I was busy doing something in the wargame business for the government the last couple of days. It was depressing as usual and unmentionable.
A Catholic prelate friend who once taught "The Novel" has been reading my books. His point of view is of necessity different from that of the rest of us…
He says that one of my "unforgivable" sins in these books is that I have detached "faith and flag" from each other in a way that has become incomprehensible for many since the second world war.
In other words, my books are predicated on the idea that people on both sides of that war were good or bad depending on their actions rather than their adherence to one side or the other.
As soon as he said that to me I recognized the truth of his statement. I often meet people who when exposed to my books say to me, "but, Lee was a traitor." My usual response is, "a traitor to what?" They look baffled, but mny question is intended to elicit an answer as to what Lee's position should have been. pl
The Lee comment was/is excellent. And I’m a strong supporter of the Union. I do, however have ancestors on both sides.
Some of that sentiment was present in the North after Appomattox when they learned of Chamberlain’s ordering the Army of the Potomac to salute Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. General Gordon was quite chivalrous in returning the salute.
Well said. It’s all context.
A group called Abbeville is formed to keep alive the virtues of the South, of course the SPL considers the group racist. The following is a quote from Abbeville, followed by a link to an article about them.
My father’s favorite book(s) was “Lee’s Lieutenants.” I was given Lee as a middle-name. My father wanted to name me Stonewall but my mother wouldn’t allow it.
As your recent lead-in graphic said, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
ah yes, error has no “right
I had a Catholic professor who had difficulty with dissenting views. She believed in absolute moral truths and sides that you could bind up in good and evil.
I suppose that gives life a certain clarity but does it compromise your decision making? Without understanding the other side, the other choices, how can you know your own thinking and the assumptions that you bring with you?
I can’t blame Lee. He did the honorable thing by his standard and as a History student I know better than to read my own subjective morality into things. For Lee Virginia was home and he valued it above his other obligations. Fair choice.
Which error? Lee’s? pl
The “noble foe” traditionally has been a motif of Western civilization:
I’m glad someone still voices the view you have. This good or evil, with us or against division of the world has gotten VERY old.
Now, when will ben Laden cease being “evil” and become a person with both good and bad sides, like the rest of us, whom it would be worth our time to better understand?
You’re a soldier, you have to fight where the faith hits the ground, I suppose you damn well better respect the enemy soldiers that are try to do unto you. Which at a cretinous minimum should be cognizance of adversaries’ completely contradictory mutual confidence in the right of their respective positions. If the good father doesn’t know that the Devil thinks he’s on the right and winning side of human nature, well, I know a different, confident, more worldly demon I suppose.
Absolutes, they’re for children and preachers. Every sinner knows that.
Aspiring to an ideal is a different and fine thing, but then our bloody ideals are so subjective, and so fervently touted that before the sermon’s over the fighting’s started up again. . .
In any event, when the discussion veers into Soldiers & Honour I’m out of my depth. Closest I could get to is my belief that most people are doing the best they can with what they have until demonstrated otherwise.
You actual soldiers are way outta my league, thanks for letting me play with your virtue.
p.s. What a mind-expanding fellow you are Pat. Thanks. I think to your parents and mentors too.
I am reminded by this of the “San Patricios” – the Irish Battalion immigrants of Zack Taylor’s army in the Mexican-American war. Most of them either deserted or defected to the Mexican Army, where they subsequently fought with uncommon bravery.
While they were indeed classified as traitors who had committed treason against the US and later were captured, prosecuted, and in some cases hanged, they nevertheless are honored as heroes, annually to this day in both Mexico and Ireland. They have streets and towns named after them.
While their history varies greatly, depending upon the homeland of the historian, they do make for a very interesting story about allegiance, honor and courage in battle… and especially how varied an observer might judge their actions.
“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.” Solzhenitsyn
I am surprised. I always thought judging people primarily by their actions, not their professed beliefs was a basic principle of most systems of ethics (including Catholicism).
As to General Lee – maybe it’s the Prussian in me, but I don’t see how he could have acted any differently than he did. As a Virginian, it was his duty to defend the sovereignty of the Commonwealth, regardless of his personal thoughts on the wisdom of secession.
Lee’s father fought in the Revolution. Since most Loyalist families were driven from the USA, or decided to leave, after the Revolution, almost all the Southerners who fought in the Civil War were either sons or grandsons of Revolutionary soldiers.
It makes perfect sense why they would not consider themselves traitors.
The deep scarring and changing forever of American life, American history, and American government and the American polity itself is revealed by this post and comments. Essentially the meaning of the war and the honor or lack thereof for its combantants will long be argued. In short was it a “Just” war? Perhaps as Mao is once reputed to have said when questioned about the significance of the American Revolution–reputed to have stated “Too Soon To Tell!” Clearly the abolition of slavery was a good thing for humanity and the US but interesting how wage slavery now predominates in the US as many other “developed” countries. So I would argue the Viktor Stencal (sic) no matter how horrible the circumstances doing good in your own mind is perhaps the ultimate test of any event. God(s) and flag (s) have certainly often been the last or first refuge of scoundrals but also for much good.
Where did you get that picture?! It almost looks like Christ is singlehandedly planting the flag on Mt. Suribachi. The mind boggles.
I am not sure I understand.
I mean, God bless the great Catholic priest. They are sacrificial heroes who save souls and they should be recognized and celebrated as such. But the charism of a sacramental priest is not one of creating art, literary or otherwise.
From what I can tell, Michelangelo believed the same too. (for more info, check out how he depicted a pope in the Sistine Chapel who tried to tell him how to paint) The charism of a sacramental priest is administering the sacraments, arguably, the most important charism in the universe. And I believe that Michelangelo use to attend Mass daily. But if a priest had the charism of an artist, they would not be priests. (and John Paul II wrote a beautiful letter to artists worth checking out).
Granted, I do not lead a religious life but one reason I have so much respect for and like the Trappist charism is that Trappists don’t talk much. Very, very spiritual folks. And quiet. Very quiet. Highly recommended when working on art projects.
Flannery O’ Connor use to visit the Trappist monastery in Conyers, Georgia all the time and she was much the devout Latin Mass Catholic. She wrote frequently about Protestant “traitors” in the South. Funny too.
So granted, my viewpoint is different. I am blessed beyond measure. I was baptized and spent my youth as an Episcopalian. Will die as a Catholic and, if I make to heaven, I think I want to become a Greek Orthodox and hang out and have a drink with Moses Jacob Ezekiel ,the Confederate (as well as in the land of prophets with the same names, one hopes).
Let‘s see…Moses Jacob Ezekiel. An artist. A Jew. I believe his long time mistress was an African American (before it was considered politically correct to date someone not of you own race, like today), and, alas, a Confederate. Died in Rome to boot. And certainly he was blessed with the talent of an artist.
I have a self imposed rule from my Episcopalian upbringing and it is one I still follow and would like to share. Never trust a priest or a warrior without a sense of humor. Never. If they do not have a sense of humor, they are either too ambitious or angry at God or both (McCaffrey comes to mind and I don’t trust that fool for a nanosecond).
And, with that in mind, when it comes to the novel, this Catholic prelate is starting to sound as progressive as “Lina”. We really do live in the end times.
And just out of curiosity, does this the Catholic prelate believe Pope XI was a traitor too? To quote from an unverified Catholic website:
“Pope Pius IX never actually signed any kind of alliance or ‘statement of support’ with the Confederate States of America, but to those who understand the nuance of papal protocol, what he did do was quite astonishing. He acknowledged President Jefferson Davis as the “Honorable President of the Confederate States of America.”
“The pope’s letter to Jefferson Davis was accompanied by an autographed picture of the pope, along with a miniature crown of thorns, woven by the pope’s own fingers. The crown is currently on display at the Confederate Museum in New Orleans”
as always, your focused comment (which i firmly believe to be accurate – there is good and bad on all sides and it’s what we do that determines which is what) could/does apply to so much that goes on in our current political (domestic and international) and social interactions.
i, and any of your many observant readers, could provide numerous examples from this morning’s news (lieberman, pelosi, etc., etc. – are these good or bad people/positions???), but that would take this post way off topic…
“people on both sides of that war were good or bad depending on their actions rather than their adherence to one side or the other.”
But isn’t adhering to one side or the other one of the actions that has to be taken into account?
The Tercio San Patricio is an interesting example to cite.
In the case of Lee and just about all the former regular US officers who fought for the CSA, they resigned their commissions and waited for their resignations to be accepted by the US Secretary of War before they took up Southern service. In Lee’s case, Virginia was not a member of the new “country” for a few weeks or months and in that period he was a Virginia officer only.
I don’t know of any US Southern officer who deserted from the US forces.
The enlisted men of the US Army then, as now, did not have the possibility of resignation available to them and they nearly all stayed with the US. pl
I believe the legal definition of traitor is someone who takes up arms against the government. Lee was a graduate of West Point and even back then, I believe he had to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. He reneged on that oath. I hold him to a higher standard than the common Confederate soldier.
“But isn’t adhering to one side or the other one of the actions that has to be taken into account?”
It is but consider the sides. On one hand you have a racist south intent on retaining control of it’s political destiny which up through Lincoln it could thanks to the 3/5s clause.
On the other side you have a racist Republican/Know Nothing coalition under Lincoln which viewed itself as morally superior and wanted to free itself from the shackles of political slavery.
It’s a mistake though to apply our own morality to the question. At the time many things were taken for granted that modern Americans would consider appalling. People and mores change with time. If you or I had been born in that era we would have held very different attitudes on the world and what we find strange or abhorrent now we simply wouldn’t have thought about.
What hasn’t changed I think is the tension between loyalties. Lee and many other southerners were faced with competing obligations. He and many others decided that their ties to State outweighed their allegiance to the Republic and as Col. Lang notes they left the US Army in a legally permissible manner resigning their commissions and entering service in their respective states.
Stuart R. Wood
The legal definition of treason is contained in the Constitution. It is clear that to be guilty of this crime one must be a US citizen. For example, a foreign soldier engaged in combat against us is not a traitor to the United States. If captured he is not treated as a criminal unless he has been guilty of a specific crime against the law of war or commits a crime while a prisoner of war that would be punishable in the armed forces of the detaining power, i,e., murder, etc.
Because that is true, the key issue is whether or not the Confederates were US citizens. None of them were ever tried for treason and the government of the United States required that each of the Confederate States be readmitted to the union during resconstruction. this clearly implies that they had been OUT of the union during the period of the existence of the confederacy. The US government did not treat captured Confederate soldiers as treasonous criminals. they were treated as honorable men, given parole, etc.
In fact, the US government carefully avoided ever having the issue of the constitutionality of secession litigated in federal court. This was probably wise.
Lee graduated from West Point? So what? His state was an equal contributor to the funds that maintained the military academy. He entered the service of his state when when he legally left the service of the United States.
An officer’s oath is legal, not sacramental. It is binding only so long as he holds his commission. Once again, Lee, as so many others, resigned from the service of the United States and his resignation was accepted. At that point his oath as a US officer was no longer binding in any way. He did not “renege” on his oath. There was no longer anything to “renege” on.
The United States of America as created by the consitution of 1789 was created as an instrument of limited government for the narrow purposes of men. For all the puritan imagery of the “city on the hill”, the US is a country like all others.
‘But isn’t adhering to one side or the other one of the actions that has to be taken into account?’
It is. But a central problem has to with how the choice of sides is to be interpreted.
A common tendency in ‘holy nationalism’ is to interpret motivations — both of people in the past and in the present — in terms of what is either an overtly theological view of the proper course of history, or of what are all too patently secular transformations of theological intellectual frameworks. And this tendency is particularly acute where the ‘holy nationalism’ is linked to a view of the natural or normal course of historical development.
As in monotheistic religions, it is assumed that there is a single truth which ought to be obvious to everyone, once it has been presented to them. Accordingly, the natural explanations for failure to recognise this truth are ignorance or malevolence.
A natural enough further deduction is that nobody not inspired by either ignorance or malevolence could have any possible doubts about the rapid remodeling of their societies on the basis of the ideas and values of the ‘holy nationalism’ in question.
As a basis for understanding the complexities of motive involved in the American Civil War, this is not very satisfactory. As a basis for understanding the complexities of motive involved, say, in contemporary Iraq, or Afghanistan, or any part of the post-Soviet space, it is catastrophic.
What makes it particularly catastrophic is that it is very easy for cunning rascals to learn to ‘talk the talk’, and exploit the fantasies created by ‘holy nationalism’ to manipulate American power for their own ends.
Not to quibble, but if Lee et al were not committing treason, what of John Brown?
As usual, you hit the nail on the head.
The American Civil War was unusual. Although started by radical hotheads, North and South, the War was fought by the American Establishment on both sides. That is why the Officers saluted each other at Appomattox. It was not a cultural/religious war like the 100 Years War or the Afghanistan Occupations where one side is fighting for their homes and one true religion, and who will struggle forever until the occupier leaves.
There are plenty of hothead true believers in the United States. They just haven’t gotten permanent control of the majority of the political establishment, yet, and are tamped down by the law and police. If the True Believes, whose opponents have a “Culture of Death”, gain control of the federal military due to a political, economic and/or climate collapse, then there will be a real Revolution in the United States.
Treason implies subterfuge. There was no subterfuge when the colonies declared their independence, in writing to Britain, or when the States declared they were succeeding from the U.S. Neither pretended they were governed by the laws of what they considered as their oppressors, while at the same time undermining that same government. That would be treason. The colonies did not try to overthrowing Britain and the Confederacy did not try to overthrow the federal government but both broke away. What restrictions were there in the constitution about secession?
“The pope’s letter to Jefferson Davis was accompanied by an autographed picture of the pope, along with a miniature crown of thorns, woven by the pope’s own fingers. The crown is currently on display at the Confederate Museum in New Orleans”
I understand Pat attracts many a knowledgeable poster but you give history a whole new and wholly human life with little details like this. I’m not sure why, but it is these little tiny facets that just make history so much more real and exciting, and if you’d told me before today I’d be excited about Pius IX and Jefferson Davis, I’d have to ask for some of what you are smoking. Now its going into my novel about the end of the world.
Last week Clifford had us drinking with Argentine Generals as technical info on Exocets flowed in…
I am at a loss to express how grateful I am to one and all for sharing their rich and varied knowledge. I haven’t had this much academic fun since law school in the early ’80s.
“But isn’t adhering to one side or the other one of the actions that has to be taken into account?”
Damn right. If he’s on the other side, he’s trying to kill me and mine, he’s wrong. At that point, I don’t care if I’m a cannibal or a Catholic. In any event, its not my moral conundrum that you cannot apprehend the morality, the honour bestowed upon the vanquished by dining on them.
That is not immorality, its mere ignorance. And in no way commensurable with rape camps or racially based genocide.
Brown was tried and executed for treason to Virginia. I have no idea how the statute read. pl
The appeal to Pius IX was carried to Rome by a Father Bannon or O’Bannon a chaplain in the Missouri Confederate Brigade who had been captured at Vicksburg and exchanged or released as a non-combatant. He was Irsih born and a Redemptorist who had been a pastor in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bishop of Mobile, the Bishop of Richmond, J. Davis and J. Benjamin decided to send Bannon out through the blockade on this mission. He talked for several days to the foreign minister of the Papal States and then to the pope. They remonstrated with the confederates over slavery but were clearly favorably inclined towards their cause otherwise. In the end, as Sidney wrote, Pius IX gave him a letter addressed to Davis as “President of the Confederate States of America.” Bannon took the letter to Ireland where it was made up into posters that were widely posted. The desired effect of impeding Union recruitment of of Irishmen was successful. Recruitment fell off noticeably. pl
Thank you very much and I always look forward to reading your comments. Very insightful and helpful.
I had a couple of cups of coffee (not Irish Catholic coffee, just regular) and simply was trying to stir the pot.
I read or heard somewhere that Rocky Marciano trained with the discipline of a Trappist. Ergo, I have always thought Catholic priests should administer the sacraments and pray with the discipline of a Trappist. Better chance of going undefeated. Right now…well…I dunno’.
Pat, this thread alone has opened a little door in my head that told me I’m completely ignorant, aside from Gone With the Wind and your novels, about a huge part of your society and history.I’d always skipped over civil war matters in favour of my cold war/drug war obsessions.
Your description of the actual mechanics of the trip made me picture traversing the blockade, dark rolling hills, wooods, God knows what’s in ’em, and then you spin us over to Ireland for a bit of international relations and war strategy.
The Bishop of Mobile?!! It’d never occurred to me the Pope had a role in the matter in the first place. The travels of Father Bannon’d be a movie in themselves, never mind the plot. It’s just spreading like a stain in my mind how rich and varied a cast of characters awaits me as I delve into your Civil War, and of course its tied to all sorts of other Great Power Machinations.
As soon as I read the 200 or so books in my pile. . . good thing I’m retired. I love you guys.
Anyone with an interest in fundamentalism and evangelicalism in America will enjoy reading the account of one boy’s rearing in and then working with some of the leading figures in the movements – Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Dr. James Dobson. His parents were “royalty’ in the evangelical movement.
The authour, Frank Schaeffer became disillusioned and spills all in “Crazy For God”, a well drawn tale of a bucolic Mission upbringing in the Swiss Alps leading to a career in America.
Although it spends a greater portion of the book detailing his experiences growing up In Switzerland as his cultured but Inerrant parents hosted streams of well-heeled seekers, it has fascinating peeks under the evangelical fundamentalist tent.
I found the picture especially stunning because the flag is taking the place normally occupied by the cross. Peculiar symbolism, I thought…
Colonel, where do you find these pictures?
I agree with Col. Lang’s dismissal of “Bobbie” Lee’s alleged traitorous conduct. He wasn’t a traitor, especially as a State’s constitutional right (or lack thereof) to secede from the Union was far from settled at the time. Ah, that’s what the war was about, at least initially.
However, I have a more jaundiced view of Lee and some of his “lieutenants” in broader historical context.
Is even the most honorable and brilliant generalship and military derring-do to be celebrated when the cause for which it is undertaken is indefensible? At bottom, the “War Between the States” was about preservation of the “peculiar institution” of racial slavery on America’s shores.
The “moonbat” abolitionists and “whackjob” zealots like John Brown got it right. Slavery was a moral abomination that had to be eradicated, even if it took a terrible war.
My reservations about R.E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are exactly about their effectiveness in fighting to preserve human slavery as one of their “rats.” I can’t shed tears over Stonewall Jackson’s “tragic” death or Lee’s courteous humiliation at Appomattox. It fact, it would have been better if Lee had been lost on the battlefield years earlier just like Stonewall was. With him out of the way, the lives of tens-of-thousands of “those people” would have been saved, and it would have been all to the good.
I guess I feel about Lee the same way I do about Rommel: military genius and all that, but I wish he hadn’t been. At least Rommel saw the light before he died. I will give Lee credit, though, for declining to endorse irregular war against the North. Enough was enough.
I do think there was some justice meted out to Lee at the end. The fate of the Custis-Lee Mansion was cruel but condign.
Mere bigotry asgainst the South. pl
I suggest you start with Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War, a Narrative.” pl
discussions of good and evil are just that, discussions of good and evil, regardless of context
Dear Colonel – As a “History Buff”, I’ve always wanted to asked an excellent Historian (you, of course) if there was ANYTHING that could have been done to at least keep the Commonwealth “Neutral”, if not in the Union following the 1860 Election? Virginia (which included West Virginia till 63′) was never a “Slam Dunk” for Secession. Was not Slavery nearly OUTLAWED (within 1 or 2 votes) in the Commonwealth in the early 1830s? There was a yawning time period between Lincoln’s Election (November 1860)and his Inaguration in March, 1861. Were there critical errors of omission or commission made by Lincoln (or, the feckless Buchanan) in regards to the status of the Virginia Commonwealth? Lee, Jackson and Longstreet all prayed that they might never drink from the Poisoned Chalice.
IMO, there were a number of things that could have headed off the WBS. The vote at the Virginia Secession convention came down to one vote for… If Lincoln had not required that Virginia contribute troops to supporess rebellion in SC that might well have made the difference and an at least “neutral” Virginia might have resulted.
I think responsibility for the eventual outbreak of war rests largely with South Carolina and Massachusetts. Hot heads in both places were very destructive.
A gradual, compensated emancipation could have solved the thing without war if people had been more reasonable.
Slavery was not the only cause of the war but it was certainly a key factor. pl
“was about preservation of the “peculiar institution” of racial slavery on America’s shores.”
It was and it wasn’t. Slave owners feared that Lincoln, despite the lock that Democrats had in the House and Senate, would move to abolish slavery in Federal territories. It was an absurd fear given that Republicans needed slavery to continue if they were going to persist as a party. The Republicans were distinctly sectional unlike the Whigs or the Democrats and they faced other very real competitors at the ballot box. Slavepower was their defining issue. Without a slave owning south they didn’t have a reason to exist. The North wouldn’t need a patron to defend against the anti-republican (small r) slave owners. But slavery isn’t a sufficient explanation on its own. If it was the border states would have all gone into the Confederacy. Indeed Virginia only went into the Confederacy when Lincoln called for volunteers after the shelling of Fort Sumter. Up to that moment the assembly was opposed to secession.
The North fought first to preserve the Union. Slavery crept into the debate really after the failure of McClellan’s Peninsular campaign. At that point a short war was out of the question and the leadership realized that robbing the south of their slaves could provide a real military advantage. In addition with McClellan out of the debate there were very few people in the Army who supported a light touch approach. Slavery allowed the South to mobilize more than 90% of the military age population and it simply couldn’t be ignored. Abolition crept in in the later years just out of raw contempt and hatred for those “Southern Planters” who had precipitated the conflict and cost so many lives. It was a revelation for me reading the letters and statements of Republican leaders at the time. The level of racism that happily coexisted with abolitionist rhetoric was fairly surprising. The vast majority of those who supported emancipation did so out of anger or military necessity and few seemed to care much about the welfare of the slaves themselves.
Our (mine and Maureen’s) father told me a lot about what his infantryman grandfather had to say about the Army of the Potomac’s attitude towards the slaves. Indifference would be the word that I would use to describe it. pl
It certainly would have helped if the South had taken to heart the wisdom of the Virginian (and William and Mary professor), St. George Tucker, who in 1796, authored a dissertation calling for the gradual abolition of slavery. It was a plea directed to the Va. General Assembly.
Also would have helped mightily if MA abolitionists had the wherewithal to take to heart the wisdom of fellow abolitionist Lysander Spooner. According to Wiki…
“As a means to end slavery without bloodshed, Spooner offered compensated emancipation, a method tested and proven in those nations that had orchestrated the peaceful abolition of slavery.”
“Although he [Spooner] denounced the institution of slavery, Spooner recognized the right of the Confederate States of America to secede as the manifestation of government by consent, a constitutional and legal principle fundamental to Spooner’s philosophy; the Northern states, in contrast, were trying to deny the Southerners that right through military force. He believed they were attempting to restore the Southern states to the Union, against the wishes of Southerners. He argued that the right of the states to secede derives from the natural right of slaves to be free.
“He [Spooner] blamed the bloodshed on Republican political leaders, such as Secretary of State William H. Seward and Senator Charles Sumner, who often spoke out against slavery but would not attack it on a constitutional basis, and who pursued military policies seen as vengeful and abusive.”
Also, I read somewhere (Foote, maybe) that Lincoln had hoped that Fort Sumter would galvanized the North. It did, but it also galvanized Virginia and the border states.
All of this “mid 19th Century US history” has tremendous relevance today, imo, because neoconservatives are now whispering in Obama’s ear that he is the next Lincoln. They did so with Bush as well.
Neoconservatives are not doing so because they care about human dignity. Far from it. They are Jacobins who are doing so because they know full well that Lincoln sanctioned the 19th century equivalent of wmd.
Re: Faith and the Flag.
Point well taken about Lee’s resignation from the Army so he did not in fact renege on his oath to the Constitution. However, I have never understood how Lee put his allegiance to Virginia over the US. But the pre-civil war mindset was different from ours today. My favorite general, outside of Sherman, was Montgomery Meigs who turned Lee’s home at Arlington into a gaveyard to ensure Lee would never be welcome there. He personally would consider Lee a traitor, right or wrong, to the end of his life.
As to relations between the races in the North and South, it is interesting to look at what Tocqueville had to say, in the first volume of Democracy in America, published in 1835:
I see that in a certain portion of the territory of the United States at the present the legal barrier which separated the two races is falling away, but not that which exists in the manners of the country; slavery recedes, but the prejudice to which it has given birth is immovable. Whoever has inhabited the United States must have perceived that in those parts of the Union in which the Negroes are no longer slaves they have in no wise drawn closer to the whites. On the contrary, the prejudice of race appears to be stronger in those states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude has never been known …
In the South, where slavery still exists, the Negroes are less carefully kept apart; they sometimes share the labours and the recreations of the whites; the whites consent to intermix with them to a certain extent, and although legislation treats them more harshly, the habits of the people are more tolerant and compassionate. In the South, the master is not afraid to raise the slave to his own standing, because he knows that he can in a moment reduce him to the dust at pleasure. In the North the white no longer perceives the barrier that separates him from the degraded race, and he shuns the Negro with more pertinacity, since he fears that they should some day be confounded together.
(From Chapter XVIII, The Present and Probable Future Condition of the Three Races that Inhabit the Territory of the United States.)
To follow up on Eliot’s fine analysis: If, as Lincoln said, he’d free the slaves to save the Union, but, if necessary, he’d keep all of them in slavery if that were necessary to preserve the Union, then the real matter of principle facing military officers in the run up to the Civil War wasn’t just “Which side do I belong to?” or “What’s the morality of slavery?” but “What is the moral object I’m fighting for in this largely political dispute?”
If, as Lincoln argued, no State had the legal right to leave the Union (which I think is a weak argument, ultimately), then “faith and flag” can be easily coupled and one can justifiably condemn the Southerners for placing constitutional government in jeopardy. Would that it were so easy.
We live under a written constitution. To pull in the slave states, the drafters made no mention of the conditions under which a state would have a right of secession (aside from revolution, which it wasn’t). Because the federal government is one of limited and enumerated powers, if the power to force a state to stay in the Union is not spelled out in the Constitution, then it must be a power reserved to the states or to the people. In that event, when we came out of a state of nature (as the Founders believed) and formed a charter of government, the question was whether we the people, or the states, traded the right of secession away as the price of joining the Union. If we did, then the federal government might have the right to use force to keep the thing together.
So that this doesn’t get too abstract, think of Spain joining the EU. Later, say they want to pull out. France then invades. Sound legal?
As South Carolina and Georgia were openly threatening secession at the time of drafting of the Constitution if they did not prevail on issues important to them, the idea that the states entered an eternal bargain doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The Constitution is a compact between the States. And it’s a stretch to claim that as a legal matter they made an eternal bargain. All that language about pledging their sacred honor (from the Declaration) reflect real and vital sentiments, but that was not the legal deal that was cut in the Constitution.
Certainly, the South’s moral case would appear to be lousy. They were, after all, slaveholders. But if the federal government wouldn’t enforce the fugitive slave act, then it’s the federal government that was unnecessarily prompting the crisis, not the South.
What if a Southern general, acknowledging the reality of slaveholding, but hoping for a long transition to a more enlightened day, wanted to preserve the proposition that disagreements as to State and federal power should be resolved through debate and amendment, not through use of military force? Wouldn’t that be an honorable position under the actual circumstances? (i.e., acknowledging the impossibility of changing the social and cultural institutions with anything short of force; preferring civil government). Wouldn’t that justify a fight?
The Prelate advocates for a clear moral right. But it strikes something of a false note. Many people of the time thought that black people would become whiter as they became more civilized (Washington, in fact, held this view). It’s difficult to enter that mind-set and to cast judgment, at least in any meaningful way.
So that I’m not misunderstood: yes, slavery should have been abolished; that was the far more moral stance to take, then and always. But I’m a child of the enlightenment, and a modern man. I think that the moral problem as apprehended at the time was far more nuanced than the prelate suggested.
Unfortunately, it was not “Lee’s place.” It was Mrs Lee’s place, willed to her by her father on descent from Washington. she also owned the White House Plantation on the James I believe?
I don’t know if Lee owned any real property, perhaps not.
After the war Lee tried to get her compensated for the loss of her property. Eventually there was some sort of partial payment. This was like the money the federal government paid for burning VMI. The school used it to build Jackson Memorial Hall. The hearings on that make interesting reading. A Congressman Martin who had been a cadet at New Market and in the defense of Lexington and Lynchburg testified as did Senator Dupont who had commanded the federal artillery at New Market. Dupont, a West Point product, recalled the way he had lost a gun to the cadet infantry who charged one of his batteries as they were trying to withdraw. He subsequently sent two of his sons to VMI.
“I have never understood how Lee put his allegiance to Virginia over the US.” That’s because you are a US nationalist, like Lincoln. pl
‘Tis true. There is a greater familiarity in the South, then and now, even a few hours ago when I drove in the rain to an Atlanta courthouse to pick up a file to help some folks.
As for the time between then and now, Col. Lang captures the essence of this special relationship in his first novel, particularly the sequence that takes place in a train boxcar.
In my opinion, certain Southerners, black and white, have a radar that can pick up nuances in race relations. There are reasons for this “social phenomena” but simply not worth delving into at this time. Walker Percy most definitely had the radar. It is a real gift, a blessing.
Funny story I want to share. Earlier this week, I received a phone call from a woman and she spoke the King’s English beautifully. Impeccable. Probably iambic pentameter. When I had the phone to my ear, I was saying to myself, “My God, I am listening to Una from Edmund Spenser’s Red Cross Knight. ”
Did she speak with received pronunciation? Maybe but I dunno’. Regardless, her accent certainly was a change of pace from what I typically hear.
After talking to her for a few minutes, it became obvious that “Una” now lives in an “apartment complex” in a rough part of metro Atlanta known for prostitution and drug abuse. A neighbor had given her my number as I had helped her with some legal entanglements as her court appointed attorney.
The woman who speaks the King’s English so beautifully is Jamaican but grew up in London. (I ended up trying to help her out on a minor legal problem, pro bono as they say).
A few days later, when I was in a judge’s chambers talking about this phone call, I told the judge’s secretary that I thought the BBC had contacted me for an interview. Needless to say, the secretary broke out in laughter…at me of course.
You dudes in the West are simply unbelievable. Good & evil? Yours truly am truly grateful I was brought up on a diet of Sun Tzu & Machiavelli.
From my humble point-o’-view, the basic denominators of all societies are fear, honor & interest. Least the recently deceased grand-daddy Russian novelist got it right.
Let’s try the followin’ hypothesis:
Some S.O.B. steals my girl, so he’s “evil”, my ex-b**** as well since she left me for him.
What was it that great faggot English playwright said in Hamlet ’bout “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.
Apologies, Col. sir, but methinks kids in the U.S. of A need a lot more than just religious schoolin’ under the supervision of absolutist fanatics. Still, am grateful that Western society has set some standard mores, such as child molestation, rape, etc. as acts of evil. Hhmm… I’m thinkin’ after all.
William R. Cumming: I believe it was diplomat & posse of mao, Zhou EnLai who answered that when kissinger posed that question to him, but I could be wrong.
“He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbour without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guile. He was a Caesar, without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness, and Washington, without his reward.”
—Benjamin Harvey Hill of Georgia referring to Robert Edward Lee during an address before the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta, Georgia on February 18, 1874
The greatest praise sung of the great gentleman-warrior. The last of his kind, d*** those who disagree!
This was Lee’s definition of a gentleman written for the students at Washington College (W&L U) when he was president there”
“The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly Ð the forbearing or inoffensive use of all of this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light.
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled when he cannot help humbling others.”
You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat the waiter, the busboy, those who serve him.
Maybe you or someone here can remember an interview on tv with Shelby Foote (Charlie Rose?) were SF said something about there being a gentleman’s agreement between the North and South that the North wouldn’t condemn the South for slavery and the South wouldn’t condemn the North for the mistreatment of its civilians, notably Sherman’s March. He said the North had recently broken that agreement. Wish I could remember, it was a good one.
I should make it clear that my clergyman friend thinks it is a good idea to hold faith and flag separately in our minds. pl
Fantastic. I hope the prelate can check out Moses J. Ezekiel’s rendition of Christ.
Ezekiel’s portrayal of Christ is so beautiful that it makes you want to become Jewish like Ezekiel.
Hey wait a minute…