Other side of the Confederacy

Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2003 at 10:23 p.m.

Regarding your paper's vitriolic antipathy toward the Confederate flag and its heritage, John Stuart Mills once said, "He who knows only one side of a question, knows little of that."

Abraham Lincoln said, in a letter to Horace Greeley, that his paramount objective in this struggle was to save the Union, not save or destroy slavery. If he was willing to concede to the South the issue of slavery, then what was all the fighting about?

The South's primary objective was to preserve state's rights, including the right to secede from the Union.

Slavery, urban vs. rural cultures, high/low protective tariffs, and an omnipotent central banking system dominated by northern banks were all inter-related issues, but none were the unqualified pre-eminent cause of the war.

Those who see the Confederate flag solely as a symbol of slavery love to discredit the issue of protective tariffs demanded by the industrial North on the agrarian South by rhetorically asking: "Do you really believe the South went to war over higher taxes?"

They conveniently forget that high tariffs nearly caused Southern states to secede from the Union in 1833, and ignore that other historical antecedent to war, the Boston Tea Party, that precipitated the American Revolution.

The South's rejection of the North's economic system copied from England's mercantile system was nothing more than a continuation of the centuries-old struggle between Scotland and England dating back to "Braveheart's" William Wallace and reflected in the early American settlers dominated by Scots in the South and English in the North.

This Scottish heritage is portrayed in the South's incorporation of Scotland's St. Andrew's Cross in its battle flag. In a real sense, the American Civil War was the last uprising of the Scottish clans against English hegemony.

Another question that has divided our nation even more than slavery and continues to plague our nation's body politic today is the role and the powers of a centralized federal government.

New Englanders Alexander Hamilton and John Adams had a vision of a strong federal government, in contrast to the preference for a weak federal government and state's rights by Southerners Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

The vast majority of Confederate soldiers owned no slaves. By and large, they were the sons of sharecroppers, small farmers and small-town tradesmen.

They did not view their world as fighting for slavery any more than they believed they were defending a privileged class of plantation owners.

They were defending their state, or more accurately their country, against what they perceived as a tyrannical, monolithic, intrusive federal government.

Those intolerant of the Confederate banner and who subscribe to it all the evils of slavery, racism and xenophobia ignore the fact that blacks, Irish and French Catholics, Hispanics, Jews, Asians, American Indians, Creoles and Cajuns all fought for the South.

The South had the only American Indian general, Stand Watie, and its attorney general, secretary of war, and alternately, secretary of state, Judah Benjamin, was Jewish. Native American tribes that fought for the Confederate cause included the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.

Those intolerant of the Confederate flag ignore the indentured servitude, sweatshop wages and child labor prevalent in the industrial North. They ignore the fact that northern banks, insurance companies and transatlantic shipping companies financed and supported slavery in the South for generations.

They ignore the hundreds of blacks lynched in New York City and other places in the north during the Civil War.

They ignore the thousands of Confederate soldiers that died of malnutrition and disease in Union prisoner-of-war camps, when the North had plenty of food and medicine and the South's crops were laid waste and burned.

They ignore the fact that the North's General W. Tecumseh Sherman and his army of marauders raped, pillaged and plundered Georgia with such unprecedented horror that it would become the ominous precursor to 20th century bloodbaths.

They ignore these things because America still needs the South to exorcise all the demons of its history. America must be made morally pure and innocent, the land of prosperity, justice and freedom, victorious at home and abroad by making the South the land of sin, guilt, racism, poverty and defeat.

The appetites of the high priests of political correctness will never be satiated. You can be absolutely certain that when all the Confederate flags are down, they'll come back for the monuments.

To follow their argument to its logical conclusion, they must eradicate all Southern heritage embodied in the Confederate battle flag by abolishing the St. Andrew's Southern Cross prominently displayed in the Alabama and Florida state flags; by sandblasting the Lee, Davis and Jackson sculptures carved on Stone Mountain of Georgia; by renaming Confederate Memorial Hall, originally named in honor of Confederate dead, at Vanderbilt University and so on.

All the statues and place names of slaveholding Southerners, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, must be eliminated and all visages of them expunged from U. S. currency.

They'll rename the nation's capital and knock down the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

At the turn of the last century, grizzled old veterans of the North and the South met again on the fields of that conflict and exhibited grace toward one another and honored each other's memorials and sacrifices.

Those old warriors got it right back then, and there is enough room today to honor good men whether they be Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Patrick Cleburne, Robert E. Lee, or Stonewall Jackson.

Reed Lannom is a retired businessman who lives in Gainesville.

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