Monthly Archives: August 2019

Viewpoint is Everything

(August 28, 2019) History is a story, which is interpreted by viewpoint. If, for example, we read the narrative of the Jewish resettlement in Canaan from the biblical perspective, we cheer when the walls of Jericho fall. But if we consider the same incident from the perspective of the Canaanites, it is a disastrous tale of invasion by unwanted immigrants. Although it is the same story, viewpoint changes everything.

Thus, it is with the War Between the States.  Increasingly, however, the Southern narrative is censored because the dominant interpretation is controlled by anti-Southern academic elites. It reflects their growing obsession during the past fifty years to tell American history from the viewpoint of selective victim classes, real or imagined. Sometime in the last twenty-five years it metastasized into the general culture. Hollywood, for example, transformed the sinking of the Titanic into a feminist tale instead of one about male sacrifice.

Presently the trend has evolved into totalitarian identity politics, which is intolerant of any interpretations other than its own. Consequently, Confederate statues are torn down. Dissenting voices are silenced by mob attacks prompted merely by pointing at the offender, in the manner of Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with the primal scream of “racist!”

Nonetheless, unlike identity politics advocates, Southerners have long been among the most patriotic Americans. We tend to see what is right about her instead of what is wrong. Even today the region accounts for 44% of the nation’s volunteer military as compared to only 36% of the population. Partly because the Confederate soldier went to war to defend his homeland, his descendants retain an affection for the land and its traditions. Moreover, as Sir Walter Scott explained, such feelings are common among all nationalities, not just Southerners:

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!

It is wrong to deny Southerners the freedom to commemorate their ancestors. Rather than taking down Confederate monuments we should be adding new ones to the subjects of slavery, the Underground Railroad, black soldiers, and Reconstruction as well as the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. Adding new memorials while keeping the old ones in place provides a tangible record of how Southern society evolved. History is, after all, a matter of records.

Confederate statues are not icons of racism. They honor the soldier for his devotion to duty, courage and sacrifices in an effort to repel invaders. He has been—and can continue to be—an inspiration to future American warriors. Military experts such as author and Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters agree: “The myth of Johnny Reb as the greatest infantryman happens to be true. Not only the courage and combat skill, but the sheer endurance of the Confederate foot soldier may have been equaled in a few other armies over the millennia, but none could claim the least superiority. . . [T]he physical toughness, fighting ability and raw determination of those men remains astonishing.”

Peters continues: “The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of bravery, not slavery. I’m a Yankee, born and bred, and my personal sympathies lie with the Northern cause . . . To me, though, that red flag with the blue St. Andrews cross strewn with white stars does not symbolize slavery—that’s nonsense—but the stunning bravery of those who fought beneath it.”

As long as we are all Americans, the South deserves to have its story told from both perspectives. Few of those who censor the Southern viewpoint and tear down our statues would likely suggest that Hiroshima destroy its memorials notwithstanding Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, or the horrors of the her prison camps. Most Americans respect the Japanese desire to honor their ancestors and appreciate—even respect—its long tradition. Southerners have a similar regard for tradition and we should also be allowed to honor it.

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Anchor Baby and Southern Reconstruction

(August 27, 2019) An Anchor Baby is the child of an illegal immigrant who gained American citizenship merely by being born in the USA. Often the alien mother correctly reasons that she is less likely to be deported if her child is a U. S. citizen, even though regulations provide no default immunity from expulsion. Nonetheless, her baby immediately qualifies for Medicaid and other selective government welfare programs. After twenty-one years, or sometimes less, the child can sponsor nuclear and extended family members as legal immigrants under terms that provide such family members preference over other applicants. During the past half-century such sponsorships have created a surge in kindred immigrations, commonly known as “chain migrations.”

The child’s citizenship links to the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, which was passed in 1868 as a Southern Reconstruction measure. The purpose was to establish Republican vassal regimes in the Southern states controlled remotely by the infant GOP in Washington. They accomplished their purpose in two ways. First, was to make ex-slaves citizens by declaring “all persons born . . . in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” There is no evidence that the Amendment’s authors intended to grant birthright citizenship to the babies of illegal immigrants. The goal was to secure voting rights for blacks in the South.

Although late in the nineteenth century the Supreme Court interpreted the Amendment to mean that the American-born babies of legal immigrants are citizens, it never opined on the status of children born to illegal aliens. Should President Trump fill another Supreme Court vacancy with a strict constructionist, opponents to illegal immigration may challenge birthright citizenship in the courts on the grounds that the mother was not “subject to the jurisdiction . . . of the United States.”

In addition to the above points, the original ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment was legally doubtful. On July 28, 1868 Secretary of State William Seward declared that twenty-eight of the then-total thirty-seven states had ratified it, thereby surpassing the required 75% threshold. There were, however, three problems.

First, Seward included Ohio and New Jersey in his count of the twenty-eight states affirming the Amendment notwithstanding that  both had rescinded their ratifications. Two months later Oregon would also rescind.

Second, except for Tennessee, none of the former post-war Southern states initially ratified the Fourteenth Amendment although nearly all of them affirmed the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. After the Republican-controlled Congress  realized that the such states would not approve the Fourteenth Amendment, they took four steps to insure that the South would reverse their votes.

  1. Congress declared all Southern state governments (except Tennessee) to be illegal. Notwithstanding that nearly all of those same governments were legal enough to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, they would not be permitted to vote on the Fourteenth.
  2. The “illegal” Southern state governments would be replaced by Carpetbag regimes loyal to Washington Republicans.
  3. No Southern state could be readmitted to the Union unless it ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. The provision essentially required the existing post-war Southern state governments to commit suicide.
  4. Universal black suffrage would be required in the Southern states, although not in the Northern ones.  Moreover, many former Confederates would be denied office-holding or voting privileges, thereby assuring Republican puppet state governments in the South.

Among others, historians J. G. Randall and David Donald conclude that the actions taken above were unconstitutional: “Congress . . . was not merely submitting an amendment to the states. It was creating fabricated governments in the South . . . As a matter of Constitutional law, the method of amending the Constitution does not lie with Congress. It is prescribed in Article V of the Constitution [and requires either a national convention or state ratification of a congressional submission] . . . It is for Congress to choose between [the two alternatives] . . . but not to create new . . . conditions as part of the amending process.”

Third, Tennessee’s ratification was dubious. Since Amendment opponents refused to attend the General Assembly they denied the dominant Republican legislatures a quorum. Consequently, the state government hunted down just enough opposing legislatures and physically forced them into an assembly anteroom thereby gaining a quorum and passing the Amendment.

Finally, consider the rhetoric of the political parties in 1868 and currently.

In 1868 Republicans claimed that they proposed the Fourteenth Amendment and 1867 Reconstruction Acts in order to treat blacks fairly, by giving them citizenship and voting rights in the South, if not the North. The real likely reason, however, was the Republicans calculated they could manipulate the Southern black vote in order to form vassal regimes in the region that would assure the Party’s control of the Federal government indefinitely.

Similarly, Democrats presently claim that their sympathy for illegal immigrants reflects a humanitarian impulse lacking among Republicans. In reality, it more likely reflects the political power they expect to gain through chain migration. That’s because Anchor Babies normally support the Democrat Party when they reach voting age. This is so because the Party does not want to enforce immigration laws since they would make it more difficult for Anchor Baby mothers to enter the USA and thereby trigger chain migration.

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How Presentism Became Wicked

(August 24, 2019) Officially, historians admonish students to avoid “presentism,” which is an uncritical tendency to interpret the past in terms of modern values. In practice, however, leftwing professors and students increasingly ignore the warning. They conclude that American leaders who sided with the Confederacy—and others who were slaveholders—were morally abhorrent notwithstanding that slavery was legal at the time. While imputing their values on an earlier people, today’s Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) fail to realize that critics see through their sanctimony.  We perceive the wisdom of Will Durant: “To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves.”

Some even demand that memorials to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson be destroyed. In so doing they dishonor the courage and leadership of both men. By signing the Declaration of Independence or leading the Continental Army each man literally risked his life. Had the colonists lost the Revolution both men could have been executed as traitors. After winning the war, President Washington was popular enough to hold the office indefinitely, much like Russia’s Putin does currently. Instead, after two terms he insisted that a new man be elected. That decision enabled America to remain a republic instead of becoming a monarchy-like government.

1950s Levi’s Ad

Similarly, today’s SJWs want Andrew Jackson’s image removed from the $20 bill because he was a slaveholder and required that some Indian tribes relocate to present day Oklahoma. His critics give him no credit for making the White House available to commoners. Before his hard won election all of our Presidents had been aristocrats. Without Jackson, a later commoner like Lincoln might never have been elected. Instead Republican aristocrat William Seward would likely have won the 1860 election and surrendered Fort Sumter in 1861, thereby enabling seven cotton states to secede.

Finally, SJW’s demand that all public Confederate memorials be demolished because of slavery, notwithstanding that less than 30% of Confederate families owned slaves. They also ignore the fact that a soldier’s loyalty at the time was chiefly to his state and secondarily to the national government. (That’s the way Massachusetts viewed it during the War of 1812 when she refused to provide troops for the federal army.) Thus, the common Rebel soldier was merely doing his duty as expected within his community. Loyalties in the North were much the same, although Yankees also wanted to coerce the Southern states back into the Union in order to avoid the economic consequences of disunion. Lastly, Confederate soldiers set courageous examples that often inspired America’s military volunteers in later wars. When we dishonor their forebears we demean the soldiers who were inspired by the ancestors.

Everyone lives in a specific time that influences the norms of their society. In primitive times gender roles and sexual morals were fixed. Since babies were essential to tribal survival, women had to bear them and take care of them. By their pre-mating virginity mothers gave their mates the assurance that her children were also his thereby giving him an incentive to provide for the family. Similarly, homosexuality was probably rare, or less common, because it could not produce offspring for the tribe.

It is only when civilizations evolve into prosperity that social electives can be contemplated, or even possible. Fair treatment of Indians was enabled only after pioneers had no reason to fear aboriginal attacks. It’s probably no accident that thousands of years of slavery ended only after the industrial revolution began replacing human and animal labor with machine power.

Cultures, like people, are governed by a hierarchy of needs. If we are constantly hungry, we have little time for the concerns of others. Once hunger is satisfied, we seek shelter. After we are sheltered, and fed, we seek protection against crime. Other “needs” are lower in the hierarchy. Today a SJW’s personal needs are so well satisfied that she can focus on social electives that were unavailable to her ancestors owing to the higher unmet needs of the earlier eras. Imagining our morality to be superior to those of a prior period is an evil presumption. I’d bet $100 against a good Cuban cigar that few SJW’s would have added their name to the Declaration of Independence knowing that they might have been executed if the Revolution had failed.

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A Politically Correct Massacre Synopsis

(August 23, 2019) Two days ago on the 188th anniversary of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia the editors of one Civil War FaceBook page posted the following commemoration:

On August 21, 1831, Nat Turner’s Rebellion—a revolt of enslaved African Americans—began in Southampton County, Virginia. Enslaved African Americans killed about 50 whites before the revolt was suppressed and defeated two days later on August 23. Nat Turner himself escaped capture for more than two months but was eventually caught and executed.

White southerners reacted in horror. Numerous white militias organized in response to the revolt. Fifty-six enslaved black people were executed for being part of the revolt (or for being suspected of being part of it). Another 120 or so slaves and free blacks were murdered by white militias in retaliation. Several southern legislatures also passed laws forbidding the educating of slaves and free blacks and severely curtailing blacks’ rights to assemble, and requiring white ministers to be present at African American church services.

The above synopsis has several errors, misrepresentations, “guesstimates” and omissions of significant facts.

First, Nat Turner’s gang killed a total of 55-60 whites, mostly women and children. Moreover, they generally hacked them to death with hatches and axes. The first victims were the sleeping family of Joseph Travis whom Turner admitted “was a kind master” to him. The last Travis family member killed was an infant in his cradle, also hacked to pieces.

Second, the afternoon before the initial 2:00 AM attack, Turner’s nuclear band had been feasting on roast pig and apple brandy, a potent intoxicant. Although educated by his masters, Turner had a history religious delusions, including the one that inspired his murderous rampage.

Third, many slaves that Turner expected to join him chose to flee. Some protected white families by hiding them from Turner’s killers or spreading warnings to nearby farms. Others joined impromptu white forces that formed to put a stop to the butchery.

Fourth, a total of twenty—not fifty-six—blacks were found guilty and executed for various charges of conspiracy, insurrection, and treason. An additional twelve were also convicted but not executed. Twenty were acquitted out of a total fifty-two charged.

Fifth, the FaceBook Group’s estimate of “120 or so” slaves killed in retaliation after the rebellion is problematic. It is probably based on a recursively published 1861 estimate by abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who had a philosophical incentive to exaggerate slaveholder atrocities. The first academic study published in 1900 by William S. Drewry concluded that there was “far less indiscriminate murder than might have been expected.” He also surmised that “as many guilty negroes escaped as innocent ones perished.” More recently, Dr. Patrick Breen concluded in a 2005 PhD dissertation that the number of blacks killed as retribution, or during the process of suppressing the rebellion, ranged from 22 to 42. 

Political correctness such as that in the above FaceBook summation evidently led a commission of Virginia’s General Assembly to conclude that the state should erect a monument to honor Nat Turner at taxpayer expense.

Patrick H. Breen, Nat Turner’s Revolt (PhD Dissertation, University of Georgia, 2005)
William S. Drewry, The Southhampton Insurrection, (Washington, D. C.: Neal Company, 1900)
Clifford Dowdey, The Land They Fought For (New York: Doubleday, 1955), 14-22
Stephen Oakes, American Heritage, Children of Darkness,” Vol. 24, No. 6 (October, 1973)

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How to Win a Peabody Award

“Most live wires would be dead ones without their connections.” —— Wilson Mizner

Traditionally, a Peabody Award is one of the highest honors in electronic media. During the Great Depression philanthropist George Peabody donated funds to make the award possible. In 1938 the National Association of Broadcasters started distributing the prizes for outstanding achievement in radio broadcasting. Television versions were added in 1948 and in the late 1990s additional categories were set aside for the World Wide Web.

In 2017 the Uncivil Podcast “earned” a Peabody Award for its programs on the American Civil War. The hosts completed twelve podcasts that year and only two in 2018. They’ve been silent ever since. None of the fourteen podcasts was from the Southern viewpoint, except in instances when the principal characters were slaves or spies for the North.

Program hosts were Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika. Presently, Hitt is a contributing editor to Harpers, The New York Times Magazine and This American Life, which is a weekly National Public Radio show. He won his first Peabody in 2006 for a segment provided to NPR about Guantanamo detainees. Chenjerai Kumanyika is a Google Scholar and Assistant Professor of Journalism at Rutgers. He has also contributed to various NPR programs.

Uncivil’s 2017 Peabody Award is a disgrace. The mere twelve episodes typically demonized white Southerners and glorified even the most obscure figures who opposed the Confederacy. Moreover, the award committee should have realized that the hosts only faked their commitment to the program. They had not posted a single 2018 episode when the awards were bestowed in May of that year. It’s hard to avoid concluding that the hosts faked a commitment and instead merely wanted to burnish their résumés with a quick win gained through connections instead of merit. Evidently, Hitt’s connections provided leftwing allies to promote the show. The Peabody Committee should demand that the award be returned and deny Hitt and Kumanyika further use of the title, including the Peabody logo still displayed on the abandoned Uncivil website.

Regrettably, Uncivil’s Peabody Award is not the most wicked example of corruption among traditional journalism honors. That shameful achievement goes to the New York Times for winning two Pulitzer Prizes on their coverage of fake Trump Russian Collusion allegations. A two year investigation by at Trump-hostile special prosecutor revealed most of the accusations to be a hoax and none to be in evidence enough to justify charges. The Times, and the rest of the mainstream media, should cringe in shame.

In sum, the way to win a Peabody Award is to launch a Civil War podcast that ignores the Southern viewpoint, demonizes white Southerners, and uses hosts with connections to mainstream media personalities who may promote the show. One only need do this for half a year to get a Peabody, which can ever after be cited on the winner’s résumé as if achieved by merit instead of possibly by connections.

August 21, 2019

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Review of My Ulysses Grant Book

(August 20, 2019) Earlier today The Abbeville Institute released the review below of my latest book, U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency. The reviewer is Brion McClanahan who is the author of six books including The Founding Father’s Guide to the Constitution and How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America. Dr. McClanahan is also a historian and speaker with a focus on America’s founding constitutional principles. Finally, he provides regular podcasts and online courses at The McClanahan Academy.

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Grant’s Failed Presidency

A review of U.S. Grant’s Failed Presidency (Shotwell Publishing, 2019) by Philip Leigh

There was a time in recent memory when thoughtful people consistently ranked U.S. Grant’s presidency as one of the worst in history. The scandals, military Reconstruction, the mistreatment of the Plains Indian tribes, and the poor economy during the 1870s wrecked his reputation. That all began to change when “social justice” took center stage in the historical profession and Republican Party partisans sought to revitalize the dismal reputation of one of their most important presidents. After all, Grant was a Republican, and men like Karl Rove and Dinesh D’Souza will never grow tired of telling people it was the Republicans who saved America from those evil Southern traitors.

Abbeville Institute Logo

More importantly, historians like Ron Chernow, whose critically acclaimed biography of the 18th President sits on bookshelves across the United States, have sought to refocus attention on Grant’s “successes” rather than failures. Chernow places special emphasis on Grant’s attempts to protect former slaves during Reconstruction rather than the scandals which rocked not only his administration but which destroyed the United States economy and smacked of crony capitalism and the corruption that undergirds the practice. This type of feel good revisionism is part of a broad push to revitalize the reputations of the “active” presidents in American history, men like Polk and Jackson, those that embody the antithesis of what the founding generation designed for the executive branch.

This new love for U.S. Grant is unfounded. Philip Leigh provides a quick and punchy rebuttal to this hagiographic Grant revisionism in his U.S. Grant’s Failed Presidency.

Using the same sources as the revisionists, Leigh takes apart the thesis that Grant wanted to “protect” minorities in the United States. Leigh conclusively illustrates that like most Republicans at the time Grant’s sympathy for freedmen had to do more with winning elections than moral obligation or chivalry. Grant would not have won the popular vote in 1868 without the freedman vote, and both he and the Republican Party knew it. Leigh points to Republican policy toward American Indians and Chinese immigrants as proof of Republican hypocrisy on the issue of “civil rights.”

Leigh also argues that Grant had more to do with the economic corruption of the period than most realize. He gladly pursued both physical and economic reconstruction, promoted the interests of the Republican monied class and turned a blind eye to the rampant corruption among Northern “carpetbaggers” in militarily occupied Dixie. There is a reason Grant was shown in an infamous political cartoon as a conquering emperor riding on the back of the barefoot South in a carpetbag supported by United States troops. Leigh considers that to be the real Grant, not the trumped up image pushed by Ron Chernow.

This nicely illustrates that the protectors of the American empire on both the left and the right have a vested interest in promoting the imperial presidency as a sort of good tyrant king. To them, Grant could be a Pericles riding to the rescue of the American experiment, the great citizen general who rid America of the backward agrarian Southern Spartans.

Except Grant was never that magnanimous or heroic, and his presidency was little more than a political rubber stamp for the revolutionaries who were radically remaking American society in the 1860s and 1870s. Leigh contends that you can’t understand Reconstruction without understanding Grant. That is certainly true.

It might be easy to have a tinge of sympathy for Grant, the uncouth general who never cared for politics, voted Democrat, but through war was elevated to the presidency in one of most bitterly partisan eras of American history. Grant, according to this interpretation, was a Victim, an unwilling participant in a larger drama over the spoils of war. Leigh paints a different picture, a Grant that understood the stakes and actively pursued a partisan agenda with Republican victory more important than principles or the Constitution. In other words, Grant was like every other “active” president in the imperial era, and like Lincoln chose party over union and the Constitution.

There had to be winners and losers, and Grant ensured the South was not only defeated but punished. That was Grant’s decades long legacy south of the Mason-Dixon, and even in the North, his adherence to the radical Republican agenda helped give rise to the populist revolt of the 1890s.

The original historical presidential rankings with Grant near the bottom may be the only time I agree with the “establishment” assessment of the American executive. Grant should be perpetually buried at the bottom.

Leigh has added a nice counterweight to the modern attempt to portray Grant as some type of righteous cause acolyte deserving of fawning praise.

If you’re looking for a concise history of the Grant administration without the modern propensity for over-saturated “presentism,” skip Chernow and read Leigh. It is by far the best summary of his administration in the last half-century.