James M. McPherson

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Pulitzer Prize* winning author James McPherson, writing for the American Historical Association, described the importance of revisionism: "Revisionism," he argues, is "what makes history vital and meaningful."
 
Academic Criticism and Narcissism

Some of Revisionist James McPherson's Civil War scholarship has come under criticism from economist and Abraham Lincoln critic Thomas DiLorenzo for a perceived latent pro-North bias to his work and for exhibiting a liberal political bent. In particular he has critiqued McPherson's grasp of economic issues. The two scholars took opposing views in an exchange published by North and South magazine in 2004.
 
DiLorenzo made an argument that the Southern states in 1860 bore a disproportionately large percentage of the costs of protective tariffs. McPherson, also a pro-Lincoln revisionist, replied to DiLorenzo in an article entitled "The Truth About Tariffs" in which he claimed a disproportionately Southern tariff burden was "totally absurd." According to McPherson, DiLorenzo's sources were "transposing" the South's share of exports to "their share of dutiable imports" - a methodology he then claims runs counter to the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of an export tax.
 
DiLorenzo responded that McPherson's article relied upon his own reputation [narcissism] as a well known Civil War historian rather than scholarly credentials in economics or qualified examination of statistical data and, as a result, McPherson's "comments (were) completely uninformed by even elementary economic theory." Countering the export argument, DiLorenzo responds that according to trade economics, "import tariffs impose a disproportionate burden on export-dependent regions" by passing the burdens of the tax onto export merchants, thus effectively making tariffs on imports a tax on exports as well (see Lerner symmetry theorem). As the South produced between two thirds and three fourths of the nation's exports, argues DiLorenzo, a heavy tariff would be expected to disproportionately harm its export producers. According to DiLorenzo, McPherson seemed "completely oblivious" to this aspect of trade economics and thus provided economic analysis that was erroneous. Another criticism by DiLorenzo includes the allegation that McPherson's work exhibits radical, Marxist tendencies.
 
Also, regarding McPherson and what caused the Civil War, Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr., author of the bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, has a dissenting view:
 
"The First, Second, Ninth, and Tenth amendments [to the Constitution] and States' Rights have been unlawfully trampled upon by the federal government since the early days of the republic." Woods continues: "The Civil War was not principally about slavery, and Abraham Lincoln was no friend to the slaves." Thomas E Woods, Jr. holds an AB from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Columbia. He teaches American History, is the associate editor of The Latin Mass Magazine, and is a prolific essayist on historical subjects. He lives with his family in Coram, New York. (See also What Caused the Civil War: James McPherson v. Abraham Lincoln.)
 
Pro-North Bias and Hidden Agenda Exposed
 
McPherson blasts Condoleezza Rice, United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), and the Museum of the Confederacy. In 1998, McPherson, however, voiced his support for President Bill Clinton and against impeachment charges during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Pro-Union Revisionist McPherson also remarked that board members of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia were "undoubtedly neo-Confederate." These comments outraged members of the UDC and SCV, bringing condemnation of McPherson and causing boycott calls against his books.

Members of the UDC and SCV were similarly offended by these comments. The Virginia UDC responded in their newsletter that "Far from apologizing for his baseless accusations of racism, (McPherson) has now added ignorance to the list of sins that we have committed." The groups continue to oppose McPherson.

In 1998, McPherson, however, voiced his support for President Bill Clinton and against impeachment charges during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
 
In an interview with Democracy Now in 1999, (after fellow radical and extremist Ed Sebesta had spoken) James McPherson stated adamantly:
 
"I think, I agree a 100% with Ed Sebesta about the motives or the hidden agenda, not too, not too deeply hidden I think of such groups as the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They are dedicated to celebrating the Confederacy and rather thinly veiled support for white supremacy. And I think that also is the again not very deeply hidden agenda of the Confederate flag issue in several southern states."
 
In response to McPherson's reckless, but apparently calculated remarks, americancivilwarhistory.org states:
 
"Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. James McPherson, with his bias and unprofessional agenda and his incessant and baseless bashing against all things Confederate and Southern, has brought great discord to the entire field and study of Civil War history. McPherson has brought reproach to the Pulitzer and perhaps exhibits classic signs of narcissism." (See also Author and Pro-President Abraham Lincoln Revisionist Admits to Forgery.)
 
The Most Unprofessional Writings in Circulation
 
As president of the American Historical Association (AHA), he used his regular "President's Column" in "Perspectives" to address a some of politically and socially-sensitive issues. He criticized the Bush administration's doctrine of preemptive war in Iraq, citing the examples the American Civil war and World War II. Responding to comments in 2003 when Bush and Condoleezza Rice criticized revisionist historians, McPherson accused the Bush Administration of using deceptive information to "justify an unprovoked invasion" of Iraq. In another column, he detailed the "older forms affirmative action", such as the "old boys network", that helped people like him advance, and acknowledges that contemporary affirmative action, while imperfect, is less unjust than the old system.
 
The practice of espousing contemporary political beliefs in his columns drew backlash and criticism from several AHA members who wrote letters to the editor of "Perspectives". David F. Krein, of Scott Community College in Iowa, responded that McPherson "seems intent to use his 2003 term as AHA president as his own "bully pulpit" (as president of the AHA) to promote a personal political agenda" and "implore(d) him to stop" the politicization of his column "for the dignity of the profession" of historians. Don McArthur, of Maine South High School in Illinois, responded that McPherson's politics were "furthering a general public mistrust of academic historians" and requested that he "moderate his obviously intense political aversion to the (Bush) administration" when writing in official AHA publications. Martin J. Weiner, of Rice University, described McPherson's columns as "the most unprofessional thing I have seen in 35 years of reading Perspectives," the AHA's newsletter in which they were published, and suggested the organization's Professional Division should consider McPherson's actions as an "abuse of his office."
 
* Some critics of the Pulitzer Prize have accused the organization of favoring those who support liberal causes or oppose conservative causes. Syndicated columnist L. Brent Bozell said that the Pulitzer Prize has a "liberal legacy," particularly in its prize for commentary. He pointed to a 31-year period in which only 5 conservatives won prizes for commentary. The claim is also supported by a statement from the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, Kathleen Parker: "it's only because I'm a conservative basher that I'm now recognized." Bozell, Brent (2007-04-22). "Pulitzers' liberal legacy". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; Hagey, Keach (4 October 2010). "Kathleen Parker: 'Smallish-town girl' hits cable". Politico.

(Sources and related reading listed below)

Recommended Reading: When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession. Review: As a historian, I have learned that the heart of any great work in history lies in the ample and accurate use of primary sources, and primary sources are the great strength of this work. While countless tomes have debated the perceived moral sides of the Civil War and the motivations of the various actors, this work investigates the motives of the primary players in the era and in their own words and writings. This gives the work an excellent realism and accuracy. The author, Charles Adams, has earned a reputation as one of the leading economic historians in the field, particularly in the area of taxes. He utilizes this background to investigate the American Civil War, and comes to some very striking conclusions, many that defy the politically-correct history of today. His thesis postulates that the Civil War had its primary cause not in slavery or states' rights, but rather in cold, hard economic concerns. Continued below...
He shows that the North used its supremacy in Congress to push through massive tariffs to fund the government, and that these tariffs fell much harder on the export-dependent South than upon the insular north. In fact, the total revenue from the "Compromise" Tariffs on the 1830s and 40s amounted to $107.5 million, of which $90 million came from the South. The majority of the revenue, moreover, was spent on projects “far from the South.” According to Adams, this disparity finally pushed the South to seek its own independence. Supporting this conclusion is the fact that the South enacted extremely low tariffs throughout the war, whereas the north enacted the Morrill Tariff of 1861, which enacted tariffs as high as 50 percent on some goods. Adams also chronicles the oft-overlooked excesses of the Lincoln Administration, and compares them to the actions of Julius Caesar. Using the letters and reports of the times, he tells how Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, trod roughshod over the Constitution, jailed thousands of U.S. citizens who dared disagree with him and even wrote a warrant for the arrest of the Chief Justice of the United States. Adams also ably uses the viewpoints of British and other Europeans to describe different contemporary views on the struggle. These provide excellent outside insight. On the whole, readers will find the book a superb and scholarly analysis, providing fresh insights into the motivations and causes of the defining war in American history. A work that likely makes Revisionist James McPherson shake in his pro-Northern boots. Why? Because according to McPherson the 620,000 American men and boys died only to free slaves and to, later, own slaves. AWARDED 5 STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org

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Related Reading:
 

Recommended Reading: The South Was Right! (Hardcover). Description: Kin Hubbard said "'Tain't what a man don't know that hurts him; it's what he does know that just ain't so." Much of what people "know" about the causes, conduct, and consequences of the Civil War "just ain't so." The Kennedy brothers make a strong case that the real reasons and results of the War Between the States have been buried under the myth of Father Abraham and his blue-clad saints marching south to save the Union and free the slaves. Sure, the tone is polemical. But the "enlightened" elements of American opinion have been engaging in a polemic against the South and its people for decades. Continued below...

This book adopts the "following the money approach" to analyzing who profited most from slavery – a convincing argument that reflects that much of the wealth went to the North. It also points out that slavery was not new to Africa, and was practiced by Africans against Africans without foreign intervention. A strong case is made that the North and Lincoln held strong racist views. Lincoln proposed shipping, or transporting, blacks back to Africa  The blacks residing in the Northern states were in a precarious predicament (e.g. draft riots and lynchings in NY City). The authors, however, do not make any argument supporting slavery - their consistent line is the practice is vile. The fact that many blacks served, assisted and provided material support to Union and Confederate Armies is beyond refute. Native Americans also served with distinction on both sides during the Civil War. “A controversial and thought-provoking book that challenges the status-quo of present teachings…”

 

Recommended Reading: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Description: It hardly seems possible that there is more to say about someone who has been subjected to such minute scrutiny in thousands of books and articles. Yet, Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln manages to raise fresh and morally probing questions, challenging the image of the martyred 16th president that has been fashioned carefully in marble and bronze, sentimentalism and myth. In doing so, DiLorenzo does not follow the lead of M. E. Bradford or other Southern agrarians. Unlike James McPherson who deifies Lincoln and blames the entire Civil War on slavery, DiLorenzo presents overwhelming facts, sources, statistics, and references to corroborate Lincoln's Agenda and [His] Unnecessary War. Continued below...

He writes primarily not as a defender of the Old South and its institutions, culture, and traditions, but as a libertarian enemy of the Leviathan state. DiLorenzo holds Lincoln and his war responsible for the triumph of "big government" and the birth of the ubiquitous, suffocating modern U.S. state. He seeks to replace the nation’s memory of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” with the record of Lincoln as the “Great Centralizer.” This is a book that James M. McPherson, easily, just can't stand - it is contrary to his view and position that Abraham Lincoln was the Saint, Father, and Great Emancipator. Great read for anyone interested in a balanced view of the oft painted Christ-like Lincoln.
 
Recommended Reading: The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Review: Claiming that most textbooks and popular history books were written by biased left-wing writers and scholars, historian Thomas Woods offers this guide as an alternative to "the stale and predictable platitudes of mainstream texts." Covering the colonial era through the Clinton administration, Woods seeks to debunk some persistent myths about American history. For instance, he writes, the Puritans were not racists intent on stealing the Indians' lands, the Founding Fathers were not revolutionaries but conservatives in the true sense of the word, the American War Between the States (to even call it a civil war is inaccurate, Woods says) was not principally about slavery, and Abraham Lincoln was no friend to the slaves. Unlike pro-Union and pro-Lincoln Revisionist James McPherson, Woods places each argument in context, historical context to be exact, with historical background. He further, unlike McPherson, reflects (historical) precedence and unity in his arguments. Continued below...
FDR's New Deal policies actually made the Depression worse. He also covers a wide range of constitutional interpretations over the years, particularly regarding the First, Second, Ninth, and Tenth amendments, and continually makes the point that states' rights have been unlawfully trampled upon by the federal government since the early days of the republic. Though its title is more deliberately provocative than accurate, Woods' attack on what he sees as rampant liberal revisionism over the past 25 years proves to be an interesting platform for a book. He's as biased as those he rails against, of course, but he does provoke thought in an entertaining way even if he sometimes tries to pass off opinion as hard facts. This quick and enjoyable read is packed with unfamiliar quotes, informative sidebars, iconoclastic viewpoints, and a list of books "you're not supposed to read." It is not a comprehensive or detailed study, but that is not its aim; instead, it offers ideas for further research and a challenge to readers to dig deeper and analyze some basic assumptions about American history--a worthy goal that Woods manages to reach.
From the Inside Flap: Everything well, almost everything you know about American history is wrong because most textbooks and popular history books are written by left-wing academic historians who treat their biases as fact. But fear not: Professor Thomas Woods refutes the popular myths in The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Professor Woods reveals facts that you won't be or never were taught in school, tells you about the "Books You're Not Supposed to Read," and takes you on a fast-paced politically incorrect tour of American history that will give you all the information you need to battle and confound left-wing professors, neighbors, and friends. About the Author: Professor Thomas E. Woods Jr. holds an AB from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Columbia. He teaches American History, is the associate editor of The Latin Mass Magazine, and is a prolific essayist on historical subjects. He lives with his family in Coram, New York.
 

Recommended Reading: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe. Description: While many view our 16th president as the nation’s greatest president and hero, Tom Dilorenzo, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, through his scholarly research, exposes the many unconstitutional decisions of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln Unmasked, a best-seller, reveals that ‘other side’ – the inglorious character – of the nation’s greatest tyrant and totalitarian. Continued below...

A controversial book that is hailed by many and harshly criticized by others, Lincoln Unmasked, nevertheless, is a thought-provoking study and view of Lincoln that was not taught in our public school system. (Also available in hardcover: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe.)
 

Recommended Reading: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Politically Incorrect Guides). Description: Get ready for a rousing rebel yell as bestselling author H.W. Crocker, III (Robert E. Lee on Leadership) charges through bunkers and battlefields in The Politically Incorrect Guide(TM) to the Civil War. Crocker busts myths and shatters stereotypes as he profiles eminent--and colorful--military generals while taking readers through chapters such as "The Civil War in Sixteen Battles You Should Know" and culminating in the most politically incorrect chapter of all, "What if the South Had Won." Revealing little-known truths, like why Robert E. Lee had a higher regard for African Americans than Lincoln did, this is the "P.I.G." that every Civil War buff and Southern partisan will want on their bookshelf, in their classroom, and under their Christmas tree. Continued below…

From the Inside Flap: Think you know the Civil War? You don't know the full story until you read The Politically Incorrect GuideTM to the Civil War. Bestselling author and former Conservative Book Club editor H. W. Crocker III offers a quick and lively study of America's own Iliad--the Civil War--in this provocative and entertaining addition to The Politically Incorrect GuideTM series. In The Politically Incorrect GuideTM to the Civil War Crocker profiles eminent--and colorful--military generals including the noble Lee, the controversial Sherman, the indefatigable Grant, the legendary Stonewall Jackson, and the notorious Nathan Bedford Forrest. He also includes thought-provoking chapters such as "The Civil War in Sixteen Battles You Should Know" and the most devastatingly politically incorrect chapter of all, "What If the South Had Won?" Along the way, he reveals a huge number of little-known truths, including why Robert E. Lee had a higher regard for African Americans than Lincoln did; how, if there had been no Civil War, the South would have abolished slavery peaceably (as every other country in the Western Hemisphere did in the nineteenth century); and how the Confederate States of America might have helped the Allies win World War I sooner. Bet your history professor never told you:

* Leading Northern generals--like McClellan and Sherman--hated abolitionists

* Bombing people "back to the Stone Age" got its start with the Federal siege of Vicksburg

* General Sherman professed not to know which was "the greater evil": slavery or democracy

* Stonewall Jackson founded a Sunday school for slaves where he taught them how to read

* General James Longstreet fought the Battle of Sharpsburg in his carpet slippers

This is the Politically Incorrect GuideTM that every Civil War buff and Southern partisan--and everyone who is tired of liberal self-hatred that vilifies America's greatest heroes--must have on his bookshelf.

 

FIVE STARS! Recommended Reading: The Civil War: A Narrative, by Shelby Foote (3 Volumes Set) [BOX SET] (2960 pages) (9.2 pounds). Review: This beautifully written trilogy of books on the American Civil War is not only a piece of first-rate history, but also a marvelous work of literature. Shelby Foote brings a skilled novelist's narrative power to this great epic. Many know Foote for his prominent role as a commentator on Ken Burns's PBS series about the Civil War. These three books, however, are his legacy. His southern sympathies are apparent: the first volume opens by introducing Confederate President Jefferson Davis, rather than Abraham Lincoln. But they hardly get in the way of the great story Foote tells. This hefty three volume set should be on the bookshelf of any Civil War buff. --John Miller. Continued below…

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Product Description:

Foote's comprehensive history of the Civil War includes three compelling volumes: Fort Sumter to Perryville, Fredericksburg to Meridian, and Red River to Appomattox. Collected together in a handsome boxed set, this is the perfect gift for any Civil War buff.

Fort Sumter to Perryville

"Here, for a certainty, is one of the great historical narratives of our century, a unique and brilliant achievement, one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters." —Van Allen Bradley, Chicago Daily News

"Anyone who wants to relive the Civil War, as thousands of Americans apparently do, will go through this volume with pleasure.... Years from now, Foote's monumental narrative most likely will continue to be read and remembered as a classic of its kind." —New York Herald Tribune Book Review

Fredericksburg to Meridian

"This, then, is narrative history—a kind of history that goes back to an older literary tradition.... The writing is superb...one of the historical and literary achievements of our time." —The Washington Post Book World

"Gettysburg...is described with such meticulous attention to action, terrain, time, and the characters of the various commanders that I understand, at last, what happened in that battle.... Mr. Foote has an acute sense of the relative importance of events and a novelist's skill in directing the reader's attention to the men and the episodes that will influence the course of the whole war, without omitting items which are of momentary interest. His organization of facts could hardly be bettered." —Atlantic

Red River to Appomattox

"An unparalleled achievement, an American Iliad, a unique work uniting the scholarship of the historian and the high readability of the first-class novelist." —Walker Percy

"I have never read a better, more vivid, more understandable account of the savage battling between Grant's and Lee's armies.... Foote stays with the human strife and suffering, and unlike most Southern commentators, he does not take sides. In objectivity, in range, in mastery of detail in beauty of language and feeling for the people involved, this work surpasses anything else on the subject.... It stands alongside the work of the best of them." —New Republic

historians.org; James McPherson, “Revisionist Historians,” Perspectives 41, no. 6 (September 2003): 5; Books by James McPherson: The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964; The Negro's Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted During the War for the Union. New York: Pantheon Books, 1965; Marching Toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 1861-1865. New York: Knopf, 1968; The Abolitionist Legacy: From Reconstruction to the NAACP. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975 (1st ed.); 1995 (2nd ed., with a new preface by the author); Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: Knopf, 1982 (1st ed.); New York: McGraw-Hill, c1992 (2nd ed.); c2001 (3rd ed.), c2009 (4th ed.); Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender. Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg College, 1984; How Lincoln Won the War with Metaphors. Fort Wayne, IN: Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum, 1985; Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988 (1st ed.); 2003 (Illustrated ed.); Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; What They Fought For, 1861-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c1994; Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996; For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997; Is Blood Thicker than Water?: Crises of Nationalism in the Modern World. Toronto: Vintage Canada, c1998; Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2002; The Boys in Blue and Gray. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2002; Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg. New York: Crown Journeys, 2003; This Mighty Scourge. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007; 'Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, 2008; 'Abraham Lincoln. Oxford University Press, 2009; Blacks in America: Bibliographical Essays, by James M. McPherson and others. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1971; Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward, edited by J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982; Battle Chronicles of the Civil War, James McPherson, editor; Richard Gottlieb, managing editor. 6 vols. New York: Macmillan Pub. Co.; London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, c1989; American Political Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present, by Steven G. O'Brien; editor, Paula McGuire; consulting editors, James M. McPherson, Gary Gerstle. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, c1991; Why the Confederacy Lost, edited by Gabor S. Boritt; essays by James M. McPherson et al. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992; Gettysburg: The Paintings of Mort Künstler, text by James M. McPherson. Atlanta, GA: Turner Publishing, c1993; The Atlas of the Civil War, edited by James M. McPherson. New York: Macmillan, c1994; "We Cannot Escape History": Lincoln and the Last Best Hope of Earth, edited by James M. McPherson. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995; The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, narrated by Bruce Catton; edited and with a new introduction by James McPherson. New York: Viking, 1996; Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, by Ulysses S. Grant; with an introduction and notes by James M. McPherson. New York: Penguin Books, 1999; Encyclopedia of Civil War Biographies, edited by James M. McPherson. 3 vols. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, c2000; To the Best of My Ability: The American Presidents, edited by James M. McPherson and David Rubel, c2000.

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