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If Only John Breckenridge Would Have Won, We Wouldn’t Have Had Any of These Problems


John Kelly’s nutty ramblings about the Civil War — a good window to see both the neoconfederate sympathies of the modern Republican Party, and the pernicious influence of Shelby Foote:

It’s worth noting here that:

  • Lincoln was not even proposing to interfere with slavery in existing states, and rather was proposing a long-term, gradualist plan for compensated emancipation.
  • Before secession, Democrats still controlled the Senate, and could have prevented legislation banning slavery in the territories. What you may have read in early Jacobin notwithstanding,  Lincoln was not a radical strongman bent on immediate emancipation, and even the gradualist plan he advocated couldn’t have passed immediately without secession.
  • Nonetheless, the confederate states preemptively seceded and initiated military conflict before Lincoln had even taken office.

So, what “compromise” could allegedly have prevented the Civil War? AFICT, it’s that the Republican Party should accept, as Doughface-in-Chief Buchanan asserted in his inaugural address,* that the issue of slavery in the territories was a “judicial question, which legitimately belongs to the Supreme Court of the United States,” and “all good citizens” should “cheerfully submit” to what the Taney Court ruled. The “compromise,” in other words, is that the Republican Party should have agreed that it was organized around a permanently illegal purpose and disbanded. OK. As wjts puts it, the neoconfederate premise being repeated by Kelly and Sanders seems to be that “it’s not really a compromise if your side doesn’t get everything they want.”

*There’s a non-neoconfederate version of this argument, which is that the Civil War happened because the Supreme Court prevented the president and Congress from reaching a compromise. The rather obvious problem, as Buchanan praising Dred Scott preemptively illustrates, is that Dred Scott was the compromise that the actually existing president and majorities of Congress wanted. The problem was the South’s uncompromising commitment to slavery as reflected by the dominant party of the Jacksonian era, not the Supreme Court (which reflected the center of the party) per se.

…see also this thread. 

…Erik has made this point multiple times, but good summary of Foote’s bullshit and Burns’s choice to let it dominate his film here. 

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