Jefferson Davis

Lincoln in Hollywood, from Griffith to Spielberg
December 21, 2012

Spielberg's film ought to put an end to the Lost Cause mythology.

The Mirage
October 26, 2011

I. The American dream of politics without conflict, and of politics without political parties, has a history as old as American politics. Anyone carried along on the political currents since 2008, however, might be forgiven for thinking that the dream is something new—and that a transformative era was finally at hand, in which the old politics of intense partisan conflict, based on misunderstanding, miscommunication, and misanthropy, could be curbed if not ended. After the presidency of George W.

The Trouble With Neutrality
September 14, 2011

A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War By Amanda Foreman (Random House, 958 pp., $35) The world’s biggest superpower has a problem. The citizens of a nation overseas have risen up against their tyrannical rulers, determined to claim liberty even if it takes a civil war. As the most powerful global advocate of freedom, the superpower has to admire the rebels’ cause. Should it help them? Humanitarians argue that intervention can prevent hundreds of thousands of civilians from suffering hideous state-sponsored subjugation.

Telling War Stories
June 30, 2011

I. On a hot Saturday in September 1962, I crowded with my brothers and cousins into my aunt and uncle’s station wagon and drove off to war. Passing through our county in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, we headed toward Charles Town, West Virginia, then crossed over the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers at Harpers Ferry into Maryland. We had traveled through the familiar historic landscape of Stonewall Jackson’s skirmishes, Mosby’s raids, Sheridan’s ride, and John Brown’s capture and hanging to witness the centennial re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam.

The Common Hysteria And What It Means
May 13, 2011

If you haven't familiarized yourself with the Fox News-created brouhaha over rapper Common appearing at the White House, the Daily Show's treatment is the master text: John McWhorter also has some smart thoughts: I presume Rove and Palin roll their eyes at those who see racism in Southerners celebrating their Civil War military heroes. We are to be “mature,” stop being so hasty and reductionist, and understand that one can cheer for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee without being a racist.

Good Omens
May 11, 2011

Richmond, Virginia, may be the heart of the old confederacy. But it’s also the place where the federal government eventually indicted Jefferson Davis for treason. A plaque commemorating that event sits outside the entrance to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals—an omen for what transpired inside the courthouse on Tuesday, where three judges considered a pair of lawsuits from Virginians challenging an abuse of federal authority. The alleged abuse in this case is the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The other, more significant omen was the selection of the judges.

Confederacy of Dunces
December 26, 2010

WASHINGTON--The Civil War is about to loom very large in the popular memory. We would do well to be candid about its causes and not allow the distortions of contemporary politics or longstanding myths to cloud our understanding of why the nation fell apart. The coming year will mark the 150th anniversary of the onset of the conflict, which is usually dated to April 12, 1861, when Confederate batteries opened fire at 4:30 a.m. on federal troops occupying Fort Sumter. Union forces surrendered the next day, after 34 hours of shelling.

The Boss Hogg Oppo Research Project Begins
April 19, 2010

In response to my latest item expressing bewilderment that Haley Barbour is considered a plausible Republican presidential candidate, a reader sends along this Newsweek profile from January: The Republican governor of Mississippi keeps a large portrait of the University Greys, the Confederate rifle company that suffered 100 percent casualties at Gettysburg, on a wall not far from a Stars and Bars Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis. Then there's the man himself.

Terminated
June 12, 1995

The Supreme Court struck down congressional term limits this week; and the surprising part of the 5-4 decision was not the wooden majority opinion by John Paul Stevens but the elastic dissent by Clarence Thomas. For the justices and their clerks, of course, rhetorical excesses are one of the pleasures of writing dissents, and shouldn't always be taken seriously.