Tag Archives: Slavery

Myth of American History

Today’s post is written by H. V. (Bo) Traywick who is the author of four books, including three on the Civil War. More information is available at his website.  Readers with questions should email Bo directly: hvtraywickjr (at) outlook.com. Although I welcome Bo’s commentary, the views in the his article below are not necessarily my own. (Those other readers wishing to submit articles are directed to the “Submission Guidelines” tab on this website’s home page.) — Phil Leigh

The Myth of American History
By H. V. Traywick, Jr.
“History is the propaganda of the victorious” – Voltaire
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…” – Jesus
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” – God

(May 11, 2017) Is the past that is reconstructed by historians a revival or a “new show”?

Paul A. Cohen asks this question in his book History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth (New York: Columbia UP, 1997). He answers that the history created by historians is fundamentally different from the history made by the people of the times. The historian’s objective is to understand the past and then explain it as “event”, whereas those who made the history explain it as “experience”. The historian tries to look at the past objectively, whereas the people who made the history tend to look at it subjectively, and in a fashion that is psychologically tolerable to themselves. If such subjectivity becomes validated by communal consensus, then myths can be created in place of intellectual truth. “Myth” is the third way of looking at history.

Can an objective historian be a purveyor of myth? However committed he may be to the objective truth, he remains a product of his own culture, and he is subjected in varying degrees to its cultural imperatives, its “world view”. How much cultural subjectivity goes into a historian’s selection of historical matter to be examined or theses to be argued? How much pressure are professional historians under to be admitted to a course of study, to hold tenure, to gain grants, and to stay in good professional and financial graces with the powers that dispense these things?

It should come as no surprise to find that the most powerful nation in history has at its disposal the most powerful means of disseminating its own version of history. From the history books used in government-accredited schools and colleges with their facts given or omitted, to television “docu-dramas”, Hollywood romantics, National Park Service presentations, and the politically correct sensationalism of the media, America has just as much incentive to tell its own story as “creatively” as anyone, and it has its own stable of “Court Historians” with government-accredited PhDs groomed to tell it – and, when necessary, to shout down, deride, or debunk with voluminous obfuscation anyone who disagrees with it.

The North’s war against the South’s secession is a glaring example. The story trumpeted from the heights is that the war was all about slavery, that the North fought to free the slaves and the South fought to keep them. End of story. Any questions?

Well, yes. Something doesn’t compute, here. If the North was waging a war against slavery, why didn’t she wage war on New York and Boston, the two largest African slave-trading ports in the world according to the January 1862 issue of the New York Journal of Commerce, and trading with Brazil and Cuba at the time of Lincoln’s election? Or on New England cotton mills and their profits from slave-picked cotton? Or on Northern iron foundries that forged the shackles and chains? Or on New England rum distilleries that made rum from slave-harvested sugar cane to use for bartering for a cargo of slaves on the African coast? Or on New England shipyards that built the slave ships? Or on the African slave-catchers, such as the Kingdom of Dahomey, the largest exporters of African slaves in the world for hundreds of years? And why did Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation say that slavery was alright as long as one was loyal to his government?

Why? Because the slavery issue was the North’s “red herring” used as moral cover for the true “Irrepressible Conflict” that was building within her classical mercantile system: the conflict between an increasingly predatory Northern industrial center that wanted to burst the constraints of the Constitution in order to achieve its ambitions, and a resistant Southern agricultural periphery that insisted on the federative nature of that Constitution that was the charter of the Union of Sovereign States that each had acceded to with ratification in 1788.

The attempted peaceful secession of the seven “Cotton States” at the election of Lincoln, the presidential candidate of the first strictly sectional party in US history, should have resolved the situation, but with these States out of the Union, the North would have lost its largest source of cotton for its mills, its largest source of tariff revenues, its largest source of exports for its shipping, a major market for its manufactured goods, and control of the mouth of the Mississippi. The South would do business with England while the North’s economy would collapse into bankruptcy and social anarchy, so – at the behest of the Northern industrialists, railroad magnates, financiers and crony capitalists who had gotten him elected – Lincoln provoked the South into firing the first shot, got the war he wanted, marched his armies across the South to the tune of the militantly Puritanical “Battle Hymn of the Republic” – burning, pillaging, raping, and killing – and drove the Southern States back into the Union at the point of the bayonet. As many as 38,000 citizens in the North who disagreed with Lincoln’s policies got locked up without trial after he suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1862. So much for the lofty sentiments of his Gettysburg Address.

The corrupt Reconstruction imposed upon the South after the war by “the Party of Lincoln” then effectively destroyed the federative nature of the Constitution, created an empire, concentrated its power in the Federal Government, and cemented it in the hands of the North with her large sectional majorities. The result was the corrupt “Gilded Age” in the North, and the economic subjugation and impoverishment of both Blacks and Whites in the South until World War II.

During the secession crisis, Virginia, the “Mother of States and of Statesmen,” called a Peace Conference and tried to hold the Union together, but warned Lincoln that any attempt at coercion of the seceded States would mean war. When Lincoln provoked the South into firing the first shot and then called for troops with just that intention, Virginia indicted him for choosing to inaugurate civil war and immediately seceded. Just as the Prophet Nathan said to King David (II Samuel 12:7), Virginia’s secession forever says to “The Great Emancipator” residing in his Olympian temple on the Mall: “Thou art the man!”

But this doesn’t dance well to the plaintive fiddle tunes on a Ken Burns TV show, so the North’s war of invasion, conquest, and coerced political allegiance must be turned into an Orwellian war of liberation. This “doublespeak” is the American Myth, the “propaganda of the victorious” validated by communal consensus, and eternally re-enforced by “Court Historians,” Politically Correct textbooks, Hollywood sensationalism, race-hustling politicians, and ham-fisted morality plays, while Southerners must be placed upon stools of everlasting repentance, and every trace of the truth of the Confederacy must be cast down the Orwellian “memory hole.”

But the Truth cannot be killed. You may bury it alive, but it will not die.

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Presidents Trump, Jackson and the Civil War

(May 4, 2017) Despite nearly universal scolding in the mainstream media, President Trump’s suggestion that a compromise similar to the one Andrew Jackson arranged during the 1832 South Carolina nullification crisis might have prevented the Civil War merits analysis for four reasons.

First, those pundits accusing Trump of not realizing that Jackson was deceased before the Civil War began either did not understand that he was suggesting that methods similar to those Jackson used to end the 1832 South Carolina Nullification Crisis might have also aborted the 1860-61 Secession Crisis, or they simply lied.

In 1832 South Carolina declared that the high tariffs of that year and 1828 were unconstitutional and would therefore be unenforceable in their state after the end of January 1833. In response, President Jackson obtained congressional authority to militarily force South Carolina to comply. He also persuaded Congress to adopt a more moderate tariff. When South Carolinians realized that Jackson would not let them defy federal authority they accepted the new tariff as a compromise. War was averted.

About three years earlier in April 1830 prominent political leaders gathered in Washington to celebrate the birthday of Thomas Jefferson who had died in 1826. Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina hoped, by means of a toast, to use the occasion to identify Jefferson as the father of the Nullification principle that the Palmetto State would later use in an attempt to void the 1828 and 1832 tariffs. As president, however, Jackson was asked to make the first toast. Since he was aware of Calhoun’s intent and objected to it, the president salute to the author of the Declaration of Independence was a simple and forceful, “The Federal Union: It must be preserved!”

Second, the reasons for Southern secession in 1860-61 and the reasons for the ensuing war were different from one another. The Northern states, after all, could have let the Southern states leave in peace as many prominent abolitionists advocated before the fighting began. Examples include Horace Greely, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Beecher, Samuel Howe, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Clark, Gerrit Smith, Joshua Giddings, and Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner who would later become a leading war hawk. Garrison’s decades-long hunger for separation is underscored by his statement that the constitutional Union was “a covenant with death and agreement with hell.”

Although the best of the media-selected Trump critics itemized reasons for Southern secession, none explained why Northerners declined to let the South leave peaceably. Even the Pulitzer Prize winning dean of modern Civil War historians, Eric Foner, admits that he cannot explain it. For example, in this lecture he asks, “Why not just let [the Southern states] go? Good question! You can adduce answers [such as] The American Mission, Unionism, Nationalism. Very few people in the North said, ‘Let them go.’ Why? [To answer that] requires us to do what no historian has ever successfully done.”

Foner’s inability to explain why the North decided to fight reflects a gigantic blind spot caused by his anti-Southern historical interpretations. The real reason the North chose war was to avoid the economic consequences of Southern secession. Consider the following points:

1. Southern cotton alone accounted for about sixty percent of all American exports and all Southern exports represented about seventy percent of the country’s total. A truncated federal union composed solely of Northern states could not hope to maintain a favorable international balance of payments. The situation would be worse if the Northern states tried to match the anticipated low tariffs in the new Confederacy. Ten days before South Carolina led the cotton states into secession on December 20, 1860, the Chicago Daily Times editorialized on the calamities of disunion:

In one single blow our foreign commerce must be reduced to less than one-half what it now is. Our coastwise trade would pass into other hands. One-half of our shipping would be idle…We should lose our trade with the South, with all its immense profits. Our manufactories would be in utter ruins…If [our protective tariff] be wholly withdrawn from our labor…it could not compete with the labor of Europe. We should be driven from the market and millions of our people would be compelled to go out of employment.

2. If the Confederacy were to survive as a separate country its import tariffs would likely have been much lower than those of the federal union. President Jefferson Davis announced in his inaugural address, “Our policy is peace, and the freest trade our necessities will permit. It is…[in] our interest, [and those of our trading partners] that there should be the fewest practicable restrictions upon interchange of commodities.”

3. Low Confederate tariffs would confront the remaining states of the abridged Union with two consequences. First, since the federal tax base relied chiefly upon the tariff the government would lose the great majority of its tax revenue. Articles imported into the Confederacy from Europe would divert tariff revenue from the North to the South. Additionally, the Confederacy’s low duties would encourage Northern merchants to import European goods by smuggling them across the Ohio River, or the Northwestern states might secede themselves to form a third country in order to unilaterally set low import duties from the Southern Confederacy. Second, a low Confederate tariff would make Southerners more likely to buy manufactured goods from Europe as opposed to the Northern states where prices were inflated by protective tariffs.

The third factor that the media critics of Trump’s remarks about Jackson fail to understand is that Northerners did not go to war to abolish slavery. The Party’s slavery plank in the 1860 election that made Abraham Lincoln president was merely to prohibit the expansion of slavery into the federal territories that had not yet been admitted as states. Such territories were chiefly in the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain region east of the Pacific Coast states.

In his March 1861 inaugural address President Lincoln expressly stated, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Regarding a constitutional amendment that would forever block the federal government from interfering with slavery in the Southern states then being considered by Congress he added, “…I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Finally, even those commentators that admitted Trump was alluding to Jackson’s role in the 1832 Nullification crisis failed to realize that secession-crisis lame duck President James Buchanan actually did try to emulate Jackson’s methods to avert civil war. He was unsuccessful because the Republican Party would not compromise. Republicans insisted that there would be no exceptions to their campaign plank to keep slavery out of all federal territories.

They even rejected a proposal to permit slaves to be taken into only those western territories south the latitude applicable to Missouri’s southern border, which probably would have ended the crisis. Since the natural features of the pertinent region—later the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma—were intrinsically inhospitable to slavery the chances that they would enable the institution to spread outside the South were about as remote as a Cherokee Indian getting elected Pope.

Even though such a compromise would not have ended slavery in the South, it bears repeating that Lincoln conceded he did not go to war intending to interfere “with the institution of slavery in the States where it exist[ed].” Furthermore, he later admitted shortly before issuing his Emancipation Proclamation that he “view[ed] the matter as a practical war measure, to be decided upon according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the [Confederate] rebellion.”

In short, it was Union military reversals during the summer of 1862 that led Lincoln to adopt the Emancipation Proclamation. He confided to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles that  emancipation was “a military necessity, absolutely essential to the preservation of the Union. We must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued.” In the same context Jefferson Davis told Union peace commissioners in July 1864, nine months before the war ended, “we are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for independence.” Moreover, after Congress finally gave him a bill in March 1865 to incorporate blacks into the Rebel armies, President Davis basically granted them freedom. Specifically, by executive order he stipulated that blacks admitted into the Rebel armies must be volunteers, accompanied by manumission papers.

 

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The Truth About Lincoln

The 45-minute YouTube video below is provided by Stefan Molyneux who has a regular podcast titled Freedomain Radio, which he started eleven years ago.

Prior to starting the podcast, Stefan was a software entrepreneur who sold his company at the turn of the century. Most of his podcasts are on relationships, politics, and economics. While I do not agree with some of his analysis of President Lincoln I was impressed by the trenchant and fresh perspective he brings to the 16th president who has otherwise been overly deified.

Stefan was born in Ireland and moved to Canada when he was eleven years old. He has a BA in History from McGill University and a MA in History from the University of Toronto. He is married and fifty years old.

The Dog Caught the Car

Did you ever want to ask a dog that habitually chased cars what she would do if she caught the bumper?

Did she just want to tear it off, or additionally chew up the tires and jump through a window to attack the people inside? The present situation regarding Confederate symbols is similar.

Dog Chase

When endorsing an opinion that the Confederate flag flying on South Carolina’s capitol grounds should be removed, one former New York senator said it should not fly anywhere. Presumably that includes the one over the mass Confederate burial trench at Shiloh. Perhaps she is also implying that that battlefield park souvenir shops, such as the one at Gettysburg, should discontinue selling Confederate memento flags and items containing its image due to the symbol’s presumed exclusive racist subtext.

If so, last November South Carolina voters proved that her interpretation fails to be universal. The state elected one of only two presently serving Black US Senators and elected a lady governor who – at the time – supported keeping the flag in Columbia. They chose to simultaneously honor the state’s Confederate heritage and reject race prejudice when selecting political leaders. In contrast, New York has never elected a Black senator or a female governor. Even though the overwhelming majority of Confederate public symbols are in the South, of the forty-four US cities with populations over 50,000 having Black mayors, twenty are in the former Confederacy. Thus, with 32% of the US population the former Confederate states have 45% of the entire nation’s Black mayors. Even when adjusting for a larger share of Blacks in the South there is still no discernible discrimination. The 46% of the country’s Blacks who reside in the former Confederate States is nearly identical to the 45% of the country’s mayors who serve there.

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