In Article, Roberts's Pen Appeared to Dip South





When John G. Roberts Jr. prepared to ghostwrite an article for President Ronald Reagan a little over two decades ago, his pen took a Civil War reenactment detour. The article, which was to appear in the scholarly National Forum journal, was called "The Presidency: Roles and Responsibilities." Roberts was writing by hand a section on how the congressional appropriations process had evolved. A fastidious editor of other people's copy as well as his own, Roberts began with the words "Until about the time of the Civil War." Then, the Indiana native scratched out the words "Civil War" and replaced them with "War Between the States."

While it is true that the Civil War is also known as the War Between the States, the Encyclopedia Americana notes that the term is used mainly by southerners. Sam McSeveney, a history professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University who specialized in the Civil War, said that Roberts's choice of words was significant.

"Many people who are sympathetic to the Confederate position are more comfortable with the idea of a 'War Between the States,' " McSeveney explained. "People opposed to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s would undoubtedly be more comfortable with the words he chose."

Reagan used the phrase "War Between the States" in at least a few speeches he gave in the South. But in the end, someone must have had second thoughts about using it with this more national audience. When the article was published in August 1984 under Reagan's name, it employed the more generally accepted "Civil War" terminology.




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