Monday, July 04, 2005

Gettysburg vs Philadelphia

As I recall, NPR routinely has at least moderately famous people, with nice voices, read the "Gettysburg Address" every 4th of July. Maybe I was lucky, or maybe it's because I got to sleep in this morning, but I didn't hear it; I can't imagine they've gotten tired of it.

But -- in line with the question of the divisibility of the Republic, referenced below -- could there be a more blatant case of Orwellian conversion of meaning, than how President Lincoln transposed his vision of an absolutely (more on this term shortly) unitary state, on the vision of our Founders of these united States?

Have we forgotten that the Declaration is a statement of secession? Re-read the famous, opening paragraph (which we used to make schoolkids memorize):

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Now, I happen to think it would have been a tragedy, perhaps a catastrophic one, had secession succeeded. It was a tragedy of major proportions that secession was suppressed as it was. The way the War was conducted will always be a stain on our nation's soul. It is appalling that what should embarrass us is so often dressed up as something to be proud of: the central government of the United States made near-total war on one section, because it wanted to depart.

One wonders: considering the appalling violence, and destruction, that was visited upon those states seeking to depart, in order to cudgel them into submission, what if that level of coercion had been insufficient? What further measures would have been deemed acceptable? At what point does the central government say, "this is too much?"

Would even more direct assaults on the civilian population have been acceptable? If, subsequent to the military "pacification" of the former Confederate States, elections had either produced new, secessionist legislatures, or -- in order to prevent that, huge numbers of those states citizens had to be indefinitely disenfranchised, would that have been acceptable? In that event, how about "re-education" of the civilian population?

Remember: President Lincoln had the lawfully elected legislature of Maryland arrested because he expected it to vote for secession.

What if the civilian population simply refused to be "pacified"? What reprisals are acceptable? The Romans had a practice of decimation: kill every tenth person.

Ask yourself: if the United States government had had nuclear weapons...would it have used them? Are you sure it wouldn't have?

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