To Save the War Bonds!

Every now and then, an establishment historian gets something right without knowing it.

It’s almost shocking.

Take for example a new book by David Thomson, Bonds of War.

Thomson has not sympathy for the South or for “Lost Cause mythology.” He is as establishment as it gets.

Yet, Bonds of War surprisingly shows that the main objective of the War in 1861 was anything but ending the institution of slavery. Even the ardent anti-slavery men in the Republican Party saw the conflict as a way to “nationalize” everything.

That started with the American economy.

You see, as Thomson shows, men like John Sherman (Willy T.’s big brother), considered federalism to be a hindrance to good government. State banks fell into that category.

If we were at war, then why not win the war by making it impossible for any State to oppose central authority again?

The much castigated “Dunning School” had it right all along. “Reconstruction” began as early as 1862, and it was far more comprehensive than race and slavery.

Eric Foner and Kenneth Stampp have done great damage to our understanding of the past. By centering the War and Reconstruction solely on race and slavery, they have created the “Afrocentric” myth of the United States. Everything wasn’t about race. And you should follow the money.

This doesn’t mean that it was a “rich man’s war” in either case. Northerners banked a lot of dough during the war through tariffs–see Thad Stevens–but even the average Northerner was able to buy war bonds. Thus, financing the war effort became the responsibility of even the most common Northern citizen.

I guess dying wasn’t enough.

This model became the blueprint for future American wars.

And because the Republicans “nationalized” everything, they “recreated” America rather than restoring the Union.

Thomson did not plan this, but he has inadvertently upended the “righteous cause myth.”

He just hopes his establishment historian speak allows him to continue in the club.

I discuss Thomson’s book and Reconstruction on episode 610 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

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