The Confederacy Is Not Worth Commemorating

A traitorous and failed attempt to secede over slavery is nothing to celebrate.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

There is room for debate over when it is appropriate to rename institutions or remove or relocate statutes and memorials to disgraced public figures. For myself, I think the burden on those calling for such changes should be rather high, and I generally prefer supplementing such memorials or displays–such as by adding statues or memorials of other, more deserving figures–over removal. History is important, including (perhaps especially) when it concerns our shortcomings as a nation.

The one context in which I think such historical effacement is justified concerns memorials to leaders of the Confederacy. While I think it is perfectly appropriate, indeed important, to have such historical artifacts in museums and appropriate venues, I think it is appropriate to remove the names and visages of Confederate leaders from places of honor. There is no good reason to have such statutes in public squares or the names of Confederate generals on U.S. military bases.

My reasons are quite simple: The Confederacy was a traitorous uprising expressly inspired by a desire to maintain slavery as a racial institution.

While the true causes of secession have not always been adequately covered in history books (some of which repeat the fable that southern states seceded over tariffs or suggest it was a "war of Northern aggression), the historical record is abundantly clear. The South seceded over slavery, preemptively seeking to leave the Union after their preferred candidate lost the Presidential election.

The relevant original documents speak for themselves. As southern states seceded, they identified the need to protect slavery as their cause, expressly repudiated the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and were more-than-willing to trample the rights of free citizens in the service of protecting slavery (as well as to prohibit any of the confederate states from seceding).

In his infamous "Cornerstone Speech", Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens declared:

The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. 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 government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone 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.

The Confederate states seceded from the Union, and started a war, to protect the institution of slavery. (And, yes, the Confederacy started the war—announcing secession before Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated, and firing the first shots Fort Sumter.)

And they lost, too.

This history is something to remember, but neither the secessionist cause, nor its leaders, are something to commemorate.

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  1. The one context in which I think such historical effacement is justified concerns memorials to leaders of the Confederacy. […] While I think it is perfectly appropriate, in deed important, to have such things in museums and appropriate venues

    The people of Hungary have given us a nice model of what to with their statutes that honored Communist leaders during the Cold War.

    1. The most obvious place to take these statues is Beauvoir…I think that makes even more sense than Richmond. Another option would be at a museum focused on Jim Crow because these statues are Orwellian propaganda erected to perpetuate white supremacy.

    2. Communist statues in America would be protected by the police.

    3. Read Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural address sometime.

    4. I have been to the park on the west of Budapest. Good tourist attraction. The Communist police torture museum is good as well.

  2. “The Confederacy was a traitorous uprising expressly inspire by a desire to maintain slavery as a racial institution.”

    Yes, but shouldn’t we object as vociferously to slavery of any and all races, or would such be a lesser and more “equal opportunity” evil?

    1. How about we clean our own house first?

      1. “How about we clean our own house first?”

        Your meaning is lost on me. Do you mean I have slaves, that you do, or that America still does but sub rosa, in which case I would agree, except for not understanding your use of “first”?

        1. If you can’t apprehend that, Miss Greenparker, just stand aside and let better people handle this. The time for appeasing clingers with respect to the Confederacy and racism is ending.

          1. If I can’t apprehend that–?

            Show me where I would appease clingers and racists, per your unwarranted cheapshot? My first question stands, and if you comprehend it, try answering it without the stupidity.

            1. Either people object both to institutionalized slavery and racism and not one as subordinate to the other, or we’ve lost the plot. Imo.

              Do you feel better about the de facto slave status of imported Chinese/ “coolies” after the blacks were freed? I don’t. It’s all of an inhumane piece and goes on still today across the globe.

              Slavery is unconscionable, institutionalized or no. Racism is sickening and unacceptable, whether codified in our Constitution and other countries’ laws or not.

              1. You are new here, the good reverend Kirkland is a one trick pony. His comments are all of a kind, long on insult (suggesting you should listen to your betters, bigots have rights too) and short on pith. There is no point in engaging.

                Too bad really, many years ago at least he traded in fairly original ideas. Not so much lately

                1. Thanks, Jmaie, and you’re right, but sometimes it’s difficult to overlook the strawmen, bullying, and false attribution of ill will. The exchange of idea and opinion is nothing without good faith on everyone’s part, and there is where we hope for more wheat than chaff in our participation and resolution of some big ideas and particulars.

              2. Removing the statues of those who committed human rights abuses to further the oppression of Chinese immigrants here or any other abused people abroad is perfectly agreeable with me. But we need to start somewhere, and the statues of racist traitors is an obvious place to start.

                To that end, I fully support removing the statues of men who commented treason and launched a murderous war in defense of American slavery. These statues should not stand in places of honor. I suggest these statues be removed to museums where future generations can learn of Confederate crimes and why racists choose to honor them.

                In the place where these statues once stood, something more representative of America’s best hopes should be erected. Brave and true men from every state of the old Confederacy choose to join Union armies and fight for — and frequently die for abolition, freedom, and democracy. Those who chose to place statues of traitors neglected to erect any monuments to black Americans who fought for the freedom and a better country. Nor did they remember the sacrifices of loyalist white southerners. If we want to statues that remind us of the Civil War, let those statues be of those who fought for the right cause.

          2. I know right? Now’s the time for assaulting them, looting their businesses, and murdering them.

        2. Americans are objecting to Confederate statues being removed. We need to clean our house by having our citizens repudiate the Confederacy instead of honoring it.

          1. A good end, first you need to convince them why this would be beneficial. You can’t change minds by force.

            1. That’s why this discussion is happening.

      2. We did. But now you want to end our righteous crusade to attack slavery wherever it exists to focus on some statues. That’s fucked up dude. Racist slaver shit person.

        1. We have not cleaned our house.

          1. Wait do you still own slaves? Is this like you trying to confess. Dude you need to let them free right now. I’ll give you 24 hours before I report you.

            1. Until we repudiate the Confederacy, we have not cleaned house.

              1. Why just the Confederacy? Why not all Americans/people in general who were slave owners?

                1. We aren’t erecting statues of slave owners such as Washington because they were slave owners. We are erecting statues of Confederate leaders even to specifically honor the Confederacy, and hence slavery.

                  1. did you see how you people were tearing down Washington statues?

                    1. Not my people.

                    2. No your people are the slaves you clearly still own. Dude it’s fucked up get rid of your slaves. Eight more hours til I report you.

                    3. Josh R
                      Not your people? I think they are your people.

                2. The Confederacy is the logical starting point since it’s particularly embarrassing that the prevailing country continues to honor its traitors. I’m not sure we need to honor Americans who owned slaves generally, but at least they were Americans.

              2. Dude just get rid of your slaves.

                1. You must have thought a lot of this joke to make it 5 times.

    2. Yes, all slavery is wrong and should be condemned.
      It is also true that slavery based upon racial supremacy and the repudiation of our nation’s founding principles is particularly objectionable.

      1. The United States was also founded on slavery then in some sense, and its war for independence and secession was likewise tainted.

        Have you heard of Dunmore’s Proclamation and the Philipsburg Proclamation? It’s quite remarkable that Lincoln’s proclamation was nothing new and the same thing had been done 90 years prior.

        1. Yes, we’ve heard about them. We all know that the country has been filled with racists since its inception. The reason to take down Confederate statues is not because they were merely racists. It’s because they were Confederates.

          1. So it’s because they lost, then? Should we discuss the propriety of having so many things named after Native Americans?

            1. You can discuss whatever you want, it’s a free country. At least now. Because the North won.

              So discuss away. Which thing(s) did you have in mind?

              I actually think we should name things after Confederate generals. Swamps. Latrines. The next discovered species of mosquito.

              1. I think it is more than appropriate to honor Native Americans with monuments and naming countless towns, cities, rivers and mountains after them. Despite the fact that they lost.

                “it’s a free country. At least now. Because the North won.”

                Now you are peddling the patently absurd idea that slavery would still exist in the South today if the South had won.

                1. “Now you are peddling the patently absurd idea that slavery would still exist in the South today if the South had won.”

                  Not really. I’m peddling the historically demonstrable proof that southerners despite losing the war never intended to afford civil and political equality to blacks, and would have happily joined apartheid South Africa into the present if given the slightest chance. The absence of slavery does not necessarily mean “free country”.

                  But I’ll engage your counterfactual. If the South winning extended chattel slavery by 1 month, it would have been an unforgivable evil. If you extend your driveway by a mile, your trip doesn’t get shorter.

                  1. “southerners despite losing the war never intended to afford civil and political equality to blacks”

                    Neither did the North. For example in an 1860 New York referendum, 64% voted to restrict universal suffrage to white men.

                    “would have happily joined apartheid South Africa into the present if given the slightest chance.”

                    Just as absurd.

                    “f the South winning extended chattel slavery by 1 month, it would have been an unforgivable evil.”

                    I agree. So too is a war that killed more Americans than all American wars before or since combined, a war expressly initiated by the North for the sole purpose of maintaining empire, money and power.

                    1. Rosa Parks called it the “Northern promised land that wasn’t” and remarked that there wasn’t “too much difference” in the systems of housing and school segregation, job discrimination, and law enforcement between Montgomery and Detroit.

                    2. “Neither did the North. For example in an 1860 New York referendum, 64% voted to restrict universal suffrage to white men.”

                      The North never intended to afford civil and political equality to blacks? I think that’s fantasy, but I’ll spot it to you. First, I think they were more willing than the southern dickheads. Second, I’m not trying to defend a statue of the fucking 1860 voters in New York!

                      We’re not going to agree on your theory of a war of northern oppression. I don’t blame the North for the South starting the war. In any event, I do blame the South for deciding it was better that more Americans should be killed than all American wars before or since combined, just so the south could keep slaves. They knew slavery was headed towards an eventual peaceful end. That’s why they seceded.

                    3. NToJ

                      Just to be perfectly clear, I’m not trying to defend a statue of anyone necessarily. I mentioned in the other thread on this topic that whatever local community or other lawful owner of a property right to either continue displaying, or to take down a Confederate monument, should be able to do so, and in most cases, nobody outside of that owner or community has a good reason to be all worked up about this either way.

                      If your state or local community has a particular monument that you find offensive it is appropriate to discuss removing it. Each monument is a different case, though. It seems stupid that a 125 year old monument to unknown generic Confederate soldiers was taken down recently. I suppose subjective feelings about these things are valid on the one hand and must be considered, although unfortunately the subjective meanings that people associate with these symbols are diametrically opposed. That seems to be the primary feature of these controversies in the view of those that promote and stir them.

                      Aside from subjective feelings, where it is fair game for anyone to claim anything about what it means, you have history. History is itself not an easy thing to identify objectively as a whole in a context like this. It’s always more nuanced than the simplistic narratives in history books. The South was certainly proud and reckless, and they were certainly entwined with the immoral institution, but they were also just doing the same thing that the founders had done 80 plus years prior. Many in the North wanted to allow secession and negotiate peaceful separation. I happen to think that local, decentralized self-government — or more accurately, the type of culture that produces such a system (one of rugged individualism, family, charity, loving your neighbor, tolerance, local loyalty) — is a better guarantor of liberty in the long run. So I favor the ability to dissolve political bands in general. Of course the Confederacy presents a difficult and paradoxical case because of the issue of slavery. This seems to be a common theme – an immediate moral cause is latched onto by the forces of empire and consolidated power, providing a convenient pretext to condemn local autonomy, and go in guns blazing and liberate some folks to death. You might call it the Puritan worldview, that somebody somewhere isn’t quite right, and needs to be set straight with deadly force.

                    4. M L,

                      Of course the Confederacy presents a difficult and paradoxical case because of the issue of slavery. This seems to be a common theme – an immediate moral cause is latched onto by the forces of empire and consolidated power, providing a convenient pretext to condemn local autonomy, and go in guns blazing and liberate some folks to death. You might call it the Puritan worldview, that somebody somewhere isn’t quite right, and needs to be set straight with deadly force.

                      First, no, it is not a difficult question. The Confederacy came into existence and started a war for the express (many times) purpose of preserving the right of some humans to own (and so beat, rape, murder, and otherwise abuse) other humans. It is difficult to imagine a cause that is even as immoral as that, much less more immoral than that.

                      Second, you have the causation arrow backwards, though it is a common theme. People who want to dress up their blatantly immoral cause in morally defensible rhetoric (in this case Southerners) choose some generic issue (e.g., states rights, decentaized government) within which their specific evil can be fit as a mere, disputable policy. “But isn’t it better that each state get to decide for itself whether people with little melanin can own people with more melanin?” No. It isn’t. By embracing the Confederacy, you undermine the principles you purport to be promoting, M L.

                      The Confederacy and their willingness to kill hundreds of thousands to keep millions in bondage is perhaps the best argument against states’ rights of which one could conceive. I am all in favor of individual liberty and local control to the extent practicable, but owning other human beings falls so far over the line, you can’t even see it from the line dividing what is acceptable and what isn’t.

                      go in guns blazing and liberate some folks to death
                      Your formulation ignores that the Union went in (after shot at themselves) with guns blazing to liberate the victims of slavery while shooting to death people claiming a right to own other people and willing both to kill and die to exercise that “right”. Even true love is not so noble a cause. Again, the Confederacy is, together with the fight against Nazi Germany, the best example of a just war and the morality of using force to stop evil.

                    5. NOVA Lawyer

                      “The Confederacy came into existence and started a war for the .. purpose of preserving the right of some humans to own”

                      No, Lincoln started the war, and the motivations for doing so had nothing — nothing — to do with ending slavery. Likewise, the South did not go to war for slavery, but for independence and for self-defense. Slavery was a factor in secession, but not remotely the only reason and arguably not even the main reason. It is more accurate to say that issues surrounding slavery were among the major precipitants of secession rather than preservation of slavery being the motivation. The average Confederate soldier was not fighting for slavery.

                      The idea that the North went to war to stop slavery is profoundly ahistorical. The point I was making is that things like this are used after the fact, or sometimes before and during, as a general matter to justify war and imperialism. War is the health of the State.

                      Slavery is not as much of an argument against State’s rights as you imagine. In the long run more consolidated power leads to greater abuses. Slavery was going to end soon anyway, Lincoln didn’t start the war to end slavery, and it doesn’t justify more Americans being killed than in all wars before and since combined. The end of slavery was just a happy incidental byproduct.

                    6. M L,

                      No, Lincoln started the war, and the motivations for doing so had nothing — nothing — to do with ending slavery.

                      The Southern states seceded upon the election of Lincoln because of his and the Republican Party’s (of the time) opposition to expansion of slavery into the new western states and territories which was a clear threat to the continued viability of slavery in the United States.

                      And then, the South threatened Fort Sumter and fired the first shots of the war when a Union ship was trying to resupply a Union fort (Sumter). The South, by any metric, started the war. They literally fired the first shot, as well as took the first provocative actions.

                      No amount of ahistorical belief you have can change those facts. The South started the war.

                      The North did not initially engage in the war to end slavery. As you well know, Lincoln said quite openly he would let slavery be if that would preserve the Union. But you will try to quote me in vain as saying the North entered the war to free the slaves. The North, though, undeniably did invade the south and free the slaves at the point of a gun. And that’s a far higher moral cause, worthy of much praise, than preserving the Union, the initial and primary goal of Lincoln and the North. It is worthy of praise even if it was motivated in part as a means to win the war, rather than an aim of the war.

                      Likewise, the South did not go to war for slavery, but for independence and for self-defense.

                      They seceded to preserve slavery. That you surely don’t dispute.

                      Then they started the shooting to defend their right to secede to preserve slavery. “Independence” and “self-defense” are just window dressing for the original motivation, preserving slavery. If they hadn’t been determined to die to defend their right to own other people, there would have been no civil war. The South’s determination that slavery would endure was the but-for cause of the war. And Jefferson Davis and other Southern leaders frequently spoke of the importance of preserving slavery in exhorting the populace to win the war. As I said in the prior message, those general principles you spout are just ways of smuggling in “the Southern white’s belief that they had the right to own people.”

                      In the long run more consolidated power leads to greater abuses.

                      We have not yet experienced greater abuses than states enslaving from 1/3 to over 1/2 of their population in chattel slavery. Whatever else you can say, the parade of horribles since the war have not been nearly as bad as slavery was. (And preserving the Union allowed us to defeat Nazi Germany, etc., which is not a given if two weaker nations inhabited what is now the U.S. Heck, the Confederacy may even have joined with the Germans, being also based on white supremacy (proudly proclaimed by the CSA’s founders, I might add, as the first nation formed on the idea of white supremacy).

                      Slavery was going to end soon anyway.

                      No, it wasn’t. See NToJ and Toranth elsewhere. It is highly likely that the Emancipation Proclamation and the Union winning hastened the end of slavery in other countries too. Plus, it is highly likely the South, when it did finally give up slavery, would have morphed into a South Africa-like apartheid state that might even still endure here (and in South Africa) today but for the Union’s success.

                      If we are going to do hypothetical outcomes, let’s include all possibilities, not just the one that makes you feel better about the South.

                      Lincoln didn’t start the war to end slavery.

                      He didn’t start the war at all.

                      it doesn’t justify more Americans being killed than in all wars before and since combined.

                      Actually, liberating roughly 4 million people (just in the United States as well as, again, likely hastening the abolition of slavery in other countries like Brazil and Cuba, especially when combined with the preservation of the Union, was worth the losses.

                      Of course, the entire war could have been avoided if the South had not so belligerently sought to preserve slavery for, basically, eternity (because remember, Lincoln wasn’t trying to end slavery during his term, he just opposed its expansion which the Southerners knew meant the end of slavery decades later. And you say that would have happened anyway, so how pointless was the South’s instigation of a war to preserve slavery?)

                  2. In this hemisphere in 1860 slavery only existed in the Southern State, Cuba and Brazil. England, France and Spain all opposed it. By 1888 it had been abolished in Cuba and Brazil. Given the timeline of the abolition of slavery worldwide, how long do you think slavery would have lasted in the South?

                    1. It’s a hard counterfactual. If they hadn’t seceded? Probably no sooner than Cuba and Brazil, although your counterfactual has to assume that the Civil War had a profound effect on western hemisphere acceptance of slavery generally. If they had seceded and won? I don’t have any reason to think it would have ended by the 20th century.

                      And it’s not just slavery. Apartheid lived on in South Africa. Jim Crow happened and they lost. If they were willing to institute Jim Crow in the South even after losing, who is to say how long it would have taken them to get over their Jim Crow phase peacefully?

                    2. Actually, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
                      In 1860, England was still in the process of working out slavery. The Slavery Act of 1824 only made it a crime to actually trade in slaves, but did nothing to ban ownership. The Slavery Acts of 1833, 1843, and 1873 steadily expanded the restrictions… but the act of 1843, for example, contained a section titled “Act not to extend to Persons obtaining Slaves by Inheritance”. Even in those places where slave ownership was banned, there were decades of phase-out. And in some places (India, Australia) the Anti-Slavery League continued to find widespread evidence of slavery up until the mid-1900s!

                      And one odd fact is that the loss of the South’s plantations gave significant power to the anti-slavery factions in England. Had the US not rebelled, it is quite possible that the anti-slavery movement could have been delayed significantly.

                    3. NToJ and Toranth,

                      Well put. And your excellent points provide even more support for the view that the fight to end slavery was a moral imperative and for the view that the leaders of the Confederacy would have perpetrated even greater than usually assumed evil (by delaying emancipation not only in the U.S., but for millions more around the world) if they had succeed in their aims.

                      Ordinary southerners who contributed their support to the cause deserve no honor for being participants, any more than the guards at Auschwitz should be honored for being good family men who loved their local community. They participated in evil. Yes, individual circumstances are complicated, so vilification of an ordinary foot solider may be too far, but they certainly do not deserve to be honored.

                    4. “the fight to end slavery was a moral imperative ”

                      The problem is there never was such a fight. You are way off in your understanding of history here.

                      I don’t really care about the argument over who “deserves to be honored” but you’re going to have a hard time distinguishing things. Lincoln was a mass murderer and a tyrant who wanted to ship all black people back to Africa, Robert E Lee called for racial harmony and reconciliation in addition to the end of slavery.

                    5. Robert E Lee called for racial harmony and reconciliation in addition to the end of slavery.

                      LOL. No. He called for “racial harmony” in the sense that he felt that “the painful discipline [the black race] are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction.” Some harmony, eh? Coming as it did with a whip as mediary pursuant to Lee’s instruction.

                      “Lay it on well,” Traitor Lee said, as his man whipped slaves his father-in-law had asked be granted immediate freedom. What an admirable man. /sarc

                    6. The problem is there never was such a fight.

                      Never? Are you sure about that? The Southerners just up and decided to free all their slaves? Is that how it happened? Well, I’ll be.

        2. You do realize Dunmore’s proclamation only freed the slaves of people who didn’t side with him, right? It wasn’t really anti-slavery, it was punishment for his enemies.

          1. Squirelloid:

            Thank you for your priceless comment!!

            Absolutely priceless. This is a valuable learning and teaching opportunity.

            May I interest you in the most basic facts regarding the Emancipation Proclamation of September 1862? Apparently you may be shocked and amazed to learn even the first thing about it.

            1. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slave where it could not touch them while leaving them in bondage where it could.

        3. “The United States was also founded on slavery…”

          Slavery existed when the United States government was formed. Are you suggesting slavery was a preeminent topic of debate at the Constitutional Convention?

  3. There is no good reason to have such statutes in public squares or the names of Confederate generals on U.S. military bases.

    Not even Joseph Wheeler, who enlisted to serve the United States in the Spanish-American War and was given a commission as Major General of Volunteers by President McKinley, a Union Army veteran?

    1. That depends are you talking about a statue of Joseph Wheeler in a Union military uniform to honor his service in the Spanish-American war or a statue of Wheeler in a Confederate army uniform?

      1. I’m talking about naming Fort Wheeler.

    2. While I think he wanted to heal the post-war divide between North and South, I don’t believe Joseph Wheeler ever publicly repudiated his Confederate military service. So no, I don’t think he should be honored.

      Also note that other prominent Confederate generals and politicians would go on to serve in the U.S. Congress and state governments. I don’t think they should be honored either.

      1. And yet the President of the United States saw fit to give him a commission, testifying to the president’s “special trust and confidence in [Wheeler’s] patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities” (I’m assuming that commissions then were worded the same way they are now). Shouldn’t that count for something?

  4. Imagine being such a loser that you celebrate losers. Proudly at that.

    1. I know right native Americans are so funny to laugh at. You thought some shitty break dancing was gonna get your land back? Rofl.

      1. I would like to see more Native American monuments.

        1. Even of the slave-owning tribes?

  5. For myself, I think the burden on those calling for such changes should be rather high

    Assuming we’re not talking about statues of particular artistic value, I don’t see why that should be right. Let the community decide what statues they want to put up or take down. Majority rule. Every generation gets to have the statues it likes.

    1. I would support the idea, let’s have a vote. What if it’d just small yet loud minority of the community demanding the change? I certainly wasn’t asked…

      1. That’s absolutely right, although as usual that just raises the question of whether “one man one vote” is the most just voting system, or whether people who are more affected should have more votes.

  6. An excellent and succinct take. I would also add that the statutes and memorials have a history themselves. They were part of a widespread myth-making project to obscure the nature of the Confederacy behind anodyne values like “bravery” and “honor” and “heritage.” The project not only sought to hide a sordid past, but also to serve as a reminder of who was in control during a sordid present. The values of these men justified White supremacy. Controlling the public space was part of the attempt control public memory in service of this cause. In these efforts the myth-makers were quite successful. White historians (using the cudgel of “objectivity”) from North to South bought into the myth of the Lost Cause and the folly of Reconstruction. Of course, no amount of myth-making could erase Black memory, even if it was suppressed in the public sphere. And eventually these memorials have been revealed for what they were and are. Not only do they honor men in service of a vile cause, they also are themselves tools of promoting a vile cause in the public space and memory. Removing statutes and memorials from places of honor doesn’t erase the past or history. It’s a necessary step for telling it right to a lot of people for the first time.

    1. Ugh. Wrote statute instead of statue all over the place. I guess it’s become second nature so much that I forget I’m writing about history rather than law.

    2. I’ll believe lefty’s claim of wanting to end white supremacy as soon as they take down remove all statues and memorials of FDR.

      1. Those were put up as part of a propaganda effort to enforce white supremacy in the South by obscuring the nature of the secession movement designed to preserve and expand slavery?

        1. Not quite, LTG; although some undoubted were = Those were put up as part of a propaganda effort to enforce white supremacy in the South by obscuring the nature of the secession movement designed to preserve and expand slavery

          You intuit ‘unitary mass intent’ [statues put up to enforce white supremacy] where I am really not sure that is appropriate. Were some statues erected solely for that reason? Yes. Should they be taken down? I really think that depends on the community where they are located. If a community wishes to take down statues after considered debate and discussion, then sign me up. I’m fine with that. Tearing down of statues by an angry mob? NFW.

          Let me suggest an additional (either complementary or alternative depending on your perspective) motivation of erecting statues. Would you concede the possibility that communities wanted to remember their war dead? I mean, with over 300K dead in the South (with their smaller population base), the Civil War was a cataclysmic event whose impact is still felt.

          LTG, I hesitate to malign a broad swath of American society. It goes against my belief in the innate goodness of most Americans, and more importantly, it does not comport with my own experience in the South.

          I don’t think it is quite so simple as Professor Adler and others state.

          1. “…I hesitate to malign a broad swath of American society.”

            There’s no need. As LTG noted, there was a broad propaganda effort to rewrite history, and it was effective. The people today insisting that the statues remain need not be bad people (though many of them are). You can take comfort in disagreeing with the good ones on the basis that the propaganda worked. They’re victims too.

          2. There’s a book that I can’t recommend highly enough for anyone interested in this issue called The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory by Fitzhugh Brundage. While the story and motivations of historical actors are all always complex, the thrust of what those erecting the statues were doing was quite clear, both at the time and now. And to help illustrate the issue more clearly, the story of confederate memorialization is told parallel to the development of Black public memory and memorialization of slavery and freedom. These men and women didn’t have the public space. They were shunted aside in favor of the monuments to the Confederates. So the statues aren’t just about honoring the anodyne values some Confederates may represent, but also eliminating the black experience from the public space and thus eventually public memory.

            1. LTG, I read the book. A good work, somewhat dated. Brundage makes his case credibly, but I think not contextually complete. And this contextual incompleteness is the issue I take with Brundage, and with you.

              But you’re right, we don’t see a lot of statues honoring black sacrifices and figures worthy of veneration (like Frederick Douglass, for instance) because blacks by and large were not invited to the public square when the statues went up a century ago.

              We are also viewing this through ‘presentism’, and that presents challenges as well. A century hence, how will our descendants look at figures to whom we erect statues today?

              1. “We are also viewing this through ‘presentism’, and that presents challenges as well. A century hence, how will our descendants look at figures to whom we erect statues today?”

                I don’t know and I don’t care. Do you?

                Anyway, the “presentism” argument only works if the evil was first recognized in the future. That wasn’t the case with slavery in 1860.

                1. NtoJ….Newsflash: The evils of slavery were well recognized in American society. Hell, it was debated when the Founders met to draft the Constitution. What the hell civics and history classes did you attend in primary school? Were you paying attention in class, because your comment really makes me wonder if you did. Why on earth do you think we had manumission societies and abolitionist societies?

                  So yeah, the issue of ‘presentism’ is quite relevant here.

                  1. “The evils of slavery were well recognized in American society.”

                    That’s my fucking point. Presentism only works if you can say that, in the present, the thing at issue was not evil. However, slavery was a known evil by 1860. So when you ask “A century hence, how will our descendants look at figures to whom we erect statues today?” They’ll look a lot worse at us if we don’t take down the statues of the people who owned slaves. Because we know today, just like most people knew in 1860, that slavery is fucking horrible.

                    1. NToJ
                      That is exactly why I think secession and the war were less about the issue of slavery specifically, and more about the issue of “who decides?” People will talk about benevolent masters, instances of slavery being more like fair servitude and employment and such, but of course this historical relativism misses the issue of any absolute moral truth.

                      Surveys show that most people today know full well that killing babies in the womb is wrong. Yet we are pumping away at around a million per year, grossly disproportionately killing black lives. At some point history will not reflect well on this.

                    2. @M L,

                      “At some point history will not reflect well on this.”

                      And if you’re so confident about this, it will be no defense to me (in the future) that I think abortion is morally permissible today, just because “presentism”. If presentism is coherent at all (which I dispute) it can only be for those things that the overwhelming majority of people agreed were morally permissible in the present, but which only came to be understood as morally impermissible later. Slavery in 1860 did not have this feature.

                    3. Slavery in 1860 did not have this feature.

                      It had this feature in the South.

                    4. @swood1000,

                      Oh so the Robert E. Lee quote bandied about from 1856 about the evils of slavery was just a lie? That there weren’t any southern abolitionists in 1856? I thought we were to believe that the majority of southerners did not support slavery, on account that they didn’t actually own any? There were manumissions in parts of the south as far back as the 18th century.

                    5. NToJ:

                      Oh so the Robert E. Lee quote bandied about from 1856 about the evils of slavery was just a lie? That there weren’t any southern abolitionists in 1856? … There were manumissions in parts of the south as far back as the 18th century.

                      The fact that Robert E. Lee and southern abolitionists were opposed to slavery, or that there were manumissions, isn’t inconsistent with the notion that the overwhelming majority of people in the South thought that slavery was morally permissible.

                      I thought we were to believe that the majority of southerners did not support slavery, on account that they didn’t actually own any?

                      Come now. The argument is not that non-slaveholders did not support the institution of slavery. It is that protection of slavery did not provide an incentive for them to join the army. Rather the incentive was the defense of their homeland.

                    6. Swood,

                      The fact that Robert E. Lee and southern abolitionists were opposed to slavery, or that there were manumissions, isn’t inconsistent with the notion that the overwhelming majority of people in the South thought that slavery was morally permissible.

                      I don’t think presentism works the way you think it does. As you point out, in 1860 in most of Europe, slavery was overwhelmingly viewed as immoral and Americans knew what Europe thought. In the North, a majority (and perhaps your “overwhelming” majority) understood slavery was immoral. In the South, in 1860, a substantial part of the population understood that slavery was immoral. Even assuming a majority of Southerners believed slavery was morally permissible, this geographically local willingness to be blind to morality that was blindingly obvious to most of the rest of the world at the time defeats any claim of presentism. Judging Southerners by their time, they were supporting an obviously immoral practice.

                      You, perhaps, want to propose some sort of “here-ism” whereby it is somehow wrong to judge the morality of the actions of people in a different geographic location, even when their morality consists of owning people (which entails beating, raping, orphaning, murdering, and otherwise abusing the people owned). Good luck with that.

                      The argument is not that non-slaveholders did not support the institution of slavery. It is that protection of slavery did not provide an incentive for them to join the army. Rather the incentive was the defense of their homeland.

                      Really, that’s why Jefferson Davis exhorted southerners to resist the North by saying such things as:

                      You know too well, my countrymen, what they mean by success. ….They design to incite servile insurrection and light the fires of incendiarism whenever they can reach your homes, and they debauch the inferior race, hitherto docile and contented, by promising indulgence of the vilest passions as the price of treachery.

                      Surely you have considered that non-slaving owning white Southerners often did have an interest in preserving slavery because (a) they had irrational fears of what the freed slaves would do to them and (b) slavery kept roughy 33% (and, in Mississippi, over half) of their fellow humans legally and economically inferior to them. They had economic and social-hierarchy interests in maintaining slavery, as exemplified by the rampant racism and terror that non-slaveholders continued to perpetrate against the freed slaves and their descendants for over a century after emancipation. So, please, ordinary Southerners were very much invested in the system of race-based slavery and, so, also morally culpable for participating in the war on the side of slavery.

                    7. NOVA Lawyer:

                      Even assuming a majority of Southerners believed slavery was morally permissible, this geographically local willingness to be blind to morality that was blindingly obvious to most of the rest of the world at the time defeats any claim of presentism. Judging Southerners by their time, they were supporting an obviously immoral practice.

                      The southern Presbyterian church split off from the northern church over this issue. Very highly regarded theologians, such as James Henley Thornwell and Robert Lewis Dabney wrote sincere defenses of slavery, though Dabney denounced certain aspects of it. These people were secure in their beliefs and it was not, as you suggest, a case of them closing their eyes to what they knew in their hearts was immoral.

                      You, perhaps, want to propose some sort of “here-ism” whereby it is somehow wrong to judge the morality of the actions of people in a different geographic location, even when their morality consists of owning people

                      You insist on judging these people by today’s standards, which makes them monsters for sure. How far back do you take that? Does it apply to Washington, Jefferson and Madison? Slavery was common in ancient Rome. Were all the Romans monsters for either owning slaves or approving of a slave system? If not, why not?

                      So, please, ordinary Southerners were very much invested in the system of race-based slavery and, so, also morally culpable for participating in the war on the side of slavery.

                      But the institution of slavery was much safer inside the union that outside of it. The South was offered ironclad constitutional amendments protecting slavery and turned them down. There was no threat of freeing all the slaves at the beginning of the Civil War. The average Southern soldier did not enlist to defend slavery but in response to Northern invasion. But yes, you could say that since their actions aimed to perpetuate a system of slavery that they are monsters, perhaps even of the magnitude of Washington, Jefferson and Julius Casear.

                    8. Swood,

                      These people were secure in their beliefs and it was not, as you suggest, a case of them closing their eyes to what they knew in their hearts was immoral.

                      Plenty of Nazis were secure in their beliefs. They were wrong. The Confederates, including the southern Presbyterians, were wrong. If we cannot judge people who sincerely believe they were right, why do you (presumably) judge the 9/11 terrorists? Don’t make such stupid points.

                      You insist on judging these people by today’s standards,

                      Which is your misleading response to my comment on geography. Above, you raised geographic differences in moral opinion, now you pretend it is all about time.

                      You’ve just admitted that plenty of people, perhaps even a majority of people alive at the time (at least in the United States), believed that slavery was immoral. I don’t have to time travel. You do. Judged by the standard of their time, they were highly immoral to support what was known at the time, by most people in the United States, as an evil practice.

                      (As to your other examples, Washington led a revolution to be free of a tyrannical hereditary monarch whose country also permitted slavery. The U.S. didn’t revolt from Britain to preserve slavery, it was for other reasons (with which you may or may not agree). Likewise, Rome. If you have an example of a fight between an ancient society that was fighting for the abolition of slavery against a country (or rebellion within its own country) based on the desire to preserve slavery, I will happily make a moral judgment.

                      If you just want me to condemn everyone, everywhere who has done something wrong, you are looking for a straw man. Build your own and attack it in silence.)

                      But the institution of slavery was much safer inside the union that outside of it.

                      Which is why South Carolina seceded. /sarc

                      After a preamble providing their legal reasons why the Constitution and general principles of self-government permitted states to leave the Union whenever they chose, South Carolina stated, as their first and primary reason:

                      In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof. [Those are statutes against returning fugitive slaves. – NoVA Lawyer]

                      The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping 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 service or labor may be due.”

                      This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.

                      Etc., etc., South Carolina really wanted to keep being a slave state, so they left the Union.

                      The Declarations of Mississippi, Texas, etc., are equally or even more focused on slavery as the precipitating issue. They saw it under threat if they remained in the Union, so the argued they had the right to leave the Union.

                      It is simply a lie to state that the seceding states believed slavery would be better protected in the Union than out of it. You are better than to peddle such obviously fallacious arguments.

                      The Confederacy was formed as an explicitly white supremacist nation for the purpose of maintaining race-based chattel slavery in perpetuity. The leaders and soldiers were fighting to preserve slavery. Slavery was known by most people then living in the United States to be a moral evil. The leaders and soldiers were committing moral evil judged by the morality of their own time as well as ours.

                    9. NOVA Lawyer:

                      As to your other examples, Washington led a revolution to be free of a tyrannical hereditary monarch whose country also permitted slavery. The U.S. didn’t revolt from Britain to preserve slavery, it was for other reasons (with which you may or may not agree).

                      Did you refrain from referring to Washington as a moral leper or was that my imagination? What was the moral status of Washington and Jefferson?

                      Above, you raised geographic differences in moral opinion, now you pretend it is all about time.

                      I did that because you seemed to think that the morality of slavery was a matter of majority vote, such that slave owners were only immoral if a majority of the people believed that they were. To this my response was that a majority in the South believed it was moral.

                      In the present case, that fact is established with certainty. We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.

                      I provided convincing evidence that Alexander Stephens, at least, believed that slavery was more secure in the Union than out of it, and that the South could have negotiated an acceptable solution to the slavery grievances but that wasn’t what the Southern leaders wanted. They wanted their own country. No doubt part of this was because they saw their own inexorable loss of power as new states were added.

                      It is simply a lie to state that the seceding states believed slavery would be better protected in the Union than out of it. You are better than to peddle such obviously fallacious arguments.

                      They didn’t all think that. Alexander Stephens said in the summer of 1860, “I consider slavery much more secure in the Union than out of it, if our people were but wise.” Not everybody was wise. But the plain facts show that slavery was more secure in the Union, and I gave some reasons elsewhere on this page.

                    10. Swood,

                      What was the moral status of Washington and Jefferson?

                      They are not primarily known for fighting a war to preserve slavery. What they are primarily known for are things that were generally morally good (on balance I think the United States has been an agent for liberty and the spread of democracy, which is the vision they had, though realized imperfectly, to put it mildly). So I am comfortable honoring them for the good they did. I have no firm opinion on their overall “moral status” whatever you mean by that.

                      Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Jeb Stuart, etc., are all primarily known for fighting on the wrong side in a war about slavery. No amount of military brilliance or personal honor (assuming arguendo they had it, which is belied in several of these cases by actual facts) would justify honoring them. They were traitors to their country, their treason was in service of a project to preserve slavery, and, largely in consequence of these facts, their primary contribution to the world was evil.

                      The world is complicated, but this isn’t, really. The Confederacy was started to preserve slavery, they started a war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives for the purpose of keeping millions enslaved, and their cause was a pointless one as they lost, so all the sacrifice was for less than nothing. (They had an ignoble purpose and pursued it incompetently and unsuccessfully.) They are examples of the type of person you should try not to be.

                      I did that because you seemed to think that the morality of slavery was a matter of majority vote, such that slave owners were only immoral if a majority of the people believed that they were.

                      No you didn’t. You were the one who raised the issue of a majority of southerners supposedly believing slavery was morally permissible. Don’t lie about how this came up. I never stated or suggested that slave owners were only immoral if a majority of the people believed they were. That’s what you said. I said, even if that is the right question when evaluating whether we are engaging in presentism, a majority of people in the U.S. and Europe believed it wrong at that time so even according to your standard moral condemnation of the CSA is not presentism.

                      To this my response was that a majority in the South believed it was moral.

                      No, that was your initial point to which I responded accepting your premise for purposes of argument. However, the factual basis of that contention is very much in dispute. In Mississippi, in particular, I am quite certain the majority did not believe it was moral. The margin might be questionable in other states, but I think it more likely a majority felt it immoral, actually. But, you probably are not counting slaves as people….how revealing.

                      I provided convincing evidence that Alexander Stephens, at least, believed that slavery was more secure in the Union than out of it,

                      He was against secession. His view lost. The declarations of secession of the various states make clear that those seceding thought doing so was necessary to ensure their continued right to own other humans in the future.

                      But the plain facts show that slavery was more secure in the Union

                      The fact that slavery would have survived longer had the Southern states not started a war to try to preserve it is an irony, but it doesn’t change the fact that they seceded precisely because they thought their way was the best way to preserve the “right” to own other humans. Stop pretending otherwise. Read the declarations of secession. The people who won the argument about whether to secede (i.e., not Stephens) based their secession on the threat Lincoln’s election and remaining in the Union would pose to their continued “right” to own other people.

                    11. NOVA Lawyer:

                      I have no firm opinion on their overall “moral status” whatever you mean by that.

                      I think that the term “moral leper” fits your description of those who fought on the side that would preserve slavery. And it appears to apply also to those who are motivated only by the desire to defend their homeland against invasion. (Is this correct?) But you’re not sure this applies to Washington? He clearly prevented his slaves from running away and when they did he retrieved them. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

                      He opposed the use of the lash in principle, but saw the practice as a necessary evil and sanctioned its occasional use, generally as a last resort, on both male and female slaves if they did not, in his words, “do their duty by fair means”.

                      Washington could have freed his slaves during his lifetime but chose not to. He therefore resisted all those who would have deprived him of his slaves. But you say that he is morally superior to a southerner who is not fighting for slavery but against invaders. Could you flesh that out a little?

                      They were traitors to their country, their treason was in service of a project to preserve slavery, and, largely in consequence of these facts, their primary contribution to the world was evil.

                      Washington fought against England in service of a project to protect slavery, treasonous to England at the time, which was on the road to outlawing slavery. Does that put him in a similar position?

                      No you didn’t. You were the one who raised the issue of a majority of southerners supposedly believing slavery was morally permissible. Don’t lie about how this came up. I never stated or suggested that slave owners were only immoral if a majority of the people believed they were.

                      Is it really necessary to descend to name-calling? Look, you started off by arguing that

                      If presentism is coherent at all (which I dispute) it can only be for those things that the overwhelming majority of people agreed were morally permissible in the present, but which only came to be understood as morally impermissible later. Slavery in 1860 did not have this feature.

                      Thus you raised the issue of “overwhelming majority,” and then tried to attribute it to me. You drew a distinction based on what the overwhelming majority of people thought was and was not moral and claimed that the overwhelming majority of people in 1860 thought that slavery was not moral. And the majority of what people? Clearly this assumes a group of people living contiguously and sharing a common outlook and morality. This can refer to nothing other than geography. Then when I asserted just this thing you responded by denying that what the overwhelming majority of people thought is relevant to moralilty if their morality consists of owning people. But you knew this is what we were talking about so why do you turn right around and contradict your “coherent at all” statement, and then call me a liar for saying that you had suggested that what an overwhelming majority of people think could be relevant to the question of morality. You said you disputed that “presentism” is coherent but that if it is, it has to do with what an overwhelming majority of people believe.

                      The people who won the argument about whether to secede (i.e., not Stephens) based their secession on the threat Lincoln’s election and remaining in the Union would pose to their continued “right” to own other people.

                      And Stephens said that this was not their true motivation. You didn’t respond to my points about why objectively secession was harmful for the institution of slavery.

                    12. Swood,

                      And Stephens said that this was not their true motivation. You didn’t respond to my points about why objectively secession was harmful for the institution of slavery.

                      In addition to confusing me with NToJ, and thereby completely muddling who said what about majorities and morality, you have misread Stephens letter that you rely on as evidence of the “true motivation” of the secessions of the Southern states.

                      Stephens himself though that slavery was more secure in the Union at least in the summer of 1860. He may have been right. But he lost the argument. He wasn’t complaining that his fellows had a different “true motivation” than preserving slavery. He was complaining that he was losing the argument on secession, that his fellows were determined to leave, and both his and those leaders’ statements establish that they (even if “unwise”) thought secession was necessary to preserve slavery. And Stephens was fully on board with a government explicitly formed on the basis of white supremacy and with a purpose to preserve and ensure the slavery of people of African descent.

                      His sentiments in March 1961 (post-dating his summer 1960 private letter upon which you rely):

                      Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone 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.

                      And he became VP of that white supremacist, pro-slavery government. He lost the argument as to whether slavery was better preserved in the Union or out of it, but he fully understood that the point of secession and the formation of the CSA was based primarily on (the cornerstone) “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.” And, yet, you argue that the CSA wasn’t about slavery. And you try to use Stephens as your evidence of that. LOL.

                  2. Swood,

                    But you say that [Washington] is morally superior to a southerner who is not fighting for slavery but against invaders.

                    I never said that. You are trying to change the subject and discuss whether historical figures are morally upright or not.

                    The issue is: Should people who organized, led, and/or fought for the Confederacy worthy of honor and veneration because they organized, led, and/or fought for the Confederacy?

                    The answer is no.

                    Whether Washington was a good person or not is irrelevant. Should we read and honor Shakespeare despite his use antisemitic tropes? Or Joseph Conrad despite his racism? Or listen to Richard Wagner symphonies despite his antisemitism? Argue away, there are decent arguments on either side. But should we honor Shakespeare because he used antisemetic tropes? Definitely not. Honor Conrad because he was a racist? Definitely not. Honor Wagner because he was an antisemite (as the Nazis did)? Definitely not.

                    So, if anyone wants to erect a monument of Washington to honor the fact that he was an unrepetenant and dedicated slave owner, I would oppose it. That apparently is what you want to hear, unless you truly are trying to change the subject to whether we should listen to Richard Wagner’s symphonies. On the one hand, works of art stand or fall on their own merit. On the other, can a work of art escape the prejudices and moral failings of its creator? Argue away. I see arguments on both sides.

                    Washington fought against England in service of a project to protect slavery, treasonous to England at the time, which was on the road to outlawing slavery. Does that put him in a similar position?

                    I already answered this. That England was “on the road to outlawing slavery” does not put Washington in a similar position. I don’t know of any credible historical analysis that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery (rather than to escape a tyrannical hereditary monarchy and establish a democratic form of government that was, though not a perfect union, a more perfect union than hereditary monarchies). If you know of such analysis, say so. Otherwise, you are just trying to change the subject.

                    Is it really necessary to descend to name-calling?

                    There was no name in that quote. Moreover, saying I was the first of us to raise “majority rule moralism” is, in fact, a lie.

                    Thus you raised the issue of “overwhelming majority,” and then tried to attribute it to me.

                    Okay, I guess not a lie, because you are simply confused. NToJ stated what you said I did. Apologies will be accepted for your mistake. You and NToJ and ML were having a back and forth about presentism and whether condemnation of the confederacy involved presentism (a conversation in which you entered the conversation asserting, incorrectly, that slavery had overwhelming majority support). The first thing I said was:

                    I don’t think presentism works the way you think it does. As you point out, in 1860 in most of Europe, slavery was overwhelmingly viewed as immoral and Americans knew what Europe thought. In the North, a majority (and perhaps your “overwhelming” majority) understood slavery was immoral. In the South, in 1860, a substantial part of the population understood that slavery was immoral. Even assuming a majority of Southerners believed slavery was morally permissible, this geographically local willingness to be blind to morality that was blindingly obvious to most of the rest of the world at the time defeats any claim of presentism. Judging Southerners by their time, they were supporting an obviously immoral practice.

                    This isn’t me saying majority rules on issue of morality. At all. This is me disputing your assertion that “the overwhelming majority of people in the South thought that slavery was morally permissible.” Which, again, is importing a very narrow geographic aspect into the concept of “presentism” and, moreover, is wrong as a matter of fact. Again, no surveys were conducted, but you have a lot of work to do to show that most people in Mississippi (much less an overwhelming majority) felt that slavery was morally just.

                    Again, apologies for your error (on both misattributing ideas to me and the “overwhelming majority of people in the South” bit). Thanks in advance.

                    1. *Again, apologies for your error…will be accepted. Thanks in advance.

                    2. My apologies for appending my response to the wrong comment sub stream.

          3. LTG, I hesitate to malign a broad swath of American society.

            Just respond to the conduct—erecting monuments to treason in the service of slaveholding—and let the width of the swath take care of itself.

            1. lathrop, you might try applying some reading skills. I will help.

              The most important point: If a community wishes to take down statues after considered debate and discussion, then sign me up. I’m fine with that. Tearing down of statues by an angry mob? NFW

              Second most important point: There are a variety of motivations at play in the erection of statues a century ago. Were some motivations malign? Hell yes. There were racists running around a century ago. Were some motivations benign (example listed above)? Also yes. Can we perfectly parse them out? Nope. That is why we have considered discussion and debate before we go tearing down statues. This should be common sense. Where is yours?

              What is happening now is mobocracy, and it is wrong. It is equally wrong to assume ‘malign intent’ for a large swath of American society. Nothing good comes from that. Nothing.

              1. Agreed. A mayor or a city council alone should not have the power to remove historically significant monuments that have stood for more than a century. Moreover, any mayor or council or governor who allows the destruction of such monuments by a marxist-fascist mob must be held to account for his inaction.

      2. Instead they took down the statue of the Roosevelt who didn’t set up concentration camps for ethnic minorities.

        1. You probably didn’t look at the statue they took down.

          1. Depictions of history offend modern aesthetic sensibilities.

            1. It’s historical that TR nobly led savage looking natives and black Americans around?

  7. Well, considering that Obama was an America-hating, traitor … I agree.

    1. Did he hate America or did he hate some narrow idea of America that you have in your mind?

      1. He hated anything white people built and was admittedly smart enough to know the slaves didnt build America.

        1. You might want to visit Charleston S.C. where many if not all the building in the historic district were build by slaves. Most of the bricks were made by slaves. How much of the economy of the antebellum south was built on the work of people that were not paid for their labor. Slaves did not build America alone, but they had significant contributions.

      2. Considering his commie daddy, we know why he hated America — but he DID have some nasty stuff to say about his own grandmother

        1. So although he likes American sports, American movies and TV, American musicians, American literature, is a practicing member of the dominant faith in America, went to American universities to learn about American law and then taught about American law at an American university, wrote a book on his vision for America, ran for and won American offices, married and stayed with an American wife, raised his kids in America, and he counts Americans among his role models and heroes he still hates America because his dad was a communist?

          1. Do you think that if as he proposed to Michelle, he stated he wanted to “fundamentally change her,” she would have taken that as a declaration of love?

            1. And other Presidents don’t want to be transformative?

              1. You didn’t answer the question — telling

                FUNDEMENTALLY transform

                1. Yes, of course. If she was an alcoholic, for instance, and he committed to helping her beat that disease, with his time, sweat, tears, etc., I think it’s possible she would have found that commitment moving.

            2. No, such would be a threat of unimaginable disrespect and hostile intention, DWB, as you correctly imply.

              1. So if I run for mayor on a platform to fundamentally change my city by reducing crime and building up the downtown I have hostile intentions?

                1. Uh huh … thanks for playing — that is NOT a fundamental change, like say — replacing the entire police force with social workers or allowing thugs to take over several blacks of downtown. You know, the fascist crap the wannabe revolutionaries running around our country tonight dream for.

                  1. Oh lord. I don’t think I have the space to explain how replacing cops with social workers is pretty much the opposite of fascist ideology. But in exactly zero of any serious historical or philosophical examinations of the ideology is replacing force with a non-violent approach a component of it.

                    And also: why would that be bad? Cops get called for mental health and drug crises that social workers are better equipped to handle anyway. Your scary fundamental transformation is an idea to make something more caring and less violent. It’s almost like you think America needs to have brute force as a fundamental aspect.

                    1. In case you haven’t seen the view on the ground, there would STILL be enforcement … and it is BRUTAL.

                      Government has ONE tool — FORCE — it can do nothing else. You fool yourself if you think anything otherwise.

                    2. And you think America needs to always be brutal to be America? Like if it becomes less violent it’s not the country you love anymore?

                    3. The MORE power you give the government to become what you envision, the MORE brutal it will get — if you cannot understand this fundamental human truth, I don’t know what to tell you.

                      For some, George Orwell wrote how-to manuals.

                    4. Yeah. But you were just dismissing the notion of taking away the power of violence from government actors in favor of a non-violent approach to social problems as a bad thing. You think it’s brutal for a social worker to talk someone through a mental health crisis instead of an officer who lacks that training and has a gun? You’re saying more government is brutal…but you object to removing the brutal tool of violence from various situations? You’re in two minds here.

                    5. And you seem to be unable to wrap your head around the fact that ALL law is backed by force … from selling loosies, to tail-light infractions to passing fake $20 bills. Not capital crimes and yet …

                      EMT’s don’t want to go to certain scenes without police backup — you think social workers getting into intimate personal relationships of broken and damaged people are going to be welcomed with open arms?

                      You ideals cannot survive the real world.

                      I want a POWERFUL government to do a FEW, very specific things — and nothing more.

  8. I once went to a bar in rural indiana which had a sign with a giant Confederate flag with the words “Heritage Not Hate”

    I don’t think it was meant as spiteful to black people, and I’m sure the people who put up that sign honestly believed in that statement. But … it was certainly weird, especially because we were in Indiana, not the south.

    1. I have seen more confederate flags in my wife’s Indiana that I do down here in South Carolina — and yeah, I suspect most of them ain’t about “heritage” in Indiana.

    2. So kind of like when Obama pretended that he belonged to the struggle of American blacks when not one of his ancestors was a slave.

      1. When did he do that?

    3. Yes, some embrace that flag (which was not even the official flag of the Confederacy) out of ignorance instead of malice.

  9. Jonathan Adler, the author of this article is a lawyer. That means he is a professional liar.

    Preserving slavery was certainly a strong motivation for that small percentage of the population whose fortunes depended on slavery. There was absolutely no incentive for the working men and farmers, who had to compete with slave labor, to fight to preserve slavery.

    Nationalism was a weak force in the United States. If you asked a man what country he was from, he was more likely to respond with the name of his state or even the area of the state he was from.

    Adler is engaging in the same revisionist crap that the left has engaged in before you were born and before your parents were born.

    “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Abraham Lincoln in his 1st Inaugural Address

    “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former.” Robert E. Lee (1856)

    1. If you asked a man what country he was from, he was more likely to respond with the name of his state

      This was certainly true for Lee. His “country” was Virginia, which is why he decided to fight for the Confederacy. He graduated 2nd in his class from West Point and by all reports I’ve seen served an honorable and brilliant military career.

      I understand the author’s point, but I think it would be a shame for the state of Virginia to be looked down upon for recognizing the admirable qualities of someone like Lee. He served the wrong cause, but he served for his “country”, right or wrong.

      1. Perhaps Prof. Adler has the moral clarity to see that a man who betrays his oath of office so that he could try to kill American soldiers in order to keep millions of people in bondage isn’t especially “admirable”?

        1. Noscitur a sociis’ use of the term “moral clarity” rings as hollow as any pedophile’s use of the term.

          This is, of course, the same problem that the Volokh Conspiracy had when it was hosted at the Washington Post. We have the same authors spewing their thinly veiled left-wing crap and we have the same degenerates, drug addicts, and clinically insane cheering them on.

          Note to Professor Volokh. I did not say that Noscitur a sociis is a pedophile in my reply. Neither did I say he was a cocksucker. It would not surprise me in the least to discover that he is but I just want to be clear on that before you get out your bucket of whitewash and brush.

          1. Disliking slavery and treason makes you a degenerate, left-wing, drug-addicted, cocksucking pedophile.

            Arthur Kirkland couldn’t make this up.

            1. Readers should take note that Noscitur a sociis did not deny that he is a degenerate, left-wing, drug-addicted, cocksucking pedophile.

              Make no mistake, I’m not saying that Noscitur a sociis is a degenerate, left-wing, drug-addicted, cocksucking pedophile, although he certainly comes across as one.

              I’m just saying that, given the opportunity, Noscitur a sociis did not deny that he is a degenerate, left-wing, drug-addicted, cocksucking pedophile.

              Readers should come to their own conclusions.

              1. Out of curiosity, how large would estimate the faction of Americans is that shares your views re: the Confederacy, that the Volokh Conspiracy is left wing, etc., and what would you call that faction?

    2. It does seem like Lee had the moral insight to recognize that slavery was an evil institution. Because he nevertheless kept slaves himself—at one point personally directing the torture of a family that was recaptured—and then betrayed his country so that he could fight against the possibility that slavery might be abolished in the distant future, I’m not sure how that exonerates him.

      It certainly should disqualify him from a statue in the nation he worked his hardest to destroy.

      1. I’m also not sure how the Lincoln quote absolves them. It obviously establishes the fact that Lincoln and the Union didn’t have “pure” intentions regarding slavery at the beginning of the war. Which means that the South seceded because they might get stronger Presidential pushback to the expansion of slavery. Not even close to abolition. The confederacy was so concerned with the maintenance of a slavery system that required territorial expansion and Northern participation that it bolted as soon as those things might get some slight pushback.

      2. Lee had the moral insight to recognize that slavery was an evil institution.

        Bizarrely claiming it was more harmful to whites than blacks.

        Stunning that there are those who think Lee is worth honoring.

        1. Lincoln thought the same thing, and where Lee advocated racial reconciliation, Lincoln wanted to ship all blacks back to Africa.

          Stunning that there are those who think Lincoln is worth honoring.

          1. Stunning that this stupid argument has everything to do with current political attitudes, and nothing at all to do with history or who is more worth honoring – whatever that means.

            1. I agree with you. These arguments are actually about current politics:

              Empire, nationalism, and centralized government control

              VS.

              Self-government, local autonomy, and decentralized government

              History is a window into the future.

              1. And this particular history also shows that local autonomy and decentralized government are no guarantors of individual rights and liberties. I’m not really sure what you mean by self-government.

                1. “this particular history also shows that local autonomy and decentralized government are no guarantors of individual rights and liberties.”

                  Absolutely right. And neither is a powerful imperialistic centralized government. The latter is more dangerous.

    3. If you’re from the South (and I am) and you’re argumentative (guilty), then you probably do the Slavery Had Nothing To Do With Secession debate a dozen times over a normal lifespan. So you get very familiar with Charles Nichols – CRTC’s bag of tricks. Some points :

      (1) Agreed; abolishing slavery wasn’t a war aim of the North until late in the conflict. But preserving slavery was the cause of secession – particularly preserving slavery by ensuring its expansion into new territories.

      (2) Read the speeches of emissaries sent from the first states who seceded to Southern states then wavering. What justification did they give for leaving the Union? How did they try and convince their Southern brethren to join them? Over and over, their justification – their own words – was the importance of slavery & the threat to slavery.

      (3) So Robert E Lee said some Hallmark card sentiments about slavery. So what? It was a common affectation for your cultured Southern gentleman to sigh loudly how distasteful the Peculiar Institution was – then fight tooth&nail over any attempt to limit it. You can fill whole pages with Jefferson pieties on the evil of slavery, but that didn’t prevent him from fuming with rage over the Missouri Compromise.

      (4) Yes, preserving slavery was a big deal for that percentage of Southerns who owned human beings. But they happened to the politicians, businessmen, and prominent public leaders who campaigned for secession decades before Lincoln’s election.

      (5) There was absolutely no incentive for working men and farmers to support the South’s social order? Perhaps – but you then have to wonder over the “incentive” for working men and farmers to lynch blacks in the century after the Civil War. Somehow I think your analysis on “incentives” is a bit simplistic.

      1. Dude just sell your slaves. This is pure projection. SELL YOUR SLAVES.

      2. grb –

        Good and reasonable points. I can tell you’ve thought about this. Of course all of this could fill many books. But a few comments:

        Not all states mentioned slavery. Four seceded in response for Lincoln’s call to raise an army against the South.

        Three times Lincoln offered to keep and protect slavery if the South would remain in the Union. The South was not interested.

        The Confederacy hatched a desperate last-ditch plan where they would pledge to abolish slavery in return for the support of Britain and France. France was receptive, Britain was not, and that was the final nail in the coffin.

        1. ML : My second point above is based on a book called Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War, by Charles Drew. The states who first opted for secession then sought to convince the remaining southern states to join them. They appointed Secession Commissioners to travel to the wavering states, where they made multiple speeches in public and before the legislature selling the idea of joining the Confederacy. The two reoccurring themes of these speeches were Southern honor and slavery, to the extent you wonder just how much they were intertwined.

          Of course this was meant as a sales job, so the repeated focus on slavery didn’t just represent the priorities of the sellers – mostly deep South cotton states with dense slave populations – but also what they thought would convince states from the upper South. It’s one of the purest indications of secession mindset you’ll find.

          https://tinyurl.com/ydykwk82

          1. The politicians making these speeches certainly did whip up fear and hatred toward opponents, as politicians do. Abolitionists like John Brown were engaging in terrorism, killing civilians and inciting rebellions. This is what Southerners feared. With slaves outnumbering whites, they might have rebelled and killed them all. This is just a part of what was going on, and it’s all ugly. Lincoln of course was adamant that the North would not interfere with slavery in the southern states at all. But I think the South knew that slavery’s days were numbered, they just did not want to be ruled over by the North for many reasons including the issues of who, what, and when would anything be done about slavery.

    4. The historical definition of “nation” is people of a common culture. America is not and never has been a nation under that definition. A State, or country, is a sovereignty. The “United States” was a nation of sovereign countries, organized together for mutual trade and common defense. That this has been lost especially since WWII, is at the root of many problems today.

      1. The historical definition of “nation” is people of a common culture.

        It really isn’t. What you’re thinking of is the (late) 19th century invention of nationalism. Which is, I guess, technically “historical” but not when compared to the civil war.

        1. It really is. I mean, let’s just take Wikipedia for starters. “A nation is a stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. “

          1. Yes, that’s today’s definition.

    5. “There was absolutely no incentive for the working men and farmers, who had to compete with slave labor, to fight to preserve slavery.”

      Of course there was. Even though only about 1/3rd of white southern families owned slaves, many aspired to one day having the money to do so as a sign of wealth. The institution of slavery cannot survive with tacit support from non-slave owners, as witnessed everywhere that abolished it without a civil war. Culturally you have to convince a lot of people of the supremacy of whites and the inherent inferiority of blacks, to make living next to a slave owner morally tolerable. The sin of southern non-slave owners was not only going to fight for the south. It was their moral cowardice in not revolting against the institution of slavery sooner. They don’t deserve to be called useful idiots.

      1. “98 percent of Texas Confederate soldiers never owned a slave and never fought to defend slavery” https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/76R/billtext/html/SR00526F.htm

        It’s true this isn’t representative of household slave ownership throughout the South. But either way, the South knew, and Alexander Stephens stated, that slavery would be “much more secure in the Union than out of it.” It’s not slavery that motivated them primarily, but that they were “tired of the gov[ernme]nt. They have played out, dried up, and want something new.”

        1. Well, if the Texas legislature claims to know exactly what the soldiers thought, then it must be right.

          The same resolution says,

          It is important for all Texans to reflect upon our
          state’s past and to respect the devotion of her Confederate leaders, soldiers, and citizens to the cause of Southern liberty;

          They fought for “liberty,” did they?

          Fucking joke.

          1. “They fought for “liberty,” did they?”

            Well, to the extent that the founders also did, yes.

        2. It’s misleading at best and a lie at worst. In Texas, approximately 28% of white households owned slaves pre-Civil War. You can only get to the “98 percent” if you treat 18-year old recruits (living at home, with their parents and their family slaves) as people who “never owned a slave”. (I hope I shouldn’t have to explain why the second part of the sentence isn’t even an attempt at honesty.)

          I have a letter, in my office right now, of a confederate private writing home in 1861. The letter references the slaves. Were they his? Strictly speaking no, he was 19 at the time. They weren’t his mom’s, either. Does that mean neither had any connection to slavery?

          “But either way, the South knew, and Alexander Stephens stated, that slavery would be “much more secure in the Union than out of it.””

          So now that you’ve expanded to what “the South knew” as opposed to what 18-year old recruits knew, just go to the tape. 70% of the delegates at the Texas secession convention owned slaves. They wrote about the importance of seceding to preserve slavery. Are you saying they lied? That they “knew” slavery was safer in the Union? But lied to their countrymen anyway? Because now the statues are damned either way.

          1. The politicians and wealthy ruling elites of that day were very concerned with their own self-interest, yes.

            Just like ours today profit from war in the Middle East. I’m not going to put that on the Marines who I know for a fact died bravely for other reasons.

            1. “The politicians and wealthy ruling elites of that day were very concerned with their own self-interest, yes.”

              Well why are those pieces of shit the ones with statues? Did Georgia send a doe-eyed rank-and-file private to Statuary Hall? Or did they send Alexander fucking Stephens?

              Set that aside, the Confederate soldiers weren’t American soldiers. I’m all for having American marines honored. I’m not for having the Iraqi revolutionaries they fought honored in America. And I don’t think there’s a movement to put statues of Donald Rumsfeld up anywhere besides maybe his high school. Do you?

              1. I didn’t know you were such a rabid nationalist. Yikes.

                Actually, yes, many of the “Confederate monuments” are dedicated not to any particular Confederate leaders, but to the generic soldier who fought and died in defense of their homeland. Some of these serve as headstones for the many who never came back.

                This is the problem with the attacks on all things “Confederate” – there’s not a hint of historical understanding or nuance, just blind political propaganda that has everything to do with what is going on TODAY, not what happened back then. It is the Two Minutes Hate from Orwell.

                1. “It is the Two Minutes Hate from Orwell.”

                  That’s cheeky. In this analogy, the states put up statutes of confederate heroes to message who runs the show (eat that, blacks), and individuals later rebelling against the states’ decision to put up confederate monuments, is Orwellian. I think you should re-read the book. “The Party” in this analogy are the people who put the statues up, not the ones trying to take them down.

                  1. You’re right, I should. I still think the analogy works at the level of creating largely fictional existential enemies and ritualized hate for current political propaganda purposes.

      2. You have made some very good points. It is likely that the slave holders were using those too poor to own slave to their advantage. Telling them they protected slavery so that it would be there for you or you sons, all the while knowing poor whites would never be able to make enough to own slaves. In the end, the poor white southerners would fight an die to protect something they would never have. Fighting to keep people they had more in common with, in slavery.

  10. This is the most historically ignorant and asinine statement I have read in awhile. It neither reflects the complex dynamics of the Civil War nor its mostly agreed upon resolution after hostilities ended.

    1. It’s actually in line with the views of historians. And before you dismiss them as left-wing ideologues, you have to at least understand that they have spent far more time studying this era than you have and have more knowledge of it than you could ever hope to, unless you want to spend the next decade in the library and the archives.

      1. Because contemporary political consensus and academic appeal to authority is what history, culture, and law are ever about in the moment?

        1. Well law certainly is based on appeals to authority. It’s inescapable in the discipline.

          As for historians, it’s not so much an appeal to authority, as it is an appeal to methodology. The consensus exists because historians have thoroughly gone through the evidence from the era and have found the Lost Cause mythology incredibly weak in comparison.

          1. Historians are subject to fashion, as is the law to a strong extent. And, more often or not, they are as rigorous in their discoveries and narratives as their audience or agenda demands or rejects.

            In any historical context, methodology of discovery becomes a situational, academic and variable means, and often to a prescribed end.

      2. One doesn’t need to waste a decade in a library to have a general understanding of history.

        1. Translation: your expertise is just as good as my ignorance.

        2. I agree. In this case, one only needs about 15 minutes to read exactly what the leaders of the Confederacy had to say about why they wanted to rebel against the United States.

          Fittingly, it rhymes with “imagery”.

          1. No, it rhymes with “knavery”.

          2. Of course. But, I think it’s also important to note that historians doing years of research on the era haven’t discovered anything that would seriously undercut what the Confederate leaders themselves stated.

            1. And this continues to be a great example of why just because someone spent a decade in a library doesn’t mean that will cure ignorance. All it gives them is a talking point “hey I spent a DECADE reading about this stuff…so my viewpoint must be better than yours…”

              1. Well. It is lol. If I spend a decade reading primary sources and the historians who have written about the period… my view point will be more informed than someone who didn’t.

                1. Not really. You have just created that belief via confirmation bias and living in an echo chamber. Congrats on wasting your life though.

                  1. Unfortunately I am not historian. But again, I’m glad you think your ignorance is just as good as someone else’s expertise. It fills another space in my Jimmy the Dane negative character trait bingo card.

  11. Perhaps the esteemed writer can quote one of the Framers on the subject of secession in which the Framer says secession was not a valid doctrine.

    Perhaps he can quote Jefferson, who did believe that secession was a valid doctrine.

    Perhaps he can quote one of the New England Federalists who thought secession was a valid doctrine and who were largely kept from attending the Hartford Convention because they did want to secede. Perhaps he can quote from that time Mr. Madison in which Mr. Madison says secession is not a valid doctrine. .

    Perhaps Mr. Adler doesn’t know WTF he is talking about. Millions of Americans in the nineteenth century believed in the right of secession. The Confederacy was the result of an attempt to leave the United States. It was not an act of traitors. They believed they were within their rights.

    Why they left does not negate the validity of their actions. And it was not the Confederates who brought on the war. It was the man in the White House.

    1. Even if it was legally valid…they were still doing it to preserve and expand the institution of slavery.

    2. Keith Waters : “The Confederacy was the result of an attempt to leave the United States. It was not an act of traitors. They believed they were within their rights …. And it was not the Confederates who brought on the war. It was the man in the White House”

      Really? Then why did the South exercise that “right” with military force long before Lincoln’s inauguration? Months before he took office, the Southern states had already seized federal property at the point of a gun. They fired on a United States ship with Buchanan still in the White House. You don’t get the impression they saw this so-called “right of secession” as anything more than rebellion tarted-up. Obviously there was no mechanism for “secession” in the Constitution, but the South might have at least tried to create one. But of course they didn’t. It was rebellion from day-one, whatever euphemisms they used.

      Also, you might want to dust off a history book. The South started the war by firing on Fort Sumter. If you have any doubt on that score, try hunting up a Lost Cause forum. You can watch people stumble all over themselves trying to prove Lincoln “tricked” Davis into beginning the war. Cheap entertainment, that.

  12. Adler, you fail to distinguish between secession and treason. A secessionist just wants to be left alone, a traitor wants his current government to fail; those goals are not the same. Thomas Jefferson was a secessionist; the Rosenbergs were traitors.

    1. Want to be left alone= upset they might have light Presidential pushback to their attempts to
      force everyone else to accept and facilitate their system of forced labor.

    2. The salient distinction between traitor and secessionist is who won. But set that aside, the problem was not that the south merely wanted to be left alone, but that they started a war with the north. They wanted a fight. Sometimes you get what you ask for.

      1. I think it’s more accurate to say the North started a war with the South.

        Either way may be an oversimplification.

        1. M L : I think it’s more accurate to say the North started a war with the South.

          Please explain your reasoning. Supposedly the South thought they had a constitutional right to secede. Did they try and pursue any sort of constitutional process? Did they negotiate constitutional procedures to effect separation? Not in the least. They declared themselves independent without any input or negotiation with the country they were leaving, seized federal property by force, then fired on a ship approaching Fort Sumter.

          All this was still during Buchanan’s presidency. Any one of those actions seems a pretty clear act of rebellion and war. And the North in the form of the Buchanan administration was famously doing nothing at the time. (there’s a reason why Trump is safe from being considered the worst U.S. president of all time).

          So two points :

          (1) For all their talk of a “constitutional right” to secede, the South wasn’t interested a moment in constitutional means. They chose military force right from the start.

          (2) You have to ignore a lot of history to claim the North started the war. A huge heap’n pile full of history…….

          1. The South sent delegates to peacefully discuss and negotiate terms of secession, including the disposition of federal property. Lincoln refused to receive them. There were plenty in the North who favored considering peaceful separation, of course. Lincoln, though, was dead set on preserving the empire and did not care how much blood had to be shed to do so. He very intentionally plotted to provoke the South into firing the “first shot.”

            1. Yes, the South did offer negotiations, but only after the actions I list above. They did not offer to discuss the process of separation until after secession was a loudly proclaimed fact. They did not offer negotiations on federal property until after they’d seized it at gunpoint.

              As for Lincoln tricking Davis into firing on Sumter, Southern guns fired on a United States ship approaching the fort before Lincoln even took office. And Sumter itself was a toothless threat, as proved by the ease which it was forced to surrender. Southern officials weren’t forced to make it the first act of war; it’s something they embraced with hotheaded eagerness.

              1. Was their joining the Union not voluntary? The ratifying conventions of New York and Virginia explicitly reserved the right to secede. Any right of one must necessarily extend to the others.

        2. Perhaps. But it was hard to ignore that the War Dept. during the Buchanan administration deliberately moved military assets to places where they were then seized by newly seceded states. That was why General Grant was so keen on forcing Fort Donelson to surrender unconditionally, because he thought John Floyd was still in command there. Unfortunately Floyd had ignominiously fled and left his second in command to surrender.

  13. Grant met with Lee in the White House. Reunions between Northern and Southern military units were common. Both sides respected the other. Not as traitors.

    Slavery was on the way out across the world in 1860. It would have folded under its own weight in the US as well within 15 or 20 years max. Instead Lincoln chose war. 600,000+ deaths and a hopelessly divided nation.

    1. One likes to think it would have ended, but no guarantees.

      More importantly, millions had 15 to 20 more years of freedom than they otherwise would have.

      All of it, either way, is properly lain at the feet of the southern slaveholders.

    2. It would have folded under its own weight in the US as well within 15 or 20 years max.

      This is utter bullshit.

      First, cotton was obviously fundamental to the southern economy, and it needed a large well-controlled labor force. No one was going to shrug and say, “You know, slavery is really terrible. Let’s just free these people now.”

      Second, de facto slavery was reinstituted after the war, and lasted for quite some time, partly for that very reason.

      And it wasn’t Lincoln who “chose war.”

      1. bernard11….I think the estimate was wildly off (15 to 20 years), but the central point that slavery had reached and passed it’s zenith (which is how I would phrase it) is a valid one. Slavery as an institution was in decline. Why do I say this?

        If you look at our history from the Northwest Ordinance, there was not a single new slave state added to the union post NWO passage. And there were numerous attempts. At least twenty legislative attempts in Congress I am aware of, not to mention action at the state level. None passed. I would refer you to KS becoming a state as a microcosm for what was happening in the country. It is really quite fascinating how that all fell out. At the end of the day, the electorate decided the question.

        The Fugitive Slave Act did more to galvanize nationwide opposition and revulsion toward slavery than almost anything else I can think of. The cost to track a slave down, detain them, and deport them back to their owner was prohibitive (one estimate I recall reading was it cost 5 thousand per); Boston did one and never did another. The beating by Preston Brooks had a huge impact that people do not generally appreciate; that galvanized Congress. Also, Europe had outlawed slavery. That impacted the thinking among our intelligensia.

        It is a valid point = slavery had passed it’s zenith and would have been done away with in time. Heck, Winfield Scott as a presidential candidate had a platform plank of purchasing slaves from slaveholders and freeing them, using our budget surplus.

        We need to have a full appreciation of what our forebearers went through. Sadly, we do not. And that is our loss. To better ourselves, we must know our history, and learn from it.

      2. Somebody doesn’t realize the cotton gin had been invented and was much lower cost than any slave workforce requiring constant cashflow to maintain.

    3. “Slavery was on the way out across the world in 1860.”

      This wasn’t on my “defense of the south” bingo card.

    4. Ghost on the Highway : Slavery was on the way out across the world in 1860.

      Kinda amusing given the cause of secession and the Civil War was the South’s obsession with expanding slavery into new territory, both in the new states out west and lands to be conquered in Central & South America, Remember when “filibusters” were Southern mercenaries trying to engineer coups and rebellions to spread slavery to new countries? Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Mexico were all victims of filibuster attempts from 1830 to 1860.

      I guess those “constitutionally-minded” Southerns thought those nations had the right to secede from themselves, huh?

  14. Was the confederacy gross as one of its core purposes was slavery? Yes.

    Was it traitorous? Absolutely not. Dissolution and secession are not prohibited by the constitution, thus they are obviously rights held by the states and the people guaranteed by the 9th and 10th amendments.

    1. Secession is forbidden by the supremacy clause.

    2. Allutz?

      Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

  15. “And they lost, too,” just like those who attempted to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Charlottesville.

    Has anyone ever actually read the writings of Washington College President Lee? Or the accolades pronounced by former President Grant? Has anyone paused to consider that secession is still possible… even by a group embracing ideas outside of the mainstream: what good is the freedom of speech and the right to armed rebellion (as L. Spooner described) if actual revolution is forbidden?

    1. “…what good is the freedom of speech and the right to armed rebellion (as L. Spooner described) if actual revolution is forbidden?”

      How did southern leaders react to slave revolutions? Did they acknowledge equals who merely wanted to be left alone? And did the Constitution authorize the seceded south to make war on the north?

  16. Of course, it should be remembered that the overwhelming number of soldiers who fought for the Confederacy were not slaveholders but simple farmers who were fighting to protect their neighbors and towns/ states from what they viewed as northern invading army. I think it is important to honor the sacrifices of these individual soldiers and distinguish them from their government that stood for a despicable cause.

    1. Not picking a side here… your comment just made me think of something.

      Remember how the Democrats, during the time that the Iraq War was popular nationally, kept saying they support the troops but not the war. Seems like that sentiment only lasted as long as it was politically beneficial. It certainly would not be acceptable to the left in the context of a Southern soldier.

      1. The Democrats have been quite consistent on supporting the troops, agreeing with improving the VA, etc.. So, I think the answer to your questions is: No, we do not remember that pro-normal-solider sentiment lasting only as long as it was politically beneficial…cuz it did not happen. But I don’t think you are lying. I have no doubt that, in your mind, you do remember things that way.

    2. “I think it is important to honor the sacrifices of these individual soldiers and distinguish them from their government that stood for a despicable cause.”

      It is curious how rarely this happened, relative to putting up a Confederate general who happened to own slaves.

  17. Funny how no one is calling for removing statues of communists and notorious dictators that dot college campuses. Obviously this doesn’t fit into the current narrative…

    1. Are there a lot of colleges with statues of dictators and communists? That would be news to me, but if in fact it is as common as you think, I’d agree that it would appropriate to remove them.

      1. Just visit any campus and look around. Statues of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, are everywhere.

        1. bernard,
          Suggestion; Use emoticons or something else, to indicate that you’re writing tongue-in-cheek.

          There are far too many delusional nut jobs out there who will think you are being serious. Alas. 🙂

  18. I discovered The Volokh Conspiracy a decade or so ago. On the political spectrum, it seemed fairly centrist considering that the “conspirators” were all lawyers.

    We all know that lawyers lie. That is their profession. And we all know that law professors teach their students how to lie in their chosen vocation, in addition to their everyday lying.

    And then The Conspiracy moved to The Washington Post where it began an inexorable acceleration in its drift to the left.

    The Conspiracy then moved to Reason dot com where certain of its conspirators fell victim to the Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).

    The TDS has proven beneficial in one respect, The Conspirators can no longer pass themselves off as rational human beings, not that they ever were very convincing at doing that in the past.

    1. The Volokh Conspiracy a decade or so ago. On the political spectrum, it seemed fairly centrist considering that the “conspirators” were all lawyers.

      VC was never centrist. 10-15 years ago they were all solid Republicans/Libertarians, with the possible exception of David Post. The fact that the Republican party has shifted to the right/populist since then doesn’t change that.

      1. Republicans/Libertarians and right/populist are impossible pairings.
        40 years ago, Republicans were conservatives, or at least pretended to be, but that was 40 years ago. Papa Bush killed the Republican Party. In case you hadn’t noticed, Trump refers to Republicans in the third person. The national Republican Party has become the same thing that the New York City Republican Party has been since before you were born, the alt-Democrat Party.

        Libertarians were, and are, the drug-crazed hippie party. Unless you are a communist who thinks socialism is “right-wing” then “right” is for small, limited government. Populists love their criminals with badges, so they can’t be right-wing.

        1. Yes, I’ve made those points many times in the history of the Volokh Conspiracy.

        2. “… In case you hadn’t noticed, Trump refers to Republicans in the third person. …”

          I would not read too much into that (accurate) observation. Trump refers to himself in the 3rd person very very often. It’s just one of the many weird aspects of the Trump’s-brain-to-Trump’s-mouth pathway, so my sense is that it doesn’t mean that much. It’s weird, it shows cognitive decline, but not sure if it tells me anything else.

  19. Alder, this is pathetic. It doesn’t matter if they come for you last, they’ll still be coming for you.

    At any other time, we might calmly discuss this, debate the pros and cons. Now, while violent mobs are doing the tearing down, and not with any particular discrimination?

    No. To even entertain the possiblity right now is appeasement, pure and simple.

    Let us suppress the mobs, imprison the vandals and looters, and in a couple years when we’re a peaceful nation again, you might want to raise the subject.

    NOT NOW.

    1. You sound like literally every white “moderate” in the South during the Civil Rights era. I don’t think there is anything more pathetic than that.

      1. “…So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.”

    2. “No. To even entertain the possiblity right now is appeasement, pure and simple.”

      There is no better time than the present to have a discussion about anything. If you oppose mob rule, we can discuss that, too. There’s no reason to empower the mob with the ability to destroy debate.

    3. Let us suppress the mobs, imprison the vandals and looters, and in a couple years when we’re a peaceful nation again, you might want to raise the subject.

      Because clearly being calm and reasonable has been so productive for black people in the last 200 years?

      1. Historically it’s been a lot more successful than rioting, that’s for sure.

        My position is, I’m not even discussing it until they put down the Molotov cocktails and sledge hammers. This is not the sort of behavior you reward if you want a peaceful society.

        1. Yeah. A peaceful society rewards starting a war to preserve a system of forced labor.

          1. Yeah. A peaceful society rewards starting a war to preserve a system of forced labor.

            What’s the system of forced labor?

            1. Is this a serious question?

              1. Yes. Is everybody’s job forced labor?

        2. How, pray tell, did black people get slavery abolished in the first place? Peacefully?

          1. It looks like it was abolished peacefully in some places.

  20. “My reasons are quite simple: The Confederacy was a traitorous uprising expressly inspired by a desire to maintain slavery as a racial institution.”

    So, to a certain extent, was the American Revolution.

  21. The first wave of states to secede may have done so in order to defend slavery, but that can’t be said of those who seceded after Fort Sumter. They did so because they did not want to be part of a war to force the seceding states back into the Union.

    The argument that the Confederacy was “treasonous” necessarily assumes that states had no legal right to secede, a proposition that was not at all obvious and was highly controversial. (When it suited them, New Englanders asserted that they had a right to secede, in order to disentangle themselves from a nation that insisted on a foolish war that made our country (to paraphrase Orwell) objectively pro-Napoleon.) If your state does have the legal right to secede, and if the Union invades it in order to bring it back in by force, then you have the right (and arguably the obligation) to regard the Union as an unjust aggressor and to take up arms to defend your state, regardless of whether it seceded for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.

    I suspect that a lot of people agreeing with Professor Adler here believe that capital punishment is immoral. Yet I would hope that if the United Nations raised an international army to invade the U.S. and force the abolition of capital punishment, they would recognize the right of the U.S. to resist that invasion. I hope too that they would recognize that, even if the U.S. were to lose such a war and capital punishment were permanently abolished, it would be appropriate, after the end of the war, to erect monuments to U.S. military leaders in that war, simply because they defended their fellow Americans against invasion and the horrors of war, and that it would be a gross oversimplification to say they were unworthy of such honors because they “fought for the right to inject poison into the veins of their fellow human beings.”

    1. The North did not invade. The UN example is asinine. If tomorrow the US reinstated slavery the good people would join the UN, not “recognize the right of the US to resist that invasion”.

      1. Northern troops came poured from Washington across Long Bridge and seized Alexandria on the morning of May 24, 1861, the day after Virginia voted to ratify the ordinance of secession. To those who believed that ratification was legally effective to take Virginia out of the Union, that was an invasion.

        1. Of course it was an invasion. The day before Virginia voted to secede and join the Confederacy, which a month prior had started war against the Union. At least South Carolina could claim it seceded before war. Virginia seceded into war.

          1. Then why did you say that the North did not invade?

      2. The hypothetical I gave was not about slavery, but about capital punishment (i.e., something about which people of our time are morally divided about as much as people in 1861 were about slavery). You know, to try to make the hypothetical more genuinely comparable. The South wasn’t trying to reinstate something that had died out 150 years earlier. (I suppose that if it had been seceding in order to reinstate, say, burning at the stake as a penalty for religious heresy, the choice of people like Lee might have been harder to understand. But that’s not what they were doing, is it?)

  22. Why focus on the Confederates, other than taking an opportunity to virtue signal? Monuments to Theodore Roosevelt, Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, and others are being removed and defaced.

    Instead of commenting on these more controversial and relevant cases, Adler takes the opportunity to pile on an easy target.

    Like others, he does not seriously engage with history or with the small raggedy band of virtually unheard and unseen intellectual rebels who might disagree with him. There is no need for that, because this is just a shallow hack job of a blog post. It’s a small regurgitation of talking points for a predetermined conclusion, in the same vein as a slanted Slate or Atlantic piece establishing the official party line, but meager even by those standards, with only a small fraction of the actual historical content that those kinds of pieces normally marshal.

    1. People who seriously engage with history called historians generally have come to the same conclusion that Adler does.

    2. “Instead of commenting on these more controversial and relevant cases, Adler takes the opportunity to pile on an easy target.”

      The truth shall set you free!

  23. This thread is everything you need to know about Trump’s supporters.

    Out-and-out racists.
    But Obama (?).
    Rampant whataboutisms.

    Hey- the VC made its bed, now it has to lie in it. Do you know what has aged really, really well? Lawless. Yeah. That has aged so well, hasn’t it?

  24. I generally agree with the sentiments of this article. But in the current climate, I would oppose removing any statue. Today we have mob rule. That by definition is irrational, lawless, and easily gets out of control. The same mob that tears down a statue of Robert E. Lee then wants to tear down a statue of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. And then wants to smash church windows.

    First arrest the miscreants. Then wait 12 months. Then we can discuss which statues to take down.

    1. I’m curious what it is about the history of the United States in the last few decades/centuries that makes you think that there is any chance at all, should your policy be implemented, of any statues being taken down in 12 months’ time.

      1. Because views change, political power shifts.
        In any event, that is the way democracy works. You don’t always get what you want. If the majority are convinced, through democratic means, to remove the statues, then they will be removed.

        1. How are you supposed to convince anybody if you’re supposed to sit in the corner and be quiet?

          1. Indeed, voting is so passe. Who can wait peacefully for the next election? Mob destruction now, or nothing!

            Or, you can recognize there is a difference between “not rioting” and “sitting a corner quietly” and admit that your strawman is quite out of place.

        2. To your comment, I would add: Because views change, political power shifts….and passions cool.

          We need passions to cool. Then let our Republic work.

      2. I’m curious what it is about the history of the United States in the last few decades/centuries that makes you think that there is any chance at all, should your policy be implemented, of any statues being taken down in 12 months’ time.

        Is this an argument against the traditional U.S. approach of majority rule? If so, under what circumstances do you endorse such exceptions, and how do you prevent exceptions you don’t endorse from impacting you?

    2. This is either naive or its an intentional ploy. You don’t empower a mob by allowing it to end debate. And arresting “the miscreants” for seeking to tear down Confederate statues is just going to increase support for taking down Confederate statues. The call here can’t be for sober reflection; the goal is to postpone the discussion indefinitely.

      1. “You don’t empower a mob by allowing it to end debate.”

        When the mob does not get what it wants because it is acting as a mob, that is the opposite of empowerment. It is like a child with a temper tantrum — the answer is NO.

        ” And arresting “the miscreants” for seeking to tear down Confederate statues is just going to increase support for taking down Confederate statues.”

        They are going to be arrested for acting in a wanton and lawless fashion and destroying property. You want a statue of Robert E Lee taken down? Use normal democratic means — write a column, start and advocacy group, lobby your legislature. If they did that, I would likely support it.

        That is how you deal with children. You ask nice, you may get what you want. You throw a temper tantrum, the answer is NO.

        1. “When the mob does not get what it wants because it is acting as a mob, that is the opposite of empowerment.”

          I don’t have to succumb to the mob to make decisions that happen to be consistent with the movement. Put them in jail, whatever. That shouldn’t stop us from even having a discussion about the propriety of keeping up idiotic confederate statues.

          “Use normal democratic means — write a column, start and advocacy group, lobby your legislature. If they did that, I would likely support it.”

          No, because people like Brett will insist we can’t have this debate. The “don’t give in to the mob” argument has never depended on actual mobs. Y’all act like you’re the only ones who’ve been alive for the last 30 years. The anti-PC slippery slope backlash has been alive and well for decades. PCU came out in 1994, this ain’t a new debate, bro.

      2. The call here can’t be for sober reflection; the goal is to postpone the discussion indefinitely.

        So you’re a supporter of ochlocracy and anarchy as long as you favor the mob’s goals. What about when you don’t share the mob’s goals?

        1. If I don’t share the mob’s views I disagree with them. I don’t silence them.

          1. If I don’t share the mob’s views I disagree with them. I don’t silence them.

            So as they are burning down your house you offer no resistance but rather stand to the side offering calm remonstration?

      3. The call here can’t be for sober reflection; the goal is to postpone the discussion indefinitely.

        According to BLM supporter Shaun King statues, images and stained glass windows depicting a “white Jesus,” his white mother and “their white friends” should all be destroyed because they are “racist propaganda” and “a gross form of white supremacy.”

        All that matters is what the mob wants, right? Certainly considerations of private properly would not be relevant here.

        1. Why would considerations of private property be irrelevant…?

          1. Why would considerations of private property be irrelevant…?
            Well are they relevant? Does the mob have just as much right not to be silenced when it is tearing down a statue on private property as on public? If not, what’s the difference?

  25. “A traitorous and failed attempt to secede over slavery”

    I think this may be just about as accurate as describing the American Revolution as “A traitorous yet successful attempt to secede over a small tax on tea.”

    1. Indeed. It’s all the taxes they objected to. (And their inability to steal more land from the Native Americans.)

      1. Right. So their cause is no more worth commemorating or honoring.

        1. Not as far as I am concerned. But Americans worship their Founding Fathers with such irrational fervour that they literally carved two of them into the side of a mountain.

          1. I actually agree with you Martinned.

            The Founding Fathers were an impressive bunch, incredibly knowledgeable of history and government, brave and courageous, uniquely situated in history, and generally possessing some relative measure of good character and righteous motives. Their contributions were great.

            But in the end, they were selfish and ultimately fallible, just as all humans are according to human nature. And their experiment in self-government and a loose union of sovereign states, with limited enumerated powers separated into branches, was a failed one.

  26. This is an overly simplistic view of the first 100 years of the Republic and fails to recognize that Confederate soldiers were Americans who died in a legitimate armed conflict that was properly constituted under the internationally recognized rules of war at the time. They were not a rag tag band of stateless terrorists. You might not like some of the ideas on why the Southern States sought independence (I don’t) but slavery in the 1800’s was far from a societal outlier.

    I would expect better from a law blog then a mishmash of liberal talking points that ignore the same history we are being told we should now care about in 2020.

    1. “This is an overly simplistic view of the first 100 years of the Republic and fails to recognize that Confederate soldiers were Americans who died in a legitimate armed conflict…”

      Wrong. Those poor bastards who died as Confederate soldiers ended their lives as non-Americans. They were betrayed by their leaders who convinced them to denounce their own citizenship, so they could die for a country promptly and rightfully wiped from the face of the earth. The ones who weren’t killed were graciously allowed to beg their way back into the American citizenship they had just years prior denounced, rather than be customarily executed.

      1. Their “countries” were the States. Lee declined to lead the Union forces because he felt he owed allegiance to Virginia.

        1. Of course. Lee felt he had more in common with his neighbors in Virginia than with some stranger from Massachusetts. I get it. Those two would have had a lot to disagree about. They ate different food, listened to different music, read different literature, only one of them owned slaves, etc.

          1. Why did you use Massachusetts instead of, say, Delaware, or Maryland? 😉

            1. Because I knew that if I said Delaware, you’d highlight that it was a slave state while ignoring the fact that 90% of black people in Delaware at the time of southern secession were free. Southern apologists are so proud of the fact that there were slave states in the Union, but maybe you shouldn’t be. If it proves anything, it demonstrates that the southern leaders were overstating northern opposition to slavery at the time of secession; that they lied to foment rebellion and war. At best, it means the southern states seceded because they knew they were losing the moral argument, and it was just a matter of time (but not imminent) that they would lose their right to hold people in bondage. But that’s a tacit admission that they knew the moral argument for slavery was a loser. That they had lost the war of ideas and morality, and so they decided to have a real war, instead.

              If you want to be uncharitable, it suggests they seceded to guarantee slavery in New Mexico, Utah, and Washington territories.

              1. “the southern states. . . knew they were losing the moral argument, and it was just a matter of time (but not imminent) that they would lose their right to hold people in bondage. But that’s a tacit admission that they knew the moral argument for slavery was a loser.”

                I agree very much with this part. I think they did know that. Even before the war, the beginnings of deep shame about slavery can be seen clearly.

                But what this necessarily implies is that they did not actually think that they would be establishing a political union with slavery in perpetuity. What these Scots-Irish descendants really resented was that the imperialist North was going to dictate morality for them, control and subjugate them economically and every other way, through tariffs and undermining of slavery and other ways.

              2. If you want to be uncharitable, it suggests they seceded to guarantee slavery in New Mexico, Utah, and Washington territories.

                Which they would’t have had any chance of getting if the Union had “let the erring sisters depart in peace.”

                1. Yes they would have; that’s what the war was for.

      2. The level of ignorance here is just amazing. So many hold themselves up to be learned professionals, but don’t even know the basics of American History. Fascinating.

        1. Don’t you reject the conclusions of the learned professionals of American history though?

        2. I am more pissed with their teachers from 40-50 years ago, to be honest.

  27. That is a rather simplistic view one of the most complex periods in American history.

    1. “That is a rather simplistic view one of the most complex periods in American history.”

      I know! It must be difficult when the conversation is always:

      A. But out cornbread is different!
      B. Stop honoring racist traitorous slavelords.
      A. But we like NASCAR!
      B. Stop honoring racist traitorous slavelords.
      A. This is really about a theoretical discussion regarding the appropriate deference to be given to different levels of authority vis-a-vis governmental units.
      B. Stop honoring racist traitorous slavelords.

      Etc. I mean, when you’re honoring racist traitorous slavelords, the conversation gets repetitive, doesn’t it? Imagine how those poor Germans feel when all the want to do is honor their WW2 soldiers?

      I know, right?

      1. Can we add the racist communists that actively sought to undermine American during the 20th century to the list of people that should not be honored? This is gonna be a long list…

        1. If you think you can convince people, sure. We aren’t the ones arguing for special pleading. You are.

  28. I have no admiration for the CSA. Except for a couple of minor points, I don’t find much of anything in the Confederate constitution or preamble to get exciting about. And, of course, the slavery thing is nauseating, which I shouldn’t have to point out.

    However, this notion that the Confederacy was treasonous is an eye roller. You really don’t have to be intellectually dishonest here.

    The Confederacy wanted to form its own country so that, among other reasons, they could keep their slaves and not be taxed for the primary benefit of the northern states. The Union did not want them do to this.

    Both idiot governments were willing to fight a war that ended up with over half a million dead in order to get what they wanted. Was that so hard?

    If wanting to get away from Washington DC’s tentacles is treasonous, then I suspect we have a lot of potential traitors in this country — and it has nothing to do with slaves.

  29. It occurred to me that Adler is a German name.

    1. Ruh roh Adler, Scooby Doo here is on the case. You better keep your head on a swivel.

  30. Take down and/or sell all government monuments. Get government out of the business of choosing which parts of history to remember and celebrate.

    1. Yep. And while they’re at it, make sure government streets and bridges aren’t named after anybody either — I don’t care who they are.

  31. Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man;

    We know that people sometimes make public statements simply in order to remain in sync with their party. In his private correspondence, however, Stephens gave different reasons why the South was seceding. In a private letter to J. Henly Smith on December 31, 1860 Alexander Stephens disclosed that the real reason the South seceded was that the southern leaders didn’t want any redress of grievances but were for breaking up because they were “tired of the gov[ernme]nt. They have played out, dried up, and want something new.” So in private, Stephens was saying that it was not primarily about slavery.

    ”All that the South has at present just cause to complain of, and the chief ground of just complaints, is the personal liberty bill[s] of some of the non-slaveholding states. These ought to be repealed, and I doubt not if the whole South had united in asking their repeal with firmness and decision and with an honest intent to be satisfied with it when they got it that success would have crowned their efforts. Of this I am satisfied. But the truth is our ultra men do not desire any redress of these grievances. They would really obstruct indirectly any effort to that end. They are for breaking up. They are tired of the gov[ernme]nt. They have played out, dried up, and want something new. Here was all the danger or the great difficulty in the way of making any settlement or adjustment. It seems to me at present insurmountable! I do not see how it can be removed or gotten over.”

    Stephens had said in the summer of 1860, “I consider slavery much more secure in the Union than out of it, if our people were but wise” and that was undoubtedly true. Their pride had been injured (not without good reason).

    1. Note that nothing Stephens said in his private correspondence rebuts his status as a white supremacist. The defense here is that although he was a piece of shit, he was merely lying to the other pieces of shit in the South about why and whether they should secede. Is this supposed to be a defense of him?

      What “pride” would an admitted liar and demagogue have to be injured? A man who purported to see the foolishness of jumping into a hole, and then encouraging other people to jump in with him? What a complete piece of shit.

      1. Note that nothing Stephens said in his private correspondence rebuts his status as a white supremacist.

        You must acknowledge that almost all whites in 1860, north and south, believed that blacks were inferior to whites. Your statement, therefore, is dishonest to the extent that you are hoping that your reader will judge Stephens by modern racial views, and thus more harshly.

        Is this supposed to be a defense of him?

        No. What suggested that this was a defense of him? It was meant as evidence of the true motivations for secession.

        What “pride” would an admitted liar and demagogue have to be injured?

        Well that’s a non sequitur. Liars and demagogues especially can be expected to be prideful. The injured pride comes from being increasing told that one is a debased degenerate for supporting slavery. And please don’t say something absurd such as that being told the truth wouldn’t injure somebody’s pride. It would if he didn’t accept the truth.

  32. Seceding from the Union was not in the best interests of slavery. No rational person would have chosen that course if the well-being of slavery were foremost in his thoughts.

    • Residents of States that had seceded would lose the benefit of all laws in the North that protected owners of fugitive slaves. Those laws themselves would cease to exist without the South to support them.
    • After secession a slave from Virginia would only have to reach Ohio or Pennsylvania to have freedom assured, which would have the effect of moving Canada to the border of Virginia and could only result in an exodus of slaves.
    • Since it would be so much easier for slaves to run away successfully, slave owners in Virginia would be forced to sell their slaves to the Deep South or face the increased risk of losing them without compensation.
    • Without the Northern states, courts and federal government as allies, there would be no hindrance to a multitude of John Brown raids all along their border.
    • The current Virginia state debt was already $40 million. The people of Virginia would not be able to afford the additional taxes that would be required to protect their land borders, much less their sea border.
    • The Crittendon Compromise, which the South rejected, would have solved the fugitive slave issue through a system of compensation. It guaranteed the protection of slavery and said that no future amendment of the Constitution could authorize or empower Congress to interfere with slavery within any slave state.
    • Congress had already passed the Corwin Amendment which declared that Congress could never “abolish or interfere” with slavery in a State and that this prohibition could never be amended. Lincoln supported this and it only needed to be ratified by the States.

    As Alexander Stephens said in private, secession was not about slavery.

    1. “As Alexander Stephens said in private, secession was not about slavery.”

      Another damning confession. The war was not about slavery, we are told, because very few people owned slaves. Yet the slave-owning secessionist leadership, in making their public cases for secession, insisted secession was about slavery. Why would that argument have sold to people who were apathetic to slavery?

      1. Why are you so blatantly conflating “the war” and “secession” ?

        1. Tradition. I’m from Texas.

          “By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States.”

          1. infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws

            And the rights of Southerners in the Northern and Western states would be improved if the South became a separate country? Instead of opting for the Crittendon Compromise or the Corwin Amendment it would help matters to give up the benefit of all Northern laws enacted for their benefit?

            How exactly were they going to enforce their rights in the future? Getting the Southern population to support a defensive war is one thing. It is quite another to try to rally support in the South for an increase in taxes sufficient to raise an Army to conduct a war of conquest against a power with three times their strength that already had an effective Army, in order to re-establish rights that they had just recently voluntarily abandoned. It doesn’t look promising. As for a treaty, they would have a much greater chance of achieving their goals by negotiating from a position of strength inside the Union.

      2. Yet the slave-owning secessionist leadership, in making their public cases for secession, insisted secession was about slavery. Why would that argument have sold to people who were apathetic to slavery?

        The average southerner didn’t rush enlist in order to protect slavery. Shelby Foote tells about a Confederate who didn’t own any slaves. When asked why he was fighting he replied, “I’m fighting because you’re down here.” They had been invaded. That was an affront that could not be tolerated. What’s hard to understand?

        1. Let’s not forget that only about 2% of Southerners owned slaves.

          1. This is just a fucking lie.

            1. Or an error. Let’s put it at 25%.

    2. There were two stages leading to secession :

      (1) Stephan Douglas embraced popular sovereignty to settle the issue of slavery in the new states. The people of that state would vote whether they wanted it or not. That split the Democratic coalition that had protected slave state power. The southern delegates to the Democratic Convention of 1860 bolted to form a separate convention, nominee, party. This makes the focus on “states rights” as a cause for war hilariously wrong. On the issue of slavery the South wanted a strong federal government enforcing “property rights”

      (2) With the Democratic coalition broken, the South saw their lock on power in the Presidency, Congress, and Supreme Court gone. Lincoln’s election was a slap in the face, but not because of any action they anticipated he would take. It was the bare fact he could win office. For decades the South had been threatening dire consequences if they didn’t always get their way. As so often the case with those who continually threaten, they made the mistake of taking their own rhetoric seriously.

      1. It was the schism in the Democrat party that elected Lincoln in 1860. It was secession that ultimately freed the slaves. Had the South not seceded, slavery would have continued indefinitely, at least until there were enough free states to amend the Constitution.

        1. Of the 3,400,200 northern votes cast in the presidential election of 1860, 1,600,000 were cast against Lincoln and the 1,800,000 who voted for Lincoln did not all vote on the slavery issue.

          Had the South not seceded, slavery would have continued indefinitely, at least until there were enough free states to amend the Constitution.

          The Corwin Amendment, already passed by Congress, declared that Congress could never “abolish or interfere” with slavery in a State and that this prohibition could never be amended.

  33. One would think that those righteous souls of the North were prepared to make voters and jurors of the Negros in the 1850’s, to have them work in their factories and farms, to attend their public schools, to listen to Sunday sermons together in the same pews, to marry their daughters, and even to hold public office.

    Notwithstanding their opposition to slavery, most northerners were no less racist than their southern brethren, perhaps more so. Whites, then as now, thought themselves the superior race. Their aim was to keep the Negros out of their states and out of the territories. Work in those areas was to be reserved for free white labor, not the freedmen. Many northern states, Illinois for example, forbade the entry of Negros or made them post a bond that precluded their entry. Vagrancy laws were more severe in the North than those in the South during Reconstruction.

    The notion that northern white people sought to live in equality with the Negro is a myth. In ante-bellum America, slavery was the rule rather than the exception, it was inherited from our English forefathers. The framers of our Constitution struggled to reconcile it with the premise the “all men are created equal.” They did their best, they formed a new government knowing all the while that that peculiar institution would have to end. We err when we view history through modern eyes, when we apply modern mores and prejudices to the behavior of historical characters. They were not evil, or at least they didn’t see themselves as such. Like us they were just doing their best as they understood it.

    1. “Notwithstanding their opposition to slavery, most northerners were no less racist than their southern brethren, perhaps more so.”

      How the fuck does this sentence write?

      1. Do you suppose it impossible to oppose slavery and still be racist, in the modern sense of the word? Many abolitionists of ante-bellum American were both at the same time.

    2. You really enjoy saying “Negro,” don’t you?

      “Whites, then as now, thought themselves the superior race.”

      Yep. There are the people that love themselves the Confederacy, and the statutes. M L has some great company!

      1. What is PC today?

      2. Do you think for a moment that rich white Democrats don’t see themselves the superior race?

      3. Negro is now considered offensive although it derives from the Latin word “niger,” meaning black or dark. “Negro” in Spanish apparently still acceptable to describe black people.

        African-American doesn’t really work does it? Are all black people in America Americans? Are all Africans black?

        Black, like white, is not a race of people but a poor description of skin color.

        The three historic anthropological races of man, Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid, have fallen out of favor in the scientific community as somehow racist. Oh, the irony.

        Nigger or nigga or niggah are terms of endearment that may only be used by blacks in the company of other blacks. There are however ample examples of the terms being used in reference to their white friends. The use of these words by whites however is extremely offensive, strictly prohibited, and may result in bodily harm, even death.

        Anyhow who gets to decide which words are permissible and which are forbidden? Is it the Council on Newspeak or the Thought Police or both?

  34. Let us not forget too that Lincoln’s provocation led to the first shot being fired by South Carolina. He needed an excuse to go to war that secession, in and of itself, failed to provide, but he did not want to be seen as the aggressor. His calculated efforts to resupply Fort Sumter along with the mixed messages coming from Secretary of State Seward triggered the response.

    1. Fort Sumter had to be resupplied immediately. The only alternative was to abandon it. It sounds like your insisting that refusing to abandon it was a provocation.

      1. In fact, Major Anderson, was preparing to surrender the Fort, he had only a few days rations remaining, when Beauregard received orders to “reduce the Fort.”

    2. “His calculated efforts to resupply Fort Sumter”

      We were there just last summer. The federal troops were actually in a different fort, Fort Sumpter was still under construction, and wasn’t inhabited at the time. But the fort they were in wasn’t particularly defensible from the mainland, and neither was it in a good position to control the harbor. So they relocated in the middle of the night to Fort Sumpter, where they could do both.

      So Lincoln wasn’t “re” supplying the fort, he was supplying it for the first time, so that the troops couldn’t be starved out. Which was the Confederate strategy, they only bombarded the fort when Lincoln sent reinforcements, in order that it would fall before they arrived.

      Ironically, the only deaths at Fort Sumpter were due to a canon blowing up while being fired ceremonially during the surrender. It was not exactly a bloody battle.

      1. (1) The South fired on United States ships approaching Sumter before Lincoln even assumed the presidency. That’s an awkward fact for those selling Southern gunners as hapless victim of Devious Abe

        (2) Fort Sumter couldn’t control anything. How do we know that? We need only look at how quickly shore batteries forced the fort to surrender. Even if Sumter was resupplied, it was always mere hours away from inevitable surrender anytime Southern officials chose.

        That they chose Friday, 12 April 1861, 4:30 a.m – with crowds of raucous civilians cheering each cannon blast – was because they wanted war – and were confident in war’s results…..

        1. “The South fired on United States ships approaching Sumter before Lincoln even assumed the presidency.”
          When, exactly, did this occur?

          “Fort Sumter couldn’t control anything.”
          It controls the entrance to Charleston Harbor.

          “was because they wanted war – and were confident in war’s results”
          Yes there were “fire-eaters” who wanted a war but most knew that they could not prevail in a lengthy campaign with the Union. Many were confident that a negotiated settlement would end the sectional hostilities but Lincoln’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Confederate government made that impossible.

          1. (1) Star of the West was an American steamship hired by the government of the United States in January 1861 to transport supplies and reinforcements to Fort Sumter. A battery on Morris Island, South Carolina fired upon the ship, effectively the first shots fired in the American Civil War. This was still during the presidency of Lincoln’s predecessor.

            (2) A fort that can be reduced to rubble in under under 48hrs by shore batteries controls nothing. You do see that, don’t you?

            (3) Regarding your “….but most knew that they could not prevail in a lengthy campaign with the Union” There isn’t much polling data from the period, but every account I’ve seen holds that 100% wrong. Popular opinion on both sides thought war would be quick, easy, painless – with their side breezing to victory.

            1. 1) I forgot about the Star of the West. The sneaky bastards thought a civilian vessel could get through to the Fort.

              2) Perhaps, but properly garrisoned it is formidable and the shore batteries would have been equally vulnerable to the Fort’s cannon.

              3) But that is the point. Southern military leaders, including Jefferson Davis, were mostly trained at West Point. They knew the odds, they knew the capacity of the Union to make war, and they knew they could not prevail in a lengthy campaign. That is the reason the Confederate capital was relocated to Richmond. It was an effort to engender a diplomatic solution. But Lincoln would not negotiate with a government whose very existence he vehemently denied. His object was to suppress the rebellion and bring the erring sisters back into the Union.

  35. Posting about racism at a blog that attracts a bunch of bigots might have been a mistake.

    1. You don’t seem to have caused much of a problem yet.

  36. Nobody was a bigger racist than Lincoln. The racist sentiments of many in the South are to be deplored, but are irrelevant to the fact that any state that had joined the Union had (and still has) the right to leave it.

    1. the fact that any state that had joined the Union had (and still has) the right to leave it.

      So you’re a supporter of the rights of CHAZ or CHOP to secede, and you deplore the affront of the United States in insisting on invading regularly on the pretext of protecting victims of crime?

      1. Exactly when did CHAZ join the union, again? I was under the impression that some outsiders just moved in and took over, much to the horror of the people actually living there.

        1. Well, the area under their control was a part of the United States and then they declared it to be seceded, as I understand it. If there is a right to secede, what are the requirements of a valid secession, and are they met in this case? My assumption is that the “outsiders” are also “actually living there,” though they have not been there as long. It appears that they intend to stay, at least as long as it remains a separate country in which there is free food, drink and utilities, and is cleaned every night by the neighboring country and protected against foreign invasion by that country.

          1. And as long as it is warm outside and they can comfortably sleep in tents. Perhaps when winter comes they will expropriate some more permanent lodgings, maybe paid for with CHAZ currency.

    2. Lincoln was no friend to the black man.

  37. For those taking the “losers don’t deserve statues” argument, can we apply that to liberals and the media who lost the 2016 election? Seriously. Can we just get rid of the media that can’t get over the fact Trump won and have tried to undermine his Presidency since then. Just like a war, they lost the election fair and square. And now act like traitors who seek to undermine the legitimate results of that election. I don’t think such people deserve jobs or recognition. So time to fire them all.

  38. When the marxist-fascists tire of destroying public memorials what will be the object of their collective rage? White people generally? Will they next come to the suburbs to with their Molotov cocktails, their bricks, their bats, their guns, and their rabid desire to exact vengeance on the white devil? Have blacks not already been encouraged and emboldened to assault any unsuspecting white person who crosses their path? There is no shortage of disturbing scenes on social media where blacks record and cheer on gangs of other blacks beating individual white victims senseless. Are these not not hate crimes? Are the perpetrators not racists?

  39. You can still fly the Confederate flag in your head. Most commenters here do.

  40. I beg to differ with this, not out of support for slavery but because I believe that splitting the country today just may be the only way to save (some of) civilization from the barbarian horde now burning our cities.

  41. No, its not worth commemorating.

    But that’s not where it ends, is it? It never ends where you people claim it will end. The camel is never satisfied with just its nose under the tent. Once you have an inch, you yearn for the mile.

    So, Grant is a target now. Washington and Jefferson. Jesus Christ. Random saints. Mount Rushmore.

    All in the sights of some aggrieved group. So, please, continue to tell us how its ok if we let this happen – that these people will be satisfied *here*. How the crocodile will be satisfied with just a hand, or maybe an arm, maybe if we feed it a foot next . . .

    1. This is not about “let[ting] this happen.” This about us agreeing with removal of confederate iconography. We aren’t succumbing to the mob’s future demands

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