Earlier this week, former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum claimed that Texas congressman and Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul "openly prefers the slaveholding cause in the US Civil War." My colleague Matt Welch wondered if Frum had any evidence to support this statement, so he did some research of his own and found Paul asserting that "the Civil War wasn't fought over slavery." Welch then wrote:
I disagree with Paul's assertion that the Civil War wasn't fought over slavery (read Charles Oliver's classic 2001 Reason piece arguing the contrary), and I think his revisionist counter-proposal to have the North buy up the South's slaves sounds more than a bit naive, but none of that sounds to me like an open preference for "the slaveholding cause."
Frum has now responded, and his post contains one of the most embarrassing failures of basic reading comprehension I have ever seen. Frum writes:
It's truly bizarre that certain kinds of ultra-libertarians insist on endlessly contorting the historical record to provide excuses for the Confederate cause. I should have thought this style of libertarianism was different from the version on offer at Reason–but no.
To recap: Welch plainly states that Ron Paul is wrong about the Civil War and that Paul's "revisionist counter-narrative…sounds more than a bit naive," and Frum characterizes this as Reason providing "excuses for the Confederate cause."
Just in case anyone out there takes Frum seriously on this topic, below are a few of the things published by Reason that most certainly do not make excuses for either slavery or for the Confederacy. Among them are Charles Oliver's aforementioned argument for why slavery caused the Civil War, a celebration of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass as a libertarian hero, an attack on Thomas Jefferson's ownership of human property and failure to live up to his own words in the Declaration of Independence, and a description of the Confederate flag as representing "the cause of a nation state that championed an unforgivable violation of inalienable rights."
Southern Nationalism: Exploring the roots of the Civil War. By Charles Oliver.
The Confederate Leviathan. By Ronald Bailey.
Wrong Song of the South: The dangerous fallacies of Confederate multiculturalism. By David Beito and Charles Nuckolls.