Don't worry, you can trust me. I'm not like the others.

Banned In China

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I was reading this article in Salon about Grant and then I went to the letters section and was quite interested in several of the letters there.  

One person wrote that there were more slaves in New York than in any of the southern states at the time of session.  I didn't slide across that until later and it was even later that I looked it up.  It is not hard to find just Google: slaves in New York in 1860, or even easier the 1860 census which is on line.  It turns out that there were no slaves at all in New York in 1860 as New York was a free state.  Interestingly enough no one caught it and responded.

Other people started to post things that then people were responding to.  One said that both Lincoln and Grant owned slaves while Lee and Jackson and other confederate officers didn't.  Others said that Grant had refused the surrender of Vicksburg until July 4th thereby causing unnecessary civilian deaths and that Grant had refused to exchange prisoners after a certain battle even though Lee wanted to.   Now these were in addition to the usual arguments concerning Grant's allegedly more corrupt administration and his profligacy with the lives of his troops (these arguments although I think they can be refuted are positions that can be defended, albeit not well, in my opinion).

The interesting thing in so many of these arguments is that with really little research on can find out that these points are simply not true.  One can read the battle field notes between Grant and Lee about the wounded on that battlefield.  One can read the histories of the Vicksburg campaign and see that Pemberton was the one who chose the day of surrender.  One can fairly easily check out the histories and see that Lincoln never owned slaves and that Lee did own slaves as did most of the southern commanders.  One can see that Grant was given a slave from his wife's family and that the Grant's freed the guy even though they were in hard times and it would have been financially better to have sold him as far as they were concerned.

So the question is why make these points?  It can't be because the people really care about the truth.  So what is it?  It is I guess possible that they are just lazy and heard bogus stuff when they were in high school or a second rate history department at a second rate university and don't feel like looking it up.  But then why do they continue to defend these positions?


Cujo359 said...

I think it comes down to these people think they know something that, in fact, is just not true. We tend not to check the things we think we know. Plus, once a person has decided he knows something, it's a lot harder to convince him that what he knows is wrong.

It's a sad but demonstratably true foible of human psychology.

lawguy said...

Somewhere I read: "When the facts do not match your theory, it is time to change the facts."