The War Before the War Andrew Delbanco Kindle, PDF
The War Before the War Andrew Delbanco
IN NOVEMBER 1863 , Abraham Lincoln went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to honor the thousands of men and boys who had died there four months before. They were, however, not strictly true, and Lincoln knew it.
Five years earlier, he had been more candid. amazon kindle Speaking in Chicago in the summer of 1858, he noted that when the Republic was founded, “we had slavery among us,” and that “we could not get our constitution unless we permitted” slavery to persist in those parts of the nation where it was already entrenched. As one southern-born antislavery activist later wrote, it was a “sad satire to call [the] States ‘United,’” because in one-half of the country slavery was basic to its way of life while in the other it was fading or already gone. The founding fathers tried to stitch these two nations together with no idea how long the stitching would hold.
For nearly a century, the two halves of the so-called United States coexisted relatively peacefully. In its early decades, the young republic was little more than a business consortium dependent on interstate trade and central financing for infrastructure improvements. Countless transactions took place between North and South without incident. Southern planters supplied northern textile mills with slave-grown cotton, while northern banks supplied southern planters with financial capital. Inhabitants of one section regularly crossed over into the other. The sight of white southerners with their black maids or valets was common in the streets of northern cities and towns.
This book tells the story of how that composite nation came apart
There were many reasons for the unraveling, but one in particular exposed the idea of the “united” states as a lie. This was the fact that enslaved black people, Epub against long odds, repeatedly risked their lives to flee their masters in the South in search of freedom in the North. Fugitives from slavery ripped open the screen behind which America tried to conceal the reality of life for black Americans, most of whom lived in the South, out of sight and out of mind for most people in the North. Fugitive slaves exposed the contradiction between the myth that slavery was a benign institution and the reality that a nation putatively based on the principle of human equality was actually a prison house in which millions of Americans had virtually no rights at all. By awakening northerners to this grim fact, and by enraging southerners who demanded the return of their “absconded” property, fugitive slaves pushed the nation toward confronting the truth about itself. They incited conflict in the streets, the courts, the press, the halls of Congress, and perhaps most important in the minds and hearts of Americans who had been oblivious to their plight. Kindle This manifold conflict—under way long before the first shots were fired in the Civil War—was the war before the war.
THE PROBLEM OF FUGITIVE
slaves loomed over the Republic from the start. Many of the founding fathers were slave owners themselves, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, whose own slaves periodically ran away.
No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, pdf under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.
But stating this principle proved to be much easier than carrying it out. In 1793, Congress passed a law that tried to strengthen the constitutional requirement, but the federal government remained too weak to enforce it. Over the ensuing decades, northern states adopted “personal liberty” laws that put up further barriers to enforcement, including laws guaranteeing jury trials for accused fugitives and prohibiting state officials from assisting in returning them to the South.
For some in the North, harboring a fugitive became a moral imperative dictated by the “higher law” that comes not from the Constitution or Congress but from God. By the late 1840s, the problem had become a political and moral crisis, and when Congress attempted to defuse it by passing a fugitive slave law intended to address the issue once and for all, it had the unintended effect of pushing the nation toward violent conflict with itself.
THE FINAL RECKONING
With strong but not universal support in the South and against strong but not universal resistance in the North, both halves of the United States joined to wage a war of conquest. By the time the fighting ended two years later, the United States had seized a huge swath of land stretching from Texas to California, nearly equal in size to one-third of our present-day nation. This immense expansion of territory under control of the federal government brought back the old question of compromise in a new form. A growing number of northerners insisted on the former. White southerners, almost universally, demanded the latter.
Then, in 1850, Congress attempted a resolution.
Many southerners considered the so-called peace measures heavily weighted toward the North, and so, as the price of their consent, they demanded something more: a new and stringent law that would put teeth into the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution and cut off asylum in the North once and for all. In September 1850, Congress sealed the deal by passing what became known as the Fugitive Slave Act.
It was an act without mercy. Amazon To those arrested under its authority, it denied the most basic right enshrined in the Anglo-American legal tradition: habeas corpus—the right to challenge, in open court, the legality of their detention. It forbade defendants to testify in their own defense. It ruled out trial by jury.
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