Phil Leigh Leaves “Emerging Civil War”

Well, that was fast.

No sooner do I discover a Libertarian foil to argue with than I receive this email:

Mr. Shelley,

My name is Kristopher White and I am one of the editors of Emerging Civil War. I wanted thank you for your thoughtful responses to Phil Leigh’s recent post. For a variety of reasons, Mr. Leigh is no longer a part of our website. I wanted to make you aware that we are pulling all of Mr. Leigh’s posts from our website. Because of this you may find some broken links to your posts that engage him. You will also find that any comments that are associated with any of his posts are going to disappear. I just wanted to let you know that the system will automatically delete all comments associated with his posts.

Kristopher White
Co-Founder Emerging Civil War

Since I obviously don’t count myself a fan of Mr. Leigh’s scholarship, his departure from Emerging Civil War comes as good news. Emerging Civil War has some fine work posted by real students of history. I’m not up on Internet blog ethics enough to know whether pulling all his posts is the right thing to do; part of me wants them to stay as part of the historical record. Also, it seems like a good way for the editors/admins to say “Yep, we have screwed up in the past, but we own it.” But I certainly understand. [See UPDATE below.] They are trying to establish “the next generation of Civil War historians,” and so don’t really need the work of an Abbeville Institute polemicist harming their credibility.

The worst part of this is that the posts were removed so fast, I didn’t have time to copy-and-paste Al Mackey’s great critique/comment he made there on an earlier Leigh post. Oh well. All is ephemeral on the Internet. 

UPDATE: I have had further communication with Kris White at Emerging Civil War. He informed me Phil Leigh requested all his posts be taken down from the site. And so my remark above is answered. I didn’t mean it as a fling, and Kris didn’t take it that way. He seems very committed to making ECW into a first-rate blog of scolarship.


About Christopher Shelley

Christopher Shelley teaches American history and American Indian history at Portland Community College. He is fond of border collies, and bleeds Dodger-blue. Any and all opinions expressed here are those of the expressors themselves, and in no way represent the views of Portland Community College.
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4 Responses to Phil Leigh Leaves “Emerging Civil War”

  1. The other Susan says:

    I’m not sure how permanent that link is, so I’ll also copy it for you just in case…..

    Al Mackey says:
    April 11, 2014 at 12:59 PM
    I’m surprised to find this piece of historical chicanery on this blog.

    First of all, Mr. Leigh misstates the reasons for Lincoln’s overturning both the Frémont and Hunter proclamations.

    Slavery in Missouri, a loyal state not in rebellion, was a state matter, and a military officer did not have the authority to free slaves in that state. Congress had passed the First Confiscation Act, and Frémont could have implemented that Act by emancipating slaves that had been used in support of the rebellion. Instead, his proclamation claimed to emancipate all slaves of all disloyal masters. This was a violation of the law as passed by Congress. Frémont’s proclamation also violated the Constitutional prohibition on attainder. It had more to do than emancipating slaves. It declared martial law and it also confiscated all the property of disloyal people in Missouri. It was an unconstitutional usurpation of power by Frémont. Lincoln had a few problems with it. Lincoln asked Frémont to amend his proclamation in order to make it compliant with the First Confiscation Act. Frémont refused. Lincoln then ordered Frémont to modify the order.

    David Hunter actually issued two proclamations dealing with slavery. The first was issued on April 13, 1862 and said, “All persons of color lately held to involuntary service by enemies of the United States are hereby confiscated and declared free.” This proclamation conformed with the law as passed by Congress and Lincoln allowed it to stand undisturbed. The second proclamation, dated May 9, went beyond what Congress had allowed. In that proclamation, Hunter declared all slaves in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to be free, something a military officer was not authorized to do. Lincoln overturned that second proclamation because Hunter went beyond his authority.

    In both cases, we had officers going beyond their authority and Lincoln exercising civilian control to correct that situation. Mr. Leigh would have us believe that these cases show that Lincoln rejected emancipation of slaves. Nonsense. Since August of 1861 the Lincoln administration had been formally emancipating slaves on a regular basis as they came within Union lines, especially after Congress passed the Confiscation Acts. See the instructions from Simon Cameron here:;cc=moawar;idno=waro0114;node=waro0114%3A3;view=image;seq=776;size=100;page=root

    On August 8, 1861, Lincoln’s War Department issued instructions for implementing the First Confiscation Act. The slaves would be discharged from service permanently. In other words, they were freed. The House also endorsed a resolution prohibiting Union soldiers from participating in any way in the capture and return of fugitive slaves. [The following year this would become an Article of War]

    The War Department authorized Butler to emancipate all the slaves who came into Union lines from any area in rebellion. As a result, 900 contrabands were immediately freed.

    In September a copy of the instructions were sent to Gen. John Dix in Maryland, ordering him to emancipate any slaves coming into his lines from Virginia.

    In October they were sent to the commander of the joint Navy-Army operation at Port Royal in South Carolina, and 9,000 slaves were emancipated as a result.

    In December they were sent to General Halleck, who was told to emancipate any slaves in Kentucky who had fled from Tennessee.

    In December of 1861, in his First Annual Message to Congress, Lincoln noted that numerous slaves had escaped to Union lines and were “thus liberated.”

    In February of 1862 at New Bern, North Carolina, Ambrose Burnside freed slaves.

    David Hunter, at Fort Pulaski and the Cockspur Islands freed slaves.

    In June of 1862, General McClellan, in his campaign up the Peninsula, followed the same orders. All slaves who came within his lines were emancipated.

    By the spring of 1862, thousands of slaves along the South Atlantic coast from Hampton Roads, Virginia to Fernandino, Florida were freed.

    On August 24, 1862, the US Navy captured New Orleans, and Benjamin Butler was sent to take command. Butler was not sure whether the tens of thousands of slaves in Southern Louisiana met the conditions for emancipation. Louisiana slaveholders for the most part didn’t flee the Union occupation, and many of them claimed to be loyal. Butler asked his superiors in Washington for instructions.

    Congress answered with the Second Confiscation Act. In the Union-occupied areas of the south that were formerly occupied by the rebels, like Southern Louisiana, slaves owned by anyone who couldn’t demonstrate continuous loyalty to the Union were immediately emancipated. Lincoln sent word to Butler to immediately implement this Act. Butler complied, writing, “By the Act of Congress they are clearly free.”

    Mr. Leigh quotes Lincoln’s famous letter to Horace Greeley in response to Greeley’s editorial, “The Prayer of Twenty Millions.” Of course, he leaves out the final sentence in which Lincoln says, “I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.”

    Greeley had been piously writing editorials while Lincoln had been issuing orders to emancipate tens of thousands of slaves. At the time he wrote that letter to Greeley, Lincoln had in his desk the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln had long decided that striking against slavery was the best way to preserve the Union.

    Mr. Leigh’s claim that “Lincoln continually rejected emancipation for the first seventeen months of the War” is simply ahistorical nonsense with no basis in fact at all.

    Mr. Leigh is correct that Lincoln’s primary goal was the preservation of the Union, but that’s one of the few things he has correct in his argument. Anyone who cites the dubious Charles Adams, who famously and very falsely claimed Fort Sumter was a tariff collection point, as a credible historian has a problem from the very beginning, and Mr. Leigh has a huge problem in his claim regarding tariffs. He claims that a low confederate tariff would mean the US Government would lose the great majority of its revenue. Hogwash.

    In 1860, Charleston only had $2.0 million in imports, Savannah had only $800,000 in imports, Mobile had only $600,000 in imports, New Orleans had only $20.6 million in imports, and other southern ports had only $3.0 million in imports. In the same year, New York City alone had $231.3 million in imports and all other northern ports had $95.3 million in imports.

    New Orleans was the southern port that collected the most in the tariff, and it was only $3.1 million. The total south only collected $4.0 million in tariff revenues, whereas New York City collected $34.9 million in tariff revenues and the total for northern ports was $48.3 million. [Source: Douglas B. Ball, Financial Failure and Confederate Defeat, p. 205, Table 18, “Trade Figures by Port in 1860” and “Customs Collections by Major Port (1860)”]

    So out of $52.3 million in tariff revenue in 1860, 92.35% was paid in northern ports, while only 7.65% was paid in southern ports, which includes Baltimore, Maryland.

    “There is no way of calculating accurately the value of the foreign imports consumed in territory naturally tributary to Southern seaports; but the probabilities are that it did not so greatly exceed the direct importations as Southerners generally supposed. Some Southern writers made the palpably untenable assumption that the Southern population consumed foreign goods equal in value to their exports to foreign countries, that is about two-thirds or three-fourths of the nation’s exports or imports. More reasonable was the assumption that the per capita consumption of imported goods in the South was equal to that of the North; but even that would seem to have been too liberal. A much higher percentage of the Northern population was urban; and the per capita consumption of articles of commerce by an urban population is greater than the per capita consumption by a rural population. Southern writers made much of the number of rich families in the South who bought articles of luxury imported from abroad; but there is no doubt that the number of families who lived in luxury was exaggerated. That the slaves consumed comparatively small quantities of foreign goods requires no demonstration. Their clothing and rough shoes were manufactured either in the North or at home. Their chief articles of food (corn and bacon) were produced at home or in the West. The large poor white element in the population consumed few articles of commerce, either domestic or foreign. The same is true of the rather large mountaineer element, because if for no other reason, they lived beyond the routes of trade. Olmstead had these classes in mind when he wrote: ‘I have never seen reason to believe that with absolute free trade the cotton States would take a tenth part of the value of our present importations.’ One of the fairest of the many English travelers wrote: ‘But the truth is, there are few imports required, for every Southern town tells the same tale.’ ” [Robert R. Russel, Economic Aspects of Southern Sectionalism, 1840-1861, pp. 107-108]

    So the absolute upper limit of the amount of foreign goods consumed by southerners would be the percentage of southerners. But, as Prof. Russel tells us, that is too high, because more southerners were in rural rather than urban areas, meaning they used fewer foreign products, and slaves used even fewer foreign products. Let’s just take the 11 states that made up the confederacy. The percentage of the population in the 11 states of the confederacy was 29% of the total US population in 1860, according to the US Census, and 40% of THAT population were slaves who didn’t use imported goods. 60% of the confederate population, then, were theoretically liable to use imported goods, so we have the most southerners in the confederate states would have paid being just about 17%, because the upper limit of southerners in the confederate states who would use foreign goods amounted to 17% of the total US population. Again, this is most probably an overestimate because a higher percentage of that population was rural and didn’t use foreign goods.

    Bottom line, southerners in the confederate states paid no more than 17% of the Federal revenue in 1860. How they will magically and suddenly be able to consume another 83% of the dutiable goods coming into the United States, or even be able to smuggle that large an amount over state boundaries, is something Mr. Leigh fails to prove.

    Mr. Leigh mentions Gary Gallagher, and perhaps Mr. Leigh should read Professor Gallagher’s books. Professor Gallagher argues very cogently that protection of slavery lay at the root of the confederate war effort while preservation of the Union lay at the root of the Union war effort. And it wasn’t preservation of the Union in order to get tariffs, but rather preservation of the Union because the Union was sacred to them.

    Mr. Leigh claims, “Bruce Levine portrays as undisputed fact a dubious allegation denied by Lee that he whipped a female slave.” This is a distortion of what Professor Levine wrote. According to Professor Levine, “In 1859, three of Lee’s slaves–Wesley Norris, his sister, and a cousin named Mary–attempted to escape from the Arlington plantation. Recaptured in Maryland, the unfortunate people were jailed there for two weeks and then delivered back into Lee’s hands. Promising to teach them a lesson they would not soon forget, Lee had them taken to the barn, stripped to the waist, and whipped between twenty and fifty times each on their bare flesh by a local constable named Dick Williams.” [Bruce Levine, The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South, p. 11] As we can see, Professor Levine doesn’t claim that Lee whipped a female slave, but he had her whipped. This is detailed in Wesley Norris’ own account. Elizabeth Brown Pryor, in her book, Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, substantiates much of Wesley Norris’ story, lending a great deal of credibility to the account.

    Mr. Leigh complains that “Annapolis students are taught the consensus of historians agree that Grant was the War’s best general.” Well, he was, so I fail to see the problem there.

    In sum, the article is a prime example of a bogus argument based on ahistorical nonsense and a few facts taken out of context.

    Al Mackey says:
    April 11, 2014 at 1:16 PM
    I should add that most of my response dealing with the emancipation of slaves comes from Professor James Oakes’ wonderful book, Freedom National.

    Christopher Shelley says:
    July 7, 2014 at 3:17 AM

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Tom Forehand, Jr. says:

    Although Wesley Norris claimed that he and others were whipped at the behest of Lee, there is no proof of this as far as I know. Yes, Norris and others escaped; yes, they were captured; yes, they were returned to Lee; apparently, Lee called in an official to take them to jail; yes, Lee had them all “shipped South” (All of this is adequately covered in Mrs. Pryor’s book–Reading the Man). However other than Norris’ testimony, I have found no proof of any whipping at the behest of Lee. Since the only “proof” that Lee had Norris and others whipped comes from the mouth of Norris himself, IMO even that must now be called into question. At the same time that the Norris story came out, his family was trying to “get gain” and I believe that the Norris story was used to arouse public sentiment to help his family to get that “gain” by libeling Lee. If you have proof to the contrary, please present it and we will all be the wiser. Thanks, Tom Forehand, Jr.


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