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On Calhoun County

Monday, Jun 29, 2015

* From Slavery in the North

After the Missouri Compromise, thousands of slave-holders migrated across the southern tier of Illinois on their way to the new slave state across the Mississippi. The Illinois settlers scattered across the prairie watched with envy these processions of rich, educated, ambitious men from the east and their trains of goods and slaves, wishing the immigrants would settle in Illinois instead, and knowing what prevented it was the ban on outright slave ownership in the state.

Many people in Illinois decided that the state should open itself entirely to slavery. The new sentiment got a test in the elections of 1822. The governor’s contest was a four-way race: two of the candidates were outright advocates of slavery in Illinois. They got a combined 5,000 votes, but the winner, by a small plurality, was an anti-slavery candidate, Edward Coles, who had been born in Virginia and had freed the slaves he inherited. But the pro-slavery faction carried both houses of the state legislature.

Coles set out to persuade the state government to free the remaining slaves in Illinois (those who had been in the land before the ordinance of 1787), loosen the harsh black codes, and crack down on kidnappings of free blacks. The legislature responded by refuting Coles and recommending instead that a referendum be put on the ballot at the next state election asking voters to decide whether Illinois should call a convention to amend its constitution and become a slave state.

This required a two-thirds majority in the legislature, and while the senate mustered it, in the state house it seemed destined to fall one vote short. But the pro-slavery forces unseated a man whose election had been disputed, and they replaced him with one who voted their way. The convention measure passed.

Citizens celebrated in the streets, holding processions, parades, and public dinners. At one, this toast was offered, “The State of Illinois: the ground is good, prairie in abundance; give us plenty of negroes, a little industry, and she will distribute her treasures.”

The next election was Aug. 2, 1824. The political campaign that ensued was impassioned, fractious, and intense. The subject was preached tirelessly in the pulpits and the newspapers. The turnout on Aug. 2 was enormous. At the presidential election that fall, 4,532 voted in Illinois. On the slavery question, 11,612 went to the polls. When the votes were counted, the slavery faction had lost, 6,640 to 4,972.

* John Calhoun was elected vice president during that same 1824 campaign. He had been a popular and successful Secretary of War prior to that

Calhoun left the legislature in 1817 to become President James Monroe’s secretary of war and dedicated himself to strengthening the nation’s military. He succeeded, spurring revitalization of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point under the leadership of Superintendent Sylvanus Thayer and improving the army’s administrative structure with reforms that endured into the 20th century.

Check out all the towns, counties and places named for him.

Even Springfield’s original name was Calhoun - until 1832, around the time that Calhoun resigned the vice presidency under Andrew Jackson so he could more effectively lead the anti-North nullification battle in the US Senate. Calhoun residents decided a name change was in order.

* Anyway, after the 1824 election, on January 10, 1825, the Illinois General Assembly split Pike County into several parts and named one after the newly elected vice president. Calhoun County is up the river from Alton and is across the Mississippi from Lincoln County, Missouri. It’s a gorgeous place with lovely people.

* It didn’t take long for Vice President Calhoun to begin changing

In the 1820s, Southerners grew increasingly anxious about the North controlling the federal government and about how that situation threatened the South and its distinctive institutions. They looked to leaders who would limit federal power. Calhoun unexpectedly found himself the target of sharp criticism from leading South Carolina figures, including Thomas Cooper, the president of the state college. In 1824, Cooper published a widely circulated pamphlet attacking Calhoun. ‘He spends the money of the South to buy up influence in the North,’ Cooper grumbled.

If Calhoun wanted to maintain his status as a Southern leader and reach his political goals, he could not ignore the changing political landscape. He recognized it would be a mistake to maintain his association with Adams, whose ideas to expand the use of federal power to promote national economic, intellectual, and cultural development drew a cold reception in South Carolina. So when Andrew Jackson began preparing to challenge Adams in the 1828 presidential election, Calhoun switched sides. The Democrats rewarded Calhoun by making him their candidate for vice president, and the ticket won.

* Calhoun became more radically secessionist as years went by, epitomized by his 1837 speech on the US Senate floor

It is easy to see the end. By the necessary course of events, if left to themselves, we must become, finally, two people. It is impossible under the deadly hatred which must spring up between the two great sections, if the present causes are permitted to operate unchecked, that we should continue under the same political system. The conflicting elements would burst the Union asunder, powerful as are the links which hold it together. Abolition and the Union cannot co-exist.

And

I hold that in the present state of civiliza­tion, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good - a positive good.

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

Whether he was a political opportunist hoping to hold onto power or a true believer or both, there is no doubting that Calhoun laid the political, philosophical and legal foundations which directly led to the Civil War.

* Lake Calhoun in Minnesota got its name from surveyors sent to the area by Secretary of War Calhoun in 1817. A move is now underway to change the lake’s name

Today, Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds tweeted a link to a really strong story by KARE 11’s Jana Shortal on why we need to change the name of Minneapolis’s Lake Calhoun. For those who aren’t from Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun is the central feature of the city’s Uptown neighborhood. Uptown is diverseish by Minnesota standards, but is dominated by young White millennials with disposable income.

* Let’s get back to Illinois’ Calhoun County. Check out how the locals are using a rather oddly benign description of the man to promote it. From the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau

ABOUT CALHOUN

WELCOME TO CALHOUN COUNTY

Welcome to Calhoun County! Calhoun County is a narrow pennisula of mostly high ground located between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The county was organized in 1825, and was named for John C. Calhoun, Vice President of the United States and a proponent of State’s rights.

A “proponent of State’s rights.”

Sheesh.

* From GreatRiverRoad.com

The new county was named after John C. Calhoun, a lawyer, politician, and statesman, from South Carolina

Oy.

* Frankly, I think any official memorialization of that man in the Land of Lincoln should offend us all. It sure as heck offended the residents of what is now known as Springfield back in the day, and the guy only got much, much worse after that. Maybe we ought to belatedly follow their prescient lead.

For reasons that I’ve never been able to discern, we don’t have a Lincoln County in Illinois, even though plenty of other states do. Just a thought, but I’m betting the name “Lincoln” would draw a few more tourists than “Calhoun.”

And, really, isn’t it kind of an insult that the former slave state of Missouri has a Lincoln County right across the river from our own Calhoun County (even if it is named for a different Lincoln)?

* Look, this is obviously not the most important issue around. But at a time when people across the Old South are reexamining their governments’ glorification of their horrifically repressive pasts, it is most definitely relevant.

Besides, if the General Assembly can spend time debating our new state pie, we can surely take a few moments to reflect on this topic. And the county’s population is so small that a name change wouldn’t cost all that much. It could even be phased in over a number of years to keep costs lower.

* At the very least, the locals who are playing down the odious nature of Calhoun County’s namesake should just stop it already. It’s ignorant and insulting.

…Adding… Some folks are missing the point, perhaps willfully. This is not about Illinois places and things named after former slave owners. It’s about a county named after a notorious secessionist leader. There’s a difference here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

181 Comments
  1. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:31 am:

    This could get out of hand and we then will need to change the names of many places in West Virginia that honor Robert Byrd.

    We could go on a name changing spree.


  2. - Buck I - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:31 am:

    Please, Rich.

    We wouldn’t consider ridding ourselves of the vestiges of favorite son Stephen Douglas, who championed ‘popular sovereignty’ would we? Are we going after John Calhoun because he was a Southerner?

    Enough of the attempt to banish our history to the memory hole, no matter how embarrassing.


  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:32 am:

    ===Stephen Douglas, who championed ‘popular sovereignty’ would we===

    What a stupid thing to say.

    Douglas realized his mistake after Lincoln was elected and tirelessly defended the North.


  4. - Anonin' - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:32 am:

    Looks like we found our Confederate Flag, hopin’ TeamBungle jumps into action


  5. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:33 am:

    ===banish our history to the memory hole===

    This isn’t about banishing our history, it’s about confronting it.


  6. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:33 am:

    There’s no escaping who Calhoun was.

    Prior to the cotton gin, slavery in the South was largely considered an anachronistic evil that would die out due to its expense and the ban on the kidnapping and importation of African slaves.

    After massive cotton production became possible and wildly profitable for Southern plutocrats, slavery became “good,” even “God-ordained.”


  7. - White Denim - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:33 am:

    No matter how awful, you can’t rewrite history by firing it into the memory hole.

    “There ought to be a law!” was once a sarcastic phrase people used when something upset their sensibilities. No more. Now whenever somebody is newly “offended” by something they want the government to save the day.

    Seriously; if anyone were really SO offended by this, it wouldn’t have taken a lunatic going on a shooting spree to refresh your memory.


  8. - train111 - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:35 am:

    Calhoun County is the one county in Illinois that never had a railroad line within its borders.
    Your useless train111 fact of the day!!

    Don’t have much use for the politician though. I think he simply did a George Wallace and conveniently “changed” his views to keep getting elected.


  9. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:35 am:

    ===you can’t rewrite history by firing it into the memory hole===

    It’s not rewriting history and it’s not pushing it down into the memory hole.

    In fact, it’s exactly the opposite of both. It’s addressing our own history and righting a wrong.

    But keep spouting your nonsense.


  10. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:36 am:

    To the Post,

    Rich makes a very strong, air tight actually, case to make a change that is long, long overdue.

    The significance of a name change isn’t letters in a different order making a different word for letterhead. It’s Lincoln, being chosen over Calhoun. Rich has made the obvious distinction. There does come a time when what we thought was a “fine” idea becomes more of a reminder that things weren’t as “fine” as we want them to be remembered.

    It’s actually more important that here in Illinois we recognize where we can be better by doing the glaringly obvious move to make right and just in one fell swoop.

    I’d like to see it. It’s important. It’s mesningful. It’s beyond a statement, it’s bringing Illinois in line with Lincoln on levels beyond a change on signs and letterhead and websites.

    Why do we all mock the “politician” who doesn’t know there’s not a Lincoln County? Why do we do that? One big reason is the obvious omission of a Lincoln County is farce. It’s embarrassing to know, that the Land of Lincoln lacks a County of Abe.

    To the Post and it’s spirit, I’m a supporter.


  11. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:36 am:

    Rich, we don’t have a Lincoln County because we haven’t had a new county created since 1859.


  12. - OldSmoky2 - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:37 am:

    Agreed, Rich - honoring Calhoun doesn’t really fit in the Land of Lincoln. He steadily moved to the right as his career went on, to the point that his rhetoric became the theoretical foundation of the secessionists. I can’t imagine why folks in Calhoun County wouldn’t want to take this opportunity to rename their county after Lincoln. It sure would generate a lot of positive national press and good will for the county.


  13. - A guy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:37 am:

    Justice delayed is justice none the less. We’ve been presented with a gift of fortuitous timing to right something here. We ought seize the opportunity.


  14. - Hoping for Rational Thought - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:38 am:

    Well we need to keep the mushrooms busy while the big kids negotiate a budget. Why not have a committee hearing? That can keep them busy through July…and August..and…


  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:38 am:

    ===banish our history to the memory hole===

    One more point on that.

    Isn’t this banishing our history to the memory hole?

    ===John C. Calhoun, a lawyer, politician, and statesman, from South Carolina===

    A complete whitewash. It’s dishonest. So, pardon me if I can’t go along with neo-Confederate arguments about preserving a history that isn’t actually being preserved.


  16. - Secret Square - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:39 am:

    “For reasons that I’ve never been able to discern, we don’t have a Lincoln County in Illinois”

    Could it be because the last time any new counties were established, or county boundaries changed, in Illinois was in 1859, before Abe became president?


  17. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:39 am:

    ===because we haven’t had a new county created since 1859===

    Doesn’t matter. We’ve seen plenty of places change their names. Calhoun residents changed theirs to Springfield, as noted above.


  18. - MrJM - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:40 am:

    “Now whenever somebody is newly ‘offended’ by something they want the government to save the day.”

    Sometimes “the government” is the only thing that keeps offensive people from getting smacked in the mouth.

    – MrJM


  19. - A guy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:41 am:

    ===He steadily moved to the right as his career went on,====

    Really dude? At that time, that was the left.


  20. - A guy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:42 am:

    Since repealing that awful amendment, there’s been a lot of mopping up to do. Appears there’s a bit more.


  21. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:45 am:

    ===Doesn’t matter. We’ve seen plenty of places change their names. Calhoun residents changed theirs to Springfield, as noted above. ===

    Not saying Calhoun shouldn’t consider changing its name, just saying that’s why there isn’t a Lincoln County.


  22. - lollinois - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:45 am:

    Perhaps rather than just renaming a single county, we ought to look at consolidating and renaming several. In the 21st century, do we really need 100+ counties in this state, and all of the units of local government and associated costs they bring?

    If we were to condense the state into new county boundaries, we would have an opportunity to trim down local governments into a (hopefully) more efficient system, as well as pay tribute to some famous Illinoisans in our history since 1859, including of course Abraham Lincoln.


  23. - anon - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:46 am:

    Emanuel church in Charleston SC is on Calhoun St.


  24. - Sir Reel - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:47 am:

    I lived in Calhoun County, Michigan years ago. I knew he was Jackson’s Vice President but that was about all.

    Thanks for the history lesson.

    And I agree, we can’t rewrite history but we can right a wrong.


  25. - Honeybear - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:47 am:

    I feel it’s never too late to correct something like this. We should not memorialize Calhoun. Symbols are important. Names are important.


  26. - Phenomynous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:50 am:

    Well, we better comb through the history of all 102 counties in search of something offensive in nature so we can rename them. Think of all the jobs we could create if we could find 5 more offensive county names… We could have renaming commissions, make new signs for everything. Maps would change, GPS would have to be updated. That’s economic development!

    /snark

    We got by this long without any outrage over a county known for its peaches, not who it was named after.


  27. - phocion - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:51 am:

    Great post, Rich. I completely agree that the County should change its name. Illinois isn’t just about Lincoln, though. Several presidents have called it home, including Grant, Reagan, and Obama. Re-naming Calhoun after any of these Presidents would be fitting, and a fantastic statement.


  28. - Soccermom - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:51 am:

    It’s not rewriting history to change a name. It happens all the time — buildings are renamed, streets are renamed, airports are renamed (although it will always be DC National to me, but I digress.) Why not rename an Illinois county for Lincoln?


  29. - Gone, but not forgotten - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:52 am:

    While you’re changing names, don’t forget a Calhoun Street in Brimfield, Illinois and Lake Calhoun in Knox County, Illinois!


  30. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:56 am:

    Until this post I didn’t know ‘Calhoun’ County was the politician.
    He could have been a peach magnate for all I cared. Even taking the facts given, I don’t think it’s worth the effort. Not because it would appear as “Me Too ism” (no, it’s not a word), but because we need NO distractions, especially now.


  31. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 10:57 am:

    ===but because we need NO distractions, especially now.===

    lol

    Until the leaders are all on board together, there’s nothing much to do anyway.


  32. - Pothole - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:00 am:

    I don’t disagree with the post and suggestion; however, as a country, we are filled with historical figures that were incredibly racist and did horrible things. A lot of our early and revered Presidents wouldn’t pass the sniff test (both slavery and the treatment of Native Americans immediately jump out). Renaming may be appropriate, but confrontation and regular examination (as Rich points out) of the past and what it means for us today seems critical. Knowing Americans, I wouldn’t be surprised but disappointed if all we did was take down racist flags, rename some sites and then pat ourselves on the back for fixing race relations in the US.


  33. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:01 am:

    ===we then will need to change the names of many places in West Virginia that honor Robert Byrd.===

    Red herring alert.

    Byrd had an odious past, but he renounced it. There’s a difference here.


  34. - Stones - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:02 am:

    Thanks for the history lesson on John C. Calhoun. It’s been a good number of years since I studied history and admittedly I am rusty on pre civil war US history. That being said, my .02 is that there are so many counties, buildings, landmarks, etc. named after persons with less than acceptable views in today’s world I’m not sure if it’s possible to draw the line.


  35. - Greatplainser - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:02 am:

    If we were to rename a county “Lincoln” wouldn’t it be better to select a county that person spent a large part of their life in? So, for Lincoln, Sangamon or Menard? For Grant Jo Daviess?


  36. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:02 am:

    ===we are filled with historical figures that were incredibly racist and did horrible things===

    No doubt.

    However, we have only one county in Illinois named after the political and moral architect of the Civil War.

    Try focusing on that.


  37. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:04 am:

    ===I’m not sure if it’s possible to draw the line. ===

    Sure it is. All counties in Illinois named after secessionist, slavery-loving non-Illinois southern politicians should have their names changed.

    One.


  38. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:06 am:

    - Greatplainser -

    With respect…

    ===However, we have only one county in Illinois named after the political and moral architect of the Civil War.===

    This move fixed and is right and just, in one sweeping move.

    It’s really a hugely symbolic move and speaks so much more than changing a “Smith” to a “Jones”.


  39. - Huh? - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:06 am:

    If we are going to be honest about eliminating or changing the names of places that were named to honor civil war era people, then we better be willing to start changing the names of those places that honor the victors.

    History is written by the victors. How the defeated are seen is generally written to be the most vile and obscene.

    I am not trying to minimize the impacts of slavery, what I am trying to say is that the hands of the Union Armies and the North are not clean either.

    How far do we go to remove the symbols of the slave holders?


  40. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:07 am:

    ===I am not trying to minimize the impacts of slavery===

    lol

    Um, yes, you are.


  41. - White Denim - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:08 am:

    Here’s the thing, Rich. That’s the standard you’ve come up with today. There’s no reason for us to believe that it will good enough tomorrow or the day after. Why not rename every street, building, cemetery, city and county that was named after any person who was a racist or a slave owner? Why are we stopping at this most recently contrived standard?


  42. - Pothole - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:08 am:

    ===However, we have only one county in Illinois named after the political and moral architect of the Civil War.===

    Fair point - the daunting legacy of race in the US shouldn’t stop us from fixing this one thing.


  43. - Harry - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:09 am:

    Calhoun WAS a defender of State’s rights, the 1830 nullification issue was about tariffs.

    Of course, he was also a defender of slavery–not just a defender where it already existed, but he wanted to expand it into the territories, and that shame will always be the main way he is remembered.

    I think there are some Lincoln Counties, esp in the East, not named after Abe, but after Lincoln in England.


  44. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:09 am:

    === Why are we stopping at this most recently contrived standard? ===

    Somehow, I don’t think you’d be open to those name changes either. You’re just coming up with a slippery slope argument that is crazily ridiculous.

    It’s standard neo-Confederate spin. And I don’t buy it.


  45. - OldSmoky2 - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:09 am:

    ===He steadily moved to the right as his career went on,====

    ==Really dude? At that time, that was the left.==

    As time went on, he became an increasingly strident proponent of states’ rights, limited federal power, the right of states to nullify federal laws, etc. Late in his career, he disagreed with the premise that “all men are created equal,” calling it “the most false and dangerous of all political errors.” He believed that men of wealth were far more suited to govern than the masses. Hardly left-wing to me, but whatever.


  46. - MrJM - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:10 am:

    “Why not rename every street, building, cemetery, city and county that was named after any person who was a racist or a slave owner?”

    Why not?

    Seriously, why not?

    – MrJM


  47. - Buck I - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:11 am:

    Rich, we can learn more from our history if it’s ‘in your face’ than if we remove it from public view.

    I’m with you on the modern white washing. The locals should put Calhoun’s complete record out there.

    But Illinois has it’s own conflicted history. A state con-con in 1824 explicitly refused to ban slavery in the state, Illinois had an infamous black code adopted in 1853, Lincoln defended slave owners and famously stated he’s keep slavery if it would keep the union together.

    >>>Douglas realized his mistake after Lincoln was elected


  48. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:12 am:

    ===But Illinois has it’s own conflicted history===

    Exactly, which is why this should be addressed now.


  49. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:14 am:

    Geez, some people can’t handle the possibility of a lick of change for any good reason. The 21st Century must just be overwhelming to you (the 20th, for that matter, too).


  50. - Stones - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:14 am:

    Would state legislation be the mechanism to rename a county or could that be accomplished locally (such as a county board)? Just curious?


  51. - White Denim - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:14 am:

    To be fair, Rich, I asked an honest question and you’re refusing to answer it, calling me a name instead. I don’t think that’s warranted. I am seriously asking, “why is this the standard?”

    As others have pointed out here, figures on both sides have an ugly history. We’re using a changing ideology to lay a modernist perspective on a historical issue that has a great deal of context. It can’t be reduced to burning witches. That’s not a “neo-Confedarate spin,” it’s an honest position held in good faith by people on both sides.


  52. - Anonin' - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:15 am:

    Wow been at this an hour, expectin’ SlckHeadSandy to bounce out some twerps and rants about Calhoun Co, nothing’ just his crusade to fire Robin Ventura


  53. - Centennial - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:15 am:

    I’m a little shocked that folks are attempting to defend the Calhoun name on this one. In my view, we name buildings, streets, counties, cities, etc after folks who personified qualities that we want to preserve for all of time. We want future generations to ask — why is this building named after this guy? And maybe they will go find out so his/her legacy and statesmanship can live on through the next generation. I would NOT put Calhoun in that category, and I find it hard to believe that anyone else could… with a clear conscious.


  54. - Soccermom - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:16 am:

    Our history is what it is — messy, sometimes shameful, sometimes inspiring. But while many of us are advocating the overdue retirement of the Confederacy’s Treason flag, it seems appropriate to look to our own house and correct an historic anomaly that continues to honor a South Carolina secessionist who dishonored his own early legacy.


  55. - Buck I - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:17 am:

    Sure it is. All counties in Illinois named after secessionist, slavery-loving non-Illinois southern politicians should have their names changed.

    One.

    Rich, really two. Calhoun and Washington.


  56. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:17 am:

    George Washington was not a secessionist.

    Moron.


  57. - Buck I - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:18 am:

    Rich, he was from England.


  58. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:19 am:

    === We’re using a changing ideology to lay a modernist perspective on a historical issue that has a great deal of context===

    More neo-Confederate spin.


  59. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:19 am:

    ===I am not trying to minimize the impacts of slavery, what I am trying to say is that the hands of the Union Armies and the North are not clean either.===

    When you try to destroy a country, you probably shouldn’t complain if that country’s army shows up and burns down your home.


  60. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:20 am:

    Thanks for the history lesson Rich. I had no idea that Calhoun played such a role that led to secession. I’m kind of torn about renaming places named for infamous people. Perhaps updating the historical marker with more info, such as what you posted here or something similar, would suffice. The Pentagon just announced it has no plans to rename Camp Beauregard, Ft. Benning, Fr. Hood, etc., and I’m not sure they should. They should be crystal clear on what these men fought to preserve however, and we can tolerate white-washing the past.

    Changing place names seems like, over time, just an attempt to change the subject, when we need to continually raise the subject and challenge those with misconceptions about what actually happened.

    You wrote a piece a few days ago about Kentucky ancestors and wondered whether any owned slaves. If you found out they did, would you want to change your name? We can’t change the past, we can only learn from it and be truthful about it even when the truth is something to be ashamed of.


  61. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:20 am:

    George Washington was born in England?

    You sure?


  62. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:21 am:

    Sorry, that was me at 11:20.


  63. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:21 am:

    ===It can’t be reduced to burning witches. ===

    Who’s burning anybody?

    Again, more neo-Confederate spin.


  64. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:21 am:

    What a fascinating hornets nest you’ve stirred up here Rich. I had no idea of the history of Calhoun, any more than I knew the racist history of the progressive icon President Woodrow Wilson. Folks should take a look at this piece by TPM’s Josh Marshall about what a committed racist Woodrow Wilson.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/remembering-president-wilsons-purge-of-black-federal-workers

    I agree with you Rich that it’s worth changing Calhoun to Lincoln (though it would change the stump the new IL politician game), but I also agree given the Wilson note above and so much more, that it is a bit of a slippery slope.


  65. - QCLib - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:21 am:

    Rich,
    I won’t really argue whether there ought to be a name change. It’s for that county to decide, and I know people have a certain amount of nostalgic pride in their birthplace. For that reason I think it would be difficult.

    To the article though, I have to say whenever you write articles of this nature, I’m always touched by the writing.

    Thank you for teaching me something new today and doing it as eloquently as could be.


  66. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:22 am:

    Ugh, we CAN’T tolerate white-washing the past.

    It’s Monday.


  67. - Educated in the Suburbs - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:23 am:

    Three nice local options might be:

    Miles Davis County (born in Alton)
    Trumbull County, after the co-author of the 13th Amendment, who was elected from Alton
    Lovejoy County, after Elijah Lovejoy, the abolitionist newspaper man who was murdered by a pro-slavery mob


  68. - Bluegrass Boy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:23 am:

    Let’s see who wins the Battle of Illinois this year and then next year we can either name it Rauner County or Madigan County.


  69. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:24 am:

    ===Changing place names seems like, over time, just an attempt to change the subject, when we need to continually raise the subject ===

    lol

    This post and the ideas contained therein were specifically designed to raise the subject.


  70. - Phenomynous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:25 am:

    Let’s call it “Not Calhoun County”.


  71. - A guy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:26 am:

    Oscar County. Done.


  72. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:26 am:

    ===It’s for that county to decide===

    It would take an act of the General Assembly to change the name. This is a state issue.


  73. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:27 am:

    Guy, that’s quite a change of heart you’ve had. Last week you wrote that you were concerned that calls to take down the Stars and Bars could lead to a review of all state and local flags. Now you want to rename Calhoun County.

    Good on you.


  74. - History Prof - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:27 am:

    Rich, I think you do make a great argument. While I actually think the preponderance of the argument is on your side here, I wish you would slow down just a bit on calling other posts “stupid.” I know, its your blog.

    But there can sometimes be a threat of erasing history. I think you are correct; the way Calhoun County explains the name Calhoun is in fact the erasure here.

    But look at the irony here. If it were not for the name Calhoun, you might never have treated us to the excellent history of the slavery convention movement in Illinois — a very important and certainly under recognized episode indeed!

    So it pays to be careful, and not to dismiss the counterargument as “stupid.” I don’t think Stephen A. Douglas ever renounced his racism. But that does not make your post about him stupid.

    I argued at Eastern Illinois a couple of years ago that it would be an erasure of mid-20th Century history to change the name of a 1950’s dorm there to Douglass, with ss. Yes Douglas was a racist. But I think a good argument can be made that that case differed from this one in that the history of this state without Stephen Douglas is impossible to understand.

    OK, I’ve gone on and on here. The point is that sometimes an erasure of an unpleasant past would lead to less rather than more honest understanding of the past. These are tricky arguments. In this case I agree with you.


  75. - White Denim - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:28 am:

    For the last time, I am not a neo-Confederate. I’m disappointed if that is how this debate is going to continue.

    This is exactly the problem, dude. You want other people to see how simple, yet progressive, your cause is and yet you can’t even have the discussion without flinging out ad hominems when somebody else wants to raise their hand.

    An endearing statue of Vldamir Lenin stands proudly in Seattle Washington today–5 million died under his regime. Should we tear that statue down? What will we have proved in doing so, exactly?

    I understand your perspective. I empathize with it. I want to agree with it, but I’d also like a little more than “Because it’s racist and everyone who doesn’t want to change it is too!” It’s just an utterly incredible assertion, in both senses of that word.

    If you think that monuments and symbols that designate bad people should be changed or taken down, fine. But say so. Don’t disingeniously say that it’s just about this one county, and then our history will be all cleaned up.


  76. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    ===can’t even have the discussion without flinging out ad hominems when somebody else wants to raise their hand===

    When you stop using blatantly transparent and widely used neo-Confederate spin, I’ll treat you with respect.


  77. - MrJM - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    “As others have pointed out here, figures on both sides have an ugly history.”

    One side had a virtual monopoly on treason and white supremacy.

    – MrJM


  78. - Jimmy Jazz - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    I am less inclined to be as generous as is Rich toward Douglas. His labors on behalf of the North once war was declared do not quite atone for his role in pushing the country toward that war to begin with – a push fueled not by principle, however mistaken, but mere political ambition.
    As for Calhoun, he was indeed an odious character. But is it altogether clear that Calhoun, as quoted by Rich, was wrong in 1837 about the incompatibility of North and South?
    As for Calhoun County, I reluctantly concede Rich’s complaint. In an ideal Illinois, the fact that a county had been named after Calhoun would be a reminder of the fact that the state was founded and for decades effectively run by Southerners whose opposition to slavery was expedient rather than moral. But as Rich notes by quoting the tourism blurbs, history has no wisdom to offer to people who will not learn it.
    Interested readers should know that a good new book about Gov. Coles’ role in defeating the pro-slavery convention of 1824 — Confronting Slavery: Edward Coles and the Rise of Antislavery Politics in Nineteenth Century America by Suzanne Cooper Guasco (NIU Press, 2013).


  79. - Percival - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    A political feeding frenzy is a terrible thing.


  80. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:31 am:

    ===Don’t disingeniously say that it’s just about this one county===

    It is.

    That is all. It’s the entire concept of the post.

    If you think it’s disingenuous, well, that says more about you than you are willing to admit.


  81. - History Prof - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:31 am:

    Dear - Huh? - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:06 am:

    History is most often written by the losers. The victors quickly move on with renewed confidence, which often leads them to be excessively magnanimous. Think of the Serbs and their Kosovo defeat. Talk about not getting over it!

    While the rest of us moved on, the white South has perseverated over the war for the past century and a half. They have won the memory war and it is about time for the rest of us fought back. Three cheers for Rich and his post!


  82. - Keyser Soze - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:31 am:

    Excellent history lesson. But, a pivot on Calhoun County; it, and Jo Davies, are probably the most beautiful counties in the State, nosing out Hardin, Gallatin, and Pope Counties.


  83. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:32 am:

    === If it were not for the name Calhoun, you might never have treated us to the excellent history of the slavery convention movement in Illinois===

    Actually, I wrote about that topic in a Sun-Times column a few years ago.


  84. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:32 am:

    Isn’t Lee County named after Robert E. Lee?


  85. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:33 am:

    I once spent a lot of time in Richmond and was stunned - as a Yankee who had never spent much time in the South - at all of the statues and streets named for confederate generals, other officers and racist heroes. And yes, they also had one statue of Arthur Ashe which T O T A L L Y made up for all the rest. I think southerners may have been afraid of the flag issue in small part because once the flag came down, they were also going to have to deal with the enormous number of other symbols of their collective shameful past.


  86. - LincolnLounger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:35 am:

    It’s always amused me that Springfield and Sangamon County market the heck out of anything Lincoln, but he failed to carry the county when he ran for re-election in 1864.


  87. - Kieth95 - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:36 am:

    I live in Calhoun County and I am not upset that someone would suggest renaming the county, however I am upset at the fact that it was suggested that the State be the one to decide the name be changed and what that name should be. Also, there were plenty of prominent people who lived in Calhoun County with the last name of Calhoun. And I if we go as far to remain places because of their connection to the Civil War, maybe we should just stop teaching that the Civil War existed?


  88. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:37 am:

    ===Isn’t Lee County named after Robert E. Lee?===

    LOL

    No.

    It was formed in 1839. Lighthorse Harry Lee, officer in the Revolutionary War.


  89. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:39 am:

    And Carroll County was named after Charles Carroll, a Mayland slave owner.


  90. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:39 am:

    And here all this time I thought it was named after the carpet store in Springfield. I say sell naming rights and rename it “Calhoun Carpet and Flooring County”


  91. - A guy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:40 am:

    === Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:27 am:

    Guy, that’s quite a change of heart you’ve had. Last week you wrote that you were concerned that calls to take down the Stars and Bars could lead to a review of all state and local flags. Now you want to rename Calhoun County.

    Good on you.===

    Pleased with the compliment Sling…I think-lol.
    My argument last week surrounded McSweeney firing up a resolution regarding the State of SC. I’ve never argued for the efficacy of that flag or symbol. You read my posts enough to know that I’m the loving father in law of an African American daughter in law. I’ve got no sympathy for symbols of any kind that hurt people, and I’m especially sensitive on racial ones. SC did the right thing. They’re evolving as quickly as the culture of their community will allow. There’s wonderful momentum there.

    What they don’t need is a meaningless resolution from another state from a back bench opportunist.

    Let’s see how quick Mr. McSweeny jumps on this issue which is an Illinois state issue concerning a County with a name that personifies racial inequity. I’ll give him a chance to get some sincerity here.


  92. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:40 am:

    – Don’t disingenuously say that it’s just about this one county, and then our history will be all cleaned up.–

    Well, good thing no one has said that. Unless you see and hear things others don’t.

    You’re spinning out of control. History can’t be “cleaned up,” nor can it be revised with a bunch of relativist nonsense.

    This generation of Illinoisans can choose whether or not to continue to bestow state-sanctioned honor on John C. Calhoun.

    I vote “no” and urge my elected representatives to take action to remove that honor.

    You’re okay with representative democracy, I hope?


  93. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:41 am:

    ===Isn’t Lee County named after Robert E. Lee?===

    Named after his ancestors, who did much to build the country. Robert E. Lee was a competent but not incredibly notable member of the Army Corps of Engineers when said county was created.


  94. - Wensicia - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:41 am:

    As Hastert’s history with students from his coaching years became known, nobody complained when his name was stripped from many venues. I think Calhoun’s behavior, though different, was just as offensive. Why not rename the county?


  95. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:41 am:

    ===Carroll County was named after Charles Carroll, a Mayland slave owner===

    Since he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence who died in 1832, I don’t think he was a secessionist.


  96. - walker - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:43 am:

    I was taught in school that Calhoun was one of the great evildoers in America, and a powerful champion of secession and slavery. His name had the same associations as Benedict Arnold, or Aaron Burr, except he became more powerful.


  97. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:43 am:

    So…

    The South Carolinian Cahoun should not have his name removed from an Illinois county, a county that would change to Lincoln County, named after Abraham Lincoln. Ugh.

    Where was George Washington born - Buck I -?


  98. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:45 am:

    Clay County after Henry Clay, a slave owner. Freed his slaves in his will, but not before.


  99. - Bigtwich - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:46 am:

    ===Isn’t Lee County named after Robert E. Lee?===

    No. It is named after his father.


  100. - Not quite a majority - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:47 am:

    Just want to point out the civilizations change city names all the time. Case in point: St Petersburg/Leningrad, Constantinople/Istanbul, New Amsterdam/New York. It’s not changing history, it’s changing a name.


  101. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:48 am:

    ===a slave owner===

    Not a secessionist leader.

    You’re reaching here.

    I’m not arguing that we rename Jefferson County. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a notorious secessionist leader.

    Stop it already.


  102. - Midway Gardens - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:49 am:

    Lighthorse Lee, Robert E. Lee’s father.

    Mr. MJM - Sadly, one side did not have “a virtual monopoly on … white supremacy”. Better case for saying monopoly on slavery.


  103. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:56 am:

    I thought Carroll county was named in honor of the great Howie Carroll.


  104. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:56 am:

    If you want to understand the neo-Confederacy mentality, read “Intruders in the Dust” by Faulkner.

    It’s always just before 2 p.m. on the third day at Gettysburg, Pickett is set to march, and victory is still a possibility.

    The shame wasn’t the cause, the shame was the defeat.


  105. - Kasparov - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:56 am:

    Someone should alert the good folks at Yale about this conversation.

    http://calhoun.yalecollege.yale.edu/about-calhoun


  106. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:58 am:

    If we name a county “Lincoln County” it forever ruins the Carol Moseley-Braun story.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/e98/e606.htm


  107. - Secret Square - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:04 pm:

    While it probably would be a good idea for Calhoun Co. to change its name, if it chooses Lincoln there would then be two tiers of adjacent counties in IL and MO with the same names, since there are already two adjacent Pike Counties. To avoid further geographical confusion, maybe another IL county should adopt Lincoln and Calhoun could try something a bit more distinctive (other possibilities have been listed above).


  108. - the Other Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:05 pm:

    Putting aside the arguments over renaming Calhoun County for a second, I just wanted to thank and congratulate Rich on a really interesting post about some Illinois history.

    During slow times — if any will exist under the current administration — I would love to see more posts that just dig into Illinois history, especially coming up to our bicentennial as a state.


  109. - WAK - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:05 pm:

    I think it should be changed. But I wonder what happens to the branding associated with Calhoun county peaches? Also, we should as a nation be renaming the handful of US military bases that are named after confederate generals and military officers.


  110. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:07 pm:

    ===I wonder what happens to the branding associated with Calhoun county peaches?===

    They become Lincoln County peaches.

    Even yummier.

    :)


  111. - Modest Proposal - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:08 pm:

    Technically - George Washington was born in England, because the colonies were still part of the British empire at that time…


  112. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:12 pm:

    Love the county, hate the name - always knew the history behind it.

    That said, let us remember that Calhoun championed a successful economic model which gave US agriculture a powerful global edge in the marketplace and caused US cotton to dominate other crops. Slavery was worth $3.3 BILLION, which was equivalent to the cost of the US Civil War in its entirety.

    When we have today’s politicians championing government policies based upon the economic success of cheap or free labor, let’s remember that economic success is no reason to do the wrong thing.

    Calhoun thought the North was being hypocritical in that its economic non-slave model depended upon wages so low workers couldn’t live on them. He repeatedly claimed that the difference between the Northern “slaves” working in New England mills and Southern slavery was poverty wages. He claimed that Southerners cared enough about slaves to keep them healthy as an economic investment, while Northerners didn’t provide even the barest of slave living.

    When the cost of something is more important than the value of it - bad things happen.


  113. - O.W.L. - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:20 pm:

    Lol to Vanillaman equating economic success to the enslavement of millions of people.

    If this discussion wasn’t ridiculous enough.


  114. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:23 pm:

    To the deleted Buck: Anyone who calls George Washington a secessionist to defend Calhoun is beyond moronic and likely a racist.

    Goodbye.


  115. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:23 pm:

    For crying out loud, “England” is a geographic expression and not synonymous with the United Kingdom or the British Empire.

    Wales ain’t England. Scotland ain’t England. Ireland ain’t England. And Virginia sure ain’t England.

    And, obviously, Washington did not enjoy the rights of “Englishmen” of his wealth and station.

    Which was kind of the point of the whole shooting match….


  116. - OldSmoky2 - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:24 pm:

    ==Technically - George Washington was born in England, because the colonies were still part of the British empire at that time…==

    Technically, England was and is a specific geographic area that was one part of the British empire, as were other places like Scotland, Wales, and the American colonies.


  117. - anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:27 pm:

    And if we are changing names, don’t forget the southern Illinois village of Calhoun in Richland County!


  118. - History Prof - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:28 pm:

    In defense of Vanilla Man:

    O.W.L. Slavery was highly profitable. That did not make it right. British Agriculture relied not on independent owner-operators, but on subsistence-level wage-labor. The North in the Civil War period stood for resisting a highly profitable, but evil social system. (Factory labor was marginal at the time of the Civil War. Confederates who charged the North for hypocrisy on this point ignored the %80 of Americans who were closely connected to an owner-operator family farm system.)

    The point is that Rauner wants something akin to the British manorial system. It is not an accident that Aaron Schock made over his office to ape Downton Abby.

    Do we want a society of independent citizens who live well, or do we want the most profitable form of capitalism possible?

    Right on Vanilla Man!


  119. - olddog - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:29 pm:

    Interesting idea, fascinating discussion. How do people in Calhoun County feel about changing the name?


  120. - olddog - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:31 pm:

    Should have added at 12:29: How do people in Calhoun County feel about changing the name? If they’re for it, I’m for it.


  121. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:32 pm:

    ===This post and the ideas contained therein were specifically designed to raise the subject.===

    120+ comments in two hours? Mission accomplished.


  122. - Modest Proposal - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:35 pm:

    ==oldsmokey/wordslinger==

    I know what I wrote was ridiculous - shoulda included the standard /snark


  123. - anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:36 pm:

    I think we are treading on very shaky ground right now. There is a difference between removing symbols of racism and rebellion, i.e. the Confederate flag, and attempting to rewrite history. So Calhoun ended up being a secessionist. Acknowledge it and own it, but don’t try to erase him. He serves as a symbol that politicians often change their tune in the name of political expediency.


  124. - Percival - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:36 pm:

    Changing the name is fine by me, but assigning Calhoun a central role in causing the Civil War is a stretch. The issue between North and South was quite predominantly slavery, but not the only one. Jackson nearly sent federal troops to occupy South Carolina in 1832 when the state officials refused to honor federal duties on trade, which the state legislature “nullified,” a Southern concept that long predated Calhoun. Calhoun was never an open advocate for secession, but he wanted to preserve the Union only on the South’s terms: laying off slavery issue and opening the West to slavery to allow the South to achieve more of a economic and population parity with the North. I believe that if Calhoun had lived to 1860 he would have advocated for secession, but the causes of the Civil War long predated him, and he was more a mouthpiece for a reactionary aristocracy in the South that simply would never accept an end to slavery. He was an utter racist, but so was virtually all of Illinois, even if the majority did not want slavery in the state. I could be wrong, but I believe statutes were passed to restrict immigration of freed Blacks into Illinois after the war, but I may be confusing Illinois with Indiana on that point. In any event, there is no point in honoring him with a county name, but I do believe it should be up to the people of that county to approve the change before state action occurs.

    I for one would be a lot more interested in seeing the legislature spend its time on how to stop Black children and grandmothers from being shot up on the South and West Sides of Chicago. Isn’t watching those bodies pile up and doing nothing a silent form of racism?


  125. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:39 pm:

    Rich -
    Thank you for posting this. As much as I enjoyed the history and discussion, however, best comment of the day was from Michelle Flaherty about Carroll County.


  126. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:42 pm:

    Lol to Vanillaman equating economic success to the enslavement of millions of people.

    Calhoun did that, as did those who couldn’t see a way around dumping the Southern Slave Economic model.

    I’m pointing it out.


  127. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:43 pm:

    – don’t try to erase him.–

    How would that be possible? It’s a question of honoring him.

    Percival, your “history lesson” is nonsense. Calhoun was both the father of nullification and the threat of secession as a means to protect slavery.


  128. - Kankakee Jimmy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:56 pm:

    ==Do we want a society of independent citizens who live well, or do we want the most profitable form of capitalism possible?==

    @History Prof. That’s a false dichotomy if I have ever seen one… Where the heck has this discussion gone?


  129. - Prairiestatedem - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 12:58 pm:

    Thanks for the post…its really interesting to see how many commenters have risen to the defense of a secessionist. Because Illinois was mostly settled from the South to the North by Southerners (Kentucky, Tennessee and lets not forget a massive portion of our great state was at one point claimed by Virginia). Its also interesting to note even in the seat of McHenry County (settled mostly by folks coming overland from NY, PA,OH) there is a Calhoun Street a block or so south of the Woodstock Town Square.

    This is a good conversation to have and Rich is right lets confront history and get rid of this name on our roll of 102 counties. Maybe those defenders on here would rather opt for naming the new county after Generals Grant or Sherman who taught the secessionist traitors to the Constitution what the Union Army was all about.

    At the same time we should also renew the call for the American History museum at the Smithsonian to include a dot on the map where the evil of slavery was practiced, sadly in our home state. The Salt Works near Equality, Illinois and Gallatin County’s Crenshaw House should be recorded and recognized for their wrongdoing.


  130. - Soccermom - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:00 pm:

    Word, thanks for clarifying that England and Britain are not synonymous.

    Reminds me of a great comment I read somewhere about Paul Revere’s ride. Despite Longfellow’s poetic license, he did not ride around shouting “the British are coming!” Because the Middlesex villagers would have replied, “Uh, Paul, we’re British…”


  131. - History Prof - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:01 pm:

    Kankakee Jimmy -

    Is it ALWAYS a false dichotomy in your view, or is it sometimes possible to have economic growth without wage growth or with declining wages? That’s what we have had since Reagan, that is what existed under slavery, and if that analogy stings too much for you, that is what Britain had from 1660 to about WWII.


  132. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:01 pm:

    ===The Salt Works ===

    I’ve written about that before. The Salt Works was owned by the state and it used slave labor exclusively. It provided I think a third of the state’s budget.

    I’ve also written before how the state spent a ton of money to rehab the slave house to use as a historical exhibit, but the white folks down there put a fence around it and have refused to allow people in. Just unconscionable.


  133. - Soccermom - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:03 pm:

    On a more serious note — I don’t think this should be decided by the residents of Calhoun County alone. Because, you know, that whole Civil War thing was an effort to determine whether we as a nation get to decide things together, instead of letting people in individual geographic units make their own decisions without input from the rest of us.


  134. - jake - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:04 pm:

    After his Presidency, Andrew Jackson was asked if he had regrets. He said just two: That he didn’t hang Clay and shoot Calhoun.


  135. - Islandmon - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:05 pm:

    Spot on history lesson Rich, thank you for sharing this Illinois connection from the period.


  136. - Percival - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:06 pm:

    Wordslinger, nullification was first openly advocated in 1798, in the Kentucky and Virgina Resolutions. The Kentucky resolution was authored by Thomas Jefferson (anonymously at the time, but he later acknowledged it), and the Virginia Resolution was authored by James Madison with Jefferson’s assistance. So please check your facts before engaging in yet more intellectual condescension.


  137. - Secret Square - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:17 pm:

    “which the state legislature “nullified,” a Southern concept that long predated Calhoun.”

    Actually, it wasn’t entirely a Southern or pro-slavery concept:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartford_Convention

    “The report said that New England had a “duty” to assert its authority over unconstitutional infringements on its sovereignty—a doctrine that echoed the policy of Jefferson and Madison in 1798 (in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions), and which would later reappear in a different context as “nullification”.

    In the 1850s there were also some abolitionists (most prominently, William Lloyd Garrison) who advocated secession of the Northern/free states, on the grounds that there could be “no Union with slaveholders”. To top it all off, some Northern states in the 1850s effectively nullified the federal Fugitive Slave Act by passing “personal liberty” laws protecting runaway slaves from being recaptured.

    My point here is absolutely NOT to defend Calhoun or the Confederacy in any way — far from it — but simply to point out that not all secessionists or nullifiers were Southern or pro-slavery. As if history weren’t complicated enough already….


  138. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:20 pm:

    That’s a false dichotomy if I have ever seen one… Where the heck has this discussion gone?

    What we are doing is taking the reason Calhoun justified what today is shockingly unjustifiable, and explaining that when you allow politicians to focus on costs over all - you end up with an unjust society. There were real economic and business reasons why slavery was thriving. When we only focus on what is economically successful, based upon profits - we can justify all sorts of immorality.

    Government values see you as a citizen. Market values see you as a consumer. Basing government decisions upon market values places more importance upon each of us as consumers, not as citizens. Who wins in that kind of government? People with money, silly!

    In a market value driven society, everything is for sale - even human beings. In Las Vegas, they sell humans for sex. In the Antebellum South, they sold humans for labor. Immorality thrives in a world where consumerism replaces citizenship.


  139. - Shark Sandwich - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:24 pm:

    I propose renaming it Peach County, or possibly Obama County - but that would be a very very tough sell.


  140. - History Prof - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:25 pm:

    Right on again Vanilla Man!

    For the way this played out in the period in question, see
    The British Gentry, the Southern Planter, and the Northern Family Farmer: Agriculture and Sectional Antagonism in North America Hardcover – May 4, 2015
    by James L. Huston (Author)


  141. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:27 pm:

    Calhoun in the last analysis was unwilling to break the union. He worked with Daniel Webster to save it. The war came in the next generation.


  142. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:28 pm:

    I made comments above about a few counties in Illinois that are named after men who owned slaves. I was told I was “reaching”, but I really was not trying to slippery-slope the argument. Washington and Jefferson both owned slaves, and though they may wrestled with moraliity of slavery, neither did anything to end it. Ninian Edwards (Edwards County) twice sent militia after the Indians. My point is that if you pick out Calhoun, you must and should pick out others as well. There should be no line that discriminates on the issue. By continuing to honor anyone who owned slaves, we continue the illusion that slave holding itself was not a reprehensible enough activity to deserve our scorn.


  143. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:33 pm:

    ===My point is that if you pick out Calhoun, you must and should pick out others as well===

    You can make that point, but it’s not one I would ever make.

    Calhoun was a traitor to this country. You can’t say that about those others you mentioned.


  144. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:38 pm:

    Percival, where in the Resolutions of 1798 do you see explicit actions by states to subvert federal law? Commentary on federal law in the form of a resolution is just that.


  145. - walker - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:41 pm:

    Rich supplanted the need for caffeine this morning. Thanks


  146. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:47 pm:

    ===Rich supplanted the need for caffeine this morning===

    I made sure to have two cups before hitting the “publish” button. I figured there’d be a fight and wanted to make sure I was mentally prepared.

    lol


  147. - ajtg - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:51 pm:

    Thanks for the insight and you are right-on. As a side note, did you see the picture of Calhoun on Wikipedia? I don’t even know if he was alive in that picture.


  148. - illini - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:55 pm:

    Fantastic discussion today - just got online so I am late joining in.

    I live in Washington County - used to live in Madison County. Adjoining counties include Jefferson, Marion, Perry, Randolph, St. Clair and Clinton.

    Just wondering if there were other connections we need to know about and discuss? Some of these are obvious - others I am unsure of.

    Thank you Rick for opening up this dialogue.


  149. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:58 pm:

    ===Thank you Rick===

    Rick works for a different outlet.


  150. - Percival - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 1:58 pm:

    Wordslinger:

    Tell you what, why don’t you actually read them this time? In the Kentucky Resolution you will find this:

    ” . . . therefore the act of Congress, passed on the 14th day of July, 1798, and intituled “An Act in addition to the act intituled An Act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States,” as also the act passed by them on the — day of June, 1798, intituled “An Act to punish frauds committed on the bank of the United States,” (and all their other acts which assume to create, define, or punish crimes, other than those so enumerated in the Constitution,) are altogether void, and of no force; and that the power to create, define, and punish such other crimes is reserved, and, of right, appertains solely and exclusively to the respective States, each within its own territory.”

    That’s pretty explicit on negating federal laws, wouldn’t you say?


  151. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:00 pm:

    Percival, you’ve had your little fun. Now get back to the topic at hand.


  152. - Ghost - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:13 pm:

    Historians generally adhere the the mantra that history is rewritten every 10 years roughly. This is to say that we look at the past through different perspectives as out society and culture matures, so does our view and understanding of prior events.

    This seems like a proper modern adjustment to outdated views of history from the past


  153. - Jeff Trigg - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:14 pm:

    It was brave to take on this topic and take a stand for what is right concerning how our government treats Calhoun and his legacy. I dare you to do the same with Black Hawk.


  154. - A guy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:15 pm:

    Those planners in DC turned out to be pretty smart naming streets after states and letters of the alphabet, eh?


  155. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:19 pm:

    Percival, I’d suggest you read Madison on the subject.

    Trigg, real brainstorm there with Black Hawk.

    Moving on…..


  156. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:20 pm:

    “- Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 11:01 am:

    ===we then will need to change the names of many places in West Virginia that honor Robert Byrd.===

    Red herring alert.

    Byrd had an odious past, but he renounced it. There’s a difference here.”

    I don’t consider it a red herring. Robert Byrd was a very bad guy for many years. He never owned up to his past and just changed to keep his political power.

    He should have condemned his past and done something about it. My liberal Democratic family from West Virginia never trusted him for a minute.


  157. - Obamas Puppy - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:21 pm:

    Rich, thank you for the history and I really enjoyed the perspective. However, the list of individuals that we have named counties, cities, towns, and streets after is a long one and if we are to go down this path shouldn’t we make it a little more comprehensive?


  158. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:22 pm:

    ===if we are to go down this path shouldn’t we make it a little more comprehensive? ===

    Not in my opinion.


  159. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:22 pm:

    What’s in a name? Much ado about the mans last name, but remember millions upon millions of toilets are named after his first name.


  160. - illini - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:25 pm:

    Sorry Rich, not Rick - my typo.


  161. - Steve Rogers - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:34 pm:

    The General Assembly passed a law to create Lincoln County in Illinois in 1867, but the local referendum failed. It would have been between Champaign and Vermilion Counties. http://www.lib.niu.edu/2003/ih050313.html


  162. - G'Kar - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:38 pm:

    Rich, I agree with article and would support changing the name of Calhoun County. I do, however, disagree with your statement at 1:33 where you wrote that Calhoun was a traitor to his country. He may have been a spokesmen for the South, but he never actually committed treason. It is a different story with Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, John Hood, John Gordon, Leonidas Polk, A. P. Hill and many more.


  163. - Robo - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:41 pm:

    Robo -
    In 2004 as Lt. Governor Pat Quinn went to Salt Lake City and apologized to the Mormons.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/08/national/08APOL.html


  164. - Retiree - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:42 pm:

    As a former history teacher, I have thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. And Rich provided some details about Illinois history about which I was unaware.

    As a genealogist, I have learned that I have slave owning ancestors. I have also learned that I have ancestors who left Kentucky for Illinois because they did not want to raise their children in a slave state.

    However, the most valuable thing you learn from genealogy is that you can not change your ancestors. You can only acknowledge what was. In the same respect, we can not change our history. However, we can learn from it. To bad, not enough people have learned from our country’s history of slavery and the Civil War.

    To me, John C. Calhoun was evil. He provided the intellectual arguments for the Civil War. He preached nullification, states rights and secession to protect slavery…and his political future. We have politicians today who also talk about nullification, states rights and secession in order to thwart attempts to protect the disadvantaged and to advance political causes or their political careers. We even have Presidential candidates who can be included in this group. Sad.

    Rather than change the name of Calhoun County, I think a greater impact can be made by using the history which Rich provided today to educate people on the history of states rights and succession as tools of oppression.


  165. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:42 pm:

    That was me, not Robo.
    Bad keyboard.


  166. - lollinois - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:53 pm:

    It isn’t “erasing” or “rewriting” history to change the name of something. It’s simply a reflection of the evolution of thought in our state about who we’d like to honor and commemorate by naming something after them.

    To those asking “Where does it end?”, good question, and debatable answer, but nothing says it must be anything more than changing the name of one county. If anyone would like to propose a more odious county name exists in the state that we should focus our attention on first, perhaps they should make that argument.


  167. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 2:56 pm:

    ===To those asking “Where does it end?”===

    I would suggest that the vigorous pushback on this from southern sympathizers suggests that going much further would be quite difficult.

    Only half snark.

    lol


  168. - Percival - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:07 pm:

    Retiree, I agree completely with your last comment - education is the enemy of prejudice. It is fascinating that even 150 years after the Civil War the same stuff keeps popping up, demonstrating that it is based on an inherent tension in any federal system. Lincoln once said before the war that the nullification debate had been “resolved in Jackson’s era”, meaning the tax showdown with South Carolina in 1832 - how wrong he was! I also agree that the current use of the Confederate Flag, public or private, is simply a symbol of White Supremacy and resistance to civil rights for Blacks rather than any “heritage” stuff, and supporters should be called out on that point. So to the extent that changing the county name is a gesture that demonstrates opposition to such reactionary intellectual forces, it is a good thing to do.


  169. - zp - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:10 pm:

    Seriously, what are we going to do about Ventura?


  170. - Secret Square - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:29 pm:

    I should clarify that by “zero tolerance” rules I mean things like Apple decreeing that Confederate flags can’t even be used in Civil War gaming apps — that’s an entirely different matter from removing them from official public display on government property.


  171. - illini - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:34 pm:

    This has been a fascinating discussion on many levels.

    Although I can trace my family back to the 1500’s in Germany, my family came to Washington County in the 1820’s, shortly after Illinois became a State. In fact, a great-great-great grandmother gave birth in Clinton County while traveling by wagon train on their passage to Washington Co.

    History ( especially family history ) is important and should be considered in this discussion - yet we must consider the origins of some of the County origins.

    I am proud of my genealogy and know that I am deeply rooted in Southern Illinois, but from what I have been able to determine were loyal to the North rather than sympathizing with the South in the 1860’s.


  172. - train111 - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:36 pm:

    I looked up that 1824 constitutional referendum in everybody’s favorite volume “Illinois Election Returns 1818-1848″ and quite unsurprisingly, there was a very very clear north/south divide in which counties were for the convention and which were against.

    train111


  173. - mcb - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:41 pm:

    But with all respect, Rich, I don’t think referring to anyone who disagrees with you as neo-confederates or confederate sympathizers is necessarily warranted.


  174. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:42 pm:

    ===Calhoun in the last analysis was unwilling to break the union. He worked with Daniel Webster to save it. The war came in the next generation.===

    Calhoun was unwilling because he quickly figured out Jackson wasn’t going to back down and that when Jackson and the US Army fought back and won, Calhoun would swing from the closest available tree.


  175. - jake - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:46 pm:

    I was prompted by this thread to read a bit more about Calhoun than I previously had done. I agree with Rich on changing the name. Place names imply honoring people. Those people will not be perfect, since nobody is, but they should be people whose good qualities outweigh their flaws. The net effect of Calhoun’s career on our nation and our people was destructive–his bad outweighed his good.


  176. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:46 pm:

    === referring to anyone who disagrees with you as neo-confederates or confederate sympathizers===

    If you use neo-Confederate talking points, you’re gonna get called on it.

    Quite simple.


  177. - Zp - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 3:59 pm:

    Rich miller invokes Francis from stripes;
    Anyone touches my stuff…I call ‘’em neo confederates!


  178. - Robo - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 4:10 pm:

    Anyone Remember - Monday, Jun 29, 15

    So?


  179. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 4:39 pm:

    I am a resident of Calhoun County IL and right now our community is fighting to save it homes and businesses from the rising flood waters. The men in my family and some friends and neighbors were up for over 36 hours straight this past weekend to move our grain in case the levy would break. Even though I do not agree with the person John C. Calhoun was the name of Calhoun County has a much different meaning to those who live there. We reference the name of Calhoun with pride of a community that will step up to help you in times of need. This community has some of the most amazing people living there that would give the shirt off the back to help someone in need. I am extremely proud to be from Calhoun County.


  180. - ArchPundit - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 4:55 pm:

    Calhoun doesn’t go away because we rename a county. We don’t ignore history by doing so, we respect history by doing so. We should learn from history and make better decisions about who to honor. Calhoun isn’t someone we should honor.


  181. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 29, 15 @ 5:06 pm:

    And with that, I’m closing comments. Teh crazy tends to come out after hours.

    Thanks, everybody!


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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