The Civil War: An array of perspectives

The Civil War is one of those events in American history that still sparks controversy even today. The events that took place, or the reasons for which they took place, are seen through various lenses and perspectives leading to the blame being placed on either the North or South. This blame is something that was prominent at the time of the Civil War and that blame remains even today. One could argue that it was the North’s fault for the oppression of the South, or on the contrary one could blame the South for seceding illegally or in a manner deemed as unconstitutional. Yet, the fact of the matter is that the War did occur and a prominent influence to the War was the institution of slavery.
Lincoln was the president at the time and as it mentions in the reading for Inhuman Bondage, “Lincoln never wavered in his conviction that slavery was a great and moral political evil” (Davis 307). Therefore, Lincoln saw it fit to free the slaves through a means of emancipation. This process was not an easy one for Lincoln, due to the repercussions and unforeseen consequences that could arise. Yet, something to help smooth over Lincoln’s decision was that it would give the Union an advantage in the War in break the backbone of the South. This piece, or document, was something seen as revolutionary as mentioned in Davis especially the biggest revolutionary pronouncement by any president.
The War can be called a number of things as discussed in class earlier today, and the revolutionary pronouncement alludes to the naming of the War as the second revolutionary war. This is a name among many all of which have connotations based off of the perspectives that are viewing the War. As MALANDINI mentions in their post there is an issue with “renaming” War, and that is because it is difficult to find a term that satisfies both parties, the North or the South. The Civil War is the term settled upon, but this does not stop many from viewing it as a War of Northern Aggression or a War of the States or even a War of Secession.
There are many historical events that took place that can lead one to see the War in whatever light they please, especially when digesting these events through a biased lens. Just as there is a difficulty in “renaming” the War there were and there are today difficulties in truly understanding the reasons or motives for the Civil War and the events that ensued.

The Irish Confederacy

White European immigrants became very prominent when the United States was on the brink of a civil war. The major immigrant groups were the Germans and Irish, most notably the Irish. One thing very ironic that occurred was that the Irish, as seen by the Charleston Irish, chose to fight on the side of the Confederacy. Those on the side of the Confederacy seemed to be polar opposites in their views and lifestyles than the Irish. So then why is it that the Irish find a safe haven in the South or as Joyce puts it a sense of identity?

The Irish were used to social exclusion and isolation as they faced the same situation everywhere they had been due to a number of factors. Therefore, they knew that social inclusion mattered just as much in their new homeland as it did in Ireland (Joyce 186). In a search of social inclusion the Irish found their identity in the South through: fraternal organizations, doctrines of the Southern Catholic Church, and the characters and songs of the theatre (Joyce 185). The South was a very pro-slavery region and the Irish, one could argue, were victims of wage slavery as Roediger brings up in his essay. The Irish originally settled in the North but made their way down South due to an economic crisis in the North and new job opportunities in the South as the Western frontier expanded. From this exodus the white laborer slowly began to take place of the slave. As victims of wage slavery the Irish were looking for a greater sense of freedom and equality and therefore, argued against wage slavery. These arguments against wage slavery typically brought about pro-slavery implications (Roediger 348). This is true, because these laborers feared that by emancipating slaves the free blacks would be competition or superior to the current wageworkers.

As the Irish continued to find their identity in the South as seen by the Charleston Irish laborers, they steadily became more pro-slavery. This was a shift from the anti-slavery abolitionist mindset of the North where they originally settled. Although the Irish were agitated by free and slave labor in the South as it increased competition, they eventually fought for an identity by reworking their pro-slavery ideologies. As they found this sense of identity in the South they were ready to fight alongside the Confederacy.

Logically this makes sense, the South was the first place the Irish truly found a sense of identity and felt at home, and the Charleston Irish exemplify this. Coming from areas where they were socially excluded they fought for an identity and found their social inclusion in the South. Therefore, they felt a sense of loyalty towards the South and were ready to defend their newfound home and the views that came with it.

Expansion: Healthy or Dangerous?

In Wilentz’s reading of chapters 17-20 expansion was very prominent and consumed politics throughout these years opening many doors. Polk’s presidency was plagued with the issue over the annexation of Texas. This issue may have been one of Polk’s most notable throughout his presidency. Polk was finishing up what Martin Van Buren had started; Van Buren’s party platform stood behind two things in particular and those were, the annexation of Texas as well as securing Oregon territory’s borders (Taylor 300). Therefore, this issue over Texas was an ongoing debate lasting throughout two presidencies leaving enough time for multiple perspectives and various new forms of political parties to arise. Yet, there is a deeper meaning behind all of this and it was not just the annexation of Texas and the new issues that arose with that, such as, how to deal with slavery. The deeper issue and the root of all of this was the idea of expansionism and various forms of manifest destiny that paved the way for new democratic possibilities.

This goes along with what SPEDWARDS mentions in his blog post, when stating that, “expansion and slavery are always paired together.” This is something that makes sense in the grand scheme of things, as new land is found and old lands are being over-worked it makes sense to expand and bring your slaves with you to till the new territory. Yet this sparks controversy because there are many abolitionists and parties such as the antislavery Whigs, Barnburners, or groups like the Liberty Free Soil Party. These groups had views that were multi-faceted and conflicted with various other parties and views. All of this controversy and contradiction came about because of expansion and because of expansion there were new policies that needed to be set in stone. This is where the various political views and parties were introduced on the political scene. Many parties want to express their views and the way things should be incorporated or “run” on these states added to the frontier. The clash of various political organizations over matters of expansion pioneers the way to new democratic opportunities. One movement in particular that came about because of the consequences of expansion was the women’s rights movement led by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Stanton.

Although, these clashes at first glance can be seen as dangerous to the Union, they are in fact healthy. These clashes and various parties that arise from expansion progress the United States in a positive light. By expressing the various views on certain matters, it is possible to come to a conclusion that satisfies the preferences of the majority.

Mastodon: Myth or Symbol?

The making of a Jeffersonian democracy was a big deal and had an immense impact on American history and the development and advancement of American politics. Jefferson was considered an anti-federalist and his views sided with those of the Republicans, which favored states rights and a decentralized federal government. Ideally for Jefferson, states would have the biggest impact on its’ citizens while the federal government would have very little impact. In fact, Jefferson was one of the major proponents in forming the Democratic-Republican Party. When faced against John Adams in the election of 1800, Jefferson came away with the victory and became the third president of the United States in what is known as the revolution of 1800.

Jefferson had some major events occur in his presidency from his infamous inauguration speech to the Louisiana Purchase as well as the Embargo Act of 1807. These are events that we hear of most when defining Jefferson’s presidency, yet one that tends to get neglected, even from an impartial Wilentz, is Jefferson’s interest in the Mastodon. As CATHOMSON mentions in their blog post, Jefferson among others are often criticized for their unscientific-like behavior. Yet this high interest that Jefferson displays for the Mastodon is a direct opposition to this criticism. In fact, Jefferson goes as far as to send Lewis and Clark on an expedition in the newly purchased Louisiana territory to explore and search for one of these beastly creatures. This creature is often neglected from many history writings when analyzing the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The question that arises with this is why is the Mastodon often left out of our history?

One possible theory or argument that one could make is that history is trying to wipe away the remnants of this beast. Or the negligence simply alludes to the failure of a symbol that the Mastodon was. When the bones of the Mastodon were first discovered many including Jefferson used it as a symbol of the great American spirit. This big and powerful creature that was thought to be carnivorous and ferocious was used to symbolize America’s newly found independence and resemble their dominance and power of the Americas. Yet, one thing piled on top of another and with more information it was concluded that the original depictions of the carnivorous beast were biologically inaccurate and the creature was actually extinct. Therefore, the Mastodon went from and American symbol to nothing more than a myth as it disappeared from American history for some time. The disappearance and relative unimportance of the Mastodon are why it was unable to outlast and become America’s symbol like the bald eagle. The Mastodon captured many including Jefferson for some time but later proved quite irrelevant and symbolized an America that many could argue in the wrong light.

New Coast, Old Practices

Colonization in the “New” World could only stay on the Atlantic seaboard for so long, and this was exactly the case. Eventually the West Coast and Pacific area was the hot commodity and it was the Spanish who took first interest in the area. Although, the Spanish “toured” or investigated the land of what is now California they saw nothing of interest and returned to their central location of colonization in the Mexico area. Accompanying the Spaniards on the Pacific coast were the Russians who were very few and much further North. The Russians primarily looted the Pacific Coast in the frigid waters near Alaska hunting sea otter pelts for trade.
EVFARESE makes a claim in their blog post pointing out the vast lack of knowledge in the Pacific Coast of North America. This lack of knowledge is alluding to the fact that the Spanish were fearful of other groups in this region; such as, the Russians in what is known as Russian America. Therefore, the Spaniards were fearful of a group so distant that they began to reinvestigate California in order to quickly claim land as they always had when first arriving in the Americas. By quickly claiming land the Spaniards hoped it would act as a buffer to their central location in Mexico, which is where their economic prosperity derived from. The Spaniards created what is known as “Alta California” as well as “Baja California” by simply dividing California into a Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Why did the Spaniards believe the Russians were much closer and larger posing more of threat than they actually were? Communication was not very easily accessible and it took time for word to be passed along especially between two different colonial powers let alone within one colonial power. Therefore, the Spanish began to colonize in a land they once deemed as unsuitable for their needs in order to provide a buffer.
The Spanish began to colonize and this once again brought them in contact with the Natives. The Spanish were infamous for their brutal treatment of the Natives in colonial history; and although this was a different region their attitude did not change. The “Black” Legend existed for a reason. The Spaniards sought to convert those native to California, and labeled them as “gente sin razón,” the Spaniards thought they were the only ones who possessed reason (Taylor 460). The missions led to an inevitable outcome and that was tension and violence that the Spaniards thrived off of. In light of all the madness the Spaniards still felt as if they had established a successful buffer against a colonial power that quite realistically had little power in the grand scheme of things and whose presence was barely felt except to the Spaniards.

Witchcraft Effected More than just the Colonists

While the recent blog posts make a compelling argument for the comparison of how the rise of evangelicalism influenced the witch-hunt trials in the years to come; a comparison I find more interesting is the fear of witchcraft between both the colonists and the Indians.

Witchcraft was something that took many of the colonists, mainly those in New England, by storm. The accusations and persecutions of those believed to be witches occurred significantly in the late seventeenth century. Fear led to accusations of any behavior that was remotely out of the ordinary and this led to a period where the colonists’ lives were consumed by the idea of witches that ran rampant. Yet, were the colonists the only ones affected by the idea of witchcraft?
After this week’s reading I felt compelled to write about a various aspect that stems from the collection of essays on American witch trials. Something that struck me was the undeniable similarity between the colonists’ and Indians’ beliefs in witchcraft. Although this may have not been a central argument to the essay it was definitely something that intrigued me and I felt the need to address it. Not only was it a matter of just believing in the presence of witchcraft but the certain reasons to believe in it and how certain accusations were carried out.

For so long the common conception was that the natives and the colonists were so very different. In fact, the colonists went as far as to call the Indians “savages” based on their lifestyles that varied from those of the colonists. Yet one thing that the colonists shared with these “savages” was their belief and fear of witchcraft. This concept or idea pertains to the essay titled American Indians, Witchcraft, and Witch-hunting. In this it is seen how the Indians, most specifically the Iroquois tribe, feared witches and often associated sickness with witchcraft. This is a practice that is carried out by the colonists as seen in the various other essays. Much of the time when someone would die of a simple cold or various illness the colonists were quick to blame witches and their practice of witchcraft. Much of this blame was due in part to the fact that during this time medicine was not very advanced and when a random death would occur the colonists didn’t know how to diagnose it other than it was an act of witchcraft.

Therefore, the colonists and Indians shared this fear of witchcraft and it was a big part of their lives for a short period of time where fears escalated as the popularity of this idea grew. This similarity between the colonists and the Indians is one among others and leaves me wondering how similar were these “savages” and colonists?

Bounty Hunting in the Chesapeake and Carolinas

In this week’s reading on the Chesapeake Colonies and the Carolinas, Taylor eloquently portrays a colonial image of agriculture and slavery. These colonies or rather areas at the time were founded right when slavery was beginning to take flight and become a prominent institution in the Southern part of the Atlantic seaboard. The Chesapeake colonies had a cash crop, which was the very profitable tobacco while the Carolinas found a cash crop of their own in rice and indigo. These very profitable cash crops in both colonies took many extensive methods for growing and extracting the final product for sale and thus proved to be very laborious activities.
First and foremost, I took a strong liking to the fact that Taylor talked about the rice market in the Carolinas with such detail as he did. Being a North Carolinian myself I never knew to what extent rice had on Carolina’s economic development and prosperity. As I mentioned before both of these chapters seemed to portray an image of colonial hardships or rather the grunt and grind of hard work. I feel the way Taylor emphasized this idea was with his choice of titles for each section. Taylor’s creative titles caught my attention upon reading the chapters and this interest was further expanded when it was introduced in our class discussion. An interesting point that Sarah Funderburg mentions in her post on September 16, was that the colonists looked to pit the Indians and African slaves against one another.
This idea of using the Indians to hunt the runaway slaves for bounty that Sarah brings up was part of the colonists search for security for they feared what could happen to them if the slaves and Indians formed an alliance against them. One thing Taylor does well is his use of detail with American history, rather than rewriting the typical formalities or the black and white of history; Taylor includes aspects such as this in order to better inform the reader. Therefore, I feel that his spin on the titles, most notably the ones in the chapter on the Carolinas such as Raiders and Terror, put some emphasis on the actions of the Indians. This emphasis on the Indians takes away from the stereotypical historical depiction of the white man coming over and wiping out everything in his path. These titles and details seem to put more blame on the Indians for some of the violence that took place in these colonies during this time.
Taylor provides us with an account of American history and specifically of the Chesapeake colonies and the Carolinas that is different from most accounts. Taylor touches on areas that many historians tend to go into short detail about or simply neglect altogether; and these chapters are another example of Taylor giving careful attention to the events that took place in the Chesapeake colonies and Carolinas.