Sometimes it’s good to remember that many of the members of the gift that keeps on giving simply don’t know their history. Take well-known plagiarist Gary Adams. He wants to reassure us that the Civil War was not really about slavery, and in support of that contention he argues that when Abraham Lincoln met with three Confederate commissioners off Fort Monroe at Hampton Roads in February 1865 he was willing to push for the Corwin Amendment (the proposed 1861 amendment that would have barred the federal government from acting against slavery) in order to secure an end to the war.
Had Mr. Adams any sort of historical awareness, he would have realized that Lincoln arrived at Hampton Roads right after (unnecessarily) signing the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery throughout the United States. Already that amendment was undergoing the ratification process (note that this was in February 1865; those folks who self-righteously declare that the United States did not abolish slavery until the war was over tend to overlook this fact as well as the fact that it was not until 1866 that the rebellion was officially declared at an end).
But don’t let facts get in the way, Mr. Adams. Listen to what he says:
If the war had been over slavery the South could have at any time rejoined the Union passing the amendment securing her slaves, and even though Lincoln repeatedly made that offer (The last time on February 1865 on the ‘River Queen’ outside Fort Monroe, when both Seward and Lincoln again made the offer return pass the amendment and keep your slaves) they refused.
My, my … let’s see where we’ve come across that elsewhere. Why, here. And here, from none other that Gary himself, who likes to cut and paste the same thing as if mere repetition will make it more believable.
Even then, he can’t get it right. According to the (unnamed) source Adams quotes, Seward’s advice was as follows:
The Confederate representatives asked, in effect, if they could make a deal. Seward, flirting with treason, suggested the “if the Confederate States would ….abandon the war, they could of themselves defeat this [Thirteenth] amendment [and keep their slaves], by voting it down as members of the Union.
Pay attention, Mr. Adams. Your source has Seward speculating on how southerners could defeat the amendment in question … not pass it. Now explain why white southerners would want to defeat the Corwin Amendment … in 1865.
Answer: that wasn’t the amendment being discussed. Other evidence shows that this claim was spurious … evidence provided by the participants themselves, as well as a subsequent report provided to Congress.
For a better account, see here. Note especially the following comment by none other than William H. Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State:
The Richmond party were then informed that Congress had, on the 31st ultimo, adopted by a constitutional majority a joint resolution submitting to the several States the proposition to abolish slavery throughout the Union, and that there is every reason to expect that it will be soon accepted by three-fourths of the States, so as to become a part of the national organic law.
So what we have here is very bad history on the part of Gary Adams. Given that Mr. Adams has declared, “I and a friend are writing a book on Civil War myths,” perhaps we should let Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg go after him.
Gary Adams often warns the membership of the Southern Heritage Preservation Group that they can’t afford to look foolish by posting inaccurate information. He should take his own advice. But he is on the mark in saying that posting inaccurate information reflects negatively on “the whole community,” for none of them (including several self-appointed experts) have ever questioned the accuracy of his statement about the Corwin Amendment at Hampton Roads … suggesting something about the commitment of the group’s membership to historical accuracy.
You know, if we didn’t have the SHPG to kick around, we’d have to invent it for that very purpose. My thanks to Gary Adams and his crew for sparing us of the need to do so by forming … the gift (or gaffe) that keeps on giving.