Tag Archives: Confederate Monuments

Shelby Foote’s Successor

(August 15, 2017)  Fifty-four years ago in 1963 at the dawn of the second Civil Rights Movement, Shelby Foote published the second of his three-volume Civil War narrative. In his bibliographic essay, where he cited credits to those who helped him, Foote wrote, “I am obligated also to the governors of my native state and the adjoining states of Alabama and Arkansas [who resisted racial integration] for helping to lessen my sectional bias by reproducing in their actions during the several years that went into the writing of this volume, much that was least admirable in the position my forebears occupied when they stood up to Lincoln.”

Foote was living in Memphis at the time but he grew-up in Greenville, Mississippi where his viewpoint above was then unpopular among his peers. Other white Southerners of that era—and earlier—braved the hostility of their neighbors by speaking truth to power about racial justice. Three examples are the novels Intruder in the Dust, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by William Faulkner, Harper Lee, and Carson McCullers, respectively.

Yesterday a long-creeping hostility toward Southern heritage culminated with vandalizing, unchallenged, mob attacks on Confederate memorials and a new wave of announcements from political leaders figureheads to remove such memorials from their communities. Such actions have long been met with encouragement or, at best, deafening silence from America’s historians. Even organizations dedicated to preserving Civil War memory, such as the Civil War Trust, have failed to object to the vandalism.

There has not yet been a successor to Shelby Foote. None of America’s historians have shown the courage.

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Confederate Monument on Private Property Defaced

(August 13, 2017) The picture below shows the defacement of a Confederate monument last night in Tampa, Florida.

First, the monument is located on private property owned by a local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Second, a Google search reveals no local news coverage or any statement—much less criticism—from a politician.

Third, the county commission voted last month to remove a 106 year old Confederate monument from public property. Commissioner Murman said she voted “yea” in order to “move forward.” Even though she may not have intended her excuse to mean escalation from public to private censorship, that has been the result.

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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 support for a northern-route 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 [northern-route 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 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.

* Although the school was actually founded in honor of his deceased son, the money came from the dad and they both had the same last name.

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