Being a writer, historian and defender of Southern History, more specifically “Reconstruction Era” Southern/Confederate History that is rife with political bias and inaccuracies by writers looking to demonize not only the Confederate cause but also the good, God fearing Southern people (many of them my relatives) caught under the yoke of Federal tyranny during so-called “Reconstruction”, this brief refutation of T.J. Stiles book on Jesse James was a breath of fresh air to be sure.
“Stiles offers the most recent interpretation of Jesse as a political terrorist. Stiles continually laments the end of Reconstruction and is on the side of the oppressed blacks.
These days, however, after George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and a never-ending cycle of black crime and welfare abuse that is harder to defend than it was 30 years ago, Jesse’s stance might have new admirers.
In his ‘History of the American People’, Paul Johnson notes that the Civil War ended the slavery problem and began the Negro problem, which is still with us.
An authoritarian federal government such as the one that arose under Abraham Lincoln and persisted until the end of Reconstruction dismantled it has arisen again, and in the age of Biden it is readily acknowledged to be an immoral, tyrannical threat to the American people. Perhaps not by all of them, but certainly the smell of disenfranchisement is in the air as much as it was in Jesse’s world of 1861 Missouri.
Yet now, a great percentage of the American populace is seen as “Deplorables,” and it is being made clear by the Yankees’ descendants that this is a class which mustn’t be allowed to exist. In the 2020 election, Chris Wallace grilled both candidates about white supremacy. Now, merely being white is crime enough, according to the ruling class. I wonder if more and more people are thinking that if I’m gonna do the time, I might as well do the crime. Jesse appears less as Robin Hood today than as someone fighting to stay alive against a repressive government. As the bumper sticker says, when freedom is outlawed, only outlaws will be free.
Perhaps the final word on Jesse James and his bushwhacker past might be from Ang Lee’s magnificent film Ride With the Devil, which was adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Alex Linder’s review of the film questioned whether liberty is consistent with civilized order. Linder felt that the film showed that feral men are the only free men.”