Tag Archives: Confederate Monuments

The Kingdom and the Power

(June 19, 2017) In 1966 Gay Talese wrote a history of The New York Times spanning the preceding seventy years or so. Since the newspaper’s influence had never been greater, Talese titled his book The Kingdom and the Power. During the 1960s the newspaper gave voice to minority opinions such as civil rights and feminism that eventually transformed our society.

Turner Catledge and Clifton Daniel were the two Managing Editors during that influential decade. Neither had graduated from New York’s Columbia University Journalism School, which was the standard entry ticket into The Times. Neither had even attended an Ivy League school and instead graduated from state universities in Mississippi and North Carolina. Despite coming-of-age in small Southern towns during the Jim Crow era, both men were open-minded enough to encourage minority viewpoints.

Presently, however, The Times, and other venerable journalistic organizations, such as The Atlantic and The Washington Post, are intolerant of minority opinions, at least in terms of Confederate heritage. In combination the three publications have released dozens of articles and editorials applauding and advocating the removal and restriction of Confederate monuments, no matter how long they have stood untouched. The trio generally insist that Confederate symbols can have only a racist meaning. With perhaps a single exception, they have refused to publish any articles giving voice to a different opinion.

It is a stretch requiring a bungee cord to believe that they have not received a number of worthy article submissions with viewpoints different than their own. Instead, it appears that they are, unlike Catledge and Daniel, censoring minority opinion. One result is that well crafted opposing essays, like “New Orleans is not New Orleans Anymore” are limited to online magazines…and there are darn few of those as well.

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Compounding Revisionism

(June 6, 2017) To those of us with some gray hair it seems like the trend that is culminating with the defacement and removal of Confederate memorials is a recent, if not abrupt, development. Fifty years ago, for example, there was a spirit of reconciliation regarding sectional heritage between the North and South that no longer exists. Presently, most historians insist that our Southern ancestors were the immoral ones who must bear the burden of “being on the wrong side of history.”

My purpose today is not to address the merits, or demerits, of such an interpretation but instead to demonstrate that it has been building for a long time and only seems to be a recent phenomenon.  It began with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, which drew the focus of such now-prominent historians as James McPherson and Eric Foner to the racial side of the story. Although the Academy is now obviously dominated by their acolytes, they did not seem to have such overwhelming influence until “Only Yesterday”… as Frederick Lewis Allen might have put it.  That, however, is characteristic of compound growth.

To illustrate, consider a pond that at the first of the month has Lilly pads on only 1% of its surface area. Swimmers hardly notice the weeds. If the pads grow at a 16% daily rate, after a week they still cover less than 3% of the pond and remain ignored by swimmers. On the 27th day they cover a little over half the pond and even the casual observer can see that a problem is developing. But the significant point is that the second half of the pond gets fully covered by Lilly pads in only the last 4 days of the month. The pad-free surface, like the minority opinion of the Civil War, gets suddenly, and completely, choked off. The chart below illustrates the pattern of compound growth.

The hostile attitude of the Academy toward Confederate heritage is only one sign of a compounding growth in intolerance for minority opinion on American campuses. Recently students  at Evergreen State College demanded that a biology professor be fired because he disagreed with their proposal to require that white students abandon the campus for a day. The politically progressive and racially enlightened professor was stunned to be thus targeted. He felt he should be immune because of his political beliefs.  Such are the consequences of unchecked compound growth. Once the Confederate monuments have been removed the intolerant will seek other fuel to keep their fire burning.

Nobody is immune to tyranny except the tyrants and any excuse will serve a tyrant when deciding to exercise her tyranny.

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Should Stanford University Change its Name?

(May 29, 2017) Was California Governor (later U. S. Senator) Leland Stanford—founder of Stanford University—sufficiently racist to justify dropping his name from the university and destroying all publicly displayed memorials to him?

Consider Stanford’s remarks in his acceptance speech as the Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidate in 1859:

[T]he  cause in which we are engaged is one of the greatest in which any can labor. It is the cause of the white man…I am in favor of free white American citizens. I prefer free white citizens to any other race. I prefer the white man to the negro as an inhabitant to our country. I believe its greatest good has been derived by having all of the country settled by free white men.

Readers who might try to invent an excuse for Stanford by questioning whether he was speaking sincerely, or politically, should note that the nominee’s opinions were expressed impromptu because he added, “…I have not prepared any speech. I come here tonight without having framed in my own mind what I should say.”

Stanford’s chief reason for supporting the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War was the Party’s advocacy for a transcontinental Railroad, for which Stanford’s Central Pacific would become a prime beneficiary. The nominee clarified in the same acceptance speech, “We are in favor of the [transcontinental] Railroad…I am in favor of the railroad and it is the policy of this state to favor that party which is likely to advance their interests.”

About a month before President Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, Governor Stanford wrote, “The Republican Party early appreciated the real character of the political issues before the [American] people. Slavery was not the real issue…Our cause…is the maintenance of the Union.”

Although Stanford commented at least once that he was an “uncompromising” opponent of slavery, he made that statement during the second year of the Civil War. That was several months before he wrote his opinion above that “slavery was not the real issue” of the War. If, however, contemporary censors permit Stanford to salvage his reputation and legacy by changing his mind on slavery, it should be noted that they inconsistently deny the same privilege to Jefferson Davis who told Northern peace commissioners in July 1864, “We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for independence…”

If Stanford’s racism toward blacks is not sufficiently repellant to today’s selective censors, they may want to consider his racism toward Asian-Americans. In speaking as governor Stanford said:

“The presence of numbers of that degraded…people [Chinese-Americans] would exercise a deleterious effect upon the superior [white] race….To my mind it is clear that [Asian-American] settlement among us is to be discouraged by every legitimate means. Large numbers are already here, and unless we do something early to check their immigration, the question which of the two tides of immigration meeting upon the shores of the Pacific”—the Euro-American and the Asian—“shall be turned back, will be forced upon our consideration when far more difficult than now of disposal…”

Finally, if Stanford’s racism is an insufficient reason to justify removing his name from the eponymous university, politically correct zealots may wish to investigate the corruption and bribery that enable him, and his three partners, to advance the interests of the Central and Southern Pacific railroads…but that’s another story, and a good one.

 

 

 

 

Best of the Blogs (5-26-2017)

(May 26, 2017) Provided below are links to the best of the Civil War blog articles I read during the past week.

  1. “Yep, nothing says tolerance like tearing down somebody else’s monuments.”

2. A Vermont high school’s athletic teams are no longer permitted to be informally known as “The Rebels.”

3. A Jersey Girl Defends Robert E. Lee.

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Add “Fearless Girl” to Sherman’s Statue

(April 16, 2017) Like a tocsin warning of the approaching 1930s Great Depression the Dow Jones stock market dropped 11% on October 11, 1929. Almost precisely fifty-eight years later on October 19, 1987 the Dow crashed over twice as sharply, losing 23%. Few investors that witnessed the second crash imagined that such a steep drop was possible and nearly everyone worried about the economic implications for the future. In order to reinforce confidence a sculptor built a Charging Bull statue and installed it in the Wall Street district in 1989. Since attacking bulls throw their victims upward a Bull Market has long been an informal synonym for a rising market.

Last month an investment advisory service installed a statue of a Fearless Girl staring down the charging bull. Their spokesman explained, “[Fearless Girl is] not angry at the bull — she’s confident…and she’s wanting the bull to take note.” Yet when a presumably objective New York Times reporter described the tableau she wrote, “At just over four feet tall, [Fearless Girl] appears ready to take the bull by its horns.” The bull’s sculptor gets the same impression as the reporter. Fearless Girl, he says, changes the entire—positive—meaning of his art.

One Civil War blogger suggests that “Fearless Girl” might be a model for re-interpreting Confederate monuments. Rather than tear them down—although he feels that is sometimes the only proper solution—adding new sculpted elements can enable the monuments to be correctly interpreted. He quotes a “very smart friend” as saying, “What if….we were to add slaves to the base of statues of Lee, Davis, or Stonewall Jackson…? Or what if a US Army solder were added…with a bayoneted musket leveled at Lee and Davis enforcing…the constitution and defiantly…[opposing]…their secession and treason?”

Perhaps his friend’s response was triggered by those who feel that Confederate monuments should remain while the addition of new monuments can demonstrate tangibly how historical perceptions gradually change.

There are, for example, memorials to Martin Luther King in Atlanta, Memphis, Montgomery, and Austin, among other Southern places. Statues to the nine black teenagers who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957 were erected on the grounds of the state capitol on the fiftieth anniversary in 2007 without any moral instruction from the blogger noted above or his “friend.” Yet the same grounds include two Confederate statues put up in 1905 and 1913, respectively: One for the ordinary Rebel soldier and one honoring the women of the Confederacy.

If, however, the blogger and his “friend” are sincere they may wish to urge that a statue of a ten-year-old girl be placed in front of General Sherman’s sculpture located on the edge of Central Park across from the Plaza Hotel where it is passed by tens-of-thousands of people daily. Rather than signifying a make-believe girl, however, the child’s statue could represent a true incident recorded by one of Sherman’s soldier’s during the burning of Atlanta. The testimony of Union Sergeant Allen Campbell can be added on a bronze plaque in front of the girl’s statue:

As I was about to fire one place a little girl about ten years old came to me and said, “Mr. soldier you would not burn our house would you? If you did, where would we live?” She looked at me with such a pleading look…I dropped the torch and walked away.

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