Thanks for an interesting discussion piece. This reminds me of a factoid: that some Confederates predicted that the USA would peacefully permit secession. I read about a Confederate (James Chesnut Jr?) predicting that he would be able to mop up all the blood that would be spilled with his handkerchief. Rather horrifying to imagine the size of the handkerchief needed and the volume of blood spilt.

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I understand where you're coming from, Kevin, regarding this being the wrong question. If we look at the question, though, what it's asking in reality is why didn't Lincoln ignore his oath of office and his constitutional duty, and why didn't he usurp Congressional authority? Lincoln had no authority to allow states to secede. The Constitution gives Congress the authority to admit states, therefore Congress has the authority to release states from the Union, not the President. The President is charged with executing the laws, including the laws that make states part of the United States. Had Lincoln not resisted secession he would have been derelict in his duty. The answer, then, as to why Lincoln did not allow the states of the confederacy to leave the United States is Lincoln had integrity.

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Was "peaceful separation" even possible? Lincoln's platform was restricting slavery to where it already existed. Both he and the slaveholders were clear that this would in due course make slavery uneconomic. The slaveholders demanded the right to extend slavery anywhere in the Territories and the yet-to-be-conquered West. The North generally wanted the same lands for free settlement. Therefore "peace" with the Confederacy would surely have been followed by wars over possession of the new western lands.

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I'm confused. Are you faulting Beschloss for even tweeting this, or are you faulting the people who responded? If its the former, then I don't see an issue here. Beschloss is free to post whatever he wants whenever he wants in whatever context he wants. I'm sniffing an undercurrent of resentment on your part because of his popularity and the fact that people know who he is.

If it's the latter, again, I don't see your problem. Most people in this country do not delve into history as deeply as those of us do who think they should. It's in the nature of the beast. Most people who say they like history approach it from a narrative perspective, i.e., they want an interesting story. It's up to the historian to weave analytic thought into the narrative, while making it something someone wants to read. Many academic historians have accomplished this (see Gordon Wood, Joseph Ellis, James, McPherson, Jill Lepore, David Brion Davis, just to name a few) not to the reader to know (or care to learn) what the analysis and the historiography are.

I'm sure you'll disagree with everything I've said here, and say that wasn't your point, yet then why concern yourself with what the commentators say? If you want to get a detailed analysis of what Union meant to the average American in the 1860s and Lincoln's thoughts on the subject, then get a copy of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. If you want to open a discussion up among the average person who may or may not be historically literate to your satisfaction, , then go where those people are.



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Bravo. Nicely written.

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I think about this question almost every day because I'm working on two projects that address it (in fact, one of them involves illustrated envelopes and I have a copy of that one above tacked to the corkboard above my desk.)

What I find is that the conversation on the ground is still defined by neo-Confed accusations of, "well, the 'north' didn't start the war trying to end slavery so it couldn't have been about slavery." That leaves folks wondering, "then what *did* the north fight for?" Preserving the Union is just too much of a platitude/abstraction that lacks actual material substance for people on the ground.

Part of this is our own fault. Even us non-neo-Confederates spend a bulk of our time thinking and talking about why the secessionists did what they did. (At times I feel like we focus so exclusively on Aleck Stephens' speech that it is the only thing we mention when talking about the onset of secession and war.) It takes up all the oxygen in the room.

Honestly, even people I work with can't articulate what it was that motivated loyal Americans.

So I wonder... Do I have a blind spot on this? I admit, I spend all my time explaining secessionists, too. Besides Gary Gallagher, what public intellectual/historian museum/site is adequately engaging audiences in the tangible, material, emotional, and ideological motivators for loyal Americans?

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