The Washington Post’s “A House Divided”

Most people hold The Washington Post in fairly high regard as a newspaper.  I’ve known people who swore that if was printed in the Post, it must be true, and who took me all over Pennsylvania in search of a fugitive copy (why home delivery was not an option I do not know).

I’ve found the Post’s coverage of matters related to news about the Civil War to be spotty.  For example, for a paper with a reputation for investigative reporting, I found the paper’s coverage of the case of the National Archives’s announcement that Thomas P. Lowry had deliberately altered the date on a Lincoln document something of an embarrassment after a strong start, as the reporters involved simply failed to follow up on several important questions that remain.  Perhaps that’s the product of a limited attention span: in any case, I don’t think we’ll see a sequel to All the President’s Men.

The Post is also proud to host a collective blog in which a panel of experts responds to various questions (and then go away).  The blog is called “A House Divided,” although early on there was quite a debate on the representations of the flags in the blog’s banner.  Otherwise, while different folks offer different opinions, there’s little sense of engagement in the blog.  Thus one can say what one wants to say and rest assured that they won’t be held accountable for it.

This brings us to Andy Hall’s recent commentary about a blog entry prepared by Brag Bowling, director of the Stephen D. Lee Institute and past Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Sons of Confederate Veterans and past President of the Richmond Civil War Roundtable.  Here’s some of what Mr. Bowling has to say:

The word “secession” was originally coined in July, 1787, during the Constitutional Convention. From that time on, a large and influential body of opinion in every part of the country considered secession an inalienable right of any state. Nearly all politicians supported the concept.

Lincoln had made his choice to fight. There had been no casualties at Ft. Sumter. Things might still have been worked out peacefully. One must wonder if Lincoln had met with the peace negotiators and tried to negotiate the contentious issues dividing the country such as slavery and tariffs rather than by using coercion and military force, that the ensuing fratricidal war might have been avoided. It must be noted that Lincoln was still willing to legally permit slavery to exist even several years into the war. The war rightfully should be laid at Lincoln’s feet. Lincoln’s premeditated bad choice set in motion a series of events which would lead to the death of 600,000 American citizens and the total devastation of the South for over 100 years. As Lincoln himself said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether”.

Some of this is a matter of opinion, open to argument.  However, the statement about the widespread acceptability of secession is simply fiction.  But the real key here is that while the Post has a comments section, it really doesn’t review what’s out there, and the bloggers don’t engage each other.  So what’s the use of the blog, other than to give bloggers a little stature (and income) and the Post to pretend it’s engaged in the work of education?