Civil Discourse Now

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Mr Ogden: wrong again about that whole "South" thing

My good friend Paul Ogden replied to my blog “Senators who are witnesses cannot serve as jurors.” Mr Ogden did not reply to that contention. I had said Senators will serve as “jurors” in trump’s impeachment trial. Victims and material witnesses are excluded as jurors.

Instead, Mr Ogden took issue with how I described the reasons for the Civil War: The South seceded to preserve slavery and 4 of the states (GA, MS, SC, and TX) issued statements why they seceded; “a clear, primary reason: to preserve the institution of slavery."

Mr Ogden is mistaken to say I “did a switch there”; that slavery as “reason” is not compatible with “clear, primary reason.” He adds that “the quoted statements don't even prove it was ‘primarily’ a reason for those states.”

1) The first sentence in question: “The South seceded to preserve slavery.” That does not exclude other reasons. The secession statements of GA, MS, SC and TX were cited because the illustrate that defense of slavery was a “primary” reason.

And “primary” is defined: “first or highest in rank or importance; chief; principal.” Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 2d ed, 2001, p. 1537. A “primary” reason does not exclude other reasons.


2) The full secession statements show the primary reason was to preserve slavery. I have posted, as a separate blog post, the statements in question. Readers may draw their own conclusions. This contrasts with people who say the States seceded for “States’ rights.”

3) In 1860 the Democratic Party had 2 conventions. The first, in Charleston, S.C., is described by in regard to Illinois’s delegation and Usher Linder, a racist, pro-slavery Democrat: “They were treated like pariahs, cultural and ideological strangers from an alien world....

“‘I had not been in that convention over three days till I discovered a deep-rooted hostility and burning dislike to Northern men and statesmen.’ That they were pro-slavery or happy to be indifferent to slavery made no difference. It was not enough to bridge the cultural and ideological gap. They were not true enough believers.” Kaplan, “Lincoln and the Abolitionists,” 2017, p. 236.

In his last State of the Union address, President James Buchanan commented on the fear of “servile insurrections”: “Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and children before the morning.’” Kaplan, pp. 268-69.

4) Mr Ogden’s reply takes an odd turn on slavery as an issue: “The causes of the Civil War are a lot more complex than just saying it was about slavery.” I agree with Mr. Ogden on that point. However, the balance of his reply discusses the Corwin Amendment.

Mr Ogden notes the Corwin Amendment would have amended the Constitution “to prohibit any future Amendment of the Constitution which would have outlawed slavery in the states that already had the institution.”

To discuss whether adoption of the Corwin Amendment would have averted the Civil War is a discussion of slavery as a cause of the Civil War. This point does not support Mr Ogden’s contention that “causes of the Civil War are a lot more complex than just saying it was about slavery.”

There were tensions between the mostly agrarian South and more industrial North. Some assert the South held a concept of “States rights,” although the Declaration of Independence makes clear people, not States, have rights. There were conflicts over tariffs.

Reasons for the North opposing the South’s secession were economic. A unified USA had an advantage in World markets. I agree with Mr Ogden when he observes “Lincoln was perfectly willing to accede to the South's demands about slavery in order to keep the union intact.”

The Southern States did not secede for some noble concept etched in liberty. They seceded to perpetuate the most barbaric institution - slavery - this country has condoned. Its effects are still with us today. Those who ignore this fact condemn the rest of us.

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Comment by pogden297 on January 27, 2021 at 1:00pm

:"To discuss whether adoption of the Corwin Amendment would have averted the Civil War is a discussion of slavery as a cause of the Civil War. This point does not support Mr Ogden’s contention that “causes of the Civil War are a lot more complex than just saying it was about slavery.”'

Is this some sort of Trumpian debating tactic?  The discussion of the Corwin Amendment was to point out that Lincoln was willing to concede the issue of slavery to the South, so much so the institution would forever (though I have doubts a constitutional amendment can bar other amendments on the subject) be enshrined in the Constitution.   The Southern states had other beefs (a legal term) with the North, which you seem to agree with.  And certainly the southern states truly believed they had every right to withdraw from the union.  The Civil War wasn't the first time the issue of secession had come up.  I don't think there is any doubt that the states ratifying the Constitution thought it was a pact they could later get out of if they changed their minds.  Otherwise, the Constitution would never have been ratified.

But I digress.  It seems from the thrust of your article this morning, you agree with everything I said, but you're still arguing nonetheless.  Next time, your article should be four words:  "Paul is right again!"

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