There Is No Plan

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Let’s Face It, Lincoln Got It Wrong.

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The Union at all costs. 

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Bull Run, which was close to being a repeat of the Union rout at the First Bull Run more than a year earlier. Thousands more Union soldiers died that day and in the remaining days of encounter, all sacrificing their lives for the Union.

A century and a half later, it is rarely suggested that they died for a misbegotten cause. But in the somber opinion of There Is No Plan, they died for nought that day.

There is no doubt of the genius of Abraham Lincoln. He was and remains the most erudite, decisive, intelligent, and compassionate President America has ever known. His singular belief was in the glory of the Union, despite the evidence that was clear even then that the Slave States were a dead weight dragging the nation down. He stopped at nothing to restore that Union. When they seceded one by one in late 1860 and early 1861, led by South Carolina, the North regarded the secession of the Southern States as outrageous effrontery borne of their slavery-steeped “peculiarities”. But actually they were doing us a big favor.

As George Templeton Strong commented at the time,

If disunion becomes an established fact, we have one consolation. The self-amputated members were diseased beyond immediate cure, and their virus will infect our system no longer. 

He was right then, and he remains right now.

Had Lincoln allowed the South to secede, as outrageous as that sounds, he would indeed have changed the course of American History in a myriad of ways that could only have been beneficial for the American Experiment. It’s a bizarre what if that says more about the world today, than the world as it was one hundred and fifty years ago. Imagine that Twilight Zone for a moment.

Hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved.

An independent South would quickly have been a client state of the North, and would, within fifty years, have become an international pariah state if it didn’t itself dispense with slavery. Over time the plantation owners, unable to cope with real-world economics, would probably have given ground to the yeomen and the sharecropper, the rising power of border states, and the more enlightened Southerners who had long waited for their opportunity to have their voices heard. The South would eventually have transformed itself, relying on its own flinty optimism, rather than lackadaisically leaning on the largess of the North. It might have built great industries financed perhaps by the Union, or more likely by its own entrepreneurs. It might have had the capacity to rise out of itself, rather than languishing in its sorry, regressive history. And most importantly, it might, begrudgingly at first, and then with more determination as the price of modernity, have moved along a path of real racial transformation.

The North, in all certainty, would never have had to pander to the persistently racist South for its votes, nor federalize its poverty ( without grace and thanks from the South ) as it has been forced to do for over a century and a half. The remaining Union would have been a far more progressive, Social Democratic, and just nation. It would have been richer, less debt-laden, more egalitarian. No failed Reconstruction, no Jim Crow Laws, no need for Civil Rights Legislation in the North, no “Southern Strategy”.

Lincoln had a profound belief in the sanctity of the Union. But it was, and in many respects remains, an unholy federation. Are we better off for the fight to bring the Secession slave states back into the Union?

To this student of history at least, the answer is a reluctant and somewhat sad no.


Written by coolrebel

August 28, 2012 at 9:48 pm

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