H. L. Mencken on the South Winning the Civil War and "Wowserism"

Back due to popular demand! It's the counterfactual sentence of the day (again, from the archives).

It's always a pleasure to preview some of the choice remarks offered by counterfactually minded writers that will be appearing in my (one-of-these-days-to-be-completed) book. Here's a fun one:

In an essay, entitled "The Calamity of Appomattox" (1930), H. L. Mencken wished that the Confederacy had won the Civil War. Complaining about how Southern aristocrats had been displace by "white trash" as the region's leaders, he wrote:

"If the war had gone with the Confederates, no such vermin would be in the saddle, nor would there be any sign below the Potomac of their chief contributions to American Kultur—Ku Kluxry, political ecclesiasticism, n----r-baiting, and the more homicidal variety of wowserism."

Wowserism, it turns out, is "moral crusading against alcohol, gambling, pornography, etc."

Who knew?

Apparently it's a common term in Australia.

I suppose the Aussies knew.

The essay is full of other counterfactual ruminations, including this common refrain:

"No doubt the Confederates, victorious, would have abolished slavery by the middle of the 80s. They were headed that way before the war, and the more sagacious of them were all in favor of it. But they were in favor of it on sound economic grounds, and not on the brummagem moral grounds which persuaded the North. The difference here is immense. In human history a moral victory is always a disaster, for it debauches and degrades both the victor and the vanquished. The triumph of sin in 1865 would have stimulated and helped to civilize both sides."

The essay is short and definitely worth a read.