What They Think We Think Tells Us About What They Think

Have you ever noticed that people spend a long time constructing rather impressive and detailed explanations about what other people think, and then use that construction to justify themselves (or to attack someone else)?  It’s a very good way for some people to engage in a discussion by assaulting the other guy or to preen about their implied superiority.  It also substitutes a discussion of assumed (and sometimes simply invented) motives for evaluating evidence at face value.

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Research Exercise: Did Grant Say This? (part four)

(link to part three)

Having established that much about the story in question in fact rings true, we now come to Grant’s own expressions at the time.  People like to quote Grant’s April correspondence, but we need not do that, because Grant wrote three letters during this period in which he described the situation to family members: a letter to his wife, Julia, dated July 19, 1861, the day he was ordered to move to Mexico; a second letter to Julia from Mexico dated August 3, 1861; and a letter from Mexico to his father Jesse Root Grant, also dated August 3, 1861.

Note what he wrote to Julia on July 19: Continue reading

Research Exercise: Did Grant Say This? (part two)

(link to part one)

Let’s look at the quote itself first.

“Sir,” said Grant, “I have no doubt in the world that the sole object is the restoration of the Union. I will say further, though, that I am a Democrat—every man in my regiment is a Democrat—and whenever I shall be convinced that this war has for its object anything else than what I have mentioned, or that the Government designs using its soldiers to execute the purposes of the abolitionists, I pledge you my honor as a man and a soldier that I will not only resign my commission, but will carry my sword to the other side, and cast my lot with that people.”

First, was Grant a Democrat in 1861?  Continue reading

Research Exercise: Did Grant Say This? (part one)

Over the last week or so a quote often attributed to Ulysses S. Grant has made the rounds again, from the comment space at Civil War Memory to Bob Pollock’s Yesterday … and Today blog.  Here’s the quote:

“Sir,” said Grant, “I have no doubt in the world that the sole object is the restoration of the Union. I will say further, though, that I am a Democrat—every man in my regiment is a Democrat—and whenever I shall be convinced that this war has for its object anything else than what I have mentioned, or that the Government designs using its soldiers to execute the purposes of the abolitionists, I pledge you my honor as a man and a soldier that I will not only resign my commission, but will carry my sword to the other side, and cast my lot with that people.”

On Civil War Memory, Andy Hall pointed out what was long ago known to people who chatted about this quote on various internet groups … that the source of the quote was a Democratic Party handbook from the 1868 election (click the page number, 33, to see the full excerpt).  Bob Pollock then offered some quotes from Grant’s correspondence at the time that suggested that Grant held different views.

My own take on this is that the quote rings false.  However, I am curious as to its origins, and I think the matter deserves further research.  And what does that research show us?

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More from Helga Ross on Slavery … Really

From the gift that keeps on giving, again:

darkmoon“:  “But I think your on to something, a solution to racism, benevolent slavery…”

Ms. Ross:  “I think the record will show that used to be the solution.”

I’m not sure exactly what the record will show in the American case, other than slavery finally perished in the United States as the result of a bloody war, a war where Confederates fought for independence so they could protect a way of life and a social order based upon the enslavement of African Americans.

There were in fact various proposals offered in the 1850s to “reform” slavery and a slaveholding society.  One such proposal was offered by several white southerners: reopening the international slave trade, thus increasing the supply of slaves, lowering their price, and thus allowing more whites to buy into the system .. a stimulus package for slaveholders, if you will.  Those who opposed this idea included white Virginians who did not want to see any downturn in the price of one of the Old Dominion’s most valuable exports … enslaved human beings (I don’t see that proud Virginian, Eddie Inman, boasting about that in cwh2, although he’s ranting all over the place when it comes to slavery, race, and related issues, always finger-pointing).  And yes, there were proposals to reform the practices of slavery, offered in response to criticism of the conditions of slavery and the experiences of slaves as offered in such places as the pages of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Among the leading proponents of this approach: William T. Sherman, who shared his views on the matter with white Louisianans when he worked in the Bayou State as a superintendent of a military academy that someday would be known as Louisiana State University.

Clearly Helga Ross and William T. Sherman seem to be on the same page.  Who woulda thunk it?

However, Sherman’s racism ran deep, and he saw reform in slaveholding practices as a way to counter abolitionist criticisms.  Given Ms. Ross’s disparagement of what she has called antislavery cliches, perhaps that’s her primary concern as well.  She remains the best authority on how she sees benevolent slavery as a way to counter racism.  You can always join “civilwarhistory2” and find out.