What Should We Call Jefferson Davis?

Historian Steven Hahn has a review in the New York Times Book Review of James McPherson’s new book, Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief. He concludes with these excellent paragraphs:

Yet, there is a larger and more unsettling issue. Treating Davis as commander in chief risks lending the Confederacy a legitimacy it never achieved at the time. No foreign country accorded the Confederacy diplomatic recognition, at least in part because of an unwillingness to openly support a slaveholders’ rebellion. Only after the war, as part of a reconciliation process, were Confederates spared serious punishment and then tendered respect as a cause and a state, enabling men like Davis and subsequent devotees of the “lost cause” to get a hearing for their version of events.

To be sure, McPherson calls Davis a “rebel” and avoids comparing him to Lincoln, but like most historians who write on the war, he effectively structures the struggle in a way Lincoln never would: between two states and countries. Over time, this has enabled some Americans brazenly to fly the Confederate flag while denying its association with slavery and treason. Union soldiers had a better take when they sang of hanging Jeff Davis.

How about this for a book title?

Jefferson Davis: Defender of Slavery

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