A Farewell to Davis


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Throughout this course we have discussed the significance of slaves in the New World. As such, it is fitting that the final reading wrap up this discussion by hypothesizing on the importance and profound significance of emancipation.

Davis concludes his writing by stipulating that while emancipation was a clear turning point in U.S. history, it did not mean that African Americans were free from suffering. Moreover, he concludes that African Americans are still under persecution and must continually fight against the subjection of their civil rights. While Davis ends shortly after discussing emancipation’s effects, I would have liked to read his opinion on Jim Crow, particularly in how it served as an extension of slavery by relegating African Americans to an even lesser existence.

I have to agree with Matt StLawrence as well, concerning Davis’ treatment of Lincoln. I too often think of Lincoln with a classical mythos. We frequently represent him as a selfless individual, striving for humanitarianism and the just treatment of all peoples. In fact, if Lincoln isn’t in your top three favorite presidents list, you’re probably doing something wrong. That being said, it is still important to understand that Lincoln was a pragmatist, not a foolhardy idealist. He was honorable and his death was tragic, but he was still just a man sworn to live the will of the people. Perhaps his ability to so aptly defy the populace – or at least approximately half of the country – is what makes him so memorable and distinctive.

Ultimately, Davis’ handling of slavery was excellent. He aptly summarized both northern passions and southern rationalizations for the peculiar institution, while trying not to inject any bias – an incredibly difficult, but still well executed undertaking.

Lincoln’s Luck and Southern Denial


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The last chapter of Inhuman Bondage focused on the sequence of events during the Civil War, the build up to the Emancipation Proclamation, the immediate aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the state of the country after the war.
A major theme of this week’s reading that grabbed my attention was the state of denial that the South entered following their defeat to the North. Davis describes how the Southern people entered into a “dreamland of denial” where they held onto their “wartime triumphs and heroism” and claimed that the Union’s victory was not because of its military strength but because of a larger army and greater pool of resources (303). Davis also compares the post-Civil War South to the state of France in 1870 and Germany in 1918 because the South clung to the belief that their borders and territories would remain intact. More importantly, the war-ravaged South assumed that it would recover from the destruction it had experienced and “resume their former place in the Union as equal partners (with the North)” (303). Overall, Davis does an exceptional job illustrating the angst and frustration that plagued the South but he takes it one step further when he says that those hard feelings motivated the South to establish a land of white supremacy in the future.
An additional aspect of the reading that I found particularly interesting was how Davis shared his final thoughts on the emancipation of the slaves and Lincoln’s reelection. Davis said that “In retrospect…Lincoln and his commitment to slave emancipation were saved by a stunning military victory and a massive soldier vote for the Republicans” (321). To me, Davis essentially said that Lincoln was indeed very committed to a Union victory, an emancipation of the slaves, and continuing to be the President. However, I also interpret Davis’s comments to mean that Lincoln was only able to accomplish such feats with the help of Ulysses S. Grant, the tremendous support of the Union army, and some flat out luck. To an extent, I agree with Davis’s comments. President Lincoln and the Union army were quite close to losing the war, the election, and the country but were ultimately able to win thanks to some good fortune.
Lastly, I would like to address the actions of the North following their victory in the Civil War. As EVFARESE said, the North did show significant mercy on the South by allowing them to recover from the damage that they endured from the war. The Union could have easily decided to deliver a knock-out blow to the South and completely destroy the possibility of another threat. However, the North enabled the South to recuperate from the conflict and begin the lengthy process of reconstruction.

The re-birth of a nation


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In the final chapter of Inhuman Bondage, Davis discusses the end of the civil war, and the many multitudes of changes which come out of its conclusion. He addresses the ending of the Civil War as a re-birth of America, and the various economic, social, and political changes which were born of this this event. He first discusses the birth of the free Black male, who came riding into Richmond on Horseback with Lincoln to emancipate more slaves. Although this is unquestionably a positive social change, the romanticized language of Davis may stretch the truth as to how the heroic emancipation actually took place. By talking about his immanent death, Davis’s language portrays Lincoln as a selfless, Christlike figure, despite davis’s statement that he does not mean to do this. Davis addresses the social changes which came out of this horrific war, which is shown records of New-Engenders that believed that destructive war was only the first step in purifying the country from non-Godly things. Its getting real crusadish up in here.

speaking of war….

as JUHILL pointed out, this was an especially bad one. The Civil war is depicted by Davis as the birth of the modern, mechanical war, where not only soldiers but Gatling guns, more aerodynamic and heavier bullets, trains, telecommunications, and medical advances both prolonged the war and made it even more bloody and gruesome.

Overall, for a man doing a case study on Slavery, Davis’s view on the end of the Civil War can be considered well rounded, addressing not only the emancipation of slaves, but also many only social and political factors which would push forward civil rights in America for the coming years.

The Civil War: An array of perspectives


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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 War of Northern Aggression” – Victimizing the Challengers


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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.

After the Civil War


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The end of the Civil War brought about a new type of America. Although the war was still fresh in everyone’s minds, citizens, particularly of the North, tried to look past that and rebuild their country. It is important to note that many people in the South were unhappy with the way the war ended and thus still did not full support the United States. JANEWTON notes how Davis mentions that t the country came to terms with the end of the civil war. While this may be the case in the North and in the middle states, most members of the deep South most likely felt otherwise. Imagine having your entire livelihood taken away from you, your main source of income gone. For many in the South the ending of the war and the emancipation of enslaved people was not something they could come to terms with. In my studies in previous years I learned how guerrilla warfare continued in states like Missouri and Kansas, where there were both Confederate and Union sympathizers. Most of these altercations were instigated by angry ex-Confederates so I think to say that the entire nation was at peace with the end of the war would be misguided.

I do think however that the end of the war went better than it could have. Despite some angry southerners, people seemed to to adjust well to this new slaveless nation. Additionally, and rightfully so, President Lincoln came out looking like a hero to all people of the North and formerly enslaved people. The South was also in slightly better spirits after the war because the North was somewhat merciful in their victory. As a clever way to appease some southerners, the North allowed the South to rebuild and create sort of a new identity. This worked to keep relations between the two regions peaceful. This sort of liberty and trust that the North afforded the South after the war was responsible for keeping the South content and as a result could be a reason why the South did not act against the Union again.

The Last Post


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Chapter 15 of David Davis’ Inhuman Bondage was a fitting ending for the course. Beginning with colonization and continuing all the way to the end of the syllabus, the content of this course seemed to largely revolve around the economic and moral implications of slavery. In the colonial days, slavery and indentured servants were imperative to the success of early settlements, but as time progressed, the issue of human bondage became more problematic, leading to the immense differences between free northern states and southern slave states. Davis (and ROMANGONE’s blog post) describes the Civil War as a revolutionary change in American society, with the emancipation of slavery dramatically altering the entire infrastructure of the south. Davis’ remarks on the size of the slave industry also shocked me. He stated that the “slaves’ value came to an estimated $3.5 billion in 1860 dollars … about $68.4 billion in 2003 dollars” (Davis, 298) and that “as a share of today’s gross national product, the slaves’ value would come to an estimated $9.7 trillion” (Davis, 298). The abrupt elimination of this massive economic system can only be described as one word: revolutionary.

The advent of the Civil War clearly marked the beginning of a new era of America, both culturally and politically, but also marked the beginning of a new era of warfare. Davis remarks that the Civil War was the “first [time] trench warfare and ultimately the first booby traps, the first rapid-firing Gatling guns and also self-igniting shells that showered soldiers with pieces of deadly shrapnel” (Davis, 301) were used in battle. All of these inventions were far removed from the bayonet and horse warfare of previous conflicts and eventually became the signifier of future total wars. The numbers during the conflict also reflect that of a total war, with “mobilized armed forces of about 2.1 million” (Davis, 300) with 620,000 military deaths, 260,000 of which were confederate soldiers (Davis, 300). In history class in high school, I was taught that World War I was the first total war, but after evaluating the Civil War, I believe a case can be made that the Civil War was in fact the first total war due to the number of deaths and advanced methods of fighting.

When Davis talks about the “Blue and Gray veterans l[eading] the way in focusing public attention on the minute details of each battle” (Davis, 305), I am reminded of the veterans I have met and the impact warfare had on their lives, as they too are able to recite in great detail the specific details of the conflicts they were engaged in. I am also reminded of my southern friends I have met at Davidson, and how all of them seem to have a “Civil War story.” Clearly the impact of the Civil War still holds an immense presence over American culture today.

The Troublesome British and Not so Honest Abe


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In Chapter 14 of Inhuman Bondage, Davis discusses American foreign policy, the Missouri Crisis, the impact of Britain’s emancipation in the Caribbean on the United States, and the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the late 1850s. A major theme of the chapter that stood out to me was Davis’s description of Britain’s emancipation and its impact on the South. As the abolitionist movement in Britain gained momentum emancipation seemed evident, Southerns became paranoid that the British emancipation in the Caribbean could spread to parts of North America (Davis, 269). In fact, many Southerns believed that Britain was attempting to spread their abolitionist ideas throughout the world as a new form of imperialism. The newfound American animosity toward Britain at this time is demonstrated best by people who unintentionally supported political movements that were deemed to be in the best interest of Britain being condemned for preventing the “westward expansion of the United States” (Davis, 271). Although it is possible for certain political movements to spread across national borders, it was highly unlikely for British lawmaking to have a significant impact on a country that very invested in a slave society as well as country where slavery was deeply engrained in its culture. Despite this, Southerns were almost certain that the “monumental emancipation bill” would foster a swift and severe revolution by the blacks (Davis, 283). Of course, no such revolution came but Southerns began blaming the British emancipation for the slaves’ refusal to work plantations and the negative impact it had on the cotton and sugar production in the South. Even after the pro-slavery Southerners’ greatest fear was eliminated, they irrationally explained their additional problems on those awful British.
Although I usually find most of Davis’s writing to be dense, I consider Davis’s discussion of the British emancipation of slavery in the Caribbean to be interesting and insightful. He provides numerous details to enhance his argument through the use of direct quotes and the citation of a primary source. Moreover, Davis is able to convey to the reader that the South was in no position to accept abolition in their own country or in neighboring territories and that they would go to war to prevent such a thing from happening. Overall, I would say that Davis’s argument of Southern paranoia of and opposition to abolition at all costs is a reasonable one and is quite effective.
Another aspect from Davis’s writing that I found interesting was his section on Abraham Lincoln. As my classmate MASPEED said, Lincoln is remembered as a man who believed in the equality of all men and the destruction of slavery. However, Davis is able to demonstrate how Lincoln’s words and tone were changed when he found himself running for political office. Rather than haphazardly speaking of a nation where blacks and whites are politically equal, he diluted his message to one of blacks and whites deserving the natural rights guaranteed by the declaration of independence. Davis is able to show Lincoln’s skill as politician as well as his awareness that some of his inner convictions could cause him lose him an election.

The Road to Emancipation


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After multiple compromises between northern and southern Whigs and Democrats, President Fillmore falsely assumed that, “Congress had achieved a final settlement of sectional discord” (Wilentz, 349). Wilentz emphasizes how the truce of 1850 was in fact fruitless, for it once again avoided the question of slavery instead of trying to solve it. One of the compromises included a much more stringent Fugitive Slave Act, which inadvertently led to intensifying tensions between northerners and southerners. “By denying the fugitives jury trials, it attacked the most democratic aspect of American jurisprudence…and brazenly violated the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause” (353). Slavery had marred the reputation of the Democratic Party, challenging the egalitarian doctrine and democratic principles that the party was originally founded upon. In the Republicans’ eyes, a true democracy could not exist where the institution of slavery existed and denied people their basic human right of freedom.

Wilentz also highlights a different side of the 1850’s nativist movement, one that opposed the expansion of slavery and the bloody consequences of the Kansas-Nebraska conflict. Based on our class discussion and the online article about Charleston’s Irish laborers, the main reason poor Irish immigrants supported the slave system was because they were no longer stuck at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. The massive influx of Irish immigrants during the 1850’s led to increased antipathy towards both free and enslaved blacks by immigrants who wanted to fit in to slave-societies. I believe that nativism, in a way, helped reduce the number of pro-slavery Irish in the South who would eventually side with the Confederates in their fight for slavery.

Davis links the British emancipation of slaves to the growing paranoia of southerners over abolitionism. The southern slaveholders’ defense was that the British were the ones who tried to oppress the American people, and the emancipation of slaves had greatly reduced profit from colonies in the Caribbean. However, the British were also the ones who took the initiative in freeing hundreds of thousands of slaves in the West Indies, which was undeniable evidence that the abolishment of slavery in the United States would be the ultimate test of American freedom and democracy. Britain’s emancipation of slavery confirmed the southerners’ senseless fear of northerners allying with Britain to ensure the destruction of slavery in the South. “The overreaction of Southern extremists had made it much easier for moderate Northerners to rally in a political campaign against a home-grown tyranny that threatened the very survival of democracy in America” (Davis 286).