Casual Conversation December 20: Civil War

After skipping a month, we will return on Sunday, December 20 at 3 pm Eastern (US) for a Zoom casual conversation led by Tex Talmadge with the possible assistance of Dudley Kay (whose birthday it is that day).  Our last casual conversation was led by John Mathias and the topic was his representation of criminal defendants facing the death penalty.  This was the most heavily attended of all the sessions, with 23 of us joining in.  Please let Tex or Arthur Fergenson know if you plan to attend.  You can RSVP up until the close of business the Friday before the session, to wit, December 18.  We hope that you will join us.  Tex and Arthur


United States history: The causes of the American Civil War


The causes of the American Civil War can be sorted out in four general categories or subjects: the economy, states’ rights vs. federal rights, slavery, and Lincoln’s election. Much of the fascination with the war centers on the epic battles and military strategy, and many of us who become “Civil War buffs” started very young after hearing about the impact of the war on our own families. My great-grandfather, James Little, was an illiterate “butternut” from Alabama, and he was either a horse soldier or an enlisted man with John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade.
 
The tensions and conflicts between North and South existed from the time of the American Revolution. There were violent disagreements over economic interests, struggles over federal power, and keen awareness of vast differences between an industrial society and an agrarian culture. Above all of these matters, however, loomed the institution of slavery.
 
My study of the Civil War leads me to believe that the differences between North and South could have been resolved with diplomacy, but slavery made this impossible. But why? The agricultural economy of the Southern states was dependent on enslaved people, or so it seemed. I became interested in the cultural antecedents of the Civil War, in fact, when I learned that my great-grandfather was unable to read or write. In other words, he must have worked as a common laborer; and being from Alabama, he migrated to Texas as a sharecropper or tenant farmer. In other words, he found work that was not much different from the labor performed by enslaved people. I wondered: If free men and women could be hired and paid, why did that not work for all people?
 
This brief “Casual Conversation” will explore the causes of the Civil War in a general way, despite the challenges of covering such a broad topic in a single discussion. I will draw upon my rather extensive library of books, magazines, and articles, and my hope is that the talk will encourage others to enjoy American history as much as I do.

 


 

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