December 14, 2008
re: Tackling Some Civil War Myths (ad nauseam)
Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 5:43 PM
Just a few final thoughts and a bibliography for those who might be interested.
1) I believe in Truth and in historical truths. Facts can lead us to truth. Sorry for any confusion in that regard. My point was that, in my experience, when arguments say something is “clear” it is usually two things: a) dismissive of other views as intellectually and/or morally inferior and/or b) not a thorough argument. If it’s persuasive, readers will know; there is no need to write that it is “clear.” Although historical truths can be found (and I often argue with a definite interpretation), one should constantly question one’s interpretation, for when history has become cliché, it is best to reexamine the past and doublecheck and at least refine one’s argument.
2) For argument’s sake, let’s accept the argument about the Founding. It still is not enough for me to accept the argument concerning the war’s causes. There is a leap from from 1776 to 1861. There is little attention given to the early republic and antebellum economic, cultural, religious, and social trends. And few scholars--I think I can count them on one hand--discuss America under the Articles of the Confederation. More than a few Founders didn’t want to scrap that document; some wanted only to revise it. (This problem, among others, was settled on mid-19th century American battlefields). There is also little historical context given for the Declaration or the colonial events that led up to it. This history is needed to add to our understanding of the war’s causes (one can arguably even go back to the writings of William Byrd and Cotton Mather and distinguish two differing worldviews that became representative). Again, historical context is needed--the anti-slavery movement was never about human equality. Good Lord, just read David Wilmot’s proviso in which he talks about the "white race." There was a difference between the abolitionist and anti-slavery movements.
3) My other point was that scholars should ask why the North fought and pay more attention to the economic, cultural, religious, and social trends occurring in the North. Asking that question will provide answers that offer a more complete understanding and help us know what was said (and not said) during the antebellum era. For some reason, the South has captured historical scholarship, for people want to demonize it or glorify it or praise it or criticize it. It’s time scholars asked more about the North during the antebellum period.
3) I find the point about Southerners and rationalism to be an interesting one, for Southern intellectuals had many negative things to say about German thinkers and the events of 1848.
For those who might be interested in learning more about federalism and Southern political and intellectual thought, please read any of the ratification debates. I also will end with an incomplete bibliography of mostly secondary sources (believe it or not, it’s incomplete):
Samuel Beer, To Make A Nation: The Rediscovery of American Federalism
Raoul Berger, Federalism: The Founder’s Design
W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese, Mind of the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholder’s View
Eugene Genovese, Slaveholder’s Dilemma: Freedom and Progress in Southern Conservative Thought and The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism
Susan-Mary Grant, North Over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity and North and the Nation in the Civil-War Era
Gary Gregg, II, ed., Vital Remnants: America’s Founding and the Western Tradition
Merrill Jensen, The Articles of Confederaton: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781 and The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781-1789
Ross Lence, ed., Union and Liberty: The Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun (includes Fort Hill Address)
Andrew Lenner, The Federal Principle in American Politics, 1790-1833
Bruce Levine, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War
Forrest McDonald, States Rights and the Union, Imperium In Imperio, 1776-1876
Michael O’ Brien, Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810 -1860
Felix Morley, Freedom and Federalism
Norman K. Risjord, The Old Republicans: Southern Conservatism in the Age of Jefferson
John Taylor (of Caroline), New Views of the Constitution of the United States
William R. Taylor, Cavalier and Yankee: The Old South and American National Character
C. Vann Woodward, The Burden of Southern History
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