Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions
By David G. Hanger
March 06, 2013
Along the way in my travels now and again I come across something interesting, and on this particular return journey I re-visited what is probably the most important book written about the American Civil War in the last 50 years. By Charles Royster The Destructive War, 1991, is highly regarded by both historians and by academia. It is an exceptional work.
On page 341 the subject is General Sherman’s “March to the Sea” across Georgia, then through the Carolinas. As conservative a man as you will find anywhere and at any time, General Sherman provides us with the perfect refutation of reactionary conservatism, tea party-ism, self-centered greed, Ayn Rand objectivism, secessionism, Beck-ism, Limbaugh loonies, and the crap spewed by the Joe Goebbels School of Journalism:
Although the army represented federal authority, Sherman used his soldiers to give Southerners a taste of life without government. He often had said that secession amounted to the abrogation of government, inviting anarchy. Southern planters arrogantly imagined that they had made the South, creating their own prosperity “by virtue alone of their personal industry and skill,” and that they therefore could do as they pleased with their own. Yet their wealth and security depended more than they had admitted on “the protection and impetus to prosperity given by our hitherto moderate and magnanimous Government.” They had not created the land; they were a tiny, weak, ephemeral proportion of the earth’s population. Their only title to the “use and usufruct” of the land was “the deed of the United States.” If they preferred to base their claim on their strength in war, “they hold their all by a very insecure tenure.” When Southerners protested against destruction of their property, Sherman lectured them: “You must first make a government before you can have property. There is no such thing as property without a government.” By secession and war, Southerners had abjured government and thus cast themselves adrift in a world of power through violence. All that they had was forfeit to anyone stronger than they. The soldiers’ depredations put this doctrine into practice, face to face. Southerners could not secure their property by an appeal to the Confederate government; nor could they secure their property by a claim of rights under the United States government, which they had disavowed. In practice they had no property, as the soldiers demonstrated.
One of the three co-founders of the “from sea to shining sea” version of USA that we enjoy today, we are lucky General Sherman worked for us.
David G. Hanger
Received February 27, 2013
- Published March 06, 2013
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