The up-and-coming Confederate Congress, which literally seeks to register voters for a proposed June 2010 Confederate congressional election, is rife with articles about the Civil War. This piece is about them. Most of their history pages are taken from a SCV page that is copyright 2007 by John K. McNeill SCV Camp # 674 (hereafter McNeill). As CC representative Chris Crigger told me in a personal e-mail, "We decided to use this on our page (after giving proper credit) as the articles and information were well written and presented extremely well. We are not attempting to plagiarize these works, only offer another forum for their presentation, again giving credit where credit is due." What we need to examine, then, is McNeill's allegedly original research. I will be using the CC pages as reference, simply because their presentation is easier to read and navigate.
So, in the course of a few minutes, we can witness how the plagiarists behind the SCV seamlessly mash opposing sources together to create their own interpretation of how things transpired.
1. The article on compromises, which mirrors the SCV's take, includes the line: "By 1818, Missouri Territory had gained sufficient population to warrant its admission into the Union as a state. Its settlers came largely from the South, and it was expected that Missouri would be a states right state," which is lifted directly from the Columbia encyclopedia, with one notable exception: the Columbia entry says slave state instead of "states rights state." Later mention of Alabama is made as a "states right state" when in fact Columbia says slave state. Evidently McNeill, the apparent originator of the plagiarism, could not be bothered to attribute his sources, nor transcribe them with fidelity.
2. The line on the Nullification Crisis, "The nullification crisis of the 1830s was a dispute over Northern-inspired tariffs that benefited Northern interests and were detrimental to Southern interests," appears to have come from this site originally.
3. The introductory paragraph for the SCV and CC on compromises contains the lines, "Significant strains to national unity had erupted in earlier times, notably during the Missouri statehood crisis (1820-1821), the nullification controversy (1832-1833), and the aftermath of the Mexican War (1849-1850). On each of these occasions, political leaders managed to find a compromise that dissipated the danger. Inevitably, compromise proposals were now offered to avert this new possibility of civil war," which is lifted directly from Tulane University's page on compromises, part of their background on Fort Sumter.
4. The pages both contain, "The annexation of Texas to the United States and the gain of new territory by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the close of the Mexican War aggravated the hostility between North and South concerning the question of the extension of states rights vs federal regulation into the new territories, of which extension of slavery, protected by the constitution, was an issue," which is adapted from Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition. I will bold the differences in Columbia's piece:
"The annexation of Texas to the United States and the gain of new territory by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the close of the Mexican War (1848) aggravated the hostility between North and South concerning the question of the extension of slavery into the territories."
5. Take this SCV line on Bleeding Kansas: "By some it was played up to be another bitter sectional controversy over the extension of slavery into the territories, further complicated by conflict over the location of the projected transcontinental railroad. Again Northern industrialists wanted to play all the cards with regards to control and profiteering from the railroad," which is an adaptation and plagiarism from the Columbia original, which reads:
"It was, however, irrevocably bound to the bitter sectional controversy over the extension of slavery into the territories and was further complicated by conflict over the location of the projected transcontinental railroad. Under no circumstances did proslavery Congressmen want a free territory (Kansas) W of Missouri."
6. The page on servitude and slavery, again mirroring the SCV, contains the passage:
"By the early eighteenth century, indentured servants played only a marginal role in the plantation districts. Thereafter, they were concentrated in a few industries in the Mid-Atlantic region demanding particular skills such as iron making, shipbuilding, and construction and in colonial towns where they worked in various service trades or at artistic crafts.
In the northern colonies, where the indentured immigrants served mostly as house servants and apprentices, they were usually treated fairly. After becoming freemen, they usually had every opportunity to succeed. A good example was Paul Revere, whose father had come to Massachusetts as an indentured servant.
By 1770 the colonies found it cheaper to hire native-born youngsters as apprentices, rather than pay the passage for indentured servants. As a result, and particularly after the Revolution, with its emphasis on equality, the system gradually died out and by the early 19th century had virtually ceased to exist in the North. Isolated cases of indentured servitude among European immigrants appear as late as the 1830s, but the institution was unimportant in the United States after 1800."
The italicized portions are taken without attribution from The Reader's Companion to American History. The non-italicized passages are likely original work of the SCV, where, without supporting evidence, they seem to imply that indentured servitude was relatively benign. Whitewashing servitude, after all, seems to be a past time of neo-Confederates as much as plagiarism.
8. Overall, this section is probably the most egregious in its offense, due to the very nature of its deception. The CC levies charges that Reconstruction was unduly horrible on the South, exemplified in the following passages:
"Abraham Lincoln, while the war was still in progress, had turned his thoughts to the great problems of reconciliation and devised a plan that would restore the South to the Union with minimum humiliation and maximum speed. But there had already emerged in Congress a faction of radical Republicans, sometimes called Jacobins or Vindictives, who sought to defeat what they felt was too generous of a reconciliation program. Motivated by a hatred of the South, by selfish political ambitions, and by crass economic interests, the radicals tried to make the process of reconstruction as humiliating, as difficult, and as prolonged as they possibly could. With Andrew Johnson’s succession to the Presidency upon Lincoln’s assassination, the old Jacksonian Unionist took advantage of the adjournment of Congress to put Lincoln’s mild plan of reconstruction into operation.
In December of 1865, when Congress assembled, President Johnson reported that the process of reconstruction was nearly completed and that the old Union had been restored. But the radicals unfortunately had their own sinister purposes: they repudiated the government Johnson had established in the South, refused to seat Southern Senators and Representatives, and then directed their fury against the new President. After a year of bitter controversy and political stalemate, the radicals, resorting to shamefully demagogic tactics, won an overwhelming victory in the congressional elections of 1866.
Riding roughshod over Presidential vetoes and federal courts, the U.S. Congress put the South under military occupation and formed new Southern state governments. The South, decimated by the war, was powerless to offer resistance. Not satisfied with reducing the South to political slavery and financial bankruptcy, Congress even laid their obscene hands on the pure fabric of the U.S. Constitution. They impeached President Johnson and came within one vote of removing him from office. Congress denied the power to raise state militias of their own to all of the former Confederate states."
Sounds pretty draconian, right? Well, not really. This is actually lifted without attribution -- and seriously relevant context -- from the essay Tragic Legend of Reconstruction by pre-eminent Reconstruction historian Kenneth Stamp, from the essays Myth and Southern History: The Old South. Stamp's scholarship worked to change the historiography of the Reconstruction away from the Dunning School of interpretation, which prevailed until the 1950s. The Dunning School argued that Reconstruction was mostly a botched affair that burdened the South and made little headway. It ignored real political developments for freed blacks and the systemic terror and disenfranchisement propagated by unrepentant Confederates and Southerners that marred the fragile political landscape. In fact, Stamp's scholarship reversed long-held beliefs that slaves were actually happy and docile. Here is the original Stamp passage in full, with added commentary from the essay:
"A synopsis of the Dunning School's version of reconstruction would run something like this: Abraham Lincoln, while the Civil War was still in progress, turned his thoughts to the great problem of reconciliation; and, "with malice toward none and charity for all," this gentle and compassionate man devised a plan that would restore the South to the Union with minimum humiliation and maximum speed. But there had already emerged in Congress a faction of radical Republicans, sometimes called Jacobins or Vindictives, who sought to defeat Lincoln's generous program. Motivated by hatred of the South, by selfish political ambitions, and by crass economic interests, the radicals tried to make the process of reconstruction as humiliating, as difficult, and as prolonged as they possibly could. Until Lincoln's tragic death, they poured their scorn upon him- and then used his coffin as a political stump to arouse the passions of the Northern electorate. The second chapter of the Dunning version begins with Andrew Johnson's succession to the Presidency. Johnson, the old Jacksonian Unionist from Tennessee, took advantage of the adjournment of Congress to put Lincoln's mild plan of reconstruction into operation, and it was a striking success. In the summer and fall of 1865, Southerners organized loyal state governments, showed a willingness to deal fairly with their former slaves, and in general accepted the outcome of the Civil War in good faith. In December, when Congress assembled, President Johnson reported that the process of reconstruction was nearly completed and that the old Union had been restored.
But the radicals unfortunately had their own sinister purposes: they repudiated the governments
Johnson had established in the South, refused to seat Southern Senators and Representatives, and then directed their fury against the new President. After a year of bitter controversy and political stalemate, the radicals, resorting to shamefully demagogic tactics, won an overwhelming victory in the congressional elections of 1866. Now, the third chapter and the final tragedy. Riding roughshod over Presidential vetoes and federal courts, the radicals put the South under military occupation, gave the ballot to Negroes, and formed new Southern state governments dominated by base and corrupt men black and white. Not satisfied with reducing the South to political slavery and financial bankruptcy, the radicals even laid their obscene hands on the pure fabric of the federal Constitution. They impeached President Johnson and came within one vote of removing him from office, though they had no legal grounds for such action. Next, they elected Ulysses S. Grant President, and during his two administration, they indulged in such an orgy of corruption and so prostituted the civil service as to make Grantism an enduring symbol of political immorality."
The bold portions were omitted from the SCV and CC's version of events. Why? Because Stamp is illustrating the historiography. The essay continues to validate some original assertions of the Dunning School (i.e., political corruption), but overall it criticizes the Dunning interpretation for what it is: intrinsically and inextricably racist and xenophobic. To wit:
"Here, then, was a crucial part of the intellectual climate in which the Dunning interpretation of reconstruction was written. It was written at a time when xenophobia had become almost a national disease, when the immigration restriction movement was getting into high gear, when numerous Northern cities (among them Philadelphia and Chicago) were seriously considering the establishment of racially segregated schools, and when Negroes and immigrants were being lumped together in the category of unassimilable aliens.Several other attitudes, prevalent in the late 19th century, encouraged an interpretation of reconstruction that condemned radical Republicans for meddling in Southern race relations. The vogue of social Darwinism discouraged governmental intervention in behalf of Negroes as well as other underprivileged groups; it encouraged the belief that a solution to the race problem could only evolve slowly as the Negroes gradually improved themselves.
As ideas about race have changed, historians have become increasingly critical of the Dunning interpretation of reconstruction. These changes, together with a great deal of painstaking research, have produced the revisionist writing of the past generation. It is dangerous, of course, for a historian to label himself as a revisionist, for his ultimate and inevitable fate is one day to have his own revisions revised. But that has never discouraged revisionists, and we may hope that it never will, especially those who have been rewriting the history of the reconstruction era. One need not be disturbed about the romantic nonsense that still fills the minds of many Americans about their Civil War. This folklore is essentially harmless. But the legend of reconstruction is another matter. It has had serious consequences, because it has exerted a powerful influence upon the political behavior of many white men, North and South."
McNeill has taken a summation of the Dunning School and used it in their arguments for the Confederacy is not only indicative of sloppy research, but of real, visible racism. No legitimate scholars consider the Dunning School to be definitive in this modern era, so by selectively copy and pasting highlight reels from a bygone historiography he is willfully misleading his readers and engaging in ideology for the sake of ideology.
The tactics employed by McNeill follow certain trends. Instances 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8 either misconstrue slavery's role or downplay its evils, plagiarizing and adapting legitimate historical sources along the way. Points 2 and 7 are possibly plagiarized from like-minded sources without citation. Example 3 plagiarizes directly from a historical source and uses it as a lead in, but does not change the fundamental meaning.
Iterations of the SCV's claims are not found only on the Confederate Congress website. Indeed, they can be found on Facebook groups, Internet comments and other neo-Confederate websites, such as The Southern Messenger and The Southern Parties Southwest. That neo-Confederates will warp history should not come as a surprise, but it is indicative of the dishonesty that plagues the movement on the most base level. These instances of plagiarism were only found courtesy of Google books and Questia. It is unknown how many more instances of plagiarism McNeill has engaged in beyond what is available to verify online only. At this rate, it is likely that a large body of his work is not his. Despite this, you can order CDs of these lessons for a mere $10.
Ultimately, neo-Confederates have little to prove, because they are so fringe. But in an era of a resurgence in "states rights" and other such nonsense, it bears keeping in mind the levels to which people can twist established notions for their own nefarious purposes.