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The Confederacy Won the Peace

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1939 Views

Jefferson-Davis-Highway-markers

The statistic at the end of the second paragraph says it all:

The Confederates won with the pen (and the noose) what they could not win on the battlefield: the cause of white supremacy and the dominant understanding of what the war was all about. We are still digging ourselves out from under the misinformation that they spread, which has manifested in both our history books and our public monuments.

Take Kentucky. Kentucky’s legislature voted not to secede, and early in the war, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston ventured through the western part of the state and found “no enthusiasm as we imagined and hoped but hostility … in Kentucky.” Eventually, 90,000 Kentuckians would fight for the United States, while 35,000 fought for the Confederate States. Nevertheless, according to historian Thomas Clark, the state now has 72 Confederate monuments and only two Union ones.

Another excellent example is the fact that if you drive from Seattle to Vancouver you do so in part on the Jefferson Davis Highway. Given that Washington not only didn’t secede, but didn’t exist, during Davis’s brief period heading the treasonous slave state I think we can safely chalk this up to 100% hate, 0% heritage. A bill was proposed to get rid of it in 2002, but it generated intense Republican opposition and was ultimately killed in the Senate:

The opponents describe the highway change as a needless affront to Davis, who remains revered in some quarters and for whom plenty of schools are named in the South.

Now Representative Thomas M. Mielke, a Republican from Battle Ground, has taken up their cause and is opposing the bill, expected to come up for a vote on Thursday.

Mr. Mielke circulated an e-mail message to his colleagues on Tuesday night, attaching a biography of Davis and calling him ”an outgoing, friendly man, a great family man who loved his wife and children and had an infinite store of compassion.”

“Sure, he was a traitor who believed that slavery was a cause worth dying for and supported the establishment of apartheid police states in the South after the civil war, but he was a nice guy.” Hey, maybe Mohamed Atta remembered to call his mother every birthday, we could start naming roads after him too! I’m afraid when it comes to public monuments I’m in the “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids” school. The fact that Republican legislators in states that had nothing to do with the Confederacy are willing to make such transparently silly arguments to preserve the monuments to the slave power is highly instructive.

Returning to Loewen:

Perhaps most perniciously, neo-Confederates now claim that the South seceded for states’ rights. When each state left the Union, its leaders made clear that they were seceding because they were for slavery and against states’ rights. In its “Declaration Of The Causes Which Impel The State Of Texas To Secede From The Federal Union,” for example, the secession convention of Texas listed the states that had offended them: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa. These states had in fact exercised states’ rights by passing laws that interfered with the federal government’s attempts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Some also no longer let slaveowners “transit” through their states with their slaves. “States’ rights” were what Texas was seceding against. Texas also made clear what it was seceding for: white supremacy.

And there are plenty of other illustrations. Uniform support of the Fugitive Slave Act by the slave power in itself reveals the “states’ rights” argument as a con. Any “strict constructionist” would look at the wording of the Fugitive Slave clause and its placement in Article IV and construe the return of fugitive slaves as a state, not federal, responsibility. And perhaps the single most important issue in the dissolution of the Democratic Party was the unwillingness of Congress to impose a proslavery constitution on Kansas that its citizens didn’t want. The Confederate Constitution did not permit states to abolish slavery. 99% of arguments about “federalism” are really arguments about policy substance, and attempts by Confederates and their apologists to claim they were motivated by “states’ rights” are particularly fraudulent.

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