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What is America? Poli 110J Bound by Mystic Chords.

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Presentation on theme: "What is America? Poli 110J Bound by Mystic Chords."— Presentation transcript:

1 What is America? Poli 110J Bound by Mystic Chords

2 John C. Calhoun 1782-1850 "the Union, next to our liberty, the most dear." From South Carolina, endorsed SCs position in nullification crisis. Federal govt becoming tyrannical, infringing on Constl rights of the states Champion of the South, states rights in Senate, 1 st half 19 th C. Major figure in antebellum Democratic party – VP Under J.Q. Adams, Jackson; Sec. of War under Monroe Slavery a Positive Good – Feb. 6, 1837

3 John C. Calhoun Broke with Jackson beginning with Force Act (gave federal govt right to use force to enforce the tariff) – Jackson supported states rights, but thought Union threatened by nullification

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

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

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

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

8 John C. Calhoun White racial solidarity served to conceal the real class divisions between plantation- owning, slaveholding whites and small, non- slaveholding white farmers/citizens.

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

10 John C. Calhoun Benefit of slavery to slaves: in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. – Better than being an industrial laborer, a more gentle, paternal form of power

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

12 Frederick Douglass ~1818-1895 Born a slave – Escaped on 3 rd attempt, 1838 Abolitionist & supporter of womens suffrage Supported Irish home rule, but still popular in Britain Active in Reconstruction politics

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

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

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

16 What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham

17 The Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. – Slavery a betrayal of American beliefs

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

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

20 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) Sen. Douglas: Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now. – Lincoln agrees Capturing history What was the understanding those fathers had of the question mentioned? – Understanding? – Fathers? – Question?

21 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) The frame of government must be the Constitution. – Thus, our fathers must be the original 39 signatories of the Constitution What is the question that they understood just as well, and even better than we do now? – Whether or not the Constitution forbids the Federal government from controlling slavery in Federal territories 21 of the 39 voted in favor of federal regulation, limitation of slavery in the federal territories – The judgment of those who understood the question better than we do.

22 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) I defy any to show that any one of them ever, in his whole life, declared that, in his understanding any Constitutional prohibition on federal regulation of slavery in the Territories. – In fact, he defies any man to show him that anyone said this before the past fifty years. History What is the American way?

23 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) To Southerners: When you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles, or, at the best, no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to Black Republicans. – Politics of insult & contempt

24 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensible prerequisitelicense, so to speakamong you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. – Baseless accusations – A dynamic of extremism: individuals have an incentive to outdo one another in their condemnation. – Not disagreement, but hatred

25 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) True, we do in common with our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live, declare our belief that slavery is wrong, but theres no danger of a slave rebellion. – History – Gradualism & deportation

26 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) You say youll break up the Union rather than give up your Constitutional rights. – Fine, but where exactly is the right to expand slavery westward in the Constitution? It is literally silent on the issue. The Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott that slavery was Constitutionally protected, but they said it was distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution. – The word slave does not appear – Other documents use the word. Why not this one?

27 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) You will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be on us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you shall be a murderer!

28 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) To Republicans: – Peace is the most desirable things – The Southerners say they want only to be left alone, but we leave them alone, and still they are not satisfied. – What will convince them? This, and this only: Cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. In both words and actions Blackmail

29 Address at Cooper Institute (1860) LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT. – Duty – Epistemological limitations

30 Secession Nov. 6, 1860: Lincoln elected December 20, 1860: South Carolina secedes – By February 1861, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas join it to form the Confederacy, later joined by Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee March 4, 1861: Lincoln inaugurated April 12, 1861: South attacks & takes Fort Sumter, war begins

31 First Inaugural Major themes: Secession is bad because it – Breaks contract – Violates the nation – Is anti-democratic

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

33 First Inaugural Contract & Covenant: – Even if the Constitution were only a contract (its not), one party cannot unilaterally exit a contract – The question is one of definitive interpretation: May Congress prohibit slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. – Power over the meaning of the law

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

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

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

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

38 Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863, after Lees invasion of the North 95,000 Union soldiers, 75,000 Confederate – 23,000 Union and 28,000 Confederate casualties Myth of Lees invincibility broken, major turning point in the war – Picketts Charge

39 Gettysburg Address Main Themes: – America is a nation founded in and directed toward equality – Americans can succeed or fail in this charge – The Union is the definitive test case for democracy – Redemptive potential of the current crisis – Central metaphors of birth, death, and rebirth – Giving the war meaning by embedding it w/in greater narrative

40 Gettysburg Address Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. – Biblical method of dating – Language of conception & birth – Equality the central ideal of American politics, it is the telos. – Defining the American community

41 Gettysburg Address Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. – The war is an ordeal, a test – The case of the US is determinative. Can democratic republican governments endure w/o succumbing to anarchy or tyranny?

42 Gettysburg Address They came to dedicate the cemetery, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live – Gave their lives – Died so the nation might live – Martyrs

43 Gettysburg Address It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us---that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…

44 Gettysburg Address The living must show greater devotion even than the dead The great task is not the war, but the national pursuit of equality.

45 ---that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain---that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom- --and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

46 Gettysburg Address By the blood of martyrs, the US will be born anew, purified of its gravest sin. But we can fail, we must show necessary resolve. Under God – Religious authorization of refounded Republic, but also chastened by knowledge of its higher accountability

47 Gettysburg Address All of the people, the polity includes all Americans regardless of race. The community is defined by its belief in equality, not in particular origins or racial classes

48 Gettysburg Address perish from the earth – Jeremiah 10 – Promise of divine retribution – The fallibility of human works

49 Second Inaugural Powerlessness of human effort Spiritual equality political humility, forgiveness Spiritual unity of the US Critical position on self, politics, the war

50 Second Inaugural 4 years before, there was cause for extented remark. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the nation, little that is new could be presented. – The binding power of history over the present

51 Second Inaugural The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured. – The present is uncertain, the future utterly opaque The limits on human action

52 Second Inaugural On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded itall sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without warseeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

53 Second Inaugural All or both said four times: emphasis on fundamental national unity Passive voice: While the inaugural address was being delivered War emphasized, it is inevitable: war said 7 times (9 if you count it)

54 And the war came. – abolitionist Wendell Phillips, January 8, 1852: Revolutions are not made; they come. A revolution is as natural a growth as an oak. It comes out of the past. Its foundations are laid far back. – But for Lincoln there is nothing natural here. It comes like lightning out of the sky.

55 Second Inaugural All knew that this [slave] 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; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. – Slavery the wars cause – South more responsible

56 Second Inaugural But the plans of all have failed: 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. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.

57 Second Inaugural Neither/neither/each: the sections are joined in their failure Lincoln includes himself in this failure: his plans have had results that he never predicted The results are fundamental, astounding. The US has been transformed. – Though he led, he was not in control any more than anyone else

58 Second Inaugural Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare ask a just Gods assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other mens faces, but let us judge not that we not be judged

59 Second Inaugural Shift to the present, here and now Again, emphasis on unity Genesis 3:23 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. – The curse of God for disobedience – Slaveowners disobey Gods will

60 Second Inaugural Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged – From Sermon on the Mount – Suggests both the mercy and judgment of God – While the South bears more responsibility, the North is not without flaw. Universality of sin means that a people should always first criticize themselves. Equality and forgiveness

61 Second Inaugural The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. God the major actor in the drama of the war Both sides could not win Neither side has truly gotten what it wanted Gods will over all history, distinct from human plans and desires – Humans rendered equal in this way

62 Second Inaugural Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Matt. 18:7 Gods will controls history, nothing can go against the will of God. Yet individuals remain responsible for their sins

63 Second Inaugural If we shall suppose that American Slavery is once of those offences which, in the Providence of God, must needs come, but which having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?

64 Second Inaugural American Slavery was – An offence to God – Allowed by God – Willed by God to end now North and South EQUALLY guilty before God, though not before humans – Divine justice vs. human justice – Perfection a dichotomous variable

65 Second Inaugural Fondly do we hopefervently do we pray that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. – Humans can do nothing to alter Gods will. They must humble themselves and pray that Gods mercy is greater than his justice – Distilling moral & religious meaning from the bewildering events and destruction of the War

66 Second Inaugural Shared moral community of Americans – Both guilty in their shared failure to uphold equality – Both powerless to resist the will of God Transcendence of God – Not some tribal deity – His justice and purposes are very much different from those of humans.

67 Second Inaugural Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsmans two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still must it be said the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.

68 Second Inaugural The US is guilty enough to deserve destruction – Slavery a mortal transgression against American obligation to equality – Affirms the perfection of divine justice over human claims to justice – Though the justice of God is inscrutable, it is nonetheless perfectly just three thousand years ago: these ideas predate the US, & may outlast them by as much Just as the war is not the product of human agency, neither will be its end

69 Second Inaugural The judgments of the Lord – Psalm 19 – Lincoln must somehow act ethically within a context beyond his comprehension with outcomes that are impossible to firmly predict and be judged by the inscrutable mind of God according to standards that he cannot fully understand humility as political good

70 Second Inaugural With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in – Forgiveness motivated by recognition of moral equality – Act firmly in the right, as God gives us to see it Moral conviction & moral humility

71 Second Inaugural to bind up the nations wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphanto do all which may achieve a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations. – Atonement between North & South – Atonement between America & its God – Political humility: dont strive for utopia, strive for a better world – Equality demonstrated in a commitment to alleviated suffering – Care for widows & orphans a condition of minimal justice in the Bible

72 Second Inaugural Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world. – If God is always on your side, is he really there?

73 Second Inaugural It is a truth which I thought needed to be told; and as whatever there is of humiliation there is in it, falls most directly on myself, I thought others might afford for me to tell it. – Why does the humiliation fall most directly on him?


75 Long-term outcomes of the Civil War Federal government decisively rendered superior to state governments Blacks being citizens, racial equality becomes civil rights issue Necessities of war lead to dramatic expansion, bureaucratization of federal govt Push to homogenize law across states Expanded power of corporations, closer ties to government

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