Dagger in hand
A man of prodigious fortune, coming to add his opinion to some light discussion that was going on casually at his table, began precisely thus: "It can only be a liar or an ignoramus who will say otherwise than," and so on. Pursue that philosophical point, dagger in hand.
--Michel de Montaigne, Of the art of discussion.
Stab back: cmnewman99-at-yahoo.com
Saturday, July 19, 2003
More on Lincoln
The amazing thing about blogging is that once in a while a total stranger will take the time to respond thoughtfully to something you've dashed off. I recently got such a message from a guy named Rich Rostrom, who gave me some good food for thought.
Well, I certainly don't claim to fully understand Lincoln. I'm only now starting to grapple with this history in a serious way, and until I've digested at least the volumes by Lincoln and Calhoun that I've got on my shelf perhaps I should just keep quiet. But this much at least I -had understood--in fact, my earlier post said precisely this: that Lincoln disavowed ending slavery as a justification for war and based it solely on preserving the Union.
Now, you state that the Constitution does not explicitly
The Supremacy Clause argument is a fair one. The only textual counter argument I can think of at the moment would be to point to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments and argue that among the rights and powers retained by the people and States must be those fundamental ones invoked in the Declaration of Independence, namely to withdraw consent from a government that has become oppressive and institute a new one. Consent that can't be withdrawn isn't real consent. So one might accept that as long as a state remains in the Union, it is subject to the supremacy of federal law, and yet hold that states can exit the Union if they so choose.
There is, I suppose, the wrinkle that technically the constitution wasn't entered into by the states but by the people, in ratifying conventions organized by state. So arguably to secede you needed not a vote of state legislatures but the holding of deratifying conventions parallel to the earlier ones. Whatever formal niceties we decide to require however, is there any doubt that the popular sentiment for secession was overwhelming?
In his First Inaugural, Lincoln made this point:
This is an interesting argument, too. Not sure I buy it, though. It seems to be based on the premise that you can only have functioning democratic government if everyone in sight belongs to the same one. States always think that any lessening of their sphere of power is a step toward inexorable anarchy. I say, what's wrong with a little competition between regional democratic governments? What's wrong with a picture in which, say, 20 states stay in the Union, 12 form a separate Confederacy, a few strike off on their own, and maybe a few break up even further into sovereign city-states? Each of these entities could be thriving democracies. Or some could fail and wind up joining back up with one of the bigger ones. I still don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to try. Now one might posit all kinds of practical difficulties that might need to be worked out. If, for example, these various political entities couldn't get their acts together to cooperate on defense, the region might become vulnerable to foreign invasion. But there's no reason in principle why they couldn't swing that. The Greeks did pretty well against Xerxes, thank you. As long as each of these political entities recognized the others' rights to self-determination, they could compete and get along and form ad hoc conventions as to those matters on which cooperation was important. Why would this necessarily spell the end of democracy? I need to hear more.
Lincoln was determined that the government should be
And my understanding is that few people would have been willing to fight a war whose purpose was to end slavery.
Oh, and the story about Lincoln arresting state legislators
Not to mention the deliberate civilian destruction inflicted by the Union in the South. Is there any doubt that by today's standards the North was guilty of war crimes?
Considering the gravity and insidious character of the
No argument there. But believe it or not, my purpose in writing that last post wasn't necessarily to defend Bush. I said we can't hold him in opprobrium without holding Lincoln doubly so. But I take quite seriously the possibility that we should so hold Lincoln. It may be that of the two, Bush is less blameworthy. We should still blame him when necessary, but also keep our perspective.
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