Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The State Journal has a very lengthy article on the war, and West Virginia’s creation as a result. There is one part I have comment:
Conventions were organized in Wheeling resulting in the creation of the Restored Government of Virginia, a legal maneuver dodging the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for a new state to first gain approval from the original state. The Restored Government essentially granted permission to itself to form West Virginia.
The proposal cleared Congress on a 23-15 vote in the Senate and a 96-55 vote in the House of Representatives. Lincoln signed the bill into law on Dec. 31, 1862 approving West Virginia as a state loyal to the Union.
“Some theorize that West Virginia was nothing more than a thorn in the side of the Lincoln administration,” Snell said of the president’s efforts to bring all of Virginia back into the fold. “On the other hand, he knew there were 20,000 Union soldiers recruited from those western counties.”
He was also planning his 1864 re-election bid.
“He was torn about it,” author and Director of Archives and History Joe Geiger said of Lincoln’s dilemma. “He sent the bill to his cabinet members for their opinion as to whether or not it was constitutional. They were split 3-3. He viewed the Restored Government as a model for how the country could come together again when the war ended.”
On Oct. 24, 1861, residents of 39 western counties approved the formation of a new Unionist state without abolishing slavery although only 4 percent of Virginia’s slaves were in the western counties.
There’s reason to question the validity of the lopsided statehood election results (18,401 “For” to 781 “Against”). Union troops were stationed at many of the polls to “discourage” Confederate sympathizers from participating. Voter turnout in some counties was as low as 5 percent.
“Many of the Confederates were still away at war,” Geiger said. “People were boycotting the election. It was oral voting with Union soldiers lounging about. The election took in a lot of counties that were overwhelmingly Confederate.”
In the end, 50 counties were selected for inclusion. Five counties — Mineral, Grant, Lincoln, Summers and Mingo — were formed after statehood.
Snell and Geiger are among the historians who speculate West Virginia would not exist today had the Civil War been avoided.
“Virginia would have had to grant permission,” Geiger said. “I can’t envision that it would have granted permission to give up such a large section of land and that many people.”
“We can’t predict what might have happened,” Snell added. “My educated guess is ‘no’ because West Virginia would not have had the votes.”
My answer to this is well, not quite. We really do not know if WV would have existed without the War because the War happened and the rest, as they say, is history in that choices were made, and actions taken in the moment and related to prudence.
The problem with the assertion that W.V. would not exist is that it ignores the history of Virginia before the Civil War in terms of the debates and deliberations of her people and political bodies. What I am trying to say is the W.V.’s secession (if we can call it that), did not happen in some sort of a vacuum). What is now W.V. and V.A. was split long before the Civil War ove slavery, and the idea of natural rights.
In the late 1820s – 30s Virginia was embroiled in a great debate over the future of the state, and, to make a long story short, there were several arguments at least 30 years before the War–and from the eastern slaveholder–that the western part of Virginia should form its own country. The reason? Both the east and west believed that their “interests” were separate. This was more an argument from the more pro-slave easterner, than the anti slave westerner though. Madison said at the Virginia Constitutional Convention that if slavery did not exist in Virginia, the state would be whole. It wasn’t though.
All this to say what? The southern pro-slaveholder in Virginia was perfectly willing to separate the state as early as 1832. The seeds for the formal split in 1861.
Perhaps one of the best war corespondents for the last few years is Michael Yon. He is not connected to any newspaper formally, and is what we might call an independent journalist. He relies on reader contributions. As such, he has much freedom and is one of the most engaging reads in all of journalism. The wonders of the internet has helped to contribute to an explosion of real talent. Yon does not consider himself a journalist, but in the strict meaning of the word he is; he is also a photographer frequently shoots his own images. At any rate, Yon was featured in the Ledger. It is a fascinating read.
This coming year will mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. E.J. Dionne, at the WaPo, posts an article on getting the cause for the war correct before the remembrance begins:
When the war started, leaders of the Southern rebellion were entirely straightforward about this. On March 21, 1861, Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice president, gave what came to be known as the “Cornerstone speech” in which he declared that the “proper status of the Negro in our form of civilization” was “the immediate cause of the late rupture.”
Thomas Jefferson, Stephens said, had been wrong in believing “that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature.”
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea,” Stephens insisted. “Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone 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.”
Our greatest contemporary historian of the Civil War, James McPherson, has noted that Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a major slaveholder, “justified secession in 1861 as an act of self-defense against the incoming Lincoln administration.” Abraham Lincoln’s policy of excluding slavery from the territories, Davis said, would make “property in slaves so insecure as to be comparatively worthless … thereby annihilating in effect property worth thousands of millions of dollars.”
South Carolina’s 1860 declaration on the cause of secession mentioned slavery, slaves or slaveholding 18 separate times. And as the historian Douglas Egerton points out in “Year of Meteors,” his superb recent book how the 1860 election precipitated the Civil War, the South split the Democratic Party and later the country not in the name of states’ rights but because it sought federal government guarantees that slavery would prevail in new states. “Slaveholders,” Egerton notes, “routinely shifted their ideological ground in the name of protecting unfree labor.”
Secretary Gates. Admiral Mullen and members of the Armed Forces. My fellow Americans. Most of all, to you — survivors who still carry the scars of tragedy and destruction; to the families who carry in your hearts the memory of the loved ones you lost here.
For our nation, this is a day of remembrance, a day of reflection, and — with God’s grace — a day of unity and renewal.
We gather to remember, at this sacred hour, on hallowed ground — at places where we feel such grief and where our healing goes on. We gather here, at the Pentagon, where the names of the lost are forever etched in stone. We gather in a gentle Pennsylvania field, where a plane went down and a “tower of voices” will rise and echo through the ages. And we gather where the Twin Towers fell, a site where the work goes on so that next year, on the 10th anniversary, the waters will flow in steady tribute to the nearly 3,000 innocent lives.
On this day, it’s perhaps natural to focus on the images of that awful morning — images that are seared into our souls. It’s tempting to dwell on the final moments of the loved ones whose lives were taken so cruelly. Yet these memorials, and your presence today, remind us to remember the fullness of their time on Earth.
They were fathers and mothers, raising their families; brothers and sisters, pursuing their dreams; sons and daughters, their whole lives before them. They were civilians and service members. Some never saw the danger coming; others saw the peril and rushed to save others — up those stairwells, into the flames, into the cockpit.
They were white and black and brown — men and women and some children made up of all races, many faiths. They were Americans and people from far corners of the world. And they were snatched from us senselessly and much too soon — but they lived well, and they live on in you.
Nine years have now passed. In that time, you have shed more tears than we will ever know. And though it must seem some days as though the world has moved on to other things, I say to you today that your loved ones endure in the heart of our nation, now and forever.
Our remembrance today also requires a certain reflection. As a nation, and as individuals, we must ask ourselves how best to honor them — those who died, those who sacrificed. How do we preserve their legacy — not just on this day, but every day?
We need not look far for our answer. The perpetrators of this evil act didn’t simply attack America; they attacked the very idea of America itself — all that we stand for and represent in the world. And so the highest honor we can pay those we lost, indeed our greatest weapon in this ongoing war, is to do what our adversaries fear the most — to stay true to who we are, as Americans; to renew our sense of common purpose; to say that we define the character of our country, and we will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are.
They doubted our will, but as Americans we persevere. Today, in Afghanistan and beyond, we have gone on the offensive and struck major blows against al Qaeda and its allies. We will do what is necessary to protect our country, and we honor all those who serve to keep us safe.
They may seek to strike fear in us, but they are no match for our resilience. We do not succumb to fear, nor will we squander the optimism that has always defined us as a people. On a day when others sought to destroy, we have chosen to build, with a National Day of Service and Remembrance that summons the inherent goodness of the American people.
They may seek to exploit our freedoms, but we will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. They may wish to drive us apart, but we will not give in to their hatred and prejudice. For Scripture teaches us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
They may seek to spark conflict between different faiths, but as Americans we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam. It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion. And just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation. We champion the rights of every American, including the right to worship as one chooses — as service members and civilians from many faiths do just steps from here, at the very spot where the terrorists struck this building.
Those who attacked us sought to demoralize us, divide us, to deprive us of the very unity, the very ideals, that make America America — those qualities that have made us a beacon of freedom and hope to billions around the world. Today we declare once more we will never hand them that victory. As Americans, we will keep alive the virtues and values that make us who we are and who we must always be.
For our cause is just. Our spirit is strong. Our resolve is unwavering. Like generations before us, let us come together today and all days to affirm certain inalienable rights, to affirm life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. On this day and the days to come, we choose to stay true to our best selves — as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This is how we choose to honor the fallen — your families, your friends, your fellow service members. This is how we will keep alive the legacy of these proud and patriotic Americans. This is how we will prevail in this great test of our time. This is how we will preserve and protect the country that we love and pass it — safer and stronger — to future generations.
May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
A very lengthy piece in Der Spiegel explains how Churchill took on Hitler. After watching the World at War this summer. a question was asked: what did the U.K. get out of the war? The answer? Not much.
The U.S. and Russia emerged as the world’s superpowers. Germany was rebuilt. Really, only Churchill’s moral arguments and statesmanship against the Nazis was their claim. The U.K. won the moral victory.
Churchill was a man of adventure and risk. These manly features we do not see very often any more:
Churchill had killed people in battle as a young man, but he was not particularly struck by the experience. “Nothing in history was ever settled except by wars,” the bellicose Churchill believed. He loved danger and sought out adventure. Even when he was in his sixties, as prime minister, he would stand on the roof of a government building in London during German air raids to observe the murderous spectacle from above, while his cabinet ministers fled into the bomb shelters.
One of my favorite Churchill stories is this one:
The gauntlet had been thrown down, and the mood quickly shifted. A furious Hitler publicly berated Churchill as a “warmonger,” while Churchill increasingly ignored diplomatic etiquette. By now he was sharply criticizing the persecution of the Jews, and in a newspaper commentary in the summer of 1939, he wrote that the Third Reich represented an unprecedented “cult of malignancy.”
When World War II began a few weeks later, it was Hitler, ironically, who paved the way for Churchill’s political comeback. The German invasion of Poland shed a new light on Churchill’s earlier predictions. He had been right, after all, and the fact that the Nazis were now railing against him, calling him a “filthy liar” and a “bloated pig,” only enhanced his popularity.
Yielding to public pressure, Chamberlain appointed him to his cabinet, and in the spring of 1940, Churchill finally succeeded him as prime minister.
On the evening of May 10, Churchill, now 65, was sitting in a limousine on his way to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI would ask him to form a new government. In his memoirs, Churchill writes: “I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”
All of Churchill’s sacrifice, all his risk taking, politically, his time in the wilderness, his education–all was but a preparation for this moment in which, quite literally, Churchill would be the moral voice to save the world. Not many people can say they have had the opportunity to really do that, much less have actually done it.
There is a lot left out of Der Spiegel’s article, but one thing is sure, the article by this apparent German writer is glowing of the man who helped conquer the country. Is the world better off having an empire loving statesman at the helm who understood human nature? The conclusion is most certainly.
In all likelihood, this post does not pertain because the bill is dead, but is draws some nice parallels between what might have been and another bill–The Kansas-Nebraska Act. It also offers the opportunity for us to draw some comparisons and think abut Statesmanship.
Michael Barone has a nice post about the health care bill/debate, but draws from an interesting moment in history–The Kansas-Nebraska Act. What happens when an unpopular bill is passed?
That legislation was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Its lead sponsor was Stephen A. Douglas, at 41 in his eighth year as senator from Illinois, the most dynamic leader of a Democratic Party that had won the previous presidential election by 254 electoral votes to 42.
Douglas’ legislative prowess far exceeded that of current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. To hold together his 60 Senate Democrats, Reid simply dispensed favors — eternal Medicaid financing for Ben Nelson’s Nebraska, a hospital grant for Chris Dodd’s Connecticut, more rural health money for Byron Dorgan’s North Dakota and Montana’s Max Baucus.
Douglas did something far more difficult. He got the Senate to pass a bill some of whose provisions were supported by half of the Senate plus Douglas and some of which were supported by the other half plus Douglas. After passage, Douglas spent a day getting drunk — a consolation unavailable to the teetotaling Reid.
The issue that Douglas said the Kansas-Nebraska Act would settle forever was slavery in the territories. His bill repealed the 34-year-old Missouri Compromise prohibiting slavery in territories north of Arkansas and substituted popular sovereignty — territory residents could vote slavery up or down.
We cannot say with assurance that the Kansas-Nebraska Act was unpopular; Dr. Gallup didn’t start polling until 81 years later. But the results of the next election were pretty convincing. The Republican Party was suddenly created to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the 1854-55 elections transformed the Democrats’ 159-71 majority to a 108-83 Republican margin. Democrats didn’t win a majority of House seats for the next 20 years. Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/When-legerdemain-is-used-to-pass-an-unpopular-bill-8675305-79940422.html#ixzz0dxGFt9tb
It is an interesting question: does legislation “solve” issues? In 1854 it did not. We can see in the last few high profile off-year or special elections, that the Health Care Bill (proposed) solved nothing as well. And, we have some gauge as to the public’s thought of what Washington is thinking of passing with the NJ, Va, and Mass elections. The Kansas-Neb Act helped to create the Republican Party and also assisted their success.
In the Humanities Magazine, Lewis Lehrman was interviewed about his new book on Lincoln, at Peoria. In politics there are few constants in terms of predicting what definitely will or will not occur, but one things is for sure: you never know what issue will change things, or more precisely, what crisis will cause a statesman to be revealed:
LEHRMAN: The Kansas-Nebraska Act shifts the political ground, because, Lincoln argues, it breaks with the established tradition of the Founders, from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 all the way through the Missouri Compromise of 1820, both of which prohibited the extension of slavery into certain U.S. territories.
COLE: The Founders meant to contain slavery.
An 1860 cartoon lampoons the presidential race between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. The axe Lincoln holds symbolizes his youthful occupation as a fence-rail splitter, while a feather in Douglas’s cap displays his affinity for Kansas.
—The Granger Collection, New York
LEHRMAN: Yes. And Lincoln takes the position, as his research had proved to him, that most of the Founders had accepted slavery at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, in order to get the Union. They did not have the power to eliminate slavery at that time. But the Founders had the intention, Lincoln argued, to put slavery on a course to ultimate extinction.
They demonstrated this intention by passing the Northwest Ordinance, which prohibited slavery in the old Northwest Territory, and with the Compromise of 1820, prohibiting the extension of slavery into the northern portion of the Louisiana Purchase. They abolished the external slave trade in 1808—the first opportunity they could under the Constitution.
Lincoln revives the idea of slavery’s ultimate extinction just as the attitudes of Americans in the South had changed toward making slavery a permanent part of the republic. Lincoln believed such a backward shift would be a revolutionary, a radical departure.
COLE: Lincoln was incredibly ambitious, wasn’t he?
LEHRMAN: William Herndon, his law partner, said his ambition was a little engine that knew no rest. But in Lincoln we find it constantly linked to principles: principles of economics, for example, free labor; or to the idea that America was meant to be a free republic; and that the anchor of the American Republic, as he called it, was the equality principle of the Declaration of Independence.
COLE: He is taking a certain view of history. But he’s right.
LEHRMAN: General Washington, when answering criticisms about Alexander Hamilton, said something like, “His was a laudable ambition, aimed at excellence.” That’s a paraphrase. Of Lincoln, much the same thing can be said: His was a laudable ambition, aimed at excellence, but also at the fulfillment of the promise of the Declaration of Independence. And that, of course, is the theme of the book: Lincoln himself getting right with the Declaration of Independence, and through persuasion, and an 11-year campaign, as a private citizen and then as president, getting the American people right with the Declaration of Independence.
COLE: What was the reaction to this speech? Did people realize this was sort of a hinge speech?
LEHRMAN: Yes, many did. But many disagreed. The people of Central Illinois had a considerable period of time, months even, to hear and read Lincoln’s arguments of 1854, his rendition of American history, and his logic in repudiating Senator Douglas’s Kansas-Nebraska Act and the more general doctrine of popular sovereignty, which could open all of the territories of the United States to slavery.
Lincoln gave a speech similar to Peoria at Winchester, and another at Bloomington, both mentioned briefly in press reports. On October 4, 1854, he gives almost the same full speech in Springfield, in the state capitol, again, directly in response to Senator Douglas’s speech the previous day in defense of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. But this Springfield speech is not printed in full—only brief excerpts appeared in the press.
COLE: So, one could see Lincoln’s new cause taking shape?
LEHRMAN: Yes. In the full span of history, it was the blink of an eye, but for those who were living at the moment, there was time to see Mr. Lincoln trade in his litigator hat for that of the antislavery campaigner.
COLE: Did the Peoria speech get much national coverage?
LEHRMAN: It got some national coverage. Colleagues and friends write to him, saying the political elites have taken notice of this obscure lawyer and his Peoria speech.
Harry V. Jaffa reviewed Lehrman’s book Lincoln on Peoria in the latest CRB. The political art–the statesman’s art–is not as simple as it might seem. The statesman has to, at once it seems, do justice in light of what the people will accept. Jaffa explicates this difficulty beautifully near the end of his review:
Immediately after asserting that all the governed must have an equal voice in government, Lincoln denies that he is “contending for the establishment of political and social equality between the whites and blacks.” Earlier in the Peoria speech, he had denied any intention to bring about such equality, saying that the feeling of “the great mass of white people” was against it. “Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment, is not the sole question, if indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, can not be safely disregarded.”
Later in the speech Lincoln says that
the great mass of mankind…consider slavery a great moral wrong; and their feelings against it, is not evanescent, but eternal. It lies at the very foundation of their sense of justice; and it cannot be trifled with. It is a great and durable element of popular action, and, I think, no statesman can safely disregard it.
We see that he says in one place that a statesman cannot safely disregard the feeling against equality and in another that he cannot safely disregard the feeling for it. We must realize that both assertions are founded in the proposition that the just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed. The consent of the governed however means the opinion of the governed. But what if—as in this case—the opinion of the governed is itself self-contradictory?
As the Declaration notes, the consent of the governed does not authorize governmental powers that are not just powers. These powers cannot be just powers if governors and governed do not recognize their reciprocal humanity. Lincoln warned time and again that those who would deny the rights of others to life and liberty could not long retain their own. Clearly however the full recognition of the right of equal participation in government of all who are to be governed, is an aspiration, not to be achieved at any or every time and place. By the standards of 2009, and in the wake of the 1964 and 1965 civil rights acts—the citizens of Illinois in 1858 were rabid racists. There was virtually no “consent of the governed” possible to laws that would allow black people to enjoy anything that today would be called civil rights. It is part of Lehrman’s achievement to make us aware of the extent of what Lincoln accomplished at Peoria, initiating the path that would lead ultimately to consent to rights to which no consent was then possible. Garry Wills to the contrary notwithstanding, it was at Peoria that Lincoln set the pathway leading to the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, the Civil War Amendments, and beyond to the civil rights laws of today. Without Lincoln clearing this pathway, Martin Luther King, Jr., would not have been possible.
There are many who argue that Lincoln was not really committed to the cause of emancipation, or that he was not really all that dedicated to the equality of blacks cf. whites. It is pretty clear that he was, and consistently so. People get lost in the politics of it all–but nothing can be achieved without the consent of others in republics. The task is to try to convince them there is a betters way, a more just way, to achieve, or secure, safety and Happiness. If Lincoln would have pursued the policy of no compromise, then all would be lost. However, he did not compromise on principle–and that is one significant thing about statesmanship; it is doing what is right here and now in light of what is just everywhere and always.