Answering Reader Mail: Richard & Civil War Literacy | Blog#42

Dear Readers,

From time to time, I publish interesting or hateful mail I receive from readers. I received this email overnight in reply to a New York Times comment I wrote:

So, Richard, since you seem so comfortable and unquestioning of what you know and absolutely certain of what I don’t, here are two quotes by one of our “great Americans.” I will leave it to your expert skill and knowledge to figure out where I used these quotes on my website and who they are by.

“You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. You here are free men I suppose.”

“Now, gentlemen, I don’t want to read at any greater length, but this is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to the institution of Slavery and the black race. This is the whole of it; and anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and political equality with the negro, is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse. I will say here, while upon this subject, that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of Slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the fooling of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge DOUGLAS, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary.”

As for the rest of your missive, it appears you wrote it without spending the few minutes needed to read either one of the links I provided in my comment, or the links provided within the posts themselves, to try and derive some context before emailing me.

It is interesting to receive your email a day after I read a new Pew Research study on the ability of Americans to differentiate between fact and opinion. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we came to be a nation that is so vulnerable to propaganda, polarized, and utterly ignorant of its own roots.

In answer to the last part of your email, I will leave you with James Baldwin:

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”



P.S: In the event you can’t find where I used the quote, click here.


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