Sunday, August 28, 2016

Why Stonewall Jackson & Virginia Chose Secession by S.C. Gwynne

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Jackson had remained generally aloof from national politics. As a slaveholder, he was aware of the congressional debate over slavery in the territories, but not deeply versed in it. He was like many ordinary Virginians of his day: a moderate states’-rights Democrat who favored keeping Washington’s nose out of Virginia’s business and working within the Union to resolve differences. He had no ideology; he was a Virginian. The cadets he taught, moreover—part of that great mass of young men who would do most of the war’s fighting—would have had little understanding of the freakish political complexity of the Compromise of 1850, for example, which attempted to settle the question of slavery in what was essentially the entire American Southwest, plus California. Most would have been unable to parse the meaning of “states’ rights” in the federal Constitution, or fully grasp the reasons for the disastrous splintering of the Democratic Party in 1860—a carefully planned conspiracy intended to inspire Southern secession—which had guaranteed the victory of Abraham Lincoln. Virginians were not stupid; they just had more provincial and personal views of the world than the men who rode to battle in the halls of Congress.

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