[Marxism] Lincoln

mlause at cinci.rr.com mlause at cinci.rr.com
Mon Apr 10 10:51:19 MDT 2006


CB wrote, "Before the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War, the 
Republicans were not for abolishing slavery, but opposed its expansion 
to any new territories."  

Actually, the Republicans were a much more complex coalition than 
this.  Most (but not all, by any means) Americans who wanted to 
abolish slavery were Republicans.  Almost all (though not all) free 
blacks in the North with opinions on the subject both wanted to 
abolish slavery and favored the Republicans.  The exclusion of slavery 
was simply the common denominator to which even the most conservative 
Republicans would agree.  (It should be noted that some of the early 
Republican state parties in the east dragged their feet at going that 
far.)

CB also wrote, "As Marx demonstrated in his economic analysis of 
slavery, preventing it from expanding territorially was equivalent to 
strangling it. The slavocracy knew this, and attacked Fort Sumter upon 
the election of Lincoln because of the inevitable objective impact of 
the Republican platform position, regardless of what the Big Man 
Lincoln said."

Lincoln wasn't particularly "the Big Man" of 1860, save in hindsight.  
Any number of Republicans, like William H. Seward were much more 
prominent and popular, even in Republican ranks.  

The secessionists didn't attack Fort Sumter "upon the election of 
Lincoln."  The election was November 1860, and the attack wasn't until 
mid-April 1861, a bit over five very busy months for the slaveholders. 

Most importantly, it is just not at all clear that limiting the 
expansion of slavery would have had any "inevitable objective impact," 
much less the strangulation of the institution.  There had been some 
limits to the expansion of slavery all along, but it grew even more 
profitable and expanded.  

Most importantly, the reason for secession was that the cotton 
planters dominated the nation since the 1820s.  They were the most 
powerful force in the Democratic Party, which was the dominant power 
in from the days of Jackson.  Through their control of the party and 
the party's control of the national government, the most rabid 
slaveholders exercised a virtual veto over policies they didn't want, 
whether slavery was involved or not.  But, more than this, the 
slaveholders wanted a much more actively expansionist foreign policy, 
extending "Manifest Destiny" to Mexico, Cuba, Central America and 
the "Golden Circle."  The idea was that this would get control of 
areas into which slavery could be expanded or reintroduced (as it was 
eliminated in a lot of these places when they expelled the Spanish).  
The Republican opposition to such madness was perhaps as important as 
their positions on the western territories already in US hands, 
because it threatened what the slaveholders saw a
s the future of their institution (which was obviously going to do 
better where the geography and the climate suited traditional 
plantations rather than...well, Nebraska.

However, this entire idea of an "inevitable objective impact" is 
probably rooted in the idea that soil exhaustion would destroy the use 
of slavery for cotton plantations in the slaveholding states and lead 
to the abandonment of the institution.  It was a popular idea in the 
1920s, I think.  However, a number of studies from the 1960s and 70s 
demonstrated how slavery was workable in some urban and industrial 
enterprises in the South.  

How's that for a thought?  There were industrial workers in 1860 who 
were owned by companies and the owners of companies.  

While we're at it, let's just discard the entire notion of 
inevitability.   

Solidarity!
Mark L.








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