A Question of Accountability

Many of you will recall last year’s controversy about a Virginia history textbook that was found to contain several serious inaccurate statements.  The publisher, Five Ponds Press (a Connecticut firm), has learned from the affair: it will no longer submit its proposed science texts for review by the Virginia board of education, although it claims that its books meet state standards.  Instead, it will market its books directly to districts.  Perhaps the publisher’s best chance for adoption lies in the fact that its product is less expensive than the product provided by the competition.

To which I say: remember the Yugo.  In this case, you get what you pay for.  Clearly this is a case where a publisher is afraid to stand by its product or subject its own claims to external inspection.

17 thoughts on “A Question of Accountability

  1. Noma December 21, 2011 / 12:17 pm

    My friend, Thomas Nephew (a moderator for the Yankee Heritage facebook page) developed a list of criteria which can be used as warning signs for sub-standard history textbooks:


    Identify textbooks that may have problems. Look for problems in your child’s or teenager’s history textbook (or one used in your community school system). There are a number of common “Lost Cause,” Confederate apologist myths and signals. Some are listed below in the form of questions; for some questions, brief myth discussions and rebuttals are available via trailing “*” links.

    1. Does the textbook claim or imply black Americans were usually contented, faithful slaves before the Civil War? *
    2. Does it deny that slavery was the fundamental cause of the Civil War? **
    3. Does it criticize abolitionism?
    4. Does it claim or imply that Confederate soldiers fought for a noble cause in the Civil War? *
    5. Does it claim or imply black Americans took up weapons for**** the Confederacy in the Civil War? **
    6. Does it claim or imply the North subjected the South to military rule after the Civil War? *
    7. Does it claim or imply Reconstruction was a conspiracy between Yankees and blacks to oppress Southern whites? *
    8. Does it claim or imply that the Reconstruction era Ku Klux Klan (and similar groups: White Line, Order of the White Camelia) was merely a fringe group in the South? *
    9. Does it claim or imply that Reconstruction-era black legislators in the South were usually corrupt, incompetent, or both? *
    10. Does it cite Confederate heritage groups per se as reliable sources in the book? Does the book consistently use Confederate apologist code language like “War of Northern Aggression,” or “War between the States”?


    • BorderRuffian December 21, 2011 / 3:51 pm

      “My friend, Thomas Nephew (a moderator for the Yankee Heritage facebook page) developed a list of criteria which can be used as warning signs for sub-standard history textbooks:…”

      Wow…and y’all complain about Mildred Lewis Rutherford.

      • Brooks D. Simpson December 22, 2011 / 8:16 am

        And you don’t. So you have no reason to complain when someone else does the same thing.

  2. wgdavis December 21, 2011 / 2:08 pm

    I had US History II text book once that blamed the US role in the SS St. Louis Affair [Voyage of the Damned] who blamed the denial of entry of Jewish Refugees from Germany in 1939 on a low ranking member of the State Department, which I found to be wholly lacking in credibility. It seems that there are records of Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau being explicitly involved in an effort to get Cuba to accept the refugees prior to their attempt to enter the US.

    Minor diplomatic officials do not handle things on their own hook when stationed at home in DC.

    After checking the author’s credentials, I discovered he was about to produce a biography of FDR.

    It seems some authors are willing to distort things in one book to protect their own interests stemming from another.

    It is reprehensible that the publisher noted in the blog post is doing an end run. Would not that be barred from happening? Or are Virginia school districts allowed to overrule the State board of standards.?

    • Aaron Kidd December 21, 2011 / 2:33 pm

      Speaking of inaccuracies…the name “Civil War.” It wasn’t a civil war because the Southrons and Yankees weren’t fighting for control of the US government. Furthermore in 1922 president Harding declared that the War be named the War Between the States. So why is it that the conflict is called the wrong name?

      • Brooks D. Simpson December 21, 2011 / 2:38 pm

        Nice to see you back, Aaron. Would you be so kind as to show us your documentation for President’s Harding’s declaration? Thank you.

      • Bob Huddleston December 21, 2011 / 4:01 pm

        The “Late Unpleasantness” (Ben Butler’s satiric name) in North America between 1861 and 1865 has had a multitude of names. The most common has been “The Civil War,” but increasingly towards the end of the Nineteenth Century white Southerners fought for “The War Between the States.” They have even gone so far as to claim that Congress at some indeterminate date approved “The War Between the States” as the official name.

        “WBTS” was a post-war creation of Alec Stephens, sometime vice-president of the Confederate States of America, and the author of the famous “Cornerstone Speech.” But that had been 1861. By the time he sat down to write his memoirs, he had come to realize that the PC of 1861 was no longer tenable – 750,000 dead Americans, killed in attempting to protect slavery, was not defensible, So Stephens invented a “cause” of a war between states, defending their Constitutional rights, and titled it _A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States: Its Causes, Character, and Results _, published in 1868-1870

        Congress has never passed a law specifically naming the War, but periodically efforts have been made by white Southern heritage organizations to get them to do so.

        It is curious that writers in footnotes and even publishers have responded to these Southern efforts by renaming books they reprint or note. Originally the United States government named its 128 volume work _War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies _. The earliest footnotes refer to it properly as “War of the Rebellion” and abbreviated that to “WR,” the common historical practice. But sometime in the 1880’s, “WR” came to mean “War Records” rather than “War of the Rebellion.” In the Twentieth Century historians changed even that to “OR” for “Official Records.” This renaming ranks as among the greatest triumphs of the Lost Cause; frankly I can not think of another historical work which is routinely mistitled in footnotes.

        This has been carried to its logical conclusion by the CD-Rom publisher, H-Bar, who named their CD-ROM version simply “Official Records.” Perhaps H-Bar’s original location in Alabama explains this mutilation of the title! H-Bar’s sins went much further than this: on their faux title page for each volume of the OR they put the correct full title of the series, followed by the sub-title: “or, in truth, the War of Northern Aggression.” Thankfully, the other two CD publishers, one Northern and the other Southern, gave their versions the proper title! North Carolina-based Broadfoot has also done historians a great service by reprinting the multi-volume _Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion _, but they renamed it _Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War _! If you want to read about the history of the ORs, you should get a copy of Aimones’ _ User’s Guide to the Official Records of the Civil War _ and see also the short history by Richard McMurry, “The Official Records of the Rebellion” in Clyde N. Wilson, (editor), _American Historians, 1866-1912 (Dictionary of Literary Biography Ser. _, Vol. 47),

        So, what should the war be called? In the early twentieth century, the War Department employed a senior clerk named Frech. In the pre-computer days, keeping track of commonly needed information was a difficult task and Mr. Frech was the one the War Department turned to. He gathered newspaper clippings and articles and copies of letters sent into subject boxes and neatly filed them away. Searching the Frech File, housed now in the National Archives, one can find when the Civil War officially started (April 12, 1861) and officially ended (April 9, 1865 – fighting that went on until June in the West was evidently ignored), who received medals of honor, and who was the last volunteer soldier mustered out at the end of the war, and when was he discharged (surprisingly late).

        And what was the name of the War.

        In looking over the records, Frech determined that the United States had never officially endorsed any name for the fighting. He also collected newspaper articles reporting on successful efforts of the conventions of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to make Southern schools only adopt textbooks which called the fighting “The War Between the States” and their equally successful lobbying of the Daughters of the American Revolution to pass a resolution asking Congress to call it the War Between the States.

        Frech gathered copies of debates for the Congressional Record where congressmen and senators would get into arguments about what to call the fighting. Usually the debating started innocently enough with a bill being reported out of committee referring to “War of the Rebellion.” Southerners (often ex-Confederate soldiers) would jump in demanding that verbiage be changed to War Between the States and there would be counter attacks by Northern congressmen and senators (equally often ex-Union soldiers) claiming that it was a Rebellion! Compromise was usually reached by agreeing to substitute “Civil War” for any other name.

        Mr. Frech also noted that a number of Federal laws, relating to pensions and other military matters specifically mentioned the “War of the Rebellion” and “rebellion” was enshrined in 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution where political and military liabilities on former members who served was enshrined, as well as prohibitions on any states assuming any debts incurred during, the insurrection or rebellion.

        With Mr. Frech’s guidance, the adjutant general, Gen. Fred Ainsworth, decided in 1902, to establish, for the War Department at least, that, except in cases specifically mandated by law, the War Department would use the term “Confederate” in lieu of “Rebel” and “Civil War” in place of Rebellion or War Between the States.

        Oh, that last soldier: check your copy of WR, opps!, OR, series III, vol. 5 (serial 126), page 1047 for the footnote.

        The only source I have ever seen cited for the proposition that Congress has officially approved of “The War Between the States” is Senate Joint Resolution 41, which may be found in volume 69 of the Congressional Record, at page 3949. It reads as follows:

        That the Comptroller General of the United States is authorized and directed to reopen, restate, and resettle the account of the State of Nevada for moneys advanced and expended in aid of the Government of the United States during the War between the States, and on such restatement and resettlement (1) to assume the balance due the State of Nevada on January 1, 1900, as being correctly stated in the account set forth in the reports of the Secretary of the Treasury printed in House Document No. 322 and Senate Document No. 441, Fifty-sixth Congress, first session; (2) to add to such balance the interest certified by the Governor and the Comptroller of the State of Nevada as actually paid by said State from January 1, 1900, to the date of the approval of this joint resolution, in the principal sums so advanced and expended; and (3) after deducting the amounts repaid by the United States to the State of Nevada since January 1, 1900, to certify to Congress for an appropriation the balance found due the State of Nevada.
        *End SJR 41*

        As you can see, this subject matter of this resolution has nothing to do with declaring an official name for the Civil War, it merely uses the term in passing. It is noteworthy that this same volume of the Congressional Record contains a great many references to “The Civil War”.

        The Library of Congress has decided that the approved subject heading is “United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865.” Of course this is not a legislative pronouncement, but merely recognition of the standard practice. It might be noted that the Kennedy Brothers’ tirade against the Modern World has Library of Congress cataloging information on the reverse of the title page. They have their book’s subject headed as “The War Between the States.” Unfortunately for their efforts, under “War Between the States” the Library of Congress refers the searcher to “Civil War”!

        While searching for information on the alleged “naming” of the War in the 1920s, it occurred to me that there was a time when Congress might have actually named the Late Unpleasantness: the Centennial of the nineteen sixties.

        A quick check in the Government Publications turned up the final report of the CIVIL WAR Centennial Commission to the Congress in 1968. That solved the first question: given the opportunity, Congress had agreed to, and the President signed off on, legislation creating not a “WBTS Centennial” but rather a “CW Centennial.” The report provided the citation of the law creating the CW Centennial Commission: Public Law 85-305 in 1957.

        Right in the middle of the early days of the Civil Rights struggle. Hmm. Wonder what alternative names were suggested?

        Public Law 85-305 did not help: “Joint Resolution To Establish a commission to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the Civil War and for other purposes” started as House Joint Resolution 253 and was signed by President Eisenhower on September 7, 1957.

        The preamble is direct:

        “Public Law 85-3O5
        “To establish a commission to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the Civil War, and for other purposes.

        “Whereas the years 1961-1965 will mark the centennial of the American Civil War, the supreme experience in our history as a nation; and
        “Whereas the sacrifice of our people in that great ordeal was severe in all sections of the land: and
        “Whereas the far-reaching events of the Civil War established that the United States would remain permanently one nation; and
        “Whereas the Civil War, the greatest internal crisis through which this Nation passed, forged the unity of this country and the sons of both North and South have subsequently fought side by side for human freedom, justice, and the dignity of the individual among people everywhere; and
        “Whereas the development and preservation of the national military and battlefield parks contemplates acquisition of the necessary lands to assure perpetual preservation of these great battlefields and the furnishing of improvements to assure proper and adequate visitor understanding and use of these American fields of valor and sacrifice;
        “Whereas it is incumbent upon us as a nation to provide for the proper observances of the centennial years of this great and continuing force in our history: Therefore be it

        “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American on Congress assembled, That (a) in order to provide for appropriate and nationwide observances and the coordination of the ceremonies, there is hereby established a commission to be known as the Civil War Centennial Commission …” (71 Stat 626)

        No where in the law is there any mention of any other name except for “Civil War.”

        Further HJR 253 passed Congress unanimously (_Congressional Record_, 85 Cong., 1 Sess., vol. 103, part 11, pp. 15185-15186)

        Well, I wondered, was there another proposed law which Congress had changed or failed to pass, one which wanted to create a “WBTS Centennial Commission”?

        As it turned out there were not one but seven laws proposed to the 1st Session of the 85th Congress to establish a Centennial Commission: two in the Senate and five in the House.

        And every single one of them wanted a CIVIL WAR Centennial Commission!

        Ah, but you say, they were all Yankees wanting to gloat over their victories.

        Let’s look at the seven and their sponsors and see:

        SR 46, Sen. Bricker, Ohio; Robertson, Virginia; Martin, Pennsylvania and Thurmond, South Carolina
        SR 83, Sen. Saltonstall, Massachusetts; Eastland, Mississippi; and Goldwater, Arizona

        HR 180, Mr. Smith, Mississippi
        HR 252, Mr. Smith, Kansas
        HJR 253 (the one that passed), Mr. Tuck, Virginia
        HR 286, Mr Andrews, Alabama
        HR 291, Mr. Landrum, Georgia.

        Seven from Confederate states, four from Union states and one from the West.

        In addition, that final report of the Civil War Centennial Commission has a seven page bibliography of the books and pamphlets published by either the national commission or the commissions of separate states. Out of about 250 titles, all used “Civil War” with five exceptions: The Fairfax County (VA) Civil War Centennial Commission published a handbook _Fairfax County in the WBTS_; the Georgia Civil War Centennial Commission published one titled, _The Civil War Centennial … to Commemorate the WBTS_; the Mississippi Commission on the WBTS, _Mississippi in the WBTS_; the North Carolina Confederate Commission produced five booklets but did not include a war name in any of the titles – and the Maine Civil War Centennial Commission published _Maine in the War of the Rebellion_! There are two titles which appear to have been produced in South Carolina about South Carolina. Their author is listed as “South Carolina Confederate War Centennial Commission”! Which proves that political correctness is not new.

        Final note: I doubt that there has ever been a law saying that our War – or any war – will officially be called “XYZ War.” However, Congress and the President have, over the years, passed and approved legislation which referred to wars by specific and different names. It is not unlikely that at some time in the past legislation was passed mentioning the War of 1861-1865 as the “War Between the States.”

        That said, I am still waiting to find that law. In the meantime, routinely and continuously, the National Government has called the war, initially “The War of the Rebellion,” and, since the late Nineteenth Century, as the “Civil War.” And any one or two laws mentioning WBTS (or any other name) will be trumped with dozens of laws referring to The Civil War.

        • Carl Schenker December 21, 2011 / 8:26 pm

          Nice post, Bob.
          But how can the CW have ended on April 9, 1865, when (inter alia) Joe Johnston had not yet surrender his forces to WT Sherman?

          • Bob Huddleston December 21, 2011 / 9:04 pm

            :>) I guess Frech and Ainsworth were those effete Easterners who thought nothing happened west of the Blue Ridge!

            And I do hope Aaron finds the Warren Harding proclamation. I will be sure and add it to my list.

          • Brooks D. Simpson December 21, 2011 / 9:16 pm

            I think Aaron’s one of those hit and run posters who fails to answer questions or offer evidence in support of his claims.

        • Carl Schenker December 23, 2011 / 7:53 am

          Why isn’t Aug 25, 1865 a better date for the end of the war? The President apparently issued some sort of declaration that day.

          If memory serves, James McPherson ends “Battle Cry of Freedom” on April 9, with Lee’s surrender. That just doesn’t seem right to me with what happened in the next few weeks in particular — assassination of Lincoln, surrender of Johnston, etc.


          • Carl Schenker December 23, 2011 / 7:55 am

            Oops — that should be August 20, 1865 (not August 25). CRS

      • Al Mackey December 21, 2011 / 7:37 pm

        Ah, the neoconfederate definition of a civil war used by those who don’t own a dictionary. The real world uses Webster’s definition: “A war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country.” The official name of the conflict is “The War of the Rebellion.” “Civil War” is accurate as well. “War Between the States” is one of the most inaccurate names, since Pennsylvania wasn’t fighting against Ohio, nor was Virginia fighting against Michigan.

        • Aaron B. December 23, 2011 / 11:53 am

          War of Southern Submission? I kid, I kid 😀

  3. Bill Newcomer December 22, 2011 / 7:05 pm

    The War between the states? The war between Union East Tennesee and Confederate West Tennesee? (Where did those Union Tennesee Calvery regiments come from?) The one between East Virgina and West Virginia? Or the one between Michigan and Ohio over the Toledo strip were no shots were really fired? (Counts 10…. Takes several deep breathes…)

    • Bill Newcomer December 22, 2011 / 7:07 pm

      Yes I need to learn how to spell… “cavalry”…

      • James F. Epperson December 23, 2011 / 3:45 pm

        Shots were fired in the “Toledo War,” and continue to be fired in late November of every year 😉 The good guys won this year, finally!

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