July 3, 2013

Could Lincoln have averted the Civil War?

My new column at Taki's today, the 150th Anniversary of the Fall of Vicksburg and Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, offers a multipart theory on how Lincoln could have better managed the Secession crisis of 1860-1861. A glance at a map (see the post below), shows that the key was to keep Virginia, the northernmost state to secede, in the Union, just as Kentucky and all the other slave states at the same latitude as Virginia stayed in the Union. 

One approach would have been to conciliate leading Virginians with offers of positions of responsibility in the Union, such as Lincoln's offer to Robert E. Lee -- but proactively, not after Virginia had voted, somewhat narrowly, to secede.

Another part is Secretary of State William Seward's April 1, 1861 plan to galvanize patriotic pro-Union sentiment by creating a foreign policy crisis over Spain's and France's efforts to use the secession crisis to violate the Monroe Doctrine in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, respectively.

Would Seward's plan have worked externally? Would the Spanish and French have backed down without fighting a trans-Atlantic war?

Possibly. The Spanish cared far more about keeping Cuba than regaining fever-ridden Santo Domingo. They immediately abandoned the Caribbean island upon the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Similarly, in 1866 French emperor Napoleon III chose Franco-American amity and pulled the plug on his Mexican adventure.

Would Seward's plan have worked domestically?

The psychology was not hopeless. I think this is the closest analogous situation: in the United Kingdom in the summer of 1914, civil war loomed as Irish Protestant officers, the heart of the British military since the Duke of Wellington (just as Southern officers were the heart of the U.S. Army), resigned their commissions to return home to take up arms against the Liberal government offering Home Rule to Irish Catholics. Suddenly, however, the Great War flared up and the Irish Protestant officers instantly returned and fought with tremendous loyalty against Germany.

Of course, the cost in this particular case to the United Kingdom was immensely high. But there's a big difference between fighting a land war with Germany on the Western Front and blustering about the Monroe Doctrine to dissuade Spain and France from undertaking what proved for them to be ill-fated misadventures in the New World.

Read the whole thing there.

Here's the full text of William Seward's endlessly reviled April 1, 1861 memo to Lincoln, 12 days before the start of the Civil War:

SOME THOUGHTS FOR THE PRESIDENT'S CONSIDERATION

First. We are at the end of a month's administration, and yet without a policy either domestic or foreign.

Second. This, however, is not culpable, and it has even been unavoidable. The presence of the Senate, with the need to meet applications for patronage, have prevented attention to other and more grave matters.

Third. But further delay to adopt and prosecute our policies for both domestic and foreign affairs would not only bring scandal on the administration, but danger upon the country.

Fourth. To do this we must dismiss the applicants for office. But how? I suggest that we make the local appointments forthwith, leaving foreign or general ones for ulterior and occasional action.

Fifth. The policy at home. I am aware that my views are singular, and perhaps not sufficiently explained. My system is built upon this idea as a ruling one, namely, that we must

Change The Question Before The Public From One Upon Slavery, Or About Slavery, for a question upon UNION Or Disunion:

In other words, from what would be regarded as a party question, to one of patriotism or union.

The occupation or evacuation of Fort Sumter, although not in fact a slavery or a party question, is so regarded. Witness the temper manifested by the Republicans in the free states, and even by the Union men in the South.

I would therefore terminate it as a safe means for changing the issue. I deem it fortunate that the last administration created the necessity.

For the rest, I would simultaneously defend and reenforce all the ports in the gulf, and have the navy recalled from foreign stations to be prepared for a blockade. Put the island of Key West under martial law.

This will raise distinctly the question of union or disunion. I would maintain every fort and possession in the South.

For Foreign Nations

I would demand explanations from Spain and France, categorically, at once.

I would seek explanations from Great Britain and Russia, and send agents into Canada, Mexico, and Central America to rouse a vigorous continental spirit of independence on this continent against European intervention.

And, if satisfactory explanations are not received from Spain and France,

Would convene Congress and declare war against them.

But whatever policy we adopt, there must be an energetic prosecution of it.

For this purpose it must be somebody's business to pursue and direct it incessantly.

Either the President must do it himself, and be all the while active in it, or

Devolve it on some member of his cabinet. Once adopted, debates on it must end, and all agree and abide.

It is not in my especial province;

But I neither seek to evade nor assume responsibility.


71 comments:

Anonymous said...

South could have averted it by working with Lincoln to send the blacks back to Africa. That's what Lincoln really wanted.

jody said...

This isn't your forte, you should leave this to the real historians.

peterike said...

This isn't your forte, you should leave this to the real historians.

Yeah, because "real historians" are all first-rate, never have agendas and never work in service of The Narrative.

More often than not, "historians" are things to be overcome in the search for truth.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Nothing discredits the traditionalist Right more than obsessing over the "injustice" of the Civil War. Why someone otherwise as smart and sane as you buys into this "lost cause" horseshit is beyond me.

I'd say the same thing about your weird obsession with Jews and Israel, but on that score you're in accord with prevailing conventional wisdom (including conventional wisdom in the non-Orthodox American Jewish community, although you seem to labor under the illusion that the Jews in Beverly Hills and the Upper West Side are all fervent Likud supporters).

Anonymous said...

Your history is weak. Irish Protestants were not "the heart of the British military". For one thing there were just not that many of them.

In 1914 Ireland was on the verge of civil war, between the Protestant Ulster Volunteers and the Catholic Irish Volunteers.

Both groups enlisted en masse in the British Army at the start of WWI. The Irish Volunteers were far more numerous though.

The Ulster Volunteers were not in any way analogous to American Southern officers of the Civil War era. They were the Unionists (in both the British and the American Civil War sense). The Irish Volunteers are much more analogous to the army of the Confederacy.

Insightful said...

The vast majority of blacks (like 99%) were going to stay in America regardless of whether Lincoln lived or died. By that point in the nation, your average slave was bred and born in this country. Roots had already been laid down and there was no turning back. Too late..

Anonymous said...

Nothing discredits the traditionalist Right more than obsessing over the "injustice" of the Civil War. Why someone otherwise as smart and sane as you buys into this "lost cause" horseshit is beyond me.



The words "lost cause" and "injustice" appear nowhere in Steve's writing, so it would seem that it is you who are not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.


I'd say the same thing about your weird obsession with Jews


And what would you say about Jews weird obsession with "gentiles"? I suspect you don't find that to be in the least bit "weird".

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, because William Seward of New York was a devotee of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.

Look, the Deep South cotton states were at a peak of their wealth and arrogance in early 1861 because cotton prices were high. One reason for high prices was because the British had been stockpiling cotton in case of secession, blockade and/or embargo. Seward's plan was, in part, to kick the can down the road in order to not get sucked into a vast civil war right now at the summit of Southern strength and self-righteousness.

Ali said...

Not convinced by this at all.

I think you're relying on Nicholay and Hay's interpretation of the memo which was slanted to make Seward look like a kook.



The South was going to secede and go to war because they knew they had no hope of expanding slavery into new territories as part of the United States. That was the only concession that would have prevented war. Virginia was going to seceded because at bottom, it felt Southern and had more kinship with the Deep South than the North,

And it's a little insulting to write off Lincoln as a small-town hick lawyer in over his head. By the time he became President he was one of the foremost railroad lawyers in the country, railroad companies being the equivalent of Fortune 500 companies today.

He knew the South and knew the slavery issue inside out which is why he was involved in the debates with Douglas and why he got to be elected.

Steve Sailer said...

"I think you're relying on Nicholay and Hay's interpretation of the memo which was slanted to make Seward look like a kook."

That's the near-universal view of Civil War historians -- that Seward, a man of great accomplishments throughout his life, suddenly but temporarily turned into a kook. My suggestion is that Seward's plan doesn't sound like that of a kook -- it sounds like a very interesting option in a bad situation. Sure, it very well might not have worked, but I suspect that much of the revulsion against it stems from the fear that it might have worked and that we wouldn't have had a Civil War or at least not such a long one: the professional deformation of Civil War historians.

Brazilian said...

...although you seem to labor under the illusion that the Jews in Beverly Hills and the Upper West Side are all fervent Likud supporters).

Trust me, they're Likud supporters. Been in Manhattan during 2003 was an eye opener for me.

Anonymous said...

Lincoln could have. Many prominent Southerners could have. We can view the event more rationally and dispassionately, but politics is often a battle of wills and personalities and passions and grudges. Lincoln was human, and so were many in the South. They dug in their heels.

Today, many liberals, with less passion, come to appreciate Eisenhower and Reagan. But liberals hated those men back in the days.

Anonymous said...

Short answer is yes, he could have. And in the long run the country would have been much better off if he had. Among other things, the original Constitution would not have been superseded by the 14th Amendment (which was never legally ratified but imposed on the country at gunpoint).

candid_observer said...

I think that the real issue historians likely have with Seward's proposal was that it was deliberately designed to avoid the question of abolishing slavery.

I think most of them subscribe to Lincoln's own formulation of the justification of the conflict, from his Second Inaugural Address,

"Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.""

In this sense, from Lincoln's religious point of view, the 750,000 American deaths is a feature of justice, not a bug. No doubt a lot of historians buy into this too, even if they may not admit to it.

I certainly hold that the lives lost is a very bad thing if avoidable. Yet I do think that one would have to see a pretty clear path to the fairly rapid elimination of slavery to justify an alternative to the Civil War. It's not obvious that Seward's way would fit this bill.

Anonymous said...

Steve, it takes a ton of historical reading to get a feel for what the emotional climate was at the time of the Civil War. During Andrew Jackson's administration, there was a local revolt in the South in which a group of radical Southerners seized government property and called for their state to secede from the Union. Jackson dealt with it like it was a local police action and quashed the rebellion. He didn't issue a call for volunteers to invade the South, which was essentially declaring war.

This Jacksonian rebellion was well-known to Southerners at the time of the Civil War, and many Southerners assumed Lincoln would deal with the capture of Fort Sumpter the same way. But Lincoln didn't. When Lincoln issued his call for troops to invade the South, it profoundly shocked a lot of Southerners, most of whom were never slaveowners, who couldn't believe they were being they were being described en masse as 'the enemy,' and an enemy that needed to be put down. Many people writing at the time of the Civil War said there was still plenty of pro-Union sentiment left in the South until Lincoln's inept response, and this behavior caused the many most vehement pro-Union Southerners to spin 180 degrees in their thinking because of shear outrage.

Lincoln's total war experience was a very short stint as a private in the Black Hawk War. He was not close to being Jackson's equal when it to war, or even police actions. Lincoln also flunked an important test of leadership, namely what the proper response is when you're facing genuine violence, and how to keep it from blowing up in your face and wrecking your community. For all the praise Lincoln gets, he was still a country bumpkin with a narrow mental horizon.

Zoink said...

I find it hard to believe that a large part of the british military was prepared to commit treason over Irish home rule.

Moreover, the British working classes were increasingly well-organized and leftist around this time and mobs would have attacked any right-wingers attempting a coup. All revolutionary acts going back hundreds of years in the UK were leftist, including the successful Puritan, Glorious, and American revolutions, as well the the mob protests over the Reform Acts.

Lincoln's acts after becoming president really depend on your evaluation of the evil of slavery. Any peaceful resolution would have resulted in the continued existence of slavery for at least another 20 years.

Buying out current slaves with cash might have been affordable on a % of GDP basis, but outside of war taxes had never been high enough to allow that much money to be raised.

A war with Spain would probably have resulted in at least one new slave state, and a "bloody Kansas" situation while the issue was considered.

Steve Sailer said...

Lincoln went to war at the height of the King Cotton era against a Confederacy that included four more northern states that weren't as radical as the 7 southern states. Thus, the Civil War lasted four years.

Keep Virginia in the union and the odds are that something less cataclysmic would have been worked out in time. That was the thinking of William Seward.

Zoink said...

Your scenario for a peaceful resolution are also belied by incidents like this, and especially the reactions to it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caning_of_Charles_Sumner

The South was simply run by lazy thugs living off the labor of others, and who willingly provoked an obviously hopeless and bloody war that ruined their country.

anony-mouse said...

1/ Odd that this website would support an idea that could have lead to Mexico possibly becoming part of the US.

2/ By the time Lincoln was inaugurated Davis had already been inaugurated. This gambit would have been seen as a last ditch effort (just as Lincoln had wisely waited until after a victory to issue the emancipation Proclamation, in order not to be seen a trying, well, a last ditch gambit).

3/ With Texas gone how would such a gambit have credibly worked?

4/ Even if it had worked with Mexico, this would likely have caused slavery to spread farther-an idea Lincoln would not allowed (at the beginning he would have allowed slavery in the states where it existed)

countenance said...

Sailer asks:

Could Lincoln have averted the Civil War?

I respond:

Yes. By respecting the wishes of the states that seceded.

If I'm inhabiting the same domicile with someone I grow to despise, and he or she wants to leave, I'm certainly not going to nail the door shut.

Steve Sailer said...

"By the time Lincoln was inaugurated Davis had already been inaugurated."

Of a 7-state Confederacy.

The formidable 11-state Confederacy didn't come into existence until after Virginia, the 8th state, finally voted to secede six weeks into Lincoln's term.

Seward's plan hardly necessitated war with Spain or France. They only violated the Monroe Doctrine because of American disunity. If the Administration could have used Spain and France to unite the country, the Spanish and French would likely have backed down, as they did after America was united in 1865.

At worst, Seward could have backed down against Spain and France and just fought the Civil War.

"This gambit would have been seen as a last ditch effort."

Well, it was. But why not try an alternative to 750,000 dead Americans?

Anonymous said...

"In this sense, from Lincoln's religious point of view, the 750,000 American deaths is a feature of justice, not a bug. No doubt a lot of historians buy into this too, even if they may not admit to it."

Of course, the problem was too many Americans back then didn't know the full extent of the horrors of war. Americans had been whupping second-raters like Mexicans and Indians. And Europe was far away. War of 1812 was distant memory. There were no anti-war novels, let alone films.
So, both sides thought war would be kinda fun and would end in no time. Yankees thought they had the guns and factories. Dixies thought they had the courage and honor.
Both sides were morally righteous.
End slavery and preserve the union for the North; States rights and right to secede for the South.

Same thing in WWI. So many Europeans thought it would be over in no time. The last great wars in Europe had taken place long time ago. The wars of German unification had been relatively minor and quick, as Prussia easily overpowered smaller states.

And look how Americans stumbled into Iraq, a 'cakewalk' that turned into a burning oven.

Generally, nations of one people don't like to split up. A nation made up of many ethnic groups will generally fight to split up, like Yugoslavia. But nations of one people, upon splitting, will fight to reunite. It happened with Russian Civil War, Chinese Civil War--first with KMT defeating the warlords and later with communists driving out KMT to Taiwan, an island the mainland still covets as part of China--, Vietnam War, and etc. It also happened in Ireland, with the long bitter war between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Irish wanted to unite all of Ireland under one flag.

Lincoln and Northerners were forward looking. They envisioned America as a great world power, as leader in industry and manufacturing. The South was backward thinking. They wanted to run farm economies forever, and as they feared the negroes, they didn't want any kind of social change that might upset the status quo. Slavery was wrong, but southerners were right to fear Negroes as Negroes were bigger and more muscular. If white southerners and white northerners had gotten together and discussed this problem honestly, maybe they could have settled on some plan to gradually phase out slavery, free blacks, and send them back to AFrica or resettle them in a black-run territory. But northerners came under the influence of rabid abolitionists and southerners came under the influence of rabid slavery-advocates who invoked the Bible to justify the institution. No one spoke of the problem of stronger blacks honestly, and even to this day, almost no one will touch it.

But Lincoln was a true patriot in wanting a powerful and united America that would become a world power. For America to attain such power, it had to combine the agricultural output of the South and the industrial prowess of the North. It had to be one nation, and the federal government had to play a bigger role. Lincoln's vision was great in that sense. He didn't just win the Civil War but from the throes of that conflict laid down the basis for America as a superpower.

I think of the scene in SEVEN SAMURAI. The elder leader of the samurai says some houses will have to be sacrificed to consolidate the village, but villagers of the houses(to be sacrificed) rebel and 'secede' and say they'll gonna do their own thing. The leader threatens them and forces them back into line.
It wasn't so easy with Lincoln but he did preserve the Union which would later become the greater power the world had ever known.

Btw, once the South seceded, even if cotton prices fell, there would have been no guarantee that it would reunite with the North. After all, North Korea is starving but still wants to maintain its own system.

Anonymous said...

"Well, it was. But why not try an alternative to 750,000 dead Americans?"

Lincoln, like the Southerners, probably didn't expect so many to die.

Neither he nor other knew what they were getting into. And once all those people died, they had to justify it by invoking some moral or spiritual sermon or the other. Walt Whitman did it too.

Hitler went through much of Europe like knife through butter. Even through big and mighty France. He thought Russia would be relatively easy too.
People miscalculate wars all the time.

I personally thought Iraq would be easy. Boy was I wrong.

Horace Staccato said...

The essential conflict between North and South could not have been avoided by offering commands to officers or by dangling Spain to redirect violent passions.

The conflict was an is fundamental: Northern English vs. Southern Celtic; Industrial vs. Agricultural; A mostly White North vs. a South that was majority Black in many places.

And what was happening more and more was that the North was beginning to use the South as a raw-materials colony. The Northern textile industries were developing fast, among others, and in a classic colonial dynamic, the North was buying raw materials in the South and making a profit selling finished goods back to the South. Wealth was leaving the South and entering the North.

The South had been equal to or greater than the North as a power center, but by 1860 that was no longer true. The North had caught the Industrial Revolution in a big way while the South had not.

The clash between the ruling elites was inevitable. After the war the differences were patched over when the North decided to ignore Southern apartheid laws. And then we have an entirely new problem with Blacks. That one could only have been avoided by mass deportations.

That's also still true today. Mass deportations of nonWhites are the only solution. It will happen. It will not be pleasant, but it must happen.

Anonymous said...

As war is a serious decision, who knows what really went through Lincoln's mind.

What were leaders of Russia, Germany, and France thinking on the eve of WWII?
What was Napoleon thinking when he decided to go into Russia?
What was Ho Chi Minh thinking when he decided to take the war to South Vietnam and provoke Americans?
What was Mao thinking when he finally decided to intervene in Korea.
What were the British thinking when they decided to enter WWI? In retrospect, bad decision, but it seemed sensible at the time.

In retrospect, so many wars could have been avoided. Or bigger wars might have been avoided by smaller wars of preemption. We'll never know until it happens.

Civil War was a curse and a blessing. It killed a lot of people, but it did birth a new America and laid the foundations of a super state that would become a super power.
As destructive as it was, it did for US in 19th century what WWII did in the 20th century. It reconfigured much of society and power politics.

Even if Lincoln had avoided the Civil War, there might have been a war between the north and south in the western territories. North would have said 'most of the west is ours' and south would have said, 'no, it's ours'.
Only because the Union was preserved that the West was taken for all Americans, both north and south.

gubbler, champion of all things checheny(except criminality, corruption, and bride-stealing) said...

The South really should have seceded from the blacks. But it seceded from other whites in the North.

beowulf said...

I would demand explanations from Spain and France, categorically, at once.

And then if they don't dismantle their Weapons of Mass Destruct--- oh sorry, wrong batshit crazy idea.

The difference between Lincoln and Bush is that when Honest Abe received unsolicited Dick Cheney-style advice, he was smart enough to ignore it.

Anonymous said...

You know... how come blacks never try to secede from America? How come Mexican-Americans never try to secede?
But southern whites talk about secession from greater white America.

White states call for more diversity but generally remain white. Southern states call for more white power but defend the Old South whose economy was founded on racial diversity.
Southern whites try to secede from other whites to live in states with lots of blacks and browns! And northern whites oppose the idea of secession but practice a kind of whitopian secession from browning America. I mean look at Vermont and Maine.

It's really screwy.

Anonymous said...

All said and done, maybe Lincoln still succeeded more with the South than Putin did with Chechnya.

Anonymous said...

"..although you seem to labor under the illusion that the Jews in Beverly Hills and the Upper West Side are all fervent Likud supporters"

Alan Dershowitz is Pat Buchanan on the issue of Israel.

Anonymous said...

In retrospect, maybe the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima could have been avoided too.

But too late.

Maybe most wars in history were 'unnecessary wars', but they seemed necessary and unavoidable at the time.

Some scholars have said that US could easily have averted a war with Japan, but other historians said the war was great because it gave US an entry into WWII.

Funny how history works.

Anonymous said...

Abolitionists were a funny bunch. They were anti-slavery, but many were also pacifist and anti-war, so how they did they square using war to end slavery?

I guess they settled on being
paci-fist.

Porter said...

As a Southerner, I periodically succumb to the nursing of cherished resentments toward this Lovecraftian “Union.” Though these are brief indulgences that must necessarily give way to the mutual concerns shared by all now simmering in this anti-white crock-pot. Yet sometimes when I read commentary by oblivious fanatics, whose knowledge of the South comes first hand—from the Cineplex—I regret that I was not present to stand with Cornwallis. For them, blood has no viscosity compared to water. And when their own people and pieties come into conflict…it’s the former that must perish.

So what if half a million+ whites were slaughtered in insane internecine butchery? So what if the South were razed and children left to the nourishment of topsoil? So what if the descendants of those northern regiments are raped and murdered in their now ruined cities? Those points are immaterial. There were black slaves and offended northern sensibilities. What else could we do?

Anonymous said...

Counterfactual "What would have happened if..." questions are inherently unanswerable, but it's hard to argue that sweet-talking the Virginians more wouldn't have been a good idea. Perhaps South Carolinian secession may have been inevitable, but Virginian secession certainly wasn't.


While we're on the subject of Lincoln's hagiographers willfully ignoring his occasional displays of incompetence and fallibility, am I the only person who thinks it slightly absurd that Lincoln is almost never blamed for the long succession of supposedly useless commanders who headed Union forces? Lincoln was obviously inexperienced in military matters when he started his presidency, but how many times can you plead ignorance after repeatedly botching the most important personnel decisions of your career? Historians tend to uncritically accept Lincoln's rationalizations for his questionable appointments, but to me, it just looks like bad Human Resources management. Blaming McClellan, Burnside, et al. for the slow early progress of the war doesn't really take the blame off of Lincoln for hiring them.

Anonymous said...

"And northern whites oppose the idea of secession but practice a kind of whitopian secession from browning America. I mean look at Vermont and Maine."

Actually, Vermont has an active secession movement which, at last count, had the support of about 13% of Vermonters (very low, but still higher than most states).

Hunsdon said...

Anonydroid at 12:54 PM said: Neither he nor other knew what they were getting into.

Hunsdon said: Ah, the "oops" theory of greatness.

biff said...

Steve- check out the lynchings that enforced the decisions to secede in each Confederate state. The Night Riders were already used to shooting people- zapping opponents of secession was pie to them. Lincoln, Seward, every other Yankee on Earth had no chance of stopping Secession.

The failure of Reconstruction, on the other hand, was avoidable. 90% of the 1865 Confederate skilled craftsmen were black ex-slaves. By 1895, at least 90% were white. Skilled craftsmen have power. Something could have been done.

Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up playing ball on the fields of Charles Sumner Junior High, by the common decency observed by "gentleman" of the time, Sumner deserved his beat down.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how it would have been if Slave states had been more populous and more powerful.

Suppose the south had 4 times the population of the North. Suppose the North had yet turned into a manufacturing power. Suppose the North seceded from the Union because it was offended by slavery and by southerners who want to spread slavery to the North.
Suppose Lincoln had been a Southern president with southern loyalties and pro-slavery views. Suppose he wants to preserve the Union by forcing the North to rejoin with the South.
What would have happened?

Today, secession = slavery, but if things had been reversed back in the days, people might think secession = freedom.
Taiwan seceded from China, but we associate its separateness with freedom. Tibet wants to secede from China in the name of Tibetan freedom(and maybe democracy).

Whole bunch of states seceded--or was dropped from the USSR--, but we don't find that offensive.

I guess it's more acceptable for empires than nations to break apart. Was US an empire or a nation during the Civil War? An empire-nation?

Another question. Suppose the South had fought more intelligently and had been aided by foreign powers. Suppose they survived the Northern onslaught, just like the Vietnamese communists survived American raids and bombings and prevailed.
How would historians think of Lincoln today? Would they say he started a stupid war that killed a lot of people for no good purpose?
If Vietnam War had ended in 1967 with US winning, historians would probably praise Johnson. But the war wouldn't end, and so he and Nixon got a bad rap. But Truman and Eisenhower didn't get as bad rap on the Korean War cuz, even though it wasn't won, it ended in a stalemate in 3 yrs(whereas the Vietnam War dragged on for 8 yrs, even longer if we consider its origins and earlier flare-ups).

Another thing. What is the South had been all white? Suppose the South had seceded for reasons other than slavery and there had been virtually no slaves or blacks in the south. Would the war have gone for longer? Was one of the reasons why the South finally decided to surrender the fear of blacks? If white south were to be undermined and destroyed further, it might lead to massive black slave rebellion. But if there were no slaves in the South, white southerners might have decided to keep fighting like Chechens and Vietnamese.

And what if Lee hadn't lost his mind and decided to take the war to the North with Gettysburg and that stuff(which I saw the in the movie)? What if he'd fought more defensively and preserved his power. Would the North, in a protracted struggle, finally have decided to give up?
Maybe southern sense of 'honor' made them fight too upfront. Maybe they should have fought more deviously like the Viet Cong.

Anonymous said...

I think most of them subscribe to Lincoln's own formulation of the justification of the conflict, from his Second Inaugural Address


That was his post-hoc rationalization of the war he stumbled into. You might as well cite the way the British Empire decided, half-way through WWI, that it was fighting for the right of self-rule for all people everywhere!

Or the way the British Empire decided, in the midst of losing the American War of Independence, that it regarded slavery as an abomination which needed to be ended forthwith.

People come to all sorts of strange conclusions in the middle or aftermath of a war which they'd have roundly rejected just a few years previously. And things said for propaganda purposes take on a life which the people saying them never anticipated or intended.
osa

Anonymous said...

Maybe the GOP could have avoided an unnecessary war between rich whites and not-so-rich whites by not having been so slavish to Wall Street and globalism.

Anonymous said...

Abortion issue is another stupid 'unnecessary war' issue among conservatives. I mean if blacks and liberals wanna kill their own kids, let them.

By pushing this issue, it unnecessarily divides male and female vote, northern white vote and southern white vote.

And then stem cells. That just made Bush II presidency dumb dumb.

Anonymous said...

We can't ignore the Jewish role in changing the meaning of the Civil War.

I think prior to WWII and Jewish rise to power, The Civil War was seen as a necessary tragedy, and every side came away with some dignity.
Great Lincoln preserved the Union(and he was portrayed favorably even in DW Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION). And the North fought a war that also ended slavery, a stain on American history.

So, it wasn't just a war but a moral crusade. And US, far from being crippled by the war, rose to new heights in the decades that followed as industrial north led the charge. Even as the South resented losing the war, they were proud to be part of a nation that was surging to be the most powerful in the world.

Also, the North didn't rub it into the South, at least not for long. The North came to honor the courage and bravery of southern fighting men. Just like Anglos and Anglo-Americans eventually made up after the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, northern whites and southern whites buried the hatchets.

In college, our professor told us that massive immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century drove many northern anglo-Americans and other wasps to sympathize with the south. Inundated with 'alien hordes', they began to empathize with white southerners who had to deal with lots of negroes. This was a time when some historians began to argue that the Revolutionary War had been a great mistake, pitting anglos against anglos when anglos should always have stuck together.

Oddly enough, even though southern whites didn't like massive immigrantion of the 'other whites'(from places like Italy), there was a kind of a political unity between north and south cuz both poorer southern whites and northern immigrant working class saw Big Business(mostly in the North) as the main enemy. FDR had to appeal not only to northern Catholic ethnics but to southern white democrats. As blacks were 'kept in their place' and were politically weak, the main players in the Democratic Party were northern Catholics, southern whites, and liberal socialist-leaning wasps.
Though blacks traditionally felt a certain gratitude toward the GOP, Republicans took black votes for granted and never thought black vote would amount to much to win elections in the South. Also, as GOP became the party of the northern industrialists, it came to care less about poor folks, and blacks were poor folks.

Even Jews in Hollywood felt the pressure, and they rarely made brazenly anti-southern movies prior to the 60s. Northerners didn't particularly care to anti-southern movies, and Hollywood was mindful not to alienate southern box office. Also, Jews didn't wanna get the rap as the people riling up the Negroes against whites.

Anonymous said...

But WWII, especially with the Holocaust, was devastating to the Jewish psyche. It filled many Jews even in America with anger, paranoia, and hatred. They didn't just come to hate Germans but German-Americans and wasps. They came to see every wasp slight as 'Neo-Nazi-esque'. And Jews came to see the Negro plight in the US in relation to the Holocaust. Thus, the Civil War was recast as the WWII of the 19th century between relatively better whites in the north and proto-Nazi whites in the South. (And the view of the American West also underwent a similar change. In LITTLE BIG MAN, Indians are presented as like Jew-Vietnamese while white Americans are presented as cowboy-Nazis.)
As long as the Democrats overlooked the suppression of blacks in the South, it could maintain the allegiance of and alliance between southern whites and northern ethnic whites. Thus, there was a kind of unity between the south and the north. There was unity of north and south in both GOP and Democrats.
Many southern conservatives were gravitating toward the GOP as the party of wasps, even if Republican were northern yankees. So, there was growing affinity between north and south in the GOP camp.
And southern poor whites were allying with white working class ethnics and Catholics in the North for economic reasons, and so there was affinity between north and south in the Democratic camp.

But the wedge that tore this apart was the rise of black movement and power. When Jews made MLK and used him to lead the biggest moral crusade in American history since the Civil War, the Democratic Party had to choose between black rights and southern whites. Johnson had divided feelings about this as he was from Texas, but he went with the Negroes. Democrats lost southern whites but still kept the northern working class whites, but when black crime swept through northern cities and forced integration was on the map in northern cities, northern ethnics got pissed too. As MLK said, he was met with greater animosity in some northern cities than in the south. Plenty of Archie Bunkers in the North.

As the GOP gained the support of southern whites and northern working class whites, it seemed to be winning, especially as older folks were freaked out by radical craziness of the 60s, with both negro and student riots. But there was watergate which undermined the GOP momentum, and also, despite white rage and anger, the moral advantage was on the side of liberals since libs were the ones arguing for greater equality for all, and America just happened to be founded on the basis of equality and justice for all.

Since the new narrative made the South out to be the American Nazis, it was ever more difficult to form alliances between the north and the south. Unless the 'legacy of racism' was totally destroyed in the South, the South was to be seen as wicked and evil. The South had to go through a total Nuremberg Trial. Its symbols of the Old Confederacy had to be blown up like Nazi symbols.
If traditional Northern white liberals at least admired the South in the Civil War for its courage, loyalty, and sense of honor(as in John Ford's HORSE SOLDIERS), even that sense went out the window. That spirit of forgive-and-forget among whites was evident even in earlier WWII films. Think of ENEMY BELOW where Americans and Germans fight bitterly, but Americans save Germans from the sinking sub. It's like whites are, all said and done, brothers under the skin.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, there used to be plenty of dignity for both northern whites and southern whites for the first 100 yrs after the war. Indeed, many looked back on it as a great historical event, a tragedy and triumph, a cauldron that forged the nation into a new one. (And surprisingly, the movie GETTYSBURG, instead of vilifying the South,
was one of the few recent films that gave both sides their due. COLD MOUNTAIN and RIDE WITH THE DEVIL were also more nuanced than most. But I don't know what to make of the documentary SHERMAN'S MARCH by Ross Mcsomething.)

But the new spin on the war made it into a simple narrative of WWII of the 19th century where one side was redemptive(of its racism) and the other side was just like the Nazis and should have been totally crushed without mercy. Lincoln hated slavery but he didn't hate the South. And he didn't relish the war and he didn't want to punish the South.

Jews see white south as the Other Nazis and relish in shaming and destroying everything associated with southern culture.
The hatred against Paula Deen isn't just about what she said. It's about vengeful Jewish feelings about whites. When Jews see the South, they see WWII.
Think of the bogus documentary LIBERATORS which tried to conflate black American suffering with the Holocaust. But it's funny how Abe Foxman goes to Ukraine and tells the Ukrainian president that he better not compare the 'Holodomor' with the Holocaust. I guess since Jews played a decisive role in the death of millions of Ukrainians, THAT isn't convenient to the Jewish narrative of historical righteousness.

When Bush was awarding Foxman with the medal of freedom or some such thing, I wonder what Foxman was thinking. 'Why is the dog putting a collar around the master?'

Jason said...

As usual, an intereting take from you, Mr. Sailer, but Ali above is right, I think - only the allowance of the expansion of slavery would have mollified even supposedly "moderate" states like Virginia. Virginians' great sense of honor was at stake just as it was with the other Southern states: the fact that the Virginians were perhaps a little more moderate and prudent doesn't change the fact that they were in essence of the same mind as other Southerners. In other words, it was a matter of degree, not of kind. To put the matter in plain English, to expect Seward's plan to have had even a chance of stopping the Civil War is like thinking a spider web might be useful in stopping a speeding locamotive.
Just an aside: I don't think that Civil War historians - the good ones, anyway - underplay Lincoln's lack of experience upon entering the presidency. David Donald, probably the most notable Lincoln biographer, certainlty doesn't.

Anonymous said...

At any rate, the real tragedy of the Civil War was not the war itself or its aftermath for the next 100 yrs. It was what has been done with the remembrance of war in the past few decades. It went from a war of necessary tragedy and mutual-forgiveness-and-recognition-of-the-honor-of-the-other-side to war where eeeeeevil southern whites were not punished enough and stripped of all their power for the sin of 'racism'. (But if 'racism' is such a big issue, how is the North any better when it expanded its powers by wiping out the Indians? If the Confederate Flag is a symbol of slavery, couldn't one argue that Old Glory is the symbol of extermination of the Indians?)

Steve Sailer said...

"to expect Seward's plan to have had even a chance of stopping the Civil War is like thinking a spider web might be useful in stopping a speeding locomotive."

Tragedies seem more noble and cathartic if they are inevitable. Maybe the Civil War was totally inevitable. But maybe it wasn't. Maybe the number of states in the Confederacy wasn't inevitable -- when Lincoln finally got around to focusing on what was happening, he fought hard to keep the number of lost states at 11 rather than 15. Maybe if he'd tried earlier, he could have kept it at 7. Maybe the Civil War would have only killed only 7/11ths as many Americans.

Think of it this way: Lincoln and Seward were both distinguished statesmen, but, in this crisis, Seward was the one who was _paying attention_ while Lincoln was the one who was interviewing postmasters. Seward said, "We should try X,Y, and Z," and Lincoln replied that he was getting above his place.

Now, Seward's ideas weren't good or would have succeeded, but mostly nobody talks about them and when they do, they are told that everybody knows Seward's plan was crazy talk.



Anonymous said...

Chick Fil A, Paula Deen, George Zimmerman, Oberlin KKK freakout... see a pattern?

Traditional Marriage - Evil South.

N-word - Evil South (as if Jews haven't used words like 'shikse' and 'schvartze')

George Zimmerman as 'evil white southern male' - Evil South(though he's not really a 'white' guy).

Oberlin Craze - Evil South Invades North(though it could have been someone in a blanket).

Anonymous said...

"Maybe the Civil War was totally inevitable."

Nothing in history is inevitable.

WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq War, etc could all have been EASILY avoided.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Lincoln was 'interviewing post masters' to bide his time.

If he offered a deal to the South, he might look weak and appeasing.
If he threatened the south, the South might get angry and react.

So, maybe he played it kinda low-key and thought the crisis would just blow over... as crises sometimes do.

Something doing nothing is doing more. Eisenhower knew this. He did more by 'doing nothing'.

Steve Sailer said...

Sure. I'm using 20-20 hindsight. I know the Civil War lasted 4 years and killed 750,000. Lincoln didn't know that.

But, it seems very strange to me for historians to treat the April 1, 1865 confrontation between Lincoln and Seward as just a dick-measuring contest in which their boy totally dominated Seward, rather than as a serious discussion of policy unpursued.

Anonymous said...

Steve posits that maybe the U.S. (both north and south) could have been distracted at the outset of the Civil War, if the U.S. had asserted the Monroe Doctrine and declared war on the French, at that time attempting to take Mexico.

I have a dream where, in 1863, while the French are tied down in MX and the South is in trouble, the two join forces to rout the modern Jacobins in both the U.S. AND Mexico.

We then have a splendid Greco/Latin (classic pre-modern) civilization running from the Ohio River to Central America.

The antebellum South wasn't so much Christian as ancient, that is pre-modern (dare I say pagan?) As was the baroque society south of the Rio Grande.

I was born in Connecticut, by the way.



nil said...

The South wasn't too worried about French expansion into Mexico. The Confederacy gave France's actions her official seal of approval. That's why Lincoln rejected Seward's plan, he was afraid of antagonizing France and convincing her to ally with the South. Seward's ' ingenious foreign-policy proposal' would have been playing right into the South's hands.

Anonymous said...

To me the south made a fatal mistake by not converting slavery to at least, east-European style serfdom, by say about 1850. This would have been a step towards its being peacefully phased out.

skipio said...

What makes me cry is the willingness of the South to send her sons to die for the North and the Federal gov't. They can't win without us, yet they hate our guts.

They don't fight wars for our benefit anymore. The south signed up with passion as early as 1898, while Southern cities were still in ashes. Why?

The south loves it's great military institutions but those institutions are under Northern/Jewish/elite control. They are a Hostile Elite.

Please Mothers of the South, don't let them sucker your sons into one last battle of White killing Whites.

neil craig said...

The risk of that policy is that if the US had picked a fight with France/Spain and whether they backed down or not, it had not stopped the South seceding it would almost certainly have meant these 2 countries recognising and siding with the South. Probably Britain too the fact that the USA was visibly not imperial was a good reason for these countries not to want to poke it with a stick which is why Washington was right about foreign entanglements.

If internationally recognised the other powers would not have permitted the blockade and without the blockade the south would never have been defeated.

Anonymous said...

"South could have averted it by working with Lincoln to send the blacks back to Africa. That's what Lincoln really wanted." - He never advocated involuntary repatriation of blacks to Africa. Lincoln was a politician. He said white supremacy to voters who wanted such, and equality to the voters that wanted that.

Anonymous said...

"Nothing in history is inevitable.

WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq War, etc could all have been EASILY avoided. " - Had they been avoided population pressures would have made the next war that much worse. Conflict is inevitable under certain conditions.

The middleeast is going to go up in flames over dwindling water/food/energy in relation to an exploding population, though we don't particularly have to get involved in that(provided that we can replace their oil production some how). If we can't we(or someone else) will be right there in the thick of things.

Anonymous said...

Re: But Lincoln was a true patriot in wanting a powerful and united America that would become a world power.

Funnily enough, that's precisely why Adolf Hitler expressed his admiration for Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

Re: "[Lincoln] never advocated involuntary repatriation of blacks to Africa. Lincoln was a politician. He said white supremacy to voters who wanted such, and equality to the voters that wanted that."

You might want to check out a new University of Missouri publication(so, please note, not some "Lost Cause" publishing house) Colonization After Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement by Magness and Page.

It suggests otherwise...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous;"Another thing. What is the South had been all white?"

If the South had been all White, it would not have been the South. What distinguished the South from the North (particularly New England)was the fact that it contained huge numbers of Black slaves.

Dutch Boy said...

News flash: The Civil War was started by the Confederate States of America (or more precisely, by its ruling class) and continued by them long after any reasonable hope of victory ended (i.e., when most of their troops had been killed, wounded, captured or deserted and their chief general predicted that their situation was hopeless). No finessing or finagling by Lincoln was going to stop the Confederate leaders from carrying out their plan at the beginning of a conflict they thought they would win.

Anonymous said...

"It suggests otherwise... " - Please note the distinction between voluntary and involuntary. he never once presented a plan to anyone to forcibly expel the slaves.

rob said...

It seems bizarre from modern perspectives, but neither the abolitionists, nor the north as a whole, were pro-black. They didn't want slavery to spread, partly because they thought it was immoral, but partly because they didn't want blacks to spread. Quite a few thought that blacks in America would fade away without slavery. They were more than fine with that, but it was mostly just wishful thinking. That's why northerners were blase whenever smallpox broke out among freed slaves. If Northerners had actually been concerned about black people, Reconstruction might never had ended. The North would have welcomed refugee blacks with open arms, but they actually preferred European immigrants for their dark Satanic mills. I wonder if Northern soldiers saw blacks behaving very badly during the war and Reconstruction. Saw things that made the Yankees give southern states more power in the House of Representatives and Electoral College. As a practical matter, black people in the rural south were pretty much slaves for another 100 years, and the North was fine with that.

Irwin M. Fletcher said...

Steve,

Nowhere in the article by Norman Ferris that you site does Ferris argue that Seward intended to "gin up a foreign policy crisis to avert war." Instead, Ferris argues the opposite: Seward's recommendation - which WAS carried out - to demand explanations from the European powers as to their exact intentions regarding the South, specifically to PREVENT a wider war. Ferris tells us that Seward's agents so successfully carried out this policy of covert warnings that not one European power ever recognized or overtly aided the Southern Insurrection.

Ferris does not say that Seward sought a war with any or all of the foreign powers to prevent the Civil War. Ferris correctly criticizes mainstream historians who completely misread Seward's memo. Smart as you are, and I am an admirer of your thinking and writning, you've misread it, too.

Now, your idea that a more proactive policy might have kept Virginia in the Union, and that Lincoln's inexperience hurt, has merit.
It is on that basis that the war might have been contained, not on the basis that Seward had a last-second policy to avert the war.

Steve Sailer said...

Most historians say: Seward proposed emphasizing a foreign policy crisis and that would have been terrible.

Ferris says a foreign policy crisis would have been terrible, but Seward wasn't proposing one. (Lincoln's reply seems to undercut that interpretation when admits to Seward that the news out of Santo Domingo being disturbing.)

I agree with most historians on what Seward was intending and disagree with most historians and Ferris that it was such a horrible idea that Lincoln was right to dismiss it out of hand.

Anonymous said...

"WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq War, etc could all have been EASILY avoided."

"Had they been avoided population pressures would have made the next war that much worse. Conflict is inevitable under certain conditions. The middleeast is going to go up in flames over dwindling water/food/energy in relation to an exploding population, though we don't particularly have to get involved in that(provided that we can replace their oil production some how). If we can't we(or someone else) will be right there in the thick of things."

Nonsense. All those wars had nothing to do with population pressures. India is among the most densely populated places on Earth, and yet politically it is more stable than Syria which has a lot more space.

They were battles of political will and power struggles among world leaders.

Anonymous said...

An interesting explanation for the high Civil War casualties from: http://www.civilwar.org/resources/technology-and-casualties-in.html

"Some call the Civil War the first “modern war” because so many new technologies were premiered, developed, or perfected during the four-year engagement. To be sure, old standbys such as knives, swords, and bayonets played a role in the war, as did older muskets and cannons that had been around for decades. However, the Civil War also saw some of the first widespread use of the Gatling gun, faster-loading rifles with rifling in the barrels, and the new, deadlier ammunition called the min-ball....archaic medical practices were still present at the battle of Gettysburg, as were outmoded battle tactics that further pushed up the ghastly casualty rate. Battle lines evolved based on muskets with a range less than 100 yards. With both armies at Gettysburg continuing to form lines based on this paradigm, but many soldiers carrying rifles with an effective range close to 400 yards, the result was horrific."

This goes to the question of Lincoln's wisdom or lack thereof in allowing a war to occur with such horrendous casualty numbers, which is already discussed above.

I earlier left a comment to the same effect sourcing Ken Burns's Civil War documentary, but it didn't make the cut. I guess Sailer prefers unsourced amateurish speculation in his comment section.

elvisd said...

If Vietnam War had ended in 1967 with US winning, historians would probably praise Johnson. But the war wouldn't end, and so he and Nixon got a bad rap. But Truman and Eisenhower didn't get as bad rap on the Korean War cuz, even though it wasn't won, it ended in a stalemate in 3 yrs(whereas the Vietnam War dragged on for 8 yrs, even longer if we consider its origins and earlier flare-ups).

Spent the 4th with my grandfather, and got to hear about the time he had in 1954-1955 along the border with Laos training Montagnards, building roads and outposts, and having fun with his CIA buddies who were setting up the Golden Triangle airbases for the later Air America stuff. He also gave me some souvenirs he picked up in Tehran after visiting other CIA buddies during the Mossedegh coup. The sooner that we start dating wars to include when the "advisors" get their boots onto the ground, the better we'll start understanding why stuff happens.

danny said...

"he failure of Reconstruction, on the other hand, was avoidable. 90% of the 1865 Confederate skilled craftsmen were black ex-slaves. By 1895, at least 90% were white. Skilled craftsmen have power. Something could have been done."

In the Gulf States, most "blue collar" professions were "mulatto" dominated. Well into the 20th century, there was a boy in New Orleans whose father was a stonemason. He was friends with a boy from a white family and that white family decided the friendship should not go on because it was likely that the family was "mixed" no matter what they looked like. True story. Even in the late 20th century, it was difficult in this area for a person of mixed ancestry (not to mention black) to get a higher education. Just wasn't done.
It was a caste system, but one where the mixed people were the skilled craftsmen. In other parts of the South, the "mixed" people did not form such a cohesive and distinct group.