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What is America? Poli 110J 3.2 Popular Sovereignty vs. National Duty.

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Presentation on theme: "What is America? Poli 110J 3.2 Popular Sovereignty vs. National Duty."— Presentation transcript:

1 What is America? Poli 110J 3.2 Popular Sovereignty vs. National Duty

2 Lincoln-Douglas Debates Senate campaign of 1858 Senators appointed by state legislatures, so Lincoln & Douglas were more directly campaigning for their parties to dominate there. Drew big crowds, press interest intense Format: 1: 60 min, min, min

3 Background Issues Dred Scott decision (1857) – Slaves & descendents not, can never be citizens – Federal govt cant prohibit slavery in Western territories – Slaves cannot be taken w/o due process (they are legitimate property)

4 Background Issues Slavery to expand or be contained? – Missouri Compromise Series of laws starting 1820 limiting slavery to southern part of US, reached between pro- and anti-slavery congressmen Kansas-Nebraska Act – Overturns MC, each state now able to vote whether there will be slavery w/in its borders (Popular Sovereignty) – Bleeding Kansas

5 Douglas Argument Popular sovereignty is both democratic and consistent with the Founders plan National abolition is an illegitimate use of federal power, revolutionary, and despotic America belongs to whites, it is their country

6 Douglas Argument Douglas: – Mr. Lincoln, in the extract from which I have read, says that this Government cannot endure permanently in the same condition in which it was made by its framers---divided into free and slave States. He says that it has existed for about seventy years thus divided, and yet he tells you that it cannot endure permanently on the same principles and in the same relative condition in which our fathers made it. (1 st debate)

7 Douglas Argument Lincolns position on the house divided is thus revolutionary, looking to overturn the government established by the Constitution.

8 Douglas Argument They knew when they framed the Constitution that in a country as wide and broad as this, with such a variety of climate, production and interest, the people necessarily required different laws and institutions in different localities. (1 st debate)

9 Douglas Argument Lincoln is not only revolutionary, but anti- democratic. He (and the abolitionists) want to impose their will over everyone in the nation. – They refuse to acknowledge cultural diversity, demanding that everyone conform to their morality.

10 Douglas Argument I believe this government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity for ever, and I am in favour of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians and other inferior races.

11 Douglas Argument References to the people imply white people. They alone are the legitimate actors and audience of American, democratic politics. – The country belongs to whites. Everyone else is external to the American polity

12 Douglas Argument For thousands of years the negro has been a race upon the earth, and during all that time, in all latitudes and climates, wherever he has wandered or been taken, he has been inferior to the race which he has there met. He belongs to an inferior race, and must always occupy an inferior position.

13 Douglas Argument Blacks are inferior to whites in every way. They are to be treated as such not because they are themselves bad, but because whites are in every way superior. – Racial equality as a slur. Black Republicans

14 Lincolns Argument my understanding is that Popular Sovereignty, as now applied to the question of Slavery, does allow the people of a Territory to have Slavery if they want to, but does not allow them not to have it if they do not want it.

15 Lincolns Argument Popular sovereignty is not neutral re:slavery, but promotes it The United States is a nation that points beyond itself to something higher – Equality as a standard of criticims Only politics compatible with this are truly American – Slavery is in this sense foreign to America

16 Lincolns Argument Popular sovereignty extends slavery everywhere. – Slaves remain slaves wherever they go. There can therefore be no truly free states

17 Lincolns Argument This declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I can not but hate. (1 st debate) – Popular Sovereignty not neutral, but in fact a conspiracy to see slavery expand Does this mean that Lincoln thinks most people would vote for slavery?

18 Lincolns Argument I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world---enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites---causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity,

19 Lincolns Argument The United States is especially accountable to an egalitarian political ideal, and serves as an examplar of this ideal to the world. When the US behaves badly, it discredits republican government – Winthrop

20 Lincolns Argument and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty---criticising the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest. (1 st debate)

21 Lincolns Argument Self-interest cannot be the sole guide of American political action, and it is in a way inherently unamerican to act as if it should be – Defining the community of belief The Declaration of Independence makes equality the most important political virtue of America

22 Lincolns Argument Free them, and make them politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment, is not the sole question, if indeed, it is any part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, can not be safely disregarded. We can not, then, make them equals.

23 Lincolns Argument Lincoln here is ambivalent on racial equality. His true feelings are difficult to determine. – Is he being sincere? Bowing to public opinion? Acknowledging a political reality? This position changes across his career

24 Lincolns Argument there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects---certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.

25 Lincolns Argument Blacks are human, and entitled to be regarded as such morally and politically Again, ambivalent position on full equality

26 Lincolns Argument Now, I believe if we could arrest the spread, and place it where Washington, and Jefferson, and Madison placed it, it would be in the course of ultimate extinction, and the public mind would, as for eighty years past, believe that it was in the course of ultimate extinction.

27 Lincolns Argument The Founders actually meant for slavery to eventually be extinguished. It is part of their plan. – Equality the telos of the United States – Defenders of slavery work to hinder, not preserve, the plan of the Founders

28 Lincolns Argument Douglas thinks territories should not be able to ban slavery, not because slavery is right, but because it has been decided by the court, and being decided by court, he is, and you are bound to take it in your political action as law- --not that he judges at all of its merits, but because a decision of the court is to him a ``Thus saith the Lord.''

29 Lincolns Argument The Supreme Court has final authority, which must be obeyed, but that does not mean that they are always correct American telos of equality provides a dimension of criticism even over them

30 Lincolns Argument They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all: constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, every where (7 th debate)

31 Lincolns Argument Perfection will never be attained, but can be approached asymptotically It is not destined, but a something that requires constant effort – America can fail, be corrupted The ideal of equality applies to all people, everywhere – Transcendental

32 Lincolns Argument Equality vs. slavery: The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, ``You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.'' [Loud applause.] No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.

33 Lincolns Argument Slavery, then, is alien to America, though it is present since that nations birth It is not neutral, but counter-democratic Even if the majority of Americans wanted it, they would be wrong to do so. They would not be acting like Americans.

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