Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Presidential Elections

I have mentioned that I am listening to the history of US Presidential Elections, all 58 of them, entitled "Wicked Game."  I just finished listening to 1860, relieved to finally hit one where I knew much (though not all) of the relevant information. Since 1828 it has been a tough slog, filled with names I did not know and important bits I had gforgotten, or never knew.

They are about 40 minutes apiece, but the election of 1836 came in at 60+ minutes. At the end, I still couldn't tell what had happened.  History is messy, and our shorthand versions are usually somewhat misleading. But I will say that slavery dominated the discussion of every election throughout the first half of the 19th C.  The statement I read recently holds true: You first learn that the Civil War was about slavery.  Then, as you get some education, you learn that it was about the Port of New Orleans, and tariffs, and states' rights, preserving the union from exterior pressures and attack, immigration, and agricultural versus manufacturing interests and a dozen other things.  Then, when you have learned a  great deal more, you find that it was about slavery after all. That, and the natural inclination everyone feels to defend their territory from rule by outsiders (even if they are completely wrong). I think that is about true. 


RichardJohnson said...

For a a family story about elections, consider my grandmother's reaction to the 1928 election. Like many yellow dog Democrats in the South of the Protestant faith with an abiding mistrust of the Roman Catholic church (did that begin as a reaction to Guy Fawkes?), she voted for Herbert Hoover in 1928. She feared that the Vatican would be controlling what Al Smith would do. In later years, she prayed to God to forgive her for voting for Hoover. I'm pretty sure she voted for Kennedy in 1960.

The day after Kennedy was elected, there was a Kennedy poster on the road by our house. I wondered if that had been deposited there for my father's being a registered Republican- who usually voted Democrat nationally. My father thought that local Democrats didn't do a good job of governance. My mother was Democrat. The Kennedy poster hung on my closet door until I left for college. Unfortunately, it got thrown out in some housecleaning. It would have been worth some money today.

lelia said...

We heard a lecture recently about how the north evangelicals fought in the civil war because they thought the Shining City on the Hill could not usher in Christ's Kingdom if it were divided. Stopping or containing slavery was secondary. Hmm. Some decades ago I read _War for What?_ which was intended to justify and give the Southern view of the war. The premise was that the war was not about slavery. I was open to other interpretations, but by the time I reached the end of the book, I was thoroughly disgusted and realized that whatever other issues pertained, they fought for slavery. They refused to see themselves as evil.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

In the proclamations of secession, at least five of the states expressly stated that the preservation of slavery was their aim. I take them at their word. As to the motives of northern evangelicals, I always dislike imputing motives without supporting information. There may exist statements to that effect, though I have never read them. Yet I would ask, if such exist, how important were the figures making the claim, and the extent of their influence.

Don't get me wrong, here. There were plenty of northerners who held views about African-Americans that were little better, or no better, than those in the south. Most did not want them to be able to vote, for example, even if free. Full abolitionists were a distinct minority, and regarded as dangerous fanatics, even in the north.