Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don H. Doyle's "The Cause of All Nations"

Don H. Doyle is the McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina. The author of several books, including Faulkner's County and Nations Divided, he lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Cause of All Nations lands readers on a major point I wanted my book to make. America’s Civil War really mattered to the rest of the world. Political leaders, journalists, intellectuals, workers, students, and reformers watched from abroad as the “once United States” descended into fratricidal war, some in horror, some with delight.

This page gives voice to those in the European aristocracy who were saying “I told you so.” People can’t govern themselves without eventually falling into anarchy or despotism. That was the lesson of the French Revolution, and now the lesson of America’s “experiment” in democracy. I quote Madrid’s El Pensamiento Español, a Catholic journal, whose indictment was especially vitriolic:
“In the model republic of what were the United States, we see more and more clearly of how little account is a society constituted without God, merely for the sake of men.... Look at their wild ways of annihilating each other, confiscating each other’s goods, mutually destroying each other’s cities, and cordially wishing each other extinct!”
What page 99 omits are the other voices of despair, outrage, and hope among those who saw the Great Republic as living proof that democracy actually worked, that people could live together in peace and prosperity on principles of equality and liberty.

One of my favorite people in the book was a history professor in Paris with the magnificent name of Édouard-René Lefèbvre de Laboulaye. “So long as there shall be across the Atlantic a society of thirty millions of men, living happily and peacefully under a government of their choice, with laws made by themselves,” he wrote in 1864, “liberty will cast her rays over Europe like an illuminating pharos.... But should liberty become eclipsed in the new world, it would become night in Europe”

It was Laboulaye who at the end of America’s war devised an idea for a monument to “Liberty enlightening the world.” A photograph at the end of my book shows the Statue of Liberty, still under construction, towering above the streets of Paris. Today, in a time of terror and fear, that image seems to me an especially poignant reminder that Laboulaye and other foreigners saw America’s struggle as their own, the cause of all nations.
Visit The Cause of All Nations Facebook page, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue