Four Ways These Times are Too Similar to Antebellum US

One of the complaints I voice the most is that leadership doesn’t seem to be listening anymore.

Your Tired Blogger is likely biting off more than he can chew with this one. I’ve thought about this topic for quite a while, frankly, ever since I was young and first studied the American Civil War of the Nineteenth Century. The whole thing haunted me. A country founded on Liberty, fighting over the rights of the States, the rights of the slave and the slave owner, and the struggle of the two very different cultures of the North and the South. I wondered for the next thirty years if it might happen again. And if it did, what would I do? Would I be on the winning side or the losing side?

In the last year, I’ve read two fictional books written just before Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. The curious thing was, I met the author in Gardner’s bookstore a bit over a year ago, the last time I ever had my son. The author was very kind and understanding of the difficulties I endured as the father of a special needs child, and a wannabe writer. I decided to buy his books. They were entertaining reads, but there were rough edges and sometimes I was chagrined to find thoughts and feelings that died when Ron Paul lost.

The books were entitled El Paso Sunrise and El Paso Sunset. I’m not going to criticize the books in this post, they were simply the impetus behind my last years thoughts on a possible Civil War

The central piece of the El Paso fiction books was that Barrack Obama was an evil Muslim who on one hand was the mastermind who was dooming America, but on the other was the fool led by the nose by radical Fundamentalist Muslim terrorists, Chinese and Russian Communists. By the end of the book, I think he’d settled on the idea that the Chinese were the ultimate masterminds, but his premise largely depended on agreement that Obama was evil.

I may go deeper into the books another time, but I’m going to write several posts (not sure how many yet) about the possibility of a modern US Civil War. I’ll begin by analyzing how we have similar dynamics to the beginning of the US Civil War in 1861.

  • 1. Just Like in the Antebellum times, There is Disagreement Over the Powers of the States and the Powers of the Federal Government.
  • 2. While Slavery Is Technically Abolished, There is a Great Deal of Exploitation and Oppression of the Poor.
  • 3. The Election of Lincoln Was Disputed and One Sided. He Won Because He Won the North, and the South Felt Disenfranchised. Now We Have an Urban VS Rural Split.
  • 4. One (Possibly Both) Side(s) Feel as Though the Other is Undermining Their Very Livelihood, as The South Felt the North was Attempting to Impoverish Them With Forced Emancipation

President Abraham Lincoln (C), flanked by Major Allan Pinkerton (L) of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency and General John A. McClernand (R), visits the Union camp at Sharpsburg, Maryland in October 1862, a few weeks after the Battle of Antietam. Image from

1. Just Like in the Antebellum times, There is Disagreement Over the Powers of the States and the Powers of the Federal Government.

While there is debate over just how important the issue of State’s Rights was to the catastrophe that was the Civil War, there is no denying that at least on the surface the South rallied around the words. John Calhoun delivered some moving speeches on the topic which moved me as a youngster, making me doubt my own predilections toward Northern sympathy. I will leave a few links for those who want more information, and give my own Tired Blogger analysis.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn! Here we have your Tired Blogger posing for GQ with a top-shelf hair piece. Image capture from

There was a great deal of turmoil for a few years after the American Revolution succeeded. What did “liberty” mean? Obviously, no one is truly completely free, only God can claim that. There are certain reasonable limits to how far one can stretch the premise, but what were those limits? The debate has never ended. Honestly, I feel that there is much strength to be found in the debate over where the boundaries should be drawn. Does liberty mean an endless supply of bread and circuses? Does liberty mean I can do whatever I want, damn the consequences? What if I want to hurt my neighbor? What if my neighbor wants to hurt me and I defend myself?

The debate began right after the first “shot heard ’round the world.” We’d scraped together a hurried agreement called The Articles of Confederation. To be fair, I don’t doubt they were better than what a Tired Blogger would come up with. However, they were woefully inadequate for the task of governing thirteen states so diversely constituted. Our Founding Fathers knew this, and so they agreed to meet and hammer out an answer. Thor was not invited or invoked.

At any rate, one of the debates that remained at the heart of hammering out the Constitution was States Rights. The Articles made the individual states more powerful than the Federation. This was becoming untenable. So the Constitution was written over the course of the hot summer of 1787. Some of the issues were never really settled. We wrote a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, and even fought a Civil War, but the debate rages on. Deseret News gives an example of how, some decades before the Civil War, there were Yankees hankering for secession from the South.

An entire region felt itself besieged. The cards of power seemed stacked against a tiny, beleaguered cluster of states. Federal policy, pursued by a president from another part of the country, was wrecking the region’s interests. Some of the region’s leading statesmen held a convention to coordinate a united response. Firebrands talked of secession. The region’s handful of states, they insisted, might abandon the American Union and forge a regional confederacy all their own.

“The year was 1814, not 1860, and the place was Hartford, Connecticut, not Charleston, South Carolina. The aggrieved partisans were New England Federalists enraged by James Madison’s war with England, not Southern Democrats alarmed by Abraham Lincoln’s election. Fortunately for the country, the threat of secession from the Hartford Convention of December 1814 was not serious. The firebrands were swiftly sidelined. Wiser heads prevailed. In time, news of Gen. Andrew Jackson’s victory at the battle of New Orleans vindicated President Madison’s administration of the War of 1812 and made the Hartford delegates look disloyal. But for a brief moment, a band of northern discontents had flown the flag of sovereign states’ rights.”

It is interesting how the tables turned so much by the 1860s.

Cartoon from Wikipedia. takes up the story in the next decade, detailing how we tried compromise in The Missouri Compromise of 1820, but the struggle got ratcheded up every time a new state would join the Union. Tensions mounted, as each side felt the other was more polarized.

Sound familiar? The site proceeds:

“As long as there were an equal number of slave-holding states in the South as non-slave-holding states in the North, the two regions had even representation in the Senate and neither could dictate to the other. However, each new territory that applied for statehood threatened to upset this balance of power. Southerners consistently argued for states rights and a weak federal government but it was not until the 1850s that they raised the issue of secession. Southerners argued that, having ratified the Constitution and having agreed to join the new nation in the late 1780s, they retained the power to cancel the agreement and they threatened to do just that unless, as South Carolinian John C. Calhoun put it, the Senate passed a constitutional amendment to give back to the South “the power she possessed of protecting herself before the equilibrium of the two sections was destroyed.”

“Controversial—but peaceful—attempts at a solution included legal compromises, arguments, and debates such as the Wilmot Proviso in 1846, Senator Lewis Cass’ idea of popular sovereignty in the late 1840s, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates in 1858. However well-meaning, Southerners felt that the laws favored the Northern economy and were designed to slowly stifle the South out of existence. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was one of the only pieces of legislation clearly in favor of the South. It meant that Northerners in free states were obligated, regardless of their feelings towards slavery, to turn escaped slaves who had made it North back over to their Southern masters. Northerners strongly resented the law and it was one of the inspirations for the publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852.

“Non-violent attempts at resolution culminated in violence in 1859 when Northern abolitionist John Brown abandoned discussion and took direct action in a raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Though unsuccessful, the raid confirmed Southern fears of a Northern conspiracy to end slavery. When anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860, Southerners were sure that the North meant to take away their right to govern themselves, abolish slavery, and destroy the Southern economy. Having exhausted their legal and political options, they felt that the only way to protect themselves from this Northern assault was to no longer be a part of the United States of America. Although the Southern states seceded separately, without intending to form a new nation, they soon banded together in a loose coalition. Northerners, however, led by Abraham Lincoln, viewed secession as an illegal act. The Confederate States of America was not a new country, they felt, but a group of treasonous rebels.”

Fort Sumter after the Confederacy took it, igniting the Civil War.

The North won the Civil War. In most folks’ minds that settled the question. The States had some rights, but they were frankly little more than whatever the Federal Government felt like giving them. tells us more about how the debate has fared since the Civil War. It is a fascinating interview with a Columbia Law Professor about the strength of the 10th Amendment. The long and the short of it is, if we like a Federal Law, the 10th Amendment doesn’t apply to it. If we don’t like a Federal Law, the 10th Amendment clearly stands against it.

You are seeing the logic.

2. While Slavery Is Technically Abolished, There is a Great Deal of Exploitation and Oppression of the Poor.

This one could arguably be my weakest point, but I will still discuss this, and you be the judge. I know I have to be careful about making too strong of an analogy between the “wage slavery” of this century, and the true slavery of the Nineteenth Century. I held firmly to a strong belief that we have descended into true slavery until I watched a YouTube video with John Greene discussing that we are much less oppressed than the actual slaves were. While I feel he underestimates the gap, he did persuade me that I vastly overestimated the gap. If I could remember the video I’d share it here. If someone remembers please feel free to share in the comments.

But I do believe that is a fact that we are, as a whole, more oppressed today than we have been at any time in the last seventy years. And I believe that contributes to the possibility of a Civil War.

I’ll leave links to some sites that provide insight into the topic.

As Daenerys discovers on Game of Thrones, freeing slaves can be difficult. Image from

The debate over how much slavery was a motive for fighting the Civil War is a pretty thorny issue. To quote,

 “Lincoln had no desire to invade the South, and he told them so. His sole objective was to save the Union. In his Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861, he told the seceded states, “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors.” However, the South did not believe him. And so they went to war, not so much as to leave the Union but to save slavery. In late 1862, believing it had become essential to win the war, Lincoln signed an Emancipation Proclamation freeing all the slaves in the Confederate states. The war then became not just a war to save the Union but a war to end slavery.

“These…reasons make it clear that whatever the causes were thought to be, they all connected back to slavery. There would not have been a civil war if slavery had not existed.”

Is it possible that the plight of the poor man has become so egregious that, while he is significantly better off than the slave of the 19th century, he may still be desperate enough to believe that war may be the only answer to his poverty?

Yes times are hard, but I hope most of us are at least safe from this level of abuse. Image from

The New York Times has this to say about the times we live in:

A couple of years before he was convicted of securities fraud, Martin Shkreli was the chief executive of a pharmaceutical company that acquired the rights to Daraprim, a lifesaving antiparasitic drug. Previously the drug cost $13.50 a pill, but in Shkreli’s hands, the price quickly increased by a factor of 56, to $750 a pill. At a health care conference, Shkreli told the audience that he should have raised the price even higher. “No one wants to say it, no one’s proud of it,” he explained. “But this is a capitalist society, a capitalist system and capitalist rules.”

“This is a capitalist society. It’s a fatalistic mantra that seems to get repeated to anyone who questions why America can’t be more fair or equal. But around the world, there are many types of capitalist societies, ranging from liberating to exploitative, protective to abusive, democratic to unregulated. When Americans declare that “we live in a capitalist society” — as a real estate mogul told The Miami Herald last year when explaining his feelings about small-business owners being evicted from their Little Haiti storefronts — what they’re often defending is our nation’s peculiarly brutal economy. “Low-road capitalism,” the University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Joel Rogers has called it. In a capitalist society that goes low, wages are depressed as businesses compete over the price, not the quality, of goods; so-called unskilled workers are typically incentivized through punishments, not promotions; inequality reigns and poverty spreads. In the United States, the richest 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the country’s wealth, while a larger share of working-age people (18-65) live in poverty than in any other nation belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.).”

I’m frankly getting tired of calling myself a capitalist. I still sincerely believe that the best economic system we have discovered is capitalism, but I am totally against giant megacorps that ruin (I mean run) our lives. I’m totally against lying and cheating to make a fortune and then justifying it with “We live in a capitalist society.” By the same reasoning, the thug who mugs me is justified. “I was just trying to make money.” Come on America, grow up already!

In a capitalist society that goes low, wages are depressed as businesses compete over the price, not the quality, of goods; so-called unskilled workers are typically incentivized through punishments, not promotions; inequality reigns and poverty spreads. I think this image tells the story best. Image from Brooking’s Institute.

While the wealthiest among us profit from our labor and misery, true enslavement continues to climb. According to NPR, the number of people who can be labeled as slaves by the UN definition grew by ten million over the last five years, climbing from 40 million to 50 million. The article I cite is painfully enlightening. According to the report, there are “estimated roughly 22 million people were living in forced marriages in 2021. The number of people involuntarily wedded grew by 6.6 million compared to 2016. Nearly two-thirds of all forced marriages were found to be in Asia and the Pacific, followed by Africa, the survey found.

“One of the drivers of forced and child marriages is poverty — oftentimes financially desperate families see marriage as a means to secure a stable future for their children, according to the report.”

It was discovered that slavery occurs at least as often in wealthy nations as it does in poor nations. One of the largest reasons is…you shoulda have known. Megacorps. I quote NPR one more time.

“One reason is because wealthier countries participate in and benefit from global supply chains — multinational business operations where forced labor tends to be harder to inspect, Forrest said. Those companies account for 80 percent of forced labor cases, she added.”

3. The Election of Lincoln Was Disputed and One-Sided. He Won Because He Won the North, and the South Felt Disenfranchised. Now We Have Urban Democrats VS Rural Trump Republicans.

Contested Republican elections. The first one led to a Civil War. Will the last one accomplish the same? Image from

My personal life has suddenly gone to hell. I likely will not be back on this website, but I wanted to at least publish what I have. If nothing else maybe it will be a good outline for when/if I come back.


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