Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Civil War


BlaiseP is the pseudonym of a peripatetic software contractor whose worldly goods can fit into an elderly Isuzu Rodeo. Bitter and recondite, he favors the long view of life, the chords of Steely Dan and Umphrey's McGee, the writings of William Vollman and Thomas Pynchon, the taste of red ale and his own gumbo. Having escaped after serving seven years of a lifetime sentence to confinement in hotel rooms, he currently resides in the wilds of Eau Claire County and contemplates the intersection of mixed SRID geometries in PostGIS.

Related Post Roulette

107 Responses

  1. sonmi451 says:

    Paragraphs after paragraphs of twaddle bacially repeating the Lost Causers notion about the perfidy of the North, and how the North is the real villain, sprinkled with an attempt to shame black people for not caring about other victims of oppression, and ending with a paragraph plagiarized from the Gettysburg address. (Attribution would have been good, I know most people know where that’s from, but I’m sure the League has readers from outside the US who might think BlaiseP is a genius for coming up with that beautiful paragraph). Great job!!Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451 says:

      Do you care to dispute any of the facts presented?Report

      • sonmi451 in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Nope, there’s really no point debating the Civil War with people like you or Robert ‘Bob’ Cheeks. Do think about the proper sourcing issue, though, this is quite a high-profile blog, we don’t want any plagiarism issue to come up.Report

        • sonmi451 in reply to sonmi451 says:

          I mean, you don’t even need to mention Lincoln, just put quotation marks or set that paragraph slightly to the center or something, so people know those aren’t YOUR own words. Thanks.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451 says:

          Heh, heh.   Run ‘long now.  My grandfather, Talmage Payne was a guest preacher at the Ebenezer Baptist Church and taught MLK Jr. in Sunday School class.   He knew MLK Sr. rather better than his son and started the first Bible College for the training of black pastors in an abandoned pool hall in East Point Georgia.  It’s now called Carver College and Payne Hall is named for him. I have no truck with Bob Cheeks or any of his maudlin carryings-on about the Confederacy.   I don’t know how long you’ve been around here, I shouldn’t have to repeat that story.

          But you will in future keep a civil tongue on my diaries or I’ll blow your posts out.   Am I making myself clear here?Report

          • sonmi451 in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I notice you do this a lot, talk about your/your parents/your families history with certain minority groups (African-Americans, Muslims) and how that makes you different from the racists and the Islamophobes. But then you go around saying things that while doesn’t go nearly as far as those people, sure can sound near the ballpark. But I guess since you know black people and Muslims a lot better than those racists and Islamophobes, you’ve earned the right to say those things, huh? You can ban me after this, I’m done with you.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451 says:

              Yes, I do talk about my heritage.   We go back in this country about 140 years before it became a nation.   Every generation has soldiered for it in one form or another.  I feel entitled to praise my grandfather, who endured the burning of Klan Crosses on his lawn.   I feel entitled to praise my mother, who was called a Nigger Lover, my father and mother, who taught at Carver College and worked with black people, long before the Civil Rights movement had arisen.   These are honorable things to note and if I am the lesser son of greater sires, I will not be lumped in with Bob Cheeks by some ill-mannered twit with bad grammar and no facts.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Hey, I know my own intellectual limitations, so that “bad grammar” quip is not as cutting as you think. I’m not disputing that you’re entitled to  “praise my grandfather, who endured the burning of Klan Crosses on his lawn.   I feel entitled to praise my mother, who was called a Nigger Lover, my father and mother, who taught at Carver College and worked with black people, long before the Civil Rights movement had arisen.” I dispute that because of your parents’ achievement, you’re entitled to condescendingly lecture black people about all thet things they are doing wrong, as if the fact that your families once helped black people or suffered in any way because of black people made black people your personal ward or property. That’s what I’m disputing. You can praise your heritage all you want.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451 says:

                A cat may look at a king.  Ta Nehisi Coates is entitled to write whatever he likes.  I rather admire him for being honest enough to put forward his own opinions on the subject of the Civil War and enjoin persons of color to make that war their own.

                What I will not tolerate, from him or anyone else, is weak thinking.   William Faulkner didn’t write As I Lay Dying so some Wikiquote Wunderkind could pull that one quote about Pickett’s Charge out of context.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to BlaiseP says:

                And what does the honorable history of your famiy have to do with how YOU should be judged or who you can be lumped with? It’s possible for a son of a slave-holder to be an abolitionist after all. Does the honorable history of your family protects you from everything and anything, no matter what you say or do?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451 says:

                (chuckle)   I am judged by what I write.   I am not the son of slaveholders.   My family arises from Dutch Anabaptists, clock makers and machinists of precision instruments, including some of George Washington’s transits.   We came north out of Virginia into Indiana and fought with the Union.

                I am my family.   I have never considered myself an individual, my identity is bound up in my family’s honor and I soldiered as had my forebears.   This identity has never protected me from anything, I have been obliged to protect that identity and that honor.    All I have ever said and done bears upon it.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    Powerful stuff, Blaise, and a deeply enjoyable read. I have two points of some disagreement.

    First, you write “The goal of the Union’s attempts to reunite the country by force was to preserve itself and its own vile modus vivendi.” If we’re talking about 1861, my impression is that statement is roughly accurate but incomplete; it gives too short of shrift to abolitionists who were a significant, but not yet dominant, political force. By 1863, Lincoln and his White House had adopted a gradualist, but firmly abolitionist, posture — perhaps adopting this stature out of cynical necessity to maintain moral and political support for the war, but adopting it all the same.

    Second, I will stipulate that the systematic and state-assisted economic exploitation of [insert oppressed not-yet-culturally-integrated minority here, e.g., Blacks, Irish, Germans, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Russians, Arabs] was/is bad for those on its receiving end and inhibited more than advanced economic progress and a cruel expression of both social policy and cultural cruelty. Without domesticating that sentiment, I nevertheless maintain that economic exploitation of free people is a lesser evil than chattel slavery.Report

    • sonmi451 in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Without domesticating that sentiment, I nevertheless maintain that economic exploitation of free people is a lesser evil than chattel slavery.

      You say that so carefully, with so many caveats, like this statement is something hotly disputed, and to say it out loud is somehow an offense. We must still be living in the 19th century or something.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

      The Abolitionists were a deeply troubled bunch without much political support.   As with the Pro-Life crowd today, they were all over the political and ethical map of those times.   Lincoln played the sighing Hamlet over the issue, despite Frederick Douglass’ pleas.

      American chattel slavery was a unique evil.   Lafayette said “I would have never drawn my sword in the cause of America, had I but known I was thereby forming a nation of slavery.”   But America tolerated many other forms of evil, child labor among them.  Great Britain was opposed to slavery:  they offered emancipation to blacks who would fight with them against the Americas.   Not many took the offer, but it gave the Revolution pause, to consider what might happen if Britain won.

      Look, insofar as black culture in this country has been systematically repressed, it has often proved its own worst enemy in the struggle for equality. 

      Ta Nehisi Coates has completely missed the point of William Faulkner.   If every southern boy harks back to Pickett’s Charge and thinks This Time, maybe Ta Nehisi ought to read the whole goddamn book this time around before he meanders over to Wikiquote to haul out a few choice lines.   Addie Bundren’s rotting corpse is on its way to Jefferson.   Jefferson, as in Thomas Jefferson, a man of some rum opinions about slavery himself.    For Christ’s sake, every college sophomore who’s taught As I Lay Dying knows this.


  3. sonmi451 says:

    Without domesticating that sentiment, I nevertheless maintain that economic exploitation of free people is a lesser evil than chattel slavery.

    You say that so carefully, with so many caveats, like this statement is something hotly disputed, and to say it out loud is somehow an offense. We must still be living in the 19th century or something.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to sonmi451 says:

      Dude. [Points at self.] Lawyer. What did you expect?Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451 says:

      The mechanics of slavery grew greatly more evil with the invention of the cotton gin and the sugar mill, with profits great enough to justify working a man to death.   The expression “sold down the river” means a troublesome slave would be sold into Louisiana to be worked to death.

      Might I add in passing, the Cherokee took their black slaves with them on the Trail of Tears, where a curious black subculture has developed.   I met some of these people in Oklahoma.   Recently, the Cherokee tribe has expelled them.   Nobody has much to say about it, it’s all an internal Cherokee matter.   The Osage, with whom I’m still involved to a limited extent, think it’s disgusting.   We certainly weren’t alone in enslaving black people.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to BlaiseP says:

        My point is that slavery is an inherent evil.

        We need not dwell upon the myth of the genteel and comfortable life of the House Negro, nor need we recoil in horror from the sugar and cotton plantation workers in Angola, Louisiana, to understand that one human being claiming to own another in the same manner he claims to own a shirt or a loaf of bread is a deep moral failing.

        This does not excuse the awful physical treatment slaves actually endured. It is to say that the awful physical treatments to which you refer is a separate and distinct moral wrong.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Without any wish to contradict that sentiment, just how inherent is that evil?   Plato talks about slavery, making the condition equally inherent.   Plessy entrenched that evil in law.

          May I offer you a longish essay I wrote about this in lieu of the more complete answer it deserves.Report

          • sonmi451 in reply to BlaiseP says:

            And you’re so outraged that I compared you to Bob Cheeks. Slavery not inherently evil? Some quotes from your (too long) essay:

            If this world were what it seems it should be, if man could find everywhere in it an easy subsistence, and a climate suitable to his nature, it is clear that it would be impossible for one man to enslave another. If this globe were covered with wholesome fruits; if the air, which should contribute to our life, gave us no diseases and a premature death; if man had no need of lodging and bed other than those of the buck and the deer; then the Genghis Khans and the Tamerlanes would have no servants other than their children, who would be folk honorable enough to help them in their old age.

            What’s your point here? Nature made slavery something required so people can survive?

             Yes, she did it with slaves, but there is no record of the Turnbulls abusing them. We can say from the historical record Daniel Turnbull built his slaves well-constructed houses on the plan of a proper village with a church and a social hall. He dug them a clean, covered well and the place was sanitary. He bought proper clothes and food, even musical instruments. He brought in a Baptist minister every Sunday, though many attended Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville. These gestures hardly atone for enslaving his fellow men. But if Daniel Turnbull lost his little son to yellow fever, he responded by bringing in a full-time doctor for his slaves, something we do not yet enjoy in these times in the Land of the Free.

            Hmm, using stories (that may or may not be true or can be confirmed) to show how slaves didn’t have it so bad back then. Wonder what group of people this reminds me of? I’m really stump.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451 says:

              Heh.   There’s a Hausa proverb “The empty pot makes the most noise.”

              I have furnished my citations.  Please consult them if you are in any doubt of their veracity.Report

          • The Pessimist in reply to BlaiseP says:

            You lost me at:  “…just how inherent is that evil?”

            The correct answer is yes, it is inherently evil. It’s hard to take your post seriously when you drop that line.

            Also, your heritage and the deeds of your ancestors doesn’t count for anything in terms of what you subscribe to. It seems pointless to bring any of that up, when no one is debating (or cares about) their contributions.Report

  4. Kris says:

    Is there an argument in this post somewhere? There are a lot of comments and tangents. The whole thing is divigating. What’s your thesis?Report

  5. BSK says:

    “Yes, the labor unions had their own racist problems, but the problems facing the immigrant and the ex-slave were the same then and now.”

    At the risk of playing Oppression Olympics… No, no they weren’t.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to BSK says:

      Sure they were.   We all think about the Civil War, as if it ended anything.   It didn’t.  Reconstruction just converted the freed blacks into the same godawful system which created the Snopeses.

      … as if mere contradiction constitutes rebuttal.   IS NOBODY CAPABLE OF WRITING AROUND HERE?Report

      • BSK in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Were immigrants lynched? Denied the right to vote? Denied equal protection under the law into the mid-20th century? Subject to “separate but equal”?Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to BSK says:

          Yes, to a considerable extent they were.   Read up on the Know Nothing movement in this country.   The Klan didn’t much like Catholics or Jews, either.Report

          • BSK in reply to BlaiseP says:

            To the same extent as blacks? Coupled with the legacy of racism, which systematically denied blacks basic education, stable families, property ownership of any kind, etc. and it becomes difficult to defend that their treatment was identical. Did they have it bad? Yes. As bad as Africans and African-Americans? I’m yet to see any evidence here to support that.Report

          • Liberty60 in reply to BlaiseP says:

            There is no shortage of shameful acts of oppression, but really, equating the enslavement of black people with the injustices visited upon immigrants is absurd. The scale, the depth, the type was entirely different. I say that even speaking as the grandchild of Catholics who were terrorized by the Klan.

            And since I assume we aren’t playing a game of Trivial Pursuit, the most common underlying agenda of this sort of argument is to lessen the moral outrage of the one, instead of increasing the other.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Jefferson, cited by Ta-Nehisi Cotes in this essay.  Jefferson, the most irreligious of our Founders, and a goddam slaverholder himself:

        Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.

        Supernatural interference?  Perhaps. Divine justice, certainly, if there is such a thing, the divine.  Or justice, if there is such a thing.Report

  6. Ethan P says:

    “I have a large sign from the era “No Irish Need Apply” which I bought in New York City. They were property, too. Nobody seems to remember their legacy of servitude, or the horrors visited on them by the previous generations of Irish immigrants.”

    what a brave white man to attack the myths of the civil war with a sentimental hogwash of anti-white prejudice, the same corny narcissistic bullshit my irish ass hears from three dozen boozy fratboys every saint paddys day. nail your phony sign wherever you like, but it’s a lie:

    “The fact that Irish vividly “remember” NINA signs is a curious historical puzzle. There are no contemporary or retrospective accounts of a specific sign at a specific location. No particular business enterprise is named as a culprit. No historian, archivist, or museum curator has ever located one ; no photograph or drawing exists.  No other ethnic group complained about being singled out by comparable signs. Only Irish Catholics have reported seeing the sign in America—no Protestant, no Jew, no non-Irish Catholic has reported seeing one. This is especially strange since signs were primarily directed toward these others: the signs said that employment was available here and invited Yankees, French-Canadians, Italians and any other non-Irish to come inside and apply. The business literature, both published and unpublished, never mentions NINA or any policy remotely like it. The newspapers and magazines are silent. The courts are silent.


  7. James Hanley says:

    I can’t say that I can see where this post meaningfully fisks TNC, even though it obviously comes from a different place and goes a different place.  Viewed as a bourbon-induced rumination it’s interesting, though.

    This, though, I must dissent from.

    The Irish came here as indentured servants….They were property, too.

    That’s simply inaccurate.  Indentured servitude was a contractual issue–the indentured were working to pay back what they had borrowed.  They could not be sold, families split up, bred like horses, etc., and of course it did not continue inter-generationally.  Unlike slavery it was a quid pro quo, even if one whose particular workings were vile enough to have since been banned.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

      Nobody’s said they were.   The point is this, Hanley, what matters in this equation isn’t so much the Civil War but the legacy of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, which created a new paradigm of inequality, one which Faulkner attempted to show us, one TNC has failed to grasp, one which encompassed everyone in the South, black and white.   Indentured servitude was pretty bad and sharecropping was a permanent thing for those who stayed.

      The Irish, unlike the ex-slaves, fought back.   If they were victims upon arrival in the USA, they did not stay victims.   They banded together and gained political and economic power, not exactly helped along by anyone else.   Marcus Garvey said

      Negroes should be more determined today than they have ever been, because the mighty forces of the world are operating against the non-organized groups of people, who are not ambitious enough to protect their own interests.

      So much for pity parties.   Less MLK and more Marcus Garvey for people of color.  I’ve said it before, pity is the last thing the poor man wants or needs.   Faulkner shows us what a miserable bunch of jackasses the whites of the South were, once the whip of slavery had been taken from their hand. They, no less and no more than the black people to whom they condescended, were yearning to be free, as we read on the Statue of Liberty.   None of them were free.   They all descended into the hell of the late 1800’s, master and slave alike, resentful and squabbling children, no less divided, no less the victims of the political and economic forces which had made slavery such an economically powerful thing before the Civil War.  Nothing had changed because they hadn’t changed.

      If TNC feels black people have become alienated from their rightful role in the American Civil War,  they became the victims of Jim Crow during Reconstruction because they couldn’t or wouldn’t organize.   The defeated whites of the Confederacy and the victorious Union regained control over them and reinstate the color line for another century. Report

      • BSK in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Blacks had been oppressed in this country for centuries and over generations. You don’t think that had an impact on the collective black pyschology? And you are also wrong to think that the Irish received the same pushback in response to their fighting that blacks did.

        Your argument seems to be that blacks are to blame for their lot after reconstruction, as if every group of oppressed people need only stand up amd shout loud enough to be heard. False. See: the Holocaust, women everywhere, human history.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to BSK says:

          Of course it did!   Nobody’s saying it didn’t.  If Dr. King said “We shall overcome”, he did it in this context in Oslo, accepting the Nobel Prize:

          The tortuous road which has led from Montgomery, Alabama to Oslo bears witness to this truth. This is a road over which millions of Negroes are travelling to find a new sense of dignity. This same road has opened for all Americans a new era of progress and hope. It has led to a new Civil Rights Bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a super highway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems.

          I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

          Nobody, black, white, Snopes or Cajun or Bundren or Coates or anyone else who survived the hell of Reconstruction should sit down by the Waters of Babylon and Play some Sad Minstrel Song.   It’s a pernicious old pity party.

          Robertson Davies once observed, in large doses, self-pity is invariably fatal but in small doses is a very comforting thing.   Sure, I’m all about observing the hellish lot of the black man in America was a uniquely horrible thing, worse than any slavery in history since the Romans and perhaps even worse.   But we just sorta gotta absorb that blow and look at another, far more serious blow, the impact of Reconstruction on what followed the emancipation of the slaves, not exactly America’s brightest hour, a story Faulkner tried to teach us, one some folks have Not Absorbed.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Nobody’s said they were. 

        Nobody’s said who were what? I don’t follow you there.

        what matters in this equation isn’t so much the Civil War but the legacy of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, which created a new paradigm of inequality, one which Faulkner attempted to show us, one TNC has failed to grasp, one which encompassed everyone in the South, black and white. 

        Agreed that there was a new paradigm of inequality.  Not persuaded TNC doesn’t grasp it–perhaps he doesn’t, but I don’t see how that’s been demonstrated.  And I would argue that the new paradigm of inequality was still preferable to the old one, if only because families weren’t forcibly torn apart and it was possible to move to greener pastures, as the great emigration north showed (not that the north was any kind of paradise, but there were better paying jobs available there, at least from the ’20s through the ’50s).

        The Irish, unlike the ex-slaves, fought back.

        The Irish, unlike the ex-slaves, tended not to be lynched if they fought back.  The repercussions of black resistance in the south tended to be more serious than the repercussions of Irish resistance in the north.

        Faulkner shows us what a miserable bunch of jackasses the whites of the South were, once the whip of slavery had been taken from their hand. They, no less and no more than the black people to whom they condescended, were yearning to be free, as we read on the Statue of Liberty.   None of them were free.   They all descended into the hell of the late 1800?s, master and slave alike, resentful and squabbling children, no less divided, no less the victims of the political and economic forces which had made slavery such an economically powerful thing before the Civil War.  Nothing had changed because they hadn’t changed.

        I’m not sure how to read this.  The least generous reading is that it says, “it was just as bad for the whites as the blacks.”  I’m pretty sure that’s not what you mean.  If you mean it wasn’t paradise for the whites either, that in some psychological way they were unfree, okay.  But it all seems to diminish the unique history of American blacks and ask us to bring more focus to how whites suffered, too.  Am I reading that right or not?  I’m not trying to be argumentative with this; I’m just not sure I’m actually following you.Report

        • OK, just read your reply to BSK, and I’m grasping you better.

          But Reconstruction/Jim Crow as a “far more serious blow” than slavery?  Call me slow, but I just don’t get that.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley says:

            You’re not slow.   Whatever else is wrong with you, you’re not slow or stupid, Hanley.

            There’s a whole essay just answering that question.   I’ll try to give the incomplete answer, in hopes of framing why Reconstruction was worse than the Civil War for everyone involved.

            First, Reconstruction and the three constitutional amendments it produced didn’t bring equality for the ex-slaves.   Whole set of books right there.  Yeah, I suppose that’s too simplistic an answer, but it’s the topic sentence for more than few paragraphs.   Hope you agree to the basic premise.

            Second, nothing good comes of vindictiveness in any form.   Anger comes in the front door, reason flees out the back door.   The defeated South was allowed to fester.   Lincoln, confronted with the devastation of Richmond, in the words of Thomas Graves:

            I accompanied President Lincoln and General Weitzel to Libby Prison and Castle Thunder, and heard General Weitzel ask President Lincoln what he (General Weitzel) should do in regard to the conquered people. President Lincoln replied that he did not wish to give any orders on that subject, but, as he expressed it, ‘If I were in your place I’d let ’em up easy, let ’em up easy. “

            In eleven days, Lincoln would be dead.   The South was not let up easy.   Civilian government in the South was abolished.

            Here’s the nut of my argument, here’s why Reconstruction was so much worse than the Civil War itself:  the generals who’d fought the war had behaved decently enough, especially Grant, toward the Confederate soldiers.   Lee’s surrender prevented more bloodshed.   Grant fed Lee’s troops.   Reconstruction was stupidly, corruptly and wickedly managed.

            Reconstruction damaged blacks and whites alike.   The framework for Plessy was forming:  where slavery had set up the distinction between master and slave, the South under Reconstruction precipitated out into Black and White, a novel construct, for there were black and Indian slave owners.   They had to pass laws to get this Separate stuff on the books in the South:  before the Civil War, the nature of segregation was hugely different.   To examine Reconstruction and the formation of Jim Crow, there’s no better stomping ground than Plessy v. Ferguson.   The Louisiana law which put Homer Plessy in a separate railroad car wasn’t passed until 1890, more than a decade after Reconstruction ends, for crissakes.

            Lest it seem I am condemning the Federals, the scope and horror of the Civil War had never been seen in the world before.   The Thirty Years War was pretty awful but it was a here-and-there sort of thing.  The carnage and devastation of the Civil War was beyond any simple or rapid solution.  Due to mismanagement from both sides:  the war had gone on for at least two years too long, resulting finally in Sherman’s March, an act of unparalleled destruction unseen since the Mongols.

            The economic landscape had changed beyond recognition.   What were the freed blacks to do?   Most white people never owned slaves:  a slave cost as much as two or three good horses.  The vast majority of white people lived hardscrabble lives.  Lots of them still do.

            Though cotton and sugar cane were the driving forces in the economy of the South, and continued to be for years to follow, until the turn of the century when the boll weevil took out cotton, what little industry the South ever had been destroyed.  The price of cotton plunged after the Civil War.   The Klan arose, the Solid South formed up around the Democratic Party.   The rest you know.Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP says:

              I think it’s easy to overstate the destruction unleased by the Civil War. Certainly in terms of the sheer devastation caused, the French Revolutionary Wars and Bonaparte’s continuation of them has to take the cake for the 19th century. Half a million Americans died? So what? The Grand Armee alone lost 400,000 men in le petit caporal’s little march into Russia. Palafox’s last stand at Saragossa left 60,000 Spaniards dead (that we know of) an entire city left in ruins. The Peninsular War was utterly devastating to the Spanish in a scale that makes the Civil War look like a cake walk. (Digression there aside)

              I would quibble with the notion that it was Reconstruction per se that was the cause of so much misery. I think rather that it was the cowardly retreat from Reconstruction and allowing the Redeemer hordes to impose violence and misery through terror, and the utter incompetence of Grant’s presidency in managing the post-war economy (ultimately leading to the panic of ’73) that doomed the South.

              The blacks didn’t organize? Like hell they didn’t. Carpetbaggers and freedmen alike worked like demons to organize the new basis for what they perceived as a new south. Just because the federals in DC lost their nerve and ultimately sold them out in 1877 doesn’t make their efforts any less worthy of praise, and the ultimate mismanagement of the Federal reconstruction effort any less criminal.

              Abandoning the effort half-assed and letting the racists and the former white gentry regain control in a reign of terror was ultimately what turned Reconstruction into such a colossal failure. Segregation and classism became the de facto replacement to slavery. The defining characteristic of the Southern Reactionary Project is the use of local, state government as an instrument of terror without the interference of the Federal government. Ultimately the Confederates won back much of what they lost (while the people in the trenches suffered) because the Feds lost the Peace.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                You’ve put forward a rather better, or an extension to my point:

                I think rather that it was the cowardly retreat from Reconstruction and allowing the Redeemer hordes to impose violence and misery through terror, and the utter incompetence of Grant’s presidency in managing the post-war economy (ultimately leading to the panic of ’73) that doomed the South.

                Though you’re correct as far as it goes,  the trouble starts earlier, with the attempted impeachment of Andrew Johnson and the imposition of occupation on the South.

                Why did the freedmen associations fail?  What’s the point of going to this much trouble to point out the legacy of Dunbar High and Marcus Garvey if you’re not going to take my point seriously, that the black culture never advanced until it started unifying and educating its people?   The Freedmen’s Bureau was dissolved, the white dominated court systems undid all they’d accomplished.   My grandfather, who did a lot more work with black education in the 1930s and 40s, says the Freedmen’s Bureau was a classic case of Do Gooderism gone wrong.

                Look, I’m trying to point out how the color line was enacted in law with the Jim Crow laws.   Those laws didn’t exist before the Civil War.   The slaves were feared, here and there they would revolt, but the framework of Jim Crow took many years to build, the Fourteenth Amendment notwithstanding.Report

            • BSK in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Reconstruction being worse than the CW is very different than saying Reconstruction was worse for blacks than the institution of slavery. I see you address the former but not the latter, and it was the latter claim that JH rightly called into question.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BSK says:

                The institution of slavery and the institution of the color line were different things.   You may say slavery was worse and wring your hands over the brutality and injustice of it all but it was all set up legally and the Dred Scott decision said it was.

                Reconstruction and the imposition of the Jim Crow laws over time, a rather long time as it happens, shows why Reconstruction was worse for blacks.   The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves.  It did not make them equal.   The Fourteenth Amendment was passed and nothing would come of it until a century later.

                That’s why Reconstruction was worse.   Wars are what come of them, BSK.   The fighting doesn’t make much difference, what matters is who stays and who leaves.   The Federals went back north after Reconstruction.   The Klan stayed.   So much for all that Battle Hymn of the Republic bullshit:  the Civil War might have featured some dying to make men free but they didn’t gain equality until Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I have to say that I just don’t see a good comparative argument here demonstrating that the Jim Crow era was worse than slavery.  To say it wasn’t worse than slavery is not to suggest it was in any way good, nor to deny the damage it did.  But that it was <i>worse</i> still seems a hypothesis you haven’t supported.  For the moment, at least, I’ll stake my position on the line that humans could no longer be bought and sold, and they did have the right to move to other regions of the country without being literally hunted down.

                As to the fact that slavery was created legally; I don’t know that you can load much weight on that without it crumbling.  At any rate I’d be surprised if many people here were receptive to the argument that slavery’s legality speaks in its favor, rather than speaking to the failures of the law.Report

  8. Robert Cheeks says:

    My dear Bp, just came across this:

    “Had black culture embraced the message of Marcus Garvey and not the simpering George Washington Carver, gathering together in the face of persecution as had all the other immigrants to this country, cultivating economic and political power within their own ranks, this country would have been a very different place.”

    No snark intended but, isn’t Garvey the man who led American blacks into the arms of big gummint; e.g. a statist a-hole? While the ‘simpering’ Carver, a man who quit correctly believed that economic competition would eventually lead to racial equality, argued for blacks to establish their own communities, widget factories, etc.? I remember reading your President Johnson’s oft quoted comment about how long the commie-dems would have the n-word vote as a result of him signing the ’64 CW Act. It’s just my opinion, but it really doesn’t look like your statist ideologies have done much ‘good’ for the black community. In fact, it appears to have badly damaged, if not destroyed that community. I’m pretty sure that if the murdering/raping Yankees had lost the South, ol Bobby Lee and ’em boys would have (eventually) established a fair and equitable society, and long before the racist North (as you so eloquently point out).Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      How did Ring Lardner put it?

      Shut up, he explained.Report

    • Chris in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      Bob, considering that racial equality and intermixing were the oft-stated greatest fears of southern white folk, fears they were willing, even eager to go to war over, I find it amusing that you are so convinced that your anachronistic fantasies about their economic philosophy mean they would soon have had racial equality. How’s that for a Marxist’s response?Report

    • Liberty60 in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

       I’m pretty sure that if the murdering/raping Yankees had lost the South, ol Bobby Lee and ‘em boys would have (eventually) established a fair and equitable society, and long before the racist North (as you so eloquently point out).

      You should bring this point up to all your black friends at your neighborhood barbershop.Report

      • Robert Cheeks in reply to Liberty60 says:

        Liberty60, given the history of the ‘racist’ North, and the machinations of the commie-Dem party I gotta stick with the possibilities inherent in my “anachronistic fantasies” my Marxist pal, Chris, critiqued as a far better scheme to provide equality before the law.

        Also, my wife cuts my hair, but I attend church in a predominately black neighborhood.

        Christopher, I said “eventually” and not “soon”. However, as a preaching Marxist you should appreciate my economic rather gummint solution to the social problem.Report

  9. sonmi451 says:

    This post reminded me a question I’ve been meaning to ask for a while. What is the composition of the bloggers here? All guys, we know that, not all-white, because of Mr Murali, but is there any non-white Americans in the bunch? I’m not suggesting tokenism or quota or affirmative action or anything like that (god forbid!), but that might be something worth considering when you guys are adding yet another blogger as a front-pager. I suppose your defense would be “hey, we are just choosing the best voice, just a coincidence that no women or non-white Americans qualify”, but when you’ve made Tom van Dyke a frontpager, I thing the “best voice” defense is a bit weak-sauce, sorry to say.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to sonmi451 says:

      For the most part, the bloggers are all people who showed up in comments, wrote essays, wrote more essays, wrote more essays, wrote guest posts, defended their guest posts in the comments, wrote more comments, wrote more essays, and wrote more guest posts. Eventually, they asked to become bloggers.Report

      • sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird says:

        SO you’re saying women and non-white Americans don’t really care to visit this blog? Gee, I wonder why, with posts like this.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to sonmi451 says:

          Be the change you want to see in the world, my man. Write a guest post that will rebut this one, get all of the readers who rarely comment to say “tears run down my face as I write this: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU”, and allow you to get a better gig somewhere else.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to sonmi451 says:

          This indictment is neither fair nor informed. At the end of the day, the diversity most of us care about here is diversity of opinion, not demographic sampling. In that respect, I think we’re doing just fine.

          It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable, but your track record in this post suggests that you haven’t mastered that trick yet and so I can’t be particularly cross with Blaise for being blunt with you previously. You give the impression of being a partisan troll looking only for opportunities to howl at the moon instead of honest intellectual engagement.

          If what matters is diversity of opinion, then I indict you as the one who dislikes and discourages diversity. I offer your warped and obtuse misreading of Blaise’s OP, and your inappropriate personal attacks on TVD in a post to which he has not even commented, as evidence in support of that indictment. Prove me wrong — do we have any right-of-center authors here for whom you harbor substantial intellectual respect?

          By all means, have an opinion, argue for what you think is right. But please mind your manners. If you can’t do that, then I for one would rather you took your commentary elsewhere.Report

          • sonmi451 in reply to Burt Likko says:

            At the end of the day, the diversity most of us care about here is diversity of opinion, not demographic sampling. In that respect, I think we’re doing just fine.

            Yup, I think I remember another frontpager giving this exact same defense before. I think that’s the excuse commonly given by a bunch of white guys trying to make themselves feel superior. Maybe I am a “partisan troll”, but that doesn’t absolve this blog from the lack of diversity charge, even if that lack of diversity is something that apparently none of you gives a crap about. As long as you got a bunch of libertarians, one or two liberals and conservatives, you’re all set, diversity of opinion achieved, yay! It never occurs to any of you that maybe, just maybe, a woman or a non-white American might have a different opinion and perspective to offer, no sir, only ideological diversity matters, demographic diversity is bad, evil, politically-correct. Continue congratulating yourselves on what a fine blog you have here, a bunch of privileged guys who feel entitled to lecture black people about all the things they are doing wrong, and how Irish immigrants had it just as bad as the black slaves, but dang it, the Irish fought back, not like those coward and lazy blacks, right BlaiseP?Report

            • BSK in reply to sonmi451 says:

              I won’t go quite so far as somni here, but I think there is merit to the argument that the extent of the diversity of opinion is limited by the lack of demographic diversity. There are certain perspectives that are garnerd from life experiences and life experiences informed by gender or race or sexual orientation or religion (and others) can’t always be replicated.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to BSK says:

                WIth some “demographic sampling” as Burt Likko calls it, maybe there would have been some pushback from the other frontpagers to this post that sounds suspiciously “crypto-racist” as Alan Scott calls it above. But instead, we have frontpager like Burt Likko coming in saying “Powerful stuff, Blaise, and a deeply enjoyable read”, and pussy-footing so much in his disagreement he almost couldn’t bring himself to say that economic exploitation of immigrants just might not be as bad as chattel slavery.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to BSK says:

                I would agree with you, BSK, but I think Burt is correct that we are somewhat diverse.  (With the often mulled over caveat that it would be better to have a female voice or two on the posting side.)

                However, I’m not convinced that we could ever achieve the right balance of diversity to make somni comfortable, save of course making sure whatever degree of diversity we had were liberal posters.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Meh, I rarely ever comment at posts by your liberal posters (it’s just Elias and maybe you, right? I’m not so sure about you, actually, there are so many people here with the “I’m an independent thinker, I don’t like labels” attitude). But consider this, today is MLK’s day, and the only post on the blog remotely related to African-Americans or the civil rights movement is this post by BlaiseP here, with whatever attutude he’s spouting. Make os that what you will, maybe this is something that actually makes you guys proud – we’re not bending to the force of political correctness, we’re independent and contrarian!Report

              • BSK in reply to Tod Kelly says:


                There certainly is some diversity here.  As much as there could be?  Obviously not.  As much as somni would like to see?  As you said, that probably isn’t possible.  Having more voices represented, including women, people of color, and people of various religions, would be a good thing for the LoOG.  Forcing such “diversity” would not.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BSK says:

                That’s the problem with the whole “opt-in” thing.

                What do you do if folks don’t show up?Report

              • BSK in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well, I think it is worth investigating why people aren’t showing up.  Is there something about the LoOG that makes it less-than-welcoming to women or people of color or whatever other groups are not generally present?  Does a post like this send a signal that this is not a place for them?  Or is it something else?

                The next step would be to investigate how important such diversity is to the folks here.  If there was a collective sense that the league suffers from a lack of diversity, then there are genuine efforts that can encourage it without forcing it.

                Ultimately, there is a limit to what you can achieve without resorting to artificial forms of diversity such as quotas and tokens, no matter how good your efforts are.  I think there are bigger questions to ask before knowing if the LoOG has reached that point, questions with answers that I don’t have.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                It’s at times like this that I am pleased to say that we have one of the most queer-friendly discussion groups (without such being explicitly part of our charter) that I’ve encountered on the web. It’s just *NOT* a big deal to show up here and be gay.

                If we aren’t getting enough women or Hmong, well… that’s a shame. I do know that we’re not merely a bunch of White Heterosexual Males talking about political theory. (We are proud to be a bunch of White Males of multiple diverse sexual orientations!)

                Not diverse enough for you? Fair enough.

                I still think that complaining that enough people or color or people of gender aren’t anonymously (or pseudonymously) opting-in is to complain about something over which we have precious little power.

                We police our comments pretty danged good and I think that we do what we can to make anyone (who achieves the low bar of subject/verb agreement, anyway) feel welcome.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                And the worst part of that is that it feels dirty to point out the fact that we have gay people here like they’re some sort of tourist attraction. It’s not that we have gay commenters. We have commenters and some of them happen to be gay and that’s cool. It’s not that we have gay sub-bloggers/front pagers. We have sub-bloggers and front pagers and some of them happen to be gay and that’s cool.

                And to make a big deal of them is to turn them from friends that I have on the site to the *GAY* friends that I have on the site.

                And they aren’t the gay friends that I have on the site. They’re the friends that I have on the site. Some of them are gay. It’s no big deal.Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird says:

                Did I ever say that it’s a bunch of heterosexual white males? Check my comments, I never used the word heterosexual or straight, since I already know there’s diversity in terms of sexual orientation on this blog. So what’s your point, exactly?Report

              • sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird says:

                And you know ehat, let’s just forget about the whole diversity among fromt-pager thing, it’s obviously an issue that’s making you guys feel defensive and uncomfortable, so I apologize for being a jerk about it, okay? At this point, I’d settle for the front-pagers to write as if they realize that they could be read not just by heterosexual/homosexual/bisexual white guys, but by other people as well. Maybe that would temper some front-pagers instinct to talk to other groups (i.e black people) as if they are children who need scolding. That’s all.Report

  10. Anne says:

    I’m a woman and frequent the site daily (self confessed lurker) Don’t have the writing skills to post but definitely gain alot from the discussionsReport

    • The Pessimist in reply to Anne says:

      I am a black male and have been reading the site for a while. Like Anne, I lurk and wish I had more writing talent.

      I do think LoOG misses a little something in the perspective department that could only be gained from posters who are non-white. But having said that, I detest publications and sites that provide a venue for someone specifically because they are black (or whatever race) to write about topics that will supposedly appeal to a black (or whatever) reader. So maybe it’s a toss-up, but I tend to favor the sites current mentality. Others (white or non-white) might not agree with that, which I can understand.

      Typically I don’t feel like the lack of diversity hinders the discussion on a LoOG post. And much of that probably comes from the fact that most of the blog posts are reasonable, objective, and level-headed – even when I don’t agree with them Please note that this post by BlaiseP is a notable exception to that trend; what it lacks in reasonableness it makes up for in subjectivity.

      I would imagine that the only factor that will increase the diversity is growth, which often isn’t very constructive for a site like this. As the site becomes more popular. it might become more diverse. There’s no guarantee of that.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to The Pessimist says:

        That’s a fair cop.  I’m not a reasonable man.  I expect people who use the blockquote tag to have read the books they’re quoting.   That’s my main complaint, and you might consider it subjective, I’ve no complaint on that front.

        But William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and a few other authors left us a picture of Reconstruction, one worth considering in its totality.   The bad historian views the past through the lenses of the present.

        I did some work a few years back for the Osage tribe on some language trainer software.   They’ve come up with a new alphabet for their language, the previous attempts at orthography were dismal and had no input from the tribe itself.   I said to them at the time, “I have almost no interest in the linguistic past of the Osage tribe, the past is a trap.   I’m concerned about its present, its ability to form up new words, new grammatical constructions if they’re necessary.   Any attempt to return to the past will only fossilize the language and eventually kill it.   Just don’t do it.  Once Ni-u-kon-ska was a vibrant, growing language, constantly evolving over thousands of years.   If you need the English word, perhaps you ought to use it until you find a worthy native cognate.   Your concern should be for your children and theirs.  Leave them something worth preserving.”

        They agreed. It’s high time we all got on with the business of the present.

        Why should I remain level headed when TNC goes for the cheap Wikiquote version of one of the strangest, saddest books on the American South?   Riddle me that.

      • Pessimist-

        FWIW i had the same reaction reading your comment as I did reading Anne’s: what lack of writing talent?

        That looked like a pretty damn good response to me.Report

    • Buddhistische Zen verrückt in reply to Anne says:

      Banish such thoughts, Anne! I just want to let you know that I
      think you are a charming, thoughtful, articulate, kind, lovely lady and the world has been graced twice, because you even have an identical twin—way to go, God! (And your parents, too!)Report

  11. Kolohe says:

    It’s so very rare to see a genuine Marxist in the wild these days; the only ones normally seen these days are tamed by academic lassitude or political expediency.Report

  12. murray says:

    Having read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s piece, I fail to see what in the hell you’re talking about.

    Nowhere does he suggest immigrants didn’t face discrimination, nor that the contribution of labor unions isn’t important, which is normal given that his topic is the Civil War. He doesn’t absolve the North in the mistreatment of blacks either.

    All in all it is obvious you have a beef with him for other reasons than this particular piece, which completely clutters your argument.Report

  13. sonmi451 says:

    Keep deleting my comments and congratulating yourselves for living in the palace straight/gay/bisexual white guys. Congrats! I notice still no post on MLK’s day. I guess straight/gay/bisexual white guys don’t care about something as silly as that.Report

  14. sonmi451 says:

    Keep deleting my comments and congratulating yourselves for living in the palace of straight/gay/bisexual white guys. Congrats! I notice still no post on MLK’s day. I guess straight/gay/bisexual white guys don’t care about something as silly as that.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to sonmi451 says:

      The only comments that I have ever deleted are either from obvious spam (“good post I leanred a lot” with a website advertising knock off tennis shoes) or from Heiddeger.

      If your comment was deleted, I didn’t do it.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to sonmi451 says:

      I did warn you to keep a civil tongue in your head.   Quit crapping on my articles and I’ll quit deleting your posts.    When and if you ever write anything of substance, please remember this is a palace built of words and the mortar which binds it together is a modicum of decency, entirely lacking in your contumacious comments.


  15. Plinko says:

    I’m struggling with this post, Blaise. I did read this before I read TNCs, but even in that light, I had a hard time connecting what has upset you so much to engender such a sharp response.

    Yes, there’s that bit of line from Faulkner that you claim is a misquote, but there’s an equally plausible reading that TNC isn’t using the quote as a bludgeon against Faulkner as that Faulkner was accurately conveying a real mindset that existed, not necessarily one he shared himself. I don’t see TNC here saying Faulkner was in with the Lost Cause (though if he has previously, mea culpa, I don’t find the time to read his blog anymore). He does cast Shelby Foote in there but I don’t see that you disagree with that persepctive in your post here.

    Short of that, why the diatribe? By your own start, it sounds to me like you applaud the desire for African-Americans to take more ownership of the subject of the Civil War. Chiding him for neglecting to call out that our national sins against others have also been whitewashed doesn’t cut – how does his purpose require a recounting of every moral outrage we’ve perpetrated?Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Plinko says:

      Allow me to set this up in context with a quote from TNC:

      Faulkner famously wrote of Pickett’s Charge:

      For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863 … and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet … That moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time.

      These “Southern boys,” like Catton’s “people,” are all white. But I, standing on Brien’s property, standing where Mag Palmer lived, saw Pickett’s soldiers charging through history, in wild pursuit of their strange birthright—the license to beat and shackle women under the cover of night. That is all of what was “in the balance,” the nostalgic moment’s corrupt and unspeakable core.

      The corrupt and unspeakable core of As I Lay Dying was a woman’s stinking corpse with two holes drilled in her face, bouncing in the back of a wagon on its way to Jefferson in the company of the weirdest collection of wounded Po’ White Trash in all of literature.

      He who conflates Bruce Catton with William Faulkner has no sense.   This is an idiot’s reading of Faulkner.   It annoys me greatly.   All white?   Allow me to put forward a little more Faulkner, just to put this bullshit in context, from pages 229 and 230 of the corrected text of As I Lay Dying:

      We follow the wagon, the whispering wheels, passing the cabins where faces come to the doors, white-eyed.   We hear sudden voices, ejaculant.  Jewel has been looking from side to side; now his head turns forward and I can see his ears taking on a still deeper tone of furious red.   Three negroes walk beside the road ahead of us; ten feet ahead of them a white man walks.  When we pass the negroes their heads turn suddenly with that expression of shock and instinctive outrage.  “Great God,” one says; “what they got in that wagon?”

      Jewel whirls, “Son of a bitches,” he says.   As he does so he is abreast of the white man, who has paused.   It is as though Jewel has gone blind for a moment, for it is the white man toward whom he whirls.

      “Darl!” Cash says from the wagon.  I grasp at Jewel.   The white man has fallen back a pace, his face still slack-jawed; then his jaw tightens, claps to.  Jewel leans above him, his jaw muscles gone white.

      “What did you say?” he asks.

      “Here,” I say.  “He don’t mean anything, mister.  Jewel,” I say.  When I touch him he swings at the man.   I grasp his arm, we struggle.  Jewel has never looked at me.  He is trying to free his arm.  When I see the man again, he has an open knife in his hand.

      “Hold up, mister,” I say; “I’ve got him.  Jewel,” I say. 

      “Thinks because he’s a goddamn town fellow,”  Jewel says, panting, wrenching at me.  “Son of a bitch,” he says.

      The man moves.  He begins to edge around me, watching Jewel, the knife low against his flank.  “Cant no man call me that,” he says.  Pa has got down, and Dewey Dell is holding Jewel, pushing at him.  I release him and face the man.

      “Wait,” I say.  “He don’t mean nothing.  He’s sick; got burned in a fire last night and he ain’t himself.”

      “Fire or no fire,” the man says, “cant no man call me that.”

      “He thought you said something to him,” I say.

      “I never said nothing to him.  I never seen him before.”

      “Fore God,” pa says; “Fore God.”

      And these — these poor country folks with a corpse stinking to high heaven in the back of their wagon, poor half-insane Jewel, who can’t even confront the negroes who were startled by the stench of the cargo in his wagon, these are to be feared?    TNC has hung his non-Faulkner reading ass out the window far enough for me to take a pot shot and I have taken that shot.   Quoting unread authors is a dangerous business.Report

      • Plinko in reply to BlaiseP says:

        I don’t think you can fairly paint Coates as not having read his Faulkner. He might approach it or appreciate it differently than you’d like, but he’s read it.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Plinko says:

          Um, clearly he hasn’t.  The whole miserable point of As I Lay Dying is reconciled in the stinking corpse of Addie Bundren on her way to Jefferson.   Don’t think for a minute Faulkner didn’t choose than name carefully.Report

          • Plinko in reply to BlaiseP says:

            I feel like a chump because TNC doesn’t need me to defend him, but look here, here and here. Dude’s read the stuff, or else he’s wasting his time writing about reading books he’s not reading.

            The middle one he discusses that quote a little more and, I think, vindicates himself from what you’re insinuating.

            I think the frequent invocation of this Faulkner quote, though perhaps not the quote itself, sum up the problem . . . No one, in Shelby Foote fashion, should ever earnestly offer up this quote. People who do sound foolish. It’s fawning invocation of this quote is almost always racist, and perhaps even sexist.

            You’re suggesting the man is not willing or not capable of discerning author from character, it’s uncharitable at best.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

            BlaiseP is substantiating his argument about TNC cribbing/wiki-ing but not reading/getting Faulkner here.  It’s a formal [counter]argument, about the evidence.

            You’re free to disagree with Blaise’s take on the bigger picture here.  Actually, I don’t see why you would.  It’s even more PC than PC.  Blaise is a visionary: where he goes now, you will one day will follow.

            [I say this with no disrespect, Blaise.  You’re a radical, and I like that so much more than the lukewarm water that we spit out of our mouths.  The greatest sin for a writer is to be boring, and this you are not ever.]

            [Exc yr GOP hate. This we can get anywhere, and we do, word up.  The biggest idiot here @ LoOG covers that ground.  When I can’t tell the difference between you and the riff-raff, well, leave the riff-raffing to the riff-raff with no fear it’ll be left unsaid.  Keep on keepin’ on, you subversive, you.]Report

            • Plinko in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              If that’s what Blaise wanted to say, he should say that. It’s a very different statement and the subsequent arguments would be of a different nature.

              I am in very close agreement on most of the first half, it’s the second half that bothers me. I think I would still disagree should he posit the argument, but I’d respect it a lot more than just accusing that Coates is an ignoramus. Faulkner might be our greatest American writer, but he’s not a god.



      • James Vonder Haar in reply to BlaiseP says:

        You still haven’t done a ton to validate the point of dispute here (at least, as far as I can tell what your main point is- it’s been a bit hard to follow)- that TNC is imputing Faulkner’s description of an attitude amongst some southern whites as Faulkner’s own.  You say above, “He who conflates Bruce Catton with William Faulkner has no sense,” but I can’t see how TNC has conflated them.  The only point of evidence you can furnish is a similarity that TNC points out between their works- both Catton’s retrospection and the southern boys’ fantasies are from a particularly myopic white point of view.  This analogy does not imply that Catton’s point of view and the point of view of the southern boys are the same, and still less does it imply that Faulkner’s own view is the same as the southern boys he describes.  It’s just not in the text.Report

  16. Unger says:

    This is deeply, profoundly, fundamentally [edited].Report

  17. WAKnight says:

    Well, that was incoherent and self-pitying.

    Coates is an autodictat in the historiagraphy of the Civil war as well as primary sources.  I would suggest reading both historians and primary sources before trying to engage him.

    Otherwise you’re just embarrassing yourself.


    • BlaiseP in reply to WAKnight says:

      Heh heh.  Google and Wikiquote make geniuses of us all, now don’t they? Autodidact this: William Faulkner is more than a few bytes on someone else’s server.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Blaise – Is you contention that the Civil War books and other texts that Coates claims to have read – and quite often reads them as parts of online book clubs with his readers – is a sham?  It’s a pretty hefty charge.  May I ask why you believe this?Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          Nah, that’s probably just angry excess on my part.  Look, it goes like this:  Faulkner’s entire opus depicted a grim, deeply saddening picture of what became of everyone in the South, black, white, mixed race people.   If TNC had read Faulkner, he’d know this.   He’d know why Intruder in the Dust was written and why Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for it.   None of this puts in an appearance.

          You know who made that bit about Pickett’s Charge in Faulkner famous?   Old Shelby Foote, in Ken Burns’Civil War.   He quotes it out of context, too.Report

          • WAKnight in reply to BlaiseP says:


            You may have missed the bit where he live-blogged As I Lay Dying.

            Not sure if he’s read intruder in the Dusk, but I’m not sure if that makes the quote an invalid tool to illustrate a mindset, as opposed to express what Faulkner himself thought (TNC said as much on this site in comments).  As a Faulkner fan myself, I wish more people read Go Down Moses.

            Sorry for the intemperance on my part earlier.  To clarify, it wasn’t that I wanted to defend TNC (if he feels the need he can do that himself), but that conflating the sufferings of immigrant wage laborers in 1870, slaves in 1860 and indentured servants in 1740* kind of makes many people who have read into slavery see red.  To argue thus is to concede George Fitzhugh’s point in his pro-slavery tract Cannibals All, that wage labor was equivalent to slavery and therefor the slave system, being no worse than wage labor, was morally defensible.  That, and as hard as immigrant laborers had it they never had to worry about being sold, they weren’t kept as sex slaves as a matter of course…and one could go on and on

            If someone makes those kinds of claims -after- reading someone like Blight, Foner or MacPherson…color me puzzled.  I cannot speak for you and I apologize for doing so earlier, but if you haven’t read these authors (or heard their free lectures or whatever) I suggest you do.


            *three groups under vastly different ‘contract’ whose main similarity is being on the bottom of the totem poll.


      • WAKnight in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Your obsession with your (narrow) reading of Coates’s Faulkner quote is odd.  You know he’s clarified in comments here that he’s not ascribing the view to Faulkner…yet you persist.

        Let me break it down — anyone who conflates the suffering of slaves an Irish-Americans is an ignoramus.  I read books in high school that could disprove it.  Anything you pick up on the Civil war (primary or secondary) that is remotely reputable will explode such claims.  Go read those books, then we’ll talk.

        If you are going to make this claim, then you are not a member of a serious conversation.  You are a troll with a URL.


  18. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Tell an African-American [TNC] that the Civil War, with a half-million dead whites, wasn’t “worth it” to free the black man from bondage.

    Go for it.

    Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.

    Jefferson, cited by Ta-Nehisi Cotes in this essay.  Jefferson, the most irreligious of our Founders, and a goddam slaverholder himself.

    Supernatural interference?  Divine justice.Report

  19. jfxgillis says:



    Blaise is front-paging the League  … while E.D. is front-paging Atlantic.


    Everybody’s movin’ up a slot!Report