A Defense of the Confederate Flag

One of this blog’s most determined (and angriest) commenters shared this link in a comment, and I thought it should get the full attention it is due.  It’s an effort to defend the use of the Confederate battle flag on top of the South Carolina State House.  Of course, the flag came down, although it is still displayed on the state house grounds, where it is still a subject of controversy.


15 thoughts on “A Defense of the Confederate Flag

  1. James F. Epperson November 21, 2011 / 5:35 am

    “The scholars we contradict violate another elementary rule of scholarship by asserting that sweeping historical judgments may be established by cutting and pasting snippets of quotations.”—-which the authors of this screed then proceed to emulate with their own list of cherry-picked quotes and fraudulent quotes.

    • BorderRuffian November 21, 2011 / 11:14 am

      They described it as a “game.” As in anyone can cut and paste quotes.

      “We have attached to our statement, to show how the game is played, our own collection of snipped quotations on the causes of the war.”

  2. wgdavis November 21, 2011 / 7:29 am

    But there is no defense of the Confederate flag! It belongs in reenactments, movies and museums. No government entity should issue or approve its use for any reason. While the “moonlight and magnolias” crowd might have their fantasies about the flag in terms of a symbol, it also represents a part of America that went to war to preserve slavery and as such, that symbol is simply too reprehensible to be publicly displayed by anyone.

  3. Brooks D. Simpson November 21, 2011 / 10:11 am

    And then there’s this demand for … wait for it … Confederate Cultural Studies.

    “Why is it everyone can even have cultural studies let alone have an arguement over them? Where are ours?”

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  4. Lyle Smith November 21, 2011 / 10:31 am

    Like most government displays of the Confederate battle flag across the South, it has little at all to do with the Civil War and everything to do with Jim Crow and/or the falling apart of segregation. For example the South Carolina statehouse flag didn’t go up until 1962, a full century after South Carolina had seceded from the United States, when segregation was fitfully on its way out. Its purpose on the statehouse was to protest the disintegration of segregation.

    So when arguing against the use of the flag, I think it’s best to focus on the flag’s use as a symbol of white supremacist segregation and not of slavery (even though most people seem to associate it with slavery more than they do with segregation).

    • BorderRuffian November 21, 2011 / 11:20 am

      How many of the professors who signed the document promote segregation?

      How many people who promote the use of the flag also promote segregation?

      • Brooks D. Simpson November 21, 2011 / 1:04 pm

        I think you should ask them. You can report your findings in the same document where you reveal the presence of all those black Confederate soldiers you claim will be revealed.

      • Lyle Smith November 21, 2011 / 1:49 pm

        “How many of the professors who signed the document promote segregation?”

        Probably none.

        “How many of the professors who signed the document promote segregation?”

        Today, probably none. However, supporters have to acknowledge that they want to maintain the presence of a flag that has absolutely nothing to do with Confederate soldiers, but instead has everything to do with defending the once upon time institution of white supremacist segregation in South Carolina. The flag didn’t go up to celebrate the Civil War service of Confederate soldiers, but to defiantly protest the disintegration of segregation.

        • Lyle Smith November 21, 2011 / 2:09 pm

          The second response is meant to be for this question.

          “How many people who promote the use of the flag also promote segregation?”

          I failed the copy and paste test.

          A few generations of Southerners used the Confederate battle flag to express their disgust of racial equality and integration, and it was these generations that put the Confederate battle flag over the South Carolina statehouse in 1962. Do the professors that signed the petition really want to celebrate South Carolina’s previous disgust of racial equality and integration?

  5. Marc Ferguson November 21, 2011 / 12:40 pm

    This is a group that illustrates that even many trained historians fail to understand the distinction between Confederate Heritage and Southern History/Heritage



  6. Marc Ferguson November 21, 2011 / 3:41 pm

    Two of our Confederate Romantics continue to purvey their nonsense and myths about Lincoln:

  7. Sharryn November 21, 2011 / 8:38 pm

    My native state is “Idaho” there was a group at Hayden Lake that used the confederate flag,extensively. They were not interested in Confederate Heritage. White supremacy was their only interest….

  8. Terry Walbert November 23, 2011 / 1:28 pm

    I agree completely with the following statement:

    “We consider that statement [of the Confederate flag critics] misleading in its content and an inappropriate intrusion of supposed academic expertise into a political controversy.”

    I have no objections to citizens taking a position on an issue, just that being a historian doesn’t automatically give one’s opinion more credibility.

    I’m reminded of Forrest McDonald’s 1998 comment during the Clinton impeachment hearings that historians are no more qualified to give advice on current events than well-informed plumbers or radiologists. McDonald was referring to the 400 historians who signed a petition saying that perjury in a civil matter was not a cause for impeachment. (See “http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/petition102898.htm#sig” for the petition.) Their petition began with this sentence, “As historians as well as citizens, we deplore the present drive to impeach the President.”

    Substitute another noun for “historians” and see if it gives more weight to the sentence.

    “As morticians as well as citizens, we deplore the present drive to impeach the President.”


    “As beekeepers as well as citizens, we deplore the present drive to impeach the President.”

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 23, 2011 / 11:43 pm

      I think Forrest was half right. Maybe more than half. Let me explain (I’ve written about this before) …

      I think qualified historians could have offered an informed opinion on whether Clinton’s actions constituted an impeachable offense (I am of the opinion that they did, based on some textual analysis of the meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors” at the time). I don’t think that warranted an ad, and it is not my call as a historian as to what the House should have done in that instance, because impeachment is a political act (oh, I could offer an opinion, and it might be informed by my sense of politics and political history, but that’s how it should be taken).

      However, not all of the historians who signed the document meet my criteria of “qualified historians,” in part because many of them do not know much about the presidency, the Constitution, or impeachment. That includes some of my institutional colleagues (note that my name does not appear on the ad). I was amused to see them present themselves as possessing expertise on this issue. In many cases they were speaking as citizens while citing their status as historians in an effort to claim an informed expertise that I know several of them did not have.

  9. Terry Walbert November 25, 2011 / 7:57 pm

    The three co-sponsors are Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Sean Wilentz, and C. Vann Wodward. While all are eminent historians in their respective fields, none is a specialist in the Constitution. Schlesinger might cite his books on two controversial presidents, Jackson and FDR, and on Kennedy, but Schlesinger is also known as a liberal Democrat. Rush Limbaugh commented that it wasn’t 400 historians but 400 liberals.

    Some of the other signers are interesting: the late Stephen E. Ambrose, Jean Baker (Mary Todd Lincoln biographer), Ira Berlin and David Blight (both slavery, emancipation, and Civil War), Julian Bond (U of VA and NAACP), Doris Kearns Goodwin, and the late John Hope Franklin.

    James Gilbert of the U. of MD was also there. I grossed him out once by saying in early 1974 that I would have voted for Richard Nixon in 1972 if I thought George McGovern had any chance of winning. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t stick around as a grad student because he was department chairman later (just kidding).

    Joseph Ellis, Pauline Maier, the late Edmund Morgan, Jack Rakove, and Clarence Ver Steeg were the only ones with historical expertise in the Constitutional period that I recognized. There were probably others that I wasn’t aware of.

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