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Historiography is the history of history. We are becoming accustomed to the notion that the recording of history is an intellectual battle with winners and losers. Here is an extremely brief note on how the history of the "Cause" developed over time:

With a few notable exceptions, the historiography considering the causes of the war consistently identified slavery as the main artery of conflict. That is, the issues of Constitutionalism, sectionalism, state rights, et al revolved around slavery and drew their emotional power from slavery. To some extent the debate over causation mirrored the sectional conflict and even the course of the actual war—with the Southern revisionism eventually succumbing to the numerical superiority of northern scholarship.

Northern explanations of the hostilities, from the near-contemporaneous account written by Henry Wilson to the initial scholarly discussion offered by turn-of-the-century historian James Ford Rhodes to the mid-century work of Allan Nevins and Arthur Schlesinger, revolve around the immorality of slavery. Transplanted Westerners David M. Potter, Don Fehrenbacher and Kenneth Stampp provided later affirmations of the centrality of slavery.

The three great twentieth-century divergent explanations occurred during the first fifty years. The Dunning School, named after a pioneer historian from Columbia University, unleashed a swell of Southern and Midwestern scholars, U.B. Phillips and William E. Dodd foremost among them, who defined the system of slavery as benign and justified the South’s actions leading to the war.

After the Dunning heyday of the 1920s, the second wave of revisionists declared that a “blundering generation” of politicians mishandled the sectional crisis of the 1850s. The post-World War I generation of historians accused the ante bellum generation of politicians of stumbling into a devastating war that could have been avoided through skillful statesmanship. The underlying premise, of course, was that slavery was not something over which a nation should have fought a civil war.

The other great threat to the “primacy of slavery” explanation came from the Charles and Mary Beard thesis, also offered during the 1920s, in which the Progressive historians pronounced the war to be the “Second American Revolution,” the product of economic transformation, and the ultimate triumph of capitalism over agrarianism. While economic determinism captured the imagination of radical historians and enjoyed a brief revival among some prominent Marxist historians during the 1960s and 1970s, in the end, even Beard himself repudiated this notion.
From my files on the CW, here is a bit more nuanced approach to why the war came and what it accomplished.

For a brief discussion on the who and the when of causal analysis, you may also be interested in "Civil War Historiography 101" (here)

Participation, Equality and the Constitution:
The Issues of the Civil War Era

During the restive middle decades of the nineteenth century, a series of disparate political fevers swept across the national landscape. Two separate but oftentimes complementary impulses, the Age of Democracy and the Age of Reform, produced a national crisis of identity in the form of a sectional division. The Civil War, the point at which the fever of sectional strife reached a near-lethal level, proved to be a defining moment for the American experiment in popular government. Hastened by the question of slavery in the western territories, the war preserved a unified nation and resolved several fundamental questions concerning the nature of the Union. The violence also marked a crossroads in the way in which citizens perceived their political leaders and interacted with their government.

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SMU appears to be the location for the future George W. Bush Presidential Library, much to the dissappointment of Baylor University, Waco.

Recently some faculty, and other United Methodists have objected to locating the library at the Southern Methodist University. I've spent a little time this morning at the website of the UMC protestors, here, which has as its mission statement

We the undersigned express our objection to the prospect of the George W. Bush library, museum, and think tank being established at Southern Methodist University. As United Methodists, we believe that the linking of his presidency with a university bearing the Methodist name is utterly inappropriate. We urge the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University and the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church to reject this project.

On the site, however, I cannot find much justification for the objection. Specifically, there are no arguments or rationales offered as to why United Methodists should object to such a linkage. There is a list of references, but most of those appear to be the usual denunciations of the Bush administration over the "War on Terror", the War in Iraq, and the Federal government's handling of the Katrina aftermath. Nothing specifically Methodist.

I miss rational discourse.

Looking at the Southern Methodist University website: I do not even see the word "Methodist" on the front page. The university is referred to simply as SMU. In the "About Us" section SMU describes itself as

A private university of 11,000 students near the center of Dallas . . . And at the bottom of the page Founded in 1911 by what is now The United Methodist Church, SMU opened in 1915 with support from Dallas leaders. The University is nonsectarian in its teaching and committed to freedom of inquiry.

Doesn't sound like SMU is especially Methodist, so I have trouble believing that the opponents of the library wish to preserve the integrity of "Methodism".
We had so much fun with this yesterday, let's recap and start again with a more honest focus on one of the most resilient and fertile questions of American history: Was the Civil War fought over slavery?

My thesis (and this is key): The North did not begin the war to end slavery, but the South began the war to protect slavery.

The Election of 1860, in which the Republican Party swept 18 out of 18 free states, relegated the South to minority status. For several decades, a vast majority of Southerners had agreed that Northern rule was the end of “liberty” as they knew it. The new regional party, unlike the national parties that had come before, was so far removed from Southern sensibilities that it was not even on the ballot in most Southern states in 1860.

The election of Abraham Lincoln was an earthquake. Even as Lincoln promised that he would leave slavery undisturbed in the places in which it already existed, the South could not afford to accept that pledge. For at least a decade leading up to the watershed election, the South had asked for assurances, and, now, instead, they got Lincoln. The man who saw slavery as a great evil that must eventually be extinguished. “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.” The Party of “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” was now ascendant, and “Spot Resolution” Lincoln was at the crest of the wave.

The secession crisis of 1860-61 was not unlike previous standoffs between the two sections. Ten years earlier, the South had conducted furious preparations to leave the Union over the disposition of the slave question in the newly acquired territories in the West. The result of the turmoil then was the Compromise of 1850, on which the South reneged four years later, when Southern leaders demanded slavery be extended into the Kansas territory, in violation of the thirty-four year-old Missouri Compromise.

But the election of Lincoln, and more importantly the unprecedented regional majority, proved the final straw. As a last gasp, the South demanded that Lincoln agree to the extension of slavery into the West. Lincoln refused. And the War came.

Lincoln did not bring the Union into the fight to end slavery. He is famous for saying:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."

Having said that, the war did end slavery.

Was the South's fight merely to protect state rights? Again, the great question: What right were the seceding states defending? The right to secede? What right was in danger in the winter of 1860-61? What had changed? What was behind the secession at that moment?

Ironically, the failed secession was the end of state sovereignty as a viable counterweight to the power of the central government. Ironic, that is, because, in effect, state rights theory committed suicide. From the Civil War, the federal government emerged ascendant. No one would ever argue that the states were co-equal seats of authority again. No one would ever entertain the notion that secession was a possibility again.
Programming Note: Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this vibrant discussion. I invite you to read my latest post, which confronts the question of slavery as a cause of the Civil War in a more direct maner: "Re-Waging the Civil War."

In honor of MLK, evidently, Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, two candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, attended an NAACP rally in front of the South Carolina statehouse in Columbia. Both senators agreed that the Confederate flag, which formerly flew over the capitol dome but still remains on the property, has no place on the capitol grounds (read the Washington Post story here).

The actions of Senators Dodd and Biden strike me as pure demagoguery. Was this the most meaningful message they could have imparted on MLK day? Or was this their best shot at getting on TV and touching a hot-button issue with a vital constituency?

Back over at the Liberty Papers, Kevin makes an argument for dumping the Confederate flag (and the monument to Confederate veterans as well) because "the Confederacy existed for sole purpose of allowing the enslavement of other human beings."

Those Liberty Boys sure are hard on the Confederacy. Lighten up fellas.

Having said that, for different reasons, I agree that the public display of the Confederate flag is problematic and ought to fade into the sunset.

My comment I attached to Kevin's post:

Sadly, the honorable history of the Confederate battle flag is largely irrelevant.

The flag is a negative symbol in the South for two reasons:

1) it was co-opted by the Klan and became a symbol of violence toward African Americans; and

2) it was adopted by the massive resistance that emerged during the post-Brown Civil Rights years in the South. The Rebel flags found their way onto Southern state flags as a symbol of modern defiance rather than an homage to the tradition of bravery among a mostly non-slaveholding force of fighting men during the Civil War.

Too bad–-but that is the reality. There is a time-honored Christian principle of laying down non-essential symbols and practices that offend others.

Southern whites need to forego the flag as a measure of their desire to live in harmony with their neighbors.
Selected passages from, "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," King's greatest public pronouncement:

"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

"Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..."

"So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."

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In case anyone is interested:

I have engaged in a conversation on the "Liberty Papers" concerning the right of the South to Secede.

Here is the post and thread of comments that followed.

Also, a related post on "Wake Up America" entitled the "War of Northern Aggression" argues that the South was right to secede, the war was never really over (the last 150 years was interlude), and Southerners might well walk away again--perhaps in the near future.

Here is my first post on the Liberty Papers thread, which sums up my view in a nutshell:

A Right to Secede?

Yes and No.

The lack of clarity in re secession allows enough gray area for lawyers and constitutionalists to make persuasive arguments for either position.

The right to secede flows from the original process of ratifying the Constitution. That is, if South Carolina voluntarily entered the Union through the process of a ratification convention, they ought to have the right to voluntarily exit the Union through a de-ratification convention.

Lincoln’s answer: South Carolina had entered into a perpetual union contract. Once in–they could never leave. How many perpetual union contracts have you entered into in your life? They are pretty rare. The Mafia comes to mind: “you walk in; you are carried out.” We generally do not view those sorts of arrangements as humane.

The Election of 1860, and the emergence of an entirely regional party (the GOP), signalled the end of the South as an equal player in the national government. At least, that was the argument.

True, Lincoln and the Republicans promised not to disturb slavery where it existed, which should have been enough–for we all know that politicians don’t lie or change their minds or shift their rhetoric later when it suits their needs.

In the end, I agree that the secession was about slavery. From the Northern point of view, the war not about slavery until much later. But the South attempted to bolt the Union in order to protect slavery. From our perspective, there is no defending that motivation.

Read the entire post and comment thread here.
I spent Saturday morning reading Eric Foner's account of the collapse of Reconstruction following the American Civil War.

In many respects, at least in the short term, the Congressional Reconstruction efforts in the American South following the bloody War Between the States enjoyed great success. For a brief moment, the liberator-occupiers installed public education for all Southerners, built public hospitals and policed free elections. In so many ways, the vast majority of Southerners had never been freer or enjoyed more opportunity to improve themselves.

Northern proponents of "free labor" ideology optimistically weaved an enchanting plan for a new South in which public schools, railroads, small towns and independent farmers would prosper and proliferate. However, as the promised economic progress failed to materialize in the South, a backward-looking white insurgency gained momentum. A "reign of terror" against the occupying army, the new government and its civilian supporters made the South an increasingly dangerous place for citizens working toward the "free society" vision.

Although the violent insurgency was deadly and ubiquitous by 1870 and 1871, President Grant decisively responded with determination and vigor to crush the Klan by 1872. For a year or so, the project to reform the South moved forward in relative peace. But victory in the former Confederacy was not secured. The occupying Northerners had problems of their own at home. A faction of Republicans objected to the ruling party on grounds related indirectly to Reconstruction; they also believed that the former slaves, freed and given political rights, should now take the lead in maintaining their newly acquired status. It was time to draw down; it was time to focus on problems nearer to home.

After a devastating economic downturn in 1873, and the mid-term elections of 1874 in which the Democrats captured the House of Representatives for the first time since before the Civil War, President Grant observed that the public was worn out by Reconstruction.

By the election of 1876, the insurgency was back--and more brazen. This time, four years later, President Grant lacked the will to respond. Most of the Northern visionaries who had predicted a successful, dynamic and peaceful reformation were long gone. And the people of the North were mostly fatigued with the ten-year project. They had done their best. They had offered the South an opportunity. High minded and well-intentioned people had professed the ability to remake a distinct culture in their own image--but they had failed.

Note to readers: this is a simple telling of a complicated story from an occupiers point of view. I am hoping that my unreconstructed friends will accept it as that and not argue the finer points of Reconstruction historiography; that was not the point of my yarn--but, if it happens that way, I will engage in that conversation.
Early in the short life of this blog, I observed that George W. Bush acts upon a sort of postmillennial theology, a belief that the power of God working now in history will usher in an age of peace (millennium) prior to the return of Christ. This observation led to other posts that have explained and defended postmillennialism and amillenialism and their relation to politics through our attitudes toward the future. For the previous posts, see here and follow the links.

For background, I recycle some material from previous posts:

Premillennial: believing that when Jesus Christ returns he will usher in a long period of peace and justice (the millennium). In other words, there is a radical discontinuity [the return of Jesus] between present human history and the evident reign of God on earth in human history (Shalom). After the millennium comes the fulfillment.

Amillennial: believing that Jesus will return and then usher in the fulfillment, without a period of God’s evident reign within human history. In other words, hope for Shalom will be met only beyond human history.

Postmillennial: believing that the return of Jesus will be preceded by a period of peace and justice in which God’s reign on earth will be seen. Then comes the return of Jesus and the fulfillment. In other words, there will be a continuity between present human history and the establishment of Shalom.

All Christians are optimistic in an ultimate sense: we believe that Jesus will return and triumph over his foes, and ours, including death and suffering. But is there reason for optimism before the End? In other words, do Christians expect there to be any real, overall progress within human history? The answer given to this question will vary between Christians holding differing millennial views.

Answering “No,” are amillennialists and premillennialists. While there may be material progress within human history in areas such as technology, there is no actual human progress in a moral sense. All technological advances, for example, simply will allow us to kill one another in greater numbers. The amillennialists expect that the human history will continue a mixed-up mess of sin with some virtue, without real progress, until Jesus comes again. The premillennialists, most of them, expect that human history will continue a downward course getting worse and worse, a retrogress in effect, at least near the end of time. On the contrary, answering “Yes,” are the postmillennialists. The history of the human race, through the work of the Holy Spirit, does and will show moral progress as the gospel of Jesus Christ spreads over the world.

One’s attitude toward the progress, or lack of progress, within human history will affect political attitudes. (Wondering out loud: Reagan was postmillennial down to his bones, Carter?)

The American attitude, traditionally, has been optimistic regarding the future: we have thought of history in terms of progress. One of the roots of this optimism has been the influence of Christian postmillennial thought, the understanding of the majority of American evangelical Christians until some time in the twentieth century. Even today, though, I would venture to say that most Americans reject the idea that evil can triumph within human history until the End. In other words, I would say that most Americans reject the idea that God would allow a Hitler or a Stalin to envelope the world in a horror of tyrannical evil for centuries or millennia until Jesus comes again. We Americans seem to have a postmillennial heart, whatever doctrine is in our heads.

Below is a brief survey of Premillenialism and its relation to politics.

» Read More

From the Washington Times, this piece on the financial ties of the Saudis to Carter and especially his pal Bert Lance. Link from Wizbang who also has some interesting commentary re: Billy and also Saudi success.

Takes some shine off the halo of St. Jimmy of Plains.

On a related Carter note, this financial revelation follows the self-centered, churlish behavior of Carter over the last few years. One common-sense theory of human behavior as we age is that we reveal more clearly who we are as we have less success manipulating the persona we have created to present to the world. Jimmy is not aging gracefully.
From GayPatriot, this "report" from Denver. Bravo community self-sufficiency.
The President addresses the nation tonight. What does it all mean?

The Bad News:

1. Our army is in terrible shape. There is reasonable doubt as to whether our armed forces can even mount a sustained surge in Iraq.

2. The President's credibility is in terrible shape, and it is his own fault. The President is responsible for the state of the military. He is responsible for squandering the greatest surge of patriotism since Pearl Harbor and frittering away public support for the war. He is responsible for squandering three years, more than 3,000 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to achieve very little.

3. A majority of of the people of the United States and the United States Congress are no longer unified in support of the war (this too is the President's fault; see above).

4. The United States cannot win a war that the people and their elected representatives do not support.

5. For of all the reasons enumerated above, the President is now forced to throw a "Hail Mary" pass (low percentage option) to save our mission in Iraq. The temptation is to skimp on force level, which will leave no room for error. The surge probably cannot survive the first catastrophe.

6. A humiliating retreat out of Iraq is the beginning of the end of the American hegemony. The next world order may be far less to our liking.

The dim light in the darkness that must pass today as Good News:

1. The President has one more chance to make his case before the American people and sway statesmen in Congress.

2. The American military wants to win, and they are so talented and determined that they have the capability of overcoming the odds.

3. Necessity is the mother of invention; dire necessity (survival) is the most powerful motivation within the human psyche.

May God bless the United States of America.
On this day in history, January 8, 1815, an Andrew Jackson-led force routed the mighty British Army on the outskirts of New Orleans-- winning arguably the most important military victory in all of the American past.

It seems an appropriate moment to recycle these musings on Democracy and Providence:

Sometimes history turns on a dime. During the administration of James Madison, the American experiment faced a crisis of its own making: a disastrous Second War for Independence against Great Britain. Decrying an ill-conceived and fecklessly prosecuted war against the world's greatest military power, the nation's minority political party (the Federalists) attempted to set itself apart from the hated opposition (the Republicans). Locked out of power for four presidential cycles, sensing the public disgust, frustration and dejection over the course of the war, the Federalists met at Hartford, Connecticut. They composed and presented a list of demands to the increasingly unpopular President; unless met, they would no longer support his government or the failing war effort.

Although the Hartford Convention seemed wise politically (and to the Federalists actually quite the moderate approach), they were on the wrong side of history. What did they not know? Events were about to cast their demands in a completely different and unflattering light. At approximately the same time the nation would learn of the events in Hartford, they would also hear of a negotiated peace with Great Britain and a remarkable victory in New Orleans.

The product of America's most brilliant statesman, John Quincy Adams, and perhaps America's most daring poker player, Henry Clay, who bluffed his way to a draw with the British lion, the Treaty of Ghent saved face for the new nation. Securing an agreement to suspend hostilities and restore the American and British relationship to "status quo ante bellum," the American delegation cobbled a great victory out of a series of military defeats and humiliations.

Even more dramatic and incredible, American forces, under the generalship of Andrew Jackson, miraculously crushed the British at the Battle of New Orleans, which effectively ended the British threat to the American West forever. Although the two armies actually fought the battle after the war was officially over, news of the Peace arrived after the great American triumph in New Orleans.

In fact, as Americans learned of these seemingly preternatural events in Europe and in Louisiana almost simultaneously, they often conflated the two and credited the victory on the Mississippi River for bringing the British to heel. Along with the great joy of victory and peace, the news of the Hartford Convention also arrived and sank in. Instead of taking advantage of the ill wind of public opinion blowing against a failed war, the Federalist now appeared traitorous complainers, plotting against the government on the eve of our greatest national jubilation.

The Federalists bet against Providence and lost. And they were never heard from again.

But then there are other times when God does not deliver. For Southern Christians during the Civil War, convinced that God was on their side, the lost cause proved they were not chosen for God's purpose and uniquely blessed and protected. They waited on God--but God gave the victory to their persecutors. Lincoln argued that both sides of the war had claimed the blessings of God--but, in the end, God was on neither side; He had his own side. One should not assume God is on your side. We should not confuse Providence with deliverance.

I am convinced that George Bush believes in Providence. I am convinced that he thinks he is on the right side of Providence.

We can only wait and see where Providence comes down.

The piece in its entirety here.

A significant addendum: January 8 is also the birthday of Elvis Presley, born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Should the Federal Government subsidize American agriculture?

Here are a few reasons to answer "yes."

1. No nation can achieve national security if it is a net food importer. A nations's "agricultural infrastructure" must be maintained. So long as "free trade" results in the importation of cheaper food products from abroad, then some sort of subsidy may be needed. We could, of course, use import controls as a sort of indirect subsidy.

2. Excessive concentration in any one sector of the economy is bad, be it monopoly or oligarchy. Allowing a situation to develop in which a handful of agribusiness corporations create an effective oligarchy (say, 80% of one production area) could allow many bad things to happen. We can all boycott Detroit for a year if we wish, postponing car buying; we cannot boycott food production for a year. Regulation can only go so far. Subsidies, specifically targeted to small, independent producers, can help prevent this.

3. Within the U.S. we have a system of inspections to try to achieve safe food. We also ban numerous pesticides and herbicides. We also have regulations regarding feed additives for cattle. These safeguards are not present in many of our trading partners. Rather than a direct subsidy, of course, we could use import controls as an indirect subsidy.
Watching the funeral yesterday for President Ford, I was struck several times by Henry Kissinger's eulogy. At least twice in his speech, it seemed to me that Kissinger might be speaking as much or more to two ex-presidents as he was speaking about Gerald Ford. For example, he spoke of how Ford did not exhibit an obsession with his place in history, and, how Ford did not undercut his successors. I hope they were listening.
I had known about Ford's Episcopal membership and worship attendance. And, anecdotes over the years had convinced me that he probably was a sincere believer. I did not know some of the history revealed in this TIME article.

We apparently had two very devout men representing the major parties in the presidential race of 1976: only one made a big deal of it.