Spring seems to have brought with it an outbreak of a new type of allergy: allergic historicus . Unlike allergic rhinitis or hay fever, allergic historicus is not characterized by sinus problems or itchy eyes.  The symptoms, rather, are using historical examples that illustrate one’s ignorance and thus exposing the victim to easy ridicule.  An interesting pathology of the condition is that some people in proximity of an allergic historicus suffer may develop a related condition, historicus fatuus, or even worse historicus dementis.

For example, Dick Armey recently proclaimed the Jamestown Colony as "socialist venture" that left "everybody dead and dying in the snow."  Let’s see:  Jamestown was founded as a for-profit venture by the London Company, a joint stock company in 1607, or about two hundred years before French thinker Saint-Simon first wrote about socialism.  Perhaps Armey confused Capitan John Smith, soldier of fortune and tireless promoter of North America as a place to get rich, with Karl Marx. After all, both men had beards.

Armey also invoked the Federalist Papers as a guide to small government and insisted that Alexander Hamilton believed in a weak national government.   That would be the same Alexander Hamilton who successfully fought for the nationalization of state debts from the Revolution, the creation of a national bank (with the federal government owning 20 percent) and sending federal forces to smash tax protests known as the Whiskey Rebellion.  Hamilton did lose his argument that state governors should be appointed by the President.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann suffers from allergic historicus, for which Californians ought to be grateful.  Representative Bachman has be railing against the US Census as some sort of socialist conspiracy (maybe Hamilton snuck Article I, Section 2 requiring a census into the Constitution) and at one point suggested the Japanese Internment was enabled by Census data.  Of course anyone familiar with the history of Japanese immigration in California and the West Coast knows that restrictive housing convents and limits on the ability of Japanese to own property meant nearly all urban Nisei and Isei lived in segregated "Japan Towns."  But we should encourage Representative Bachmann.  North Carolina will pick up a new Congressional seat which will come from either California or Minnesota, so let’s all hope Bachmann convinces Minnesotans to boycott the census.  Besides, the seat Minnesota loses may be Bachmann’s.

The Texas School Board wants to make sure that Texas children understand that some civil rights advocates were violent.  According to the FBI, during the Civil Rights era (1950 to 1970), nine Blacks were lynched for the usual reasons and more than 100 people murdered in connection with Civil Rights activities (of which about 40 remain unsolved).  During the same period no Klansman, no arch- segregationist was murdered by a civil rights worker.  But, hey, who knows, maybe Cheney, Goodman and Schwerner turned violent before they were murdered.

The recent uproar over Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s proclamation of Confederate History Month set off another widespread attack of allergic historicus and historicus dementis.  In defending Governor McDonnell’s right to ignore slavery and then lambasting him for amending his proclamation to include a reference to slavery, many conservatives trotted out the canard that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.  Sorry, folks, that just ain’t so and that’s the opinion of those who were there.

Just two months after his victory at Appomattox, Ulysses S. Grant penned his farewell message to the Union Army.  In the first passage, Grant refers to slavery as the "the cause and pretext of the Rebellion."  But Grant was one of those damn Yankees so why believe him?  How about the North Carolina Standard, a stalwart supporter of secession?  The Standard opposed the eleventh hour proposal to enlist slaves in the Confederate army with the promise of emancipation saying, "It is abolition doctrine… the very doctrine which the war was commenced to put down."  Virginia’s own Act of Secession included references to joining with slave-holding states.

For those who want to dismiss the inconvenience of slavery, consider this: if the South fought for property rights, it was the right to hold slaves as property; if the South fought to protect its economic system, it was a system the overwhelming wealth of which was based on slavery; if it was to defend state’s rights, it was the right of states to hold slaves.

When I was a boy, my mother would tell me stories of "Gros-pop", her grandfather and my great-grandfather.  Martin Bender immigrated from Germany to Illinois and in September 1861 he heeded Lincoln’s call for "100,000 more" enlisting in the 46th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  He fought at Fort Donelson and Shiloh where he was wounded so badly that he was partly disabled the rest of his life.  He never really mastered English and would give my mother a dime if she would say a few German phrases.  He also loved to talk about his days in the war.  Once my mother asked him why he had joined the army (family legend is that he left Germany rather than be conscripted).  His answer: "For mein country and to beat the verdammen slavers."  That was not allergic historicus.