Browsing "Historians on History"

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

Author M.E. Bradford wrote that in America, “race (at last as far as the Negro is concerned) has proved to be an almost indestructible identity,” and has led to us stepping away from cherished liberties. He goes on that despite its ill-effect upon our original principles, it was predictable “that liberty, as our tradition understands the term, should begin to reassert its original hegemony, that the oldest of liberties honored among us – rights grounded in the fundament of English inheritance” shall return to favor, “though in new disguises.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

“Jefferson’s fire bell sounded in the legislative darkness, tolling the “knell” of the Union he had so much helped to shape. After Missouri, States achieved full membership in the federal compact only after meeting federally determined prescriptions concerning the status of blacks within their boundaries – conditions not imposed upon the original thirteen and without real precedent in the Northwest Ordinance.

Predictably, Jefferson’s Union did die – in 1861. And in the latter stages of its ruin, the connection between blacks and American millennialism intensified. With Equality (capital E) the new Republic played some verbal and opportunistic games. I leave aside for the moment the merits and demerits of this “second founding.”

For, once completed . . . the Trojan horse of our homegrown Jacobinism was rolled away to some back stall within the stable of received American doctrines. Emancipation appeared to have changed nothing substantial in the basic confederal framework. Neither did it attempt any multiracial miracles.

Most certainly, New England has had its high expectations of a City on a Hill; likewise, even the South owed, from its earliest days, some inertia to a hope of Eden over the sea. Moreover, in company with the frontier States, both regions drew comfort from the idea of a “manifest destiny.” Yet the total nation has, characteristically, despised and rejected who or whatever aspired to dragoon its way to such beatitudes through the instruments of Federal policy.

The only full exception to this rule, I insist, is the “civil rights revolution” of the past thirty years. In connection with the difficult question of the Negro’s place within our social compact, an imperative was discovered, stronger than any ever pressed upon us before: there discovered because the Negro’s lot within that compact was so difficult (and so slow) to improve.

With it we have made fair to force the issue, even if liberty (and its correlatives: law, localism and personalism) loses much of its authority as a term of honor: is diminished especially insofar as it applies to that nondescript but substantial many who captain, man and propel the ship of state.

Of course, as Lenin wrote, the only way to make men equal is to treat them unequally. And Lenin’s advice does not function inside our curious native dialect. The only equality Americans can universally approve is accidental, a corollary of liberty or simple equality before a law with limited scope.

In 1820 . . . we took an initial step away from liberty; in 1861-1877, a few more. And from these examples, from our uneasiness at the – to the millennialist sensibility — greatest of built-in American “scandals,” in the post-World War II era we arrived at converting at least one feature of millennialism into a positive goal. To use the late William Faulkner’s idiom we set out to “abolish” the Negro we knew, both as a presences and a problem. The results begin to speak for themselves, the fresh set of insoluble dilemmas which, with each dawning day, cry out for more potent magic than the cures for yesterday’s injustice which spawned them into existence in the first place.”

(Remembering Who We Are; Observations of a Southern Conservative, M.E. Bradford, UGA Press, 1985, excerpts pp. 47-48; 50-51)

The Changed North

Well before 1860 the American experiment in government was severely fractured and the territorial Union split ideologically into two warring camps. The first shots of the coming war between them could be said to have been threatened over nullification in 1832, but open warfare was a reality by 1854 in Kansas. The North had changed greatly as it achieved a huge numerical advantage over the South, and its ascent to national power in 1860 with a mere 39% plurality gave it the political, military and financial control it craved. The North could have allowed the peaceful departure of the South, had it wanted.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Changed North

“An Anti-Slavery man per se cannot be elected; but a [protective] Tariff, River-and-Harbor [improvements], Pacific Railroad [subsidies]. Free Homestead [for immigrants] man, may succeed although he is Anti-Slavery.” Horace Greeley on the 1860 Republican Convention.

Ask any trendy student of history today and he will tell you that without question the cause of the great American bloodletting of 1861-1865 was slavery. Slavery and nothing but slavery. The unstated and usually unconscious assumption being that only people warped by a vicious institution could possibly fight against being part of “the greatest nation on earth.”

There is an even deeper and less conscious assumption here: malicious, unprovoked hatred of Southern people that is endemic in many American elements. Thus, according to the wisdom of current “scholars” no credit is to be given to anything that Southerners might say about their own reasoning and motives. They are all merely repeating “Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil deeds.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, thus, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860. Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source if the perversion that led it to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. For, after all, “American” is the norm of the universe and any divergence is a pathology. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the north changed during the pre-war period?”

(The Yankee Problem, an American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 52-53)

 

Sep 11, 2016 - America Transformed, Historians on History, Historical Accuracy, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing    Comments Off on American Historians and Their History

American Historians and Their History

The following is excerpted from Dr. Clyde N. Wilson’s “Defending Dixie, Searching for Fleas.”  (Foundation for American Education, 2006, pp. 44-45).

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

American Historians and Their History

“Almost a lifetime of considering what historianship is, I am satisfied that what it is or should be is storytelling. Assuredly it cant be a scientific experiment, nor a logical proposition, nor the illustration of a theory. Our existence is drama, that is, a story, taking place in the mind of God. Through history we have our only knowledge of the mysterious drama of our existence beyond what has been granted us as Revelation.

I like the delightful saying of the English historian Veronica Wedgewood: “History is not a science – it is an art, like all the other sciences.” Or more seriously, we can make the same point by calling on John Lukacs perfect definition: “History is a kind of memory, organized and supported by evidence.” With emphasis on the evidence. In asserting that history is not certainty, I don’t deny that there are varying degrees of honesty and competence in the handling of evidence that allow us to judge the quality of a historian’s work.

If history is best understood as a story, at least two things follow. First, a story – like that of the Alamo – is somebody’s story – it is not everybody’s story as is claimed by those with an agenda, whether they be nationalist ideologues or multiculturalists. Everybody can learn from a story, but if it is to be real and valid, it is some people’s story. It follows that American in our time cannot have a real history because America today does not have a real people.

There was a time, peaking in the World War II era, when the inhabitants of this vast and diverse nation-state almost mingled into one people. That opportunity is now past. The inhabitants of the United States are corralled under the same territorial monopoly of force and exploitation; they share the same bread and circuses.

They are not a people, only the motley subjects of an empire. Aggregations of Oprah watchers, sports fans, and mall shoppers do not make a people. After Augustus the story of Rome ceases to be the story of a heroic and patriotic people. The Roman people pass from sight. The history of Rome becomes only an account of more or less evil emperors and a chaos of peoples without stories. Such is American in the era of Bush. The future history of the last national election can be written only as a meaningless contest in which the jocks barely beat out the nerds for possession of the imperial palace.

Most of the work of academic historians today can portray the American story in no other terms except as an abstract fantasy of oppressors and oppressed. No society has ever had more professional historians and devoted more resources to historical work of all kinds than modern America – or produced so many useless, irrelevant, and downright pernicious products. I know a historian who teaches that the great Virginians of the American Revolution were like the Taliban. Presumably because they carried weapons and were not feminists. This is to reduce human experience to a paltry and partial perspective, to remove from it everything that is worthwhile and ennobling, usable and true. But this is what academic historians mostly do these days.

A historian should be trying to say something true and useful about human beings, and doing so modestly and cautiously. No historian can discover indisputable truth, at least not about anything important. But that is what historians are claiming to do these days by reducing the drama of human experience to abstract, supposedly universal theory.”

 

The Cause of America’s New Version

The seemingly settled question today is that the American South withdrew from the Union because of a desire to perpetuate African slavery, and that no other issues of that period in our history ought to be considered. And beyond this settled question, Southerners who attempt any favorable motives to their ancestors are “merely repeating Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil intent of their ancestors. The author below recommends investigating any mythology created by the winning side.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Cause of America’s New Version

“Set aside that the question of causation in history is a complex one, to say the least. Still it is true that historians of other generations, of vastly greater breadth of learning than most of today’s, ascribed other “causes” to t most critical event in American history: clash of economic interests and cultures, blundering politicians, irresponsible agitators. There is a bit of sleight-of-hand along with today’s false assumptions.

Even if slavery may have in some simplistic and abstract sense “caused” the secession of the first seven Southern States, it does not establish that it “caused” the war. The war was caused by the determination of Lincoln and his party to conquer the Southern States and destroy their legal governments.

Caused, one might say by Northern nationalism – nationalism being a combination of romantic identification with a centralized state and interest in a unitary economic market. The war, after all, consisted in the invasion and conquest of the South by the U.S. government. A very simple fact that most Americans, it would seem, are unable to process, along with the plain fact that Northern soldiers did not make war for the purpose of freeing black people.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860, while the South had remained attached to the original concept of the Union.

Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source of the perversion that led to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the North changed during the prewar period?”

(The Yankee Problem: An American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, pp. 52-53)

Southern Historians Sapping and Mining the Northern Myth

Historian and author Frank L. Owsley dedicated his professional life to righting the revisionist history of postwar Northern textbooks and relating an honest appraisal of why the War was fought between North and South. He viewed the conflict of 1861 as a struggle between Southern agrarian culture versus Northern industrialism intent upon political and economic control of the entire country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southerners Sapping and Mining the Northern Myth

“In describing the writings of one New Southerner, Frank Owsley wrote Allen Tate on February 29, 1932: “He is the typical “New Southerner,” the defeated [and] conquered . . . American. Dodd [William E. Dodd, Frank’s major professor at Chicago] remarked to me that it did not hurt him so much to be whipped! Or to see the South whipped! What broke his heart was to see the South conquered . . . he says it is the most completely defeated and conquered people of all history.”

Frank continued: “I believe that the spiritual and intellectual conquest of the South, which Dodd laments, is superficial. The leadership is in the hands of [these New Southerners] . . . and the history textbooks have been written by Yankees.

The purpose of my life will be to undermine by “careful” and “detached,” “well-documented,” “objective” writing the entire Northern myth from 1820-1876. My books will not interest the general reader. Only the historians will read them, but it is the historians who teach history classes and write textbooks and they will gradually, and without their own knowledge be forced into our position. There are numerous Southerners sapping and mining the Northern position by objective, detached books and Dodd is certainly one of the leaders.

By being critical first of the South itself, the Northern historian is disarmed, and then Dodd hits where it will do the most good . . . [Dodd told Davidson] that the younger Southern writers were making the Northern writers look unimportant.”

Frank’s essay in I’ll Take My Stand, “The Irrepressible Conflict,” concerned “the eternal struggle between the agrarian South and the commercial and industrial North to control the government, either in its own interest, or negatively, to prevent the other section from controlling it in its interests.”

At the time the Union was formed, the two sections were evenly balanced both in population and in number of States. The conflict worsened as the balance of power began to change. Slavery was an element of the agrarian society, but not an essential one. Even after the war, when there was no slavery, the South was an agrarian section. The irrepressible conflict was not a conflict between slavery and freedom, nor was it merely a protest against industrialism. It was equally a protest against the North’s brazen and contemptuous treatment of the South “as a colony and as a conquered province.”

(Frank Lawrence Owsley, Historian of the Old South, Harriet C. Owsley, Vanderbilt University Press, 1990, pp. 78-81)

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

Lincoln receives insufficient credit for his part in defeating the compromise measures of 1860-61 which would have averted war, whose effects are still felt today. The author below asserts that slavery had reached its natural limits and was “a cumbersome and expensive system [that] could show profits only as long as it could find plenty of rich land to cultivate” and a market that would take the product. He adds that “the free farmers in the North who dreaded its further spread had nothing to fear. Even those who wished [slavery] destroyed had only to wait a little while – perhaps a generation, probably less. It was summarily destroyed at a frightful cost to the whole country and one-third of the nation was impoverished for forty years.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

“In the forefront of that group of issues which, for more than a decade before the secession of the cotton States, kept the Northern and Southern sections of the United States in irritating controversy and a growing sense of enmity, was the question of whether the federal government should permit and protect the expansion of slavery into the western territories . . . It was upon this particular issue that a new and powerful sectional party appeared in 1854, that the majority of the Secessionists of the cotton States predicated their action in 1860-1861, and it was upon this also that President-elect Lincoln forced the defeat of the compromise measures in the winter of 1860-61.

It seems safe to say that had this question been eliminated or settled amicably, there would have been no secession and no Civil War . . .

Disregarding the stock arguments – constitutional, economic, social and what-not – advanced by either group, let us examine afresh the real problem involved. Would slavery, if legally permitted to do so, have taken possession of the territories or of any considerable portion of them?

The causes of the expansion of slavery westward from the South Atlantic coast are now well-understood. The industrial revolution [in the North and in England] and the opening of world markets had continually increased the consumption and demand for raw cotton, while the abundance of fertile and cheap cotton lands in the Gulf States had steadily lured cotton farmers and planters westward. Where large-scale production was [possible, the enormous demand for a steady supply of labor had made the use of slaves inevitable, for a sufficient supply of free labor was unprocurable on the frontier . . . and slave labor was usually not profitable in growing grain.

This expansion of the institution was in response to economic stimuli . . . [and the] movement would go on as long as far as suitable cotton lands were to be found or as long as there was a reasonable expectation of profit from slave labor, provided, of course, that no political barrier was encountered.

But by 1849-50 . . . and by the time the new Republican party was formed to check the further expansion of slavery, the westward march of the cotton plantation was evidently slowing down. The only possibility of a further westward extension of the cotton belt was in Texas. In that alone was the frontier line of cotton and slavery still advancing . . .

In New Mexico and Arizona, Mexican labor is cheaper than Negro labor, as has always been the case since the acquisition of the region from Mexico. It was well-understood by sensible men, North and South, in 1850 that soil, climate, and native labor would form a perpetual bar to slavery in the vast territory then called New Mexico. [By 1860], ten years after the territory had been thrown open to slavery, showed not a single slave; and this was also true of Colorado and Nevada. Utah, alone of all these territories, was credited with any slaves at all . . . [and] the census of 1860 showed two slaves in Kansas and fifteen in Nebraska.

The Northern anti-slavery men held that a legal sanction of slavery in the territories would result in the extension of the institution and domination of the free North by the slave power; prospective immigrants in particular feared that they would never be able to get homes in this new West. Their fears were groundless; but in their excited state of mind they could see neither the facts clearly nor consider them calmly.

In the cold facts of the situation, there was no longer any basis for excited sectional controversy over slavery extension . . . [but] the public mind had so long been concerned with the debate that it could not see that the issue had ceased to have validity. In the existing state of the popular mind, therefore, there was still abundant opportunity for the politician to work to his own ends, to play upon prejudice and passion and fear.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 86-91)

Jul 10, 2016 - America Transformed, Foreign Viewpoints, Historians on History, Lincoln Revealed, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Lost Cultures    Comments Off on The Confederacy and Churchill’s English Speaking Association

The Confederacy and Churchill’s English Speaking Association

Churchill wrote in 1931 that JEB Stuart was the key to victory in early July, 1863 at Gettysburg. Had Stuart crashed into the rear of the enemy army at the time of Pettigrew’s Charge, a full rout would have ensued and the South gaining its independence. Churchill imagined a Southern victory at Gettysburg as the beginning of a great alliance of English-speaking countries that would spread wealth and prosperity in the world.  He wrote derisively about what might have followed a Northern victory: “Let us only think what would have happened supposing the liberation of slaves had been followed by some idiotic assertion of racial equality, and even attempts to graft white institutions upon the simple, docile, gifted African race belonging to a much earlier chapter of human history.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Confederacy and Churchill’s English Speaking Association

“In 1932, with reparations and war debts frozen and the world in the depths of the Depression, the writer J.C. Squire published an entertaining (though now largely forgotten) collection of what he called “lapses into imaginary history.” Three of his eleven contributors chose to rewrite history in such a way as to “avoid” the First World War.

Andres Maurois did it by imagining away the French Revolution. As his omniscient “Archangel” explains, the imaginary world after a century and a half of Bourbon rule in France “is divided a bit differently. The United States did not break away from England, but so vast have they grown that they now dominate the British Empire . . . The Imperial Parliament sits in Kansas City . . . the capital of . . . the United States of Europe . . . in Vienna.” There has been no “war of 1914 – 1918.”

Winston Churchill entertained a similar fantasy by assuming a Confederate victory at Gettysburg and the subsequent emergence in 1905 of an “English Speaking Association” of Britain, the Confederacy and the Northern United States:

“Once the perils of 1914 had been successfully averted and the disarmament of Europe had been brought into harmony with that already effected by the [English Speaking Association], the idea of “An United States of Europe” was bound to occur continually. The glittering spectacle of the great English-speaking combination, its assured safety, its boundless power, the rapidity with which wealth was created and widely distributed within its bounds, the sense of buoyancy and hope which seemed to pervade entire populations; all this pointed to European eyes a moral which none but the dullest could ignore.”

(The Pity of War, Explaining World War One, Niall Ferguson, Basic Books, 1999, pg. 457)

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

The following is an excerpt from an 1892 address by Lt. Col. Alfred Moore Waddell to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. He served as a United States Congress 1871-1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

“[Reconstruction] constitutes the one indelible and appalling disgrace of the American people — the one chapter of their history which contains no redeeming feature to relieve it from the endless execration of the civilized world.

A distinguished orator from a Northern State declared in Congress in 1872 that one-third of the boundaries of this Republic had been filled “with all the curses and calamities ever recorded in the annals of the worst governments known on the pages of history,” and attacking the [radical Republican] authors of these calamities, he exclaimed,

“From turret to foundation you tore down the governments of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You rent all their local laws and machinery into fragments, and trampled upon their ruins. Not a vestige of their former construction remained.”

And again he said:

“A more sweeping and universal exclusion from all the benefits, rights, trusts, honors, enjoyments, liberties, and control of government was never enacted against a whole people, without respect to age or sex, in the annals of the human race. The disgraceful disabilities imposed against the Jews for nearly eighteen hundred years by the blind and bigoted nations of the earth were never more complete or appalling.”

Those old enough to remember that most shameful period of our history will readily recall the degradation, the crimes against civilization, and the terrorism which then prevailed, and how, amidst the general dismay, the faint-hearted stood helpless and silent before the arbitrary and reckless power exercised over them.”

(The Life and Character of William L. Saunders, address to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina, Tuesday, May 31, 1892, Col. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington)

Publish the Truth in a Thousand Forms

Wilmington Mayor Alfred Moore Waddell welcomed the United Daughters of the Confederacy annual convention to his city in 1901 and lauded that organization for its efforts to preserve an accurate record of the war. A prewar Whig opposed to secession, he honorably served as a lieutenant-colonel of the Third North Carolina cavalry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Publish the Truth in a Thousand Forms

“In November, 1901 the annual convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was held in Wilmington, North Carolina and Mayor Alfred Moore Waddell, welcomed them to this historic city. In his address, he said that “As one who bore a humble part in the service of the Confederacy I reverently salute you the wives, sisters, and daughters of my comrades, the noblest army of heroines and patriots that ever trod the earth.” He went on to say that:

“Your organization is unique in human annals, as was the struggle whose memories you seek to preserve. The dreamer and sentimentalist may fold his hands, and with a sigh exclaim that history will do justice between the parties to that struggle; but experience has shown that history, like Providence, helps those only who help themselves, and will honor only those who help her to record the truth.

You will readily admit that if the Southern people had remained silent, and had used no printer’s ink after the war, they would have been pilloried in history as Rebels and traitors who had, causelessly and without a shadow of excuse, drenched the land with the blood of unoffending patriots.

But the Southern people did not remain silent; they published in a thousand forms the truth, both as to the causes which impelled them to assert their rights and as to the battles in which they maintained them, and have thus made a partial, unjust and one-sided history impossible.

In this work the Memorial Association first, and after them the United Daughters of the Confederacy, have been the most heroic and devoted, and they may justly claim a large share of the credit for successfully vindicating before the world the causes which their Southern countrymen engaged, and in which thousands of them sacrificed their lives.”

(Confederate Veteran Magazine, November 1901, page 485-486)

 

A Warning of Things to Come

Reverend H. Melville Jackson warned his Richmond audience in 1882 that there will come a day when the victor’s literature and monuments shall crowd out remembrances of the Southern patriots who fought and perished in the cause of independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Warning of Things To Come

“It is been said of General Robert E. Lee that he often expressed the fear lest posterity should not know the odds against which he fought. [The] daily witness of incredible heroism, daily spectator of the dauntless courage with which a decimated army faced undismayed an overwhelming foe, the chieftain of your armies, gentlemen, feared lest the examples of knightly valor and splendid fortitude, which you have exhibited to the ages, might, through the incapacity or incredulity, or venal mendacity of the historian, be finally lost to the human race.

And there is, I will venture to say, scarcely a soldier of the Confederacy who does not share this apprehension that posterity may not do justice to the cause for which he fought. Soldiers, you cannot bear to think that your children’s children shall have forgotten the fields on which you have shed your blood. You cannot think with equanimity that a day will come when Virginia shall have suffered the fame of her heroes to be lost in obscurity, and the valorous achievements of her sons to fade from memory.

And if you thought, to-night, that the muse of history would turn traitor to your cause, misrepresent the principles for which you fought, and deny to you the attributes of valour, fortitude and heroic devotion you have grandly won, your souls would rise up within you in immediate and bitter and protesting indignation.

This apprehension is thought by some to be not altogether groundless. The North, it is said, is making the literature of these times, has secured the ear of the age and will not fail to make the impression, unfavorable to you, which time will deepen rather than obliterate.

Diligent fingers are carving the statues of the heroes of the Northern armies, writing partizan and distorted versions of their achievements, altering, even in this generation, the perspective of history, until, at no distant day, they shall have succeeded in crowding out every other aspirant of fame and beguiled posterity into believing that the laurels of honor should rest, alone and undisturbed, upon the brows of your adversaries.”

(Our Cause in History, Address of Reverend H. Melville Jackson of Richmond. Given at the Richmond Howitzer’s Banquet, December 13, 1882. From the Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XI, pp. 26-30)

Pages:«1234567»