SETTING SOME THINGS STRAIGHT
1. With the tragedy in Charlottesville there has come along a lot of supposed facts about things that are incorrect. I’d like to shed some light on a few of these.
2. One letter writer to the STrib claimed that Andrew Johnson tried to implement Reconstruction as Lincoln had planned. Actually, Johnson was ineffective and was nearly thrown out of office. He was impeached and missed removal by one vote in the Senate. It was Grant who fostered Reconstruction by, among other things, sending Federal troops to the southern states to guarantee voting privileges to the black population.
Unfortunately, Grant’s successor was another Republican (not in the mold of Lincoln), Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1876, Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden, but made a deal with the Democrats in the Congress such that Hayes got the votes to be President in return for pulling Federal troops out of the south. This allowed segregationists to control the southern states and the era of Jim Crow started, and lasted into the 50’s.
3. With the resurgence of white hate groups (KKK, Nazis, Fascists, etc.) all emboldened by Trumps rhetoric during the campaign and now during his presidency, the Lost Cause narrative is enjoying a rebirth. The narrative holds that the southern states seceded in order to preserve their right and honor in the face of an oppressive federal government. This, of course, is pure baloney.
The simple and absolute fact is that the southern states seceded because the south wanted to preserve the institution of slavery. The casus belli of the Civil War was that desire to keep slavery. It cannot be rationally argued otherwise.
As evidence, consider the following:
• “A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.” SOUTH CAROLINA DECLARATION OF CAUSES FOR SECESSION, DECEMBER 24, 1860
• “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.” TEXAS DECLARATION OF CAUSES FOR SECESSION, FEBRUARY 2, 1861
• “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.” MISSISSIPPI DECLARATION OF CAUSES FOR SECESSION
• On March 21, 1861, weeks before the attack on Fort Sumter, Alexander H. Davis, Vice President of the Confederate States of America addressed the public in Savannah, Georgia. His speech is known as the Cornerstone Speech. In it he said:
. . . The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the Negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell. . . . Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. . . . look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgement of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws.
• Finally, consider the language of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America:
Article I, Section 9, Clause 4 prohibited the Confederate government from restricting slavery in any way:
“No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”
Article IV, Section 2 also prohibited states from interfering with slavery:
“The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.”
Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 afforded protection for slave owners against fugitive slaves: No slave or other person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs,. or to whom such service or labor may be due.
Article IV, Section 3, Clause 3 offered to slavery in all future territories conquered or acquired by the Confederacy:
“The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several States; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”
4. The alt right and apologists for the Confederacy argue that the monuments to Confederate military officers should not be removed because the monuments honor the men who fought for their beliefs, that they should be treated as any other monument to military heroism. This, of course, ignores the fact that the men like Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson, violated the oath they took when they were commissioned in the United States Army, ignores the fact that they took up arms against their country, and ignores the fact that the cause for which they fought was the protection of the institution of slavery.
That aside, consider that the monuments were not raised to honor the Civil War fighting. Rather, the monuments were erected for the most part following the end of Reconstruction and institution of Jim Crow, and also in reaction to the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s. To quote a friend of mine, “They were not about honoring anyone, they were about showing blacks who was boss. Same with the use of the confederate flag. It was something largely ignored until it became a symbol of southern resistance to civil rights in the 50s.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center did a study of the erection of the monuments and a timeline thereof. It may be accessed at https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/whoseheritage_splc.pdf.
The following chart drawn from the SPLC study shows the numbers by decade. The conclusion is clear from the coordination of the monuments with the timing of Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Era.
Public Monuments to the Confederacy, by decade
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center
DECADE # MONUMENTS DEDECATED # SCHOOLS NAMED NOTES
1865-1869 12 1865-1877 Reconstruction
1890-1899 43 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson (“Separate but Equal”)
1910-1919 198 2 1915 Klan resurgency
1920-1929 61 8
1930-1939 47 6
1940-1949 19 4
1950-1959 20 18 1954-1968 Civil Rights Era
1960-1969 34 22
1970-1979 15 1
1980-1989 11 2
2000-1009 25 1
More than half of the monuments are on courthouse grounds
The numbers do NOT include some 2,570 battlefield monuments
From around 1896 to 1954 Jim Crow was basically unchallenged