[…] as a War “about slavery,” if my ancestors risked or gave their lives on behalf of the cause of the Union, or, alternatively suffered death or dislocation and deprivation while fighting on the losing side […]
[…] sense, and this one may be very difficult for those more Unionist than the Union to accept, if “Union” is an all-encompassing concept, then the Southern dead were “our” dead, too. They just did not know it, or did not […]
[...] whose behalf, at least at the outset of the war, the Union soldiers were also fighting. Of course, as we have already discussed at length, this observation is not the same as a denial that slavery was in other senses the true cause of [...]
Did any of the implicated politicians adopt the revisionist narrative, or did they just pander to (or for that matter possibly believe) to those who might prefer it on the basis of some of its elements?
Not sure how it relates precisely, but you'll sometimes see the revisionist narrative under the following superficially plausible formulation: The Southern states "obviously" had the right to secede, so were in the right as far as the nominal causes of war go. Therefore, the Union cause was unjust on its own terms, and the Northerners themselves for the most part, incl. Lincoln, were actually in the wrong. Abolition was a good if unintended consequence of the whole thing, but, if you believe that slavery was on the way out anyway, then the 600,000 dead couldn't have been worth it. I think Ron Paul and many in his zone might have moseyed on up to this one, but I don't think I've ever seen any major mainstream politician embrace it openly.
(thanks for the gracious compliment)
What I find possibly interestng, is the (possibly) exploitve use of the narratve from the Southern Strategy, to Reagan's Neshoba speech to any Rep and some Dem (say Hlllary in 08) Pres primary races in S. Carolina. Explotive in that a politican may use the narrative with various degrees of actual belief, from full to none.
Yes, we had something resembling the Crittenden compromise, it was called Jim Crow,
why does the Northern Alliance Occupationists refuse to credit the fact that the Southerners were up in arms because they were all about that really cool flag that they wanted to fly ?
(great header image on your blog, by the way, but you already know I think that - I'm glad it's "out there")
I think the Southern Cons and the LLs drive the revisionist discussion, cuz they're the only ones with enough of a stake in it, though there's a usual distribution of nuts and bolts - skeptics, cranks, and so on - across the landscape geographically and politically. You could divide the former group into "Southern Patriots" and "libertarians," with the latter not wholly restricted to the South, and with overlap - including among neo-Confederate "racialists." Very hard to say which comes first, of course, the attachment to the land or the attachment to locally adaptive ideologies.
So maybe the task is in addtion to an (accurate) (at least in the main, defensible) historical reconstruction and interpretation, also an examinaton of who now advances what narrative and why. "Conservative Southerners" and "left liberal anti racists" are a start, but I suspect more detall will yeild some worthwhile insights.
For example, both poles have both true believers and those whose committment to the narrative is to one degree or another to exploit the true believers. Beyond my execution, but not my imagination, might be an XY graph, X degree of adherence to right or left narrative, and Y the level of true belief or exploitive intent.
Yes, the two questions are different, but if we separate them entirely, then we have on the one hand a war that "just happens," and in itself has no human meaning - like two types of bacteria competing for control of a Petri dish, or even less meaningful than that - and on the other hand people whose motivations were materially irrelevant, whatever we might imagine they say about the individuals personally. (It would still be in the final analysis meaningless, but we might prefer to sustain an illusion of meaningfulness.) To the extent the events under such a construction constitute history at all, it's history as the succession of meaningless events - not really "interesting" to us. It's a morally irrelevant version of "historical cause," the "x-type bacteria respond to a-type stimuli more energetically than y-type bacteria because of b-type condition" kind of cause. For the historical "cause" in the other sense (the same sense as "Lost Cause") to mean something for us today, to engage our "interest," it has to represent a to us identifiable and interpretable, fully human striving on whatever appropriate level - life of the nation, life of the community, life of the individual, etc. - separately and as each informs the others. "Fully human" must include a moral dimension, and a moral dimension requires an idea of moral choices by the individual, community, nation that were meaningful.
As for measuring the competing narratives, I think you're asking whether or not I accept that one narrative can be said to be more accurate as a description than another, and that it must matter. If the meanings were only externally imposed to serve whatever purposes, then the whole question would be absurd in the other way: Maybe someone finds it advantageous to believe that Lincoln precipitated the Civil War in order to kill vampires threatening to take over the world. So who's to say it's wrong?
Those of us with a stake in some other narrative or interpretation look to the historical evidence, and may find other explanations somewhat better supported than "it was vampires". My view is that the evidence matters very much, but that on the historical questions truly important to us, the ones crucial to our own sense of ourselves, the meaning of our lives if any, the questions that are proxies for our own possible relations to self and others and past and future, we cannot expect the bare facts to do the work for us, and expecting them to do so itself tends to reflect and reinforce a distortive and impoverished sense of self, meaning, possibility.
A few thoughts/questions:
Isn't the question over the cause of the war different than question of involved individuals' motivations? While of course it's true there were diverse and varying and unconscious/secret motivations, that's *always* the case, and doesn't mean it's impossible to determine historical causes.
In the focus on motivations, you write about and speculate about motivations for adopting one or another narrative. Are the competing narratives only to be measured by these purported motivations? What place does historical evidence have?
600,000 died trying to extirpate that evil, that's why I regard Plessy as worse then Dred Scott, I know it's a tough competition, among the horribles, Bedford Forrest, waged a campaign of murder and intimidation, not unlike the Ikwan in Iraq, and the likes of the Nusra in Syria today,
the blessed martyr Breitbart (peace be upon him) was right about that Ackerman kid, he's never gonna make it in journalism.