Comment of the Day: JEC: The Crazy Used to Be Split Between the Parties...: "'That's precisely the political deal the United States was founded on.'...

...Well...sort of. I think it's more accurate to say that the deal was, "The national government will take no steps against slavery for the foreseeable future," with the exact duration of the foreseeable future left intentionally ambiguous. (There's something Augustinian about all of this: "Lord grant me the strength to forego human slavery...but not yet.")

The problem was that the unforeseen future arrived a lot sooner than anyone expected. I'm not sure I can pin down exactly when, but certainly no later than the Louisiana Purchase. So the "deal" lasted just fourteen years. With a major expansion clearly in the cards, the question of whether slavery would expand along with the country as a whole couldn't be ignored. Consequently, the country started to face up to the real question: was American slavery to be temporary (though perhaps likely to stick around for a long time) or truly permanent.

I think what Brad and I are quibbling over is whether "permanent" was the position of a radical minority of fire-breathers who "pushed too far," or (my claim) was a largely unquestioned political assumption of the entire white south. ( the mid-19th century. I suspect the "It'll go away on its own if we ignore it long enough" fantasy had some purchase among southern elites in earlier times.)