Northern Capt. John William DeForest of Connecticut was employed in the postwar as an officer in the Freedmen’s Bureau at Greenville, South Carolina. A man fully unsuited to his task and condescending to his charges, he referred to his district as “his satrapy” and fully-acknowledged his “native infamy as a Yankee” among South Carolinians who understandably despised he and his government. Nonetheless, he did recognize those at the top of the South’s social scale — “chivalrous Southrons.” He knew that this aristocracy – not unlike this own aristocracy in Connecticut – enjoyed the advantages of tradition and breeding. He appreciated their sense of noblesse oblige, consideration of others, grace of bearing, genuine courtesy, and personal courage. And he did not miss the hot tempers which he termed “pugnacity,” and emphasis on virility.
A Triton Among Minnows
“Southern chivalry, you see, Madame,” said Mr. Calhoun Burden of Greenville, South Carolina to the wife of a United States surgeon.
Mr. Burden, a stoutish, middle-aged gentleman, richly flavored with Durham tobacco and Pickens whiskey, and as proud of himself in his suit of homespun as if it were broadcloth, had called in a reconstructing spirit on the Yankee family and in the course of conversation had found it desirable to put a question to the colored servant-girl.
Making a solemn bow to the mistress of the house, he said, “With your permission, Madame”; then added, in an impressive parenthesis, “Southern chivalry, you see, Madame”; then delivered his query.
That no such delicate behavior was known among the Vandals north of Mason and Dixon’s line; that it could not easily be matched in Europe except among the loftiest nobility; that it was especially and eminently Southern chivalry – such was the faith of Mr. Calhoun Burden.
It was a grotesque and yet not a very exaggerated exhibition of the ancient sectional and personal pride of the Southerner. He never forgot that he represented a high-type of humanity and that it was his duty not to let that type suffer by his representation. In the company of Yankees and foreigners he always bore in mind that he was a triton among minnows, and he endeavored to so carry himself as that the minnows should take note of the superiority of the triton character.
In men of native intelligence and high breeding this self-respect produces a very pleasing manner, an ease which is not assumption, a dignity which is not hauteur, consideration for the vanity of others, grace of bearing, and fluency of speech.”
(A Union Officer in the Reconstruction, J. Croushore/David Potter, Archon Books, 1968, pp. 173-174)
This was previously published on www.Circa1865.org The Great American Political Divide by Bernhard Thuersam.
This is an excerpt from Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928-1931, Sheila Fitzpatrick, editor, Indiana University Press, 1984, pp. 89-92.
The long American descent into Marxism is reminiscent of the 1920’s Soviet Union as the Bolsheviks consolidated their revolution and restructured culture and society. In the late 1920s the term “cultural revolution” was redefined to mean aggressive class war, considering it anti-revolutionary to accept cultural change as a peaceful, evolutionary process. Stalinists adopted this class warfare, as opposed to class conciliation, official Party policy.
Further, in education, “credentialism” became official policy as non-Party indoctrinated faculty were purged, library shelves examined for books by anti-revolutionary authors, and research grants awarded only for ideologically-pure scholarship.
The Fifteenth [Communist] Party Congress held in December 1927 had called for the mobilization of economic resources on behalf of industrialization . . . and a greater share of resources for educational programs.
The new political climate affected educational institutions and policies . . . [as it] touched off a vast wave of purges at all levels of the educational system, which [conservatives] tried in vain to halt. At institutions of higher learning widespread purges of faculty and students were accompanied by drives to enhance ideological purity.
At Smolensk State University the Cultural Revolution was launched in the spring of 1929. Party organs forced the replacement of key administrators with trusted Party figures and ordered the new leadership to improve the social composition of the student body, to communize the leading organs and scientific workers of the university, and to create conditions “which would aid to the maximum the task of training cadres of real builders of socialism.”
Party members now dominated the governing board of the university as well as the faculty of social sciences . . . [and were encouraged] to press forward with expulsions of “socially alien and hostile students and reactionary scientific workers.” Further purges of “reactionary” faculty followed.
Massive expulsions of students of intelligentsia and bourgeois origins took place . . . to increase the representation of students with proletarian background. The extension of rabfaks [worker’s faculty] designed to prepare poorly educated workers for entrance into the university and the effort to recruit students of designated social background or political affiliation to fill assigned quotas began to have a dramatic impact on educational statistics.”
This excerpt was previously featured on Circa1865.com on May 15, 2021.
It is common today to read of “professional” historians from universities and other government entities who are often relied upon for allegedly credible opinion regarding the past. This “professional” must have a history degree, and not contradict orthodoxy. They have learned that to advance their career and salary, attract the right publishers, and be invited to national historical conferences, they cannot depart from that orthodoxy. Thinking independently will only have a would-be historian suffer in the shadows, if employed at all.
The media, especially, will avoid anyone they may term as “amateur” historians and who depart from “the master story” – which is what Napoleon was referring to when he said “history is a set of lies agreed upon”
Below, acclaimed historian Dr. Clyde N. Wilson describes the education of historians in the past, and through today.
In Search of Professional Historians
“Before the late 19th century there was hardly any such thing as a “professional” historian. History was a branch of literature, written by independent gentlemen or sometimes by statesmen. Such gentlemen were products of humane learning, not “professional training.”
The PhD was invented in German universities during the 19th century. The learning was certainly rigorous to become known as a “Doktor.” There was a certain dogmatism and arrogance associated with it — such historians thought of themselves as objective seekers of truth, that is, they were “social scientists” not just writers.
It was even hinted that when they accumulated enough facts, their findings would be definitive truth. Strangely, although even today they claim to be objective investigators, at the same time they contradictorily think of themselves as serving “progress.”
In the late 19th century some Americans went to Germany to acquire “professional” status, and then began to develop doctoral programs at places like Johns Hopkins and Columbia. The transfer of historians from gentlemen of humane learning and creators of good literature into professional “experts” with PhDs was gradual but was pretty well established by the 1940s or so.
But such PhDs were hardly independent professional practitioners. They mostly had to work for colleges as teachers or sometimes for government and wealthy foundations. Then and now, the few historians who make an independent living from their writing are not PhDs.
Until fairly recently, the requirements for the American PhD were demanding and lent some weight to the idea of professionalism. Degrees required mastery of at least two foreign languages to broaden understanding; mastery of a secondary field (if you were a historian of the U.S. you needed to have some expertise in another field, say Russian history, etc.); some mastery of a different but related discipline (political science, economics, literature); and an intense and thorough mastery of a particular specialty (say, Colonial America, the Jacksonian period, Reconstruction, or such).
And most important, a dissertation based on intensive primary research, that is, thorough immersion in original sources from the time studied. Such research was to be undertaken with an open mind and no preselected agenda. After all, how could you know what was true until you actually investigated. This training worked fairly well to create objective investigators.
Fundamentally, historical writing cannot be objective. We are all a product of our times and experiences. The best we can hope for is an honest weighing of the facts such as we expect from a jury. History is simply about human experience and as such is always subject to different perspectives. Having a PhD is no proof that the observer is honest and that his opinion is a definitive “expert” one.
A major problem today is that the requirements have become looser and looser. We are today creating PhDs who know only one small area and are serving a Cultural Marxist agenda rather than a reasonably honest search for what is true.
Their “primary research” deals with ever more narrow and irrelevant topics. About all we can say about the “expertise” of such people is that they stayed in school longer than most people. I am regularly astonished by the media citing “experts” on history that nobody has ever heard of, and have never produced anything to indicate expertise except having a degree and belonging to a “History Department” somewhere.
Still, I don’t think current historians are being forced by administrators to be Cultural Marxists. This syndrome is widespread and deeply entrenched in the entire educational system because bad people labored for several generations to gain control. The high administrators are mostly opportunistic cynics without any learning or conviction who simply conform to the reigning attitudes in their circles.
In my books Defending Dixie and From Union to Empire, one will find several worthwhile essays on history. I particularly recommend ‘Scratching the Fleas: American Historians and Their History.” From the latter, the following passage ends the article.
H.L. Mencken in the 1920s reflected on the readiness with which historians were mobilized to rewrite history at federal direction during World War I:
“Nearly all our professional historians are poor men holding college posts, and they are more cruelly beset by the ruling politico-plutocratic-social oligarchy than ever were the Prussian professors were by the Hohenzollerns. Let them diverge in the slightest from what is the current official doctrine, and they are turned out of their chairs with a ceremony suitable for the expulsion of a drunken valet.”
Bernard Theursam is an architect from Wilmington, North Carolina. Though he was born in New York, there is no better Southerner anywhere. He frequently shares with others gems from his immense library of materials about good Confederates and bad Yankees.