James M. McPherson quotes

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James M. McPherson

Birthdate: 11. October 1936

James M. "Jim" McPherson is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. McPherson was the president of the American Historical Association in 2003, and is a member of the editorial board of Encyclopædia Britannica. Wikipedia

„Never mind that the South took the initiative by seceding in defiance of an election of a president by a constitutional majority. Never mind that the Confederacy started the war by firing on the American flag“

—  James M. McPherson

James M. McPherson. "The War of Southern Aggression" https://web.archive.org/web/20160317110023/http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1989/01/19/the-war-of-southern-aggression/ (19 January 1989), The New York Review of Books
1980s
Context: To a good many southerners the events of 1861–1865 have been known as 'The War of Northern Aggression'. Never mind that the South took the initiative by seceding in defiance of an election of a president by a constitutional majority. Never mind that the Confederacy started the war by firing on the American flag. These were seen as preemptive acts of defense against northern aggression.

„Of all these interpretations, the states' rights argument is perhaps the weakest. It fails to ask the question, states' rights for what purpose?“

—  James M. McPherson

James M. McPhersonThis Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War (2007), Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 3–9
2000s
Context: While one or more of these interpretations remain popular among the Sons of Confederate Veterans and other Southern heritage groups, few professional historians now subscribe to them. Of all these interpretations, the states' rights argument is perhaps the weakest. It fails to ask the question, states' rights for what purpose? States' rights, or sovereignty, was always more a means than an end, an instrument to achieve a certain goal more than a principle.

„Although only 20 percent of the soldiers avowed explicit proslavery purposes in their letters and diaries, none at all dissented from that view“

—  James M. McPherson

Source: 1990s, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), pp. 109–110
Context: It would be wrong, however, to assume that Confederate soldiers were constantly preoccupied with this matter. In fact, only 20 percent of the sample of 429 Southern soldiers explicitly voiced proslavery convictions in their letters or diaries. As one might expect, a much higher percentage of soldiers from slaveholding families than from nonslaveholding families expressed such a purpose: 33 percent, compared with 12 percent. Ironically, the proportion of Union soldiers who wrote about the slavery question was greater, as the next chapter will show. There is a ready explanation for this apparent paradox. Emancipation was a salient issue for Union soldiers because it was controversial. Slavery was less salient for most Confederate soldiers because it was not controversial. They took slavery for granted as one of the Southern 'rights' and institutions for which they fought, and did not feel compelled to discuss it. Although only 20 percent of the soldiers avowed explicit proslavery purposes in their letters and diaries, none at all dissented from that view. But even those who owned slaves and fought consciously to defend the institution preferred to discourse upon liberty, rights, and the horrors of subjugation.

„Confederate soldiers from slaveholding families expressed no feelings of embarrassment or inconsistency in fighting for their own liberty while holding other people in slavery. Indeed, white supremacy and the right of property in slaves were at the core of the ideology for which Confederate soldiers fought“

—  James M. McPherson

Source: 1990s, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), p. 106
Context: These soldiers were using the word slavery in the same way that Americans in 1776 had used it to describe their subordination to Britain. Unlike many slaveholders in the age of Thomas Jefferson, Confederate soldiers from slaveholding families expressed no feelings of embarrassment or inconsistency in fighting for their own liberty while holding other people in slavery. Indeed, white supremacy and the right of property in slaves were at the core of the ideology for which Confederate soldiers fought.

„Slavery was less salient for most Confederate soldiers because it was not controversial. They took slavery for granted as one of the Southern 'rights' and institutions for which they fought, and did not feel compelled to discuss it“

—  James M. McPherson

Source: 1990s, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), pp. 109–110
Context: It would be wrong, however, to assume that Confederate soldiers were constantly preoccupied with this matter. In fact, only 20 percent of the sample of 429 Southern soldiers explicitly voiced proslavery convictions in their letters or diaries. As one might expect, a much higher percentage of soldiers from slaveholding families than from nonslaveholding families expressed such a purpose: 33 percent, compared with 12 percent. Ironically, the proportion of Union soldiers who wrote about the slavery question was greater, as the next chapter will show. There is a ready explanation for this apparent paradox. Emancipation was a salient issue for Union soldiers because it was controversial. Slavery was less salient for most Confederate soldiers because it was not controversial. They took slavery for granted as one of the Southern 'rights' and institutions for which they fought, and did not feel compelled to discuss it. Although only 20 percent of the soldiers avowed explicit proslavery purposes in their letters and diaries, none at all dissented from that view. But even those who owned slaves and fought consciously to defend the institution preferred to discourse upon liberty, rights, and the horrors of subjugation.

„Democratic leaders had been telling their Irish-American constituents that the wicked Black Republicans were waging the war to free the slaves who would come north and take away the jobs“

—  James M. McPherson

James M. McPherson. Drawn with the Sword : Reflections on the American Civil War] (1996), Princeton University: Oxford University Press. pp. 91–92
1990s
Context: Rioters were mostly Irish Catholic immigrants and their children. They mainly attacked the members of New York's small black population. For a year, Democratic leaders had been telling their Irish-American constituents that the wicked Black Republicans were waging the war to free the slaves who would come north and take away the jobs of Irish workers. The use of black stevedores as scabs in a recent strike by Irish dockworkers made this charge seem plausible. The prospect of being drafted to fight to free the slaves made the Irish even more receptive to demogogic rhetoric.

„Southern political leaders were threatening to take their states out of the Union if a Republican president was elected on a platform restricting slavery.“

—  James M. McPherson

James M. McPhersonThis Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War (2007), Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 188
2000s

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„Lincoln was the only president in American history whose administration was bounded by war.“

—  James M. McPherson

James M. McPherson. Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (2008) p. xiii
2000s

„The unending quest of historians for understanding the past — that is, 'revisionism' — is what makes history vital and meaningful.“

—  James M. McPherson

James M. McPherson. "Revisionist Historians" https://web.archive.org/web/20040623155609/http://historians.org/Perspectives/Issues/2003/0309/0309pre1.cfm (September 2003), Perspectives, American Historical Association.
2000s

„Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time.“

—  James M. McPherson

James M. McPherson. "Revisionist Historians" https://web.archive.org/web/20040623155609/http://historians.org/Perspectives/Issues/2003/0309/0309pre1.cfm (September 2003), Perspectives, American Historical Association.
2000s

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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