March 29, 2006

Curious George: Help me defend the Confederacy in 90 seconds

For my US history class, we were split up into two groups: the Union and the Confederacy. Each member of each group was assigned four questions, and will go up against whoever on the other team has the same question and go through a debate on it. I was assigned to three questions, (and I'm on team Confederacy) and a statement to either agree with or disagree with. Here they are: Grant was an American Hero deserving of admiration and respect. Which side had the greater incentive to win the war? Which side held the initial advantage at the start of the war? Was Lincoln and abolitionist? I would like you monkeys to help me out with them. I have some basics covered, but would really like that extra push to do well in this. Extra points for tiny anecdotes and telling statistics that make the Confederacy look like they were sucker punched and the victim. EDIT: I've been trying for about an hour to get this curious george to work but it just won't without the URL filled in, so sorry about the link.

  • On the face of it, the Confederacy faced the loss of millions of horsepower worth of labor that didn't have to be paid for. The North faced the loss of ... well... not being as big a country as it was initially. Now if you can somehow line up all the intangibles to say one outcome matters more than the other, and not based on personal opinion, you're a better historian than me. That being the case, I hear tell that it was difficult to keep slaves in the northeast because of rickets, so they really didn't care much about the legality slavery. Skin with lots of melanin doesn't make Vitamin D very well in low-light climes. They also didn't have the same sort of labor intensive cotton/tobacco agriculture. Did I hit the main points? I'd ask wikipedia about Lincoln and Grant.
  • On the other hand, Northerners feared unfair competition with unpaid slaves in the South, things like that. Wiki is your friend.
  • Haha, yes, I've wiki'd a lot of this. Thanks for those points.
  • Your biggest argument is going to be the actual Confederate states' argument: this is not a slavery issue, but a states' rights issue. All the Southerners were doing was preserving the spirit of American democracy by determining what their laws and mores would be. They didn't want war, they just wanted their own way of life. Damn Yankees pushed them. Rinse, repeat. Was Lincoln an abolitionist? My understanding is no, not until very close to the war. His record for most of his career is one of a Free Soiler -- he did not favor abolishing slavery in the South, but wanted to ensure that all new states added to the Union were free states. I believe he also supported the Fugitive Slave Law, which many were trying to get made into a constitutional amendment. This is what went for the "moderate" position at the time. If you want to take down Grant, play up the drunk angle and look at his record, which is IIRC spotty in some way (I'm not an historian, so I can't elaborate). Also focus on Union treatment of its soldiers -- for instance, Irish deserters were tortured when caught. Many were branded on their foreheads with a capital D, and there were even military regs stipulating the physical dimensions of the irons to be used for branding. Some were crucified, quite literally nailed to trees. So play up the drunk philisitine torturer, the man who makes Abu Ghraib look like Disneyland. I'm not at all knowledgeable about economics or politics of the day, but my reading was that things were extremely balanced, so much so that the loss of any one of the four border states could have cost the North the whole war. The South frankly kicked a lot of ass early on in the war, though they were not successful at invading and taking Northern territory. And the South stood to lose more than the North, I think. One could argue that the South never fully recovered economically -- the Southern US states are still the poorest and most illiterate in the Union. Hope this helps.
  • I'll do your homework for you if you do mine.
  • Oh, the border states thing reminds me: Lincoln specifically exempted them from having to obey the Emancipation Proclamation, for fear of losing them to the Confederacy, which rendered the document practically useless beyond its symbolic value. That's another mark against his being an abolitionist.
  • Grant was an American Hero deserving of admiration and respect. That's actually true. You could try the discredited "Butcher" angle, but the fact is that he lost fewer men accomplishing goals that his predecessors failed to accomplish while losing more men. His drinking was probably exaggerated, but as Lincoln said, "Tell me what brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals." Which side had the greater incentive to win the war? The South had the greater incentive to win the war. They wanted to call their own shots. They could also claim, however falsely, that their quest for independence made them the heirs of the Revolution. The North was divided between wanting to maintain the Union and just letting them go. Which side held the initial advantage at the start of the war? The North had an overwhelming advantage throughout the war in terms of population and industrialization. The Civil War was maybe the first war in which railroads were tactically and strategically important, and the vast majority of rail lines were in the North. The South had a couple of advantages. Quite a few miilitary people left the US Army for the Confederacy, Lee being the best example. Also, they were defending their home turf, which probably motivated people that may or may not have supported slavery to fight. Was Lincoln and abolitionist? No. His personal attitudes towards slavery and emancipation evolved over the course of the war. in 1862, he wrote, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."
  • More on Grant: his Vicksburg Campaign was a masterpiece, and a more audacious strategic thing than anything Lee ever did. Also, Grant changed the way the war was fought in the east. Before Grant, the pattern was that Robert E. Lee would kick the Union Army's ass, and they'd go back to camp until they got a new commander, and the Lee would kick his ass. When Grant took command, sure enough, Lee beat him at the Wilderness, but unlike his predecessors, Grant kept coming. Once he got hold of Lee, he didn't let go.
  • I did a Curious, George a few days ago about the Civil War that got some great responses that may be of use to you, pilgrim. Ooo! I feel so John Wayney all of a sudden! Okay, it's passed.
  • On word: tax. The north lost the huge tex revenue the south generated. The south would have been able to keep it all for themselves, had their bid for (white) independence succeeded.
  • Help me defend the Confederacy in 90 seconds ok here goes pilgrim but you'll have to excuse any spelling errors because i'm typing as fast as I can and I ain't the best holy shit! 23 seconds already OK here we go the confederacy was WAY cool in fact it was the best and that's why they ah fuck 52 seconds, ummm, slaves? your problem is slaves cause slavery is bad, shit I can't think of anything, fuck fuck fuck ummm wait I know hide under your ah shit times up sorry best I could do.
  • Shit all they have to do is crouch down in Fort Sumter for 91 seconds? Cakewalk!
  • To be honest, most high school textbooks are written to view the Civil War and Reconstruction in a way that sympathizes more with the South that with the Union. (There are many reasons for this, first and foremost was that American history textbooks do a terrible job of admitting that we were ever wrong in anything -- so they have a hard time admitting that slaveholders, and the lawmakers who supported them, were on the wrong side of a moral debate. However, this also means that they make people who were on the *right* side of the debate look kind of crazy or ignore the extent to which they were against slavery.) Although the pro-Southern view has left the textbooks somewhat since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, textbooks (many of which have been around since before then, but have been revised as the scholarship changes) still have many remnants of the old views in them. This means that it will be easier for you to read your textbooks and find evidence for your side than it will for your opponents. For an opposing view of the history in your textbook (and a good lesson on how history is, by its very nature, biased), check out the work of James Loewen. I think he does a good job of making history exciting to non-history buffs.
  • i had lunch with a black man today.
  • Let me interject my two cents: Here's how you can demonize Grant. Remember Sherman? Grant put Sherman in charge of the Western Theater. Sherman proceeded to ruthlessly decimate swaths through the south. Incentive: The South. The entire economic infrastructure of the south was threatened. Cotton and Tobacco are labor intensive crops, this really was a war about slavery. The South was ill suited to function outside of the context of slavery. Initial Advantage: The South. They were winning for a long time. They had morale, training, and a home turf advantage. They knew how to shoot a rifle, how to navigate the land, etc etc. Licoln: Not an abolishionist. He merely wanted to stop Slavery from spreading into the new territories. Only when the war broke out and he had a convenient means of solving a national problem (slavery) did he try the abolishionist tact. The Garrisonians and the Abolitionists were the ones advocating the end of slavery, not the Republicans.
  • Some of my best friends are white...
  • Have you considered arguing that black people are simply inferior, and that it was the white man's god given right to enslave them? You'd get points for historical accuracy, at least. I've always found this "Let's talk about the Civil War outside the context of slavery" quite uncomfortable. God forbid that we should admit that the South was just straight up wrong.
  • Not sure how much this will help any of your individual questions, but for background info, South Carolina's declaration of secession makes for very interesting reading.
  • Slavery wasn't free labor, it was cheap labor. There was still money spent on purchase, room and board, clothing, whips.... Who won the war? Well, the Union won in principle and in land but the real issues relating to black freedom was not really resolved until the Civil Rights movement. In many ways there are still many issues being resolved today that should have been handled post-war.
  • What JJ86 said. The North won militarily but the South won socially. There are monuments to the Confederate fallen in Montana, for goodness' sake. And what's up with this seeing the Stars and Bars everywhere I go here in NW Ohio? Back in TX where I'm from you don't fly that flag unless you want everyone to know you're a redneck asshole (which I separate out from redneck non-assholes), but up here the damn flags are everywhere! Um, this is the *North*, fellas. You're a *damn Yankee*. Get over it.
  • Nickdanger: Thats a difficult point to argue because of its ramifications. For example, you point to some difference between black and white people, to say, this difference doesn't matter and you can't enslave them because they are the same, equally worthwhile. And then you are challenged with well, say they weren't as smart as white people. Would that make it okay? And of course you say "No! Its still wrong" Well, what if instead of being black, they were covered with fur and couldn't speak a language. "Still WRONG!" And now everyone is a vegetarian.
  • Anyway, in case that comes off as offensive (for the implicit comparison between blacks and animals), I'd like to state for the record that we are all animals. The point was that its very difficult to find "the thing" that makes us superior over anyone in the first place, and because of that its easy to get into a moral bind. The fact that we "enslave and murder animals" for food while supporting the idea of there being no innately superior genetic stock is on the face of it hypocritical. Oh right, only human stock counts. But then you have to ask why? I don't have a good answer. I guess its because the animals won't rebel. I like my hypocrisy and innate superiority with barbecue sauce.
  • Who says we're better than the animals? They're happy with what they least more than we are.
  • yess..... happy with what they have... just like the slaves I keep ... aherm I mean would never keep ....
  • What if the South had won? This brilliant faux documentary explores the idea in twisted detail: The Confederate States of America.
  • Well, that link has changed. Fortunately some kind soul has uploaded the film to Youtube: The Confederate States of America