Thursday, June 09, 2011

Listening To The Civil War

While I’m not ready yet for the latest manifestation of Durham’s personality traits as a loving and caring and activist community, called “Seniors Staying Put” (SSP), Duke University president Dick Brodhead may be surprised that in my retirement I have begun attending his alma mater, Yale University.

No, I’m not leaving Durham but thanks to a post on one of my blogs, I’ve been listening via iTunes to a free course on the Civil War by Dr. David W. Blight. Click here to join me.

In this 150th anniversary year of the beginning of that war, launched month before last, I started learning more via Dr. Blight’s fascinating voice to the sections entitled “A Southern View of the World” and “A Northern View of the World”, pre-war.

They are must-listening for anyone still in denial that the war was about slavery. When I hear the term states’ rights, it rings as a euphemism for slavery. Slaveholding states artificially controlled the first decades of this Nation by demanding, in return for their support of the Constitution, that their considerable slave populations be counted as 3/5th a person each.

The section on “The Southern View of the World” is fascinating as Blight wonderfully brings to life excerpts from what at the time of the war had already been volumized as 900 page anthology of just excerpts from pro-slavery writings and the view in the south that only “nature” could create societal change as epitomized in the “cornerstone speech” given by the then Vice President of the newly formed Confederate States of America, Alexander H. Stephens 150 years ago this past March:

“Our new government [The Confederate States of America] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

I recommend a through reading of Stephens speech in its entirety, not just the excerpt above. Before being elected VP of the CSA, he had been a Whig and a unionist, an associate of Durham’s Senator Willie Preston Mangum and Abraham Lincoln. After the war he was re-elected to the Senate and then the House of Representatives and even served as Governor of Georgia.

But in the section on “The Northern View of the World” Dr. Blight really brings to life the significant changes in this country that panicked people in the South, even the many in states like mine who were unionists, such as incredible technological change, women in the workplace, migration to the cities, foreign immigration, a doubling of population, unbelievable faith in growth and expansion west and revolutions in the market and transportation.

Think about people who are fearful of rapid and never-ending technology and change today and you have an inkling of the fear in the South back then.

As a Senior who is staying put, I can’t say enough to encourage listening to this course online and I appreciate the comment by “Brett” to an earlier post that brought it to my attention.

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