Guelzo Gives Negative Review to New Book on Last Year of the War: Hymns of the Republic

Discussion in 'Civil War Related Books, Movies and Documentaries.' started by PatYoung, Nov 6, 2019.

  1. PatYoung

    PatYoung Active Member

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  2. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Webmaster Staff Member Administrator

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    Interesting review.

    From it Allen Guelzo says

    Mr. Gwynne is at his most unpersuasive when he repeats the canard—beloved of both early 20th-century Progressives and modern neo-Confederates—that the war saw “the rapid growth of a large, industrialized Northern nation” and the creation of “a highly centralized federal government.” In truth, the Civil War pitted not an agrarian against an industrial society but against each other, one of them based on plantation slave-labor and the other on the small-scale family farm. In 1860, the United States, as a whole and not just the South, was an overwhelmingly agricultural nation; 72% of the North’s congressmen represented farm districts. And far from creating a highly centralized federal government, the Lincoln administration managed its war with a White House staff of just five people and a budget—a wartime budget—that amounted to only 1.8% of GDP.
    This lay historian thinks Guelzo oversimplifies. A pure conflict between two agricultural societies would have been either a stalemate or Southern victory because of the advantage of slave labor. It took an industrial supply line and abundant industry to generate arms, munitions, and material plus the logistical pipeline of railroads as well as the ability to produce iron ships to defeat the South. Certainly, the US was much more centralized during and after the Civil War than before, a lot less than today, but ignoring that is another simplification I object to.
     
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  3. Joshism

    Joshism Active Member

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    Northern industry was certainly important, but the South wasn't purely agricultural either. I think Guelzo's point is valid.

    The aside about Progressives and Neo-Confederates is curious. I guess he's trying to say it's a longtime misconception of both sides, but it comes off as some kind of attempted political dig.
     
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  4. MattL

    MattL Well-Known Member

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    Surprised I find myself agreeing with Guelzo's statement so much (often with me his statements are a mixed bag). I mean does it in typical dramatic fashion (meaning he's probably being a bit hyperbolic on purpose, unfortunately that's his style) but in general I agree with him on both major points:

    1) "In truth, the Civil War pitted not an agrarian against an industrial society but against each other, one of them based on plantation slave-labor and the other on the small-scale family farm."

    2) "And far from creating a highly centralized federal government, the Lincoln administration managed its war with a White House staff of just five people and a budget—a wartime budget—that amounted to only 1.8% of GDP."

    I agree that there is an argument for the Civil War centralizing the government to some extent, though I feel this argument is almost always overplayed. Especially in referring to Federal power overreach. Often such claims ignore things like the Louisiana purchase (and the consequent Federal stranglehold and God like hand in shaping the Nation via subsidized land), the trail of tears and Indian removal in general, etc.

    The small family farmer point is especially apt. The US (in every region) still had the vast majority of people living in rural areas vs urban (unlike today) at this time.
     
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  5. Matt McKeon

    Matt McKeon Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the "centralized government" aspect. The Confederacy was centralized, but what else would be true when fighting a big war? Without reading the book I would agree with him.
     
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  6. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Webmaster Staff Member Administrator

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    A related question is who makes the claims he claims.
     
  7. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Webmaster Staff Member Administrator

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    However the North was far more urbanized than the South. I agree wtth the hyperbole.
     
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