History as Identity and Ideology

Over at Civil War Memory Kevin Levin commented on a report filed by Al Jazeera on the commemoration of the firing upon Fort Sumter, in part because it featured Walter and James Kennedy, commonly known as the Kennedy brothers and authors of a series of books that have become, er, controversial.

I always find interesting what the Kennedy brothers have to say.  Indeed, at times you can simply play all four of these interviews simultaneously, and they make about as much sense (and it’s an interesting experience to hear the same themes pop out from each section of the interview).  Try it.

However, Kevin made an allusion to something one hears a great deal, and one reads it a great deal on the internet, including the comments sections of several blogs.  The argument, simply put, is that most historians come to their work with overarching preconceptions to which they rigorously adhere, and seek out that evidence that supports that line of argument, ignoring other evidence and other explanations.  Thus, in the end, history’s nothing more than a simple explication of one’s opinion and/or ideology, and that in turn is essentially linked to their identity.  Thus there are Yankee historians, politically correct historians, southern historians, Lost Cause historians, court historians, and so on.  Moreover, if someone identified with a group does not espouse the positions commonly associated in this interpretive scheme with people of like identity, they must be telling something approximating “the truth.”  This helps to explain the scramble by some folks to identify African Americans who agree with the notion that many enslaved and free blacks embraced the Confederate cause (which thus must not have been at all associated with slavery).  Since they are black but not toeing some supposed party line (as described by the person celebrating the individuals in question), they must be right.

By the way, I’ve never heard the issue of the racial identity of a historian used in this way in Civil War scholarship when the historian in question is white.  “He must be right because he’s white!”  Then again, I do sense this in some discussions when it comes to Native American history.  To highlight this is to reveal the underlying assumption that one’s race usually determines one’s scholarship, a statement that is self-indicting.

This is a bizarre way of conceptualizing how responsible scholars do history.  It is perhaps one of the most visible signs of projection we have, since the people who offer this analysis of other historians are in fact the best examples of this approach to history by some folks.  Moreover, by denigrating the historian through identity politics, one neatly sidesteps the need to assess scholarship on its merits: one’s findings must be wrong because of who they are, which in itself is sufficient evidence of motive and methodology.

There’s one big problem here.  If everyone is a prisoner of their own identity and ideology, then that must be as true for the people who offer this analysis and the historians with whom they agree as for the historians with whom they disagree.  All historical interpretation becomes relative, even autobiographical, and there is no way to say that any interpretation is any better, is more carefully crafted, makes better use of evidence, explains more things, or is simply superior than any other view.

This, of course, is not what the people who make this charge mean to say.  What they mean to say is that the history with which they disagree is warped by issues of ideology and identity, while the history with which they agree is true and honest and dispassionate and objective.  And yes, I have someone in mind, but he’s not alone (see the nice company that he keeps).

By the way, this dynamic is not limited to folks who tend to look upon the Confederacy with fondness, as you’ll see here.

This is the part where you should expect me to say why this is all wrong, right?  After all, it should be the work that comes under examination, and the quality of the scholarship should be determined based upon the merits of the scholarship itself, right? One should strive to be detached, let the chips fall where they may, accept complexity, even contradiction, so long as one is committed to figuring out as best one can what happened, how, and why.  Right?

Here’s the problem: either you agree with those premises, in which case I’m preaching to the converted, or you don’t, in which case we have very little to say to each other.  So all I wish to say is that if you believe in history as projection of identity and ideology, you’ll have to accept that people will hold you to the same standards, and thus find ready-made cause to dismiss your arguments, using the same reasoning you use to dismiss theirs.  Knowing that, why waste your time or mine by pursuing that line of argument?

Enjoy your weekend.

81 thoughts on “History as Identity and Ideology

  1. Michael in SC April 16, 2011 / 8:27 pm

    I can see that you tried to link Dr Thomas DiLorenzo with me and my site. I have never met Dr DiLorenzo and have never communicated with him via email, phone, etc. I do agree with virtually all he has to say about Lincoln’s invasion of the independent South in 1861 and about Lincoln’s tyrannical repression of dissent in the North. Lincoln was the most tyrannical of all US presidents, which is saying a lot given some of the awful people who have inhabited the White House (Grant, Wilson, FDR, LBJ and all the recent despots). I comment here to ask folks not to judge Dr DiLorenzo’s scholarly work based on the various people (of probably many different causes) who support him. Dr DiLorenzo’s work should be judged on its own merits. I attempt to uphold the original Jeffersonian values of the once voluntary US federal union. Those values are basically all gone today in the US gov’t and media, sadly. And when folks like Dr DiLorenzo and others point this out they are insulted by people who generally do not have any regard for classical liberalism, Jeffersonian principles and the right of self-determination. Generally (as in the case of the recent Times Magazine cover article on Lincoln and the cause of his invasion of the South and the murder of hundred of thousands of people) these arguments against secession and Jeffersonian principles are rather sophomoric, sadly. It seems like people who are defending a mass murderer and despot like old Abe could attempt to come up with better defences for his many crimes.

      • James F. Epperson April 17, 2011 / 6:43 am

        If DiLorenzo’s work is judged on its own “merits” (as if it had any) it would be consigned to a trash can!

        • Pat Hines April 17, 2011 / 6:59 pm

          As opposed to “scholars” such as Doris Kerns Goodwin, I suppose?

          In fact, DiLorenzo’s scholarship is impeccable.

          Of course, no Lincoln Cultist would so consider it, but then that’s what makes them a cult.

          • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 9:40 am

            Sorry, Epperson, but your view isn’t factual in any way.

            Goodwin was proven a plagiarizing fraud long ago. Her nearly breathless proselytizing about Lincoln, nearly always free from historical fact, is nauseating.

            Your view on Goodwin calls your ability to be a analyst into serious question.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 10:32 am

            This raises the question of trying to evaluate work based upon the merits. Mr. Epperson has done so with Dr. DiLorenzo’s work. I may not agree with all that he says, but he’s made the attempt. Where’s your detailed analysis of Goodwin’s book? Where have you examined it on its merits? The fact that you may find in nauseating is not an argument against the book’s accuracy.

            I have my own reservations about Goodwin’s analysis, and I would have a somewhat more critical assessment of Lincoln than she offers, but I see nothing in your comments that points to a well-reasoned argument about the book. Nor have you been able to bring yourself to respond to evidence that DiLorenzo’s not the “impeccable” scholar you claim he is.

            Someone might say that such shortcomings call into serious question your analytical skills. After all, it is reasonable to hold you to the same standard you employ in evaluating others.

    • Lyle Smith April 17, 2011 / 7:15 am


      What mass murders took place? I’m from Louisiana (domiciled in Texas now) and don’t know about any mass murders. Jefferson Davis’ first wife Susan Knox Taylor is buried down the road from my parents, but I don’t know about any mass graves of citizens from the Civil War.

      • James F. Epperson April 17, 2011 / 10:47 am

        The mass murders I know about took place at Centralia, Missouri; Fort Pillow, Tennessee; Saltville, Virginia; and Petersburg, Virginia. The victims all wore blue uniforms.

        • Lyle Smith April 17, 2011 / 11:47 am

          Yeah, I should have said of white Confederate non-Unionist citizens.

        • Pat Hines April 17, 2011 / 7:01 pm

          The mass murders occurred nearly everywhere the Union Army went. My great-grandparents survived the Union carpet bombing of Charleston.

          Fort Pillow? Nope.

          In fact, the Confederate States Army was much too nice to the invader. That was a costly tactical error.

          • Lyle Smith April 18, 2011 / 7:38 am


            Carpet bombing? Confederate towns and cities were certainly destroyed during the war by intentional shelling and firing (Abner Doubleday apparently wanted Major Anderson to turn his guns on Charleston during the bombardment of Fort Sumter), but that’s not the same thing as mass graves of citizens… meaning the intentional killing of those people. That was the claim.

            I would agree that the destruction that happened in the South didn’t equal whatever destruction was done in the North by the Confederacy. But we do know that there was some destruction done, like Stonewall Jackson’s firing on that Maryland border town in the winter of 1861/62 and Jubal Early’s destruction of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

            … and of course there was Missouri and Kansas.

            Carpeting bombing is not an accurate word though. Remain true to history and just write shelling or firing.

          • Lyle Smith April 18, 2011 / 7:44 am

            I meant carpet bombing.

            … and shelling a town would mean the intentional killing of whatever civilians were killed, but as far as we know… there was no mass murder of civilians by the Federal armies of Abraham Lincoln.

            Lets be honest guys, yes parts of Charleston were destroyed by shelling, but the people of Charleston weren’t round up and shot, or murdered house to house.

            It was mostly an honest mid-19th century war.

          • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 9:45 am

            There was a carpet bombardment of Charleston, South Carolina. That there was no ability to put hundreds of aircraft into the sky does not mean that the Union Army and Navy didn’t attempt to do “a Dresden” in South Carolina.

            That the Union Army routinely murdered, raped, and destroyed what they couldn’t carry off is well documented with both narrative and photographs from the time.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 10:25 am

            Given your assertion that the crimes of murder and rape were documented by photographs, please so do document.

          • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 7:28 pm

            I don’t know that any photos were taken of the war criminal W. T. Sherman burning civilian homes in Columbia, South Carolina, but I have this from Charleston.

            There’s also the knowledge of Sherman’s letters to both Lincoln and his wife, the latter includes one in which he expresses his desire to exterminate all people of the south, to be replaced with the righteous people of the north. You do remember all of this evidence, do you not? It’s nearly ubiquitous.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 8:27 pm

            In short, you refuse to offer the evidence you claim exists. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t exist.

            I simply asked you to be as good as your word. I guess you found that too difficult.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 6:58 am

            “Given your assertion that the crimes of murder and rape were documented by photographs, please so do document.” That’s what I asked you to do.

            You’ve failed to produce the photographs you claim exist on this score. If you can’t comprehend what you write, that’s your problem, not mine. If you can’t comprehend a simple request based upon what you write, that is also your problem, not mine.

            You seem to have a problem answering many of the questions posed to you asking for evidence.

          • James F. Epperson April 19, 2011 / 7:15 am

            I believe the photo in question shows the destruction in Charleston, SC, after the Confederate evacuation. In any event the photo most certainly fails to document any rapes or murders.

          • Pat Hines April 19, 2011 / 8:34 am

            Photographs of the time documenting rapes are unlikely, they’re seldom produced even today, however, the use of rape is well documented in “War Crimes Against Southern Citizens” as I stated.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 9:24 am

            Mr. Hines, you made the claim that there were photographs of murders and rapes. You’ve failed to substantiate it. Thanks for withdrawing your claim.

          • Lyle Smith April 19, 2011 / 7:10 am


            There’s no need to use hyperbole when you can just write that the Federal army and navy shelled parts of Charleston. There wasn’t a carpet bombing of Charleston though You undermine your own point by exaggerating it. There’s no need for it.

          • Pat Hines April 19, 2011 / 8:35 am

            Charleston was subjected to carpet bombardment with both incendiary and explosive shells. This was to punish the residents of the city.

            “Gilmore determined to bombard the city of Charleston. Under the existing rules of warfare, Charleston was a legitimate target. It was fortified. It contained weapons factories, and it was a port for blockade runners who carried contraband of war. But more importantly, Charleston was the symbol of rebellion. It was there that South Carolina became the first state to secede. The firing on Fort Sumter in 1861, which started the war, only increased the North’s belief that Charleston’s destruction seemed just retribution. (Wise 1994, p. 169).

            Using tremendous skills and ingenuity, Gilmore’s engineers constructed the “Marsh Battery” in the marsh between James Island and Morris Island. An 8-inch Parrott Rifle, nicknamed the “Swamp Angel,” was mounted in the battery, and began firing at the city at 1:30 AM, August 22, 1863. At a range of 7,900 yards, the gun was aimed by taking compass bearings off St. Michael’s church’s steeple. The first night, 10 incendiary and 6 explosive shells were fired into the city. The gun was not fired on the 23rd. On August 24, firing its 36th round the Swamp Angel burst. In its short life the Swamp Angel made artillery history it was the longest ranged artillery bombardment and it was the first time artillery had been aimed by compass bearing (Wise 1994, p. 172). The Swamp Angel was not replaced in the Marsh Battery, but after the fall of Fort Wagner and Fort Gregg Federal batteries located in and near Fort Gregg (renamed Fort Putnam) resumed fire on the city of Charleston, continuing until the city was evacuated. .”

          • James F. Epperson April 19, 2011 / 9:38 am

            In my opinion, 35 rounds is a pathetic “carpet bombing.” And I do note that your source concedes the point that the city was a legitimate target. “He who sows the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.” Or, less poetically, don’t start a war unless you are prepared for the consequences.

          • Pat Hines April 19, 2011 / 10:09 am

            There were tens of thousands of rounds fired into Charleston. Really, have you no shame at all, Mr. Epperson?

            My “source” was wikipedia, I merely posted that as a illustration that Charleston was a target for reasons that were not military. Naturally, you didn’t see that, you saw what you wanted to see.

            The fact that the Union Army and Navy bombarded Charleston indiscriminately is thoroughly documented in several references I’m posted or mentioned, that you’re attempting to rationalize this bombardment is, well, a reflection upon your morals.

            Really, the Union Army and Navy routinely committed war crimes against the southern people.

            The United States began the War Against Southern Freedom, committed most, if not all, of the war crimes, then occupied the Southern states for a reign of terror that lasted nearly 12 years post war.

            Nothing will change those facts. The attempts in this thread to deny these facts are both immoral and pathetic.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 1:32 pm

            So let me understand something, Mr. Hines. Finally you offer “evidence”; when someone speaks about the “evidence” you provided, you attack them for using the “evidence” that you yourself have brought to the table.

            All you’ve done is prove the argument posed by my post, for which I am very appreciative. Thank you for your contributions.

          • Lyle Smith April 19, 2011 / 7:50 pm


            Who has denied that Charleston was bombarded? We’re discussing your use of the term carpet bombing, not whether or not Charleston was shelled.

            Carpet bombing will never be the right word for what happened to parts of Charleston during the Civil War.

            Just keep using bombardment, cause that exactly what it was… a bombardment.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 7:54 pm

            “Under the existing rules of warfare, Charleston was a legitimate target. It was fortified. It contained weapons factories, and it was a port for blockade runners who carried contraband of war.”

            From your source, Mr. Hines.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 9:27 am

            I don’t think he understands your point, Lyle. He made the same error when it came to photographs he asserted existed documenting murder and rape. His overstatements made in passion make it easy to discredit him and are counterproductive to his argument. Apparently he does not understand this.

          • Lyle Smith April 19, 2011 / 7:57 pm

            Yes, perhaps… but I want to engage Mr. Hines and see if we come to an understanding on what exactly happened. If that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. No worries.

            I’m a Southerner too and I wouldn’t describe any Civil War artillery bombardment of a Southern town or city as a “carpet bombing”.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 8:03 pm

            My best wishes for success in your endeavor.

          • James F. Epperson April 20, 2011 / 4:30 am

            Mr. Smith, I have quite a bit of experience w/ Mr. Hines. He is not interested in engaging or coming to an understanding of anything. He wants to make his sweeping statements and have them taken seriously, flawed as they are. His actual knowledge of the Civil War is quite thin—He once asked me if the “Prize Cases” referred to the Alabama Claims Commission.

          • Lyle Smith April 20, 2011 / 5:30 pm

            Oh, I’m aware of the Sisyphean task of arguing with the obtuse. I’m not expecting a particularly fruitful ending to this discussion, but I might as well show him some respect and politefuly engage him. What else can you do?

  2. Steve Witmer April 16, 2011 / 10:33 pm

    I think at least some people who follow that line argument (that historians on the whole are biased, and only a courageous few – usually the ones that those people agree with – dare pursue the real truth) have a psychological need to feel that they are special. You see it with conspiracy theorists, cultists, UFOlogists, fringe political groups, etc. They believe themselves to be special because they believe they are one of a small handful of people possessed of “The Truth”, while “The Establishment” (representing the general consensus view on whatever the subject of scrutiny is) and its defenders range from being merely misguided and ignorant all the way up to deliberately deceptive, selfish and evil. These folks are hard to reach with facts because to challenge their view of things is to challenge their view of their self-worth – if they’re wrong, then they’re no longer the sole brave defender of The Truth battling against long odds to overturn the consensus view, they’re instead just another fringe crackpot with an agenda. It’s because of this that you can throw facts and logic at them and they appear utterly impervious to it, and they’ll still show up a month later on a newsgroup or blog blithely making the same assertions they’ve made half a dozen times before while handwaving away any evidence to the contrary.

    Aother type, of course, are the ones who ought to know better and possibly do, but find it fits their political ideological goals to try to pry and bludgeon history down paths that the facts don’t agree with. Of course, the two types aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. 🙂

  3. Michael in SC April 17, 2011 / 7:31 am

    Brookes, yes, of course, I used that image. I have a lot of respect for Dr. DiLorenzo. The attacks against him were relevant to my site’s subject.

    Steve, your line of reasoning reminds me of the “logic” of the USSR. Under that system, anyone who disagreed with the state was considered mentally disturbed for disputing the “proven accomplishments of communism.” Yuri Maltsev has spoken about this. He was an economic adviser at the end of the USSR but was unfortunately ignored in most areas. Anyhow, when you talk about the “psychological need” of those who dispute the Establishment’s line it sounds a lot to me like the sort of logic the commies used. In both instances, those who object to the regime’s official positions are attacked (notice your use of the term “fringe crackpot with an agenda” to insult those who disagree with you), rather than investigating the merits of the regime’s positions.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 17, 2011 / 8:37 am

      Michael–The irony inherent in your reply is that you commit the same sort of error in talking about “the regime’s official positions,” much like DiLorenzo talks about “court historians.” In the case of Lincoln, there is no “regime,” thus there cannot be “official positions,” and DiLorenzo’s charges about “court historians” and a “Lincoln cult” are simply bosh, as there is no “court.”

      I think the first task of a scholar is to find out what happened, and that’s not achieved by an effort to discredit other historians by making claims about their motivation or ideology. You need to counter their interpretations by showing them to be in error on the merits of the case. This blog contains several examples of DiLorenzo in error. We may argue as to why he makes these errors, or why he persists in making them after it’s been demonstrated that he’s in error, but that’s another matter.

      However, one can say (a) all historical scholarship is relative, a matter of opinion shaped primarily by identity and ideology, in which case one must include oneself, or (b) this other historian is in error and here’s a more accurate, more faithful to the evidence explanation of events and causation. People who believe (a) often hold themselves exempt from the operation of their own principle, thus in effect arguing (b) without assuming the responsibility to discredit or challenge the argument they reject on its merits.

  4. Harry Carpenter April 17, 2011 / 9:55 am

    Its Sunday, I do not care to waste my time bantering with Yankees,my only hope is that we regain our independence and can move forward in peace. The Northern folk may wish to join with us
    I say down with the empire and rejoice in the prospect of waking up to a new Dawn of Freedom.

  5. Robert M Iacomacci April 17, 2011 / 10:07 am

    First I would bring ones attention to the monument built in memory of A. Lincoln. It looks like a Greek Temple. In every American classroom up to about 20 years ago, a picture of the father of the Republic, George Washington, and then the “great emancipator” and “savior of the union” were in prominent places. We have always been taught to admire and almost revere Lincoln. On what merit I ask? Perhaps reading some of the communications from the war front from both Generals Sherman and Sheridan can shed light on the fact that Lincoln is not to be respected or admired. Keep in mind, I am from Connecticut. I would love to share those reports from the field where homes, farms and hospitals were torched and destroyed. Now, this is not revisionist history mind you, these are actual military documents. Lincoln applauded and encouraged this behavior. Now, the same government is attempting to displace a tyrant in Libya, who after all is doing the same thing Lincoln did. He is attempting to save his country. There is no distinction, there is no difference. Arguments to the opposite are polluted with bias unfortunately. No, Lincoln has no place in the halls of greatness. The South or New England in 1812 had and still have every right to withdraw their membership in a voluntary union. I mean Lincoln believed the union existed before the States. How utterly insane! The States were in existence while they were property of the British Crown. The Lincoln hyperbole is necessary to those that believe the union is a Country. A country does not geographically grow, unless its territory is conquered in battle or annexed. If a legislature of a State, elects to JOIN a Union, then that legislature defined itself as the governing body of a nation or country. Much like Italy Spain or France joining the European Union. No, the Lincoln issue is a sham in my estimation. I do however understand that people are patriotic and believe erroneously that the united States is a country, and therefore I applaud their sense of patriotism. However, I wish I could show them through history that the united States, as great as she is, is but a union of States.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 17, 2011 / 10:14 am

      “Now, the same government is attempting to displace a tyrant in Libya, who after all is doing the same thing Lincoln did. He is attempting to save his country. There is no distinction, there is no difference. Arguments to the opposite are polluted with bias unfortunately.”

      So, let me get this straight: Lincoln is both the creator of the American empire that seeks to impose its will on others at the point of a bloody bayonet AND he is just like the dictators who hold sway in the countries attacked by the evil empire? Talk about getting right with Lincoln!

      And, of course, arguments that agree with your point of view are free from bias, right?

    • James F. Epperson April 17, 2011 / 1:40 pm

      “I mean Lincoln believed the union existed before the States.”

      Actually, there is quite a lot of historical evidence to back up Lincoln’s claim. The states did not exist as such until victory over Great Britain, which was recognized by treaty in 1783. The notion of a union of the colonies goes back to at least 1754, and took serious form with the Continental Congress in 1774. So I think it is fair to say “the Union existed before the States.”

      • Pat Hines April 17, 2011 / 6:57 pm

        Actually, even asserting that the Union existed before the states is an absurdity.

        There is no credible evidence of that whatsoever.

        • James F. Epperson April 18, 2011 / 4:33 am

          One could easily say that “the Union” dated from 1774, the convening of the First Continental Congress, whereas “the states” did not exist until 1783. So there is indeed credible evidence.

          • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 9:53 am

            Well, again Mr. Epperson, you’ve attempted to justify Lincoln’s nonsensical assertion.

            Sovereign states acting in concert with each other does not mean that they’re welded together in permanently binding contract.

            The states were sovereign in 1774, 1776, 1783, and in 1860. South Carolina acted entirely within the law when it seceded from the Union of states known as the United States which did not come into existence until the Constitution was ratified and the states seceded from the Articles of Confederation. That the states could choose to remain outside the Constitution Compact is illustrated by the fact that a number of them did so for some time after the first nine states left the confederation established by the Articles.

            Last, the power of secession was a power reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Secession was protected in writing, meaning that sovereignty was a recognized fact.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 10:23 am

            Let’s say for the sake of argument that the states were sovereign. Those sovereign states then committed to be part of a perpetual union under the Articles of Confederation. Are you saying that those folks did not know what the word “perpetual” meant?

          • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 10:33 am

            Well, Mr. Simpson, I think you’re example supports my statements of fact.

            It’s obvious to all who were involved at the time that there was no perpetual union because, eventually, they all seceded from the government formed by the Articles of Confederation.

            I believe Madison wrote a fairly sheepish essay or letter to speak to that, and to the idea that there was no real perpetualness to either agreement. How could there be such an entity for sovereign states that seceded individually from Great Britain? Need I add that “perpetual” was intentionally left out of the document that created the second government?

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 10:40 am

            So what you are saying is that the people who agreed to the Articles of Confederation took no stock in the wording of the document. In other words, did the framers of that document (and of the one that followed it) have a rather casual attitude toward words?

            Could you show me the use of the word “secession” to describe the constitutional revolution of 1787?

          • James F. Epperson April 18, 2011 / 10:45 am

            We might also ask Mr. Hines if he is aware of Madison’s comments on secession from 1836?

          • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 7:34 pm

            How is what Madison said about secession in the year he died relevant?

          • James F. Epperson April 20, 2011 / 2:56 pm

            Madison’s comments are relevant because he said secession was unconstitutional.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 5:26 pm

            “Last, the power of secession was a power reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Secession was protected in writing, meaning that sovereignty was a recognized fact.”

            Well, hard to protect something in writing when it’s not mentioned. However, since I’m sure you believe that you use words carefully, note you write of a “power” of secession, not a “right.” Indeed, you use “power” twice, so it can’t be an accident.

          • David Rhoads April 18, 2011 / 6:20 pm

            How would Mr. Hines characterize Articles IV and VI of the Constitution if, indeed, it was the intent of the founders that the individual States would retain their “sovereignty”–another word, by the way, that does not appear in the text of the Constitution–vis-a-vis the Federal government?

          • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 7:36 pm

            Governments don’t have rights, they have powers granted to them by individuals.

            So, no, my use of “powers” is entirely intentional.

            However, I’m also aware that the word “right” or “rights” was frequently used in lieu of “power” or “powers”.

            That changes nothing. Do I need to post the Tenth Amendment for you?

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 8:30 pm

            The authors of the Articles of Confederation would disagree with you:

            “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

            You do know that the framers of the Tenth Amendment drew upon that clause, right?

            So now you are admitting that there’s no such thing as state rights or a right of secession. Rather, they are “powers,” correct? And everyone else has been wrong? Right?

          • Pat Hines April 19, 2011 / 5:49 am

            Well, no Mr. Simpson, I’m not saying everyone else is wrong, only that the usage of the word “right” in that context means that it’s a power of government.

            A right, such as the right to self defense, and other rights are intrinsic to HUMAN existence, while powers, rights of the state, are granted or delegated to the state. States don’t exist without a delegation of power to them by individuals. Whereas individuals have rights without the state.

      • chris April 18, 2011 / 5:18 pm

        Since 1643 some colonies, united or formed associations from time to time for specific puposes but these associations were temporary and none of them were national in character, formed any kind of government, or claimed any authority. Other than their common allegience to the crown the colonies had no direct political connection with each other until the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation which states “each state retains it sovereignty, freedom, and independence”. How can you retain something you didn’t have in the first place. So I would say no, there is no evidence that the “union” is older than the States.

        • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 8:33 pm

          “Other than their common allegience to the crown the colonies had no direct political connection with each other until the Articles of Confederation.”

          Oh? And what would you call the First and Second Continental Congresses, or the Continental Army, or the diplomatic representatives sent forth by the Continental Congresses? An indirect political connection?

          • Pat Hines April 19, 2011 / 5:50 am

            It was a delegation of power by the sovereign states. The “Union” was created by the US Constitution, it did not exist until nine states ratified said Constitution.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 6:52 am

            And yet you admitted that the Articles of Confederation also created said Union.

            You might want to advance a consistent argument.

          • Pat Hines April 19, 2011 / 10:17 am

            Er, well, no, I never admitted or asserted any such thing, Mr. Simpson.

            The Articles of Confederation created a government, a different government than that created by the Constitution. The Union did not exist when the states were not granting power to either government.

            Further, no power retained by the states need be listed in the US Constitution, as the Tenth Amendment states, the states retain ALL powers not delegated by the states to the US government.

            Perhaps your understanding of how the Constitution functions is your problem? Do you need additional information on the Constitutional envelope?

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 1:39 pm

            Ah, so there was no United States at the time of the adoption of the Articles of Confederation? Or, to be more precise, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union?

            Since you like Wikipedia so much, perhaps you are the person who needs to do a little reading:


            There’ you will find what they agreed to call the new union … the United States of America.

            Seems they thought the Union existed. What you think really doesn’t matter. Given that, I don’t think I need to turn to you to learn about the Constitution, as you’ve been a fount of misinformation when you’ve had to give it. There’s also that list of questions you haven’t answered.

            Never mind. Thanks for your contributions. They’ve been very helpful.

          • Pat Hines April 19, 2011 / 2:20 pm

            Simpson: Ah, so there was no United States at the time of the adoption of the Articles of Confederation? Or, to be more precise, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union?

            Pat Hines: That’s correct, Mr. Simpson. There was no united state’s government until the Articles of Confederation created one.

            Simpson: Since you like Wikipedia so much, perhaps you are the person who needs to do a little reading:


            There’ you will find what they agreed to call the new union … the United States of America.

            Pat Hines: Yes, Mr. Simpson, that’s what they called the new government, it is in fact written in the Articles of Confederation.

            Simpson: Seems they thought the Union existed. What you think really doesn’t matter. Given that, I don’t think I need to turn to you to learn about the Constitution, as you’ve been a fount of misinformation when you’ve had to give it. There’s also that list of questions you haven’t answered.

            Never mind. Thanks for your contributions. They’ve been very helpful.

            Pat Hines: Well, Mr. Simpson, I’m sure they thought there was a Union of the sovereign states after they created that union. Really, did you think that their words at the time meant something else?

            Still, neither you nor anyone else has proven that there was a unitary state called “the union” prior to one created by the states as their agent. Both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution were creations of the states for their benefit.

            I’m somewhat astonished that there are some that don’t know these facts. What is your claim to knowledge here, professor, college student, other?

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 2:36 pm

            Since checking the “About” tab at the top of the blog seems to be too difficult for you, I suggest you use Wikipedia for the answer to your final question.

            Nice try, Mr. Hines. And thanks for sharing your opinion on these issues. You’ll understand that I won’t accept them as necessarily matters of undisputed fact after you assured us that there were photographs of murder and rape, then you failed to produced them, after which you finally backed down.

  6. Michael in SC April 17, 2011 / 3:34 pm

    Brooks, you claim there is no regime but there certainly is. The US gov’t is the most powerful empire in world history. And it does not permit self-determination despite the Jeffersonian principle of such laid out in the Declaration of Independence – which the US regime claims as one of its founding documents. The Feds operate 1,000 foreign military bases and interfere in the internal affairs of nearly every country on this planet. They kill people on the other side of the world on a daily basis – people who pose zero threat to us. I for one reject the US regime. It’s certainly a creature that Lincoln built. Many statist historians point to Lincoln as the real father of the American state. I think that’s accurate. The Jeffersonian republic that existed prior to Abe’s regime is long gone. It died when Abe invaded Virginia in 1861. That was the death of the voluntary Union. What we have now is an empire – one that I reject and hope to see crumble before my life is over. I think the various peoples of North America and the world would be far better off without the bureaucratic ghetto on the Potomac running everyone’s affairs.

    James, I would invite you to check out the Principles of ’98. Thomas Jefferson certainly didn’t believe that the Union existed before the sovereign States. The States individually seceded from the British Empire and were recognised as independent States. They formed a confederation (which Vermont didn’t join for some time, continuing to guard its full sovereignty) and later scrapped that confederation and formed a federal union. Later the Southern States seceded and old Abe treated them no better than the British King had back in the 1770s. In fact, the British were more civilised, I would say than the Lincoln regime.

  7. James F. Epperson April 17, 2011 / 6:08 pm

    Michael, you apparently inhabit some alternate reality. In my world, the colonies rebelled against the Crown via a jointly issued declaration, not as individual entities. And the Confederacy was much more a centralized, tyrannical polity than Lincoln’s government was. And I am quite familiar with the Resolutions of 1798, including Madison’s later comments upon them.

  8. Michael in SC April 17, 2011 / 7:36 pm

    James, the Colonies individually declared independence from the UK. SC did so before July 4th, for example, and had a president, congress and military. After the war was over the UK recognised the States each as individual soveriegn states.

    As for your comment on the CSA, I would actually agree with you to some degree that it was too centralised. I think had we won our right to self-determination from Lincoln’s regime things would have gotten back to a much more decentralised confederation very quickly. If the CSA had not eliminated some of its laws on imports, for example, I would have hoped SC would have seceded from it and just remained an independent republic. We would still have been culturally Southern, but without Richmond or anyone else telling us what to do and taxing us. I doubt this would have been necessary though. The Southern people have always traditionally favoured a very weak central gov’t with lots of local autonomy. I would disagree with you that the CSA was a “tyrannical polity” though. Sure, there were big problems with it, but not nearly as big as with Lincoln’s regime, which grew into the US Empire we are plagued with today. I’m quite sure if Jefferson were alive today to witness the awful state of the US he would be a hard-core secessionist (his Declaration of Independence was surely the great ordinance of secession ever written). In fact, there is far more reason to secede from the US today that there was to secede from the UK back in 1776. Washington is far more tryannical now than London was then.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 17, 2011 / 9:15 pm

      “The Southern people have always traditionally favoured a very weak central gov’t with lots of local autonomy.”

      Surely the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 argues otherwise.

    • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 9:55 am

      Well said, Michael. Your comments in this thread have proved that you’re well educated on the facts of our Southern nation.

      Sad, how many Lincoln cultists are here.

      • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 10:11 am

        Here we go again: someone’s claiming that they are dispassionately objective while claiming that those with whom they disagree are biased prisoners of some “cult.”

        Thanks for again illustrating the argument advanced in the original post.

  9. Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 10:20 am

    Well, Mr. Simpson, the Lincoln Cultists here have made no argument that is supported by facts.

    What they consider to be facts are simply opinions made from baseless assertions by Lincoln and his associates at the time. The Union pre-dating the states for example.

    No Lincoln Cultist position can withstand actual facts. Certainly, I’ve seen that well and truly illustrated here.

    • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 10:37 am

      The problem with your commentary is that your own claims can be turned upon you with at least equal justice. You don’t seem to be bringing facts to the table.

      The whole construct of “Lincoln Cultist” is a mindless construct crafted by folks who substitute name-calling for fact. Historians so labelled often disagree rather seriously with each other on a number of matters, as one would know from comparing Allen Guelzo with Eric Foner.

      The exchange simply illustrates the argument advanced in the post, and so I find your replies most welcome, even gratifying.

      • James F. Epperson April 18, 2011 / 10:41 am

        Let me address some of Mr. Hines’s concerns. I have posted a link to a website that is critical of DiLorenzo’s work. Mr. Hines has dismissed this, which is certainly his right. What he has not done is pointed out any errors in the presentation on that website.

        • Pat Hines April 18, 2011 / 7:41 pm

          I would view that with the same reaction if you had posted a link to Storm Front.

          Or produced a web site in support of Michael Bellesiles book claiming that there were virtually no guns in America in 1800.

          • Brooks D. Simpson April 18, 2011 / 8:36 pm

            In short, Mr. Hines, you can’t counter Mr. Epperson’s website on the merits of its content, although you seem to be familiar with Storm Front. Why is that?

            As for DiLorenzo’s “impeccable” scholarship, I point you here.

  10. Pat Hines April 19, 2011 / 3:54 pm

    Another voice heard from on this subject.

    Matt Yglesias:
    [b]Why Did The Union Fight?

    I’ve always thought there was something about the Lincoln administration’s determination to fight and win the Civil War that was a bit odd. Secession gave the regionally based Republican Party large congressional majorities that wouldn’t exist if southern states had representation in congress. What’s more, the Republican Party’s controversial policy objective of banning slavery from the western territories could have been easily achieved by the much more modest policy of simply ensuring military control over the territories. Some fighting in border states such as Maryland, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky is easy to understand but why try to reconquer the Deep South?

    In an interesting new paper (PDF), Zachary Liskow suggests economic motives were at the root:

    Specifically, using voting patterns as representations of the Northern population’s preferences, this paper tests empirically whether the economic motivations of its manufacturing interests might have been important components of Northerners’ support of the decision to fight. The hypothesis that the North had economic motivations for keeping the South in the Union yields a specific prediction: counties with relatively large amounts of these manufacturing interests should shift their votes from Democrats to Republicans between 1860 and 1864. The reason is the following: the best way to keep the South in the Union before the Civil War was to vote for the Democrats, reducing the likelihood of secession by voting for the party more accommodating to Southern slavery interests. However, the best way to keep the South in the Union during the war was to vote for the Republicans, who were more likely to pursue the war until victory was achieved.

    Using county-level census data and voting data from the 1860 and 1864 presidential elections, I find that there is a significant shift toward the Republicans associated with manufacturing employment. This shift toward the Republicans associated with manufacturing together amounts to 2.25% of voters in Northern states; that is, taking the results literally suggests that 2.25% of Northern voters shifted their votes to the Republicans out of a desire to protect their manufacturing interests by keeping the South in the Union.

    The basic story here would be something like northern manufacturing interests wanted to keep the southern client base behind the US tariff wall in order to maintain privileged access to the market rather than compete on a level playing field with British goods.



    • Brooks D. Simpson April 19, 2011 / 5:01 pm

      There are three problems which appear right at the beginning of this analysis. First is the effort to compare two very different presidential elections: one before the war and one during the war. Not only were the issues significantly different, but so were the parties during those two elections (including the number of parties). Second, a better analysis would have also factored in off year congressional elections and run the series from 1856 to 1866. Tariffs became a more important issue in 1858 than they were in 1856, then lessened after 1860 (and the Republican party itself soon separated into high and low tariff sections, something evident by 1868). So it would be a mistake to equate high tariffs with the Republican party in terms of voting behavior (as well as policy, as one sees in the late 1860s). Finally, the increase in Republican vote could be explained in many ways (including the soldier vote), and to make an argument based upon a simple correlation (and correlation in itself is not causation, as most folks know) suggests something’s wrong here. Given the swing, moreover, it would have to be workers who wanted higher tariffs: there simply were not enough business owners to explain that degree of change. You would also have to look at the type of manufacturing involved (not all businesses wanted tariffs). So the paper offers a rather simple approach based upon some assumptions that are open to question.

  11. Ray O'Hara April 19, 2011 / 6:53 pm

    The 10 Amendment says nothing,

    the Union can be said to exist from the creation of the Articles of Confederation in Nov 1777, that’s when a codified national government came into being.

    as for ideology, there are so many factions, some almost allies.
    there are the Lost Causers and the Libertarians, and they agree on some things like Lincoln the tyrant, Yankee aggression etc etc. but they have a fundamental difference in their reason. the L.C.ers want to whitewash slavery so as to rehab the reputations of their Gr-gr-gr-gr-grandpappy and their home state. while the Libertarian wants to ignore slavery to demonize the federal govt for a modern political agenda and they care little for ancestors or South Carolina’s place in history..

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