stunning men in American history, eventually understood that it’s not all about him, and it’s not about you or me, it’s about

                “He was preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans.”

                “His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”

                Brother Elias, this is not a pie-throwing contest. This is a pretty damn good blog, where productive discussion is possible.

                I think that Foote’s is essentially an anti-war argument, not a neo-con one, not far from the wise war-weariness and justified cynicism about the call to arms that we hear from Brother Blaise in his best moments. And why it gave me pause.

                Had this been a country of old men in 1861—as is ours in 2011—the Civil War would never have been fought. In the comfort of our 21st century armchairs, the difference between our heady talk and our feet of clay has never been greater.

                Merci, Brother Likko. It’s so good to be got.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                JB, John Brown’s Body lies a-moulderin’ in the grave, his truth is marching on.

                I didn’t even get to that part. And thx for your unqualified reply to the moral dilemma of war part. Such moral clarity and purpose is rare, and unimpeachable. You are a young man in a country of old men, and age has nothing to do with it. Salut, sir.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The Libertarian response to the Civil War is often two-fold.

                There is the “did the South have the Right to secede?” question which is, according to most Libertarian thought (Right of Exit, that sort of thing) “of course they had the Right to secede.”

                The problem is that the South was seceding over, you guessed it, the right to keep slaves. The right to keep others from exercising their Right of Exit (among others).

                The “no, no, no, I want to talk about *THIS*, not *THAT*” tactic is one that gets used a lot in this argument and the focus is usually to reflect the veniality of the North in response to claims about the veniality of the South (and, of course, the best counter-argument to that particular gambit is a return to the topic of slavery which will usually trump any veniality on the part of the North).

                I have a great many sympathies for everybody in the argument, myself… my ancestors came from a border state where we called it “The War Between Brothers”. In these stories about who killed whom, slavery never came up… just who had killed whom.

                With that said, slavery is an abomination. A country (or Confederacy) that fights for slavery’s continued existence (if not expansion!) deserves to fall in disgrace.

                Even at the hands of a government and army that is not even close to being made up of angels.Report

              • TvD, I — again — honestly can’t quite figure out what you’re arguing. I mean, Douglass was obviously of the mind that it was worth it…Maybe I’m not following your argument. And I didn’t know that Irishmen used the word “cracker.” How odd; I figured its creation was more recent.

                Anyway, as to the idea that this is a nice blog where gentlemen sit around and sip tea and mutter, “mmm..quite” every 5 minutes or so…surely we call still pretend we’re students at Plato’s Academy even if I happen to disagree with you.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                That would be nice, Mr. Isquith. Our passions often cloud our good faith; good cheer we should be able to manage.

                I like Thrasymachus a lot. He goes off on Socrates in the first chapter of Republic, and rudely. Then he has the good grace to shut the hell up, and by the end, he’s Socrates’ pal.

                And, IMO, even after Socrates shoots his wad and outright cheats the argument by invoking the afterlife in the Myth of Er, Thrasymachus still won the argument way back in Chapter One. 😉

                Att: All Christians.

                A three and a half-year study by the International Religion Registry (IRR) has concluded that your religion’s afterlife myth is both boring and stupid. An eternity spent inside of a giant cube, eating fruits and praising a carpenter is neither interesting nor engaging. Therefore, your afterlife myth is to be revised and replaced immediately with the following myth, which is also stupid, but which is not boring…


              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Not even close, I’m pleased to report. I note that even if I come from a position of privilege and membership in the socially-favored class (racial or otherwise), those advantages do not diminish my ability to meaningfully contribute to a moral, intellectual, legal, or other similar discussion. If I am from a privileged group and you are from an oppressed group, we should nevertheless stand on an equal intellectual footing in the arena of ideas.

                I also concur with the notion that the failures, mistakes, and injustices of Reconstruction and Jim Crow do nothing to excuse the evils of slavery or the treason committed by the Confederates in defense of slavery.Report

              • If you were a biochemist and I were a high school drop out, would you find it reasonable for me to assert that my ideas on biochemistry are of equal worth to yours?

                But I hope not to leave the impression that I think people who aren’t personally oppressed or the like should sit quietly on the sidelines and refrain from having an opinion. It’ll just probably be a more worthwhile conversation when we keep our different and unshakable perspectives in mind.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                FWIW, I see a qualitative difference between biochemistry and and liberty in that one involves a substantially greater proportion of objectively-verifiable facts than the other. YMMV.Report

              • Avatar Member548 says:

                I need not to have personally met Stalin to know the man was evil.

                I need not have been sent to the gulag to know it was a hard miserable life.

                I do not need to be lined up, shot and buried in a grave full of my friends, family and townsmen to know I don’t want that.

                I need not have been a slave to know I don’t want that either, and neither would any sentient being not know, or come to agree with, what I have wrote.

                Some aspects of the human condition are universal, and while all may not understand, all have the ability to understand.Report

              • There are degrees of sophistication of understanding. It’s the difference between sympathy and empathy — both are noble and universal, but you can accidentally step on toes when you confuse the former for the latter.

                Burt: I would actually consider your response to strengthen my position. Objective facts can be looked up and memorized; you can’t wikipedia what it’s like to be called “boy” because of your skin by a person considerably younger than yourself.Report

              • Avatar AugustusLindbergh says:

                Would anyone really enjoy being themselves, forever and ever?? Such a ghastly thought.

                May that not be the the way moments are constructed in the hereafter.

                Hell might just be an improvement and who wants to get in the middle of a mixed martial arts cage match between God and Satan? We’re talking some serious ticket scalping for such an event.

                Mr. Blaise, your comments are becomming increasingly saturated with world weariness. Hope I’m wrong, but very little air left to breathe there.

                Tried to cheer you up with Schubert, but as has been the case for quite awhile now, the emotional affect switch seems to still hover around zero. Try the opening to Bach’s Cantata #29 played on a Moog synthesizer–if that doesn’t make you shake, rattle, and roll, I don’t know what will–more drastic measures might be worth trying.

                Cheer up. Life’s not that long.

                Here’s one that will make you scream with joy!! Cheers!


          • Avatar tom van dyke says:

            ‘The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.”—WEB DuBois [1935]

            I’m not endorsing [what I believe is] Foote’s argument here; neither am I rejecting it out of hand. One can entertain an idea without accepting it, or so said one educated mind, forget who.

            And I do not dispute that some or many surviving Union soldiers thought the whole thing was “worth it.”


    • Avatar Simon K says:

      I don’t think Foote is ever crass enough to say the war wasn’t about slavery. He is, after all, a historian, not a propagandist. Armed conflicts aren’t necessarily about things, and different things can motivate different people and historians know that. For Lincoln it certainly didn’t start off being about slavery. For Jefferson Davis and the vast majority of those who had the opportunity to actually vote on secession and governed the CSA, it most certainly was about about slavery from the very beginning. They said so. Endlessly.

      Somehow the question keeps coming back to whether the average Confederate soldier was particularly motivated by slavery. You may as well ask whether the average German soldier in WW2 was especially motivated by a desire for liebensraum in Eastern Europe or anti-semitism, or whether the average US soldier in Iraq is motivated by a desire to spread democracy or preserve US oil supplies. Its not the right group of people to ask the question about.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Let’s say that tomorrow the Federal Government declares that it’s sending the National Guard into Arizona to dissolve a clearly-out-of-control state government that was using the machinery of the law against innocent undocumented immigrants. The Arizona state guard (and numerous private citizens) begin a military resistance.

    What is the appropriate Libertarian position?

    Be aware that a hundred years hence, we’ll be hearing about how the horribly-racist Arizona Rebels were desperate to keep exploiting the Chicano population, and that it was a moral imperative to use military force against them, just like in the First Civil War when we fought against slavery.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      1. The analogy doesn’t really work unless Arizona attempts to secede and expel US troops and law enforcement from its territory.

      2. That said, the acid test for actual libertarians as opposed to conservatives who smoke pot is that the former should always favor the freedom of the individual to do what they like and opt out of community arrangements with the minimum possible cost over the right of the community to organize itself. The implication is obvious.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I don’t know if my position is “libertarian” or something else. But in this hypothetical, Arizona is in the wrong. The Federal government, not the state of Arizona, gets to set immigration policy and if Arizona has implemented a policy contrary to the Federal government’s, then Arizona is behaving lawlessly and those who are taking up arms to defend Arizona’s right to implement these policies are traitors — worse, traitors acting in defense of an ignoble position. I’m siding with the Feds and not worrying about what posterity thinks of me.

      The Chicano population might not even be my immediate concern — given that Chicanos are apparently unpopular enough that Arizona’s political leaders see advantage in doing whatever it is that they’re doing, I probably would not frame my initial political pitch about the illegitimacy of Arizona’s actions in terms of Chicano rights but rather in terms of the rule of law and the integrity of the Constitutional system. That wouldn’t mean I lacked intent to enforce the Chicancos’ rights.

      To make the hypothetical more historically accurate, you need to have Obama campaign for re-election on a platform of unifying all policies about immigration to be an exclusively Federal issue and to take the matter completely away from the states, get elected after a fractious four-way election, and Arizona then declare that it would rather leave the Union than abide by whatever it is Obama is going to do when his second term begins. Arizona is behaving even more lawlessly in that situation.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        I’m with Arizona: the federalis of the Obama regime-the federal gummint- has failed to exercise its constitutional obligations. Barry should be impeached, tried, convicted and appropriately sentenced.
        Re: illegal Mexicans, well, they’re ……illegal, which outta tells all we need to know.Report

        • Avatar Jon says:

          Where in the Constitution does it require the federal government to do any such thing or to penalize it as a crime?

          And by “in the Constitution,” I mean according to any legal precedent set anyone outside of Liberty magazine.

          Of course you realize this is not the case and are merely trying to move the Overton window on this argument by making shockingly extreme markers to the far right.

          Also, please explain how the law the “illegal Mexicans” broke comports with your radical notions of “liberty”–suddenly the Congress and its laws are infallible?

          Which is it? Fallible or not?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Immigration seems to be pretty explicitly a 10th Amendment issue… how not?

        “Interstate commerce”?

        “General welfare”?Report

        • Avatar Jon says:

          I’m not sure how you mean immigration is a “10th amendment issue.”

          It’s anything but. (Unless of course you just ignore the entire legal corpus that exists in order to make your own version of what laws “really” mean out of whole cloth.)Report

    • Avatar dexter says:

      Mr. D. D., “innocent undocumented immigrants” I want to thank you another example of oxymoron.Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        Being present in the united states without documents is not in fact a criminal offense, so technically its not an oxymoron.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I’m trying to figure out how to say “Papers, Please” in Latin.

          “E Pluribus Unum” is soooo last year.Report

        • Avatar dexter says:

          Mr. Simon, The website could be lying, but according to American Patrol Reference Archive, “Under Title8 Section 1325 of the U.S. Code ‘Improper entry by an alien’, any citizen of any country other than the United States who: enters or attempts to enter the U. S. at any time or place other than designated by immigration officers, has committed a federal crime, punishable by up to six months in prison.
          If it is not a crime, why are so many being arrested? And if it is not a crime can we spend the money on other things?Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            It means what it says, dexter, and so do I. Its a crime for a foreign national to cross the border except with the permission of the border patrol. Its not a crime to be present in the country without papers, which is what “undocumented” means – its a civil offense the consequence of which is just removal.

            The vast majority of illegal immigrants, even those who obviously must have crossed a border to get here, are in fact simply removed and returned, for fairly obvious reasons. As to why we don’t spend the money spent doing so on other things, its a good question.Report

            • Avatar dexter says:

              How about we use the money to go after the people who hire illegal aliens, or is that not against the law? Also, I am not in favor of putting either illegal aliens or undocumented aliens in jail, but the ones who hire them is an entirely different matter. Also, thanks for the heads up. I will not use legal undocumented alien as an example of oxymoron.Report

              • maybe you could even refer to them as human beings, like, 1 out of 10 times or so, too! you know, just a bit; nothing crazy or over-the-top.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Yes they are humans but they are still breaking the law. Acknowledging their humanity doesn’t make them more law abiding or excuse them despite what many libertards like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz seem to think.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                Its a federal felony to refer someone for employment who you know or should know does not have permission to work in the US, which is more restrictive that merely being legally present. Its a misdemeanor to actually employ someone without checking their employment authorization if they turn out to not have authorization. There’s an exemption for household staff (although if you intend to ever run for elected office its not a good idea) and possibly for very small employers.

                Personally, I think the whole thing is inefficient. Just hand out the money to whoever it is that’s supposed to be harmed by people coming here to wash dishes and pick toxic strawberries and stop trying to enforce unenforceable laws.Report

              • Avatar dexter says:

                The human beings that come here illegally do much more than pick strawberrys and wash dishes. The human beings that are here illegally take construction jobs for less than the American humans that used to have those jobs, plus the American humans paid taxes. Whereas all the illegal humans I personally know of had no taxes taken out of their checks, and no FICA. Lets just open the borders to all the libertarians in the world. What could be better than, instead of 60 illegal humans in front of Home Depot, we could have 6,000 legal humans taking jobs for less, because that is what it is all about, more money for the corps and less for the working American humans. If I seem bitter, it is because I am. I don’t know what you do for money, but would your attitude change, if tomorrow morning you woke up and there were people twelve million people willing to do your job for less?Report

              • Even if all of those things were true — and the idea that immigration reduces wages is highly contestable (whatever research exists is, on the whole, inconclusive; if anything it leans towards suggesting the opposite) — it would in no way change the fact that, yes, indeed, these are human beings.

                I sympathize with your economic insecurity; rather, I empathize with it. But to use that anger towards demonizing and dehumanizing vast numbers of, to you, anonymous people for having the temerity of wanting to live a better life (which is, after all, your chief goal) — while understandable, that remains unacceptable.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Actually, illegal immigration does put downward pressure on manual labor costs.

                Why do you think businesses aren’t crazy about stuff like border enforcement? The Chamber of Commerce ain’t big on the fence, I tell you what.

                This is because they know that a larger labor pool (especially for manual labor or, even better, low-skilled labor) pushes their costs (wages) down.Report

              • As seemingly unimpeachable a metric as what stuff “businessmen” (all of them, I guess) aren’t crazy about may seem, I went through the trouble relatively recently of reading as much of the academic literature on the subject as I could find and reached a different conclusion. The findings are mixed. I’d be super happy to point you in the direction of some of it, if you’d like.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Why did you put “businessmen” in quotes?

                I didn’t say it.

                What I said was “The Chamber of Commerce”.


                There. You can read what they have to say about immigration.

                Again, I make distinctions between, let me quote you here, “‘businessmen’ (all of them, I guess)” and, let me quote me here, “The Chamber of Commerce”.Report

              • Avatar dexter says:

                Where did I demonize anyone. I am in construction and I bet I know more people without papers than you do. Most of them are decent hard working people who are trying to better their lives. I worked with three Hondurans for over five years and understand completely why they came here. Their government makes ours seem benign. I asked one about wages and prices one day and he said a good carpenter could make around 2.50 and gas was 4 a gallon, but there was no work so they could not buy the gas.
                I have a good idea. Why don’t we copy Mexico’s immigration laws and enforce them? Or maybe New Zealand’s?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                One would hope that there would be Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Canadian, French, Russian, Polish, Czech, African, Arab, and British people also stampeding over here.

                They might need such things as housing (yay, more need for laborers!), schooling (yay, more need for teachers!), and other infrastructure. At the same time, they’d be buying and selling and producing and consuming nifty things.

                Since people are a positive good, we’d be much better off for having folks with the gumption to up’n move to come over here and provide their gumption to us!

                So long as the Irish stay over there.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                > Since people are a positive good
                > we’d be much better off for having
                > folks with the gumption to up’n
                > move to come over here and
                > provide their gumption to us!

                Amen to that, brother. Especially if they come over here already with a smattering of skills so we don’t have to teach ’em. Awesomely if they come over here, work for a while and make some dinero, and then turn around and retire to a villa at home. We get the productive work years.

                > So long as the Irish stay over there.

                No, we send them to Australia.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                Dexter, I’m sorry for whatever economic hardship you’re experiencing. I’ll grant you that in construction – unlike agriculture – there is a sense in which immigrants do take jobs from people who would otherwise have them and harm others by reducing the bargaining power of labor. There are good arguments that the long run effect is still positive for everyone, but I’m not going to use them here, since it undeniably sucks to be on the sharp end, as you are, and that’s something that deserves to stand on its own.

                Nonetheless, I still disagree that toughening restrictions or enforcing existing restrictions more harshly is the right approach. The end result of making things illegal, if people are still very strongly compelled to do them, is not to stop those things from happening. Its to deprive the people who do them of the protection of the law.

                The question we need to ask ourselves in every case is whether this is the outcome we want? In the specific case of illegal immigrants and the people who employ them, I contend that the answer is clearly “no” for several reasons.

                Firstly, illegal immigrants drive down wages as much as they do precisely because they’re illegal. If they’re paid under the table -as I understand they usually are in construction – the employer doesn’t have to withhold any taxes and of course there’s no point in obeying any minimum wage or worker treatment laws. Were they legal, and thereby protected by the law, none of this would apply and the cost of employing immigrants would be closer to that of employing citizens. Much closer, as the immigrants would quickly acquire more skills and become more assertive.

                Secondly, its corrosive to the fabric of the republic to have large groups of people who are forced to live outside of the law in our communities. Large numbers of people distrusting law enforcement and forced to settle their own disputes by their own means is not a good thing. The extra-legal penumbra spreads rapidly to the surrounding hispanic community. And I’m talking about northern California here. I’m sure its gone further down south.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Simon, it’s worth it to employ illegals just to avoid the $#^&ing governement paperwork.

                I’m in LA, near Ground Zero. We love our illegal Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadoreños, etc., not just as fellow human beings, but as conscientious workers and honest and good people.

                In the 30 years I’ve been here, such folk have never asked me for a handout, only work. [Unlike many native-born.]

                It is about the added burden of those not here to work on our already overburdened social services. I’ve been surprised that California and Los Angeles have remained functional despite that added burden, but like the rest of the country without these added burdens, California is now broke.

                There is a theoretical—and in Brother Dexter’s case, a real—downward pressure on the wages of the native-born, esp in construction. Employing illegals, who put out a good, not inferior, work product is worth it simply to dodge FICA and the employer’s matching contribution, as well as regulations up the wazoo.

                All things being equal. Those employers who play it straight are at a competitive disadvantage, the bad tends to drive out the good.

                That’s my report from SoCal. Make of it what you will. me, I would not do “comprehensive” immigration reform, which was tried under Reagan and here we are back again, just another “amnesty.”

                I would grant work permits, starting with our existing illegals, under an amnesty. Prove you’ve been here for awhile, gainfully employed and no crimes, and here’s your guest worker permit. And you can go back to wherever you came from to visit family, etc. and still be able to re-enter.

                That’s a “comprehensive” immigration reform that I bet would have some traction. The rest is BS.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                Disagree though I may with your perspective, Tom, I agree with your policy conclusions. The only thing I’d add is some mechanism to enter and look for work without having to walk through the desert dodging snakes, vigilantes and the border patrol. Obviously it shouldn’t be free – too many problems with that – so I’d suggest the US should just start out by charging whatever the coyotes currently do. No doubt competition will drive the prices down further, but with such a big player in the market, monopoly power will kick in eventually.

                I guess our main disagreement is on “those not here to work”. For reasons I won’t go into, I have a reasonably idea of how much of some of California’s most expensive social programs end up spending on undocumented folk, and its basically nothing. There are simply too many obstacles. The odd city or county program may have a no-SSN, no-drivers-license policy, but anything with federal money, or significant state money? Forget it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Those not here to work”

                People afflicted with the deadly sin of sloth don’t tend to move countries.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                Exactly, Jay. Even doing it legally is much more work than folk who haven’t done it realize.Report

              • Avatar dexter says:

                If there weren’t a large number of people breaking the law, then America would not have a large number of people afraid of the law. I spend very little time worrying about the law because the worst thing I do is periodically drive above the posted limit.
                First, the corps sent all the factories to China. Then the corps killed the unions. Then they flood the labor market with people. What’s not to like if you are rich?
                I have said it before and I will say it again, I no more blame the people who come here illegally than I blame a rain forest denizen for clear cutting enough to raise food for their family. I blame management.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                There are more people involved than just management, Dex.

                If you look at what is required to open a bar, you might be amazed at what roadblocks you have ahead of you. Something as simple as a place with both kinds of beer and salted nuts is a major chore to open and maintain… not on the “having a room” part, but on the “getting the government to let you” part.

                You have to have any number of permits and people to kowtow to and it is a major event. Just to sell beer and nuts.

                Here’s the wacky part: it’s easier to just get a job as assistant cog at International Conglomerate… something that can quickly/easily outsource you than it is for you to open your own business.

                International Conglomerate and the local government, I’m sure, were colluding on that one.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Speak for yourself about the difficulty of opening a business. It’s not all that tough. It’s certainly easier doing my corporate taxes than my personal income taxes, even when I have to pay state taxes in several different states every year. Estimating quarterly taxes is a chore, but most people like me use an accountant anyway.

                We have a derisive term for employees in the consulting world: Treehuggers. They hug the banana tree of Jungleco Conglomerate, hopin’ and prayin’ the Catberts won’t evict them from their cubes. Fearful, unimaginative idiots, most of ’em, scared of their own shadows, entirely deserving of their fates.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                If there weren’t a large number of people breaking the law, then America would not have a large number of people afraid of the law.

                If you have done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. Sure. That always works.

                Okay, serious question – at what point would you conclude that stronger enforcement is not the right answer? Say we have your ideal enforcement regime – machine gun posts every 5ft along the border, live sentences for hiring illegal immigrants, whatever. And say we still have people coming in and other people employing them. Do you move to a line fo tanks and the death penalty? At what point is the cost too much?

                See, at this point, for me, the cost is already too much. If the Federal government simply paid the salaries of displaced workers instead of spending the money of border enforcement, it would be a net saving. Doesn’t this imply to you that enforcement and “just obey the law” might not be the right answer?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Speak for yourself about the difficulty of opening a business. It’s not all that tough.

                Blaise, I am. I toyed with the idea of a bar in the heady days of being fresh out of college. The paperwork to get started was onerous then. I can only imagine that it’s gotten worse since. I can appreciate that you find it easy to be a business owner but you are not the guy I think of when I think of the guy standing on the summit of the bell curve.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      I love how there are more people bickering over “innocent undocumented immigrants” than discussing the Libertarian attitude towards a government using military activity to enforce the majority’s moral views on a minority.

      Although the language was not chance-chosen. I was specifically trying to create an emotional response in the reader, and it looks like it worked.

      The last paragraph of my post was an attempt to show how terminology drift over time might describe the situation.Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        What did you expect? Everyone prefers to argue about questions that are impossible even if understand them, to questions that are actually quite easy if you know what “libertarian” actually means.Report

        • Avatar dexter says:

          If libertarian means open borders, then I am not one. Most of the time I am willing to ride the idea train around here. I usually get off before most of the others, and if I had the intellectual firepower, I would not only blow up Jason’s belief that corps deserve the same rights as humans, I would destroy the track and the station.
          Another reason I don’t consider myself a libertarian is that not all people live with “one must do unto others as one would have done to them” as their main focus in life. I don’t trust the government, but I trust people less and as onerous as some laws are, most are necessary. Laws are not for good people. You need dogfood from China, how about some baby formula? How about the new wonder drug from big pharma? There has been no trials to see what it does, but trust us. Would we lie to you?
          After all, as trite as it is made to seem around here, in the end it is for the children.
          Jaybird, I have never tried to open a bar, but I have dealt with many a permit giver and find many of the rules flat out silly. When we built my wife’s studio, since it was a commercial building, we had to have a licensed enigineer draw up the plans. So she took the plans I had drawn to an architect and after three weeks we got them back. Except that the joists had changed direction and the 3,000 dollar price tag attached, they were duplicates of the original. Oh, by the way, when we built the building, we changed the joists back to my plans.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I think Libertarian means “I don’t have the right to tell you that you can’t move into my neighborhood.”Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            Its really tough to find a libertarian justification for border controls. That’s not to say there are no self-identified libertarians who favor them – there are, just as there are self-identified libertarians who favor all kinds of other restrictions, at least in the short term. I go back and forth on whether to call myself a libertarian precisely because I have a number of such deviant views.

            But looked at purely from a theoretical standpoint, its unambiguous. Libertarians are individualists if nothing else. For the state to act, there has to be identifiable physical harm or theft from a specific person. Immigration doesn’t involve either.Report

  5. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Haven’t we had this discussion?
    Of course Foote’s right.
    The question isn’t why did the South secede, it’s why did the North invade?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      The question isn’t why did the South secede,

      Of course there’s no question, since as the states themselves said over and over, it was slavery. A new country dedicated to no principle than the perpetuation and extension of slavery — how can anyone see a moral issue there?Report

      • Avatar Simon K says:

        Quite. But of course that’s not “the question”.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke says:

          I took Foote to mean abolitionism triggered it, but that’s not the whole story as to why it continued to be fought.

          “Almost everybody realized that the various bickerings and arguments and the fire-eaters in South Carolina and the abolitionists in Massachusetts, were sort of outside of things really. All they did was cause it.”Report

          • Avatar Simon K says:

            As I implied above, once a war gets going there are inevitably a great many reasons why it continues to be fought. If I remember my history correctly, making a case that abolitionism was a cause of the war, or even of secession, would be quite a hill to climb. Foote certainly doesn’t do so, that not really being what he’s about.Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke says:

              Foote’s text says the abolitionists and SC fire-eaters “caused it,” does it not, Simon? I used the word “triggered,” which I thought apt. I’m not feeling you here.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                OMG, hep me here! Gentlemens and particularly Elias, as a Bard grad we expect a little more then the usual left wing silliness. The South proferred a re-estabishment of the federated, constitutional republic with all it flaws while the monied interests gave us the Lincolnite version of the unitary regime.
                I can’t tell you how tired I am of the statist bullshit, that passes for intellectualism. Where’s Freddie DeBuios when you need him.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                Isn’t it little anachronistic to apply left- and right-wing labels to discussion of the civil war, Bob?Report

              • Gotta warn you, Mr. Cheeks, Bard is a hotbed of liberalism. The children of “bankers” abound.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                But I’m never going back to my old school.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Yes, but we have Judah Benjamin!Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Denial is a river of blood in South Carolina.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                He blames the “fire eaters” and the “abolitionists”, right? Not abolitionism as such. I took his as meaning that the behaviours of the extremists on the two sides were the problem, rather than the abolitionists’ philosophy as such.Report

    • Avatar Anderson says:

      True. Why couldn’t the North simply accept secession and move peacefully along? Then we would never have had the horrific brutality of the civil war, right?

      Yet, I think that was always wishful utopian libertarian thinking, as much then as it is now (would we simply sit on our hands if Texas seceded today?) After all, if a whole bucketful of states can up and walk away from the union without any consequences, what kind of precedent does that send? We might as well just be one big group of autonomous bodies, much like the country under the Articles of Confederation. Even Andrew Jackson, a champion of states’ rights and small government, knew that a line had to be drawn when he squared off against John Calhoun over nullification in the 1830s. Moreover, I wonder if a majority of Southerners would’ve voted to secede if asked(a ridiculous question I know), especially if you consider the opinions of the 4 million slaves and this map (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_3Xaja17uGtM/TTMx0bCP2nI/AAAAAAAAAAc/aNfet3mGAzo/s1600/1860_slave_map.jpg) of slave concentration in the South….My basic point is that it’s unreasonable to think of secession as something Lincoln could have “just let happen,” as some of my more wild-eyed libertarian friends seem to think.

      The more interesting question, in my opinion, is, “According to the Constitution, as read in 1860, was slavery unconstitutional?” If it was unconstitutional, then that makes secession treason. If not, then a whole other host of questions pops up (though I still think Lincoln had no choice but to invade, regardless of the answer to this question.) Undoubtedly, the “spirit” of the constitution and America’s principles were on the abolitionists’ side (5th Amendment for example). But, the words of the Constitution itself were a bargain with slave states in 1788 and, in their secession statements, many Southern states claim they would never have accepted the Constitution if they felt it would ultimately hinder slavery (which they saw slaves as property, not as humans entitled to rights.)Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I never thought about that question (“According to the Constitution, as read in 1860, was slavery unconstitutional?”). I have always thought it clear that the original framers worked hard to dance around directly addressing the issue and quite intentionally left the Constitution silent on that point, and the framers of the twelve subsequent amendments followed suit, because the issue was just too hot politically. And it’s probably true that if the Constitution had addressed slavery more explicitly the union would not have formed as it did and independence would have been a serious question. It’s precisely because the Constition was silent on the issue that the matter had to be taken up by Congress and the President, and that’s why a free-soiler like Lincoln in the White House was so unacceptable to the southern states — he would have at least forced a confrontation on the issue and they could not take the chance that they would have lost.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke says:

          Mr. Likko, for the record, they put a “poison pill” in the Constitution: the slave trade could be banned in 20 years.

          They knew the “peculiar institution” was an offense against humanity, and someday should and must end.

          Just another little-known factoid that puts a hole in the prevailing narrative. Dunno what they teach in schools these days.

          In Article 1, Section 9, Congress is limited, expressly, from prohibiting the “Importation” of slaves, before 1808. The slave trade was a bone of contention for many, with some who supported slavery abhorring the slave trade. The 1808 date, a compromise of 20 years, allowed the slave trade to continue, but placed a date-certain on its survival. Congress eventually passed a law outlawing the slave trade that became effective on January 1, 1808.

          I’m out for the night, thx for the back, Burt. Gonna go play the blues. It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            Congress eventually passed a law outlawing the slave trade that became effective on January 1, 1808.

            Which, since the slave population had become self-sustaining, had no effect on the continued existence of slavery, still going strong in the 1860s. But we all knew that.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Good morning, TVD. Love the blues even though I’m a privileged white boy. Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom” is on the CD in my Jag as I write, and I hope you guys did Elmore proud.

            I’m well aware of the slave trade clause. I don’t know if my take on it conforms to the “prevailing narrative” or not. It sure looks to me like there was one faction of framers who wanted to ban the slave trade in 1787 and wanted to write it in to the Constitution. And there was another faction of framers who didn’t want it banned at all. And the issue was going to prevent the rest of the Constitution from getting adopted. So they agreed to kick the can to Congress twenty years down the road. So the clause you’re referring to was a means of delaying the eventual need to address the issue rather than a confrontation of it.

            I’ll readily stipulate that lots of slave owners were willing to openly admit that slavery was an evil institution, corrosive to morality and offensive against human rights. They just never got around to doing anything about that moral judgment because the economic pressures and incentives inherent in slavery, and the social conventions of white racial superiority, were powerful enough that they could find excuses to put off behaving in conformity with their avowed morality until some other day that never quite seemed to dawn. E.g., Thomas Jefferson, see also Compromise of 1820.Report

            • Avatar Anderson says:

              Interestingly enough, some slaveowners didn’t openly admit slavery was an evil institution. In fact, they saw slavery as a positive good, perfectly acceptable within the Christian tradition. John Calhoun (http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=71) is probably the most well-regarded defender of this view. Also, a primary reason that “Northern” and “southern” Christian denominations came into being is that churches could not agree on the moral status of slavery (like the constitution, the bible is very ambiguous of the whole institution.) As the politics of slavery divided the nation, so too did the theology of slavery.

              I guess all of this helps explain why the Civil War was not just over secession and economic power, but also over culture and identity. My history professor calls the conflict “a civilizational struggle.”Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke says:

              Not disagreeing, Mr. Likko. They did have the ban in place as soon as constitutionally empowered, to their credit.

              1806 December 2. (Jefferson’s Sixth Annual Message to Congress). “I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of the period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally, to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country, have long been eager to proscribe. Although no law you may pass can take prohibitory effect till the first day on the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, yet the intervening period is not too long to prevent, by timely notice, expeditions which cannot be completed before that day.”

              And the blues went well, thank you. Jimmy Reed, even Son House. Many beers&cheers.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        would we simply sit on our hands if Texas seceded today

        It’s impossible to both sit on my hands and applaud.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        Mr. A, your analysis comes up a little short, re: the right of secession, the ‘voluntary’ nature of the ‘union,’ and the obligations of the general gummint.
        You have to dig up and study on the how’s and why’s of nullification, state interposition, and the 18th century perspective of tyranny.
        Actually, you’re pretty close.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Insofar as the only reason for secession was for a society where one man could own another, it seems well within reason to destroy such a society outright, promptly, utterly and without mercy.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            My, my, the comments of a man obligated, before God, to practice compassion?
            The reason for secession is a question that rightfully belongs to the people of the state. The right of secession may have been the singularly most important right.
            The enslaved Africans had every opportunity to engage in their right of revolution. With the exception of the heroic Turner and a few others, that didn’t happen.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Re-read the Declaration of Independence ere you tell me upon what grounds a state may declare itself independent. The Aztecs and Nazis and Stalinists, yes and the Confederacy predated upon and enslaved their surrounding tribes. That these societies have been cast down and thrown into the rubbish bin of history is an entirely good thing.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                I’ll get back shortly!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Be sure, in the course of working all this out, that you take note of how all these regimes have plenty of apologists, even in these times, busily burnishing the lamps. There are djinni within those lamps, still quite willing to grant wishes.Report

    • Avatar Baron von Munchausen says:

      Greetings, Mad, mad, mad, mad man! Glad your back, Herr Cheeks. Bob, I just can’t see your point on this issue. Our black brothers and sister NEEDED our help. Imagine what this country would look like fractured, divisible, hated, hateful, creating a new class where 10% of our citizenry is only 20% human? Could you in all good conscience live in such a country? The lynchings, the brutality, the fear and humiliation-to feel that every single day of their lives-this is a country you could live in and not feel deep shame? Blacks created jazz,t the greatest musical art form to blossom from our blessed shores. We’re not going to let the lynchers, KKKrs, white rapists, church burning bigots steal our national treasure. We love and honor our black brothers and sisters–let’s join the Duke for this:


      And this immortal one from St. Oscar Peterson–Hymn To Freedom. I just adore this piece–every lovely, blessed, beautiful transcendent note!!!


      How could we possibly be a slave nation and worship our Lord Jesus while holding thousands of his blessed creatures in captivity? Break the chains and shackles-it’s a whole new world
      Brother Bob–a world where not one drop of one’s DNA will ever give him special rights and freedoms.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        Dear Baron, nice to have you back.
        Re: the ‘late unpleasantness’, and at the risk of repeating myself, the South was fighting not only to keep slavery intact but to maintain the principles of the American founding, i.e., the principles inherent in a federated, constitutional republic. The Lincoln regime, on the other hand, was giving birth to the American unitary regime.
        The ‘South’, the southern states, were not violating any law or principle in seceding. Indeed, they clearly had the ‘right’ to secede. The North, the Lincoln regime, were in fact participating in war crimes in invading the South and in making war on women and children.
        As horrific as African chattel slavery is, it’s a secondary issue in this debate. The most important issue was the effort on the part of the South to maintain the principles of an American republican gummint.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          The best thing about every post on the Civil War is watching Bob’s inevitable attempts at Confederate apologia. He says slavery was bad, but one gets the sense that he thinks infringing on the right to own them was worse.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          not only to keep slavery intact but to maintain the principles of the American founding

          This is something that would have rent itself asunder the moment it opened its eyes.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            I dunno, the dichotomy, so apparent to the modern mind, lasted intact within the general gummint for eighty years …. after it opened its eyes.

            And, given that historical arrangement, the query, ‘Why did the North invade the South’, becomes illuminated, even for the modern.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Really? Because there are any number of indications that the Fathers were trying to lance this boil at the creation of the country. Compromise after compromise after compromise was made.

              The South eventually sickened of compromising.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                I’m not sure what the argument is?
                Yes, the founders worked very hard on the question of African chattel slavery, and reached a constitutional compromise that lasted until 1860. That’s all I was pointing out.

                We can argue about your last sentence, which is not the usual JB comment. I see the South’s interpretation of Lincoln’s election as a movement on the part of the radicals to place the Southern polity in reduced circumstances. Which, of course, led the South to legally secede.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                We can argue about your last sentence, which is not the usual JB comment.

                I would say that it fits the pattern… ironic understatement, implied condemnation, plausible deniability.

                Anyway, there are two things upon which to hang one’s hat when it comes to Libertarian arguments for the Civil War. 1) The Right to Exit 2) The right to prevent others from exercising their Right to Exit.

                I usually suggest that the proper course of action was to allow the South to secede *THEN* invade in order to abolish slavery, *THEN* work on reconstruction.

                Given that that is no longer an option, I’m stuck seeing slavery as an abomination worth ending despite the price paid.

                And it’s a pity that the South demanded that price in the service of keeping slavery around. How much better had they been fighting in the service of Liberty.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Which is, of course, another reason to disagree with the Libertarian worldview. Liberty can only be maintained for any meaningful period of time within the parameters of a federated, constitutional, republic ground on a ‘transcendent reality.’ The Libertarian’s worldview is immediately subject to the disorders of the age and ‘the undisciplined indulgence of the passions…’ and always and everywhere follows its socialist brother as they join together in the horrific possibilities inherent in ideological doctrine.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Liberty can only be maintained for any meaningful period of time within the parameters of a federated, constitutional, republic ground on a ‘transcendent reality.’

                It cannot stand on Tartuffery.

                The attempt to paint the South as standing on anything but is an attempt to build a house on sand.Report

              • Avatar AugustusLindbergh says:

                Gentlemen, I want so, so, SO to be able to participate in all of your very interesting conversations, but unfortunately it won’t be possible–I’m BANNED!!!!

                Damn. Love all yins–even my central antagonist, BSK!

                Sorry this has happened–very,. very sorry.

                You’re all fun, funny, bright, erudite-I’m not worthy being amongst such scholars gentlemen!

                All my best wishes, you characters. Since when did some folks develop such thin skin? I don’t see that in anyone on this sight. See ya! BvMReport

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Farewell, sir. You have a mirror-image troll twin on this site, but he has mastered the formalities of not crossing the line, and so escapes censure, let alone banishment.

                Better luck at your next destination. This is not a salvageable situation for you, and I must concur with management’s decision.Report

              • Avatar dexter says:

                Jaybird, thanks for the new word. I live in the south and will get to use it daily. It may get me shot, but that is the price one pays for speaking truth to the psuedochristians.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Read the play, if you have time. (It’s an easy read… a little bit heavy-handed but, for the time, this was scalpel-sharp.)Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Thank you. As I said, the Libertarian suffers from the rather commonplace ‘disorders of the age.’ And, is loath to overcome them.Report

              • Avatar AugustusLindbergh says:

                My goodness. Deep apologies E.D.

                Thought I was gone, bought the farm. Croaked but good.

                Das tut mir Leit.Report

              • Avatar AugustusLindbergh says:

                Bob,hope you don’t mind-I’ve hired a sculptor to sculpt
                America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln right on your front lawn!! An early or late birthday president. What sayeth you?

                I don’t see any “city on a shining hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

                Could you see ships filled to the brim with emaciated, starved, disease-ridden slaves passing the Statue of Liberty? Could you PLEASE let us know one possible fortuitous benefit and outcome that could come from the continuation of slavery?

                Don’t feel bad if you can’t think of one. None exist. Christianity cannot ever be reconciled with slavery. They may as well be reconciled with Nazism it that were the case. An we all know, that is not the case. Such an odd, incomprehensible ideological thing to want to hold on to. It benefits NO ONE! It opens up deep, deep, wounds that so desperately want to mend and heal.
                Bob, why are you so willing to continue and carry this banner? To whom does it serve? Does it not completely break your heart to see those pictures of innocent black men being lynched?

                Well, I’m a simpleton. Things of such complexity are beyond my intellectual reach. Perhaps you might have a few words that can bring this into focus.

                One need not have one ounce of faith in their body. This is food for the Gods. God so loved the world that he gave the world his only begotten Son! Faith not needed—it’s all here, every moment, every breath of life, Schubert, blessed and holy Schubert, how blessed we are to have these brief moments of illumination. Seize these moments!Report

              • Avatar AugustusLindbergh says:

                Sorry–the Musik! If this music you should make you feel the need to jump out of your skin, do it!


    • Avatar Tybalt says:

      Just to be clear, if some Hitlerian Bin Laden captured millions of Americans and enslaved them, you’d think it was peachy-keen and refused to cross a border to fight him?

      You’re a real peach.

      It’s important in thinking about abolitionism that slaves were not “slaves”, they were *Americans*. I can honestly say that no one is going to enslave millions of Americans on my watch and get away with it without a fight, from me. And I’m not even American!Report

  6. Avatar Simon K says:

    That’s a question, Bob. What makes it the question? The proximate answer is rather boring, after all.Report

  7. I respect Foote’s answer there for its honesty about human psychology and the enormous influence context and socialization has on not only who we are but what we think that means. It’s commendable for him to answer as honestly as he could, knowing that doing so would raise more than a few eyebrows and require on his part some explanation and reliance upon his audience’s ability to accept, gulp, nuance.

    All that being said, the man’s failings have been well-documented. He flirts with Lost Cause-ism at times (though I agree he never fully falls into the camp), and his romanticization of Gen. Lee was absolutely out of control. I suppose one could argue that they’re one in the same — the Lost Cause narrative and the deification of Lee — but I don’t feel like doing that. At least not now.

    It rankles me, though, when I hear Confederate apologists point to the Reconstruction’s failures as (implicitly) proof that Emancipation wasn’t worth it. It’s not at all dissimilar from Republicans today pointing to areas of concern under President Obama — areas that have gone unaddressed in policy terms primarily due to GOP intransigence. Perhaps not coincidentally, the modern GOP is overwhelmingly composed of representatives from the former Confederate States of America.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Wouldn’t criticisms of Iraq under Saddam vs. Iraq breathing the heady vapors of Freedom be more analogous than life under Obama?Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        Yes, JB, I want some moral calculus from self-described “anti-war” folks, although I haven’t done Iraq since 2006 or so in fora like this and am not inclined to start again now.

        Was the Civil War worth it? If so, “anti-war” doesn’t quite fit their sentiments, since unlike w/the Axis, the CW was quite avoidable. An accommodation could have been made, but of course the slaves wouldn’t have been freed.

        If such loss of life is not worth it [in 1865 or 2011], then the argument parallels what I take to be Foote’s. Again, to read him sympathetically, many of we ideologically minded , from the comfortable distance of a century-plus, see 5-6-700,000 dead as a statistic. Foote, having read their letters and looked at their photographs, sees human beings.

        [His argument about Jim Crow is ancillary, but not insignificant. A magic wand was not put to the plight of the black man.]

        So I can’t exactly reconcile moralizing on the past without moralizing on the present as well. If half a million dead was worth it to end slavery, worth it for the sake of freedom, OK. But at some point we’re down to calculus and cost/value, not absolute principle, unless the butcher’s bill has no limit.

        There are some who draw the line of justifiable war at being attacked or invaded. But it was the South of course that was invaded, unless we view the Union’s insistence on its indissolubleness [see Lincoln] as yet another idea worth killing and dying for. Which isn’t nearly as worthy as ending slavery, is it?

        I apologize to Mr. Wall for mis-attributing this post to EDK. Reading Foote in his own words has brought these questions, and a needed clarity, to this issue and to the issue of war itself; I must admit I have found the characterizations and moral judgments of his argument unsatisfactory, white hats and black hats, as it were. I would be satisfied with any principled and consistent answers to the above. HT also to JB, who got it.

        As for me, although I spend much time on history, this isn’t my area of focus, and frankly, I haven’t made up my mind. I thought I had, until reading this Foote interview, which opened the book again. Slavery was intolerable, but the carnage was inconceivable.Report

        • So I can’t exactly reconcile moralizing on the past without moralizing on the present as well. If half a million dead was worth it to end slavery, worth it for the sake of freedom, OK. But at some point we’re down to calculus and cost/value, not absolute principle, unless the butcher’s bill has no limit.

          Wouldn’t this kind of thinking lead you to say that no action in which death is a possibility can be undertaken lest it become utilitarianism?

          The idea that those who find the end of slavery to be such an intrinsic good as to make the war worth fighting, as horrible as it was, are in fact advocating an amoral cost/value analysis framework — this is either unintentionally incoherent or sophistry.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            One can reach the same conclusion using a deontological ethical calculus instead of a utilitarian one. TVD is right, though, that an approach from a deontological perspective must eventually confront the fact that it disregards the death toll. Identifying freedom as an inherent good, securing the liberty of others as a moral duty, does require that one say “so be it” when confronted with the inevitable death toll associated with achieving that objective.

            The utilitarian is right to say “Think about that carefully before you commit to it.” The utilitarian would be wrong, though, to say “A cost of death renders liberty without any utility whatsoever, therefore, spill no blood in pursuit of freedom.” That’s no more right than bargaining to kill a million people so as to liberate a hundred.

            Charting a good ethical course involves balancing intent and effect, which means balancing deontological and utilitarian analysis. It is a mistake to rely on only one or the other mode of thought. “Was it worth it” is a challenging question.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          unless we view the Union’s insistence on its indissolubleness [see Lincoln] as yet another idea worth killing and dying for. Which isn’t nearly as worthy as ending slavery, is it?

          Maybe it isn’t, but it’s not chopped liver, either, and ordinary fighting men at the time didn’t think so. Many Union soldiers, including the man who forged the eventually victorious Army of the Potomac, were racist, hateful, white supremacist northern Democrats who supported the institution of slavery, but were committed to Lincoln’s state purpose of preserving the Union. Others, of course, arguably the majority on both sides[1] were clear that the fight was very much about slavery, but that isn’t remotely exclusive from their believing to their core the fight was, in a logically preceding sense, about preserving the Union. Observe: the fight couldn’t have been about slavery without also being about “insolubility” as you put it, because if the the Southern states had the right to secede and form a new sovereign nation without resistance from the United States of America, then they had the right to disregard the United States government’s views about whether slavery should be a legal institution in their new digs. See what I mean?


          [1] Manning, Chandra. What this cruel war was over: soldiers, slavery, and the Civil War. New York: Knopf, 2007.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            indissolubleness, pardon me.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            I’ve heard slavery described as the “taproot issue” of the war and I like that phrase — everywhere you turn, whether to legalism, Constitutional formalism, economics, culture, western expansion, slavery winds up playing a role. It had become so interwoven into the fabric of life in the south, and so morally abhorrent to the north, that no even halfway plausible subject relating to the war can be honestly discussed without addressing it.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              By all means. But if the South had the right to secede, then they had the right to tell the North to butt out of what they would do or not do about slavery. So the whole Union issue was integral to there even being a fight over slavery.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Mr. Drew, I think that goes to the “nullification” question, which was settled back in the Jackson Administration. If you’re in, you must obey.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Not exactly.

                Germany was a sovereign country when…

                Wait. Let’s not go there quite yet.

                Russia was a sovereign country when Stalin used the Gulags. This was not something that they had the right to do, even though they were a sovereign country. Sovereignty does not give you the right to commit crimes against Humanity.Report

  8. Avatar BSK says:

    “So I certainly would have fought to keep people from invading my native state.”

    I suppose he would defend the rights of Iraqi or Afghan insurgents who are doing the exact same thing, right???Report

    • Avatar Scott says:


      There is a slight difference between the two that even you may be able to grasp. Take Afghanistan, we didn’t enter the country to change their social structure as the North did to the South. We went to Afghanistan to root out the Taliban that hosted and protected OBL and his ilk. In Iraq we removed the gov’t but aren’t radically changing their society either.

      I understand but don’t condone those Afghans and Iraqis that fight the US out of the misguided sense that we are there to occupy their country, take their resources and transform it into version of our own county.Report

      • There is a slight difference between the two that even you may be able to grasp. Take Afghanistan, we didn’t enter the country to change their social structure as the North did to the South.

        All one can do is laugh. How many times have we been told that our goal is to set up a nominally Western-styled Democracy with religious pluralism and a system of law founded upon fealty to human rights?

        Other than that: yeah, no intention to change their social structure.Report

    • Avatar Baron von Munchausen says:

      Are the Taliban the Minutemen?

      Is blowing up Mosques and indiscriminately killing innocent men, women, and children–is that what we do? Do you by any chance have a blow-up doll of Fred Phelps to get intimate with?

      Your frequent attempts at drawing equivalency between a group of craven, cowardly, non-uniform wearing suicide bombing terrorists to what American soldiers do is vile and despicable. I think you even tried to put the label on the “insurgent”, Nadal Hasan, of the Fort Hood slaughter. Opening fire on UNARMED US soldiers killing 13 and wounding scores more. That’s your Minute Man. Do you have any actual knowledge of who Hasan was and his very close relationship with mass murdering terrorist, Anwar al-Awlaki? Your depth of understanding in these subjects closely resembles a little toddlers pool. BSK, you just ain’t got it. No duende, no class, no rhythm. I do submit that you could do what no other human has been able to pull off thus far: the ability to prove you are a robot. Or not a robot. No offense. It’s a compliment! Cheers.Report

      • Avatar BSK says:

        A robot, eh?

        I was referring to the insurgents fighting American soldiers, not the sectarian violence, which is a far different matter for a variety of reasons. Many of those fighting us in Iraq and Afghanistan woke up one day to foreign soldiers on their street corners (if not kicking in their doors). Can we fault those folks for picking up arms in defense of their homes and homeland? I don’t know if I can. And I struggle to see how one can defend the rights of the common Southerner defending his turf but not the common Iraqi or Afghan defending theirs. The situations are not equivalent but they are a lot closer than the moral variance offered here suggests.

        One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Our noble founders dressed up as Native Americans (blaming brown folks is just in our national DNA) and destroyed vast quantities of private property. They eschewed the conventions of contemporary warfare because they never could have won that way, adopting guerrilla tactics. I realize that the Revolutionary War is different than the Civil War (Do you? You brought up Minutemen in a conversation about the CW), but I think it is worth pointing out that we are so quick to denounce actions taken by others that we celebrate when taken by us. This is not unique to the current situation in the Middle East.

        We had to get nuclear/atomic bombs first because, if not, the Russians might and that would be EVIL! And then we USED those bombs, twice, on civilian cities but view their use by any other country as the ultimate offense! Hell, we violently overthrow a government to form our nation and then get all up in arms when the same thing happens here again (see! I can defend the Confederacy!).

        My point is not that every Confederate soldier was the moral or ideological equivalent of every Afghan or Iraqi insurgent. There are vast differences between the two. But I am bothered when I hear so many Confederate apologists defend Confederate soldiers under the guise of, “They were just defending their homelands,” when they are generally so quick to condemn any loss of American soldiers at the hands of our “enemies” when we are on their home soils. If you think individuals have the rights to defend their homelands, you can’t get your panties in a bunch when folks defend theirs against us.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke says:

          A valid point in the abstract, BSK. However, the bad guys in Iraq & Afghanistan kill folkuva a lot more of their countrymen than they do Americans.

          [In the case of Afghanistan, the US simply assisted the “Northern Alliance” rebels. At least that was the cover story, and it was a good one.]Report

          • Avatar BSK says:

            But that assumes the bad guys kill us are the same bad guys killing their own countrymen. I’m sure there is a lot of overlap, but I’m sure there are also a lot who engage in the former and abhor the latter. Those are the ones I’m talking about. The ones bombing mosques and market places because the folks there believe in a different lineage of religious leaders? No defense for that. What. So. Ever.

            Of course, we can also point to the various groups that grew out of the Confederacy that engaged in just that type of barbarism here… blowing up churches and intimidating their neighbors, etc, etc, etc.Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke says:

              BSK, I don’t have the numbers on Pakistan, but as you know there’s a ton of intramural violence there too. It seems to me all of the same fabric as in I & A [neither of which are very fruitful to discuss]. In I & A, it seems the sentiment is the people want us out, except they don’t want us to leave them to each other’s mercies either.

              It’s about us, but it ain’t all about us.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                No doubt. I’m more than willing to concede that there is a lot of horrible violence going on in all those countries that has nothing to do with us. Just like there was a lot of violence going on in the Confederacy that had nothing to do with the North (i.e. slavery, which is inherently violent). The point remains: at least some percentage of the insurgents fighting us are only engaged in violence out of defense for their homeland. I would hope that folks like Mr. Foote would defend their rights as he does those of Confederate soldiers.Report

  9. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Ironically, had the South won it’s freedom from the (Lincolnite)Yankee monied interests the black man would have won, on his own account, his freedom.
    The Northern farmer and working class would have suffered under the mercantile interests, being gouged by Yankee bankers and prohibited from purchasing foreign goods because of high tariffs which the South would have rejected. In time, another revolution to overthrow the statist mercantile interests would have followed.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yes, but then the Nazis would have won World War II.

      The Cold War that ensued would have led to Nuclear, not Atomic, War.

      The US would have gotten the worst of it, due to the hard feelings on the part of the still-extant Communist Party that pushed the buttons.

      As great as it was for a few decades in your hypothetical, it turned gashly. We’re better off here. Ironically.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      Some chance, Bob. But I admire the effort you’re putting in here.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    It probably helps to be a moralist in order to do a certain kind of history, but I do not think it is necessary to be a moralist in order to be a good historian. One can even have profoundly impaired moral judgement with respect to the subject in history one studies and still be a very good historian. This I believe. Unrelatedly, I believe that Shelby Foote is a very good historian.Report

  11. Avatar stuhlmann says:

    I think it would have been more interesting to have asked Mr. Foote the following: “If you had been alive and of age in 1860, and your state was holding a referendum on session, would you have voted for or against session?”Report

  12. From the original post:

    “But I do think that Foote was guilty of romantic attitude toward history and literature more he was guilty of being a Lost-Causer.”

    I think Foote represents the end of nearly 100 years of the Lost Cause myth. While he may have not been an active member of the club, he certainly flirted with their views in his writing. But it’s understandable. He grew up in the thick of it and he wasn’t a trained historian. Real scholarship of the politics and origins of the Civil War and the plight of slaves didn’t start until the mid-60s when the centennial approached. The best works about slavery were mostly written about 10 years after Foote started his work.

    The simplest answer is that slavery caused the Civil War but once it started it was a little more complicated than that. Yes, average soldiers probably didn’t care much but I agree with other commenters that their opinion wasn’t really that important. The leaders had much more consistent views with the majority of the Confederate being either pro-slavery or ambivalent about it. The Confederate political leadership was pro-slavery almost to the last man.

    On which side would I have fought? For Wall and myself this would be a tricky one. Kentucky supplied more Union soldiers than Ohio and more Confederate soldiers than Virginia. Assuming I would have been fresh off the boat from Ireland like my ancestors who were in Louisville at that time AND assuming I would have been in Louisville which was marginally pro-Union…my brain say I would have been in blue. Given the luxury of time and distance from those actual events and my supreme fondness for Southern culture today, my heart says I would have worn gray.Report

  13. Avatar BSK says:


    The issue of “Which side would you have fought for?” creates a bit of a false dilemma. It assumes that one must fight. Now, for some, this certainly was the case. If you lived someone along Sherman’s March, you didn’t really have an option. But if you were a non-slave-owning guy minding your own business, whom the war only impacted indirectly (in much the same way our lives are indirectly impacted by our current wars), you could just keep on living your life. You didn’t have to take up arms. I don’t agree with many of America’s actions over the past 10 years. As such, I have not taken up to fight. If I came across a terrorist wielding a bomb, I’m hopeful I’d take to action if the opportunity presented itself. But, outside of that, I’m not going to voluntarily violate my moral and ethical principals out of some misguided sense of loyalty or patriotism.

    I do realize that it is hard to remain “neutral” on a moving train. In many ways, I directly or indirectly support the war efforts. I haven’t exactly taken up arms to stop the war. I haven’t even taken up signs. But that is still a far cry from hearing that your country is at war and immediately running out to the battlefields with your gun when you otherwise would have been unperturbed.Report

    • Avatar Scott says:


      “But if you were a non-slave-owning guy minding your own business, whom the war only impacted indirectly (in much the same way our lives are indirectly impacted by our current wars), you could just keep on living your life. You didn’t have to take up arms. ”

      You really should learn some history before you say such silly things. Both the North and South relied on a draft during the conflict.Report

      • Avatar BSK says:

        What percentage of Confederate soldiers were drafted?Report

        • Avatar Scott says:


          I don’t know, you should research it. The Federal draft did cause riots in NY city in 1863.Report

          • Avatar BSK says:


            Don’t you think it is a bit ridiculous that you tell me I need to do some research before posting “silly” things yet you can’t back up your opposition to my post?

            FWIW, the draft riot of ’63 is irrelevant, because it has nothing to do with the Confederacy. While the Confederacy did have a draft, it was highly inefficient and ineffective. Ironically, slave owners with more than 20 slaves were exempted. That seems about right…Report

            • Avatar Scott says:


              I’ve already proven your silly assertion to be false. The fact that both the Federals and CSA drafted folks proves that your statement about living your own life and not taking up arms to be false and ridiculous.

              You can try and now change the topic to what percentage of the CSA’s troops were drafted but that has nothing to do with your original statement. Nice try.

              For another history lesson, both sides draft efforts were inefficient and ineffective, given the exceptions both sides allowed. Perhaps the South’s draft efforts were more so, but so what given that this wasn’t the original question?Report

  14. Avatar Jon says:

    I bet some of Foote’s best friends are black tooReport

  15. Avatar Barry says:

    Jaybird June 7, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    ” The Libertarian response to the Civil War is often two-fold.

    There is the “did the South have the Right to secede?” question which is, according to most Libertarian thought (Right of Exit, that sort of thing) “of course they had the Right to secede.”

    The problem is that the South was seceding over, you guessed it, the right to keep slaves. The right to keep others from exercising their Right of Exit (among others).”

    I’d point out that ‘The South’ and ‘They’ are tricky concepts. What really happened is that the *governments of some states* decided to secede, and that in many cases this was done by dubious methods. In all cases a significant chunk of the population was not allowed a choice (to vote, publicly debate, or leave), and that those who were free were subject to both state violence and private sector violence (with state government connivance) to preserve slavery.

    IMHO, under libertarian principles, ‘they’ were serious force-and-fraud initiators, and had forfeited their rights.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      forfeited their rights

      This is an interesting concept in and of itself. Can someone forfeit their rights?

      Once you open the door that they can, you can get away with all kinds of shenanigans.Report