Anyone who has bought into the widely reported idea that the problems of rural Alaska are rooted in a lack of law enforcement needs to take a look at a new study by RAND Corporation researchers who found that more than half of the unemployed men in their 30s in the United States have a criminal arrest record and that the consequences ripple through society in many ways.
There are no state-by-state breakdowns on how exactly this plays out across the country but long before ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for -claiming to have discovered crime problems in rural Alaska – the land of the unemployed – the crime problems there were well documented.
“Today, Alaska Natives face extraordinarily high rates of domestic violence, sexual
assault, child abuse, juvenile suicide, and alcohol and substance abuse,” the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tribal Consultation on Public Safety in Alaska Native Villages reported in 2017. “Earlier this year, the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice released a study showing that more than four in five Alaska Native women – and more than one in three Alaska Native men – have experienced violence in their lifetimes.
“In 2013, the Indian Law and Order Commission concluded that Alaska Natives are disproportionately affected by crime and that public-safety problems in tribal communities are systematically more severe in Alaska than in the rest of the United States.
“In 2012, the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission reported
that, while Alaska Natives represent about 19 percent of the State’s total population, they are twice as likely to be represented in the State’s juvenile-justice and adult correctional systems, and more than three times as likely to be represented in the State’s child-protection system.”
The situation didn’t improve in the years that followed any of those reports, and the new Rand study points to some of the key reasons why.
“There are strong links between social isolation, persistent unemployment, crime, and involvement with the criminal justice system,” the authors of that study write.
Isolation largely defines rural Alaska, and the unemployment rate is so high many there – especially men – have simply stopped looking for work. As the Alaska Department of Labor has noted, most of the employment in rural villages is tied to jobs working for local, state and federal governments, and most of those jobs are in the areas of health and education where government funding is at its highest.
Women everywhere dominate that segment of the economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which reports that in 2019 women held 74.8 percent of the jobs in education and health services.
Times have changed
Once things were much different in rural Alaska than they are today. Once the subsistence lifestyle served to counteract both of those modern constructs of isolation and unemployment.
True subsistence required that people work constantly in order to survive. It wasn’t that long ago that almost everyone in rural Alaska was heating their home with wood, sawing the wood by hand, and cutting and hauling chunks of ice to melt for water.
Not to mention maintaining dog teams for transportation that drove up the need to not only hunt and fish to feed one’s self and one’s family, but to feed the dogs as well. People then were too busy trying to survive to spend much time thinking about unemployment or isolation.
A 1950 film by the late Fred Machetanz well illustrates how demanding this lifestyle.
It is somewhat hard to believe that film was produced only a couple of years before I was born and only a little more than a couple of decades before I arrived in Alaska. By then life in the north was already considerably easier than in 1950, but in rural areas it still remained hard and very isolated.
Alaska still lacked for live TV in the early 1970s, and the internet hadn’t even been imagined. Snowmachines were still an unreliable alternative to a dog team. The state’s Interior rivers were traveled in Grumman freighter canoes with low-powered kickers, not in high-power, high-speed jetboats.
And nobody who got in trouble in the wild pushed a button on a satellite-linked personal communicator to summon a rescue if they got in trouble. You saved yourself, got lucky and were saved by someone else, or died.
People had to be tough, hard-working and adaptable to survive. Technology has changed so much since then.
Over time, snowmachines, all-terrain vehicles, high-speed powerboats, chainsaws and other “conveniences”, for lack of a better word, radically reduced the amount of time that need be spent on subsistence activities, and various forms of government assistance arrived to aid those not up to managing any sort of subsistence life.
Along with these changes, there came television and then the internet as well. The two worked together to provide those in rural Alaska a vivid view of how much easier life is for those living in the urban world of the 21st century, and to ponder why they can’t have that lifestyle.
Years ago, I remember sitting down with a resident of the village of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island far out in the Bering Sea. He told me he’d once written a story for a California newspaper about what he wanted out of life.
Curious, I asked him if I could read it. He went and dug out an old and yellowing clip that described a desire for a job and a suburban home atop a two-car garage. There are no suburbs in rural Alaska, few jobs and even fewer homes above two-car garages.
As of December, the national unemployment rate in the U.S. stood at 3.7 percent with the overall Alaska rate at 5.4 percent, according to the Alaska Department of Labor. But the rate in rural Alaska was nearly double the state rate and approaching triple the federal rate at near 11 percent in the state’s Bethel Census Area and the Bristol Bay Borough in far Western Alaska.
In the Kusilvak Census Area north of Bethel, a regional hub for the West, the rate was at 16.2 percent. In the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area in the northcentral part of the state, it was at 10.1 percent.
The unemployment rate in the Kusilvak region is now greater than that of the U.S. during the Dust Bowl years that accompanied the second year of The Great Depression. And the unemployment rate only counts those looking for work. It doesn’t register the people who have simply given up, something that really wasn’t an option during the Depression.
There were little in the way of local, state or federal assistance programs at the start of that long, dark period in American history. Much has changed since, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program alone reports it now “provides federal assistance resources throughout rural Alaska and has invested $2.16 billion dollars in 236 rural communities in the last eight years.”
That averages out to an investment of about $270 million per year. The funds help keep villages functioning. Meanwhile, the state of Alaska administers a wide variety of programs designed to keep people alive:
- Adult Public Assistance with monthly cash payments and medical assistance for the elderly, blind and disabled.
- Alaska Temporary Assistance Program with monthly cash payments for families with children.
- General Relief Assistance for individuals and families with emergency rent and utility needs.
- Heating Assistance Program to help defray winter home heating costs by providing annual grant fuel vendor if this function is performed by tribal providers.
- Interim Assistance payments to people waiting to find out if they qualify for Adult Public Assistance.
- Senior Benefits with monthly cash payments to eligible low-income seniors
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNP benefits, formerly known as food stamps) to help people buy food.
- And the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) assistance in the form of education and cash for women with young children.
Collectively, these programs have become vital to physical survival in parts of rural Alaska, but they don’t do much for anyone’s emotional survival. Work, if nothing else, provides some structure in the lives of most people, and without that structure, too many are inclined to slide into criminal activities.
The RAND study concluded that men “who were unemployed between the ages of 30 and 38 had substantial levels of involvement with the criminal justice system. The majority had been arrested at least once, almost 40 percent had been convicted at least once, and more than 20 percent had been incarcerated at least once. The results were very similar when we included recently discouraged workers and those who were working fewer hours than they wanted.”
The numbers are troubling, and the problems are not easily resolved by just adding more police in areas with crime problems. There is a limit to how much deterrence law enforcement can provide.
As Livia Gershon summarized the situation at JSTOR, a digital library for scholars and researchers, “one meta-analysis by John Eck and Edward Maguire found that only nine of the 41 studies they looked at (on this subject) were rigorous enough to take seriously. Reviewing those nine papers, they found no evidence that the police had a real effect on the 1990s drop in crime.
“Advocates for beefing up police forces often point to New York City’s huge reduction in crime after instituting intensive “broken windows” style policing. Looking at 12 major U.S. cities, Paternoster acknowledges that New York added the most police and saw the biggest decline in violent crime. But the pattern doesn’t hold up in the other cities. For example, Seattle’s violent crime rate dropped by about 44 percent while it reduced its police force by 9 percent, and Baltimore added 20 percent more cops without any resulting change in the crime rate. Meanwhile, Canada experienced a drop in many types of crime similar to the United States’ in the ’90s despite reducing its police force by 10 percent.”
The value of work
Poverty doesn’t always breed crime. There are poor societies that function with low levels of crime, but in the U.S. crime and poverty are clearly linked.
Researchers Adam Looney and Nicholas Turner at Brookings, a U.S. think tank, in 2018 used Internal Revenue Service data to study the backgrounds of then more than 2.2 million people in American prisons and found that in the three years prior to incarceration, only 49 percent of prime-age men were employed and, when employed, their median earnings were only $6,250.
The duo went on to observe that the road to prison for most of these people started long before the three-year window detailed in their data.
They found “that boys who grew up in families in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution – families earning less than about $14,000 – are 20 times more likely to be in prison on a given day in their early 30s than children born to the wealthiest families – those earning more than $143,000,” Brookings reported. “The authors estimate that almost one in ten boys born to lowest-income families are incarcerated at age 30 and make up about 27 percent of prisoners at that age.”
Poverty isn’t destiny. There are people in the U.S. who still pull themselves up by the proverbial bootstraps, but those born into poverty are undeniably pushed toward criminality.
And a U.S Department of Agriculture report in Rural Poverty & Well-being released just days ago puts the childhood poverty rate in most of rural Alaska at between 23 and 33 percent.
Those kids couldn’t ask for a much worse start to life.
“Research has shown that the poor living in areas where poverty is prevalent face impediments beyond those of their individual circumstances,” the report adds. “Concentrated poverty contributes to poor housing and health conditions, higher crime and school dropout rates, and employment dislocations. As a result, economic conditions in very poor areas can create limited opportunities for poor residents that become self-perpetuating.”
Self-perpetuating problems are the story of rural Alaska today, and it is foolish to think that just adding more cops in the “Bush,” as everyone used to call it, will change much.
Police are in the business of investigating crimes and apprehending the people who committed them not solving the problems that lead to crime in the first place. And though societal pressures can, in some cases, help to reduce the crime rate among those struggling with poverty, consider this study from economic well off Norway where janteloven is said to prevail.
“Janteloven (the law of Jante) at its simplest describes the way that all Norwegians (and in fact, other Scandinavians too) behave: putting society ahead of the individual, not boasting about individual accomplishments, and not being jealous of others,” according to the website Life in Norway.
This might help to make life better in rural Norway than in rural Alaska, but its power to control crime is clearly limited if researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the country’s Stavanger and Oslo universities, and the Waterhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve in the U.S. are to be believed.
They in 2019 reported on a study of 361,385 men aged 18 to 40 who were laid off from work because of manufacturing plant closures or business downsizing from 1992 to 2008 using what they described as “Norwegian register data that include a rich array of socioeconomic and demographic variables for the entire resident population, as well as all criminal charges brought against any resident….”
One in five of those 360,000 men subsequently ended up in trouble with the law.
The researchers also noted a link not only between unemployment and crime, but between lower education levels and greater odds of criminality. Rural Alaska has this problem, too.
A 2019 report on rural schools prepared for the national School Superintendents Association found that rural Alaska “had the lowest graduation rate among rural districts of any state in the U.S. at 72.3 percent” despite the 49th state spending a nation-leading average of $14,380 per pupil on education.
Thirty-three of the 50 U.S. states spend less than half of what Alaska does, according to the report, and all of them have better graduation rates. Idaho spent less than a third of what Alaska spends and graduated more than 85 percent of rural students. No states other than Alaska fell under a 75 percent graduation rate.
And then there is this from Norway:
“Our findings do highlight a specific target for policy intervention on the basis of the relatively large effects of displacement on drug/alcohol crimes. Given this finding, programs designed to discourage alcohol/drug abuse targeted to displaced young men, could yield sizable welfare improvement for the men, while also reducing crimes stemming from that abuse, which includes violence.”
The rural Alaska problem with drugs and alcohol is legendary. The Anchorage Daily News in 1989 won a Pulitizer for its “People in Peril” study documenting the problems of rural Alaska Natives. The series basically suggested that if people in rural Alaska would just stop drinking so much the problems plaguing the region would end.
Efforts to create dry villages where alcohol was banned followed, and the state has spent tens of millions of dollars on enforcement to try to keep booze and drugs out of villages. When the ADN with the help of ProPublica revisited rural Alaska 30 years later, the problems were still there, and the answer this time was to add more law enforcement.
It’s not the answer, but finding people work to help them lift themselves out of poverty might help. Alaska is unlikely to ever match Norway’s poverty rate of 0.5 percent, but it ought to be a statewide embarrassment to have a rural poverty rate 25 times Norway.
If the RAND researchers and others are right, putting people to work to help fix this problem might solve a lot of other problems as well. The Nation Master website ranks the overall crime level in Norway at about half that of the U.S. And Alaska has a crime rate about twice that of the U.S., according to World Population Review, which reports the 49th state trails only the District of Columbia and New Mexico in that order as national leaders.
The researchers studying jobs in Norway more or less offered a warning that the situation like that in Alaska is a recipe for disaster observing that the result of their study “pertain to a specific context (Norway), where employment rates and income levels are relatively high, rates of serious crime and incarceration are relatively low, and a generous social safety net exists which reduces the material hardship resulting from displacement.
“In countries where the financial implications of job loss are more severe, such as the U.S. we might anticipate a larger crime response operating through both the earnings replacement and mental distress/self-control mechanisms.”
In the U.S., rural Alaska appears to be the poster child for that “larger crime response operating through both the earnings replacement (by turning to crime) and the mental distress/self-control mechanisms.”
Or, as the RAND researchers recently put it, the community disintegration linked to “social isolation, persistent unemployment, crime, and involvement with the criminal justice system.”
Categories: Commentary, News
Money is just a correlation. Just a symptom of cultural problems. Parents can do good child rearing despite lack of money. Education level and belief system is closer to problem root. Parents must teach children to strive for ethical growth. Parents intill work ethic honesty integrity self discipline self sacrifice and a desire to improve self . Law enforcement is just an idiots crux . Money is just a weak excuse for recognition of what’s lacking.
Thomas Jefferson said – he believes in luck and his luck improves the harder he works .
So, what is Anchorage’s crime excuse? What do Seattle, Portland, and Cali cities have in common? I did see where Amazon was relocating 1,800 out of Seattle due to high crime. Just saying.
“……3/5ths of a person-do I need to say more?…….”
Sure. Would you agree to consider recognizing human fetuses as 3/5ths of a person? Especially if a father doesn’t want his child killed? Or even half, if the father doesn’t care? Would that math be racist?
“…….Why was opium made illegal? Marijuana? Crack cocaine vs cocaine laws?……”
Because narcotics and addiction are socially and economically corrosive and destructive. Why has your historical education not outlined that universal fact for you?
“…….3/5ths of a person-do I need to say more?…….
Slavery, by definition and historical precedent, had its foundation in economic ideology and law (until 1863), not race. Freed slaves were counted as 5/5ths citizen. Yes, race has become a weapon of propaganda since 1863 by people like yourself. Today sex is the predominate motivator for slavery, from our urban cities to the Alaska Bush. So is sexism also a foundation of our legal system?
Your history education failed you. At the Constitutional Convention, slave holding states demanded all slaves be counted on a 1:1 basis of population, which would have givien those states overwhelming political control of congress and the electoral college. None of the slaves at the time had any rights at all, much less were able to vote.
Free states demanded they count for zero, based on their actual political power at the time. The 3/5 compromise basically split the baby. Better, it created an off ramp away from slavery as an economic reality. Had this compromise not been made, there would not have been a nation.
And today, the only people who use race and sex as weapons are those of you on the political left, too blinded by your own hatred and anger at those who disagree with you to comprehend or even consider that there might just be any other point of view. Sucks to be you. Cheers –
how quaint.Just wondering when did Native Americans first receive official citizenship,and further, when were they given on whole the right to vote in these here United States…..
Dave Mc, the Indians were a conquered people.. They were lucky they weren’t driven into the sea. They were owed nothing, yet received a lot. I mean if you want to get all factual and all.
Obviously your grasp of history and facts fall short.Whered you go to high school at by chance?
Dave Mc says: “how quaint.Just wondering when did Native Americans first receive official citizenship,and further, when were they given on whole the right to vote in these here United States…..”
Dunno. If they want to be separate nations, then as far as I am concerned, they have as much right to participate in America as citizens of Uzbekistan. OTOH, if they want to be Americans, come on in, water’s fine, neighbor. If they want to be both (which is the case today), that’s not gonna work very well, interestingly enough creating the problems of today. Choose one or the other. Choose wisely. And we’ll go on from there. Cheers –
Has anyone ever done a study where a “Superior” civilization comes in & tells the people that the Sacred beliefs that have sustained them for so many years, including our ceremonies, are devil worship & must not be practiced. Take the children (some as young as 7, me included) & indoctrinate them in boarding schools so that they lose their language, their sewing skills, dances, ceremonies, etc, etc. This sounds like a sure recipe for the “Inferior” race, don’t you agree?
None if it is good. But the planet is peopled by many groups that have gone through this hell because the world changes.
But I don’t know where you the idea that makes anyone an Inferior race. Jews have the shit beaten out of them by a wide variety of races for thousands of years, and it almost seems to have made them a superior race. All the Jews I know personally and most of those I have known over the years are very successful people.
And I’d have to say the same about a lot of the Alaska Natives, I’ve known personall personally. Far and away the most, actually. But I also now know a lot more urban Natives, or Natives splitting time between the urban and rural worlds, than rural Natives, and a lot of the rural Natives I knew best were in Southeast which is in many ways a different world from the rest of Alaska.
The prison-industrial complex couldn’t have come up with a better growth plan than providing money for food, housing and fuel to mothers based on the number of babies in inner-cities and remote Alaska. Now that males are unnecessary they can go to jail.
I look at your piece and see certain similarities in the homeless problems of cities in the US and elsewhere. People give up, drown their hopelessness in alcohol, or in drugs, and end up on the sidewalk or in the morgue. Are there answers? It isn’t just education, it is better use of our people. In Alaska as elsewhere, there are skills these people have that could be taught to others, such as survival in the wild. Homesteading is making a comeback as people see food costs going out of sight. Can some of these skills be taught? Yes. Hunters could be taught better techniques and could also learn more respect for rural Alaska, by having courses in the villages where they could be taught survival and other native skills that helped the natives survive for thousands of years. It might break down barriers between urban and rural Alaska. But it would take time to set it up. If people learned that they have more in common than differences those who peddle hate through such programs as critical race theory and regionalism would have fewer audiences. Maybe we could finally work together and solve our problems together.
Shelia, Is this so called “homeless problem” actually a mental health stigma and a mental health access problem?
The old saying “Idle Hands are the Devil’s playground.” rings true
THIS is Pulitzer material itself. It pulls a lot of things together. Thanks.
Given the nature of things today, I’m not sure if “Pulitzer material” is meant as a compliment or an insult.
Having lived in numerous villages during the 70’s and 80’s I saw firsthand the violence caused by alcohol, drugs (including huffing gasoline & spray paint), depression, and lack of job opportunities. We hired local; however, many would quit and head for the big city upon receiving their first check. Steady job opportunities did not and do not exist. The young were especially affected. In most cases, children were encouraged by relatives to not leave home even though opportunities there were nonexistent.
When a crime did occur, there was often a reluctance for anyone to say anything. This was often due to so many being related and the stigma of “snitching”.
Governments (Taxpayers) financially supporting villages allows the tradition of hopelessness to continue. Realistically, the majority of villages are unable to exist on their own or provide opportunities for their inhabitants. Living in a village has become a death sentence for generations of Youths. The villages would be wonderful fish camps and hunting camps for the Youth to return to while living where life supporting opportunities exist.
“…….He went and dug out an old and yellowing clip that described a desire for a job and a suburban home atop a two-car garage. There are no suburbs in rural Alaska, few jobs and even fewer homes above two-car garages……..”
Medred, don’t you know that those houses just pop up out of the ground like posies? You go to the bank, sign a paper, and move in. That’s how it works for suburbanites. If it doesn’t work like that for urban slums and remote villages, it’s simply discrimination. Stop worrying about it. Government will fix it as soon as they read your article, just like they fixed the crime problem after Pulitzer, et al, decided that was a problem.
Given the racist foundation of our criminal legal system
should it be no surprise? If Biden cared about racial
justice he would pardon all non-violent offenders in this country (a national do-over) and put an end to victimless crimes like drug use.
I’m not sure if you’re being facetious or serious.
Is it really a given? I think there are quite a few who would argue that point. And to pardon all non-violent offenders seems just a little more than a little extreme. Do you really think all non-violent crimes are victimless? What about blue-collar crimes, are they ok and require no punishment whatsoever?
I think we all can agree our laws and courts are racially biased. See original opium laws, marijuana laws, crack laws and so on. So if we are going to have racial justice we have to have a universal do over. Sure it won’t be great, but either is having your mom in jail for smoking weed. Next thing you know you are going to tell me our countries constitution was not racial biased?
I don’t think we can all agree to that. It sounds like you think our drug laws are or were all racially biased, more than you think our entire criminal legal system is. Is that the case or did I misunderstand you? There were certainly a number of drug laws that were written with clear racial bias, there’s no denying that. But there is a lot more to our entire criminal justice system than just a few drug laws.
The Constitution is not racially biased, some of those who wrote it certainly were but it was a compromise of the times with people who believed different things. Slavery is an ugly stain upon our country, it’s also one we shed along time ago…our Constitution saw to that and allowed that. Obviously the US Constitution was not a perfect document, those who wrote it were aware of that hence the ability to amend.
“…….racist foundation of our criminal legal system……”? So is it the definition of “crime” that is the foundation, or is it the laws themselves that are the foundations of this racism? Why is it that I cannot find in the law any mention of race in the definition or prosecution, for example, of murder? People of every race are prosecuted for crimes in this state and nation, so exactly what are you trying to say? What is this “foundation” of which you write?
3/5ths of a person-do I need to say more?
murder? too you that is a victimless crime? oy vey
There are many victims of drug use, including the user. Shoplifting to support drug use cost the companies and consumers BILLIONS of dollars every year. Consumers must make up for these losses by paying higher prices. Health care for drug abusers also costs Billions every year. In a small town in Pennsylvania, a user received NARCAN 7 times in one year. Where does this insanity stop?
Murders, domestic violence, suicides, overdoses, robberies, burglaries, and driving while impaired affect the user and other members of society. Yes, I hear Your reply; the same can be said about alcohol.
Most of what you list is related to drugs being hard to come by. Many countries and states have discovered legalizing all drugs leads to fewer problems. But my point which no one seems to take issue with is our countries drug laws and associated penalitirs have always been race based.
Jeff, what “racist foundation” are you talking about”? The fact that 6% of the 13% do 70% of all violent crime in this country? I’d say the “racist” criminal justice system has been WAY too lenient in her punishment. Time to bring back “ole smokey” and solve societies problem for good.
What part of non-violent is not clear? Read our constitution-not all men are created equal under our foundation. Why was opium made illegal? Marijuana? Crack cocaine vs cocaine laws? come on there is nothing un-American about being aware of our history of a race based legal system.
Steve-O, slavery was a necessary “stain” on a lot of countries. The majority of those countrie’s slaves had it a heck of a lot worse then slaves in the USA. They certainly weren’t rewarded trillions of dollars to make amends either. According to historical records and black scholars the US received approximately 300,000 slaves out of 10 million. A very small “stain”. That debt has been more than paid off.
I’m not sure necessary is the right word, and I’m also not sure comparing how bad slavery was from one country to another is a way to show how great the slaves in the US had their forced bondage. I believe the number is closer to 600,000 Africans that were shipped across the Atlantic to America during the slave trade. There were many, many more white slaves in the US during that time but they are little talked about, as you know racism is a one way street. Slavery left a huge stain on our history. Our country was literally and figuratively divided over it, if you aren’t aware of that you should open a history book. There was a war called the Civil War that divided Northern and Southern States, brothers took up arms against each other, a President was assassinated because of it, economies were built and destroyed, hundreds of thousands of Americans died to rid us of slavery Slavery wasn’t and isn’t a very small stain in our countries history. I’m not aware of any former slaves who were awarded trillions of dollars for their troubles, most died without ever once being able to breathe a breath as a free person.
Slavery and bondage is another one of the many human conditions that we as a species have largely decided is inhumane, but is still practiced worldwide. Today just as in the past it rarely has to do with race, but as was pointed out in another comment the persons sex is a big reason for slavery now.
Come on Steve-O, the Civil wasn’t fought over slavery and you know. Lincoln even said “if I could end the war tomorrow without freeing a slave, I’d do it”. I say “necessary” because John Deere wasn’t invented yet.. When I say 330,000 slaves I am referring to African slaves since that always seems to be the gripe..If I am not mistaken Kamala’s own family owned slaves. Slavery at the time was no different than the abortion issue of today. Probably less.. Sure, you had psycho Abolitionists like John Brown, but for the most part most people were indifferent towards it. A war was not fought over it. I am going off memory, but if I am not mistaken it didn’t even become an issue until 2yrs into the war (1863) with the Emancipation Proclamation. More bark than bite. I believe 170,000 blacks where willing to fight for the South as well. There are stories /letters of slaves desecrating union soldier bodies and showing anger towards their masters allegiance to the north after the war. All interesting history we hear little about. Not even going into the Democrat Party’s racist past.
I think you need to review your history. The first seven states that seceded from the Union did so after Lincolns election, which some in the South viewed as an act of war, because they wanted slavery to be unfettered in the western territories. The Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 were all enacted to try and control the westward expansion of slavery. Slavery in this country was an issue long before war was declared.
The quote you provided is incorrect and taken out of context. What Lincoln said in part to Horace Greeley in August 1862 was:
“I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. 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. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.” Lincoln had already read a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet a month before this letter was penned, in short he had already committed to freeing the slaves.
I’m aware that there was a number of black people who fought for the South, there were black slave owners as well in those times. There were a number of slaves who fought for the South although they most likely did not do so of their own volition, being that they were slaves.
Let’s not forget that the Republican Party was founded in large part to abolish slavery and that Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President.
Steve- O I guess it all depends on which side of the Mason-Dixon you reside on. Northern side you were taught slavery as the cause of the Civil War, South side it was State Rights.
But slavery was not the cause of the war. The tariff, a tax on imported goods, was the sole cause of the war. Northern manufacturers, who had gained political control in northern states, wanted the government to lay heavy taxes on foreign commerce to “protect” their businessed. The South, however, was dependent on foreign commerce for its prosperity and wanted low tariffs. Political and business leaders on both sides realized that further argument was useless, that the tariff rate depended on the balance of power in Congress between the northern and southern states.
The slavery controversy that so roiled Congress in the years prior to the war did not arise from concern of northerners for the welfare of southern slaves. It arose solely as a scheme by tariff advocates to shift the balance of power in Congress by restricting the westward migration of slave labor and preserving slavery where it already existed.
So, things weren’t black and white as they say…
But, slavery does sound like a good reason for dirt poor farmers to fight a war while hungry and barefooted..
I get the States Rights issue, at least that’s an argument. The Southern States, led by Democrats, wanted to keep slavery alive because without it their economy came to a crashing hault. The tariff issue on the other hand isn’t and argument at all. You can honestly believe that the Southern States would secede because of a tariff, but not because the threat to the economic engine that drove the production of the goods that were subject to that tariff? That makes no sense whatsoever. Couple that with the fact that the Southern States had already seceded before the tariffs were put in place while before secession they had the numbers in the Senate to block the tariffs from passing in the first place! The transcripts of the secessionist conventions show the tariffs were not the driving force but slavery was.
I think we are going to have to agree to disagree.
Great piece, Craig.