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Personal Bias Taints Scholarly Work
am 31. Juli 1998
It is indeed a shame that James McPherson allowed his anti-southern bias from ruining what would otherwise have been a masterful book. He forgets that he was commissioned to write an unbiased account of the Civil War, not an indictment of the antebellum southern states. That McPherson is an undisputed scholar cannot be disputed. His book demonstrates an incredible command of the facts surrounding the people and events of the Civil War. Unfortunately, his personal views deny him the same depth of insight into the attitudes of those people. After devoting the first part of the book to the confluence of many social, economic, and political forces shaping the development of our country prior to the war, McPherson then ignores them all and lays the entire war at the doorstep of slavery!
Anyone who has studied the Civil War and, more importantly, the attitudes of the combatants, knows that two million soldiers and an entire nation did not go to war to free the slaves. ! Very few southerners actually owned slaves and even fewer were inclined to fight for the institution. Similarly, the northern soldiers fought for the preservation of the union, not the freedom of the black man, about whom they knew little and cared less. Undoubtedly, slavery was an important issue (and I certainly do not condone it), but it was one of many factors which combined to bring the country to war. To mislead the uninformed reader into believing that the south went to war solely to preserve slavery is intellectually irresponsible and personally insulting.
McPherson was entrusted to write an objective history of the war and its origins. He breeched his fiduciary duty by superimposing his personal bias upon historical fact. Hopefully, the discerning student will know the difference.