Monday, August 06, 2007

Comment on Increasing the Size of the Supreme Court.

Date: Thu 8/2/2007 10:54 AM
Subject: Re: Increasing The Size Of The Supreme Court.



Larry,

A couple of comments: I have always found Chamberlain's Passing of the Armies very moving. Still do. Read it to my wife Jane. She cried. I think any good American would be moved.

Only problem, it never happened, at least not as Joshua L. told it. Check out William Marvel, A Place Called Appomattox. Came out a few yrs ago, and got good reviews. He's done his homework. Chamberlain waited until almost everyone of any rank at the surrender had died, then published his account, which does someone inflate his role. One of the few generals still living who was there was John Brown Gordon of Georgia, who took a leading role in Reconstruction, and once his state was safe from carpetbaggers, scalawags, and blacks, became a New South booster and advocate of sectional reconciliation. He read Chamberlain's version and was shrewd enough to endorse it and boost it.

Now some distinguished historians like William W. Freehling cite Marvel's account, but apparently have not read it, because they continue to follow Chamberlain's version of the story. I find it all highly entertaining.

I still believe, or want to believe, in Chamberlain's version. I also believe in Santa Claus and my country, but sometimes it's very hard to keep the dream alive. I try to pass it all on to my children, but as a scholar think it's important to keep a bright line between myth and reality.

On another front: there's a new bio of Lee out reviewed by David Blight, a PC type who liked it because it helped put another chink in Marse Robert's armor and legend. As I understand it, the author is an old hand in the State Dept. I wonder if all the policies and actions of the US govt, under various presidents, were ones she could endorse morally in good conscience? Or did she just keep her lip buttoned when she disagreed w/one war or another and keep drawing her GS-13 salary?

Amazing, after much research in a trove of Lee letters that she found, she has come up with some brilliant insights. Lee, a professional army officer and white southerner, was conservative! Who knew? Quelle surprise. Also, he was a racist, unlike all of us today; and unlike everyone else back then. Here's the clincher: he once beat, or had beaten, rather badly, one of his wife's slaves. I ran across that story years ago, but from an abolitionist source, and so I was skeptical.

What this tells me is that Frank Tannenbaum was right in Slave and Citizen: under slavery, nothing escaped, nothing and no one. It fouled everyone it touched, including Lee.

Best regards,

Mike Chesson

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