Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: “Pre-Thanksgiving Day Ethics Wrap-Up, 11/27/2019””

 

Alizia Tyler’s Comment of the Day predictably set off another round of debates relating to the Civil War. There are few episodes in our history that are so rich with ethics and leadership controversies, so it is not surprising that Lincoln, secession, slavery, the Confederacy, Lee and other objects of contention keep finding their way here, most recently in connection with the relentless Confederate Statutory Ethics Train Wreck.

Red Pill Ethics has made an impressive entry in this fascinating and ever-green category. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post,”Comment Of The Day: “Pre-Thanksgiving Day Ethics Wrap-Up, 11/27/2019””….I’ll be back at the end.

I sat and argued Lincoln a bit to my significant other. Or at least all the things history kind of brushes aside.

1) Laws determine what we can’t do, not what we can do. If there is no law saying that an act is illegal then it is by definition legal. This is the foundation of American law. The government just can’t make up rules and arrest you for things that aren’t illegal.

By this universally true standard, the South’s secession was legal. There is no law prohibiting it and, historically, none of the early states entered the union with the understanding that it was an unbreakable agreement. Indeed the federal government was deliberately made to be a weak structure to preserve the autonomy of the states. To this day there is no law saying that the states can’t leave the union – in any case such a law would be deeply hypocritically and ethically bankrupt given America’s rebellious origin. Some Supreme Court cases have touched the issue but their constitutional basis is literally non existent – “Texas had become part of ‘an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible states’ ” uhhhhh where does the constitution say that?

2) At the time of the Civil War, secession was widely if not universally viewed as a legal option. So a few Southern States peacefully succeeded and ordered all Northern troops out of their sovereign territory. The feds did not comply. They sat in Fort Sumter and did not leave. The Confederacy then blockaded the Fort to prevent it’s resupply that the unlawful occupiers of that land might be forced to leave. Again the Feds did not comply. Instead they ran the blockade and sent more men and material to the Fort. Sorry fam, but when one nation sends troops into another nation to occupy their land… that’s an invasion no matter how bloodless it may be. The modern equivalent of a bloodless invasion like this would the Russian annexation of Crimea. Bloodless but inarguably illegal and an act of war. If Ukraine had gotten its shit together and actually had a functioning military or military alliances it very likely would have been the start of a big ol’ war. As it stands though, Ukraine lacks the power to fight back and so it took the invasion on the chin.

The South did not. They opened fire on the Fort and eventually took it back – and they managed to do it without actually killing anyone. A bloodless invasion was met with a bloodless defeat and sovereign land was returned to its sovereign owner. In any case, the North’s soft invasion and the previously unheard of authority that it implied so alarmed the other states that four more states who had initially opposed secession then decided to secede. The North then blockaded the South’s ports and invaded Virginia. Even Maryland and Delaware, Northern states, considered withdrawing from the Union but were prevented from doing so by federal intervention…which brings us to the next evil that Lincoln’s administration perpetrated.

3) Lincoln stepped into full dictator mode and suspended various civil rights in the north. He went so far as to disregard the court cases he didn’t like (including the Supreme Court itself), straight up ignoring the balance of power ordered by the Constitution, and had his military arrest civilians and hold them in military jails against all the natural rights of man. Lincoln may even have written up and the shelved an arrest warrant for one of the Supreme Court justices – the truth of this is still debated.

4) After the war, no Confederate was executed for treason, Hell, the president of the Confederacy wasn’t even tried. Why though? After a war that killed some 400,000+ Americans why was no one held accountable for their blatantly illegal (as the North argued) act of violent treason? It’s not like the US government didn’t believe in killing people for treason – Lincoln was President during the single largest mass execution in American history. They hung 38 Dakota Native Americans who fought back against what was very very likely a breach in treaty by the federal government. It’s not like they didn’t have the evidence – the dude was clearly the President of the Confederacy. They had him in a jail cell so it’s not like they couldn’t find the guy to try him. So why not pass righteous judgment on him?

Because there were good odds that they wouldn’t be able to get a conviction in court. And if you can’t convict the leader of the rebellion of rebellion then your legal basis for claiming rebellion looks non existent.

5) Slavery was already on the way out. The slave trade from Africa had all but dried up and the economics of using slave labor was becoming increasingly untenable. Lincoln started a war to end a practice that very likely might have ended naturally in his lifetime.

6) For all this Lincoln, was a deeply deeply unpopular President at the time. John Wilkes Booth was a Northerner not some dastardly Southern agent bent on revenge. But like with JFK, a President who dies in service tends to have his wrongs forgotten by history and his goods magnified.

I could go on on. I spent a few months living in the historical neighborhood of Charleston with a buddy of mine who happens to have his masters in History (and a BA in business). During our daily porch cigar (LFD Double Ligero Chiselito, if you’re into cigars) we’d talk about all kind of things and, unsurprisingly given out surroundings, the Civil War came up frequently. The above is what I recall and it mostly true and accurate but even if only half of it is correct it reflects very poorly on ol’ honest Abe.

Then I posed a question to her. If you were the President and you believed, as we modern people do, that slavery is an abominable evil, even if the South’s secession was legally valid and the practice of slavery was dying, could you stomach letting those poor people toil under such an evil a day longer than you had to? Even if it meant spending a half million lives and ? She paused a minute, and said “No, I’d have started the war too. It’s just too evil.” And I agree.

For all the evil that Lincoln did, he freed the slaves and it was worth it. The blood we spilled is clearly the price you pay for having allowed such an evil in the first place. I can’t find the comment but I recall getting attacked here for saying something to the effect of “tearing apart the country is worth it if it means righting our wrongs, Lincoln did it and would too”.

At the end of the day I think Lincoln was a great and complex man. I admire him even – his statue in DC gives me chills. I don’t admire the historical airbrushing that goes on and the child-like ethical portrayal of the South by modern day leftist historians.

I’m back. Brief notes:

2. Since Lincoln did not regard the South as a sovereign, the terming of it’s incursion into the Confederacy an “invasion” assumes as a fact what was the central issue underlying the war. Moreover, the South could not take over ownership of a US fort simply by declaring its independence. Lincoln was quite right that it remained U.S. property. In that case, it was the South that was doing the invading.

4. There is no question that with the kangaroo courts the military used to convict the Lincoln Conspirators and Colonel Wirtz in 1865, David, Lee and Stephens, among others, would have been convicted. Lincoln’s decision to pardon them was a wise one based on trying to heal the country.

5. I hate the “slavery was on the way out” argument. Every second it remained undermined the American experiment and its integrity.

6. Lincoln was popular enough to win the 1864 election easily.

 

 

26 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: “Pre-Thanksgiving Day Ethics Wrap-Up, 11/27/2019””

  1. Even if slavery really was “on the way out”, the South certainly fought to keep it going as long as possible. They weren’t just afraid of the economic fallout, they were afraid of what the people they’d been mistreating would do once they got a taste of freedom.

  2. 2) Seems more complex than that, with the entire notion of a Fort being “owned” by the Federal government…the Federal government’s authority over certain lands within states being derived entirely from that State’s membership in the Federation…there’s something principled hidden in that relationship that as long as secession is legal, then once seceded, the State regains full authority and possession over any lands originally ceded to Federal control.

    5) I’m pretty annoyed. I had a discussion on this topic in the forums for “Art of Manliness”, when someone had made the same “slavery was on its way out” assertion. And I can’t find the discussion at all. And it was THOROUGH. I took all the available census data ante-bellum and laid the slave ownership per capita in the south across a chronology. In only a few states was slavery decreasing. In most of the states slave ownership was actually entrenching and expanding. I don’t even think economic choices were a factor in any of this. I think the South– slave, slave owner, and non-slave owner alike –was thoroughly and psychologically entrapped by slavery. Power structures were acculturated FROM BIRTH into the minds of every southerner. To end slavery would have been to end the only way southerners could have understood the world. I don’t think slavery was going out on its own and I think the post-war inability to reach a non-racial society is proof that it wasn’t going to either.

    • I think you’re on to something there. There is a twinge of fond nostalgia to the way that post-war Southerners talked about the institution of slavery (for generations afterward.)

      I think it relates to the sense of power and mastery men feel at ruling over others and having their respect and deference (or else!) Buy a few slaves and some land and suddenly you’re the king of your own kingdom, mediating disputes, dispensing “justice” to your subjects, and being waited on hand and foot. And when they fight over your favor or thank you for tossing them an extra portion of food on holidays, you feel like a benevolent monarch who leads with love.

      In some ways, it’s the same lust for prestige that socialists long for; being able to lord it over a completely subdued and dependent population that sees you as a larger than life figure because you have all the guns and you’re the only one that can make sure they get food. Call it the spirit of Absalom: “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

      They were never going to willingly give up that way of life. The real way to prevent a Civil War would have been to abolish slavery from the very beginning, if it were possible.

    • 2. Fort Knox? The Smithsonian? If Virginia seceded today, would they own Quantico? Would Maryland own the Naval Academy? Picking a federal fort as its initial test of sovereignty was a gift to Lincoln.

      • As long as secession is legal, then yes.

        The principle would apply to the land, not to any non-land property of the federal government being held in the land. A secession of Kentucky doesn’t mean Kentucky gets the gold. There would, as long as both parties act in good faith and legally, be a necessary transition period to transfer control back to the state during which the Federal government would remove any “property” to a different federal facility.

        As for the buildings or permanent structures bought and paid for by the Federal Government, transfer of ownership would have to devolve to some sort of negotiated settlement…whether or not the seceding state compensates the federation for their loss or the federal government just writes that off as a loss.

        But is secession legal anymore?

          • With literally no law to support it -_- precedent is set by court cases based on law not war. Might does not make right and the only court case to rule on the subject literally could not base it’s ruling on the text of the constitution.

            • Precedent also applies to interpretations of the Constitution, RPE. Best example: the VP talking over for a dead President. Entirely John Tyler’s interpretation. There’s every reason to believe that the Founders meant that VP would be a temp POTUS until a special election. Tyler said, “Nope, I’m President now until Harrison’s term is over, and there was no way to stop him, especially since his party held a majority in Congress. As with Lincoln, his idea was better than the Founders’.

              • Sure, but there’s a biiiiig difference between interpreting something that already exists in the constitution and something that doesn’t. The specific line is: “In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.” Both Tylers and Congresses interpretations of the specific law’s wording are valid. Tyler’s wins based on precedent.

                In the constitution there is no such law regarding secession. It’s completely silent. In this case we’re not talking about a difference in interpretation we’re talking about the whole save invention of constitutional law where it does not exist. “What about implied rights? They don’t exist either” some might say. Some constitutional laws can be stretched to encompass a broad range of powers, but the basis of that stretch is always on the underlying text of the law that they’re citing as justification (for example the shaky Roe v Wade ruling). But again no such text exists that we might stretch it to say that the union is an unbreakable contract – indeed Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase didn’t even try to cite a specific article and clause.

                • My problem with this philosophically is that if secession is clearly written into the Constitution as illegal or discouraged, secession becomes too impossible and therefore counter to the voluntary idea of Federation.

                  If secession is clearly written into the Constitution as a legal option, secession becomes too easy.

                  It has to be seen clearly in light of the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence – that a people of one polity have the right that derives from Nature to define their political associations, but had better have good reasons, well thought out and well communicated, to dissolve long-established political ties with others.

  3. I’m honored and a bit bewildered haha thank you. This was very much an off the cuff spiel, you can tell by the horrible editing. I guess now I know how Jack feels when one of the substantive and prideworthy posts doesn’t get a lot traction but a random one does. That’d be a fun question: what’s your favorite post that never took off? Thats what, two COTD in six months and the first two in years of commenting? I don’t know what I’m doing different but I hope I keep doing it – thanks again. Anyway…

    2. Michael West already covered it but yeah, once you secede federal land no longer belongs to the federal government. As a point of direct historical precedent, we sure as hell didn’t let the British Empire keep it’s forts and outposts inside our sovereign territory.

    4. Kangaroo military courts could have gotten the conviction sure but the people of the US would not have recognized the legitimacy of that especially given that the war was over – “why are people being tried under martial law when when the war that required martial law is over?” Their ability to get a conviction in civilian court was very much in doubt and I’m sure they were happy to frame it as an act of forgiveness – even if that flies in the face of their rhetoric and practice during the war.

    5. Slavery was on the way out. I agree that it’s not a justification for allowing it to continue but the fact remains that the economics of slavery was increasingly becoming less and less viable. Cotton was a labor intensive crop and slaves are not inexpensive to maintain so it’s only profitable when cotton prices are high. India had begun to compete in that market within the decade would crash the price of cotton. Slavery may have been popular but popular institutions cannot last if they’re not economically viable.

    6. A president need not be popular to win, he need only be the lesser of two evils – a la Trump. McCellen’s democratic ticket was not terribly competitive given that most of the democratic party seceded from the union. Even then, he was only 6% of the vote away from winning.

      • Structure are part and parcel with land even today – when the government seizes your property they take the structures on the land too. You can’t take a castle with you when you leave after all. In any case, negotiations did follow several rounds in fact. For months. The Southern position was simple and the exact same position we took when negotiating with the British: take your stuff and leave. Instead, the North resupplied and reenforced the position – that’s an act of war. Shooting at the was a bad move? Yeah. How about, allowing a foreign government to take your land and move even more troops onto it? Definitely a worse move for a new nation looking to assert it’s independence and gather the trust and respect of it’s people.

      • “Negotiations would have to follow. Shooting, no. Bad move.”

        Didn’t South Carolina send several letters to and give about 3 and half months for the Federal government to engage in “negotiations” before shooting?

    • 5) I still disagree. I’ll have to crunch the census numbers again since I lost the post from before, but my recollection is that slavery was actually increasing. Just because an inevitable plummet in cotton prices from international competition would make slavery on the cotton plantations economically less incentivized, doesn’t mean the South suddenly realizes the inhumanity of slavery…it would still be a legal practice in the South. The South wouldn’t just make slavery illegal because the cotton plantations would have to modify their economic practices.

      • The arguments I have heard (not vouching for them, just repeating them) was that slavery would become obsolete.
        An analogy through a question: how many horses pull plows these days?
        Horse-drawn carriages?
        While there are still people who work the fields, slavery would not be cost-effective when considering the advances in technology.
        -Jut

          • I am not following you. All the cotton gin did was make removing the seeds easier. It still had to be picked.

            But, yes, it made the process less labor-intensive. And, current farming methods would make the picking that much easier.

            I am not convinced that it would have kept going on as a legal institution.

            -Jut

            • Technology should reduce production costs ultimately eliminating the need for slaves (which must have been lower cost in the long run than hired personnel). But technology didn’t. In fact it drove a greater dependency on slaves.

              • But, you are dealing with a different time-frame.

                Serious question: strictly based on technology (whatever that means), do you believe that, had there been no civil war, slavery would have remained a dominant issue until 1920?

                While all of this is sphincter-talk, if I can predict the past that never happened, it would make sense that slavery would go the way of the horse-drawn carriage.

                -Jut

                • I can only rely on the pre-war data to interpolate, post-war attitudes and my gut instinct about human psychology. Slavery doesn’t go away…even if certain economic sectors use it less. I would earnestly doubt it goes away to an “unnoticeable” level (whatever that might look like). And even if it went down to an insignificant level…it’s still LEGAL and would be practiced LEGALLY by someone, somewhere.

                  And let’s say it does actually reduce and go away in practice (but not in law) by like…1965ish…are there some evils on this planet that permitting the unspeakable evil to be enacted on a sector of humanity for 100 years and all the attendant misery and collateral loss of life worth tolerating versus the extremely temporary evil of a fast paced half a decade bloodletting as one side tells another side they can’t own people?

                  It’s the same trade-off with North Korea…do we let them eventually collapse after another century of misery and death? or do we “help things along”, while it may increase suffering for a short period it would fix things long term for more people…?

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