America’s War Without End

Jon Meacham, Parade, April 10, 2011

{snip}

In Mississippi, the Sons of Confederate Veterans has provoked controversy by proposing a commemorative license plate honoring Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also a leading member of the Ku Klux Klan. In Marshall, Ark., a mayor was ostensibly rebuked by his own city council after he flew the Confederate flag to honor Robert E. Lee on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. And at Georgia’s Gainesville State College, a painting showing a Confederate flag with Klansmen and a lynching sparked weeks of debate and was eventually removed from a faculty art show.

{snip}

Following World War II, with Jim Crow under attack, many Southerners reached back to the 1860s for imagery to lend historical drama and credibility to their resistance. After South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond defected from the Democratic Party in 1948 to form the pro-segregation Dixiecrats, he was greeted by supporters in the South waving Confederate flags. That same year, Ole Miss added the playing of “Dixie,” the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy, to its football pageantry. During the integration decisions of the 1950s, Georgia altered its flag to include the Confederate battle emblem. Ultimately, though, the bigotry and brutality of white authorities could not withstand the forces of justice and equality, and the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

Today, a new battle for history is being waged, with political conservatives casting the Civil War as a struggle against Big Government, with only tangential connections to slavery. These neo-Confederates contend that one can honor the South’s heritage without condoning its institutionalized racism. But as a historian and as a Southerner, I believe that is a losing cause. Without what our seventh vice president, John C. Calhoun, called the South’s “peculiar domestic institution,” there would have been no Civil War. There can be no revision of this inescapable reality.

Some conservatives in Virginia have said they see the current battles against health-care reform and climate-change laws as “a continuation of the efforts by Jefferson Davis and the other secessionists in the 1860s,” according to the Washington Post. One member of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said that Rebels “were fighting for the same things that people in the ‘Tea Party’ are fighting for now.”

This year, as the 2012 presidential campaign gets under way, two powerful forces will intersect: the commemorations of the Civil War and the opposition to President Obama’s policies. As groups in the South reenact historical moments–the Sons of Confederate Veterans in South Carolina has already held a “Secession Ball”–the rhetoric of resistance to Washington will inevitably resonate. {snip}

At such a charged moment, we must remember our nation’s history fully, not selectively. If we truly want to be faithful stewards of the past, Americans need to recall what the war was about: slavery and the definition of human liberty. {snip}

As we reflect on the war, let us never forget that it was fought to rid us of a monumental prejudice and that we must remain vigilant about confronting inequality in our time. {snip}

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  • Copperhead

    If Northern troops from the Civil War could have been placed on one of H.G. Wells’ time machines and transported to America in the year 2011, upon return they would have either put down their arms or joined forces with the Confederates.

  • Question Diversity

    Without what our seventh vice president, John C. Calhoun, called the South’s “peculiar domestic institution,” there would have been no Civil War.

    As someone who buys into the theory of irrepressible conflict as the explanation for the WBTS, I disagree. I think that without slavery, there would still have been some measure of armed conflict. Maybe not as soon, and maybe not as severe, but it still would have been there. Two different establishment elites based on two different economic systems cannot occupy the same country peacefully and permanently.

    Some conservatives in Virginia have said they see the current battles against health-care reform and climate-change laws as “a continuation of the efforts by Jefferson Davis and the other secessionists in the 1860s,” according to the Washington Post. One member of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said that Rebels “were fighting for the same things that people in the ‘Tea Party’ are fighting for now.”

    War is politics by any other means. And the converse is true: Politics are shooting wars without bullets flying. That’s why I quoted T.S. Eliot yesterday here, that there are no lost causes because there are no won causes.

  • noneknown

    A “Civil War”, as Mr. Meacham calls it incorrectly, is a war between two factions for control of a government. The War for Southern Independence was the Confederate States of America fighting an invading army, the Union Army, to retain it’s independence. Sadly, the result of that war was, and is to this day, the repeal of the ninth and tenth amendments to the Constitution, and the establishment of a strong central government without the balancing power of the various States. When the States established the federal government, they gave it only a few (19 to be exact) enumerated powers and no more; the States retained their sovereignty save those powers they gave to the fed.

    Mr. Meacham obviously understands nothing about The Peoples’ never-ending quest for liberty from all powerful governments!!! That was the soul of the CSA’s quest, not the desire to keep slaves!!

  • Anonymous

    “Today, a new battle for history is being waged, with political conservatives casting the Civil War as a struggle against Big Government, with only tangential connections to slavery. ”

    But that’s exactly what the war was: “a struggle against Big Government, with only tangential connections to slavery.”

    “At such a charged moment, we must remember our nation’s history fully, not selectively. If we truly want to be faithful stewards of the past, Americans need to recall what the war was about: slavery and the definition of human liberty”

    The war was NOT about slavery and it was NOT about the “definition” of human liberty. Slavery was one of many precipitating factors in the SECESSION, but the war was fought because Lincoln wanted to force the south back into the union.

    We need to remember our nation’s history ACCURATELY, something that characters like this writer don’t want to see happen.

  • BO_BIll

    Parade Magazine teaches us:

    “As we reflect on the war, let us never forget that it was fought to rid us of a monumental prejudice and that we must remain vigilant about confronting inequality in our time.”

    Abraham Lincoln teaches us:

    “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

    Lincoln-Douglas Debate text:

    http://tinyurl.com/3ev8k6x

  • Anonymous

    “At such a charged moment, we must remember our nation’s history fully, not selectively. If we truly want to be faithful stewards of the past, Americans need to recall what the war was about: slavery and the definition of human liberty.” {snip}

    —————————————————————–

    BALONEY! (wanted to say something else, but cannot on this forum)

    The war was NOT about slavery or “human liberty” as he calls it! It was about the FEDS taking over States sovereignty! We have been taught all our lives that Lincoln was the greatest President of all time, but have since learned he was a traitor as far as I am concerned…especially freeing the black slaves to roam into our neighborhoods, cities and commit mayhem among our people! Look at our country now, Mr. Lincoln.

    —————————————————————

    “As we reflect on the war, let us never forget that it was fought to rid us of a monumental prejudice and that we must remain vigilant about confronting inequality in our time.” {snip}

    —————————————————————

    Look, Mr. so and so, YOU are an out and out liar and the war was not fought for “our prejudice” or to end “inequality” If anything it was instigated by our enemies within to DESTROY America and to kill off hundreds of thousands of OUR White men! Most of our wars are just that. Kill off White American men.

  • Gordon

    @Jon

    “We must remember our nation’s history fully, not selectively. If we truly want to be faithful stewards of the past, Americans need to recall what the war was about: slavery and the definition of human liberty.

    The War of Northern Aggression could have theoretically occurred over a variety of issues related to the Sectional Culture represented by the South. Conflicts related to State-Federal rights are not confined to Slavery and the large body of literature clearly indicates that the conflict was multi-faceted and varigated. To argue that it was about slavery ONLY because slavery was THE popular issue in the North (and subsequent culture) makes you guilty of the claim you make above, to wit: “we must remember our nation’s history fully, not selectively”. By the way – what is your definition of Liberty. I bet it would differ from mine.

    Maybe another website would be better for your Jon. Your argument is essentially facile and ignorant. You are out of your league.

  • Mike H.

    “As we reflect on the war, let us never forget that it was fought to rid us of a monumental prejudice”

    Oh my, someone needs to pick up a history book. The notion that white northern soldiers were fighting to stop the oppression of blacks had me laughing so hard tears were coming out of my eyes.

  • Fritz

    I have to ask those who think the Civil War was about slavery, why it is Blacks never express thanks to those northerners who died by the thousands in order to set them free? Every February, Black history month, I hear about everything BUT the Whites who supposedly killed others Whites in the interest of freeing the slaves. It would seem to me there should be some mention of all those self-sacrificing Whites who marched off to war just to free the slaves. Maybe that’s too long ago for most Blacks to remember, unless the conversation is about

    reparations. Next time someone tells me the War Between The States was over slavery, I hope they can explain to me why the decendents of those slaves are the most ungrateful people walking the earth.

  • flyingtiger

    I have to agree with this, we are on the brink of another Civil War. Barack Obama comes from a long line of slave owners, both maternal and paternal. He will honor his ancestors by donning his grey uniform and become the new Jefferson Davis.

    I guess i will have to join the bluecoats and march to the sea again.

  • HH

    This author is simply projecting their own paradoid delusions onto the current political scene. I have seen no evidence of any type of large-scale Confederate revivalism, and certainly nothing on a scale to take seriously, politically speaking. If anything, mainstream-conservatives are openly anti “Southern Cause,” and many of the leading spokespeople(particularly in the talk-radio set, etc.) have taken in recent years to lionizing the “Great Emancipator” Lincoln, which is clearly an obvious rejection of all things supposedly “Neo-Confederate.”

    This author is dreaming…

  • John Engelman

    The most important class conflict in the United States during the nineteenth century was not between workers and capitalists. It was not between slaves and slave owners. It was between Northern manufacturers and Southern cotton producers.

    European factories could usually produce better goods at lower prices than Northern factories. Without tariff protection many Northern factory owners would have gone out of business. Their workers would have lost their jobs.

    The South produced the best cotton at the lowest prices in the world. This was true whether the cotton was grown by slaves or free labor. Cotton producers did not need tariff protection. They wanted a government that would promote free trade throughout the world. For them tariffs meant that they had to pay more for manufactured goods.

    I doubt political differences over tariffs alone would have lead to a civil war. They certainly exacerbated hostilities between North and South.

    Abolitionists were motivated by humane considerations. Even in New England they were in the minority, however. Factory owners wanted the slaves to be freed without compensation because this would reduce the wealth, and hence the political power of those who threatened tariffs. Moreover, freed slaves would move north and compete for factory jobs, making it possible for the factory owners to reduce wages.

  • John Engelman

    Ultimately, though, the bigotry and brutality of white authorities could not withstand the forces of justice and equality, and the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

    – Jon Meacham, Parade, April 10, 2011

    This sentence will anger many American Renaissance readers. Nevertheless, during the civil rights movement the segregationists did a bad job of getting their message out. It was difficult for them to argue that blacks are dangerous when the public image of segregationists in the North was of violent, howling mobs beating and sometimes killing peaceful demonstrators.

  • olewhitelady

    Saying that the Civil War ridded us of a “monumental prejudice” is one of the most absurd statements ever uttered by a liberal. And almost every black person in this nation would agree with me! Even having a black President cannot erase the fact that American blacks have an average IQ of 85 and a much higher rate of crime and joblessness than whites, and everyone but a few dizzy liberals knows that it’s not due to white racism!

    I watched the MSNBC program entitled “The Black Agenda”, curious as to just what it supposedly entailed. There were many black commentators present, and yet not one single one of them claimed that there was a black agenda! Many, in fact, emphatically pointed out that it’s POOR people who have a problem, not black people! White host Ed Schultz was left to mumble the feeble concept of the show’s title.

  • nokangaroos

    Someone ought to point out to Mr. Southern historian (actually, his degree is in English) that both Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee opposed both slavery and secession. Davis even adopted a black boy. (and Lee later quipped that had he known what he was up against he´d have fought to the last man)

    Stonewall Jackson owned a handful of slaves but treated them as family members. Stuart, when behind enemy lines, relied on black scouts (IOW, blacks at the time had a different view).

    By contrast, Ulysses S. Grant owned quite a load of slaves whom he refused to free until forced to by the Fourteenth (“It´s so hard to get good help these days” is ascribed to him).

    – In all, it´s just run-of-the-mill pre-cut-and-dried antifa blather (and so it tastes). Only the parallel between the secession and the Tea Party has merit – and even that is only used as a smear.

  • yankee rebel

    As a transplanted Southerner I have learned to appreciate their prospectives on the war. Most battles were fought on Southern soil. Southerners endured colateral damage and casualties as well as atrocities. Sherman’s march would be subjected to international war crimes tribunals today. There is no shame in remembering and honoring the Confederate soldiers who bravely defended their homeland from invaders. That is what it simply boils down to. Political differences aside the South was simply defending itself,and the average Confederate soldier was fighting to protect his homeland, not slavery.

  • Anonymous

    12 — olewhitelady wrote at 8:44 AM on April 14:

    Saying that the Civil War ridded us of a “monumental prejudice” is one of the most absurd statements ever uttered by a liberal. And almost every black person in this nation would agree with me! Even having a black President cannot erase the fact that American blacks have an average IQ of 85 and a much higher rate of crime and joblessness than whites, and everyone but a few dizzy liberals knows that it’s not due to white racism!

    I watched the MSNBC program entitled “The Black Agenda”, curious as to just what it supposedly entailed. There were many black commentators present, and yet not one single one of them claimed that there was a black agenda! Many, in fact, emphatically pointed out that it’s POOR people who have a problem, not black people! White host Ed Schultz was left to mumble the feeble concept of the show’s title.

    ————————————————————-

    Oh, really? How sweet of those black commentors. Of COURSE they will not say there is a black agenda! Of COURSE they are going to say it is “POOR” people! But from what most of us know, is that they will change their words to imply they mean “all” poor or “all” people, when we and they know exactly what they mean by that…..THEY are all for blacks only and you should know it by now. The proof is in the pudding. Maybe you can google Ed Schultz to see who and what he is…

  • flyingtiger

    to #15

    Grant’s wife owned the family slaves. She was also the sister of confederate general Longstreet. This is just another example on how families were divided by the issues of the day.

  • Memphomaniac

    “In Marshall, Ark., a mayor was ostensibly rebuked by his own city council after he flew the Confederate flag to honor Robert E. Lee on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.”

    Legal in every respect in Arkansas, which by law, recognizes Robert E. Lee’s birthday on the same day as MLK. Many of the Liberals gag on the thought, but the state legislature made it law…..it is Lee-King (Birth) Day. Yeah, they left that out of the article.

  • Anonymous

    Southern Cotton was doomed by leached soil and British slavery (in Egypt) as well as the advanced of industrialization which would have quickly put paid to the large human costs of cotton production (getting the stuff off the plant, by hand, is like pulling teeth from a great white shark).

    Because of this, the real tragedy of TWBTS is that nobody could hold off long enough, offer a far enough perspective insight to the future, which would have allowed us to avoid 600,000 dead. I personally think that a lot of what led us to Europe in WWI and WWII rose from the antipathy we learned to hold for each other (and the fear of refusing to be ‘part of the group’) that rose from the Civil War.

    That said, I think it is becoming clear to all of us that ‘slavery’ is being imposed upon us by ethnies who are NOT our equal and from whom there is no fair exchange or admission of ideas or deficits.

    And that is where the war will be refought.

    Because we don’t want to owe our allegiance to ANYONE longer than is necessary to right a specific wrong.

    Blacks have instituionalized racism as their sole and only point of aggrieved merit in a system where all of us despise being around them. And only 3% of _OUR ANCESTORS_ in fact owned a single slave.

    Those two facts will, sooner or later, make of their impositions upon us an insufferable insult at which point this-

    >

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    >

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

    Will rule our response.

    The above is not a quote from any ‘corrupted’ Southern Document, though one very famous Southerner wrote it.

    It is the same man whose name lies a the top of this page.

    We are all whites. We are all Americans. If the time come to choose between those two conditions. Let us not forget that our history and our honor has greater value as a Family of man than a Republican accord.

  • Diversity = Adversity

    Ulysses S. Grant once wrote in a letter that had he known that abolitionists were pulling political strings to make the war between the states about slavery he would have joined the Confederacy. If I’m not mistaken that letter was from Grant to General Robert E. Lee.