The Confederates and their Principles

Who were the men of the Confederacy and what did they stand for?

In light of the near constant political and social controversy that is overwhelming the United States, American History, particularly in connotation to race relations, has been at the forefront of debates, protests/riots, and even legislative action. However, it is essential to ask ourselves if we are really on the right track to understanding the intentions of those who came before us and the importance of what they left behind. Why did the proud, upright American men of the 1861 Confederate army truly fight to separate themselves from an ever-growing, increasingly powerful nation? Why does the South and many conservative leaning American’s continue to identify with the principle(s) behind the actions of the Confederacy? There are those who are convinced that the Confederacy fought against Lincoln and the Union purely in defense of slavery, while others presume that while the preservation of slavery was indeed an immense cause behind the attempt at succession, the Confederate army fought against the federal system regulating laws that the states legally maintained jurisdiction over. In what is intended as a “new initiative” by the Washington Post, B. Brian Foster wrote one of the first articles for a new column called “About America,” titled “Confederate monuments are more than reminders of our racist past. They are symbols of our racist present.” In the editorial he wrote ““The Charlottesville thing don’t really do nothing for me,” he recounted in a recent conversation. “What’s happening in Charlottesville, that’s not shocking. That’s been happening. Whether a statue is standing or a flag is waving, it’s been happening. They just showing it on the news now.”

Offered plainly and with little hesitation, his comments are emblematic of how many black Americans view this moment of heightened conflict surrounding Confederate statues, monuments and other symbols. In a new Quinnipiac poll, the vast majority of black respondents said they support the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces around the country. At the same time, in my conversations, black folks often express an intentioned ambivalence on the issue, noting that what seems to be a new and increasingly taut degree of racial tension and animus in the United States simply isn’t new.” Foster pointed out the realistic anger that minorities within the African American community have dealt with in regards to the history that surrounds the Confederacy and what they are believed to have stood for.

The Huffington Post published an article roughly over a week after a white gunman murdered nine African American church goers in South Carolina by “Huffington Post Black Voices” author Hillary Hanson. The article “Why the Confederate battle flag is even more racist than you think” closes stating “The flag has also periodically been flown by the Ku Klux Klan — though to be fair, so has the United States flag. Though some people may genuinely feel that the Dixie flag represents their Southern heritage or commemorates those who lost their lives in battle, the reality is that in far more recent history, the flag has been used as an explicit symbol of racism and racial inequality. That’s why, as John Oliver says, it should be lowered not just to half-staff, but all the way off of the Columbia flagpole.

The battle flag of the United States’ Confederate Army has been used those with less than admirable intentions, I believe that it is essential to recognize the plethora of reasons declared by the South, most of which are not pertinent to slave owning. “The Civil War Trust” emphasizes the State’s Rights that the confederacy openly fought on behalf of: “The states argue that the Union is a compact, one that can be annulled if the states are not satisfied with what they receive in return from other states and/or from the federal government” (Par. 5) Also mentioned in the “Declaration of Causes” are grievances listed against Abraham Lincoln: “All of the states negatively mention Abraham Lincoln’s election and his suspected abolitionist leanings,” and their dissatisfaction with “federal military protection.”

David French, an author for the National Review wrote an article called, “Don’t tear down the Confederate Battle Flag.” In this article French beautifully articulates the more intense and deep components of the Civil War, components that drives many in the South to continue to defend, identify with, and want to commemorate the aspects of the War that made America America. He writes, “When hundreds of thousands of southern men took up arms (most of them non-slave-owning), many of them fought with the explicit belief that they were standing in the shoes of the Founding Fathers, men who’d exercised their own right of self-determination to separate from the mother Country. Others simply saw an invading army marching into their state — into their towns and across their farms — and chose to resist. (Par. 7) “Those men fought against a larger, better-supplied force, yet — under some of history’s more brilliant military commanders — were arguably a few better-timed attacks away from prevailing in America’s deadliest conflict. Then, the defeated survivors came home to the consequences of total war. Large sections of the South were simply devastated — crops burned, homes burned, and livestock slaughtered or scattered. Entire cities lay in ruin.” (Par. 9) And most importantly, “It is telling that the South’s chosen, enduring symbol of the Confederacy wasn’t the flag of the Confederate States of America — the slave state itself — but the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s army. Lee was the reluctant Confederate, the brilliant commander, the man who called slavery a “moral and political evil,” and the architect — by his example — of much of the reconciliation between North and South. His virtue grew in the retelling — and modern historians still argue about his true character — but the symbolism was clear. If the South was to rebuild, it would rebuild under Lee’s banner. Since that time, the battle flag has grown to mean many things, including evil things. Flying it as a symbol of white racial supremacy is undeniably vile, and any official use of the flag for that purpose should end, immediately. Flying it over monuments to Confederate war dead is simply history. States should no more remove a Confederate battle flag from a Confederate memorial than they should chisel away the words on the granite or bulldoze the memorials themselves.”

While it will continue to be a topic worth debating for years to come, I support the Confederacy and their decision to rise against a government that they believed did not represent the nation in it’s entirety. In South Carolina’s “Declaration for Secession” representatives used the colonies’ secession from Great Britain as justification for their attempt, writing that,“They further solemnly declared that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.” Deeming the Government of Great Britain to have become destructive of these ends, they declared that the Colonies “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.” The Confederacy fought in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers by embracing the characterization of freedom and liberty in nearly every sense. I believe that I speak for many when I say that the South does not necessarily stand united in opposition to the African American community. They hang their Confederate flags and honor their fallen predescessors in recognition of why they fought, how they fought, not necessarily in defense of the ideals of slavery that were defended at that time.

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