Ghoststrider (ghoststrider) wrote in talk_politics,

Some random thoughts on the American Civil War, North/South relations, and racial issues

So I ran across an interesting post over at Outside the Beltway about the Civil War, which had a very interesting comments section. I had a few thoughts about the Civil War myself, though knowing they were probably very controversial and likely to spark a lot of wank, I kept them to myself on my personal LJ.

Well, mahnmut and underlankers encouraged me to post it here, saying it was excellent (note: don't ever take them to a bar, they clearly drink too much) so I decided I will. Rest assured, what follows is probably very unorthodox and is likely to piss people off (especially if you're from the south.)

Also, if you're not from America, you can safely skip this. This is pretty much American wankery through and through.

With that out of the way, here goes nuthin...

The way I see it, the Civil War was unnecessary. Was it right? Probably not. If you read the comments, you'll notice an intelligent commentator who goes by the name "michael reynolds" point out that both sides were largely composed of suckers who got duped into fighting someone else's war. In the south, you had poor whites who were being abused by the slavery system (as black slaves, not being paid, essentially suppressed wages for poor non-slaveholding whites) go off to fight as troops; in the north, it was fresh off the boat immigrants. Both sides were racist, and both sides were being run by elites who just wanted more power vis-a-vis the other. In the south, it was slave owning aristocrats; in the north, it was industrialists who wanted to use force, rather than the market, to increase their profits and power.

Were there good guys on both sides? Absolutely. Were there other reasons? Absolutely. But let's be honest, here: the Civil War was about slavery. Yes, there were issues about state rights, federal taxation, and economic policy, and we could say that came to about 10-15% of the complaints with the Union, but those still eventually come back around to slavery.

Again, though, I don't think the war was necessary. The reason I hold this view is that the south's economy was really not in good shape. As one person noted, they were already 100 years behind the North and Europe and were continuing to fall behind. Yes, their cotton industry was huge, but it was not irreplaceable, and over time, other competitors would have sprung up to challenge them, further eroding their economic strength. You might even see the poor whites protest, riot, demonstrate, and even go into rebellion against the Confederacy (and then, of course, individual states' disagreements with the Confederate government might have blossomed into something else.)

Within forty to fifty years, I think the Confederacy in this scenario would have collapsed, or at least reabsorbed by the Union. It would have faced an economic collapse at one point or another, and I'm sure it would have faced political instability. Add to that the efforts of the Northern abolitionists to get out the slaves, and they were going to have problems. (BTW, I'm not arguing life would have peachy for the slaves, nor am I arguing that the Confederacy would have emancipated them before being reabsorbed. I just don't know.)

I think, in the long run, this might actually be better for racial relations, because the Confederacy would not have fallen because of abolitionist Northern troops, but by simple economics--and the economics of slavery, their own institution, at that. Would racism continue? Undoubtedly, but it would probably not be as intense as it was for almost 150 years after the end of the Civil War (that not being a point exactly 150 years after, but the entire period, with it fading and tapering off at the end.)

Of course, this is all with the benefit of hindsight, and I'm not sure, if I were in Lincoln's position, if I would have done anything differently with the information he possessed.

By extension, however, there is the question of Southern pride in the post I linked to. The question is, what is there to be proud about in the south? (Now here is where I get REALLY controversial.) Basically, most, if not all, of southern pride is somehow linked to the Confederacy. Confederate flags, Lee-Jackson Day, southern "gentility" (which comes from the slaveholding southern aristocracy's notions of etiquette), etc. etc. About the only thing that doesn't go back to the Confederacy, slavery, and perhaps racism in general is college football, which is the first religion in the south, ahead of Christianity. Which I can't begrudge them that, that is genuinely something to be proud of (especially since NCAA football is now almost solely the SEC League), but as I'm not a macho spots jock who thinks there are better things for schools to be doing, I'm not sure that's really something to be proud of either.

EDIT: Music. I suppose there is southern rock and bluegrass that the south can be proud of. Okay.

So this is a really controversial and probably going to have me shot statement, but what is there to be proud of in the South? And why did we fight the war, anyways? We should have let the south secede and watch it crumble before coming back to the Union, begging for readmittance. That would have been the only sane thing to do.

Just my two creds.
Tags: civil war, history
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