Monthly Archives: December 2019

Yankee Cannibalism

(December 27, 2019) Although few, if any, of the most prominent Civil War and Reconstruction era historians object when Confederate statues are vandalized or removed, several were offended by the New York Times’ “1619 project,” which proclaims slavery and the contributions of black Americans as the central story of American history. Five professors, including James McPherson, Sean Wilentz and James Oakes wrote the Times asking that the newspaper correct misrepresentations about Abraham Lincoln and the alleged racist motivations for the American Revolution, among other factors. It’s not that the professors object to the disparagement of their favorite icons or ancestors, implying that only low-brow Southerners would do that. It’s that the “1619 Project” is bad history, unlike their own anti-Southern perspectives of the Civil War and Reconstruction. That’s the difference, see?

Apparently, few colleagues share the letter-writers’ viewpoint.  Although Wilentz invited other academics to join the five, he said that the timing was bad due to Christmas and the end of the fall semester. Nonetheless, when he circulated a letter calling for President Trump’s impeachment last week he amassed hundreds of signatures. When asked why she didn’t add her name to the 1619 letter, Princeton colleague Nell Painter, said: “For Sean and his colleagues, true history is how they would write it. And I feel like he was asking me to choose sides, and my side is 1619’s.” Similarly Duke historian Thavolia Glymph declined to sign because the letter showed “concern” that “placing the enslavement of black people and white supremacy at the forefront . . . somehow diminishes American history.”

In the letter and a New Yorker interview, Wilentz felt compelled to express his objections apologetically: “Each of us think that the idea of the 1619 Project is fantastic. I mean, it’s just urgently needed. The idea of bringing to light not only scholarship but all sorts of things that have to do with the centrality of slavery and of racism to American history is a wonderful idea. Far from an attempt to discredit the Project, our letter is intended to help it.”  In contrast, he didn’t hesitate to erroneously disparage Southerners with comments about the Carpetbagger interpretation of Reconstruction formulated by the Dunning School. Notwithstanding that Willam Dunning was from New Jersey and earned all his degrees from Columbia where he taught, Wilentz said, “The Dunning School is not a white point of view; it’s a southern, racist point of view.”

Thus, there’s an apparent split in the history profession. If the five signatories prove to be the minority, academics may soon be urging students to vandalize and protest the memorials for any historical figures judged to be inconsistent with “1619” interpretations, regardless of what uniform the historical person wore. Meanwhile, Confederate statues might be smiling to see their enemies eating one another alive.

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Sample my books at my My Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Civil War History at West Point

(December 21, 2019) In the video below West Point history professor Colonel Ty Seidule informs students at Washington & Lee, his alma mater, that anyone who esteems Robert E. Lee is worshiping a “Lost Cause Mythology” formulated specifically to promote racism. According to Seidule, Lee was a mediocre general, traitor, and racist.  Although he criticizes the traditional respect for Lee in “Civil War memory” as a post-war occurrence, he never mentions that Lee was venerated by the soldiers in his own Army more than any other Civil War general on either side. Their admiration was contemporary. It did not materialize post-bellum, nor did it result from Lee’s opinions about African-Americans.

Among the problems with Seidule’s lecture are the following: 

First, he demeans anyone who rejects his interpretations as deluded and prone to react  “like a poked fire-breathing dragon” when confronted with the truth as Seidule sees it. Significantly, his chosen simile portrays anyone with a contrary opinion as monstrous. 

Second, the colonel shows little respect for free speech. Four years ago I asked him for a chance to address his class in response to his Prager U Video about the Civil War. He declined, but condesended to inform me that I’m lucky to live in a country where I can write my own books and create my own videos, like him. A year later my when my publisher released Southern Reconstruction I offered to send him a copy. He never responded.

Similarly, he applauds Washington & Lee for organizing a commission to investigate the school’s future tutelege of Lee’s legacy. Significantly, however, his remarks suggest that he had previously examined the commission’s membership composition and concluded that it was likely to share his views.

When sixty or seventy per cent of “experts” agree on a point it is logical to rely upon the wisdom of crowds. Once the agreement approaches ninety-nine percent you’re in North Korea and the wisdom of crowds has transitioned to the madness of crowds that led to the 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression.

Third, he failed to evaluate Lee as a complete man. Notwithstanding, the colonel’s criticisms, there is much to admire in Lee. Seidule neglects to mention such points. Lee, for example, normally located his HQ at the tent where he slept. Ulysses Grant, in contrast, often appropriated the home of a prosperous resident for his HQ. Grant was sleeping ten miles away from his soldiers when the Confederates attacked at Shiloh. Similarly, at Fort Donelson, Grant slept in a commandeered home while his troops slept under a February snowfall in Tennessee.

Nearly all modern historians agree with Seidule thereby underscoring Napoleon’s insight: “History is a myth agreed upon.” Modern academics are narcissistic to presume they are immune to Napoleon’s wisdom. In truth,  they are more vulnerable to it than earlier historians who at least permitted dissenting voices. Today’s academics generally do not.

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Get some Christmas books at my Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Secession, Slavery and Import Duties

(December 16, 2019) While most modern historians can cite statistics showing a correlation between a Southern state’s propensity to secede in 1861 and its proportional slave ownership, they never cite statistics showing that the propensity also applies to those states opposed to the Morrill Tariff. Since the second correlation does not fit the currently popular Civil-War-was-all-about-slavery interpretation, it is hard to find. Consequently, the tariff-vote data in the table below comes from the May 1860 Morrill Tariff vote in the House of Representatives. Since that vote was six months before Lincoln was elected President, it wasn’t distorted by the secession crisis that began in December 1860.

To be sure, the table documents a correlation between the percent of a state’s 1860 population that is slave and its inclination to secede. But it also shows a correlation between committed opposition to the Morrill Tariff and secession. For example, slaves composed 47% of the population in the seven cotton states that seceded before President Lincoln called for 75,000 military volunteers to coerce them back into the Union, whereas slaves were only 27% in the four Upper-South that joined the Confederacy afterward. Likewise, 100% of the congressmen from the cotton states voted against the Morrill Tariff as did 94% of those in the Upper-South seceding states.

Similarly, slaves represented merely 14% of the population in the border states that did not secede while only 27% of their congressmen voted against the Morrill Tariff. Finally, while none of the “free” states (with no slaves) joined the Confederacy only 13% of their congressmen voted against the Morrill Tariff. Thus, they favored protective tariffs nearly as overwhelmingly as the South opposed them.

Most modern historians dismiss tariffs as a cause of the war because they are fixated on the general preponderance of slavery among the topics covered in the Declaration of Causes for Secession in most of the seven cotton states. As a result, such historians don’t bother to look for correlations with tariff opposition even though they are as obvious as cow patties on a snowbank.

Such historians also generally ignore the fact that tariffs on dutiable items increased from 19% before the war to an average of 45% for nearly fifty years thereafter. Regardless of what Northern leaders might have said to rationalize their decision to invade the Southern states, what they did was a better indication of their objectives.  Everyone learns in kindergarten, if not sooner, to judge a person’s honesty by what they do instead of what they say. Since the states north of the Ohio and Potomac rivers were the chief beneficiaries of protective tariffs they selfishly imposed them on the entire country for generations after the war to the detriment of the South’s export economy. That’s what they did, regardless of what they said.

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Get some Christmas books at my Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

 

A Civil War Historian’s Christmas Dream

(December 12, 2019) One February night in 1938 Philip Van Doren Stern had a dream. Like most of us, his morning memories of it were vague and conflicting. But the 38-year-old Civil War historian also had an interest in fantasy and the macabre, to which the dream seemed somehow connected. The story had something to do with a man who had never been born, or wished he had never been born.

Stern decided to promptly write down his recollections. A narrative began to take shape, which grew into a short story he titled The Greatest Gift. The finished tale leaves many of us with a renewed appreciation for everyday relationships that we have come to take for granted.

Stern’s story failed to interest a publisher over the next four years. Consequently, toward the end of 1943 he printed two hundred copies at his expense and enclosed one in each Christmas card envelope he mailed that year. One recipient was a Hollywood agent who asked if she might show it to some studios. To Stern’s surprise RKO bought the film rights for $10,000 in the spring of 1944. By December, Good Housekeeping magazine finally published the story.

Hollywood screenwriters set to work on a filmscript until the essence of Stern’s fantasy shrank into the Third Act. Eventually it would pass through nine writers, including, Jo Swerling, Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Dorothy Parker and Frank Capra after Capra purchased RKO’s rights for $50,000.

The movie was finally released in 1946 but fell short of break-even on its first run. It rose to 26th place in 1947 box office receipts. Although nominated for five Oscars it failed to win any. Thereafter the rights passed through a series of owners, ending-up at Viacom.

During the 1970s and 80s local TV stations began to run it during the Christmas season. They exploited it as opportune low cost programming for time slots not allocated to the network shows. Gradually, it gained a fanbase. In 1984 an aged Frank Capra commented that the film’s rise in popularity “was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.” He felt like “the parent of the kid who grows up to be President—but it’s the kid who did the work.” He never expected his kid to become “President.”

By 1998 the American Film Institute ranked It’s a Wonderful Life as the eleventh best movie of all time and rated George Bailey as the ninth most popular hero

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Consider Christmas shopping at my Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

 

Aesop’s Impeachment Wisdom.

(December 11, 2019) Aesop’s Fable of the Ridiculous Mouse

Story. There was once a mountain that became greatly agitated. Loud groans and noises were heard, and crowds of people came from all parts to see what was the matter. While they were assembled in anxious expectation of some terrible calamity, out came a ridiculous mouse.

Moral. Don’t make a big fuss over nothing.

The two Impeachment articles from the House Judiciary Committee hearings are absurd. There were eleven against Andrew Johnson, all of which were without merit. The two that we learned about yesterday are even more pathetic.

  1. Obstruction of Congress. This is not a crime. Obstruction of Justice would be a crime. Words matter.
  2. Abuse of Power. That’ll be hard to prove. Trump’s lawyers will argue that his conduct was intended to cleanse corruption in American foreign policy, not to benefit him personally. Assuming a Senate trial, Democrats will have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he merely wanted to benefit himself.

According to Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz, neither of the two articles are a crime: “Neither . . . satisfy the express constitutional criteria for an impeachment, which are limited to “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Neither are high or low crimes or misdemeanors.”

The Democrats have embarrassed themselves even more than I thought possible.

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Consider Christmas shopping at my Amazon Author Page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

We Won’t Get Yale Back

(December 10, 2019) Four years ago Yale students were outraged when a professor opined that it was okay for kids to choose an Indian costume for Halloween. As the two-minute video below documents some of the offended students punished the “guilty” professor’s husband for her “transgression.” Since then campus and cultural intolerance for rational discussion of dissenting opinions has worsened. Most recently political activists have asked Amazon to stop selling books that fail to conform to the Pious Cause Mythology* that dominates the modern Civil War narrative. Three points merit emphasis.

First, the video is further evidence that most of America’s colleges have transformed into Soviet style reeducation camps. Second, contrary to feminist dogma, the video shows that college girls are not reluctant to speak out in the presence of college boys.  Neither are they intimidated by an imaginary patriarchy.  Third, we will not get Yale back. Neither we will get back The New York Times, The Washington Post or the mainstream media. All are like the aliens in the Men in Black movies. On the outside they look like the familiar entities we’ve known all of our lives, but inside they are hideous monsters.

Consequently, the only hope is to replace them. Michigan’s Hillsdale College is an example on the education front. Correspondingly, self-hosted properties like The Daily Wire and The Rubin Report are examples of successful new media properties.

Similarly, my FaceBook readers are urged to subscribe directly to my blog at civilwarchat.wordpress.com because wordpress seems to be less vulnerable to censorship pressure. We should also consider opening our wallets to legitimate organizations that are trying preserve Confederate statues and heritage.

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Christmas gift books providing historical objectivity about the South are:

Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh
The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh

*Pious Cause Mythology is the myth that Republicans entered the Civil War intending to free the slaves and crafted Reconstruction to provide racial equality as opposed to a way to retain political power via Southern black suffrage and ex-Confederate disfranchisement.