Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Grande Experiment

I was watching the making-of Special Feature of the movie Gettysburg. The narrator said, “This grande experiment of the United States of America was on the brink of complete and desperate failure that summer of 1863.” I've heard that expressed before, but something never occurred to me until now. The right to secede, as we have seen, was established and provided for in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. According to common accounts, the “experiment” would have been deemed a failure had the south won independence. I put it to you: the experiment was a failure because the south did not win independence. The intent of the founding fathers was plain in the design of the new government: that it never become a tyrant's yoke upon the shoulders of the unwilling. From its birth in the minds of its architects it derived its authority from the consent of the governed, and should that consent ever be withdrawn, they (the governed) were charged with the duty to separate and form a new government. Had the southern states been allowed to do that peacefully and without obstruction from Mr. Lincoln and his Federal army, then we could have termed the grande experiment a success.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rebel Pride

Imagine with me for a moment . . .

A New York newspaper reports:

APRIL 1861  Relations between the Federal government in Washington D.C. and the newly formed Confederate government in Richmond, Virginia, continue to be strained. President Lincoln continues, however, to seek a peaceful solution and an amicable separation for the disgruntled Southern nation. Having no wish to part on hostile terms, Mr. Lincoln is working hard to insure that the newly independent South will be peaceful neighbors and allies now that they have disassociated themselves from the Union. Delaware remains a prickly subject, however, since it is decidedly pro-slavery, and equally decidedly within the Federal demesne. The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, has demanded a swift and equitable solution for the Confederacy's “isolated and beleaguered kin”.

AUGUST 1861 A proposed Constitutional Amendment was introduced into Congress earlier this week that proposes immediate freedom for all slaves currently held in Federal jurisdictions. This amendment would also outlaw the institution in all states currently in the Union, as well as any territories seeking statehood. By all accounts, this amendment should pass swiftly, and, it is expected, quickly pass through the ratification process as well. This proposal lends a new urgency to the so-called “Delaware Crisis”. Delaware, which remains a part of the United States, is openly pro-slavery. It is, however, politically aligned with the government in Richmond, and is cut-off from them geographically by many hundreds of miles. The state is unwilling to secede for fear of Federal reprisal and its isolated condition.

OCTOBER 1861 As the Anti-slavery Amendment continues to pass ratification, another potential solution to the Delaware Crisis fails to satisfy the Confederate government in Richmond. The Confederates are not wavering in their demand for a 50-mile wide corridor from Virginia to Delaware. The lands within the corridor, according to demands, would be sovereign Southern territory, including any cities, farms, or industries. As may be expected, President Lincoln has no intentions of acquiescing to this demand, and has offered numerous compromises, to no avail. Tensions continue to grow, as with each state that ratifies the amendment more Confederate troops drift toward the Virginia-Maryland border.

JANUARY 1862 The Delaware Crisis reached full boil this week as the final state needed for ratification of the Anti-slavery amendment was heard. Delaware immediately announced its secession, while simultaneously wiring the Confederate government for assistance. Unyielding on the topic of abolition, President Lincoln declined to recognize Delaware's secession, being unwilling to have a slave-state within his borders. Even one that was ostensibly part of another nation. Federal troops have been sent to the tiny state in order to insure that the new law is properly followed. The government in Richmond has vowed to secure Delaware's sovereignty, by force, if necessary, declaring that no foreign power shall enact legislation within its borders or against its states.
     In a statement made from his office in the Confederate capitol, Jefferson Davis said, “We fully support Delaware's right to maintain slavery as a necessary component of its economy. Having heard Delaware's petition to enter our Confederacy, we welcome that state as a brother, equal in rights to Virginia or South Carolina, or any other state of our country. We  shall strive by all means available to us, including military action if necessary, to come to the aid of the good people of Delaware and secure their right to maintain that integral part of the functioning of their economy, namely the institution of slavery.”

MARCH 1862 Confederate troops, with the ultimate goal of perpetuating slavery in Delaware, crossed the border into Maryland today. . .

Now, that would have been a war about slavery. A Confederacy that fought that war would have richly deserved to be remembered as contemptible. Of course, that isn't remotely close to the truth. So, why are we in the South repeatedly told that we descend from a racist heritage? We are swiftly vilified should any image we bear, whether a tattoo, t-shirt, flag, or school mascot, depict an image associated with a Confederate south. If we express any degree of pride in our heritage we are instantly, and without need of further evidence, labeled “racist”. In fact, it doesn't have to be an image of the “Confederate” south. Any association with the south qualifies.

Think about it. Germans can be proud to be Germans, even though in their past they exterminated millions. It is fine for Japanese to take pride in their heroism in WWII (Clint Eastwood even made a movie celebrating it), even though they launched an unprovoked sneak attack that cost thousands of American servicemen their lives. We're even tip-toeing around Muslims, trying to foster mutual goodwill and understanding designed to prevent our prejudging of them, even though it was Muslims that brought down the Twin Towers. They are free to practice their cultural traditions, such as veils and turbans, and it isn't right to judge them for their association with the bombers. But let me fly a confederate flag and watch the labels start flying.

Don't believe me? Take a drive to Oxford, MS, some Saturday afternoon this Fall. Take in a football game at Ole Miss while you're there. Gone is the Colonel Rebel mascot walking the sidelines. No longer will you see flags waving that bear any portion of the Confederate battle flag. These were deemed to conjure images of Mississippi's Civil War racist past.

Colonel Rebel

Ole Miss Rebel Pride Flag - Now out of favor
New Less-offensive Flag (No mention of "Pride")

(Incidentally, slavery was not about racism. The Negroes were slaves because they were available. If Spaniards had been selling each other into slavery, the slaves would have been Spanish. However, the cold truth of it is that it was the Africans selling each other into bondage, so the slaves were Negroes. It isn't as if there were hundreds of thousands of free blacks living in the south and one day it was decided that they were inferior because they were black and so they were pressed into slavery. Racism came later, after they were enslaved, not before.)

So, back to Mississippi. The school decided it was impossible to move forward with such a despicable and backward-looking mascot to lead them. They became concerned that black students may be so insulted by these things that they would pass Ole Miss right on by. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems to me that the way to attract students is by hiring top-shelf faculty, constructing the finest facilities, and offering world-recognized degree programs, rather than trying to make sure the school's mascot is as PC and inoffensive as possible. My chief concern when selecting an institute of higher learning will be the quality of my education and not insuring that my social sensitivities won't be offended.

One last point do I impose on your kind indulgence. Imagine a school whose team was called the Kamikazes, they had a samurai mascot stalking the sidelines, and the team flag had as one of its components a “rising sun” as used by the Japanese military in WWII. One of two things would have come out of it:

1)                  Japanese people would be offended and demand that their heritage not be reduced to a caricature for use as a mascot;
2)                  It would be deemed offensive by Americans who remember WWII. They would petition for it to all be changed. A Japanese group would find out about it and raise a stink about being denied their cultural heritage.

But because the Cult of Lincoln has colored and slanted history as they have, not only is it impossible for me to express pride in my heritage, it is also impossible for me to defend my desire and right to do so. Impossible, at least, without being labeled.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Well, it has been a while since I made a substantive post, so I thought I would reward your patience with two such: Declaration and Independence is an examination of the Declaration of Independence, Aristocrats and Industrialists is my thoughts on Southern aristocracy. The first one is a little long, so don't forget the second. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Declaration and Independence (A Longish Post)

I know I said I was going to be presenting some other things, but something came up. I had some time on my hands and was doing some reading at Barnes & Noble (something called The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War, I think). The author was discussing the Declaration of Independence as it related to the constitutionality of secession. I was amazed and embarrassed that I had overlooked the Declaration when I broke down the Constitution. For brevity's sake I am going to dispense with many of the grievances against King George. The pertinent points will be bold. My comments will be red italics.

The Declaration of Independence

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

This document leaves no doubt that the Confederate states not only had the right to secede from the Union, they had the duty to do so. I have to be honest. In my heart, I have always known two things: the war was not about slavery, and the South had the legal right to secede. It is one thing to know something because your heart believes it, it is quite another to be confronted with absolute vindication for your faith. To see the South's rights spelled out so concisely by the founding fathers is very moving to me. It is made clear through this document that the South had a very solid legal foundation upon which to base its secession. From the outset, the states were given the right of self determination.

Some specific points I would like to address:

Several of the Colonials' grievances with King George are being repeated by the Federal government upon the southern states. Please note that, as with the Colonials, some of these grievances were occurring once war broke out, and not necessarily as a prelude to war:

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation
The government of the United States took upon itself to attempt to enact and enforce what was essentially a law (though it was termed a “war measure”) on a foreign power. Namely, the Emancipation Proclamation, which had no effect on US lands or peoples, but was intended to be enacted against “those states in rebellion”. How would we handle it now if France passed a law in America that made it illegal to own a gun, and sent french soldiers here to enforce it? That would get real ugly, real quick.

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world
Technically, not completely cut off, but the protectionist tariffs of the early-to-mid 19th century achieved virtually the same effect economically. The taxes on cheaper and higher quality goods from Europe essentially priced them beyond the reach of most Southerners, which forced them to rely on expensive, inferior goods of northern manufacture.
Incidentally, slavery was just as morally wrong in 1820 as it was in 1862, so why was it tolerated before the war? The tariffs, that's why. The northern textile barons did not waste one minute worrying about the plight of the Negro as long as his looms were getting a steady supply of southern cotton that he could weave and ship overseas, shipments that were protected and secured by the tariffs.

For imposing taxes on us without our consent
These taxes being the protectionist tariffs previously mentioned.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury
The case of John Merryman of Maryland. He was arrested and held without formal charges, having his right of Habeus Corpus completely ignored, on orders of President Lincoln. When Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Taney found out about it, he declared Merryman's detention unconstitutional and ordered him released. He wasn't, and Lincoln ordered that Taney be arrested. He never was, fortunately for him.

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments
The states, under the constitution, were plainly given the right to secede. They did so, wrote their own constitution and devised their own government, under which they operated. The Federal government usurped their right of secession and denied their government. Not only did the Federal government abolish Confederate laws and attempt to alter Confederate government, by denying the right to secession, it abolished its own laws and altered its own government.

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever
This ties in with the first grievance I have above. The Federal government did assume upon itself the authority to legislate laws to be enforced on foreign soil. Of course, Lincoln did not consider the Confederacy foreign soil. He refused to recognize the Confederacy as a political entity. However, self-assumed ignorance does not entitle one to acts of belligerence.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

These two, for my purposes, should be considered together. They are, by far, the most egregious of the lot. Imagine this: the county where you live decides, for whatever reason, that the state government is no longer operating in its best interest. It decides it wants to be its own state. Now, this county just happens to have something of vital economic interest within its borders, so your state is opposed to this. Rather than attempting to find a diplomatic solution, though, the governor calls up the National Guard. Within a few days tanks come over the county line, blasting everything in sight, planes fly overhead raining bombs, and soldiers are running riot through your county looting and burning. Does that seem at all like a reasonable response?

Of course not. The unreasoning savagery of it is brought into even sharper focus by the fact that the Southern states were constitutionally empowered to leave the Union. They sought a peaceful separation from a government they no longer felt operated in their best interests. They simply wanted to go their own way. Their actions were completely in keeping with the letter and spirit of the constitution. Virtually nothing that Lincoln did to “restore the Union” had any constitutional authority.

Lincoln's armies, under his authority as commander-in-chief, murdered, and otherwise destroyed, the lives and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Southerners, whites and blacks, free and slave. There were also many Northern families destroyed by the loss of fathers and husbands, providers and bread-winners of families. Rather than be remembered as a national hero and one of our greatest presidents, Lincoln should be remembered as one of the worst tyrants of the 19th century and posthumously tried as a war criminal. His actions were a disgrace to what should be an honorable, dignified office.

I truly believe, based on precedents already established in recent history, that the former Confederate states as a whole, and individual should receive an official government apology for the crimes committed against them. We, as Southerners, are entitled to this every bit as much as Holocaust survivors or the descendants of former slaves. We were illegally stripped of our constitutional rights of self-determination and forced to submit to foreign rule. How does that differ, in essence, from events in the Balkans states or the various states of the former Soviet Union that seek their independence from Russia? Yet the world sympathizes with them. How did Lincoln's actions differ from the dictators in those areas, dictators who are considered war criminals by the court of public opinion? Lincoln should assume his rightful place among them, and the South is owed an apology.

Aristocrats and Industrialists

I fancy myself something of a self-educated, amateur historian. I always try to present the historical materials upon which I am commenting so that the reader can draw his or her own conclusions, independent of mine. There is something, however, I wish to comment on without being able to follow that format. I haven't seen anything speaking directly to the point on this topic (yet), I have only caught “glimpses” of it in different sources.

I have developed the impression, through experience with multiple media, that the South and Southern way of life was likened to the English aristocracy. Unfortunately, the only source I can cite for this is The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and the movie Gettysburg, based on that work. The character, Buster Kilrain, goes into a speech about wanting to be judged on his own merit, not based on who his father was, nor wanting someone to be counted superior to him based on his lineage, like it was in the Old Country. He went on to say that he personally was fighting the war for the cause of justice, and to put a stop to the aristocracy, the “stinking plumed chivalry”, which he associated with the Confederacy. Little references like that keep catching my attention, but not enough singly, which would be easier to cite. It does seem, though, that they have accumulated enough mass to get me thinking.

I would not want to live in any sort of feudal or caste system. I want to rise or fall by my own hand, and God's will for me, not due to a circumstance of birth. I think a gentle aristocracy, one that promotes honor and moral virtue, is not a bad thing, though. One where the strong feel a natural and genuine responsibility for the weak or misfortuned. However, it must be attainable and not the province of a privileged minority.  But the Confederacy lost, and with it was lost that ideal of a just and decent aristocracy.

In the movie Gods and Generals, Jackson is talking to Stuart, explaining to him his feelings on the war. Jackson says, “If the North triumphs, it is not alone the destruction of our property. It is the . . . end of free and responsible government on this continent. It is the triumph of commerce, the banks, factories.” I have no idea if, historically, that is a direct quote or conjecture, but it isn't important either way. What is important is the truth of it.

We live in a modern interpretation of a feudal system. The notable difference being that the “nobility” in our case bears no responsibility for the “commoners”. We are exploited at almost every turn. S&L bailouts, corporate bankruptcies that are then “saved” by the government. The military being used to provide security, not for the welfare of the citizenry, but security for the welfare of corporate profit. In the feudal ideal the commoners provided for the day-to-day function of life on the medieval manor, while the lord provided for the common defense, enforced the laws of the land, and ruled impartially on civil disputes. Ideally, it was a symbiotic relationship.

The aristocracy of the Old South was based on family lineage, and one's attitudes toward honor and duty. Wealth may have played a part, but was not significant. A.P. Hill was courageous, a fine division commander, and wealthy, but he never broke into the Virginia aristocracy, though he greatly desired to take his place among them. So, perhaps lineage was most important. I am only speculating, I am not read on this particular topic. At any rate, the Southern Gentlemen were keenly aware of their duty to their respective sovereign states, and thus to the Confederacy. They were honor-bound to that duty, and considered it a privilege to bear it. It wasn't only the generals, the entire army carried their duty to home and family with pride and dignity, from the drummer boy on up.

Now, I put it to you: Would such an aristocracy, bore with honor, humility, and a sense of duty to home, family, and those dependent upon you be so terrible a thing? We now find ourselves living in a system where the common citizenry is brazenly exploited for the benefit of an elite minority. Families lose their homes, see their children living on the street, while executives from bankrupt corporations are spending tens of thousands of dollars on vacations. Decent, hard-working people forced to live in fear because their neighborhood isn't “important” enough to keep crime in check. Meanwhile, the army, the United States Army, is providing security for oil field workers in a country that isn't even ours (technically). The same oil field workers, by the way, that are making 4 to 5 times as much money as the young soldiers that have been ordered to take a bullet for them.

Make no mistake: corporate interests rule this country. Period. Would a Southern aristocracy have been any better 5 or 6 generations later? Who knows? We can make educated guesses and predictions, but we will never know.  We do know, though, how Jackson's predicted  “ . . . triumph of commerce, the banks, factories” turned out. All in all, I think I would prefer taking my chances with the aristocracy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Personal Note

Not much of a post after such a delay, I know. I was very excited, as yesterday I found a copy of Killer Angels in a thrift store for 75 cents. I've never read it and I am enjoying it immensely.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Whole New Month

So far we have spent quite a bit of effort exploding some myths surrounding the cause of the war. The subtitle of the blog concerns unpopular truths. We are going to head off in a new direction, you and I, and examine some unpopular truths concerning the quality and way of life for blacks during the war. I will expose the bigotry and racism that pervaded the Union, from the common soldier all the way up to Mr. Lincoln himself. We will pierce the veil of misconception to discover the true lot of the Southern blacks, both slave and free. That's right: free. There were free blacks living in the south during the war. Some voluntarily served in the Confederate army, some even owned black slaves. All this and more, coming soon, so stay tuned . . .