Monthly Archives: July 2019

Using the Right Word

(August 1, 2019) Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” It’s true. A good writer will know when to use adroit instead of merely skillful. The rest of us will have to spend a lot of time searching for the correct word. Unfortunately, today’s politically correct thought police missed Twain’s point.

One example is the Women’s Study Department at Colorado State University (CSU), which has prepared an Inclusive Language Guide intended to make “everyone on [their] campus feel welcomed, respected, and valued.” Here are some examples:

Of course, everyone realizes that “colored” is offensive to people of color and that during the last decade or so “people of color” became the preferred substitute instead of “black.” Thus, nearly everybody willingly complies with the new expression. But it is surprising that “queer” is a preferred substitute for “homosexual” since a Vox Media videographer recently got YouTube to penalize another contributor for referring to the Vox guy as “queer” instead of “homosexual.” I also did not realize that “Ms.” is no longer politically correct and should be replaced with “Mx.” since “Ms.” was originally adopted to appease those who felt that “Miss” was sexist. Significantly, however, CSU’s “Language Guide” specifies that a person with a PhD. should be referred to as “Dr.” instead of “Mx.” even if the degree is in Women’s Studies.

More interesting are offensive terms that CSU’s Women’s Studies Department failed to recognize, which might be applied toward some new students thereby making them feel unwelcome, disrespected, and devalued. Examples include Hillbilly, Redneck, Cracker, Hayseed, Hick, Bubba, White Trash and Good Ol’ Boy.

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Ending Biased Big Tech Censorship

(July 31, 2019) You’d have to be as gullible as the gatekeepers of Troy to believe that Google and other social media platforms censor user content without imposing their own political bias. In recent Congressional hearings Texas Senator Ted Cruz disclosed that 88 Google executives donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign whereas none contributed to Donald Trump’s. The World’s two most popular websites are Google and its subsidiary YouTube, while FaceBook is third. Yet YouTube limited access to a five minute video about The Ten Commandments posted by the politically conservative website, Prager University. According to Google’s testimony it cannot be viewed by schools, churches, and families exercising supervisory control to block “obscenities, violence, hate and adult content.” Google admits that “about 25%” of Prager’s videos are similarly restricted although less than 2% of all YouTube videos are restricted.

After Senator Cruz suggested that Big Tech platforms were abusing their limited liability shield against defamation and libel provided by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA) when they selectively block conservative political content, Google immediately sent forth lobbyists to “educate” The Washington Post and The New York Times. Consequently, both newspapers quickly published editorials attacking Senator Cruz. Basically, they argued that CDA 230 does not require social media websites to be politically neutral. The platforms, they argue, can censor user content freely and still retain their privileged immunities to libel and defamation.

That interpretation has two problems. First, while CDA 230 permits censorship it requires that platforms exercise it in “good faith” in order to remain immune to the liabilities that would apply to publishers like The Times and The Post. One-sided political censorship does not constitute a “good faith” practice. Second, the Act’s language suggests that Congress never contemplated that the platforms could freely exercise biased political censorship. Indented below is the pertinent language in paragraph “C.”

No provider [platform] . . . shall be treated as the publisher . . . [of user content]. 

That means that Big Tech is given civil immunity for anything that users post on their platforms. If Mr. “A” posts a YouTube video calling Mr. “B” a liar, Mr. “B’s” legal recourse for defamation and libel is against Mr. “A,” not YouTube.

No provider [platform] . . . shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to . . . material that the provider . . . considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable . . .

The above language indicates that Congress was mostly concerned about obscene and violent material. Big Tech has taken large liberties with the “harassing and otherwise objectionable” phrase to target politically conservative voices. The New York Times‘s Sarah Jeong even admits this although she writes that is because conservative voices are more likely to post “hate speech, and fake news, and conspiracy theories.”

Jeong’s explanation is false. Numerous YouTube videos from left-wing sources spread fake news. One example is Joe Biden’s claim that President Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” Charlottesville remark referred to the white supremacists whereas the President was actually speaking of those who merely wanted to protect the Robert E. Lee statue. YouTube has done nothing to censor mainstream media sources whose videos on its website still propagate that hoax thereby promoting hatred against people wanting to protect Confederate statues.

The solution is to change CDA 230 so that it permits companies like Google, YouTube, Twitter and FaceBook to retain civil liability immunity only if they stop censoring for political reasons. If they continue to do so they should be treated as publishers, subject to libel and defamation laws. Specifically, they should lose their immunity if they fail to use “good faith” when  moderating user content, understanding that one-sided political censorship is not a “good faith” practice. Presently, they are abusively employing the “harassing, or otherwise objectionable” phrase to target restrictions against right wing users that they don’t apply to left-wing sources. Harassment by left-wing sources against conservative voices is also seldom penalized.

If you agree, consider writing your Washington representative to urge that the 1996 Communications Decency Act be revised to deny the Big Tech platforms civil liability immunity for user content if they censor it for political purposes. It is always those in power who censor, which they do for a single reason: to retain power.

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My Confederate Statue Speech

(July 30, 2019) Provided below is the text of my speech a week ago about Confederate statues at the Abbeville Institute summer conference.

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Author William Humprey

In 1965 Texas novelist William Humphrey wrote:

If the Civil War is more alive to the Southerner than the Northerner it is because all of the past is, and this is so because the Southerner has a sense of having been present there himself in the person of one or more of his ancestors. The war filled merely a chapter in his . . . [family history] . . .  transmitted orally from father to son [as] the proverbs, prophecies, legends, laws, traditions-of-origin and tales-of-wanderings of his own tribe. . . It is this feeling of identity with the dead (who are past) which characterizes and explains the Southerner.

It is with kin, not causes, that the Southerner is linked. Confederate Great-grandfather . . . is not remembered for his (probably undistinguished) part in the Battle of Bull Run; rather Bull Run is remembered because Great-grandfather was there. For the Southerner the Civil War is in the family.

Clannishness was, and is, the key to his temperament, and he went off to war to protect not Alabama but only those thirty or forty acres of its sandy hillside, or stiff red clay, which he broke his back tilling, and which was as big a country as his mind could hold.

Undoubtedly Humphrey was revealing feelings carried forward from his Texas childhood during the 1930s. Back then a few veterans were still alive to pass along their memories to youngsters like Bill. He later used those recollections to portray an incident in his best-known novel, Home from the Hill, which Vincente Minelli made into a movie.

About twenty years after the war a foppish stranger stepped off the Dallas-bound train when it stopped at Clarksville. Even though he spoke English none of the whittlers at the station could understand him, which they later learned was due to his Italian accent. But eventually the stranger—who identified himself as a professor—was granted an audience with the aldermen during which he explained that he could build a marble monument to the Confederate infantryman for $5,000. For $25,000 he could erect one depicting a mounted cavalryman, or an officer.

The town chose the $5,000 option. After the professor labored creatively and submitted a finished design the aldermen gave him a $2,500 deposit. A year later he returned with the sculpted components and erected the statue. The unveiling was a celebration that attracted nearly everyone in town, white and black.

A good many years elapsed before anyone from Clarksville traveled far along the railroad from whence the sculptor arrived. But when one resident eventually travelled to Georgia he noticed that there was “hardly a town of monument-aspiration size along the railway line all the way to Atlanta without a copy of our soldier.”

Statue critics say the Confederate soldier fought for slavery. But fewer than 30% of Southern families owned slaves. In truth, according to historian William C. Davis, “The widespread Northern myth that Confederates went to the battlefield to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries, in the tens of thousands, reveal again and again that they fought because their Southern homeland was invaded. . .”

Silent Sam Statue

Moreover, when their impoverished families were finally able to collect enough money to erect memorials, they honored the soldier for his battlefield sacrifices. It’s obvious in the words contained in monument inscriptions. A typical example is on the Silent Sam statue torn down two years ago by a mob of Chapel Hill students at the University of North Carolina. It reads:

To the sons of the university who entered the War of 1861–65 in answer to the call of their country and whose lives taught the lesson of their great commander [Robert E. Lee] that duty is the sublimest word in the English language.

Honorable sentiments erased by political correctness.

Removed St. Louis Confederate Statue

When the inscriptions did address Southern causes, they tended to focus on constitutional rights such as limited government and state sovereignty. One example from a statue removed in St. Louis reads:

To the Memory of the Soldiers and Sailors of the Southern Confederacy.

Who fought to uphold the right declared by the pen of Jefferson and achieved by the sword of Washington. With sublime self-sacrifice they battled to preserve the independence of the states which was won from Great Britain, and to perpetuate the constitutional government which was established by the fathers.

Actuated by the purest patriotism they performed deeds of prowess such as thrilled the heart of mankind with admiration.

Valid points surrendered to the big-government dogma of our age.

Knoxville unveiled her first Confederate statue in 1892, well ahead of most other Southern towns. Since that was only twenty-seven years after the War had ended, the dedication speaker was undoubtedly acquainted with many veterans when he said, “the Southern soldier believed his allegiance was due, first to his state and then to the general government. . . So when his state called for his service, he responded believing it to be his duty.” Without foreknowledge of the Spanish-American war still six years in the future he added presciently, “I am persuaded that the soldier from Mississippi or Louisiana would give his life in defense of his country today as readily as one from Massachusetts or Maine.” Finally, he quotes a mother’s elegy that serves as a soldier’s epitaph:

What need of question now, whether he was wrong or right?
He wields no warlike weapons now, returns no foeman’s thrust
Who but a coward would revile an honest soldier’s dust?

Brave words that too many of today’s academic historians defy behind tenured sinecures, to their everlasting shame. Some day they may find themselves as regretful as Jane Fonda over her Hanoi visit during the Vietnam War. 

Confederate Memorial Day

Few today comprehend the magnitude of the Confederate warrior’s sacrifice. About 300,000 Confederate soldiers died when the region’s population was only nine million. If the United States were to suffer proportional casualties in a war today our losses would total 11 million, which would be twenty-six times greater than our dead of World War II.

Given such oblations, the Confederate soldier’s surviving family members wanted to memorialize him. Memorial Day evolved after Federal occupation troops observed Southern women spreading flowers upon the graves of their husbands, sons and brothers during the war. A year after the war the ladies of Columbus, Mississippi strewed flowers on the graves of both the Confederate and Union dead in the town’s Friendship Cemetery. Their gesture started a movement that spread and in the North May 30th was selected as National Memorial Day in 1868.

Since the war had impoverished the South, the Southern ladies could do little more than lay down flowers. There was no money for statues and Union veterans initially opposed permanent Confederate memorials. But when the sons of Confederate veterans eagerly joined the U.S. Army to help win the Spanish-American War, the aging Union Civil War soldiers concluded that their former rivals were also Americans, who deserved memorial recognition.

Thus, the twenty years from 1898 to 1918 witnessed the installation of 80% of the signature courthouse square Confederate statues still standing in many Southern towns. During that period the typical surviving Confederate soldier aged from 58 years to 78 years. Memorial placements—North and South—surged between 1911 and 1915 because it was the War’s semi-centennial and the old soldiers were fading away.

Today a vocal minority holds Confederate soldiers in contempt, much like the many Americans who sneered at returning Vietnam veterans in the 1960s and 70s. Mixed in with chants of “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many babies did you kill today?” some civilians mocked the soldiers. Today most Americans old enough to remember cringe with shame when recalling such incidents.

As reported in The New York Times, for example, in 1968 a one-armed vet was accosted at a Colorado college.

Pointing to the missing limb another student asked, “Did you get that in Vietnam?
The veteran said, “Yes.”
“Serves you right,” said the student.

It took years, but eventually the public abandoned the ridiculers and gave Vietnam vets their due credit thereby underscoring the maxim: “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”

Thus, we should be aware that decisions to tear down century-old monuments put us at risk for future remorse. Dishonoring such monuments demeans later generations of American warriors who were inspired by the Confederate soldier.

Consider, for example, that post-Civil-War Southerners consistently came to our nation’s defense more readily than did other Americans. Even presently, 44% of American military personnel are from the South notwithstanding that it represents just 36% of the nation’s population.

Tennessee’s Alvin York was America’s most famous infantryman in World War I. Although his grandfather was a Union deserter, two of his grand-uncles sided with the Confederacy.  Texan Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II. In Vietnam, Arkansas sniper Carlos Hathcock killed more enemy than anyone and even put a bullet in the eye of an opposing sniper through the foe’s telescopic sight. (Steven Spielberg theatrically copied this in his Saving Private Ryan movie.) Each man was born into the grinding poverty that typified much of the South for a century after the Civil War. As boys they hunted game for food, not sport.

During World War II, the first American flag to fly over the captured Japanese fortress at Okinawa was a Confederate Battle Flag.  It was put there by a group of marines to honor their company commander—that happened to be a South Carolinian who suffered a paralyzing wound in the victorious assault. Some of the tank crews that freed prisoners from German concentration camps also flew the Confederate Battle Flag.

The academic community is at the forefront of those wanting to remove Confederate statues, which they characterize as racist. In doing so they violate the American Historical Society’s warning against “presentism,” which is defined as an uncritical tendency to interpret the past in terms of modern values. It fails to recognize that racial attitudes throughout America 150 years ago were different than they are today. That is why Abraham Lincoln said during an 1858 debate, “. . . I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. . .”

Finally, toppling Confederate statues has evolved into a mob sport, with impunity for the vandals. Since such conduct requires no more bravery than kicking a puppy, we may wonder what comes next. Arcata, California has already removed a statue of President McKinley. Notre Dame University has covered a mural that celebrates Christopher Columbus’s discovery voyages. Anti-statue activists are behaving much like the leaders of the former Soviet Union where censorship and rewritten history was part of the state’s effort to ensure that the correct political spin was put on their history. In response, George Orwell warned, “The most effective way to destroy a people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

One argument used by those wanting to remove Confederate statues is that contemporary blacks had little chance to oppose them when they were erected.  Aside from anecdotal evidence that blacks joined white crowds to observe the dedication ceremonies, one example in Mississippi provides undeniable evidence of explicit high-level black support. In 1890 the Mississippi legislature voted on a bill to appropriate $10,000 for a Confederate monument. The vote in the lower chamber was 57-to-41 in favor. All six black representatives voted “yea.” One, John F. Harris, made a supporting speech prior to the vote:

Mr. Speaker! I have risen here in my place to offer a few words on the bill. . .I was sorry to hear the speech of the young gentleman from Marshall County. I am sorry that any son of a soldier should go on record as opposed to the erection of a monument in honor of the brave dead.

And, sir, I am convinced that had he seen what I saw at Seven Pines and in the Seven Days’ fighting around Richmond, the battlefield covered with the mangled forms of those who fought . . . for their country’s honor, he would not have made that speech. . . . When the news came that the South had been invaded, those men went forth to fight for what they believed, and they made no requests for monuments . . . But they died, and their virtues should be remembered.

Sir, I went with them. I too wore the gray, the same color my master wore. We stayed four long years, and if that war had gone on till now I would have been there yet . . . I want to honor those brave men who died for their convictions.

When my mother died, I was a boy. Who, Sir, then acted the part of a mother to an orphaned slave boy, but my old missus? Were she living now, or could speak to me from those high realms where are gathered the sainted dead, she would tell me to vote for this bill. And, Sir, I shall vote for it. I want it known to all the world that my voice is given in favor of the bill to erect a monument in honor of the Confederate dead.”

Harris was about thirty years old when he went off with his master to fight on the side of the Confederacy. After the War he studied law at the offices of Percy and Yerger in Greenville, Mississippi. The firm’s co-founder was William Alexander Percy, a former Confederate Colonel. In 1867 Percy successfully defended ex-slave, Holt Collier, who had been accused of murdering a federal officer.

Holt Collier

Holt fought as a Confederate sharpshooter during the War and later was a guide for Theodore Roosevelt when the President visited Mississippi on a bear hunt in 1902. When word got out that Roosevelt declined to shoot a bear that Holt had trapped for him, a toy manufacturer started mass producing stuffed bears for infants. He named them Teddy Bears.

Percy’s son (LeRoy) fathered a second William Alexander Percy who authored Lanterns on the Levee in 1941. When future novelist and physician Walker Percy was orphaned at age fifteen in 1931, he went to live with his older cousin, the second W. A. Percy. While in Greenville, Walker became best friends with high school classmate Shelby Foote who had been fatherless since age five. During the next three years the two youths were treated like nuclear family in the W. A. Percy household. The patriarch officially adopted Walker and became a mentor to Shelby. Later, Walker won the National Book Award for The Moviegoer while Shelby became best known for his three-volume narrative history of the Civil War.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) wants Confederate statues removed from public spaces. Several years ago, they published the chart above depicting the dates when Confederate statues were erected. As you may see, they attempt to associate the construction of Confederate statues with three eras they claim correlate to white hostility toward blacks. The attempts are as phony as a football bat.

The SPLC portrays the first twenty-year period from 1880 to 1900 as a time when Southern blacks lost voting rights and Jim Crow was enacted. Their case for this period is weak because comparatively few statues were assembled at the time. Similarly, Jim Crow and voting rights issues largely applied only to the second half of the period.

Many more statues were constructed during the second era from 1900 to 1920, which the SPLC correlates to racial lynchings and a resurgent KKK. In realty, lynchings were steadily declining during the entire period and the KKK was not resurgent until after 1920.  At the start of the 1920s the KKK had only a few thousand members. Five years later, however, membership ranged between two to five million because it had become a national—not regional—organization. Indiana had more members than any state. Oregon, Kansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Ohio were other strongholds outside the South. Nonetheless, by the start of the 1930s the Klan’s numbers had dwindled to insignificance.

In truth, four factors that the SPLC evades caused the building surge during the 1900 – 1920 interval. First, since the old soldiers were dying-off family members wanted to honor them while they were still around. A twenty-one-year-old who went to war in 1861 was sixty years old in 1900 and seventy-five in 1915. Second, the Civil War’s semi-centennial commemoration was a major factor motivating statue construction. Nineteen-eleven marked the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the war and 1915 was the fiftieth anniversary of its end. Third, both of the preceding points contributed to a simultaneous surge in the number of statues erected to honor Union veterans. It is only natural that Confederate descendants wanted to follow suit at the same time.  Fourth, post-war impoverished Southerners generally did not have enough money to pay for memorials until the turn of the century. Notwithstanding its population growth, the region did not recover to its of pre-war economic activity level until 1900.

Few people today appreciate the efforts required to fund the century-old statues. A typical example is the 1905 monument in Chester, South Carolina. When erected blacks accounted for about 40% of the town’s 4,500 people as compared to 60% of its present 5,500 population. Fundraising began the year after the war ended in 1865 when school children were only able to raise pocket change. A second effort four years later in 1870 collected only a few dollars. In 1890 a Chester woman raised $200 with a theatrical performance. Finally, in 1900 the United Daughters of the Confederacy took charge and by the end of 1904 had about $420. Next the UDC launched a public subscription involving many small donations from Chester residents including some blacks. That increased the treasury to $2,100, which was enough to pay for the monument. In May 1905 they laid the cornerstone before a crowd that also included a minority of African-Americans.

Yellow Shows Deployment of Signature Courthouse Square Confederate Monuments

But, to return to the SPLC’s analysis, consider the third surge of statue placements during the 1960s. The Poverty Center fallaciously attributes it to white protest against school integration and MLK’s Civil Rights Movement. In reality, the SPLC’s own graph shows that the deployment of new statues during the 1960s was a minor swell compared to the semi-centennial. Moreover, it most likely reflected the centennial commemoration as opposed to protests against black progress.

The preceding chart underscores the importance of the semi-centennial and dwindling veteran population as true motivating factors for erecting the signature public square statues. The yellow bars represent the statues placed on courthouse grounds, as opposed to cemeteries, battlefields, and private property. As may be seen, they are heavily concentrated in the semi-centennial era. There can be little doubt that they were built with some urgency caused by the shrinking numbers of vets. Only a cynic could conclude otherwise.

Unfortunately, most academic historians are cynics. Remarks by Mercer University’s Dr. Sarah Gardner reveal good examples. “It took the North’s abandonment of Reconstruction,” she argues, “before Confederate apologists could enshrine their views in public squares.” No, Dr. Gardner. In reality, since the Carpetbag regimes ended only a dozen years after the Civil War, it’s obvious that lingering Southern poverty was the chief reason that most Confederate statue-building was delayed until the twentieth century when Republican Reconstruction had been over for twenty-three years.

Even though she admits that 90% of the Rebel statues were erected after 1895 she concludes, “The purpose of these statues was not to honor the Confederate dead but to assert and celebrate white supremacy in the present.” Since the most active statue-building part of that period also coincided with the dwindling ranks of Confederate veterans, only the most extreme cynic could reach her conclusion.

Finally, she argues that the long-delayed work on the Davis, Lee, and Jackson carvings at Stone Mountain in 1963 had “nothing to do with honoring the Confederate dead of the 1860s and everything to do with asserting white supremacy . . . in the 1960s.” No, Dr. Gardner. Since 1963 was a hundred years after the war’s mid-point, it’s more likely that the Centennial Commemoration triggered a restart of the Stone Mountain carvings. Consider also, for example, that the U. S. Post Office issued five postage stamps between 1961 and 1965 to commemorate the Civil War Centennial. The chances they did that to assert “white supremacy” are about as slim as an Apache Indian getting elected Pope.

Rather than taking down Confederate monuments, we should be adding new ones that address the subjects of slavery, the Underground Railroad, black soldiers, and Reconstruction as well as the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. Adding new monuments for more recent heroes while keeping the old ones in place provides a tangible record of how our society evolved.

Such trends had already been in place long before Dylan Roof provided the cultural elite an excuse to tear down Confederate symbols in 2015. In 2007, for example, Arkansas erected statues on its state capitol grounds to the nine black teenagers who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School fifty years earlier in 1957. Similarly, Richmond, Virginia honored pioneering black tennis player Arthur Ashe even earlier in 1996. They built a statue of him on Monument Avenue, which is chiefly populated with Confederate heroes.

Consider also street-name memorials to Martin Luther King. Former Confederate states have far more MLK streets and avenues than similarly sized Northern states. North Carolina and New Jersey, for example, have comparable populations but the Southern state has twenty-nine MLK streets whereas the Northern one has only eight. Similarly, even though Ohio has four times the population of Mississippi, the Buckeye State has only eight MLK streets whereas the state with the Confederate banner in its flag has sixteen.

I struggled for a way to end this speech on a positive note until I read a recent blog post by Richard Williams at Relics & Bones. He quoted the wisdom of Will Durant who said, “To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves.” Thus, even though pictures of students triumphantly kicking a fallen statue may anger us, Durant’s quote indicates that their conduct is really a grotesque display of narcissism.

Although saving Confederate statues may be hard, we must try. Never think your corner of the world is too small to have an impact, even if that part is simply in your own family circle.

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A Review of Ron Chernow’s Book on U. S. Grant

(July 27, 2019) Provided below is a review of Ron Chernow’s biography on U. S. Grant. The writer is Joseph Rose who is the author of Grant Under Fire.

To learn more about Grant as President, get my most recent book, U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency

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There is no doubt that Ron Chernow tells a beautiful story in his recent biography of Ulysses S. Grant. He is especially compelling in discussing the fight for Black civil rights during Reconstruction. But throughout, the author takes his subject’s side in controversy after controversy, even when the evidence doesn’t support it. And Chernow has a seriously deficient understanding of Grant, of the Civil War, and of military matters, in general. Despite his stellar reputation, Chernow surprisingly hasn’t done his homework and relies far too heavily on secondary sources (especially such partisan works by Adam Badeau, Horace Porter, and Grant’s own Personal Memoirs). It takes years and years of research and a finely critical eye to establish what really happened, given the multitude of oft-conflicting sources. Repeating, however nicely, the standard—inaccurate—version, is not the best way to present history.

Grant’s Toomb

The opening line in Chernow’s biography—”Even as other civil war generals rushed to publish their memoirs, flaunting their conquests and cashing in on their celebrity, Ulysses S. Grant refused to trumpet his accomplishments in print”—is positively wrong-headed. Instead, Professor Henry Coppée’s 1866 Grant biography was “published under General Grant’s sanction.” In 1868, Albert Richardson’s “authorized” biography came out, as did one by staffer James H. Wilson and Charles Dana, “designed mainly to promote Grant’s election to the presidency.” These latter two and Henry Deming’s were all “carefully guarded against any expression which could be used against him by the politicians,” in the upcoming election. A further “campaign biography” was penned by another Grant acolyte, James G. Wilson. Also in 1868, the most distorted flattery appeared in the first volume of a military trilogy by staffer Adam Badeau, who began working on it in 1865. Grant later told him:

Readers may complete the review at Joe Rose’s website.

Confederate Statues and Racism

(July 17, 2019) As noted in earlier posts, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and many academic historians are promoting a false narrative that the Confederate statues erected between 1900 and 1920 were celebrations of white supremacy. In reality, the  statues were built because the old veterans were dying-off, which is why there was also a simultaneous surge in Civil War memorial-building in the North.

Nonetheless, academics are on a mission to “prove” their point by finding examples of statue inscriptions or dedication speeches that celebrate the Anglo-Saxon race or affirm white supremacy. Yet Anglo-Saxon pride and white privilege was common throughout all of America during that era. Consider, for example, the widespread obsession with defeating black heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson.

Johnson became the first black to hold the title in 1908 by beating the reigning white champion, Tommy Burns. Most white boxing fans were outraged that a black had become champion. As a result, promoters searched for a “Great White Hope” to beat Johnson. In 1910 they matched him against previous champion Jim Jeffries who had earlier retired undefeated.

The bout attracted unprecedented attention. Led by The New York Times, the mainstream press promoted hostility toward African-Americans: “If the black man wins, thousands and thousands of his ignorant brothers will misinterpret his victory as justifying claims to much more than mere physical equality with their white neighbors.” After Johnson won the fight, race riots erupted in fifty cities within twenty-five states.  Examples include New York, Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Omaha, Wilmington, Columbus, St. Louis and Pueblo, Colorado as well as the Southern towns of New Orleans, Little Rock, Atlanta and Houston.

It took boxing promoters another five years to find a six-foot-seven-inch white fighter, Jess Willard, to beat the aging Johnson in 1915. After winning the Havana bout, Willard temporarily became the most celebrated American.  When his victory was displayed on a bulletin board in New York’s financial district the roar from the streets “would have done credit to a Presidential victory,” according to the New York Tribune. “For a moment the air was filled with hats and newspapers. Respectable businessmen pounded their unknown neighbors on the back” and acted like gleeful children. At a time when the average American earned $600 a year,  a New York lecture hall offered Willard $5,000 for a single week’s engagement.

After some blacks started to migrate to Northern states early in the twentieth century race riots began to erupt in their new hometowns.  A black who swam offshore at a Chicago “whites only” beach triggered a riot that left thirty-eight people dead in 1919. President Woodrow Wilson put most of the blame on the whites. About one thousand blacks lost their homes to arson. Wilson also mostly blamed  whites for 1919 rioting in Washington, D. C. that caused about forty deaths and one-hundred-fifty injuries.

Two years earlier East St. Louis whites launched wholesale attacks against  blacks after five-hundred were hired to replace whites during a worker strike. Claiming that “Southern negroes deserve[d] a genuine lynching” whites hanged several blacks. Estimates of African-American deaths ranged from 40 to 200. About 6,000 abandoned the city.

Even though blacks represented just 5% of the people in Springfield, Illinois a 1908 race riot left sixteen people dead and hundreds of homeless blacks in its wake. Conflicts between blacks and Irish-Americans led to a New York City riot in 1900 that required hundreds of police to intervene.

Since racism permeated the entire country from 1900 to 1920, it’s a stretch requiring a bungee cord to conclude that racism was a significant reason to erect Confederate memorials. The obvious explanation is that the old soldiers were fading away and the impoverished South had finally accumulated enough money to memorialize them some fifty years after the War had ended.

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Post Civil War Racism

(July 16, 2019) Today’s historian often interprets post Civil War racism as evidence that Southern whites were morally inferior. While he may officially deny it, the actions of his students demonstrate his teachings. Consider, for example, the mob that destroyed Silent Sam’s statue. Nonetheless, those who believe that the Southerner was especially racist might be more understanding after comparing the experience of Southern blacks with California’s Chinese-Americans.

South. Protracted Southern racism was more a consequence of Carpetbag Reconstruction than it was of the Civil War.*

First, blacks represented 40% of the Confederacy’s population but only 1% in the North’s antebellum “free” states. Second, Congress gave blacks the vote in every Southern state even though voter qualifications had always been a state’s right. Third, 97% of ex-slaves were illiterate with no government experience. Fourth, many ex-Confederates lost the right to vote thereby resulting in black voter majorities in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Carpetbag regimes in the other states formed Returning Boards to count votes or adopted other measures to maximize the probability of Republican-favorable election outcomes.  Fifth, the new Southern state governments were plagued with high taxes and corruption. Since virtually all revenue came from property taxes whites paid nearly all of it because few freedmen owned property.

California. Although California had few blacks, her Chinese-Americans were abused in the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth.

First, even though representing less than 10% of the state’s population they weren’t allowed to vote.  Second, two-thirds of California’s lynch victims between 1849 and 1902 were Chinese-Americans. America’s biggest lynching was in 1873 Los Angeles when nineteen Chinese-Americans were killed. Third, since 95% of her ninetieth century Chinese-Americans were male, California maneuvered to prevent them from having children because the 14th Amendment granted birthright citizenship.

A. The state voted against the 14th Amendment.
B. It outlawed inter-racial marriage.
C. It lobbied for the 1875 Page Act that blocked immigration of Chinese women.
D. It nullified the 14th Amendment when the state’s Supreme Court ruled in People v. Brady (40 Cal. 198 – 1870) that the Amendment did not apply to California because she was a “sovereign state.”

Fourth, California persuaded the federal government to exclude Chinese-Americans from the 1870 Naturalization Act, which pointedly included “persons of African descent.” Fifth, the state lobbied for a series of Chinese-Exclusion Acts that made it hard for Chinese to immigrate well into the twentieth century. Consequently, even as the state’s overall population nearly tripled from 1880 to 1910 the number of Chinese-Americans stayed flat. Six, California denied Chinese-Americans a number of rights including court testimony, property ownership, and firearm ownership. Seven, in order to discourage non-white gold prospectors, California imposed a monthly Foreign Miners Tax applicable to Chinese-American and other non-white miners.

In sum, racial adjustment was bound to be a greater challenge in the South than elsewhere because blacks were only a tiny percentage of the population outside the region. However, California’s abuse of Chinese-Americans—particularly considering that the minority group could never take control of the state’s government—shows that racism wasn’t limited to the South. The above evidence suggests that Californians were even more racist.

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* Herbert Agar The Price of Union, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950) 466-67