Deep Thoughts By H.W. Crocker III (1)

I thought I might start a little series of posts from The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War by H.W. Crocker III.   I would say that such passages are worth a good laugh, but then I step back and realize that these books sell incredibly well both here in the states and overseas. The Lost Cause lives.

Reconstruction: the bad

There had been no segregation in the antebellum South.  Plantation slaves lived in cabins within feet of their owner’s house.  City slaves lived in brick houses behind their owner’s house.  While whites in the North often lived far away from black people, Southern whites lived and worked (and their children played) side by side and thought nothing of it.  That changed after the war when the Radical Republicans sent armed regiments of black soldiers into the South as occupation troops and installed black politicians into local and state governments slots, while barring all former Confederates from holding office. (206-07)

58 responses... add one

Why am I not surprised by that. :) I am using the book this year for my Civil War Memory course. Thanks for the link.

I looked through this in a bookstore once but didn’t buy it. I really don’t want to support the guy’s work.
I have bought books by James McPherson, Brooks Simpson and Steven Woodworth and feel pretty good about doing my small part to help them continue their work.
Thanks for the post. Harry’s right – you can’t help but look. But at least I can keep my money.

Kevin,

Great post…this book is sort of like the Kennedy brother’s ” The south was right” Lite! I am also interested in knowing how you are using it in the classroom?

Harry,

Why am I not suprised that Richard Williams disagreed with your review?

Corey,

Yes, it is the same school of thought that encompasses the Kennedy brothers and the nonsense published by Pelican Press and other specialty presses. What is disappointing is that these books are published by Regnery, which does promote some pretty good work by conservatives of various stripes.

James,

Yes, as you can see most of this is just a throwback to Lost Cause rhetoric and racist propaganda.

Dan,

I agree that we should try to support competent historians who are trying to broaden and deepen our understanding of this crucial moment in American history rather than reduce it to a cartoon.

The casting of the historical narrative of the Civil War as a fight by the Confederacy against northern aggression may, ironically, appeal to citizens in countries outside of the United States who see the US as an imperialist nation. This may, in part, account for the appeal of books such as the one referenced to readers outside of the US. The irony is that the political philosophies of Lost Cause adherents and many of those who see the US as an imperialist nation are often diametrically opposed.

I note that your common reactions mirror almost exactly the reaction of biologists to “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Evolution”.

So emancipation brought segregation and I assume is the reason racism as we know it exists today. By this line of reasoning, one wonders why hordes of freedmen did not beg for a return to the salad days of slavery.

I look forward to your continued posts on this theme. This kind of drivel won’t stand the light of day, and posting it is just the right response.

Steven,

Unfortunately, posting it and exposing it for the nonsense that it is is the only thing you can do.

“Unfortunately, posting it and exposing it for the nonsense that it is is the only thing you can do.” — Well, we could have a good collective guffaw, or sit down and cry. I’m not sure which is more warranted :-(

“barring all former Confederates from holding office”

Its my understanding that former Confederates were barred from office right after the war. Reminds me of our plan barring former Bathists from serving in the Iragi government which in turn created an insurgency. AKA Klan during the Civil War.

Some were barred, but that is quite a different thing from suggesting that “all” were prevented from holding office.

Don’t forget that Presidential Reconstruction (Johnson) preceded Congressional Reconstruction (Radical Republican). Johnson encouraged the enactment of “black codes” that effectively stripped African-Americans of whatever benefits emancipation might have given them. It was essentially slavery without calling it slavery. The Radicals (and then Grant when he became President) were reacting to southerners who, after they had lost the war and devastated the country, wanted to go back to the way things had been before the war, as if the war had never occurred. Grant said to satisfy former Confederates, he didn’t know what the North could have done that it didn’t do, without surrendering the results of the war.

Bob,

I think such a distinction is already to go too far beyond Crocker’s intellectual and interpretive skills. :)

“Johnson encouraged the enactment of “black codes” that effectively stripped African-Americans of whatever benefits emancipation might have given them. It was essentially slavery without calling it slavery.”

Bob – so, in your opinion, the North’s victory really didn’t “free the slaves?”

Richard,

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution freed the slaves. Johnson’s actions applied serious limitations on that freedom as well as any meaningful notion of civil rights. Distinctions matter here.

Richard G.,

I know you are smarter than that, I read your blog.

For anyone else who might not get this:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Codes_(United_States)

(I know wiki’s not the best source, but it’s a place to start.)

Bob,

Thanks for the link. It’s unfortunate that this even needs to be pointed out to Richard Williams.

Richard,

Instead of worrying all day long about the evil liberal bias rearing its ugly head why not worry about your public statement about this particular book. This is what you said on March 21, 2009 in response to a review of the book by Harry Smeltzer: http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/2009/03/harry-on-harry-and-me-on-harry-and.html

“Certainly, Crocker’s collection of factoids and essays are not meant to be a scholarly, in-depth study of the WBTS. The book is, however, meant to challenge some popular myths surrounding the war and do it in a popular, somewhat witty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, entertaining style; which it does very well. Crocker is a gifted writer.”

I guess for you “challenging myths” involves getting the basic historical facts wrong. You have no credibility on this issue whatsoever.

Richard … I assume that you know something about Reconstruction, so you would know that former Confederates did in fact hold office after the American Civil War. If you didn’t know that, then that says something about your knowledge of Reconstruction. I’d think you would be against bad history, regardess of the source. But if you don’t know history, it’s hard to see how you can distinguish between good history and bad history, and that would render moot your criticism of other historians.

Brooks,

You mean the facts according to an liberal/academic/elite like yourself? Like I said he has no credibility on this topic, but I am sure he will say that we’ve interpreted his words incorrectly. Even worse, all Williams has to know is a little postwar history of his own beloved Virginia to know how absurd that statement is.

Richard–Upon rereading your post I did not realize how bizarre your “understanding” of American history might be. Here’s what you said:

“Its my understanding that former Confederates were barred from office right after the war. Reminds me of our plan barring former Bathists from serving in the Iragi government which in turn created an insurgency. AKA Klan during the Civil War.”

Now, Richard, let’s explore the record, shall we?

1. The KKK’s roots are to be found after the American Civil War, in December 1865, in Pulaski, Tennessee: it grew over the next several years. I had assumed you knew that the Confederacy had collapsed before the end of 1865. (Note: there is an interesting loophole here that Richard might try to exploit. Let’s see if he can do so.)

2. I assume you knew that former Confederates served in office after the Civil War, including in Virginia. Have you ever heard of James L. Kemper, for example? (I’m not forgetting William Mahone, Kevin). How about Benjamin Humphreys, governor of Mississippi from 1865 to 1868? And how dare you forget that Fitz Lee served as governor of Virginia! I guess you forgot John W. Daniel, too.

3. The notion of barring certain (not all) Confederates from serving in certain offices was advanced in the Fourteenth Amendment, which was not proposed until 1866 and not ratified until 1868, by which time the KKK was a going concern. So the KKK’s not a reaction to the Fourteenth Amendment. Far from it. The Fourteenth Amendment is one of several responses to white supremacist southern terrorism. Moreover, if you had actually read the amendment, you would know that Congress could decide to remove those restrictions.

Here’s the clause, Richard, just so we know that from now on you can’t profess ignorance:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Now, if you had actually read the Constitution, one of those sacred documents of American exceptionalism, you would know that. The above clause does not prohibit every Confederate from holding any office. However, we are forced to conclude that you celebrate a document which you have not even read, let alone understand.

Richard, we now know why you protest the lack of knowledge of American history. You’ve been suffering from that very problem for some time. That you offer a criticism of current American foreign policy based on a bizarre misreading of the past simply adds to concern about the impact of such ignorance on our current civil discourse.

Brooks,

I think you have the wrong Richard in mind. That passage is not attributed to Richard Williams. That said, I think that last paragraph applies to much of his silly political commentary. Thanks for such a thorough response.

Is the Richard who made the comment about Confederates not holding office the same Richard G. Williams who asked me the question about slavery? Same person or do we have two different Richards here?

I am ignorant. Got no problem saying it. My thoughts were along the lines of the 40 years right after the war. The rise of the Klan and in my area it was the Red Shirts. They used power and intimidation for political gain. But I guess from the comments made the former good ole boys never left power. My bad. Better stop drinking them buds and watching nascar and read a little.

Bob – thanks for the compliment. It was a rhetorical question meant to illustrate “over-simplifying” is an easy charge to make, i.e. there are many who say the WBTS “freed the slaves.” As KL notes, well, not exactly. Your accurate statement suggests that worthy goal may best have been accomplished some other way than the loss of 600,000 + lives. Of course, we can play “what if” all day.

Kevin – are all posters required to expound on the minutia on their knowledge of WBTS history in every post to have credibility, or is that just required of me? You really didn’t see the leading in my question?! As Bob would say, you’re smarter than that.

As far as “getting facts wrong” I’ve pointed out a number of your doing that very thing on various occasions on my blog. And since Brooks couldn’t even figure who to address, or who was writing what, I suppose we all sometimes have problems with “getting facts wrong.”

Brooks, should I expect an apology for the lack of knowledge which led to your rant against something I didn’t post?

Richard Williams,

I knew you would find a way to dodge the issue. No, readers are not expected to display mastery of the subject, but some basic understanding is assumed. On this one you fall short. You chimed in because of your post on this subject in which you complained that Harry Smelter didn’t give the book a fair shake. Apparently, you didn’t either. Sorry to see that you are standing by your comments re: Crocker. That’s pretty sad. I thought you were supposed to be the champion of legitimate history as opposed to the biased books that you believe to be dominating the market? The book can’t even get the basic facts right and you apparently don’t see that.

Richard G.,

“Your accurate statement suggests that worthy goal may best have been accomplished some other way than the loss of 600,000 + lives.”

I agree completely, but what are you intimating? What does “what if” have to do with it?

Richard, you posted what you posted. It was incorrect. But you’re right, I was hard on you. My apologies. As for Richard Williams, I’m not terribly concerned about what you expect. But it is funny to see you complaining about anyone ranting.

If emancipation’s a worthy goal, and doing it peacefully would have spared 640,000 lives, then guess who has it within their power to spare those lives by freeing their slaves?

I never thought Richard Williams would point to slaveholders as responsible for such slaughter, but he has. Amazing. How PC of him. :)

I gather Richard Williams does admit saying this:

“Certainly, Crocker’s collection of factoids and essays are not meant to be a scholarly, in-depth study of the WBTS. The book is, however, meant to challenge some popular myths surrounding the war and do it in a popular, somewhat witty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, entertaining style; which it does very well. Crocker is a gifted writer.”

And yet, when I demonstrate that Mr. Crocker is a crock when it comes to Reconstruction, Richard Williams, that defender of all that is true and right in American history, remains silent about his endorsement of the book.

Oh, by the way, I don’t expect an admission of wrongdoing from Mr. Williams. I just wanted to remind people of the sort of history he endorses … factually inaccurate history. He’s had a chance to admit Crocker’s wrong about Reconstruction, and yet he remains silent.

Just what I would expect.

Brooks,

I pointed to the very same passage in a previous comment. Not surprisingly, Williams never addressed it and I don’t expect him to. His typical response is to distract the reader with something else entirely or complain that you misrepresented his view. And you are absolutely right. As long as you agree with RW there is no bias to worry about. So much for credibility.

Bob:

“What if” cooler heads would have prevailed and a peaceful resolution, including the freeing of slaves, could have been negotiated. That’s what I meant. I would think that avoiding 600,000 deaths would be something worth pursuing, wouldn’t you?

KL – I’ll come back to the my comments on Mr. Crocker’s book, along with your criticisms, on my blog soon. Of course slaveholders were partly responsible for the slaughter. Your constant wrong assumptions about what I believe makes you look extremely foolish.

Brooks:

I’m not really surprised you wouldn’t admit your confusion over being able to figure out who wrote what or offer an apology for wrongly attributing the other Richard’s comments to me.

Richard Williams,

Just as I predicted. I knew I was misrepresenting you by citing your own words. Your comments are clear and represent an endorsement of a book that is fundamentally flawed. Deal with it. To be honest, I don’t really care what you think of this book because I do not consider you to be any kind of authority on the history it supposedly covers.

Richard,

” ‘What if’ cooler heads would have prevailed and a peaceful resolution, including the freeing of slaves, could have been negotiated. That’s what I meant. I would think that avoiding 600,000 deaths would be something worth pursuing, wouldn’t you?”

I thought you meant something like this, but I didn’t want to assume anything. The problem with this “what if” is that negotiations had been going on for decades. Compromises had been made repeatedly, yet despite all the compromises, when Lincoln was elected (in a legitimate election) southern slave holders decided negotiations were no longer possible and resorted to armed rebellion and secession.

Bob,

I think that is the right way to look at it. We could add that the interests of Southern slave owners were clearly protected/reinforced by the Federal Government up until Lincoln’s election. Of course, I mean this on the level of perception since Lincoln and the Republicans were not interested in legislating against slavery in the Old South. Lincoln’s election clearly led to the secession of the Deep South where the staunchest defenders of slave interests resided.

“I’m not really surprised you wouldn’t admit your confusion over being able to figure out who wrote what or offer an apology for wrongly attributing the other Richard’s comments to me.”

I attributed Richard’s comments to Richard, Mr. Williams. That you suspect that apply to you is interesting, especially in light of the fact that others say they do describe you.

As you have seen fit not to retract your endorsement of the Crocker book in light of the inaccuracies that have been highlighted in this thread, well, then you aren’t in much of a position to demand or expect anything. But what we have learned is that you in fact haven’t even read the very documents upon which people like you base a claim of American exceptionalism, because, if you had, you would have known Crocker was wrong.

So why do you deliberately endorse bad history? Is it out of ignorance (which would remove you as a valid opinion on the works you comment on) or out of deliberate distortion of the historical record to satisfy your own prejudices (in which case, reader beware)? You can’t use the ignorance excuse any more.

In short, you’ve basically confessed that you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to American history, and you respond to what you read based on your own prejudices, not the actual record. If this was not the case, you would have immediately retracted your earlier endorsement of the Crocker book.

So, if you want people to retract or apologize for making mistakes, perhaps you had better set the example by writing a long post in your own blog about your own mistakes when it comes to endorsing the Crocker book, and your confession of your ignorance of the basic facts of Reconstruction and of the Constitution itself. Otherwise, you would reveal yourself as being quite the hypocrite. You should not ask of others what you evidently can’t ask of yourself.

In short, what you complain does not apply to you applies to you, and you’ve proved it.

Oh, and by the way, you assailed Jim Epperson for not reading books which he has seen fit to criticize. I’d suggest you might watch out, lest your own standards be applied to you. For some reason, for example, I doubt you’ve read Howard Zinn. Now, I don’t find Zinn’s version of American history particularly insightful, except as an illustration of a certain perspective, but at least I’ve read it. But I’ve seen no evidence that you’ve read many (if any) of the books you see fit to assail.

Kevin:

I assume you read that I would respond on my blog about Crocker’s book and I will. Be patient. You’ve assailed my credibility before Kevin. I think everyone knows what you think. Of course, you have your own issues in that category as well. I get emails about it all the time.

Brooks, you wrote:

“I attributed Richard’s comments to Richard, Mr. Williams. That you suspect that apply to you is interesting, especially in light of the fact that others say they do describe you.”

Right. That’s why KL had to clarify that there were two Richards commenting so you weren’t confused. The “other” Richard did not mention American exceptionalism, I did. I did not mention the Klan, the “other” Richard did. You jumped from addressing the other Richard’s comments to remarking about something I said on my blog. You need to go back and read your own comments. You’re still very confused. Kevin, can you help him out some more?

No demand, its just good manners to apologize when you criticize someone in error by confusing them with someone else, which is what you did, and which Kevin pointed out to you. And, no, I’m not retracting my endorsement of Crocker’s book. I stand by what I said and will discuss further on my blog.

I confessed nothing. Please don’t put words in my mouth. You’ve already done that once and shown you didn’t even know who was commenting. You’re beginning to sound a little incoherent.

Regarding Zinn, why would I want to read his hyper-leftist writings? I’ve read enough of his writings to know it would be a waste of my time. (BTW, did you read all of Crocker’s book? “What’s good for the goose . . . “) I’ve got more books on my reading list than I’ll ever be able to get to now. I’m certainly not going to waist my time reading someone like Zinn.

Richard Williams,

I don’t need to read your response. Your words are sufficient. That you do not retract your support for this book says all that needs to be said about your level of understanding of history. Yes, I have challenged your credibility and I’ve provided reasons for doing so. I stand by those statements. You have done the same thing on your blog so don’t for a minute attempt to play the victim with me. Like I said, you always find a way to avoid being pinned down.

I have no doubt that your readers send you emails about me, but that only shows that they read my blog. And that speaks volumes to me.

Richard Williams declares: “Regarding Zinn, why would I want to read his hyper-leftist writings? I’ve read enough of his writings to know it would be a waste of my time.”

And yet this is what Richard Williams told Jim Epperson in discussing Crocker’s book:

“It’s rather silly of you to debate its merits, and the author’s points, while at the same time admitting you haven’t read it.”

http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/2009/03/harry-on-harry-and-me-on-harry-and.html

Then Mr. Williams closed the comments to hostile fire.

I believe this is what is meant by hypocrisy.

Bravo, Mr. Williams, for admitting that you still endorse factually-flawed history.

As for what Kevin knew or didn’t know, Mr. Williams, if you read his response to my first post, he identified “Richard” as you. I simply took advantage of the confusion and drew you out, because I was curious as to what would happen once you were exposed to the blogging world as a fraud. But I simply responded to “Richard,” Mr. Williams. I can’t help what you assume.

Given your muddle logic, Mr. Williams, it’s ironic that you would charge anyone with being incoherent.

And, from the same exchange on your own blog:

“Great comeback James. Any time someone disagrees with academic orthodoxy, its a rant.”

And yet let’s look at what you say above:

“Brooks, should I expect an apology for the lack of knowledge which led to your rant against something I didn’t post?”

In other words, Mr. Williams, a “rant,” according to you, is any post that disagrees with your view of the world. The only lack of knowledge in this exchange concerns what Mr. Crocker and you know about Reconstruction. The other Richard acknowledged his lack of knowledge: you do not. That shortcoming is now evident to all.

So continue to endorse false history. At least it’s now out there for all to see, since you can’t close these comments.

You’ve been taken, Mr. Williams, and a very delightful taking it was. I couldn’t have done it without you. Have a nice day.

Kevin:

Most of the email to which I allude have come from other CW bloggers. And, as you and Brooks so often quote and refer to me here, it’s obvious your readers read my blog as well. Some of them comment there, some don’t, but they do email me as well.

Brooks:

Zinn is an admitted leftist pushing a leftist agenda:

“Objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable. That is, if it were possible it would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you should make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity.”
~ Howard Zinn

“I wanted my writing of history and my teaching of history to be a part of social struggle. I wanted to be a part of history and not just a recorder and teacher of history. So that kind of attitude towards history, history itself as a political act, has always informed my writing and my teaching.” ~ Howard Zinn

I have read enough of his works to come to an informed decision in the context of this discussion. How much excrement does one have to taste before he realizes its unwise to continue? Epperson’s comments about Crocker’s book, to which I was responding, were more detailed and I believe my criticism was appropriate. Your comparison is not an accurate one, though in short blog comments like this, easy to make it appear as though it is. So the hypocrisy charge is invalid. Yes, I close comments from time to time, as many bloggers (including Kevin) do. Most times, I close them because I become bored and/or those debating an issue are simply repeating the same points. There does come a point when enough is enough. You see that as an opportunity to charge that it was because of hostile fire? I’ve never banned anyone from commenting on my blog. The same cannot be said about some blogs.

“As for what Kevin knew or didn’t know, Mr. Williams, if you read his response to my first post, he identified “Richard” as you. I simply took advantage of the confusion and drew you out, because I was curious as to what would happen once you were exposed to the blogging world as a fraud. But I simply responded to “Richard,” Mr. Williams. I can’t help what you assume.”

Yeah, right. You and Kevin were in on the conspiracy together, right? I suppose you strategized in “drawing me out” and that is why he tried to relieve you of “the confusion.” Anyone reading that string of comments can clearly see you did not realize to whom you were commenting and which “Richard” said what. And now you’re saying that was intentional and some brilliant plan on your part to trap me? So who is the real fraud? (By the way, how does one take advantage of his own confusion?)

“The other Richard acknowledged his lack of knowledge: you do not. That shortcoming is now evident to all.”

Yes, I see that when the other Richard admitted his inferiority to your superior intellect, you granted him absolution. How very gracious of you (and humble too).

I’ve “been taken”? Really? Are you sure, this time, which Richard you’re speaking to? I don’t believe I would characterize our exchange as “delightful.” It has, however, been interesting to observe such hubris on public display for all the world to see. You have a nice day too.

Richard Williams,

While I disagree with much of what Zinn has written about American history, his “exrement” is 10x more interesting than anything you’ve written. But if Zinn’s leftist agenda is a sufficient reason to dismiss him out of hand than I also assume your right wing agenda is as much of a reason to dismiss the few things you’ve published. Haven’t you gone just as far as Zinn in revealing your political/social/cultural bias? Your choice of quotes seems to imply that it is possible to distinguish between one’s political views and the actual historical interpretation. But if that is the case you rarely follow along. Most of your commentary about academic Civil War history is nothing more than vague generalizations and assumptions about its political/cultural bias. I read this as just more evidence that you haven’t really read that much academic history – at least I can’t find much of anything in your Online library. As far as I can tell most of your criticisms of Zinn can just as easily be applied to you.

Brooks,

I agree with most everything you have said here. I also understand that you are an expert on Reconstruction and respect that. In following this discussion, it was my understanding that you did confuse the two men who are named “Richard”, however. If you had not confused them, I do not think you would have been so harsh in your initial response, because you are always fair to readers who lack a background in history when you comment. If this was a strategy to encourage Richard Williams to respond, I did not understand that. I add this comment for the sake of fairness. You have stated that you did not confuse the two men, so I believe you. That was not clear as the thread progressed, at least not to me. The strength of your argument was not diluted because of the confusion, so the issue is, in the end, a non-issue.

“Richard version 2”: I offer respect to you. You have been spoken of almost in third person, as if you are not there.

Richard Williams: You do ban people on your blog.

All: I, like other readers of this blog, lack a background in history. That does not mean that I am “ignorant”, or that other readers are “ignorant”. That means we lack a background in history.

Kevin: Thank you,

Sherree

Kevin:

I do respect Zinn for his honesty. He’s very up front about his beliefs, as am I. (Read my header. I let people know where I’m coming from.) It’s left up to each individual reader to decide which (or neither) biases are closer to the truth. The biggest problem I have is with those, like you, who proclaim they are above it all and objective, when your bias, agenda, and political views are every bit as clear. The same with Brooks Simpson.

And most of your commentary about Confederate history, as it relates to various aspects of Southern heritage and culture, is nothing more than vague generalizations and assumptions and reveals your cultural/political bias.

My focus on reading is biography, which I believe is the best way to study history, as well as the most entertaining and enlightening. What you, as a liberal academic, believe are the best books to read, means absolutely nothing to me. I reject the faddish books on history which echo what academia expects every one to open wide and swallow. And I’ve not taken the time to list every book in my library, though a couple that are listed actually happen to be ones you’ve recommended. Imagine that.

RW,

You didn’t respond to my main point. If Zinn’s political bias is a reason to reject his writing than I suspect that the same holds true for you? If what we write is to be understood simply as an expression of our politics than what is the point? I don’t know which writings of mine you are referring to. Have you read my published work? If so, you’ve never given any indication of it. I’ve never claimed that I am above any kind of bias. That said, I don’t think you know much of anything about where I stand on most issues since I rarely talk about them on my blog. No doubt, you’ve read enough for your overly simplistic world of good v. evil that you live in. What I have said over and over is that it is not enough to dismiss an individual or group of historians without analyzing the actual interpretation. Of course, you don’t reject the work of all academics. You only reject those that do not hold your political/cultural beliefs. I suspect that is why you came out charging in your defense of Crocker. Your rejection of “faddish” books is nothing more than an indication that you’ve not read them. You mention Simpson, but have you ever read his biography of Grant or anything by him? If not, than what exactly are you complaining about? To be honest, I don’t know much of anything about his politics and I really don’t care. I am interested in his historical interpretations while you are preoccupied with his politics.

Case in point, when I ask my students to write summaries of analytical essay by historians I tell them to steer clear of the author’s backgrounds. As you know my students read one of the chapters in Zinn’s _People’s History_ and we talk about his politics and activism. One of my students asked if he could comment on this in his essay and I told him that his job is to critique the argument that is contained in the book. The argument stands or falls on how well Zinn (or any other historian for that matter) interprets the available evidence. You, on the other hand, have never seemed to understand that important lesson.

As I stated in the post where I introduced Disqus the comments have not been deleted. All the comments have been synced except those from the past few days. I am working to resolve the issue.

As I stated in the post where I introduced Disqus the comments have not been deleted. All the comments have been synced except those from the past few days. I am working to resolve the issue.

Forgive me for butting in to this vigorous discussion, but I think it is potentially dangerous to put total faith in accounts of history when they are so biased by those in power. I do not pretend to know the truth behind all of the political machinations that led up to the Civil War. I feel that it is reasonable, however, given the ridiculous abundance of writing from the hands of American politicians in that time period to assume that a few things are true:

1. Slavery seems to have been a touchy issue from the word go, and even before independence, but was not the reason the southern states wished to secede from the Union. Slavery seems to have contributed a great deal to the tension but, ultimately, it was states rights (or lack thereof) that led to an attempted secession.

2. Nowhere in the Constitution did it state at the time of secession that a state could not secede from the Union. Every President up to the Civil War seemed to be concerned about the potential for just such a division and did everything within their power to prevent a war. Lincoln was no exception.

3. I do not think you can call a man “anti-slavery” or “abolitionist” for freeing his slaves upon his own death. If the man truly thought slavery was wrong, why did he wait until he no longer needed them to free them? One would think that a man who was truly convicted that slavery was wrong would free his slaves the moment he was convicted.

4. Frankly, I don’t buy that the Civil War was a fight against northern or southern aggression. I see it as a division in political beliefs that led to a stamping of feet and shouting which grew into “we’ll take our ball and go home” countered by “over our dead bodies” followed by “sounds good to us” and voila! … Civil War. Obviously, that is a rather simplistic viewpoint and misses completely the finer points and counterpoints of the entire ordeal. However, I hope you see my point. Slaves had little to do with anything until Lincoln brought up the Emancipation Proclamation …

5. Was the Emancipation Proclamation truly the move to freedom that it appeared to be or was it simply a brilliant military move in a war no one really wanted? I think the sad truth is that no one can ever really know at this point. None of us were there. None of us are intimately familiar with these long dead figures or their minds. All we have are historical documents that may or may not be accurate, the motivations of which we can only speculate about.

As I said, sorry to interrupt. Pray, continue with the interesting discussion. :)

Fizz…..(Is that really your name?)

1. You have the cart before the horse. It was protection of the institution of slavery that led Southerners down the path to States’ Rights. If they could have maintained a majority at the national level they would have been happy to continue to use federal power to protect their “way of life.”

2. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say a state DOES have a right secede.

3. To whom are you referring?

4. You can’t possibly sudy American history without running into the issue of slavery over and over and over again. It didn’t suddenly become an issue when the EP was announced.

5. Unfortunately, I think there were many who wanted war. Most thought it would be a grand adventure, over in a few months. No one foresaw what it actually became. No question the EP was a military move, but it also transformed the Union cause from one of strictly saving the Union to one of human freedom. Ultimately, that was its true value. As to the accuracy of historic documents and the motivations of historic figures, the job of a historian is to analyze and put into context all the available evidence and offer the best interpretation based on that evidence. Beyond that, people can choose to believe anything they want.

Fizz,

I’d encourage you to go back and read what the secessionist leaders were saying and writing at the time, especially in the winter of 1861-62, about the causes and justifications of their actions. Read the various states’ articles of secession. Read the Confederate constitution. Read the speeches and the editorials.

The reason historians recognize that the Southern states’ decision to secede from the Union was over the preservation and expansion of the institution of slavery is because they said so themselves. They were very, very clear on that.

Fizz-
1.There’s a traditional rule of statutory construction that says that the specific controls the general. Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution provides detailed provisions for creating and admitting states (>>Section 3 · Admission of new states; Power of congress over territories, other property. New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.<<) Yet it is silent on what would be the most complex and difficult task: a state leaving the Union. The very fact that no provision was made for how to do this speaks volumes in support of the conclusion that the Constitution did not allow a state to unilaterally decide to leave and also did not provide for the federal government and/or a group of states to unilaterally kick a state out of the Union against its will.
2. I'd recommend Fehrenbacher and McAfee's "The Slaveholding Republic" (and the republic to which the title refers is to the USA, not the CSA), slavery infiltrated and all too often dominated almost every major issue until the 13th Amendment was ratified, including the Nullification Crisis and the Gag Rule Crisis. As others have recommended, read what the secessionists said and wrote during the secession winter. Slavery dominated the subject. As for states rights, the slave states showed little concern for the rights of free states until population shifts starting weaking the slave states' control over all three branches of the US government.
3. In many slave states, it was illegal at various points to emancipate slaves. As for why individuals chose to use wills, that would be a case by case basis. Some clearly manumitted slaves for moral/philosophical reasons; others simply did it as a gift to a favored slave. Remember slaves were legally considered to be property and property law did apply.
4. Why can't the EP be both a military measure AND the right thing to do?

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