14 February 2012

Challenging A Simplistic View Of The WBTS

 
"It is common to claim, with little evidence, that the white supremacist and agnostic Lincoln 'evolved' during the war into an egalitarian and a Christian. Can't Southerners evolve, too, under conditions that were far more stressful for them per capita than for Northerners? If the North developed a mission for emancipation as it went, could not the war in its course come to mean something else to Confederates than the reasons for secession mentioned in the South Carolina ordinance? Is it even possible that most Confederates in the end came to put the objective of independence ahead of that of preserving slavery? (Many said so.) The preservation of slavery, or more precisely the protection of slavery from outside interference that was considered irresponsible and self-interested, was the immediate cause of the first secession. However, in what sense was slavery the cause of the federal government's military suppression of the elected governments of the Southern states? That was what constituted the war. The war was formally declared not to be against slavery but to enforce the power of the 'United States.' If irritation over the slavery issue caused the secession of the first seven states, what caused that of those who followed after Fort Sumter and the enthusiastic enlistment of most opponents of secession into the cause of independence? Lincoln's intent to subdue states by military force, which to Southerners, and to a great many more Northerners than is usually admitted, involved a false and revolutionary interpretation of the Union. How can the war be only about slavery when the war consists of the federal government "preserving the Union," and there is voluminous evidence that Northerners who were making war did not consider emancipation as a primary goal or a goal at all." ~ Professor Clyde Wilson 

"A measured and factually grounded take of the tariff issue reveals its dramatic resurgence between 1858-61 as the national political climate collapsed and pre-war sectional divisions reached a fever pitch. The issue directly contributed to those divisions, particularly as it arrived in the Senate during the 'Secession Winter' to add its own havoc to a rapidly growing perfect storm. Though it is not a complete or full explanation of the Civil War itself, it should be viewed as an indicator of the war's complexity. Simplistic, single-issue explanations of large political and military upheavals seldom work under scrutiny, and the tariff is one such sign of how the economic dimensions of secession overlapped and intertwined with the Civil War's moral questions about slavery and political questions about sectionalism."  ~ Professor Phil Magness


"A focus on slavery also explains little about the divisions within the North and the South. It assumes unity in each of these regions when in fact there was fragmentation . . . There is no question that some individuals in the South felt that Lincoln's election posed a mortal threat to slavery, but more did not . . . In sum, the current emphasis on slavery as the cause of the Civil War is fraught with problems. It does not clarify the sequence of events, the divisions within the sections, or the policies and actions of the Republican Party. It is these problems that a new interpretation must address . . . It argues that more than any other reason, the evolution of the Northern and Southern economies explains the Civil War." ~ Professor Marc Egnal 

Note: I've got about a dozen or so posts "in the hopper" - as most bloggers do. The one I've been working on for some time now is finally beginning to gel. It's a rather long post and I've changed the title several times. Very recently, it was: "Academic Historians - You Own It." But I think I've finally settled on a new title: "How Smart Are Academic Historians?" Stay tuned.

8 comments:

B.Parks said...

The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed Prof. Clyde Wilson among the "ideologues" of the neo-Confederate movement. Wilson was also an original founder of the League of the South. I am curious as to why you incuded him with what appear to be fairly mainsstream educators?

Lindsay said...

"If irritation over the slavery issue caused the secession of the first seven states, what caused that of those who followed after Fort Sumter and the enthusiastic enlistment of most opponents of secession into the cause of independence?"

At a recent conference at the Historical Society the presenter proposed that for some of the states, and Virginia, the decision of whether or not to secede came down to who did you want to fight against? Even though there was an anti-secessionist core in Virginia, were Virginians really ready to take up arms against their fellow Southerners? The answer to that question went just as much into their decision to secede as did any other.

Peter MacHare said...

Richard, you can add William W. Freehling (author of the brilliant two-volume Road to Disunion) to your list of authorities. This is from the lecture Did Slavery Cause the Civil War? Freehling is a Northerner and (I assume) a liberal, who refuses to over-simplify the issues.
http://vimeo.com/15815493

“[W]e were determined to prove that it wasn’t just blundering statesmen that caused the war, but that slavery was a real cause of the war. I wrote my first book in that vein. I was one of the foot soldiers, not one of the Generals, but one of the foot soldiers in that campaign to prove that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. And I think you can say that we triumphed. And on this 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, it is a conventional wisdom in the academic world, but not quite yet in the popular world, that slavery, slavery, slavery caused the Civil War. And for me it’s a basic proof of the proposition ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Because the notion that only slavery caused the Civil War, and all you have to say about the coming of the Civil War is that slavery caused it has become a difficult proposition to accept.”

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Mr. Parks - are you serious or being sarcastic? The SPLC? The SPLC is one of the most radical leftist organizations in the United States.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/253964/first-they-came-restrictionists-mark-krikorian

Since you like to play guilt by association, I suggest you do a bit of research on the founder of the SPLC. I included Dr. Wilson because he is one of the most respected Southern historians alive today and a former history professor at the University of South Carolina. I'd suggest you get an idea of his scholarship by reading his book, "Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew."

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"the decision of whether or not to secede came down to who did you want to fight against?"

Precisely. That sentiment was most famously expressed by Lee. Both Jackson and Lee were pretty strong Union men until Lincoln's call for troops to put down the rebellion.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Peter:

"a difficult proposition to accept.”

Unless you have an agenda. In that case, you first develop your conclusion, then gather facts to support it while ignoring others. For example:

http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/2010/08/response-to-professor-david-blights.html

B.Parks said...

You said: "I included Dr. Wilson because he is one of the most respected Southern historians alive today..."

According to whom? I am not trying to be difficult. I am just curious as how anyone with ties to such radical organizations would be considered in the widely-venerated regards that you imply. Especially by anyone in academia who could not possibly recognize the League of the South as being credible.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I am just curious as how anyone with ties to such radical organizations"

You mean ones like the SPLC?

You want to attack Wilson because of his radical ties, yet you cite as your source a radical group. You're gonna have to do better than that. Please Mr. Parks, I don't have time for games. Stay on topic or your comments will be rejected. The post is not about Wilson. Deal with the content of his remarks, if you can.