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150 Years
I post this here for odd reasons, the most prominent of which is that I hope it will produce a healthy debate.

The civil war started 150 years ago this year. It included such wonderful days as the battle at Antietam Creek (Sharpsburg for those of you in the south) where more americans died in a single day than any other day of combat in its history. It also included Gettysburg where over a 3 day period almost 8,000 amerians died.

I have long believed that the south won the civil war. Not militarily but politically. Brown v. Board of Education did not occur until 1954, how well has that succeeded in your community. The voting rights act was passed in 1965, has that materially effected the pale nature of our political representatives. The south has been allowed to keep its underclass in peonage since the civil war.

I attribute this to a variety of reasons. I understand racism and know that is part of the problem. I also believe that the civil war taught the federal government another lesson.

If the ruling elites in an area get mad enough about what you do you will be harmed in a very specific way. The US government continues to honor that fear.

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Clearly the South has been extremely influential. Even now the current wave of radical conservatism is fueled by southern politics.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I do not wish to belabor this point. It is just that I think it is important to understand race and class relationships in this country and to know how much the civil war effected the (dare I say it) soul of this country. It has affected the relationship of the people to the government in a most negative way. Far to many of the people believe that with a gun in their hand they may resist any governmental authority no matter how correct that authority may be. The government has learned that the manipulation of information is important to maintaining their limited control, and it knows it can only do that with the aid of the wealthy. Understand that I say this knowing that the wealthy have always controlled this country, as well as most other countries in the world.

It is the subtle, or not so subtle, things that define what we have been since that war. Such as the 442nd infantry regiment being sent to train in Mississippi. A bunch of "Japs" in Mississippi. How can that have been done unconsciously.

We as a nation must confront the evil effects of slavery and the continued effects of the civil war on all of us. We are weaker for our lack of understanding.

While I'm certainly no Civil War scholar, I would challenge the notion that the South won in an kind of "lasting" sense. First and foremost, 150 years is a very short amount of time in societal scales, IMO. Social change is generally glacial. Sure, there are punctuated periods where you get emergent effects, but it's usually not hard to see how the real seeds to a given change came many years before. For instance, as the royal wedding approaches in the UK, they're reportedly considering updating the rules of succession to allow the firstborn -- regardless of gender -- priority, rather than the firstborn male. Such a change has literally been hundreds of years in the making.

But primarily, I'd reference Cynic's Rule of Social Constriction: like a man with a boa constrictor wrapped around his chest, the louder and more often you shout about it, the less time you have left to live. The South whooped and hollered quite a bit and had enough support to led to a civil war and because they did, no region of the US will likely ever have that kind of support again. It's a matter of inevitability, I think. If one person can "ruin" things for everyone else then inevitably, one person will. The entire US legal system, with its reliance on precedence, is more or less based on that notion.

Social progress always works like that. You start out with "anything goes" and then someone takes something too far and suddenly it's well, anything goes except for that. And then someone else takes something else too far and it just continues to snowball until the rules become ponderous and people become so used to the new ways that they lose sight of why those rules became necessary in the first place. (See also, libertarians.)

Taken together, I think it's too much to expect cultures to change overnight but at the same time, it's no small feat to change a culture from one that does unspeakable acts to one that merely wishes it could. In the 1860, Lincoln was elected and the South was so horrified at the thought of his party's politics and what it might mean to their "way of life" that they managed to spark off a civil war over it. In 2008, an actual black man was elected president and it resulted in a smattering of ass-hats with him painted up as the Joker. If that isn't progress, I don't know what is.
Cynic - Not quite sure what you mean by 'lasting sense'. If you are saying that the South's influence is slowly waning I'd agree with that but I'd also suggest that doesn't dispute John's point.

Outside of the Gold Rush the greatest concentration of wealth in the US prior to the Civil War was in the South and I'm pretty sure that stayed true up until the beginning of the 20th century. The US economy was driven by cotton and tobacco.

I would submit that one of the legacies of the Civil War was a large class of disaffected wealthy and influential people who never accepted the outcome of the war. Poorer ex-Confederate soldiers became outlaws, perhaps the most famous example being Jesse James, even as the wealthy used political influence to ameliorate the loss of the cheap labor that made the South such an agricultural power.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
What I mean to dispute is the idea that the South actually "won." Their goal, necessarily pursuant to any financial ones, was to retain their cultural ideals, to see to it that those ideals would last into the future. They failed in that goal and their dramatic attempt and failure to do so not only constitutes losing, but it has all but ensured that such an event will forever become unlikely again.

The civil war wasn't a popular revolution -- it was the death rattle of an unsustainable ideology in a rapidly modernizing world; and every time similar nonsense rears its head in the south or elsewhere, the same pattern of grumbling, fever pitch, and ultimately irreversible squelching happens. It's as if they want it to lose or just can't help themselves.
Cynic, I will agree that social change is very slow. Two simple examples. All but a handful of states had laws banning interracial marriage. With the exception of Ohio, that repealed their law in 1887, it was not until 1948 when the california state supreme court decided against its law (it took until 1959 to actually change the law), that other states started repealing their laws. Many states had the laws in place until a Supreme Court Decision in 1965. The continued controversy over abortion is another example. Even though since Roe v Wade the population has generally supported it. In all fairness it is only about 1/3rd that supports abortion in all cases.

The intent of my OP was to point out that the south was allowed to maintain tight economic and political control over the former slaves until fairly recently. A simple example were laws specifically intended to suppress the ability of former slaves to vote. Between poll taxes and unfairly applied literacy tests southern blacks were essentially disenfranchised until passage of the Voting Rights act in 1965.

As should be obvious from my first paragraph I recognize that in all of the US african-americans have been hindered by practice and by law. Even where I live (near San Francisco) segregation of african-americans in discreet areas is obvious. Some of this is of course economic but a lot of this has been conscious exclusion. For example the area I grew up in had almost no asians until about 20 years ago. This in an area that has had a large asian population since just after the gold rush.

My intent was and remains that the south was allowed by the federal government to maintain its institutions without slavery. I will admit that the entirety of the rest of the country participated in this through indifference, primarily because of personal and institutional racism. There is still a difference between practical segregation and legal segregation. With the latter being more damaging.
Cynic - I think we agree that the ideology was no more sustainable than the 'child labor era' in England or other similar exploitations and was going to end anyway at some point. John's point is that the South came away with an undue amount of socio-political influence.

Clearly the South lost in the military sense but they became the ball and chain that the rest of the country has to drag into the present. I'm not so sure the North really won given that negative momentum.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I'm not really disagreeing here with the empirical evidence of history (of course!), but the logic of it all still feels suspicious to me. In declaring that the South has "won" by any measure, we're necessarily making comparisons to how things could have gone under different circumstances, such as if they had managed to secede by force or "permission" or if secession had never been attempted or "necessary" at all, assuming their hand had never been "forced." In declaring that the South "won," we're suggesting that the outcome has worked in their favor or they got their way anyway. This is manifestly not true by any measure.

I get that the general sentiment here is that the South has been allowed to more or less carry on as they wanted, minus slavery, and that because of their continued presence in federal government they have effectively dragged the North down to their level. But that's less of an argument supporting an interpretation of what has happened and why we're where we are and more an explicit re-statement an implicit assumption. Namely:

That attitudes toward blacks in the North were so much better than in the South and that remnant ill-will in the North is primarily a manifestation of Southern influence, rather than the same slow cultural drift that has occurred in the South combined with unavoidable equilibration, which happens in both directions.

It's true that the civil war polarized the nation in ways that might have happened otherwise, meaning that anti-abolitionist and pro-black sentiments increased in the North as a result of it. And of course it's probably also true that anti-black, pro-slavery sentiment in the South increased as a result of this polarization, taking "benign" (casual, if insidious) sentiments and making them considerably more rabid and long-lasting. Had things taken a more diplomatic course, the South likely would have ended slavery on its own and the cultural changes that led to it might ultimately have led to better attitudes faster, leaving us all in a better position than we find ourselves now. Maybe. In that sense you might argue that by forcing a war, their attitudes might have been prolonged and therefore it was more successful, win or lose, in terms of maintaining those cultural ideals than no war at all.

But what's being suggested here seems to be that after the Union was preserved, the North simply backed off and squandered an opportunity to continue to press the advantage by immediately begin enforcing Northern ideals by action of Federal overrides. I feel this is a flawed view for two reasons:

First, as I've already mentioned I think it's a false argument to suggest that Northern sentiment toward blacks was necessarily any better at the time. It didn't have slavery, but that's not necessarily saying as much as it seems, IMO.

Second, the "intrusion" of Federal decree upon "state's rights" to govern themselves was nowhere near then where it is today. Even if you give the North more credit than it deserves, you cannot, on a short scale of time, legislate people into having a better attitude, and such an attempt would have been unprecedented and doomed to failure. The ultimate solutions to the insidious legal issues raised in the South were Constitutional and not only does that not happen quickly, with the exception the Bill of Rights ammedments are invariably reactionary.

So again, the South did not, no matter what dimension you might choose to inspect, "win." Rather, they took something that was going to happen anyway and made it happen faster and ensured that their goals were not only going to be frowned upon but actually made illegal. Kind of like anti-gay marriage laws: the faster you put them on the books, the faster they can be declared unconstitutional and thereby set the precedent for permanent acceptance under the law. Where either group would be remiss in actually thanking their detractors for such a favor, one would be hard-pressed to describe those legislators who continue to fall into this trap as "winning" anymore than Charlie Sheen is "winning."
You make a great point. The fact is that the North wanted to end slavery for economic reasons, not humanitarian ones.

I can't speak for John but I don't think of the South as purely advocating racism as much as I think of the South as a sort of rallying point for a certain style of conservatism. Racial attitudes are more of a symptom of the kind of exploitative attitude towards other people in general. When I look at the South I immediately think of Southern Baptists with their notions of biblical inerrancy and all of the ramifications of that putrid doctrine.

You suppose that the South did not win by any measure and in many aspects you are right but the rabid christianity that so plagues us now is, by and large, moreso a product of the South than anywhere else.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I was reading something somewhere recently in which the author suggested that a crucial factor leading up to the Civil War was exactly that -- the rise of evangelical religion. The idea was that it put altered people's mindset, where they were much less willing to compromise because people weren't just wrong anymore, but in fact damned to hell for being so; it's harder to get people to come around when they've been convinced that entertaining the other side's viewpoint is on par with agreeing in principle with the Devil himself. Ask Karl Rove -- he knows all about this effect.

There was a time when I used to not take it very seriously when the Confederate-Flag-In-On the-Ceiling-of-Their-Trailers sort would inform me that the North didn't fight the war to end slavery, primarily because the point was largely moot if they themselves fought to preserve it, but also because it's just more of the "you aren't perfect either" nonsense defense I despise.

I used to also get kind of amused when my more conservative friends would brag about the GOP being the "party of Lincoln" (this was back before they went so far off the deep end that they started regarding the GOP as a horde of liberals) and I'd suggest that I couldn't see any resemblance between that party and the one they professed to belong to.

Well, I'm starting to see it now. With regard to the Civil War, I guess I'll have to fall back on my more fringe-worthy notion that whatever the rationalization necessary to bring it about, ending slavery by any means was the right thing to do. But this cynical, money-based motivation for everything the "party of Lincoln" does certainly has its roots.
Cynic, you have made some excellent points. In all honesty I think I have some nits to pick but I must read your posts several times to do so.
The one thing I love about the group is: equal disagreement. *relaxing sigh* bliss
In Lincoln's day, the Republicans were the liberals. Now, thanks to the malefic influence of the Tea Party, it's far to the conservative side.

I think of the Civil War as being a conflict between the industrializing North and the agrarian South, competing for favored economic policies such as tariffs. The slavery issue came to greater prominence after it was under way. I think the Southern states had the right to dissociate themselves from the Union and secede, although I'm not sorry they lost the horrible war which followed.

Ah ain't got nuthin' agin Yankahs.Wink
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
catman - I'm not sure that there is such a thing as a 'right to secede'. Just imagine the chaos if states could just decide to secede whenever they disagreed with a new policy.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
Like Gov. Perry of Texas has threatened to do on occasion? If he ever succeeds, I really won't want to be here.

Perhaps individual states don't have a 'right' (whatever that is) to secede, but I think that the seven states of the Confederacy had a right to, since they were jointly trying to form a new country which would have been based on the their agricultural focus (the Czech Republic and Slovakia did this is modern times). I'm not saying I would have wanted to live in the CSA! However, the original states joined to form the USA of their own free will, so it seems to me that dissatisfied members should have the right to leave if desired. Holding a state in by force against its will doesn't seem a tenable proposition.

I just threw the idea out for discussion, simply to see what the reaction would be.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
I agree with both Catman and Seeker. Smile

An agreement made that your progeny can never extricate themselves from isn't binding. But it's not that simple, of course either. In theory, the states are like citizens and free to leave. But of course, states are also composed of citizens of the country at large and not just the state. Changing their citizenship status, seizing their lands, or booting them out even on the basis of a majority vote would be a remarkable thing to work out to anyone's satisfaction. Nothing about it is simple.

This is why I tend to regard the notion of "states" as kind of a quint throwback. Over the long haul, the manifest inability of the state's to handle themselves properly, be it economically or morally, has made the dominance of the federal government both inevitable and right. Whatever positive aspects we can preserve of the original state/federal relationship we should.

But again, just because something has been put together doesn't mean people down the road can't disagree and shouldn't be able to legally pull it apart. There ought to be a huge number of hoops to jump through to do it legally though. Perhaps with a legal process in place, those who want to do it militarily would be shown to be what they really are.
From a practical standpoint I'm not sure such a secession could ever be done civilly. The Czechoslovakian example is unique in that they really were only autonomous for a very brief time and even then it was a state created by the European alliance after WWI.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
Aw. c'mon, seeker, it's a tie. Wink I think it could be done "civilly" if both sides decided it would be a civil separation. That doesn't necessarily mean it would turn out that way. The fragmentation of Yugoslavia didn't work out too well, but I doubt that anyone thought it would.

Cynic: Good analysis!
Edited by catman on 04/21/2011 17:15
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
LOL, I didn't know we were racing.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
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