Re: Slavery: Still Not A Primary Cause Of The Civil War

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Has there ever been another mass-scale armed conflict where history was more thoroughly written by the losers?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:14 AM
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WWI in the 20s and 30s in Germany.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:15 AM
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The Vietnam War.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:16 AM
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2: I'm not sure that theory has quite as much traction these days, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:16 AM
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3 is compelling.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:17 AM
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4: You've added a criteria not in the original question.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:18 AM
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Although, you know, that's not even true in quite the same way. I'm pretty sure kids learn that the Vietnam war was fairly misbegotten. I'm sure the internal narratives of Vietnamese political history are rather different than those common in this country, but isn't there basically consensus that the war per se was a basically stupid attempt to fight the spread of communism?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:19 AM
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6: well, but it is germane, I think. The astoundingly self-serving (for the south) notion that the war was not, at its root, about slavery is endemic in the educational literature of the winners, a century and a half later. Even in the '20s and '30s Germany's story about WWI was mostly a story it told itself. And it is no longer even that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:21 AM
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I suppose could argue for the War of 1812, which is cute of them.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:22 AM
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Topical, from when he used to be funny.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:23 AM
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I suppose the contemporaneous British justification for the opium wars doesn't get much play anymore.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:24 AM
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I suppose the contemporaneous British justification for the opium wars doesn't get much play anymore.

On the contrary, this is an example of where winners and losers pretty much both agree now - and agreed at the time - what the war was about. It was about the British wanting to import opium (and other things, but mostly opium) into China and the Chinese government not wanting them to do so.

(Opium was, at the time, legal in China; but importing it wasn't.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:27 AM
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Oh. Well, good on them for honesty, I guess.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:28 AM
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I always figured the "we specifically want to import opium" part was underplayed at the time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:29 AM
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11. I an't even remember what that was. British schools generally deal with the opium wars by not covering them.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:29 AM
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(Opium was, at the time, legal in China; but importing it wasn't.)

Apparently there was no WTO to file a complaint with.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:35 AM
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14: well, there were lots of things that we wanted to import, but the Chinese basically didn't accept any of them and opium had the biggest profit margin per shipload.

Wiki notes: "The war was denounced in Parliament as unjust and iniquitous by the young William Ewart Gladstone, who criticised Lord Palmerston's willingness to protect an infamous contraband traffic. Outrage was expressed by the public and the press in the United States and United Kingdom as it was recognised that British interests may well have been simply supporting the opium trade."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:36 AM
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And, famously, the long-established firm of Shuttleforth & Clutterwick in Mincing Lane (or possibly Leadenhall Street) broke up as a result, Mr Shuttleforth holding that the sale of opium to the Chinese was immoral but profitable, Mr Clutterwick believing it to be unprofitable but patriotic. Both men carried on selling it at a slightly higher profit.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:38 AM
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Shuttlewich and Clutterforth sounds better.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:43 AM
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I was going to look at the list of 19th century wars for more plausible candidates but there are way too many.

Per Wikipedia, the answer to whether the defeated or the victorious wrote the history of the Bukharan-Kokandian war seems to be "neither".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:43 AM
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It seems strange that someone in the British navy could have worked part of their career attempting to stop slave trading and part of their career selling drugs at gunpoint. Did anybody suggest giving drugs to the slaves to make the trip easier?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:47 AM
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Despite the best efforts of Omar's widow, the famed poetess Nadira, Madali Khan excelled at cruelty and debauchery, giving Emir Nasrullah Khan of Bukhara an excuse to invade Kokand in 1842. Preferring their own cruel and debauched despots over outsiders, the people of Kokand soon rebelled, and installed Madali Khan's cousin Shir Ali on the throne.

Could go either way.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:48 AM
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Ford & Carter era declaring 'moral equivalent of war' on inflation diserves a dishonorable mention here, and not only because I'm retroactively applying the analogy ban.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:54 AM
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... as a matter of standardized test prep, ...

So how much time is devoted to test prep that has nothing to do with learning the material?

... suggests that her teacher is right in terms of getting good grades on the Regents.)

This is on the people who make up the test since it is easy to come with multiple choice questions for which slavery is indisputably the most correct answer.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:55 AM
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23: The "moral equivalent of war" was Carter's phrase for the fight to combat the energy crisis.

Ford came up with the brilliant slogan WIN -- "Whip Inflation Now -- for the fight against inflation.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:04 AM
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The owing by one human being of another human being is called:

A. States Rights
B. Tariff policies favorable to manufacturing interests
C. A regional culture
D. Slavery


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:06 AM
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On the other hand, there are questions relating to interference with trade, which are essentially questions of liberty; such as the Maine Law, already touched upon; the prohibition of the importation of opium into China; the restriction of the sale of poisons; all cases, in short, where the object of the interference is to make it impossible or difficult to obtain a particular commodity. These interferences are objectionable, not as infringements on the liberty of the producer or seller, but on that of the buyer.


Posted by: John Stuart Mill | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:12 AM
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26: Note "owing"! David Graeber has had a big influence on New York Regents!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:13 AM
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Well, of course, it was about slavery, but as I said before, to say the Civil War was only about slavery is in my opinion to horrifically weaken the force of the post-Civil War amendments and weak consensus following the war. It was also (I think primarily) about federalism, state's rights, and national citizenship.

Example:the current Red State reaction to the Medicaid expansion. The local prerogatives of LGBT rights and privileges is another. Abortion.

Whatever disgust the nation has over the Texas death-chamber assembly-line is still vitiated to a large degree by a "None of your business" attitude toward state law.

"States may not do that to us" and making slaves an us, a national citizen first, not a them was the point and purpose.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:13 AM
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28: Oops. +n.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:14 AM
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There's an alternate history waiting to be written about the Royal Navy escorting rum-runners into New England in the 1920s. "Free trade in one thing is free trade in all!"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:14 AM
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D is clearly the Joe Bloggs answer. I'm pretty sure Yglesias has argued that B is morally equivalent to slavery, so that's my guess.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:16 AM
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26

I was thinking of something more along the lines of:

Prior to the Civil War relations between the Northern and Southern states became increasingly strained primarily due to:

1. The Southern desire for high tariffs to protect their manufacturers.

2. Northern moral disapproval of slavery which was important to the Southern economy.

3. The Ku Klux Klan's campaign against Jewish and Catholic immigrants in the North.

4. Southern dislike of the design of the American flag.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:19 AM
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Yes, the Civil War was about states rights. The Union won. The States have no fucking rights.

This is so important to me, and it is either conceded or more likely taken for granted by liberals in the "All about slavery" framing.

Voter suppression.

We are still fighting that fucking war to this very day. It wasn't won with the fucking Emancipation Proclamation.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:22 AM
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4. Southern dislike of the design of the American flag.

It's like they've never heard of diagonals. Ugh. So pedestrian.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:22 AM
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There are no pedestrians in the South. They don't even have crosswalks.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:24 AM
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A friend told this story:

They've had some n-word vandalism of black teachers' classrooms recently. (This is at a high school.) A big town meeting is called. Everyone is there.

The superintendent begins the meeting by saying "We've got some very serious issues to discuss and it is urgent we make headway on them, but before we begin, I want to clarify: Changing the school mascot [the rebels] or the fight song [Dixie] is off the table."

What a good faith beginning. Also, this high school had the confederate flag on the official school letterhead! until about 2002. Ie, this millenium. The confederate flag on their most formal documents.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:27 AM
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I wonder whether "It was for states' rights!" is a cause or effect of all the barbecue-bourbon-and-hot-buttered-biscuits-in-my-pickup-truck-at-the-high-school-football-field-hey-deep-fried-pickles stuff to which even relatively sane writers and journalists seem to be susceptible.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:27 AM
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What? Fried pickles are delicious.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:32 AM
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Maybe they don't do them right up here, but I did not like the fried pickle I tried. And I'm a big fan of pickles and fried things.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:34 AM
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38: I feel like until fairly recently I hadn't understood the degree to which the south's narrative had become the national narrative by the turn of the century or so. Like all the tragic former confederates in cowboy movies! The hell?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:36 AM
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It's unsurprising that the city of Fernando Wood would and secession would still be taking a pro-Southern stance.

If loving barbecue and bourbon makes you pro slavery, then I'm. Well, no. But I do love barbecue* and bourbon.

*not just for white people!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:38 AM
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2, 4: How about one where even the victors accepted the rewriting of history? (Technically the Opium Wars would fit that, but let's limit "rewriting" to miswriting.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:39 AM
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-would.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:40 AM
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-would.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:40 AM
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41: I forget where I read this, but especially poignant that one of these tragic Confederates was John Carter, even though Edgar Rice Burroughs was the son of a Union major.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:43 AM
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43: so, another war in which the victors accepted the losers' miswriting of history? Hmm. How about the '45?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:46 AM
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Straight up neo-confederate propaganda bullshit. I still hear this stuff all the time from otherwise intelligent adults too, it has an effect. I wonder if one reason it doesn't get driven off the curriculum is that some black separatist groups like to emphasize that Lincoln was not an abolitionist so that the patronizing 'Great Liberator' line is not used.

It was also (I think primarily) about federalism, state's rights, and national citizenship.

This is a distinction without much of a difference, since slavery was the states right issue in play. There was no other states rights issue in play that could not have been compromised on. It is easier looking back to separate the abstract issue of states rights from the economic and cultural base of the complaining states than it was at the time.

The real distinction was between abolitionists vs. advocates of the gradual elimination of slavery. The idea of a gradualist approach to eliminating slavery is so noxious and almost unthinkable to the contemporary mind that I can imagine it's hard to teach. But the death of about 1 in 10 of all military-aged males in the war shows why people were afraid of abolition. Also, it's useful to look back at Lincoln's actual words and see how strongly and clearly opposed to slavery he was -- 'if slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong'. It actually would be very interesting/useful educationally to delve into why even many very anti-slavery politicians preferred a gradual approach to eliminating a moral evil. It would teach you a whole lot about what politics is really about. But it's (still) politically difficult to teach.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:53 AM
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26 E. A peculiar institution.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:54 AM
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I wonder if one reason it doesn't get driven off the curriculum is that some black separatist groups like to emphasize that Lincoln was not an abolitionist so that the patronizing 'Great Liberator' line is not used.

I don't think you even need 'black separatist groups' to be uncomfortable with a narrative of the sainted abolitionist North, but I agree that avoiding that narrative is probably part of what's going on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:58 AM
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43: so, another war in which the victors accepted the losers' miswriting of history? Hmm. How about the '45?

I recently tried to explain that to a Korean expat working with me (he asked when a war was last fought in Britain, and after the hasty 'let's set Ireland to one side for a moment') - I realised about five minutes into my explanation ('well, it was sort about religion but not really, but more realistically the French trying sOme low risk but high payoff gamble') why 'the bastard Brits crushing the Highlanders' is the favoured popular explanation.


Posted by: Richard J | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:01 AM
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There are no pedestrians in the South. They don't even have crosswalks.

The South had pedestrians, but not in a way we can understand anymore.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:04 AM
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46: yes! Like, integral to the concept of the iconic frontier American hero is that he fought to defend slavery! I mean what the fuckity?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:07 AM
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Something that still makes me uncomfortable about the subtext of Firefly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:09 AM
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54: yes!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:10 AM
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Now I'm wondering how much of the teaching of earlier American history is shaped by the need to build up to this narrative of the Civil War. I remember a lot of discussion of tariffs and states' rights (and a whole lot of John C. Calhoun) and South Carolina attempting to nullify tariffs. I wonder if the importance of these things was exaggerated to make the narrative of war being fought largely over states' rights more plausible. Or--another possibility--maybe even at the time these were a big deal but were largely understood as proxies for debates about slavery.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:13 AM
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The real distinction was between abolitionists vs. advocates of the gradual elimination of slavery.

Right. It's mind-boggling to hear the argument that the Civil War can't have been about slavery because Lincoln wasn't committed to abolition.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:14 AM
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When I was a kid going to movie matinees the cult of Jesse James was in full swing. I was over 30 before I realised that he was a Confederate guerrilla and a toxic racist as well as an indiscriminate murderer and robber.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:17 AM
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The '45 is a good example.

I assume that the Regents' real motivation (other than covering up for Fernando Wood and the draft riots) is to impart the lesson "history isn't just some morality tale of good and evil, things are more complicated than you think, etc." Thats the kind of ironic, critical-thinking inducing narrative a good high school history teacher uses. Unfortunately, "the civil war wasn't really about slavery" is a gobsmackingly stupid (and politically awful) way to make that point.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:19 AM
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58: you were a kid in 2010?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Assassination_of_Jesse_James_by_the_Coward_Robert_Ford


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:19 AM
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Certainly the dominant narrative of the Nez Perce War is sympathetic to the Nez Perce, if not actually written by them.

In Texas we learned that Sam Houston was opposed to secession, and so the whole thing was a Bad Idea. We also learned that Mexico's abolition was one of the factors in the War of Independence, but that got passed over pretty fast.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:22 AM
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They abolished Mexico? When did that happen?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:26 AM
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48:This is a distinction without much of a difference, since slavery was the states right issue in play.

No it was the only distinction and difference, and it doesn't matter about the particular issue at play.

What, you enjoy arguing the fine points of Casey, state by state, parental notification, informed consent, waiting periods etc ad infinitum?

Voter rights, state by state, suppression method by suppression method, one SCOTUS decision at a time?

Or would "States ain't got no fucking right to regulate abortion" and "Voting is a national right" work just a little better?

Honestly, "The Civil War was only about slavery, and all other rights are still in play and question" is the loser's framing, and not the one the Radical Republicans took from the battlefields. They were smarter back then.

Thing is, I know liberals understand incorporation. I simply don't understand what they think they are gaining by rewriting history so narrowly.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:29 AM
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We certainly heard about the hotel window speech.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:29 AM
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Oops: correct link !


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:30 AM
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I'm a little confused by the complaint. Do you think any of the Regents questions you have linked are answered incorrectly? (Or, alternatively, do you think anyone who generally does well answering these questions could have no idea that slavery was the primary source of tension between the North and South in the period leading up to the war?)

it is easy to come with multiple choice questions for which slavery is indisputably the most correct answer.

But not that easy to come up with even passably difficult questions. The problem is that "slavery" is too obvious an answer... it's the answer on the third-graders' versions of civil war history exams.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:38 AM
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I don't think we had history in the third grade. My first grader keeps asking me to explain the entire history of China. I'm finding this very hard to do.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:43 AM
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(I actually don't like the answer to question 10. I guess it's the best of the 4 potential answers, but it's still sort of a lousy answer.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:44 AM
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Voting laws may disenfranchise 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens

Maybe if Romney gets inaugurated Democrats will get a clue.

I repeat:"The Civil War was only about slavery, and all other rights are still in play and question"

This is the win for Dixie.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:46 AM
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67: "well, kiddo, it pretty much sucked for most people, and there were eventually horses and a big wall."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:48 AM
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I recently wrote a piece about this issue for the TLS. To be honest, I mostly hate that essay, and wouldn't link to it but for the fact that it's interesting to see that Gary Gallagher, who's the biggest deal in Civil War studies this side of Jim McPherson, is making an argument in his new book that most everyone in this thread would find very annoying.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:48 AM
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Also, I'm really struggling to figure out what black separatists have to do with the entirely correct argument that Lincoln wasn't an abolitionist. Every reputable historian ever has made that point -- including Eric Foner, who won a Pulitzer for remaking it* -- along with the point that Lincoln wasn't at all committed to destroying slavery for the first year of the war.

* He also won the Pulitzer for lifetime achievement while working at Columbia.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:53 AM
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He also won the Pulitzer for lifetime achievement while working at Columbia.

That's a very specific award.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:55 AM
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67. One writing system and a dozen different capital cities over four thousand years.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:55 AM
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From 71: Grant grudgingly complied with the Commander-in-Chief's wishes, but outraged South Carolina delegates seceded over the slight.

Okay, that's kind of amazing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:56 AM
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Anyhow, re: 71 and previous, it's like there's this baffling desire to focus on only a narrow slice of the causal forces when talking about the Civil War. Like, the proximal cause of the civil war was actions related to the preservation or abolition of slavery, and the distal cause of the civil war was the institution of slavery, but what about all that stuff in the middle?! That's what's really important.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:02 AM
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Inspired by sandwiches.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:03 AM
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I mean I guess it's not that baffling in many cases.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:06 AM
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Larry Wilmore explains it all to you.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:06 AM
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Instead, they fought for the Union, an admittedly diffuse concept, Gallagher admits, but nevertheless their central animating principle. This point, he claims, "has been almost completely effaced from popular understanding of the conflict".

I disagree with the "diffuse." It's simple and easy.

US citizenship is inalienable. I try to be fancy, but the North said states may not remove US Citizenship (and that which thereby accrues to an individual) from its residents. What is diffuse is what "citizenship" meant and means.

Forgetting the real cause of the Civil War is to frankly forget why we had umm 80 years of Jim Crow, which was because we chose to ignore the real meaning of the Civil War for 80 years. Too much hassle.

Horrible.

most everyone in this thread would find very annoying.

heh...


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:07 AM
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Having decisively defeated the reactionary forces, liberals allow their myth-making and rhetoric to go unchallenged for generations, in a vain attempt at reconciliation. This sounds familiar somehow.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:17 AM
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Our AP American History teacher was so enthused about Foner that we began referring in class to the Foner-Douglas debates.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:47 AM
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I'm a little confused by the complaint. Do you think any of the Regents questions you have linked are answered incorrectly? (Or, alternatively, do you think anyone who generally does well answering these questions could have no idea that slavery was the primary source of tension between the North and South in the period leading up to the war?)

I don't know from Regents, but I was taught a version of this line as well. The complaint is that, while we should push students past the simplistic "narrative of the sainted abolitionist North," to claim that the South seceded for any other reason than to preserve slavery is errant nonsense.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:48 AM
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Arrant, too!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:49 AM
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(Or, alternatively, do you think anyone who generally does well answering these questions could have no idea that slavery was the primary source of tension between the North and South in the period leading up to the war?)

I should have addressed this -- I do think that someone answering those questions right could think slavery was unimportant, pretty much.

That was the impression I came out of high school American history with, that slavery was a superficial issue like flag burning, but that no one would ever have fought a war over it: that the tensions were really about tariffs. (Or, that was the impression I had of what Mrs. Eichler was trying to teach us -- to the extent I was actually thinking about the Civil War beyond having to pass Social Studies, I think I probably thought that slavery was a bigger deal than we were being taught it was, but I don't remember focusing on it much.) I can't speak to what Mrs. Eichler thought she was teaching us, but that's the message I got.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:55 AM
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although the Confederacy formed as an explicitly pro-slavery and anti-democratic nation, devoted to keeping people of colour and white women disenfranchised and servile

I must betray my ignorance and ask for more information about the disenfranchisement of white women. Was that an official position of the Confederacy?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:58 AM
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Isn't this Eugene Genovese's fault?


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:58 AM
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84: Clearly I meant that it was nonsense spread far and wide by knights-errant.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 8:59 AM
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85: I think we've had this conversation before, but that really just sounds like a bad teacher. (Or, possibly a teacher who assumed her students had more basic background on the topic than they in fact did.)

Q 13 of 21: "A house divided against itself cannot stand. . . . I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. . . ." -Abraham Lincoln, 1858 The "divided house" referred to in this speech was caused primarily by

1. expansionism
2. war with Mexico
3. slavery
4. the suffrage movement

Correct Answer Number: 3


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:01 AM
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86: I don't think white Confederate women could vote. Obviously, neither could white women up North.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:01 AM
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90: Right, I know they couldn't then, but Von Wafer says it was "devoted to keeping" them disenfranchised.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:02 AM
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89: Thirty years later, Sally's got the same kind of bad teacher. Funny coincidence. (And she does have enough historical background that she brought the issue up with me asking "Why are they teaching us that the Civil War wasn't about slavery?") I don't think it's the teachers, I think it's the curriculum.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:04 AM
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to claim that the South seceded for any other reason than to preserve slavery is errant nonsense.

But does anyone claim this? I'm basically a confederate sympathizer and I've never even heard this claim. (I mean, yes, there were other contributing factors, but all of those related to slavery in one way or another.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:04 AM
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I'm basically a confederate sympathizer

I'm guessing it's about the deep-fried pickles.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:06 AM
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See the original post. It was about tariffs, states rights, and preserving the Union, if you want to pass the Regents.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:06 AM
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89: It wasn't just one bad teacher. I know others besides me and LB who were taught that the war wasn't fundamentally about slavery.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:06 AM
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93: LMGTFY


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:06 AM
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LMGTFYA


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:08 AM
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LMGTFYATT


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:09 AM
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93: Yes. Read Von Wafer's linked essay. See also "heritage, not hate."


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:09 AM
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90, 86, One of the many excuses for slavery by Southern propagandists was that unlike the horrible textile factories up North, southern factories would not have to be staffed by white women. Not to mention that the Susan B Anthony/Elizabeth Cady Stanton types were all also abolitionists or at least deeply anti-slaveocracy, and Southern propaganda (I think) used that as an argument against the North.

And there was a difference on the Southern gallantry/chivalry/man of honor stuff (which of course was the flip side of the reality, which was "fucking the slaves").


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:09 AM
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97: That seems a correct answer, when you stipulate "besides slavery" (as the asker did).


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:10 AM
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101.last: damn y'all gonna get beat down like Sumner.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:10 AM
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I just googled to see if anybody had ever called Sumner "the original Masshole". Just me, turns out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:11 AM
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I only skimmed 98 but it also seems basically correct.

In 99, I'm having trouble reading anything seriously past the silly "Of all of the misunderstood events in history, the American Civil War is probably the worst of the lot." But okay, I agree that's nutty. Is that what's taught in the public schools?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:15 AM
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101.last: I can't tell you what a relief it is to go back east and have men not stand halfway in the elevator door while I clamber my way out of the back so that they don't, heaven forbid, step a foot over the threshold before me. I mean, not as bad as the Klan murdering black men for defiling white women, but still annoying.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:16 AM
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I did not know about this. Beat a man nearly to death on the senate floor, get towns named after you!

Fuckin' tariffs, man.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:18 AM
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Urple is trolling.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:20 AM
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108: nonsense! He's engaging in reasoned argument because he's upset about competitive imbalance in manufacturing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:22 AM
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The question in 97 really did specify "besides slavery."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:24 AM
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110: true. There are, in any case, pages and pages of google results of people offering alternative theories. That was just the first hit.

To be completely fair, there are also lots of people who say that it was because of slavery!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:27 AM
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110: Yeah, but read the comments.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:27 AM
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to claim that the South seceded for any other reason than to preserve slavery is errant nonsense.

But does anyone claim this?

But what was slavery?

It was State Law enforced with the power and arms of the state, recognized and enabled by the national gov't (fugitive slave act, etc). It was the right to make law that was in question.

You may not be able to take slavery out of the Civil War, but it also makes no sense to view slavery as something abstracted from the laws, institutions, processes, and (pseudo- ?) concepts of liberty that codified it and made it difficult to challenge and overcome.

The Proclamation and post-Civil War Amendments must be remembered as the most massive and extensive nullification and overturning of State Law in the nation's history.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:29 AM
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112: No way. Since our local paper started allowing comments, I've learned it is best not to know what other people think.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:31 AM
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I think we've had this conversation before, but that really just sounds like a bad teacher.

I had more than one teacher present the civil war the same way LB's teacher did. Even with a bit of "gotcha!" ie "In elementary school, they probably just said Civil War = Slavery, but now you're going to learn that wasn't what it was about, at all!"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:33 AM
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Reading Von Wafer's link, is this the point he was upset about from Gallagher?

As a corrective, he offers his central argument: that Northerners, ranging from President Lincoln all the way down to the conscripts in the Army of the Potomac, didn't fight the Civil War to free the slaves or to topple white supremacy in the South. Instead, they fought for the Union, an admittedly diffuse concept, Gallagher admits, but nevertheless their central animating principle.

Isn't that right? There were certainly abolitionists in the North, but at least initially that wasn't why the North fought the war. (By the end of the war, sure. Maybe even that is what Gallagher denies?) I'm not the historian, but that's my understanding, which I certainly thought was a well-informed one.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:33 AM
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The real problem, ISTM, is that kids aren't taught about just how horrible and pernicious the slaveocracy was.

The war wasn't fought over slavery just because people had an abstract notion that slavery was bad (although, most non-slaveowning people did think that, whatever their thoughts about black people). It was because the country was largely run by, and seemingly in the 1840s-1850s increasingly would be run by, a minority of very rich Southern aristocrats who entirely dominated their home states, horrifically oppressed their slaves in a brutal manner that was obvious at the time, and basically were instituting a human and moral system that was obviously incompatible with a democratic ideal. Looking at how e.g., South Carolina was actually run before the Civil War is really important.

I haven't read the Gallagher book, but that's also what strikes me as wrong with the idea that the war was about "Union" and not "ending slavery." I mean, I'm sure that the conscious war aim of most Union soldiers was not black liberation, and that people used the word "Union" a lot. But what "Union" meant in context was "we will never again be dominated at home by Southern slaveocracy, and we will not accept a situation in which the slaveocracy runs their own country immediately to our Southern border." So "Union" meant ending slavery, or at least making sure that the slaveocracy would never have the power they had before 1860.

Personally, I think kids should be told the following about the antebellum south, as soon as junior high: a tiny coterie of rich white men were constantly raping women they owned. They even kept their own illegitimate children, the products of those rapes, enslaved. Those people-- the rich white men-- were the leaders of the Confederacy, and they seceded to keep the system going where they could keep up the mass rapes.

That's not exactly nuanced, but I think in a deep way it's more accurate, and captures what people were actually fighting about, better than the vision expressed on that Regents' test.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:33 AM
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Well, right -- the South was almost a Ming-the-Merciless comic book-level horror.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:35 AM
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So you're saying the high school fight song shouldn'tbe Dixie?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:36 AM
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- wa, + i


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:36 AM
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I have a lot of trouble understanding why it is I have to explain why it is so important that slavery was "not just something bad people did" but a system of laws duly enacted by the majority legitimately empowered to do so.

As to whether the states would have, or might secede over any other issue, well, race inequality was retested in the 60s and accompanied by violence and necessary Federal force. Also:Utah?

And my personal preference, in order that this foundational question, apparently forgotten, be revisited is that we try to find out whether a state will secede by pushing against states rights again until they fucking shatter.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:37 AM
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Huh. 115 is weird. I mean, it's true that there were other contributing issues, but they're all basically related to slavery. I don't know how you remove that from the picture entirely, without sounding as comical as like the guy in the link in 99.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:37 AM
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There were abolitionists in the North. Those abolitionists formed a political party. That party won the Presidency. Southern states seceded in response to that victory, making explicit mention of preserving the institution of slavery. The North, led by a President of the abolitionist party, went to war to stop this secession from happening.

Why did the north go to war?
1. because of slavery.
2. for reasons having little to do with slavery.
3. because they thought the American flag had an awesome design.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:38 AM
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But what if a state wants to burn stuff down? Whose side will you be on then, bob?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:40 AM
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In both teachers that I remember most vividly, they had quite a bit of credibility with us students: they were both smart, likable teaches and we all thought they definitely knew way more than us.

It's not that uncommon an experience in history class to think "that doesn't make sense! That doesn't, either!" until you get used to the idea that facts really did go down that way. And since in high school, I didn't really understand the difference between facts and framing, this would have felt just like any other time you learn something surprising.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:41 AM
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114: As a general rule, that's the correct position, but in this case, they're the answer to the question you asked. I will therefore force a few of the highlights on you:

Ignore the idiots saying it was for slavery, because it wasn't. The North and South just had a bunch of differences, and it just mad sense to the Southerners to secede.
The case was not, again not about slavery. The south had major issues with a central federal government telling each individual state how they were going to act. This was an issue over States Rights, not slavery.
If the US abolished slavery, the south economy would collapse, while the North would not.

Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:41 AM
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122: Slavery wasn't removed from the issue entirely, the way it was taught in the class I took, it was just made clear that disagreements over slavery weren't the cause of anything important, but a figleaf over the real problems, which were serious, confusing things like tariffs and industrialization.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:43 AM
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I suddenly have a burning desire to read a mainstream high school 19th C. American history textbook. I would really be shocked if the issue of slavery is elided as much as is being suggested here. It certainly wasn't in mine.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:44 AM
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Washington Post>/a> review of the Gallagher The Union War


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:46 AM
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127: god it just has the flavor of a serious, sophisticated argument, doesn't it? The Civil War wasn't really about slavery. It was about a confluence of economic and social factors! Mind. Blown.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:49 AM
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The textbook I remember was Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant. Which had lots and lots of contemporaneous doggerel. I still can't think of the Spanish American War without reciting:

Oh, dewy was the morning, all on the first of May,
And Dewey was the Admiral, all in Manila Bay,
And dewy were the Spaniards' eyes, them orbs of black and blue,
And dew we feel discouraged? I dew not think we dew.

Also something about the Monroe doctrine that ended:

These gates are shut! Respect these gates!
Yours truly, the United States.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:49 AM
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124:I am on the side of burning down the mission, if we going to stay alive.

The question is quite current, in leftist approaches to Libya and Syria, and argued as viciously as only far leftists can.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:50 AM
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107: My pome, let me show you it.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:51 AM
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131: I still have mine! God, that book cracked me up. Waive Britannia! Britannia waives the rules!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:51 AM
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Man. Reading again about sumner: all the chivalry and honor and duel bullshit is so fascinating. What weird pathology led slaveowners to take refuge in that claptrap?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:53 AM
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Mark Twain blamed Sir Walter Scott.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:53 AM
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134: I would actually appreciate the whole text of the Monroe Doctrine verse if you didn't mind looking it up sometime -- it's like having two bars of a song stuck in your head. If I knew the whole thing, it might go away.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:55 AM
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I was in high school around the same time as LB (although in California rather than NY), and the version I remember was:

"It was more complicated than just slavery"

but definitely not:

"The whole slavery this is just red herring, the real issues were..."


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:56 AM
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"...whole slavery thing..."

Maybe the southern apologists took longer to make out to the West coast?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 9:57 AM
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"It was more complicated than just slavery"

Well, wait. It's true that slavery was a necessary but not a sufficient cause for the war. Slavery had been around since before the beginning of the Republic, after all, and there hadn't previously been a war.

Now, it's also true that most all the other things that added up to a sufficient cause for war were themselves related in one way or another to slavery. But it still seems important to analyze: what factors led to a civil war breaking out at this particular time?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:03 AM
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What weird pathology led slaveowners to take refuge in that claptrap?

Not necessarily. That sort of Ruritanian fantasywas quite common among the proto-caudillos in 19th century Latin America, and that's basically the direction the Confederacy would have gone in if they'd won.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:04 AM
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So, if the Civil War was not about slavery, what about Bleeding Kansas? Was that about tariffs and industrialization?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:04 AM
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I'm pretty sure that "constantly raping the slaves" doesn't make its way into mainstream historical textbooks, yet it is entirely true.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:05 AM
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I should say, high school textbooks.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:05 AM
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The textbook I remember was Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant. Which had lots and lots of contemporaneous doggerel. I still can't think of the Spanish American War without reciting

We had the same book. What I remember about the Spanish American war was that Teddy Roosevelt was very fond of the Filipinos, calling them "our little brown brothers."

Also, I still remember the lyrics to Tippecanoe and Tyler too.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:06 AM
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So, if the Civil War was not about slavery, what about Bleeding Kansas?

I remember asking about this/Dred Scott/etc: aren't each of these events leading up about slavery? I think the answer went something like "Sure, slavery was showing up in all these issues because let's not lose sight of the fact that this is all occurring in the middle of the 1800s. But lets take a deeper look as to what is behind that."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:09 AM
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Also, who knows if I would have distinguished between:
1. slavery is important but familiar, so let's explore the less-often discussed reasons, vs
2. Let's discuss the less-often discussed reasons, because those are the real reasons.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:12 AM
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The idea that the Civil War was not about slavery is an offense to all thoughtful Confederates. Have some respect.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:15 AM
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I thought 'little brown brothers' was Taft, not Roosevelt.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:16 AM
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It sounds as though the teachers in question were fully convinced that all of the students were showing up to high school US History 101 having already thoroughly internalized the "The northerners were all abolitionist angels selflessly fighting to free the slaves" narrative, and so the priority was getting the students to think more deeply about things.

The trouble is that I doubt, especially today, that most students are getting that narrative internalized.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:18 AM
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147: Right. It's possible that my teachers (and Sally's) were intending to convey your 1, but managed to get across your 2 instead.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:18 AM
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148, totally possible. I was a crappy student.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:28 AM
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148 s/b 149. No better at numbers than history.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:29 AM
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Kraabypants, if you're still around, it's what's-her-name, Stephanie McCurry, who's making the argument about keeping women disfranchised, but I think she's right. When the Confederacy wrote its constitution, there was a lot of pressure to allow white, property-holding women to vote. It didn't happen, and it didn't happen because slaveholding white men were concerned that the ladies weren't sufficiently committed to war as well as secession. Over time, it turned out that those men were right: white women led the anti-war movement in the Confederacy and created lots of problems for the slaveocracy.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:29 AM
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So, here's my analysis: During the period when the future United States was being colonized, and up until the revolutionary years, various forms of involuntary servitude were quite common in the old world and the new - indenture, debt peonage, press gangs for navies, chattel slavery, etc. By the time the Abolitionist movement really got going, a lot of those were less of a reality for most people's lives, especially in the North. Then too, you have the 2nd and 3rd Great Awakenings, which inspired a lot of people, primarily in the North, to take stock of society and the ways that it could be perfected on a moral level. Also, given westward expansion and the ever-more settled nature of the initial part of the US, the whole fortress mentality that came from wars with various Native tribes had ebbed significantly. By the 1840s & 1850s, you had lots of people in the North for whom the Republican ideal was gospel, and a more expansive view of human liberty was very appealing.
At the same time, when we look at the South, we see a similar naturalization of chattel slavery and its benefits to the ruling class. Slavery was not a "peculiar institution" to those people, it was an institution that preserved and expanded all of the good things in life for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful. Any change to that system was almost certain to deplete both their relative and objective social capital.
By the time of Bleeding Kansas, it's become clear to most people on both sides that the divisions around slavery have transcended mere moralizing and are fully realized as a concrete political and economic rift between the two super-regions. When the arsenal at Harper's Ferry is attacked, there's a strong sense on both sides that these differences are truly irreconcilable.
So of course, it wasn't just that everyone woke up one day and decided to go to war over slavery, but that a long process of sundering had reached its conclusion. This malarkey about "states' rights" fails to take into account that for the most part, in the 75 years since independence, the rights of the slaveocracy had been continually upheld and expanded by the Federal government. Industrialization, if it was a significant factor, was so because it concentrated power and allowed for a much more effective monopoly on violence by the government. Industrial processes were very important to the South as well as the North. The Union blockade was vitally important for preventing the Confederacy from directly accessing industry through cotton shipments and the wealth they generated.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:29 AM
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The ends for which this Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of Slavery; they have permitted the open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

....

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the Common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the Common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that Slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

....

On the 4th March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced, that the South shall be excluded from the common Territory; that the Judicial Tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The Guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

from South Carolina's Declaration of Secession. in fact, the whole damned thing is about how the evil north was making the wise south give up its slaves, and my lands(!), elevate these ignorant blacks to full citizenship!

how in the world can anyone doubt that slavery wasn't a primary cause?


Posted by: cleek | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:33 AM
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154: Thanks.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:34 AM
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I think 117 is onto something.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:37 AM
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157: just doing my job, ma'am.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:39 AM
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I recently wrote a piece about this issue for the TLS.

The important question is, did it make the cover, or did it get buried inside?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:43 AM
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Perhaps Witt will drop by. I remember her weighing in around the sesquicentennial on persistent pernicious myths about the start of the war (and the fact that no one actually reads S.C.'s declaration of secession).


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:45 AM
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I am still reading this lesbian separatist anthology and keep being annoyed by complaints about how schools aren't teaching kids that Catal Huyuk was itself a women's separatist vegetarian paradise until The Man ruined everything. It's making me think that a part of all of this is that "THEY stole my history/birthright/whatever!" is a line of argument that appeals to a lot of people in various ways. I'm not exactly sure what makes it so compelling.

I really liked VW's contributions here and 117. I'm still stuck in the early stages of what/how to teach kids about slavery. That was much easier with teens.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:48 AM
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An irony is that after all this time, the single best piece of writing on the causes and consequences of the Civil War is STILL Lincoln's second inauguaral address . It contains right up front an amazingly pithy and complete explanation of the causes of the war that seems 100% correct to me but would apparently get him marked down on the NY State regents exam today:

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease.

That has it all -- slavery caused the war, even though Lincoln and the Republicans were not abolitionists, and the war led to abolition anyway.

The rest of the speech is even greater of course, that's just setting the scene for the greatest piece of prose ever written by an American politician.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:02 AM
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I have no idea how far I should trust it but the take on new world chattel slavery in 1493 was really fascinating.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:03 AM
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possibly the greatest piece of writing ever by an American, if you can rank such things.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:04 AM
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165: I place it second to:


Bop bopa-a-lu a whop bam boo
Tutti frutti, oh Rudy
Tutti frutti, oh Rudy
Tutti frutti, oh Rudy
Tutti frutti, oh Rudy

Tutti frutti, oh Rudy

A whop bop-a-lu a whop bam boo



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:09 AM
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166: from FDR's seventh inaugural, right?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:11 AM
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The passage in 166 is certainly more characteristically American.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:12 AM
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complaints about how schools aren't teaching kids that Catal Huyuk was itself a women's separatist vegetarian paradise

Heh, the paradise whose wiki page says "Predominant images include men with erect phalluses, hunting scenes, red images of the now extinct aurochs (wild cattle) and stags,"? Or is that all stuff that happened after The Man started killing shit and making everyone draw penises?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:20 AM
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169: You've looked at the wp page and I haven't, but I think the dig had two major stages and the first came up with lots of goddess-ish statuary, so it's possible the woman I was reading legitimately had no way of knowing there was other stuff still buried at the time she was writing. She also might not have cared; several of the HERstorians represented didn't seem bothered by the implausibility of what they were saying.

One of my favorite things at Istanbul's archaeological museum was a set of three carved heads beside each other, none of them strikingly different from the others. The first says "Head of a Woman," second "Head of a Goddess," and third "Head of a Woman (Goddess?)" and I love it.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:26 AM
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It seems strange that someone in the British navy could have worked part of their career attempting to stop slave trading and part of their career selling drugs at gunpoint.

Well, I would reckon a majority of people here are opposed to slavery and in favour of legalising at least some drugs. And 90% or so are Americans and your society has Strong Views about free trade, often involving your navy...


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 12:34 PM
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But it still seems important to analyze: what factors led to a civil war breaking out at this particular time?

Tweety got it (almost) right above. A political party emerged that was wholeheartedly committed to stopping the spread of slavery in the territories. (One faction of that party was truly abolitionist in character, but the party platform was not abolitionist.) That party came to power in the election of 1860. Southerners correctly recognized that: (1) the North, long since large enough to ride roughshod over Southern interests, was now politically united enough to do so; (2) the prohibition of slavery in the territories would be the beginning of the end of the peculiar institution in the South.

The weak-form revisionist thesis ("It was more complicated than just slavery") is not as wrong as the strong form ("The whole slavery this is just red herring, the real issues were..."), but it's wrong nonetheless. Protecting slavery was both the proximate causus belli and the ultimate cause of the conflict. There is no need of a more nuanced explanation. None of this, by the way, implies or requires the existence of a morally pure abolitionist North.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 12:46 PM
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71: Great review! If our collective memory of the Civil War has need of any "corrective", it's to extirpate the myth of the noble Lost Cause, and quite specifically the "It wasn't really about slavery" dodge.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:05 PM
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172:There is no need of a more nuanced explanation.

I say 80 years of Jim Crow, states without gay marriage, and "Right to Know" laws completely refutes you.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:05 PM
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If there had been 72 years of Jim Crow and civil unions, you'd have been right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:10 PM
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It doesn't seem to me that the target of this revisionism is the morally pure North but the irredeemably evil South.

Anyway, you people teach your own kids the history of your country, right? (Or countries, in the case of some of us.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:17 PM
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Apu explains it all. Or tries to.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:20 PM
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I think bob means "Right to Work" laws, and not "Right to Know"?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:22 PM
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Obligatory RTFA reference.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:23 PM
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It doesn't seem to me that the target of this revisionism is the morally pure North but the irredeemably evil South.

The thing is, the irredeemably evil South is true. Or at least the cause for which the South fought was irredeemably evil. Some neoconfederates try to go the route of arguing that slavery wasn't so bad (contradicting the "irredeemably evil" part). But that's a hard sell, so some try contradicting the "cause they fought for" part. Which is an easier sell, apparently.

I get that it's comforting for Southernors to pretend that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a hero to be admired rather than a war criminal and (later in life) a terrorist, but the latter description is the historical truth, and Northerners shouldn't have to feel obliged to play along with the pretense out of some misguided desire for comity.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:30 PM
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180 -- You're preaching to the choir with me, here, but I'm not the one who designed the revisionist narrative. And I think making the southerners look better is what they are after.

I should say, I don't have any problem sympathizing with the individual low level soldier.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:36 PM
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178:Right to Know Laws, Wiki, in "Informed Consent:Abortion"

Crikey


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:37 PM
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I should say, I don't have any problem sympathizing with the individual low level soldier.

Nor do I.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:39 PM
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I should say, I don't have any problem sympathizing with the individual low level soldier.

I do. Cue Buffy Sainte-Marie.

178:Although "Right-to-Work" laws are a place I would push back hard against "states rights," SR in quotes because thousands died to be sure there aren't any.

And repeal Taft-Hartley. And replace sales taxes with property taxes, by Federal fiat. And for fun, demand that state legislatures reflect their populations in race and gender, just to see if we can get Civil War II, and refute the "all and only about slavery" meme.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:50 PM
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Cue Buffy Sainte-Marie.

LOVE LIFT US UP WHERE WE BELONG
WHERE THE EAGLES FLY
ON A MOUNTAIN HIGH


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:58 PM
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182: Huh. I think generally "Right to Know" laws are OSHA laws about hazardous work environments.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:58 PM
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Not really seeing how that ties in.

Oh, you meant this.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 1:59 PM
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66

But not that easy to come up with even passably difficult questions. The problem is that "slavery" is too obvious an answer... it's the answer on the third-graders' versions of civil war history exams.

This is silly. A good test has easy questions as well as difficult questions. And if teachers are telling students slavery is never the right answer you need to throw in some questions where slavery is the right answer to stop them from doing that. Just as if someone had noticed that the first choice is always wrong.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 3:21 PM
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143

I'm pretty sure that "constantly raping the slaves" doesn't make its way into mainstream historical textbooks, yet it is entirely true.

Is it? Are you defining all sex between slaves and masters as rape?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 3:24 PM
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Can property consent, James?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 3:26 PM
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Forget I wrote that, please. Seriously, pretend that comment never appeared.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 3:27 PM
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But the comment that doesn't exist raises a fascinating, if depressing point that presumably has been hashed out, and which somebody with the appropriate historical expertise could speak to.

Oh well. Universal Soldier: not a very good movie! Lundgren really elevated Van Damme, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 3:30 PM
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191 illustrates why high school textbooks aren't written Halford's way, lots of people find the entire subject distasteful and would prefer it not be discussed.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 3:53 PM
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I don't see a problem with any of the linked questions.


Posted by: jpe | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:05 PM
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I do not think 193 quite gets what is going on here.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:10 PM
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I'm pretty sure the long-standing practice of pretending to believe in the noble South for the sake of comity began shortly after Reconstruction (the era when emancipated slaves came flooding northward and Northern society remembered that despite disagreeing with the South about the whole slavery thing, they largely still agreed with them about the whole "white supremacy" thing, at least where job market competition was concerned). The distortion has persisted in some form so long as it remained politically useful -- to somebody or other, first Democrat and then Republican -- ever since, despite perennial attempts by historians to correct it. Never let the truth get in the way of a handy political fiction.

Luckily, as the "angry white male" demographic visibly wanes in electoral potency, this may finally change.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:11 PM
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after Reconstruction (the era when emancipated slaves came flooding northward

Is that right? I didn't think there was much black migration north during Reconstruction. Which didn't mean that Northern whites didn't fear it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:31 PM
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I think he meant that after Reconstruction was when the former slaves came flooding northward.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:34 PM
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But what do I know.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:35 PM
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Sorry, the way I phrased it was confusing. I meant the era shortly after Reconstruction was the beginning of the migration. ("Shortly after" may be pushing it a bit: the onset of the 'Great Migration' was 1890.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:39 PM
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For more than two decades, something like 90% of freed people stayed within 20 miles of the place where they had been enslaved. And yeah, the Migration began in earnest late in the 1880s.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:42 PM
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Got it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:59 PM
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Outside of Earnest, it was too dark to migrate.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 4:59 PM
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I read Gone with the Wind in 3rd grade, and it took me way, way too long to figure out all the things that are disgraceful about it. That is one powerful piece of revisionist history right there.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:02 PM
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204: Gone With the Wind and also about a gajillion billion Westerns featuring noble ex-Confederate misfit gunslingers modeled on Jesse James. A trope so pervasive that Joss Whedon seemed to think there was nothing about translating it into space for Firefly.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:07 PM
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"Nothing odd about," that is to say.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:07 PM
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At least Gone with the Wind cut the racism with huge dollops of sexism.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:19 PM
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3d grade? What is with you people. I admit to a secret love for GWTW.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:23 PM
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I never read it. I saw the movie for the first time this summer.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:24 PM
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Re sex with slaves. I think part of the problem is desperately trying to avoid getting into the terrible historical treatment of women, and how a lot of sex historically would meet our definition of rape or sexual assault.


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:29 PM
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Yeah, but no. There was a very clear difference between the treatment of even low status white women and slaves in the 19th C US. Which was quite clear to the abolitionists.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:37 PM
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Should the noble, lone gunslinger following a lost cause trope be off limits? It's awfully exciting.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:42 PM
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3d grade?

I wasn't even the first girl in my public-school class who read it!

The thing is: I was so shocked by the relationship between Rhett and Scarlett that I let a lot of the background material slide by as "local color." Excellent sleight-of-hand.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:43 PM
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192: Not history per se, but Marlon James wrote a novel called The Book of Night Women set on a Jamaican sugar cane plantation exploring a slave/overseer (mixed-race/Irish) relationship, among other things. It's a brutal read for many reasons. I'd think Wench, by someone whose three names I'm not remembering now, is also about ways of navigating being a sex slave as well as a slave, the complications of the favor and shame the master's attention could bring.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:49 PM
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212: Not as such. It's just that modelling them on that specific lost cause is a bit creepy.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:51 PM
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(It'd be like building an entire action genre around South African ex-Special Branch men looking for a cause to fight for after long and distinguished careers spent throwing political prisoners down flights of stairs, or engineering "Inkatha" massacres.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:56 PM
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Huh. I had the same reservation about Firefly, but everyone seemed to think it was so awesome that I kept my mouth shut about it, figuring I was being oversensitive or something.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:57 PM
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(Which, there is Stander and it's actually a great movie, but only because a big part of it revolves around the character's remorse for his past.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:58 PM
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217: It's frustrating because everything else about the show was really well done, but I couldn't get past that. And the fact that they were too literal about the "western-in-space" thing in general.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 5:59 PM
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Agreed. Perhaps given another season they'd have made a shift: whats-his-name, the captain guy, might have stopped swaggering quite so much. He had enough of a back story to make that plausible. The other characters were fairly strong.

Or perhaps there was too much built into the structure of the tale -- basically a Han Solo routine -- to have made that possible. I was kind of surprised that it was what it was, when I finally watched it, given all the hype I'd heard.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:28 PM
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Farscape did it much better.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:30 PM
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I've never watched a Whedon show. I'm planning on starting with Buffy soon so nobody spoil it for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:41 PM
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There was a very clear difference between the treatment of even low status white women and slaves in the 19th C US. Which was quite clear to the abolitionists.

Indeed, while your conventional radical Massachusetts abolitionist was anti-racist as well as anti-slavery, there was a racist-tinged strain of abolitionist rhetoric that argued against slavery on the grounds that it facilitated illicit interracial sex.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:44 PM
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It's frustrating because everything else about the show was really well done

Including the part where no actual Chinese people ever appear on screen?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:51 PM
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I don't think that the rebels in Firefly were fighting for slavery. Here's the history Whedon wrote for a production memo.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:51 PM
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Don't buy into their mythology, beamish.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:54 PM
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I was shocked when I first saw GWTW (as an adult) and realized that it was about the founding of the KKK. From the pro-KKK perspective. The girl I went with got very pissed at me for pointing that out. Very good movie though.

It'd be like building an entire action genre around South African ex-Special Branch men looking for a cause to fight for after long and distinguished careers spent throwing political prisoners down flights of stairs, or engineering "Inkatha" massacres.

In fairness, Confederate soldiers didn't torture helpless people, they fought a fair fight against a larger army and died in droves doing it.

I suppose the comparison might be Wehrmacht veterans from the Russian front who fought at Stalingrad, and then started some kind of nihlist gang after WWII. Still not too sympathetic.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:56 PM
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225: I don't think that the rebels in Firefly were fighting for slavery

They weren't. They were fighting for a space version of states' rights... just like the imaginary South.

In fact the whole show's mythos ended up boiling down to "what if the future looked just like a neo-Confederate myth about the post-Civil War period?" What if the Indians really were inhuman savages lurking in the shadows (Reavers)? What if the Yankees really were nothing more complicated that carpet-bagging aggressors (The Alliance)? What if the Lost Cause really was noble and untainted by the ickiness of racism and slavery (The Browncoats)?

And there was added weirdness, too, as Josh points out in 224. Why go out of your way to make Mandarin part of the setting and then cast no Asian actors?

(I think I've seen the document beamish links, but am just registering my impressions as based on the show itself before I look at it.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 6:58 PM
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In fairness, Confederate soldiers didn't torture helpless people

Well, except for the actual slaves...


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:02 PM
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(After consulting those production notes from Whedon I can see his imagined scenario is slightly more complicated than what comes across in the show... but not by very much.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:06 PM
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I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't made the Reavers/Indians connection. Although the "savage" myth wasn't exclusively Confederate.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:08 PM
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In fairness, Confederate soldiers didn't torture helpless people, they fought a fair fight against a larger army and died in droves doing it.

Not all of them, anyway.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:17 PM
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Although the "savage" myth wasn't exclusively Confederate.

Yeah, that bit was puzzling me.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:17 PM
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A friend of mine tried to sell me on the idea that Starship Troopers was actually purely a work of speculative fiction, and not a work of fascist apologetics. What if there really was a race that had to be exterminated? And what if, in order to do it, you had to remove meaningful citizenship from anyone but the warriors?

You really can't sugarcoat what Heinlein was up to, though Verhoeven managed to make that tale palatable to me in a weird way. I read one review in which the movie was accurately characterized as "Triumph of Will 90210." The review was overall pretty favorable.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:19 PM
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In fairness, Confederate soldiers didn't torture helpless people, they fought a fair fight against a larger army and died in droves doing it.

Are you being ironic? By playing with the Lost Cause mythology?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:33 PM
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234 - I think Verhoeven's body of work from RoboCop through Starship Troopers is that of someone both contemptuous of and luridly fascinated by the American blockbuster. There's a lot of enjoyableness even in the shitty movies he made in that period. The noble Confederate gunslinger movies -- many of which are even good movies! (although not you, The Outlaw Josey Wales; go the back of the class) -- would have been better if they had been more distanced from or bothered by their foundational mythology.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 7:53 PM
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234, 236: I'm convinced that Verhoeven was fully aware of the fascist elements of Starship Troopers and spoofed them in the movie. I thought that was a very funny movie.

235: nope -- it's a historical fact that Confederate soldiers carried out a long fight against superior forces and took huge casualties. Factors that lend themselves to romanticization and were adroitly capitalized on by post-war propagandists. Don't think the Nazi comparison does the 'lost cause' any favors though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:39 PM
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231: Although the "savage" myth wasn't exclusively Confederate.

Not even a little bit. But taken together with the other elements, what you have is a definitively neo-Confederate myth.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 10:39 PM
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237.1: I've always thought of that movie as a limit case of the effective powers of spoofing: that there comes a point where you're actually just doing the thing you're supposed to be ironically disengaged from, and Verhoeven reached it.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:05 PM
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I assumed Mal's side had been enslaving Han, & had thus picked up food and swearing habits. Also, note how they profit from overgrazing.

Let me sort of recommend The Story of the Soil, for an early example of N/S rapprochement. Also basically right about phosphate. Other than that a bad & tedious novel.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:37 PM
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For source documents relating to the causes of the Civil War, I highly recommend James F. Epperson's web site. In particular, to better understand Lincoln's 1860 position on slavery, I would recommend reading his Cooper Union and New Haven speeches. In short, he favored leaving slavery alone (legally) where it currently existed, but prohibiting any further expansion of slavery to the federal territories. Both sides clearly understood that this policy, if not reversed, would result in the eventual abolition of slavery over time.

What people today have a hard time understanding is that Confederate leaders would find this, combined with the fact of Lincoln's election, sufficient motivation for secession, and if necessary, war. Yet if you read the many Confederate documents on that site, starting with the secession declarations of those states that produced one, it seems clear that they did. I think part of the reason that comes through for me reading some of those documents is a sense of fear of what would happen if the slaves were freed and given political rights.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-24-12 11:39 PM
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What's weird about Firefly is that you could make a space Western without the pro-Confederate noble rebel baggage, but Whedon went out of his way to include it.

The Chinese thing is so fucked up I feel like it must have been part of a specific plot point they would eventually address.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:03 AM
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I don't think you *can* make a genre Western without one of "genocide against the natives" or "Confederate violent hero". Do we like the latter because the genocide looks courageous, rather than industrial and profiteering?

Eventually the gW can battle the railroads, but only in retreat.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:15 AM
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_High Noon_, duh.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:17 AM
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243: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:40 AM
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I'm convinced that Verhoeven was fully aware of the fascist elements of Starship Troopers and spoofed them in the movie. I thought that was a very funny movie.

Sweet Jesus, of course he was. I continue to be baffled by the enormous number of people (almost all Americans, for some reason) who can't see the obvious satire in the film (not the book). It's not like he's particularly subtle about it. He's got NPH wandering around dressed like a Gestapo officer. He's got ridiculous propaganda films about an enemy so depersonified they're known only as "bugs". He's got Michael Ironside commanding the Roughnecks with a literal iron fist.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:42 AM
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Oh and there's also the small fact that this is the same guy who directed Robocop, an over the top satire on totalitarian capitalism.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:48 AM
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I thought we'd established in a previous thread that Robocop is actually about Jesus.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 1:05 AM
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Or, to be more precise, that Robocop is about Jesus, while Robocop is Jesus.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 1:09 AM
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246: It's not a _parody_, though. Verhoeven is indulging in fascist iconography because he thinks its fun to do. Quoting something doesn't make it a parody of it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 2:06 AM
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241: What people today have a hard time understanding is that Confederate leaders would find this" (no expansion of slavery to the territories)" , combined with the fact of Lincoln's election, sufficient motivation for secession, and if necessary, war. Yet if you read the many Confederate documents on that site, starting with the secession declarations of those states that produced one, it seems clear that they did."
Reading various posts and comment threads over at Ta-Nahesi Coates' blog has shed a huge light for me on the massive economic reasons why that was such an issue. Much of the wealth in the South was held in the form of chattel slaves and there was a bubble element which required continual expansion into the territories for values not to collapse.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:19 AM
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228: And the Reavers turned out to be human victims of biological warfare.

Whedon took the cowboy mythos, put it in space, and removed the background racism from his story. That doesn't have to be pernicious or racist.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:43 AM
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Whedon took the cowboy mythos, [...] and removed the background racism [...] That doesn't have to be pernicious

I am not convinced by this.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:46 AM
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246

Sweet Jesus, of course he was. I continue to be baffled by the enormous number of people (almost all Americans, for some reason) who can't see the obvious satire in the film (not the book). ...

Any satire wasn't obvious to me. I liked the movie but it was a commercial disappointment so something about it didn't work for most people.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:57 AM
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I am not convinced by this.

Well you can't go around being convinced by everything on the internet. What would become of you?


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:25 AM
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242.2: My understanding is that whenever anyone has challenged him on it, he's seemed baffled why it would be considered a problem. I found it hugely off-putting when watching the series and was appalled it wasn't rectified in the movie.

Back to the original topic, I read this excerpt from NPR's Talk of the Nation this morning, in which a guy actually calls in to lament the end of slavery.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:33 AM
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I am theoretically convincable, and would be interested in an argument for why it isn't (or doesn't have to be) pernicious. Because, from here, taking a mythos that essentially exists to justify one kind of doomed racism by purifying it in the cleansing fire of a different of racism and trying to take all the racism out of it and just leave all the awesome parts seems... well, it seems pernicious, even more than, say, that Robot Jim version of Huck Finn.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:36 AM
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shed a huge light for me on the massive economic reasons why that was such an issue. Much of the wealth in the South was held in the form of chattel slaves

Eric Foner cites the almost unbelievable statistic that the aggregate market value of slaves in the South exceeded the aggregate value of all the railroads, all the factories, and all the banks in the North combined.

there was a bubble element which required continual expansion into the territories for values not to collapse

I would have to be convinced of that. OTOH, it was obvious to everyone at the time that the precarious sectional balance of power that held in the 1840s-1850s would be upset if further free states were admitted to the Union without counterbalancing slave states. Hence the demand on the part of the South for admitting New Mexico as a slave state, even though scarcely any slaves inhabited the territory.

Another source of conflict that economic and political analysis tends to elide is -- and the contemporary term is oddly apt here -- the butthurt of southern planters over being disrespected by abolitionists. It wasn't enough for the North to recognize their legal and constitutional right to own humans as chattel; they demanded moral approbation for the practice. They were honorable gentlemen, by God! The most distinguished class of gentlemen in the Union! The butthurt factor comes through clearly in some of the political speeches and newspaper editorials of the time, and probably contributed to making the war inevitable even as Republicans flirted with far-reaching concessions (e.g. a Constitutional amendment protecting slavery where it exists) to save the Union in the winter of 1860-61.

The last point is, I believe, no mere historical curiosity. There are echos of the pouting demand for respect in contemporary GOP politics, especially from the eternally put upon white Christian conservatives.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:36 AM
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256.2 Jeebus H Tapdancing Christ!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:38 AM
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I'm reminded of that movie Seven Years in Tibet, about the SS officer who was deployed on a secret mission to loot antiquities that would prove the inherent superiority of the master race, but was caught, then escaped and eventually befriended the Dalai Lama. Except, you know, the movie just kept the Somebody Made A Friend piece and excised the "SS officer on a secret mission of racial racial racism" piece, because who cares about that part.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:39 AM
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The butthurt factor comes through clearly in some of the political speeches and newspaper editorials of the time

And the aforementioned honor caning on the floor of the Senate.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:41 AM
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Is this the 'bunch of arseholes' theory of history? I have a lot of sympathy with it.

'Well, there was slavery, and blablah quasi-Marxian-economic stuff, and also, we have to face up to the fact that they were just a bunch of arseholes.'


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:45 AM
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'Well, there was slavery, and blablah quasi-Marxian-economic stuff, and also, we have to face up to the fact that they were just a bunch of arseholes.'

Yes, that's a rather more economical formulation. Quite a few historical events -- the Boer War, the Ukrainian famine, the entirety of G.W. Bush's second term in office -- cannot be adequately explained without it.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:51 AM
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the 'bunch of arseholes' theory of history

Pretty sure this is central to any realistic understanding of the entire history of ancient Rome, for example. So quite likely the Confederacy too.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:52 AM
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The butthurt factor makes perfect sense to me. I can't see how you could conceptualize slavery as being a little problematic -- if it's not absolutely okay and the natural order of things, then it's really horrifically, contemptibly, disgustingly evil. For a slaveholder to interact with people who didn't think slavery was just peachy fine had to be pretty severely unpleasant: "Huh, all these people believe I'm the most grotesquely evil thing they've ever encountered."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:54 AM
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265: that's a little bit what I find fascinating with the chivalry thing; the slaveholders appear to have decided that, in fact, what was going on is that they were far more moral than the abolitionists, who were uncouth, trolly jerks (which they were, and which I love them for) with no sense of honor. "You think I'm evil? Well, I think you're SUPER DUPER SUBHUMAN EVIL!"

(And of course, that unearned sense of moral superiority is what powered the cowboy mythos, and is what Firefly exploits to create character shorthand, which is hella pernicious. Anyhow.)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:59 AM
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had to be pretty severely unpleasant

Well, that makes me feel better. Really.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:00 AM
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256.2 is really something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:02 AM
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265

... I can't see how you could conceptualize slavery as being a little problematic -- if it's not absolutely okay and the natural order of things, then it's really horrifically, contemptibly, disgustingly evil. ...

I don't see this at all. It would seem to imply for example that there is no difference between a slaveholder who treats their slaves comparitively well and one who who doesn't.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:03 AM
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My wife was reading a lot of slave narratives, and diaries of slave-owners [largely in the Caribbean, rather than the US south] for her OU course last year, and it's hard to get away from just how horrific an institution it was. I mean, intellectually that's obvious, but the first hand descriptions of what went on are viscerally unpleasant in a way that just the obviousness of the unjustness of slavery doesn't capture. Which makes the self-ascribed chivalry thing just another symptom of the BoA theory.

'I may literally whip people to the bone, but you sir, you can't even dance a cotillion or compliment a lady with sufficient dash.'


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:05 AM
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I don't think you *can* make a genre Western without one of "genocide against the natives" or "Confederate violent hero".

How about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or High Noon? Was there anything identifiably southern about Eastwood's characters in High Plains Drifter or Pale Rider?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:13 AM
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One of the things I got out of Graeber's Debt was the intrinsic connection between honor and violence. It's sort of obvious once it's pointed out but I'd never made the connection before.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:16 AM
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That connection is also illustrated nicely in the Bugs Bunny cartoons where Yosemite Sam is dressed as a southern planter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:21 AM
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271 cont: What about Tombstone? OK Corral is as classic as it gets. The Earps weren't southern and Doc Holliday was from VA but too young to have fought in the Civil War. And there's the Lincoln County War which is the basis for both Young Guns and Chisum.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:23 AM
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The butthurt factor makes perfect sense to me. I can't see how you could conceptualize slavery as being a little problematic -- if it's not absolutely okay and the natural order of things, then it's really horrifically, contemptibly, disgustingly evil. For a slaveholder to interact with people who didn't think slavery was just peachy fine had to be pretty severely unpleasant: "Huh, all these people believe I'm the most grotesquely evil thing they've ever encountered."

Like an Oscar Mayer executive walking into a vegan convention.

(Not really, because most vegans have learned to be very polite about interactions with meateaters, since they recognize they're a very small minority. (In most situations, "rude" comments about meat consumption are as likely to be shot down by other vegans as to be supported.) But if you've ever been in a situation where that wasn't true--where they were a majority and didn't need to be polite about things--you might appreciate (1) how things would change if social mores ever shift to a point where meateating was a minority practice, and (2) some sense of the butthurt (if we must use that term) that a slaveowner may have felt in the 1850s.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:26 AM
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the butthurt (if we must use that term)

I'm now told that is isn't appropriate for conference calls.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:28 AM
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The Chinese element of Firefly was mainly a mechanism to allow the characters to swear in Mandarin, rather than having a spaceship on which it is pretended that nobody swears. Expecting the show, in its first, abbreviated, season, to spend time on developing that particular element of the back story is a bit much. Had Whedon gone five seasons without getting into it, I'd be more sympathetic to the charge of racism.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:29 AM
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The American Pageant

We used that too! My English teacher, whose son was in the same history class I was, told us that she loved to read the book because of all the little jokes like the one about "fish and ships". I read it more carefully after that, because I had missed that there were jokes.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:33 AM
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275 is totes L'Analogie Interdit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:47 AM
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largely in the Caribbean, rather than the US south

Far be it from me to defend Southern slaveholders, but from what I understand, U.S. slaves had it on the whole better than the far more numerous slaves brought to the sugar colonies of the Caribbean Basin. In the plantation South, especially after the importation of slaves was banned in 1808, there was an economic incentive to keep slaves healthy enough to reproduce. In the Caribbean, they were closer to an expendable raw material, at least until the British Navy started intercepting slave ships.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:50 AM
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277: A future where there are virtually no Chinese people anywhere yet everyone speaks Chinese is _more_ plausible than a spaceship where nobody swears?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:51 AM
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A future where there are virtually no Chinese people anywhere yet everyone speaks Chinese is _more_ plausible than ...
... a past in which there are no Ancient Romans but the educated classes communicate exclusively in Latin?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:56 AM
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280 also goes to the "bubble" point you wondered about earlier. Don't forget that after 1808, particularly in Virginia and the Upper South, slave breeding and (within the US) exporting was very big business. US slaveowners (exceptO I think, in the sugar plantations in Louisiana) very much didn't work their slaves to death, but that created it's own marketplace problems that help explain why expansion was perceived to be so important.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:06 AM
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265, 269: I'm gonna have to agree with Shearer on this one. Consider Northern attitudes to slavery post-Uncle Tom's Cabin, but pre-Bleeding Kansas. A strong distaste for slavery, but anyone close to the John Brown end of the spectrum was written off as a crank or a lunatic by most people.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:08 AM
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On the southern honor thing, don't forget that a lot of the Virginia planters who started the whole culture were younger sons of aristocratic families who liked slavery precisely because it allowed them to maintain a sense of aristocratic honor. Or so goes a claim by David Hackett Fisher that I may be mangling.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:12 AM
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And many earlier slaveholders, like Jefferson, appreciated that it was on the wrong side of history in an abstract arms-length way without getting butthurt about it.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:14 AM
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Hooray for self-delusion.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:15 AM
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243 really isn't right -- common as the tropes were, there were classics of the genre where one clapped eyes on nary an Indian or a Confederate hero. (Leone's classics, or High Noon, or Shane, all come to mind. Save High Noon, most of these illustrate the leading alternative to the Confederate hero, which is the Mysterious Gunslinger of indeterminate background.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:19 AM
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to better understand Lincoln's 1860 position on slavery, I would recommend reading his Cooper Union and New Haven speeches. In short, he favored leaving slavery alone (legally) where it currently existed, but prohibiting any further expansion of slavery to the federal territories.

He was already developing this position when he got back into politics in the mid-1850s (Lincoln-Douglas debates). The consistency in his vision of what the Constitution allowed and how to fit a strongly anti-slavery position within those bounds really speaks to his clarity and force of mind. But what's so profound about the Second Inauguaral is his understanding that he himself (and the North) were complicit in slavery by taking a gradualist position toward its elimination, and therefore was swept in judgement along with the south.

Both sides clearly understood that this policy, if not reversed, would result in the eventual abolition of slavery over time.

yes -- for one thing making it clear that the national government would resist slavery anywhere would open the possibility of undermining it everywhere. But it must be very hard to teach this incrementalist strategy in a high school classroom today. "Let me tell you about my bold 30-year plan for ending human slavery" makes no moral/intuitive sense to us.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:20 AM
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The obvious counter to 243 just occured to me. Custer. He was a union hero and the whole genocide thing didn't work well for him.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:21 AM
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280: Depends on what you mean by "better." The American system was better-regulated but also far more smothering of the enslaved race.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:22 AM
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I thought The Searchers handled the ex-confederate thing well, where the John Wayne character's refusal to surrender to the new government is treated both as doggedness and a sign of insanity. But it's been a while since I've seen it.

The myth of Jesse James is so different than the reality that I don't think there's much connection to lost-causism. I certainly don't remember learning that he had been a Confederate fighter at all (and certainly not that he was basically a postwar racist terrorist) until reading it in a history book.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:28 AM
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Because if there's one thing lost-causism depends on, it's a tight connection to reality?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:32 AM
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In the diaries we have from a civil-war era (female) ancestor there is a fair bit of "going to see the abolitionist preacher talk" kind of action. I forget when it starts, though (the diaries are I think 1859 to 1865). There is also a lot of weeping for the boys at the front, and sewing things to send to them, and a summer trip to Niagara Falls that is nearly ruined by uncouth Confederates at the hotel right across the border.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:34 AM
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We do not have diaries for my other ancestor who was a Confederate colonel, but by all the evidence he was pretty into the whole "aristocratic slave owner who also rides a white horse like a knight, y'all" thing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:35 AM
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292 is correct. My perception of Jesse James is basically "Like John Dillinger but in the Old West". Maybe that means I didn't grow up with the real "myth of Jesse James", but that's because I'm less than 100 years old.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:38 AM
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293 -- no, I just mean most people don't draw a connection between James and the Civil War at all.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:39 AM
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I don't think you *can* make a genre Western without one of "genocide against the natives" or "Confederate violent hero".

McCabe and Mrs. Miller? Unforgiven? Red River?


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:39 AM
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Blazing Saddles isn't a genre Western I suppose, but neither is Firefly.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:42 AM
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a summer trip to Niagara Falls that is nearly ruined by uncouth Confederates at the hotel right across the border

Should have known the Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not and the wax museums and all the other garish tourist nonsense was too awful to come from Canadians. It's all the Confederacy's fault, no doubt.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:43 AM
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297: My point was that encouraging people not to draw connections (e.g. between the well-dressed officer on the horse and the slave-run estate that was defending) is a key component of lost-causerisming.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:45 AM
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I just had a flashback to when my high school decided to field a quizbowl team at the National Beta Club convention and shipped us off to Myrtle Beach, where the scheduled outing involved going to some Medieval-Times style dinner theater arena thing where the show was all about the glorified plantation history of the region and the kind slave owners and their amazing feats of horsemanship and fighting prowess.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:48 AM
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Blazing Saddles isn't a genre Western I suppose, but neither is Firefly.

The Half-Made World?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:49 AM
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I certainly don't remember learning that he had been a Confederate fighter at all

Growing up in Missouri, where Jesse James was still seen as a native son, I was definitely aware that he had been a Confederate.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:50 AM
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Well I'm not defending James. But "lost cause" mythology depends at a minimum on identifying the lost cause, and I don't think the popular perception of Jesse James is that he had anything to do with the confederacy at all; "John Dillinger in the old west" gets it right. That's pretty different than, say, GWTW.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:51 AM
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284, 286: I'm not sure about Jefferson. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just"? The image of the forgivable slaveowner (like the nice slaveowning family in Uncle Tom's Cabin) who wasn't getting butthurt about abolitionists was one who accepted that the abolitionists were right and slavery was wrong and was just too weak/poor/lazy to actually get out of the slaveowning business. Anyone who really thought slavery was A-Ok was going to be defensively hostile about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:51 AM
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299: Dude. There's an episode of Firefly where their mission is to bring herds of actual cattle from one moon to another. Firefly was really unambiguously the Western genre in space (in fact arguably too literally, which I'm guessing was what got it cancelled).


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:52 AM
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I didn't figure out the whole "John Wilkes Booth was a Confederate spy who assassinated the enemy leader in wartime" thing until really painfully recently.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:53 AM
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Dude, spoilers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:53 AM
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Growing up in Missouri, where Jesse James was still seen as a native son, I was definitely aware that he had been a Confederate.

My vague recollection from reading Civil War history years ago is that the war in Missouri was especially nasty. A lot of it seemed to have been loose groups of irregular troops that were more interested in terrorizing and murdering civilians than in fighting each other.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:55 AM
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On the western thing, I'll say that I never drew the connection between westerns and the Confederacy until recently. Might be because the cowboys in my head are O Henry stories, rather than movies, and they're right around the turn of the century: a generation and a half too young for a direct Civil War connection.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:55 AM
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307: Ok, well, if Firefly counts as a genre Western then Blazing Saddles does, too. So, it's possible to make a non-racist, non-pernicious Western, right?


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:56 AM
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Google isn't helping me confirm the existence of the thing I'm remembering in 302. Maybe I hallucinated it? It can't actually be a thing that hundreds of people come every night to eat dinner while watching a show about the awesomeness of good ol' Southern plantation life, can it?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:56 AM
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I never drew the connection until this thread. OTOH, I can't imagine watching a whole Western movie.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:57 AM
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313: As hard as it is to believe, Myrtle Beach does exist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:58 AM
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312: Butch and Sundance is mostly okay, right? I haven't seen it in forever, but I don't recall any Civil War linkage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:00 AM
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Good thing I previewed before making the joke in 315, nearly word for word.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:01 AM
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I don't think a general link between westerns and the civil war is obvious, but in the case of Jesse James I think it is at the least hard to avoid.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:01 AM
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The website of Dixie Stampede dinner theater in Myrtle Beach has been replaced by a pirate-themed dinner theater.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:02 AM
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319: Oh, that must have been it! Well, at least pirates were all on the right side of history.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:04 AM
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Heavens Gate. Those weren't southern gentlefolk doing all that waltzing.

I can't believe you people didn't get the Jesse James myth right. Go to his boyhood home, and pop into the visitor center.

(Should we be ashamed, as a people, that JJ's home is better attended and gift-shopped than Albert Gallatin's mansion? Yes, if we were capable of embarrassment over anything at all.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:04 AM
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There was some Western sitcom when I was in high school (grade school?) where the theme song was about how the hero was a Civil War vet who went out West to be a sheriff. I think I assumed he was a Union vet, because it didn't occur to me that we could be meant to root for a bumblingly endearing Confederate, but I don't recall anything nailing it down one way or the other.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:05 AM
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo93vvXPM8s

(Parsi, when you show up, this is the roller skating dance from HG. Posted for HG, but maybe you'll like it too.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:08 AM
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321.3. Damn cheese-with-holes-in-it-eating surrender monkey.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:08 AM
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My vague recollection from reading Civil War history years ago is that the war in Missouri was especially nasty.

Maybe also partly because it was a border state and had people with sympathies for and fighting on both sides. This was still something that existed in popular memory when I was a kid. My grandfather and another guy around his age always joked about the feud between their families, becausen their grandfathers had fought a duel over some disagreement related to the war.

There was also a marked fascination with slavery among county historical society types. (I went on lots of county history tours as a kid.) In the mid-19th century most of the people in my county were small-time farmers, so there weren't that many slaves, but places where the residents did have them seemed to be of special interest. I remember one tour where we saw the three (three! said with pride!) sites in the county of pits where slaves had stomped clay for bricks.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:10 AM
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323: They had roller skates back then? In 1980?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:11 AM
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OTOH, I can't imagine watching a whole Western movie.

I recommend starting with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne both basically play themselves, and it is awesome.



Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:13 AM
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@322

Best of the West is what I believe you're recalling.

He was a former Union soldier.

I remember this because his wife was a former southern belle and one of the jokes involved how they met: she was reminiscing about it and recalled how handsome he looked in his uniform as he was burning her family's plantation to the ground.

I have no idea why I remember any of this. I must have been about 8 years old when I saw it.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:14 AM
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I recommend closing tags.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:14 AM
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I recommend starting with Blazing Saddles which is one of the best movies ever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:14 AM
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That's it. I don't actually recall the show, just the theme song.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:15 AM
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299: Dude. There's an episode of Firefly where their mission is to bring herds of actual cattle from one moon to another. Firefly was really unambiguously the Western genre in space (in fact arguably too literally, which I'm guessing was what got it cancelled).

Well, yeah. The whole schtick is "Western in space". There's a train heist episode. There's a cattle-rustling episode. There's even a prostitutes with a heart of gold episode (literally called Heart of Gold). But that doesn't make it a "genre Western", any more than, say, High Plains Drifter is.



Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:15 AM
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"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:16 AM
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Missouri had both the most intense guerilla fighting during the war and (perhaps unsurprisingly) the longest-running guerrilla fighting after the war. Not to mention the Bleeding Kansas guerilla fighting before the war. Jesse and Frank James were, in reality, basically pro-Southern outlaw terrorists opposed to reconstruction.

I persist, though, in thinking that outside people from in-state or who have been to the Jesse James visitors' center, that the broad myth of James doesn't have much to do with the Confederacy and doesn't have much to do with lost-causism. This is the Wikipedia summary of the biggest Jesse James film (from the same year as the GWTW film) and I think gets the (totally bogus) popular legend about right. Nothing at all to do with the Confederacy:

A railroad worker named Barshee (Brian Donlevy) forces farmers to give up the land the railroad was going to go through, giving them $1 per acre (much less than fair price) for it. When they come to Jesse's home, Jesse (Tyrone Power) tells Barshee that his mother Mrs. Samuels (Jane Darwell) is the farm's owner. Barshee repeatedly tries to force her into selling, until her other son Frank James (Henry Fonda) gets involved. Frank fights and easily beats Barshee, but Barshee's men get involved and Jesse shoots him in the hand. When arrest warrants are issued for Frank and Jesse, Major A. Rufus Cobb (Henry Hull) editor in nearby Liberty, Missouri and uncle of Zerelda (Zee) Cobb (Nancy Kelly), Jesse's lover, quickly comes to tell them to leave. Frank and Jesse learn that Barshee is responsible for the death of their mother and Jesse kills him in revenge. This begins Frank and Jesse's career as outlaws. Three years later, with a $5000 on his head, Jesse marries Zee and turns himself in, having been promised a light sentence by Marshall Will Wright (Randolph Scott). But the judge supersedes Marshall Wright's recommendation and Jesse is given a stiff sentence. So Frank breaks Jesse out of jail but is captured in the process. Jesse continues his life of crime and eventually Zee leaves him, taking their son Jesse Jr. Years later, a wounded Jesse returns home and Zee joins him in the belief that they will escape to California. Meanwhile, Frank has escaped and sends Bob Ford (John Carradine) to Jesse with a message. But Bob Ford betrays and kills Jesse instead.

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:18 AM
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330. But what would you make of it if you'd never seen any other westerns first?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:19 AM
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335: You'd assume Mel Brooks inspired John Ford.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:21 AM
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I do love the Pogues version of the song. Come to think, I always sang right past "He robbed, the Union, trains" without thinking about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:22 AM
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335: I am aware of all Western traditions.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:23 AM
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305: James himself tended to be cleansed of his Confederate associations on the silver screen until more recently. But the many characters inspired by him (Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, Wade Hatton in Dodge City, Jim McWade in The Fabulous Texan, Blayde Hollister in Dallas, and many others besides) were not. Probably the most prominent example -- the one that finally came out and celebrated the Confederate bushwhacker cause in Missouri -- was The Outlaw Josey Wales, a recognizable (though more humourless) ancestor of Mal Reynolds. (That movie was based on a novel written by a Klansman, no less!)

312: Blazing Saddles is of course a spoof in a way that Firefly actually isn't. But yes, of course it's possible to make a non-racist, non-pernicious Wester, that's why I'm surprised that Whedon took the opposite course.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:23 AM
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the broad myth of James doesn't have much to do with the Confederacy and doesn't have much to do with lost-causism

Oh, I don't dispute this. I think the continuation of the Jesse James mythos in its particular form in Missouri has as much to do with tourism as anything else. There are bunches of caves in Missouri, and most of them advertise having (maybe probably okay we don't really know but wouldn't it been cool) been a hideout for the James gang at some point.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:23 AM
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325: Not only was it a border state, but it was the furthest west of them (Kansas often isn't counted as it wasn't a slave state), and so had the least representation from either of the eastern governments. Hence the nasty militia fighting.

With regard to Jefferson, my perception is that in his later years (1820's), his views shifted with the times and he started to believe that slavery was a moral good that had to be upheld. I don't know if I find that more or less abhorrent than his hypocrisy of his younger years.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:24 AM
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My mother was always very proud of the fact that her family lineage contained both (1) two brothers who were close associates of Jesse James, and (2) several people instrumental in founding local chapters of the KKK. I'm not sure if that's first wave or second wave KKK. In her telling, it was "before the Klan became a racist organization," back when it had noble goals like "protecting white woman", instead of just opposing civil rights. (No one needs to explain to me the historical revisionism contained in this sentiment, okay, thanks.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:27 AM
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342: Yowzuh.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:28 AM
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Should we be ashamed, as a people, that JJ's home is better attended and gift-shopped than Albert Gallatin's mansion?

Also, James had the bigger river to his name.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:29 AM
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God, Firefly sucked. I despise the pieties of the Nerdist Church generally (Jesus Space Hooker Christ), but "Banter and a fantasy of being beaten up by a little slip of a girl make a story!" is pernicious. I was surprised Whedon didn't recast Fiona Apple as Captain America for The Avengers.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:29 AM
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As a non-Missourian, my main exposure to the Jesse James myth is Zevon's "Frank and Jesse James". I find it much less ironic and more sympathetic than his other songs about gunmen, usually mercenaries (e.g. Roland), but I'm probably missing something.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:29 AM
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I despise the pieties of the Nerdist Church generally

And yet somehow you watch it all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:30 AM
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(Actually, I think in her telling, it was just "protecting women," not "protecting white women", but I think everyone knows that that meant.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:30 AM
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The Outlaw Josey Wales is pretty explicitly pro-confederate (and as you say was written by a Klansman), which is perhaps weird since it came out in the 1970s. I have a vague sense that there was a brief unreflective thing in the 70s where somehow being a confederate soldier signaled an outlaw/rebel/whatever without necessarily tying into the Klan or explicit racism or the more traditional lost cause myth, but maybe that's wrong and in any case needs some careful unpacking.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:34 AM
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What were the dates on Dukes of Hazzard? Right around '80-81 or so? Calling the car the General Lee with a Confederate flag on it clearly wasn't supposed to be offputting, which seems weird now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:37 AM
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243 was dumb and I retract it, grateful for the list of counterexamples. Beamish, Blazing Saddles seems like an obvious comic criticism of the genre to me -- the previously heroic figures make fools of themselves and everyone notices. Mal's always right and the camera enforces that. It doesn't look like that to you?

Confederate-specific interpretation of the Reavers: `you might believe those people can be made good, but really most of them will just starve to death and some of them will become murderous savages in the wilderness'.

And `Chinese for the cursing' is weak -- skiffy has been making up excellent swears for yonks. And the food, and some of the music and clothes... and the total lack of Chinese people is a little odd in itself. But it does point to an alternate framing in which the Han had enslaved other people and our heroes are from the latter class. That wouldn't draw juice from the assholes-of-history's demand for automatic respect, though. (Which it should -- it's clearly harder to free yourself than to maintain power -- but assholism has different reasons.)

I do wonder why I like Firefly so much when I dislike it so much. Original assholism, probably.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:40 AM
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Always seemed to me like Josey Wales came out of the conservative side of the era. It was pretty perfectly Nixonian: it appealed to the conservative sense of insurgency, identified itself openly with Southern lost cause mythology while leaving the details of what that meant only tacitly implied, but constructed its main character in such a way that mainstream society could swallow him without triggering its gag reflex.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:42 AM
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The Outlaw Josey Wales is pretty explicitly pro-confederate (and as you say was written by a Klansman), which is perhaps weird since it came out in the 1970s. I have a vague sense that there was a brief unreflective thing in the 70s where somehow being a confederate soldier signaled an outlaw/rebel/whatever without necessarily tying into the Klan or explicit racism or the more traditional lost cause myth, but maybe that's wrong and in any case needs some careful unpacking.

It's not so much explicitly pro-Confederate as explicitly anti-Union and in tune with an awful lot of Confederate apologism ("just fighting to defend their homes" etc).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:45 AM
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God, Firefly sucked. I despise the pieties of the Nerdist Church generally (Jesus Space Hooker Christ), but "Banter and a fantasy of being beaten up by a little slip of a girl make a story!" is pernicious. I was surprised Whedon didn't recast Fiona Apple as Captain America for The Avengers.

I certainly enjoyed Buffy (at least until the last season), but I've never quite understood the whole "church of Whedon" phenomenon.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:46 AM
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351.last: The thing is, I quite loved Whedon's characters and the chemistry between them (and the acting that went into them). There are some really great moments in what little of the series got made.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:47 AM
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... Continuing with original-assholism, Confederate revisionism in the 1970s could be the North's realization that this Civil Rights thing meant facing up to or giving up on racism and, whoo, we didn't sign up for that, really, where's our automatic reeee-speck?

there was a bubble element which required continual expansion [of slavery] into the territories for values not to collapse.

This is a standard in soil-centered history; along with the desire to sell more slaves, plantation farming wore out the soil very fast and needed to keep moving. I can't remember if Montgomery uses it as an example in _Dirt_, but he does use the late Roman empire, which also used intercontinental slavery to make market profits faster than their ag could renew the soil. How morally lucky for us that we have fossil fuel (and our lovely cars instead of white horses).

I don't have it with me, but I think Anne Firor Scott's The Southern Lady has a collection of diaries that cover a whole range of reaction to the crazy butthurt, from entering fully into it to explicitly regarding racism and sexism as mutually reinforcing and unjust. My family's diaries include a SOuthern woman who is miserable and doesn't say much about anything political, and a Northern woman whose father made her move back to his farm to work while her husband was off fighting for the Union; then he put her children out in town, where they died of starvation and smallpox the day before her husband got back. We can't tell if the father's motive was greed, politics, sex, or pride, but wow she hated him.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:49 AM
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Obviously, Blazing Saddles is different in a bunch of ways from Firefly. I was just reacting to the thesis that there couldn't be a non-pernicious western. If Mal is always right, that might be a different reason not to like Firefly. (Sherlock Holmes is always right, but nobody minds about that.)


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:50 AM
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Yeah, I don't think there's much to explain. While Whedon didn't hang the moon, he's consistently cleverer and more entertaining than most of the competition. Clever and entertaining is hard enough to find that people get attached.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:50 AM
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I completely don't buy the rebels = Confederates theory of Firefly. Yeah, there's a union of some planets that other planets don't want to belong to. So? The central planets are depicted as extremely hierarchical, the upper classes appear to have more rigid gender roles and more rules about honor, and one rich woman is said to have slaves.

If anything, the parallel in American history is the romantic notion of the frontier (though one that's explicitly void of any indigenous populations) and doing for oneself. What's the states' rights issue the rebels are supposedly fighting for?

The lack of Chinese characters, on the other hand, is absurd.

Firefly was really unambiguously the Western genre in space (in fact arguably too literally, which I'm guessing was what got it cancelled).

It got cancelled because Fox fucked it up by showing the episodes out of order and at random times. Maybe it wouldn't have lasted anyway, but Fox didn't even try to build an audience for it. It never made sense to me, given the fanaticism Whedon inspires and the fact that his fans were clamoring for something new after Buffy and Angel.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:51 AM
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I completely don't buy the rebels = Confederates theory of Firefly.

No, come on. It's not subtle at all. There could be an argument that it's really not racist, because the slavery element is taken out of it, so the Browncoats actually are the fantasy Confederacy that were fighting for 'their rights' rather than for slavery, but everything lines up too well for the Browncoats not to be the Confederacy at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:54 AM
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... a past in which there are no Ancient Romans but the educated classes communicate exclusively in Latin?

Wait, didn't a lot of the ancient Roman educated classes communicate in even ancienter Greek?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:55 AM
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I've never seen Firefly, or to my knowledge anything by Whedon, but this theory doesn't sound any more convincing that arguing that a rebels = Confederates theory of Star Wars.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:55 AM
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What's the states' rights issue the rebels are supposedly fighting for?

I think the phrasing I recall from the show is the right to be left alone.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:57 AM
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Which is a phrasing that comes up in the context of the Confederacy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:58 AM
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Wait, didn't a lot of the ancient Roman educated classes communicate in even ancienter Greek?

Indeed. If you can speak a foreign language while half a dozen upper class assholes are sticking knives in you (καὶ σὺ τέκνον;), I reckon you're pretty fluent in it. But I meant the mediaeval west.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:59 AM
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I was surprised Whedon didn't recast Fiona Apple as Captain America for The Avengers.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I love you.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:00 AM
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359: The Gilded Age Union was no egalitarian paradise. Mal grew up on a farm run by his mother, with `forty hands', I think, and knows cotillion dances (which can't, IME, be effectively back-led). Luke, on the other hand, really is a hick.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:02 AM
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I think the phrasing I recall from the show is the right to be left alone.

Right, which I read as "don't tread on me."

everything lines up too well for the Browncoats not to be the Confederacy at all

I honestly don't get this. What is it that lines up other than a rebellion against a union of states/planets?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:02 AM
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The lack of Chinese characters, on the other hand, is absurd.

There are some on one of Jayne's shirts.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:05 AM
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364: It's also a bit of a libertarian trope.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:05 AM
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First, it's unambiguously an American West Western, right? So the characters are, structurally, Americans in the last half of the nineteenth century. Which makes the Civil War they just got through our Civil War, which makes the less industrialized, losing side our losing side.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:06 AM
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359: I completely don't buy the rebels = Confederates theory of Firefly.

The thing about lost cause mythology is that the Confederates don't think they = the Confederates. Whedon was, I think, trying to appropriate the American Western template in a more neutral way. I just don't think it really worked. The myth you get in trying to portray sanitized American rebs, in space or otherwise, is just not that different from the actual sanitization by the real American rebs of their own myth.

It got cancelled because Fox fucked it up by showing the episodes out of order and at random times.

That too. Although the order of the episodes didn't really matter all that much.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:06 AM
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371+: also, look at the dry scrub they're in: less than twenty inches of rain a year, which is `the West' for the US. (When you get to the coast the waters grow sweet: it is the utter East, Reepicheep.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:18 AM
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The thing about lost cause mythology is that the Confederates don't think they = the Confederates.

I don't understand this.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:19 AM
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The lack of Chinese characters, on the other hand, is absurd.

There's a fair number of Chinese characters in Firefly, actually. Two of the main characters are presumably of part-Chinese descent, there are a couple of Chinese-looking or anyway East Asian-looking minor characters (like the local hood in "War Stories") and quite a few Chinese faces in the backgrounds of crowd scenes.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:22 AM
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I don't understand this.

It gets back to the whole "It's not about slavery why does everyone keep talking about slavery just shut up about slavery already!" phenomenon.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:22 AM
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(What would have been more interesting, and less dubious? Was if Whedon had gone in the opposite direction from sanitization and provided a real, meaty and complicated moral issue for his civil war. It wouldn't have to be slavery per se, that's the beauty of having a skiffy premise to work with: it could be android or AI rights, conflicts over genetic engineering, balancing the rights of alien organisms vs. those of human settlers... any number of things. He wouldn't have had even to make his Browncoats as morally compromised as the real rebs: just potentially on the losing side of a moral argument more ambiguous than "ought Big Government to have the right to tell you how to live your life"?)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:22 AM
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374: I think that means that people rooting for the Lost Cause-noble hero-underdog Confederates don't think of their heroes as the Brown Sugar-slave-whipping Confederates.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:22 AM
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(I realize that 371 began with "First", as if I had more of the argument to come. Come to think of it, I don't, really. Except an unsupported belief that "Browncoat" is cognate with "Butternut" as a term for Confederate soldier. But I don't think I'm going to persuade anyone with that.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:24 AM
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I recommend starting with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne both basically play themselves, and it is awesome.

No, if that was true, Jimmy Stewart would be playing the stone-cold killer and John Wayne would be the cowardly one. Remember which one spent the war making movies in Hollywood and which one spent it flying B-24s over Nazi Germany.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:25 AM
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374: Lost cause mythology is specifically about the losing Confederates reinventing themselves as defenders of something other than slavery, as being something other than the historical Confederates. Whole thread's about this topic, right?


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:26 AM
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(Sorry, that last was a bit pissy.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:27 AM
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if that was true, Jimmy Stewart would be playing the stone-cold killer and John Wayne would be the cowardly one

That is true, and I was imprecise. They're not playing their real-life selves, they're playing the movie selves.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:30 AM
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350 What were the dates on Dukes of Hazzard? Right around '80-81 or so?

It's still around, right? There was a movie sometime in the recent past. My cousin's 3- or 4-year-old kid watches it twice a day and talks about nothing else, or at least did as of last Christmas, when they also bought him the DVDs of the old show.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:31 AM
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Further to 371: You could have made an American West Western that didn't hark back to the Civil War -- I mentioned O Henry short stories, a lot of which are turn of the century Westerns, with characters who either grew up on ranches out West or who wandered West from northeastern cities. Mal and the rest could have been just criminals with a Robin Hood anti-authoritarian streak.

But once your setup is a post-Civil War American Western, I think you're locked into to the structure that sets up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:32 AM
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381, 378, 376; that makes sense, I'm just too aware of people who are no longer pretending they're against slavery and always would have been. Possibly the toxic path was,

'Confederacy was fighting for something other than slavery'+'Confederacy was dashing and heroic and admirable'

through

'Confederacy was admirable'+'oh, I guess they were fighting for slavery'

to

'so I guess slavery was OK'.

When I was about nine one of my grandfathers reminded me that I'm 'a United States Citizen by birth and a Southerner by the grace of God', under a Confederate flag on public property. My relatives are truly decent and nice people personally, but those grandparents claimed not to believe that the Confederates were basically wrong about anything. I've never known how deep that went (I couldn't interrogate my grandparents even though I'm a half-Yankee liberal barbarian.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:37 AM
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We have a group of people who regularly march around the Virginia Museum for Fine Arts bc the museum took down the Confederate Flag. They are crazy dedicated. always freaking marching.

To be fair, some context:

" land on which the VMFA sits was once a camp for Confederate veterans, known as Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1, also known as the "Old Soldiers' Home." The camp was formed in 1884 as a home for needy, wounded, and infirm Confederate veterans after the war. It was purchased and maintained by donations from their fellow veterans, both Union and Confederate. "

http://rvanews.com/features/the-vmfa%E2%80%99s-confederate-flag-problem/52991


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:39 AM
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I really need to get back to work, so I'll make this my last comment for a while: I can see how LB & Castock's take is a reading of Firefly; I just don't think it's the reading or even the most plausible one. American veneration of the underdog didn't begin or end with the Civil War.

On preview:

Mal and the rest could have been just criminals with a Robin Hood anti-authoritarian streak.

It's only Mal & Zoe who fought in the war; the rest are criminals, refugees, or adventure seekers.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:41 AM
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386: True, it's fair to say that there's some doublethink going on. It's much the same with a lot of historical revisionism carried out to obfuscate things that look shameful by the lights of the winning side, but that the losing side hasn't really given up.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:42 AM
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388: mm, okay, but the other obvious USian parallel for Firefly would be the Whiskey Rebellion, Albion's demon seed, treaty-breaking Allegheny-crossing periphery, and I don't want to venerate them either. (Also, if we go back that early, the high-tech Alliance/extraction ag rebs parallel doesn't work as well.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:47 AM
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388.1: But you're just wrong. It's very unambiguously the most plausible one, taking together not only the unmissable cues in the series itself but also Whedon's statements about it:

What was your inspiration for Firefly?

I'm interested in history and I was reading about the American Civil War. I'm also interested in Westerns, the frontier life of the time and science fiction. I hadn't seen a combination of those things.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:50 AM
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Good discussion, guys. Now do Half-Made World, per 303.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:52 AM
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391: Is there an author in this class war?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:53 AM
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377: Here's the slippery slope to fanfic and pixel-stained technopeasantism... potentially on the losing side of a moral argument more ambiguous than "ought Big Government to have the right to tell you how to live your life"?

What if the treatment to make people good actually worked on nearly everybody, for instance? With a fraction of Reavers? The opponents could themselves be divided by grounds of philosophical opposition ('would be ok if it worked' and 'it's not real virtue if it's engineered', for instance).


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 10:00 AM
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Growing up I watched most of the classic westerns and was completely unaware of the confederate stuff. Even if it was mentioned, for a kid who had never had US history at school, it was irrelevant background stuff. On the other hand, when I read GWTW at age twelve or thirteen I was a bit squicked out, mostly by how I found myself 'rooting' for the asshole slaveowners.

But Americans shouldn't feel so bad. Poland's most popular piece of canonical prose is a trilogy by Henryk Sienkiewicz set during the seventeenth century Cossack rebellion in the Ukraine. Our heroes are the Polish nobility, including one presented as a paragon of proper values who likes to line the roads with screaming impaled serfs.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 11:37 AM
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Serfs up.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 11:39 AM
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Can't make an omelet without impaling a few serfs.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 11:44 AM
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Well, not a tasty omelet anyway.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:11 PM
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Whedon was obviously playing around with westerns and reintepreting the Civil War, but I don't think it's read as easily as promoting a sanitized version of the actual Civil War. At least I don't think one is meant to (or does) come away thinking "The Independents were right about the Alliance being evil fascists, so the Civil War was about states' rights, not slavery!" The show's just not that deep; it imports a lot of common lost cause-ish tropes, but it doesn't really export anything. Very different, in other words, than Gone With the Wind.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:18 PM
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I'm sorry to have missed the Firefly discussion.

Now, what do we make of the frontier fantasy in Asimov's Foundation?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:20 PM
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We could become Byzantines who fled their capital for a provisional one after the Venetians occupied it in 1204.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:26 PM
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399: "you can't remake humans to be virtuous, and therefore funding Head Start is WRONG!"

Minivet probably has depressing stats on block grants & state control of health services.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:26 PM
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Is Foundation a good example of the influence of the Western of SF? For classic era SF I'd think all the plucky asteroid belt miners oppressed by both the big corps and Terra would be where you see it. Or the 'colonists on alien planet, dealing with the primitive aliens', or for a more modern version something like KSR's Mars trilogy.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:30 PM
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399"so the Civil War was about states' rights, not slavery!"

The States' right of slavery? States rights andslavery? Do we start again?

400.2:IIRC, we are always rooting for Trantor.

Stars Like Dust might be a little more complicated, but Asimov was never anything if not a New Yorker.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:33 PM
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Hellburners as a film would rock.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:34 PM
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Foundation = Toynbee, Cities in Flight = Spengler, even with a table at the back with Blish's additions

Empire & Frontier, Core and periphery, privileged and subaltern...all these things will just confuse the "All and only about slavery then now and forever amen" narrative. Ban Wallerstein.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:38 PM
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At the beginning of Foundation are we really rooting for Trantor? I was always hoping they'd be viciously demonstrated the decadence of their ways. (Of course, I was a periphery-dwelling puritan when I last read Foundation.)


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:40 PM
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I love Cities in Flight. (As long as I can hold my breath and not think about sexism, but I'm pretty good at that.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:43 PM
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Foundation = Toynbee, Cities in Flight = Spengler

Speaking of links between SF and history/philosophy have I made the argument here that Gate To Women's County presents a government which hews pretty closely to Plato's vision in The Republic?

I haven't read the book in a while, but the things that struck me were (a) the emphasis on a deliberately-created foundation myth and (b) the city-state which was relatively spartan but which had secret high-technology which it could use to defend itself against numerically superior neighbors. I think there was also a caste of philosopher-queens, but I don't remember the details of that.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:50 PM
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407:It has probably been 40+ years for me. Middle Ages was the model. I remember the preservative "monks," traveling merchants...was the Mule a charismatic populist on the periphery? Huey Long?

There is a link way up there to a WaPo review of The Union War that contains an extended quote from Gallagher, and a quote from Daniel Webster that ties in to my half-assed studies of Imperialism.

Concepts of nation, not necessarily universal rights as much as a paternalism, manifest destiny, I do in places safer than this try to connect the American Civil War to the rest of the 19th century, Japan, Meiji, and the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere...but honestly American Exceptionalism just makes it impossible.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 12:51 PM
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399: but I don't think it's read as easily as promoting a sanitized version of the actual Civil War.

Technically, it reads as projecting a relatively workaday sanitization of the Civil War into space. That Whedon did not think too deeply about the possible implications is quite obvious -- the many critics who lauded The Outlaw Josey Wales surely didn't think of themselves as promoting Klan propaganda either -- but it just doesn't make the implications any less unfortunate.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 2:07 PM
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Hellburners as a film would rock.

You mean Hellburner the C.J. Cherryh book? No one would understand what happens in it well enough to write a script based on it!

(Every so often I think I should try reading Cherryh again, and then I get 20 pages in and realize I have no idea what's going on and give up again.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 2:33 PM
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I keep thinking that Whedon must have known what he was doing with Firefly, and was doing it on purpose, for some reason I can't figure out.

He has to be aware of the fact that he is creating a fictional world where confederate propaganda and western racist myths are true, because he goes so far out of his way to transfer those exact elements into space. If he had just wanted to make a space cowboy show, he would have made something that looks like parts of Star Wars or any other space cowboy show.

He couldn't just be setting the Outlaw Josie Wales in space because he thought the movie was cool, and would remain cool in space. He has to be aware of how morally problematic it is.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 2:39 PM
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To sell soap?

Do you think he paid any commercial or social price for this creative choice?


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 2:47 PM
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Don't you think it could just have been boneheaded? "Man, the noble Confederate vet fighting the Man out West is such a great structure for a story, but it's all morally compromised in the real world because of slavery. Hey, if I make it SF, I can peel out the slavery, keep the awesome structure with all the great cultural resonance, but it's not wrong because there's no slavery in the universe I'm writing about!" That seems like a very natural, albeit dopey, way to think.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 2:47 PM
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I'm sure I'm wrong, but I've never known Whedon to be a writer of especially complicated thematic material. I mean, I love Buffy. And I like almost everything else Whedon has done. But I don't really think of him as being very deep. All of which leads me to think that LB gets it right: space Western + Civil War tropes = cool!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 2:53 PM
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I can't believe I (sort of) just insulted Joss Whedon on the Internet. I'm in huge trouble, aren't I?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 2:54 PM
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418

I agree with 415 (except that it's made clear there is slavery in the Firefly universe, but the war wasn't about that).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:00 PM
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416 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:09 PM
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Nothing of interest, just a few data points:

IIRC, I learned that James was a Confederate only by reading McCullough's Truman book, which mentioned it as background for MO at the time of Harry's birth. That ex-Confederate hero was/is a stock Western trope is very recent news to me, but I didn't grow up on Westerns*. ISTM that, if you pay any attention to Westerns, you couldn't miss it, and it's gross. But if you don't pay attention, it's easy to miss - "Dillinger in the West" seems very apt to me.

I've never watched or read GWTW, and I always thought the very idea was gross. I didn't grow up with a pure "Northerners as abolitionist heroes" view, but I certainly viewed Confederates as in a similar category to Nazis - unambiguously fighting on the side of wrong (this is when I was pretty young). I'm not sure my HS education was quite as weaselly about causes as what LB describes, but it was certainly obfuscatory about how central slavery was to CSA self-identity.

Netflix keeps telling me to watch Firefly, but it never appealed to me (partly for geek-piety reasons), and I'm finding lots of support for that decision in this thread.

I was willing to give Hell On Wheels a shot, but tuned out pretty soon after the hero's Rebel bona fides were established. F him and anyone who'd treat as sub-monstrous.

* just watched Once Upon A Time... recently, and it's super-slow at the start, but visually stunning (not just scenery, either) throughout, and very rewarding. Merits the plaudits, IMO.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:16 PM
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Cities in Flight! Not sure if it stands up, but when I was 11 I loved it.

I am sure I've linked this before; this this advertisement had me shouting "Yes!!!" when it came out in (yikes) 1983.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:20 PM
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412; Yes! And Heavy Time, except it's too grim to be popular. Really? I love these, I don't find Hellburner harder to read than the William Gibson early short stories (the cyberpunk Gibson, just to nail down my lowbrowitude. And Hellburner is cyberpunk, since a big issue is how being competent at near-c fly-by-wire depends on traits that make one almost incapable of normal life).

I take issue with 416's eliding `complicated' and `deep'. Giles betraying Buffy because the power structure requires that Slayers who reach adulthood be slapped down is to the bone. (My issues, let me show you them.) OTOH, the ?theology? is complicated and shallow for plot-friendly reasons, like Rowling's magic.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:23 PM
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Oh look, Cherryh is selling those two books directly, no DRM for the reader, all profits to the author.

(Drop-shadow purple fonts. Why?)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:27 PM
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The Confederate stuff is basically all I've ever heard about Firefly. I've really tried to like westerns and I'll watch them every now and then, but I've never been able to get into the genre (or even play the role of "I prefer genre criticism" back when I was a semi-academic).


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:31 PM
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I take issue with 416's eliding `complicated' and `deep'.

Assuming you mean conflating rather than eliding, I think that's a fair corrective. Although, wait, you're saying that Buffy might not have been complicated but it was sometimes deep, right? Because I agree with that and would accept such a statement as a friendly amendment to my slur of Whedon.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:32 PM
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Buffy might not have been complicated but it was sometimes deep

Comity!


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:35 PM
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I'd like to say, for the record, that there was no bigger fan of Buffy than I. I organized my life around that show (and, to a lesser extent, 90210) for several years. I was (and am!) pathetic.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:37 PM
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Shorter VW: don't hate me, Internets!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:38 PM
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I couldn't get past the point where the vampire slayer and the vampire started a relationship. That was, what, season 1?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:39 PM
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I'd like to say, for the record, that there was no bigger fan of Buffy than I.

I never did get the love for that show. I tried watching a few episodes and couldn't get into it at all.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:40 PM
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429. But the vampire had a soul, f.a.

(Unless you mean the other vampire, but that was a lot later.)


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:44 PM
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432

and, to a lesser extent, 90210

Tell me more.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:47 PM
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The other vampire had an awesome fake English accent, so.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:47 PM
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There were other vampires?

(Actually, I may have seen a later episode long after I stopped watching regularly. I seem to remember there being a lot more characters at that point. Most of my history grad school friends loved that show.)


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:48 PM
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432: what would you like to know? As with Buffy, I started watching from the show's premiere and never missed an episode. It was, like the harvest for Americans of yore, a way for me to organize my calendar, a ritual, a cultural touchstone.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:49 PM
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I've said too much.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:49 PM
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Brenda or Kelly, vw?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:50 PM
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This is a safe space, right?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:50 PM
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No one here would mock you, vw.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:51 PM
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437: Dylan, obviously.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:51 PM
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Let's strenuously avoid the question of whether or not R. Halford had a Jennie Garth obsession. Well, let me just say that I SO MUCH SO MUCH wish to there was more to my story about being in an elevator with Jennie Garth than "I was in an elevator once with Jennie Garth."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:52 PM
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441 to 438.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:52 PM
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Truth be told, I did not find the women of 90210 to be nearly as hottt as would have been ideal.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:53 PM
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Not that I'm judging, Halford.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:54 PM
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Shorter 443: I watched for the stories.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:54 PM
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Someone with knowledge told me that there was a guy who was long time obsessively stalking James Eckhouse (the actor who played Brenda and Brandon's dad).

It would be irresponsible not to speculate that the stalker was Von Wafer.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 3:57 PM
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I would have all of you know that my sweetie was an extra on 90210.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:02 PM
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I remember being in some conversation back when 90210 was a big deal where someone claimed that anybody who denied watching that show was just too embarrassed to admit they watched it. When I said I didn't watch it, a guy asked me to name a character. I answered, "Uh, Kelly?" and the guy's response was a leering sort of "Ohh, yeah."

And then I found five more cable channels on which to watch shows other than 90210.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:03 PM
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You're doing us Whedon fans no favors with this, VDub.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:03 PM
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447: I knew I liked that guy. (Which episode? I ask for academic purposes only, of course.)


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:05 PM
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449: I've already unmasked myself as a Whedon apostate. There's no reason to cast me out.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:06 PM
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He reports that it was during the college years and shot on the Occidental campus. He was one of a hundred extras for an outdoor scene. He further reports that Brandon shoots his scenes on a stepstool to disguise his shortness.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:10 PM
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I didn't watch during the college years. Because I'm a purist.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:11 PM
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That's probably why you didn't recognize my boyfriend when you met him.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:13 PM
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I pretended not to recognize him to put him at his ease. I know how uncomfortable all the fanboys make him.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:15 PM
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415, 416, etc.: Right. There's a great deal of over-thinking going on, nothing deep here, move along.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:16 PM
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space Western + Civil War tropes = cool!

This is pretty much an executive summary of TNC's blog.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:20 PM
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456:Mebbe. I also set my schedule by Buffy (and Angel) and have watched everything Whedon produced.

Including Dollhouse

Now Dollhouse tends to lead people to think Whedon is an unrepentant asshole, probably icky; subtle and deep in a way we cannot quite understand; or trying and failing to be S&D. Or something. Firefly and Dollhouse, if icky, should inspire us to perhaps take another look at Buffy & Angel?

Question for the Firefly haters, if any have watched the show, or have an idea of the show?

Firefly was unfinished. Is there a trajectory, a series long arc that Whedon could have taken Mal and the Lost Cause parallels along that could possibly have redeemed it? Could Mal have learned "X" and changed that would have been an ironic commentary on Westerns and the Lost Cause mythos?

Is there any evidence, in the show or in Serenity?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:30 PM
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||

Swimming lessons went so badly that Jammies said "I'm going to go lay down" and shut the bedroom door. I've never known him to be that mad in the whole time I've known him! What on earth did Hawaii do?

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:33 PM
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And no, I never watched, not once, 90210 or Dawson's Creek. Ewwww...

not enough flying body parts.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:33 PM
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Possibly Jammies is mad at an insensitive teacher and not Hawaii?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:39 PM
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Hawaii wouldn't get in the water, so they left early. Independently, he has a horrible headache. Mystery solved.


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 4:59 PM
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Could Mal have learned "X" and changed that would have been an ironic commentary on Westerns and the Lost Cause mythos?

I can only think that Inara (the professional Companion, i.e. space hooker) could have a bridged a gap, but it would have taken a hell of a lot of probably impossible contortions, essentially changing the show entirely, to make it work. I very much doubt the show wanted to do that.

I'm with LB's 415: the setup was just boneheaded on Whedon's part. The Whedon remarks quoted in 391 are kind of funny: Never seen a combination of Westerns and frontier life and science fiction before, eh?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:10 PM
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458: I doubt the American Civil War was the first time the losers went wandering off to survive the best way they could on the fringes of empire. There were no doubt Carthaginians named Malcolm out there, armed with whatever beat to hell sword they could salvage. Whedon *could* have made links to the Unpleasantness Between the States more explicit but didn't, nor do I see where he had to or necessarily should have.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:18 PM
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To carry on: never seen a show featuring a rag-tag bunch of fugitives in a bucket-of-bolts ship running from a massively organized, mechanized, authoritarian, soulless other. With horses! Heh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:19 PM
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465: You can see it for real in Afghanistan. The MOMASO hasn't been doing all that well.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:37 PM
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just watched Once Upon A Time... recently, and it's super-slow at the start,

Is it ever! I love the way the scene of the guys who brought two too many horses waiting at the station drags out forever.


but visually stunning (not just scenery, either) throughout

I like Claudia Cardinale too.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 5:42 PM
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Despite my earlier comments Once Upon a Time in the West was one of my favorite movies for a long time and I've studiously avoided watching the whole thing since then. Visually, there are lots of scenes I like and would watch again.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:01 PM
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464: The Mesapotamians wouldn't have been wearing high-waisted butternut trousers and gunbelts while holding up trains. (Oh look, high-waisted pants. See also Jylie Kirian's _Black and White_.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:32 PM
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What on earth did Hawaii do?

Try to drown him, obviously.

Mystery solved.

Yes, and then he "fell down the stairs." OPEN YOUR EYES, WOMAN!!!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:57 PM
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467.last: Well, yes. But actually, I wasn't really intending that. I meant the way that scenes were composed.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 6:58 PM
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I like 123.

Can someone please explain, if possible, the sources of/reasons for the reluctance to cite slavery as a cause? I don't know who writes these standardized test questions, but: they can't all be Confederate sympathizers, surely? Is this about emphasizing immediate, direct, reducible-to-factoid causes (the better to serve the format of a multiple choice exam), while leaving the larger, complex, underlying causes for essays and essay-question exams? But if so: couldn't "slavery" be reduced to a factoid for the purposes of a multiple-choice exam question? I honestly don't get it.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:11 PM
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Can someone please explain, if possible, the sources of/reasons for the reluctance to cite slavery as a cause?

Short answer: no. If someone could do that this thread wouldn't have gone this far without such a clear explanation.

Is this about emphasizing immediate, direct, reducible-to-factoid causes (the better to serve the format of a multiple choice exam), while leaving the larger, complex, underlying causes for essays and essay-question exams?

Notwithstanding what I just said, I think the general consensus is that it's more like the reverse. (Several comments toward the beginning of the thread touch on this.) The idea is to deemphasize the easier, more obvious answers (like "slavery!") in favor of more subtle, complex ones. It doesn't have anything in particular to do with standardized testing, per LB's experience before the current test-crazed era, it's just that testing is how it manifests itself now that we're in that era.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:22 PM
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||

Man, now I am so totally sucked into my ancestor's diary. Lincoln's death and the fall of the confederacy through the contemporary eyes of a somewhat flighty (but very well educated) sixteen-year-old girl in New York: kind of fascinating.

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:24 PM
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474: mention it again in public, and I'll kill you. That diary is going to make us rich.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:27 PM
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If someone could do that this thread wouldn't have gone this far without such a clear explanation.

That's not what David Hume says.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:29 PM
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477

I confess that I hadn't been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates, but just read this, from January of this year (it was referred to in a current Crooked Timber thread). Someone give that man a promotion.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:30 PM
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Also, I think teo's 473.2 is onto something. There's a tendency among historians and good social studies teachers* to avoid mono-causal explanations in favor of complexity. Nine times out of ten, this is a good thing. But when that tendency works in tandem with the zombie Lost Cause mythology, it's pernicious.

* In my experience, it's the good ones who are involved in writing the state standards and the standardized test question. That's not to say that shitheads and dullard bureaucrats aren't also in on the game.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:31 PM
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VW: Look what a diary did for Woodward.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:32 PM
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You know, it's kind of uncouth to point out one's one contributions to a thread, but I feel like I kind of hit on 478 back in 59. Oh well, I wonder if Tweety's ancestor looked like a young Jennie Garth.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:37 PM
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-one, +own.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:37 PM
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Yeah, 59 is one of the "several comments toward the beginning of the thread" I mentioned in 473.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:38 PM
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I hadn't read 59 until now. But now that I have, it's really kind of stupid. Honestly, I think it's beneath you to try to claim Teo's glory. But then again, you're all about the grudges, aren't you?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:39 PM
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Teo, of course, is too gallant to call you the glory-hound that you are, Halford. But I'm onto you!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:39 PM
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While I am of course descended from gallant Confederates, I don't share their interest in glory, so leave me out of this.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:44 PM
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59 and 478 sound right to me. My recollection of what I learned in high school history class is that the Civil War was about tariffs and states' rights, not about slavery. What my teacher actually said was probably nuanced than that. But we had an overworked public school teacher trying to get 30 restless hormonal pothead teenagers to learn something, and also to pass the state test and the AP test, and what we actually took away from the class was necessarily way simplified and distorted.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:45 PM
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Are you calling me the General McClellan of Unfogged?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:48 PM
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Kinda on topic, any recommendations on social historical fiction re the Civil War era? I've read some of the obvious, but by no means all (I tried to get through Andersonville but gave up). I haven't read John Jakes but maybe I'll try that.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:49 PM
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There's an excellent book called Little Women.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:50 PM
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I don't remember how my high school history class presented the Civil War. I read a fair amount about it on my own around the same time, so whatever the textbook said doesn't stand out in my memory.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:50 PM
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Gore Vidal is always a hoot.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:50 PM
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492

489. I just finished March. I didn't like it.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:51 PM
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The idea is to deemphasize the easier, more obvious answers (like "slavery!") in favor of more subtle, complex ones.

I don't think that's right. Had that been the case, then the test could have dealt with the correct subtle, complex issues. As it is, teaching seems designed to avoid controversy, not convey complexity. Here's question 11 from the link:

Which phrase best completes the title for the partial outline shown below? I. Reasons for the ______________________ A. Increasing sectionalism B. Disagreements over states' rights issues C. Breakdown of compromise D. Election of 1860

Start of the Revolutionary War
Adoption of the Bill of Rights
Failure of the Whiskey Rebellion
Secession of Southern States from the Union
Correct Answer Number: 4

The reason you phrase a question in this fashion isn't to convey complexity, it's to avoid controversy. And yes, the causes of the Civil War are still a controversial matter.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:54 PM
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What about that book about Gettysburg by that guy with too many aaaas in his name. I haven't read it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:55 PM
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492: me too. I mean, it's a good conceit, but the writing and plotting was pretty awful. As for other fiction, I'm afraid I don't know of anything great. I love Tourgee's Fool's Errand, but it's about Reconstruction rather than the war.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:55 PM
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494. I just bought that! That's next.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:55 PM
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Killer Angels, I assume you mean.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:56 PM
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494: oh, right. Shaara. It's good, but it's really military history. The fictionalized elements are almost beside the point.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 7:57 PM
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There seems to be a dearth of compelling social historical fiction about the Civil War from the North, although I guess the reasons are pretty obvious. Gilead was wonderful. I'm looking for others.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:00 PM
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493: I wasn't talking about these specific questions, which I hadn't read. I agree that the one you quote sounds like something straight out of a textbook published 100 years ago.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:01 PM
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498. Oh, now I'm not so excited about reading it.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:01 PM
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More generally, I suspect the reasons that teachers choose the Civil War specifically to try to promote a more "nuanced" viewpoint are tied to the continuing influence of neo-Confederate interpretations at some level. The balance between the two factors probably varies from school to school and state to state.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:03 PM
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499 -- The war was fought in the South, so you get to have non-combatants doing something other than sitting around waiting for letters, and anyway they're the ones who want to keep talking about it. My standard line in conversations about their damn flag is that it is too bad no one from Georgia participated in the liberation of France in 1944, otherwise they could celebrate that heritage.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:04 PM
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503: if my ancestor is any guide they could throw themselves into sewing and opera attendance.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:06 PM
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Sorry, VW.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:07 PM
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506

Sifu is descended from Smearcase?!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:08 PM
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Smearcase is descended from Jennie Garth?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:09 PM
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506: I would really not be surprised if smearcase were willing to trade places with my great-great-great aunt, should the opportunity present itself.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:13 PM
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509

504: not another word!!!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:15 PM
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jms, I like The Emancipator's Wife a lot, and large parts of it are in the North. Also quite a job with an unsympathetic heroine, worse than Emma.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:18 PM
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(I'm thinking I might resume the blog linked hereto, after several years of wasting my time working, etc.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:19 PM
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Thanks clew! I've put it on my list.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:21 PM
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Jacobin is apparently having a symposium, multiple posts, on the Civil War and I didn't even notice


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 8:46 PM
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493 has it right. Except the "controversy" exists only among people who are ignorant of or deliberately deceptive about the subject matter. It's like avoiding a "controversial" answer to whether or not the women's suffrage movement was trying to get women the vote.

Where the historians' instinct for complexity would properly come in here is after you've answered "slavery" and the further question becomes "why slavery"? Then you can get into all the complexities of social attitudes, political maneuvering, economic facts and fears and the relationships between them, and so on. But obfuscating the facts before you get to that point is of course totally irresponsible, however evident the political motives for it might be.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:26 PM
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Following on what Lord Castock is saying, some of the example questions seem to be carefully written to make it sound like slavery was the result of economic and geographic forces (different lands suited to different agricultural and labor systems). I assume that this is because the Regents are all neo-Marxists who can barely hide their socialism. And what is socialism? The most perfect form of slavery on earth.

Signed,

George Fitzhugh


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 9:36 PM
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I'm going to scroll up now to read 59. It better be fucking worth it, Halford.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 11:09 PM
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MC, as hard as it may be to believe, there is a national myth about the Civil War, and that national myth minimizes the reality of treason in the defense of slavery in favor of the idea that the Civil War was a tragedy that set brother against brother. Teachers are actively teaching the national myth that they learned.

The tone of Ken Burn's documentary -- elegiac -- is pretty much how Americans are taught to view the Civil War. I can't think of the Civil War without hearing that wheedly yet mournful music that played in the background of the whole thing.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 11:22 PM
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Okay, 59 is correct. I move that all contributions by Von Wafer be struck from this thread, other than his embarrassing 90210 confessions, which should be preserved for posterity.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-25-12 11:24 PM
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517: The Civil War can be a tragedy and a betrayal at the same time. The tragic nature of slavery doesn't mean you have to deny the tragic nature of the fratricidal war that ended it. Again, the greatness of the Second Inauguaral is the effortless way it encompasses and links the twin tragedies of slavery and the war. Ending 'with malice toward none'.

One of the great sadnesses of the war is the way its legacy was thrown away in the failure of Reconstruction. A huge additional problem in the history curriculum is the failure to teach the story of Reconstruction in depth and in detail. There is no sense given of what was lost then. No surprise since if the Civil War is politically controversial then Reconstruction is positively radioactive. It was only many years later that I realized -- hey, the 1960s could have happened *a hundred years earlier*. Well, without the sex/drugs/rock and roll.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:40 AM
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Signed,
George Fitzhugh

Inbreeding leads to bad genes. Clearly, this guy is one of those in-bred southerners with poor genes.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 4:42 AM
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Well, without the sex/drugs/rock and roll.

HEY, FUCK YOU!


Posted by: OPINIONATED BUDDY BOLDEN | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 5:34 AM
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519: every fifth generation thinks they invented sex


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 5:36 AM
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519: I used to work within walking distance of the Lincoln Memorial, and often at lunch I'd wander over and read the Second Inaugural, which I agree is magnificent.

Then sometimes I'd head over to the WWII Memorial, and I'd realize that beyond "date which will live in infamy," Roosevelt and the Americans weren't much for eloquence. Churchill got all the best lines in that war.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 5:41 AM
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Roosevelt and the Americans weren't much for eloquence. Churchill got all the best lines in that war.

NUTS!


Posted by: Opinionated Gen McAuliffe | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 5:48 AM
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154

Kraabypants, if you're still around, it's what's-her-name, Stephanie McCurry, who's making the argument about keeping women disfranchised, but I think she's right. When the Confederacy wrote its constitution, there was a lot of pressure to allow white, property-holding women to vote. It didn't happen, and it didn't happen because slaveholding white men were concerned that the ladies weren't sufficiently committed to war as well as secession. Over time, it turned out that those men were right: white women led the anti-war movement in the Confederacy and created lots of problems for the slaveocracy.

Not quite following the logic here. The existence of strong albeit minority support for allowing women to vote among the founders of the Confederacy is evidence that the Confederacy was founded to deny women the vote? Saying secession was really about oppressing women seems no more convincing than saying it was really about tariffs.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 6:05 AM
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59 is an example of the thing it purports to describe. It attributes nuance to people whose motives are straightforward.

Teachers don't want to piss people off. Period. A teacher who wants to convey nuance can point out that while the Civil War was about slavery, it wasn't about bringing slavery to an immediate end; it was about limiting slavery's expansion. But if you say that too directly, you complicate our Lincoln hagiography and you piss people off.

"Nuance" in this context is the same thing as "objectivity" among journalists. It's a dodge; a method of avoiding direct discussion of facts that people find disturbing. The example in 493 isn't about nuance, it's about not wanting to state the truth directly.

(My argument is undermined only superficially by the fact that this pisses me off. Nobody cares what I think.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 6:11 AM
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||

Is this still the live political thread?

Can somebody liveblog David Cameron on Letterman tonight, please.

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 6:19 AM
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On topic.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:06 AM
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526.2: this makes me wonder if you've ever worked closely with good teachers. Regardless, I think you're confusing them with administrators.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:12 AM
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528: that post by Oakes is a nice example of the good kind of nuance.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:13 AM
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Although, I think Oakes's reading of the contraband controversy is overly generous to Lincoln.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:15 AM
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472
Can someone please explain, if possible, the sources of/reasons for the reluctance to cite slavery as a cause? I don't know who writes these standardized test questions, but: they can't all be Confederate sympathizers, surely?

In addition to the fact that elementary and high school teachers try to be inoffensive in general (administrators, whatever, for the purposes of this discussion it's the same thing), there's also the fact that Texas has disproportionate impact on education in this country, since it's such a big textbook market. And tying it back in to the OP and 37, Texas has a disproportionate number of Confederate sympathizers.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:40 AM
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Huh. Somebody in a historical document that shall not be named keeps talking about sewing things for "the contrabands".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:42 AM
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Okay, a question for the experts: when people in this thread are referring disdainfully to the "Lost Cause" mythology, they are referring to this whole package of weird beliefs, right?

More specifically, what's being deprecated is *not* the namesake tenet of the "Lost Cause":

Losses on the battlefield were inevitable due to Northern superiority in resources and manpower.

I've always understood that to be very true--militarily, the south was always essentially doomed.* Is it false? Some of the comments upthread seem to suggest so, but that can't be right.

* Not that the outcome was never in doubt, or that military strength alone is what wins wars, of course. Cf. American in Vietnam.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:45 AM
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I've always understood that to be very true--militarily, the south was always essentially doomed.

I've seen it argued that that was not the case: that it's harder to win a war of offence than a war of defence, and that if the Confederacy had had a coherent strategy of defending their core territory - and throwing their peripheral sympathisers to the wolves - rather than a forward strategy, they could have survived (which was their only war aim). Not being VW, I've no idea whether that's bullshit or not, but it looked quite convincing as proposed at the time I read it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:53 AM
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532: the issue predates Texas's disproportionate sway in the textbook market, so, although that's a real development, I think your causation is probably off in this case. Also, do you (or pf) have any evidence at all for what you're saying about teachers? For the claim that primary and secondary school teachers, hoping not to offend anyone, are the problem? I'm serious, by the way. I spend a fair amount of time working with teachers who are on the teams that write the state standards, so I'd like to know if you're right. (Or, if you're just making shit up, I'd like you and pf to own your bullshit.)


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:53 AM
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535 is right. There were at least four (and likely many more than that) points during the war that the South could have won.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:55 AM
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533: I'm literally begging you to shut up.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:55 AM
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That's Joe Biden literally, not literally literally.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:56 AM
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I've always understood that to be very true--militarily, the south was always essentially doomed.* Is it false? Some of the comments upthread seem to suggest so, but that can't be right.

There are counterfactual histories that claim to lay out a plausible Confederate path to victory (or to stalemate and negotiated settlement). None is particularly convincing. In order of plausibility I would say they go something like this:

1. European powers recognize the Confederacy as a belligerent, put pressure on the Union to negotiate a settlement. Reality check: Confederate diplomacy was abysmal, even compared to the prevailing bad standards of U.S. diplomacy of the day, and public opinion in Great Britain was strongly on the side of the Union.

2. Democrats win the 1864 election, negotiate a settlement. Reality check: Lincoln crushed the Democrats in that election, in part because the Union was obviously going to win the war by November 1864.

3. The Confederacy wins a breakthrough at Gettysburg, marches toward New York. The public freaks out and demands a negotiated settlement. (This is the premise of Newt Gingrich's Civil War novel, BTW.) Reality check: Lee was barely over the Mason Dixon Line and his army was already overextended. The Union could have mustered further strategic reserves to take him on at the Battle of Allentown, with roughly the same result.

4. The Confederacy adopts from Day One a rope-a-dope strategy, avoids set piece battles and allows the Union to occupy Confederate territory, while waging unconventional warfare on a massive scale. Reality check: Remember what happened when the Union had a free hand to march through the heart of the South? They freed all the slaves and destroyed the sustenance of the CSA.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 7:58 AM
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There were at least four (and likely many more than that) points during the war that the South could have won.

Say more...


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:00 AM
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There were at least four (and likely many more than that) points during the war that the South could have won.

But "won" here means "the North stops fighting and lets the Confederacy survive". Of course I agree with that--the outcome was at least somewhat in doubt through the 1864 election, even though the South was badly losing militarily long before that point. But there was never any chance that the South could defeat the North militarily, right--even if the South had stuck to a purely defensive engagement? If the North keeps fighting, eventually the North wins. Or at least that's what I've always learned. Is that wrong?

(I suppose this gets close to an ahistorical counterfactual question, but it's not intended that way. The point is that "Losses on the battlefield were inevitable due to Northern superiority in resources and manpower." strikes me as a true statement. Is it not?)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:04 AM
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306: For the ideological underpinnings of the Confederate leadership, it is interesting to read the "Cornerstone Speech" of Alexander Stephens (vice-president of the Confederacy). The key excerpt is here (TW: explicit racism), with a link to the full speech. Shorter version: Jefferson and his peers thought of slavery as a necessary evil that would fade away in time, because they believed in the equality of all men, but we now understand that the races are fundamentally unequal, as ordained by God, so slavery is a necessary and just thing to keep the races in their proper place.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:06 AM
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541:Me too

I thought the problem with the guerrilla strategy or fortress Virginia was that the South needed Texas beef to maintain an army so that control of the Mississippi River was strategically vital

2) Guerrilla strategy doesn't work when you need to politically control your base and you have a hostile internal population.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:10 AM
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There were at least four (and likely many more than that) points during the war that the South could have won.

I assume this is a list of battles where the Confederacy either might have won but didn't or actually won and might have turned a victory into a rout and didn't. I still don't see it. Even if the Confederates burned Washington, the Union could have relocated the government to New York and kept fighting (which they arguably should have done in the first place -- would have made fighting the war a lot easier). The utter supremacy of the Union at sea, combined with advantages in manpower and industrial capacity, just seems insurmountable to me. The blockade of Southern ports was already seriously degrading the CSA's ability to wage war by 1863.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:10 AM
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543 was me. In reading that, keep in mind that Stephens was a relative moderate, who opposed secession initially, and corresponded with Lincoln in an effort to avoid the war. The real fire-eaters were even more extreme.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:10 AM
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@536

I'm inclined to think that part of it is the pernicious tendency to confuse contrarianism with sophistication.

So "You thought it was about slavery, but really it was about this other thing...ha!" is automatically the sophisticated way of presenting the subject.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:11 AM
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part of it is the pernicious tendency to confuse contrarianism with sophistication

That's quite a claim to be leveling at all teachers of high school history.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:13 AM
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1) Lee's orders weren't discovered before Antietam. McClellan then would have continued to be McClellan, and Lee would only have returned to the South after having torn up a nice chuck of Maryland and having won a series of small-but-meaningful victories (like Jackson in the Shenandoah earlier). I'm choosing to leave foreign intervention out of this -- for the reasons you give above -- but I think you're too confident in your assertion. Regardless, without victory at Antietam, the Lincoln administration would have been in huge trouble, the mid-term elections would have gone VERY badly, etc.

2) The Emancipation Proclamation sat in Lincoln's desk. But for Antietam, this well might have happened. And if it had, Lincoln's war aims would have remained narrow, the left flank of the Republican Party would have begun attacking him even more than they already did, etc.

3) Lee and Davis didn't launch a second invasion of the North. Or they launched a much smaller invasion of the North, leaving the Army of Northern Virginia in much better shape in summer 1863. As Chris said above, had the Confederacy traded space for time, thing would have been very, very different. For example, the 1864 election would have been the end of Lincoln. Which leads me to...

4) The 1864 election. Had the Democrats not inserted a peace plank into their party platform on the eve of the fall of Atlanta, had Atlanta not fallen when it did, had the issue of POWs emerged just a bit earlier, Lincoln would have lost.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:13 AM
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Basically I agree with KR. From the South's perspective, the war was a lost cause.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:14 AM
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547: or they're just struggling to present sophisticated historical arguments. Which, again, because of the pervasiveness of the Lost Cause mythology, probably isn't the best choice in this case.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:16 AM
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550 without seeing 549, which is interesting and possibly correct but doesn't really seem to dispute the validity of the statement "Losses on the battlefield were inevitable due to Northern superiority in resources and manpower." (Although 1 and 3 come close.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:18 AM
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549 to 541 (and only 541).


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:18 AM
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Was 553 a snub?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:21 AM
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549: I still think your scenarios require more handwaving than I am comfortable with (if only Sherman had decided to hang out in Chatanooga for a while longer, the election of 1864 would surely have gone the other way). But you're the historian, and anyway, we're arguing about something that inherently has no definitive answer.



Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:22 AM
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One of the great sadnesses of the war is the way its legacy was thrown away in the failure of Reconstruction.

And, since we're still having court cases over. e.g., systematic disenfranchisement, I'd say we have a significant fraction of citizens who are against Reconstruction. Just laying that out for myself and MC and Castock.

Looks relevant and entertaining. She seems to have lived in informal house-arrest after Reconstruction failed (having been pro-Reconstruction under Grant. And postmaster.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:23 AM
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That's quite a claim to be leveling at all teachers of high school history.

I'm not claiming that it's a unique failing of high school history teachers. Sadly, it seems to be pretty universal.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:28 AM
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I'd say we have a significant fraction of citizens who are against Reconstruction.

Indeed, if high school pedagogy on the causes of the war is bad, the treatment of Reconstruction is atrocious (or at least it was when I was in school, back in the neolithic era). The "Radical Republicans" were cast in the role of bad guys, while loaded terms like "scalawags", "carpetbaggers", and "redeemers" are presented at face value. Even my naive 9th grade self perceived this as wrong, wrong, wrong.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:28 AM
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554: no.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:32 AM
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556:The failure of Reconstruction probably has something to do with the changing of the cause, meaning, and purpose of the Civil War from Union to Emancipation. Although incorporation was explicit in the post-war amendments, after slavery was abolished the hopes of a protected and enforced national citizenship was abandoned for a hundred years.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:33 AM
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I still think your scenarios require more handwaving

They're all counterfactuals. Hands must be waved. That said, turning to what you seem to think is the most hand-wavy of the four, I think there are any number of scenarios that leave Atlanta standing through the election. You have to remember that Sherman really didn't like to fight. I mean, he liked to burn shit down, but he preferred not to fight.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:34 AM
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Okay, I have to go meet with a bunch of lazy, compromise-seeking high school teachers. I'll try to check in later. In the meantime, please don't interpret my silence as a snub.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:37 AM
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You have to remember that Sherman really didn't like to fight. I mean, he liked to burn shit down, but he preferred not to fight.

...which is entirely to his credit, IMO. (Not that we're necessarily disagreeing.) I have previously taken up the cause of General Sherman in this forum.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:38 AM
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Ah, but if the cause (sense 1) of the Civil War was Emancipation after all, then the cause (sense 2) must have been slavery... Not disagreeing with you, bob, just heightening the contradictions.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:39 AM
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Everyone has maps and toy soldiers and little pusher-shovels out for the counterfactual arguments, right? Or at least salt-shakers and a ruck in the tablecloth? (Presumably it's done online now, doesn't sound as fun.)

My Southern and Yankee grandparents met once, at my parent's wedding, and I hear that they waited until the end of dinner to work out which campaigns my ancestors had been on opposite sides of, and then never spoke again. Do grandparents usually speak to each other? I can see it might not come up, if the kids moved out of town.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:42 AM
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Jacobin calls Lincoln and the Republicans "revolutionaries" with an argument as to whether they were "Bourgeois revolutionaries" (Marxist jargon).

So, since I don't know enough detail, I will call the (actual shooting) battle in the South against Reconstruction the "Counter-Revolution" and if I cared enough, would go research the justifications used to not send Federal troops in to protect Reconstruction.

Could it possibly have been "this is an internal matter of the states" when white supremacists shot and killed legitimate gov't officials?

But the meaning of the War changed during the war. Some celebrate it, I consider it a tragedy, since Emancipation would have happened anyway under a mission of Union dominance and state submission.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:43 AM
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The trouble with industrial capacity, sea-power, etc. is that they all require time to have an impact. Until we took stock of the Civil War, we didn't think of wars as two economies head-butting, but more as a set of battles (or that's my high-school understanding; VW, please correct me). A few more key early victories like Antietam could easily, I think, have made the North feel it needed to pull out before it brought its assets to bear, even if it wouldn't have been necessary in retrospect.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:51 AM
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536
do you (or pf) have any evidence at all for what you're saying about teachers? For the claim that primary and secondary school teachers, hoping not to offend anyone, are the problem? I'm serious, by the way. I spend a fair amount of time working with teachers who are on the teams that write the state standards, so I'd like to know if you're right. (Or, if you're just making shit up, I'd like you and pf to own your bullshit.)

They claim that they, hoping not to offend anyone, are the problem? As in, the primary reason for not talking about slavery? No, I don't have any evidence for that claim, and I wouldn't make it. (Looking back, I guess what I wrote was vague. If it was too vague, fair enough, apologies.)

But the claim that they are a problem? As in, one among several? Sure, I'd make that, and I don't think it needs too much support. Controversy is stressful, teachers are only human, most humans like to avoid stress when possible. Only the crappiest teachers would ever intentionally plan to avoid controversy, but only the best would always disregard it.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:58 AM
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we didn't think of wars as two economies head-butting, but more as a set of battles

I think that's right, although militaries should have learned the importance of logistics (rather than "living off the land" which I think was the previous practice) sometime soon after Napoleon's Russian Campaign.
But military history ain't my thing.

I did do a little research this week, because I think the international history of ideas, news, perceptions is underrated in importance. Communication and travel were always better than we remember.

By which I mean Americans were aware of the 1848 Revolutions, Commodore Perry in Japan (1852-54), and perhaps particularly the Sepoy Mutiny (1857). I am certain the horror stories from India crossed the Atlantic, and quite possibly frightened Southerners.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 8:59 AM
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Why on earth would Americans have been more aware of stuff going on abroad in 1848 than they are in 2012? Quick, find a passing American and ask her who the president of France is.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:01 AM
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Sherman was a great general. Grant thought the world of him, he shows enormous respect and admiration for Sherman in his autobiography. Sherman's march was a massive strategic success.

To me the question of whether the South could have won comes down to whether the Northern electorate saw the war as an existential struggle that they had to win, as both Lincoln and the South did. Especially once Grant and Sherman emerged as commanders the South could not win an extended war.

Which perhaps come down to asking how close the 1864 election really was. The way history is often presented Lincoln was saved by some dramatic battlefield victories shortly before the election. But if you just look at the electoral vote tally the election doesn't look close . It's a shame there was no polling back then. Lincoln seems to have had the sense he was in danger of losing, but this was in part due to doubts about him as an effective war leader from the pro-war side, which doesn't seem as relevant.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:03 AM
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567: the blockade was already "working" by Antietam, in the sense that it kneecapped the Southern economy (loss of cotton exports) and was visibly affecting public morale (there were bread riots in Richmond a couple of months later). All the same, I'm giving ari's theory about the 1862 midterms some more thought; that's an angle I frankly had not considered.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:05 AM
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Discretion error in 572! Someone please fix!


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:08 AM
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573 may be prudent, although 71 would seem to me to bring 572 within the bounds of proper discretion.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:15 AM
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I will call the (actual shooting) battle in the South against Reconstruction the "Counter-Revolution" and if I cared enough, would go research the justifications used to not send Federal troops in to protect Reconstruction.

The historical what-if I find most interesting is what Lincoln would have done with Reconstruction had he lived. I understand there's a lot of evidence from the governance of freed areas, particularly Louisiana. Not too familiar with the details but I understand there are doubts about whether Lincoln would have supported black suffrage, which is obviously a bad sign.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:20 AM
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Kossuth came to the US in the 1850s. Wikipedia says the visit didn't go great but stuff got named after him.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:28 AM
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without hearing that wheedly yet mournful music that played in the background of the whole thing

I love the Ashokan Farewell and think it is beautiful, but it cracks me up that it is the theme music for the Civil War. It was written in 1982 because Jay Ungar was leaving a music retreat and sad that he wasn't going to see his band camp buddies for another year.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:38 AM
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565.1 made me laugh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:47 AM
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I like Ahokan Farewell also, but I can't even imagine the song without some internal narrator piping up about his very dear Sarah.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 9:54 AM
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Also, do you (or pf) have any evidence at all for what you're saying about teachers?

Nothing I haven't already offered, but I'll lay it out again, step by step.

Our conversation to this point has been based on the idea that a particular type of mis-teaching of the Civil War takes place. This teaching is done by teachers.

Why would teachers do this? One theory is that they do this out of a misguided desire to convey the nuances of a complicated situation. This reading is, I think, unduly dismissive of the intelligence of teachers. I feel pretty confident that quite a lot of them know better, and the ones that don't know better were, themselves, taught by teachers.

If teachers were interested in providing nuance, then there's plenty of legitimate nuance available.

So what's my alternative theory? It's that this sort of teaching is rooted in a desire not to offend a group of people that Lincoln might nowadays call "a peculiar and powerful interest."

If I get you correctly, you are proposing that, in this matter, teachers lack agency. You say:

I think you're confusing them with administrators.

I'll buy that, and I'll amend my prior comments to refer to "the teaching bureaucracy" rather than "teachers." LB suggests as much in the original post (emphasis mine):

Sally tells me the same is still true: as a matter of standardized test prep, her class has been specifically told that "slavery" is never going to be the right answer to a question about why the Civil War started.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 10:05 AM
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I once heard the song being played at a wedding at Mount Vernon. Not sure what, if anything, it portends.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 10:15 AM
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Say, what about those 250 documented slave rebellions in the US? More tariffs-and-industrialization to blame there too, I'll bet?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 10:24 AM
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If I get you correctly, you are proposing that, in this matter, teachers lack agency.

You do not get me correctly.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 11:17 AM
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But if you just look at the electoral vote tally the election doesn't look close.

I can think of very few elections where looking only at the electoral college tally reveals all that much. For what it's worth, there was a broad consensus* in summer 1864, through late August actually, that Lincoln would lose in the fall. Fortunately, the Democrats inserted a peace plank into their party platform on the eve of the fall of Atlanta. Although McClellan had fought against altering the platform in that way, he still suffered as a result.

* This included the head of the Republican Party, nearly every major editorialist in the North and South, the leading members of Lincoln's cabinet, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, and Lincoln (who insisted that his cabinet sign what amounted to a loyalty oath to the incoming Democratic administration) himself.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 11:25 AM
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Sure, I'd make that, and I don't think it needs too much support.

Well, I'd make the claim that, rather than avoiding controversy, good social studies teachers are doing what they're told they should do: avoid mono-causal explanations. And if you're interested, I have tons of support for this contention. Also, for what it's worth, social studies teachers are taught to teach controversy, because controversy captures the attention of students.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 11:29 AM
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@585

Which gets us back to the OP. How/why did things drift from "It's complicated" to "It's not about slavery"?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 11:34 AM
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And if you're interested, I have tons of support for this contention.

I'm interested.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 11:37 AM
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Again, because the Lost Cause is a pervasive and attractive mythology. And because in this case that pervasive and attractive mythology works well in tandem with pedagogical best practices: wanting to avoid mono-causation.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 11:38 AM
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I've always been skeptical of claims of the inevitability of victory in the North, at least where "victory" for the South means the right to exist within its borders as a slave state while engaging in international trade. Mostly because (a) there were very significant Northern interests in coming to terms with the South (I mentioned Fernando Wood earlier, but to be clear -- there was a non-trivial threat that New York City would secede from the Union because the threat of losing the cotton trade, and that's not even mentioning the draft riots); (b) there was a very significant Northern political party whose raison d'etre was, if not peace, at least accomodation with the South; (c) while I don't think Great Britain intervening on the side of the South was ever likely, I think Britain would have been very happy to broker a peace agreement that provided for free trade with the Southern states.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 11:42 AM
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587: this, this, and especially this will give you some sense of the specific work that's being done. As for the literature on avoiding mono-causal arguments, this is a pretty good place to start.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 11:46 AM
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Has anyone written an alternate history in which the Union and Confederacy go to war for the western territories? Or the Confederacy expands southwards (possibly more likely)?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:03 PM
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Anybody here read Cherie Priest's wildly [over]praised Boneshaker. IIRC it won a Nebula a couple years ago. Set in an alt 1880's where steampunk developments allowed the CSA to hold off the Union and then free all the slaves and give equal rights to blacks in the late 1860's. By the 1880's our noble southerners have a society with less racism than present day America and continue to fight the good fight for freedom and state rights against the North. I was shocked at the relative lack of criticism of Priest's confederate apologetics in the online SF community.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:14 PM
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Has anyone written an alternate history in which the Union and Confederacy go to war for the western territories?

I've written a new book that suggests that that's pretty much what actually happened.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:16 PM
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I'm unclear on what argument you're supporting here. Do you regard the Civil War unit you linked as supportive of (in your words) "zombie Lost Cause mythology"?

I mean, I'm guessing that's not your point, but I can't figure out what you're going for when you provide this as evidence.

If you want to talk about why teachers paper over the actual history, you have to be willing to discuss situations where that happens (as LB does in the original post.) Do you see the Civil War unit as evidence of this?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:17 PM
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I was shocked at the relative lack of criticism of Priest's confederate apologetics in the online SF community.

This is a particularly advanced form of irony, right? I mean, it sounds pretty much like Harry Turtledove's stuff, and it's not like that's come in for much criticism...


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:18 PM
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593: But that's not alternate!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:25 PM
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That's the same Harry Turtledove who wrote a series of short stories set in an alternate universe where Europeans went to Africa and discovered a race of non-human bipedal but non-verbal hominids and enslaved them, in order to explore the interesting issue of what American history would look like if African slaves really were biologically inferior to real people? Those were unfortunate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:25 PM
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594: again, what I said is that social studies teachers are being trained to avoid mono-causal arguments, so it's not unfair to conclude that that's what's happening (rather than that they're trying to avoid controversy).


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:27 PM
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594: further to 598, I was responding to your request to back up my assertion in 585. Can you really not follow the thread?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:29 PM
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596: you could pretend it's alternate. Just wave your hands while you're reading.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:30 PM
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Nope, not being ironic. Though thinking about it now, it may be the sequel, Dreadnought that placed such a high emphasis on the noble boys in grey while in Boneshaker it's more in the distant geographic background. I read the two at the same time when the second came out, and head read a bunch of reviews with no warning of what I was getting into (They mentioned that it was an alt 1880's where the Civil War has dragged on as a bloody stalemate but not the insane take Priest has on the South.)


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:34 PM
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599: No, I got that, I'm just having trouble seeing how it's responsive, and that's why I made a request for further clarification. To repeat: You called particular attention to a Civil War unit. I re-linked that unit, and asked: Do you see this unit as an example of bad teaching done in an effort to avoid monocausal explanations?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:36 PM
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Just wave your hands while you're reading.

I was already planning to shake my fist.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:40 PM
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602: nope, it's an example of the push to avoid mono-causal explanations, full stop. But because I was involved and had final say over some of the content, it says straightaway that slavery was the root cause of the Civil War. Then it complicates that story over the course of hundreds and hundreds of pages.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:53 PM
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Also, I know for certain that many teachers using that unit still insist that slavery not be called the cause of the Civil War. When I ask them why, they tell me that they don't want their students to think there was any one cause of the Civil War. Hoisted by my own petard!


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 12:56 PM
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I'll note that in the list of test prep questions in the OP, "slavery" is in fact the correct answer to #13, and #19 and #21 certainly touch on it, without explicitly citing it as a cause for the war. There is certainly more that could be done to teach and test about the connection. Sample question: As a Senator in December 1860, what did Jefferson Davis propose the federal government do to avoid secession? (Answer here). Or (more likely to be acceptable for a curriculum standard), how about teaching about the Crittenden Compromise (which had a better chance of actually being enacted) or one or more of the Declarations of Causes by the seceding states?


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 1:04 PM
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604, 605: I understand. Thanks.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 1:10 PM
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Hoisted by my own petard!

I was so confused when I learned that a petard was basically a grenade. I always pictured some kind of pike. Which, sure, makes no sense at all, but still!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 1:28 PM
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I thought the standard misinterpretation was that a petard was some uncomfortable sounding body part.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 1:38 PM
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That was my misinterpretation until just now.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 1:57 PM
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Which, sure, makes no sense at all, but still!

It could have been like an amusing pole-vaulting mishap.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 1:59 PM
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I thought the standard misinterpretation was that a petard was some uncomfortable sounding body part.

It's a slang term for 'ass' en francais, so sort of the opposite. If you're gonna get hoist by a body part, ass is definitely the best choice.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 2:06 PM
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Word History: The French used pétard, "a loud discharge of intestinal gas," for a kind of infernal engine for blasting through the gates of a city. "To be hoist by one's own petard," a now proverbial phrase apparently originating with Shakespeare's Hamlet (around 1604) not long after the word entered English (around 1598), means "to blow oneself up with one's own bomb, be undone by one's own devices."

To be hoist by one's own wind-breaking would be impressive indeed.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 2:13 PM
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It's just a question of containing the pressure.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 2:18 PM
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an amusing pole-vaulting mishap.

An internet favorite.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 2:21 PM
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Son petard a pété, le pétand en air.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 2:35 PM
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550

Basically I agree with KR. From the South's perspective, the war was a lost cause.

They didn't think so at the time or they wouldn't have started it. You could just as well say the American Revolution was a lost cause.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 4:07 PM
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So, did you hear about the South African farmer who trained one of his animals to operate an electric winch? He ended up hoist by his own pet aardvaark.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 09-26-12 10:06 PM
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Nutball suggesting Civil War if Obama is re-elected.

http://intelligentdiscontent.com/2012/09/24/representative-david-howard-suggests-civil-war-if-obama-is-re-elected/

Scroll down to the comment by Mark Curran, about the role of the Southern press in supporting secession.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 1:15 PM
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They didn't think so at the time or they wouldn't have started it. You could just as well say the American Revolution was a lost cause.

If the Americans had lost the revolution, it probably would be regarded as having inevitably been a lost cause.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 1:36 PM
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Note that the American Revolution was an example of a war for independence won according to urple's criteria in 542: Britain stops fighting and lets the Americans survive. There never was any prospect of the Americans taking the war to Britain. Yorktown represented the defeat of the last mobile British force in the theater, but the British remained in secure control of New York through the end of the war. They just couldn't make further progress towards subduing the colonies without raising major new forces for North America, which they declined to do.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 2:49 PM
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Wouldn't that apply to many, if not most, wars for independence (at least when the territories are non-contiguous) -- for whatever reason, the colonial/occupying/central power doesn't have the resources, political will or whatever to keep sending troops abroad to fight? I'm blanking on examples where a subject power was able to actually threaten the overlords' capital or main territory. There must be some though. I guess some of the stuff around the fall of the Roman Empire was sorta like that.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 3:12 PM
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Or join a rival colonial power, and together take down the original. Some examples of that in ancient Athens, I think. And there's Texas.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 3:17 PM
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subject power was able to actually threaten the overlords' capital or main territory.

The confederacy?


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 3:19 PM
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624: I was assuming we were talking about successful ones, but yes, the Confederacy would be the standout. I am shamefully unaware of all of the details of the War for Texian Slaveholding -- did they actually present a serious threat to the rest of Mexico? No time to read the Wiki right now.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 3:49 PM
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625: As I recall, the Texans benefited from the fact that Santa Ana was both the dictator of Mexico and the general leading the forces to repress the rebellion who had been taken prisoner. That kind of let them dictate terms for the recognition of Texan independence.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 3:54 PM
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Maybe the Bishop's War, too, in 1639.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 3:55 PM
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Texas always intended to join the US, and once it did, it got the US to go to war with Mexico over its outsized (who could have guessed?) claims to territory.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 3:59 PM
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I would not have predicted this thread to go 600+ comments and remain on-topic.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 4:03 PM
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The Lülin Rebellion, of course.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 4:09 PM
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626 -- Mexico's congress refused to ratify the treaties of Velasco, and neither side complied with them. Mexico only recognized the loss of Texas in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 4:12 PM
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Mexico was itself in 1836 a 15 year-old, former Spanish colony without very much central control over even what are now it's current borders. A lot of the "Texas Revolution" was just ambiguously governed peoples sorting out whose authority they were going to recognize, rather than a rebellion against a recognized authority.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 4:20 PM
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"its" . . . And pardon the rest of the crazy structure of that sentence.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 4:21 PM
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620

If the Americans had lost the revolution, it probably would be regarded as having inevitably been a lost cause.

Incorrectly.

Anyway the South didn't pick a fight so they could lose gallantly, they expected to win.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 5:40 PM
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628, 631, 632: Good points.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 6:46 PM
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Wouldn't that apply to many, if not most, wars for independence (at least when the territories are non-contiguous) -- for whatever reason, the colonial/occupying/central power doesn't have the resources, political will or whatever to keep sending troops abroad to fight?

Yes, it would, and the point is that it *also* applies to the Confederacy. Whereas many people seem to conceptualize the North and South as something closer to equal armies.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 6:56 PM
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for whatever reason, the colonial/occupying/central power doesn't have the resources, political will or whatever to keep sending troops abroad to fight?

Generally it's political will that's the issue. If the US had been willing to keep expending a couple points of GDP and a couple thousand dead a year it could have kept up the Vietnam war indefinitely. The flip side is that the South was willing to accept military defeat, more or less. While there was considerable pushback intended to change the terms of their defeat, AFAIK there was never any serious attempt by the South to continue the war for independence or a return to slavery.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 7:08 PM
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Nutball suggesting Civil War if Obama is re-elected.

Well, you know, if it came to that: it would give you the chance to just let 'em go.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 7:19 PM
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I don't think 632 is right. People *knew* who the authorities were, and decided they wanted to supplant them.

And them you have people like Crockett, pissed off that Van Buren won the presidency (and that his own constituents had replaced him), leaving Congress and putting together a band of armed men to fight over a place he'd never been, to see what plunder they might get.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 7:20 PM
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Yeah the Mexican government of Americans in Texas wasn't strong, but the Americans were sure as hell sure it was there.

Let me recommend this book, which reminds you that there weren't just two powers in the Texas Revolution -- there were three.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 8:08 PM
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And, everyone probably knows this, but the main thing that settlers of Texas knew about the Mexican government was that chattel slavery was illegal in Mexico.

The Mexican government wanted the Americans in Texas to grow food crops and not have huge plantations; the Americans in Texas refused and wanted slaves. The Mexican government wanted to centralize Texas under control from Mexico City, in large part to abolish chattel slavery in Texas; the white American Texans didn't want that. It's not quite as bogus to say that the Texas War of Independence wasn't about slavery as it is to say the Civil War wasn't about slavery, but it's pretty close.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 8:18 PM
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640: I should really read that book one of these days. In the meantime, and because Von Wafer has objected when I've done this in the past, I'll recommend this one, which covers some of the same ground but from the perspective of New Mexico.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 8:22 PM
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Also 641 is totally right AFAIK.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 8:23 PM
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To be fair to the white Texans, they were also very interested in Indian-killing and not being ruled by Spanish speakers.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 8:34 PM
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Yeah the Mexican government of Americans in Texas wasn't strong, but the Americans were sure as hell sure it was there.

Of course they were aware of who had nominal authority over them, and they weren't happy about the government's attempts to push white Texans out of the slave economy. But my point was that Mexico, as a nation state, was so weak at the time that the government didn't have really have much authority over people in a lot of its outer territories. It is something that Santa Anna was trying to change and precipitated the war, but there simply wasn't any real Mexican national identity, common interest, or even just brute force to support what he was doing (he was and still is commonly recognized there as a mad man).

The white Texans revolt wasn't the only secession movement that happened against Santa Anna's government in those years, forex:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_the_Rio_Grande


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 9:30 PM
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642: I've object to that book? Huh.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 9:34 PM
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You've objected to me recommending it, on the grounds that it's too scholarly for general readers or something.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 9:35 PM
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which reminds you that there weren't just two powers in the Texas Revolution -- there were three.

SFX: ORCHESTRAL STING


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 9:41 PM
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647: oh, I guess that's not wrong. But if Halford liked Hämäläinen's book, he can certainly handle Brooks's.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 9:43 PM
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Just ordered with one click while watching Rockford Files. Bam!

645 seems right.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 10:44 PM
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I too agree with 645, while continuing to reject the second sentence of 632.

There's also the Alvarado/Graham thing in California around the same time.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 10:56 PM
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on the grounds that it's too scholarly for general readers or something.

First they control the banks, then they try to deny us knowledge. I'm on to you Wafer.

Just ordered with one click while watching Rockford Files. Bam!

I'm drunk watching Everest, Beyond the Limit. Put your goggles on you dumb fuckers, you'll go blind!


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09-27-12 11:02 PM
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