Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Great minds think alike

See this at Lawyers, Guns and money. The princess bride is the ultimate political metaphor of our time.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Was the civil war was about slavery or states rights?

I got into another brief discussion about the causes of the civil war yesterday. The issue of contention seemed to be:
  • What was the civil war really about?

And as a special bonus question:

  • Was Lincoln a good guy or a bad guy?

I took the liberal position ("Slavery, duh" and "good guy") my counterpart took the conservative position ("states rights" and "bad guy"). Here’s my thinking. Let me know if I’ve missed something.

By our modern standards Lincoln was a racist, but so was just about every one else of that era. When judged by the standards of his day he seems down-right progressive. He always opposed slavery personally but when it was politically impossible to get rid of it he held that it was up to the states to decide. When getting rid of slavery became feasible he happy to force states to end it. Is this so different from what we see with modern politicians on issues like Gay Marriage?

Lincoln’s views on slavery were relevant because the US was on the verge of inducting a lot of new states and each would have to decide whether to allow slavery or not. Slave holders thought (fairly) that slavery would not last politically if Free states far outnumbered Slave states. The status of slavery in those new states – not the right of each state to choose – is was what lead the South to start the civil war.

In fact, the confederacy cared so little for states rights that under its constitution new states had no choice in the matter of slavery: “In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”

Granted the majority of confederate soldiers probably believed they fought for states rights and not slavery. But I bet most Russian soldiers in WWII thought they were fighting for freedom and equality rather than extending the power of Stalin into Eastern Europe.