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.