Author Archives: bleikind

About bleikind

I'm a physicist and an amateur student of economics, history, and current affairs. I am teaching a physics course for non-majors at the University of Tampa. I live in Tampa with my darling wife.

Should Hillsborough County Remove Its Confederate Soldiers Monument? Yes!

Wayne,

This morning, Wednesday, June 21, 2017, the Hillsborough County Commission considered a motion by one of its commissioners, Les Miller, to remove the Confederate Soldiers Monument on the plaza before the County Courthouse Annex, caddy corner from the County Center Office building, and around the corner from the County Courthouse.

More than forty citizens, including me, came to offer the commission advice on the matter.

Here’s what I had to say:

Testimony offered to the County Commissioners on June 21, 2017.

I am Bernard Leikind. I live at 3215 Taragrove Drive in north Carrollwood. I teach physics at the Univ. of Tampa, and I’m an amateur student of Florida history. Hello to Commissioner Crist, my commissioner, and to Commissioners Miller and White, and to the other Commissioners.

In 1860, Florida had 140,000 residents. Of these about 62,000 were black slaves. 80,000 white residents, 60,000 black residents.

From the white population, about 15,000 Florida men fought for the Confederacy, and about 5,000 died. The Confederate Soldiers Monument honors their courage and sacrifice on behalf of their cause.

Some white Floridians remained loyal to the United States. More than 2000 of them enlisted in two Florida Calvary regiments of the United States Army. Others served in the United States Navy. Hillsborough County’s Monument does not honor their loyalty and bravery.

More than 5,000 Florida black men escaped from slavery to the territory controlled by the United States Army in Florida and enlisted in regiments of the United States Colored Troops. These brave men fought for their freedom and that of their still enslaved brothers and sisters. Hillsborough County’s Monument does not honor these men for their courage, loyalty to the United States, or their cause.

Across the sidewalk from the Confederate Soldiers Monument, Hillsborough County honors United States military men and women in wars beginning with the Spanish-American War. The County honors all the warriors who fought for our freedoms in these wars.

Why does the County honor only white Floridians who fought for the Confederacy and does not honor the thousands of Florida soldiers and sailors who loyally fought to preserve our United States and for the freedom of black slaves?

The Confederate Soldiers Monument should be removed from County property, and replaced with a Civil War Memorial that honors all Floridians, and Americans, who fought in that war.

Here’s tomorrow’s Tampa Bay Times lead story on the commissioners meeting and decision: Hillsborough Commissioners vote to keep Confederate monument in downtown Tampa . As you can see from the headline, my golden words and those of many others were insufficient to sway the majority of commissioners.

On Sunday, the Times ran a good story on the monument and its history. Around 1911, the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised the funds, commissioned the two statues, stele, and words. They donated the work to an apparently grateful (all white) County Commission. The monument stood on the square before the old courthouse until 1951, when it was moved to its present location in front of what is now the Court Annex. Here’s the Times article , For Tampa’s Confederate monument, racist history clouds claims of heritage . The reporter, Steve Contorno, looked up the newspaper accounts of the monument’s dedication. Here’s a key paragraph:

In remarks at the monument’s dedication — a monument that its modern supporters insist doesn’t symbolize the suppression of black Americans — the keynote speaker, state attorney Herbert S. Phillips, had this to say:

“The South stands ready to welcome all good citizens who seek to make their homes within her borders. But the South detests and despises all, it matters not from whence they came, who, in any manner, encourages social equality with an ignorant and inferior race.”

 

The Times also had a good editorial Editorial: Hillsborough’s Confederate monument should be removed .

Tampa is the county seat for Hillsborough County. The city has about 300,000 residents and the county about 1.3 million. St. Petersburg and Clearwater, the other important cities of the Bay area are in Pinellas County. Thus the main County offices are in Tampa’s downtown.

There were a couple dozen Monument supporters from the United Sons of the Confederacy, waving signs and small Confederate flags, but they weren’t the only supporters of the Monument. As I talk to locals about this monument, many longtime residents, including my darling wife, a Tampa native, are surprised that such a thing exists. She noticed it for the first time three years ago when we went for our marriage license. There are plenty of people, especially from minority groups, who know about this, and the commissioners were surprised and impressed, so they said, by the large turnout for this motion.

Bernard

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A Museum Closes Without the Confederate Flag

Wayne, 

Here’s an article, confusing I thought, about a battlefield museum a little southeast of Atlanta at the site of the final battles of General Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. Parts of the battlefield are a county park, and there is a museum and museum shop. Evidently, one of the County’s commissioners requested that they “not offend anyone” and get rid of the Confederate flags:

Atlanta Journal Constitution A Henry County commissioner requested a few months ago that a local Civil War museum remove its Conf…

 Hmmmm. The spokesperson for the County said that the County had not made such a request.

 While I don’t agree with removing flags from an historical museum, I also don’t agree with the last person cited. 

Bernard L

 

Bernard,

You don’t agree with this? 

“You have a museum in this time period to honor both Union and Confederate veterans,” Chuck Johnson said. “No matter which side they fought on, they were all Americans.”

 I do agree with it. They tried to become Confederates but were forced back into being just Americans. They fought alongside other Americans in all later wars. They pay taxes like all other Americans. They take care of their families like all other humans. They’re not fundamentally different from other Americans.

 I think you have a problem. As long as you think of them only as traitors you will continue to have a problem. You seem unable to forgive.

Wayne

Wayne,

Well, we have to be careful with our words. Do we mean people who live in the Americas? Do we mean people who are citizens of the United States or legal residents? If the latter, then the white Confederate people of the 1860s would have denied that they were citizens of the United States. The Dred Scott decision settled the question about black people. They were not citizens and could not be citizens, even if they were free and living in northern states. It took the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to overturn this decision.

Now that guy is good-hearted, and his sentiment is fine, as far as it goes. In all such statements it is necessary to try to infer his mental picture for who is an “American”, or who is “we”, or “our.” As in “we just want to remember our history.” I’d guess, but I don’t know, that his picture does not include black people.

Besides, aside from this confused and odd case of a county park near Atlanta, no one wants to “erase” history by removing these monuments. The reason three of the New Orleans monuments should be removed is that “we” and “our” must include black people. (And those white people of New Orleans who supported and fought for the United States.) The fourth monument, you will recall, honored a white supremacist mob who attacked the integrated police force of 1874 Reconstruction era New Orleans. Why do you suppose that the people who put up that monument didn’t honor the police killed and wounded by the mob?

Bernard L

 

Bernard,

You ask:

>Why do you suppose that the people who put up that monument didn’t honor the police killed and wounded by the mob?

Because those people were human beings, and humans don’t erect monuments to enemies, only to people on their own side. So forgive them and get on with life. Hopefully the overall arc trends positive, and do what you can to help it arc that way. Harping on past sins and insisting that sinners are/were one-dimensional purely-evil humans is not useful. Forgive … but don’t forget.

Wayne

 

Wayne,

“Those people” have every right to honor anyone they perceive as being on “their side” on their property. If they wish to put up a monument to these rioters on their front lawn, that’s fine.

As I’ve mentioned before, here in Hillsborough County the Sons of Confederate Veterans have some property close to the intersection of I-75 and I-4 where they placed a massive flagpole to display Confederate flags. It’s a few miles east of downtown, but I-75 is the main north-south highway along the west coast and I-4 is the main east-west highway from Tampa to Orlando to the east coast. Those Sons get to honor their ancestors for all to see. That’s entirely different than requiring black people to walk to the courthouse past a city-owned monument to Confederate fighters. Those soldiers fought to keep black people enslaved, and the monument was paid for and given to the city by people asserting that their ancestors’ cause was right and just.

I tend to doubt that the rioters’ monument was put up by people who just wished to honor their forebears’ bravery. They don’t have a right to compel the government to honor the rioters. When that monument, and all the others honoring Confederate soldiers and leaders, was put up, “those people” didn’t ask black people what they thought of the matter.

As the government represents all citizens, it ought not to be honoring the ancestors of one sub-group at the expense of another sub-group.

I’d also say that the term “those people” shows that this really is about racist and white supremacy, not honoring “our” ancestors.

If “those people” were thinking that their group was, say, Floridians and Tampans, and not white Floridians and white Tampans, then their memorials to their forebears would have been to all soldiers who fought on either side of the war, black and white. But these monuments never are, and “those people” object to any attempt to widen the circle of honorees.

Remember, too, that this type of thinking, known as neo-Confederate or Lost Cause ideology, specifically involves wistfully or bitterly remembering the defeat of white Southerners. Not moving on. It is not those who wish to remove the monuments who refuse to move on.

Bernard

 

Tampa Flag site- Confederate Memorial Park

Confederate Memorial Park in Tampa, Florida is home to the world’s largest 3rd National Flag and the world’s largest flying Naval Jack.

Confederate Memorial Park was a vision that began to take shape in 2007 when the land on the southwest corner of I-4 and I-75 was purchased. The journey wasn’t an easy one. City, County, and FAA regulations and codes had to be met; not to mention those in the media and public that were detractors. Construction began in 2008. The park is adorned with 75 Confederate jasmine on chain link fencing bordering 18 pallets of Pensacola Bahia sod on the grounds with an additional 300 feet of flower beds, The center piece of this historical park dedication is the world’s largest Confederate battle flag, 30 feet by 60 feet.

It is beautiful and waves 139 feet in the air on the southwest corner of I-4 and I-75 at exit 261 in Tampa, Florida. The 139-foot tall flagpole was manufactured in Texas and delivered to Florida in four sections. The pole base is 14 feet in the ground surrounded by an eight foot diameter sleeve filled with 12,000 pounds of concrete. The base of the flagpole itself is two feet in diameter with six inches diameter at the top, and an internal halyard for raising the flag. In the center of the park stand 10 granite monuments bearing the names of those who helped make the dream a reality. There is also a very nice bench that was donated by the Order of Confederate Rose Florida Division.

The front of Confederate Memorial Park is ringed with 12,000 red bricks resting on 300 inner concrete blocks along with the installation of 240 feet of wrought iron at the parking area. Mega spotlights for the flag and pole accentuate night visibility as cars, 18 wheelers, and vans honk in recognition day and night of their beloved Dixie flag. When the park was dedicated, April 25, 2009, there were nearly 2000 guests in attendance to see the “World’s Largest Flying Battle flag” raised in tribute to the soldiers and citizens of the South during years 1861-1865. Florida Division Sons of Confederate Veterans assumed ownership of the park in 2012.

On June 9, 2012, with General Order #2-2012, Florida Division Commander Jim Davis named the General Jubal A. Early Camp #556 as the Sentinels of Confederate Memorial Park in Tampa, FL. They have been tasked with maintaining the site, the flags, and making Confederate Memorial Park an enjoyable place for everyone to visit.

To visit the General Jubal A. Early SCV Camp’s Confederate Memorial Park page click here.

 

 

Bernard

Yes, those people down south still smart mightily for having lost their power, their wealth in the form of slaves, and their cause. But they’re just people, no more and no less. Specifically, they are no more and no less honorable, smart, virtuous, humble, stupid, vicious, saintly, miserly, and any other adjective, than the people up north who won the fight. Or the black people who still feel hatred from the southerners and often from northerners too. I was an overt racist myself from before I can remember, through my 30s and beyond, after which I gradually became aware of my reflexive thoughts and actions and began to clean them up, with much shame and regret about my past behavior. I wish I had learned sooner but I did not. People get formed before they can think for themselves. We’re not yet into the tenth generation since the slaves were freed. It just takes time. We are collectively getting there. I say let’s be matter of fact and not cast stones lest we be found wanting ourselves.

    Wayne

 

 

 

 

 
 

 
 

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More Counterfactual Civil War History

Bernard

Last week I drove through rural Virginia between Richmond and Washington DC on two different back roads. Both roads were suffused, permeated with the Confederacy and the Civil War. Every few miles or less there was an historical marker or a battlefield or other public reminder. Lots of Confederate battle flag front license plates. Every town and city seems to have named its streets for Lee, Jackson, Hill, Longstreet, Pickett, Mosby, Davis and other prominent Confederates.

 

Driving north to MA I saw few or no corresponding street names or historical reminders of the Civil War in Pennsylvania and beyond, except in somber Gettysburg, which is only 5 miles from the Maryland border, and which is the only site I know of that had a significant Civil War engagement outside the Confederate states and Maryland (Antietam).

 

Had the Confederacy survived, we’d be like North and South Korea, or India and Pakistan, or West and East Germany. We’d have stopped labeling the secessionists as traitors; rather, they’d be the ones who identified with and stayed with the new country, which remained a country and not just a battlefield for a lost cause. Not to say the Confederate cause was noble, only to say that it had millions of adherents – and it still does.

 

If we wipe out public evidence of the Confederacy there’ll be not much left along those Virginia roads. Just like the Pennsylvania and New York and Massachusetts roads, no evidence of the great divide.

 

I just now read Mitch Landrieu’s speech. Truly fine, excellent, uplifting.

Words of a great man, a great soul.

 

Wayne

Wayne,

What an interesting report. Blue and gray soldiers fought many battles in Virginia and especially between Washington and Richmond. Richmond is famous for its statues to Confederate leaders. You are also correct about the many streets, parks, schools, and other civic institutions throughout the former Confederate states that bear the names of Confederate heroes. What do you think it is like for today’s southern black children to attend one of the schools named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a notorious slave-owner, slave trader, and general?

 

As for monuments and historical reminders of the Civil War, you missed the many honors to Union soldiers and leaders in Washington, DC. Sheridan and Thomas Circles. Farragut Square. Many others. Amazingly, Virginia honors Robert E Lee and Mississippi honors Jefferson Davis in the U. S. Capital with statues. Florida honors General Kirby Smith there. He was a high-ranking officer who ended the war commanding the western theater, although through some unusual breath of sanity, a legislative committee is considering replacing him. Ft. Bragg honors Confederate General Bragg! Don’t forget Grant’s Tomb in New York City. Visiting Saratoga Springs, New York, I saw that town’s monument to a regiment formed there during the Civil War. In Boston, there is a famous monument to the Massachusetts 54th regiment, formed from black men and featured in the movie Glory. (A good movie too.)

 

Here are some interesting facts about these monuments that you can find with a few moments Googling. Kentucky was a slave state that stayed in the Union. While the western part of the state was suitable for plantation agriculture with slaves, the mountainous eastern part was not. More than three times as many Kentucky men fought in Union Armies than fought in Confederate ones, but there are 30 times as many monuments to Confederate soldiers in Kentucky than to Union soldiers. Something like 90 to 3!

 

Missouri was another slave state that remained in the Union (as did Maryland and Delaware). There were battles there as Southerners invaded and tried to pry Missouri from the Union. In addition to invading Maryland and Pennsylvania, as you note, Confederate Armies also invaded Kentucky.

 

Antietam, said to be the bloodiest single day in American military history, was the most important battle fought in Maryland. In a famous ride, Confederate General Jubal Early led his cavalrymen around Washington, DC, and marching into the city’s outskirts. They fought a skirmish there at Ft. Stevens, parts of which still existed when I was growing up nearby. Abraham Lincoln went to see, and, according to the story, the young Oliver Wendell Holmes, then a young Union officer shouted at him, “Get down, you fool!” before noticing just who it was who was standing beside him.

 

San Diego, a growing town in the 1870s, has streets named for Union Generals Meade and Rosecrans.

 

As you say, those monuments to Southern heroes shows that their cause still has millions of adherents. Put that way, it puts the lie to those adherents who assert that they only wish to honor the memory of their brave ancestors but not the cause for which they undertook to attack the United States. That cause was the preservation and spread of black slavery, as white Southerners were proud to state in 1861. Here’s the key relevant clause of the Confederate Constitution, from Section 9, clause 4 about powers of the Confederate legislature:

 

No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

 

Mostly the Confederate Constitution is the same as the United States Constitution, with minor changes, such as using the word slave instead of euphemisms such as persons held in bondage. But they added the clause I’ve marked in yellow.

 

You propose an interesting question of counterfactual history: what would the political situation be today if the white Southerners had succeeded? You point to three divided nations. You say that those who remained in the North would have stopped thinking of white Southerners as traitors, but I think not. Assuming a peace treaty ended the war, they would have recognized them as citizens of a separate country, whose ancestors were traitors to the United States. Indeed, when I moved from San Diego to Tampa, I’d have been emigrating!

 

Modern historians (as far as I know as an amateur) believe that the secession movement, led by wealthy and politically powerful plantation owners to preserve and increase their wealth, produced the opposite of their goal. Indeed, the secession movement and armed rebellion against the United States government produced a disaster for Southern white people and the opposite of their aims. Slaves were freed, and black men could vote. The economy was ruined by war and freeing slaves. Historians believe that if Southern whites had not attempted an armed rebellion in response to election results they didn’t like that slavery would have continued for many years. Republicans generally, and Abraham Lincoln, believed that the Constitution protected slavery where it existed and prohibited Congress from abolishing it by legislation. Their professed interest was to stop slavery’s spread to new territories. If the southern white people had not withdrawn their Senators and Representatives from Congress, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution would never have passed.

 

During the War many people, Democrats for the most part, sought peace, but the only terms acceptable to the rebels was that their secession should be accepted and the only terms acceptable to the United States were than the southern states should remain in the Union, no agreement was possible.

 

 

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Removing Confederate Monuments in New Orleans

Wayne,

New Orleans is removing four monuments erected during the Jim Crow era. Three are to Confederate leaders, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and P. G. T. Beauregard, and fourth is to white rioters who objected to the integrated police force of Reconstruction era Louisiana. There has been significant opposition, and some supporters of the monuments have issued threats against city officials and the owners and workers of the firms that will do the work. The city plans to remove these monuments, unannounced, at night, with police protection for the workers who will be wearing bullet proof vests and helmets.

This is a good and thorough essay by a knowledgeable historian, Kevin M. Levin, about these monuments found in the thousands throughout the former Confederate states and in some border Union states. He relates the story of the Robert E. Lee monument, both Lee’s life and white Southerners’ images of him.

It is well worth reading this because, in my opinion, what today’s Southern whites say about these monuments, and their ancestors, and about the Civil War distorts or erases the story of the Civil War and about the monuments themselves.

Bernard

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Bernard

Informed and knowledgeable, yes. But Lee remains in my eyes a truly superior human despite certain barbaric things he did, such as kill black Union prisoners near the end of the war. Humanity evolves (which is a truism of course). Many great philosophers and religious thinkers have stated that slavery is natural and inevitable – see for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/slavery/ethics/philosophers_1.shtml. Humanity has reached a new level of understanding on the matter. Yet, some humans are born unable to take care of themselves and can live only in a state resembling slavery, in which other people govern their every act but do not own them as property and thus cannot sell them. 

People are of their times and I believe should be judged according mostly to the norms of their times, less so to humanity’s new and improved norms.

 Wayne

Wayne,

Lee was also a traitor to the United States, who took up arms against the lawful government. As he did this, he abandoned his oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Many Southern white United States Army and Navy officers did not do this. 

General George Thomas, the Rock of Chickamauga, hailed from Virginia, but you won’t find any mention of him on monuments in the state of his birth or in the states of his great battles. Honored at Thomas Circle in Washington, DC. Admiral David Farragut, that’s the “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Farragut, opined that secession was treason, and became the Navy’s first Rear, Vice, and Full Admiral during the Civil War. Captured New Orleans and Mobile, among other victories. Honored at Farragut Square in Washington, DC. Farragut, Tennessee, near his birthplace, is named in his honor, but Southern whites find no reason to honor him with statues at the sites of his great victories, all in the South. Lost Cause historians have made sure that we only know about those who were traitors. We have to explain why the one group, traitors to the United States, and the other group, loyal to the United States, and both groups people of their times, behaved in opposite ways. (There’s a monument to Lee at Gettysburg, site of his and the South’s greatest defeat, but no monument to Thomas in Nashville or to Farragut in Mobile. Why do you suppose that is? Is it only that the first was a man of good character, worthy of honor and emulation, but the second and third were somehow scurrilous?)

 Among Southern whites, those southern white officers who remained loyal to the Union were known as traitors. Confederate state governments and the Confederate government passed laws defining those who remained loyal to the United States as traitors. Why would governments today, city, state, and federal wish to honor people who took up arms against the United States government, refusing to accept the results of a valid election, to protect their wealth produced by the violence of slavery? All these points were well known to people of that time.

 So I agree with you that white supremacists of today have an understandable desire to honor their forebears and predecessors. But if we, that is all of us, are honoring those men of that past era, we have to explain why Southern whites chose to honor only those men of good character, they say, who fought to destroy the United States, and to preserve and expand slavery, but do not chose to honor those many southern white men of good character who fought to preserve the Union and to bring an end to slavery, known to many people of that day as a great evil.

Bernard

Wayne,

I have thoughts about ideas in your statement above. Quotes from you are in italics and indented, and my thoughts are double indented.

Informed and knowledgeable, yes. But Lee remains in my eyes a truly superior human despite certain barbaric things he did, such as kill black Union prisoners near the end of the war.

I haven’t read that Lee specifically ordered that his men kill black Union soldiers. The Atlantic article’s author refers to the case of the Battle of the Crater (part of the siege of Petersburg), in which several hundred black soldiers attempted to surrender but were shot down on the spot. Confederate soldiers, officers and men, were particularly offended by armed black men. As far as I can tell, it was common practice, for Confederate whites to kill wounded black men on the battlefield after Confederate victories, and black men taken prisoner alive were sold into slavery. Normally, Confederate era historians avoid mentioning these facts, except for a few defenders of the South. For example, the exemplary Civil War historian, Shelby Foote goes out of his way to defend the honor of Gen. Forrest at the battle of Ft. Pickens, an infamous massacre of blacks (infamous even at the time). As I’ve been reading Florida history, I’m up on the battle of Olustee, in northern Florida in 1864. The famous Massachusetts 54th fought there. It was a Union defeat. Instead of pursuing the retreating Yankees, the Southerners remained on the battlefield and killed wounded black soldiers. This implicates, I’d say, both the Confederate killers and their officers. The Atlantic magazine’s historian author mentions that the Confederate army that invaded Pennsylvania on the way to Gettysburg captured “suspected black runaways (from the South)” and sent them back into slavery. That estimable historian doesn’t say that the Southern white armies considered any black person who fell into their hands as a former slave.

Humanity evolves (which is a truism of course). Many great philosophers and religious thinkers have stated that slavery is natural and inevitable – see for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/slavery/ethics/philosophers_1.shtml. Humanity has reached a new level of understanding on the matter.

I agree with this, that slavery, chattel slavery, property in other humans, has been part of human life for as long as we know. In the past, for the most part, slaves were captured in battle or as the result of battle. It is one of the great advances in human moral thought that we now consider buying and selling human beings and forced labor to be immoral. We (some people) still have trouble with extending the Golden Rule to all of humanity, but it is now our goal.

Yet, some humans are born unable to take care of themselves and can live only in a state resembling slavery, in which other people govern their every act but do not own them as property and thus cannot sell them. 

I think that the type of people you describe, say the profoundly retarded, fall into the expanded circle of the Golden Rule. In the past, they’d have been abandoned or exploited, but today we strive to treat them with kindness.

Southern slave owners imagined themselves as kindly caring for their dependent slaves because the owners would buy food and clothes for the slaves. Of course, the money to buy these items came from the labor of the slaves, but the owners didn’t see it that way.

People are of their times and I believe should be judged according mostly to the norms of their times, less so to humanity’s new and improved norms.

Bernard

Bernard,

No human group erects monuments to its invaders’ worthies. Bill Maher famously said that the 9/11 Islamic pilots were courageous and was blasted for saying so, but of course he was right. The Union side of the US ultimately allowed/encouraged some monuments to worthies from the South, for example Lee. The Confederate side, the invaded and defeated side, did not and cannot reasonably be expected to erect monuments to, say, Grant and Sherman. Take away statues of Lee and Beauregard and Jackson and so on from the South, and who then remains as that side’s heroes? The Southern people become losers without respected leaders, losers with no self-respect. There’s no need to condemn the South’s leaders or the people. Their descendants will become enlightened if we are to believe in the arc of rising goodness among humans (not sure I fully do, BTW). And I continue to think you are unreasonable to condemn Lee a traitor to the US and a violator of his sacred oaths. When masses of people divide, one should not dismiss any one person for having gone with the tide of the time, with his family and forbears. Would you have gone against the tide all around you? Are you sure?

Wayne

PS The West Point creed is “Duty, Honor, Country”. In that order. Even if you think of all three as #1 priority, how can a human choose definitively between duty and honor with respect to family on the one hand, versus country on the other? Some southerners went one way, others went the other. None should be condemned for his or her choice. 

Wayne,

I doubt that the West Point creed contains exceptions or allows for crossed fingers behind backs. The creed directs West Point graduates as to how to resolve conflicts of interest.

Here’s the oath of office for commissioned officers in the United States Army, adopted in about 1830. It may not have been the one that Robert E. Lee took when he graduated from the United States Military Academy, but it would have been the one he took with each promotion.

“I, _____, appointed a _____ in the Army of the United States, do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.”

Here’s the definition of treason, from Article 3, Section 3, of the United States Constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

Here’s the definition of treason, from Article 3, Section 3, of the Confederate States Constitution:

Treason against the Confederate States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

Confederates knew that they were committing treason against the United States, and they defined people within their claimed territories who remained loyal to the United States as traitors (to the Confederacy).

It’s clear to me that Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee, both West Point graduates and long-time officers in the United States Army, lev[ied] War against the [United States].

These days, we’d say that Davis and Lee both received a fine college education at taxpayers’ expense, which they then used to wage war against those taxpayers.

Bernard

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Global Warming XV: The Coming Ice Age

A recent Politico report tells us that Trump’s Deputy National Security adviser, K. T. McFarland, put a copy of two Time magazine cover pages in his reading list. One cover, which showed a lone penguin on a mound of snow and ice, had the title: How To Survive the Coming Ice Age: 51 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference. It’s from April 9, 1977. The other cover, which showed a lone polar bear on a small floe, had the title: Be Worried: Be Very Worried: Climate Change isn’t some vague future problem—it’s already damaging the planet at an alarming pace. Here’s how it affects you, your kids and their kids as well. Headlines for some of the issues’ stories, shown on the cover are: Earth at the Tipping Point, How It Threatens Your Health, How China & India Can Help Save the World—Or Destroy It, and The Climate Crusaders. It’s from April 3, 2006. The point of this juxtaposition is to demonstrate that since scientists once worried us about a coming Ice Age and now they alarm us with talk of roasting, they really haven’t a clue.

In fact, the Coming Ice Age cover is a fake. Here’s Time’s own explanation. The con artist had changed the headline, three digits in the year, and a couple of the top story teasers from a 2006 Time cover. According to Politico, an unnamed White House colleague defended McFarland on the grounds that the cover was “fake, but accurate.” (?!?!?) In fact, the cover is not only fake, but it is inaccurate. The opposite of the truth.

Here’s the fake cover and the one the con artist modified, from the Time explanation.

My essay deals with the idea that in the 1970s climate scientists thought that we were heading for an Ice Age. You can read more about K. T. McFarland in Wikipedia. Word is that she will be appointed our ambassador to Singapore, and inside the beltway types are wondering if it’s a dream come true for her, or exile.

Were scientists worrying about the Earth falling into an Ice Age in the 1970s? No.

I should say this. The Earth’s history shows that it has Ice Ages and Interglacial Periods. Here’s some useful data:

This data is from a 2008 paper in Nature and shows the Antarctic temperature and CO2 concentration from the remarkable ice core data, going back 800,000 years. Close to the present is to the left, and the distant past is to the right on this graph. The temperature shows the temperature difference between a modern average and the past temperature in degrees C. The temperature difference between an ice age and an interglacial period in Antarctica, as it is elsewhere, is about 4 or 8 C (7 to 15 F). The point to take from these data is that glacial periods and warmer periods alternate. As we are presently in an interglacial period that began 14,000 or 12,000 years ago, most people would predict that we are likely to have another ice age in the future. That prediction supposes that the same natural factors that produced the climate alternation in the past continue to produce the same effects in the future.

Scientists have known since the late 1800s about the greenhouse effect, and the main greenhouse gases. These gases are H2O (water vapor) and CO2. Indeed, but for these atmospheric gases absorbing upward moving long wavelength infrared radiation from the Earth’s surface, the average surface temperature would be around -5 C, about 20 F! Everything would be frozen. The most intense Ice Age ever. This natural greenhouse effect is the reason that the average surface temperature is 12 or 15 C, in the upper 50s F.

Greenhouse gases are not the only things that influence the flow of energy through the atmosphere. Aerosols are another important factor, and they are complicated. These are tiny particles or even molecules suspended in the atmosphere. Are they black carbon, soot? Then they absorb energy where they are, high in the atmosphere, and stop it from reaching the ground. Are the nitrates and sulfates? Then they reflect energy and neither warm the atmosphere nor the ground. But they may seed the formation of clouds, which also reflect incoming energy, and stop upward moving energy sending it back down. As I said, it’s complicated, and you can read about it here. That’s where I get this interesting graph:

In this graph, time moves from left to right, beginning in 1850. The blue shows stuff, mostly sulfates, blown into the atmosphere by major volcanoes. The red shows the Earth’s surface temperature anomaly, the difference between the temperature around the 1980s and the graphed date. You can see the gradual rise of about 1 C due to global warming, but after the big volcanoes you can see that the temperature drops below the trend for a couple of years. It takes that long for the sulfates blown into the stratosphere to settle out of the atmosphere. Not shown here is the immense Mt. Tambora volcanic eruption of 1815, which produced the Year Without a Summer, as it is known in Europe. I’m wandering from my point because this is so interesting.

That point is that the effects of aerosols are complicated, and in the 1970s some climate researchers pondered the effects of global aerosol pollution from burning coal. Burning coal puts a lot of bad stuff in the atmosphere. In addition to soot, it puts sulfur compounds up there, which lead to acid rain. It puts mercury into the air, which ends up in fishy predators. It puts uranium and other long-lived isotopes into the air, from where it settles on the ground and into the water. More too. So, some researchers wondered if humans were putting enough coal and oil junk into the air to cause general cooling. No one was predicting an imminent ice age. These researchers knew and understood the greenhouse effect, and they and other scientists generally believed that humans were warming the climate by adding significant amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Put another way, in the 1970s scientists believed that if natural factors alone operated as they had in the past, the Earth would enter an ice age at some unspecified but distant time, say 20,000 or 30,000 years from now. They understood the greenhouse effect, and they could see that humans were upsetting the natural factors by adding CO2 to the atmosphere in massive amounts. They could see that we were doing other things to upset the natural factors. They studied all these. During the decades since, computing power for data analysis and theoretical models has increased immensely. The Space Age began, and data from satellites became available. The relevant laws of nature, the properties of greenhouse and other gases, aerosols, radiation, and other factors, however, did not change. Our new power and knowledge has solidified and confirmed what has been clearly known for many decades: humans are causing the Earth to warm by burning fossil fuels.

K. T. McFarland, who has studied foreign affairs, worked in politics and as a staff member in national security areas, and broadcast in national security affairs for Fox News, apparently knows little or nothing about climate science. I’ve never met her, I confess. I don’t know, and I haven’t read, if she believed that the fake Time cover was a real one. Apparently, it has been circulating in the right-wing world for some years. The idea is consistent with what she’s have heard on Fox News, that the climate change alarmists are mistaken, foolish, and corrupt. Her colleague who defended her with the “fake, but correct” claim doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. I’d say that “fake, but correct” will enter our language along with Kelly Ann Conway’s famous “alternative facts.”

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Confederate Monuments in New Orleans

Wayne,

 

The New Orleans city government has begun to remove four Confederate monuments.
Some people are unhappy about this. The city officials and the firms hired to remove them have been receiving threats. As a result, the police have been providing guards, and the work is being done at night and unannouced.

 

I think that this is all to the good, and that it’s about time.

 

Bernard

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Bernard,

 

The city probably could have achieved the best possible outcome by not just taking down the statues, instead moving them all to some public spot and erecting explanatory signs there. That’s sort of what the

city is doing, but the way it’s gone about it is guaranteed to bring out the Confederate battle flags, AK-47s, Glocks, Dukes and so on and so forth. Seems like a huge ruckus for not much gain. And yes, if slave owners were the real problem then the statue of George Washington should come down, or be moved, too.

 

Wayne

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Wayne,

 

You might read just who the four monuments honored. One of them commemorated one of the post-war openly terrorist groups that worked to establish white supremacy.

 

Workers dismantled an obelisk, which was erected in 1891 to honor members of the Crescent City White League who in 1874 fought in the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place against the racially integrated New Orleans police and state militia, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.

The monument, which was sometimes used as a rallying point by David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, has stirred debate for decades. Local leaders unsuccessfully tried to remove it in 1981 and 1993.

Other monuments expected to be removed include a bronze statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in a traffic circle, named Lee Circle, in the city’s central business district since 1884; an equestrian statue of P.G.T. Beauregard, a Confederate general; and a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

 

Here’s the Robert E. Lee statue, from the monument’s Wikipedia page:

 


 

Here’s General Beauregard:

 

General P.G.T. Beauregard Equestrian Statue in New Orleans by sculptor Alexander Doyle, from Wikipedia article about Beauregard.

 

And Jefferson Davis, with some recent graffiti, from the Wikipedia article about the great man:

 

 

I’d say that it is obvious that the monument to the Crescent City White League ought to be both removed and pulverized. Unless, that is, people think that it might be exhibited in a history museum as part of a consideration of Reconstruction Era white racism and terrorism.

 

Robert E. Lee has little to do with either New Orleans or Louisiana. Evidently, he passed through the city, or was briefly stationed there, as part of his pre-Civil War service in the United States Army. New Orleans was under Confederate control for less than one year. The Wikipedia article has accounts of racists in KKK robes demonstrating in favor of the monument 30 or 40 years ago, and being attacks by brick throwing Black Panthers. I’d say that the racists don’t have any problem recognizing the meaning of this statue. Nor do black people.

 

Jefferson Davis lived in Louisiana for a year as a child. He managed to die in Louisiana. His plantations, farmed by slaves before the Civil War, were in Mississippi, and it was there that he spent most of his time after President Andrew Johnson pardoned him. As with Robert E. Lee, he had little to do with Louisiana. A slave-owner himself, who strongly believed in white supremacy, he supported secession and led the Confederacy as its only president. One of his accomplishments after the war was a two-volume work justifying the Confederacy, arguing that its cause was just, that secession was constitutional, and that blacks were rightly slaves. This made him popular with the many Lost Cause theorists of the day. The Wikipedia article has accounts of recognition of and support for this monument by white racists. Removing this statue from a place of honor in New Orleans will do nothing to erase him from history, where he will be remembered as a slave-owning traitor to the United States. Are there monuments to Benedict Arnold?

 

G. T. Beauregard was born and grew up on a sugar cane plantation in southern Louisiana. He twice married Louisiana women, daughters of sugar cane planters. The Wikipedia account doesn’t see fit to mention that those plantations were operated by slaves. Beauregard was the first man appointed a general in the Confederate Army. He was in command of Confederate forces at Ft. Sumter, where having received his instructions from Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government, he ordered militiamen to open fire on the fort. After the War, and apparently reluctantly, having signed an oath of allegiance to the United States, he lived in New Orleans pursuing various careers in business and in state government, running the Louisiana lottery. He was prominent man about town, well-known and respected by many Louisiana white people for his service to the Confederacy and the cause of slavery. At least he has a significant connection to New Orleans, but I don’t see that a majority black city is required to honor him in a prominent public space. Naturally, in any New Orleans history museum, and especially in displays about antebellum life, about Louisiana’s contribution to the Civil War (that include descriptions of the many Louisianans, white and black who fought for the Union), and about life during Reconstruction and after, he’d certainly belong.

 

As to those who object that history is being erased, they and their predecessors are the ones who have erased history. Union forces captured New Orleans early in the war in a famous naval operation led by David G. Farragut, and it remained in Union hands for the rest of the war. Free black men and escaped black slaves from Louisiana served throughout the war in Union forces as did many Louisiana white men. None of these soldiers are honored by today’s neo-Confederates.

 

New Orleans is a majority black city. I don’t see why the city government should honor any or only the ancestors of some modern white people who fought to keep black people enslaved. I don’t think the city government should take seriously that it, representing the people of New Orleans, ought to honor the claimed courage and service of those white people without regard for the cause for which they fought. If these white people wish to honor their ancestors, they are free to do so privately on their front lawns, or their pickup trucks (but not on license plates). Here in Tampa, the Sons of Confederate Veterans owns a small plot close to the heavily trafficked intersection of I-4 and I-75. They erected a tall flagpole and fly an immense flag, usually the Stars and Bars but sometimes the so-called Battle Flag. If they want to do this, it’s their own business.

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Bernard,

 

You seem to think that some groups of humans have innate moral superiority over other groups. They do not. Had the blacks made slaves of the whites and the whites eventually gained their freedom, the blacks might well have honored their own people who battled to keep the whites down. It’s just human nature. I think the African way in these matters is the only true way:

acknowledge that our people are no better and no worse than those other people, forgive those who have trespassed against us, and achieve truth and reconciliation among all peoples. So I say, remove the monuments from their special places but don’t destroy them and don’t hide them. Put them in a place of memory accessible to all.

 

Wayne,

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Wayne,

 

Are you arguing that the post-Civil War white terrorists who struggled for white supremacy by, among other things, murdering blacks and those whites who opposed them are morally equivalent to their victims?

 

Here we have two groups of humans. I believe that the latter are morally superior to the former. I guess you do too.

 

Black slaves, once they were free, held no animosity to their previous white owners for the most part. We also see that this tends to be the behavior of modern black Americans. Consider, for example, the actions of the parishioners of the black church where Dylan Roof murdered nine elderly black people. But forgiving Dylan Roof does not mean that he and his victims or the other parishioners are morally equivalent.

 

While the freed black slaves, as a rule, held no animosity to their previous owners, the owners feared them. We might suppose that those owners imagined how they would behave if the blacks had treated them as they had treated the blacks. If you’d like to see what I mean, look at the famous 1915 D W Griffith’s movie Birth of a Nation.

 

As for the monuments, although some people believe that they ought to be pulverized, most people, who want them taken from display on public property in places of honor would be just fine putting them in museums or some similar place. In those places, however, they would not stand to honor the white slavers and white defenders of slavery. They would be places to educate modern people about the past and about the bad ideas and evil actions some groups of humans have had and have visited upon their brothers and sisters. The people who put up those monuments and those who wish to keep them around today wish to whitewash history of past evils.

 

Slavery in the United States, as modern historians see it, is the “original sin” of the United States, built into the colonial economy and society and enshrined in the Constitution.

 

I’m reading The Winds of War, by Herman Wouk, a World War II historical novel. Naval Captain Victor Henry is US Naval Attaché in our embassy in Berlin in 1939 and 1940. At a diplomatic social event he converses with several prominent Germans. In a discussion brought about when Henry expresses his, and Americans’, discomfort about the German treatment of Jews, “Americans don’t like to see injustice,” he says, the German banker, wealthy host of the event, points out that Americans mistreat their Negroes. During the 1950s and 1960s, when the United States at least purported to be a beacon of human rights and freedom and lectured and scolded Communist nations and other tyrannies or authoritarians, they, too, defended themselves by pointing to American mistreatment of its black residents. (Of course, these days we have disgraced ourselves by torturing prisoners, among other actions.) Segregationists would point to the fact that Communists favored integration as an argument against the great Civil Rights laws of the 1960s.

 

The Winds of War, and its sequel, War and Remembrance, are more than 1500 pages, so I don’t necessarily recommend that you read them. While the two major families whose stories it tells are American, Wouk expresses the ideas of Germans of that time based upon thorough research. That is, while Wouk lets us know what he thinks about those views, and let’s his characters express their views too, he states the views of German people, starting with Hitler, as they might have expressed them themselves. In the 1980s, these two books were dramatized in a multi-part TV mini-series, with Kirk Douglas as Victor Henry. As part of his effort to express the German point of view, he invents a leading German general who has written an operational history of WW II. Supposedly Victor Henry has translated the introductions to each of this massive history’s sections into English, and these have been published. These chapters, interspersed throughout the book at appropriate places, as General van Roon’s description of the Battle of Britain precedes Roosevelt sending Victor Henry to Britain as his eyes and ears. (Turns out, Roosevelt had sent “Wild Bill’ Donovan to London for this same reason, in part because Roosevelt distrusted US Ambassador Joseph Kennedy’s, the future president’s father, reports and advice.) Henry is in London during the Blitz, visits one of the now famous British Chain Home radar stations, observes the British Fighter Command’s operations during a German attack, and even foolishly flies on a British bombing mission to Berlin as an observer.

 

Bernard

 

Bernard,

Replying to your questions:

 

>Are you arguing that the post-Civil War white terrorists who struggled for white supremacy by,

>among other things, murdering blacks and those whites who opposed them are morally equivalent

>to their victims?

>

No. I’m arguing that ANY sufficiently large population of humans, and I mean ANY, is equivalent to any other sufficiently large population in terms of range of values and behaviors. By large I’d say maybe 1000 or more. Every such population has in it some people who, given power and self-interest and weapons, would kill other people to keep hold of their power and interests, and especially would kill people from a group who are perceived or labeled as Others, such as Black versus White, or Christian versus Muslim. I think you suffer from the logical fallacy of mistaking the part for the whole. If the tables were turned, and armed black supremacists killed innocent whites, would you conclude that all blacks are morally inferior to all whites?

 

I also argue that any group of humans that has struggled for power or survival against other groups will honor its heroes, those who tried their best to protect or advance them. It’s natural to honor one’s benefactors (though Mark Twain said something like, “The chief difference between Man and Dog is that a dog doesn’t bite the hand that feeds it”). So it’s natural that white Southerners as a group would honor their heroes. We should understand that and not condemn Southerners as a group for it. They’re only humans. We should not forget what happened. We should always seek the common ground among us. So I say, let the Confederate monuments persist, but make them museum pieces, and don’t leave them where they are as if they represent the whole community.

 

>Here we have two groups of humans. I believe that the latter are morally superior to the former. I guess you do too.

>

Here we have two small, non-random SUBgroups of humans. Of course the ones who do the killings are usually morally inferior to those who get killed. But not always. If one of the German generals who conspired to kill Hitler in 1944 had succeeded in doing so, would that general then be morally inferior to Hitler? Of course not. Suppose a white supremacist killed a raging black man who had raped and killed 20 women both black and white – would that supremacist then be morally inferior to that black man? Most likely not. But if that same supremacist had previously tortured that same black man, broken him and malevolently driven him crazy, then the supremacist would be the moral inferior. Case by case it’s usually clear where the moral advantage lies.

 

My point is always the same: Every large enough group of humans, given equal starting points and equal opportunities, is, on average, as smart and moral and energetic and saintly and beastly and amoral and idle as every other group. I can’t prove this, I can only report my own personal experiences in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Maybe Australians are as dumb as fence posts and evil to boot, but I really doubt it.

 

Wayne

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Wayne,

 

I see that we agree on some important points.

I have no problem with your idea that considering, say, Italians and Brazilians, and only considering the facts of being Italian and being Brazilian, we cannot make relative moral judgements about the two groups or any two people from within the groups. We have to take other facts into consideration to make a moral assessment, primarily the actions of the groups and their members. Thus, you are correct that those few German officers who participated in the plot to kill Hitler are morally superior to those who did not. It is still the case that once Hitler and the National Socialists took power, the officers of the Wehrmacht were the only force within Germany who could have successfully opposed them. After all the Nazis established a police state. Taken as a group, however, the Army’s officer class failed to resist the Nazis, a moral failing. We can conclude this while recognizing that for the military to obey constituted authority is a strong moral value, and the officers faced the choice of support for this value or support for the good of the German nation, which is also a strong moral value of modern military forces in a democracy.

Consider today’s dispute about Confederate monuments in Louisiana. Let us consider the group of Louisianans. Some white Louisianans consider themselves to be a distinct group from black Louisianans. They are a sub-group, more than a thousand of them too. Indeed these white Louisianans tend to think of black Louisianans, if they think of them at all, as not really legitimate Louisianans. It’s the question of the referent to pronouns such as “we” and “our.” In the mental picture of these white Louisianans, black people do not appear as members of their group. And the members of this sub-group think of themselves as Louisianans.

When they say “We just wish to honor our ancestors. It has nothing to do with race.” The group to which “we” and “our” refer is the group of white members of slave-owning Louisiana. The group does not include those white Louisianans from the 1860s who opposed secession, who fought for the Union, and it does not include black people, slave or free. Thus, their statement has everything to do with race, but not as they see it because their mental picture of their group, by default, is entirely white. They don’t perceive being white a being part of a race, rather as the default condition of humankind.

If their mental picture of their ancestors, thinking of themselves as Louisianans, not white Louisianans, included everyone who lived in Louisiana in 1860, they would not want to honor some of those ancestors who divisively fought to enslave others of those ancestors. Or some of those white Louisianans who staged a riot against an integrated police force.

As you say, humans tend to see themselves as members of groups, and to honor those who defend their group and dislike those who attack their group. Indeed, the morality of the Hebrew Bible tends to be of this sort: in-group and out-group morality. When the prophets urged their Jewish brethren to aid the orphan, the widow, the sick, the poor, and the outcast, they didn’t mean any of those Moabites down the road. I tell Linnea that, as an outsider looking at Jesus’ teaching, his expansion of the group for whom empathy is due to all of humanity is his most important tenet. Alas, we humans still have difficulty with this.

Bernard

 

 

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Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, the Civil War, and counterfactual speculation

Wayne,

A few days ago, Donald Trump whipped up a storm with remarks about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War:

In an interview with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, Trump compared himself to President Andrew Jackson and said Jackson, if he was born later, could have helped avoid the Civil War.

And then, in comments that whipped Washington into frenzy Monday morning, Trump said he didn’t understand why the Civil War had to be fought.

“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” he said. “He was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

This link is to the full Examiner report of the interview.

Later, Trump tweeted:

Journalists and historians are trying to make sense of these remarks, a fool’s errand in my opinion. The ones I’ve read begin with the premise that Trump had some sensible ideas in mind, but that he is inarticulate, leading to his typically garbled statements. My opinion, but I only know what I read about Trump and what I’ve seen watching the debates, is that Trump is invincibly ignorant and unjustifiably confident about his knowledge and thought. Thus the journalists’ and historians’ premise is likely wrong. Trump does not have coherent ideas, and his incoherent ones are confused, ignorant, or false. Or all three.

Trump’s idea that people don’t and haven’t thought and discussed the causes of the Civil War and considered if it might have been avoided is foolish and ignorant. Literally thousands of books and many more college lectures argue these matters. It does illustrate his habit of thought that if he doesn’t know something, then no one knows it, and when he learns something, no one knew it before.

This is from a March speech Trump gave at a Republican National Committee dinner:

“Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump said while addressing attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. “Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

Trump then said Republicans need to spread the word that Lincoln was a Republican, appearing to be unaware of the fact that the GOP is commonly referred to as the “party of Lincoln.”

“Let’s take an ad, let’s use one of those PACs,” he said.

Trump says that Jackson, a slave-owner and slave trader, who was a key force in the United States successful effort to wipe out native American people east of the Mississippi, had “a big heart.” ???

As Trump says, let’s suppose that Jackson had been born later and died later and let’s imagine some counter-factual history.

Let’s suppose that the Democrat Andrew Jackson, a war hero and slave-owning Tennessee Democrat had won the presidential election of 1860 instead of Abraham Lincoln. In that case, I must say that Trump is correct. South Carolina, and the other deep south slave states would not have seceded. South Carolina militiamen would not have fired on Ft. Sumter. Voila! No Civil War.

Let’s suppose that Jackson had been president instead of Democrat James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election of 1860. In those days, the election was in November and the Inauguration in March. In those four months South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas declared that they had left the United States. Armed southern white men took control of United States forts and arsenals. Perhaps Trump has in mind that Andrew Jackson, a slave-owner himself, would have ordered United States forces to resist this treasonous attack on the United States.

In the Nullification Crisis of 1828, South Carolina, again, passed a law “nullifying” a federal tariff. Jackson credibly threatened to send troops, Congress modified the offending tariff, and South Carolina backed down. Does Trump think that this would have worked out the same way in the winter of 1860-61? It turns out that even though we are engaging in counter-factual history, we know what would have happened because President Buchanan sent supplies and the South Carolinians fired on the ships, driving them away. Presumably, if Jackson had ordered the same re-supply, the white southern militias would have done the same.

Then Abraham Lincoln, now in office, attempted to re-supply the besieged garrison of Ft. Sumter with unarmed ships (known to be unarmed by the Carolinians), South Carolina Gov. Pickering ordered now C. S. A. General P. T. G. Beauregard to open fire, the first shots of the Civil War. This led President Lincoln, in accord with his Constitutional oath of office, to call for soldiers to put down an armed rebellion against the United States. This led four more slave-owning states, Virginia (less its western counties), Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas seceded in response. Furthermore, during this time, both in the final months of the Buchanan administration and in the first months of Lincoln’s, frantic efforts to negotiate a solution took place.

The conflict between southern white plantation and slave owners and northerners had been a part of American history throughout the life of the United States and had produced intense, vicious fights, such as the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This last led to “Bleeding Kansas” a bloody guerrilla war between Free Soil men and pro-slavery forces. Not only is it hard to see what Jackson might have done that would have made a difference, given the election of Lincoln.

Trump, in his vague way, does not tell us what he thinks was the outcome of what he thinks was an unnecessary war. Modern scholars believe that slavery was the cause of the war, and the abolition of slavery and the preservation of the Union were its chief results. White southerners and modern neo-Confederates assert that state’s rights were the cause of the war, not the right to secede but the right to decide for themselves to keep slaves (but not the right of northern states to abolish slavery). According to this school of thought, Lost Cause thinking or the Dunning school, white Southerners only took up arms to defend themselves against a Northern invasion. If Trump is reasoning that Jackson solved the Nullification Crisis, so he could have solved the Secession Crisis, but if Jackson were president instead of Lincoln, he wouldn’t have been trying to limit the spread of slavery and the South wouldn’t have seceded. Slavery would not have come to an end.

How does Trump think Jackson could have brought an end to slavery? Would he have wanted to?

Trump is thinking of the strong man school of leadership. Strong leaders accomplish their goals through force of will. Thus, it seems to Trump, that Jackson could have forced something or other short of war because he was a dominant leader, as Trump aspires and admires. This is likely the muddle that underlies Trump’s interview answer. All these ideas about leadership, Andrew Jackson, the Civil War, leadership, lie in a heap within Trump’s mind. None of the details logically correct, some are wrong, but Trump’s expression of these ideas reminds us that, to him, everything is about him. Andrew Jackson could have solved that terrible crisis, and today, “Only I can solve our problems.”

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