The year 1860 would like a word.
In all seriousness, the tendency not to see the secession crisis as an election crisis says interesting things about the memory of the Civil War. I think it's a product of the ideological work done by two otherwise opposed memories.
The Confederate Lost Cause memory alleged that secession was a legitimate right of the states & that the CSA really did secede, something that Lincoln (who considered the CSA a "rebellion") always rejected.
The Union memory of the war worked hard to cement it as a demonstration of American democracy's exceptionalism, & thus hurried to forget its revolutionary origins---a case where the election results were violently rejected by seceded states.
What cultural work is being done by the effort to place the contested 1860 presidential election "outside" the narrative of American history? (Cf. Greg Downs's new book The Second American Revolution on precisely this question.)

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More from @wcaleb

6 Nov
As long as we're all here waiting, let me tell you about James Forten and the long struggle for voting rights in Philadelphia.
Forten was born a free man in PA in 1766. Stood outside the State House to hear the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. Was captured by the British while serving on a patriot privateer in the Revolution. But could he vote in the new republic?
The answer isn't clear. The PA constitution of 1790 technically permitted "every freeman of the age of twenty-one years" who had resided in the state 2 years & paid a tax to vote. No explicit racial barrier. So he's good, right?
Read 17 tweets
28 Jul
1. Here's a short thought experiment that might help students or others understand why historians today reject "states' rights" as the cause of the Civil War. Imagine that 150 years from now, someone tells you that conservatives in 2020 were defenders of states' rights ...
2. That person would be able to produce lots of quotes seeming to support their point. A Texas governor, e.g., saying Texas knows best how to handle its own coronavirus response. Resistance to federal stimulus dollars, etc.
3. But 150-year-old You would remember that 2020 was more complex. You'd point out that Democratic mayors and governors asserted local rights to issue mask orders. And that Republicans supported federal power being used against protestors.
Read 10 tweets
1 Apr 19
Still digesting & reacting to @adamgopnik's new essay in @NewYorker about Reconstruction. But among the questions at the forefront of my mind: Where are the women?…
Where is @TeraHunter's account of African Americans' creative struggle before & after emancipation to win recognition of their marriages & families, a history that challenges his revival of Elkins's comparison of slavery to concentration camps?
Where is Chandra Manning's Troubled Refuge and its narrative of how women and children in "contraband camps" made new claims on the state and challenged prevailing notions of dependency?
Read 14 tweets
18 Mar 19
A good example of a common historical phenomenon that too many non-historians don't know about: the mortgaging of enslaved people to secure credit for their owners. As "people with a price," they were exploited as capital assets, not only as laborers.
For more on this subject, see the important work of Bonnie Martin in @JourSouHist
Here's another example of an antebellum Southerner negotiating a loan of money & hoping to use enslaved people as collateral. From Texas in January 1861.…
Read 4 tweets

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