Monday Morning Poll

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Show your work in the comments section. My votes? The American Revolution (more because of what it did for human freedom after the fact–not sure I would have supported it at the time), World War II, and Afghanistan. And I guess you sorta’ have to include the War of 1812, too. I’m torn on the Civil War, because I’m not sure slavery wouldn’t have died out on its own without 600,000 people dying in the process.

NOTE: There seems to be something amiss with the way PollDaddy tallies multiple choice surveys. So have it at it in the comments section. But the poll results aren’t right.

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73 Responses to “Monday Morning Poll”

  1. #1 |  Joe | 

    How is the war of 1812 not getting more votes?!?! The british fucking invaded us.

  2. #2 |  Greg N. | 

    No on the Civil War?

  3. #3 |  Buckaroo | 

    We invades Canada first Joe; does that not count for anything?

    Where is “none” on the survey?

  4. #4 |  Aaron | 

    Do you mean the war was justified, or that American participation was?

  5. #5 |  Mike H | 

    No, the U.S. declaration of war actually started the ball rolling. I don’t recall reading about any “invasions” until hostilities were well underway.

    And nothing was gained but wholesale slaughter, although the reduction in the Indian population did help Americans expand westward more freely. In any case, three years later, both sides were claiming victory – as they still do today.

    I’m thinking this is why the War of 1812 isn’t getting the votes.

  6. #6 |  Brian | 

    Actually, I believe the interception of neutral US trading vessels by the Royal Navy and the subsequent impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy started the ball rolling.

  7. #7 |  chance | 

    I voted for the Civil War, WWII, Korea, and Afghanistan. I would like to caveat WWII with the observation that if we had stayed out of WWI maybe there would not have been a WWII, but then again who knows?

  8. #8 |  Edintally | 

    Revolution, 1812, Civil, WWs, Gulf

  9. #9 |  Thomas Blair | 

    Why aren’t more picking the Revolutionary War?

    Should the colonists have lobbied for their freedom? Wrote letters to the editor, signed petitions, and contacted their congressman?

  10. #10 |  Lee | 

    Revolution, 1812, Civil, Afghanistan.

    Slavery might have ended on its own without the conflict, but I think the war was needed to make absolutely sure it was over.

    The more I read about the history of WW2, the more I’m not sure our active participation in Europe was needed. Now the Pacific war is a completely different matter, but I guess you can’t have one without the other.

  11. #11 |  ParatrooperJJ | 

    Civil war didn’t have anything to do with slavery actually. Its a common misconception.

  12. #12 |  Lee | 

    I’m not sure what this poll is set up for multiple selections or maybe the way the % is calculated is not what I expect.

    The % seems to be a % of the total number of votes not a % of voters selecting the item.

    100% of the voters might be selecting Revolution, but because they are selecting other wars as well its % is less than 100%.

  13. #13 |  William | 

    What, no Whiskey Rebellion?

  14. #14 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Rev & 1812….defending our own liberty. No probs there.

    WWII… Military sucker punch by the Japanese along with interference with free trade.

    Afghanistan was a no, because of its limited scope (supporting terrorists and gave harbour to group linked to 9/11 does not a war make). Venting anger and the bloodlust of revenge is bad form.

    Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War were nos, but should be lumped together in reasoning. If you vote for one, you logically have to vote for all three as the modus operandi are similar, oil not withstanding.

    My history is weak concerning the S-A, the M-A, and the P-A (thought the S-A and the P-A were the same war, but thankfully the internet corrected me), but all 3 look like a land grab. Not cool and not voted for.

    WWI is another weird one. Voted no. Seems like we were manipulated the whole time, although I honestly think the Lusitania was just one of those honest mistakes in war.

    Civil war is a tough, tough one. The outcome had some good, but to justify all that was lost is a tough sell. The Southern states economy was numbered anyways, and a collapse of the plantation farmer was inevitable. Now were stuck with rampant federalism. Grrr…

    Not much of a historian. Thanks for the homework assignment Radley.

  15. #15 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The Civil War confirms that the states that make up the United States are not part of this country voluntarily. To us in The South, we are conquered land. Interestingly, the U.S. supports the right of most territories to split off from their mother country. Just not here in America.

    What surprises me is that there are people who think the Vietnam war was justified. Personally, I think the greatest scientific miracle of all time would be to bring LBJ back to life so he could be tortured and executed for the lives he pissed away in Vietnam. And then revived and given the same treatment again…

  16. #16 |  Fritz | 

    The more I learn about WWII, the less I feel that our involvement was justified. Although I’d put most of the blame on Wilson for WWI –interventionism begets more interventionism. It’s just a shame that our children are taught that FDR’s New Deal and WWII “saved” this country. The truth is much more ugly and complicated.

  17. #17 |  Brian | 


    How would you feel that the US should have responded to getting bombed by Japan? How else is a country supposed to respond to another country bombing its navy in its own harbor?

  18. #18 |  ContentiousDebateMachine, Go! § Unqualified Offerings | 

    […] has the poll of polls: which American wars were justified? He’s got two between two and a half and three, depending on how you count them. As an […]

  19. #19 |  Sam | 

    Dave Krueger, the US usually supports the right of territories to split from their mother country when they are part of some discrete, identifiable, minority group within a larger political community. What differentiated Southerners from the North, besides their insistence on human bondage? That’s a narrow rationale for a new nation.

    I voted for Revolutionary, Civil, WWII and Afghanistan. I also can’t understand why anyone could vote for Vietnam.

  20. #20 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Before asking whether the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor justified our entry into WWII, one should consider whether our antagonizing behavior toward Japan before Pearl Harbor was justified.

    The idea that the U.S. was neutral toward either Japan or Germany prior to Pearl Harbor is, to me, nothing short of astounding.

  21. #21 |  Mal Armstrong | 

    You guys would be taken more seriously about wars we should not have gotten involved in if you acknowledged the ones where war was justified. Seriously, 20-23% for the Revolutionary and WWII? Of course, if you think war is never justified you should answer no to all, but then, as I already wrote, you will only not be taken seriously.

  22. #22 |  Shamgar | 

    This is a complicated vote, as there are a lot of factors to consider. WWII is a prime example here, as you can see in the comments. How much of our responsibility do you take into account? If PH was TRULY unprovoked, then I think we’d all say it was justified.

    But if you really take that view, then you have to ask if the war on afghanistan was justified. It’s not like we haven’t done things to provoke the middle east.

    I opted to vote only for the Revolutionary War, 1812, and Afghanistan. I chose not to vote for the civil war, because I believe historical evidence clearly indicates that like most war, the reasons it was sold to the public (on both sides) has nothing to do with the reasons it was actually fought.

    I opted not to vote for WWII not because of our policies, but because as an earlier poster hinted at, I don’t think it would’ve happened if we’d stayed out of WWI. That’s a cause/effect relationship that I think we have to take into account.

  23. #23 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #22 Shamgar

    It’s not like we haven’t done things to provoke the middle east.

    You got that right. Someday after we go to war with most of the Middle East over Israel, the U.S. will be blaming it on some “unprovoked and dastardly attack”. We will be merely the innocent do-gooders in the white hats.

  24. #24 |  Jeff Darcy | 

    I think Lee hit on something in #12. Add up the votes; the total is suspiciously close to 100%. I think the poll is actually showing the percentage of votes, not of voters. That’s worse than uninformative, as without showing the number of voters it’s impossible to determine whether the results are from many pacifists or few warmongers.

    That said, there might be some little bit of information we can still glean. Let’s assume that the highest vote-getter (the Revolution) was approved by close to 100% of those voting. That means only the War of 1812, WW2, and Afghanistan are even close to being approved by a majority of voters. If the Revolution got less than 100% approval, the War of 1812 and Afghanistan probably drop off that list, leaving only two justified wars in our nation’s history.

    As for myself, I’m not convinced the Revolution was truly necessary. Canada never had one, they’re independent and seem to have done fine. I’m more willing to grant 1812 (foreign aggression on our own territory), Civil (yes it was about slavery even though there were many other differences), and WW2 (to contain the Soviets not the Germans who were already done for or the Japanese who crumpled like paper when they confronted those same Soviets in Manchuria). I disagree that supporting any of Korea/Vietnam/Gulf means supporting all, because while their rationales might be of the same type that doesn’t mean they’re of the same strength. In any case, I think any rationale of that type must be stronger than any of those three cases to justify all that war entails. Too bad Kosovo and Somalia weren’t on the list, not to mention the places (e.g. Timor, Darfur) where we have declined to become involved at all.

    The really difficult case for me is Afghanistan, not least because it’s hard to justify our actions there without also calling for action against Pakistan. Having other claims on my time, I’ll just call that one a toss-up and be done with it.

  25. #25 |  Big Chief | 

    The vote totals to 100%, so multiple choices drop the percentages.

    I voted for the Revolutionary, 1812, Civil, WW II, and Afghanistan. I wavered over the Afghan war just because we didn’t do a Declaration of War and I don’t think we should have gone over until that was done. Some of the other wars I’m not comfortable with mainly because I don’t trust the pro-US pablum I was taught in school or the leftist anti-US stuff in the MSM I hear now. I haven’t spent the time to dig out what happened with some of them.

  26. #26 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    I am really surprised Afghanistan is getting as many votes as it is. The more I think about it, the more it doesn’t seem justified at all. Afghanistan did not make any military moves against the US. Its government help support a terrorist attack on US soil, a very public one, but that is it. Yes, AL Qaeda has had other attacks on us (USS Cole, various embassies), but who hasn’t. Libya used to fund such attacks as well, but a debatable diplomacy appears to have had positive effect. It just has taken time.

    We should NEVER invade a country just to dipose one government in favor of another, regardless of the attrocities said government does. Nor she we wage war to gain property.
    Gulf War at least has some credibility in that there were agreements and treaties between Kuwait and the US. Not that it wasn’t justified, just more justifiable than Afghanistan, IMHO.

  27. #27 |  Craig | 

    Some of these are quite complicated. For instance, in the Korean War I think that defending South Korea was justifiable, but provoking the Chinese was not. Vietnam is much fuzzier beast that I don’t know enough about, but my impression is we royally screwed it up before we got heavily involved militarily. The Gulf War is a better model of a justifiable war – defend a country against foreign aggression and then get out.

    I can’t vote for the Civil War, because I believe very strongly in all people’s right to self-determination, including the right to secede from the United States, which was the primary motivation for the war, not slavery. By the same reasoning, I have to vote for the Revolutionary War.

    Although at the time I protested against the Afghanistan invasion, I have since changed my mind and think it was a good idea. WWII was probably unavoidable. I have no idea what happened in 1812.

    Also, I’d like to add the Balkans conflict to my list of justifiable wars, just as I think it is shameful that we did so little in Rwanda, and continue to do so little in Darfur. It’s probably not a popular position around here, but I am a bit of a liberal interventionist and I think we should be doing a lot more peace-keeping, stabilization, and nation building. I think it’s the only way to prevent much worse conflict in the future.

  28. #28 |  Ken Houghton | 

    If you can justify GW I, how can you not justify 1812? (The converse doesn’t necessarily work.)

  29. #29 |  Erik | 

    There’s not much evidence to suggest that slavery would have died out anytime soon. It was only getting stronger in the years before the war. I suppose that eventually it might have turned into a South Africa-like system that included forced labor, but we would be many decades behind where we are now in race relations without the forced end of slavery.

  30. #30 |  John Jenkins | 

    The Civil War was justified. Slavery was not falling out of favor in the South, and the economics of slavery made it unlikely to end other than by force.

    The Civil War *was* about slavery. Don’t believe me, go read what Jefferson Davis said about it. All of the gloss that has been layered on by years and years of southern sympathizers (and I am from Virginia) is crap. Lincoln didn’t give a crap about slavery (he just wanted to preserve the Union), but the seceding states did, and slavery was the cause of secession (again, see J. Davis).

    @Mike Lockwood: History much?

    That may have had something to do with Libya’s change of heart.

    Congress did authorize the use of force against Afghanistan (Public Law 107-40 (Sept. 18, 2001)), so the idea that there is no declaration of war because they didn’t use magic words is laughable.

  31. #31 |  Jeff Darcy | 

    How about slaves’ right to self-determination, Craig? And please, don’t go on with the “Civil War wasn’t about slavery” spiel as though that’s an uncontroversial and unassailable position. The Civil War was not *only* about slavery, but it was at least *partly* about slavery. We can disagree civilly about where between those two points the truth might be, but any position outside that range is indefensible and any attempt to treat such a position as axiomatic is just a way of running away from a real discussion.

    The real question here, in my and I’m sure many other people’s minds, is whether the slavery issue was sufficient to justify the Civil War. Whether other justifications may be possible, or even whether others were prevalent at the time, has no bearing on that question. I’m just enough of an interventionist to believe that the human-liberty issues at stake were sufficient, and override the “states’ rights” issues. As many sources including our own Declaration of Independence have taught us, a state that abuses it citizens or subjects forfeits its legitimacy. Whether liberation then comes from within or without, sovereignty arguments no longer apply (though others such as the welfare of the supposedly-liberated people certainly do).

  32. #32 |  Jeff Darcy | 

    “if you think war is never justified you should answer no to all, but then, as I already wrote, you will only not be taken seriously.”

    …and, the way this poll is structured, your “no” votes won’t be reflected in the percentages. Extreme warmongers’ votes count; extreme pacifists’ don’t.

  33. #33 |  Lenny Zimmermann | 

    I’d have to say that on the Civil War that it’s probably just as bad to say that it was about slavery as it is to say that it wasn’t about slavery. It’s a lot more complicated then that. It’s probably say to say that, especially from the Southern point of view, it was primarily about State’s Rights. But it’s important to note that most southern states considered those “rights” to include owning slaves.

    Still, there is ample evidence that the mindset for such was starting to fall out of favor, even in the deep south. It is quite likely that slavery would have ended eventually the South, but possibly not until the early 20th century. But it is also possible that had the South been allowed to end slavery in that manner that civil rights for minorities may have been in a better position than they are now. I think that the Civil War raised a great deal of resentment in the Southern States (especially after their being subjected to “carpet bagging” and laws that the non-secessionists states were not subject to) and that resentment reformed itself into things like Jim Crowe laws and a racial hatred that persists in so many even today (as sad as that is.) I think so much of that may have not happened if it hadn’t been for the Civil War. (But there are no guarantees, of course. Who really knows without being able to see a world where such an alternate history really happened.) Part or me also thinks that if there were two such nations today, that it would be the USA, and not the CSA, that would be the freer and more prosperous nation because of it. But that is getting even more wildly speculative.

    Still, while I think it would have been appropriate to condemn and pressure the CSA for their human rights practices, I can’t say that I feel the Civil War was justified. So for me I chose American Revolution, 1812, WWII and Afghanistan.

  34. #34 |  fauxmaxbaer | 

    What about Grenada and Panama?

  35. #35 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Lenny, that was a well reasoned and convincing perspective on the Civil War.

  36. #36 |  David Nieporent | 

    I can’t vote for the Civil War, because I believe very strongly in all people’s right to self-determination,

    Which has what to do with the American South, exactly? The majority of people there opposed secession. It’s just that most of those people’s views didn’t count as far as the southern states were concerned.

    including the right to secede from the United States, which was the primary motivation for the war, not slavery.

    Really? Why do you think that they wanted to secede from the U.S.?

  37. #37 |  Edintally | 

    The Civil War wasn’t about slavery? Somebody has been drinking the Kool-Aid.

    You can call it State’s rights vs. Federal Government, but the right they wanted was the right to keep slaves. The southern states were losing control of the Senate which was the only way to block anti-slavery legislation. Once the Senate was gone, it would only be a matter of time before a bill abolishing slavery was pushed through both houses and signed by a President. The presumption at the time was that Lincoln would be the President to sign such a bill.

    An argument maintaining that a state should have the right to secede might be a valid argument. But asserting that the Civil War was not about slavery is laughable.

  38. #38 |  David Nieporent | 

    Sorry to be snarky on that last comment, but the notion that the civil war wasn’t about slavery requires such ridiculous contortions to justify as to be indefensible.

    Slavery was the motive; they said so, and it can be seen empirically from the fact that support for secession paralleled the demographics of various regions in terms of how prevalent slavery was.

    States rights — even if the phrase wasn’t an oxymoron to any libertarian — were not the motive, because southerners did not hold to any principle of states rights. When states rights benefited slavery, they were in favor of states rights. When states rights harmed slavery, they were all in favor of a big federal government. (Indeed, one of their gripes was that the northern states would not return runaway slaves, and they demanded that the federal government force those states to do so, or intervene directly to return the slaves.)

  39. #39 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Grenada wasn’t a war. Panama was not a war. Invasions, yes. Military actions, yes. Not war. Of course, what defines war? Evidently, not the Constitution.

  40. #40 |  Snarki, child of Loki | 

    What is this “Aghanistan” war you’re asking about on the poll?

    I guess I slept through that one, but at least I’m not the only one. Did we win?

  41. #41 |  Justified Wars « Matt Zeitlin: Impetuous Young Whippersnapper | 

    […] Here’s the link. […]

  42. #42 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The Civil War was about forcing The South back into the Union.

  43. #43 |  Jeff Darcy | 

    “Should the colonists have lobbied for their freedom? Wrote letters to the editor, signed petitions, and contacted their congressman?”

    Well, why not? A good number of Loyalists declined to participate in the war, many of them moving to Canada, and they didn’t end up so badly. One might argue that they were the beneficiaries of the revolutionaries’ actions, but I don’t find that argument very convincing (especially when it’s not made yet). As British subjects they were already ensured greater liberty than most people in the world. Yes, they were treated unfairly in many ways, but enough to justify the horrors of war? I’m not actually saying yea or nay on this one, but I think the question deserves some reflection instead of reflexive veneration of the people who made that decision. Is our situation right now really that different in any way than it would have been if we had remained part of the British empire? Don’t forget to account for the Civil War (and many of the others listed above) before you answer that.

  44. #44 |  First Little Pig | 

    Revolution, 1812 (British actions made it necessary, really), WW2 and Afghanistan.

    I am torn on Afghanistan but when I consider what a hellhole the Taliban made of the place in addition to harboring Bin Laden et al I end up favoring it…..

  45. #45 |  KBCraig | 

    The reason so many Southerners (I am one), Constitutionalists (ditto), and anti-Federalists (again) are prone to point out that the Civil War “wasn’t about slavery”, even though everyone knows it was a major factor, is that for over a century schools have brainwashed children to believe it was only about slavery.

    Take a poll of a different audience: most high school and college students would tell you the war was fought so Lincoln could free the slaves. Hogwash. Lincoln didn’t give two craps about the slaves, other than wanting to send all blacks to Liberia. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave — slavery continued in non-CSA slave states, and in CSA territory that had been captured by the USA.

    It is in the interest of correcting the record that most secession sympathizers almost reflexively yell that “it wasn’t about slavery!”

  46. #46 |  Craig | 

    I take the point that the Confederacy’s right to its own self-determination as an independent state is not entirely reconcilable with slavery and the mass suppression of the rights of individuals. However, I still maintain that the Confederacy had the right to secede from the U.S., even if slavery was at the center of their conflict with the U.S. government. I certainly understand the perspective that the oppression of so many of its inhabitants made the Confederate government illegitimate, but my hunch is that this didn’t really factor into the decision to go to war at the time (see below).

    Let me also make clear that I understand full well that of course the Civil War was “about slavery” in the sense that it was the dominant issue that divided the the two combatants. But when I say that slavery was not the primary motivation for the war, I mean it in the following sense. Imagine an alternate universe where in 1861 the Confederacy was a legitimate independent state recognized by the U.S. government; in such a case, I do not believe that the U.S. would have invaded the Confederacy in order to end slavery there. Alternately, if instead we imagine a universe where the Confederate states had already given up slavery, but wanted to secede for some other reason, my bet is that it would have led to war. Therefore, I maintain that ending slavery was not the primary motivation, it was the Confederacy’s secession that actually motivated the Union invasion.

  47. #47 |  David McElroy | 

    There was not a “civil war” in the United States. The U.S. government invaded a sovereign nation made up of states which had left that union. It was illegal and immoral, and Lincoln’s conduct of it was amazingly evil if you care about individual freedom. He closed newspapers that opposed him, and he used federal troops to bully the U.S. Supreme Court when it tried to rein in his abuse of power.

    Yes, slavery in North America ended as a result of the war, but that doesn’t justify it. Ending slavery wasn’t even the purpose of the war. It was about power and economics. Slavery was an evil institution, but it was no MORE evil in the South than it had been in the other parts of the United States when it had previously been legal there. Differences in regional economic systems account for the fact that slavery had already faded away and been made illegal in many parts of the U.S., not the moral superiority of kindly unionists.

    I don’t see how any libertarian can revere Lincoln after studying him closely. I grew up being taught to admire him as a great man. Close study in college (and since then) of his actual words and deeds lead me to very different conclusions. The southern states had every legal and moral right to determine their own political futures, even if they did allow the morally repugnant institution of slavery. Even though the union’s invasion ultimately resulted in freed slaves (along with the systematic destruction of much of the South during Reconstruction), the liberty of blacks wasn’t the war’s purpose and the freeing of slaves doesn’t justify Lincoln’s gross usurpation of power.

  48. #48 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #47 David McElroy
    I don’t see how any libertarian can revere Lincoln after studying him closely. I grew up being taught to admire him as a great man.

    American’s admire all wartime presidents. They help us to maintain our macho self image. I don’t think many libertarians admire Lincoln, though. His piss poor civil liberties record isn’t exactly a secret anymore.

    But, you’re right about the civil war.

  49. #49 |  xyz123 | 

    excellent points, mr. mcelroy.

    a good hard look at history shows that lincoln was wilson was FDR. all 3 of them, when faced with the first crisis that came to hand, all 3 of them immediately shat upon the constitution and did what THEY wanted to do, and freedom/rights be damned. their actions also set horrible precedents that still echo today – something to consider as we write our checks out to the irs in washington city.

    yeah yeah, ww2 was justified, but may all 3 of them burn in hell.

  50. #50 |  Jeff Darcy | 

    As I said before, the fact that slavery might not have been the justification used at the time has no bearing on whether slavery was sufficient justification for the Civil War. That would be disproof by fallacy.

  51. #51 |  David McElroy | 

    Jeff Darcy:

    I don’t think you can reasonably justify a decision except in terms of why the decision was made at the time. If I murder a random man to steal his money, the fact that the man turns out to be an evildoer who was hurting/killing/whatever others doesn’t justify my action. Nobody is going to justify my actions because it stopped the other man’s evil.

  52. #52 |  Jeff Darcy | 

    Deontology is fine, David, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of ethics. There is also a consequentialist perspective to be considered, among others. You analogy is flawed, characterized by a complete absence of any altruistic motive and a reasonable expectation that the outcome will be wholly harmful. In the Civil War case, by contrast, there was at least some belief that there was a principle at stake and that the outcome would be positive for all concerned. A more valid comparison would be to you knocking unconscious a purse thief who turned out to be a murderer as well. Many would consider your actions justified, and those who subscribe to the broken window theory might even credit you with stopping a murderer despite your being unaware that he was such.

    Doing the right thing for bad reasons, doing the right thing for neutral reasons, doing the right thing partly for the wrong reason, etc. are different scenarios. Please don’t play stupid rhetorical games that involve conflating the two, and while you’re at it please stop marking down every comment with which you merely disagree. That’s not what those buttons are for.

  53. #53 |  David McElroy | 

    No, Jeff, I’m simply showing the logical consequence of judging the justification of an action by the end result rather than that actual things which justified the action. You’re the one playing “stupid rhetorical games,” not me. Your logic makes no more sense than that of those who justify the current Iraq war because Saddam Hussein was removed from power.

    And please quit making arrogant and mistaken assumptions about my motives or actions. You’re not omniscient.

  54. #54 |  Ian | 

    Why is 1812 so popular?

    The British were busy with Napoleon, and the US tried for a land grab. I’m sorry, but attempting the conquest of a huge swath of geography is a grossly disproportionate response to losing a few sailors. In my mind, that casus bellum for the war of 1812 is as flimsy as “remember the Maine.”

    Saying that the hope of conquering Upper and Lower Canada was an important unstated reason for going to war is debatable. However, in that facilitating expansion to the west was an explicit American war aim, the war of 1812 was, in that respect at least, a war of aggression with the aim of genocide.

    Here’s President James Madison on the eve of war. (paragraph 8) There, Madison cites purported British support for the “warfare just renewed by the savages” as a casus bellorum against the British. Madison is referring to Tecumseh’s War, an attempt by the Shawnee to overturn the treaty of Treaty of Fort Wayne by which the Americans had seized 12,000 km² of land.

    Tecumseh, 1811. Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mochican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun … Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws … Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields? In Madison’s eyes, this man was a savage whose resistance to American expansionism was unmotivated barbarism.

    Britain was trying to support allied independant nations against American wars of aggression, and President Madison took this to be justification for attacking the British. Of course the British had self-interested reasons for allying with the Shawnee, but how does that make Britain the bad guy?

    My favorite 1812 story — The surrender of Detroit. Abject surrender resulting from American cowardice and racism.

    Heck’ve a job, Madison.

  55. #55 |  David Nieporent | 

    From one poster:

    However, I still maintain that the Confederacy had the right to secede from the U.S., even if slavery was at the center of their conflict with the U.S. government.

    and from another:

    The southern states had every legal and moral right to determine their own political futures, even if they did allow the morally repugnant institution of slavery.

    Again, for libertarians: States do not have rights. Only individuals do. There is no libertarian case for the Confederacy.

    The argument is incoherent in every respect. There are two cases to be made that revolution is legitimate: (1) the government against which one is trying to revolt is oppressive, or (2) government is inherently illegitimate and so has no claim on anybody. The first doesn’t apply, because pretending that the first applies to the antebellum U.S. is absurd. The second makes the southern state governments just as illegitimate as the federal government; it would allow individual southerners to secede from the U.S., but not states.

  56. #56 |  David Nieporent | 

    Oops. More boldfacing than I intended.

    In any case, getting back to the argument over what the civil war was “about”: yes, in elementary school one learns that Lincoln started the war to free the slaves, and that elementary school lesson is oversimplified.

    But the agenda of neoconfederate/paleocon revisionists is not merely to point out that the situation is more complex. It’s to oversimplify the other way, to pretend that Lincoln didn’t care about slavery, that the war had nothing to do with slavery.

  57. #57 |  xyz123 | 

    well, dave, sorry to sound like a neoconfederate paleocon revisionist and all, (way to tar the opposition with the big brush, dude! nothing says ‘class’ like slipping in a pre-emptive ad hominem insult, right?), if – as you say -since nowhere in the constitution does it say that “states have rights” (which is highly doubtful because why would the various states have signed on to an agreement that left them no rights whatsoever, way back in 1787, the very pinnacle of the states rights era?)…..

    then where does it say the federal government has “rights”?

    if “only individuals have rights” according to your interpretation, then how does that justify lincoln claiming powers never granted him? still can’t find the words “draft” or “suspension of habeus corpus in wartime” or “unlimited total war against civilians” in the constitution, much as i try.

  58. #58 |  David Nieporent | 

    if “only individuals have rights” according to your interpretation, then how does that justify lincoln claiming powers never granted him? still can’t find the words “draft” or “suspension of habeus corpus in wartime” or “unlimited total war against civilians” in the constitution, much as i try.

    The constitution explicitly allows for the suspension of habeas corpus in wartime, or rather “when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” It wasn’t even settled at the time who could do so, although the Supreme Court later ruled, probably correctly, that it required an act of Congress rather than the president.

    The constitution also grants Congress the power “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;” which sounds a little like a draft.

    In any case, nothing “justifies Lincoln claiming powers never granted him,” but that’s an entirely separate issue from whether the Civil War was justified. The war doesn’t become unjustified because the president did some bad acts after the war began; those specific acts would be unjustified.

    (I don’t know what your question means, “where does it say the federal government has ‘rights’?” Nowhere. I never said it did.)

  59. #59 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Let us not confuse our Daves and Davids.

  60. #60 |  j a higginbotham | 

    From Wikipedia, Lincoln on 22 Aug 1862:

    My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

  61. #61 |  j a higginbotham | 

    DN: it would allow individual southerners to secede from the U.S., but not states.

    So the states can join the union but can’t leave?
    In the absence of any agreement at the time of joining, I don’t see how that follows.

  62. #62 |  pfjo | 

    20% supported the revolutionary war?? I must say that I have never found the libertarian justifications against the revolution to be anything more than juvenile… but that is obviously just me… and one in five of everyone else who reads this blog.

  63. #63 |  j a higginbotham | 

    you might read comment 12

  64. #64 |  MacK | 

    Where the hell is the war on drugs, the war on illiteracy, the war on terror, the war on fast food, the war on dogs and cats in the home of innocent people, the war on trans fats, the on again off again war on cholesterol, the war on gays, the war on brown skins, the war on white heterosexual males, the war on most of the shit I like, the war on your mother in law, the war on gambling, the war on bottled water?

  65. #65 |  David McElroy | 

    It’s funny how people throw around the term “neoconfederate” in order to demonize those who disagree with their position on the “war of northern aggression.” Believing that the U.S. government was wrong to go to war with the newly independent southern states isn’t the same as approving of the Confederate government or approving of its position on slavery. (In the same way, believing that the U.S. government’s involvement in WW II was legitimate doesn’t mean that you approve of the government’s actions to put Japanese-Americans into concentration camps.)

  66. #66 |  buermann | 

    Not being able to justify British colonization in the first place does rather make answering the poll a fair bit improbable.

  67. #67 |  On Justifiable Wars | Heretical Ideas Blog | 

    […] Radley Balko is polling his readership to see which wars are justified. My friend Jim Henley replies thusly: As an increasingly hardcore peacenik I am probably down, at this point, to half of WWII (vs the Germans – and yes, I believe American policy needlessly provoked war with Japan); sort of Afghanistan; maybe the American Revolution and probably some form of the Civil War. I’d also argue that the war to eject Iraq from Kuwait was justified under international law (collective self-defense), just not wise. […]

  68. #68 |  Jinchi | 

    The Civil War. Hmmm. Does voting “yes” on the civil war mean you support Lincoln’s fight to preserve the Union or the South’s fight for “state’s rights”?

    As I’m sure anyone reading the comments has figured out people from the South don’t think about the civil war the same way people from the rest of the country do.

    As for the idea that Southerners had “every legal and moral right to determine their own political future”; the fact is that the overwhelming majority of people in the South had no legal rights at all. Once you assert the right to hold millions in bondage, it’s absurd to complain that your own freedom is sacrosanct.

  69. #69 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #60 j a higginbotham

    From Wikipedia, Lincoln on 22 Aug 1862:

    My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

    Thank you, sir. And on that note, I rest my case.

  70. #70 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #68 | Jinchi
    As for the idea that Southerners had “every legal and moral right to determine their own political future”; the fact is that the overwhelming majority of people in the South had no legal rights at all. Once you assert the right to hold millions in bondage, it’s absurd to complain that your own freedom is sacrosanct.

    In that sense, there’s no point in discussing any rights or liberties going all the way back to the discovery of North America. After all, while not everyone was an actual slave owner, they certainly tolerated it, making them accessories to the crime. That kind of invalidates all the lofty declarations and high minded pronouncements about our split with Britain as well.

    If immorality in government invalidates a country’s right to sovereignty, then there is no country on the planet that can claim legitimacy.

  71. #71 |  Brian | 

    So the Civil War really had nothing to do with slavery. So I guess the following were irrelevant: Missouri Compromise of 1820, gag rule in Congress (i.e., slavery couldn’t even be mentioned); Nothern rage over Fugitive Slave Act, abolitionists, refusal of Southern postmasters to deliver abolitionist materials, Southern laws making it a felony (even a captial crime in some cases) to make abolitionist statements, Compromise of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, battle over LeCompton Constitution in Kansas leading to “Bloody Kansas,” Dred Scott decision in 1857, and John Brown’s raid to start a slave rebellion in 1859.

    And 7 Southern states seceeded when Lincoln was elected because of his positions on land grant colleges and the transcontinental railroad route.

  72. #72 |  Bill Woolsey | 

    The majority of people in the South were not slaves in 1860.
    Most southerns didn’t own slaves. However, many of them may have hoped that their children or grandchildren would one day be able to own slaves. Others may have feared free blacks.

    I think the fire eaters in South Carolina organized seccession because they feared for the future of slavery after a President was elected who had no support in any slave state.

    I think Virginia left the Union when it became clear that Lincoln would force them to aid in a war against South Carolina.

    The southern heros of the war between the states aren’t the South Carolina fire eaters. It is the Virginia generals– Lee and Jackson. Anyway, some southerners did leave the union over states’ rights. Others left becaue of slavery.

  73. #73 |  David McElroy | 

    Brian, you seem to miss the point that SOME of us are making. It’s not that slavery didn’t have something to do with why the southern states withdrew from the Union. It was a major issue (although it had a lot more to do with economics than morality). But the issue of why the WAR started had to do with Lincoln’s determination not to let those states go their own way. They could have been withdrawing over the issue of chicken soup recipes for all he cared. He and his fellow politicians didn’t want to lose the power that comes from having more territory and more population.

    So, yes, slavery played a huge role in leading to secession. But it’s NOT why the WAR was fought.