Friday, April 09, 2010

Buchanan: "[I]n a way, both sides were right" during the Civil War.



Along with some of the insane rantings of Glenn Beck, this from Pat Buchanan leads me to believe that there really is nothing a right winger can say on national TV in the US that is deserving of being fired.

Buchanan thinks "both sides were right" in the civil war.

(Bangs head on desk.)

13 comments:

Steel Phoenix said...

I think you're way off base here. What specifically is it about this opinion that you find so shockingly offensive?

How can the northern states, who fought a war in order to declare their independence from unjust taxation and unrepresentative governance, justify keeping the southern states from doing the same? Did the northern states have a legitimate authority over the southern states even after they had declared their independence?

Were the southern states threatening to invade the northern?

Was this an aggressive war or a defensive one?

Would a pacifist deserve firing after denouncing northern aggression? If you hadn't noticed, Pat has been a vocal opponent of both Iraq wars and is an anti-imperialist.

Kel said...

I can only speak as a European and my reading of this war might not be the same as your own. Over here we perceive that, in that war, the south were fighting for the right to keep slaves.

In other words, they were fighting for a moral wrong. In such an instance, I do not think that this is none of the north's business. Just as Apartheid was the rest of the world's business. We cannot, in good conscience, turn our backs on such injustices.

And, as for your defence of Pat, I am sure he has taken many fine stances during his career, some of which I may even agree with, but, overall, I find his latent racism quite breathtaking.

Steel Phoenix said...

Slavery was a major issue in the war, but as a wedge. Nearly half of the people in the south were slaves, in some states they were the majority, which makes it far from a simple thing, both financially and socially, to just release them. There were already hard feelings in the south that the north was governing them without regard for their interests. Slavery was a final wedge that drove the states apart, but it wasn't what the war itself was about, the war was about the south wanting to secede and Lincoln sending his armies to prevent the breakup of the union.

It wasn't some war of righteous liberation by people who wanted equal rights for African Americans. Seven states had already seceded before Lincoln even took office. Lincoln wasn't proposing to eradicate slavery where it existed, he just wanted to prevent it in the new territories. Slavery in the U.S. had existed for 300 years. Many of the states fighting for the north were slave states. During the war the north had over 400,000 slaves.

Britain was the one selling the confederacy their warships and supplies. The north outnumbered the south by two to one, and had nearly all the means of production, they killed a third of the men of fighting age of the south.

Slavery and the desire for representational governance were two sides of the same coin. They can't be separated and one called the cause, but the men on the battlefield on either side who were shooting their own brothers weren't doing it on behalf of the slaves or slavers, war isn't simple like that. There are many factors, and whatever the rights of the victor to write history, we do a disservice to those 200,000 southern boys who died fighting to make it taboo to speak on their behalf. Pat's great great grandfather was an early advocate for southern independence who voted for secession and fought for the confederates.

If you get the chance, there is an awesome documentary on the civil war done for PBS by Ken Burns. I've never seen a better documentary on anything.

Kel said...

Slavery was a major issue in the war, but as a wedge. Nearly half of the people in the south were slaves, in some states they were the majority, which makes it far from a simple thing, both financially and socially, to just release them.

I don't think arguments about how difficult it is to stop such an obvious wrong carry much weight, SP. We heard all that nonsense during Apartheid.

Right is right and wrong is wrong, and I have zero sympathy for the man who tells me how much it will cost him financially to free another man from chains.

I would argue that he should never have made such profit from another man's humiliation in the first place, so I'd shed no tears that his ability to make money from such an odious source had to end.

There were already hard feelings in the south that the north was governing them without regard for their interests.

That sometimes happens in democracies. Over here, the Scots always vote Labour and yet suffered eighteen years of Tory rule under Thatcher and then Major - the former who decimated manufacturing and put millions of Scots on the dole - but it is inconceivable that Scotland would have been allowed to declare independence and say "we are taking away our oil". Sometimes people who lose in the democratic process simply have to accept their loss. And the Scots were the people who were being f#cked. The southerners who declared secession appear to me to be the people who were doing the f#cking.

I'll freely admit that I am not as well versed as you on this subject, but under what authority did the south secede?

I have always believed that there was an election in which Lincoln promised to prevent the expansion of slavery beyond the states in which it already existed.

When he won the election, I thought the actions of the southerners were regarded as rebellion rather than as legitimate secession. Which is what would have happened here, in the eighties, had Scotland suddenly declared independence.

Scotland has recently made significant steps towards secession, by electing the SNP, but it did so through the democratic process. It didn't simply state that it wasn't willing to play by these rule any more. Which is my understanding of what the south did.

There are many factors, and whatever the rights of the victor to write history, we do a disservice to those 200,000 southern boys who died fighting to make it taboo to speak on their behalf.

I don't speak ill on their behalf. Brave men who go into battle are often lions led by donkeys. That in no way diminishes their individual courage. My godson has been to Iraq. I can commend his courage whilst cursing the men who sent him there.

If you get the chance, there is an awesome documentary on the civil war done for PBS by Ken Burns. I've never seen a better documentary on anything.

If you can find the name of it or find it on Google, please pass it on. I'd love to see it.

Steel Phoenix said...

There are two ways to look at history, through the lens of our current local beliefs, morality, and motivations, or through the eyes of those who lived it. The former is useful for hindsight as to the long term ramifications, but not for understanding the motivations leading to war. Our disagreement here isn't about the wrongness of slavery, but about whether the south had any legitimate grievances, and whether the north was right to wage a war of aggression.

Bush claimed we fought the war in Iraq in order to liberate its citizens from tyranny. To question it was blasphemous. If Iraq ends this war a democratic state, would you consider it a just war, worth the price? It could be argued that if it is fine to question the true motivations of Bush in a war of liberation, that the same could be said for Lincoln.

I would side with Scotland in their bid for independence. Why should a nation have to live under a rule not accepted by their people? An unrepresentative government seizing the results of someone's labor is equivalent to seizing hours from them and directing them to carry on various activities, it's a form of indentured servitude, not on a par with slavery, but falling under some of the same moral pitfalls.

Under what authority did the United States secede from Europe? Should we still be under your thumb? Should any group ever be allowed to rise up against a regime? Thomas Jefferson, our third president and one of our founding fathers certainly would have sided with the right of the states to secede, as did James Buchanan, the predecessor of Lincoln, who was actually president at the time the first seven of the states seceded. Our Declaration of Independence actually gives us the right to secede, although it either has to be by common vote of all the states, or by revolution; thus the south's attempt at secession wasn't illegal, but merely a failure.

The Documentary was just called 'The Civil War'. Amazon has it: http://www.amazon.co.uk/American-Civil-War-film-Burns/dp/B002QFZD54/ and there are torrents out there too if you use such things. I think I may watch it again since I haven't seen it in about fifteen years.

Kel said...

There are two ways to look at history, through the lens of our current local beliefs, morality, and motivations, or through the eyes of those who lived it.

I agree. But the very fact that slavery had become an issue surely meant that others were beginning to question the "current local beliefs" of the time?

If Iraq ends this war a democratic state, would you consider it a just war, worth the price? It could be argued that if it is fine to question the true motivations of Bush in a war of liberation, that the same could be said for Lincoln.

Of course, it is fair to question the motivations of Lincoln, but there is a premise to your argument which I find hard to swallow. You speak of "an unrepresentative government". This government was democratically elected. It was, by it's very nature, representative. It just didn't represent the beliefs of some of the people who voted against it. When I think of the south in this context it reminds me of the Tea Party movement. I see only sore losers.

Under what authority did the United States secede from Europe? Should we still be under your thumb?

No, you certainly shouldn't be. But that was a revolution against a foreign controlling power.

If I remember correctly, the argument against Britain was that it took taxation without offering representation.

In the case of the south they felt unrepresented because the north did not agree with their policies regarding slavery.

I'm sorry, but I still don't feel as if they were on the moral high ground here. And that's not me applying modern morality to another time, because the very fact that the north were beginning to question slavery simply means, to me, that the south were on the wrong side of history.

Kel said...

And just to show how far on the wrong side of history they were, whilst doing some reading on this subject, I came across this:

Edward Alexander H. Stephen's, Vice-President of the Confederacy
:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind—from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the Negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just—but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails.


That's simply indefensible. And he calls that "the cornerstone" of this new government.

That's what I have always believed the civil war was about, and it's why I bang my head on the table when I hear Buchanan insist that "both sides were right".

They simply weren't.

Steel Phoenix said...

There was a lot of that in the south.

The south being wrong doesn't make the north right.

The questions I would have to ask are: did the majority of those fighting in the south fight primarily for the reasons in the above quote, and did the majority of those fighting for the north do so for the purpose of putting an end to that thinking? My impression is that the answer to both is no. Congress actually passed a resolution saying that the war was being fought, not to end slavery, but to preserve the union. After the southern Congressmen left, the northern voted by a two thirds majority to constitutionalize slavery. There were freed blacks in the confederate army. If we are going to dumb this conflict down to a one paragraph summary of the north fighting for an end to slavery, we might as well just not teach it, because we aren't being remotely honest.

Why did the south fight? They the north had replaced their representatives, cut off negotiations, blockaded all of their ports, and sent in invading armies. Some were already in the army, some were conscripted, some enlisted to defend their homes and families.

Kel said...

The questions I would have to ask are: did the majority of those fighting in the south fight primarily for the reasons in the above quote, and did the majority of those fighting for the north do so for the purpose of putting an end to that thinking? My impression is that the answer to both is no.

I think that's a wonderful side road you are exploring. But the people who fought the war didn't declare it. I am interested in the reasons why they were sent into battle.

Congress actually passed a resolution saying that the war was being fought, not to end slavery, but to preserve the union.

Of course they did. But you and I both know that the Republicans were pushing Lincoln to come out and say that the war was to end slavery. Lincoln worried that this would simply exacerbate the south.

But he had, in his 1858 House Divided Speech, expressed a desire to "arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction."

And, of course, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said that slavery was the chief cause of secession in his Cornerstone Speech.

They the north had replaced their representatives, cut off negotiations, blockaded all of their ports, and sent in invading armies.

Again, I am loathe to debate American history with an American - as I feel sure that I will lose - but didn't the war start when the Confederate army attacked Fort Sumter?

As for the north cutting off negotiations and blockading their ports, all of this was preceded by the Confederates announcing secession. Calls for that kind of revolution are almost always met with a strong response. It seems to me slightly disingenuous to pretend that the calls for secession were not themselves a sort of declaration of war.

Steel Phoenix said...

Fair enough, but you too digress, is the answer so clear that to question it deserves firing? If the people who fought it weren't fighting to free the slaves, and the people who declared it said it wasn't about the slaves, then we are down to conjecture, which is more than open for free debate.

I don't see secession as a declaration of war, it's like a divorce. You don't get to lock your spouse in a cage and beat them until they agree to stay.

In order for a war to be just, what needs need to be met, and who decides if they have been?

Kel said...

Fair enough, but you too digress, is the answer so clear that to question it deserves firing?

Fair point. I was perhaps getting carried away when I said that.

If the people who fought it weren't fighting to free the slaves, and the people who declared it said it wasn't about the slaves, then we are down to conjecture, which is more than open for free debate.

Of course, but I feel that history has decided that slaves were central to that conflict. That's certainly the way it has come to be perceived over here.

Steel Phoenix said...

Here as well unfortunately. We also teach our arrival on this content with illustrations showing natives and people with belt buckles on their hats eating turkey and corn together. America looks much more noble in the cliff notes. If you've seen the videos of how our school boards edit textbooks, you know why I'm so rabid about this. I can't name anyone offhand who knows their American history better than Pat.

I don't think we should be teaching history at all to young children. First of all, people are protective of children to the point where they would rather lie to them than let them see anything ugly in the world. This is not education. The world is ugly, and the more cover that with lies, the uglier it gets. Second, children lack the frame of reference necessary for understanding both the passage of time and the adult concepts of politics, religion, nation, geography, and power that drove men to their decisions. Memorizing dates and names is useless to counterproductive. Save history for the higher grades and then teach it right.

Kel said...

Here as well unfortunately,

I don't consider that unfortunate as I think slavery was pretty central to the war. I accept that there were other issues, but the financial implications for those dependent on slaves was, I think, an undeniable part of what was at stake here.

Memorizing dates and names is useless to counterproductive. Save history for the higher grades and then teach it right.

I know what you mean. I found history boring when I was young as all it appeared to me was a lot of dates and places; and I had no real idea why this was supposed to be important to me. It's only when you get older and understand the battle of ideas and ideologies behind those dates and places that it all becomes comprehensible.