Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fort Sumter Redux: the battle flag and the re-ignition of the Confederacy

 “Americans now discriminate more on the basis of party than on race, gender or any of the other divides we typically think of — and that discrimination extends beyond politics into personal relationships and non-political behaviors.” This according to a study published last year by Stanford and Princeton researchers. (See America's New Cycle of Partisan Hatred.)  The divide is as fierce as it has been, since…

… since previous phases of the recurring American Civil War. I found this excerpt interesting: Also of note is that the partisan polarization occurs even though Americans aren’t all that split on policies or ideology. Their partisanship is more tribal than anything — the result of an ill-informed electorate." 

Moreover “In order to have an understanding of the ideology of your party and the opposing party you have to have a lot of information….”

And hence, polemicists on both sides (though one far worse than the other) strive to oversimplify and to downplay science. This article blames we, in the electorate for allowing it to happen.  And sure, some fault lies there.  But history tells us how our ancestors got out of similar phases, in the past.  And it always took just one thing.  One thing that’s needed now. 

When reason ceases to function and civil war has blossomed into full fury... one side has simply to win.

== The battle flag is only 99% a "symbol of hatred" ==

And so, the Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof has accomplished his openly stated goal -- to stir our civil war to an even greater boil -- though perhaps not with results he intended.  Take the surge in discussion of eliminating the X-shaped Confederate Battle Flag from state premises and symbology, and not just in South Carolina (where the governor just declared her agreement that it should depart from the state capitol grounds.)

(Indeed, see how this is one more example of why we should have a "rename crazy killers" law... Or Names of Infamy -- Deny killers the notoreity they seek.)

Indeed, for sure I am 99% on one side. Was the Olde Confederacy awful?  Of course. None of the rationalizations for secession or "the Cause" hold up under the slightest historical scrutiny. For example, southerners weren't complaining at all about "states rights" during the thirty years that they dominated the federal government, until 1860.  Up to the election of Lincoln, they ran roughshod over their neighbors, applying federal power with merciless cruelty and ferocity. 

The secession declarations of each Confederate state make abundantly clear that their cause was exactly and precisely and almost entirely the protection and promotion of slavery. Top middle and bottom. First and last.  The very word is praised more than thirty times in South Carolina's document. Those who tout any other explanation for the treason know no history.

And yet... I refuse to say that there was absolutely zero admirable about the Confederacy.  As evil as its romantic "cause" was, they displayed one trait worth positive (if grudging) memory. 

Martial courage and skill.Them rebs sure could fight! Southern foot soldiers repeatedly exhibited fortitude, endurance, cleverness, innovation and ability at arms. A knack that continues today as southern men and women volunteer for arduous military life more often than do blue-city folk.

Hence, there is one — just one — place where I can look at the Battle Flag of the Confederacy without loathing a symbol of treason and hatred... and that is in portrayals of actual battle. In movies like the wonderful GETTYSBURG film, or in real life re-enactments, I root for the Union, the good guys and the side that also has to win the latest phase of our re-ignited Civil War, lest American (and likely world) civilization spiral again into superstition and feudalism.  

But I will not begrudge southern whites swelling their chests with pride as that banner -- alongside the "bonny blue flag" -- unfurls on an actual battlefield, recalling when their forbears carried those symbols forward with stunning bravery, fighting for a cause

— although that cause was, in fact, one of the worst for which men ever fought. *

Anywhere outside a movie or re-enactment, though? Ditch it. There is no redemption for a symbol of oppression and treason and hatred, anywhere having to do with civilized, 21st Century life.

== The other Confederate motivation ==

A corner-piece polemic spread by every single Republican candidate is one version or another of anti-intellectualism:

 “With the Republican primaries ramping up, there will surely be a great deal of anti-intellectual musing coming from each candidate. There will be talk of how those elitist “harvard faculty” members are disconnected from the common people up in their ivory tower, and how they just don’t understand the real America."

 Mike Huckabee, one of the GOP candidates for president, summarized this view on “The Daily Show” earlier this year (and in his book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy): 

“There’s a real disconnect between people that live in the bubbles of New York, Washington, and Hollywood, versus the people who live in the land of the bubba’s…theres a big difference between people who are well educated and people who are smart.” 

To which zero-sum dichotomy, the only reaction is that this Nehemia Scudder, like his ilk, is at war with the very notion of our civilization. See: Who Benefits from the Politics of Outrage?

More on this rising polarization, below.

 == Comparing the Union to the Confederacy: 2015 edition ==

Some maps speak for themselves. We are lectured-to about about capitalism and enterprise by folks who are worst at handling money, let alone doing business startups or innovation.

And lectured-to by Huckabee's "bubbas" on family values: States with the highest rates of second marriages:   35% in Arkansas, 26% Texas, 30% Florida,  versus 21 % California and 17% New York.  Look at the map and compare it to similar tabulations of teen sex rates, teen pregnancy, STDs, domestic violence... and net recipients of tax money. And some historical maps, as well. Ahem. Did I suggest that folks might adjust their politics to reflect... actual outcomes?

 Oh, but it gets better:

Red America gets far more from the Federal government than Blue America does. In fact, the federal government serves as a mechanism for transferring wealth from productive, innovative Blue America to parasitic Red America. From the Wall Street Journal: Which States Take the Most from the U.S. Government?

Delaware residents, who voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama in 2012, get 50 cents in federal funding for every $1 in federal income taxes they pay.

Mississippi — 55.5% for Mitt Romney — cashes in with $3.07 in federal funding for every dollar paid in income taxes.

== And it goes on... ==

Alas, am I exaggerating the "civil war" thing?

In a sadly related event: Bill Maher commented on the Jade Helm paranoid lunacy: “Here’s the thing: in today’s Republican Party, you can’t call out nutty people for being nutty, because they’re not a small group,” Maher said. “In the Republican Party, crazy is a constituency.” 

As if to illustrate this point: Conservative Charles Murray has a plan to render useless regulations from the EPA, OSHA, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commision. Create a fund to pay for a bunch of small suits against these agencies until they stop enforcing regulations. Read about it at (an admittedly biased source): 

Yeah, it fits: Texas bill would make recording police illegal: Citizens who are armed (with cameras) would not be permitted to record police activity within 100 feet of an officer on duty. The offense would be a misdemeanor. This bill would contradict the precedent set in 2011 by an appeals court, which found that citizens are allowed to record police.

Then how to describe the lunatics in the Wyoming legislature passing a law that "...makes it illegal to collect resource data” from any land outside of city boundaries, whether that land be private, public, or federal. Under the law, “collect” means to “take a sample of material, acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form from open land which is submitted or intended to be submitted to any agency of the state or federal government.”  So even facing actual facts is now illegal.

Ah, but Ohio has joined the list of Republican controlled states that are gunning for the Libertarian Party, denying third party candidates positions on the ballot by tightening eligibility requirements.

Finally, see this: Tracking how America changes its mind: the pace of social change.

Am I being harsh?  I am a scientist and a believer in the future.  If they had left their Book Of Revelation yearnings for an end to civilization and the world and also of reason, for Sunday morning, it would be one thing.  By making it daily policy, they have made clear to folks like me that this has nothing, whatsoever to do with "left versus right."

It is a revived mad Confederacy ... waging outright war against tomorrow.

* Paraphrasing Sherman, of course.


Anonymous said...

Fuck that flag.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Southern foot soldiers repeatedly exhibited fortitude, endurance, cleverness, innovation and ability at arms"

Yeah, they exhibited so much fortitude that at least 100.000 of them deserted.
Don't get me wrong: southern deserters weren't cowards: if anything, given the ferocious guerrilla war they (and their wives) waged on the conscription officers, they obviously weren't lacking courage: on the contrary, they were the smarter ones, as they not only saw that they were being sacrificed to preserve the sybaritic lifestyle of a caste of inbred parasites, but acted upon that knowledge by refusing to serve the decadent planter lords, and often fighting the armed bullies on their payroll who were sent to forcefully drag them back in the confederacy's military.

The question is, why aren't these people celebrated as heroic conscience objectors instead of the submissive fools who rushed to their death when the local nobility ordered them to?


* "theres a big difference between people who are well educated and people who are smart"

One funny thing about American right-wingers is that they always seem that close to embrace Bourdieu, only to fall back to their old dynasts' worshiping antics


* "Texas bill would make recording police illegal"

Which would make this bill one of the many laws obsolete even before they are voted. To make such a law even remotely efficient, you'd have to start by forbidding the sale of mini camecorders on Amazon: I'd love to see a Lawmaker trying to pull that off, just for the schadenfreude of watching corporate interests devouring their own advocates in public.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. I can see a potential response to the TX recording law that involves drones with cameras and microphones. Program them to follow police around and dump their feeds online. The police will have to arrange for jamming of signals and that will result in an arms race with makers going to coherent optical signals transmissions. Things get fun from there.

Paul SB said...

Alfred, they would first have to deal with a federal law that prohibits tampering with any transmitted signals that dates back to 1929. I don't remember the name of the law, but a few years ago one of the chemistry teachers at my school bought a cell phone signal jammer to thwart the huge number of kids who spent their class time texting instead of learning. A major cell company tracked him down and threatened to sue him to oblivion because his jammer was interfering with a whole neighborhood.

Paul SB said...

When we are talking about anti-intellectualism, I hope people will make a distinction between Ivy League towers like Harvard and very good middle-class institutions that comprise the bulk of higher education in this country. It was the advice of Harvard professors that began to seriously jack up the education system all the way back in the 1930s (look up a movement called the "Cult of Efficiency" - I have made reference to this here before). From dealing with Ivy Leaguers during my time as a grad student, I can honestly agree that most of those people are seriously out of touch with the common human being. That's not because they are educated, but because they were mostly born rich. Just think of President George I's famous supermarket gaff.

Another thing to think about here is that the number of students attending higher education has risen to the highest it has ever been. Up until the 1970s less than 10% of people in the US went to any sort of institution of higher education (and those were mostly the rich, ensuring that wealth would remain in their dynasties), but financial aid monies made it possible by the end of the '70s for 30% of Americans to get higher education. Today it is 50%. The "Bubba" coalition will be soon outnumbered if the trend continues, and most of those will be people who went to ordinary, middle-class state colleges and university, not Ivy League snobs who are truly clueless.

I had a thought about a factor that might help to explain why the political landscape has become so virulent in the past few decades. Over the past several years I have been hearing more and more about research showing that Americans have been becoming increasingly narcissistic since the Reagan days. That reminded me of a book I read a few years ago called "Nurture Shock" by Po Bronson, that discusses what he calls "The Praise Effect."


The idea of the Praise Effect is that when parents and others praise children by calling them smart, it has a contradictory side effect. Children who have been told they are smart assume that anything they do should be easy or just come naturally. When they have a hard job to do, like learning Algebra, and it doesn't come easy to them, they simply give up under the assumption that they aren't THAT smart. If, on the other hand, you praise children for hard work and the effort they put into learning, they learn that being smart requires work (any neuroscientist can explain why) and they are less likely to give up too easily.

The connection I see between our overly partisan political landscape and what Bronson is saying has to do with how people's perceptions of self-esteem have changed, and what that may be doing to people. There was a huge literature in the '60s and '70s that made the case for praising children and working to increase self-esteem. This was an understandable reaction to centuries of religion essentially telling us that were are all nothing but worms. Low self-esteem does lead to clinical depression, but I think that as a nation we went too far in the other direction. As a high school teacher I deal constantly with not just adolescents but their parents as well who often seem to be convinced that they are the coolest things to walk on the face of this Earth, with very little reason except that this is what they have been told by parents and teachers from a very young age. People who think they are totally awesome are not people who have a lot of respect for difference, be it clinal variation, ethno-cultural differences or socio-political philosophies. Thus it may be that some of our problem is less structural than the actions of political parties and interest groups and more deeply seated in the way our culture (meaning superstructure) has changed.

testing this hypothesis might be difficult...

David Brin said...

Laurent, very good point. In some cases, whole counties seceded from the Confederacy and flew the US flag during the entire war. Every southern state except S Carolina saw self-organized regiments that went north to fight for their real country, the USA. It’s all discussed in the terrific Ken Burns documentary The Civil War. Alas, that great work never mentions that the 1861-1865 struggle was only phase 4 of the ongoing culture war.

Tim H. said...

More might be said about the inherent amorality of the confederacy, the desire for fortune at whatever cost to others, even death. Not that the north was guiltless in that, but they never took it so far.

Daniel Duffy said...

Not courage so much as desparation.

Like the German and Japanese soldiers of World War II, Confederate soldiers admittedly displayed exceptional courage and skill at arms. But they fought their fiercest against overwhelming odds long after their wars were obviously lost.

And in all cases they did so out of fear of retribution.

The Germans feared what the "Slavic hordes" of the Red army would do to the Fatherland after what they did to Russian civilians, and what international justice would do to them becasue of the Holocaust.

The Japanese (who knew about the beastial acts committed by Japanese soldiers against Chinese civilians, other Asians, and Allied POWs) feared what American invaders would do to their Sacred Home Islands.

And the Confederates were terrified what freed Blacks would do to their former masters, especially in states like Georgia where Blacks were a near majority of the population.

So don't make too much of Confederate bravery. It was based on fear.

Daniel Duffy said...

It is interesting to speculate what would have happened to the CSA if the South had won the Civil War and achieved independence.

Demographically the White ruled South would be doomed.

In many deep South states, blacks were alredy a near majority at the time of the Civil War. Slave owners would have every financial incentive to maximize the birth rates of their slave property. Black birth rates were higher than White birth rates at the start of the Civil War. Since slaves could not flee north, there would be no Black migration to northern cities as in our timeline.

Meanwhile, white European immigrants would have shunned the South. Why would any laborer from Italy or Poland want to compete with slave labor?

The South also had plans to conquer a slave empire from the Carribean and Mexico down to Brazil (the Spanish-American war would have been the Spanish-Confederate War as the South conquered Cuba). So add a mass of underclass Brown people (who may not have been officially slaves but would have been reduced to peonage in any case) to CSA demographics.

Technically, Black slaves might be freed one day, but they would remain in an aparthied-like bondage. And so by the time of its centennial in 1960, the CSA demographically resembles South Afrika - a tiny White minority at the top trying to control a vast sea of Brown and Black - and with the same results.

So Martin Luther King finally emerges from Birmingham jail to play the same role as Nelson Mandela as the president of a Black majority CSA.

sociotard said...

Accepted: the battle flag of Virginia wound up used by racists, now its tainted, now nobody should use it. Fine.

So, if we see young men who like it because they feel it symbolizes being a rebel full stop, sticking it to the man, and not in a hippie way, what should we tell them to use instead? Because young men like to feel like rebels.

I heard a raft instructor talk about "point positive", where it is easier to steer the raft correctly by picking a spot and going for it than by merely avoiding rocks (point negative). Same thing here. What do we suggest instead of the Virginia Battle Flag to symbolize rebelliousness.

atomsmith said...


Gasden flag?"

Paul SB said...

Sociotard, I agree with your "point positive" notion, but I don't know enough about Southern culture to have a good suggestion. I do want to point out, though, that the flag isn't just about rebelliousness, it's also about their identity as Southerners. Most of the country has tended to denigrate (interesting word, isn't it?) people from the South - whole cloth - for a very long time. They see the Civil War as a fundamental part of their history, and like people everywhere, they don't want to be told that their history is bad and their ancestors were evil. It's one thing to shame a person, it's another to shame an entire region. It is little wonder that even respectable Southerners try to white wash the whole slavery issue and claim that it was really about state's rights. It's a total canard, but it's a way for them to save face culturally. Think about people who grew up in Germany after WW II with the guilt of the Holocaust on "their people."

I have no desire to excuse neonazis in Austria and Germany nor American hate groups. On a practical level, though, we as a nation need to get past stereotyping and trying to shame an entire region. Some people respond to shaming by trying to improve themselves, but many go the opposite direction full-bore, and come out the other side blind hate monsters. People need their dignity, and there is no surer way to breed hate than to rob people of it. Maybe what Laurent pointed out, about the many Southern people who resisted Confederate conscription, could be memetically linked to the Occupy movements of today. Draw a parallel between the actions of the upper crust then to the actions of the upper crust now, and maybe Southern people would find something to be proud of in their history besides being anti-government permanently adolescent "rebels."

But what symbol could Southerners who are against their wealthy masters rally around? I doubt it would be the Stars and Stripes, as it was for those Southern regiments that went to the Union side, as most people today see our government as almost hopelessly corrupt. Maybe those old regiments had their own battle flags that could be resurrected?

locumranch said...

Call it our Anti-Kumbayah moment:

With the advance of the New 'Transparency', the rise of 'partisan polarization' is inevitable as we are forced to resort to familial ties, tribalism and (god forbid) SYMBOLISM to replace the illusion of intertribal unity that was once generated by sordid backroom deals, political expediency & secretive compromises.

For, make no mistake about, the current controversy about the Confederate Flag (in the US), the NSA wire-tapping of foreign dignitaries (France, Germany) and the Greek Financial Crisis is more about the symbolic loss of our most treasured illusions, especially that of plausible deniability, that has always been REQUIRED by humanity to grease the machinery of international cooperation as each participant (in the name of 'brotherhood' & compromise) is forced to surrender their personal ideals (and, with it the moral high-ground), while simultaneously saving face through their (mutual) invocation of moral victory.

This is why certain idealists despise the New Confederacy: It exposes the lies that both sides tell themselves in order to interact, like the Blue & Red lies about (backward; illiterate; diseased) country yokels, the (disproportional) benefits of mutual interdependency and the (moral; intellectual; political) superiority of the urban constituency.

We deny each group moral agency at our collective risk; our lies will no longer sustain us; the centre cannot hold; (and) mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.


Anonymous said...

The Confederate Aristocrats have been in alliance with the Carbon Barons for several generations. This was a major miscalculation for both, as they are now both limited by the weaknesses of the other. Racism and deregulated pollution arise from the same anti-intellectual manipulation of the white proletariat. From the Southern Strategy to the Bush/Saudi alliance, these ideals brought wealth and electoral power to their patrons. But now everyone wants solar panels on their roof so they can thumb their noses at the electricity conglomerates. Symbols of the Confederacy are being torn down and the more tangible policies of racial inequality and incarceration are getting less and less sustainable every day.

I hope that the Supreme Court kills the ACA subsidies for the mooching Red States, leading to an electoral backlash that finishes off the radical right off for a generation or two. Then we can end the Drug War, stimulate the economy with massive solar projects, divert money from the Pentagon to NASA, and cut the nuts off of Wall Street.


Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Heh. This is Texas were are talking about, right? They don't have to deal with the federal law first. They will do as they damn well please and deal with the consequences as they happen. Many people will point out what you've recognized, but I sincerely doubt heed such legal niceties. 8)

David Brin said...

Daniel, good thought experiment in re MLK=Mandela. Hadn't thought of it. Write it up!

Though if the CSA "won" the 1861 rebellion, there would have been another war within 20 years, against a now-ready and hugely armed North. They'd have lost Louisiana, Arkansas. Florida and all the border states. (Texas would have regained independence before that.) The rump "solid south" would have been left to fester.

Sociotard I agree about the Gadsden Flag. Good for libertarians. Could then be turned toward aristocrats at some point.

As for locum, at least this time his statements follow a logical progression. Though ironic and silly.

"You folks who preach tolerance and diversity are intolerant, diversity-crushing bullies! Because you aim to stop us from being intolerant, diversity crushing bullies! How intolerant!"

That is an almost perfect paraphrasing, I contend. And indeed, there is a LEVEL at which it is a legitimate complaint... when the left's PC rants go insane. (Look up the latest re "micro-aggression.")

But of course, at most levels, it is utter drivel.

Alfred Differ said...

There is no way the North could have tolerated the South owning New Orleans. From a geopolitical perspective, the whole point for US financing of the Texas rebellion was to push Mexico farther way from a vital port city we needed to ensure exports from the mid-west remained cheap. Nothing beats the costs of water transport for bulk goods and the Mississippi river basin gave the US a fantastic wealth generation center that combined easy water transport with fertile ground and a large territory. Look on the map and try to find a region elsewhere in the world that combines these things in such a big way. There isn't a similar river basin.

After retaking New Orleans, the next objective would have been the approach ways. Texas wasn't populated enough to defend itself if New Orleans was in northern hands. Control of Florida ports would have cut off naval support of the southern coast from Virginia. That's how it would have gone down and not that far from what actually happened.

From a geopolitical perspective, there is simply no way the US can tolerate a confederacy of southern states. We didn't even tolerate a relatively strong and independent Mexico and it was southerners like Polk who understood why that had to be.

Gator said...

And it's not just the flag. See this for example:

Racism did not end with the surrender at Appomattox.
This is from the speech by Sen Ben Tilman in 1907, referring to the 1876 governor's election.
"We reorganized the Democratic party with one plank, and only one plank, namely, that “this is a white man's country and white men must govern it.” Under that banner we went to battle. We had 8,000 negro militia organized by carpetbaggers. The carpetbag governor had come to Washington and had persuaded General Grant to transcend his authority by issuing to the State its quota of arms under the militia appropriation for twenty years in advance, in order to get enough to equip these negro soldiers. They used to drum up and down the roads with their fifes and their gleaming bayonets, equipped with new Springfield rifles and dressed in the regulation uniform. It was lawful, I suppose, but these negro soldiers or this negro militia—for they were never soldiers—growing more and more bold, let drop talk among themselves where the white children might hear their purpose, and it came to our ears. This is what they said:
The President is our friend. The North is with us. We intend to kill all the white men, take the land, marry the white women, and then these white children will wait on us.""

Sounds much like the Charleston shooter in 2015.

Anonymous said...

I don't live in America but admire some of what the US has done for the planet.

I'm not as immersed in the day to day US politics / news / misinformation as Americans, so I take a more detached view.

That detached view is tinged with great sadness. I see underlying hatred, a lack of desire to understand and "get in the other guys head", low levels of collegiality.

To me signs of a country ripping itself apart.

I sure hope this can be healed, without resort to finding an external group to have an "existential war" against.

Go well.

locumranch said...

To paraphrase our host's excellent job of paraphrasing: Ideology does NOT compromise.

Too bad, so sad, that the Act of Compromise, aka 'acknowledging & accepting the universality of human failings', aka 'the Foundation of Human Civilisation', is now thought 'inconceivable' by the Left, Right, Blue, Red & idealists of any stripe.

Intolerance is still intolerance even when pursued with noblest intent, just as intent (however noble) NEVER justifies the brutality of forced conformity.

Laissez-faire libertarians appear to be extinct, it appears.


raito said...

I'm both amused and appalled at any politician saying that anyone is out of touch with the common person. It would be very interesting and instructive to analyze the finances of the Capitol. In particular, it would be interesting to see which ones could, assuming they lost their next election and liquidated their investments (so that they were living solely on their current assets without interest) might never have to work again. That's about as out of touch as you can get.

I'd bet it's a far larger percentage than the nation as a whole.

I'll also note that this article mentions both the name of a killer and the idea that they should not be named.

When it comes to personalities in current politics, Friend of the Common Man by the Blasters starts playing in my head.

As far as division goes, I'm still far more melting pot than diversity.

And personally, I don't think that the party of the candidate has any place on a ballot. And I'm pretty tired of non-profit political corporations (parties) taking my tax dollars to run primaries that only benefit them. Not that caucuses are any better.

Alan said...

Paul SB - agreed on your points. When Gov. Haley suggested taking down the battle flag at the state capitol, I figured it was a reasonable thing. At the very least, it ought to be at half mast when the other flags are at half mast.

When a number of stores, including Amazon and eBay that sell EVERYTHING, decided to stop selling anything with the flag, it was obvious to me that this is not really about the flag, it is about anti-southern bigotry coming to the fore. It's one of the few bigotries that are still socially acceptable.

Also funny how the anti-southern bigots never acknowledge the fact that Lincoln's platform included bankrupting the South by placing such high tariffs on exported cotton that southern planters would have to sell to Yankee textile mills at much lower prices than what they could get in Europe. Restrictions on trade are the chief cause of most wars, and it was certainly a contributing cause to the American Civil War.

Finally, it is always humorous to see the claims about treason. A fundamental claim of American government is that it is only legitimate when it has the consent of the governed. The sovereign Southern states withdrew their consent, and the U.S. government ignored that fact. If anyone committed treason against the basic beliefs about government held at the time, it was clearly the Federal government. The idea that Southerners committed treason against themselves is clearly absurd.

This is not to adulate the Confederacy. The Confederate government was pretty awful too, but everything they did was legal under the system of that time - the Federal invasion of foreign nations was clearly illegal, and considering that they were attacking the same people who had saved their asses in the American Revolution it was especially dishonorable.

David Brin said...

Alfred, I agree that the only scenario in which the South even survives the Civil War is political, if McClellon had won the presidency, perhaps, and by then the CSA had lost Louisiana, Arkansas, the entire Mississippi coastline, Mobile, Tennessee and many other coastal ports.Any deal to leave the CSA standing would have cost them also Florida and Texas.

I simply deferred all of those things 20 years on the absurd assumption that the CSA actually WON, huge… even so the result would have been delayed just 2 decades.

But I disagree re Texas. The Texans won every fight with the Union in the 1860s. Tough sons of guns.

Sorry, but if there is ANY period of peace with the CSA standing as a sovereign state, then afterward it would be untenable to reconquer it completely. The resulting guerrilla was would make the brits in Ireland look easy. But leave them with Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and SCarolina?. Then the crazies can all be sent there and commanded to end slavery, but with the craziest confeds left to fester.

=== locum actually seems color blind to realizing that to complain about unfairness by those who are trying to impose fairness is not just illogical, it is decalring fealty to THEIR value system! Only enlightenment thinkers preached tolerance, diversity and fairness! Even Periclean Athens, which understood other principles, like reciprocal accountability and criticism, had no concept of universal tolerance.

Yes, there is an irony to “we will not tolerate the intolerant.” But it is practical, because without that limit on our toleration, the intolerant will win… and they will impose intolerance forever.

We have seen it 10,000 times across 4000 years. Well, it’s OUR turn now. We have power and we will shrug off the whines of those who use OUR standards of fairness to whimper… “but you won’t let me oppress others! That’s oppression!”

Okay son, then it is. We’re ironic. Not hypocrites, like you.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is anyone who has ever attempted to calculate the financial cost of White Supremacy to our country over the last century and a half. Racial subjugation never did any favors to the Southern economy. Lost productivity, less economic demand, the Drug War, ... goes on and on. My guess would be in the tens of trillions of dollars.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: The Texans are the only group for whom I would consider the 20 year delay. They had ports and fertile ground to produce wealth to buy what they needed. Technically, they could trade with Mexico and out through their ports, but that would have made for a much wider war if they had tried. I have no doubt they would have been slowly strangled, though, because their most productive region is too close to New Orleans. The best they could have hoped for is to survive as a buffer state between us and Mexico and that only makes sense if Mexico is strong enough to discourage us from fighting them. They weren’t, so Texas survival would have depended upon European intervention in either Texas or Mexico. I can’t see Mexico of that period (fighting off another ‘Napoleon’ from France) going for that. 8)

I don’t know about ‘untenable’ after a period of peace, though. They are within easy reach of Northern arms, so they are right where it actually makes sense for us to have land battles. Only in Europe and Asia must we be cautious of the fact that we are outnumbered by the locals. We can’t unilaterally deploy armies of millions that far from home without it being untenable. We CAN in our own backyard. The guerrilla war would have turned into genocide, though. That’s what most regions and nations know from experience that we managed to avoid. Our history doesn’t have us turning on each other with such ferocity that the only possible peace involves extermination. Even today, we aren’t there. This peace we manage has made us extremely wealthy as a result.

I’m not that scared about the current phase of our civil war. I have no doubt some cities will burn in the next 10 to 15 years, but the organization the southern states need will dissolve from the inside when they are attacked by their immediate neighbors using the tools already available. You know what we will do with cameras and microphones more than most. They don’t have a chance once we get riled.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alan: Sorry. It’s still treason. The States are not fully sovereign. There was no Constitutional mechanism for leaving the Union, so what they did when they tried was illegal. It was also stupid. Anyone with a map and a decent sense of how trade works would realize the Union had to own New Orleans and the entire river basin to the north of it in order to ensure its own physical security. The South had no legal way to leave and no sanity when they tried to keep New Orleans. Dumb.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Please excuse an ignorant foreigner
But was the first "action" of your civil war not
"Fort Sumpter has been fired on"
That was an attack by the rebels???
So the South initiated the war??

David Brin said...

Anonymous, the greatest argument for liberal causes is not "goodness" but pragmatism... the argument of Adam Smith against cheating oligarchy... that is is dumb to waste human talent.

Even if a race or sex were on AVERAGE less capable in certain talents than another, that difference should have absolutely no bearing on opportunities, since individuals span a vastly wider distribution spectrum than any such difference of averages. Hence prejudice or pre-judgment is not only vile, it is a sign of a defective mind.

Adam Smith thus believed in mass education, infrastructure, public health etc. And any sensible libertarian would also, since those things help to maximize the number of skilled, capable and confidently-eager competitors to feed into markets. Libertarians who oppose THOSE kinds of liberal interventions, the ones that deliver every 25 year old to EQUAL STARTING BLOCKS, is therefor an utter hypocrite.

That is why the hijackers of libertarianism speak only of sacred PROPERTY and never anymore about competition. Above a certain level, property becomes the toxic enemy of competition.


Oh, about the Civil War. those historians who say that the Battle of Gettysburg was a close thing and the Union might have lost the war? In other words, EVERY civil war scholar? They are dead wrong. After the Army of the Potomac found its lines, at the end of the first day, there was no way on Earth they could have lost. And even had their lines been breached, they would simply have retreated to new ones being prepare behind them.

Lee was doomed the instant Meade turned the AoP northward in good order to intercept him. The reason is that Lee was a good general overall, but he was a genius at only one thing... aggressive defense against a lumbering attacking army. Because the technologies of that time HUGELY favored such aggressive defense. At Gettsburg he had to be the lumbering attacker and only Meade's timidity in the face of Lee's reputation saved the Army of Northern Virginia from utter annihilation, that July.

David Brin said...

Duncan, the South initiated the Civil War in 1852. See this:

Jumper said...

I am a Southerner and I do appreciate the friendliness and good manners. The sense of victimhood and the current anti-intellectualism is pretty bad.

Paul SB said...

Alan, I'm not sure it's entirely anti-Southern bigotry. It's true that this bigotry exists, and bigotry is wrong across the board. Dr. Brin spelled out Smith's very practical reasons why, but I'll go a little further. In biological anthropology classes we went into how statistics are used to misinform (remember Churchill's saying about lies?), and there was one very technical item that stuck in my head as something that shoots down all the bigots, if they have the brains to get it. When the difference between the means in two populations is less than one standard deviation, that means they are really one, single population that you have separated based on superficial criteria. Purported differences in (typically) I.Q. scores have always had this issue, but most people don't understand statistics well enough to get what that means. Even most people who have taken a stats class in college don't get it, because most stats classes focus on the mechanics of how to do the math much more so than the actual meaning of the statistics - or more to the point, what the statistics don't mean.

I noticed a long time ago that when a character in a US made movie or TV show is particularly stupid, the character either has a Southern accent or sounds like a California surfer (with the word "dude" at the beginning and/or end of every sentence). That is stereotyping, and stereotyping is always ugly. It happens to be a natural consequence of part of our neuroanatomy and energetics, but we all know better anyway (and labeling something "natural" does not make it good, right or desirable - arsenic is perfectly natural, but I'll take a pass, thank you). Any group of people you care to name that contains more than a handful of members (the South and California have tens of millions) will have a mix of saints and sinners, the wise and the woefully ignorant.

However, I think the removal of products with the Confederate Battle Flag by major on-line retailers reflects something else: the combination of profit motive and timing. After a year of media blitz over police shootings that are purportedly racially motivated this happens, drawing attention to Southern white supremacists. The national mood is very much against that particular brand of bigotry right now. It is entirely possible that the mood will swing toward increased anti-Southern bigotry, but the anti-African violence that has thrust in all our faces means the sympathy is far more of one side than the other. Retailers have a lot more to lose by selling Confederate propaganda than by taking off their shelves. If Marshall Sahlins were alive today, he would be whipping out his trademark phrase "the structure of the conjuncture."

jonathan said...

I agree with much of this post. It does seem to me that the Confederate battle flag has been a symbol of racist hate, appropriated very loudly and very publicly by White supremacist groups for decades now, in such a way as to forestall claims of innocent Southern pride.

Some Ivy leaguers may be out of touch, but thanks to their endowments, "top" schools give much more financial aid than most private colleges. There are many students of modest means at Ivy League colleges. They ain't all clueless rich kids.

And, no, the U.S. government isn't hopelessly incompetent. When the tasks traditionally done by government get privatized, quality suffers and costs tend to rise. (Prisons, charter schools, military endeavors, road maintenance etc. have all suffered--and costed more--under the push to privatize that has been underway).

Howard Miller said...

In my younger days, to me the Confederate Battle Flag was a symbol of individualism and self reliance. As I grew up and began to understand the racism, both overt and underhanded, that it symbolized, I began to see it differently. Now it seems that the only people who display it are showing it for racism, both overt and underhanded. It's nobody's flag. It's a symbol of a five year period in American History when citizens of the United States slew each other wantonly, to the tune of over 600,000 people.
People in general, not only here, but all over the world, want simply to live in peace and safety. We have a flag that should symbolize that, and it's not the Confederate Battle Flag.

Howard Miller said...

The South had the best generals and the worst judgment.

Paul SB said...

Jonathan, the very first school I taught at had one of those persons of modest means who went to Harvard to get his degree in Biology - then came back to the very same ghetto he grew up in to try to teach. So yeah, it happens (and the guy had no more advantage with those kids than anyone else in spite of being from their neighborhood, but that's a whole other can of worms). Still, in areas where I have some qualifying knowledge I have seen that government institutions rely on these ivy leaguers for advice, and that advice has been horribly wrong in very predictable ways.

You are quite right about privatization, as I have seen. The common conception is always way more simplistic than what is really going on, or what information is available to let us know what is going on.

David Brin said...

Alan, sorry it does not wash. Across all of time, treason and oath-breaking were deemed capital crimes and deeply despicable... unless there were satisfactory and sufficient grievances that could not be resolved by other means. That was the whole and entire purpose of the US Declaration of Independence, to explain in great detail the grievances against George III and Parliament, plus listing the efforts at negotiation that the colonies had been made and that had been spurned.

Modern sentiments don't make much of oaths, because we have contracts and law. But across 4,000 years, the breaking of oaths was considered heinous... and again, requiring clear and large grievance. Read ANY Shakespeare play.

Now let's see. Southern men had sworn oaths to the United States of America... FAR more often than to Virginia and/or South Carolina. I've looked it up. In the 1850s, Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, lectured West Pointers about devotion to their oaths. So, BY THEIR OWN STANDARDS they could not just walk away from "consent" to the USA.

Especially when they had just spent 30 years cruelly and viciously oppressing neighboring states. Especially since 1852, when bands of southern irregular cavalry began raiding northern states at will, crashing into homes and dragging neighbors into the night.

See: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2013/02/past-keeping-faith-with-future-and-day.html

So... what were the "grievances" the secession documents cited, when they tried to mimic the Declaration of Independence? THEY HAD NONE! Not by any standards you'd recognize. "Northern States allow free press and abolition papers to print tracts against slavery!" I swear to God, THAT is one of the grievances! Try actually reading the source material, Alan, where the entire justification for breaking solemn oaths was "we finally lost an election and we're too puerile to let opponents have a turn in office."

EXACTLY as they have treated Obama.

Dig it fellow. Consent of the governed??????? Many state plebescites for secession BARELY passed and likely with cheating. All pro Union papers had been burned out. And even if the rebel voters numbered 55% in a state, that left out women and the 40% of the population had no "consent" over anything.

Now show me the efforts that the seceding states made, to send delegations to negotiate with president-elect Lincoln. Or even to discover his intentions? Can you find for me ONE such delegation? Of the type Ben Franklin performed repeatedly, begging King and Parliament to negotiate?


Find for me one. Lincoln had done nothing, when the treason was committed by spoiled brats who refused to take turns or let the other team have its innings.

No, there are zero justifications for outright treason and oathbreaking. Moreover, Alan, you know it.

And if the South had won? Here's a terrible consequence. For 200 years, American citizens almost never saw a soldier, except on July 4 parades. Unlike ANY other peoples through time, we had the lowest % under military arms ever, with people free to roam an entire continent at will. A southern victory would have broken up the continent into at least four bickering nations with fortified borders, spending vast amounts on arms... just like Europe. A silly, snarling continent. And avoiding THAT awful fate was almost as crucial as ending slavery.

But go ahead. look at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2013/02/past-keeping-faith-with-future-and-day.html

come on back and argue -- after all, thanks to Sherman and Grant and Lincoln and the Roosevelts and so on... it's a free country.

David Brin said...

Oh Howard Miller you are wrong. The North had okay generals, but they had a VASTLY harder task. Maneuvering vast, modern armies with insanely poor communications, in an era when the weaponry favored defense at long range. There was always some lump to one side of the Army that an agile and aggressive defender like Lee could attack and outnumber and crush.

The best generals of the war were the ones who figured out how to maneuver huge armies without letting that happen, and to keep moving forward, even when it did. Lee never managed that. He fizzled at both Antietem and Gettysburg. But Grant and Sherman and Thomas and Sheridan DID figure out how to do it.

David Brin said...


Tim H. said...

May I simplify the flag issue? Treacherous cretins have associated theirselves with the confederate battle flag, reminding everyone again of every negative aspect of the south, now the nice people can't use it anymore, lest they appear to be treacherous cretins.

Catfish N, Cod said...

Oh, so much to respond to.

I very much enjoy Duffy's idea of MLK=Mandela but I can't see it coming to that. As Alfred points out, the United States in any form must have free passage to New Orleans. Once started, the war cannot end before 1863-64. And people look so much to Gettysburg that they do not realize that the same day, Vicksburg was negotiating its surrender, completing Union control of the Mississippi.

My most likely scenario for something other than total Union victory -- terms offered in the event if a Union political collapse -- would be a rump Confederacy of the core (MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA) with Texas independent. Tennessee rejoins the Union; it was always a close run thing In the first place, and by 1863-64 is under Union control anyway. Arkansas and Louisiana are Texas dominated but the Union patrols the river and has the right to bases on it. Free passage down the Mississippi is guaranteed (enforced by the riverboats) and New Orleans is a free city under co-dominium. These are, IMHO, *minimum* terms for the Union.

I can't see the Confederacy lasting 20 years anyway. The aristo leadership was a fractious bunch at best, and despite the heavy-handed-ness they wielded in the Federal government, they really did prefer extreme state autonomy more amongst themselves. They bickered like the aristocrats they were and would have been at each other's throats rapidly. Their economic basis was cotton exports, which were already collapsing in value as the British empire planted Egypt and India specifically to be able to stop paying the Confederates. I would draw analogy to the ancient Polish aristocratic republic. Plus, the Underground Railroad would now be very short -- reach a Union base on the Muddy, float down the Tennessee, cross the Smokies or the Alleghenies and you are free.

By 1870, 1875 at the outside, the Confederacy would be under the "foreign" economic dominance of the US and/or UK, either or both of which would have demanded a de jure end to slavery. Someone would then have started a border provocation and a vengeful Republican government in the North would have swiftly defeated the now hapless Confederate forces, which could no longer pay for the guns and would be facing a much worse internal uprising. The long term downside would be that the guerrilla fighting would have been worse, and the "Lost Cause" even stronger as ex-Confederates would romanticize the "years of freedom" the same ways Texans do.

Daniel Duffy said...

Some random thoughts...

We should not paint with too broad a brush. There were quite a few enlightened Southerners even then. For example, Confederate Gen. Longstreet (Lee's "war horse") expressed wisdom when he said that the South should have first freed their slaves, THEN seceded. Though his observation was tactically astute, that would never have happened since slavery (or if you wish, preserving the "states' rights" to own slaves) was the primary reason for secession.

Lee himself had freed his slaves and considered slavery to be morally wrong.

“In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages.”

But what Lee objected to were the methods being employed by abolitionists.

"Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow, is sure. ... While we see the Course of the final abolition of human Slavery is onward, & we give it the aid of our prayers & all justifiable means in our power, we must leave the progress as well as the result in his hands who sees the end; who Chooses to work by slow influences; & with whom two thousand years are but as a Single day. Although the Abolitionist must know this, & must See that he has neither the right or power of operating except by moral means & suasion, & if he means well to the slave, he must not Create angry feelings in the Master; that although he may not approve the mode which it pleases Providence to accomplish its purposes, the result will nevertheless be the same; that the reasons he gives for interference in what he has no Concern, holds good for every kind of interference with our neighbors when we disapprove their Conduct; Still I fear he will persevere in his evil Course. Is it not strange that the descendants of those pilgrim fathers who Crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion, have always proved themselves intolerant of the Spiritual liberty of others?"

As an aristocrat, Lee was naturally against any sudden social change, but for his time and place, these are very liberal views.

As Dr. Brin noted there were Southerners who opposed secession as well as slavery, but were intimidated into silence. West Virginia counter-seceded from Virginia and stayed in the Union. Confederate troops had to occupy east Tennessee and northern Alabama to prevent the same thing from happening. In the border states, eastern Kentucky fought for the North while west Kentucky fought for the South, and Missouri was split in two.

While it is true that the vast majority of Southerners did not own slaves, all White Southerners feared what might happen if slaves were freed, especially in slave majority states like Mississippi and South Carolina.

Daniel Duffy said...

Though "states rights" was more of an excuse than a reason, most Southerners sincerely opposed the idea of a strong federal government on principle. That is why, when Lee refused Lincoln's offer to command the Union armies he said he could not take up arms against his homeland - by which he meant Virginia. His loyalty, like those of most Southerners, was to his state.

And this was the majority view at the time. As Civil War historian Shelby Foote noted, people before the Civil War referred to the United States in the plural, after the war it became singular:

"Before the war, it was said "the United States are." Grammatically, it was spoken that way and thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the war, it was always "the United States is," as we say today without being self-conscious at all. And that sums up what the war accomplished. It made us an "is."

And that is because prior to the civil war, the American economy was dominated by agriculture. Agricultural societies tend to be decentralized, while strong central governments are the hallmark of industrial societies. Lincoln transformed America from a decentralized agricultural nation into a centralized industrial nation. The same thing was done in Germany by Bismark shortly thereafter. The French revolution did the same thing to France, as did the Russian revolution much later. Much earlier, the English civil war between industrialist Puritans and agricultural Royalists determined England's fate. It's been said that the American civil war was a second round of fighting between the Northern descendants of Roundheads and Southern descendants of Cavaliers.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "While it is true that the vast majority of Southerners did not own slaves, all White Southerners feared what might happen if slaves were freed."

Which is not unusual: time and again we see people slightly above the bottom of the food chain displaying more hostility toward the downtrodden than toward the dynasts, as they perceive them as unwanted competition for the scraps that fall from the lords' table and dread becoming targets should the oppressed openly revolt.

Paul SB said...

Laurent wrote:

"time and again we see people slightly above the bottom of the food chain displaying more hostility toward the downtrodden than toward the dynasts, as they perceive them as unwanted competition for the scraps that fall from the lords' table and dread becoming targets should the oppressed openly revolt."

This is, of course, a major force of inertia, preventing much real, substantive reform. As long as the people are divided like this and fighting each other, they will not unite against their dynastic overlords. Racism serves the purpose of keeping the 99% divided, so they are no real challenge to the upper crusties who continue to erode everyone else's prosperity.

Jonathan S. said...

There is a phrase I've seen repeated here, in various guises - the notion that the Confederate Battle Flag was "co-opted" by rebellious racist traitors.

I contend that this notion is entirely incorrect - it was created and carried by rebellious racist traitors. Those who didn't wish to face up to what their relatives and ancestors had done tried very hard to whitewash the symbolism of that flag, and in an earlier era, with information falling into obscurity fairly rapidly, they might well have succeeded. However, the invention of moveable type, and its concomitant increase in both publishing speed of books and literacy of the general population, spelled the end of that era; by the time the rebellion had been put down, we all knew what that flag stood for. And now, at long last, the whitewash is being called out for what it is, and the symbol of hatred and treason is finally disappearing from our landscape - not through central authority of law, like the swastika from Germany, but by the "invisible hand" of the free market, supposedly beloved of our so-called "conservatives".

And I contend further that this is entirely a good thing.

Alfred Differ said...

@Daniel: I don’t think it is the difference between agricultural and industrial economies that determines centralized or decentralized economic structures. The difference is more likely to be found in the way capital moves. While the US was a collection of Atlantic states, capital was invested along short river ways and around the natural ports at their ends. The States weren’t connected in terms of power because there was no need for it from investors. No motivation means no need. With the development of the Midwest, capital could be invested along the largest and most highly interconnected river system in the world. There were no obvious borders for capital and the fertility of the land practically cried out for investment.

I’ve seen the argument that the Civil War altered our self-identity from plural to singular, but I think it was more likely the development of the Midwest that did it. None of those States were original colonies with culturally distinct founding populations and capital faced no significant barriers within the world’s most amazing river basin. Lincoln isn’t the guy who transformed us. He’s the guy who executed a war to preserve what the common farmer and entrepreneur were doing with their wealth. It was the common citizen who remade this nation into a singular identity.

Alfred Differ said...

To back up David’s point about what North America would have become with a win by the Confederacy, one only need look at South America along the other river system that combines fertility and easy water transport. In the modern era, this is the border region between Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil. Look at the history of that region during the 1860’s to find a truly horrible war that killed about 90% of the breeding/working males of Paraguay. They NEVER recovered. It’s an interesting bit of history and worth reading to learn what we avoided in the US.

Gator said...

Daniel Duffy: "Though "states rights" was more of an excuse than a reason, most Southerners sincerely opposed the idea of a strong federal government on principle."

You say this, but history does not support this. The Confederate States adopted a constitution based on the then-current US constitution. Same executive/bicameral legislature/judicial structure, even gave the president a line-item veto.

In addition, I believe the Confederate constitution did not describe a secession mechanism.

Paul SB said...

Alfred said: "It was the common citizen who remade this nation into a singular identity."
to which I say: cue Aaron Copland - Fanfare for the Common Man. (It's too bad blogs don't get soundtracks - that would have been perfect!)

One of the best history professors I had way back in my Pleistocene undergrad days loved to go on and on about the "big men" of history, the kings, priests and politicians who we all recognize as the movers and shakers of history. But one day she said, in a tone that sounded like a sheepish admission, that the kings, priests and politicians are always at least 20 years behind the people. That told me that if we want to understand change, we shouldn't focus too much on the leaders, because they are just holding us back. That was also about the time I changed majors to a social science. Anthropology (as well as others) is about the people themselves.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I have that fanfare on my ipod and enjoy playing it when I'm in a mood for defending the common man, but when I think about what we do, I think more in terms of Rhapsody in Blue. So many threads underway and then occasionally they achieve coherency. So much getting done, though, whether coherency is achieved or not.

David Brin said...

Catfish I generally agree. There are three “South wins” scenarios bandied about. (1) Gettysburg lost by Meade. I consider this complete malarkey. No Union defeat ever destroyed a whole army and the Army of the Potomac would have to have been utterly destroyed… standing firm on good defensive ground with internal lines and good supply lines and perfect fall back positions to retreat-to. There is no scenario for Lee to do anything but raid a bit more and then go home.

(2) England joins the war. But by 1864 the Union navy was far bigger and more powerful and would have kicked the Royal Navy to crap and then bombarded the Thames. And English people, hating slavery, would have declared a republic.

(3) McClellan wins the 1864 election. This would have been unlikely, but there’s a possibility. The scenario is that Sherman’s Army, poised to strike to Atlanta, catches a terrible plague and is crushed by devastating disease. Meaning there’s no good news to counter-balance Grant’s grinding progress against Lee. Maybe.

But in that case, the terms would be huge. Yes there “would be a rump Confederacy of the core (MS, AL,GA, SC, NC, VA) with Texas independent. “ But Arkansas and Louisiana and TN would be Union as would be Florida. And Vicksburg

Yes, within 20 years there’d be a second war, this one BETWEEN rival states, and thus different rules. The CSA would still exist after that but it would lose Virginia and a dozen seaports which would be given over as refuges and colonies for freed slaves. And slavery would be abolished as a war result. Savannah, Mobile and so on would be black protectorate city states and the Soputh would have no seaports other than Charleston.

The THIRD war would cost them NCarolina and the Mississippi coast. And Charleston. But the core would be left to fester, rather than create an “Irish Problem.”

Of course Lee’s rationalizations re slavery were fatuous. Ben Franklin demanded that slaves be educated in order to provide scientific proof whether they were in fact inferior. He knew the results would eviscerate the rationalizations and hence southerners made educating a slave a huge offense. That is frantic fact-avoidance and we see it today, in heirs to the same culture.

The “United States are” excuse is one I’ve seen many times. I prefer to count the number of solemn OATHS that men swore. And they swore allegiance to the USA far more often and more deeply. See Secy of War Jefferson Davis’s speech to West Pointers, for example. Lee had sworn just that disparity in favor of the USA. And hence my respect for him is very mixed.

He did us a service though, by demanding there be no guerrilla campaign after Appomattox. For that much is forgiven.

Gator is right. Th southerners were fine with federal government when their men were president, appointing US Marshals in Northern states who sided with raiding parties of southern irregular cavalry, rampaging from Michigan to Delaware since 1852. And when northern militias formed to oppose the raids, those marshals called on Federal troops.

Catfish N. Cod said...

There are a number of subtle changes I'm the text of the Confederate Constitution that would have had a major effect on the strength of its federal power. A big one is that spending under the Commerce Clause was highly restricted. (The Commerce Clause is today the basis of most spending by the federal government.) Another strong indicator was the power of STATE legislatures to impeach FEDERAL officials. A third was a restriction of the free trade zone, allowing states to impose shipping tariffs.

But above and beyond the text, the people were the key ingredient. And they wanted the federal government to be small, believed it always SHOULD have been small. By and large they still do.

Alfred: the point about internal improvement requirements for settling the Midwest is a very interesting one, and bears more thought. The South was, of course, much less dependent on the Mississippi, except for Kentucky and Tennessee, which had strong Unionist sections.

Jonathan: the Southerners were rebels, but then so were the Founding Fathers, and they thought themselves to be in that tradition. They were certainly racists, but at the time so were most Northerners. The only legitimate criticism of the three you level is that they were traitors: and that they most certainly were.

Dr. Brin: Virginia did send a negotiating delegation. Unfortunately they waited until the new government was physically nearby. By the time they met, Fort Sumter was already in motion and it was too late.

LarryHart said...


...it was obvious to me that this is not really about the flag, it is about anti-southern bigotry coming to the fore. It's one of the few bigotries that are still socially acceptable.

I beg to differ. One of the few bigotries that is still socially acceptable is pro-southern bigotry. Good ol' boys might be snickered at in some circles, but their dangerous aspect is always played down as if they're just boys bein' boys, and it's not polite to say anything worse about them. We can't, for instance, put out a government warning in President Obama's first year in office stating that right-wing militia groups are becoming more threatening. It wouldn't be polite.

LarryHart said...


Intolerance is still intolerance even when pursued with noblest intent, just as intent (however noble) NEVER justifies the brutality of forced conformity.

Laissez-faire libertarians appear to be extinct, it appears.

How dare you impose libertarianism on everyone else?

See how that works?

Alfred Differ said...

@Catfish N Cod: I’m paraphrasing the Stratfor position again with respect to the Greater Mississippi River Basin and its impact on the nation we’ve become. From the perspective of geopolitics, geography matters a great deal when considering nations as if they were organisms with their own motives and methods. River systems, for example, facilitate trade by providing cheap transport between markets and ports on the rivers. Cheap transport enables traders to pocket the difference and their personal wealth grows. From a national perspective, though, this is recorded as a growth of capital that has little to do until the owners of the money decide to take risks. Excess capital generally lowers long term interest rates; so long term investments receive more attention in nations with this surplus than they otherwise would. If you happen to have a river surrounded by fertile lands of considerable depth, the capital gets invested in local development. The land gets plowed, roads get built to the nearest river ports, people build towns and then eventually cities, and then the cities develop complex economies of their own. You can see this in the American Midwest. Look at the cities with populations of a million people or more. They aren’t centralized like they are in Europe. They are all over the place. That lead to opportunities for entrepreneurial experimentation WE could do that no other nation on Earth could try.

In the US Midwest, State boundaries became a threat to the flow of capital. The pioneers who settled there dealt with that risk easily enough. They simply left their State identities behind when they migrated west. They didn’t do it all at once, of course, and they certainly defended their new identities when their neighbors engaged in cross border raids, but there was money to be made and only their own acceptance of limitations to stop them.

The Stratfor folks argue that once the US secured the whole river basin, there was really no way any nation on Earth could stop us from growing into what we’ve become… except ourselves. While our host is pointing out the next phase of our Civil War, the Stratfor folks don’t seem to be all that concerned. The US will survive in some form or another and still dominate the century because the folks who want to pull us apart can’t. Look again at capital as if it was a life form and you’ll see why. Capital will demand we remain unified.

David Brin said...

"The US will survive in some form or another and still dominate the century..."

Not if we turn into a petty, angry, nostalgic, anti-scientific people.

Paul SB said...

Alfred, if we have to stick with American composers (which seems appropriate, I would go for Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question. But I'm more likely to listen to Sibelius right now, if that tells you something of my mood. My wife has been out of town for a two weeks, tending to a sick mother, and my oxytocin levels are way down.

Larry, I've seen the pro-Southern side as well. Our culture is wide and multifaceted, full of different currents and counter-currents all under the same American heading. A lot of people who are not from the South romanticize them (think of the old Dukes of Hazard show, or the current popularity of Duck Dynasty).

As to little loci, his comments about forced conformity are just like most church people I have known - they think that not being allowed to destroy anyone who is not exactly like themselves is anti-Christian, offensive to them and constitutes a war on religion. The obvious contradiction is completely beyond their ability to perceive because they have been so consistently taught to believe that they are absolutely right about absolutely everything, and that anyone who disagrees or is different from them in any way is a direct threat to their very existence. You can see that conceit in their claim that legalizing gay marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage. It doesn't even cross their minds that allowing other people to do what they want in no way stops them from doing what they want. The problem is that what they ultimately want is to force everyone to be exactly like themselves. Deep maturity there...

Duncan Cairncross said...

"(2) England joins the war. But by 1864 the Union navy was far bigger and more powerful and would have kicked the Royal Navy to crap and then bombarded the Thames."

Union Navy 1864
The first task for Lincoln’s naval secretary, Gideon Welles, was a straightforward, but huge, fill-in-the-blank: acquire enough vessels to make every Southern inlet, port, and bay dangerous for trade. The Northern navy immediately began building dozens of new warships and purchased hundreds of merchant ships to convert into blockaders by adding a few guns. The result was a motley assortment that ranged from old sailing ships to New York harbor ferryboats. Critics called it Welles’ “soapbox navy.”

Royal Navy 1864
Due to British leadership in the Industrial Revolution, the country enjoyed unparalleled shipbuilding capacity and financial resources, which ensured that no rival could take advantage of these revolutionary changes to negate the British advantage in ship numbers. In 1889, Parliament passed the Naval Defence Act, which formally adopted the 'two-power standard', which stipulated that the Royal Navy should maintain a number of battleships at least equal to the combined strength of the next two largest navies.

The Union Navy was a tiny tiny fraction of the size of the RN
And the Union’s ship building capacity was also a tiny fraction of the Empire’s

The Monitor and Merrimac battle showed that a new “Iron Clad” could not be defeated by cannon fire
However it was also a battle of amateurs
The Merrimac should have been boarded by the Union navy
It did not have anything like enough fast acting guns or speed to prevent an active captain from simply overwhelming it with boarding parties and sapping charges
This is obvious in hindsight –
Unlike in Harry Harrison’s book the Union Navy could possibly have got away with a similar attack on the RN – once!

Exactly the same would have applied to the Monitor if it had attacked a group of Navy warships

Either of the iron clads could have defeated another warship of similar size if their opponent cooperated
But neither of them could have handled even a small squadron

Equipping them with Gatling guns would have made a huge difference –
but they were not yet available and the Gatling guns would have been vulnerable to cannon fire

The RN at that time was still an active service with a lot of experience of boarding actions –
Most Naval actions up to then simply developed into boarding actions

“Nelson’s patent bridge for boarding First Rates” is a wonderful example

Duncan Cairncross said...

"As to little loci, his comments about forced conformity are just like most church people I have known - they think that not being allowed to destroy anyone who is not exactly like themselves is anti-Christian, offensive to them and constitutes a war on religion."

This was exactly the reason that the English drove James the 7th (and 2nd) out and replaced him with William of Orange
James was "repressing the Protestants" by preventing them from repressing the Catholics

Marino said...

Given we're in alternate history land, and "CSA victorious" is a main staple of it from Churchill to Ward More's Bring the Jubilee, Turtledove and Harrison, let's add a bit.
A victorious Confederacy would have evolved into something we could label loosely as "fascist".
Irregardless to the letter of the CSA constitution, according to my good old book by Luraghi on the Civil War, the Confederacy was forced to put in place a centralized industrial mobilitation system unparalleled since Rathenau's Germany in WWI.
It would have been also a late comer indistrializing country, and late comers usually have a more concentrated and monopolistic flavor of capitalism (Czarist Russia, whose serfdom was close to slavery, Germany, Japan...) with cartels, Konzerne, zaibatsu, whatever the name is, with strong ties to government.
Also, an independent CSA would have faced the worst ideological developments in Western political culture, the rise of organicist nationalism (Action Fran├žaise, Italian nationalists...) and "scientific" racism. Not to mention the first red scare after the Paris Commune.
And proto-fascist movements based on a demagogue with a plebeian mass support existed: Louis Napoleon in France (the book by Marx on his power takeover would have deserved him a Pulitzer if such thing had existed), or the Patriot League at the beginning of the Third Republic. And it was an American, Jack London, who anticipated the rise of somewhat akin to Fascism in his Iron Heel.
So, to steal and tweak a page from Turtledove's Guns of the South, imagine the CSA under president Nathan Bedford Forrest, turning into a one-party state with the KKK as party militia, hellbent on military buildup, imperial expansion and developing a racist state ideology close to the nazist one, but with Blacks in place of Jews.
Add that usually having a dangerous competing neighbor forces a faster development of military technology (the CSA has deloped frex the first operational submarine, the Hunley. It was a trap, but every travel begins with one step... ).
Not a nice world to be in, eh? Thanks God the Union saved us from such a development

Daniel Duffy said...

@Brin "Of course Lee’s rationalizations re slavery were fatuous."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Actions speak louder than words, and Lee put his money where his mouth was when he freed his own slaves (at considerable financial loss).

His quotes concerning the evils of slavery were taken from a letter to his wife that was found in his papers after he died. Such private correspondence reveals the truth of a man's beliefs more than any public pronouncement.

To criticize his anti-slavery remarks as imperfect or incomplete by today's standards would be to commit an anachronism. To quote Historian Will Durant, "A man's vices are of his times, a man's virtues are his own". For his time and place, Lee was a very forward thinker on this subject. Lincoln himself had to slowly evolve his views into an anti-slavery position as well.

Lee was truly a great and good American, a man of sterling character and a military genius of the first order. No other American general has ever achieved so much with so little or earned the devoted love of his soldiers. A Pennsylvania woman observing Lee resplendent on his mount Traveler as he marched with his army toward Gettysburg remarked, "He is magnificent, I only wish he was ours." After 10 years, we can only say the same.

"The “United States are” excuse is one I’ve seen many times."

And from no less an authority on the Civil War than historian Shelby Foote. So you can take it for truth that Americans considered the United states to be a plural before the war and as a singular only afterwards.

And so Lee could turn down Lincoln's offer to command the Union armies so as not to turn his hand against Virginia, which he considered to be his true homeland. He did so out of a sense of honor, loyalty and patriotism and without evil intent.

Daniel Duffy said...

The conditions of the American Civil War have been repeated across history, and the results follow a familiar pattern: the industrialists win and the agriculturalists suffer in defeat. Whenever a society makes a transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial one, the change has always been violent.

First came England where the Industrial revolution was born. Puritan industrialists defeated agricultural Royalists and cut of the head of "unhappy King Charles". Cromwell would later assume supreme power as did Napoleon or Lenin.

Then the French revolution transferred political power from the nobility and clergy to the bourgeoisie industrialists. Victory was achieved with the Terror. The defeated agriculturalists (starting with King Louis XIV and Queen Marie Antoinette) died under the guillotine's blade.

Northern industrialists defeated Southern plantation owners as Sherman laid waste much of the South. In doing so Sherman invented the concept of total war waged even against civilians.

Bismark's industrial Prussia united agricultural Germany in a series of wars, inflicting humiliating defeats on Austria-Hungary and France along the way.

The Bolshevik industrialists overthrew the Czar and his agricultural nobility, killing the Czar's family and taking the methods of Terror to an unprecedented level .

Laurent Weppe said...

* "A victorious Confederacy would have evolved into something we could label loosely as "fascist""

Evolved?The CSA was fascistic from the very first second of its existence:
Once you take away all the rhetorical flourish, nationalist fetichism, conspiracy theories and pseudo-outrage, fascism can be summarized as:
"I want to be a wealthy aristocrat living in manor filled with servants and fucktoys"
Planters already had what fascists upstarts desire and they intended to keep it.

Lloyd Flack said...

If Britain or France had joined in their navies would have crushed either or both for that matter of the American navies. They were far more numerous and technologically superior. Their ironclads were fast deep sea vessels with far superior engines and higher quality armour. The American ironclads were slow coastal vessels with poor sea keeping. To back them up the British and the French had large numbers of steam powered wooden ships of the line, not individually a match for an ironclad but capable of overwhelming one by weight of numbers. Especially ones which like the American ironclads were armoured with multiple thin layers of armour rather than the more effective single thick layers of the British and French ships.
American commerce raiders would have been a major problem but they would have eventually fallen to the large numbers of cruising vessels specifically designed to hunt them down.
American coastal fortifications would have been vulnerable to the large gunboat fleets that had been built to crack the formidable Russian coastal fortresses.
The American navies were comparatively small forces built bore the war and a large improvised force built during it. They were not a match for the large carefully planned high quality European navies.

Paul SB said...

Laurent, your definition of fascism applies to all forms of dictatorship, but leaves out a key ingredient that makes fascism a little different. Other sorts of dictators were less keen on propaganda and enforced conformity in all aspects of citizens' lives. Most monarch and oligarchs are content to collect taxes so they can maintain their extravagant lifestyles, but a fascist dictator is obsessed with uniformity among his people, like Hitler's obsession with the "Aryan Race" or Ollie Cromwell's obsession with his brand of Protestantism, as Duncan mentioned above.

This sort of thing may be in part a consequence of monotheism. State religions all began with the god/kings and priest/kings of ancient states. But in ancient times the kings were okay with multiple gods so long as tithes were paid to the particular god they claimed to either be or represent. For individual citizens, if they decided they didn't like Zeus all that much, they could go devote themselves to Apollo, or Aeries or Athena or any number of divinities and this was not seen as a problem so long as taxes were paid and public gestures of obeisance were made. But today nearly all religions are monotheistic, and instead of being okay with other people having other gods, they insist they that their is only one true god and everybody must be forced to submit to that one. So now what we have are a handful of religions with huge numbers of sects each claiming to have the one and only Truth to which all must bow. It is amazing but ironic that the founding fathers of the US wrote the Separation Clause, insisting on allowing the coexistence of all religions, when nearly all of those religions insist on the annihilation of all others. (It's a little different with Buddhism - they accept Jesus as what they call a Bodhisattva, something akin to a saint. I don't know Hinduism, the one major polytheism left in the world, well enough to have any intelligent comments, though.)

Marino said...

well... I've graduated in history of fascism, and no, it's not truly your portrait, which is closer to the average run of the mill feodalism/chattel slavery.

In order to get a somewhat true fascism, you need a powerful centralized state, a single-party government with a party militia, a tight link between monopolistic business and state, and some mass support by the common people, achieved both by some welfare measures and by mobilitation and propaganda, often against an outside enemy, real or imagined.

The CSA after Fort Sumter wasn't already so, but left to itself probably would have evolved into something like that, as it had all the right prerequisites other countries turned fascist after WWI had, with the looming nightmare of a slave revolt in place of the labor unrest in Italy or Germany.

Lloyd Flack:
iirc both the French and British navies were experimenting with impact fused explosive shells using more powerful explosives than black powder, while Merrimac and Monitor fought with solid shot. Maybe the Union had some edge with Dahlgren cast steel naval guns.

Jumper said...

On free blacks who owned slaves:
by Henry Louis Gates

Laurent Weppe said...

* "no, it's not truly your portrait, which is closer to the average run of the mill feodalism/chattel slavery."

But that's the thing: fascism is run of the mill feodalism/chattel slavery. The elements usually associated with fascism (all-powerful centralized state, enforced conformity, heavily hierarchized single-party dominated by a quasi-divinized leader) are not weird cultural quirks, but elements rendered indispensable by technological progress: any fledging despot arising after the industrial revolution who fail to implement these elements fast will be overthrown very quickly: just look at what happened to Morsi.

locumranch said...

Although I am pleased that our host has finally accepted the logical validity of the tautology, I am less than thrilled that he finds them ironic & amusing, mildly put-off by his marginalization of formal logic, and downright disappointed that he (like any ideologue or idealist) continues to reject the civilizing primacy of reason & compromise.

By definition, a tautology is a statement that is always true, being valid under every & any circumstance, and it follows that 'Intolerance of ANYTHING always equals Intolerance', even if the stated intent of said intolerance is to (illogically) foister 'tolerance', and this type of proselytizing illogic slops over onto every issue, including the issues of confederate flag symbolism, diversity even climate change.

Now, as much as I dislike the same things that most of you do, I must object to both the illogical & uncompromising nature of the like-minded ideologue. As the most tolerant of live & let live' libertarians, I TOLERATE diversity of all types, but time & again, yet I find that 'tolerance' is NOT on the idealist's agenda.

Where are the 'Tolerate Diversity' banners? Where is the TOLERANCE of the conservative viewpoint? Where is the tolerance of faith-based, gender & psychosocial preference? Where is the scientific tolerance of the dissenting scientific opinion?

It does NOT exist, of course, because idealists & ideologues are especially intolerant of others. They are extremists who despise tolerance. In their 'either-or' bipolar worldview, those who do not actively endorse or 'Celebrate Diversity' are immoral monsters; those who tolerate the continued existence of a confederate symbol (which they deem 'objectionable) must also be the most virulent of racists; and those who reject the current climate change consensus (or hold a dissenting scientific opinion) are the most 'anti-scientific' of denier ignoramuses.

These 'paragons of intolerance' will never compromise, and they demand (now & in the future) an ever increasing level of active consensus from all participants. Moralists all, they tend to phrase their demands in terms of TWODA, aka 'Things We Ought to (Should & Must) Do Anyway', under any & every circumstance, in shades of Orwell's '1984', wherein "Obedience is not enough", as POWER is the ultimate goal, in "a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself".

The libertarian does not force or 'impose' his views on others. Do what you like; feel free to pursue your extremist bent; and swing your fist where you like, knowing only that these rights of yours (which we share) end at our nose, unless you want us to respond in kind, even if you outnumber us 1000 to 1, "Because if we can't protect (our) Earth, you can be damned well sure we'll avenge it!"

Lloyd Flack said...

Marino, Virginia was using shells rather than solid shot. That was wht they were inefective againt Monitors armour. Monitor was not using the full powder charge in her guns. I forget the reaon. At this time you had to use solid shot to have any chance of penetrating armour. The British and the French had both shot and shell available. They also could use red hot shot against wooden ships or in at least the case of the British molten iron filled shells.

David Brin said...

Duncan’s and Lloyd’s comparison of Navies might fly in 1862 but not in 1865. European powers were pissing their pants over the Federal ironclads with steel guns pouring down the ways.

And if there were a war with England, that production would have multiplied by a factor of at least ten. Throw in France for all I care. You can even assume that the US Navy was wiped out by those allies in 1863! BFD. By 1866 the US would only have outproduced them twenty-fold and sent a new, angry fleet out and destroyed every speck of allied naval force and commerce.

Dang, Lloyd, you remind me of the WWII German general staff who counted the number of American tanks in 1940 and considered us a walkover. Um. The US would have had the resources and will to do whatever it took. Britain would be lucky to retain ANY of its empire.

Back to the what-if... barred from the Mississippi, with most seaports taken from them, lacking almost any resources, the rump South would have become afghanistan.

Daniel I am free to have my own opinions about “The United States are.” Shelby Foote is brilliant and wise, but not all-right. He conveniently ignores major things. Not one commentator has looked at the DIsparity of Oaths, even though it is vastly more significant. By the standards of that time, you may only break oaths with sufficient cause… and southern men had none, zero, zilch.

As for Lee’s genius, sorry, he was very very good at the one EASIEST task for armies of that decade… aggressive defense. Waiting for the attacking army to make a mistake of coordination and them leaping on it. He proved completely inept at the much harder task that also foiled most Union generals… maneuvering a large army in strategic attack.

At that far more difficult task, he was no better than Hooker or Buell or Pope… and actually rather worse than Rosecrans, who had one very unlucky minute.

…and FAR worse than the brilliant Sherman, by far the best general of the Civil War, who finally mastered that difficult task.

Jonathan S. said...

At what point did collective nouns ("family", "corporation", etc) begin being treated as singular in American English? (In British English, they're plural - "the committee are", rather than "the committee is", for example.)

Could this be related to the shift between "the United States are" and "the United States is", rather than the phrase reflecting a paradigm shift?

Alfred Differ said...

@David: "Not if we turn into a petty, angry, nostalgic, anti-scientific people."

True enough, but that would require us to follow your worst case scenario path. They think that is very unlikely and so do I. The forces that would prevent us aren't aroused at the moment, but you are doing your best to wake them up. 8)

What they DO point out is that we will probably grow more and more accustomed to the trappings of empire. The republic we were will continue to fade away as we turn our wealth into the means of securing our position in a world trying rapidly to catch up. Friedman argues that our move to become a space faring civilization will be financed by the DoD much like the internet was in the early days. The frightfully high costs will be suffered for a military goal as only we can afford.

Tacitus2 said...

I think Lloyd is correct regarding a match up of the Royal Navy vs the Union Navy in, say, 1862 or 63. By 64 it is getting late in the game. This is a moot argument as the British populace would not have been supportive of an all out war.

But on paper? Remember how many of the main US cities were on the coast. The British burned Washington DC in the war of 1812 and probably could have done it again. Or take your pick, Boston, Philly, maybe even New York. Sure, all these places had coastal defenses but forcing the US to defend each place in detail would without any other measures take a considerable force of men and artillery out of the active field of battle.

The positive impact on the morale of the Confederacy would also be a factor. How many corps worth of sensible grey coats just wandered off into the hills? The Union blockade of southern ports was never absolute even against the minimal sea power available to the south. Cotton would go out and arms come in. Also enough consumer goods to keep the civilians content.

As to the US striking back? Consider the match up. A navy designed mostly to watch inlets and navigate on rivers versus a genuine blue sea power that maintained communications with India, the Caribbean, and further afield. The US might burn down a pub or two in Cornwall...

On paper, I would pick the Royal Navy even acknowledging that they went a bit soft after Trafalgar. In the real world, nonsense.

Ok, back to Contrary Brin....although the occasional side trip to Contrary Turtledove is interesting enough.


Alfred Differ said...

David’s point about the inferiority of the Union Navy during the war relative to European navies being similar to German underestimation of the strength of our army before we entered WWII is worth noting. It connects back to the real value of the American Midwest. The real wealth generating region of the US could not be touched by a European power and by the mid 19th century we were in an inwardly facing feedback loop. The South needed trade with Europe for income and had no internal mechanism for making broad use of the capital they generated. The North was in a different situation… as long as they owned The River and New Orleans. A European power could beat up the northern navy and harm Atlantic cities, but they couldn’t stop the North from coming back again and again. The North had too much depth geographically.

This geographic advantage is similar to the ones the Russians use. Napoleon had to cover a lot of ground and support his army the whole way. The Russians could meet him on the northern plains of Europe and fight retreating actions with shorter and shorter supply lines. Even if they lost Moscow, they could fall back toward the Urals and keep fighting. It is a defense in depth strategy they’ve used a few times and precisely why they will never surrender attempts to dominate northern Europe and Ukraine. The US variant involves the Midwest. Our defensive barriers for that heartland are the Appalachians and the terrain depths associated with the Mississippi River and Great Lakes.

Daniel Duffy said...

After his crushing defeat of the Roman legions at Cannae, Hannibal failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to attack Rome itself and win the Punic War for Carthage. This led one of Hannibal’s general’s to remark that “The gods do not give the same man everything: you know how to gain a victory, Hannibal, but you do not know how to make use of it.”

And this true of every great commander, including Lee.

Lee was not perfect at everything, no general ever is. Certainly Sherman and Grant were superior strategists and their coordinated campaigns in 1864-65 doomed the South (which never had an overall supreme command like the North), but Lee was by far the better tactician. His key tactical insight was that a man with a rifle protected by strong field fortifications could hold off three times his number. This allowed Lee to defy military logic and split his smaller army in the face of a superior foe, relying on his fortified main line to hold of a direct Yankee assault while Stonewall Jackson swung wide and hit the Yankees on the flanks. This he did repeatedly to every Union commander before Grant.

Lee lost at Antietam only because his command orders were lost by a careless messenger and found by a Union officer. From the start of the campaign, McClellan knew exactly what Lee was going to do and where he was going. And still all that McClellan could accomplish was a tactical draw when he should have been able to decisively defeat Lee.

Lee lost at Gettysburg only because JEB Stuart thought it was more important to ride circles around the Yankees rather than serve his proper scouting function as Lee’s eyes and ears. For most of the campaign Lee stumbled blind through Pennsylvania. By the time Stuart returned (to receive a rare harsh reprimand from Lee) the Army of Northern Virginia was committed to a battle in a town of no strategic importance having accidently blundered into the Army of the Potomac because of a raiding party was looking for a supply of boots.

During Grant’s Overland Campaign in Virginia it could be correctly said that Lee repeatedly beat Grant (the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, North Anna, and Cold Harbor – finally stalemating the superior Union army at Petersburg). But Grant, being the better strategist, had made a cold blooded calculation concerning a war of attrition that Lee with his inferior manpower could not hope to win. So Grant kept coming at Lee again and again.

So Lee kept beating Grant until Lee surrendered.

Daniel Duffy said...

Lee’s place in military history is analogous to that of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox.

Both men were superb tacticians, but deficient strategically. Rommel’s grandiose plan to invade Egypt, cross the Suez Canal and take the Middle East oil fields was a logistical fantasy (Italian shipping could barely keep the Afrika Corps supplied in Libya). Loss of Suez would not have harmed the British since all of their shipping went by way of the Cape of Good Hope, not the Med where Luftwaffe dive bombers would have decimated any convoy that tried to pass. And the Persian Gulf oil fields we know today had yet to be discovers, Britain during WWII got most of its oil from the US.

Both men were admired by their foes as examples of a gallant enemy (“We have a very daring and skillful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general.” –Churchill, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” – Patton).

Both men fought for regimes they came to detest (Lee’s opposition to slavery, Rommel joining the conspiracy to kill Hitler) but fought for their homelands (which for Lee meant Virginia) out of a sense of duty.

Lee, like Rommel, deserves respect even from his adversaries.

Andy said...

Regarding red states taking more funding than they pay in taxes, what do ya'll think of this explanation? I want to believe that red states are moochers, but this does raise some interesting counterpoints.


"The problem with the first claim is that federal spending is made up mostly of defense expenditures at both the federal level and the state level. Defense is not welfare. Actual welfare and poverty programs only amount to about 10% of the expenditures at the federal level.


If a less populated state has a large military base with a legion of personnel conducting operations should we be surprised that there might be an imbalance of funds? No, because it is a government organization that is not producing goods, but is consuming ammo, gas, food, electricity, salaries etc.. Also, most states don’t tax military paychecks, which would somewhat offset the federal expenditure, so overall there is going to be a net draw of funds. But more to the point, national defense is a common good that benefits the whole country, so it can hardly be classified as mooching."

"But wait, then there’s another problem; how do you control for a state that is a retirement haven like Florida or Arizona? A good portion of these people worked in other states only to migrate to the retirement haven during their golden years. So this would show up on the books as a contribution in one state and later a draw in another."

David Brin said...

Tacitus, to quote the great Shelby Foote: “The Union fought the entire war with one hand behind its back, maintaining a mostly peacetime economy. If things ever went really badly, it would just have brought out the other hand.

Even assuming the French and British public would have allowed intervention, let alone the bombarding of US cities, all that would have done is enrage Americans. There are no conceivable outcomes that would have ended well for England, France or the Confederacy. Cornwall? London would experience massive urban renewal atop the ashes Adm. Porter would leave. Though, yes, it might take till 1867 for every holdout colony to surrender. Maybe 1868.

But by then every tory would have been lynched in Britain and the Royal Family would be exiled in Moscow.

Daniel, you are saying about Lee the same thing that I said. He was able at aggressive defense.

“So Lee kept beating Grant until Lee surrendered.” Sure, I guess. But Grant had mastered how to protect his Army as an ongoing entity. Lee never once was able to diminish its ability to keep moving forward. And meanwhile, Grant enabled Sherman and Sheridan and the others to break out and do their thing.

As I said, I respect Lee above all for staunching any thought of guerrilla resistance. For that I forgive much. But he did NOT “detest” the confederacy.

Andy, that is utter, rationalizing garbage-claptrap and it ignores the fact that the confed states score lower in EVERY metric about which citizens should care, including moral ones like teen sex, pregnancy, STDs divorce, domestic violence, obesity addiction and so on.

None of which would matter as much if we weren’t endlessly finger-wagged how much more moral and “genuine” and “smart” (as opposed to “educated”) the Bubbas are. What towering bile.

Alfred Differ said...

There is a point to be made about DoD (and other gov't) facilities in the South. Placing them there can make good sense from a budget perspective. Salaries are lowest where the labor market is hungriest, right? If salaries are counted in the flow of federal money to a state, the income/tax ratio is going to be largest where labor is cheap (low taxes) where the feds want to place facilities (salary inflow).

David Brin said...

The bases are also a form of welfare/aid.

Duncan Cairncross said...

There have been several comments about The Union outproducing The Empire,and building a Navy larger than the RN
Sorry not even close
Back then Britain produced more steel and iron than the rest of the world put together,
50 years later Britain still out produced the USA
Not to mention the problems the Union would have had tooling up to produce blue water battleships - all surmountable but would have taken years

The Iron Clad was a new upgrade - but at that time it wasn't a "killer app"
The older wooden ships were rarely sunk by gunfire - most were taken by boarding,
It was only with the advent of machine guns that boarding became obsolete

The defense against boarding back then was to have a lot of your men on your deck ready to "repel boarders" and neither Merrimac or Monitor could do that

Neither could cross the Atlantic - they did not have enough fuel to steam anything like that far (not to mention the weather)

Gator said...

Re the Confederate Constitution. If they really wanted to emphasize "state's rights" they wouldn't mess around with the commerce clause, they would have changed the supremacy clause. The confederates did not. They did spend lots of ink on making sure slaves would forever remain slaves though.

Re the fascist Confederate states. Look into conscription in the south during the war. Every able body man was conscripted, unless he could buy his way out. Hmmm.

David Brin said...

Duncan, sorry. The US Navy was the most advanced at the true killer app... steam power. BOARDING? A steam powered warship? urhgggh.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Hannibal failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to attack Rome itself and win the Punic War for Carthage"

Except that Rome was since the 4th century BC the most well defended city on the planet: if Hannibal had attacked Rome, his already exhausted army (which had to cross the then road-less Alps, then a Italian Peninsula which was half swamps) would have face the the four meters thick, 10 meters tall, lined with catapults Servian Wall: Hannibal's siege of Rom would have been a very short one.

David Brin said...

Hannibal thought to rouse the Italian tribes against Rome. He went all over and they dickered with him, delayed him, made promises... but they knew Romans better than he did and wanted no part of pissing them off.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: I partially agree the bases should count, but only partially. When civilian staff is larger than it needs to be I treat it as waste in much the same way some leeches live off our welfare system. Both systems serve legit purposes, but it is only when they serve excess demands that I begin to get concerned. Whether the leech is someone taking for welfare money from those who truly need help or a corporation making unnecessary work on a DoD contract, both count as cheaters in my book. I won't complain if federal work is done in southern states unless it qualifies as cheating.

Daniel Duffy said...

"Lee never once was able to diminish its ability to keep moving forward."

Lee was outnumbered 2:1 by Grant in the entire Overland Campaign. Lee was outnumbered 2:1 at Antietam and Chancellorsville. In fact, Lee was outnumbered in every battle he ever fought. And he won most of them.

Under the circumstances, Lee accomplished a military miracle. Historian Richard Current, reviewing the statistics of Northern (or Union) strength, concluded that ‘surely in view of disparity of resources, it would have taken a miracle … to enable the South to win. As usual, God was on the side of the heaviest battalions’.

P.S. We'll just have to agree to disagree about the whole singular/plural thing.

Daniel Duffy said...

"Except that Rome was since the 4th century BC the most well defended city on the planet:"

After Cannae (where out of 86,000 Roman soldiers, 75,000 were killed and 10,000 captured) the Romans were in complete disarray and lacked both the willpower and the manpower to defend those walls against a determined assault.

Within just three campaign seasons (20 months), Rome had lost one-fifth (150,000) of the entire population of male citizens over 17 years of age. Rome declared a national day of mourning as there was not a single person who was not either related to or acquainted with a person who had died.

Roman morale was so bad that Lucius Caecilius Metellus, a military tribune, despaired so much of the Roman cause as to suggest that everything was lost, and called the other tribunes to sail overseas and hire themselves into the service of some foreign prince. The Romans became so desperate that they resorted to human sacrifice.

Hannibal had a window of opportunity and did not take it.

Daniel Duffy said...

Actually it was the french who pioneered the development of the ironclad warship, with the first such ship being the French Gloire. The British soon followed with HMS Warrior, both being built before the USS Monitor. And unlike the Monitor, both Warrior and Gloire class warships could cross the Atlantic.

Its interesting to compare the specs of the Warrior and the Monitor:


In most categories (armor, speed, guns), the Warrior outclassed the Monitor - but its kind of an apples to oranges comparison, and logistics would have been decisive:

"If the Confederate Commissioners had not been released and if war between Britain and
the Union commenced in 1862, it is likely that the British Navy could not have broken the
Union’s blockade of the Confederacy. By 1862 the Union had six Monitor class ironclads and
two iron -on -wood ships. By June of 1863 a Monitor class vessel had beaten and captured a
Confederate ironclad. Although the Monitor class vessels were not very seaworthy (due to their double hull design), their role was to maintain the blockade of the confederate ports in calm harbors and river delta waters, not to fight battles on the turbulent high seas. The Warrior had no experience in fighting another ironclad and would have been unable to sustain a battle action on the Atlantic seacoast of America and unable to penetrate shallow waters near rivers and ports.

The lack of a dry dock facilities on or near the Atlantic seacoast, needed to remove iron hull fouling, would greatly inhabit the use of the vessel (or any other British ironclad) in breaking the blockade. If a battle with a Monitor class vessel and the Warrior had taken place it is also likely that the Warrior would have been more easily disabled and captured due to the destruction of her unprotected propeller. Therefore, it is unlikely that the British Navy of wooden ships (without the Warrior lass of ironclads) could have broken the Union blockade of the Confederate ports which was enforced by Monitor class vessels.

The Union’s rapid buildup of ironclad vessels and its fighting force of hundreds of
thousands of men would have prevented Britain from having any conclusive impact on the
American Civil War. A British attack and a Union defense might have prolonged American the
Civil War but would not have changed its outcome. Even though they were more maneuverable,
wooden ships could not best the ironclads. Only ironclads could fight ironclads."

Daniel Duffy said...

IMHO, had both Britain and France intervened on behalf of the Confederacy they would have failed to break the Union blockade of Southern ports (for reasons stated above) and been unable to intervene directly.

As Dr. Brin noted, Shelby Foote was correct when he observed that "The Union fought the entire war with one hand behind its back, maintaining a mostly peacetime economy. If things ever went really badly, it would just have brought out the other hand."

Threatened by Britain and France, the US would have responded with a patriotic total war fervor that would have matched that of the French republic of the Revolution. The war would have lasted several years longer, but the South would have been crushed and the Union would have conquered British Canada and French Mexico.

Nothing is more awesome or terrible then an angry Republic.

LarryHart said...


The libertarian does not force or 'impose' his views on others. Do what you like;

How dare you tell me what to do! :)

feel free to pursue your extremist bent; and swing your fist where you like, knowing only that these rights of yours (which we share) end at our nose,

How dare you not tolerate my rights outside the boundaries you prescribe?

"Because if we can't protect (our) Earth, you can be damned well sure we'll avenge it!"

Better yet, stop electing Red-State Republicans in the first place, and you won't have to avenge anything.

David Brin said...

Daniel, you ignore my point. Technologies shift the advantage in military affairs and in the 1860s, with powerful rifled weapons but horrid communication systems, giant armies were nigh impossible to coordinate. A smaller force, ably led, could beat a larger force handily at that particular time, if the larger force had to strategically attack along multiple primitive roads and keep moving forward. Lee was able and did this well. But the era's military exigencies were all on his side.

At Antietam and Gettysburg, when he was the disadvantaged aggressor, he got his ass whipped. Not one historian will say just how badly he mismanaged both battles, but he proved a complete dunce at that task. The only thing that saved him both times were Union commanders terrified of pursuing him because of his reputation.

David Brin said...

I've stopped bothering with hi. Someone tell be if locum rejoins sapience.



Lloyd Flack said...

One point, the union did not have a naval advantage in steam power. Its engines were inferior to British and French ones leading to American vessels being considerably slower than their European counterparts. Even Union naval technology was behind that of Britain and France. Naval technology is an interest of mine, especially when it comes to times of change, so I've done a lot of reading on the matter.

Sadly Yours said...

I have found the porthole to hell. It's called the internet. Nothing is ever solved or even attempted to be solved. Everyone in America from doctors to idiots are just bitching back and forth. As a nation, we are now more divided than we have been in 150 years. Noone can even agree to disagree or live and let live. I want my beloved America back, but it is gone forever. Our society is nothing more now than a media fueled gun, with a muslim nigger,behind the trigger. I bet the only thing the smartest of you will see, and bitch about, is the word nigger. It's tough and it's fixing to get tougher. God help us all.

Sadly Yours said...

I have found the porthole to hell. It's called the internet. Nothing is ever solved or even attempted to be solved. Everyone in America from doctors to idiots are just bitching back and forth. As a nation, we are now more divided than we have been in 150 years. Noone can even agree to disagree or live and let live. I want my beloved America back, but it is gone forever. Our society is nothing more now than a media fueled gun, with a muslim nigger,behind the trigger. I bet the only thing the smartest of you will see, and bitch about, is the word nigger. It's tough and it's fixing to get tougher. God help us all.