This commentary focuses on the discrepancies between the use of the concepts freedom and ideology in Ely's Israel on the Appomattox. Though the slippage between the two terms is pervasive in the historiography and not limited to Ely's book, Corey Capers argues that we need a more scrupulous accounting of their historical and historiographic use. Through contrasting the deployment of both concepts in discussions of American Revolutionary discourse and practice by Ely and Bernard Bailyn (among others), Capers demonstrates how freedom and ideology function differently for free African Americans and free whites in Ely's book. For example, in Ely's discussion, revolutionary ideology motivates Richard Randolph's action to liberate his slaves, while racist ideology supporting white supremacy is presented as distinct from actual behavior. Similarly, for American revolutionaries freedom meant some form of political sovereignty (republican or popular), whereas for formerly enslaved African Americans freedom is limited to freedom from enslavement. Finally, Capers takes issue with Ely's interpretation of the impact of the capriciousness of white supremacy, arguing that such capriciousness is itself endemic to power and terror.

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