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The Cornerstone of New England’s Prosperity

Author Walter D. Kennedy writes in his “Myths of American Slavery” (Pelican, 2003): “For all practical purposes, the history of slavery in the North lasted approximately 225 years,” and that New England’s involvement with enslaving others began with the Pequot tribe of Indians whose land they were confiscating. Those unfortunate Pequot’s were shipped to the West Indies to work the sugar cane fields. The triangular slave trade across the Atlantic was a New England enterprise.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Cornerstone of New England’s Prosperity

”She lay alongside Captain Jim DeWolfe’s wharf that day in 1802, a smart, trim topsail schooner, nearly ready for sea. On her stern was lettered her name, “Sukey,” and below it, Bristol, Rhode Island. As usual, the Bristol waterfront buzzed with feverish activity that day, especially on Captain Jim’s wharf.

Heavy ox carts laden with last minute cargo lumbered slowly across the cobblestones of Thames Street that edged the wharf, and then onto it. Captain Jim and some of his brothers owned the carts and oxen, the distillery on Thames Street from which most of the Sukey’s outward cargo had come, and the countinghouse that was the headquarters for their business.

In the West Indies, or Sugar Islands as they were often called in those days, the deWolfe’s owned plantations to provide the cargo the Sukey would bring back to Bristol on the homeward part of her long voyage. And they owned the Sukey and other ships that sailed in the evil trade in which they were engaged. The Sukey had no trouble getting her clearance papers after an inspection by the Bristol surveyor. [Although the Rhode Island State Assembly had forbid the slave trade, her] trade and that of many another Bristol vessel brought too much prosperity to too many people.

There were the Bristol sailmakers and carpenters, the caulkers who sealed the ships joints with oakum and tar, the ship chandlers who sold provisions and an endless variety of wares needed aboard a vessel, and the owners and workers of the ropes that made cordage — the great number of ropes used in holding, hoisting, lowering and controlling the sails of a ship. And there were many people who depended upon the Bristol ship owners for profit and wages.

If a vessel [returning] from the Sugar Islands was discharging her cargo, there would be [boys who] most Bristol wharf owners would let have their taste of the sweet molasses. But on deWolfe’s wharf that day, when you came close enough to the schooner, there was another smell — a smell that seemed to make your very insides curl up.

It was a smell so vile and horrible that you wondered how the Sukey’s crew could possibly stand it. “You can smell a slaver five miles downwind,” they say on the Guinea Coast. And the Sukey was a slaver.

Probably a fair-sized crowd of the crew’s family and friends were gathered on deWolfe’s wharf as the Sukey sheered gently away, “people on the wharf cried huzza!” and waved their hats. The Sukey was off on her voyage.

In West Africa, she would work her way down the Guinea Coast, probably finding it necessary to stop at port after port as she exchanged her trade goods and precious rum for even more precious black slaves, and perhaps also for gold dust, ivory, ebony and other African products.

At last she would head west, crossing the Atlantic over the infamous Middle Passage to the West Indies. In the islands the slaves would be landed and sold. Then Captain Almy would fill the Sukey chockablock with hogsheads of molasses to be distilled into more rum at Bristol.

This was the evil, cruel business known as the Triangular, or Three-Cornered Trade. It was the cornerstone of much of New England’s prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries. It made many men rich, but it was part of what was to bring disgrace upon white [British and New England] men, misery and oppression upon black people, and untold trouble upon the world.”

(Rum, Slaves and Molasses, Clifford L. Alderman, Crowell-Collier Press, 1972, pp. 1-12)

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

The following is excerpted from a postwar letter written by Clement C. Clay of Alabama, to review the facts leading to the withdrawal of the Southern States in 1861, and Jefferson Davis’ efforts to forestall secession, seek conciliation with Northern leaders, and preserve the Union. It clearly identifies those wanting to preserve the Union, and lays the responsibility for disunion at the feet of Lincoln’s party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

“Mr. Davis did not take an active part in planning or hastening secession. I think he only regretfully consented to it, as a political necessity for the preservation of popular and State rights’ which were seriously threatened by the triumph of a sectional party who were pledged to make war on them.

No “plan of secession” or “scheme of revolution” was, to my knowledge, discussed – certainly none matured – at the [Democratic] caucus, 5th of January, 1861 . . . I have never heard that the caucus advised the South “to accumulate munitions of war,” or “to organize and equip an army of one hundred thousand men,” or determined “to hold on as long as possible to the Southern seats [in Congress].”

So far from it, a majority of Southern Senators seemed to think there would be no war; that the dominant party in the North desired separation from the South, and would gladly let their “erring sisters go in peace.” I could multiply proofs of such a disposition.

As to holding on to their seats, no Southern legislature advised it, no Southern Senator who favored secession did so but one, and none others wished to do so, I believe.

The “plan of secession,” if any, and the purpose of secession, unquestionably, originated, not in Washington City, or with the Senators or Representatives of the South, but among the people of the several States, many months before it was attempted. They followed no leaders at Washington or elsewhere, but acted for themselves, with an independence and unanimity unprecedented in any movement of such magnitude.

Before the election of Lincoln, all the Southern States, excepting one or two, had pledged themselves to separate from the Union upon the triumph f a sectional party in the Presidential election, by acts or resolutions of their Legislatures, resolves of both Democratic and Whig State Conventions, and of primary assemblies of the people – in every way in which they could commit themselves to any future act.

Their purpose was proclaimed to the world through the press and telegraph, and criticized in Congress, in the Northern Legislatures, in press and pulpit, and on the hustings, during many months before Congress met in December, 1860.

Over and above all these facts, the reports of the United States Senate show that, prior to the 5th of January 1861, Southern Senators united with Northern Democratic Senators in an effort to effect pacification and prevent secession, and that Jefferson Davis was one of a committee appointed by the Senate to consider and report such a measure; that it failed because the Northern Republicans opposed everything that looked to peace; that Senator [Stephen A.] Douglas arraigned them as trying to precipitate secession, referred to Jefferson Davis as one who sought conciliation, and called upon Republican Senators to tell what they would do, if anything, to restore harmony and prevent disunion. They did not even deign a response.

Thus by their sullen silence, they made confession (without avoidance) of their stubborn purpose to hold up no hand raised to maintain the Union . . .”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume One, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, excerpts, pp. 206-209)

Nov 27, 2016 - Enemies of the Republic, Historical Accuracy, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Patriots    Comments Off on Grant Never Faced Stonewall Jackson

Grant Never Faced Stonewall Jackson

Grant’s relentless and costly attacks on General Lee in Virginia earned him the title of “Butcher” among his own troops and was kept in command by Lincoln who was unbothered by the vast casualty numbers amassed by Grant. He quickly saw that following the Radicals after his master’s assassination was the proper path, and he was rewarded with election to the presidency, though only with the votes of freedmen herded to the polls in the South. His administration was marked with scandal, and his own vice president indicted for corruption. The following able criticism of General Grant’s claim to great generalship was published in the New York Tribune in July 1883.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant Never Faced Stonewall Jackson

“To the Editor of the Tribune:

Sir, — The attitude in which General Grant has so long been posed before the world is likely to receive a severe blow from the publication of General Humphrey’s last volume of “The Campaigns of the Civil War,” of which the Tribune contained a review yesterday.

Colonel Hambley, of the British army, in his great work on the Art of War . . . speaks of General Grant as one “who was successful on a moderate terrain like Vicksburg, but whose Virginia campaign was a failure,” and elsewhere of “Grant’s useless sacrifice of ten thousand men at Cold Harbor.” This judgement is tacitly supported by General Humphrey’s book by what would seem to be a column if indisputable facts.

I understand from him that General Grant was at least seven times conspicuously and with enormous loss defeated by General Lee before the exhaustion of his war materials and the universal collapse of the Confederacy compelled the latter to surrender. These were not reported as defeats in the bulletins of the day, and some of them were even supposed to be victories, as in the case of Hancock’s magnificent attempt to break through Lee’s centre at Spottsylvania Courthouse; but they were defeats nonetheless.

Many things conspired to prevent General Lee’s victories from being decisive: The overwhelming superiority of the Union army in numbers and munitions of war, his own lack of absolutely necessary war materiel . . . and the lack of an able coadjutor like Stonewall Jackson.

One can well believe that had Jackson lived a year longer Grant would not only have been defeated, but, as a consequence of his stubborn adhesion to a single military idea, pretty nearly destroyed. Grant possessed an advantage over all his predecessors in Virginia; that he never had to contend with Jackson. The dry truth of it is that Grant lost more battles in Virginia than he ever won elsewhere.

In the tenacity with which Grant followed out a determination once fixed in his mind, perhaps no man has ever surpassed him; but it was an expensive virtue for his soldiers, as the hundred thousand men he lost in Virginia are a witness. Whether he should have been removed after Cold Harbor, a disastrous blunder only equaled by Burnside’s at Fredericksburg, is a difficult matter to determine.

Yet this man . . . received the credit of having suppressed the Confederacy; without education for or experience in civil affairs was made President for eight years; and finally was carried around the earth and exhibited to the nations as the greatest prodigy of the age.

F.P.S. College Hill, Mass., July 4, 1883”

(A Northern Opinion of Grant’s Generalship, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XII, 1884, J. William Jones, editor, Broadfoot Publishing, 1990, excerpts, pp. 21-22)

Grant’s Sable Arm at the Crater

After the mine under Confederate lines at Petersburg was exploded in late July, 1864, the Northern assault into the crater was to be led by black troops, ordered by Gen. Ambrose Burnside, though criticized by Gen. George Meade as they were inexperienced. The black troops were not committed until after the initial assault, but intense defensive fire routed them and their white counterparts caught in the crater. It was reported that black troops were the most visible participants in the retreat and an observer recalled being brought to a halt by “terror-stricken darkies who came surging over [us] with a force that seemed almost irresistible. They yelled and groaned in despair and when we barred their progress” (Army of Amateurs, Longacre, pg. 190). Gen. Grant later stated that he was confident that the black troops would have carried the assault if they had led it, though agreeing that they were inexperienced troops.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant’s Sable Arm at The Crater

“Lieutenant Colonel Charles Loring, a [General Ambrose] Burnside aide who had been observing matters [at the Crater battle] all morning, was so appalled by the prospect of the black soldiers’ advancing into the confusion that he countermanded the order and raced off to report directly to [Burnside, who simply restated his previous order to attack].

The officers commanding the black troops now discovered that it was nearly impossible to advance their men in any orderly fashion. Confederate artillery ranged all surface approaches to the jump-off point . . . [but the] 30th [US Colored Troops] was the first black regiment to advance toward the crater. “The slaughter was fearful,” one [young regimental officer] later wrote home . . . “bullets came in amongst us like hailstones . . . Men were getting killed and wounded on all sides of me.”

[Northern commander U.S. Grant] found Burnside in a small fieldwork overlooking the front. Grant wasted no time. “The entire opportunity has been lost,” he said, rapidly. “There is now no chance of success. These troops must be immediately withdrawn. It is slaughter to leave them here.” Burnside . . .”was still hoping something could be accomplished.”

[At a court of inquiry, Grant stated that] “I blame myself for one thing, I was informed . . . that General Burnside . . . trusted to the pulling of straws [as to] which division should lead [the attack]. It happened to fall on [who] I thought was the worst commander in his corps . . . I mean General [James] Ledlie.”

[Grant continued:] “General Burnside wanted to put his colored division in front [to lead the initial assault], and I believe that if he had done so it would have been a success. Still I agreed with General Meade as to his objections to that plan [that the colored division was “a new division, and had never been under fire – had never been tried . . .”].

General Meade said that if we put the colored troops in front . . . and it should prove a failure, it would then be said, and very properly, that we were shoving these people ahead to get killed because we did not care anything about them.”

(The Last Citadel, Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864-April 1865, Noah Andre Trudeau, Little, Brown and Company, 1991, excerpts, pp. 115-117; 126)

Slaves Doing the Business of New England

The scale of New England trade to the West Indian sugar plantations was nothing short of astonishing, with nearly 80 percent of all overseas exports supporting slave-labor sugar production. By this time as well, the Narragansett region of Rhode Island and neighboring Connecticut both developed their own plantation systems employing African slaves as forced labor.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Slaves Doing the Business of New England

“At the same time that John Winthrop left England to establish his city on the hill, another group of Puritans left England for the Caribbean. While the New England colonists shipped beaver pelts, codfish, and timber back across the Atlantic, the West Indies group ended up on Providence Island raising tobacco and cotton, using slave labor.

Europeans . . . prized sugar [that was slave-produced in the West Indies]. The crop roared its way across the Atlantic like an agricultural hurricane. It denuded islands of their forests and siphoned hundreds of thousands of Africans into slavery to feed a boundless, addicted market.

Between 1640 and 1650, English ships delivered nearly 19,000 Africans to work the fields in Barbados. By 1700, the cumulative total had reached 134,000. The pattern was repeated on other islands. Jamaica, barely populated when the English invaded it in 1655, had absorbed 85,000 African slaves by 1700. The Leeward Islands, including Antigua, took 44,000.

That same year a Boston ship made one of the earliest known New England slave voyages to Africa, delivering its cargo to Barbados. The Puritans thought about using captive labor for themselves. In 1645, Emanuel Downing, John Winthrop’s brother-in-law, advised Winthrop: “I do not see how we can thrive until we get a stock of slaves sufficient to do all our business.”

Although residents of New England and Middle Atlantic States owned slaves and trafficked in slaves, they profited more from feeding the increasingly large numbers of Africans in the West Indies and providing the materials to operate the sugar plantations and mills.

The flow of commerce between America, Africa and the West Indies entered history as the Triangle Trade. In its classic shape, Northern colonies sent food, livestock, and wood (especially for barrels) to West Indian sugar plantations, where enslaved Africans harvested the cane that fed the refining mills.

Sugar, and its by-product molasses, was then shipped back North, usually in barrels made of New England wood and sometimes accompanied by slaves. Finally, scores of Northern distilleries turned the molasses into rum to trade in Africa for new slaves, who were, in turn, shipped to the sugar plantations.”

 

(Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, Profited from Slavery, Farrow, Lang, Frank, Ballantine Books, 2006, excerpts, pp. 46-49)

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

It was a commonly held opinion by 1860 that the western territories were not conducive to large plantation and the black labor required to make it economically feasible. It was Lincoln in his “House-Divided” speech who fanned the flames of sectional discord and set the South on its path toward political independence, and the North on its path to war. Washington in his farewell address warned of the dangers of sectionalism – the same that Lincoln and his party created and nourished.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

“The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land [Stephen] Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 [latitude] would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more and more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery [expansion] organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, [Lincoln] had to supply additional material for the sustenance of his party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also to gain recruits to the cause of prohibition of slavery in the territories by federal law.

The two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in a sectional political party. The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the North, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States.

The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition of slavery only under conditions equitable to the South. They had most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay they preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both sides of the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives. [The speech] contained bait for abolitionist consumption . . . and [it also] veils the radicalism . . . and makes of the whole what many Henry Clay Whigs even in the South hoped.

The idea presented . . . to the effect that the advocates of slavery intended to push slavery forward into the Northern States unless the system was checked . . . contained a powerful cement for amalgamating the heterogeneous elements of the North into one sectional party opposed to such extension. [Lincoln’s speech] was sufficiently nourishing to the party’s life to have “all free” enshrined as an ultimate ideal and to spread the idea that the South would be satisfied with nothing less than “all slave.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Doctoral Dissertation, Philosophy, Columbia University, 1921, excerpts, pp. 18-21)

Slavery Up North

The New England colonies (and later States) of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, were primarily responsible for perpetuating African slavery in North America as their shipping interests brought slaves from the Gold Coast. Beginning in the early 1800s, Massachusetts mills depended on slave-produced cotton from the South and Manhattan banks provided easy credit for planters, both Southern and Northern, to expand their plantations. For more on the history of slaves in the North, see “North of Slavery” by Leon Litwack (University of Chicago Press, 1861).

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Slavery Up North

“[The North’s] . . . teachers, its preachers, its writers, its orators, its philosophers, its politicians, have with one voice, and that a mighty voice, been for a hundred years instilling into its mind the un-contradicted doctrine that the South brought the Negro here and bound him in slavery; that the South kept the Negro in slavery; that to perpetuate this enormity the South plunged the nation in war and attempted to destroy the Union; that the South still desires the re-establishment of slavery, and that meantime it oppresses the Negro, defies the North, and stands a constant menace to the Union.

The great body of Northern people, bred on this food, never having heard any other relation, believes this implicitly, and all the more dangerously because honestly. If they are wrong and we right, it behooves us to enlighten them.

There are a multitude of men and women at the North who do not know that slavery ever really existed at the North. They may accept it historically in a dim, sort of theoretical way, as we accept the fact that men and women were once hanged for forgery or for stealing a shilling; but they do not take it as a vital fact.

Massachusetts has the honor of being the first community in America to legalize the slave-trade and slavery by legislative act; the first to send out a slave-ship, and the first to secure a fugitive slave law. Slavery having been planted here, not by the South as has been reiterated until it is the generally received doctrine, but by a Dutch ship which in 1619 landed a cargo of [20 Negroes] in a famished condition at Jamestown . . .

Indeed it flourished here and elsewhere, so that in 1636, only sixteen years later, a ship, the Desire, was built and fitted out at Marblehead as a slaver and thus became the first American slave-ship, but by no means the last. In the early period of the institution, it was . . .

Justified to on the ground that the slaves were heathen, conversion to Christianity might operate to emancipate them. In Virginia, the leading Southern colony . . . Negroes are shown by church records, to have been baptized.

In Massachusetts at that time, baptism was expressly prohibited.  Many of the good people of Massachusetts, in their zeal and their misapprehension of the facts, have been accustomed to regard their own skirts as free from all taint of the accursed doctrine of property in human beings. In Mr. Sumner’s famous speech in the Senate, June 28, 1854, he boldly asserted that “in all her annals no person was ever born a slave on the soil of Massachusetts . . .”

The fugitive slave law . . . which is generally believed to have been the product of only Southern cupidity and brutality, had its prototype in the Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England (19th May, 1643), in which Massachusetts was the ruling colony.

It was not at the South, but at the North in Connecticut, that Prudence Crandall was, for teaching colored girls, subjected to persecution as barbarous as it was persistent. After being sued and pursued by every process of law which a New England community could devise, she was finally driven forth into exile in Kansas.

She opened her school in Canterbury, Connecticut in April 1833 . . . [and] the town-meeting promptly voted to “petition for a law against the bringing of colored people from other towns and States for any purpose . . .”

In May an act prohibiting private schools for non-resident colored persons and for the expulsion of the latter was procured from the legislature amid great rejoicing in Canterbury, even to the ringing of church bells.”

(The Old South, Essays Social and Political, Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896, excerpts, pp. 287-298)

 

Those Yankees!

Thomas Jefferson, a Southerner, proposed the prohibition of slavery in the Northwest Territory (belonging to Virginia) though Congress failed to approve the plan by one vote. “Thus,” Jefferson wrote, “we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and heaven was silent in that awful moment.” Seven years later, a Massachusetts man invented the cotton gin that inspired New England mill owners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Those Yankees!

“If it hadnt been for cotton and Yankee inventiveness, chattel slavery would have died a natural death in the South, as it did in the North, long before the [War Between the States]. In the years following the Revolution, the accent throughout the Colonies was on freedom. More and more leaders in the South were speaking out against slavery and being listened to with respect.

In 1791 William and Mary College conferred the degree of LL.D on Granville Sharp, a noted Abolitionist from England. As late as 1832, a bill to provide for the emancipation of slaves was passed by one House of the Virginia Legislature and defeated in the other by only one vote. Manumission societies were springing up everywhere.

The movement wasn’t exactly a matter of ethics. It was mostly economic. Tobacco and indigo and rice just couldn’t support a wasteful slave economy. There was cotton and the South could grow a lot of it . . . but getting out the pesky seed killed off the profit.

A program of gradual emancipation under which the children of slave parents were to be freed at the age of 25 was gaining momentum when a Yankee school-teacher down in Georgia by the name of Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. The year was 1791. Everyone went cotton crazy and slavery, instead of dying out, was tremendously expanded. Many Southern States passed laws forbidding manumission. Those Yankees!

Virginia was our first slave State . . . and the biggest. During the War, forty-eight counties in western Virginia split off from Virginia and remained loyal to the Union with a slave population of 18,371.

All the Negroes were not slaves. There were 260,000 free Negroes in the South owning property valued at more than $25,000,000. About one in every one-hundred of these owned Negro slaves. Most of them owned just two or three but there were some big Negro slave-owners too.  Cypian Ricard, of Macon [Georgia], had a big plantation and 91 slaves. Charles Roges had 47 and Marie Metoyer had 58. The richest man and the biggest slave-owner in Jefferson County. Virginia, was a Negro.

Negroes were in business in the South too, other than farming. Solomon Humphries of Macon, was the town’s leading grocer. Jehu Jones was proprietor of one of Charleston’s best hotels. Thomy Lafon down in New Orleans, was worth half a million dollars. He contributed so much to the city the State legislature ordered a bust to be carved and set up in a public building in his honor.”

(My Old Kentucky Home, Chapter XVI, W.E. Debnam, The Graphic Press, 1955, pp. 38-39)

 

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.”

 

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)