Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson


Tax attorney Charles Adams, an occasional columnist for the Rockwell Institute, weighs in on the Southern Rebellion with When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession.  Book Review No. 22 suggests that he's more interested in indicting President Lincoln and Gens Grant, Sheridan, and Sherman for war crimes than in weighing the evidence that something other than abolition compelled the Cotton South to leave the Union.  You'd think a specialist in taxation might be able to make a stronger case that Northern industrialists' reliance on protective tariffs clashed with the planters' preference for relatively free trade, the better to be able to swap cotton for European manufactured goods, and elaborate on the magnitude of the giant sucking sound when the states in rebellion nullified all Northern tariffs.  The book offers little beyond what's recited here (the reader need only understand that Fort Sumter was a revenue fort, not an early Strategic Defense Initiative, and that the sea blockade part of the Anaconda Plan was partially to enforce the customs office) before it gets into President Lincoln's abuses of power, the war crimes of the Union armies, and the consequences of occupation that go by the rubric of Reconstruction (where the author at least credits President Lincoln's "malice toward none" as something good), all of which are not unlike the Indian Wars and the Mexican War in execution and follow-up, and perhaps Canada's Confederation in 1867 might have been motivated by the presence of large standing armies to their south.

All of those topics are worthy of further research, and seven score and ten years on, it is (as Chou En-lai said of the French Revolution) too soon to tell what their historic import is.  It intrigues, though, to find right-libertarian writers having something nice to say about Charles Dickens and Karl Marx (whose analyses of the conflict focus on Washington's cash flow problems) and something critical about John Stuart Mill.  The tariff was probably neither a benefit to northern manufacturers (that doesn't stop people from claiming so to this day) nor a dependable source of federal revenues.  Relatively few Northerners might have been staunch abolitionists, and yet there are clear references to ending slavery in two of the most popular Northern marching songs, Battle Cry of Freedom and Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Mr Adams might deplore what the Klan and the Stars and Bars became in latter years, and yet the refusal of a Charleston centennial commission to seat an integrated Illinois delegation contributed to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

I might have bought the book for the logic, but I'll hang onto it for the pictures.  It's lavishly illustrated with period cartoons from Punch and other sources.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: history, politics, unimpressed
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