Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ron Paul on Slavery and the Civil War

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

I initially hesitated before I posted this because the last thing I want is for this space to become a political battleground. The ensuing presidential election should once again bring out the fear and paranoia reminiscent of 2008 - mudslinging and accusations of presidential candidates walking arm in arm with every political extremist from Hitler to Chairman Mao. I personally find this troubling and at best counter- productive. Remember what John Adams once said: "There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."

Anyway - enough about that. In the end I thought it was my civic duty to point out to those who don't already know - presidential hopeful Ron Paul has an alarmingly simplistic view of slavery, emancipation, and the Civil War. "We could have just bought them and freed them" doesn't quite cut it. I am just going to wager a guess that most slave owners weren't selling, and even if they did, what would they have done with millions of former slaves? The economic and social fabric of the slave holding part of the nation was far to bound to the institution to simply let it go for a price.

In fact - President Lincoln floated this idea to slaveholders in the border states in July 1862. The plan included gradual emancipation, compensation, and eventually colonization of former slaves. The borders state slaveholders didn't go for it.

Thanks anyway, Ron. And by the way...why is D. L. Hugley on CNN and really...what the hell is he talking about?



  1. Scott A. MacKenzieFebruary 9, 2012 at 2:09 AM

    Crazy Grandpa gives me headaches whenever he speaks of the past. His understanding is, as you say, "alarmingly simplistic." He seems inclined to the 'blundering generation' argument put forth decades ago, as if the errors of a handful of statesmen caused the Civil War. Lincoln appears to be his main target, an inappropriate choice for someone claiming to be a Republican. I really object to his comparisons of emancipation around the Americas Surely he realizes that slavery also ended violently in Haiti, that it ended slowly in Jamaica and Barbados, and eroded in Brazil. But he ignores one obvious circumstance: the US had a white majority that strove to keep slavery under control. The others had tiny white minorities who had less political power. American whites had numerous means (elections, Constitution, and party politics) and plenty of motive (economics, racism) to protect and to criticize slavery. Buying the slaves was simply out of the question. Not only would it have bankrupted the country, but opposition on both sides would have prevented the idea from even starting. Dr. Paul should read David Potter and Don Fehrenbacher more than Thomas Di Lorenzo.

  2. I find it interesting that Dr. Paul makes sure to mention that there was a lot more than slavery behind the Civil War and its causes, but then he follows up by saying that freeing the slaves would have prevented the deaths of 600,000 men, as if that simple solution would have solved all the complex problems of antebellum America. Seems to me that not only is Paul's solution simplistic, but very contradictory. Furthermore, no mention is made of whether this would have been Federal money or State money being used to free these slaves, nor is any mention made to the fact that many slaveowners would have only agreed to compensated emancipation if it also included colonization.

    I think just about anybody would agree that there was more behind the Civil War's causes than slavery, but slavery was always lurking and rearing its ugly head into the national politics of antebellum society. The Paul/DiLorenzo crowd isn't interested in understanding slavery or discussing it as a cause of the war, in my opinion, and it's because their main interest lies in promoting the right of secession, and discussions on slavery get in the way of that.

    This video demonstrates the challenges of attempting to mix History with Politics. It doesn't work most of the time, it seems.

    For a good, serious study of the Civil War with a Libertarian bent, I recommend Jeffery Rogers Hummell's "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men". For a good study on Lincoln's efforts throughout 1862 to bring about compensated emancipation, look no further than the newly released volume edited by Stephen Sears, "The Civil War: The Second Year Told By Those Who Lived It".

  3. Thanks for the book recommendations, Nick. I find it appalling how little this major political figure knows about history. He seems to have no grasp on it at all. Gross oversimplification and just plain wrong.