02 Calhoun, Douglass, & Lincoln (4/5)

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, US History, The Civil War And Reconstruction (1850-1880), Civil War
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“And the war came.” Calhoun, Douglass, Lincoln “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?” (Political Science 110EB)

John C. Calhoun • 1782-1850 • "the Union, next to our liberty, the most dear." • From South Carolina, endorsed SC’s position in nullification crisis. • Federal gov’t becoming tyrannical, infringing on Const’l rights of the states • Champion of the South, states’ rights in Senate, 1st half 19th C. Major figure in antebellum Democratic party – VP Under J.Q. Adams, Jackson; Sec. of War under Monroe “Slavery a Positive Good” – Feb. 6, 1837


John C. Calhoun • Strong states’ rights – “The subject [slavery] is beyond the jurisdiction of Congress - they have no right to touch it in any shape or form, or to make it the subject of deliberation or discussion. . . .” • Exactly what powers were and were not ceded to the Federal government in the Constitution?

• Right to secession • People in non-slave states soon “will have been taught to hate the people and institutions of nearly one-half of this Union, with a hatred more deadly than one hostile nation ever entertained towards another. It is easy to see the end. By the necessary course of events, if left to themselves, we must become, finally, two people.” 3

John C. Calhoun • Southern partisan: – “We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions.” – The South feels that the federal government is a tool of the Northern, anti-slave faction. They see it as hostile and oppressive.

• Slavery: something for everyone • For (elite) whites: freedom from labor leads to greater accomplishments: – “there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other.” • (While other figures also believed in the supremacy of whites, it did not play as central a role in their vision of power & government)


John C. Calhoun • Slavery: something for everyone • For (elite) whites: freedom from labor leads to greater accomplishments: – “there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other.” • While other figures also believed in the supremacy of whites, it did not play as central a role in their vision of power & government • White racial solidarity served to conceal the real class divisions between plantation-owning, slaveholding whites and small, non-slaveholding white farmers/citizens. 5

John C. Calhoun • Benefits of slavery to slaves: – “Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.”

• “in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age.” – Better than being an industrial laborer, a more gentle, paternal form of power 6

John C. Calhoun • Thus, slavery stabilizes society: • “There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North. . . .” 7

Frederick Douglass • ~1818-1895 • Born a slave – Escaped on 3rd attempt, 1838

• Abolitionist & supporter of women’s suffrage • Supported Irish home rule, but still popular in Britain • Active in Reconstruction politics 8

Frederick Douglass • “Why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?” 9

• “The character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.” 10

The Humanity of Slaves • “Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is a moral, intellectual and responsible being?” 11

• “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham” • “The Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither.” – Slavery a betrayal of American beliefs 12

A note on terminology • ‘Black’ vs. ‘African-American’ (power and words) – While the preferred term is today AfricanAmerican, the point is that black people at the time we are discussing were deliberately excluded from the American political community. – When discussing the historical injustice of racial relations in the US, it seems inappropriate to pretend that people of African descent were not excluded from the political community 13

Abraham Lincoln • 1809-1865 • Main themes: – Equality the defining characteristic of American thought – National identity prioritized over state identity – US points beyond itself to something higher – The law and American political institutions make political freedom and equality possible • Union politically inseparable from freedom


Secession • Nov. 6, 1860: Lincoln elected • December 20, 1860: South Carolina secedes – By February 1861, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas join it to form the Confederacy, later joined by Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee

• March 4, 1861: Lincoln inaugurated • April 12, 1861: South attacks & takes Fort Sumter, war begins 15

First Inaugural • Contract & Covenant: – ““All profess to be content in the Union, if all constitutional rights be maintained” – No one can name “a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied.”

• Even if the Constitution were only a contract (it’s not), one party cannot unilaterally exit a contract – The question is one of definitive interpretation: • “May Congress prohibit slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.” – Power over the meaning of the law


First Inaugural • Major themes: Secession is bad because it – Breaks a contract – Does violence to the nation – Is anti-democratic


First Inaugural • Likewise, the Constitution is silent on “the only substantial dispute” facing the country; that “One section of the country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes that it is wrong, and ought not be extended.” – How is this dispute to be resolved? – The black letter of the law can’t fix this, it is a matter of persuasion & argument (politics) 18

First Inaugural • But the Union is not a contract, it is a single, national people • “The Union is much older than the Constitution… finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was ‘to form a more perfect union.’ • But if the destruction of the Union, by one, or by a part only, of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.” 19

First Inaugural • Secession anti-democratic • “Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy, or despotism in some form, is all that is left.” – The choices are between despotism, democracy, or anarchy 20

First Inaugural • The Union is bound by a shared history and belief • “I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, streching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” 21

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