The Desperation of Some People

A reader of this blog recently alerted me to another blog by one Tim Kent, who recently went off on a rant about me.

I found the blog entry amusing, primarily as an example of Mr. Kent’s struggles to come to grips with the truth. The entry’s a model example of how some people construct strawmen, disregarding the facts and (in this case) fabricating material in their desperation to advance their personal agenda.

Here’s what Mr. Kent declares:

I had a discussion with an Arizona State University history professor who was completely sold on slavery being the only reason of the war.

Sigh. I have never said any such thing, as readers of this blog or my other writing know. I certainly don’t believe that.  Note that Mr. Kent produces no proof in support of his allegation.

But things get even more bizarre (although I recall Mr. Kent bragging about how many books he had read, and I recall he was particularly sensitive about his level of academic accomplishment: apparently these issues persist in his mind). Mr. Kent proclaims:

Mr. “S” insisted that the American Civil War had nothing to do with anything except the northern states being more moral and upright than the evil slave holding states. 

Really? Show me the quote, Mr. Kent. And note your own intellectual confusion about what I’ve said. First you said it was all about slavery; then you say it was all about Yankee superiority.

Again, I’ve never said this, and I don’t believe it.  Only an idiot would think otherwise, and only a dishonest person would say that I’ve said this or believe it (hi, Connie!).

It’s not the first time Mr. Kent has lied about what I’ve said. He’s very confused. It appears that I live in his head rent-free.

Mr. Kent’s real purpose in all this was to quote Charles Dickens on why Dickens thought the war came, as if that explained everything. Mr. Kent thinks that because Dickens was English, he must be “neutral” (which displays an astonishing ignorance about Great Britain and the American Civil War, something you think Mr. Kent would have come across in all that reading he claims he has done).

Type “Charles Dickens American Civil War” into your favorite search engine and you’ll find that Dickens was far from “neutral.” Having done that, let’s see whether being from Great Britain entitled one to being called neutral. Look up John Bright. Then look up William Gladstone. Read the letters of Henry Adams, who was his father’s private secretary during the war (Charles Francis Adams, Sr., was Minister to the Court of St. James). Adams describes various points of view in Great Britain.

What Mr. Kent wants you to understand is that Dickens came to believe that the war was about the tariff … and, since Dickens was British (and thus supposedly “neutral”), the war must have been about the tariff, not slavery.

As Mr. Kent reminds us, poor historians  “tend to ignore those parts of history that don’t fit their perfect world version and insert what they want. ” Such seems to be the case in his own post. Anyone who reads about Dickens knows that he was not a neutral or disinterested party.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kent’s stumbles do not end there. He announces that “Mr. “S” still insists the war had nothing to do with money, but the holy north against the evil slave holding south.”

I await his producing a quote to demonstrate that I said this. Moreover, Mr. Kent is wrong: I believe that money did have something to do with the coming of the war … namely the debate in the South as to whether the substantial economic investment of the South in slavery would be helped or hurt by secession. After all, slavery is an economic institution; the position of most white southerners on the tariff was shaped by their economic and financial interests (thus Louisiana sugar planters, fearing foreign competition, wanted tariffs on imported sugar).  Whichever way federal policy went, it had an impact upon the economic interests of various parts of the country … and, of course, as most people know, the Morrill Tariff of 1861 passed after seven states seceded from the Union, not before.

Mr. Kent is entitled to his opinion, but he isn’t entitled to his facts, and he isn’t entitled to make things up. It says something about him that he did so anyway.  And yes, he thinks he’s a historian.

And so I again ask the Confederate apologists out there: Is this the best you folks can do?

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15 thoughts on “The Desperation of Some People

  1. Patrick Young August 25, 2012 / 5:29 am

    I like the photo on his page with the caption “Famous author Charles Dickens”

  2. John Foskett August 25, 2012 / 7:51 am

    Sniff sniff. I smell DiLorenzo……

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 25, 2012 / 9:11 am

      Mr. Kent could have done himself some good simply by sharing Dickens’s perspective. His stumbling effort to drag me into it by fabrication and simple lying does not place him in a flattering light. Maybe he needs the attention … but I’m not sure he needed this sort of attention on top of criticism about his inattentiveness to historical detail in his fiction.

  3. Buck Buchanan August 25, 2012 / 9:44 am

    Perhaps his extensive reading consists of the complete works of Dickens…..Classic Comics edition.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 25, 2012 / 9:48 am

      My guess is that given the rather low rate of posting on his blog that his interaction with me remains one of the highlights of his existence. Otherwise one would have to wonder why he referenced an old exchange in a comments section.

  4. Hunter Wallace August 25, 2012 / 10:03 am

    If he had said that resentment over the tariff was a major issue in South Carolina and the Lower South, then he would be correct. Rhett, for example, was radicalized over the tariff and was convinced that free trade with Britain would result in recognition of the Confederacy.

    I’m also pretty sure the tariff was cited in secession documents like the reasons Georgia gave for leaving the Union. I remember Robert Toombs giving a major speech about how the tariff enriched the North at the expense of the South. I know for certain that Rhett was convinced of this and had gone over to secession by the time of the Bluffton movement in the early 1840s.

    There was no single cause of secession. Instead, there were a number of resentments – slavery, states rights, the threat to white supremacy, the tariff, spending on internal improvements, the growing perception of irreconcilable ethnic, cultural, and economic differences with the North, the perception that the North was unfaithful to the Constitution – and especially the fight over the territories and the John Brown raid which convinced a large number of conditional unionists that the North was a menacing enemy and would violently invade the South and turn the Union into an instrument of domination and oppression.

    Davis and Stephens explained after the war that the tariff was only one issue of sectional conflict and that slavery was another and that there would be future sectional conflicts with the Yankee as long the Union exists.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 25, 2012 / 10:30 am

      Saying that there was a number of reasons for secession has little to do with establishing their relative importance, which may well differ from state to state. The tariff took a back seat to the protection of slavery, and slavery was seen as the best way to preserve white supremacy (alternatives were not under discussion in the Deep South). The concept of state rights was a means to protect certain ends; white southerners had no problem discarding it in favor of the federal government’s overt protection of their economic interest when it came to issues such as the recovery of fugitive slaves, just as they had no proble attempting to silence First Amendment rights when it came to antislavery protests and petitions. Moreover, as all must admit, low tariffs favor certain economic interests as much as do high tariffs, and the reason most white southerners favored lower tariffs had to do with favoring their economic interest, which happened to be exporting the products of plantations whose productivity was made possible by slavery. After all, the tariff issue remained a lively one in American politics after the war, yet white southerners did not advocate secession once more. Where did white southerners declare that white northerners were unfaithful to the Constitution? Why, the recovery of fugitive slaves. Why did they fight over the territories? Why, because the key issue at stake was the expansion of slavery. And why was Brown’s attempted insurrection a threat? Because it targeted slavery. White southerners read into the reaction of some white northerners to Brown’s raid exactly what white northerners read into the reaction of white southerners to Preston Brooks’s caning of Charles Sumner.

      After all, if Brown’s raid as a raid (and not as a strike against slavery) was so critical, why did it have so much more impact in the Deep South than where it took place … Virginia? Its impact was due to what it targeted. Many white northerners (including a good number of Republicans) denounced Brown or disassociated themselves from Brown, but white southerners did not pick that up. In the effort of white southern members of the House of Representatives to derail the candidacy of John Sherman for speaker of the house because of his endorsement of Hinton Rowan Helper’s The Impending Crisis we see yet another sign that somehow slavery, especially its protection and preservation in the face of an increasing fear that the South was losing its power within the federal system to fend off northern critics of slavery, is at the root of the disagreement.

    • John Foskett August 25, 2012 / 12:32 pm

      One need only read the letters and addresses of the secession commissioners from the first wave of seceded states to the recalcitrants. The Tariff and economic issues were indeed mentioned but over and over the argument made with the most efforrt and vehemence was based on the predicted fate of slavery and white domination in the South as a result of the election of the “Black Republican” Lincoln. This makes sense, of course, because the Morill Tariff was more controversial in some of the states of the Deep South than it was in those farther to the north whose financial interests were less impacted. Likewise it was unpopular in Pennsylvania. Anybody who believes that the Tariff and the perceived threat to slavery took equal billing in the minds of secessionists is (if they are indeed reading anything) probably putting too much reliance on the unsourced theories of the DiLorenzos of the planet.

    • Bob Huddleston August 26, 2012 / 12:03 pm

      You might want to take a look at the Crittenden Amendments http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/amerdoc/critten.htm proposed in December 1860 as a grocery list of proposed changes in the Constitution and Federal and State Law to satisfying the secessionists. These are what conservatives thought the issue was. Crittenden did mention states’ rights — but his proposals were to have the national government limit the rights of free states.

      • Francis Gallo August 27, 2012 / 2:32 pm

        Thanks for that link, Bob. I’m a newcomer to this fascinating history. My interest began 3 years ago when I picked up a free copy of Eric Foner’s book on the Reconstruction. Though I have been almost constantly reading on the subject ever since I deeply rely on little gems like this to lead me into new avenues of study.

  5. rcocean August 25, 2012 / 12:26 pm

    The whole “the war was about the tariff” has been disproved in so many ways, it amazing people keep bringing it up. You can start with the fact that people don’t go out get themselves killed because of a small tax. Secondly, the Secessionists didn’t discuss the tariff in their “declarations of independence” but slavery. Thirdly, the people trying to bring the South back into the Union prior to April 1861 discussed slavery – not the tariff. Fourth, Lincoln tried to convince the South to stop the war and come back into the Union he discussed compensation for emancipation and a lot of other topics but never the Tariff. Finally, the tariff itself was such a small amount of money and effected so few people the whole idea that it would cause a Civil war with 600,000 dead is absurd.

  6. Al Mackey August 25, 2012 / 5:45 pm

    Of course, he only said he possessed 400 books (a mere beginner), not that he had read any of them. 😉

    I find it interesting he now claims you have “two more years of college” more than he has. Laughable. With apologies to Rummy, he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

    He claims to be a “lifelong Civil War Historian.” Doubly laughable.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 25, 2012 / 11:15 pm

      And yet he seems about as bright as a certain fiction writer who “monitors” this blog and agrees with his contentions about what I believe. Both are dead wrong, but that doesn’t deter them from lying. How pathetic.

  7. Brooks D. Simpson August 28, 2012 / 6:07 pm

    Well, well, well, Mr. Kent lies again. Here’s what he remarked to our favorite fiction writer:

    “Connie, this is the Mr. Kent you speak of and I can guarantee that everything I said about Mr. Simpson is true. He would like proof of the conversation, but he has long since deleted that conversation.”

    Try again, Mr. Kent. I’ve linked to the very conversation in my post. It came in the comments section to a previous post. See here and here, for starters. But I’m amused that you blame me because you’re unable to provide proof for your allegations.

    My, my, but you aren’t too bright, and you’re dishonest as well. What a fine defender of Confederate heritage you must be.

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