Streetwise Professor

August 14, 2017

Comments on the War Over the War

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — The Professor @ 7:49 pm

A few thoughts to follow up on the post on the war over the war, which sparked a spirited set of comments (for which I am grateful as always).

Re those memorialized, specifically Robert E. Lee. I am with Tim Newman on this. Lee was certainly not a pro-slavery ideologue, and was arguably far less supportive of the institution than most of his social position and background. I would characterize him as somewhat like Jefferson–he would have liked to get rid of slavery, but had no idea how to do that where it was already established.

He was, moreover, first and foremost a Virginia patriot, who believed he was defending his people from an invasion by a tyrannical government that violated the Constitution. As is often noted, in that time it was common to say “the United States are” (not is): identification with one’s state was quite common during the antebellum period in a way that most Americans cannot conceive of today. They can’t conceive of it precisely because of the outcome of the Civil War.

That said, pace Orwell, since the war was ultimately about slavery, Lee was objectively pro-slavery. Subjectively, however, like many Southerners, he was pro-Constitution as he interpreted it, and a patriot who viewed Virginia as his country.

The opponents who aroused Lee’s greatest ire provide a window into his mindset. Of all the Federal generals he fought, he detested John Pope–“that miscreant Pope”–with the greatest intensity. Because Pope was a favorite of the anti-slavery, pro-emancipation Radical Republicans, and his army (the Army of Virginia) was the most pro-Radical army in the field? Not directly.

Because of the Radical leanings, Pope and his army advocated a hard war in contrast to that waged by George McClellan. As a result, they committed numerous depredations against civilians and their property in northern Virginia. It was those depredations that outraged Lee, and spurred him to crush Pope. Pope and his army had (in Lee’s view) unjustly harmed Lee’s people–his fellow Virginians–and Lee was dead set on making him pay: why Pope and his army acted as they did was irrelevant to Lee. And he did make Pope pay, at Second Manassas/Bull Run two weeks shy of 155 years ago.

So should Lee be memorialized? Before answering the should, it’s best to understand the why. A people who had suffered as devastating a loss as the South did (with about 25 percent of its adult male population perishing, and its cities and farms in ruins) and who fought courageously, and who fought in what their minds was a righteous cause, will always want to commemorate their heroism and sacrifice: people who have suffered such carnage will inevitably want to give some meaning to it. Lee embodied those things, so it was inevitable that he would be the center of those commemorations.

The darker side of this was that the old order in the South did not want to concede defeat, and indeed waged an ultimately successful campaign of asymmetric and political warfare to restore as much as the old social order as it could: Lee was conscripted into that campaign, largely after his death. The Cult of Lee, a man who was widely admired even by many of his adversaries, was to a considerable extent the benign cover for a the Cult of the Lost Cause/Old South.

So, it’s complicated. And that’s exactly why I think that the monuments can be a teaching tool. They shed light on the entire arc of conflict from the 1850s through the 1950s (or 1960s), and help illuminate the subjective motivations not just of the leaders (like Lee) but Southerners generally throughout that century of hot and cold war. Presentism is the enemy of understanding, and where the monuments (and the Civil War generally) are concerned, presentism has run amok.

Speaking of complicated, let me move to the second subject that has sparked comments–Great Britain in the Civil War. For a variety of cultural, social, historic, geopolitical, and economic reasons, Great Britain was broadly sympathetic to the South at least at the onset of the war. The United States was a rising commercial rival. The US and Britain had fought two wars against one another, and because of its Revolutionary heritage many Americans saw Britain as an enemy–and many Britons felt the same way. Britain’s textile industry was heavily reliant on Southern cotton. And there were British businesses from button makers to Birmingham gunsmiths to Laird, Son & Co. (the builder of the infamous Laird rams) who wanted to make some money. Lacking the industrial base of the North, the South was a better customer than the North, but large numbers of British arms made it into the hands of Union soldiers: the Enfield rifled musket was the second most widely issued weapon in the US army, and the US imported about twice as many as did the CS.

The UK toyed with intervention in 1861 and 1862, especially in the aftermath of perceived provocations like the Trent Affair, when a US ship seized two Confederate envoys from a British vessel. British enthusiasm waxed and waned with Confederate battlefield fortunes, and when Lee moved into Maryland in September, 1862, intervention (or at least recognition) looked like a real possibility. But Lee’s defeat at Sharpsburg/Antietam on 17 September, and Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation immediately thereafter, ended that. Britain wasn’t going to recognize a loser, and particularly wasn’t going to intervene on the side of slavery once the war became explicitly about slavery.

One last thing, not directly related to the post but to the events that spawned it. There are reports, contested but plausible, that Charlottesville Police withdrew in the face of the Antifa, or at least did not vigorously contest them. The governor of Virginia, the execrable partisan hack Terry McCauliffe, claims that the police had to withdraw because they were outgunned by the white supremacists. Others deny this.

Regardless of why it happened, the biggest official error was that the Neo-Nazis/white supremacists and the Antifa types were allowed to come into contact. There is no excuse for the authorities not to realize that the potential for violence was great. As a result, they should have been present in overwhelming force to keep the two sides separate, and crushed any attempt by anyone to get at the others.

The Weimarization of the US, where rival gangs of extremist thugs battle it out on the streets, is a very real possibility–it has already happened in some places, like Berkeley, and Charlottesville was also very Weimar-like. It cannot be allowed to progress, and indeed, it must be rolled back.

There must be no tolerance for violence–either by Nazis, Klansmen, or other varieties of white supremacists, or against them. Those lawfully assembled, no matter how loathsome they or their beliefs are, should be protected against physical attacks by those who oppose them: and if those lawfully assembled attempt to initiate violence, their targets should be defended as well.

Alas, I sense an implicit double standard, especially among the officials of left-leaning local governments, who either sympathize with the Antifa types, or are who are too cowardly to stand up to them and their less violent supporters (who are part of their political base). Further, this double standard is echoed more broadly in the media and politics, as the hue and cry over Trump’s statement decrying violence “on many sides” demonstrates.

Not acceptable. The normalization or rationalization of political violence will have baleful consequences. The responsibility of the authorities is to maintain civil order, thereby assuring that political disputes are carried out through political channels. The authorities need to take the side of civil order, and ruthlessly suppress those who would disrupt it, regardless of their politics.

Weimarization is a real danger. It must be stopped post haste.

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  1. mob rule in Durham

    mob takes down statue

    apparently statues were killing people, so they had to be pulled down


    Protesters climbed a ladder, looped a rope around a Confederate statue and pulled it to the ground, smashing it, during an ‘Emergency Durham Protest’ on Main Street on Monday night.

    More than 100 activists from anti-fascist and progressive groups, many who traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, held the rally to demand the removal of the soldier statue in front of the old Durham County Courthouse and all Confederate statues in the state “so that no more innocent people have to be killed,” organizers said in a release.

    As the statue of the soldier holding a muzzle-loading rifle and carrying a bedroll and a canteen came to the ground, members of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office videotaped the rally.

    Read more here:

    Comment by elmer — August 14, 2017 @ 8:32 pm

  2. @elmer-That’s one of the things that got me thinking about Weimarization.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 14, 2017 @ 8:57 pm

  3. Comment by elmer — August 14, 2017 @ 8:32 pm

    Looks like they have no police in Durham, or they’ve stood down like in Charlottesville.

    Comment by andrew — August 14, 2017 @ 8:58 pm

  4. @andrew. Well, they apparently have a videocamera: “As the statue of the soldier holding a muzzle-loading rifle and carrying a bedroll and a canteen came to the ground, members of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office videotaped the rally.” Barney Fife could have done better.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 14, 2017 @ 9:11 pm

  5. ‘I sense an implicit double standard, especially among the officials of left-leaning local governments… Further, this double standard is echoed more broadly in the media and politics…’

    More of the same. The same bias that has filled pages and screens for years, with particular virulence over the last year. Charlottesville is the result.

    I imagine doubling down on the bias will lead to more of the same. No, not doubling down, we are past that – tripling down.

    Comment by Mark — August 14, 2017 @ 10:03 pm

  6. Hmm… Let’s say a ISIS sympathizer has driven a truck into a crowd of people protesting ISIS. Would we be talking about Weimarization and the need to control both sides of the conflict? Why can’t we just come out and say that what happened in Charlottesville was an act of terrorism perpetrated by the alt right?

    Comment by aaa — August 14, 2017 @ 10:54 pm

  7. Nice follow Prof.

    “The authorities need to take the side of civil order, and ruthlessly suppress those who would disrupt it, regardless of their politics.”

    Maybe “enforce the law” is more appropriate diction than the rather hyperbolic “ruthlessly suppress.” suppression can run in both directions depending on the zeitgeist, and who happens to offend or be offended. So – let’s clarify and say always subject to the Constitution, Prof. No one gets “ruthlessly suppressed” in ‘murica (at least not yet) without first a cage match with the Constitution.

    Hey look another tweet! Hey Ho, McConnell must go!!

    Comment by Job — August 15, 2017 @ 1:02 am

  8. @aaa. Your analogy is retarded because–obviously–the killer in the car wasn’t the only thing happening in Charlottesville. You are also logically challenged, because condemning the driver of the car, and hoping that the law comes down on him with full force, does not preclude concern about violent clashes between gangs of extremists.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 15, 2017 @ 8:42 am

  9. @aaa

    1) the antifa/BLM idiotic thugs had their own weapons and were spoiling for a fight and engaging in violence – it was not one-sided

    2) interesting point about ISIS – you may recall that ISIS went around destroying historic ancient monuments and buildings, etc., because Ollie told them to do it and it didn’t fit in with their “view”

    Comment by elmer — August 15, 2017 @ 8:44 am

  10. Well, as it turns out, the leftie snake, George Soros, is one of those behiind the effort to dismantle US history.

    and even better – the Confederate statues are being compared to Nazis!!!

    Seriously – made the mistake of flipping to CNN and PMSNBC, and heard it right there.

    The fantasy history also includes the statement that the presence of the Confederate statues is also terrorism, and reflects the continued imposition of what amounts to slavery. Just amazing after the Supreme Court openly wondered whether the US still needs affirmative action, and after not 1, but 2 – count ’em – black presidents (we have all been told that Slick Willie Clinton was the first black president).

    And – the mayor of New Orleans, Landrieu, openly stated (it’s on video, and he’s real, real proud of his “bravery”) that the taking down the statues constitutes the “re-branding” of New Orleans.

    Very interesting, since it fits right in with Dinesh D’Souza opines that the Dems simply want to hide their part in fomenting slavery to begin with:

    Comment by elmer — August 15, 2017 @ 10:37 am

  11. a lot of people think that this whole “sweep the South clean of Confederate statues” is a diversionary tactic to divert attention from N. Korea, and legislative issues like tax reform, etc.

    and there is a strong smell of Soros rent-a-mobs

    Comment by elmer — August 15, 2017 @ 11:46 am

  12. What is occurring in the USA and in Europe (i.e. “western civilization”) cannot be stopped.
    It is the inevitable deterioration of a society that once had a common set of ideals and
    behaviors. Essentially, it is “societal entropy”–the progression from order to disorder.
    It has happened consistently throughout human history. It may take many years or a few. The
    timing is not predictable.

    Comment by eric — August 15, 2017 @ 1:01 pm

  13. I went to my local Dollar General this morning and they had a nice selection of rent a mobs of various political stripes on sale for $2.99, had no idea demand was so low / supply so high.

    Hey look another tweet!! Oops, deleted before I could see what it said. Oh well, wait a few minutes and there sure to be another! Exciting!!

    Comment by Job — August 15, 2017 @ 5:15 pm

  14. General Grant gave up his slaves after General Lee gave up his.
    A very complicated time. There is no way modern Americans can understand the myriad issues that motivated or influenced people of that era to act the way they did.
    Erasing monuments, names etc is erasing history. How is it any different to what the Taliban did to historic sites? Where does this revision end? Do they rename states names?

    Comment by Baa Humbug — August 15, 2017 @ 10:59 pm

  15. Of course a dude driving a car into a crowd of people was not the only thing that happened that day. There was also a neo-Nazi demonstration and a counterdemonstration. So which one of these is equivalent to an act of terrorism?

    Comment by aaa — August 15, 2017 @ 11:38 pm

  16. I really don’t think that the “terrorism” word is even slightly helpful in this context.

    The actions of the car driver were certainly criminal and he should be dealt with as any other killer is. But it would be profoundly incorrect to call his act “terrorism”, when it was part of an ongoing face-to-face confrontation between two aggressive political groups – at least one of which has recently shown a considerable appetite for violence towards property and people. Terrorism, in its essence, targets almost at random: bombs in rubbish bins, trucks in Christmas crowds, poison gas in metro systems, running through the streets stabbing passers-by, etc, etc.

    The problem here, as the prof points out so clearly, is that the use of street violence for political ends is becoming normalised in the USA and elsewhere in the west. The prof is also correct to point out that this problem is much worse on the left: consider Obama’s excuse-making for BLM violence.

    Comment by Fen Tiger — August 16, 2017 @ 1:38 am

  17. It’s not jut statues. What about:

    Camp Beauregard, La.
    Fort Benning, Ga.
    Fort Bragg, N.C.
    Fort Gordon, Ga.
    Fort Hood, TX
    Fort Polk, La.
    Fort Rucker, Al.
    Fort Shelby, MS.
    Fort Stewart, Ga.
    Fort Jackson, S.C.
    Camp Pendleton, Va.

    Comment by Tim Newman — August 16, 2017 @ 3:22 am

  18. I find it a bit strange that the American police (in their many forms) who are so often decried for their ability and willingness to use force (and indeed, for their increasing militarisation) would have had any problem managing a few dozen protestors and counter-protestors… yet they left the protest to escalate. Are right-leaning politicians really that keen on supporting white-supremacists? Are the left really that keen to see their supporters dead? Can any Americans shed some light on their seemingly bi-polar police tactics? (Or is as the Prof says, and both sides are angling for violence so they can have their Weimar/Chairman Mao moment? But would anybody really go along with such a plan?)

    @Elmer: The US needs to stop carping on about Soros on the left and the Koch brothers on the right. It’s just like the scorpion and the frog: These people are symptoms of the system and it’s pointless to rage against their influence. If I were a US citizen I’d be turning my ire on the political donation rules that allow such people to buy influence in the first place…

    Comment by Hiberno Frog — August 16, 2017 @ 3:28 am

  19. When a large population of middle of the bell curve US males are economically and socially trivialized nothing good will come of it and this is not in the slightest dependent on skin color. As @Mark points out tripling down appears to be inevitable and will ensure it worsens.

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”, has been replaced by the elite and their running dogs by “What you say is ignorant and you should not be allowed to say it.”

    BTW-isn’t slavery the complete ascendance of business interests over humanity? When one says they wanted to make money-isn’t that the essential motivation that overrides all other considerations in the case of slavery?

    Comment by pahoben — August 16, 2017 @ 4:07 am

  20. Re @Tim Newman: “It’s not jut statues. What about:

    Camp Beauregard, La.
    Fort Benning, Ga…

    Lol, nice, point the rent-a-mob thugs at a Johnny-reb-named military base; let’s see how they fare…
    Sadly, their minders ain’t all that stoopid (((

    Comment by Kavkaz watcher — August 16, 2017 @ 5:54 am

  21. so today if the US govt became an Orwellian 1984 nightmare; would the people who decided to take up arms against it be terrorists? Those people would be defending the Constitution as it was originally written. Certainly if you take 2017 speak to 1860, Lee and his soldiers would be terrorists. The Northern Army would be considered terrorists by the South.

    Comment by jeff — August 16, 2017 @ 5:58 am

  22. Prof, curious your thoughts on this:

    Comment by job — August 16, 2017 @ 6:23 am

  23. Jason Kessler, former Occupy and Obama supporter, is the reputed organizer of the Unite the Right protest.

    Here’s a purported Soros connection to think about

    · SPLC—Kessler was a former Obama supporter who participated in the George Soros-supported Occupy movement.

    ·—Kessler wrote articles sympathetic to the Occupy movement for CNN in 2011.

    ·—In an exclusive interview, Kessler fails to explain why he played into what appeared to be an orchestrated attempt to manufacture a riot.

    · Citizen journalist Lee Stranahan—There are direct connections between one of the neo-Nazi groups in Charlottesville and a Soros-supported Ukrainian nationalist political party.

    Kessler denies being a white supremacist, although his personal blog and website suggest he’s at least sympathetic to their views. In a Periscope video he posted to his Twitter account Monday night, he described these red flags as “conspiracy theory rumors about me started by SPLC & promoted by the alt-light.”

    Comment by elmer — August 16, 2017 @ 8:15 am

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