Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Re-Fighting the Civil War

In "Still More Trouble for the Lincoln Cartel," Thomas J. DiLorenzo reviews Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, by former U.S. Navy Secretary James Webb; and The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War, by University of Virginia historian Michael F. Holt. DiLorenzo's review amounts to another salvo at what he calls the "Lincoln Cartel":
In my [DiLorenzo's] LRC [] article, "More Trouble for the Lincoln Cartel," I noted how such court historians as James McPherson, and court semanticists like Harry Jaffa, have fabricated an "Official History" of the War to Prevent Southern Independence that is often sharply at odds with historical reality. These self-appointed gatekeepers of America’s Official State History do all they can to censor competing views within academe, but their influence is rapidly waning because of the fact that competing views are now widely published on the Internet, and by commercial and "think tank" publishers.
DiLorenzo prefers socio-psychological explanations and conspiracy theories to a straightforward accounting for the Civil War. Thus, writing about Webb's book, he says:
So why did the Confederate soldier fight? Because "he was provoked, intimidated, and ultimately invaded" and "his leaders convinced him that this was a war of independence in the same sense as the Revolutionary War" (p. 225). The "tendency to resist outside regression" was "bred deeply into every heart" of the Scots-Irish, and had been for centuries. That’s why they had to fight.
Bravo. But why was the Confederate soldier "provoked, intimidated, and ultimately invaded"? Aha, here it is in DiLorenzo's comments about Holt's book:
The North was driven by an agenda that would legally plunder the South. They were pure plunder seekers. The South, on the other hand, was comprised of plunder avoiders. They fought for years in the political trenches to avoid being the victims of the northern political plunderers, whose population was more than double that of the South, implying an inevitable Northern domination in the halls of Congress. As Professor Holt demonstrates, slavery extension was one big smokescreen or "chimera" that clouded the real issues at stake in the period leading up to the war.
I sent my son a link to DiLorenzo's review. We then had the following exchange:
Son: I don't think either of us are die hard Confederates, are we? I guess my take on it is: interesting historical revisionism, but I'm not going to try to re-fight the Civil War.

Me: I might prefer more power in the hands of the States, but not at the cost of slavery. It strikes me as one more attempt to throw the Civil War into a new light. Kind of clever, but not compelling. Such theories fail Occam's test, which tells me that the proximate cause of the war was slavery, and Lincoln was determined to keep the Union whole. Yes, there were a lot of subplots, but that's the main plot.

Son [referring to the early election returns]: Maybe we don't need to refight the Civil War, but can we let Canada annex the Northeast?
I'd go along with that, but my Canadian friends who are Red Ensign bloggers probably don't want to bring more socialist-leaning provinces into the Dominion.