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Running scared on Confederate history

November 8, 2010
Richard T. Hines, Alexandria
Source …..

Twenty years after Gen. Robert E. Lee rode into Appomattox and surrendered his tattered army, ending the War Between the States, a memorial chapel was built in Richmond in memory of the 260,000 Confederate soldiers who died during the conflict.

The organ in the chapel was donated by a group of Union veterans from Lynn, Mass. One of the contributors to the soldiers’ home that surrounded the chapel was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. And a Union private from Massachusetts donated his annual pension to support the home.

Back then, folks argued — as they do today — over why the war was fought. Some said slavery. Some said tariffs. Others said the Constitution. One captured Confederate soldier, as he was being marched off to prison, was asked, “Why are you fighting?” He is said to have grunted, “Because you’re here.”

Of course, the truth is that men fought for different reasons. But once the war was over, they handled their arguments about it with mutual respect and courtesy. Today in the Old Dominion, this has been lost, and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and former senator George Allen (R) — possibly to their surprise — find themselves embroiled in the latest debate over honoring our ancestors.

The whole brouhaha began when McDonnell signed a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month. That seemed innocuous enough. After all, we have innumerable heritage commemorations, including, of course, Black History Month. But before the ink had dried, McDonnell’s political opponents descended on him hammer and cudgel, all but branding him pro-slavery.

In panicked reaction, McDonnell vacillated. First, he added an anti-slavery statement to his proclamation. When that did not appease his opponents, he did a full about-face and announced there would be no more Confederate History Month Proclamations on his watch. And, finally, he required the removal of the flags of the old veterans at their own chapel in Richmond. Their descendants had unwisely left the land and chapel of the Soldiers Home in trust to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

We need to recall that slavery began in Virginia in 1619, not 1861. Indeed, Virginians such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Patrick Henry, George Mason, John Marshall and a host of others were slaveholders who also opposed slavery. Yet they had to deal with the day-to-day reality of an inherited institution, while looking forward — they hoped — to its final abolition by peaceful and orderly means. It is quite easy to revere Confederate history without being pro-slavery, but McDonnell doesn’t seem to understand this. His eyes seemingly set on higher office, he took up the banner of “politically correct” history.

Naturally, the Post gushed that McDonnell’s decision “took guts,” and soon George Allen jumped in. Allen’s political problem is his “macaca moment,” which got him branded a racist in his last campaign. Perhaps seeing a way to put this behind him before he announces his next bid for the Senate, Allen offered up praise for McDonnell. And McDonnell’s political alter ego, former Virginia and national Republican chairman Ed Gillespie, added his “amen,” hailing McDonnell’s transformation as proof that Virginia has been reborn as “the Dynamic Dominion.”

We’ve been arguing over the causes of our great war between brothers for 150 years, and no doubt we’ll go on arguing for another 150. But today one group – the one that insists the war was fought over slavery alone — tolerates no disagreement. Confederate chapels, history months and monuments, they say, should be banished, and the history books rewritten to exclude other points of view. Anyone who dares disagree gets called a racist. Allen and McDonnell have given us proof of the power of that charge.

A pair of Confederate flags have flown over the Confederate Memorial Chapel in Richmond since 1887. Those two flags did not trouble the Union soldiers who donated the organ to the chapel; nor did they trouble Ulysses S. Grant. They honored the bravery of thousands of Virginians, most of whom did not believe they fought to defend slavery. But McDonnell panicked when attacked by those who would never support him politically. This was an act of political courage?

The two Virginia leaders who should be praised for their courage on this issue are not Allen and McDonnell but former governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Democrats who had enough respect for the descendants of Confederate soldiers to allow the flags to fly at the chapel throughout their terms in office.

The writer is commander of the Jefferson Davis Camp No. 305 Sons of Confederate Veterans, Virginia Division.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 12, 2010 5:54 pm

    First of all, stop with the hogwash. No one is saying all points of view should be exluded but one. Its astonishing how venial Confederate apologist can get, instantly distortingn the most basic facts possible.

    Who said slavery was the cause of the Civil War? Well, the South screamed it at the time. Loudly and proudly and repeatedly.

    One of the many ironies of the Civil Was is that the SOUTH fought it to expand slavery — and said so. The North did not fight it over slavery, and said that too. The North fought to put down the violent illegal and insane attacks by the South.

    Why insane? See for yourself. Southern leaders at Montgomery did more than write the Southern Constitution there, they also issued their Ultimatums to the North. Funny how these Ultimatums, written by the South, announced with much fan fare by South newspapers, are completely covered up today.

    Once you see the Ultimatums – you will know WHY the South has covered them up. For the same reason they covered up so many other things, including Lee’s torture of slave girls, Davis bragging that slavery was the cornerstone of the Confederacy, and a hundred other things.

    But lets’ get back to the Southern ULtimatums. Written in March of 1861, they were reported in Southern papers with much delight. The Richmond paper called it “THE TRUE ISSUE!” So what were the Southern Ultimatums?

    What was the FIRST official communication and act by the Southern leaders, once they formed their government? The answer is – the Ultimatums to the North. So what were they?

    All five Southern Ultimatums were about slavery. The FIRST ultimatum was that the North had to force slavery into the territories. Not only did the North have to force slavery into the territories (meaning Kansas, the bone of contention) but the people of Kansas had to be made to RESPECT slavery. They had to accept slavery, and RESPECT slavery.

    Now, this one ultimatum, if they went no further, shows an insane Southern leadership. Even Hitler would not dream of giving England an Ultimatum to invade Poland for Germany’s benefit. But here the Southern leaders were demaning the North force slavery into Kansas.

    Kansas had just kicked the Southern terrorist out of their state, in a bloody war. Kansas people had just voted 98%-2% to reject slavery. Never mind that, the Southern leaders saw fit to give a war ultimatum to the NORTH to force slavery into the territories.

    How’s that for states rights?

    Was it just a “bad day” for Southern leaders, did they just sorta “goof up” with these ultimatums? Were these ultimatums just a “misunderstanding”.

    No. The South had been violently trying to spread slavery since 1820. With some success. Each time the same basic way — by violence, threats, and when they met resistance, by threatening to disband the Union. The North would give the cry babies what they wanted, but then the South invariably wanted more.

    So these ultimatums were just the articulation of what the South was all about — for decades. The violent spread of slavery, totally against the will of the people in a given area. They could care less what the people there wanted. They were going to war if they didn’t get what they wanted – the SPREAD of slavery.

    Here, in their ultimatums, they wanted the NORTH to do the dirty work of forcing slavery into places that not only hated slavery, but that had just kicked southern terrorist OUT, and voted overwhelmingly to KEEP slavery out.

    Lean what the Southern leaders demanded, and what SOuthern newspapers glorified, loudly and proudly, as “the TRUE ISSUE”

    Why do I have a feeling no one who clings to the absurd notion that the South was honorable, or brave, or sincere, or even sane, will dare look into it.

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