William Marvel on the Coming of the Civil War

William Marvel often takes a different view of things.  Agree with him, disagree with him, but I think most people find him worth a good listen (or a good read).  Such is the case with Marvel’s four-volume history of the war from a northern point of view, the first volume of which is the subject of the following talk that he gave in 2007 at the Virginia Historical Society.

2 thoughts on “William Marvel on the Coming of the Civil War

  1. Mark March 10, 2011 / 2:25 pm

    Yes, I saw this when it came on Cspan.

    Marvel pays homage to political correctness by admonishing Lincoln and Davis. This is what you do when you don’t want to pist anyone off, blame everyone.

    Marvel didn’t bother to explain the Southern Ultimatum to spread slavery, which according to Southern newspapers, the leaders in Montgomery issued just before March 20 of 1861. In fact, he didn’t even bother to mention them.

    This is like trying to discuss America’s involvement in WW2 by not mentioning Pearl Harbor, or the promises by Japan that it would attack if their conditions were not met.

    I’ve already explained the Southern Ultimatums until I’m almost persona non Grata, but suffice it to say these were not simply the rantings of exuberant lunatics in the throws of newly found power. These were the essential demand the South had made for 50 years, and they said so.

    Maybe if the South didn’t issue their Ultimatums, then attack when Lincoln would not obey them, you could make a case for both Lincoln and Davis pushing their side into war. But facts are stubborn things. The South’s frantic, prolonged, and violent efforts to spread slavery may not be politically correct, even now, to talk about, but they happened. They happened for decades, and then inexorably led to the Civil War.

  2. Will Hickox March 11, 2011 / 1:05 pm

    His primary source research is impressive, but I’ve found Marvel’s histories to be idiosyncratic and excessively negative in the style of the “People’s Histories” from Free Press (particularly David Williams’ volume on the Civil War). Marvel has apparently never met a military or political leader he liked (except, oddly enough, Burnside), and presents, as an amazon reviewer ably called it, a “glass is half empty” view of the Union war effort. Still, as I said he was certainly done some homework in the archives.

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