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Fri Dec 23, 2011, 07:06 AM

Strange But True: Ron Paul Thinks The American Civil War Was 'Unnecessary'



Thu, 12/22/2011 - 8:38am ó
Avi Zenilman

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the anti-government GOP presidential candidate who is now surging in Iowa, is not a fan of Abraham Lincoln. He believes the Civil War was a "senseless" bloodbath that was the result of Lincoln's desire to "enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic."

"He shouldn't have gone to war," explained Paul in a December 2007 appearance on Meet The Press. Failing to fight for the union, however, would not mean embracing slavery -- after all, it was on its way out, and in 1833 the British Empire had successfully abolished it without violence. His advice to the north: "you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years?"

In other words, the "Godfather of the Tea Party" thinks the best policy would have been a massive public bailout of slaveowners. (There was no federal income tax until 1861, when it was implemented to fund the war.)

The rebels never indicated they were willing to sell off their slaves. The "peculiar institution" of owning human beings dominated the political and economic culture of the states that seceded. In March 1861, a few weeks before Lincoln's inauguration, the newly-minted Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens explained that the new government rested "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."

One more paragraph: http://nationalmemo.com/article/strange-true-ron-paul-thinks-american-civil-war-was-unnecessary

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Reply Strange But True: Ron Paul Thinks The American Civil War Was 'Unnecessary' (Original post)
ellisonz Dec 2011 OP
Angry Dragon Dec 2011 #1
ellisonz Dec 2011 #2
Bucky Dec 2011 #3
ellisonz Dec 2011 #5
RZM Dec 2011 #4
ellisonz Dec 2011 #6
Odin2005 Dec 2011 #7
MicaelS Dec 2011 #8
zipplewrath Jan 2012 #9
ellisonz Jan 2012 #10
yellowcanine Jan 2012 #11
yellowcanine Jan 2012 #12

Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Fri Dec 23, 2011, 07:11 AM

1. Ron and Newt should start a history program together

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Response to Angry Dragon (Reply #1)

Fri Dec 23, 2011, 07:29 AM

2. At the Hoodless Racist College. n/t

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Fri Dec 23, 2011, 05:10 PM

3. As a history teacher, I can't just dismiss his "what-if" as a racist's delusions.

In fact, he's right that lots of other countries got rid of slavery peacefully and by remuneration of people who held human property entirely legally under the previous laws. The phase "massive public bailout of slaveowners" is jarring, but it's not a historically accurate analogy. Slaves in the south were one of the few economic asset in the South that held their value. Throughout the rest of the South, the land and cotton were both on an arc toward losing their value. Slavery itself was not a faltering economic trade. The cash crops they harvested were losing their value (due to a combination of land depletion and growing competition from Egyptian and Indian cotton crops). Cotton & tobacco could wipe out a soil's fertility for a decade. But the labor of the men and women and children imprisoned by slavery held its value.

Where he's wrong is in saying Lincoln brought on the war and (strangely enough) ascribing the impetus for an alternative course of action to Lincoln. In Ron Paul's "unevolving" view of the Constitution, it should be the Congress, not the Executive, who has the responsibility for changing policies. It would be Congress who would have to authorize the payments to slaveholders and pass laws to mandate receipt of those payments and relinquishing title to the human property. Of course in Ron Paul's world view, the federal government couldn't compel ending of slavery at all--it would be a state's prerogative. Any federal ending of slavery in his scheme of things would be a matter of federal overreach. In this, he's in lockstep with the slaveocracy of the time (and Lincoln, too, by the way, who thought he couldn't end slavery in the states and only could justify by the continuation of the rebellion).

But the wrongest point Paul makes is blaming hostilities on Lincoln. It's not just that Lincoln didn't put a match to a cannon in Charleston Harbor in 1861. There was a growing culture of violent resistance to restrictions on slavery in the 1840s and 1850s. The Mexican-American War was, to a large extent, an effort to extend slaveholding regions of the country. The reaction to the Compromise of 1850 was notably violent and full of promises of hostilities if southern California wasn't allowed to choose a slaveholding economy. The main reason for this is that the South's cash crops were already in economic decline and the slaveholders of the older South needed new lands to sell their slave property off to (as well as undepleted lands to expand their short-staple cotton fields onto). Failure to extend slaveholding lands would eventually start to threaten the economic value of the slaves themselves. And human chattel was by 1860 the most valuable asset in the South.

Pro-slave forces were also the main instigators of violence in the Bloody Kansas wars. There were a few violent Free Soilers (John Brown being the most famous), but the first and second shots were fired by Slavery men and the greater part of the election fraud in Kansas was the work of slavers. Outside of Kansas, there was a growing trend toward the violent repression of anti-slavery ideas. Abolitionists were treated like communists were in the 1950s. What few could be found faced abuse and ostracization. Antislavery literature was subject to interdiction in the US mails. Book burnings were common. Antislavery newspapers didn't exist out fear of such reprisals (there certainly were Southerners opposed to slavery or its extension but none of them published). By 1858 the newest trend was lynching Yankee agitators. As with any lynching system, only a few cases sufficed to silent the masses. After the Republican Party was formed in 1854 and supplanted the Whigs as the opposition party in the 1856 elections, Southerners increasingly declared their willingness to fight to maintain their peculiar institution. Long before Lincoln called up troops to prevent the rebellion, Confederate states were organizing militias to enforce the Secession by violence.

Did Lincoln maneuver the Confederates into firing the first shot at Fort Sumter? Yes. But it didn't take much effort on his part. They were long-since ready to make a bloody fight of it. Did Lincoln radically extend the powers of the executive branch? Yes. But he did so in the context of putting down a violent insurrection that geographically surrounded the national capital. It was the South that started the fighting and the South that started the tone of violence that, along the Union's unique federal structure, made the fighting all-but-inevitable. The election of any Republican president, whether it took until 1864 or 1868, was going to provoke a secession. Blaming Lincoln for the Civil War is a distortion of history.

I'm from the South. I love the South, but there's just no reason to pretend that our section and our dominant political factions were not the primary instigators in the Civil War.

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Response to Bucky (Reply #3)

Fri Dec 23, 2011, 10:00 PM

5. Generally agreed.

I think you're missing the fact that few among the elite slaveholders of the South...were even willing to entertain the notion of giving up slavery. They weren't. Resentment at the abolition of slavery in the South persists until this day and it has nothing to do with the Civil War itself; such notions are pure, unadulterated racist imaginations. Ron Paul's "what-ifs" are at the most absurd level and as you properly note fail to realize that the South was the main instigator of the conflict. They were not prepared to accept a democratic decision in accordance with the Constitution.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Fri Dec 23, 2011, 05:57 PM

4. Agree with Bucky that there was a precedent for peaceful transitions

 

Though I question how easy that would have been in the US. Probably would have taken a long time.

The Russian government finally abolished serfdom in 1861, about two months before Fort Sumter. It was a peaceful process (as it was in some other Central/Eastern European states) in part because the landowners had great say in what the final settlement looked like. The terms of emancipation were quite generous to the landlords and not so great for the peasants.

One major difference though is that in Russia many landlords had no great enthusiasm for serfdom and they were more than willing to do away with it as long as they were well compensated. Russia at the time also had no real Democratic traditions or culture of liberty/individual rights, etc. Russian nobles were not in a position to defy the state at all and in fact there were long traditions of noble service obligations to the state. When the state decided it was finally time to end serfdom, the landowners had little choice other than to get to work crafting the best deal for themselves that they could.

Same was true for Russians opposed to serfdom. There was heavy censorship of the press and writers were forbidden from advocating sweeping social change. Some would actually write about American slavery as a way of slyly alluding to the situation in Russia. The autocratic nature of the state prevented anything like the kind of passionate debate on the subject found in the US. It was much more subdued there.

In the US it was a much different story. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that throwing large amounts of money at the problem over a long period of time could have led to the end of slavery, but who knows. Maybe the Civil War was inevitable? I really don't know.


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Response to RZM (Reply #4)

Fri Dec 23, 2011, 10:44 PM

6. Key difference...

Serfdom was largely grounded in class identity, though I would cede that in some parts of the Russian sphere it also had an ethnic component to it, whereas American slavery was firmly grounded in racial ideology, and not in class. This became especially true with the decline of White indentured servitude in the South in general, and especially in the Virginia Colony with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacons_rebellion in which:

"Indentured servants both black and white joined the frontier rebellion. Seeing them united in a cause alarmed the ruling class. Historians believe the rebellion hastened the hardening of racial lines associated with slavery, as a way for planters and the colony to control some of the poor.[17]

^ Cooper, William J, Liberty and Slavery: Southern Politics to 1860, Univ of South Carolina Press, 2001, p. 9.


The American Revolution only served to further White strict white ideological beliefs that Blacks were an inferior race, destined to eternal servitude as the British actively sought to encourage slaves to leave their plantations and join the British cause, for an outstanding review of this history I would refer to: http://www.amazon.com/Epic-Journeys-Freedom-American-Revolution/dp/0807055158/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324694262&sr=8-1

The ongoing crisis of slave resistance and uprising continued to foster Southern White fears of Blacks if liberated would seek vengeance against their White masters, and this was especially true after the Haitian revolution, the Nat Turner revolt, and John Brown's attempt to initiate and arm a slave rebellion at Harper's Ferry. For an excellent review of divergent Northern views of Black liberation, I would refer anyone interested to: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Hearts-Men-Abolitionists-Transformation/dp/0674013670/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324694566&sr=1-1

While it is certainly true that the North did give up slavery and lead the Abolitionist charge, they had far fewer slaves, were able to substitute immigrant labor, and did not live in constant fear of Black uprising. The notion that under any terms the South would have accepted any buyout of slavery is ludicrous and steeped in racist ideology about the history of this country. Shame on Ron Paul.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 09:20 AM

7. The South was ideologically committed to slavery.

Which is why Paul's comparison with Britain's ending slavery is misguided and just plain daffy. IMO it's part of the RW revisionism that tries to deny that the Civil War was about slavery.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Dec 31, 2011, 08:22 AM

8. Howard Zinn felt the same way for different reasons

And I think both were wrong.

Howard Zinn's "Three Holy Wars"



Transcript at Democracy Now

http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2010/1/8/howard_zinn_three_holy_wars

After all, when the war started, it wasnít Lincolnís intention to free the slaves. You know that. That was not his purpose in fighting the war. His purpose in fighting the war was to keep Southern territory within the grasp of the central government. You could almost say it was an imperial aim. It was a terrible thing to say, I know. But yeah, I mean, thatís what the war was fought for. Oh, itís put in a nice way. We say we fought for the Union. You know, we donít want anybody to secede. Yeah. Why no? What if they want to secede? Weíre not going to let them secede. No, we want all that territory.

So, the Civil War and its aftermath, you know, have to be looked at in a longer perspective. And yes, the question needs to be asked also: yeah, is it possible if slavery could have been ended without 600,000 dead? We donít know for sure. And when I mention these possibilities, you know, itís very hard to imagine how it might have ended, except that we do know that slavery was ended in every other country in the western hemisphere. Slavery was ended in all these others places in the western hemisphere without a bloody civil war. Well, that doesnít prove that it could have been ended, and, you know, every situation is different, but it makes you think. If you begin to think, "Oh, the only way it could have been done is with a bloody civil war," maybe not. I mean, maybe it would have taken longer. You know, maybe there could have been slave rebellions which hammered away at the Southern slave structure, hammered away at them in a war of attrition, not a big bloody mass war, but a war of attrition and guerrilla warfare, and John Brown-type raids.

Remember John Brown, who wanted to organize raids and a slave rebellion? Yeah, a little guerrilla action, not totally peaceful, no. But not massive slaughter. Well, John Brown was executed by the state of Virginia and the national government. He was executed in 1859 for wanting to lead slave revolts. And the next year, the government goes to war in a war that cost 600,000 lives and then, presumably, as people came to believe, to end slavery. Thereís a kind of tragic irony in that juxtaposition of facts. So itís worth thinking about, about the Civil War, and not to simply say, ďWell, Civil War ended slavery, therefore whatever the human cost was, it was worth it.Ē Itís worth rethinking.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #8)

Mon Jan 9, 2012, 05:51 PM

9. For very different reasons

There is a legitimate line of thought that the rebellion by the south could have been handled differently by the north. I'm not a particular adherent, but folks not named Ron Paul are able to make very serious arguments on this topic. Most of them would have required YEARS, if not decades of basically economic conflict, possibly bordering on blockades. It's hard to see how that wouldn't have ultimately lead to an armed conflict anyway. But it might have panned out as a "divide and conquer" strategy with the Union raising conflicts with each state "separately". In the end, the problem was that the south wanted slavery and was going to continue to demand slavery through threats of violence.

And there weren't many places that had slavery like the US at the time, so comparisons to other countries are a bit false.

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Response to zipplewrath (Reply #9)

Tue Jan 10, 2012, 03:31 AM

10. I loathe the counterfactual. n/t

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Tue Jan 10, 2012, 01:41 PM

11. The Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas Nebraska Act, and Dred Scott made war inevitible, imo.

These led directly to Lincoln's election and Lincoln's election led directly to secession of seven states which seceded before Lincoln was inaugurated. The other Confederate states seceded after Fort Sumter. It is hard to see how Lincoln could have prevented Fort Sumter and even if he had been able to other events would likely have started a war sooner rather than later. In any event, Ron Paul is no historian as this exchange amply demonstrates. Lincoln would not have had the political support to bail out the slave owners. If Ron Paul thinks Lincoln had an "iron fist" how much of an iron fist would have been required for Lincoln to raise the money through taxes and then implement a slave buyout from slaveholders who had no desire to give up their slaves? Presumably the buyout would have had to be mandatory so force would have been necessary against any holdouts. This would have required the use of Federal troops - it is inconceivable that the Southern states would have cooperated. Finally, how does Ron Paul square a government buyout of slaveholders with his philosophy of limited government? It is easy to see why Paul would have opposed Lincoln on the transcontinental railroad and the college land grant act - a government buyout of slaveholders would have eclipsed the cost of those initiatives many times over and would have required an enormous government agency to implement the program.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Jan 11, 2012, 12:43 PM

12. Strange but true: Neither Ron Paul nor Newt Gingrich are very good historians.

They both selectively cherry pick historical events which seem to fit their world view - and in the case of Newt, pretty much just makes things up.

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