Today’s class discussion sparked several interesting dialogues, which I think warrant further debate. Hopefully the blog will help spur continued discourse.
First and foremost I’d like to address the issue of “renaming” the Civil War. As a northerner, I have never encountered, or even considered the need for, alternative names for the Civil War. Thus, as it would appear, the need to rename the conflict stems largely from lingering southern anxieties about what motivated secession. While many affirm that the Civil War was primarily an economic conflict, the dissent concerning slavery and blatant, unfettered racism is undeniable.
There seems to be a stigma in the South to retain a sense of pride for one’s ancestors and heritage. While such sentiments are honorable and often warranted, it is surprising that we continually whitewash history, rather than accepting past mistakes. I understand that this opinion is controversial – I intend it to be – but history cannot be represented accurately until we detach ourselves from previous biases that, by and large, were wholly misinformed.
That being said, many argued in class that southerners should not be reprimanded for protecting their economic livelihood. In fact, Evan observed in his recent blog post that southerners could not come to terms with the end of the war because of emancipation’s economic impact. While there is some validity to such thought, I would argue that southern industrialization was inevitable. In fact, one could even make the case (and many have) that the idea of “holding onto southern tradition” was unsustainable and would have floundered regardless of the war.
Finally, the issue of “who” initiated conflict is also of some concern. While there is certainly fault to be had on both sides, the act of determining blame is largely unnecessary if we are to accurately represent history. Lincoln stimulated conflict by supporting troops, while southerners fired the first shots – such discourse is arbitrary save for establishing a concrete timeline. That being said, the question of whether or not secession is unconstitutional is of some interest. Because there is no method for seceding from the Union – as intended by the Founders – any extrapolation or deviation from established processes is unconstitutional. Although this idea goes against my belief that the Constitution is a living, changing document, such a radical break clearly exemplifies unconstitutionality.
As evidenced by class discussion, the repercussions of the Civil War are still felt today. Not unexpectedly, the most violent conflict in the U.S. still fuels passions – and will continue to for generations.