I've been contracted to write a nonfiction book about the Civil War. The book basically blows out many of the issues raised in the essay I wrote for the magazine. I'm specifically interested in further outlining something only hinted at in the essay--the centrality of black people in the establishment of democracy and the modern West. (Those of you who have followed me through my readings around Germany will see where this is going.) 


I hope to look at the Atlantic world in the 18th century before and after the War, and put people like Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Robert Smalls, and the contraband who fled to Fort Monroe in the context of establishing democracy at a time when it's future seemed to be in the balance. M contention is, basically, without the 54th Massachusetts and all the represented, the world--not just black people--would look very different.

Lincoln said it best:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I believe that "a new birth of freedom" and "shall not perish from the earth" are not throw away phrases. I mean to expand out from there. 

And then there is this from Jefferson:

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.

Now that's just a beautiful piece of writing. The book takes its title--Tremble For My Country--from the quote. People who think the Civil War was a sudden madness agitated by abolitionists and fire-eaters need to grapple with that quote. That's Jefferson talking before the explosion of cotton in the 1840s. He felt it coming.

Anyway, that's what's next. I'm happy to be working with my folks over at Spiegel & Grau again. I'm happy to be working with Chris Jackson as my editor again. And I'm happy, as always, to be working with you guys on the research. I could not have gotten here without the Horde.

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