Friday, October 26, 2012

Emancipation Proclamation -- Wartime Strategy or Cry for Freedom?

The articles you are reading for today provides two very different schools of thought about the Emancipation Proclamation.  Supporters and opponents of the proclamation saw it serving two seemingly disparate purposes--one to seek foreign alliances, and one to catalyze nationwide emancipation.  It was either celebrated joyfully or distrusted and feared.

But what was its function, really?  In this "post-racial" (no, I don't believe that we actually are, hence the quotes), country that has elected a black president, we tend to celebrate Lincoln and his Proclamation.  But we know that this 1863 decision only scratched the surface of the immense and violent racial battles that were still to come (and are still occurring today).

So what is it that we are celebrating?  What is the Emancipation Proclamation?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This will only hurt for a minute...

After Fort Sumter when the Union Army began to mobilize, the general consensus was that the US Civil War would be quick--violent, but fast.  Yet in hindsight, we know that the war was anything but  quick--from General McClellan's hesitancy, to bloody battles with high casualty rates but little to no forward momentum.  Plus, it was a constant struggle to adequately staff, clothe, feed and arm each army.

What do you see as the major setbacks in the early stages of the Civil War?  Evaluate the military leadership of the Confederacy versus the sheer lack thereof in the Union.  Why did Lincoln struggle so much to find an adequate military leader?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

OK, the deep South what?

After Lincoln's election and the initial period of secession, the United States entered into a period of limbo where it was not yet known whether they would fight one another, and if so--how long that war would be.  Your readings demonstrate the chaotic nature of this period.

So the question is, which side was more ready to fight at the beginning of war?  Consider military preparedness/training/leadership, number of recruits, foreign alliances, etc.  How do the New York City draft riots paint a more diverse picture of the North?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Union within Disunion

This article describes how the South transforms from a disjointed, locally oriented rural nation into a new nation (albeit a failed one in retrospect). With the exception of Gone with the Wind, tales of southern nationalism and romanticization of Dixie are rarely told for the shame of slavery, Jim Crow, and the seeming backwardness of the southern tradition.

Does the article successfully disprove some of these notions? Do you believe that the Civil War helped create the modern South, even if the confederacy lost? Who was more nationalistic? North or South?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hang in there!

I spent most of the day with the debaters, so admittedly, I have not finished the reading for tomorrow.  I still want to discuss the reading about Lincoln's election and the South's secession, but I do not have questions on them yet.  In the meantime, please let your comments/thoughts on today's debate below.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The more things change, the more they stay the same

It is difficult to study history in any election year without drawing some comparisons to the present-day.  In 2012, however, some of the elements of the current election seem eerily familiar to the 1860 contest.  What similarities do you notice?  Do what extent are the modern day Republicans "afraid" as  the southern Democrats were in 1860?

Last but not least: What questions would you like to address with tomorrow's debaters?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Who to choose?

The election of 1860 was one of the most heated in American history.  Americans on either side of the slavery issue believed that they had so much at stake.

You are not expected to read the entire article, but to what extent do you feel that their fears were true.  Would Lincoln have ended the instutition of slavery?  What were the alternatives?  Why was Douglas in the race?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fueling the Fire...

Many argue that the two most controversial provisions in the Compromise of 1850 were the strengthened Fugitive Slave Act and popular sovereignty in the western territories.  Not surprisingly, both of these issues caused heated controversy almost immediately after the compromise.  

What do you make of Chase's argument about the Fugitive Slave Act?  Was it moral/emotional, or was he focused more on political logic?  

What is your personal reaction to the Jane Johnson piece?  What is interesting about the wording of the title?

Why is Sumner's piece so full of innuendo?  Why is Kansas a virgin, Butler a "chivalrous knight," and slavery a harlot?

p.s. Yes, I realize I scanned the Sumner piece with my handwriting all over it--apologies.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


The Compromise of 1850 was meant to avert war.  Instead, it merely delayed the conflict by a decade.  The reading for tonight contains a variety of opinions asserting why the federal government needed to appease both the North and the South.  The provisions of the Compromise were drawn up by Henry Clay--a westerner.

So--we have the benefit of hindsight.  The so-called "compromise" was nothing but a delaying of the inevitable Civil War.  Yet, many of the most prominent politicians were convinced it could save them.  How do we make sense of this?  Truly--what were they thinking?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Mexico will poison us."

Yes, at this point, our readings may seem to be repetitive, but perhaps that's the point.  This chapter, from Hummel's Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men highlights the degree to which westward expansion (particularly the annexation of Mexico) reshaped the political parties in the United States.

This begs the question--is it all about money and politics?  Is slavery--an institution that we undeniably regard as a social one today--only considered with regard to its economic and political ramifications?

Use examples from the text--they always make your discussion hold more water.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

North and South--always divided?

While the reading certainly addresses slavery as one of the major factors contributing to the American Civil War, it does not oversimplify the complexity of the time period.  Consider page 30 (p. 7 of the PDF), which states that there were two other potential causes of sectional rift--overall cultural differences as well as the industrialization of the North versus the stagnant agricultural economy of the South.

What is the most plausible of these factors?  Why do you say so?  Do you think this conflict could have been avoided if there was no westward expansion in the colonies?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Let's get this party started...

It's the most wonderful time of the year!  Election time.  Tonight is the first presidential debate between incumbent Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.  The topic is domestic policy, so it is likely that many of your hotbed topics will be discussed.  While watching the debate tonight, consider and comment on a few of the following:

What are some of the prominent economic issues at hand?  To what extent does each candidate talk about the source/cause of an economic problem?  Do they offer a solution?  Is it convincing/plausible?

Are there any social issues on the table?  (i.e. abortion, health care, gay marriage, etc.)  How does each candidate offer a vision to how these social debates should be resolved?

And here's the kicker (I totally recognize that we will NOT be in agreement with each other on this one, and that's okay).

Which candidate was more convincing?  Which appeared to be offering facts and details rather than soundbites?  

Monday, October 1, 2012

What's wrong with a little industry?

In the mid 19th century, the western world was rapidly industrializing.  In addition to building a diversified economy, most countries reaped the benefits of new forms of industry--including steam, railroads, assembly production, and lower priced goods. 

Why, then, if most of these countries welcomed industry with open arms, did the South seem to lag behind?  Consider all the articles when addressing this question--with all the benefits of industrialization, what are the cons, and how does it affect the labor force?  Why would the South want to continue to remain predominately agricultural? (Yes, this has to do with perpetuating the economic status quo, but what other reasons could there be?)....