William C. Davis (historian)

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Myths simply throw roadblocks in the path to enlightenment, and it is from truth that we have the most to learn.
One man's truth, however, can be another's myth, and only through dispassionate and disinterested dissection of such stories can we tell the difference.

William Charles Davis (born 1946) is an American historian from the U.S. state of Virginia, known for his writings on the American Civil War.

Quotes[edit]

The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy (1996)[edit]

William C. Davis, The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy. Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1996.

  • It is impossible to point to any other local issue but slavery and say that Southerners would have seceded and fought over it.
  • All peoples part with their myths reluctantly, and historians are at some risk when they try to dismantle those of the Confederacy.
    • p. 177
  • Myths simply throw roadblocks in the path to enlightenment, and it is from truth that we have the most to learn. One man's truth, however, can be another's myth, and only through dispassionate and disinterested dissection of such stories can we tell the difference. The Confederate experience is dotted with episodes that are not particularly admirable.
    • p. 178
  • In fact, the state rights defense of secession in 1860–1861 did not really appear in force until after 1865 as builders of the Lost Cause myth sought to distance themselves from slavery.
    • p. 180
  • Legalistic Southerners tried to view the Constitution as a contract. Unfortunately, that viewpoint breaks down when viewed as a lawyer views a contract. There are very few ways to legally break a contract unilaterally.
    • p. 186

Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America (2002)[edit]

William C. Davis. Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America, New York: The Free Press, 2002

  • Always there had been the complicated factor of the one institution that peculiarly set the South apart from the North, slavery
    • p. 3
  • Southern states had embraced the Union only insofar as it served to protect their rights to hold property in slaves, and to spread slavery as the nation expanded and the institution itself became intertwined as a defining element in the struggle for national power itself. In slavery could not spread as new states were formed, then the existing slave states would be doomed to perpetual minority in representation in Congress, guaranteeing that if the day came when Northern antipathy to slavery itself became hot enough, the majority could use the government to subvert the Constitution and abolish the institution where it already existed. In short, the South could not affort to lose any battle over slavery, nor even over issues on its periphery.
    • p. 3
  • Inextricably intertwined in the question was slavery, and it only became the more so in the years that followed. Socially and culturally the North and South were not much different. They prayed to the same deity, spoke the same language, shared the same ancestry, sang the same songs. National triumphs and catastrophes were shared by both. For all the myths they would create to the contrary, the only significant and defining difference between them was slavery, where it existed and where it did not, for by 1804 it had virtually ceased to exist north of Maryland. Slavery demarked not just their labor and economic situations, but power itself in the new republic.
    • p. 9
  • So long as the number of slave states was the same as or greater than the number of free states, then in the Senate the South had a check on the government.
    • p. 9
  • Even in 1832 there were those in the South who confessed that the tariff was only a battlefield, not the war. If they did not fight their ground and win on the tariff, soon enough they would be fighting for something even closer to their hearths, slavery itself.
    • p. 10
  • Race had never been a defining element in successful nation states. The true definition always depended far more on distinctions in language, culture, and political institutions. Southerners spoke precisely the same language as Northerners, so there was no distinction there.
    • p. 20
  • The only substantial difference between them, and the one that divided them politically almost since birth, was their system of labor.
    • p. 20
  • The South had a far better chance of preserving its institutions and quirks of culture by remaining a part of a larger nation.
    • p. 21
  • Thanks to slavery, in the South capital and labor were combined in nearly four million sweating field hands picking cotton and planting rice.
    • p. 21
  • To the old Union they had said that the Federal power had no authority to interfere with slavery issues in a state. To their new nation they would declare that the state had no power to interfere with a federal protection of slavery. Of all the many testimonials to the fact that slavery, and not states rights, really lay at the heart of their movement, this was the most eloquent of all.
    • pp. 97–98
  • The secession and the Confederacy's existence were predicated on slavery, on preserving and defending it against containment, as virtually all of its founders from Robert Barnwell Rhett to Jefferson Davis unashamedly declared in 1861.
    • p. 130
  • Confederates were terrified of what was happening to slavery.
    • p. 150

External links[edit]

Wikipedia