A Colossal Lie
Guest Post by H. V. Traywick, Jr.
with H. L. Mencken in Agreement
History is the propaganda of the victorious.
[Publisher's Note, by Gene Kizer, Jr. : My good friend, Bo Traywick, wrote this powerful concise piece on the Yankee myth of American history, slavery, racism, and the truth about the War Between the States. It cuts right to the chase. At the end, Bo mentions the Gettysburg Address as "Orwellian doublespeak" which gave me the chance to bring in the great H. L. Mencken who said FAR worse than that about the Gettysburg Address in May, 1920.
Below is Bo's bio from the inside cover of his book, Of Apostates and Scapegoats, Confederates in the "City Upon a Hill," followed by his "A Colossal Lie," followed by H. L. Mencken putting Lincoln in his place and stating, among other truths:
What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States?
Mencken goes on to say "It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue" than the Gettysburg Address because:
The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.
Mencken's piece is short. Definitely read it to the end because all his fire, the parts you'll want to quote, are in the last paragraph.]
H. V. "Bo" Traywick, Jr. : A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, H. V. Traywick, Jr. graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1967 with a degree in Civil Engineering and a Regular Commission in the US Army. His service included qualification as an Airborne Ranger, and command of an Engineer company in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star. After his return, he resigned his commission and ended by making a career as a tugboat captain. During this time he was able to earn a Master of Liberal Arts from the University of Richmond, with an international focus on war and cultural revolution. He currently lives in Richmond, where he writes, studies history, and occasionally commutes to Norfolk to serve as a tugboat pilot.
In 2018 he published The Monumental Truth: Five Essays on Confederate Monuments in the Age of Progressive Identity Politics, and is author/editor of five other books: Empire of the Owls: Reflections on the North's War against Southern Secession (2013), currently in its third printing; Road Gang: A Memoir of Engineer Service in Vietnam (2014); Virginia Illiad: The Death and Destruction of "The Mother of States and Statesmen" (2016); A Southern Soldier Boy: The Diary of Sergeant Beaufort Simpson Buzhardt 1838-1862 (2016); and Starlight on the Rails: A Vietnam Veteran's Long Road Home (2018).
Two of his book have been awarded the Jefferson Davis Gold Medal for History by the Virginia Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, one of which, Empire of the Owls, has also been commended by the Virginia General Assembly for its scholarship.
Visit his website at: www.HVTraywickJr.com, where you can contact him. He also has several articles on the Abbeville Institute blog at www.AbbevilleInstitute.org, and on Reckonin' at www.Reckonin.com.
A Colossal Lie
by H. V. Traywick, Jr.
“The Myth of American History” claims that the righteous North went to war against the evil South to free the slaves, and that Confederate war memorials are monuments to Treason, Slavery, and Racism and must be torn down. This myth has become “the lie agreed upon” by all, to make the conveniently-dead Confederacy the scapegoat for our sins. But as Thomas Carlyle said, all lies are cursed and damned from the beginning. Only the truth will make us free.
Consider the truth: To accuse the Confederacy of treason, one must wipe one’s feet on the Declaration of Independence, signed by the thirteen slave-holding Colonies1 that seceded from the British Empire in 1776. Lincoln’s war on the Southern States, which he did not recognize as being out of the Union,2 is treason according to Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution. Self-defense is not. No Confederate was ever tried for treason, much less convicted, but why not Lincoln?
As for slavery, the wealth of New York and New England was founded on the African slave-trade and the manufacture and shipping of slave-picked cotton.3 To claim the North went to war to free the slaves, one must ignore Lincoln’s disclaimer in his First Inaugural Address, ignore his Emancipation Proclamation two years later plainly stating that slavery was alright as long as one were loyal to his government,4 and ignore that West Virginia, a “slave State,” was admitted into the Union afterwards. Slavery was not abolished in the United States until Lincoln and the Confederacy were in their graves.5
As for racism, please note that the first “Jim Crow” laws originated in Northern States long before the war.6 Alexis de Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, testified to the virulent racism in the North. The North’s strong opposition to slavery in the Territories was due to its strong opposition to Blacks in the Territories. Lincoln, a documented and life-long White Supremacist, supported these “Jim Crow” laws7 and worked until the day he died to deport freed Blacks to Central America or back to Africa.8 As for Black racism, remember that it was Black Africans who captured and sold Black Africans into slavery in the first place.9 Furthermore, early US census records listed many free-Black owners of slaves --- from New Orleans to New England.10
What, then, is the truth about that war? Do not confound the many causes of secession with the single cause of the war, which was secession itself. Follow the dollar and know the Truth. Cotton was “King” in the mid-nineteenth century, and with the South’s “Cotton Kingdom” out of the Union and free-trading with Europe, the North’s “Mercantile Kingdom” with its piratical tariffs would collapse into financial ruin and social anarchy,11 so Lincoln --- rebuffing all peace overtures by Confederate diplomats --- launched an armada against Charleston Harbor to provoke the South into firing the first shot. South Carolina responded to Lincoln’s provocation just as Massachusetts had responded to King George’s provocation at Lexington and Concord, and Lincoln got the war he wanted.12 Virginia, “The Mother of States and of Statesmen,” stood solidly for the Union until Lincoln called for her troops to invade and subjugate the Confederacy, whereupon Virginia refused, indicted Lincoln for “choosing to inaugurate civil war,”13 and immediately seceded. Four other States (including occupied Missouri) followed her out. There stands the Truth --- not with the North’s mythical “Battle-Cry of Freedom.” Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” claiming his war of invasion, conquest, and coerced political allegiance against the South was to save “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” is pure Orwellian doublespeak. How else would one define political allegiance at the point of a bayonet? Slavery was just the smelly “red herring” dragged across the track of an unconstitutional and murderous usurpation of power.
NOTES to "A Colossal Lie" follow Mencken.
* * * * *
From H. L. Mencken
"Five Men at Random" in H. L. Mencken: Prejudices: First, Second, and Third Series, Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, editor (NY: Library of America; Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 2010), 398-400. First published in 1919 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
The backwardness of the art of biography in These States is made shiningly visible by the fact that we have yet to see a first rate life of either Lincoln or Whitman. Of Lincolniana, of course, there is no end, nor is there any end to the hospitality of those who collect it. Some time ago a publisher told me that there are four kinds of books that never, under any circumstances, lose money in the United States---first, detective stories; secondly, novels in which the heroine is forcibly debauched by the hero; thirdly, volumes on spiritualism, occultism and other such claptrap, and fourthly, books on Lincoln. But despite all the vast mass of Lincolniana and the constant discussion of old Abe in other ways, even so elemental a problem as that of his religious faith---surely an important, matter in any competent biography---is yet but half solved. Here, for example, is the Rev. William E. Barton, grappling with it for more than four hundred large pages in "The Soul of Abraham Lincoln." It is a lengthy inquiry---the rev. pastor, in truth, shows a good deal of the habitual garrulity of his order---but it is never tedious. On the contrary, it is curious and amusing, and I have read it with steady interest, including even the appendices. Unluckily, the author, like his predecessors, fails to finish the business before him. Was Lincoln a Christian? Did he believe in the Divinity of Christ? I am left in doubt. He was very polite about it, and very cautious, as befitted a politician in need of Christian votes, but how much genuine conviction was in that politeness? And if his occasional references to Christ were thus open to question, what of his rather vague avowals of believe in a personal God and in the immortality of the soul? Herndon and some of his other close friends always maintained that he was an atheist, but Dr. Barton argues that this atheism was simply disbelief in the idiotic Methodist and Baptist dogmas of his time---that nine Christian churches out of ten, if he were alive to-day, would admit him to their high privileges and prerogatives without anything worse than a few warning coughs. As for me, I still wonder.
The growth of the Lincoln legend is truly amazing. He becomes the American solar myth, the chief butt of American credulity and sentimentality. Washington, of late years, has been perceptibly humanized; every schoolboy now knows that he used to swear a good deal, and was a sharp trader, and had a quick eye for a pretty ankle. But meanwhile the varnishers and veneerers have been busily converting Abe into a plaster saint, thus making him fit for adoration in the chautauquas and Y.M.C.A.'s. All the popular pictures of him show him in robes of state, and wearing an expression fit for a man about to be hanged. There is, so far as I know, not a single portrait of him showing him smiling---and yet he must have cackled a good deal, first and last: who ever heard of a storyteller who didn't? Worse, there is an obvious effort to pump all his human weaknesses out of him, and so leave him a mere moral apparition, a sort of amalgam of John Wesley and the Holy Ghost. What could be more absurd? Lincoln, in point of fact, was a practical politician of long experience and high talents, and by no means cursed with inconvenient ideals. On the contrary, his career in the Illinois Legislature was that of a good organization man, and he was more than once denounced by reformers. Even his handling of the slavery question was that of a politician, not that of a fanatic. Nothing alarmed him more than the suspicion that he was an Abolitionists. Barton tells of an occasion when he actually fled town to avoid meeting the issue squarely. A genuine Abolitionist would have published the Emancipation Proclamation the day after the first battle of Bull Run. But Lincoln waited until the time was more favorable---until Lee had been hurled out of Pennsylvania, and, more important still, until the political currents were safely running his way. Always he was a wary fellow, both in his dealings with measures and in this dealings with men. He knew how to keep his mouth shut.
Nevertheless, it was his eloquence that probably brought him to his great estate. Like William Jennings Bryan, he was a dark horse made suddenly formidable by fortunate rhetoric. The Douglas debate launched him, and the Cooper Union speech got him the presidency. This talent for emotional utterance, this gift for making phrases that enchanted the plain people, was an accomplishment of late growth. His early speeches were mere empty fireworks---the childish rhodomontades of the era. But in middle life he purged his style of ornament and it became almost baldly simple---and it is for that simplicity that he is remembered to-day. The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history. Put beside it, all the whoopings of the Websters, Sumners and Everetts seem gaudy and silly. It is eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost child-like perfection---the highest emotion reduced to one graceful and irresistible gesture. Nothing else precisely like it is to be found in the whole range of oratory. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous.
But let us not forget that it is oratory, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it! Put it into the cold words of everyday! The doctrine is simple this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination---"that government of the people, by the people, for the people," should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle an absolutely free people; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and vote of the rest of the country---and for nearly twenty years that vote was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely any freedom at all. Am I the first American to note the fundamental nonsensicality of the Gettysburg address? If so, I plead my aesthetic joy in it in amelioration of the sacrilege.
A Colossal Lie
1 See US census of 1790.
2 Abraham Lincoln. “First Inaugural Address” (1861) in Charles W. Eliot, LL D, ed. The Harvard Classics. 50 vols. (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1910). Vol. 43, American Historical Documents, pg. 334.
4 Abraham Lincoln. “Emancipation Proclamation” (1863). Eliot, Vol. 43, pg. 345.
5 US Constitution, Article XIII, December 18, 1865.
6 Brian Purnell and Jeanne Theoharis, eds., with Komozi Woodard. The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle Outside of the South. (New York: New York UP, 2019) pgs. 13-7.
7 Lerone Bennett, Jr. Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream. (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Co., 2000) pgs. 183-214.
8 Thomas J. DiLorenzo. The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. (New York: Three Rivers P, 2003) Pgs. 16-20.
9 Zora Neale Hurston. Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.” Ed. Deborah G. Plant. (New York: Amistad/HarperCollins, 2018) pgs. 9-10.
10 Dr. Carter G. Woodson, PhD. Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the United States in 1830. (Washington, DC: The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, 1924) pgs. 1-42.
11 Gene Kizer, Jr. Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States: The Irrefutable Argument. (Charleston and James Island, S. C.: Charleston Athenaeum P, 2014) pgs. 56-69.
12 Charles W. Ramsdell, “Lincoln and Fort Sumter,” The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 3, Issue 3 (August 1937), pgs. 259-88, in Kizer, pgs. 197-248.
13 Gov. John Letcher to Sec. Simon Cameron, April 16, 1861, in Richmond Enquirer, April 18, 1861, pg. 2, col. 1. Microfilm. The Daily Richmond Enquirer, Jan. 1, 1861 – June 29, 1861. Film 23, reel 24 (Richmond: Library of Virginia collection).