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"Rep. Poe Quotes Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard On House Floor":

So reports Think Progress. Horrible! Except that the wizard (Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest) wasn't being quoted for any of his wizardly views, but rather for the famous military advice, "Git thar fustest with the mostest."

Are we really going to insist that political leaders -- or, I take it, any other public figure -- stop quoting racists? That they stop quoting bad people generally? That they stop quoting leaders responsible for immoral violence? No more quotes of Napoleon (a megalomaniac responsible for millions of deaths)? None of Mao Tse-Tung, a very bad man who nonetheless captured something insightful (though obviously not the whole story) when he said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"?

How about Stalin's "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic," itself something of an indictment of Stalin but also a regrettably accurate description of the way human psychology often works? How about quotes from noted anti-Semite Henry Ford? Noted anti-Semite Martin Luther?

Remember, we're not talking about their racist, anti-Semitic, or pro-pass-murder views. We're talking about things they said on quite different subjects, things that have passed into common usage because they're seen as insightful or well-put.

How much of our vocabulary of phrases would we have to bowdlerize to accomplish this? If that's thinking progress, I want none of it.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer. Note also that there is a separate and irrelevant dispute about whether the quote, while famous, is precise; Roll Call reports that "Civil War scholar Bruce Catton ... wrote that Forrest actually believed the essence of strategy -- and the proper quote -- was 'to git thar fust with the most men.'" I mention this to forestall others' bringing this up; it's clearly unconnected to the propriety of Rep. Poe's using the more familiar version.

AF:
If someone is known primarily for their bad deeds, you shouldn't quote them with approval.
5.8.2007 8:49pm
Constantin:
[Insert Robert Byrd joke here.]
5.8.2007 8:53pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
AF: So when some politician, journalist, pundit, or whoever else quotes Stalin's and Mao's aphorisms, you'll be condemning them for that, right?
5.8.2007 8:56pm
cathyf:
Of course there is irony as well. For example, Mao's statement dismissing concerns about overpopulation, "Every mouth that eats comes with two hands to work." The irony being the totalitarian state's unique ability to create famine by handcuffing the "invisible hand" of wealth creation.
5.8.2007 9:06pm
Dave N (mail):
I think EV is right. I am against Bowlderization of our language (or even our Bartlett's) merely because there is something else to criticize in the original speaker's past.

If Congressman Poe quoted Forrest as saying. "Long Live the Klan," amd then expressed agreement, then that would be news. To criticize Poe for quoting Forrest for something Forrest supposedly said as a military strategist because he later led the KKK is about as asinine as criticizing Fred Thompson for playing a Nazi on television.
5.8.2007 9:31pm
Trevor Morrison (mail):
Eugene: Is there *anyone* whose bad deeds are/were bad enough that you would think it appropriate to avoid quoting them in any circumstance? Can you imagine there ever being such a person?
5.8.2007 9:35pm
CatCube:
Morrison: I'm not Eugene, but I'll give you my answer anyway.

No. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
5.8.2007 9:38pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
While Abraham Lincoln was in favor of giving full rights to blacks, he nevertheless held opinions that would classify him as a racist by today’s standards.

“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the black and white races.” “I as well as Judge Douglas am in favor of the race to which I belong, having the superior position.”
Quoted from page 32, Lincoln Speeches and Writings, by Abraham Lincoln, Don E. Fehrenbacher, ISBN 0940450631.

Now it’s true we remember Lincoln not for his racism, but for his preserving the union. But do we remember Genera Nathan Bedford Forrest for nothing other than his being a Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard?
5.8.2007 9:43pm
Lavender (mail):
Zarkov, yes, we also remember him for inspiring the name of Forrest Gump, according to the character's mother.

Regardless of their personal beliefs about absolutely any topic, do you honestly think it is unfair how history has treated the president who ended slavery versus the first Grand Wizard of the KKK?
5.8.2007 10:02pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
So, Lavender, you are in favor of banishing the military tactic of getting there first with the most because it was vocalized by Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Are you also in favor of banning any books written about his life?

If so, are you in favor of banning books written about Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Goering, Goebbles, Speer, Ghengis Khan, Caligula, Nero, Julius Caeser, Eric the Red, Hadrian, Alexander the Great? -- you get the idea.

If not, are you in favor of banning any reference to anything good that he might have done in Forrest's life that might be valuable to know about?
5.8.2007 10:12pm
WHOI Jacket:
Oh, don't worry. This'll get ginned up into some sort of scandal.

Olbermann will have him on in the Top 5 list with no context or analysis other than "LOL Racist Repug". It might make it onto tomorrows Today Show, I'm sure we can find someone from Rainbow-PUSH to get all indignant in front of the camera.

This is how it works these days.
5.8.2007 10:24pm
Viscus (mail) (www):
We don't need to make a general principle out of this. Each case should be judged on its own merits. But yes, you should be judged by the men you quote and the context in which you quote them. Part of freedom of speech if judging the speech of others. I would expect Eugene Volokh, of all people, to understand that.

Context matters.

Quoting Stalin, "single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic" with approval is very different from quoting him to condemn or to educate.

In this case, Poe quoted a racist Confederate general. He did so not to condemn that racist general, but rather to argue that we should follow his advice. In effect, Poe's quoting of the racist general tends to grant him a sort of authority -- suggesting he is someone who should be listened too. The military advice in question is not particularly valuable or insightful -- this is clearly an argument from authority, and the person to be taken as authority is a former Grand Wizard of the KKK. Indeed, quoting this general in this context suggests that what is important about the general is anything other than the fact that he is both racist and evil.

If you want to quote a Confederate Civil War general about military tactics, may I suggest Robert E. Lee. Love him or hate him, he was a brilliant general and his racism was much less extreme than that of Nathan Bedford Forrest. That the Congressman was stupid enough to quote Forrest rather than Lee is extremely poor judgment which reflect poorly on the Congressman's character.

Representative Poe should apologize for his insensitive remarks which, in effect, aggrandize a KKK Grand Wizard. This is not about a general principle (which is what Eugene Volokh tries to make it into) but about a specific instance.

There is no general principle against quoting Stalin. But, if you say it in a particular context (i.e. approving of it) you should be condemned.
5.8.2007 10:24pm
WHOI Jacket:
Forrest is regarded as the only solider to have enlisted as a private and surrendered as a General. That was the old story I was told.
5.8.2007 10:27pm
David Walser:
Viscus, Poe quoted Forrest as an expert in military matters. It's all but insane to suggest that that this context his "remarks ... aggrandize a KKK Grand Wizard." Are we to be prohibited from quoting Senator Robert Byrd, except to condem his racist past?
5.8.2007 10:32pm
AK (mail):
Can we please use this standard the next time that a leftist quotes Thomas Jefferson, owner of slaves?
5.8.2007 10:34pm
sjalterego (mail):
Responding to Trevor: taking Hitler as an example b/c he is probably one of the most reviled figures in history let alone the 20th Century, many memorable quotes are ascribed to him.

“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it”

“It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.”



“"The man who has no sense of history, is like a man who has no ears or eyes"”

"The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.”

The fact that he made these statements and in many cases acted on these principles gives them added weight in many contexts. We don't have to agree that one should make a big lie to use this quote, pregnant with tragedy, to point out that Hitler was essentially correct and to take it as warning that just b/c somebody makes a preposterous statement does not mean that we should not take it seriously.

Responding to Viscous "But yes, you should be judged by the men you quote and the context in which you quote them. Part of freedom of speech if judging the speech of others. I would expect Eugene Volokh, of all people, to understand that."

I am pretty sure EV did take that into consideration. He did not state a general principle that one may always quote evil people for any purpose. He refuted the asserted general principle that one may never quote an evil person for any purpose. He clearly indicated that context matters

"Remember, we're not talking about their racist, anti-Semitic, or pro-pass-murder views. We're talking about things they said on quite different subjects, things that have passed into common usage because they're seen as insightful or well-put."
5.8.2007 10:34pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Trevor: Given that I think it's OK to quote Stalin and Mao (not just to condemn them, but because they said something that's insightful and accurate), I think I'll have to say that no-one is so evil that it's wrong to quote him. Naturally, some people are evil but haven't said anything insightful that conveys a non-evil message that would one want to endorse; those aren't worth quoting. But some evil people are nonetheless quite competent and insightful about certain things, be they warfare, propaganda, politics, or whatnot.
5.8.2007 10:37pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Trevor Morrison:

Eugene: Is there *anyone* whose bad deeds are/were bad enough that you would think it appropriate to avoid quoting them in any circumstance? Can you imagine there ever being such a person?

Caligula's "Oderint dum metuant" is memorable precisely because he was such a bad man.
5.8.2007 10:40pm
randal (mail):
EUGENE VOLOKH CHASTISES "THINK PROGRESS" FOR REPORTING FACT

So reports Randal. Horrible! Or is it?

The premise of Eugene's post is that Think Progress's post ought to be taken as a general admonition against "quoting bad people".

I guess that means Eugene thinks we should take his post as a general admonition against writing posts that attempt to gin up a controversy based on an out-of-context factual assertion.

Which makes this the most self-ironizing post I've read today.
5.8.2007 10:43pm
Viscus (mail) (www):

Viscus, Poe quoted Forrest as an expert in military matters.


First, there is nothing particularly insightful about the quote, nor is it the product of specialized military expertise.

Second, for military expertise on the Confederate side, Lee is a much better choice. Also, Lee was much less racist.

Third, Byrd has apologized for his former Klan membership. That is certainly relevant. But, if he had not and was an unrepetant member of the Klan, I think it would be wise to avoid quotes that make him into an authority of any kind.

Once again, it seems that arguments in favor of Poe rely on trying to make the condemnation of him into some sort of general principle (if we condemn this quote, me logically must condemn the quotes of Byrd or quotes of Stalin), rather than defending the quote itself on the merits in the particular context in which it was spoken.

But the generalization that we must condemn all quotes of racists if we condemn this quote is simply false. It ignores the vital importance of context. This quote was a mistake because of the context and purpose for which it was uttered, rather than because there should be a general rule against quoting racists in all other contexts.
5.8.2007 10:49pm
Viscus (mail) (www):

He refuted the asserted general principle that one may never quote an evil person for any purpose. He clearly indicated that context matters.


I agree with the general principle that there are some contexts where it is fine to quote evil persons. It should be noted that this general principle "though shall not quote evil persons" was not asserted by the people that Eugene Volokh was criticizing. It seems that it was asserted by Eugene Volokh as somehow logically flowing from the condemnation of the particular comment made by Representative Poe.
5.8.2007 10:53pm
BladeDoc (mail):
In this case, Poe quoted a racist Confederate general. He did so not to condemn that racist general, but rather to argue that we should follow his advice. In effect, Poe's quoting of the racist general tends to grant him a sort of authority -- suggesting he is someone who should be listened too. The military advice in question is not particularly valuable or insightful -- this is clearly an argument from authority, and the person to be taken as authority is a former Grand Wizard of the KKK.


Umm -- I call BS. The fact is that this statement, however phrased is one of the most fundamental lessons of military tactics. The reason for the quote's longevity is because it states a truism in a very direct, easy to understand way. Its country phraseology helps to make the point, i.e. "it's so basic even a hick can get it." Clausewitz and Sun Tzu said similar things

Clausewitz "On the Nature of War -- Book I"

If we desire to defeat the enemy, we must proportion our efforts to his powers of resistance. This is expressed by the product of two factors which cannot be separated, namely, the sum of available means and the strength of the Will. The sum of the available means may be estimated in a measure, as it depends (although not entirely) upon numbers; but the strength of volition is more difficult to determine, and can only be estimated to a certain extent by the strength of the motives. Granted we have obtained in this way an approximation to the strength of the power to be contended with, we can then take of our own means, and either increase them so as to obtain a preponderance, or, in case we have not the resources to effect this, then do our best by increasing our means as far as possible.


And slightly more clearly Sun Tzu "The Art of War"

"Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

It's clear to me which of the three statements is more direct and rhetorically clear. It's certainly not obviously an argument from authority.

And if racism and antisemitism disqualify you from quotation and admiration I vote Ghandi off the island.
5.8.2007 10:54pm
sjalterego (mail):
It ignores the vital importance of context. This quote was a mistake because of the context and purpose for which it was uttered, rather than because there should be a general rule against quoting racists in all other contexts.


Could you enlighten the rest of us as to how the context and purpose for which it was uttered made this Rep. Poe's quotation of NBF a "mistake"?

Nathan Bedford Forrest was an unschooled soldier who, as a result of his charismatic ability to lead men, his personal daring and bravery, and willingness to resort to uncivil guerilla warfare tactics in The Civil War, was able to achieve a great many successes. To me, his quote, in this context is a way of saying that for all the fancy talk, study groups, intelligence gathering etc. one of the most basic factors in military success is often overlooked. The guy who has more people at the point of contact wins. Although I don't fully agree with the surge tactic, this quote insightfully supports Poe's claim that we need to provide funds to keep and maintain a numerically superior force on the ground right now, w/o delay.
5.8.2007 11:02pm
JB:
BladeDoc: Ah, the famous Mhaatma. Will Gandhi have to go with him?
5.8.2007 11:04pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
All I can guess is that someone on a mailing list is running a contest for the stupidest moonbat posting of the day, and Sully and thinkprogress really want first prize.
5.8.2007 11:06pm
Zach (mail):
Second, for military expertise on the Confederate side, Lee is a much better choice. Also, Lee was much less racist.

But Lee doesn't have any well-known quotes that are on point, so I don't follow the logic.

The reason you should quote "Get there firstest with the mostest" is because it's good advice, presented memorably, not because it's some special insight dependent on the wisdom of the man who uttered it.
5.8.2007 11:06pm
W.D.:
So if Hillary Clinton were citing Stalin approvingly on the Senate floor, EV, Instapundit, and the rest wouldn't make a peep? Umm, OK then...
5.8.2007 11:14pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
“… do you honestly think it is unfair how history has treated the president who ended slavery versus the first Grand Wizard of the KKK?”

Lincoln did not end slavery as it remained in force in both Delaware and Kentucky until abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment.

Historical fairness has nothing do with the appropriateness of quoting a pithy comment by a Confederate general.
5.8.2007 11:15pm
RSwan (mail):
Viscus

Third, Byrd has apologized for his former Klan membership. That is certainly relevant. But, if he had not and was an unrepetant member of the Klan, I think it would be wise to avoid quotes that make him into an authority of any kind.

Forrest also apologized for his membership in the Klan, and called for it's dissolution in a full page ad. Does that count?
5.8.2007 11:31pm
TLB (mail) (www):
TP is from the Clinton-linked CAP, which gets money from George Soros. They frequently swap spit with MMFA. This affair is simply an attempt to a) flex their muscles, and b) continue trying to portray Republicans as racist. Most of their posts are in the same gotcha category, and some of their commentors are smarter than they are. Except for the ones who get banned for violating the orthodoxy.
5.8.2007 11:32pm
Random Commenter:
"First, there is nothing particularly insightful about the quote, nor is it the product of specialized military expertise."

Except that Forrest was an absolutely brilliant cavalry leader, as was acknowledged with respect by his Union opponents and is developed in most of the civil war histories; exactly the sort of person with the authority to say something so banal and have it become enshrined in history. You can criticize Forrest's primordial racial views all you want, but your continued effort to minimize him as a military figure is absurd. Learn a bit of Civil War history.
5.8.2007 11:37pm
Mark Field (mail):
I have no use for NBF, whom I consider to be a racist war criminal. However, I see no problem quoting him, nor, for that matter, quoting Hitler or Stalin or Mao.

The one thing I would add to this discussion, though, is that we do have to be careful when quoting the "bad guys". This is common with works of literature: someone will quote "Shakespeare" when actually quoting Iago and failing to consider that Iago might not be a source of wisdom, much less of Shakespeare's real views. Similarly, Hitler's statements may contain less actual wisdom than they might superficially seem to have.

Take, for example, Mao's aphorism that "all power grows out of the barrel of a gun". There probably is some element of truth to that, but it's very far from the whole truth and we might consider that phrase as more reflective of Mao's crimes than of wise counsel. It ain't the Golden Rule.
5.8.2007 11:51pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Just to be pedantic, Caligula was indeed fond of saying 'oderint dum metuant', but he was quoting a character in an old (2nd century BC) tragedy, the Atreus of Accius. Atreus himself said the words, and he is best known for hating his brother Thyestes so much that he chopped up Thyestes' sons, cooked them, and fed them to their unsuspecting father -- unsuspecting until Atreus brought in the last course, a covered platter containing their heads and hands. Seneca's play Thyestes survives, though Accius' Atreus does not. Cicero also liked to quote the line, but unlike Caligula he made his disapproval of the sentiment clear.
5.8.2007 11:57pm
AnonymouslyYours (mail):
This post and thread remind me of this scene from the Daily Show, here.
5.9.2007 12:02am
Horatius:
Speaking of quoting slave owners, Jefferson said "where you stand depends on where you sit." So, I sit as mlitary officer, O-4.

About this issue: Once again, we see from some folks the classic lack of knowledge of things militaria.

As BladeDoc and others have pointed out, Forrest's quote is one of the all-time famous ones in the military sphere, that, Viscus' opinion notwithstanding, actually does, in a pithy manner, illuminates military "principles of war". Viscus, you can disagree, but you are going to be swimming up against a very swift stream in trying to do so, for you are essentially trying to tell the practitioners of an entire field of study they don't know what the heck they are talking about. You might be right, but you need to bring a little more to the table, argument-wise, in making your case.

The principle of "getting their firstest with the mostest" embodies the principles of economy of force, superiority of force at the point of contact, and finding the enemy's center of gravity. To blandly say otherwise, without so much as a scintilla of argument, is to blow off about a hundred and fifty years worth of work in the field of study in the Art of War.

I can't name you one other thing Nathan Bedford Forrest ever said, but I have been using this quote for decades, just as I can quote Napoleon's "Moral is to the Material as Three is to One," or Luftwaffe ace Adolf Galland's "The Spirit of Attack borne in a Brave Heart leads on to Victory." These quotes are just part of the basic toolkit of military cultural literacy, but none of them came from men whose causes I like. So what?

Second, Forrest's miltary reputation, is, by and large, better than Lee's (though Lee's rep is, overall, greater than Forrest's, and deservedly so), mainly because Lee acted on a greater stage but made some mistakes, while Forrest, playing for much smaller stakes, put together an essentially untrammeled string of success as a leader of irregular forces. Lee's rep is greater because Forrest, despite his near-perfect record, wasn't able to influence the course of the war to any great extent.

So, getting back to Poe, there really is an issue here besides pointless name calling. As I said, regardless of the cause he fought for or what he did later, the military exploits of Nathan Bedford Forrest--and in particular this quote--are a well-recognized part of the study of the Art of War. It is not idiotic to quote him, period. He has been quoted before, and if we still live in an age of rationality, will be quoted again.

The folks beating up on Poe could care less about that--they a) just wanted any convenient excuse for a scalp b) don't know anything about military affairs anyway, but most importantly, c) are part of a long term trend to airbrush out of existence/cultural literacy those who do not fit into modern conventions, in order to achieve policy goals and political power/enhacned legitmacy.

Forrest is an easy target. But that does not mean that you shouldn't listen to what his quote is actually trying to say. And that means we have to listen to Forrest; notwithstanding him being a Confederate general and KKK founder.

And as we look at our ability to do that, it also means we have to ponder the issue that, once again quoting that other slave owner Jefferson, every generation must ponder--"A nation that wishes to be ignorant and free wishes for what never was and never will be."

For if we start shucking off entire corpora of age-old wisdom and knowledge merely because those who created them were not up to what some now consider proper behavior (or were in fact downright scoundrels), there is going to be precious little left available for the public debate other than that which has been pronounced kosher by the modern Pharisees.

Which may be precisely the point.
5.9.2007 12:18am
BladeDoc (mail):
Damn misplaced H
5.9.2007 12:20am
Justin (mail):
The real problem isn't Poe or Forrest. It's this country's obsession with hiding and not dealing with our genuinely racist past. Either racism is no longer a problem, to conveniently hide away, despite the monumental evidence otherwise. Or racism was simply a thing people used to do, whether they've since apologized for it (Byrd) or not (Lott, Thurmand, Helms, etc.).

Unfortunately, we're not going to have that frank discussion on race, much to the detriment of this country.
5.9.2007 12:20am
Vinnie (mail):
Well anyone who has never been wrong meed to 'fess up so we can make a list and discount anything they ever said.
Just because you say or do something stupid does not mean your never right. If that were the case this place would have zero traffic and the posters would have a LOT more free time.(you would all get tired of reading MY comments)
5.9.2007 12:37am
Brian K (mail):
I just love how some of you guys are using such obvious strawmen in a futile attempt to knock Viscus down. It is really very funny.

Viscus has never said that the quote wasn't true or that it is bad military advice...he has only said quoting from Forrest may not have been the best idea.
5.9.2007 12:46am
Bob from Ohio (mail):

It's this country's obsession with hiding and not dealing with our genuinely racist past.


We fought a Civil War that destroyed slavery. We passed Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Acts that destroyed Jim Crow. A black may be the next President of the United States. How much more can we do to repair past wrongs?

The true obsession is by people like ThinkProgess who thing nothing of stiring the racial pot for short term political gain.

As for a "frank discussion", what would that entail? At times (Imus for instance), it seems all we talk about is race.
5.9.2007 12:47am
TLove (mail):
Viscus:

The Civil War, Ward, Burns and Burns, page 346.

William Techumseh Sherman once called Nation Beford Forrest 'the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side.'

In 1861 he enlisted as a private then raised and equipped and entire cavalry battalion out of his own pocket. By the war's end he had become a lieutenant general, the only man in either army to rise so far. He was the most feared cavalry commander of the war - the "the wizard of the saddle" -- wounded four times in battle and famous for having horses shot out from under him....

Page 270, quoting Shelby Foote

"...the war produced two authentic geniuses. One of them was Nathan Bedford Forrest. The other was Abraham Lincoln.

...

Forrest was a natural genius. Someone said he was born to be a soldier the way John Keats was born to be a poet. "Get there first with the most men", "Hit 'em on the end", "Keep up the skeer"

He had thirty horses shot from under him during the course of the war. And he killed thirty-one men in hand-to-hand combat. And he said "I was a horse ahead at the end."
"

Page 407

[After the war] Nathan Bedford Forest promoted railroads for a time, without much success. In 1867, he became the very first Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, but quit when its members grew too violent even for him."

So, Viscus, William T. Sherman and Shelby Foote both call Forrest a singular genius.

You are who, exactly?

Oh, and he, like Robert Byrd, resigned from the KKK so I guess now that you know, everything's cool with both of them, right?
5.9.2007 12:59am
Brian G (mail) (www):
At least he didn't say "there are white ni__ers" on TV like Byrd did.
5.9.2007 1:12am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
If we want to have our own wise words quoted by future generations, must we first ascertain that we ourselves will not be considered disgusting barbarians by those same future generations? How could we possibly do that? Most of us like to think we know what social progress is, but do we really? Can we even predict what will be considered obviously immoral by those 100 or 150 years in the future?

Here's one example: It's possible that 100 years from now everyone will be a strict teatotaling vegan, and those of us who drink alcohol or eat meat or eggs or butter today (and that's the vast majority of us) will be considered no better than cannibals. Then again, it's possible that everyone will be a libertarian in 100 years, so those of us who do not smoke, and drink alcohol, and eat dog, cat, snake, rat, horse, and various species of bug will be considered narrow-minded puritans, and those who have ever voted against allowing any of their fellow citizens over the age of 10 to smoke and drink and eat whatever and whenever they want, including absinthe and horsemeat and pufferfish and monkey brains and live octopus will be considered barbarian thugs.

Does anyone really think it's fair to be silenced by the moral disapproval of future generations, without any way of winning their approval or even knowing how to do so?
5.9.2007 1:13am
Horatius:
Oh, a reattack--some have said the quote is banal, or obvious. Well, yeah, no kidding. But that does not mean it is meaningless.

Or in other words, this quote resonates because, despite the seeming banality, generals time and time again get it wrong. Is it simple? Sure. But as Clausewitz said, "In War everything is simple, but even the simplest thing is hard."

Study enough military history and you will see again and again where one opponent did not commit enough force initially, and thereby forfeited victory, or took a lackadaisical approach to getting to a critical position, or chose the wrong position/target (Hitler pausing outside Moscow in 1941).

If we want to limit ourselves to the Civil War, the Army of the Potomac can be our poster child. At the Battle of Antietam McClellan's overwhelming numerical superiority was never used effectively (the "mostest" principle). At Spotsylvania Court House, the Union dawdled and allowed the Confederates to reach the critical road junction first, even though the South had further to travel (the "firstest" principle). At Gettysburg, the Union was able to occupy the high ground of Culp's Hill and Cemetary Ridge at the end of the first day, giving them the anchor points needed for a strong defense. On the second day, the positioning of troops on Little Round Top was a "just-in-the-nick-of-time" affair—if Longstreet hadn’t got lost (been in a sulk?), the battle is very different.

So this "firstest with the mostest" thing may seem a trivial statement. That is, until you try to be a general, or a statesman trying to figure out the right level of troops, and then you discover that being the man in the arena is hard.

Or until you debate how much to fund those troops. So we can discuss what Poe was actually trying to say about strategy and policy (and see if it was valid or a piece of tripe), or we can have a debate about the number of politically correct angels that can be quoted on the head of a pin.

Right now we are option number 2.

Finally, I don't know if my post is included in the "Viscus/straw man/futile" post, but I don't consider myself using straw men. Professional judgement, yes. My post was a direct counter to the following statement from Viscus:

First, there is nothing particularly insightful about the quote, nor is it the product of specialized military expertise.

which, for reasons I have tried to bring forth, is not supportable. Viscus appears to just not want folks to use quotes from Forrest, because he is a repellant figure in many respects, and so he tried to make the quote appear pointless. Sorry, RPOC, one wrong answer. To not wanting to quote Forrest because of his post Civil War career, I still reply, understandable but tough toenails. I'm tired of this PC game.

We only have a Republic if we can keep it. Keeping it involves debate. Debate demands a free flow of information if it is to be worth a dang, and if both sides are to accept the results of the decisions that come from those debates. This entire contretemps is an effort to delegitimize a person (Poe) by trumping up anything handy. Poe used a very common saying for those who are familiar with military affairs. Those who are not need to examine why they are not.

He need not apologize in the slightest, for he was merely using the lingua franca of a field of knowledge, not being a Trent Lott wistfully pining away for Dixiecrats, mint juleps, and Tara...
5.9.2007 1:40am
Antares79:
Kudos to the VC for mentioning two Civilization IV quotes in the same week!
5.9.2007 2:11am
Kazinski:
I suppose now that the standard for quoting controversial figures has been set I'll be the last person to ever use this quote:

[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility".
Adolph Hitler
5.9.2007 2:14am
Kevin Murphy:
I guess when the Democratic Party apologizes for its long-term alliance with the Klan in overturning Reconstruction and securing the white southern vote for generations, well then I could accept criticism of this sort.
5.9.2007 3:17am
Joe Bingham (mail):
I'm amazed anyone would even question quoting the greatest military genius of the Civil War. By all accounts, he was in fact a good man; I don't think the KKK was originally primarily a racist organization (although racism couldn't have taken its identity over had it not been prevalent among the members).

Remind me to continue never visiting "Think" Progress.
5.9.2007 3:41am
big dirigible (mail) (www):
Forrest's other notable characteristic was his near illiteracy, which is why the quote, accurate or not, is always given today in "dialect" ("furst", etc). His surviving correspondence is interesting. Actually the usual verdict of "near illiterate" is perhaps a bit harsh. His spelling, while original, is logical, and his written thoughts are clear enough. That clarity is something often missing from writers with better grasp of punctuation and spelling.
5.9.2007 9:46am
Smallholder (mail) (www):
The “furstest with the mostest” quote is part of military lore. One can quote it without endorsing the virulent racism the Forrest embodied throughout his life. In the context of a military spending bill, I don’t think that the quote was out of bounds.

One does wonder, however, why he chose this quote – it was shoehorned into context. He wasn’t talking about mobile warfare. He was talking about funds to continue operations against an insurgency/continue the occupation (take your pick). The quote doesn’t seem apropos. Doesn’t he know any other military quotations? Not knowing anything about Poe, it seems to me that reasonable people could wonder why Poe chose to quote Forrest. Referencing Forrest can be a secret Masonic-style hat tip to those “in the know,” just like those “I ride with Forrest” bumper stickers that signal membership in the Klan without getting the racist’s car vandalized in city parking lots. But that’s all it would be – wonder. If there is a larger context of Poe using Willie-Horton style messages, he ought to be condemned. But the article condemning Poe doesn’t provide evidence that this is the case. So perhaps we should accept that Poe was simply using a well-worn military cliché.

That said, there are limits as to how one can quote Forrest. My local newspaper, the Daily News Record of Harrisonburg, quoted Forrest’s Klan mission statement about protecting honor and families after losing everything in the war – without context. I think we can all call BS on that.

A. Zarkov’s comments do merit a response:


Lincoln did not end slavery as it remained in force in both Delaware and Kentucky until abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment.


Zarkov, your desire to pull down Lincoln is rather odd. You wouldn’t be one of those folks who argues for the justice of the slavocracy’s lost cause, would you? At any rate, your statement about Lincoln is disingenuous at best. Lincoln freed the slaves in the South at the point of the bayonet, but he also worked to end slavery in the border states as political circumstances permitted. In fact, he was the person who pushed the Thirteenth Amendment through Congress:

Your earlier statement about Lincoln’s racism was accurate. However, the typical Southern apologist’s claim that the North’s failure to be ideologically pure created a moral equivalency between the sections is bunk. Other than a few people like Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens (who were regarded as freaks because of their belief in equality), almost all Northerners believed in white superiority. Nonetheless, they came to believe that slavery was a great moral wrong and elected a President who would gradually end it (by blocking the expansion of slavery into new territories, which would result in the eventual creation of states that would vote to amend the Constitution). When the South refused to accept the democratic outcome and the constitutional process – because they believed divinely-inspired slavery ought to last forever, Lincoln sped up the timetable. One side was fighting to end slavery and the other was fighting to keep it.

Sane people can detect a moral difference on that issue, even if the North had some blotches on its collective character.

Horatius wrote an excellent post about the Forrest quote’s place in military cultural literacy. I was right with him and cheering him on until I got to:


For if we start shucking off entire corpora of age-old wisdom and knowledge merely because those who created them were not up to what some now consider proper behavior (or were in fact downright scoundrels), there is going to be precious little left available for the public debate other than that which has been pronounced kosher by the modern Pharisees.



And later:


Viscus appears to just not want folks to use quotes from Forrest, because he is a repellant figure in many respects.



I’m glad you added the parenthetical “downright scoundrels,” but was alarmed at the part of “some now consider.” Is there anyone around who believes that any part of Forrest’s life was proper? It’s not just about the Klan. Before the war he was a slave trader. He self-proclaimedly fought the war in a rage against the abolitionists who sought to end the peculiar institution. He was the commander who either authorized or failed to exert proper control of his troops who carried out official Confederate policy during the Fort Pillow massacre of black prisoners of war (hang him under the Nuremburg or Tokyo standards, I don’t care). After the war he helped found the Klan. Even when he left, it was not because he came to see that the maintenance of white supremacy was an unworthy goal; he became concerned that the Klan was not the most effective way to achieve that goal -if his military career teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that leaders must be able to rapidly change tactics to achieve their goals. Sherman and all those Civil War historians are correct – Forrest was a genius. But he was an evil genius, my friends.

The concern that some people rightly have is that some folks (and I’m not saying you, Horatius, I hardly know ye) who quote Forrest have a regrettable tendency to make semi-apologies for his cause. The “repellent figure” didn’t put you in that camp, but the following “in many respects” raises some hackles. In what other respect is he not repellent?

And that, perhaps, is why representative Poe’s speech is newsworthy. Is the quote (by itself innocuous) reflective of Poe’s interior monologue saying that Forrest was only repellent in some respects or that some people might not consider his behavior to be proper today but it was entirely understandable and proper in the 1850s (slave trader), 1861 (when he enlisted to fight the abolitionists), 1864 (Fort Pillow), or the post-war period?
One wonders if Poe is a fellow traveler like poster Joe Bingham, who wrote, on this very thread in 2007:

By all accounts, [Forrest] was in fact a good man; I don't think the KKK was originally primarily a racist organization (although racism couldn't have taken its identity over had it not been prevalent among the members).

Jesus wept.
5.9.2007 9:50am
Anderson (mail) (www):
By all accounts, he was in fact a good man;

I've been over at Carpetbagger &LGM saying "give me a break" on the non-issue of quoting Forrest, but the above is an example of what my opponents on this issue are afraid of.

Forrest's role at the Fort Pillow massacre, to say no more, makes it very dubious that he was a "good man."

As for the KKK, I've seen it argued that he saw it mainly as an anti-northern vehicle and not as a racist one, but I take those arguments with a grain of salt; if anyone can enlighten me with any relatively reputable sources, I shall be attentive.
5.9.2007 10:21am
Seamus (mail):

There is no general principle against quoting Stalin. But, if you say it in a particular context (i.e. approving of it) you should be condemned.



Even if I quote him to the effect that "quantity has a quality all its own"?
5.9.2007 11:05am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

It's this country's obsession with hiding and not dealing with our genuinely racist past.


What's more, with obsessively hiding it and not dealing with it in newspapers, on the blogs, in the broadcast media, and in books, and doing so every damn day.
5.9.2007 11:12am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
If I understand some of the posters on this topic, I am supposed to research the history of every organization that I dispise, like the KKK, on the off chance that I might accidently quote something that a past leader of that organization said?

Until this quote came up, I was not aware that Nathan Bedford Forrest was anything but a Civil War General. The history and actions of the KKK never interested me. Forrest as a General never intrigued me enough to wonder what happened to him after the war.

Is every fun and quirky quote that I know off limits if it comes out of the mouth of a racist? Am I responsible for researching the history of all these quotes and verifying that they didn't originate with a racist? Am I a racist for not caring who the racists were over 100 years ago and who wasn't?

Frankly, I have better things to do in my life.
5.9.2007 11:36am
Mark Field (mail):
Smallholder, that was a great post.
5.9.2007 12:28pm
Scott D (mail):
Great discussion. When one spends time in, say, Selma, Alabama, the "FRIENDS OF FORREST" clubs sponsor confederate history museums and confederate flag displays. They are associated with the network of Citizens Councils and other quite reactionary politics.

Knowing the power of these societies, one must interrogate the intention of quoting him.
5.9.2007 1:09pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
Let's try another quote:

"Golf is a game in which one endeavors to control a ball with implements ill adapted for the purpose."

Widely retailed for its wit and insight, it is from Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was (and should still be) a notorious racist, responsible for re-segregating the federal civil service and the military. His actions while president of Princeton should repulse any person of decency.

Repeating that quote says, and should say, nothing about the quoter other than that he has a certain justifiable disdain for the game of golf.
5.9.2007 1:11pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
Whoops, poor phrasing. That sentence should have read:

"Wilson was notorious (and should still be notorious) for being a racist...."

Not what I first wrote.
5.9.2007 1:16pm
TLove (mail):
Here's a counter example for ya...

Eric von Manstein engaged in a spirited radio-based debate with Adolf Hitler in June 1941 over the treatment of uniformed KGB officers. Hitler ordered them shot on sight. Manstein argued (a) their status under the Hague conventions was debatable, but there was at least an argument, and (b) as a practical matter, shooting them on site would cause them to order russian army units to fight to the death, not something that would be advantageous to the german army. So that while Manstein concluded that they were probably not covered by the Hague conventions, he thought they nevertheless should be treated as prisoners of war.

Manstein then quite publicly countermanded Hitler's order (Manstein suspected, correctly, that the Russians were able to follow this debate rather easily, and had informed the relevant KGB officers of Hitler's order). Hitler, being intimidated by Manstein as no one else, never further pursued the matter. Other german generals on the russian front then followed Manstein's example.

So, a top Wermacht general, who did his absolute best to further Hitler's meglomaniacal ambitions (and his best was very very good, up there with NBF) argued that practical considerations compel *extending* prisoner of war status to persons not covered by the relevant treaties. But since he was a bad bad man, fighting for a bad bad cause, we should of course not cite this episode, relevant as it is to current debates over Guantanamo etc. Whatever a bad bad man says or does should be studiously buried, airbrushed out of history as it were, and for god's sake, never cited.

Right?

So if Nancy Pelosi cites Manstein's example in an attack on Gitmo (she admittedly being too stupid to be able to pronounce Manstein's name correctly, let alone cite him), she should be pilloried, right? She could state, if she had the wit, that DicklessMcChimpyBusHitlerCheney is/are not just as bad as the nazi's, but actually worse, since even top nazi's generals were willing to extend prisoner of war status to enemy combatants who did not clearly fall within the relevant definitions.

Right?
5.9.2007 1:28pm
Cecil Turner (mail):
N.B. Forrest "quotes" are taught in a variety military courses, and he's considered an authority on tactics and strategy, and especially operations (and yes, the quote in question is commonly given as "get thar fustest with the mostest"; whether that's accurate or not . . . perhaps it's a more generalized version to fit the modern battlefield). In Executive Orders, Clancy cites a fictional cavalry commander whose "dissertation was on the operational art of Nathan Bedford Forrest," (and similar actual works have been written) which gives some idea of his prominence in military studies.

Most military professionals would be instantly aware of the source of the quote (and slightly lesser known ones, such as "keep up the skeer"), even if it weren't attributed. It's slightly out of place, here, because it primarily refers to operational concerns, and the Congressman is discussing strategy and logistics. But to fasten on this as inappropriate in a discussion of military matters is hard to credit.
5.9.2007 1:30pm
keypusher (mail):
Great posts, Horatius.

In what other respect is he not repellent?

His courage, daring, and military genius. It is the third of these that led Poe to quote him.

This quote from wikipedia, if accurate, suggests there may have been good in him in other respects:

On July 5, 1875, Forrest became the first white man to speak to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association, a civil rights group whose members were former slaves. Although his speech was short, he expressed the opinion that blacks had the right to vote for any candidates they wanted and that the role of blacks should be elevated. He ended the speech by kissing the cheek of one of the daughters of one of the Pole-Bearer members.
5.9.2007 1:55pm
keypusher (mail):
Re the Fort Pillow Massacre, I don't know anything about it. The wikipedia bio of Forrest says that Forrest was cleared of any violation of the laws of war in connection with it, but the wikipedia article on the massacre itself doesn't say anything of the kind (although it provides a lot of helpful detail).

Can anyone shed any light on Forrest's supposed vindication (if that's what it was)?
5.9.2007 2:11pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
I was unaware that Forrest might have softened in his old age. Thanks, keypusher, et al.

But its undeniable that before and during the war he was a crude, racist, vulgar, bully slavetrader. He was also a military genius and his fustest with mostest quote is pithy and extremely apt. Get over it.
5.9.2007 2:28pm
just me:
Well, even if we don't have a rule against quoting racists and anti-Semites, could we at least have a rule against giving current anti-Semites a microphone? So can I expect the Democrats to stop giving Al Sharpton a platform?
5.9.2007 3:15pm
eddie (mail):
Wouldn't the esteemed Mr. Forrest be rightly considered a traitor? And in particular a traitor against the United States?

So tell me: What is appropriate with quoting a traitor in the context of addressing matters of "war" funding?

Everything else is merely bluster for bluster's sake.

Mr. Robert E. Lee was perhaps a wonderful person, but that does not absolve his being a traitor: And when I use the word traitor, I reserve it for those who actually raise arms against our government (and not merely disagree on policy)!
5.9.2007 4:54pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
For if we start shucking off entire corpora of age-old wisdom and knowledge merely because those who created them were not up to what some now consider proper behavior (or were in fact downright scoundrels), there is going to be precious little left available for the public debate other than that which has been pronounced kosher by the modern Pharisees.
It's sort of ironic, in a discussion about racial sensitivity, to use a phrase which is essentially anti-Jewish. You know, because Jews are "the modern Pharisees." (Now back to your regularly scheduled civil war debate.)
5.9.2007 6:19pm
keypusher (mail):
eddie

Wouldn't the esteemed Mr. Forrest be rightly considered a traitor? And in particular a traitor against the United States?

So tell me: What is appropriate with quoting a traitor in the context of addressing matters of "war" funding?


That specific question has been hashed through in the previous posts. Maybe we could ask a more interesting question. Back when he was alive and memory of his treachery was fresh, he wasn't treated as a traitor. Perhaps we should dig him up and burn his bones, like the Council of Constance did to Wyclif. Alternatively, could someone say why people like Nathan Bedford Forrest weren't prosecuted as traitors after the war?

It's sort of ironic, in a discussion about racial sensitivity, to use a phrase which is essentially anti-Jewish. You know, because Jews are "the modern Pharisees."

They are? News to me, and to the poster you quote as well, I suspect. Do you think he meant his reference to pharisees as a subtle dig at Jews? And if not, what is the point of your post?
5.9.2007 6:53pm
Viscus (mail) (www):
I am persuaded by those who have made a specific case for the quote "the firstest and the mostest." Although the quote is very banal and does not seem to be the product of military expertise, presumably it is actually a major quote that is taught in the field of military science. Presumably, military science students do not really learn much of the history of the person who used this quote, and thus would not really know any better.

If the quote had great insight in the field of military science, I think it would be fine to use it, even if it was uttered by a racist and you knew that fact. However, if the quote doesn't have great insight (as here) and you knew it was uttered by a racist, it would be a huge mistake to use it.

This appears to be a third case. The quote does not have great insight, but it is regularly taught in military science, so people know the quote without knowing the origins of the person who originally spoke it. I do not think it would be fair to hold people responsible for knowing the background of every quote they learn, especially when that quote is often taught without the relevant context concerning the speaker.

So in my mind, the question is this. Did Representative Poe know about the background of the general in question when he used this non-insightful quote? Or alternatively, did he really and sincerely think that this rather simplistic quote was "insightful" enough, that it was worth using even though said by a racist. I would have a problem with casting judgment upon someone merely because they differ with myself as to the insightfulness of a quote -- especially where apparently many people in military science feel the quote is insightful enough to include in the curriculm. However, if Representative Poe agreed that the quote lacked insight, but quoted the general anyway, it would be a condemnable act.
5.9.2007 7:11pm
Horatius:

For if we start shucking off entire corpora of age-old wisdom and knowledge merely because those who created them were not up to what some now consider proper behavior (or were in fact downright scoundrels), there is going to be precious little left available for the public debate other than that which has been pronounced kosher by the modern Pharisees.
It's sort of ironic, in a discussion about racial sensitivity, to use a phrase which is essentially anti-Jewish. You know, because Jews are "the modern Pharisees." (Now back to your regularly scheduled civil war debate.)


For the Record, 1:
There were three possible allusions I could have used for that paragraph--modern-day Puritans, modern-day Torquemadas, modern-day Pharisees. I chose the one I did because it seemed to fit, and because it is what popped into my mind. When the societal consensus on proper/improper analogies congeals a little better, I'll care more. Meantime, there will not be a ritual "I'm not anti-Jewish" bit here.


For the Record, 2:
When I say a person is repellant, with an italicized is, that is exactly what I mean. I see no further reason to give ritual denouncements of anything and everything said person ever did. One can look at Forrest with a professional appreciation for his military exploits, and be repelled at everything else, just as one can eat a peach and yet still spit out the pit. Meantime, there will not be a ritual "I'm not a neo-Confederate" bit here.

Finally, once again, to get back to the original point, since I've not been contradicted that Forrest's quote was/is part of military lingua franca, and since--without further evidence to the contrary that would support smearing the reputation of the congressman as a Confederate sympathizer--that means the quote was thus not beyond the pale, then the question still remains, stunningly unexplored--was Poe speaking out of you know where, as politicians often do, or was it an appropriate use of the phrase, designed to illuminate an issue? I don't know. Oh, who cares, anyway, right?
5.9.2007 7:16pm
keypusher (mail):
This is from a partisan source (a pro-Forrest letter to the Knoxville news), but I provide it for what it is worth:




"'First With the Most' Forrest" by Robert Selph Henry, Indianapolis,
IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1944, page 14 - "Forty-five of Forrest's own slaves, indeed served through the war with him as teamsters. 'I said to forty-five colored fellows on my plantation...' Forrest told a Congressional committee after the war, 'that I was going into the army; and that if they would go with me, if we got whipped they would be free anyhow, and that if we succeeded and slavery was perpetuated, if they would act faithfully with me to the end of the war, I would set them free. Eighteen months before the war closed I was satisfied that we were going to be defeated, and I gave those forty-five men, or forty-four of them, their free papers, for fear I might get killed.'"

When freed these men never left Forrest's side and served as personal servants, cooks, teamsters, foragers, scouts, and eight of them served as Forrest's personal armed bodyguards.

Is there proof that these men rode into combat with Forrest? Most definitely and from the most widely-accepted authoritative source:

Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol XVI Part I, pg. 805, Lt. Col.
Parkhurst's Report (Ninth Michigan Infantry) on General Forrest's attack at Murfreesboro, Tenn, July 13, 1862: "The forces attacking my camp were the First Regiment Texas Rangers, Colonel Wharton, and a battalion of the First Georgia Rangers, Colonel Morrison, and a large number of citizens of Rutherford County, many of whom had recently taken the oath of allegiance to the United States Government. There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day."

Forrest later commented in 1871 that, "Those fellows never left me...and better Confederates did not live."


Here is the text of his speech mentioned in the wikipedia article (actually there seem to be several versions on the web, which differ slightly):

Memphis Daily Avalanche, July 6, 1875, 1.

"July 4, 1875 - Memphis, Tennessee -

Nathan Bedford Forrest was invited to speak by the Jubilee of Pole Bearers, a political and social organization in the post-war era comprised of Black Southerners. Miss Lou Lewis was introduced to General Forrest then presented him with a bouquet of flowers and said: 'Mr.
Forrest - allow me to present you this bouquet as a token, of reconciliation, an offering of peace and good will.'

General Forrest received the flowers with a bow, and replied:

'Miss Lewis, ladies and gentlemen - I accept these flowers as a token of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the South. I accept them more particularly, since they come from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God's great earth who loves the ladies, it is myself.

This is a proud day for me. Having occupied the position I have for thirteen years, and being misunderstood by the colored race, I take this occasion to say that I am your friend. I am here as the representative of the Southern people - one that has been more maligned than any other.

I assure you that every man who was in the Confederate army is your friend. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, live in the same land, and why should we not be brothers and sisters.

When the war broke out I believed it to be my duty to fight for my country, and I did so. I came here with the jeers and sneers of a few white people, who did not think it right. I think it is right, and will do all I can to bring about harmony, peace and unity. I want to elevate every man, and to see you take your places in your shops, stores and offices.

I don't propose to say anything about politics, but I want you to do as I do - go to the polls and select the best men to vote for. I feel that you are free men, I am a free man, and we can do as we please. I came here as a friend and whenever I can serve any of you I will do so.

We have one Union, one flag, one country; therefore, let us stand together. Although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment.

Many things have been said in regard to myself, and many reports circulated, which may perhaps be believed by some of you, but there are many around me who can contradict them. I have been many times in the heat of battle - oftener, perhaps, than any within the sound of my voice. Men have come to me to ask for quarter, both black and white, and I have shielded them.

Do your duty as citizens, and if any are oppressed, I will be your friend. I thank you for the flowers, and assure you that I am with you in heart and hand. '"


Interesting man.
5.9.2007 8:29pm
Mark Field (mail):

Alternatively, could someone say why people like Nathan Bedford Forrest weren't prosecuted as traitors after the war?


Many were pardoned by Andrew Johnson. In general, though, the North made the decision not to prosecute for treason because (a) there were so many to prosecute; and (b) they saw a need for sectional reconciliation. The non-prosecution of Forrest, or indeed any of his fellow traitors, had nothing to do with their personal guilt (of which there could be no doubt once you accept the Northern view of the war).
5.9.2007 9:09pm
Horatius:
Re: "Down with the Traitors, up with the Stars"

There was briefly talk of an attempt to prosecute Lee after the war, and Grant laid down a marker saying "If you do, I'll resign." That's because the surrender document at Appomattox Court House had a clause saying that as long as the paroled Confederates went home and obeyed the laws, they were not to be molested.

Clausewitz makes an interesting point that there are the victories you can win, and then there is the peace you can get with those victories.

Having prosecutions for treasonous behaviour, though an accurate description of that behaviour, does nothing to help that ultimate peace along. Besides, do you indict the entire populace?

The Roman Republic rose to power in part because they waged hard war but made easy peace with their Italian neighbors.

If you fight a war to "uphold the Union", then at some point you are going to have to readmit the wayward states as self-governing equals, or you will have made a mockery of your war aim--and upholding the ideas of Union, of representative government, and of elections meaning something that is binding on both loser as well as winner, were the original war aims, and were as strong as the later one of ending slavery.

break, break...

Viscus--you saying the quote is banal don't make it so, just as my saying it is worth something isn't the final word, either. More is needed, and I've ponied my reasons up to the table. And incidentally, I never said its part of the curriculum, because the curricula vary by service. Its part of military lore.

My apologies to SmallHand--he's the guy who has actually looked at the quote to see if, in context, it made any sense. I'm not sure one way or the other.

Finally, re: Mr. Nieporent: I think I now get the "interesting case of the dog that did not bark" nature of his comment, and assuming he is not calling me anti-Semitic, he has an interesting point. For the record (#3), when I (and I would hazard most people) think Pharisees, I think "uptight priests of the temple", not the people of the ancient Jewish kingdom as a whole--after all, there were Saduccees as well. It would be like every comment about "barbarian Germanic hordes" sacking Rome being taken as a bank shot on modern Europeans and Americans.
5.9.2007 9:50pm
keypusher (mail):
Many were pardoned by Andrew Johnson. In general, though, the North made the decision not to prosecute for treason because (a) there were so many to prosecute; and (b) they saw a need for sectional reconciliation. The non-prosecution of Forrest, or indeed any of his fellow traitors, had nothing to do with their personal guilt (of which there could be no doubt once you accept the Northern view of the war).

Well of course they couldn't prosecute everyone down to the lieutenants, but they didn't prosecute anyone for treason. Not even Jefferson Davis, who was indicted, but whose prosecution was ultimately abandoned. I don't understand how it can be crystal-clear that they were all traitors if you accept the Northern view of the war, if the North failed to prosecute anyone for treason. (The leading confederates seem like traitors to me, but I am more curious about what people at the time thought.) Any books that would shed light on this?
5.9.2007 9:53pm
Mark Field (mail):

Any books that would shed light on this?


Although both books deal with other issues as well, try Blum, Reforging the White Republic and Blight, Race and Reunion.
5.9.2007 11:32pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
They are? News to me, and to the poster you quote as well, I suspect. Do you think he meant his reference to pharisees as a subtle dig at Jews? And if not, what is the point of your post?
No, I don't think he meant his reference to pharisees as a subtle dig at Jews (*); I don't think Poe meant his comment as an endorsement of the KKK, either. My point was just that I thought it ironic, in defending Poe's language against implied charges of offensiveness, to use insensitive language.


(*) I think many Christians simply don't realize how many of the things they were taught while growing up really are problematic from the perspective of Jews, and the fact that we've now progressed enough towards toleration that everyone says "Judeo-Christian society" doesn't necessarily change that.
5.10.2007 7:33am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Finally, re: Mr. Nieporent: I think I now get the "interesting case of the dog that did not bark" nature of his comment, and assuming he is not calling me anti-Semitic, he has an interesting point. For the record (#3), when I (and I would hazard most people) think Pharisees, I think "uptight priests of the temple", not the people of the ancient Jewish kingdom as a whole--after all, there were Saduccees as well. It would be like every comment about "barbarian Germanic hordes" sacking Rome being taken as a bank shot on modern Europeans and Americans.
Just to clarify one more time, and to make it explicit: for the record, I am not calling you anti-semitic. I believe you completely (and I'm being sincere, not sarcastic) when you say that you think of "Pharisee" as a ancient biblical sect, not related to anybody in the modern world any more than the Babylonian Empire is.

But the Pharisees (and what they represent -- the "legalism" of Judaism, the focus on law over faith, rejected by most Christians) are the fathers of all of post-Temple Judaism (with the exception of a few thousand Karaites left in the world). The Sadducees died out as a movement with the destruction of the Temple. We don't generally use the term Pharisee any more, but Rabbinic Judaism is Pharisaic Judaism.
5.10.2007 8:01am
keypusher (mail):
No, I don't think he meant his reference to pharisees as a subtle dig at Jews (*); I don't think Poe meant his comment as an endorsement of the KKK, either. My point was just that I thought it ironic, in defending Poe's language against implied charges of offensiveness, to use insensitive language.

Insensitive language? Christians use the term Pharisee because their supposed lord and savior uses it so much in the Gospels. And in my extensive experience (I was raised among Bible-thumping Southern Baptists) they always use it in the sense horatius did (and Jesus did), and never in the sense you suggest.

(*) I think many Christians simply don't realize how many of the things they were taught while growing up really are problematic from the perspective of Jews, and the fact that we've now progressed enough towards toleration that everyone says "Judeo-Christian society" doesn't necessarily change that.

That many aspects of Christianity would be problematic to Jews is inevitable, given the relationship between the two religions. But must everything give offense? As far as this minor point is concerned, would it be too much to ask Jews to understand what Christians mean by the term "Pharisee"?
5.10.2007 11:27am
abb3w:
For myself, I'm quite partial to Mao's "Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."

I'd say the condemnation ought only be given to such remarks when a quote's originator is not attributed and their historical standing (for good or ill) noted. In the case of Forrest, he was one of the finest practical military minds our country has produced, and although a once leading racist, he eventually saw it was time to turn back from it.

It might have shown better political judgment to find a better source if possible, but Forrest's brevity of the point here is hard to beat.
5.10.2007 5:01pm