What They Don’t Teach You

Every once in a while it’s useful to examine a claim made by someone who can’t decide whether she’s a historian.

Duncan Kenner

Let’s examine this a little more closely, shall we?

Let’s first applaud the concession that the Confederacy was founded on the principle of slavery. This is not easy for some people to admit, but there it is … the Confederacy was founded on the principle of slavery.  Send your protests to the author, not me.

Second, one might not want to confuse the Declaration of Independence (composed in 1776) with the Constitution of the United States (written in 1787, ratified in 1788). We also note that the man who composed those words in 1776, Thomas Jefferson, was a white southerner who owned slaves. If the author wishes to make the case that Jefferson and other white southerners who spoke of human equality while owning slaves were hypocrites, she is welcome to do so.

The author fails to understand that between 1789 (when the republic under the Constitution commenced operations) and 1861 white southerners dominated the politics of the United States. Why she doesn’t know this is difficult to explain. What we know is that once white southerners left the union in 1860-61, it took only five years to complete the destruction of slavery.

One of the odd things about Confederate apologists is that they forget that the white southerners who formed the Confederacy were once part of the United States, and that one cannot understand United States history between the Constitution and the Civil War without understanding the role played by white southerners in shaping that history. They helped create the very circumstances she deplores. Slavery remained a vital institution because white southerners sought to defend it within the union.

As for Duncan Kenner’s mission … it’s no secret. Historians have not concealed it. James McPherson, whose Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) remains the standard study of the conflict, discusses it (see pages 837-38). Clearly the author’s aware of it. But she errs in claiming that just because Jefferson Davis had an idea that the people of the Confederacy were willing to give up slavery. If she’s going to claim that, then Lincoln was ready to give up slavery from the moment he entered office.

We are unable to discern whether the author’s confusion and muddled rendering of history is due to ignorance, ineptitude, or simple lying. What we do know is that she is serious about what’s being taught in the schools, she has happened upon her mission in life. We expect her to spearhead a movement to reform how American history is taught in the schools … because, as we can see from her own comments, clearly there are students who have a severely flawed understanding of American history … including herself.

But then it’s heritage, not history, for some folks.

30 thoughts on “What They Don’t Teach You

  1. Sandi Saunders March 16, 2015 / 11:30 am

    So are we discounting that even as far back as the Declaration of Independence slavery was a contentious issue (that Jefferson wanted to claim it as a problem of royal rule) and that the South was already fighting to keep slavery legal, and keep their militias armed? Decades of arguing over slavery culminated in the Civil War because the South was not going to give it up and to claim that Jefferson’s desperate ploy proves anything more than his duplicitous forked-tongue is just laughable to anyone not swimming in that seditious sea.

  2. Leo March 16, 2015 / 2:12 pm

    I never thought I’d live to see Connie admit slavery had anything to do with the Civil War. I’m sure she will start her usual crawfish like backpedaling very soon.

    Meanwhile, I hear HK was in the Magnolia State recently and verbally chastised John F. Marszalek during a public presentation for the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library. If true, it shows the desperation of these people and their inability to function in polite society.

    I honestly don’t care if people want to honor their Confederate ancestors. In fact, I honestly understand the desire to pay tribute, but these people make it hard, if not imposable, for those of us who wish to do so in a dignified, respectful, and non-confrontational manner.

    The best thing the “heritage crowd” can do to honor the Confederate dead is to go away.

    • Andy Hall March 17, 2015 / 8:06 am

      I hear HK was in the Magnolia State recently and verbally chastised John F. Marszalek during a public presentation for the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library. If true, it shows the desperation of these people and their inability to function in polite society.

      The heritage crowd is so enamored of the idea of being “politically incorrect,” that making a spectacle or a scene has become an end unto itself.

      • Leo March 17, 2015 / 9:10 am

        I think you are right. People in these “heritage” groups are more interested in getting attention than doing anything constructive.

  3. Mousy Tongue March 16, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    The Subjects I Wanted To Call Attention To
    by Connie Ward

    89 years
    4 years
    41 % dsapprove
    48 % indifferent
    KK K US
    F LAG

    Gnocide Plains
    CIA MK Ultra

    • Eek-a-Mouse March 16, 2015 / 9:56 pm

      a regular
      k k kummings

  4. Ken Noe March 16, 2015 / 3:30 pm

    As you probably already know, Don Doyle’s new book includes a useful discussion of the Kenner mission, He stresses that Davis and Judah Benjamin strove to keep it secret precisely because they assumed that the mass of white Confederates (including soldiers and politicians) would oppose it. Doyle also details how the Confederacy’s representatives in Europe undermined the proposal at every turn, to the degree that James Mason actually refused to present all of it to the British.

  5. Al Mackey March 16, 2015 / 8:45 pm

    Since the confederate constitution prohibited their national government from abolishing slavery and since the eleven states of the confederacy were not consulted and thus weren’t on board with this proposal, I regard the offer as nothing but an attempt to bamboozle the British, an attempt for which they were too smart to fall.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 16, 2015 / 10:00 pm

      OMG … do you mean that Jeff Davis wanted to violate the Confederate Constitution?!?!

      • Al Mackey March 17, 2015 / 11:04 am

        Strict constructionist that he was, I doubt it. Instead, I think he was lying to the Brits to get recognition.

        • SF Walker March 18, 2015 / 5:23 pm

          Which really didn’t make much sense by that time, because by then the British and the French were growing increasingly sour toward the Confederacy–canceling contracts for Confederate warships, etc. Great Britain needed Northern wheat more than it needed Southern cotton. I doubt European recognition of the Confederacy was ever a real possibility.

  6. M.D. Blough March 16, 2015 / 9:12 pm

    Furthermore, the reason that slavery (although never called by that name) is tolerated in the original (pre-13th Amendment US Constitution) is that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia made it quite explicit that their states would not ratify the Constitution if it excluded protection for slavery. It got to the point that, during the Debate on August 25, 1787, that Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania proposed amending the provision on the moratorium before Congress could take action against the international slave tread to read, >> Mr. Govr. MORRIS was for making the clause read at once, “importation of slaves into N. Carolina, S. Carolina & Georgia shall not be prohibited &c.” This he said would be most fair and would avoid the ambiguity by which, under the power with regard to naturalization, the liberty reserved to the States might be defeated. He wished it to be known also that this part of the Constitution was a compliance with those States. If the change of language however should be objected to by the members from those States, he should not urge it.<< James Madison, "Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787" http://teachingamericanhistory.org/convention/debates/0825-2/ (Morris then withdrew his amendment after a short debate)

  7. E.A. Mayer March 16, 2015 / 10:19 pm

    Kenner was also the author of Louisiana’s black codes so we know that his sort of ‘freedom’ which he was offering was really just another kind of slavery. Every time I see a Neo-confederate bring this up as a way to somehow prove that the CSA wasn’t all about slavery, I’m reminded of Himmler trying to make deals over Jewish concentration camp inmates at the end of WWII. Both are really just guilty admissions of what their political entities were all about, and both were desperate last ditch hopeless ploys.

  8. Leo March 17, 2015 / 6:11 am

    You will notice Connie says, “Did it in four” as if the Confederacy already abolished slavery.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 17, 2015 / 7:01 am

      Well, the Confederacy fell in four years, and its fall ended slavery. So perhaps she takes pride in its fall. At least she admits on the record that its founding principle was the defense of slavery.

      • Jimmy Dick March 17, 2015 / 7:43 am

        I wonder how the heritage crew is taking her admission that slavery was the founding principle of the Confederacy?

        Are the finally accepting facts instead of their delusions? Or do they even know yet?

        • Brooks D. Simpson March 17, 2015 / 3:10 pm

          Well, as Connie reminds us:

          “There are lots of ways to lie … outright stating an untruth, but also implication, omission, pretended ingnorance, etc.”

          I think her ignorance of how to spell ignorance is real and not pretended. But it’s clear that she’s given a great deal of thought to her favorite practice … lying.

          • Jimmy Dick March 17, 2015 / 3:30 pm

            Careful. She will reword what she said and demand an apology. She seems to think that she does not lie. So what is she going to say to the heritage nuts when they see her words saying that the Confederacy was created to protect slavery? Is she going to lie to them, backtrack, and try to cover over what she said or will she willfully embrace the truth that protecting slavery was the foundation of the Confederacy?

            Surely she isn’t going to try to say two different things with opposite meaning and expect to get by with it.

      • Leo March 17, 2015 / 8:49 am

        My dealings with Connie are limited to the few times I have come across her while researching various aspects of the Civil War. As I’ve stated before, I find her to be a strange person with a view of the Civil War based more on “Gone with the Wind” than anything factual. I’ve seen her completely blow off the relevance of the Cornerstone Speech with a “so what”. I believe her exact words were, “So what? Alexander Stephens doesn’t speak for the entire Confederacy anymore than Dick Cheney speaks for the United States.” She also belittled the different state secession ordnances as evidence. I just gave up and walked away.

        Her willingness to accept Duncan Kenner’s mission to Europe as evidence the Confederacy gave up slavery despite any evidence the Confederate congress or the various states sanctioned it is either ignorance of historical fact or political theater.

        It’s a shame people like Connie, H.K. Edgerton, and the various “heritage” groups suck all the oxygen out of the room. They are doing nothing but hurting the very people they say they honor and doing much more harm than good.

        • Brooks D. Simpson March 17, 2015 / 3:11 pm

          Connie doesn’t believe in evidence that contradicts what she needs to believe.

          • Jimmy Dickj March 17, 2015 / 3:26 pm

            That is cognitive dissonance in action. It is endemic in heritage groups, conspiracy nuts, and extremists.

          • Jimmy Dick March 17, 2015 / 5:15 pm

            She is the personification of cognitive dissonance.

      • SF Walker March 18, 2015 / 5:36 pm

        Exactly. Of course by the time Kenner arrived in Europe, slavery in the Confederacy had already been largely destroyed by the war–and the Confederacy itself effectively consisted of only parts of the Carolinas and Virginia.

  9. Rob Baker March 17, 2015 / 7:53 am

    Another curious statement in a long line of comedy from ol’ Connie. I see she stuck to her guns and did the usual finger pointing instead of an actual defense. It’s good to see that she finally accepted that the Confederacy was founded on the principle of slavery. Connie usually gives slavery a passing acknowledgement; though she is careful not to exclude it from her list of reasons for the wawar.

    I’m curious as to what Connie thinks about the new AP U.S. History curriculum. I know she won’t comment about it here, she’s too skeer’d. But she’ll likely read this post and then rant and rave on her echo chamber.

  10. Rob Baker March 17, 2015 / 5:33 pm

    Let’s give her this much, Connie has gone from this:

    Many differences between north and South fed the sectionalism in the decades before the war, but slavery was the one used to substitute for all the others, artificially inflating its importance in secession and the war.

    Abolitionist William Seward, recognized this: “Every question, political, civil, or ecclesiastical, however foreign to the subject of slavery, brings up slavery as an incident, and the incident supplants the principal question.”

    So slavery’s place in the causes of the war was artificially enlarged by supplanting other issues with it. Most people today are clueless about this, though some know it and ignore it.

    To recognizing that slavery is at the center of the sectional conflict that brought on the war. I dare say Brooks, I think she’s starting to learn from you.

  11. Brooks D. Simpson March 19, 2015 / 9:30 am

    We have none other than Jessie Sanford to thank for the admission that Connie Chastain is a racist.

    Sanford declares to Chastain: “For them to call you racist is like the pot calling the kettle black …” What Sanford overlooks is that while he asserts the pot (Chastain’s critics) must be racists (a point he has yet to prove), the statement assumes that the kettle (Chastain) is black (and is thus a racist).

    Neither Chastain nor her circle of jerks understand the implications of Sanford’s declaration. Neither does he.

    But it’s a welcome (if inadvertent, yet uncontested) admission that Connie Chastain’s a racist.

    Watch for both Chastain and Sanford to explain that they never mean what they say, which is a curious thing for a writer to claim.

  12. Mousy Tongue April 15, 2015 / 9:55 am

    CC also presented a version of this CSA>USA argument in Pensacola News Journal’s letters to the editor, dated two days after her remarks to the Escambia County Board (as “Connie Ward”).

    And she pinpoints the end date of racial discrimination. 🙂


    Greater affront?

    Which is a greater affront – a country founded upon “all men are created equal” but then upholds slavery for 89 years and continues racial discrimination for another century, or a country founded on race-based slavery but, after a mere four years, is prepared to give it up in order to achieve victory in war and political independence?

    Near the end of the Civil War, when circumstances were dire in the Confederacy, President Davis sent Duncan F. Kenner to Europe with the offer to emancipate slaves in exchange for recognition of the CSA by Britain and France. It came too late to affect the outcome of the war. Nevertheless, it illustrates that at the highest level of government, political independence was put above the continuation of slavery – purportedly the very reason for the existence of the country.

    In addition, public discussion had already taken place involving politicians, military leaders and the press about freeing slaves and arming them to fight for the South. The mere fact that the discussion occurred shows a growing willingness in the CSA to put independence above slavery. This subject is rarely as binary as Confederacy critics would like to believe.

    — Connie Chastain, Pensacola

    • Rosemary April 15, 2015 / 2:06 pm

      What exactly does Connie C want? Someone to say she’s right or the South to rise again? Doesn’t she have realistic stuff to be attending to? Well, arguement is a form of sport, I guess.

    • hankc9174 April 17, 2015 / 7:41 am

      does one believe the rhetoric or the actions?

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