June 29, 2019
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
A Neo-Reconstructionist Attack on The Land We Love – Professor Donald Livingston Responds
My book, The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage (Scuppernong Press, 2018) was reviewed in Chronicles Magazine by Professor Donald Livingston back in its May 2019 issue. In that same issue Chilton Williamson, the magazine’s editor, also spoke highly of the volume. I included a copy of Professor Livingston’s review in the May 2 MY CORNER which also memorialized the tragically deceased Aaron Wolf who had been managing editor of the magazine.
Fast forward to the July 2019 issue of Chronicles, and there is a letter from one Mr. Keith Burtner, of Dallas, Texas, attacking the book as “yet another attempt to defend ‘Lost Cause’ ideology,” and asserting that the ancestors of Southerners “were morally obtuse and on the wrong side of history.” The author of the letter goes on: “According to the book’s author, Boyd Cathey, the real reason the South seceded had little to do with slavery and everything to do with resisting the revolutionary, sectional Republicans whose ‘goal was to consolidate the states into a centralized regime of crony capitalism ruled by the emerging New York-Chicago industrial axis’.”
Actually, he is quoting reviewer Donald Livingston here, not me, but I fully endorse Professor Livingston’s comments.
From the tenor of his letter it appears that Mr. Burtner may well be a Yankee transplant—what we used to call a “carpetbagger,” those avaricious folks who come South to take advantage of our natural resources, business opportunities, ample labor supply, better climate, and low taxes…but without any desire or intention to appreciate or understand the heritage of our region. Or, he could be what we term a “scalawag,” a native-born Southerner who has turned his back on his traditions and his region for a variety of reasons (status, lucre, bad education, bad raisin’, and so on). To read his letter he appears to have swallowed the currently fashionable narrative shared not just by the leftist social justice fanatics, but also maintained by the dominant “conservative movement” Neoconservatives: folks like Ben Shapiro, Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry (editor of National Review), Victor Hanson Davis, Dinesh D’Souza, and Brian Kilmeade (on Fox).
Professor Livingston penned a superb response to Burtner, and that response accompanied his letter in the July 2019 issue of Chronicles.
I pass on both the letter and the response to it, and, additionally, once again, I copy Professor Livingston’s original review…with a recommendation that you subscribe to Chronicles which is the oldest traditionalist conservative journal around, with some of the finest writers and sharpest and most thoughtful commentary.
A Memorable Secession JULY 2019 issue
JUNE 14, 2019
I haven’t read The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage, and judging by Donald Livingston’s review (May 2019 issue) I probably won’t. Why? Because it sounds like yet another attempt to defend “Lost Cause” ideology. According to the book’s author, Boyd Cathey, the real reason the South seceded had little to do with slavery and everything to do with resisting the revolutionary, sectional Republicans whose “goal was to consolidate the states into a centralized regime of crony capitalism ruled by the emerging New York-Chicago industrial axis.” The Secessionists were the true Americans who “took the Founders’ Constitution with them, word for word, except for a few reforms…” Reforms such as this gem in Article IV: “…the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress…”
The reason many Southerners have stopped defending Confederate monuments is not because they’ve lost their traditional virtues as Livingston suggests, but because with the benefit of 150 years of hindsight they realize their ancestors were morally obtuse and on the wrong side of history. One doesn’t have to be a Cultural Marxist to believe that while the Civil War and the Jim Crow era are a part of our heritage that needs to be remembered, it should no longer be glorified.
Prof. Livingston Replies:
Mr. Burtner says the Confederate “ancestors” of Southerners were “morally obtuse and on the wrong side of history.” But were they? First, slavery was a national enormity, not merely a Southern thing. For over two centuries the wealth of the Northeast had come from servicing the export of slave-produced staples. And New England’s brutal slave trade lasted 170 years. Estimates are that Yankees got around 40 cents on every dollar earned by the planters.
The morally right thing would have been a nationally funded program of compensated emancipation (as the British had done in 1833) and integration of the African population into American society. But Northerners were not interested in doing their part to abolish slavery. They were especially opposed to free blacks entering their states or the Western territories. “What I would most desire,” Lincoln said, “would be the separation of the white and black races.”
And he meant it. The Illinois Constitution with his approval prohibited free blacks from entering the state and denied basic civil rights to those within it. H. Ford Douglas, a free black in Illinois, said that if he dared send his children to a public school, “Abraham Lincoln would kick them out, in the name of Republicanism and antislavery!”
So long as slaves were confined to the South, Lincoln said “the institution might be let alone for a hundred years.” He said he opposed slavery in the West because that would save the region from “the troublesome presence of free negroes” in the future. Ohio and Indiana passed legislation to gradually send all free blacks out of their states by sending them as colonists to the Western territories or Africa. This disposition prevailed throughout the North.
James Shepherd Pike, an abolitionist correspondent for the New York Tribune, wrote in the February 1861 Atlantic Monthly:
We say the Free States should say, confine the Negro to the smallest possible area. Hem him in. Coop him up. Slough him off. Preserve just so much of North America as is possible for the white man. . . .
Likewise, the Republican-controlled House Committee on Emancipation Policy said in its 1862 report, “the highest interests of the white race, whether Anglo-Saxon, Celt, or Scandinavian, requires that the whole country should be held and occupied by those races alone.” Many believed that, once freed, blacks could not compete and would gradually leave or die out. Ralph Waldo Emerson cheerfully predicted, “It will happen by & by that the black man will only be destined for museums like the Dodo.”
The South did not secede to protect slavery from a morally responsible proposal to abolish it, because no such proposal was ever put forth. Lincoln said repeatedly that the point of the War was merely to prevent secession. He lived in an age when centralization and empire building were viewed as instruments of human progress. He estimated that by 1930 America would have a population capable of competing with the great empires of Europe. But that would not happen if there was a negotiated separation.
There was much that was “morally obtuse”—to use Mr. Burtner’s phrase—in the North’s refusal to acknowledge its moral responsibility for originating, servicing, and profiting from slavery. Also in Lincoln’s refusal to negotiate a separation from what was clearly, for both sides, a suffocating and dysfunctional Union.
As to the right side of history, I observe that a Zogby poll last year found that 39 percent of Americans favor secession for their state, and 29 percent are not sure. That means 68 percent are willing to entertain the concept of secession. Lincoln’s war to prevent a negotiated separation cost a million lives, or the equivalent of 10 million if adjusted for today’s population size. The Union was not “indivisible” in 1860, nor was the Soviet Union in 1991, nor was the EU in 2016—and neither is the United States today.
Faithful Son MAY 2019 ISSUE
APRIL 04, 2019
Boyd Cathey is an 11th generation Carolina Tar Heel who was mentored by and worked with Russell Kirk. The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage is written reverentially, just as one might reflect on the memory of one’s mother. For the South is not just any region of the United States, like the Midwest, the Southwest, or even New England. From 1776 to 1860 the South was at the core of American identity. In the first 72 years under the Constitution, only five presidents were elected from the North. None served two terms; whereas five Southern presidents served two terms. All the territory beyond the original 13 states was acquired by Southern presidents.
As of 1860, the South was America: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Calhoun, Clay, the Louisiana Purchase, the Alamo. But this Jeffersonian America was challenged with the formation of the Republican Party in 1854. It was a revolutionary party and a sectional party. Its goal was to consolidate the states into a centralized regime of crony capitalism ruled by the emerging New York-Chicago industrial axis. This aim stood in stark contrast to the America that Southerners did so much to create and sustain. So, they seceded and took the Founders’ constitution with them, word for word, except for a few reforms to prevent crony capitalism and to strengthen state sovereignty.
Unlike other regions, the South was once an independent country. It suffered defeat in one of the bloodiest wars of the 19th century and endured the humiliation of military occupation and plunder. Out of this Golgotha came a tragic view of human life and human nature that immunized the best of the Southern people against the ideological enthusiasms of the age.
In time North and South would be reunited, and the War would be seen as a battle over a contested American identity that existed among the Founders themselves. This gave the Confederacy an honorable heritage. Southern heroes such as Lee became models for emulation by all Americans. President Eisenhower kept a portrait of Lee in the Oval Office throughout his two terms.
But that America is as gone with the wind as the Old South itself.
Written from the aforementioned perspective, this book is a collection of short essays that appeared in various journals from the 1980’s into 2018, the period in which the Cultural Marxist understanding of America came into its own. The chapters cover a great variety of topics: Southern Founders; the attack on Confederate monuments; Southern writers, religion, and character; secession movements; the South in film; the Southern Poverty Law Center; the South and Christian civilization; race relations; and the baneful character of ideology. The essays are short, eloquently written, and—since they range over a variety of characters, events, and topics—continually stimulating.
Readers of this book will come away with an understanding of Southern virtues, but they will also wonder whether the tradition that produced those virtues still exists. Have most Southerners been transformed into a nomadic, Sunbelted mass of deracinated Americans wearing Ray-Bans? It might seem so. In recent years, those leading attacks on Southern monuments have been Southern mayors, city councils, governors, and prominent leaders of Southern churches and denominations.
Today, two years after the tragic events of Charlottesville, one is hard-pressed to find a state or federal political leader willing to defend the Lee monument there, though it still stands by court order. A South whose leadership cannot (or will not) say a good word about Lee is in serious decline, if not already dead. Have Southerners lost their immunity to ideology? Have they internalized the Cultural Marxist mantra that America is structurally white supremacist, sexist, and homophobic to the point that they are morally disarmed by the dreaded charge of racism? The question applies not only to leaders but to rank-and-file Southerners as well, who failed to assemble en masse to protest the desecration and tearing down of their monuments.
Traditions do die, and usually with a whimper. Boyd Cathey is aware of this, and running throughout this book are reflections on the Christian virtue of hope as well as two essays that encourage recovery: “The Vigil of the Nativity: Reflections on the Hope that Came to Us Two Millennia Ago,” and a substantial final meditation, “Reflections on the Future.”