Monday, May 01, 2017

Could Jackson have trumped the War Between the States?

Okay, first off, from what Trump said it’s obvious that he was aware that Andrew Jackson was dead before the Civil War. (Which really wasn’t a civil war, but that’s a whole nother discussion.)  And while I don’t know that Trump was talking specifically about the nullification crisis, state-federal issues were very much a problem during Jackson’s tenure.

Second, slavery was the issue that pushed the states into war, but it was simply the most volatile aspect of a widening rift between north and south over diverging economies and cultures. The two were going to continue butting heads and it’s possible they might have split anyway, but absent slavery it probably wouldn’t have turned into a bloodbath.

Third, he’s dead wrong that a strong leader could have prevented the war. In fact, it was the election of a strong leader that touched off the war. Previous presidents had been compromising nebbishes and that was why the uneasy peace continued. Maybe if they’d managed to keep dithering until industrialization made slavery unprofitable, it could have died a peaceful death. Maybe. But no, Jackson neither could nor would have prevented war.

Trump’s right about the way Jackson’s wife was treated in the press, though. They literally hounded her to her grave. I notice that part of the interview hasn’t been reported much in the press, probably because they’re so gleeful about savaging Melania. Hard to blame Trump for identifying with that one.


B.B. said...

And no, the Civil War was not all about states rights, either. That was a red herring used by southern elites to get the common southerners on board. The very politicians shouting that mantra during secession were the same ones who had been perfectly ok when federal authority trumped states rights in cases lile, say, Dred Scot.

Joel said...

That's true, it wasn't all about states' rights as such. Thing is, slavery didn't exist in a vacuum. It was an integral part of the cash-crop, export-dependent economy of the south. The more political weight lined up behind abolition, the more danger there was of that economy collapsing. Which doesn't bother me a lot personally; I won't lose sleep if a slaveowner goes bankrupt. But it certainly mattered to them.

The conflict was exacerbated by cultural differences between the aristocratic south and the puritan north, and the influx of immigrants into northern cities (giving those states a huge bump in voters) made the question of state sovereignty more than just an abstraction. We see a similar dynamic in the northwest with big cities overwhelming the voting power of rural areas. I'd rather have our own state than let Olympia (or rather, Seattle) call the shots for us backwater hicks. Not hard to picture American southerners feeling similarly frustrated.