10 thoughts on “An Exercise in Historical Interpretation

  1. tonygunter March 26, 2012 / 6:17 am

    Lincoln perverted the Declaration of Independence? The knock against the Republicans in 1861 is that they considered the Declaration of Independence an integral part of the nation’s social contract. The slaves states liked pretending that the DoI was just a piece of paper.

    Sounds like there are maybe 10 people applauding out in the audience, which gives a little context as to how popular this point of view is in today’s south.

    • Andy Hall March 26, 2012 / 7:58 am

      Sounds like there are maybe 10 people applauding out in the audience, which gives a little context as to how popular this point of view is in today’s south.

      I’d venture that such rhetoric is even out of the mainstream for Confederate heritage groups, mostly. If you only follow them in the online world, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that most of the noise is made by a handful of people, mostly in an internal conversation to continually prove their activist bona fides to each other. They’re like Grant’s wolves — “there are always more of them before they are counted.”

      I recently gave a talk to an SCV camp, and spent about three hours with them. I didn’t hear a single whinge about “political correctness,” or an accusation of “cultural genocide,” or a Lincoln/Hitler/Marx analogy. It was a useful corrective to understand that speakers like the guy above don’t especially reflect the views of the Southron heritage movement — for all its historical faults — and a reminder that performances like that above should be seen as entertainment, not as history.

      • Brooks D. Simpson March 26, 2012 / 8:03 am

        It has been my impression for some time that the internet face of Confederate heritage differs greatly from the people I meet who are SCV and UDC members.

        That said, I’ve also noticed that recently the Confederate heritage groups on the net with which we are familiar have become even more shrill and frantic to the point of amusing absurdity. Maybe it’s all due to anticipation for March 31. 🙂

    • Ken Noe March 26, 2012 / 8:24 am

      Yes, it was Calhoun, not Lincoln, who said that the Declaration was “absurd.” Ditto James Henry Hammond and William Gilmore Simms.

  2. Eric A. Jacobson March 26, 2012 / 9:15 am

    As did Alexander Stephens, who essentially said that the man who composed the Declaration, and, of course, had an entire section about slavery and the slave trade redacted from his original version, was wrong. Stephens said in March 1861:

    Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

    I find it fascinating that Hunter Wallace at least is honest enough to admit what men like Stephens said and meant, rather than muddying the waters as some do with modern spin about what Stephens, et al. SUPPOSEDLY were actually saying. I can at least appreciate brutal honesty from Stephens as well as Wallace.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 26, 2012 / 10:13 am

      I note that Chastain and others who pretend to distance themselves from Hunter Wallace have failed to challenge his version of history. Maybe they lack the knowledge to do so. Maybe they’re skeered. Maybe they can’t. Maybe they’re skeered because they can’t. But then that’s why it’s heritage, not history.

  3. Eric A. Jacobson March 26, 2012 / 10:51 am

    They can’t challenge his version of history, because when it comes right down to it, he understands and accepts the written and spoken word of the secessionists exactly at it was meant and intended. If men like Stephens, Davis, Toombs, Yancey, and Calhoun could hear how their overall message is being twirled like a top today, they might just start their own blog(s), and I bet it would be more Occidental Dissent than 180 Degrees.

    • Hunter Wallace March 27, 2012 / 9:29 am

      Connie Chastain passes off Black Republicanism as Confederate nationalism. Undoubtedly, Rhett and Yancey and virtually everyone who identified with the Confederacy would have found it bizarre.

      Stephens himself explained in the Cornerstone speech, the Virginia convention speech, and in his memoirs that the Southern states seceded because of the threat posed by Black Republicanism to the Southern way of life.

      The Confederate generation was familiar with anti-racism, social equality, and civil rights and violently rejected all those things before, during, and for long after the war.

      As Rhett explained in The Charleston Mercury, we were fighting for our civilization and nothing else. The Confederacy was based on a conservative worldview and the rejection of that worldview was tantamount to surrender. What’s the point of fighting for a meaningless cause?

      Rhett and others would have certainly ridiculed the cargo cultists like Chastain who march around like idiots with Confederate imagery while embracing Yankee ideals. They would have been annoyed by them.

      People like Chastain should move to Vermont and celebrate July the 4th. They should join organizations like the NAACP and celebrate Martin Luther King day instead of disturbing the graves of the dead.

  4. Eric A. Jacobson March 28, 2012 / 9:19 am

    Bizarre to say the least. I’m sure Rhett and Yancey would just love to hear this modern spin about what they REALLY thought. This is the ongoing struggle with modern interpretation as it relates to the politics that split the country and led to war, as well as the post-war decades. Those who pushed for secession and led the charge for separation were crystal clear about their motives. Denying that is denying truth.

    Too many people today who argue against the secessionists own words want it both ways. Because of their own modern tendencies and beliefs they want to virtually ignore the racial issues of the mid-1800s (although they have no issues pointing out the racial issues of Lincoln and Northerners) and advocate silliness like black Confederates. Well for every slave who was driving a wagon or cooking a meal in Southern armies, I can find a similar person doing the same thing in Northern armies. So what? That doesn’t make them soldiers on either side. It’s just a strawman argument to make some people feel better. If those same folks really wanted to be honest, they would just research the backlash against Pat Cleburne’s slave to soldiers proposal and admit black Confederates are a myth. The last time I checked Confederates were soldiers serving the Confederacy, not black men being forced to serve and supprt those fighting in service of Confederacy.

    People with too much time of their hands like Connie want to argue and banter about how wrong Lincoln was, how Federal soldiers were virtually invading monsters, and then turn around and whitewash the words of Southerners and why they fought so desperately against what they viewed as the utter destruction of their society and institutions. To engage in the former is not unexpected, but to promote the latter is to dishonor the men who fought for the Confederacy. As Brooks said, that’s heritage, not history.

    History is a often a dirty thing. I say so be it. I do not agree with Hunter Wallace and his modern perspectives at all, but he is at least honest enough to not distort the words of those who actually lived during the war.

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