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Bill Arp on New England History

“Bill Arp” was the nom de plume of Georgia writer and politician Charles Henry Smith (1826-1903), who enjoyed educating Atlanta Constitution readers unfamiliar with the history of New England.  As a Confederate major during the War Between the States, he served on the staff of several generals including Francis Bartow. Below, he answers a letter to the editor from a Northerner castigating Georgians for the sin of slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Bill Arp on New England History

“Now, here is a gentleman of more than ordinary intelligence and education who does not know that the sin of slavery began in New England among his forefathers — not ours — and from there was gradually crowded Southward until it got to Georgia, and that Georgia was the first State to prohibit their importation. See Appleton’s Cyclopedia (Slavery and the Slave Trade.)

He does not know that long after New England and New York had abolished slavery, their merchantmen continued to trade with Africa and sold their cargoes secretly along the coast, and . . . one, the “Wanderer,” was seized and confiscated and its officers arrested. The “Wanderer” was built at Eastport, Maine, was equipped as a slaver in New York and officered there and a crew employed.

He does not know that Judge Story, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, when presiding in Boston in 1834, [stated to a] Grand Jury that although Massachusetts had freed their slaves, yet the slave trade was still going on and Boston merchants and Boston Christians were steeped to their eyebrows in its infamy. He does not know that when our national existence began the feeling against slavery was stronger in the Southern States than in the Northern.

Georgia was the first to prohibit it, but later on the prohibition was repealed. New England carried on the traffic until 1845 — and is doing it yet if they can find a market and can get the rum to pay for them. The last record of a slaver caught in the act was in 1861, off the coast of Madagascar, and it was an Eastport vessel. The slave trade with Africa was for more than a century a favorite and popular venture with our English ancestors.

King James II and King Charles II and Queen Elizabeth all had stock in it, and though Wilberforce and others had laws passed to suppress it, they could not do it. New England and old England secretly carried it on (see Appleton) long after slavery was abolished in the colonies. They could afford to lose half their vessels and still make money. 

It is sad and mortifying that our young and middle-aged men, and our graduates from Southern colleges know so little of our antebellum history. The Northern people are equally ignorant of the origin of slavery and the real causes that precipitated the civil war. Most of them have a vague idea that slavery was born and just grew up in the South — came up out of the ground like the seventeen-year-old locusts—and was our sin and our curse.

Not one in ten-thousand will believe that the South never imported a slave from Africa, but got all we had by purchase from our Northern brethren. I would wager a thousand dollars against ten that not a man under fifty nor a schoolboy who lives North of the line knows or believes that General Grant, their great military hero and idol, was a slaveholder and lived off the hire and their services while he was fighting us about ours.

Lincoln’s proclamation of freedom came in 1863, but General Grant paid no attention to it. He continued to use them as slaves until January, 1865. (See his biography by General James Grant Wilson in Appleton’s Encyclopedia.) General Grant owned these slaves in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lived.

How many of this generation, North or South know, or will believe, that as late as November, 1861, Nathaniel Gordon, master of a New England slave ship called the Erie, was convicted in New York City of carrying on the slave trade? (See Appleton.)

Just think of it! In 1861 our Northern brethren made war upon us because we enslaved the Negroes we had bought from them; but at the same time they kept on bringing more from Africa and begging us to buy them. How many know that England, our mother country, never emancipated her slaves until 1843, when twelve millions were set free in the East Indies and one hundred millions of dollars were paid to their owners by act of Parliament?

It is only within the last half-century that the importation of slaves from Africa has generally ceased. Up to that time every civilized country bought them and enslaved them. English statesmen and clergymen said it was better to bring them away than to have them continue in their barbarism and cannibalism.

(From The Uncivil War to Date, 1865 to 1903, Bill Arp, Hudgins Publishing Company. 1903, pp 347-353)

 

Antiquity Out of Fashion

There is much truth in the view that today’s universities are job-training facilities that specialize in leftist indoctrination of young people and accomplish little in the way of a valuable education.  These schools demonize the past unless it fits within the framework of the cultural Marxism they espouse —  while they rob students of the ability to understand their culture, traditions and roots of the Western Civilization they live within.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Antiquity Out of Fashion:

“At our universities, the historians like to dump the ancient history course in the lap of the philologists, and vice versa. Here and there it is treated like a poor relation whom it would be a disgrace to let go to ruin entirely. But with the public at large antiquity is completely out of fashion, and the “culture” which is supported by this public even feels hatred for it. Various faults of antiquity serve as a pretext.

The real reason is conceit about modern communication and transport and the inventions of our century; then too, there is the inability to distinguish technical and material greatness from the intellectual and moral kinds; and finally, the prevalent views about refinement of manners, philanthropy, and the like.

But what makes it generally impossible for the present-day average “educated” man to find anything appealing in the ancient world is the total egoism of today’s private person who wants to exist as an individual and asks of the community only the greatest possible security for himself and his property, for which he pays his taxes amid sighs, and who also likes to attach himself to the community in a specific sense as an “official.”

On the other hand, the peoples of the ancient Orient, who lived tribally, impress us as races of which each individual is only a type, with the king as the highest type.

Finally, today’s “educated” men are firmly resolved to make a bargain, with whatever power, for their existence at any given time. There is an enormous veneration of life and property. There is a mass abdication, and not just on the part of the rulers! And there are numerous bargaining positions and concessions against the worst – and all this with great touchiness in matters of recognition and so-called honor.

With the ancients, on the contrary, it was all or nothing, with no fear of disaster. The fall of states, cities, and kings was considered glorious. That is something alien to us.”

(Judgments on History and Historians, Jacob Burckhardt, Liberty Fund, 1999, pp. 5-7)

American Historians and Their History

Quickly becoming a people devoid of a historical memory, the United States as a proposition nation will continue to rewrite or invent history to suit the political and entertainment industry elite, and their subject peoples.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

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 Lukac’s 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 mulitculturalists. 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.”

(Defending Dixie, Searching for Fleas: American Historians and Their History, excerpt, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, pp. 44-45)

History: The Muse and Her Doctors

Scholars recommend caution when selecting books written during or after America’s cultural revolution of the 1960’s and the advent of cultural Marxism. What often passes for history today are poorly-disguised opinions and class struggle, slanted psycho, social and political histories, and introductions which state that “most of the empirical basis of this study derives from two computer databases.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

History: The Muse and Her Doctors

“The historian may in addition permit himself to digress in order to opine, argue, explain, speculate, moralize and compare. The visions will differ and perhaps clash, but will be nonetheless desirable. But these excursions must not become ends in themselves. The truly historical statements must greatly predominate over the rest. If “truly historical” needs illustration, here is one of the shortest: “Veni, vidi, vici” is a historical statement. “The main spring of his character was conquest” is a psychological statement. “The net effect of his career was destruction, not creation” is a sociological statement.

How radically unlike is the work done by students who use history for their purposes – to find “fresh” answers to questions social and typological – may be seen from a glance at the open page of their books, or at the daily paper. What one may chance upon is a diagram in dots, crosses, and other marks, headed: “Computer-prepared map of violent incidents in France, 1840-1844,” while on the opposite page is a geometrical outline of France, also crossed and dotted, showing the incidence of incidents. Positive and negative numbers to three decimals express the absolute values applying to each of the levels of violence, side by side with a frequency distribution.

A historian need feel no objection or distaste whatever at this use of history; rather, he rejoices that the ancient urge to record the past leads later on to such refined methods for dissecting it.

But he is simultaneously conscious of one certitude and one doubt. He knows as he studies the charts in all directions that he is not reading history; and he feels an uneasiness about the capacity of the graphic-quantitative method for truth telling.”

(History: The Muse and Her Doctors (excerpt), Jacques Barzun, American Historical Review, February 1972, pp. 58-59)

History Helps Those Who Help Themselves

The victors write the history of events unless challenged by the defeated; Colonel Waddell (below) was an accomplished jurist, author, and essayist, and led Wilmingtonians in their fight against corruption and violence during political reconstruction.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

History Helps Those That Help Themselves:

“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

 

Historical Objectivity and Machines

Since the end of the war, the Southern historian’s view of the conflict was not considered objective unless “he accepts and proclaims the Northern (i.e., “national”) interpretation of Southern things.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Historical Objectivity and Machines

“Once, years ago, a Southern historian beckoned me aside and led me to a room . . . “Look,” he said. An enormous machine occupied about half the room, and a graduate assistant was feeding punch cards into it. With inhuman noise and precision, the machine was sorting the cards.

The historian closed the door upon the noise and, with a kind of Stonewall Jackson glint in his eye, explained. Documentation, he said – mere documentation – would never convince the North. Mere argument was futile.

But if he could say, in a footnote to his forthcoming publication, that the figures in his statistical tables had been achieved by the assistance of a card-sorting machine (he would carefully cite the machine’s name and model), then the Yankees might hearken to both his documentation and his argument.

The machine, a guarantee of his “objectivity,” would remove his work from the area of suspicion that a study originating in the South would normally occupy.”

(Still Rebels, Still Yankees, and Other Essays, Donald Davidson, LSU Press, 1957, pp. 180-181)

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