Friday, October 16, 2009

Lies a-mouldering in the grave

Since no doubt some of their readers are still fighting the Civil War, the AP sees fit, in a story about John Brown's raid 150 years ago today, to give equal time to "the War Between the States". Am I supposed to be happy they didn't call it the War of Northern Aggression?

Now, once again, we flirt with hardened, unbridgeable division:

After decades of mistrust and recrimination over the conflict between slavery and free labor, many in the North and South now found themselves even more fundamentally at odds. As Northerners increasingly hailed Brown as a hero, panicky Southerners execrated him as the devil himself. The tempest over John Brown appeared to shatter any hope of regional reconciliation. As one South Carolina editor put it, "The day of compromise is passed [and] there is no peace for the South in the Union."

It would be too much to claim that John Brown's raid made the Civil War inevitable. But it is fair to say that it helped to create an unbridgeable gap between the free states and the slave power that could only be, as Brown himself put it, "purged away with blood." There are many lessons that can be drawn from John Brown's raid, but the experience of the Civil War ought to stand as a permanent rebuke to the irresponsible incitement of contemporary political figures who trade so easily in rage and resentment.

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