ticians always do.nThere was a wide variety of viewpoints.nThough a Southerner and anslaveholder, Taylor was a conservativenWhig who took a moderately Northernnstand on the issues, as indeed did manynSouthern Whigs. The differences involvednwere quite heated, but hardlynclearcut enough to provoke assassination.nAn assassination theory is onlyngiven plausibility by anti-Southern paranoia:nthe belief that Southerners killednpeople who disagreed with them. ThenOld South produced some tough’ andnviolent customers, including OldnRough and Ready himself, but theynwere not the kind that went aroundnpoisoning people. It would have beenntotally out of character. The abolitionists,nnot the slaveholders, produced thenJohn Browns and Edwin Stantons.nCongressman Brooks of South Carolinanpublicly thrashed Charles Sumner,nwho had unquestionably slandered hisnstate and his family, because he knewnSumner was too cowardly to accept anchallenge. Brooks would have scornedna clandestine assault.nTaylor himself, a genuine and heroicnsoldier though a naive politician, wouldnhave repudiated the hysteria of a “slavenpower conspiracy.” Anyone with anynsense of context can see the absurditynof the assassination business. WouldnTaylor’s family have had no suspicions?nWithin a little over a decade ZachnTaylor’s son-in-law was president of thenConfederate States and his son one ofnits best generals, yet his death is used tonslander Southerners. And an ideologicalnphantasm becomes not only a historicalninterpretation but the cause ofnlegal and scientific actions.nThis incident fits a very familiarnpattern. Whenever economic, social,nand psychic tensions grow in “mainstream”nAmerica, there is a clamor ofnanti-Southern hysteria. It has happenednover and over again. As racialnhatred and social pathologies intensifynin northern cities, it is utteriy predictablenthat establishment intellectualsnwill escalate their war against Southernersnand Southern history.nThis is illustrated to perfection bynWilliam Freehling’s recent book. ThenRoad to Disunion, Vol. 1, which purportsnto be a new history of the comingnof the Civil War, and which is a sort ofnbackground cover for the nasty Taylornbusiness. This book was hyped forntwenty years while in preparation,nsomething that is almost unprecedentednin academic circles. Its publicationnimmediately catapulted the authornfrom an already prestigious position atnJohns Hopkins to an endowed chair atnSUNY-Buffalo.nWhile the book is well researchednand even slightly original in marginalnways, and not without a certain cleverness,nit is, substantially, as a work ofnhistory, an absurd cartoon. It literallynreeks and drips with poisonous andnnear-paranoiac hatred not of slaverynbut of Southern whites, and, indeed, ofnalmost all of American history.nEven the academic historians havenkept some distance and not been entirelynpersuaded by the book’s pretensionnto be major and classic history.nThis so-called narrative is full of 1960’snslang. The portraits of antebellumnAmerican statesmen are at bestnquarter-truths, but even what truthnthere is in them has been said a thousandntimes before by a thousand differentnwriters. The book tells us exactlynless than nothing about its subject, innthe sense that a quarter-truth is worsenthan nothing at all.nThe success of this book and thenTaylor autopsy, which are both basednupon a common and false interpretationnof history, do tell us that the liberalnintellectuals are under terrific pressure.nFaced with a moral and social wastelandnin modern America, what couldnbe more convenient than to blame thenold Southern slaveholding class for allnour ills? It gives one such a nice andnsafe feeling of superiority and freedomnfrom the necessity of any real thoughtnor decision. Whatever the evils of pastnstates of society, which are always easynto find, it is a fact that the Southernnplanter class of the 18th and 19thncenturies provided the preponderancenof the most able and honorable Foundersnand nourishers of the AmericannRepublic, and that American societynhas gone downhill in every way exceptnmaterial wealth since they were destroyed.nIf, as the Kerner Commission hasnmade a convention, the Old Southernnsystem of slavery is the cause of all thenills of modern American society, why isnit that the further away we get from thenplantation, in time and space, thenworse the pathologies grow? Or, to putnit another way, why, a century and annnquarter after the end of the Civil War,nis racial hatred, not to mention crime,nillegitimacy, and drugs, worse in Chicagonthan in South Carolina?nIn the meantime, we Southernersnneed an anti-defamation league,nthough that is not our style. We havenlearned the hard way the value ofnpatience and a half loaf, and the dangernof pushing points of honor too hard,nand we have a primitive loyalty to thisncountry, under the foolish delusionnthat it is still ours. mtm<^K^imMn-•