Deep Thoughts With H.W. Crocker III (4)

For this week’s installment of “Deep Thoughts” we visit the final chapter of Crocker’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War for some thoughts about what might have been.  Following a fictionalized speech in which Lincoln allows the Confederacy to leave the Union in peace, Crocker says the following:

Had Lincoln given that speech would “government of the people, by the people, and for the people have perished from the Earth”?  No, it would have been confirmed, as the Southern states would have enjoyed that very thing and not have been brutalized into accepting a government that did not represent their interests.  Would slavery have persisted until this very day?  No, it seems certain it would have been abolished peaceably, as it found itself abolished everywhere else in the New World in the nineteenth century.  Imagine that there had been no war against the South, and subsequently no Reconstruction putting the South under martial law, disenfranchising white voters with Confederate pasts, and enfranchising newly freed slaves as wards of the Republican Party.  Without that past, race relations in the South would have been better, not worse, and the paternalist planters would have arranged, over time, to emancipate their slaves in exchange for financial compensation. (p. 332-33)

First, given that the value of slaves continued to increase during the late antebellum period and even through part of the war, why would any slave owner seriously consider emancipation for compensation? Not surprisingly, Crocker presents the reader with a distorted and false view of Reconstruction. It pits black v. white and North v. South along with a fantasy about the future of race relations had the federal government not occupied the former Confederacy. What I fail to understand is if white Southerners would have done a better job handling race relations on their own terms than how do we explain the rise of Jim Crow?  Why were state constitutions rewritten to disfranchise the vast majority of black Americans during the late nineteenth and much of the twentieth century?

It’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who consider this to be serious history. Keep in mind that this book eclipses in sales anything written by a serious historian. So, if you want to know what Americans believe about their Civil War start with this book. Yes, it’s very disturbing.

20 responses... add one

Most of what I have read of any of the PIG series (which, I'll admit, isn't much) leads me to believe it belongs in a pig pen somewhere. I would much rather see history buffs read something like “The Complete Idiot's Guide” or a “…for Dummies” book. While these may gloss over deeper issues, the ones I have read (most of the ones related to history) don't attempt to rewrite the basic facts as the PIG series does. Nor do they claim to be “the” true and accurate of the events described.

I am not familiar with the “Idiot's Guide[s]“; however, I agree that there is nothing wrong with wanting a basic understanding of American history. No doubt, there are reliable and concise books available. Oxford Press has a pretty good series of books that cover a number of different fields, including American history.

Yes, the Oxford University Press American History series is probably the best of the concise histories of various eras in the nation's history. Joy Hakim's series, also published by Oxford Press, is the best I've found for juvenile history students. Some people just don't want to look at anything from a university press, often thinking of these volumes as stuffy and boring. I guess I'm just saying that I would rather see someone read one of the other two series I mentioned for a brief of history rather than the bad history that the PIG guides appear to be.

Also, I'll check out the avatar thing.

There's a story regarding Douglas Southall Freeman's father and the outcome of the Civil War. It was said that Freeman's father could never reconcile himself to the outcome of the war until he saw what was necessary for us to win World War I. He then apparently told his son that maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that the North won and kept the union together. So…if he can learn, maybe others will eventually do so.

Best
Rob

Kevin,
The story is in “American Historians and National Politics from the Civil War to the First World War” by James A. Rawley which is located in “Essays in American Historiography: Papers Presented in Honor of Allan Nevins (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960) ppgs 81-108.

Best
Rob

“Had Lincoln given that speech would “government of the people, by the people, and for the people have perished from the Earth”? No, it would have been confirmed, as the Southern states would have enjoyed that very thing …”

I have not read the “speech” referred to, but I have no doubt Unionists would have vehemently disagreed with Crocker's assessment. This obviously goes to the heart of the Northern response to the secession crisis. First, they did not believe a majority of Southerners actually wanted to secede. Grant wrote in his Memoirs:

“There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing sentiment of the South would have opposed secession in 1860-1861 if there would have been a fair and calm expression of opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there was no calm discussion of the matter.”

The Republicans of the 1850's believed the aristocratic planter class, the “slave power,” had usurped the will of the people. Grant again:

“The fact is, the Southern slaveholders believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves conferred a sort of patent of nobility – a right to govern independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine origin of the institution and, next that that particular institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators but themselves.”

Lincoln always believed there were large numbers of Unionists in the South. I think historians have generally said he was overestimating their number, but it is interesting to note the work of current historians who continue to uncover stories of Southern Unionists.

Unfortunately, we are left to speculate on the what-ifs involved in how the southern states chose to go about seceding from the Union. Recent work on Southern Unionists has been extremely helpful in uncovering the complexity of loyalties during the secession winter and throughout the war, but I have no idea what to say about popular support for disunion in 1860-61. Thanks for the comment.

By the way, you may have to upload another avatar if interested. Sorry about that.

Most of what I have read of any of the PIG series (which, I'll admit, isn't much) leads me to believe it belongs in a pig pen somewhere. I would much rather see history buffs read something like “The Complete Idiot's Guide” or a “…for Dummies” book. While these may gloss over deeper issues, the ones I have read (most of the ones related to history) don't attempt to rewrite the basic facts as the PIG series does. Nor do they claim to be “the” true and accurate of the events described.

I am not familiar with the “Idiot's Guide[s]“; however, I agree that there is nothing wrong with wanting a basic understanding of American history. No doubt, there are reliable and concise books available. Oxford Press has a pretty good series of books that cover a number of different fields, including American history.

The PIG for the Civil War is just flat out really bad history. By the way, I am not sure why your avatar isn't appearing on my site or on your profile page. I had the same issue after transferring to a new host. You may have to upload again.

Yes, the Oxford University Press American History series is probably the best of the concise histories of various eras in the nation's history. Joy Hakim's series, also published by Oxford Press, is the best I've found for juvenile history students. Some people just don't want to look at anything from a university press, often thinking of these volumes as stuffy and boring. I guess I'm just saying that I would rather see someone read one of the other two series I mentioned for a brief of history rather than the bad history that the PIG guides appear to be.

Also, I'll check out the avatar thing.

There's a story regarding Douglas Southall Freeman's father and the outcome of the Civil War. It was said that Freeman's father could never reconcile himself to the outcome of the war until he saw what was necessary for us to win World War I. He then apparently told his son that maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that the North won and kept the union together. So…if he can learn, maybe others will eventually do so.

Best
Rob

Kevin,
The story is in “American Historians and National Politics from the Civil War to the First World War” by James A. Rawley which is located in “Essays in American Historiography: Papers Presented in Honor of Allan Nevins (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960) ppgs 81-108.

Best
Rob

“Had Lincoln given that speech would “government of the people, by the people, and for the people have perished from the Earth”? No, it would have been confirmed, as the Southern states would have enjoyed that very thing …”

I have not read the “speech” referred to, but I have no doubt Unionists would have vehemently disagreed with Crocker's assessment. This obviously goes to the heart of the Northern response to the secession crisis. First, they did not believe a majority of Southerners actually wanted to secede. Grant wrote in his Memoirs:

“There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing sentiment of the South would have opposed secession in 1860-1861 if there would have been a fair and calm expression of opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there was no calm discussion of the matter.”

The Republicans of the 1850's believed the aristocratic planter class, the “slave power,” had usurped the will of the people. Grant again:

“The fact is, the Southern slaveholders believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves conferred a sort of patent of nobility – a right to govern independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine origin of the institution and, next that that particular institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators but themselves.”

Lincoln always believed there were large numbers of Unionists in the South. I think historians have generally said he was overestimating their number, but it is interesting to note the work of current historians who continue to uncover stories of Southern Unionists.

Unfortunately, we are left to speculate on the what-ifs involved in how the southern states chose to go about seceding from the Union. Recent work on Southern Unionists has been extremely helpful in uncovering the complexity of loyalties during the secession winter and throughout the war, but I have no idea what to say about popular support for disunion in 1860-61. Thanks for the comment.

By the way, you may have to upload another avatar if interested. Sorry about that.

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