Browsing "Historical Accuracy"
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)

Hollywood’s Fake History

The battle of Jenkins Ferry near Little Rock, Arkansas in late April, 1864, is pronounced a victory for Northern forces by Wikipedia despite Gen. Kirby Smith holding the field of battle afterward and preventing the juncture of two enemy armies. The infamous Red River campaign of Northern commander Nathaniel Banks, of which Jenkins Ferry was part, was as noted below, a cotton-stealing campaign, as officers had their men confiscate cotton bales and send them to New Orleans for their personal enrichment.

Hollywood’s Fake History

“The [Steven Spielberg] film [Lincoln] begins with a false portrayal of the battle of Jenkins Ferry, a victory by outnumbered (as usual) Confederates that put an end to a major Union cotton-stealing campaign. There was no massacre of black troops at Poison Springs, nor any massacre of Confederate prisoners by blacks in retaliation at Jenkins Ferry, as is claimed.

Most Northern soldiers would have slaughtered their black “comrades” before allowing them to slaughter Confederate prisoners. I suppose this invention makes a gratifying vicarious revenge fantasy for the leftist homosexual screenwriter.

The 1st and 2nd Kansas Regiments (Colored) are described inaccurately as cavalry. There were no black cavalry units in active service in the war. Northern soldiers would have balked at blacks riding while they walked.

During the war blacks soldiers were mostly labor and garrison troops, and occasionally, as at Ft. Wagner and the Crater, sacrificed in forlorn hopes of sparing the lives of white Northerners. Ambrose Bierce, a frontline Union soldier for the entire war, said he never saw any black people except the servants and concubines of Union officers.

The film shows Lincoln in friendly conversation with black soldiers who were veterans of Jenkins Ferry, though how they got to Washington from Arkansas is not explained. Such a scene is unlikely. Lincoln throughout his life had relatively little contact with black people. Some were run out of Springfield in Lincoln’s time, and at least one lynching occurred there after the war.

Lincoln did receive a delegation or two at the White House, to whom he hinted that the best thing their people could do was to emigrate to some friendlier clime . . . [and] used the N-word routinely. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was emphatically “the white man’s president.”

Obviously, these filmmakers wanted the film to be all about slavery, requiring a basic perversion of accuracy. But like so much of the treatment of the war, charity for black people actually takes second place to the whitewashing of Northern behavior, to safeguarding what Robert Penn Warren called “the treasury of virtue.”

Southerners and Confederates fared much better in Hollywood during the first half of the 20th century than they do now, although the picture is mixed, and an occasional sympathetic treatment sneaks through. A recent film, The Conspirator, about the execution of Mary Surratt for the Lincoln assassination, was fairly even-handed and accurate. Even so, it could not escape a certain amount of whitewash, almost as much as Tom Sawyer’s fence.

Inevitably, the degree to which Lincoln was beloved by his own side is exaggerated. Lincoln worship was a posthumous thing. And the film implies that Mrs. Surratt would not have been executed if her son had not escaped, thus shifting the blame of her murder from her killers to John Surratt. Think about it: It is suggested that these people were right to execute a mother since they could not lay hands on the son.

Indeed, the film entirely fails to convey the atmosphere of haste and secrecy that surrounded the whole of the proceedings after Lincoln’s assassination. Here again is something that has been broached by an occasional maverick historian but which Americans have never faced.

You would think in a matter so important there would be an exhaustive investigation. Instead, the supposed guilty parties were bound, hooded, gagged, and swiftly executed, and Booth when cornered and badly injured was killed rather than captured.

Why the haste? Cui bono? In fact, [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton’s secret and summary dealings guaranteed that the full truth would never be known.”

(Civil War Cinema, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, May 2013, excerpts pp. 45-46 www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Dec 8, 2018 - America Transformed, Historical Accuracy, Lincoln Revealed, Myth of Saving the Union, Propaganda, Republican Party Jacobins    Comments Off on Taking Propaganda as Self-Evident Truth

Taking Propaganda as Self-Evident Truth

The long-standing myth of Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg in November 1863 is first questioned by his status as a secondary speaker to the eminent Edward Everett, and that the event promoters did not desire Lincoln to upstage him. Additionally, those seated behind Lincoln at stated afterward that the published speech were not Lincoln’s words, and that he was a “wet blanket,” and newspaper accounts criticized his ill-chosen words. Those who heard Lincoln’s speech said later published accounts were “revised” by someone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Taking Propaganda as Self-Evident Truth

“Is it time to pull US troops out of Iraq? Back in 1862 you could have been arrested for saying US troops should be pulled out of the Confederacy, because Abraham Lincoln insisted that they were fighting for “a new birth of freedom.”

Lincoln is the subject of yet another new book – worshipful, naturally – called “The Gettysburg Gospel,” by Gabor Boritt (Simon & Schuster).

This is the second recent book about the Gettysburg Address, the previous one being Gary Will’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lincoln at Gettysburg.” Both books treat Lincoln as a national savior, overlooking his fallacious appeal to the Declaration of Independence.

According to Lincoln, the Declaration “brought forth a new nation.” That is plainly not true. The Declaration says nothing about a “nation”; it speaks only of 13 “Free and Independent States.” It is, in fact, a declaration of secession! The 13 States are serving notice that they are pulling out of the British Empire.

Lincoln even contradicts himself. In his first inaugural, denying the right of any State to leave the Union, he had said that “the Union is older than the States.” That is like saying that a marriage is older than the spouses. Apart from being nonsense, it implies that the “new nation” didn’t begin with the Declaration after all.

But Lincoln worshipers, bewitched by his eloquence, rarely notice these things. They overlook not only his lapses in logic but also his gross violations of the Constitution: usurpations of power, suspension of habeas corpus, arbitrary arrests of dissenters and even elected officials, crackdown on the free press, the Emancipation Proclamation (Lincoln himself doubted his authority to issue it but finally yielded to Republican pressure), and so on.

Some of the worshippers, such as Wills and Harry V. Jaffa, strain to defend these measures, but Boritt seems not to even notice them. He sounds like Tony Snow explaining Bush’s Iraq policies: the king can do no wrong. Lincoln always praised Thomas Jefferson, but under his administration Jefferson, the ur-secessionist, would have found himself in the clink.

Unless the North conquered the South, Lincoln said at Gettysburg, self-government itself would “perish from the earth.” Balderdash, of course. Yet most Americans still take Lincoln’s war propaganda as self-evident truth. He ranks among history’s most durably successful humbugs.”

(How Lincoln Gave Us Kwanzaa, Joe Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, January 2007, Volume 14, Number 1, excerpts pg. 9)

European Recognition for the South

Napoleon III favored the South as he was committed to building a French empire in Mexico, and viewed Southern armies as his potential allies and the North as an adversary. Britain became convinced early that no mediation would work as the South wanted to part in a Union with the North, and that Lincoln would entertain no thoughts of political independence for the South. Rather than the popular belief that a dislike of African slavery was holding back European recognition for the South, it was Russian intrigue against France and England that sent the Czar’s Baltic and Pacific fleets to New York and San Francisco harbors in late 1863 for an eight month stay – and as a veiled threat to Europe to avoid mediation or intervention.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

European Recognition for the South

“Napoleon seized the initiative which was relinquished by Lord Russell, and late in 1862 . . . proposed joint mediation [of America’s war] to Britain and Russia. Napoleon’s proposal called for a six months’ armistice to lead to formal recognition of the Confederacy.

The proposal was politely but promptly turned down. Alexander II, Czar of All the Russians . . . still resented British-French intervention in favor of Turkey, which had led to the Crimean War. A year later – not before the fortunes of war had decisively changed in favor of the Union – Russia sent two fleets, one to New York and the other to San Francisco, as a demonstration of friendship.

The British answer . . . sent in November 1862, said in effect that mediation would have no chance of success. From St. Petersburg, on November 18, 1862, [Russian Prince Gorchakov] . . . assured the French Ambassador of his intention to instruct the Russian Minister at Washington . . . to join the intended “demarche of France and Britain in case there is a favorable reception on the part of the Union government.” Naturally, such a chance never existed.

[In January 1863, France offered] mediation to the United States government. The result was a blunt rejection by [Secretary of State William] Seward, supported by a Congressional resolution denouncing foreign interference in the strongest terms.

In June, 1863, when French troops entered Mexico City and the Confederacy was still undefeated, Napoleon received in private audience two pro-Southern Englishmen. They were John A. Roebuck, an ultraconservative MP, and his associate, William S. Lindsay, a representative of Britain’s powerful shipbuilding industry. After returning to London, Roebuck introduce a resolution in the House of Commons urging the recognition of the Confederacy and disclosing confidential details of his talk with the Emperor of the French.

[Edward T. Hardy, American-born] consular agent of the Austrian Empire in Norfolk, Virginia, [was extremely well-informed about Southern intentions and wrote] . . . “the Aspect of American Affairs,” . . . filed as an important document in the Imperial Chancery of Vienna.

Hardy’s sixteen-page handwritten report assumed that [Maximilian’s acceptance of the Mexican Crown was a foregone conclusion, and that, “an Empire having been proclaimed, a war with the United States in inevitable; and the next to importance to the pacification and reconciliation of the people of Mexico is a recognition of the Southern Confederacy, and an alliance offensive and defensive with it.” This sounds like an invitation to Maximilian from Jefferson Davis for a joint offensive against the Union.

(Lincoln and the Emperors, A.R. Tyrner-Tyrnauer, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, excerpts pp. 83-85; 90)

 

American Historians Today

American Historians Today

“Our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of its people, it must one day perish.” President James Buchanan, 1860

“A poll of American historians, not long ago, chose James Buchanan as “the worst” American president. But judgements of “best” and worst” in history are not eternal and indisputable truths. They are matters of perspective and values, even of aesthetics. They can change as the deep consequences of historical events continue to unfold and bring forth new understandings.

These historians show their characteristic failure to pursue balance and their subservience to presentism and state worship. They think Buchanan should have ordered a military suppression of the seceded Southern States during the last months of his term of office in 1861.

Not only do they have no sympathy for a desire to avoid civil war, but they totally fail to understand the context. There was only a small army, most of the best officers of which sympathized with the South, and there were eight States that had not seceded but were averse to the action against the Confederacy.

More importantly, there was an immense and powerful and even predominant States’ rights tradition that had its followers in the North as well as in the South. For most Americans, even many who had voted for Lincoln, coercion of the people of a State was unthinkable until it became a fact. These historians prefer Lincoln as our “greatest” president.

He had less than two-fifths of the popular vote, but he had an aggressive rent-seeking and office-seeking coalition behind him, and he did not hesitate to make war, though he had egregiously miscalculated, expecting an easy victory.

That there was much intelligent and respectable opposition to him in the North is perhaps the biggest untold story of American history. Ex-president [Millard] Fillmore said that Lincoln’s election justified secession. Horatio Seymour, the governor of New York, asked pointedly why Lincoln was killing fellow Americans who, indeed, had always been exemplary citizens and patriots ready to defend the North against foreign attack.

A New York editor wanted to know exactly where Lincoln got the right to steal the possessions and burn the houses of Southern noncombatants. On July 4, 1863, while the battle raged at Gettysburg, Buchanan’s predecessor, former President Franklin Pierce, denounced Lincoln’s war in plain words in an extended oration in the capitol at Concord, New Hampshire.

The predominant American historical perspective among American historians today is that imported by communist refugees from Europe in the 1930s. American history is now Ellis Island, the African diaspora and Greater Mexico, and Old America has almost disappeared from attention except as an object of hatred.

For today’s historians, unlike James Buchanan, Southerners are not fellow countrymen and real people, but class enemies who should have been destroyed.”

(Updike’s Grandfather. A Review of “Buchanan Dying: A Play”; Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, January 2014, excerpts pg. 24)

Pages:«1234567...12»