Saturday, March 29, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 11 -- The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government

by Jefferson Davis

Started: March 9
Finished: March 29

Notes: I find myself in the mood to read some history, so I turn to this e-book. I've had this one a while but been putting it off because it is quite long, and also because I have to be in the right frame of mind to read something so obviously one sided. Currently I'm in that frame of mind, in no small part because I believe the times and situations discussed in this book are quite relevant to today's America. Also, having grown up in a border state and spending no small part of my life in the South, I've been surrounded by this history, though I've never considered myself an expert on it. I've always been drawn more to the period after the Civil War than to that of the war itself, but the two are intertwined, and here I hope to educate myself further.

Mini review: The subtitle on this one should be, "Why Everyone Else Was Wrong, Including My Allies, and I Was Right." The actual title is a little misleading, though not completely so. You will indeed read about the rise and fall of the Confederate Government here, but you won't get the whole picture, only parts of it, the parts Davis decided to focus upon, which leaves out years and even the end of the war. Roughly the first fourth of this book pertains to arguments justifying secession based upon the writings of the Founding Fathers, and while I can admit the evidence is fairly strong (not just here, but in other readings of mine), Davis shoves aside any talk on the ethics of slavery in a matter of one sentence. That's it. One sentence. There is no discussion to be found here concerning why the South or Davis believed slavery to be ethical; one is simply expected to understand and agree with the notion of slavery. That, to my way of thinking, is not only a sign of obstinance, but a sign of a lack of an ability to even try to understand one's enemies, whether strictly political or across a battlefield. The middle section of this book is closest to the subject matter of the actual title, focusing upon the creation of the Confederacy, but even here there are few exacting details, mostly Davis' opinions or a handful of recollections, though later in the book he does get into government revenue and some logistics. Roughly the last half of this book are letters and appendixes, many written by Davis himself but just as many written by comrades or friends. Here is where Davis comes darn close to sounding whiny, because most of the material here is basically to refute any and all of his critics over the years. Any serious student of Civil War era history will want to read this, but the casual armchair historian can probably skip it. One thing I found interesting was how much Davis sounds like a lot of today's politicians. Also, this book can give a good notion of the philosophies behind Southern politicians of the time, but not so much the common person.


Charles Gramlich said...

Guess politicians don't change much. I was much more of a WWII buff than a Civil War one growing up.

jakeescholl said...

It's always helpful to read about both sides of a conflict rather than sticking to one opinion. I find it handy for Fantasy writing, especially when it comes to creating villains.