If Thomas Jefferson Had Lived In The Time of the Civil War

Dear readers, in this post I shall answer an extremely pressing Civil War question: if Thomas Jefferson lived in the time of the Civil War, what side would he have taken? Based on a number of factors, listed below, we shall figure out the answer.

1. STATES’ RIGHTS

The Civil War started out as a war about states’ rights. The Southern states claimed that the North had continually violated their basic rights as states, while the Northern states maintained that they had done nothing to provoke the South’s complaints. When the South seceded, they formed a confederacy – designed to strengthen states’ power and weaken federal power.

Thomas Jefferson was known throughout the American political scene for his fervent belief in states’ rights. He was an avid supporter of the Articles of Confederation, the document that preceded the Constitution and called for a weak federal government and equal rights for every state. Except for an eight-year lull (his two terms as President), Jefferson harshly condemned the strong executive branch created under the Constitution. Given all of this, it is likely that Jefferson would have stuck with the side that embodied his political ideas: namely, the Confederacy.

2. LOYALTY TO HOME

Robert E. Lee, the illustrious general from Virginia, had been offered a position as commander of the Union’s army. He politely declined the job, stating that he would rather side with his own state. It can be assumed that Jefferson, also a Virginian, would act similarly. This is supported by a letter he wrote, in which he stated some of the differences between Northerners and Southerners. A handy American History website I found* made a chart of the differences he mentioned.

In the north they are In the south they are
cool fiery
sober voluptuary
laborious indolent
persevering unsteady
independent independent
jealous of their own liberties, and just to those of others zealous for their own liberties, but trampling on those of others.
interested generous
chicaning candid
superstitious and hypocritical in their religion without attachment or pretensions to any religon but that of the heart.

Even some of the vices Jefferson mentioned Southerners having sound suspiciously like compliments, especially in contrast to the cold, calculating, sly picture he paints of the North. This rather unsubtle favouritism is another indication that Jefferson would have sided with his home, the South.

3. SLAVERY

If states’ rights was its original cause, the Civil War ended as a war about morals and equality. In 1863, after declaring the Battle of Antietam a victory, the North issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all Southern slaves. (Incidentally, Lincoln had no jurisdiction over the slaves who were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, as they were all in C.S.A. territory. Therefore, he didn’t really free any slaves until he won the war in 1865).

This is perhaps the greyest component of the list. The freeing of slaves certainly tied in to the ideals Jefferson propagated in his numerous works. Time and time again, he stressed the importance of equality between men – something he included in the Declaration of Independence as well. He wrote of oppressed servants with slightly condescending compassion, expressing a desire to help them better their lives.

And yet he kept slaves. As the owner of a Virginia plantation, Jefferson owned over 600 slaves throughout his life**. Without them, his plantation would be impossible to run. Though he was not as inhuman as some slave masters, he was certainly severe, and forced even children to work long, hard hours in order to keep his plantation afloat. Despite his soaring words of “freedom for all!”, Jefferson did not free all of his slaves upon his death – and it is highly unlikely that he would have freed any earlier than that. Therefore, Jefferson would probably have supported the Confederacy’s view on slavery.

 

If Thomas Jefferson had lived during the time of the Civil War, history might have taken a considerably different course. Perhaps his lofty rhetoric might have convinced the teetering border states – Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland – to secede, and thus add more manpower and industrial strength to the Confederacy. If that had been the case – if the Confederacy had won – who knows what America would be like today? Or, indeed, if there’d be an America at all?

Other Historical Personas and Their Projected Sides:

1) George Washington: Union

Father of the Nation, anyone?

2) Henry Clay: Union

With a nickname like “The Great Pacificator…”

3) John C. Calhoun: Confederacy

Dude. South Carolina. “Southern Rights!!” He was originally a Unionist, though, so it’s a bit hard to tell. My guess is that he’d go with his state in the end.

4) Benjamin Franklin: Union

He’s from Pennsylvania. Well, okay, he was born in Massachusetts. STILL UNION ALL THE WAY.

5) Preston S. Brooks: Confederacy

(Wikipedia: “Brooks was a fervent advocate of slavery…”).

The South Carolinian who subjected Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner to a brutal beating, all because Sumner made a speech that insulted Brooks’ uncle and the struggle over slavery in Kansas? Yeeeah… can’t see this guy as a Unionist.

*http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letters-of-thomas-jefferson/jefl35.php

**http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100216065949AA9JdB5

Three (Extremely Belated) Alternatives to the Civil War

 

Dear readers, Abraham Lincoln was a wonderful president. However, he made a couple of rather disastrous mistakes; namely, the Civil War. What follows is a list of alternatives to said war, suggested by none other than yours truly, that would have been much less bloody and just as effective.

I think.

1) INSTITUTE A SLAVERY-ELIMINATION PROGRAM IN THE SOUTH

Quite a lot of the basic political, economical and social reasons for the Civil War ultimately stem from slavery and its distribution across the United States. While the North was vehemently opposed to slavery, the South relied heavily on slave workers to tend the cotton and tobacco and other agricultural products that made up most of its economy. Candidates from the North had been pressuring the South to let go of the inhumane practice almost since the end of the Revolutionary War, but no concrete alternative was proposed. At least, I don’t think a concrete alternative was proposed. I might have… sort of… you know, skipped a few pages in my APUSH reading.

Anyway! What the North should have done, in my illustrious (and mostly uninformed) opinion, is propose an industrialization program in the South. Though, of course, slaves could still be used in the factories, their numbers would be far fewer than agricultural workers, as evidenced by the industrialized North, where slavery had all but died out.

2) LET THE CSA FLOURISH.

So the South seceded. So what? Their actions, before the 1869 Supreme Court case that decided the matter, certainly weren’t unconstitutional. In fact, the Constitution itself says, in its preamble, that one of its purposes is to “form a more perfect Union.” Not a larger Union. A more perfect one. Meaning that, if it benefits the country if a few states secede, so be it.

But – more importantly – wouldn’t the Confederate States of America have kept slavery if the North hadn’t intervened? Certainly slavery would have flourished for a longer period of time; but in the long run, it would ultimately have died out. Why? Three reasons. One – the South couldn’t stay heavily agricultural forever. At some point, it would have no choice but to industrialize – and with industrialization, at least in the North’s case, seems to herald the death knell of slavery. Two – the CSA had powerful supporters in both Britain and France, who were eager to see America split apart. The CSA, as a new nation, would probably need loans of money as well as trading partners – both of which Britain and France could easily provide. However, it is likely that before aiding the CSA, the two European nations would have ensured that slavery would die out quickly in the new country. After all, both were slave-free nations and hesitated to overtly support any country where slavery was still thriving. Three – the president of the CSA, Jefferson Davis, as well as Robert. E. Lee, the army’s most powerful general, were both confident that slavery would extinguish itself at any rate.

3) HOLD FAIR ELECTIONS.

Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, as the new president of the United States of America. He was also elected with zero Southern electoral votes. Zero.

Is this fair? Is this democratic? Am I starting to sound like a Senatorial candidate to you? I think I am. It’s frightening, actually. Anyway, the point is, the South didn’t really have representation in the 1860 election. Perhaps if they had been able to vote for the candidate they wanted – even if he’d lost – a full-blown disaster could have been averted.

So you see, dear readers, how the Civil War could have been averted. We must take into consideration, however, that I am sitting on a chair 152 years after all this happened, clicking away at a MacBook Pro and eating yogurt. Perhaps if I had lived back then, I would have a different idea of things.

(Of course, if I’d lived back then, I wouldn’t be allowed to have very many ideas beyond cooking and sewing, seeing as I’m a girl.)

Introduction

This summer, I visited Manassas, Virginia – the site of First and Second Manassas (also known as the First and Second Battles of Bull Run). As my brother’s operating system shut down that morning and refused to do anything but lie in bed and watch Sesame Street, only my dad and I went.

My first thought upon entering the battlefield was hot-hot-HOT-HOT-HOT!!! Indeed, it was extraordinarily hot – and the high, dry grass of the battlefield (which was, in fact, a field) was home to chiggers – a particularly nasty species of Lyme-disease-carrying tick (also known as Trombicula alfreddugesi, or The Critter Smaller Than Its Own Name).

Then the tour started, and I forgot all about the heat and the chiggers. There, in the middle of that grassy, yellow-green plain, with the sun beating down on our heads and making us squint, I first heard the story of First Manassas. How Confederate soldiers picked blackberries while fighting. How Union soldiers’ families, sure that their side would triumph, brought packed lunches to the site and watched the battle. How, when things looked especially grim for the Confederates, they spotted General Thomas J. Jackson’s Virginian troops standing unbroken, like a stone wall, and facing the Union – an act that earned Jackson the nickname “Stonewall” Jackson.

For the first time in my life, I found myself truly interested in an era of American history: the Civil War. The war between two brothers, the North and the South. The war that would change the course of American history – forever.

This page is my tribute.

Secession Really Really Sucks

April 17, 1861

I stood awkwardly beside Massachusetts’ great wooden desk, watching him frantically scribble away on a piece of paper. Finally, when I could bear the silence no longer, I spoke up.

“Massachusetts, I need to speak to you.”

“Virginia!” Massachusetts exclaimed. “You do not know how pleased I am to see you, really!” Though his smile was bright, the lines around his eyes and mouth betrayed his true state of worry. “Seven Southern states have seceded, and they give no indication of a desire to return to the Union!”

“You surely cannot blame them,” I said, “after Fort Sumter.”

Massachusetts looked at me, surprised. “Have you forgotten who started the violence at Fort Sumter? It was South Carolina, not the Union!”

“The Union held no claim to Fort Sumter. It was on Confederate property, and thus belonged to the Confederates.”

Massachusetts’ eyebrows began to dip into a frown. “Virginia, what are you saying? Do you honestly believe these rebel states are their own country?”

“I see no reason why they should not be,” I said. “Massachusetts… I do not condone a war between the states.”

Massachusetts sighed in relief. “For a single moment, I honestly believed you-”

“However,” I interrupted, hating the effect I knew my next words would have, “I also firmly believe that states, when oppressed, have a right to secede.” Gently, I placed a hand on his shoulder. “I-I am sorry, but I cannot take up arms against my sister states.”

“What are you saying?” Massachusetts asked, his frown deepening. “Are you truly saying that you-”

“As of today – April 17, 1861 – the state of Virginia is no longer part of the Union.”

Massachusetts gaped at me for a moment, his expression equal parts angry and confused. “You- you… what?”

“I seceded,” I said calmly – or rather, with the appearance of calmness, for inside I was roiling with guilt and defensiveness.

“You- Virginia, no! You cannot do that!”

“And yet, Massachusetts,” I said quietly, “I have already done so.”

Crack.

I stared at Massachusetts in disbelief, cradling my stinging face. “You- you slapped me!”

“How dare you,” Massachusetts hissed. “How dare you upstart Southern states disrupt our Union in this manner!”

“How dare you Northerners crush our rights under your feet!” I shot back. The guilt I had been feeling had completely vanished, to be replaced by blind rage. “As of now, Virginia shall become the eighth state in the Confederacy!”

“There is no such country,” Massachusetts spat, eyes bulging with fury, “as the Confederacy!”

“Deny it if you will,” I said, turning to leave. “It is growing even as you speak.”

“The Union will make sure your little experiment does not succeed!”

“Of course. I presume you’ll be using force? It seems to be the only method of persuasion you Northerners understand.”

Leave!” Massachusetts roared. “Get out!”

“Very well,” I said. “I am going to inform South Carolina of this happy addition to the Confederacy.”

The only response I received was a grunt and the scrape of a chair turning around. As I shut the door behind me, ignoring the brief twinge of guilt that shot through my stomach, I heard an unmistakeable sound coming from the great desk.

The sound of frustrated, broken sobbing.

Political Debate = Fruit Fight

November, 2004

The sun was shining, the sky was a vivid, clear azure, and the grass was green and touched with fresh dew. It would have been a perfect day, if only Vermont wasn’t repeatedly whacking my head with the latest election results.

“Dammit, Virginia, I thought you were smart!” Whack.

Ow! Stop that!”

“Not until you tell me why,” Vermont said through gritted teeth, “your stupid, stupid citizens voted conservative AGAIN!”

“There’s nothing wrong with being conservative!” I yelled back, shielding my face from an especially vicious blow. “It just means that-”

“Your citizens don’t like change,” Vermont said. “If they had it their way, they’d be living in the eighteen thirties, wouldn’t they? Or better yet, the eighteenth century.”

“Of course it doesn’t!”

“Then why,” Vermont asked, “are you wearing a shirt with a quote from The Declaration of Independence?”

I flushed crimson. “The Declaration is timeless! And you’re getting off-topic, anyway.”

“You’re right,” Vermont said thoughtfully, before going back to hitting me.

“Why do you hate conservatism so much?” I gasped.

“It’s backwards!” Vermont cried. “A backwards, ignorant philosophy!”

“What’s a backwards, ignorant philosophy?” Georgia had entered the room, swinging her usual basket of peaches and quirking an eyebrow at Vermont.

Conservatism!” Vermont spat, stabbing a finger at Georgia. “You’re stuck in the nineteenth century, all of you!”

Splat.

I stared, half amused and half horrified, at the large splat of sugary yellow juice that was currently dripping down Vermont’s forehead. Georgia, eyes flashing, hefted another ripe peach into her palm and drew her arm back.

“Say that again,” she hissed. “I dare you to say that again!”

Vermont’s face was burning red. “You- you threw a fruit at me!” he spluttered incredulously.

Georgia nodded. “And I’m about to throw another one, darling,” she said. “Unless you take that back.”

“Take what back? That you’re all backwards idiots? Yeah, right.”

Splat.

Vermont growled and started fishing around in his pocket. “Okay, I don’t usually pick fights with girls… but you are so on!”

“Dudes, a fruit fight? Awesome!”

I groaned. As if Vermont and Georgia weren’t acting childish enough. Now California, the six-foot-one three-year-old, had to walk in.

“This is not a fruit fight,” Vermont said stiffly. “This is an exchange of political opinions.”

California blinked. “Is that why you have smashed peaches in your hair?”

Not the point!” Vermont snapped. “California, we have to convince these idiots that they have to vote liberal!”

California shook his head sagely. “Georgia. Virginia. Conservatism is not cool, man. Hey, can I throw fruit now?”

Vermont heaved a dramatic sigh. “California… for the last time, THIS IS NOT A FRUIT FIGH-

He was interrupted by a flying peach, which caught him straight in the nose, causing California to dissolve into snickers. Until he, too, received a face-ful of fruit juice.

“Sorry, guys,” Georgia said sweetly. “But I really don’t appreciate you telling us what to do. Right, Virginia?”

I gave her a thumbs-up from the corner I was currently pressed into.

“We don’t appreciate you acting like idiots!” Vermont screamed. His eyes looked dangerously close to popping out of their sockets.

“Say that again!” Georgia screamed back. “Say it- OW! CALIFORNIA, YOU IDIOT!”

“Sorry,” California said, shrugging. “But the chance was there, man, and it was way too good to pass up.”

“YOU CAN’T JUST GO THROWING ORANGES AT PEOPLE!” Georgia’s expression was murderous, and the vivid orange juice streaming down her forehead did nothing to improve her appearance.

“OH, LOOK WHO’S TALKING NOW, PEACH-HEAD!” Vermont yelled.

“PEACH-HEAD? YOU’RE THE PEACH-HEAD, AND YOU’VE GOT THE HAIR TO PROVE IT!”

“CALIFORNIA! GIVE ME THAT ORANGE!”

VIRGINIA!” Georgia screeched, turning to me. “Help me out here!”

And that is when I lost it. I took a deep breath, stood up, and grabbed the bowl of wax fruit I kept on my side table.

IF Y’ALL DON’T SHUT UP RIGHT NOW, I WILL THROW EVERY PIECE OF THIS AT YOU! AND IT’S WAX, SO IT’LL HURT!

All three of them stared at me, dumbfounded.

“ENOUGH ARGUING! EVERY STATE VOTES THE WAY THEY WANT TO, BASED ON THEIR PEOPLE’S BELIEFS! THROWING FRUIT AT EACH OTHER IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE ANYONE’S MIND! SO JUST LEAVE IT ALONE, WILL YOU?”

Silence. Dead silence.

“Virginia has a point,” Georgia finally admitted.

Vermont gave me a long look before holding out his hand. “Okay, I shouldn’t have-”

“Beaten me up with the election results because of the way we voted?” I smiled wanly.

“Sorry,” Vermont said. “No harsh feelings?”

I hesitated for a moment before taking his hand and shaking it. “None at all.”

“Great!” California chirped. “Because there’s something I’ve really, really been wanting to tell you guys for the last three minutes.”

“Yeah?” Vermont asked.

“I wanted to tell you,” California said, “this.

Two peeled oranges came hurtling toward us. I managed to duck mine, but Vermont wasn’t quite as lucky. His hit him right in his chin – the only spot on his face that hadn’t been covered with peach juice.

Vermont’s eyes blazed. “I’LL KILL YOU, CALIFORNIA!

California laughed. “Oh, Vermont. All is fair in love, war and political debates.”

I grimaced as I watched Vermont chase California around my room and knock over half my furniture in the process.

“Babies,” Georgia scoffed.

“I think,” I said faintly, “I’m going to vote Liberal in the next presidential election, just so that Vermont won’t go homicidal on me again.”

Maryland’s Identity Crisis

“Virginia? Can you help me, please?”

Maryland was standing in my doorway, biting her lip nervously. One of her tiny hands was fluttering around the tie of her frilly dress, and the other was pulling at a curl of golden hair. I held my breath and kept silent, hoping she’d take the hint and leave.

Of course, being Maryland, she didn’t. Instead, she simply stood there, looking pathetic, until I could take it no longer.

“Yes?” I asked, swiveling around and adjusting my spectacles.

“V-Virginia…” Maryland whispered, tugging her hair even harder. “Can I ask you a question?”

You just did, I almost said, but caught myself just in time. “Shoot.”

“Um… well… I was thinking, you know-”

I fought to keep myself from rolling my eyes. Maryland, thinking? Amazing.

“And, well, I was wondering… Am- am I…” Her voice trailed off, and she flushed a delicate pink.

“Are you?” I prompted.

“Am I Northern or Southern?” she blurted, her cheeks reddening even more. I blinked.

What?

“I mean- well, I don’t know! I asked Georgia, and she said Southern, but then I asked Massachusetts and he said Northern!”

“I really don’t know,” I said. “Look, Maryland, if that’s all you wanted to ask, then-”

Before I could finish my sentence, I found myself being violently shaken by the shoulders.

“You- don’t- understand!” Maryland  shrieked. I gulped. The look in her eyes could only be described as… disturbing.

“I didn’t even take a side in the Civil War!” she continued, shaking me harder. “Oh, Virginia, what if I don’t belong in the Union at all? What if I’m just an outcast?”

“Maryland,” I said as calmly as I could, “every one of us belongs in the Union, you included. Now please stop shaking me.”

Maryland stopped and blinked rapidly. “You- you think so?” she sniffed.

“Absolutely,” I said, looking up at her from my current position on the floor.

“But Virginia-” Maryland started, looking unsure.

California chose that moment to walk in, dripping wet and clutching an oversized umbrella.

“Virginia, man, it’s hella raining out there, I- um, you know you’re lying on the floor, right? And- Maryland…? Am I interrupting something? I can, you know, leave-”

“Wait!” Maryland had gotten that psychotic look in her eyes again – at least this time it was directed at someone else. “California, you have to help me!”

California smiled at her. “Sure, what do you need?”

“I need you,” Maryland said, leaning forward and directing an intense stare at him, “to answer my question.”

California gulped nervously. “Oookay…?”

“Am I Northern… or Southern?”

California stared at her. Maryland stared back.

“Dude… I don’t know,” California finally said, shrugging.

Please!” Maryland hissed, grabbing his shirt collar – no mean feat, considering California’s immense height. California’s eyes widened.

“Seriously, dude, I don’t know… I’m Western, I don’t know how things work out East… Maryland- Maryland, please don’t- Virginia, man, help me out here!”

“Hey, I brought peaches!” Georgia chirped, strolling into the room and swinging a large basket. “They’re- oh my God, Maryland, why are you throttling California? And why is Virginia huddled in the corner?”

Maryland turned to Georgia. “Georgia…” she said faintly. “No one’s answering me…”

Georgia sighed. “Is this about that North-South thing again?”

That’s when Maryland broke down and started sobbing hysterically. “Y-you said I was Southern, but Massachusetts said I’m Northern, and Virginia didn’t know, and California started acting weird!”

Georgia glanced at California, who had evidently found his own corner to huddle in.

“Honey,” Georgia said softly, placing a hand on Maryland’s shoulder, “honestly, it doesn’t matter.”

It matters to me!” Maryland’s death glare was now directed full force on Georgia, who took a few quick steps backward.

“Honey, I’m sure we can figure something out. Why do you want to know so badly? It won’t change a thing…”

“Because!” Maryland wailed. “Everyone else has a national identity! You and Virginia are Southern, California’s Western, there’s the Midwest and the Southwest and the Northwest and I don’t fit in any of them!

“Darling-” Georgia started tentatively, but was abruptly cut off by Delaware, who had just entered the room. Normally I would be irritated – I had never particularly liked Delaware – but now all I felt was relief. If anyone could snap Maryland out of her fit, it would be her brother.

“Virginia, I- Mary? What’s going on?”

Maryland turned her tear-streaked face to Delaware and stared at him for a moment, before breaking into a run and throwing herself into his arms.

“Whoa, sis,” Delaware said, staggering back a little. “What-”

“No one’s answering me!” Maryland yelled. Delaware cocked his head and looked confused.

“What’s your question?”  he asked.

“Am I Northern or Southern?” Maryland asked, lip trembling. “I don’t know my national identity… Delly, how can I be a state if I don’t have a national identity? I should just secede now!”

“Why not be both?” Delaware asked.

Maryland goggled at him. “B-both…?”

“You said you didn’t feel like you belonged, right?” Delaware said, wrapping an arm around his sister’s shoulders. “Well, now you’ll belong double, because you’ll be part of both areas.”

“Yeah!” California said, pumping his fist. “Hella awesome idea, Delaware, man!”

“It’s… not bad,” I admitted. Dammit, why hadn’t I thought of that? My IQ is at least twice Delaware’s…

“Lovely,” Georgia chimed in.

“You-you think so?” Maryland asked. “You think I can be part of… both?”

Delaware nodded. “Absolutely. And don’t you dare talk of secession, Mary, or of not having a ‘national identity.’ You’re just as much a state as I am. And I live right next to you, remember? You don’t have to be Northern, or Southern, or Eastern or Western or anything to be part of the United States.” Gently, he put a finger on Maryland’s chin and propped her face up. “All you have to do is be yourself – Maryland, the seventh state of the United States… and my sister.”

I gaped at Delaware, utterly dumbfounded. He’d always seemed so… slow; where’d he pull a speech like that from? To my left, I heard Georgia clapping softly.

“Hear, hear!” California called. “Here’s to the United States!”

Maryland looked up at her brother through tearstained lashes. “Oh, Delly…” she whispered, before subjecting him to a bone-cracking hug. “You always make me feel better!”

“That’s what I’m here for,” Delaware said, grinning. “Now why don’t we go and get something to eat?”

“Okay,” Maryland said quietly, slipping her hand into his. Georgia, California and I waited until they had disappeared from sight before crawling out of our respective corners.

“Oh, man,” California sighed, brushing a few droplets of sweat from his forehead. “That was some hissy fit, huh?”

“She shook me,” I said. “Maryland actually shook me by the shoulders.”

“Not hard,” California laughed, lightly smacking the back of my head. “No offense, dude, but you’re kind of… little.”

“Hey!” I said, smacking him back. Georgia sighed.

“Guys, do we really want to go through this again? After Maryland-”

Our hands froze, mid-smack.

Maryland,” I said.

“Who’da thought she’d be so… psychotic?” California asked.

“It’s always the quiet ones,” I said, shuddering slightly at the memory of Maryland’s crazed expression.

Always the quiet ones.”

Introduction

Greetings. My name is Virginia.

Yes, that’s right. Virginia. Site of the first English colony in the New World, tenth state to ratify the Constitution. (Delaware likes rubbing this fact in my face; he was the first, and therefore he is awesome…)

Being one of fifty states can get annoying. Interesting. Exasperating. Sometimes downright creepy (this is usually when Alaska is involved).

But boring? Never.

What ensues is a list of my fellow states’ escapades. I try to avoid getting involved, but somehow… that never really works out.