I'm having such a hard time with Civilization on King, that I've gone through Eric Foner's The Fiery Trial via audiobook, and have moved on to James McPherson's This Mighty Scourge.
Stiles also disposes easily of the image of social bandits defending the peasentry. The James family owned seven slaves and a substantial farm grew hemp and tobacco for the market before the Civil War. Most of the other outlaws came from a similar background in Missouri's "Little Dixie," the prosperous counties bordering the Missouri River and containing the greatest concentration of of slaves in the state. Rather than being "primative rebles" the bandits "families had owned a larger-than-average number of slaves" and "their familes and supporters were among the most market-minded farmers in the state..."A study of the social origins of Missouri's Confederate guerrillas shows that they came from families (like the James family) that were three times more likely to own slaves and possessed twice as much wealth as the average Missouri family. The Younger brothers (Cole, Jim, Bob and John) who formed the core of the postwar James gang along with Jesse and Frank, were the sons of Jackson County's richest slaveowner. One of the motifs of Jesse James's life grew out of this context. "His entire existence," writes Stiles. "was tightly wrapped around the struggle for--or rather, against--black freedom." He fought during the war against emancipation and after the war against the Republican Party that freed and enfranchised the slaves.
Election day may find our voters fleeing before rebel bullets rather than balloting for their rights. They are to be returned to a condition of serfdom--an era of second slavery. It is their fault (not mine, personally) that this fate is before them. They refused to prepare for war when in times of peace, when they could have done so. Now it is too late. The nation should have acted but it was "tired of the annual autumnal outbreaks in the South"...The political death of the negro will forever release the nation from the weariness from such "political outbreaks" You may think I exaggerate. Time will show you how accurate my statements are.
Overall, this is the biography of a violent criminal whose image was promoted and actions extenuated by those who saw him as a useful weapon against black rights and Republican rule. To his credit, Stiles does not shy from employing stark language rarely encountered in American historical writing. During the Civil War, he writes, James was a member of a "death squad" (96) that targeted Unionist civilians and slaves. If he were alive today, Stiles adds, James would be called a "terrorist." (6) Such language is, of course, anachronistic. But it reminds us that the Klan and kindred groups during Reconstruction killed more Americans than Osama bin Laden. At a time when it has become fashionable to attribute terrorism and the support it engenders to some timeless characteristic of "Islamic civilization," it is worth remembering that our own history does not lack for the mass killing of civilians or for those who make heroes of murderers.
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