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SOUTHERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAPERS,
Vol. II. No. 5.
Richmond, Va. November, 1876
A Foreign View of the Civil War in America.
[The following review from the facile pen of Mr. W. Baird, of Essex Co.,Virginia, is important as pointing out some of the errors of a book which is being widely circulated, and which some of our Southern papers even have warmly commended without reading.]
History of the Civil War in America. By the Comte de Paris. Translated, with the approval
of the Author, by Louis F. Tasistro. Edited by Henry Coppee, LL. D. Volume I.
Philadelphia: Joseph H. Coates & Co. 1875.
It would be absurdly extravagant praise to say of this bulky volume what was said, with such pointed severity, of the reply to Bentley, published under the name of Boyle, in the once famous controversy concerning the letters of Phalaris, that it was "the best book ever written by any man upon the wrong side of a question of which he was profoundly ignorant." It would, indeed, be much nearer the truth, strong as such language certainly is, to pronounce it the worst book ever written under such circumstances.
It would seem well-nigh impossible for the mingled force of prejudice and ignorance to go farther, great as their powers confessedly are. Such sentences as the following, taken from the preface, read like the bitterest satire upon the work they introduce: "Notwithstanding his (the author's) legitimate preferences for the cause he served, he has endeavored to preserve, throughout his narrative, the strictest impartiality. He has examined with equal care the documents that have emanated from both parties, and if his work be a reflex of the vicissitudes in the midst of which it was prosecuted, he believes that it possesses at least the merit of precision and sincerity."
With the sincerity of the writer we have no particular concern. Let it be as perfect as it may, it could only serve to add another instance, unhappily but little needed, of the amazing extent of human blindness and self-delusion. Of his precision—if by precision, in the sentence just quoted, accuracy be meant—we propose to give a few of the most prominent among almost numberless