US Civil War / Slavery / History / Economics. "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men"

johnhall johnhall@isomedia.com
Sun, 2 Mar 2003 17:41:43 -0800


And now for something completely different.

I'm pretty sure Russell recommended this book about a year ago.

This book by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel is a well done story of the American
Civil War from the tensions before the war to the reconstruction
afterward.  There is very little focus on the military situation, and a
huge focus on politics, ideology, and economics.

I particularly liked the organization.  The citations are at the end of
the book and this isn't one of those books where you have to flip back
and read the footnotes.  Instead, each chapter includes a
bibliographical essay (which can be skipped) that outlines a huge array
of sources and the arguments and different interpretations made in those
sources.

I'm happy to find a number of my favorite sources citied highly.
"Slavery, History and Historians", "Arguing about Slavery", "Why the
South Lost the Civil War" and "How the North Won: A Military History of
the Civil War".

Yet the really interesting citation is Fogel's "Time on the Cross" and
in some cases the followup "Without Consent or Contract".  Briefly, the
Economists still love Fogel's work (he shared a Nobel Prize) and the
Historians don't.

Fogel believes Slavery was efficient and profitable and that an
independent South would have caused retrenchment from (classic)
Liberalism.  This is in line with people who look at counterfactual
history and imagine, for example, WWI fought out in America as well as
Europe.  (Turtledove, "Blood And Iron" -- I never read those.)

Mr. Hummel, however, believes that slavery can not survive an open
border.  Had the original southern states been allowed to secede
peacefully, the Union could have established compensated emancipation in
the border states and removed the Fugitive Slave act.  With a national
border between the North and the South, slavery would have been doomed
as the costs to police the institution became prohibitive.

Mr. Hummel sees Lincoln in an unfavorable light and believes the Civil
War was unnecessary.  (He doesn't shy away from two things, however.
The Civil War _was_ caused by slavery and emancipation _could_ justify
the war.)

Mr. Hummel sees the Civil War as the fundamental break that reversed the
trend toward libertarianism and started the US toward the powerful
state.

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A good book, I'm still thinking about some of the issues.