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Neo-Confederacy of Dunces

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Well, some people will celebrate anything:

Wearing gray wool uniforms, hoop skirts, leather jackets and business suits, several hundred men and women marched to the Alabama Statehouse on Saturday afternoon, where they delivered defiant speeches, fired heavy artillery, and swore in an amateur actor playing Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy, 150 years and one day after the event took place.

Confederate minimizers have always appreciated Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address because it allow them to pretend that the defense of slavery had nothing to do with the secession and the formation of the confederate government. Unlike the constitution to which he swore allegiance — and unlike the Confederate apostles who promoted disunion throughout December 1860 and January 1861 — Davis had the delicate taste to refrain from actually using the word “slavery” in his address.  At the same time, however, it takes an extraordinarily naive reading of that speech to miss the central point of the Confederacy’s political revolution. For instance:

With a Constitution differing only from that of our fathers in so far as it is explanatory of their well-known intent, freed from sectional conflicts, which have interfered with the pursuit of the general welfare, it is not unreasonable to expect that States from which we have recently parted may seek to unite their fortunes to ours under the Government which we have instituted. For this your Constitution makes adequate provision; but beyond this, if I mistake not the judgment and will of the people, a reunion with the States from which we have separated is neither practicable nor desirable. To increase the power, develop the resources, and promote the happiness of the Confederacy, it is requisite that there should be so much of homogeneity that the welfare of every portion shall be the aim of the whole. When this does not exist, antagonisms are engendered which must and should result in separation.

Everyone in February 1861 would have understood that the “well-known intent” of the Constitution, so far as the Confederate leadership was concerned, was to protect all species of property and prohibit the federal government from discriminating against the (non trans-Atlantic) traffic in human property. Since Lincoln was elected in part on the strength of his party’s vow to resist the Dred Scott decision — a ruling that every good slaveholder regarded as a vindication of the Constitution’s “well-known intent” to protect slavery everywhere — Confederate mobilizers once again yowled, as they had for the better part of the past fifteen years, that Northern madmen were determined to harm the sectional “welfare” of the slave power. The ascendancy of Black Republicanism threatened the “homogeneity” of values needed to view the extension of slavery as an essential national good. 

Davis’ inaugural address, in other words, did nothing to deny that slavery was central to Southern states rights nationalism; rather, it chose to make all the usual pro-slavery arguments in more opaque form.  (His second inaugural address, which almost no one ever thinks about, is somewhat less guarded than his first effort.  There, he continues to avoid using the word “slavery,” but he nevertheless fumes about the North’s “warfare on the domestic institutions of the Southern states” and the South’s need to maintain “our ancient institutions.”  And if for some reason you aren’t familiar with 19th century pro-slavery euphemisms, “institutions” is loosely translated as “owning some motherfuckers.”)

At any rate, all of this should be plain to anyone who isn’t a complete moron.  What you probably didn’t realize, however, is that the plot against Southern heritage is exactly like all the horrible things that happened to Harry Potter.

(video via Yiddish Yankee in Jefferson Davis’ Court)

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