History of the American Civil War - Vol. I

Front Cover
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Jun 8, 2018 - 568 pages
Among the various histories of the American Civil War, that of Dr. Draper has attracted considerable attention in England. Dr. Draper is accomplished in his own department, which is that of chemistry, and he has written what is considered a meritorious work on physiology. He has before ventured also into the field of historical composition, and published a work entitled ' A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe.' No special exception is to be taken, as far as we know, to his statements of fact in the narrative portion of his account of the war. But a great part of the first volume is taken up with philosophical reflections, or with what are intended for such. Draper is a speculatist of the Buckle school, with an abounding faith in the operation of materialistic influences. He opens his 'History of the War' with long discussions upon geology and climate, and outdoes in thoroughness Knickerbocker's 'History of New York, ' the humorous author of which only goes back to Adam 'to get a fair start.' There is no particular objection to be made to Draper's ideas on the physical characteristics of North America, except that he exaggerates the influence of the temperature, and with much naiveté thinks that asperities engendered by the-war may be softened by the circulation of his doctrine of the control exercised by physical causes; that is, by the denial of the free and responsible nature of man. If men would calm their passions, they must reflect on the thermometer. That we do not misrepresent him, we quote one of his numerous descriptions of this remarkable remedy. 'Estrangements subside when men mutually begiir to inquire into the philosophical causes of each other's obliquities; when they comprehend that there over-rides so many of their apparently voluntary actions, a necessary, an unavoidable constraint. The springs of history are not, as was for a long time imagined, the machinations of statesmen, or the ambition of kings. They are to be found in the silent influences of Nature.'* In his preface he remarks, with an air of profundity, that a great source of kind feelings is the perception of the extent to which our actions arc determined by 'climate and other natural circumstances.' Not less than six elaborate chapters are devoted to a consideration of the geological and climatic characteristics of the United States. The opening paragraph, we may observe, is of a highly rhetorical character, and was obviously framed on the model of the opening paragraph of Macaulay's History -- 'I propose in these volumes to treat, ' &c. It should be stated, however, that there is an evident desire on the part of Dr. Draper to relate the story of the conflict with impartiality.
--The British Quarterly Review, Volume 55

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