Due Saturday night. Feb. 3 at 10 p.m.
Practice reading for ch. 12 is still due Saturday night by 11:59 pm.
Due Saturday night. Feb. 3 at 10 p.m.
Practice reading for ch. 12 is still due Saturday night by 11:59 pm.
You’re in an Advanced Placement U.S. History class that analyzes different approaches to history. As we have learned, history’s interpretation can change – use the formation of the Constitution’s interpretation as an example (Blog #93). History can also be used as a weapon to support or discredit opponents like the way Richard Nixon / Watergate, Frederick Douglass, and Japanese internment camps are being used to discredit President Trump. In the same way that history can be weaponized, the history of the Civil War has been discussed and fought over ever since General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. Using the article, “The Way We Weren’t,” author David Von Drehle dissects the way Americans have viewed the bloodiest conflict in our history.
People in 2011 were polled in the 11 states of the Confederacy, and they answered that the primary cause of the Civil War was states rights, or in this case, the primacy of the states over the federal government, despite what the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause said. However, as we have seen with the recent history we’ve studied, states rights was not just a Southern thing. Northern states and cities resisted the new Fugitive Slave Law (and the federal government) and tried to foil sending slaves to their original owners. Eminent Civil War historians like James McPherson and David Blight state that almost everything in the events leading up to the Civil War dovetail w/ slavery.
Confederate soldiers and citizens, the losers in the conflict, had to mentally hold onto their “due pride” after fighting so hard, so they invented the states rights cause. Many historians, novelists, and filmmakers were willing to go along with this denial and write narratives that supported the states rights cause. Confederate generals wrote their memoirs in the post-war world which distanced their sacrifice from slavery and attached it firmly to something more noble (in their minds) like states rights. Insidious inside the states rights cause was the Lost Cause, the belief that slavery was a benign institution and that Black people had it better under slavery than freedom. Freedom, as defined by the profit-hungry, industrial North, included working for tiny wages and ruthless competition. In Jefferson Davis’s book about the war, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, he portrays the South as hopelessly outgunned and outmanned (which it was) and compares the North to the serpent infiltrating the Garden of Eden (the South) where slave owners lived with their slaves in paradise.
However, this is not to blame the Civil War on just the South. Yes, they were treasonous. Yes, they killed hundreds of thousands of Northern soldiers, but EVERYONE was complicit in slavery. As mentioned in the article, many Northern states, including Wall Street, benefitted dramatically from it. Check out the New York Historical Society’s online exhibit, Slavery in New York. There should be little doubt that the war was a long time coming, exacted a horrific toll on the nation, and still leaves us with a legacy that we are dealing with as a nation.
Questions to answer:
Which of these is most persuasive as a cause and which is the least persuasive cause? Why?
3. The article focuses a lot on Bleeding Kansas as the pivotal point in which the Civil War seemed inevitable. Would you agree with this assertion? Why or why not?
4. What are some major arguments that poke holes in the Lost Cause? Think of movies like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind and their portrayal of the South.
5. When and why did America finally start to break away from the Lost Cause mythology (a.k.a. The Dunning School of Post War America)?
Dehumanization and slavery have gone hand in hand ever since slavery had been invented. Using Frederick Douglass’ autobiography was done to show you how horrible slavery can be and also to settle any questions that racist white people had back then who didn’t believe that he could have been a slave (because he was so smart and eloquent).
One of the first ways that dehumanization occurred must begin with the constant rape and physical abuse of female slaves. Frederick’s father was white, most like his mother’s slave master, and surely not a willing participant. The creation of many mixed children was more common than Southerners would like to admit. Women were used for men’s pleasure, little else. Afterwards, Frederick was separated from his mother and raised by an elderly woman, much like animals are weaned from their mothers when they are young. His mother had to sneak away in the middle of the night to come and visit her son.
Frederick also describes vividly how the slaves were fed: “It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and set down upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush; some with oyster-shells, others with pieces of shingle, some with naked hands, and none with spoons. He that ate fastest got most; he that was strongest secured the best place; and few left the trough satisfied” (Douglass 12) Douglass intentionally used the word “pigs” and “trough” to give you an amazingly vivid image of children fighting over their food like animals. Slaves didn’t need utensils. And when the slave owners don’t see their slaves as human, it becomes easier to treat them in a violent manner (like kicking a dog or much worse).
After Frederick tried to escape and was caught, he was thrown in jail. “Douglass portrays the slave traders and agents for slave traders as men auctioning for cattle instead of human beings. The slave traders and agents for slave traders at no point stop to think what they are doing is wrong, instead it is business as usual and they are eager to acquire misbehaved slaves at steep discounts, much the same as farmers will bid pennies on the dollar for underweight farm animals.” In this instance, slaves were a commodity, something to be bought or sold, instead of human beings who have thoughts, emotions, and feelings.
Lastly, the dehumanization crosses the color line to affect the white owners like Mrs. Auld. Though she started out as a kindly owner with the best of intentions “she had been in a good degree preserved from the blighting and dehumanizing effects of slavery” (Douglass 14). Mrs. Auld accepted Frederick as a human being first, teaching him his most important skill (in retrospect b/c they helped him escape) of reading a few words. She eventually turns cruel and mean as she is put in charge of slaves and is dehumanized herself.
My question for you:
Does slavery bring on the dehumanization of a person or do you need to dehumanize a person in order to enslave them? Yes, this does sound a lot like the slavery / racism question we discussed back in first tri, and in some ways, dehumanizing =racism, but dig deeper and comment on how the dehumanization boomerangs back on the slave owners and envelops them as well. By dehumanizing others, we do it to ourselves. Why?
One of the main things that I hope that I have taught you over the past couple of weeks (going back to the Mexican War controversy) is that asking the question “What caused the Civil War?” is not a good question. The question seems to indicate that there’s only ONE cause that can be found among all of the political compromises, peoples’ actions, economic forces, and differing social / cultural norms of the North and the South. This oversimplification insults the intelligence of anyone who has studied the CW like we have, because there is no single, simple answer.
In the past, historians have tried to blame the war on agitators – the abolitionists or the Slave Power conspiracies. Both sides had radical “fire-eaters” who were unwilling to accept compromise and wanted it the Frank Sinatra way, “I did it my way!” Also, past historians have tended to blame it on economic forces or states’ rights. The threat of losing slavery meant the loss of billions of dollars of investment in people and land for the southern economy, and so the Deep South states pushed it to the brink to be left alone from federal interference (though Lincoln wasn’t going to interfere, he claimed that he just wanted to stop the spread of slavery out west). This dove tails nicely with the idea that Stephen Douglas and others had championed – it was up to the states to decide what to do with slavery b/c the federal government (Congress) was prohibited from interfering with slavery. Therefore, it was a state’s right to do with slavery what it wished since the federal government had its hands tied by the Dred Scott decision in 1857.
Other historians, more recently, have placed the blame for the CW squarely on the shoulders of slavery. Many Northerners felt that slavery was on its decline or would be limited in its area of growth by the Missouri Compromise (1820), but with the annexation of Texas, the Mexican War, Compromise of 1850, and Kansas Nebraska Act, that small area had quickly expanded over the course of 35 years. Then the Dred Scott decision seemed to say that slavery could exist anywhere within the country. Those Northerners were now angry (for many different reasons, racism being one of them) that their politicians seemed to betray them. This anger might explain the popularity of the Republican Party in the 1850s, an avowed anti-slavery party that appealed to many Northerners by 1860. At the center of all this anger and controversy is the volatile subject of slavery and its spread.
Modern historian Edward Ayers, a Southerner, has divided up these historians into two camps: the fundamentalists who claim that the Civil War was a struggle over the future of the United States between slavery and freedom, and the revisionists who say that the Civil War was caused by the disintegration of the Democrats, the failure of compromise, and the election of Abraham Lincoln (the first Northern president elected who wasn’t pro-slavery since John Quincy Adams in 1824). For the fundamentalists, slavery is the main cause, while for the revisionists, slavery is buried beneath layers of white ideology and politics. Ayers feels that slavery was a crisis of immense magnitude but didn’t lead to war. He said that the “war came through misunderstanding, confusion, miscalculation. Both sides underestimated the location of the fundamental loyalty in the other. Both received incorrect images of the other in the partisan press. Political beliefs distorted each side’s view of the other’s economy and class relations. Both sides believed the other side was bluffing, and both sides believed that the other’s internal differences and conflicts would lead it to buckle” (134). He wraps it up by saying that Southern whites didn’t fight for slavery, they fought for a new nation based upon slavery. Northerners didn’t fight to end slavery, but they did fight to preserve the integrity of the Union.
Question: Where do you find yourself when it comes to the cause(s) of the Civil War? Do you find yourself in the fundamentalist camp or with the revisionists? Why? Do you think that slavery, economics, or states rights was the primary cause of the war? Why?
Your answer is due Monday, December 9 by class time. Minimum of 300 words, please.
As I watched Lincoln, I couldn’t help but be struck by the honest attempt to portray the 16th president and the tumultuous last months of the Civil War. Lincoln seemed funny at times, deeply troubled and burdened by leading the country through some of its worst times ever, and also a grieving father and husband.
But what struck me most was what I thought was the parallel between the freedom and rights of freed slaves back in 1865 and today’s struggle for most LGBT equality. Tony Kushner, the screenwriter, was the author of 1993’s Angels in America, a ground-breaking play that addressed gay and lesbian issues in a very different time (even just twenty years ago) that shocked America. Back in 1993, people were still afraid of AIDS victims and spurned those who were HIV positive. Today, gay and lesbian couples struggle for marriage equality, have been turned down for adoption, and are still the victims of harassment and bullying. The Laramie Project, a play about the life of Matthew Shephard, a gay man who was tortured and killed for his sexual orientation by two straight men, was just at Seaholm a few weeks ago and has had such an impact on the lives of Americans that Matthew’s mother believes that the play has saved more people than all of the hate crime laws in the country.
Another thing that I was struck by was the blatant vote-courting done by the men hired by Seward who twisted Democrats’ arms and practically bribed these Congressmen with government jobs (like postmaster of _______, Ohio) in order to get the needed 2/3 number of votes to pass the 13th Amendment. Part of me was not surprised by these strong-arm tactics, because I know that this was (and is) how things were done, but part of me was startled because I wanted to preserve this ideal that I’d had about Lincoln as being above this kind of political wrangling. But the one thing I have learned over the years was that Lincoln was not above using politics as a means to his ends, whatever they may have been at the time. He had promised to gradually emancipate slaves in the border states (even suggesting monetary compensation for slaves) so that they would stay in the Union. This never happened.
A third thing that struck me was the word play and rhetorical sparring in Congress. Many of those exchanges were funny and enlightening with regards to the way politics played out in the 1860s. Today’s Congress doesn’t conduct itself like this today (but watching the face-to-face barb flinging in the movie, it’s no surprise that Charles Sumner was beaten by South Carolinian representative after Sumner “insulted” the South’s honor). I loved Thaddeus Stevens, the radical Republican from Pennsylvania, who was willing to compromise his desire for full rights for freedmen to get the greater goal of slavery abolished. Also, I don’t know if the final scene with him is true (no spoilers here!) though Wikipedia and other sources have confirmed it.
A fourth thing that really opened my eyes was the troubled relationship between Lincoln and his son, Robert, with Robert’s anger boiling over at not being allowed to fight in the Civil War (and instead enrolled at Harvard). I wonder if Lincoln didn’t allow his son to fight because of his own fears of Robert’s death (knowing that he’s already lost two sons, Eddie in 1850 and Willie in 1862) or Mary’s own fragile psyche which could fracture with another death (and probably did with Abe’s death in 1865). Though the oldest, Robert seemed neglected by his father when he comes to visit for the “shindee” after his father’s re-election. There were scenes that showed Robert being ignored by Lincoln, but by contrast Tad gets all of his father’s love. One of the more touching scenes was when Lincoln cuddled up with Tad on the floor who had fallen asleep playing war with toy soldiers. I was also surprised to see Lincoln slap Robert when Robert wouldn’t let his duty to fight drop. These scenes made Lincoln seem like a real person with flaws and fears.
The last thing that I took away from the movie was the battle over giving the slaves equal rights once the 13th Amendment would be passed. What would be the point of freeing slaves if they weren’t citizens of the nation that had freed them? What’s the point? No voting? No civil rights? This was a preview of what Reconstruction would become: a battle over guaranteeing the rights for freed blacks vs. preserving white supremacy.
Please provide your insights about the movie. You can respond to any of my five insights or share your own after you’ve seen the movie. If you find an interesting movie review, please include the link / url in your blog response. Minimum of 200 words. Due by Monday, Dec. 10th at the beginning of your class.
http://movies.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/movies/lincoln-by-steven-spielberg-stars-daniel-day-lewis.html?_r=0 – an interesting look at how the actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, developed his speaking voice for his part as Lincoln, and the back and forth between writer Tony Kushner and Lewis as to what phrases and words would be used in the movie.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/16/tony-kushner-at-hero-summit-obama-likes-new-lincoln-movie.html – brief article about the screenwriter’s meeting with Obama after he watched Lincoln for the first time.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/10/14/can-angels-in-america-soar-again.html – A 2010 article about Kushner’s Angels in America plays.
“All men are created equal…” Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence
“There is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach [slavery]… we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” Thomas Jefferson’s letter to John Holmes
An argument that discredits some of the Founding Fathers, including men like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison among others is that because these men owned slaves yet fought for freedom, they are hypocrites. The line of reasoning goes – “how could someone who so courageously advanced the cause of human freedom still be a slaveowner? They can’t possibly be both for and against freedom.” The next point in this line of thinking is that because of this hypocrisy, some of Founding Fathers, especially the Virginians, are racist because they neither had the courage to free their slaves or that they profited from their slaves’ labor.
One of the most biting quotes about this dilemma is from this time period (not ours) by Englishman Samuel Johnson:
“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” (Ambrose 2).
But were our FFs neglectful of this slavery dilemma? It appears not. When Jefferson describes the perpetuation of slavery in his book, Notes on the State of Virginia, he talks about how the slavemaster attitude is passed on down to his children:
“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise in the most boisterous passions…The parent storms, the child looks on, catches the lineaments of wrath, puts on the same airs in the circle of smaller slaves, gives loose to his worst passions, and thus nursed, educated and daily exercised in tyranny…”
Here, the child of the slaveowner learns how to treat slaves like chattel, and the cycle is perpetuated. But modern critics say, how could Jefferson recognize this contradiction in American society and not do anything about it? Even in the same book where he criticizes slavery and its depravity, Jefferson embraces the racism of the time by asserting that slaves hadn’t produced any real literature, they smelled bad, and engage in sex constantly (Ambrose 4). Yet, confoundingly, Jefferson also wrote a passage into the original draft of the Declaration of Independence that condemned slavery, and he also signed the bill that outlawed the international slave trade in 1808.
“I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery].” —George Washington
Then there’s Washington. He was the only one of the nine slaveowning president who had freed all of his slaves (neither Adams owned slaves). He held the nation together through the force of his personality and will during some of the darkest times. But that didn’t stop a school in New Orleans from being renamed in the 1990s from George Washington Elementary to the Charles R. Drew Elementary(Dr. Drew is the developer of hemoglobin) (Ambrose 11).
Ben Franklin and Benjamin Rush, FFs from Pennsylvania, helped found the nation’s first anti-slavery society in Philadelphia. Rush is quoted as saying: “Domestic slavery is repugnant to the principles of Christianity… It is rebellion against the authority of a common Father.”
On the other side, there’s the assertion by Michelle Bachman, former Republican presidential candidate, who said that the FFs “know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.” Specifically, Bachman mentions John Quincy Adams as one of these tireless founders, our 6th president.
1. What is happening here to the Founding Fathers? Why are some people quick to attack and blame them for allowing slavery to exist at the foundation of a freedom-loving nation? And why do some people defend the FFs with every ounce of their being?
2. Do you think the FFs are being judged by today’s standards or by the standards of the day in which they lived? Have the FFs become some kind of political football that candidates use for their own purposes? Why?
Ambrose, Stephen E. To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. Print
Here is an opportunity to learn some history and write about it.
Essay Contest Requirements
Charles H. Wright Museum
Attn: Women’s Committee
315 E. Warren Ave.
Detroit, MI 48201
For a definition of Juneteenth, click here: http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm
1. Were the Spanish just in their attempt to Christianize the Native Americans? Why or why not?
2. Why was there so much tension between the religious groups in America? Why were so many of them intolerant of others?
3. What are the risks and benefits of refusing to conform with society if you diagree with its principles? Do you think it’s worth it today? Why or why not?
4. How would our population be distributed differently if the Mayfower had landed in Virginia (where it was supposed to land)? How might this have affected the American Revolution (or would there have even been one)?
5. Do you think that bad people can improve given a second chance? Take into account the history of Georgia.
7. With the New England education system, independent thinking appeared to have been discouraged. What do you think this meant for education institutions back then? What must it have been like to have been a student back then?
8. What were the European explorers’ reactions to the unbounded nature of the New World?
9. If Europeans hadn’t settled the Americas, how do you think the U.S. would look like today?
10. If Powhatan hadn’t intervened in the fate of Jamestown’s “starving time”, what might have happened to the colony?
11. How did a person suddenly come up with a new version of Christianity?
12. Would people have migrated to America if King Henry VIII hadn’t broken from the Roman Catholic Church? Why or why not?
13. Was it hypocritical for the Puritans to persecute the Quakers, especially after they were persecuted in England?
14. Were the Wampanoags and other Indian tribes justified in their reasoning for launching King Philip’s War (to stop the spread of the English onto their land) and the death and injury of several hundred English men and women? Why or why not?
15. Why did the Europeans treat the natives so poorly when many of them were helpful and peaceful at first?
16. Do you think Father Bartoleme de Las Casas’ idea to use Africans instead of Indians as slaves in the New World was a major factor in the establishment of African slavery in America? Why or why not?
17. How were the European explorers able to communicate with the Native Americans when they first arrived?
18. If people like John Smith hadn’t helped the settlers survive, what do you think would have happened to the new colonies?
19. What gave certain people or religion the right to pass discriminatory laws?
20. Why did the English monarch send Edmund Andros over to lead the Dominion of New England instead of appointing someone from the colonies? What would have happened if a New Englander had been in charge?
21. Often times, it’s been said that one leader completely helped a colony to survive; do you think that it is a fair statement to give one person sole responsibility for the success of a colony (Peter Stuyvesant, John Smith, Miles Standish)?
22. Would Americans have been as religiously tolerant today if the Quakers and Puritans actually had gotten along back in the 17th Century? Why or why not?
23. If you were Peter Stuyvesant, would you have given up New York without a fight? Why or why not?
24. Do you think the “visible saints” actually believed that they had been chosen by God or do you think that they faked it for the social acceptance and enhanced social standing?
25. How do you think American (and Virginian) history would have been different if John Rolfe hadn’t developed a better, less bitter strain of tobacco to export to Europe?
26. Which of the early American colonies would you have liked to have lived in? Why?
28. Everyone has their own interpretation of religion, so why does that have to affect the way that they live and treat others?
29. Which person that we’ve studied so far was the most democratic? How about the most aristocratic? Why?
30. Why do you think the Roanoke settlement disappeared?
31. What changes do you think would have occurred in the progression of colonial society if colonists were less hostile towards Native Americans?
32. During the African slave trade, how could African leaders have so easily sold other Africans into slavery?
33. If you were to start a new colony somewhere, what kinds of principles would you build it upon and why? Think about religion, education, government, philosophy, morals, etc.
34. How do you think a 17th Century Puritan would react to our society today? (Think of common behaviors, style of dress, religious attitudes, freedom, technology, etc.).
35. Which of the original 13 colonies do you think best represents America today? Why?
36. How do you think Old World Europeans viewed those people who left their country and headed out to the unknown New World?
37. Do you think Puritan women felt discriminated against when they weren’t allowed any say-so in law making or decision-making? Or do you think they accepted their role / fate as what God had wanted? Why?
38. Why, during the Great Awakening, did slave-owners decide to teach their slaves about Christianity, when they did not even consider them human beings deserving of natural rights (in essence, by recognizing that slaves have a soul to save from hell, it’s a recognition of their humanity – something that had been denied them)?