“The congressional black caucus chairmen said that John Kelly needed a history lesson.”
Chief of Staff John Kelly created news when he pointed to the lack of compromise as leading to the American Civil War. He defended Lee as an honorable man who chose his state over his country, and as I’ve said before, he says the pc culture today will likely be seen as racist or sexist by liberals of the future. But his biggest sin was failing to explicitly mention slavery as the cause of the Civil War.
The congressional black caucus chairmen said that John Kelly needed a history lesson. As a historian, I find that Kelly’s reading of history is entirely accurate; most compromises were connected to slavery, and it’s only the liberals who selectively remember and politicize history who have a problem with it.
But liberals have a very selective view of history. They like to remember slavery when they oppose supposedly racist Republican policies, but not that the party of Lincoln ended it and passed the first civil rights bill.
I’m a college professor, and I’ve taught this theory to my students in my history classes. In the Constitutional Convention, the delegates agreed to several compromises. The great compromise was making two houses of Congress, one based on population (which the big states favored), and one where each state got the same representation, which was favored by the small states.
The northern states wanted to end slavery, while the South built their economy on it. As a result, the compromise included a 20 year moratorium on the slave trade and the three-fifths compromise concerning how slaves are counted for purposes of representation. These compromises ensured that the United States would indeed be united. This was such a serious issue that if a reader carefully looks at the Declaration of Independence, they would see that the word “united” in what we call the “United States” is not capitalized.
The second generation of politicians, especially senators Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun, respectively representing the West, South, and North, led the nation in many more compromises. In 1820 they formed the Missouri Compromise, which called for both a slave and free state to join the union at the same time, which would preserve the balance between them.
So John Kelly is completely correct, because the major compromises were almost always about slavery.
The gold rush in California displaced this effort, which was replaced by the Compromise of 1850. All of those issues were about slavery, and compromising statesmen managed to avert war. In 1860, the third generation of politicians rejected the Crittenden Compromise (named after the successor to Henry Clay, basically an extension of the Missouri Compromise), which was the last attempt before South Carolina seceded and the Civil War started.
So John Kelly is completely correct, because the major compromises were almost always about slavery. The ones that weren’t were about economic concerns. For example, the South disliked tariffs, and South Carolina even labelled one the “tariff of abominations.” These criticisms were directly related to their cotton economy founded on slave labor.
But liberals have a very selective view of history. They like to remember slavery when they oppose supposedly racist Republican policies, but not that the party of Lincoln ended it and passed the first civil rights bill. They like to point to slavery’s endemic racism as the cause of problems in the black community, but they don’t look at things like unemployment numbers or out of wedlock births that were actually smaller and falling before—as Thomas Sowell has pointed out—liberals tried to help with minimum wage and war on poverty bills.
The history lesson on the need to compromise is pertinent to all Americans (especially the wings of the Republican party that can’t seem to get anything done.) But it’s especially needed for those who selectively use history as a cudgel to advance their political agenda. Kelly’s entirely accurate historical reading doesn’t do anything to diminish slavery, except in the minds of race baiters who never let anybody forget it.