Sunday, May 07, 2006

From the archives

A tidbit from the Southern Historical Collection, where you never know what you'll find. In late January 1914, a certain Mr. Grady wrote to a Mr. Connor a succinct one-page letter:

Dear Mr. Connor: I learned yesterday that your “Makers of North Carolina History” is a text-book in our village school, and I borrowed a copy from one of the pupils; and I found what I expected. On p. 203 you misrepresent the purposes of the Southern people and the disposition of Lincoln, as you must have discovered if you have read the indisputable evidence contained in the pamphlet I recently sent you. But you have been reading the books which insulting Northerners have been spreading over the country; and you agree with them that the Southern people had no motive for secession but a fear that Lincoln would set their slaves free.

I have not gone carefully over the book; but, so far as I have examined it, I find no reference to the shameful robbery of the Southern people by the sneaking New Englanders whose robber-tariff system was the cause of South Carolina’s “Nullification”, the word “tariff” not appearing in the index; nor do I find any reference to the real cause why the Nathan Dane “Ordinance” was passed: to prevent an expansion of the South. No; “slavery” is the only reason why Southerners seceded; and this is an insult to every old Confederate soldier. But, as I said, you have read insulting books written by the slandering enemies of the South; and you must be pitied; but my grandson who is studying your book shall not have his heart embittered against me and my comrades.

Clinton, N.C., Jan 31, ’14.
Begging pardon for exposing
your errors, I am yours, &c.,
[B.F. Grady]

P.S. Let me impress on your mind the truth about Lincoln’s being “bitterly opposed to slavery”. Gen. Donn Piatt, of Ohio, who canvassed a part of Illinois for the radical ticket in 1860, and spent some time after the election at the home of Lincoln, says in Rice’s “Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln” (p. 482): “He knew, and saw clearly, that the people of the free States had, not only, no sympathy with the abolition of slavery, but held fanatics, as Abolitionists were called, in utter abhorrence. . . ." On the previous page Piatt says of Lincoln: “Descended from poor whites of a slave State through many generations, he inherited the contempt, if not the hatred, held by that class for the negro. . . . He could no more feel a sympathy for that wretched race than he could for the horse he worked or the hog he killed”.

But the children of the South are being taught that Lincoln “was bitterly opposed to slavery”, and that the Southern States seceded to prevent him from liberating the slaves, as if he had any more right to free them than Louis Napoleon had.

The "pamphlet" the author "recently sent" might well have been Mr. Benjamin Franklin Grady's own The South's Burden, published in 1906. The book he was criticizing, Makers of North Carolina History, was a standard North Carolina textbook of the period.

Grady is buried in Clinton (he died not long after writing this letter), but he had relatives in Duplin County, where an elementary school is named after him. Two of his books have had a longer life than Mr. Connor's history: The South's Burden as well as The Case of the North Against the South have been reprinted in recent years by the Confederate Reprint Company, and the latter has been adopted as part of a highly selective educational curriculum.

But I wouldn't trust his research very far. He sent his letter to federal judge Henry G. Connor, when the author was his son, R.D.W. Connor (who went on to become the first secretary of the North Carolina Historical Commission and the first Archivist of the United States).

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