What I got from it
So my experience reading Robert Penn Warren's Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back was one of basically mentally adding the word "SLAVERY" after every sentence. I've never read such a gloss job. I mean he does mention it: mentions that Jefferson Davis owned slaves and that he apparently treated them well - you know, as slaves. But towards the end Warren starts to wonder how Davis would feel having his citizenship restored to him, asking: "...suppose Lincoln or Grant should have citizenship thrust upon him by the America of today. Would either happily accept citizenship in a nation that sometimes seems technologically and philosophically devoted to the depersonalization of men?"
Um...wasn't that what the South did to every person of African descent that was brought to this country from its inception to the end (and some would argue well past) of the Civil War? Are the people condemned to slavery, then, not "men"?
But other than that question, which makes me scream quite a bit in frustration, I did find an answer to another question I have - the question of what is this Southern "heritage" that so many white people of a certain stripe make reference to and try to defend. Here:
It is true that in France as well as in England there was strong sentiment against slavery, but when the idea of offering emancipation as a bribe for recognition was finally beginning to be put forward in the Confederacy it was too late to be of any use, besides striking paradoxically at a necessary, if not sufficient, reason for the war: slavery. And a parallel instance appeared when the idea of enlisting blacks for Confederate armies (with the implied promise of freedom) was successfully brought forward - a paradox best formulated by the politician Howell Cobb, of Georgia, who opposed the idea: "If slaves will make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong." Actually, some blacks were enlisted and wore the gray, but only toward the end of the war.
So, with states' rights obviously bringing disaster [states in the Confederacy were withholding troops and supplies cause that didn't feel obligated to supply them], King Cotton dethroned [the world started getting cotton from India and other countries], and blacks wearing Confederate gray, little was left of the ideas that had made the Confederacy - only secession, in fact. But with the armies of Sherman and Grant closing in and defeatism stalking the land, what would become of that notion - a notion that for many eminent Southerners, including Davis and Lee, had been from the first dubious or rueful? Merely some notion of Southern identity remained, however hazy or fuddled; it was not until after Appomattox that the conception of Southern identity truly bloomed - a mystical conception, vague but bright, floating high beyond the criticism of brutal circumstances.
The emphasis is mine and is, to my mind, that Southern heritage which like concepts of God is so vague as to be both inexplicable and untouchable. Even Warren's "brutal circumstances" while pointed obviously at the institution of slavery is so vague that it could just as likely be about cholera or not having enough mint for the tea.
Basically, I feel that Warren shows his entitled whiteness, and overall I was left for the desire of a biography on Jefferson Davis (whom by the end of the book I felt...something for...during his imprisonment, abolitionists came forward (albeit white abolitionists) to express their desire for him to be released) written by an African American author. Because till then, his biographies I think will only get bogged down in concepts of Southern "chivalry" and "honor."