Vol. 16 No. 10 1949 - page 970

The swift triumph of revlSlonism came about with very little
resistance or even expressed reservations on the part of the profession.
Indeed, the only adequate evaluation of the revisionist thesis that I
know was made, not by an academic historian at all, but by that
illustrious semi-pro, Mr. Bernard De Voto; and Mr. De Voto's two
brilliant articles in
in 1945 unfortunately had little influence
within the guild. By 1947 Professor Allan Nevins, summing up the
most recent scholarship in
Ordeal of the Union,
his able general
history of the eighteen-fifties, could define the basic problem of the
period in terms which indicated a measured but entire acceptance
of revisionism. "The primary task of statesmanship in this era,"
Nevins wrote, "was to furnish a workable adjustment between the
two sections, while offering strong inducements to the southern people
to regard their labor system not as static but evolutionary, and equal
persuasions to the northern people to assume a helpful rather than
scolding attitude."
This new interpretation surely deserves at least as meticulous
an examination as Professor Randall is prepared to give, for example,
to such a question as whether or not Lincoln was playing fives when
he received the news of his nomination in 1860. The following notes
are presented in the interests of stimulating such an examination.
The reVISIOnist case, as expounded by Professors Randall and
Craven, has three main premises. First:
1) that the Civil War was caused by the irresponsible emotion–
alization of politics far out of proportion to the real problems in–
volved. The war, as Randall put it, was certainly not caused by cul–
tural variations nor by economic rivalries nor by sectional differences;
these all existed, but it was "stupid," as he declared, to think that
they required war as a solution. "One of the most colossal of miscon–
ceptions" was the "theory" that "fundamental motives produce war.
The glaring and obvious fact is the artificiality of war-marking agi–
tation." After all, Randall pointed out, agrarian and industrial inter–
ests had been in conflict under Coolidge and Hoover; yet no war re–
sulted. "In Illinois," he added, "major controversies (not mere tran–
sient differences) between downstate and metropolis have stopped
short of war."
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