June 14, 2020
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
Defend those Historic Forts Named for Confederate Generals!
And Give the Lie to those “Conservatives” Who Defame Lee and the South!
In recent days there has been loud chatter about changing the names of ten American military forts which bear the names of famous Confederate generals. You see, those men were obviously racists and represent historic and systemic white oppression. They were, in short, “traitors” and “racists” who took up arms to defend a slave society and destroy the noble American “experiment” based on equality, and we can’t have any of that: purge it now! Interestingly it was the far leftist New York Times that first urged this policy back on May 23. Breitbart ran a story about it on May 24, and now it’s become the standard template of Democrats and most Republicans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes further advocating the "Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed of prominent Americans in the national Capitol who represented states where once slavery existed: ."
Such a position may be expected from the speaker.
Over in the US Senate the Armed Services Committee, which the Republicans control, those esteemed gentlemen by a 25 to 2 tally voted to include a stipulation in the National Defense Authorization Act to strip the iconic names of such military installations as Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, and Fort Benning, named for famous Confederate generals. All but two Republicans supported the measure, setting up, as states, a clash with President Donald Trump, who opposes that change and promises a veto.
Among GOP members of that committee are Southerners Tom Tillis of North Carolina, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Tom Cotton and Dan Sullivan of Arkansas, David Perdue of Georgia, Rick Scott of Florida, and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, all of whom are reputed “conservatives.” But we know that one of two nay voting Republicans was Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, which means almost all the GOP solons, including those from Southern states turned tail and ran, preferring like cowards to hide in the tall grass (rather than undergo most likely charges of “racism”).
So-called “conservative” pundits on Fox were no better. Victor Davis Hanson, who at the very mention of the Confederacy, and General Jack Keane, both weighed in. , saying the he understood the storied history of Fort Bragg (where he had once been commander), but eventually coming round to denounce Generals Bragg, Lee, A. P. Hill, and others as “traitors” who “took up arms against their country,” and thus “we should have a national discussion about name changing.” Even the mostly clear-sighted Tucker Carlson took a swipe at the Confederacy and its leaders as “treasonable” and “on the wrong side of history.” (One wonders if Carlson felt impelled to declare such views, given the intense pressure he’s been under this past week for his hardline views on the racial riots?)
What we have witnessed from our (Neo) conservative elites, those self-appointed leaders in the conservative media and those elected Republicans was nothing less than a display of gross ignorance—at best, and craven surrender to the progressivist Marxist left—at worse. Given the history and ideology of the present dominant conservative establishment, such a course was perhaps to be expected, even if it shocks and upsets those habitual viewers of Fox News and Republican groupies who think that national salvation will be discovered listening to Brian Kilmeade or voting for Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina as he trashes the Confederacy and its leaders as racists.
There is a grassroots effort to contact the White House and President Trump to let them know you do not want our military bases’ names changed (and support the president’s opposition to proposed changes). Here is the access link to make your voice known to the president on this question:
And to counter the manifested ignorance and ideological falsehoods, I reproduce portions of two essays which I authored over the past few years answering the charges against Lee and other Confederate leaders, and against the formation of the Confederacy itself. Both of these essays appear in full in my book, (Scuppernong Press, 2018). Those same accusations more fully by Albert Bledsoe 154 years ago in his study Is Davis a traitor; or, Was secession a constitutional right previous to the war of 1861?
First, here are excerpts from (June 18, 2018):
“Were Robert E. Lee and the Confederates “traitors” who violated their oaths to the Constitution and attempted to destroy the American nation? Or, were they defenders of that Constitution and of Western Christian civilization?
“Over the past 158 years those questions have been posed and answers offered countless times. For over a century since Appomattox the majority opinion among writers and historians was that Lee and the Confederate leadership were noble figures of a “lost cause,” but sincerely mistaken about what they were fighting for. They were admirable and valorous, even to be emulated, if in the end the “righteous cause” of “national unity” was destined to triumph.
“In the “the road to re-union” that followed the conclusion of the War for Southern Independence, Southerners were permitted their heroes and, up to a point, their history. Southern historians wrote and published accounts of “the repressible conflict” (Avery Craven), of a war that might have been avoided if reason and a spirit of compromise had triumphed (as opposed to belief in what William Seward had called “the irrepressible conflict”).
“We were “all Americans now,” united around one flag. Former Confederate generals like “Fighting Joe” Wheeler, Fitzhugh Lee, Thomas L. Rosser, and Matthew Butler served as US Army generals during the Spanish-American War. Virginian Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1912. Southerners in Congress exercised a significant role in the direction of the nation, even if the options open to them were always subsumed under the rubric of national unity and limited by the invisible parameters of that unity. Hollywood collaborated throughout the silent period, and up through the 1950s the South and the Confederacy were treated generally with cinematic respect, if not sympathy.
“That post-war truce, that modus vivendi that recognized the nobility, sincerity, and admirability of those Confederates, even if their “cause” and secession were best interred with the past, began to break down by the sixth decade of the 20th century. Actually, a kind of Neo-Reconstructionist perspective had never completely been absent from the scene. Historians like Black Communist, W. E. B. de Bois (Black Reconstruction in America, 1935), kept alive a narrative that insisted that the War was uniquely about slavery and racism…and the oppression of black folk by a dominant white political and economic power structure.
“With the full-fledged emergence of a “New Left” school of historians in the 1960s and the incredible success of what became cultural Marxism, the tacit post-War settlement all but disappeared.
“I remember my grad school time at the University of Virginia in the 1970s: the old liberal narrative of reunion and unity, an appreciation for the Confederacy and its leaders, was already under attack. Slavery—and the increasing significance of racism, almost to the exclusion of all other considerations—was becoming the prism by which to judge all history, not just the Confederate odyssey and the brutal war of 1861-1865 and subsequent Reconstruction. The texts in my “Civil War and Reconstruction” seminar included works by Kenneth Stampp, Stanley Elkins, as well as C. Vann Woodward (The Strange History of Jim Crow), all pointing to the direction in which we were headed. Even signs of contradiction—historical demurrers like Time on the Cross (1974) by Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman—were eventually either dismissed, or, more generally, ignored.
“The “race and slavery” template has become enshrined in our contemporary historiography about “the tragic years” (to use Claude Bowers’ words). Marxist historian Eric Foner [the favorite historian of Republican consultant Karl Rove and other establishment Republicans!] with his multiple works on the epoch (e.g., Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 , A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln , and The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery ) is now counted the major chronicler and interpreter of the period. His works are standard in nearly every college history classroom. And his minions and ideological allies now dominant academia and the historical profession, to the practical exclusion of opposing views.
“But in fascinating ways, even Foner’s perspective is too mild for many current writers and pundits. (Foner even argued, after the August 2017 incident in Charlottesville, that should not be removed, but instead more statues should be installed to offer a “corrective” viewpoint.) Strikingly, the most hysterical and unbridled attacks on the Confederacy and, in particular, on Robert E. Lee and Confederate monuments, seem to come from those who consciously proclaim themselves to be “conservatives,” that is, those who are known as “neoconservatives.”
“Basically, these “conservative” critics [see Fox News almost any time of day] of the Confederacy and Lee declare: “Robert E. Lee and other Confederate military leaders who were in the US Army committed treason by violating their oaths to defend the Constitution, and Confederate leaders led a rebellion against the legitimately elected government of the United States.”
“This accusation has become an ultimate weapon of choice—the “ultima ratio”—for many of today’s fierce opponents of the various monuments [and military installations] that honor Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, P. G. T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, and other Confederate military and political leaders, and for the belief that those monuments should be taken down. And most especially, it is spewed forth as unassailable gospel by many neoconservative writers, publicists, pundits, and their less distinguished camp followers in the elites of the Republican Party.
“Somehow these critics forget to mention that Lee and the other Confederate leaders resigned their commissions in the United States Army and from Congress prior to enlisting in the defense of their home states and in the ranks of the Confederate Army, or assuming political positions in the new Confederate government. They did not violate their oaths; their states had formally left the union [Virginia when it joined the American nation on June 25, 1788, specifically retained the right to leave that union for cause, which is precisely what it did on April 17, 1861], and, thus, the claims of the Federal government in Washington had ceased to have authority over them [and over Lee].
“Recently, we have witnessed the , editor of the neoconservative National Review, apparently “channeling” Robert E. Lee and declaring that if Marse Robert were alive today he would happily join in the chorus to bring down those monuments honoring Confederate soldiers and leaders. Thus, according to Lowry, the great general would be there demonstrating right beside the “Antifa” Marxists and Black Lives Matter vandals.
“Even more obtuse views come from , a long time Neocon publicist and Never Trumper, who fears that the GOP is “being taken over by Trumpists and Neo-Confederates”!
“But it is from the mouths of such “conservatives” as Andrew Bacevitch, Max Boot, and Victor Davis Hanson that the worst venom emits. And, fascinatingly, it could just as well have come from a member of the communist Workers’ World Party as from Bacevitch (who writes for The American Conservative, but voted for Obama twice), or from Boot (who was John McCain’s foreign policy advisor during McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign), or from Hanson (who is considered a respected conservative icon).
“Just a few quotes :
“My complaint about Lee—I admit this to my everlasting shame—was not that he was a slaveholder who in joining the Confederacy fought to preserve slavery. It was that he had thereby engineered the killing of many thousands of American patriots who (whatever their views on slavery and race) wished simply to preserve the Union. At the beginning of the Civil War, Lee famously remarked that he could not bring himself to take up arms against his home state of Virginia. This obliged him to take up arms against the very nation that as a serving officer he had sworn to defend? No less than Benedict Arnold, Robert E. Lee was a traitor. This became, and remains, my firm conviction.”
“And then this :
“…what is it that we are supposed to be grateful to the Confederates for? For seceding from the Union? For, in the case of former U.S. Army officers such as Lee and Jackson, violating their oaths to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic’? For triggering the most bloody conflict in American history? For fighting to keep their fellow citizens in bondage?”
“But it is from the rabidly anti-Confederate, Victor Davis Hanson, infamous “March to the Sea,” that these passions are summarized:
“…the attack on [Southern] property and infrastructure [by the North] was permissible, [as] the war was an ideological one against treason and slavery…. Terror, as a weapon to be employed in war by a democratic army, must be proportional, ideological, and rational: proportional–Southerners, who fought to preserve men as mere property, would have their property destroyed; ideological–-those who would destroy property would do so as part of a larger effort of abolition that was not merely strategic but ethical as well; and rational–-burning and looting would not be random, nor killing gratuitous, but rather ruin was to have a certain logic, as railways, public buildings, big plantations, all the visible and often official infrastructure of a slave society, would be torched….”
“Now, these individuals are well-educated, with valuable university degrees, writers of some repute. But their hatred-laced and furious animus for Lee and the Confederacy is flagrantly ideological, an inheritance of their own undeniable genealogy and origins on the zealously Trotskyite Marxist Left…a legacy that continues to characterize and color their thinking and world view.
“It was Lee, Jackson, Davis, and others like them and with them who stood foursquare for the original Constitution, for the vision of the Framers, and, in effect, for the continuance of the inheritance of Western and Christian civilization. Their defeat was an incalculable blow to that inheritance.
“The latter-day neoconservative historical narrative implicitly, if not explicitly, furthers the goals of an historical Marxism that threatens to overwhelm and displace the culture and traditions of the West with a vision that owes far more to Leon Trotsky than to George Washington. In essence, the neocons collaborate in that dissolution.”
Secondly, here are selections from my essay, (November 19, 2015) published originally in Confederate Veteran magazine, included also in The Land We Love:
“…the charge has been made that Confederate symbols must be banned [and names of forts changed] because they represent “treason against the Federal government.” That is, those Southerners who took up arms in 1861 to defend their states, their homes, and their families, were engaged in “rebellion” and were “traitors” under Federal law.
“Again, such arguments fail on all counts. Some writers have suggested that Robert E. Lee, in particular, was a “traitor” because he violated his solemn military oath to uphold and defend the Constitution by taking up arms against the Union. But what those writers fail to note is that Lee had formally resigned from the US Army and had relinquished his commission before undertaking his new assignment to defend his home state of Virginia, which by then had seceded and re-vindicated its original independence [which it retained the right to do per its original act of joining the American nation].
“[And what of] the right of secession and whether the actions of the Southern states, December 1860-May 1861, could be justified under the US Constitution.
“One of the better summaries of the prevalent Constitutional theory at that time has been made by black scholar, professor, and prolific author Dr. Walter Williams. Here is what he writes in one his columns:
“During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison rejected it, saying, ‘A union of the states containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.’
In fact, the ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island explicitly said they held the right to resume powers delegated should the federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution never would have been ratified if states thought they could not regain their sovereignty — in a word, secede.
On March 2, 1861, after seven states seceded and two days before Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, Sen. James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin proposed a constitutional amendment that read, “No state or any part thereof, heretofore admitted or hereafter admitted into the union, shall have the power to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the United States.”
Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B. Florence of Pennsylvania and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit secession. Here’s a question for the reader: Would there have been any point to offering these amendments if secession were already unconstitutional?” [emphasis added]
“An examination of the ratification processes for Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina in the late 1780s, reveal very similar discussions: it was the independent states themselves that had created a Federal government (and not the reverse, as Abe Lincoln erroneously suggested), and it was the various states that granted the Federal government certain very limited and specifically enumerated powers, reserving the vast remainder for themselves (see Professor Mel Bradford, Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the United States Constitution. University of Georgia Press, 1993). As any number of the Founders indicated, there simply would not have been any United States if the states, both north and south, had believed that they could not leave it for just cause.
“During the Antebellum period there was little political support for denying the right of secession or for the Constitutional right to suppress it. Of the pre-war presidents, it is true, Andrew Jackson threatened South Carolina in 1833 over Nullification of the “Tariff of Abominations,” but that crisis was resolved through compromise. Even staunch anti-slavery unionist President John Quincy Adams advocated secession over the annexation of Texas, and in his April 30, 1839, speech “The Jubilee of the Constitution,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration as the first American president, he affirmed:
“…if the day should ever come, (may Heaven avert it) when the affections of the people of these states shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give away to cold indifference, or collisions of interest shall fester into hatred, the bands of political association will not long hold together the parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited states, to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint.”
“In his address to Congress in January of 1861, lame duck President James Buchanan, while deploring secession, stated frankly that he had no right to prevent it: “I certainly had no right to make aggressive war upon any State, and I am perfectly satisfied that the Constitution has wisely withheld that power even from Congress.” Former President John Tyler served in the Confederate Congress, and former President Franklin Pierce, in his famous Concord, New Hampshire, address, July 4, 1863, joined Buchanan in decrying the efforts to suppress the secession of the Southern states:
“Do we not all know that the cause of our casualties is the vicious intermeddling of too many of the citizens of the Northern States with the constitutional rights of the Southern States, cooperating with the discontents of the people of those states? Do we not know that the disregard of the Constitution, and of the security that it affords to the rights of States and of individuals, has been the cause of the calamity which our country is called to undergo?”
“More, during the antebellum period William Rawle’s pro-secession text on Constitutional law, A View of the Constitution of the United States (1825,) was used at West Point as the standard text on the US Constitution. And on several occasions the Supreme Court, itself, affirmed this view. In The Bank of Augusta v. Earl (1839), the Court wrote in an 8-1 decision:
“The States…are distinct separate sovereignties, except so far as they have parted with some of the attributes of sovereignty by the Constitution. They continue to be nations, with all their rights, and under all their national obligations, and with all the rights of nations in every particular; except in the surrender by each to the common purposes and object of the Union, under the Constitution. The rights of each State, when not so yielded up, remain absolute.”
“A review of the Northern press at the time of the Secession conventions finds, perhaps surprisingly to those who wish to read back into the past their own statist ideas, a similar view. As historian William Marvel explains in his volume, Mr. Lincoln Goes to War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 2006, pp. 19-20), very few Northern newspapers took the position that the Federal government had the constitutional right to invade and suppress states that had decided to secede. Many favored peaceful separation. Indeed, were it not the New England states in 1814-1815 who made the first serious effort at secession during the War of 1812, to the point that they gathered in Hartford to discuss actively pursuing it? And during the pre-war period various states asserted in one form or another similar rights.
“One last comment regarding the accusation of “treason”: after the conclusion of the War, the Southern states were put under military authority, their civil governments dissolved, and each state had to be re-admitted to the Union. But, logically, a state could not be “re-admitted” to the Union unless it had been out of it. And if it were out of it, legally and constitutionally, as the Southern states maintained (and some Northern writers acknowledged), then it could not be in any way guilty of “treason.” [….]
Please sign the petition…and help spread the truth. We shall, apparently, get little or no help from the establishment Yankee Republicans from north of the Mason-Dixon Line, nor from our cowardly southern Republican solons who fear, it seems, being called a “racist” more than the extinction of our heritage and culture. It’s up to us, then. Let the president hear our voices…and come November let’s remember the Scalawags in our midst who plead for our votes but in Washington don’t give a damn about our history and traditions.