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tv   H.W. Brands The Zealot and the Emancipator  CSPAN  December 28, 2020 1:41pm-2:38pm EST

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weekend on c-span2. you're watching book tv on c-span2. every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors. book tv on c-span2, created by america's cable television companies area today brought to you by these television companies to provide tv to viewers as apublic service . >> hello and welcome to the atlanta history center's virtual author talk series, i'm virginia prescott and the host of these talks , tonight a conversation with each w brand about "the zealot and the emancipator: john brown, abraham lincoln, and the struggle for american freedom" . you can purchase the book directly from a cappella books. there's a link in the chat right on your screen or you can also go to the link provided at the history center's website.
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as professor brandon and i are talking submit your questions via the q and a feature at the bottom of your screen . not the check please, just the q&a, it tends to get less crowded that way and i'm going to try to integrate as many of them as possible as i can really h.w. brands is chair at the university of austin authoring 30 books on us history, among them the first americans in his biography for fdr were both finalistfor the pulitzer prize . thank you so much for joining us. >> i'm delighted to be back at the history center. >> abraham lincoln and john brown, both well covered by historians, but did you want to add to the understanding of these famous american martyrs by writing about them together . >> i think teaching american history for 35, going on 40 years and some of the basic questions of history are essentially questions of value. they get down to almost moral questions and there's a moral question at work here that
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goes beyond john brown and abraham lincoln but i can summarize it at the moral question is it's a timeless question that confronts citizens of any republic sooner or later and that is what does the good person do when he or she is convinced that the government is involved in something that is wrong or perhaps even downright evil. what do you do? different generations confront this in different ways. i grew up during the 1960s and i was a teenager in 1960, college in the 70s and a pressing question became a moral question was the vietnam war what do you do if you think the vietnam war is an immoral colonial war? do you simply vote for somebody who will pull out of the economy ? do you march, do you draw through molotov cocktails? in the case of the 19th century, the pressing moral question of the day was slavery. so what does a person, john
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brown, abraham lincoln, what does a person who is convinced that slavery is wrong. wrong on policy grounds, wrong on social grounds, what does that person do aboutwhat obligations does that person have . what avenues are ethically open to that person. i chose to look at john brown because while they agree on the fundamental principlethat slavery was wrong, they disagreed diametrically on what to do about it . john brown believed in forcible direct action. he in effect the cleared war on slavery and did what he could to carry out, to launch the war. abraham lincoln sq violence. he thought that violence was counterproductive and it was bad policy but it also was going to be ineffective . abraham lincoln chose the path of moderation and the
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path of politics. he believed the issue of slavery could be addressed only through constitutional means and he was as committed to emancipation as john brown was but he thought that brown was simply going to make matters worse by going into the realm of violence and armed resistance area the only way lincoln to bring slavery to an end in a way that preserved the union and gave the former slaves a chance at anything approaching equality was to do it through politics, through political means, through the constitution. >> so john brown takes a different tactic you said. early on he gets radicalized in 1837 when a prominent pro-abolitionist was murdered by a mob, stands up in church and says he's going to change things, diverges life to this and he comes up with a detailed plan for what he called the league of
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gilead-ites to resist the fugitive slave passed in 1950 . he was violent always forget even lincoln saying we can do thisin a different way ? >> john brown views on slavery and emancipation evolved over time. he was born in 1800, lincoln was born in 1809 so lincoln is a little bit younger but they were both born at time when slavery was considered by many people in the united states to be something of a necessary evil . and how necessary and how evil and on where you were. by 1800 most northern states had eliminated slavery. not because they had been seized by a fit of morality but because their economies have evolved in a way where slavery was unnecessary if not downright counterproductive.
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so they can focus on the unsavory parts of slavery and say we don't want to have anything to do with it anymore . but southern states in fact to their surprise of the founding fathers, thomas jefferson, george washington, james madison all slavery would effectively die out in the south the way it had died out, was dying out in the north didn't happen. slavery became fixed more firmly in the southern economy with changes in the technology of the cotton industry and the growth of territory, land available to slavers . so john brown became increasingly discouraged at the future of the country on slavery and in the 1830s when the abolitionist movement blew up in the north, john brown was indeed radicalized by the murder of elijah lovejoy, abolitionist editor who was killed by a mob and john brown thought thatway, this has gone too far . the people who believe that slavery must end need to
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stand up. if the proslavery forces are willing to use violence as they were in the case of elias lovejoy, then anti-slavery side needs to take up arms as well that's when john brown devoted himself to making war against slavery. at first the warwas metaphorical but quickly became actual . >> there are a number of things converging in the late 19th century and he said the changing economy in the north and south but there's also the expanded settlement of the western territories and growing influence of the abolitionist movement at odds with this powerful proslavery southern planters. this all comes to a head in kansas which you write becomes the closestthing to a national referendum on slavery so what is playing out on the ground ? >> the hope of the forces opposed to slavery was that if slavery is contained, if it's not allowed to spread and eventually it will die out because the opponents of
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slavery understood what made slaveryprofitable in virginia , in the east, in eastern slave states was the fact that there was a market for slaves in the west. take away that market of expansion and then slavery would become uneconomic and the slaveholders would decide this is it worth it anymore and we're going to be done but hope was spoiled when the last was opened to slavery. now, the west was not supposed to be open to slavery. in 1820 there was a compromise between the northern states southern states, the missouri compromise had to do with the admission of misery to the union. misery was allowed to address a slave state and agreement was made in the rest of the westernterritories , part of the louisiana purchase slavery would be forever forbidden from the northern part of the louisiana purchase includingwhat would become kansas territory .
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but in 1854, stephen douglas, democratic senator from illinois, abraham lincoln's southern state decided to push through a measure called the kansas nebraska act this repealed that part of the missouri compromise allowed misery to, excuse me, allowed kansas territory to be open to the possibility of slavery and under the principle of what douglas called popular sovereignty. a great name, misleading but a great name. it simply said that kansas territory is open to every, whoever wants to come and settle and when there are enough settlers there to justify forming a state than the people there will call the constitutional convention and if the convention says the state of kansas shall not have slavery and the state of kansas shall not have slavery . if the people constitutional convention say kansas should have slavery than there will be slavery. in a democracy what could be better than that?
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in fact what happened was it turned out that the kansas nebraska act, the measure invited the opposing side. proslavery forces and anti-slavery forces to race to kansas and see who could fill up the state, the territory first when the constitutional convention was held that their side would win. by the mid-1850s, were talking about 1855, 1856 by this time the line had clearly been drawn between north and south on slavery as a moral issue, and overriding moral issue. and in the north abolitionists took the position that we have to oppose the extension of slavery. an anti-slavery settlement society. free state immigrant societies formed in the north and people would give money to fund immigrants to go to kansas territory where they
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would plant the flag for opposition to slavery. the south did something comparable. the south advantage because kansas territory was right next to missouri as a slave state andthe missourians , so-called board of ruffians would go across the border into kansas and they would terrorize the place. they would destroy the state settlements including the free states, they called them the free state settlements settled bythe opponents of slavery . of lawrence kansas and they omitted what was called a sack of kansas, they basically destroyed the community and the idea was to make kansas unfriendly, downright hostile, dangerous to free state settlers. this is where john brown comes in. >> he rounds up his party of sons and a few others. >> exactly, so john brown is an interesting character. he had 20 children and by this time five of his sons were adults, big strapping
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young men . almost as committed to the antislavery cause as john brown himselfand so they decide , the sons actually go first and they are going to say well, they're not initially going to take up arms but they're going to take up space in opposition to slavery and they get there and they say, they ride home and say father you should join us and john brown does john brown is increasingly distressed at the failure of the anti-slavery movement or the abolitionist movement to actually frustrate the proslavery forces and john brown is just appalled at the fact that the proslavery forces seem to be rolling right over, physically by violent rolling over the advice on this is working kansas john brown needs strong action to send a message proslavery side so gathers his sons and three
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other men and in the dark of one night a descent on a proslavery settlement on this creek they drag five men, proslavery settlers from their beds just outside their cabins where their living them to death with broad swords. they leave the mangled bodies and ride off into the night john brown was to let the proslavery side realize if you try to use force in kansas we will use more force against you . >> this becomes known as the potawatamee massacre, men dragged out of their beds with wives screaming, hearing the murders of their fathers
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and it really is horrible and insights this call for war. yet brown never quite admits to the crime by now he's infamous he's a wanted man and he and his militia of kansas regulars are joined at different times by reporters from the new yorktribune . this is a pro abolitionist paper and we get a sense of the contemporary, contemporaneous look at the name. out of the characterize them and what does that do for his repetition . >> there is a striking aspect of john brown that the historian, me hasn't quite come to terms with. how does this guy who before he becomes famous in kansas. not much of a success anything in life. if he had been more successful in business as a farmer, he probably wouldn't have become the figure he became and he wouldn't have turned soulfully to abolitionism but he really never could make a success of anything in life before this but there was something about his personality that drew
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people to him. his sons, they were raised in the anti-slavery state but they feared their father. they didn't know what to make of him . he had this really powerful personality. they couldn't leave him. they couldn't resist him, but neither could they fight entirely into it. they were very disturbed by what john brown had made was making them do but they still couldn't leave. reporters love john brown because in the first place this was a great story these correspondence sent by the new york newspapers other london news correspondents came from england, areas other places. this was the big story in the days were long, long before television what they would do is they would write these very vivid stories describing the characters and recounting
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the events they saw. john brown was instinctively brilliant at dealing with the reporters. because he was to all parents utterly transparent. as honest as could be. in fact, he really wasn't but he was one who understood that sincerity is so important and once you learn to fake it then you've got it made. john brown withdrawn these reporters into his confidence but they weren't the only ones who were in john brown's confidence. there was anetwork of abolitionists . abolitionists philanthropists, centered in boston but spanning over into upstate new york these were men typically who were eager to support the anti-slavery cost. but they were in no position to take up arms. but they were enormously
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impressed by somebody who did like john brown and so they became the financial support of john brown. john brown, nobody knew him from anybody else until the massacre. now, there was no direct evidence linking john brown to the crime because the people who were killed, nobody knew this guy was really you was just somebody but eventually, it is pointed to john brown so the federal authorities in kansas territory without a wanted poster for john brown. but the trouble was in those pre-photography days there was no picture on the poster. so john brown all he had to do was grow his hair, his hair, changes name and he wondered relatively freely around the north. just as there was an underground railroad for escape slaves, there was something comparable for people like john brown area
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anti-slavery militants so there were statehouses where he could stay on his way back east and when he gotback he raised money for the kansas project . he made a point of not admitting or denying that he had been behind the murders on potawatamee creek and his supporters made a point of not asking him directly because they didn't really want to know if they knew for sure, that he was this cold-blooded murderer then they would have had a hard time justifying giving him money to do more of the same . he simply was this militant. this strong-minded supporter of the cause and fine, we will give him this money and it's remarkable as i say so the historians to try to figure out what it was about john brown. that drew these intelligent people, these were well-traveled people but it's
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almost as though he sort of spun this web that drew them all in. he presented himself as a person themselves to be in their younger, braver days. >> there's a similar planning after he lives kansas after things settle down and restart concocting this plan was for some time to incite slave rebellion in the south going across thecountry . >> .. thinking he is saving the world and generations to come. some historians have proposed
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he's mentally ill and we have a questionnaire from mike with john brown a fanatic who helped bring on the war or merely another voice against slavery? i'm interested in knowing your thoughts on the theory that he was mentally ill. >> the title of my book is the zealots and the emancipator. the emancipator i had no problem coming up with that label for abraham lincoln. he is known as the emancipator. john brown i had to think so what is the word that i can apply. i was tempted for a brief time, just a brief time, to say the terrorist and the emancipator because he was indeed a terrorist. if he committed those crimes today, especially if it was for a cause that people did not nervously sign onto well, the definition of terrorism is someone who can's violent acts for political purposes. that's exactly what john brown did but that was there is too much contemporary overlay to
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terrorism. fanatic again, that's a strong one and i could have justified using that because he was a fanatic. was john brown crazy? was he insane? i would say definitely not. certainly not in the sense of losing touch with reality. he always understood what he was doing and why he was doing it. now, he was perhaps more convinced that he knew exactly what god wanted him to do then, let's say more self questioning people do but one of the reasons that john brown was so persuasive was that people who encountered him knew that he was on the right side of history and on the right side of this fundamental moral question. the test really comes, i don't want to anticipate too far, but when he encountered southerners.
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people who opposed everything he stood for in a political way, he drew them in and won them over because they thought they were dealing with someone who had the utter courage of his convictions and that is something that is impressive to all sorts of people, even if you don't believe in the conviction and here's a fact that someone who at the risk of his life is following his belief in what is right to the logical outcome. >> you mentioned -- let's go back to lincoln for a moment because he said himself i have no quarrel with southerners and they did not invent delivery. they're living with it. he is trying to make us an appeals against expanding slavery into these new territories being built in the west and you mentioned steven douglas and his rival in the senate and for president and i did not know this but for mary todd, i did not realize they were both courting mary todd at
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the same time. >> exactly. >> but there is a question abound lincoln and they say he loved to work by the way but lincoln was a railroad lawyer and capital invested in railroad and the return for investment hinged upon selling content to manchester, england which outlawed slavery so slavery had to ends. any motivation there or any connection you can see there? >> now, i don't think so pretty here is why. even after england outlawed slavery the cotton mills in manchester had no problem by then southern cotton but emancipation or heaven forbid a war in the united states between the north and south would disrupt the supply of cotton so lincoln came to his conclusion that slavery was wrong from his early days. he was born in kentucky and the family moved across the ohio river first indiana and illinois
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but lincoln and his family were opposed to slavery initially on college grounds of self-interest because for a working man, someone who made his living by manual labor in a place like southern ohio slavery simply meant that the wage rate would be far lower than it would be otherwise and slavery was a threat to the self-interest of free workingmen. i mean, ironically emancipation was to because slavery depressed the price of labor so the wages but when all the slaves became free then they would flood onto the market and they would keep the wage low. working man in the north were conflicted on the subject and did not know where to land on this one but lincoln had a moment relatively early in his
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life, even as a teenager about 18 or 19 when he confronted slavery and when he never had before. he grew up in the free state of indiana and illinois and he was aware of slavery because if you lived anywhere near the border with the slave region, in this case kentucky, you would encounter slave because slaveholders would travel across the ohio river into illinois and some had property in both states and they could bring their slaves over for a limited time in the slaves would work in illinois. lincoln was aware but illinois didn't have any big slave market. as a market and a teenager gabriel lincoln was hired to float a flat vote down the mississippi to new orleans to make money so he went to new orleans and for the first time saw a slave auction in full force. the idea of this property and the sale of human and these
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slaves were being sold just like one would sell horses or cattle in lincoln remembered that as the moment when he realized this just is not right. but he still had to make a living. as a questioner said he took his lawyer in cases where they came from and represented railroads and occasionally represented slave owners and again this is what lawyers do but he increasingly became convinced that this had the united states on the wrong track. for a lot of people there have always been a fun mental connection between the thomas of equality and the declaration of independence and the guarantee of future slavery in the constitution. squaring that circle was something was a product for whole generation of america and lincoln pope, lincoln put his faith in the constitution and faith in the evolving sense abilities of american citizens but he sternly rejected the
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project of the abolitionists. it is important here to note the distinction between someone who is opposed to slavery that concludes a large group of people and the abolitionists who say slavery is so bad that it has to be at the top of anybody's list of priorities and justifies overruling anything else, including the constitution so john brown took the position that emancipation outranks the constitution and abraham lincoln put it just the other way around, not that he was any less opposed to slavery but he believed that the constitution was the only sure guarantee of all american freedoms and this position was if emancipation should come but the constitution should collapse the american freedoms generate would be worse off than they had been before. of course, when it was a practicing politician or wanted to get into politics we had to sign on to that agenda in order to be at all plausible.
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>> they called the book complex and we would call a deeply problematic about equality, race mixing and what to do with all those enslaved people if they were freed and all this emerges in the debates on record. could you give us a sense of that? >> sure, first of all, one of the appeals of abolitionism, one of the appeals of the vision of john brown is you don't bother with the complexities of the issue. you don't ask yourself what will happen to the slaves after they are free and how will they live and where will they live? how will society deal with this? you to say that's not my problem and that's god's problem or someone else's problem before practicing politician like lincoln that was crucial, especially since lincoln has committed himself to persuading enough southern slaveholders that slavery is not in their interest anymore and to get them to do what new york and massachusetts and pennsylvania had done voluntarily an institution of slavery.
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lincoln has a deal with the fundamental problem and it was easy for massachusetts to end of slavery because there were hardly any slaves in massachusetts so the question is what to do about the former slaves well, it's not a big issue because there's not very of them but tell someone in south carolina that were 45% of the population consists of slaves. you got this country that is hoping to be a democracy and this is important to note that lincoln's generation was a generation that cannot take american democracy forward granted. it was still an experiment and this is why lincoln was so consistent that when the seventh and 11 southern states seceded they said this cannot be allowed to happen because it will destroy duroc as a in the last best hope of mankind was going to go away. people will demonstrate the can't govern themselves. lincoln has to persuade them and so he also could not point to
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any successful biracial republic in the world or in world history. we understood it. there will be problems and this is one of the reasons that he thought he was following the path of thomas jefferson on this one. jefferson was opposed to slavery but he also believed that once we freed the slaves we would have to basically get them all to go back to africa or somewhere else because we can't leave them around as jefferson put it and as lincoln put it. they both said essentially the same thing on the subject which is why people in this country have known some of the wrongs to black people that the black people will never be able to forgive them so they can't live in peace beside each other and further more white people having denigrated black people for so long they can't live with them either. so lincoln was thinking okay, i don't want to give up democracy and i want to get rid of slavery and so the only thing we can do
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is free the slaves and then cause them all to go back to africa or go to the west indies somewhere but this was a nonstarter because most of them do not want to go and they were more american then people who immigrated to america long after the ancestors of the slave people had come to america. >> we definitely have another questions about emancipation and the roar but first of course are to talk about the raid on harpers ferry in 1859 so this is right to the crux or the run-up to an election year and the importance of 1860 election and this gives earlier than planned after their ban or camping out and got made at a local bar mouse and drew suspicion so you can get the play-by-play by an unbelievable story of the fairly easy capture of the armory there but then seizing local, including the great grandnephew of george washington of all
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people and presumptively this is to rouse the enslaved people to their cause in washington however thought they were insane or joking so how did others respond. [screaming] >> exactly, john brown leaves a farm several miles from harpers ferry and presented himself as a cattle buyer so he would buy cattle buyer and send them to market so he presented himself as this relatively harmless guy. and then when it turns out that he is well commonly called [inaudible] brown because he led the antislavery militia and kansas territory at the battle which is sometimes called the first battle of the civil war because the first time organized forces fought in most fighting and kansas was irregular but this was one there were two militias and john brown was [inaudible] so when they discovered it was a guy, it was very strange but in the case of
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lewis washington his home is entered in the middle of the night by these people he doesn't know and is told he has to come with them and he also has two hand over his weapons and meanwhile the slaves on the property are being told that they should come along too but they should come along and joined the army for their freedom and they are reluctant about this because nobody told him about this and says what this could lead to and they never heard of this guy that will be heading this and john brown just before the raid on harpers ferry called a meeting with frederick douglass and the former slave and very noted abolitionist and john brown had met frederick douglass some years before and he had shared with douglas the plan for handing out weapons to his slaves in the vicinity of harpers ferry. because there was a federal arson up there and you take the
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weapon and give them to the slaves in the slaves use those weapons to strike for their freedom and so john brown said to frederick douglass if you come along and if the slaves that we appeal to see that you are a part of this then all of a sudden i have far more credible event or would otherwise. frederick douglass said no i don't think so and basically what he said is i'm a writer not a fighter but secondly he knew that john brown's raid was in effect a suicide mission. frederick douglass had been a slave and he understood the first thing that slaves would do is ask themselves what am i getting into here and as bad as slavery is i don't want to go to immediate death and as soon as i take up weapons that is a capital crime and enemy slave state to take up weapons. i will be murdered and killed
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and i'll only do this if there's a reasonable chance that this will succeed and i will wait and see if there's a reasonable chance. the other thing is that john brown discovered to his chagrin that harpers ferry is really easy to get into but it's hard to get out of. and they calm in the middle of the night when they were not expecting attack and a couple sleepy guards around the armory and they forced themselves into the army but they resisted by ironically the first person or the first casualty was a black man and then some shots were fired and the town wakes up and there's this attack and once the town wakes up and realize there is an attack it's curtains for john brown and the other people who were there. this is because it's harpers ferry is and then their steep hills to climb and it's easy to
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aim your weapons down on the armory in the arsenal and john brown and his small ban and some were killed and others are pinned down in this engine house, brick building that could resist the fire. they hole up there for a while until robert e lee showed up and at the head of the company of u.s. marine and lee does not mess around but orders the storming of the engine house and round has taken prisoner and is nearly killed and would have been killed if one of the officers entering the engine house had not been in such a hurry to join the force going north and that he reached for a saber and instead of getting the real saber he had a ceremonial saber with when he lacked john brown is folded into. it left a scalp wound but blood like crazy but did not kill him.
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and so, if it had killed him then john brown story would've ended right there and it would have had nothing like the effect it had, either in the north or the south but it did not kill john brown and he lives to stand trial. >> the trial is just the pretty dramatic almost surreal scene at points. he is wounded, as you said, during the capture and attends the jury selection in the trial that goes day by day and every now and again pulls out from his chin and bolds up and says something and then comes right back and it's almost comic in its own way but we've got to move forward so i want to ask what did this performance that he did at the trial which is pretty dramatic or what affected that have a public opinion and there are a number of different realms here. >> a polarized public opinion paid public opinion was already
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pretty polarized between north and south but this pushed it beyond repair because john brown was tried, convicted and executed. on his way to the gallows he slipped a note to his jailer and when she said the crimes of this land shall not be purged away except by blood. john brown was prophesying that there would be blood before there was an end to slavery. john brown comported himself with great dignity and impressing even his captors and the governor of virginia was very impressed by john brown. so john brown was hanged to northerners and at that point even southerners thought john brown was his terrorist kind of guy and they had to grudgingly
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give him credit for comported himself well during the trial but then what happened was john brown's dad was treated as a martyrdom in the north and john brown was proclaimed the next jesus christ, someone who gave his life for the freedom of the slaves. and when white southerners saw this they thought oh my gosh, what country do we live in where somebody who murdered my fellow southerners and who tried to raise our slaves against us in a way that might have led us dead in our beds when he is hailed as a hero by the north southerners, white southerners said this is a country that is not safe for the institution of slavery and this is a country that is not safe for our very lives. >> of course, this has into the
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election of 1861 lincoln does win but he is now the president of a completely divided nation right? and all sorts of if there are echoes here some people threatened to disregards the results and there were plenty of slander that lincoln was part of the john brown network and that he was part negro quote unquote so he every see the single southern state of this divided nation that is soon at war. all these questions here are about what pushed him to the impressive patient proclamation. joe asks which evolutionist figure influenced his decision to most issue the emancipation proclamation and did it affect him at all? he was trying to distance himself from the john brown's of the world and another one here could you comment on the abolitionist file in and around lincoln conducting a war to save
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the union under the first two years of the civil war and not a war to end slavery? can you try to tie those together that what happened, lincoln was silent after his election through the inauguration and doesn't say anything to address the anxieties building for succession in the country. >> yes, this question of lincoln's silence is one that has puzzled historians and his contemporaries. lincoln's position was and will not give promises to the states that are contemplating some session and i have made my position clear in the campaign and in my speeches before that and if i simply repeat myself they won't take me seriously. now that sounds to me like a rationalization because anybody knows the phone a mental difference between saying something as a candidate for office and saying something as president elect. now you will be the guide. people want to know if you still take seriously what you said before. that was a strategic mistake by
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lincoln but once he became president and was inaugurated he made very clear that he would not tolerate secession. his understanding of the constitution that he swore to uphold and defend, and man for every constitution in of every state. the constitution did not allow states to secede. suddenly, he made very clear that his opposition to secession had nothing to do with slavery. for abraham lincoln [inaudible] inauguration from the beginning of 1861 till the emancipation proclamation in 1863 lincoln took the position that the war was all about states rights or more precisely it was about his interpretation of states rights as not including the right to secede. he was asked by horace greeley antislavery editor, new york tribune, he was pushing lincoln to say look, called lessor about slavery in that way we can get all the abolitionists on our side. frederick douglass who knew lincoln by this time was saying
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you know this is more about slavery and you may say it's a war about slavery and said lincoln no, because his interpretation of the constitution still held for the president of the united states nor congress had authority to tell virginia or tell georgia or mississippi that they could not slaves. they wanted to have slaves till time forever that was their prerogative under lincoln's interpretation of the constitution but secondly and this is crucial to remember that although states seceded. there were four border states and especially including missouri, kentucky and maryland. if maryland seceded and if lincoln declared that the war against slavery and maryland a slave state would have almost no choice but to join the confederacy and once that happened the unity government would have to evacuate washington dc. we would be very much harder to hold the ohio river and hold the mississippi river and so lincoln
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knew that on constitutional grounds and nonstrategic grounds making this a war against slavery would be counterproductive. finally, lincoln knew the north was hardly unified in favor of waging a war and after the shelling of fort sumter in april for volunteers and said it was volunteers to save the union. if lincoln had issued a call for 75000 volunteers to free the slaves he would not have gotten anywhere near 75000. opinion in the north was by no means universal behind freeing the slaves and some of the reasons i mentioned in the fact that for most northerners it wasn't that big of a deal but a really big deal for people like john brown and people who were abolitionists but for most people in the north and maybe they were to risk my life to go to war for it, i don't think so. >> wended that shift because that gives cover to the jefferson davises who say this is about states rights.
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>> ironically yeah, what lincoln's position was the position that southerners would take after the war and say this was not about slavery but strikingly at the beginning of the war in most ordinances of secession that slavery was clearly identified as the approximate cause. now, the seceding states all say that every state including massachusetts and new york have a right to secede but they also all understood that you don't do this for just any reason at all. you do it because you feel it some basic interest is endangered and they all identified slavery as that basic interest that was endangered. lincoln initially takes the position that this is about states rights or lack of states rights to secede but he is worked upon by people wake horace greeley and frederick
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douglass but furthermore by his own generals who say look, the slaves in the south are a war resource and they provide the labor that keeps the confederate army in the field and whatever we can do to diminish the effectiveness of that labor force we should do. and if you promise freedom to the slaves then it will encourage slaves to abandon the plantation and to abandon their masters and had to union lines. maybe we will use him as soldiers of our own and that seemed to be a dicier issue. there was another angle that was in play that is often overlooked and that is the role of britain and all of this and everybody alive in 1860s new the story of the american revolution and succeeded only with the help of a foreign power and the confederacy knew that his attempt at independence of doing 1861 with the colonies did in
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1776 would require the help of a foreign power, ideally britain which was dependent on southern cotton. britain was tempted to recognize independent confederacy and if it did that then it would have been a great boon to confederate host. but britain had ended slavery in the empire 30 years before so there was this moral and political and emotional opposition to slavery in britain and the idea of recognizing the slaveholding republic, one that owes its existence to its embrace of slavery was a really tough political sell but as long as lincoln was saying this isn't about slavery then there is no difference between north and south and they follow their economic interests. to prevent that happening lincoln realized i better make this war about slavery so the british will know if you stay neutral and that effectively helps us to the north and that
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helps the cause of antislavery and if you support the south then your overturning years of your own policy supporting slavery. >> fascinating. fascinating turn. it wasn't all the abolitionists but the support of britain. you do point out in the book that the irony that lincoln political path leads to far more bloodshed then john brown's radical insurgency and not in effect did more to advance john brown's and as you said, as they escaped the south to take up arms for the union. i'm sure you are well aware there are many contemporary who say lincoln was not or this was not about slavery for him and he was quite a racist and this was pushed into it and backed into a corner and question here from janice john lewis said he was a racist who became opposed to
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slavery as he was impressed by the courage of african-american troops and others say it was clever politicians always opposed to slavery waited for the political winds allowed him to free the slaves so how do you feel about the claim? >> i do not use the term racist in the book because what one would call a racist in 1860 is what one different races from two to 20 confuses the issue. lincoln acknowledged differences between the black race and the white race and suspected that the differences were not innate but were the result of lack of opportunity at for black people and if you are a slave and not educated then how in the world will you look very smart compared to people who do have the advantages of education but also made very clear that he was not in favor of, for example, interracial marriage. but he also said that even if one acknowledged and even if one
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claimed and he wasn't claiming this and neither was he exactly denying it but he said even if one claimed that the white race was superior to the black race that doesn't justify enslaving the black race because if you accept that principle then the smart people of any race gets to enslave the dumb people of any race and that doesn't cut it. lincoln would say just because i don't want to marry a black woman doesn't mean i want to enslave her. by modern standards yes, you can quote lincoln and lincoln's main black people have to leave america if this will work but okay, you can quote lincoln is saying he says a lot of stuff that made the modern sensibility kind of queasy but it's important to note that if lincoln, if lincoln passed muster on those points in the year 2020 he never would've had a prayer of getting elected president in 1860 and so
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progress is made by people like lincoln who have 1 foot squarely in their own time and only once they have that firm footing in their own time can they take a step in the direction of what we called the future or the right side of history but if you took somebody from 2020 and drop them back in the 1860s they would be so removed from the people of the day that they would have no effect but remember, we live in a democracy and have to get people to vote for you. if you live in a time when most white people who are all voters in the country have their own ritualistic way of thinking then if you are utterly -- you will not get elected. john brown never could've been elected president of the united states. >> we have to wrap but i want to ask you because you brought up the president and i've been reading a report today from militia watch about the rise of activity and very real threats
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of violence from groups who would not accept the results of the election and fears of civil war being stoked and given the political environment between blue states, red states and the geographic location of the bastions of her political respectable political parties, how much of the struggle for civil rights in the universal rights that brown and lincoln fought for so vigorously exist today? >> how much of that this exist today and i would say that there is a much greater appreciation of who should receive equal rights today than there was an lincoln's day and in lincoln's day there was a much greater perception that there was in say thomas jefferson stay or george washington's day. the concept of human rights is something that has evolved over time and the enlightened thinkers of europe abandon the concept of human rights. if you told someone in 1750 that
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all people have common rights it was that you are crazy. but now we pretty much take that for granted and we think that is something that everybody should aspire to. nobody aspired to it in 1750. the striking thing about a ministry is that it has been this progressive assent or i will call it a scent in the direction of according to greater rights for more people. have we perfected that? by no means, a lot of work to be done. >> i am sorry because there's so many questions we have and others are not answered but some are in the book and i am really grateful to you for drowning us tonight. >> my pleasure. great to talk with you and thank you to everyone watching. >> talking about the zealot in the emancipator, john brown, abraham lincoln and the struggle for american freedoms. we encourage you to support a cappella books by buying a copy from them there is a link at the atlanta history website and atlanta history center website and also at the full schedule coming up and we have plenty
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more author talks on monday and i will be speaking with author legendary atlanta and owner of the atlanta falcons in atlanta at united and author of the good company. wednesday, bowling alone author has a new book out called the upswing how america came together a century ago and how we can do it again. i will be speaking with him and his co-author. both schedule and zoom links atlanta history center .com and thank you so much for jeanine in tonight. thank you again thank you for your terrific questions. good night. >> president elect to biden's getting briefed by national security and foreign policy experts today. following the meeting he will speak with reporters that is now set to start around 3:30 p.m. eastern time and we will have it live here on c-span2. tonight on the indicators president of the telemedicine association talks about the growth of the telemedicine industry during the coronavirus
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pandemic. >> we have a term that we have coined called a telemedicine clip and what that means is that not an abstract notion that i am back back at 40% of our previous volume and when we get a little bit more cranked up we will be at 75% and we won't get hire of that and in order for us to meet the demands for patient care we have to have telehealth embedded in our workflow now if can't do that and all of a sudden the public emergency goes away and there are no ways to fix some of these regulatory then we will have trouble. >> we had tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on "the communicators" on c-span2. weeknights this month we feature book tv programs what's
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available every weekend on c-span2 and as part of our 2020 year in review we focus on biographies, to merit pain on her biography the debt are arising an pulitzer prize-winning washington post reporter mary jordan in her book the art of her deal, later edward paul and life of the klansman that starts at 8:30 p.m. eastern. enjoy book tv this week and every weekend on c-span2. >> you're watching it c-span2 your unfiltered view of government. c-span2 is created by america's cable television company and today we are brought to you by these television companies who provide c-span viewers as a public service. >> good evening everyone, hello, my name is myla and i'm t

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