Monthly Archives: February 2020

Review: Lincoln’s Congress at War

(February 19, 2020) Earlier today American Spectator published my review of Congress at War by Fergus M. Bordewich (Knopf, 480 pages, $32.50).

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Most Civil War students realize that Congress was ahead of President Lincoln on matters such as slave emancipation and the punishment of Southern whites. Biographers usually attribute Lincoln’s lag to his appreciation for coupled considerations, minimized by his critics. He recognized, for example, that hasty emancipation and retribution against Southern civilians might drive the border states into the Confederacy, making the war unwinnable. In contrast, congressional Republicans such as Sen. William Fessenden and Radicals like Rep. Thaddeus Stevens and Sen. Benjamin Wade focused on provincial interests and their supposed moral convictions.

When Wade became dissatisfied with the slow progress of Gen. George McClellan’s Union Army, for example, he demanded that the president fire its commander. After Lincoln asked Wade who should replace McClellan, the senator said, “Why, anybody!” Lincoln replied, “Wade, anybody will do for you, but I must have somebody.[1]

As its title indicates, Fergus Bordewich’s Congress at War tells the story of Civil War legislation from the congressional perspective. The author concludes that Congress’s vision of postbellum America was superior to Lincoln’s. Their higher morality, Bordewich implies, required that they drag the president forward.

To be sure, legislation and acts such as the Pacific Railroad, Western Homestead, Legal Tender, National Banking, the 13th Amendment, and land-grant colleges undeniably transformed America. The Pacific Railroad connected the West Coast with the eastern half of the country, while the Homestead Act helped settle the land in between. The Legal Tender and National Banking acts authorized a national currency and forever allied the bankers with the U.S. Treasury. The 13th Amendment ended slavery, and land-grant colleges pioneered our modern state university systems. Although Congress instigated some, other initiatives were existing Republican policies, as evidenced by the Homestead and Pacific Railroad planks in the 1860 party platform. Moreover, far from foot-dragging on the 13th Amendment, Lincoln championed it.

(Continue reading at American Spectator)

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Buy and sample my 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

Saving Virginia’s Confederate Symbols

(February 13, 2020) Earlier this week two bills advanced in the Virginia General Assembly that would permit individual localities to remove Confederate statues by the authority of the locality’s governing body. No public vote would be required.

The bill from the lower chamber would permit localities to remove the memorials by a simple majority vote of the applicable governing body. The Senate version would require a two-thirds vote. A number of communities such as Charlottesville, Alexandria, Portsmouth, and Norfolk have indicated they want to remove their memorials. Presumably, the House and Senate must hammer-out a compromise bill before the communities can act. Governor Ralph “Black Face” Northam has signaled that he will sign a bill. To save Confederate memorials one must know his enemies. Consider the following:

First, the votes in each chamber were close and strictly on Party lines. Democrats want the statues removed and Republicans want them protected. The Senate has a total of forty seats with twenty-one held by Democrats and nineteen held by Republicans. The House of Delegates has one-hundred seats with fifty-five held by Democrats and forty-five held by Republicans.  Before last November’s election Republicans held a 20-to-19 majority in the Senate, with one seat vacant. They also held a 51-to-48 majority in the House, with one seat vacant.

Don’t Let Michael Bloomberg Run Virginia

Second, Governor “Black Face” and the General Assembly are additionally trying to pass gun control legislation, also on Party lines. Presumably the Venn Diagrams of Virginians rejecting gun control and opposing Confederate statue destruction have significant overlap. The two groups can help one another with mutual support. Presently, support might best be demonstrated by writing polite, but firm, postal (not email) letters to the voters’ Senate or House representative, as well as the Governor.

Third, Democrats gained control of both chambers last November because of a cash flood donated to selected Democrat candidates from wealthy outsiders, most notably former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and political action committees associated with him. Although Bloomberg’s chief objective is reportedly gun control, it’s also likely that he is hostile to Confederate memorials. Thus, Confederate Heritage advocates can help gun rights supporters by sending Bloomberg respectful, but firmly worded, postal letters as well.

Given his Presidential aspirations it also seems likely that Bloomberg’s donations were intended to create friends within Virginia’s Democratic Party machine.  Since the state’s Presidential primary is only three weeks away, Confederate Heritage and gun rights proponents may wish to let Bloomberg know how they stand on those issues with postal letters as well.

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Buy and sample my 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

Elizabeth Warren . . .

. . . won the Iowa caucus in only a single county. It happens to include Iowa University where the school offers a Bachelor of Arts in Social Justice.

The list below shows some of the classes.

SJUS:1001 Introduction to Social Justice 3
SJUS:2250 The History of Social Justice Movements 3
GWSS:1002 Diversity and Power in the United States 3
GWSS:3138 Writing to Change the World 3

Core

Human Rights, Diversity, Activism

Two of these:
SJUS:2200 The Racial and Gender Construction of Identify, Citizenship, and Rights in America 3
SJUS:2500 Love, War, Activism: Stories About Women from Across the World 3
SJUS:2571 Visualizing Human Rights 3
SJUS:3130 Blacks and Jews: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in America 3
SJUS:3133 Anthropology of Race 3
GWSS:2045 Working for Social Justice 3
GWSS:2080 The Cultural Politics of HIV-AIDS 3
GWSS:2172 The History of African American Women from Slavery to Freedom 3
GWSS:2800 African American Women, Health, Hair, and Sexuality 3
GWSS:3326 The Politics of Progress: NGOs, Development, and Sexuality 3
GWSS:4140 Feminist Activism and Global Health 3
HIST:3274 History of Slavery in the U.S.A. 3-4
HIST:4101 History of Human Rights 3
HRTS:3906 Global Crises and Human Rights 3
HRTS:3910 Human Rights Advocacy 3
LATS:3104 Immigration Politics 3
PHIL:3430 Philosophy of Human Rights 3
RELS:3855 Human Rights and Islam 3
SSW:3847 Discrimination, Oppression, and Diversity 3

 

Understanding Burnham’s First Law

(February 6, 2020) Together with William F. Buckley, in 1955 James Burnham co-founded The National Review, which remains a venerable conservative publication. Today, Burnham is mostly remembered for his ten maxims, the first of which is: “Everyone knows everything,”  by which he means that nobody can forever hide the truth about themselves. Eventually, everything comes out, and probably already has. Our great secrets are not really secrets. Others perceive more about us than we realize.

Confederate monument opponents, for example, consider statue defenders to be ignorant hicks. Everybody see’s their disdain no matter how they try to conceal it.

Colleges deny statue supporters a chance to address students because too many academics feel that opinions contrary to their own should be censored.

Too many academics have also incited students to violently silence speeches that challenge listeners to question their professors.

Nancy Pelosi can tear-up Trump’s state of the union message on national TV because she knows the media will portray her as a heroine, although they would have condemned any Republican House Speaker who might have shredded an Obama speech.

Elizabeth Warren won the Iowa caucus in only a single county because it is the one where Iowa University inculcates a false identity victimhood.

Despite pretensions to the contrary, the mainstream media and their Democratic puppets have shown that they hate Trump more than they love America.

It is always those in power who censor, which they do for a single reason: To retain power.

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Buy and sample my 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

Hope for Confederate Heritage

(February 4, 2020) Those wanting to remove Confederate symbols obtain most of their strength from tyrannical political correctness. In contrast, Confederate heritage advocates are more tolerant. They are generally amenable to public memorials for other causes, even when statue critics argue that those causes contradict Confederate legacy.  Former Confederate states, for example, have far more MLK streets and avenues than similarly sized Northern states. North Carolina and New Jersey have comparable populations but the Southern state has twenty-nine MLK streets whereas the Northern one has only eight. 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.

Recent events, however, suggest that the flood tide of political correctness may be reversing. One was the mostly apolitical Super Bowl. Unlike last year, this year’s commercials did not promote identity politics. There was, for example, no comparable ad to the one played by Gillette a year ago that portrayed adult males as toxic. This time, some of the ads even celebrated traditional virtues. During the preliminaries the Fox network played one featuring Johnny Cash’s  “Tattered Old Flag”. Evidently the National Football League got fed-up with the declining audience ratings over the last several years caused by protests rooted in identity politics and ingratitude. In contrast, Cash’s song celebrates a former sharecropper’s appreciation for America.

Similarly Richmond’s gun rights rally last month seems to be well received by pivotal lawmakers. They respect its size and honorable conduct. Consequently, the Virginia general assembly is rejecting some of Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed gun controls notwithstanding a narrow Democratic majority in both chambers. Likewise many TV viewers were offended when CNN’s Don Lemon laughingly portrayed Trump supporters as ignorant and Southerners as degenerate. Lastly, during the past month or so readers observed hypocrisy when the Washington Post condemned Trump by pretending that he threatened Iranian cultural sites while the newspaper simultaneously urges that Confederate memorials be destroyed.

Generally, all political movements either grow or shrink. They don’t stand still for long. This time there is reason to hope that the political correctness that has been driving Southern cultural genocide will reverse as Americans increasingly realize they don’t want to discard their customs unless they have something of value to replace them.

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Sample my 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

Faithful Slave II

(February 3, 2020) Yesterday’s post discussed the first Confederate monument to the black slaves who remained loyal to their masters during the Civil War. Since it was dedicated in Fort Mill, South Carolina in 1896 there were plenty of people then living who could remember the war and the conduct of the slaves.

A twenty-year-old Confederate soldier in 1861, for example, was fifty-five when the memorial was dedicated. Thus, a veteran of that age had first hand memories, at least from a white perspective, that would enable him to detect a wholly invalid narrative in the memorial’s symbolism and dedication sentiments. While his recollections probably differed in nuance from those of a similarly aged Southern black, it seems most likely that the memories of both were at least partly true. Even though Confederate heritage critics often point to the 180,000 blacks who joined the Union Army as evidence to dismiss the loyal slave as a myth, they minimize contradictory evidence.

The slave narratives of the Great Depression, for example, cite many instances of aged ex-slaves declaring affection for their masters’ families even though it must be admitted that there are also many who spoke unfavorably of them.  Most recently while researching wartime Washington, I was surprised to learn that federal authorities distrusted the loyalties of at least some blacks, including slaves. In “Divided Loyalties in Washington During the Civil War,” James Whyte states that nearly three-hundred District of Columbia residents were arrested on suspicion of disloyalty including “men and women from every walk of life, rich and poor, colored and white, slave and free Negro.” He also writes that less than 40% of the 2,700 blacks who joined the Union Army from the District were volunteers. Most were either draftees or, more often, paid substitutes from outside the District who typically received a sign-up bounty of $550 ($11,000 in 2020), which could be quite appealing to a recently liberated slave.

Former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens and servant.

Even though most often cited for his “Cornerstone Speech” that portrays blacks as inferior, former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens gave a postbellum speech to the all-white Georgia general assembly in February 1866. It reveals benevolence toward blacks, including an appreciation for the slaves who, “in the main,” remained loyal to their masters during the war.

Wise and humane provisions should be made for [ex-slaves] . . . so that they may stand equal before the law, in the possession and enjoyment of all rights of person, liberty and property. Many considerations claim this at your hands. Among these may be stated their fidelity in times past. They cultivated your fields, ministered to your personal wants and comforts, nursed and reared your children; and even in the hour of danger and peril they were, in the main, true to you and yours. To them we owe a debt of gratitude, as well as kindness.

I speak of them as we know them to be, having no longer the protection of a master or legal guardian; they now need all the protection which the shield of law can give. But above all, this protection should be secured because it is right and just . . .

While the above excerpt does not imply that Stephens was free of racist attitudes by today’s standards, it affirms that he believed the “loyal slave” was more often a reality than modern historians seem to conclude.

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Sample my 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