View RSS Feed

Memories of the 28th Century

End of History

Rate this Entry
I don't like the term “nihilism”, but recently I have found myself using that on a few occasions; although it may have been misplaced. I have used it in reference to people who use their own set of pseudo-facts in place of history. People like the ones who tore down the statue of U.S. Grant, ostensibly because he owned a slave for a time. In that case, they were also ignoring the matter of him leading the North to victory over the Confederate States of America. Grant wasn't the nicest person around, but he was successful, and without him the North might have had a loser running the Army, and that could have led to a stalemate and a polite ceasefire that would have allowed chattel slavery to continue until it collapsed under the weight of the expense of keeping slaves year-round for three months when they did profitable work. While this would make an excellent alternative history novel, I am thinking about the people who know as much history as pleases them and not a microgram more.

The flip side of Grant was Lee, who was a patriot. He was a Virginian; although he was a professional soldier for the United States of America for many years, and he was good enough that the U.S.A. offered him command of their army against the Confederate States of America, and he was considering the offer, when Virginia ended its association with the United States of America. He remained with his country (Virginia), so when the Confederate States offered him command of an army to defend Virginia, he accepted the offer. It was his country. Lee and many other people had dilemmas, because their homelands left the federation that they had belonged to for decades. Should they be loyal to their countries or to the federation? There still is a question for some people.

Then there is the matter of which is more important, the individual countries or the federation. It is clear from the Constitution that the federal government is a creature of the individual states; the federal government has only a few, specified powers, and all other powers belong to the states or the citizens. Ever since the constitution was ratified, there has been disagreement as to where the seat of power should be, and the federal government has extended it grip on powers, especially since Lincoln made war against states that decided to defy the attempt of the federal government to grab more power.

But that isn't what I wanted to write about. I wanted to point out that some of the people who have been knocking down statues have demonstrated ignorance of why the statues were there, but I confess that I don't know why all of them were erected, either, but I know why there was a a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia , and it had nothing to do with slavery. It was about national sovereignty, acceptance or non-acceptance of foreign power and local identity and the honoring of a hero.

There are statues in some places that few people, if anyone, can explain why the statue was put up. I suspect that some statues were erected, because someone paid for it. Some of those statues may have been attempts to create a myth, as revisers of history have done with much of American history in the last few decades, and people did with American history since it was first written.

It is often difficult to find out what really happened in past times, because the histories were written by the winners who tried to show their cause as the best, most honorable, etc., and in many cases they succeeded. History of the American has been made more accurate for the last few decades, as historian left in the parts that showed the patriots as something other than idealists and more as practical businessmen trying to do their best, but the attempts to idealize the Civil War continues, and some people still have the idea that it was about slavery. Simpl3 minds look for simple answers, and they usually find them. While slavery was a small part of the matter, the larger issues were about culture and who should determine the direction. These days, most people seem to think that news in the 1850's and '60's was much the same as it is now, but even though literacy rates were in the range of 80 to 95%, news sources were as limited then as they are now and as opinionated. Nonetheless, opinion in the North was generally against the Civil War, Mr. Lincoln's War, and most people thought that the states that had seceded should be allowed to go their own way, because most people realized that the states were separate, sovereign entities. In the century and a half since then understand of the U.S.A. As an alliance of sovereign entities has shrunk as history has been revised to support some political opinions. More recently, many people have put forth the notion that the U.S.A. Is not a federation but a unitary country, of which the states are subdivisions for carrying the will of the central government. Not only is that erroneous, but it would be quite impractical. The differences among the states are rather large, and a single administration to run them would not work even as well as the present situation. I suspect that part of the problem does go back to Mr. Lincoln trying to rule by edict and trying to impose his will on the states.

Much of the evil done during the Civil War was undone in the decades after the war, but since then several presidents have tried to rule by edict and used Mr. Lincoln as a precedent. If people want the U.S.A. To be ruled by edict, then they should throw out the Constitution and install a monarch. But if people want a limited republic, then they should use the one we have and trim off the excesses.

This post has slid a bit from the initial idea of revisionist history, but it continued to be what I was thinking about. The separation of the limited powers of the federal government and the broader powers of the states is one of the features that has made the U.S.A. successful. Imposing the ideologies of 2020 on earlier times makes no sense, because some of the current ideologies are to narrow=minded to work at any time. And if people had some understanding of what went on in earlier time, then they might understand how things evolved to the present state. If people throw away history, then they have no basis for the present.


  1. PeterL's Avatar
    I should have mentioned this:
    In 1863, soldiers arrested, tried and found guilty Democratic Sen. Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio for violating Army orders against public expressions of Confederate sympathies. He had denounced the War and the Administration at home and in Congress. President Abraham Lincoln banished Vallandigham to rebel territory. He returned and appealed the action in the Supreme Court.
    and Milligan, in which the Supreme Court found that military courst could not operate in places where the civil courts operated in cases against civilians, but it was too late for Sen. Clement L. Vallandigham, but this is how government by edict operates. Milligan was not decided until after Lincoln had died. Keep this in mind, when a chief executive tries to operate outside the law.
    Did the history of the civil war that you learned evenr mention either of these men? Or did you run into them in a course on constitutional law?
    Updated 06-27-2020 at 10:27 PM by PeterL