Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cup of Wrath and Fire

In response to South Carolina's decision to leave the Union, Frederick Douglass sees an opportunity for the nation to, finally confront the reality of slavery. Here's the link to an article written by Civil War historian David Blight.

Let  me know what you think!


  1. Dr. Blight's article describing Frederick Douglass's reaction to the secession of South Carolina and others that shaped Douglass's stance on the need for war is reasonable and not as striking as it seems initially; Douglass's stance helps to elucidate the nation's obstinacy to seriously confront the issue of slavery throughout his life. Douglass's position, however, was not unique. In "A War for the Union," Union General John W. Phelps makes a similar argument justifying the use of war to provoke the radical change that would not be achieved by a "peaceful disunion." General Phelps believed war was the necessary solution to the nation's unwillingness to seriously address the issues of slavery on political, economic, and moral levels, among others. After discussing the wars of the French Revolution that were caused by the "attempt to give political character to an institution (the Church) which was not susceptible of political character," Phelps argues that "slavery [was] still less susceptible of political character than was the Church." Further, Phelps says:

    It behooves us to consider, as a self-governing people, bred, and reared, and practiced in the habits of self-government, whether we cannot, whether we ought not, to revolutionize Slavery out of existence without the necessity of a conflict of arms like that of the French Revolution.

    Thus, abolitionists and freed slaves alike felt it necessary to go to war so that real progress could be made to abrogate slavery. The codification, moral justification, and the economics and politics of slavery, as well as the "social distinction that could be wrung from the bodies and souls of the enslaved" to promote white men's "desires" established an intricate construct that could not be broken down without taking extreme measures. The analysis and descruction of this construct provided for a slow and lengthy process to abolish slavery that gave individuals ample opportunity to consider the ramifications of war. Given the context with which both groups were familiar and the setting and history about which the class has been reading, one would be hard-pressed not to offer the same solution.


  2. Douglass refused any possibility of a compromise. He was passionate about his abolitionist ideals, which I understand and agree with. He found nothing redeeming in the institution of slavery and found that only remedy was to eradicate this degrading institution. This idea is interesting in today’s society, which fosters compromise and cooperation between the masses. Compromise seems to placate conflicts between different groups and allows for the accommodation of all groups.

    However, I agree with Benjamin in that radical measures had to be taken to rid the world of the construct of slavery, which has so intimately been associated with economical gain for the slaveowner and trader.

    In addition, I also found the idea that the Northerners during this era saw abolitionists as “scapegoats” and targets for the “fear of disunion, disruption of the intersectional American economy, and the potential of war” (Blight 2010). Fear seemed to be the driving force. It seems that more of a value is placed on extrinsic reward as opposed to intrinsic reward, which is still something you see in today’s society.

    Also, OpenCourseWare has an excellent series given by Dr. Blight himself on the Civil War and Reconstruction era here: