Browsing "Historical Accuracy"

Tolerating the Past

Historian Charles P. Roland wrote in the forward to Francis Butler Simkins “The Everlasting South” that “probably the great majority of historians today disagree with Professor Simkins’ logic, but probably the great majority of the common folk, wittingly or unwittingly, agree with the gist of it.” As a historian, Simkins was aware that by the late 1950s and early 1960s, major publishing houses in the US were forcing authors to modify their manuscripts to suit liberal values. Speaking honestly about American history was unwanted.

In a letter to a Northerner offended by his writing, he wrote: “You may not understand that I am attempting to give what actually the ordinary Southerner thinks [and] our press – liberal and reactionary – and our politicians will not give publicly to what is actually happening; they want to be overly tactful so as to attract Northern industry . . .” His students reverently referred to Dr. Simkins as “Doc”– and he warned them that they might be making a mistake in following his example.

Tolerating the Past

“What distinguished Doc from so many of his contemporaries was that he refused to truckle to current historical fads, indeed, to use his phrase, he believed that historians ought to “tolerate the South’s past.”

Simkin’s was unashamed of being a Southerner; he was proud of his origins and ancestry. This alone, he knew, was reason enough for most Yankees and Yankeefied Southerners to object to his views.

“I do not attempt to emphasize here the contributions of the South to the history of the United States,” Doc explained in his Southern history textbook. “I propose instead to stress those political and social traits that make the region between the Potomac and Rio Grande a cultural province conscious of its identity.” To him the changes that occurred over time in the South were not nearly as significant as the presence of cultural continuity in the region.

“The militant nationalism of the Southern people supplemented rather than diminished their provincialism; devotion to State and region went along with devotion to the United States,” Doc observed. “Gloating pride in growing cities and imported industries went along with retention of growing habits. The interest of the youth of the region in rifles, dogs and wildlife, like that of the Virginia gentlemen of the eighteenth century, was often greater than their interest in classroom studies.”

Doc often provoked conventional historians by saying or writing things that they did not want to hear. Invited to become a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, he willingly admitted to the administrators that he was something probably no Canadian university had ever had on its faculty – the grandson of a Confederate field officer. Doc even delighted in revealing the full name and regiment of his ancestor – Lieutenant-Colonel John Calhoun Simkins of the 3rd South Carolina Artillery.

In the Southern Historical Association presidential address, “Tolerating the South’s Past,” he denounced the tendency of modern historians to judge the South and its people by today rather than those of the past.

“Chroniclers of Southern history,” he charged, “often do not grasp the most elementary concept of sound historiography: the ability to appraise the past by standards other than those of the present. They accept a fanatical nationalism which leaves little room for static contentment, and a faith in the American dream of human equality which leaves little room for one person to get ahead of another except in making money.”

(The Legacy of Francis Butler Simkins, Grady McWhiney, Southern Partisan, 2nd Quarter 1995, excerpts pg. 23-24)

Early Militia in British America

For most of the eighteenth century, New York was second only to Charleston in slave population. By 1737, one if five New Yorkers were black; “between 1700 and 1774, the British imported between 6800 and 7400 Africans to the colony of New York. It was cheaper for New York slave traders to import directly from Africa . . .” (Slavery in New York, Berlin/Harris, pg. 61).

Slave insurrection was a constant menace as the British continued to import forced labor to work the colony. In late March 1712, New York and Westchester militia swept the Manhattan woods in search of 40 or 50 black men and women who had killed nine white people and wounded six more in an insurrection. “More than seventy enslaved men and women were eventually taken into custody, and forty-three were brought to trial by jury. Twenty-five were convicted, of whom twenty were hanged and three burned at the stake, one roasted in slow torment for eight hours” (pg. 78).

Early Militia in British America

“New England towns were more scattered than Chesapeake farms, but each town had the capacity for armed resistance that was lacking in an individual plantation. A town could bear the burden of a military draft and still hope to maintain itself from attack, while the loss of a man or two from a single, remote household often meant choosing between abandonment and destruction.

New England promised its soldiers plunder in the form of scalp bounties, profits from the sale of Indian slaves, and postwar land grants . . . But there remains an important difference: the clustering of manpower and the cohesive atmosphere in the town community gave New England greater military strength.

By the end of the seventeenth century, the principal threat to the British colonies was changing. Europeans – French and Spanish – became the main danger. Virginia found itself so little troubled by the new threat, and her Indian enemies so weak, that militia virtually ceased to exist there for about half a century, a time when a handful of semi-professional rangers could watch the frontier.

During the same period, the frontier of Massachusetts was under sporadic attack by French-supported Indians. [Carolina] occupied the post of danger against Spain. The Carolina militia came from the country to repulse a Spanish attack on Charleston in 1706, and it rallied – with some help from North Carolina and Virginia – to save the colony during the Yamassee War in 1715 . . . [when] four hundred Negroes helped six hundred white men defeat the Indians.

But as the ratio of slaves to whites rapidly increased, and especially after a serious slave insurrection in 1739, Carolinians no longer dared arm Negroes; in fact, they hardly dared leave their plantations in time of emergency.

The British government tried to fill the gap, first by organizing Georgia as an all-white military buffer, then by sending a regiment of regulars with Oglethorpe in 1740. But increasingly, the South Carolina militia became an agency to control the slaves, and less an effective means of defense.”

(A People Numerous & Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence, John Shy, University of Michigan Press, 1990, excerpts pp. 34-37)

Mar 31, 2019 - Black Slaveowners, Emancipation, Historical Accuracy, New England's Slave Trade, Slavery in Africa, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Perpetuating Slavery on Mauritius

Perpetuating Slavery on Mauritius

The Dutch, French and British established state-sanctioned organizations to purchase and carry already-enslaved Africans to work their colonies. In the British American colonies and after 1789, New England was the unofficial seat of the transatlantic slave trade and profited greatly to the extent that the region’s economic prosperity was built upon that trade.

When the Mauritius planters saw the British end the slave traffic in 1834, they began importing coolies from Ceylon and India to replace the Africans.

Perpetuating Slavery on Mauritius

“Mauritius was discovered by the Portuguese in 1505 and continued in their possession until 1598, when it was ceded to the Dutch, who gave it the name by which it is now known. The Dutch finally abandoned it in 1710 when the island was taken over by the French.

Under the French, the island was considerably developed, especially during the second half of the eighteenth century, and this new step, as the majority saw it, necessitated the introduction of [African] slavery. During the Napoleonic Wars, Mauritius was captured by England and was formally ceded by France in 1814.

The significance of the Negroes in Mauritius, however, dates from the year 1723 when the East India Company of France, in order to promote agriculture in the Island, sanctioned the introduction of slaves, whom they sold to the inhabitants at a certain fixed price.

The slave trade, at this period, was principally in the hands of those pirates who had formed a settlement at Nossibe (Nosse Ibrahim) on the northeast coast of Madagascar . . . they excited a war between the tribes of the interior and those inhabiting the seacoast, and purchased the prisoners made by both for the purpose of conveying them for sale to Bourbon or Mauritius.

If the prisoners thus obtained proved insufficient to the demands of the slave market, a descent was made on some part of the Island, a village was surrounded, and its younger and more vigorous inhabitants were borne off to a state of perpetual slavery.

[Of] every five Negroes embarked at Madagascar, not more than two were found fit for service in Mauritius. The rest either stifled beneath the hatches, starved themselves to death, died of putrid fever, became the food of sharks, fled to the mountains, or fell beneath the driver’s lash.

[Mauritius Colonial Governor] Mahe de Labourdounais was not the founder of slavery. The institution preceded his arrival. Slavery existed in Mauritius even under the Dutch regime. From first to last Mauritius has been the tomb of more than a million of Africans. Many became fugitives . . . in order to check the fugitive slaves, Labourdounais employed their countrymen against them, and formed a mounted police who protected the colonists from their incursions.

The first attempt to emancipate the slaves was made by the leaders of the French Revolution, who, while they professed to discard Christianity as a revelation from God, deduced the equality of all men before God from the principle of natural reason.

The prohibition of slavery was rendered null and void by the planters of Mauritius and the members of the local government, all of whom were slaveholders and opposed any change.”

(The Negroes in Mauritius, A.F. Fokeer, Journal of Negro History, April 1922, Volume VII, No. 2, excerpts pp. 197-201)

An Essential Amendment

“General Leonidas Polk and his staff met with Union officers under a flag of truce in November 1861.

After disposing of matters of business, the men adjourned for a simple luncheon. A Union colonel raised his glass and proposed a toast, “To George Washington, the Father of His Country.”

To that toast General Polk quickly added: “And the First Rebel.” All officers drank to the amended toast.”

(An Essential Amendment, Southern Partisan, Volume XXIV, Number 2, pg. 11)

Mar 18, 2019 - Education, Historians on History, Historical Accuracy, Historical Amnesia/Cleansing, Propaganda    Comments Off on In Search of Professional Historians

In Search of Professional Historians

It is common today to read of “professional” historians from universities and other government entities who are often relied upon for allegedly credible opinion regarding the past. This “professional” must have a history degree, and not contradict orthodoxy. They have learned that to advance their career and salary, attract the right publishers, and be invited to national historical conferences, they cannot depart from that orthodoxy. Thinking independently will only have a would-be historian suffer in the shadows, if employed at all.

The media, especially, will avoid anyone they may term as “amateur” historians and who depart from “the master story” – which is what Napoleon was referring to when he said “history is a set of lies agreed upon”

Below, acclaimed historian Dr. Clyde N. Wilson describes the education of historians in the past, and through today.

In Search of Professional Historians

“Before the late 19th century there was hardly any such thing as a “professional” historian. History was a branch of literature, written by independent gentlemen or sometimes by statesmen. Such gentlemen were products of humane learning, not “professional training.”

The PhD was invented in German universities during the 19th century. The learning was certainly rigorous to become known as a “Doktor.” There was a certain dogmatism and arrogance associated with it — such historians thought of themselves as objective seekers of truth, that is, they were “social scientists” not just writers.

It was even hinted that when they accumulated enough facts, their findings would be definitive truth. Strangely, although even today they claim to be objective investigators, at the same time they contradictorily think of themselves as serving “progress.”

In the late 19th century some Americans went to Germany to acquire “professional” status, and then began to develop doctoral programs at places like Johns Hopkins and Columbia. The transfer of historians from gentlemen of humane learning and creators of good literature into professional “experts” with PhDs was gradual but was pretty well established by the 1940s or so.

But such PhDs were hardly independent professional practitioners. They mostly had to work for colleges as teachers or sometimes for government and wealthy foundations. Then and now, the few historians who make an independent living from their writing are not PhDs.

Until fairly recently, the requirements for the American PhD were demanding and lent some weight to the idea of professionalism. Degrees required mastery of at least two foreign languages to broaden understanding; mastery of a secondary field (if you were a historian of the U.S. you needed to have some expertise in another field, say Russian history, etc.); some mastery of a different but related discipline (political science, economics, literature); and an intense and thorough mastery of a particular specialty (say, Colonial America, the Jacksonian period, Reconstruction, or such).

And most important, a dissertation based on intensive primary research, that is, thorough immersion in original sources from the time studied. Such research was to be undertaken with an open mind and no preselected agenda. After all, how could you know what was true until you actually investigated. This training worked fairly well to create objective investigators.

Fundamentally, historical writing cannot be objective. We are all a product of our times and experiences. The best we can hope for is an honest weighing of the facts such as we expect from a jury. History is simply about human experience and as such is always subject to different perspectives. Having a PhD is no proof that the observer is honest and that his opinion is a definitive “expert” one.

A major problem today is that the requirements have become looser and looser. We are today creating PhDs who know only one small area and are serving a Cultural Marxist agenda rather than a reasonably honest search for what is true.

Their “primary research” deals with ever more narrow and irrelevant topics. About all we can say about the “expertise” of such people is that they stayed in school longer than most people. I am regularly astonished by the media citing “experts” on history that nobody has ever heard of, and have never produced anything to indicate expertise except having a degree and belonging to a “History Department” somewhere.

Still, I don’t think current historians are being forced by administrators to be Cultural Marxists. This syndrome is widespread and deeply entrenched in the entire educational system because bad people labored for several generations to gain control. The high administrators are mostly opportunistic cynics without any learning or conviction who simply conform to the reigning attitudes in their circles.

In my books Defending Dixie and From Union to Empire, one will find several worthwhile essays on history. I particularly recommend ‘Scratching the Fleas: American Historians and Their History.” From the latter, the following passage ends the article.

H.L. Mencken in the 1920s reflected on the readiness with which historians were mobilized to rewrite history at federal direction during World War I:

“Nearly all our professional historians are poor men holding college posts, and they are more cruelly beset by the ruling politico-plutocratic-social oligarchy than ever were the Prussian professors were by the Hohenzollerns. Let them diverge in the slightest from what is the current official doctrine, and they are turned out of their chairs with a ceremony suitable for the expulsion of a drunken valet.”

Herbert Hoover Does Violence to Truth

 

“At Gettysburg, on May 30, [1930] President [Herbert] Hoover exhibited to a marked degree that strange ignorance or that determined avoidance of the truth of history which we see when a speaker has to place Abraham Lincoln in that niche that has been fashioned for him by what Mr. [H.L.] Mencken calls “prostitute historians,” and which has now been accepted by the North, by the world, and even by the larger part of the South, which is both servile and ignorant, and yet is a niche which shames truth and degrades history!

He stated, in effect, that all the blood and horrors and tears of the “Civil” War might have been avoided had the people been possessed of the human kindness and tolerance of Abraham Lincoln. There could scarcely have been fashioned a statement which would have done more violence to truth.

The veriest tyro in history research must know that Abraham Lincoln was part of, and largely cooperated with, that group which thought that “a little blood-letting will be good for this nation.” Everyone not an ignoramus in Southern history must know that Lincoln opposed sending delegates to that compromise or peace convention which might, at the last moment, have devised some means for avoidance of the holocaust.

Everyone not determined to make a point at expense of truth must know that Lincoln, secretly, determinedly, and almost alone, sent that fleet of reinforcements and supplies to Fort Sumter, and thus, as five of his cabinet had told him, brought on this war inevitably.

Lincoln did much to inaugurate war, and there is no word of history which sets forth the fact that he did any act or uttered a word which would have avoided war, and yet, in a speech which was to reach the ears of the world, President Hoover, at Gettysburg, makes the statement, totally devoid of accuracy, that we might have avoided war had we been possessed of the human kindness and tolerance of Abraham Lincoln, the man who more than any other, or any group of others, is responsible, as worthy historians now set forth, for the inauguration of four years of horror in this country.”

(Our History in High Places, Arthur H. Jennings, Past historian in Chief, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Confederate Veteran, July 1930, excerpts pp. 254-255)

“Freed” Slaves for Lincoln’s Army

After Northern troops occupied northeastern North Carolina in mid-summer 1862, is was estimated that over 7500 “contrabands” were within their lines, and this would grow after 1863. According to author William C. Harriss (In the Country of the Enemy, pp. 12-13), “These refugees of slavery provided the troops with inexpensive delicacies, such as cakes and pies, labor, and services. Several hundred blacks were hired, if not conscripted, to build fortifications at New Bern and other coastal points. Though New England soldiers generally approved of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, many held anti-black sentiments. One Maine soldier . . . “could not bear” the sight of blacks. Such men did not hesitate to exploit black refugees, forcing them to work as servants for little compensation.”

“Freed” Slaves for Lincoln’s Army

“In issuing his Emancipation Proclamation as an incitement for race war, Lincoln was continuing his policy of violating both the Constitution and international law. Food and medicine had already been declared contraband. Later, Lincoln issued “Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field,” (General Orders, No. 100, 1863), authorizing starvation and bombardment of Southern women and children.

Since the Emancipation Proclamation was “a practical war measure,” its enforcement was determined by whether it advanced Lincoln’s war effort. As a consequence, when Lincoln’s Army arrived, “freed” Southern slaves often found themselves re-enslaved under the fiction of a one- year work contract. They could suffer a loss of pay or rations for acts of laziness, disobedience or insolence, and had to obtain a pass to leave the plantation.

Provost marshals ensured that they displayed “faithful service, respectful deportment, correct discipline and perfect subordination. Other “freed” slaves found themselves forced to build fortifications for Lincoln’s Army or were violently conscripted.

In a May 1862 report, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase was advised that: “The Negroes were sad . . . Sometimes whole plantations, learning what was going on, ran off to the woods for refuge . . . This mode of [enlistment by] violent seizure is repugnant.”

As late as February 7, 1865, Lincoln wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Glenn, operating in Kentucky: “Complaint is made to me that you are forcing Negroes into the military service, and even torturing them.”

(Lincoln and the Death of the Old Republic, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, August 2002, excerpts pg. 44 – www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

The Biggest Untold Story in US History

The author below views “Northern History” as a highly fertile and under-explored frontier for historians. The early concerns of Republican politicians regarding Northern support for their war is underscored by Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois, advised by a constituent in June 1862: “The minds of our friends are filled with forebodings and gloomy apprehensions . . . all confidence is lost in the Administration, and a disaster to our Armies now at Vicksburg, in Tennessee, or on the Potomac, will disintegrate this whole Country . . . if we cannot speedily secure victories by our [Northern] arms, peace must be made to secure us anything!”

The Biggest Untold Story in US History

“[Steven] Spielberg’s cinema offering [Lincoln] is balanced by the good news that Ron Maxwell, creator of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, will soon release a film called Copperhead with a screenplay by sometime Chronicles contributor Bill Kauffman.

It is based on Harold Frederic’s 1893 novel The Copperhead, about a New York State family persecuted for its opposition to Lincoln’s war. Such opposition was far more reasoned and prevalent than has ever been admitted. And rampaging Republican mobs punishing dissent in parts of the North were common. Indeed, Northern opposition to the war and its suppression is the biggest untold story in U.S. history.

Ron Maxwell’s films are stupendous achievements unmatched by anything in American cinema in the last half century. But even if he falls for a little of the Treasury of Virtue. In Gods and Generals a Virginia family has a slave pretend to be the owner of their house on the idea that Union soldiers will not ransack and burn the property of black people.

Anyone who has studied the actual behavior of Union soldiers in that war knows that a black person’s property would be more likely, not less likely, to be stolen or destroyed, because in that case the victims were less able to complain or retaliate and less likely to evoke the sympathy of Northern soldiers.

In fact, some Northern soldiers pretended or had been told that black people, even free, could not own property, and thus their possessions were really those of white Southerners and therefore fair game. Instances of such oppression are countless.

Advance reports on Copperhead bill it as a story about opposition in wartime. I hope the film does not miss that the story is about opposition to the war in particular, and why.”

(Civil War Cinema, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, May 2013, excerpts pp. 46-47; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Feb 26, 2019 - From Africa to America, Historical Accuracy, Slavery Comes to America, Slavery in Africa, Slavery Worldwide    Comments Off on Slavery and a Superabundance of Land

Slavery and a Superabundance of Land

Writing in 1857, author Guy Stevens Callender observes below that the discovery of America made the slave trade from Africa inevitable, as Europeans were too few to cultivate such a vast wilderness. The cheapness of land made slave labor necessary, and the willingness of Africans to sell their enslaved brethren ensured a large labor supply for the New World.

Slavery and a Superabundance of Land

“The serfdom of the Middle Ages was for all Europe, what it is for Poland and Russia still, a kind of slavery required by the small proportion of people to land; a substitute for hired labor, which gradually expired with the increase of population, as it will expire in Poland and Russia when land shall, in those countries, become as scarce and dear as it became in England sometime after the Conquest.

Next comes the institution of slavery in America by the colonies of nations which had abolished serfdom at home; colonies in whose history, whether we read it in Raynal, or Edwards, or Grahame, we find the effect and the cause invariably close together; the slavery in various forms of bondage, growing out of superabundance of land.

It was the cheapness of land that cause [Bartolome de] Las Casas to invent the African slave trade. It was the cheapness of land that brought African slaves to Antigua and Barbadoes . . . it was the cheapness of land that caused the introduction of Negroes into Virginia, and produced the various forms of bondage practiced by all the old English colonies in America.

At the epoch of the discovery of America, the population of Europe was small, and it could make only scanty contributions of people to the New World; and as it was just itself emerging from a state of barbarism, it could not extend into new regions any elevated or enlightened civilization.

Slavery was one of the established systems of that period, and the holding of heathen slaves enjoyed the full sanction of the church. And it had so happened, that the value of the Negro in the condition of servitude had been long tried, especially in Spain and Portugal, and was well understood.

What has occurred in America, was, under the circumstances, inevitable. Incalculable resources existed in the mine and in the soil, but by whose hands could they be developed? Where it was practicable to enslave the native people of the country, their physical organization was unequal to the forced labors imposed upon them, and they perished speedily from the earth.

The people who could subdue and cultivate the New World existed only in Africa. Their number was definitely large; and not only did no existing moral and religious scruples forbid their coerced appropriation to that work, but it was considered rather to be in the safe line of religious duty, to subject the Negro heathen to Christian baptism and Christian masters. It is oftentimes loosely said, that America has been settled by the European races . . . The truth really is, that America, including its islands, has been settled chiefly from Africa.”

(Origin of Slavery in the New World, 1765-1860, Gibbon Wakefield; Chapter XV, The Economics of Slavery; Selections From the Economic History of the United States, Guy Stevens Callender, excerpts pp. 745-749)

The Economic Custom of Slavery

To find those responsible for African slavery and its perpetuation, one must first look to the African tribes themselves who enslaved their brethren captured in warfare, and sold many to Europeans in search of cheap labor for their colonies. Next would be King Ferdinand of Spain, who in the early 1500s had already had deported substantial sections of Jews and Moors from his realm as well as approving slaving expeditions for Caribbean Indians to work his colonies. It was also Ferdinand who granted licenses for those carrying slaves to the Americas. This begs the question: had African slaves not been eventually carried to North America in the bottoms of British and New England slave ships, would North and South still have separated into two countries for the same pecuniary reasons, but without the lame New England excuse of slavery being the cause of war?

The Economic Custom of Slavery

“It is strange that it should never have come into the head of philosopher or philanthropist to ascertain the causes of the revival of slavery by all the modern nations of Europe which have engaged in colonization. Political economists were bound to make this inquiry; for without it their science is incomplete at the very foundation; for slavery is a question of labor, “the original purchase of all things.”

Philanthropists, however, have treated it as a moral and religious question, attributing slavery to all times and places, but especially in modern America, to the wickedness of the human heart. [The immediate cause of slavery] is not a wicked or infernal spirit. Neither communities nor individuals keep slaves in order to indulge in oppression and cruelty.

Those British colonies – and they are many – which would get slaves tomorrow if we would let them, are not more wicked than we are: they are only placed in circumstances which induce us to long for the possession of slaves notwithstanding the objections to it.

They are not moral, but economic circumstances: they relate not to vice and virtue, but to production. They are the circumstances, in which one man finds it difficult or impossible to get other men to work under his direction for wages. They are the circumstances . . . which stand in the way of combination and constancy of labor, for which all civilized nations, in a certain stage of their advance from barbarism, have endeavored to counteract, and have in some measure counteracted, by means of some kind of slavery.

Slavery is a make-shift for hiring . . . [and is] on the whole much more costly than the labor of hired freemen; and slavery is also full of moral and political evils, from which the method of hired labor is exempt. [But] when slavery is adopted, there is no choice: it is adopted because at the time and under the circumstances there is no other way of getting laborers to work with constancy and in combination.

It happens wherever population is scanty in proportion to land [and has] never existed in very populous countries, and has gradually ceased in the countries where whose population has gradually increased to the point of density. Of plentifulness of labor for hire, the cause is dearness of land: cheapness of land is the cause of scarcity of labor for hire.

The ancient Greeks were themselves colonists, the occupiers of a new territory, in which for a time every freeman could obtain as much land as he desired: for a time they needed slaves; and the custom of slavery was established.

The Romans, it the early stages of their history, were robbers of land, and had more land than they could cultivate without slaves: it was partly because of slavery that they at last grew to be so populous at Rome as to no longer need slavery, but to ask for an agrarian law.”

(Origin of Slavery in the New World, 1765-1860, Gibbon Wakefield; Chapter XV, The Economics of Slavery; Selections From the Economic History of the United States, Guy Stevens Callender, excerpts pp. 742-745)