Confederate statues controversy ignores key historical facts

The Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee statue in Baltimore, Maryland. (Anthony C. Hayes)

“In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any country.”

All Americans would agree with the quote above — and in a moment I’ll have something to say about the man who wrote it.

First, though, after the tragic murders by a drug-dependent mental case in Charleston, S.C., the nation has erupted with mostly rabid and ill-informed commentary regarding the display of Confederate flags and monuments on government property.

I support the removal of the battle flag from the South Carolina Capitol, in large part because it’s historically inaccurate — the battle flag never flew over a state Capitol. I recommend that South Carolina do what Texas has done for at least 30 years and fly the First National flag of the Confederacy, also known as the “stars and bars,” instead of the Confederate battle flag, at its Capitol.

I also understand that over the past many decades racist groups have co-opted the battle flag and, as a result, the flag means something different to black citizens than it does to me, a descendant of several Confederate veterans.

However, the feeding frenzy of the offended masses has now resulted in calling for the removal of Confederate statues across the South, as well. The University of Texas (UT) is likely to soon remove the statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and John Reagan from the campus.

Maybe we should replace the statues with more politically acceptable historical figures? Certainly, no one would object to a statue of Abraham Lincoln on the UT campus, would they?

Well, they should object. When measured by any standard, the Great Emancipator was a white supremacist.

During his March 4, 1861, inaugural address, Lincoln endorsed a constitutional amendment, commonly referred to as the Corwin amendment, as an inducement for the South to rejoin the Union if it were ratified. This constitutional amendment would have forever protected slavery where it currently existed.

Lincoln told the inaugural audience: “I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Abe Lincoln was clearly quite prepared to perpetuate slavery to save the Union. In an 1862 letter to Horace Greeley, Lincoln wrote: “… if I could save it [the Union] without freeing any slaves I would do it …”

During his famous debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln explained to the crowd: “I am not now, nor ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. I am not now, nor ever been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people. And I will say in addition to this there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will ever forbid the two races from living on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race”.

Lincoln was no different than 99 percent of white males both North and South. He was a white supremacist.

To be fair, Lincoln was anti-slavery, but one of his major objections to slavery was that it competed with free white labor and that he thought it gave unfair economic advantage to slave owners. While opposed to and very uncomfortable with slavery, he did not support equality.

Lincoln was also an advocate of deportation and colonization of free blacks to Central America or Africa – telling a group of free black visitors to the White House they were “selfish” if they opposed the plan.

As the war progressed, Lincoln’s views mellowed somewhat, primarily due to the bravery of black Union soldiers — he said he was in favor of allowing “intelligent” blacks to vote if they had served in the Union Army. The deification of Lincoln that began with his tragic assassination is based on a false view.

Back to that quotation above. Wouldn’t the person who wrote those words in 1856 — five years before the war began — be a credible choice for a statue on the UT campus? The same gentleman who before the war began the process of freeing his inherited slaves would surely be an inspirational choice for any educational setting.

The irony is, his statue is already on the UT campus, and many other public parks, squares and courthouses across the South. He was a man revered across the nation, even in the North, after the war ended.

He was Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.


7 thoughts on “Confederate statues controversy ignores key historical facts

  • Paul Croke
    July 15, 2015 at 12:01 PM

    In Great Britain they label Paul Revere a terrorist and Benedict Arnold a brave English patriot. Following the logic of most of these critical posts the Revolutionary Way was one vast act of treason against the Crown. George Washington was a traitor. These views are taught in the British schools, yet they never get mentioned here. In fact, Great Britain is known affectionately as the Mother Country and we enjoy what is often called a ” special relationship. ” All the criticisms aimed at the writer seem to be !eveled at what he did not say, rather than with his accurate accounts of the most prominent and revered figures of both sides of the conflict. If you think he omitted important points, you are encouraged to write your own articles, on the points you raised. If you take issue with the facts he documented, then express them. I’m not arguing the points you all raise, but you do not, and cannot, fault him on the accuracy of his article. This paper actively solicits articles from non professional writers. If you are so worked up over points that lay outside the purview of his article, then by all means put pen to paper and write your own pieces, on the topics you’ve raised. But don’t fault him for writing the article you feel he should have written, rather than the one he chose to write.

  • Tim Forkes
    July 5, 2015 at 5:21 AM

    They are traitors. Any other way to explain it, by comparing them to the founders of this nation or the founders of Texas, does not wash away the fact that they took up arms against their country. Period. Do you understand that point?
    I truly doubt the British consider the signers of the Declaration of Independence heroes, nor do I believe Mexicans consider Sam Houston, Jim Bowie, et al heroes. As time marched on people on both sides of those conflicts accepted the results, but the British and Mexicans didn’t put up statues honoring the people who took up arms against them.
    As for your service in the suck — Semper Fi. 3rd Engineers here and honorably discharged.
    And the only time the word “Yankee” gets me riled up is when the New York Yankees are in town. I’m baffled; why would the word “Yankee” get me riled up? You lost me on that one.

    • July 5, 2015 at 4:18 PM

      Engineers blow stuff up. Now I understand. Semper Fi

  • July 4, 2015 at 7:35 PM

    So when you win, it was a noble cause and when you lose, not so much. If that’s your standard in your mind, I really don’t know what to say. You are a enthusiastic member of the group think PC crowd. “Might makes right” is a little to simplistic for me. By the way, you cite my “adoration” of these traitors. I admire those on both sides who served honorably. My Yankee (that label will stir you up I’m sure) hero is Joshua Chamberlin-a true citizen soldier. As a retired Marine Vietnam vet, I understand the concept of honorable service, even when some (Lt Calley et al) did dishonorable things in that same service. And sir, I am just as much an American citizen as you are-your implication that I’m not is telling and negates whatever other credible arguments you may have had-if you had any. JP

  • Tim Forkes
    July 4, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    They are all traitors. The one BIG difference here, that you seem to ignore, and you ignore so much in that ode to traitors, is that in the revolution we celebrate today the traitors to the crown won the war. Sam Bowie, Steven Austin and the other Texans were traitors, but they also won their war of independence.
    The traitors you choose to venerate did not win that war. Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Lewis Armistead, George Pickett, and all the rest in the Confederate army were traitors. It isn’t a simplistic cliche, it’s the facts of history.

    It would have been impossible to put every Confederate on trial for treason, but since many of them like Lee, lost their property, I guess there was some justice served.
    You need to let go of your adoration of those traitors and their lost cause to preserve slavery and become an American citizen, not a Confederate sympathizer.

  • July 4, 2015 at 1:23 PM

    Sir, Apparently during you entire adult life you didn’t read much history. George Washington served in the British Army-was he a traitor? Were those politicians and generals in Mexico who rebelled against Spain in 1810 traitors? Sam Houston, Jim Bowie, Steven F Austin oaths of allegiance to Mexico-were they a traitors? By your standard all revolutions are inherently traitorous. You need to reconsider your simplistic clichés about what is right and wrong as it relates to the natural and God given right of self determination. Its legitimate to say this revolution was bad, and another revolution is good, but you define them all as traitorous. JP

  • Tim Forkes
    July 4, 2015 at 4:14 AM

    Whatever words he spoke before the war does not erase the fact that he betrayed his country and committed treason when he joined the Confederacy. For my entire adult life I’ve never understood why we give traitors like Lee places of honor, with shrines and statues,

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