Saturday, 23 May 2020

If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg

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I share Churchill's admiration for Robert E. Lee. I am always attracted to lost causes.

In an article written in the 1930s Churchill writes as a historian in an imaginary world in which the Confederates won the US Civil War, reflecting on what might have happened had they not. 
I read it with delight when I was 8, in a bound copy of several issues of a history magazine which I bought cheap at a market.

Last time I looked only extracts were on the net but and by chance I just found that it is now available complete. 

It is a very clever exercise in imaginary history and a perfectly plausible one. Reading it now in 2020 I see it contains lines which would almost certainly not be published in a respectable magazine these days, although remember they are being written in the character of a historian in a victorious Confederacy, sixty years after it achieved independence.
There is practically no doubt at this stage that the basic principle upon which the colour question in the Southern States of America has been so happily settled owed its origin mainly to Gladstonian ingenuity and to the long statecraft of Britain in dealing with alien and more primitive populations. There was not only the need to declare the new fundamental relationship between master and servant, but the creation for the liberated slaves of institutions suited to their own cultural development and capable of affording them a different yet honourable status in a common wealth, destined eventually to become almost world-wide.
Let us only think what would have happened supposing the liberation of the slaves had at that time been followed immediately by some idiotic assertion of racial equality, and even by attempts to graft white democratic institutions upon the simple, gifted African race belonging to a much earlier chapter in human history. We might have seen the whole of the Southern States invaded by gangs of carpet-bagging politicians exploiting the ignorant and untutored coloured vote against the white inhabitants and bringing the time-honoured forms of parliamentary government into unmerited disrepute. We might have seen the sorry farce of black legislatures attempting to govern their former masters. Upon the rebound from this there must inevitably have been a strong reassertion of local white supremacy. By one device or another the franchises accorded to the negroes would have been taken from them. The constitutional principles of the Republic would have been proclaimed, only to be evaded or subverted; and many a warm-hearted philanthropist would have found his sojourn in the South no better than “A Fool’s Errand.”
I am not sure if putting these lines into the mouth of an imaginary 1930s Southern historian would save them from being deemed racist had it been written now. In any case Churchill agreed with the sentiments.

Churchill was always an Edwardian progressive and imperialist and therefore certainly was a racist by the standards of his own day, as Andrew Roberts pointed out in his wonderful essay on Churchill's immigration policy in Eminent Churchillians

By the way, Andrew Roberts quotes (from Harold Macmillan's diary) Churchill as saying in cabinet in January 1955
Keep England white - that would be a good election slogan.
Thinking the Confederate cause was right, on the other hand, is not racist. To me it is simply common sense and humanity. I think it was unforgivable that Lincoln launched a war that cost 700,000 lives to keep the South in the USA against its will. It should not be forgiven him, at any rate. Slavery is one of the sins on which the USA is built but the bloody subjugation of the South by the North is another. 

6 comments:

  1. “After all, I think Forrest was the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side… He had never read a military book in his life, knew nothing about tactics, could not even drill a company, but had a genius of strategy which was original, and to me incomprehensible.”

    William T. Sherman

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  2. The third sin on which the USA is built, I'd argue, was rebellion against their lawful king.

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    1. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

      He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

      He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

      He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

      He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

      He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

      He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

      He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

      He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

      He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

      He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

      He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

      He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

      He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

      For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

      For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

      For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

      For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

      For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

      For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

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    2. For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

      For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

      For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

      He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

      He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

      He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

      He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

      He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

      In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

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  3. What's the difference between the 7 secessionist states not wanting to be part of the Union and the 13 colonies not wanting to be part of the United Kingdom?

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    1. Even if there were no difference a republic built on act of rebellion should not object to some of the states rebelling again. In fact a union created by free association of thirteen states should allow those states to take back their sovereignty but even that is not the point. Why on earth force half the country against its will, at the cost of 700,000 dead, to remain in a country they wish to leave?

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