Some American history scholars may dispute this assessment, but in my lifetime we’ve had at least two periods of internal warfare: a Civil Rights War in the 1960s and a Cultural War during the 21st century. Actually, it appears that these conflicts have morphed into a gigantic clash that has split Americans into at least two ideological camps; Traditional and Anti-American (mistakenly called “progressive”).
I use the term war to identify the events when conflicts result in destruction of property, personal injuries and death by large violent street mobs, or individual and small group assassins and terrorists. Clearly, we are at war with radical Islamists—or, more accurately, we don’t know what we are, but they are at war because of their hatred of whatever we are, instead of Muslim.
Astute and honest historians trace our splintered society back to “The Lost Cause,” what I call Lincoln’s war against the Confederate States of America. And after, the vengeful period called “Reconstruction.” Richard M. Weaver was such a historian.
Richard Malcolm Weaver was born in Ashville, North Carolina in 1910. In 1953 he bought a house in Weaverville, North Carolina—a town named for his ancestors—for his ailing mother and other family members.
He died prematurely in 1963 of a sudden heart attack in his apartment near the College of the University of Chicago. Weaver taught undergraduate courses in composition and rhetoric in the English department. He wrote scholarly books and essays about conservatism and Southern history and culture.
In 2000 Ted J. Smith III (no relation) edited many of Weaver’s shorter essays in a book titled, “In Defense of Tradition.” Smith’s Introduction to this work provides details of Weaver’s life and literary accomplishments. He notes that “Weaver is now widely recognized as one of the most original and perceptive interpreters of Southern culture and letters.”
Prof. Weaver’s works were published in a wide variety of outlets including National Review. It is the next to last of his essays published in Smith’s book that I find relevant to my comments above. “Reconstruction: Unhealed Wound” was published in a February 1959 issue of National Review.
Weaver thought the “Civil War” was a “failure” because “there was no sense in its lasting so long…Instead, it turned into a struggle of some twenty major battles and a final war of attrition in the Eastern theater (not to mention the deaths of more than a half-million Americans and the total destruction of Southern farms, homes and cities). The Lincoln administration, though determined on its course, was ignorant of war,” he wrote.
After the shooting-war ended and Lincoln was killed, Congress (mostly from Northern States) took charge of settling scores with the South they hated (They “fought and vilified” President Andrew Johnson “at every step”). Weaver writes, “They saw in their section’s victory an unparalleled opportunity for vengeance, economic exploitation, political domination, and the other attendant benefits of conquest.” Weaver refers to these malicious people as “plotters of Reconstruction.”
He also noted that the “plotters” were shortsighted, not to realize that “if the Southern people were to be forcibly kept in the Union, the rest of the Americans would have to live with them on some terms and might even one day need them.”
Weaver cites a book titled, The Angry Scar by Hodding Carter (“a well-known Southern Liberal”) retelling the story: “He relates the Carpetbagger invasion, the story of the kangaroo governments which were set up in the Southern states, the fury of the Radicals in Congress, and the bleeding of a section (of America) already left bankrupt by the war. The oppressions, knaveries, thefts and debaucheries of Reconstruction were so numerous and so awful that even the unimpassioned historian must present a vivid set of facts.”
In Carter’s book, the Southern resistors to this oppression were called “Redemptionists,” (a religious term) “Conservatives,” and “Bourbons” (sociopolitical reactionaries).
But Weaver thought he missed an important reality: “…people do not behave, nor are they expected to behave, under a state of duress as they do in a free and unforced condition. In times of war, even deception is recognized as a legitimate weapon, and Reconstruction was hardly different from a prolongation of the war. The Ku Klux Klan was a ‘lawless’ organization.” (So was the Union League founded by Northern carpetbaggers to promote hatred of Southern white people by the Negroes.)
Weaver refers to the KKK as the “Confederate Underground.” It was a resistance movement and a counter force to the Union League terrorizing Negro and white Democrats in the South.
This brings me to a conclusion and today. Weaver sums up his critique of Carter’s thinking, that fifty-eight years later is still relevant when Anti-Americans have turned their irrational wrath on Southern people and their symbols. And it helps explain the roots of why we are still deeply divided as a nation.
Weaver: “It has been suggested from more than one quarter that a Liberal is unfitted by his presuppositions to understand the tragic aspects of existence and indeed really to deal with the problem of evil…Liberalism is a kind of abstractive process which takes out whatever is unmalleable and fashions the remainder into a dream world of wishful thinking.”
And so, where modern Liberalism persists the internal wars against Americans will continue.