Review of "The Abolitionist Crusade and its Consequences"

June 29, 2009

This book can be found here or here.

Before I get into the book, which is strongly recommended, it's worth reading a little about the author.  That's what Wikipedia says.  For our purposes, it will helpful to know the following as reported in the introduction:

Following this example, the writer must tell that he was born in the South, of slave- holding parents, three years after the Abolition crusade began in 1831. Growing up in the South under the stress of that crusade, he maintained all through the war, in which he was a loyal Confederate soldier, the belief in which he had been educated—that slavery was right, morally and economically.

One day, not long after Appomattox, he told his father he had reached the conclusion that slavery was wrong. The reply was, to the writer's surprise, that his mother in early life had been an avowed emancipationist; that she (who had lived until the writer was sixteen years old) had never felt at liberty to discuss slavery after the rise of the new abolitionists and the Nat Turner insurrection; and then followed the further information that when, in 1846, the family removed from South Carolina to Alabama, Greenville, Ala., was chosen for a home because it was thought that the danger from slave insurrections would be less there than in one of the richer " black counties."

What a creature of circumstances man is! The writer's belief about a great moral question, his home, his school-mates, and the companions of his youth, were all determined by a movement begun in Boston, Massachusetts, before he was born in the far South!

What better guide to the causes of the Civil War could a modern historian ask for?

We must now discuss Mr Herbert's thesis.  Mr Herbert believes that the Civil War was unnecessary and tragic.  He believes the war was caused by the abolitionist movement.  By "abolitionist" he means people like William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown.  He does not mean all people who opposed slavery (I will call this latter group "emancipationists" for the sake of simplicity).  The difference between these two groups is that former believed in a higher law.  Mr Herbert argues that everyone agreed that the Constitution allowed slavery in the states (perhaps "everyone" is too strong, but it is close enough to correct for the exceptions to be meaningless) but that the abolitionists believed in a higher law.

Consequently these abolitionists supported subverting the Constitution.  They broke the Constitution – i.e. the compact between the states.  Many of the abolitionists supported both secession (the North seceding from the South) and nullification.  That is, they supported these doctrines prior to the South seceding, at which point they opposed them.

Mr Herbert's view is perhaps best summarized by a letter that he quotes in the book.  The letter is written by George Ticknor, a northerner, and the quote is: "On the subject of our relations with the South and its slavery, we must—as I have always thought—do one of two things; either keep honestly the bargain of the Constitution as it shall be interpreted by the authorities—of which the Supreme Court of the United States is the chief and safest—or declare honestly that we can no longer in our conscience consent to keep it, and break it."

Unfortunately, the abolitionists followed a different path.  They refused to keep the bargain of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court and the refused to honestly admit of the change in their position and peacefully allow secession.  The Southerners were fighting for the original Constitution, while the Northerners had effectively refused to continue living under the original document.

So that Mr Herbert's position does not seem so radical, it's worth taking a minute to look at the actual consequences of the Civil War (as opposed to the consequences that we would have liked to see).  The position of the blacks after the Civil War (inclusive of Reconstruction) was largely unchanged and arguably worse (at least from a materialistic standpoint).  The ultimate outcome of the War was not freedom for blacks, it was domination of the South by the North and the destruction of the South.

Mr Herbert's work is really a reactionary masterpiece.  It's ultimate, broad argument is that adherence to higher law above the written law is ultimately purely and solely destructive of all things good.  The Civil War didn't end slavery (at least not in reality).  It did, however, destroy a lot of life and lead to a new system of government for the states that was not chosen democratically, but was mandated by force and subjugation.  Hell hath no fury like a Puritan following his higher law.

Only if you don’t mind being raped

June 29, 2009

What does this say about "transitions":

With the possible exception of the fall of fascism in Germany and Japan, the South African experiment represents the most successful transition from authoritarianism the world has yet seen.

How can someone write an article suggesting that South Africa's "transition" should be a model for other countries without mentioning this?  Iran, if it follows South Africa's model could, also, descend into anarchic, bloody, third-worldism.  Perhaps it could elect a AIDS-denying, rapist as its president.  It's not clear (to me at least) that such an outcome would be much of an improvement over a holocaust denier.

Sentences of the day (redux)

June 29, 2009

From Mangan's:

Curiosity is related to the one of the Big Five personality factors, openness to experience, which in turn is correlated with IQ. I used to wonder at the incurious nature of, well, most everyone, seeing it as a vice. But I now think that most people can't help it; they're not smart enough to be curious.

Sentence of the day

June 29, 2009

About beer and civilization.

Review of "Documentary History of Reconstruction" by Walter L. Fleming

June 26, 2009

This book can be found here (and volume I here).  This book attempts to tell the history of reconstruction by quoting a series of primary sources, often congressional testimony.

Read about Mr Fleming and his Southern sympathies and solid historical credentials here.

This book is really boring.  The story of actual violence breaking out in Louisiana between two separate governments claiming legitimacy was new to meet (start here).  But it's tough to make a story interesting by quoting testimony and not adding any narrative.

I think there are much more interesting and readable books on reconstruction.  Mr Fleming's book is still helpful in shedding some light on the period.  Read the first couple sections on Union Leagues and then compare the primary, contemporary sources which report on the League's activities to today's Wikipedia entry.  Doing so should give you a good idea of the problems associated with the modern, official view of the history of reconstruction.

Sentences of the day

June 25, 2009

From Front Porch Republic:

American society loves more than anything, it appears, non-reproductive sex with an indeterminate number of partners in neutral-toned, tastefully appointed condominiums equipped with a flat-screen and an iPod-equipped six-speaker stereo. . . .

They [the utilitarians] will be happy when adultery has no political consequences because it has no private consequences, and that will happen only when Americans care so little about character, desire, and marriage that one more adulterous politician means nothing. . . .

Weakened and depleted though it may be by illegitimate births (40% of all births), divorce (roughly half of all marriages end in divorce), mobile meritocracy (wherein children leave home permanently at an early age and “relocate” to distant cities), and a general sense of the superfluity of its arrangements (useless children in front of the television, hot-pockets in the microwaves, and parents working in separate cubicles across town from one another), the nuclear family perseveres and preserves America as a society and civilization rather than as a clientalist bureaucratic welfare state administering seed to plucky free-range individuals, featherless, featureless, and sterile.

Review of "Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman" Vol. II

June 24, 2009

See here for the review of volume I.

The most interesting bits of the second volume deal with the Atlanta Campaign and Sherman's March to the Sea.

The former was a series of battles between Sherman and Johnston and later Hood (after Johnston was removed for not being more aggressive – unfortunately Hood was too aggressive).

The most interesting bit of the discussion of the Atlanta Campaign, is Sherman's defense of his aggressive tactics.  He shelled the city, while it was still occupied by civilians.  Once he took the city over, he kicked out all the residents.  He then burned down most of the buildings.  Finally, he left the city, largely destroyed and uninhabited, and left to march to the sea to do the same to Savannah or Charleston (the opposition was not sure where he would go).

In justifying these decisions, Sherman wrote:

I had seen Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, and New Orleans, all captured from the enemy, and each at once was garrisoned by a full division of troops, if not more; so that success was actually crippling our armies in the field by detachments to guard and protect the interests of a hostile population. . .   If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking.  If they want peace, they and their relatives most stop the war. . . .

I knew that the people of the South would read in this measure two important conclusions: one, that we were in earnest; and the other, if they were sincere in their common and popular clamor "to die in the last ditch," that the opportunity would soon come.

There is an exchange of letters between General Hood and General Sherman that is worth reading in its entirety.  The sample above gives a summary of Sherman’s logic, the excerpt below gives Hood’s arguments (from one of his letters to Sherman):

You charge my country with "daring and badgering you to battle."  The truth is, we sent commissioners to you, respectfully offering a peaceful separation, before the first gun was fired on either aide.  You say we insulted your flag.  The truth is, we fired upon it, and those who fought under it, when you came to our doors upon the mission of subjugation.  You say we seized upon your forts and arsenals, and made prisoners of the garrisons sent to protect us against negroes and Indians.  The truth is, we, by force of arms, drove out insolent intruders and took possession of our own forts and arsenals, to resist your claims to dominion over masters, slaves, and Indians, all of whom are to this day, with a unanimity unexampled in the history of the world, warring against your attempts to become their masters.  You say that we tried to force Missouri and Kentucky into rebellion in spite of themselves.  The truth is, my Government, from the beginning of this struggle to this hour, has again and again offered, before the whole world, to leave it to the unbiased will of these States, and all others, to determine for themselves whether they will cast their destiny with your Government or ours; and your Government has resisted this fundamental principle of free institutions with the bayonet, and labors daily, by force and fraud, to fasten its hateful tyranny upon the unfortunate freemen of these States.  You say we falsified the vote of Louisiana.  The truth is, Louisiana not only separated herself from your Government by nearly a unanimous vote of her people, but has vindicated the act upon every battle-field from Gettysburg to the Sabine, and has exhibited an heroic devotion to her decision which challenges the admiration and respect of every man capable of feeling sympathy for the oppressed or admiration for heroic valor.  You say that we turned loose pirates to plunder your unarmed ships.  The truth is, when you robbed us of our part of the navy, we built and bought a few vessels, hoisted the flag of our country, and swept the seas, in defiance of your navy, around the whole circumference of the globe.  You say we have expelled Union families by thousands.  The truth is, not a single family has been expelled from the Confederate States, that I am aware of; but, on the contrary, the moderation of our Government toward traitors has been a fruitful theme of denunciation by its enemies and well-meaning friends of our cause.  You say my Government, by acts of Congress, has confiscated "all debts due Northern men for goods sold and delivered."  The truth is, our Congress gave due and ample time to your merchants and traders to depart from our shores with their ships, goods, and effects, and only sequestrated the property of our enemies in retaliation for their acts–declaring us traitors, and confiscating our property wherever their power extended, either in their country or our own.  Such are your accusations, and such are the facts known of all men to be true.

You order into exile the whole population of a city; drive men, women and children from their homes at the point of the bayonet, under the plea that it is to the interest of your Government, and on the claim that it is "an act of kindness to these families of Atlanta."  Butler only banished from New Orleans the registered enemies of his Government, and acknowledged that he did it as a punishment.  You issue a sweeping edict, covering all the inhabitants of a city, and add insult to the injury heaped upon the defenseless by assuming that you have done them a kindness.  This you follow by the assertion that you will "make as much sacrifice for the peace and honor of the South as the best-born Southerner." And, because I characterize what you call as kindness as being real cruelty, you presume to sit in judgment between me and my God; and you decide that my earnest prayer to the Almighty Father to save our women and children from what you call kindness, is a "sacrilegious, hypocritical appeal."

You came into our country with your army, avowedly for the purpose of subjugating free white men, women, and children, and not only intend to rule over them, but you make negroes your allies, and desire to place over us an inferior race, which we have raised from barbarism to its present position, which is the highest ever attained by that race, in any country, in all time.  I must, therefore, decline to accept your statements in reference to your kindness toward the people of Atlanta, and your willingness to sacrifice every thing for the peace and honor of the South, and refuse to be governed by your decision in regard to matters between myself, my country, and my God.

You say, "Let us fight it out like men."  To this my reply is—for myself, and I believe for all the free men, ay, and women and children, in my country–we will fight you to the death!  Better die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you or your Government and your negro allies!

Sherman denies any desire to put blacks in charge of Southern whites (no doubt Sherman had no such desire), but the history of Reconstruction makes the issue at least a little fuzzy.  It didn’t take long for Sherman to see that not everyone in the North agreed with him:

The negro question was beginning to loom up among the political eventualities of the day, and many foresaw that not only would the slaves secure their  freedom, but that they would also have votes. I did not dream of such a result then, but knew that slavery, as such, was dead forever, and did not suppose that the former slaves would be suddenly, without preparation, manufactured into voters, equal to all others, politically and socially. . . . He [Secretary Chase] was the first man, of any authority or station, who ever informed me that the Government of the United States would insist on extending to the former slaves of the South the elective franchise, and he gave as a reason the fact that the slaves, grateful for their freedom, for which they were indebted to the armies and Government of the North, would, by their votes, offset the disaffected and rebel element of the white population of the South.

I can’t help but quote Sherman one more time, in rebuttal to Hood:

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will.  War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.  I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country.  If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war.  The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feeling.  This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union.

Also interesting is Sherman’s discussion of Johnston’s surrender to him, following Lee’s surrender to Grant.  At the time of Johnston’s surrender, Lincoln had been killed.  Those in charge following Lincoln’s death were not excited about the lenient terms that Grant offered Lee.  So, they at first objected to Sherman accepting Johnston’s surrender on the same terms.  Eventually, thankfully, Sherman, Grant and Lincoln’s terms prevailed and the Southern armies surrendered.  One can’t help but wish Lincoln had stayed alive for reconstruction.  The third tragedy of the era (i.e. Reconstruction following the Civil War and Slavery) may have been avoided if Lincoln had lived.