One way to think about Confederate monuments

The soldier monument, back before the flag came down.

The soldier monument, back before the flag came down.

Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist for the NYT, set out an interesting train of thought in a dozen Tweets today. Maybe they’ll turn into a column; maybe not. But here are the Tweets:

I like the dichotomy — separating monuments to soldiers who suffered and died in a cause that was above their pay grade from monuments and plaques to people who had a choice, and decided policy.

Oh, by the way, the monuments debate is coming home now. I suppose we’ll need to discuss it:

But, along the lines of Douthat’s argument, I can’t see ever going after the generic Confederate soldier monument that stands at the juncture of Main and Gervais.

In any case, I’m with Joel Sawyer on this point. If you want to go after statues of individuals, I’d start with Ben Tillman. But by way of full disclosure, I suppose I’m biased: My grandmother’s family was squarely opposed to Tillman, which made it awkward when he was their neighbor in Washington. And my newspaper The State (it’s still my newspaper) was founded to fight the Tillman machine.

So consider the source…

99 thoughts on “One way to think about Confederate monuments

  1. Mark Stewart

    Yeah, that statue; I want to see that one removed from the Statehouse.

    The way it glares down Main Street is what elevates it to a political statement. And the leaning on the rifle looks less like weariness and more like a conscious effort not to raise the rifle to his shoulder. It’s an odd amalgamation, to my eye. One meant to instill a sense of present menace. It is a representation of an army at overwatch.

    Nothing about this statue reads of the common soldier; and of his honor.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Erected in 1879 – last year of Wade Hampton’s Governorship.

      The North side inscription reads: “This monument perpetuates the memory of those who, true to the instincts of their birth, faithful to the teachings of their fathers, constant in their love for the state, died in the performance of their duty . . . who have glorified a fallen cause by the simple manhood of their lives, the patient endurance of suffering, and the heroism of death . . . and who in the dark hours of imprisonment, in the hopelessness of the hospital, in the short sharp agony of the field, found support and consolation in the belief that at home they would not be forgotten.”

      The South side inscription reads: “Let the stranger, who in future times reads this inscription, recognize that these were men whom power could not corrupt, whom death could not terrify, whom defeat could not dishonor, and let their virtues plead for just judgement of the cause in which they perished… Let the South Carolinian of another generation remember that the state taught them how to live and how to die, and that from her broken fortunes she has preserved for her children the priceless treasures of her memories, teaching all who may claim the same birthright that truth, courage and patriotism endure forever.” —William Henry Trescot

      So, is this a memorial to a grevious loss of grey-coated life; or a marker of the birth of the “lost cause” rebellion? Of the beginnings of Jim Crow’s seething resentment and commitment to maintain slavery through other means? To never have to admit “defeat” of one’s racial superiority?

      My eye sees a redshirt warning in this CSA memorial. What does yours see?

      “…let their virtues plead for just judgement of the cause in which they perished”…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Flowery, weren’t they? As for whether this was “a memorial to a grevious loss of grey-coated life; or a marker of the birth of the ‘lost cause’ rebellion,” I’d say probably both.

      2. Claus2

        I can only imagine Mark’s disgust had they put this statue on the front side of the Statehouse. Respectfully they had it set on the back side.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Which side do you see as the principal facade? Yes it was constructed on a hillside overlooking the valley to the south (the principal facade); but the main approach to the site has always been down Main Street. The “back side” is the main access point to the Statehouse. Always has been…

    2. Doug Ross

      “The way it glares down Main Street is what elevates it to a political statement. ”

      Man, you must have been miserable when you were in Columbia with daily forays onto the battlefields of Main Street. How did you cope with that menacing specter of oppression and fear?

      Seriously – how many times before recent events did you notice and FEEL something when passing those statues?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        To me, he looks like a guy pulling sentry duty, and not being particularly attentive about it. He’s staring off, hoping he’ll see his relief coming…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          There’s dignity in his stance, but not especially pride. He looks casually watchful, but not particularly martial. He seems like a guy who might be a handful if you got him riled up, but he doesn’t seem menacing at the moment…

          1. Mark Stewart

            I agree, this is not a major work of art; it’s a commercial production and generically carved in Naples, Italy. It was originally meant to overlook what’s now Finlay Park from a site that proved to be too unstable for such a monument (then was planned for Elmwood Cemetery).

            The power comes from the height, and the way it was repurposed to overlook Main Street before the Statehouse. That, and the fact he is clearly on guard duty – we can debate how vigilant he is. The monument as put up was all about political optics; it was the Democrats co-opting a war memorial to honor the dead and imbuing it with another meaning altogether. It was meant to put an exclamation point on the return of white’s (and the Hampton dynasty) to political power and leadership.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Yeah, I wrote a column in 2000 — ran the day after the flag moved from the dome to the monument — that essentially said, You know, folks, the monument doesn’t have to be there, and in fact originally wasn’t….

              The proper place for it, of course, was the cemetery…

              1. Mark Stewart

                I think it would make a wonderful focal point in a revitalized Finlay Park. And an appropriate place for contemplation of the meaning of sacrifice, of intent and of history.

                Stripped of its political meaning before the Statehouse, it would be returned to what the ladies of the South Carolina Monument Association had intended – a memorial to the dead soldiers who never returned home.

                I also like the historical irony of such a relocation. And the fact that it would have a positive spin to it; a recognition of a family’s long contributions to Columbia. Without the baggage of the Redshirts as the statue now carries…

            2. Claus2

              It’s also a historical landmark in Columbia, so we can discuss this all you want… but it “ain’t” going nowhere.

              1. Mark Stewart

                Progress may come slowly in SC, but the future inexorably meets the present.

                Slavery ended, segregation fell, the flag came down. It is inevitable that one day the co-opted Confederate soldiers’ memorial to the war dead will be freed of its association with the white supremacist terrorism of the post-war Redshirts.

                1. Claus2

                  These Redshirts you speak of, are you talking about the South Carolina Democrats who came up with the idea?

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    It’s always amusing when people act as though 19th-century Democrats are in ANY way related to those in the 21st.

                    Surely, Claus, you know that every one of those Democrats in that period would be Republicans today. LBJ saw to that with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act…

                2. Jeff Mobley

                  …you know that every one of those Democrats in that period would be Republicans today

                  I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this, but if you’re saying that the Democrats of that time period, hypothetically transported to the present time period with all their white supremacist ideology intact, would find a home in the Republican party, then I disagree. I don’t believe either major party would have them.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Jeff, first of all, of course, that’s impossible. We can’t transport those very people to the present day, with everything about them intact. Even if we had the time machine. The very fact that someone lived in a different time means he would not be exactly the same person today.

                    But there are threads of thought in American history, and the thread of which they were a part continued through the first half of the 20th century, found an extreme expression in the Dixiecrats, and hung on through the early ’60s. Then came the Democratic Party’s move toward embracing the Civil Rights movement. Those conservative Democrats, led by such people as Strom Thurmond, began to switch to the Republican Party.

                    This trend was fairly gradual over the next couple of decades, then accelerated in South Carolina in the ’80s and early ’90s, culminating in Republicans being able to take over the S.C. House in 1995.

                    If you look around you today at Republicans in South Carolina, and look at their general beliefs about governing and social issues, you will see that if THEY were transported to the 1950s, they would have been more comfortable as Democrats.

                    This is one of the biggest trend stories in U.S. political history — the shift of conservative white Southerners from the Democratic to the Republican party. In other words, a shift that means people who would have been Democrats then are Republicans now.

                    This is not a thing that’s in dispute. Any historian would back me up on this.

                    Yep, there are a handful of people in the Southern GOP today who would have been Republicans in the 1950s, but they are very, very few. They are somewhat more numerous in, say, Tennessee. Lamar Alexander would have been a Republican at any time from 1860 on. He’s from a part of Tennessee that stayed loyal to the Union.

                    But it’s more rare in South Carolina. Perhaps you’re one of the few; I don’t know. But you know all those Republicans who absurdly call Lamar Alexander a “RINO?” Those people would have been Democrats in the 50s…

                3. Jeff Mobley

                  Brad, I appreciate the response.

                  I’ve never thought very highly of the whole “But it was the DEMOCRATS who were the racists!” line I sometimes see from Republicans (both southern and not), because I have some understanding of the political history you’ve described. My mental response is usually: “Yeah, and your point is?”

                  But here’s where I have an issue: There is a tendency for many to take this history and to craft a narrative with a thesis that goes something like this: “In the South, racism simply migrated from the Democrats to the Republicans, where it remains alive and well to this day.” This synopsis ignores the obvious fact that white supremacy stopped being a winning political philosophy in the South some time ago. It also ignores the other forces at work in the Democratic party that drove conservatives away from the 60s on (social issues unrelated to race, which you did mention above). Racism may have had a lot to do with southern white conservatives’ divorce from the Democratic party. But what eventually solidified their alliance with the Republican party in the 80s and 90s were social / moral issues independent from racism. Because, again, racism stopped being cool long before the marriage of southern conservatives to the Republican party was complete.

                  Now, in response to the last part of your reply:
                  I did not make a claim, and I don’t make one now, about which party I’d have been in back in the 1950’s.

                  But you did make a claim about which party 19-th century Democrats would be in today. I still maintain my disagreement with that claim, notwithstanding the undeniable political history you recounted.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Jeff, I always appreciate your thoughtful comments.

                    As for this: “This synopsis ignores the obvious fact that white supremacy stopped being a winning political philosophy in the South some time ago.”

                    Yes, it did. And most of us thought we weren’t going to hear from it any more. But then, in 2016, it came roaring back. The favorite candidate of white supremacists everywhere won the nomination of the party of Lincoln. And then, he won the presidency of the United States.

                    So bang! It’s back our laps. And it’s especially in the laps of Republicans, who are faced with whether they’ll keep supporting him or not. And that’s a rather profound moral question.

                    Speaking of moral questions: No one can seriously argue that Donald Trump embodies those “social/moral issues independent from racism” that you mentioned. I know there are evangelicals and others — even some Catholics — who delude themselves into thinking he’s on their side, but I really don’t know how they accomplish that.

                    A number of different kinds of people voted for Donald Trump. But the only kind that that I can imagine being happy with him the past week is the racially motivated ones…

                4. Jeff Mobley

                  This is the problem with all such hypothetical questions, and why they’re ultimately of very limited usefulness.

                  What does it mean to say, “Democrats in that period would be Republicans today”?

                  Does it mean, “if they were transported, a la time machine”? In this case, they wouldn’t be accepted by either major party.

                  Does it mean, “if they were born today, or at a time such that they would be adults today”? In this case, they would not be white supremacists, in all likelihood, so what’s the point of the question?

                  Does it mean some other hybrid metaphysical / temporal displacement? In this case, what are we talking about, again?


      2. Mark Stewart

        I didn’t like it the first time I saw it in February 1999. Granted, the battle flag flying over the state house was far worse, but yes, I saw the statue’s placement as what it was intended to be.

        Here’s what happened on May 13, 1879: General Preston, principal orator, began by pointing out how rare it was to raise a monument to a defeated cause – “In every attribute this monument is an anomaly. It is without precedent, without example, almost without analogy in human history.” Then he added, this monument is not “an altar to treason and infamy,” it was a “sanctuary to … the valor which demanded this monument and the virtue which has builded it.”

        Outside of war cemeteries, across the South only 6 Confederate monuments were dedicated between 1865 and 1885. 34 were erected between 1886 and 1899 and the monument period peaked between 1900 and 1912 when 192 were completed. After that, only another 16 were put up across the Southern states.

        The Soldiers’ memorial was originally meant for another site; but with the return of Wade Hampton III to the Governorship, the statue and monument were moved to the most prominent site at the foot of Main Street before the Statehouse.

        Yeah, Doug, I think it was meant as a political statement. One of not just defiance of the Union, but a manifestation that the Statehouse was for whites; that the delusion that it was 1859 all over again was deeply ingrained. In fact, all art has symbolic meaning – and much of it has political meaning as well. This statue wasn’t meant to be a wall-flower; it had an intended, calculated and expressive meaning to convey.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          By the way, total trivia here — that’s not officially the front of the State House. It’s the back. But to our modern, automobile-oriented minds, it’s the front because it faces the busy street…

          1. Mark Stewart

            Main Street between Gervais and Blanding has always been the center of Columbia, no? Which side faces “the city”?

            Which side would you want to place a political monument to restored power? Which side would you want to “defend”? Which side would such a looming monument have the most impact on the psyche of the city (white and black alike)? Yup. the Gervais Street facade.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              Yeah, I was always told the SC Statehouse faces North “in defiance”…so the front faces Main and Gervais.

              Also, that’s where they put the Christmas Tree. 🙂

              1. Mark Stewart

                What does it matter? Don’t oversimplifiy. The point is one side is more relevant than the other.

                1. Claus2

                  “What does it matter?” You’re starting to quote Hillary now.

                  It’s still the back side of the building. When it was erected they didn’t put it out in the front yard, they put it out back. Who knows if they knew back then if the back would suddenly be the more recognizable side.

                2. Mark Stewart

                  This is like arguing with Trump.

                  You’re dancing on a pinhead. The point is the Confederate soldiers memorial needs to be moved off the Statehouse – and other political/civic lands. That’s the point. That’s what matters.

    3. Claus2

      How does Mark feel about clowns? Reading this much into a piece of stone makes me wonder. I bet the eyes follow Mark as he walks past the statue. Creepy.

        1. Karen Pearson

          The good citizens of this country must love clowns. After all, we elected one as POTUS.

      1. Mark Stewart

        I have no idea what clowns have to do with the monument or this discussion of it. How do I feel about clowns? That there are far too many of them.

        I’m trying to make the point that symbolic meaning – and historical occurrence – is not always clear or accessible. That as with most things in life, contemplation reveals truth; and knowledge informs leadership.

  2. Richard

    I hope I live long enough to witness the chaos created when the Navy commissions the USS Trump. Likely the bigliest, most lethal fighting ship in the world. The Admiral’s quarters will be trimmed in gold leaf.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Oh, and if you’re really upset at Teddy Roosevelt, don’t give me some piddly demonstration about a statue. Go big or go home. You need to protest this monument, right?

    1. JesseS

      I’m fine with that. Rip down Tillman. Rip down Calhoun. Rip down Teddy. Rip down Thomas Jefferson. Rip down Washington. Rename the states and DC. I’d rather tear down every statue of every white racist today than spend the next 100 years fighting over it. I’m all for never putting up another statue of another white man ever again. No, I’ll go a step further, I’d be happy with never putting up another statue in a public space ever again. Rip them down and throw them in a cemetery with all the other dead. Isn’t that was Jesus told us to do? Let the dead bury the dead?

      Almost my entire life we fought over a stupid flag. It took endless fighting to move it a few yards and 9 dead bodies to remove it. We have better things to think about. I don’t have kids, but I think about my friend’s and relative’s kids. If we don’t get this over now, we are giving them an endless legacy of dealing with the garbage we left behind. We should do them a favor and get rid of the marble albatross now.

      Sooner or later we know all of these things are going to come down, why not get it over with?

  3. David Carlton

    Douthat’s argument is interesting and, up to a point, reasonable. In the Second Inaugural (my all-time favorite document of American history) Lincoln was most certainly going after the sort of self-righteous posturing that saw the collapse of slavery as moral validation for themselves, rather than the judgment of God on *their* collaboration with the institution. I, too, have problems with some of the more extravagant anti-Confederate rhetoric (Were Confederates “traitors”? Depends on where one thinks their proper loyalty lay; after all, the revolutionaries betrayed Mother Britain in the name of another loyalty. And most common soldiers, then as ever, saw their loyalties as centered on those closest to them; they fought for family and community, and were far more equivocal in their allegiance to the cobbled-together CSA than myth would have it).

    But the fact remains that even the monuments to the soldiers are actually monuments to The Cause–as is evidenced by the inscriptions. The point of erecting them was to inscribe the rightness of the Confederate cause on the landscape, even in the faces of those whose continued enslavement was the purpose of the Confederacy. Many complain that the movement against Confederate monuments is one to “sanitize history”; but in fact it’s the monuments themselves that have sanitized a nasty cause–nasty not because it was “treasonous” but because it was launched to perpetuate oppression. Those who defend these monuments are in fact defending the fundamentally twisted version of history they are meant to advance. They keep the truth in shadow.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      All good points, David.

      As for the “traitors” rhetoric, I agree. Say what you want about them, it’s not the right word. Whether states had the right to secede wasn’t a settled question until 1865. As bizarre as it seems to me for Robert E. Lee to think of Virginia as “his country” — even to the point of resigning the Army of the nation he had served with honor and distinction in order to take up arms against it — I know that wasn’t such a strange view at the time.

      You can’t divorce anything about secession from slavery even for a moment, but if you could you’d be left with this argument: Virginia freely and willingly joined the United States, and should be free to leave if it chooses.

      So while joining a cause based in slavery is abhorrent — particularly if you have a Whiggish view of history that causes you to judge the past by modern standards — I don’t think the word “treason” is the right one to apply….

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And now I’m going to argue with myself…

        The case for calling it treason, particularly in the case of Lee and his generals (as opposed to civilians), is that they WERE serving U.S. Army officers. I just don’t see how Lee, the exemplar who had graduated West Point with zero demerits, could have done something so dishonorable (to my mind), no matter what archaic notions he had about Virginia.

        Did officers in those days not swear an oath?

        1. Bryan Caskey

          “Did officers in those days not swear an oath?”

          I would be shocked if they didn’t. Here’s Lee’s letter to Winfield Scott (his mentor) explaining his resignation of his commission:

          Arlington, Washington City, P.O
          20 Apr 1861

          Lt. Genl Winfield Scott
          Commd U.S. Army

          Since my interview with you on the 18th Inst: I have felt that I ought not longer to retain any Commission in the Army. I therefore tender my resignation which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once but for the struggle it has Cost me to separate myself from a Service to which I have divoted all the best years of my life, & all the ability I possessed. During the whole of that time, more than a quarter of a century, I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors & the most Cordial friendships from any Comrades. To no one Genl have I been as much indebted as to yourself for kindness & Consideration & it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry with me, to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind Consideration, & your name & fame will always be dear to me. Save in the defense of my native state shall I ever again draw my sword. Be pleased to accept any more [illegible] wishes for “the Continuance of your happiness & prosperity & believe me

          Most truly yours
          R E Lee

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            My dear Col Lee,

            Your sentiments are most handsomely expressed and are a credit to 19th-century rhetoric. That you are a gentleman of exquisite sensibilities and honor is in no way to be doubted, and anyone who would dispute it would hear from my seconds, if I had seconds.

            However, I remain unconvinced that you need to take this drastic and abhorrent step, and your resignation is not accepted. Now report for duty. Your actual country awaits, and needs you more than ever.

            Yr most hmbl & obednt, etc, etc,

            Lt. Genl Winfield Scott (if I were he)

  4. Chuckie

    ”I like the dichotomy — separating monuments to soldiers who suffered and died in a cause that was above their pay grade from monuments and plaques to people who had a choice, and decided policy.”

    It’s a fallacy and both intellectually and historically dishonest to try and set up a false dichotomy like this. An army cannot be neatly separated from the cause it serves. And the cause the Confederates fought for – regardless of whether or not each Confederate soldier recognized, acknowledged or explicitly accepted it – was to preserve the institution of human slavery. Their “service” was on behalf of that institution. It’s not a service I care to thank them for.

    Here’s the inscription on one SC soldier’s monument:

    “The world shall yet decide
    In truth’s clear far off light
    That the soldiers
    Who wore the grey and died
    With Lee, were right.”

    Right? About what?

    I’m not calling for monuments to be pulled down. That’s not high on my priorities list. (Though I do think the Heritage Act should go.) But the least we can do is be honest with ourselves. Lincoln and those living in the early post-Civil War period may have had a reason to fudge things a bit – in order to “bind up the nation’s wounds” and bring the country back together. But we today — especially those of us from the South — should be ready to take a more clear-eyed and honest view of our past — rather than jump down the rabbit hole of self-deception that Douthat suggests.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, I’m being intellectually honest, I assure you. But in the end, I’m with you. The monuments aren’t a big issue for me. The flag was, and I fought that battle for more than two decades. And it came out right in the end, no credit to me…

      1. Claus2

        Sounds like we’re even, I did everything I could (mostly complain) about the previous presidency and the Democratic nominee. It came out right in the end, no credit to me…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yep, just like Democrats did with Bush.

          And in both cases, it was ridiculous — both Bush Derangement Syndrome and the Obama variant. Unthinking, blind partisanship.

          Both men stand as giants of statesmanship in light of what we have now. I’d like to think the Democrats and Republicans who spewed all that bile see how foolish they were, now that they have a president who truly degrades the office every day he holds it. But few seem to, because most are incapable of freeing their minds from the partisan paradigm….

  5. Chuckie

    One more thing:

    Replace Tillman’s statue with one to J. Waties Waring. It’s how a people redefines itself.

    1. Bob Amundson

      U.S. District Judge J. Waties Waring (the son of a Confederate soldier who later became a hero of the civil rights movement) was honored with a life-sized statute in Charleston in 2014. “Pitchfork” Tillman oversees a State Capitol still directed by a Constitution he supported that has a primary purpose of disenfranchising African Americans. Perhaps it is appropriate the Tillman statute stands until our State’s archaic (some may say chaotic) Constitution is rewritten.

  6. Bart Rogers

    I side with Robert E. Lee on the issue of Confederate statues. They shouldn’t be displayed on public property, local, state, or federal. The only one I would support is if a statue with a Union and Confederate soldier were shown shaking hands and the word “Unity” inscribed on the plaque.

    The “we won, you lost” or “fergit Hell” crap phrases are outdated and unnecessary. All they do is continue to add to the divisions between us and the myth of revisionist history. I also disagree that because a soldier fights for his country or for purposes of this discussion, the Confederacy, that he or she automatically becomes a supporter of slavery. My ancestors fought for the Confederacy but they didn’t own slaves and didn’t necessarily agree with slavery. Whether one chooses to believe it or not, your choice, my ancestors fought for state’s rights and strongly believed the government didn’t have the right to dictate to states or impose what they believed was the will of the central government over the rights of the states under the laws at the time. We also need to understand that information was not available anywhere close to what it is today. Sitting down at a computer with the internet and the stroke of a few keys, we can access information in an instant whereas in the mid 1800’s, it could take weeks, months, or years to obtain any pertinent information about current events outside the local area where one resided. Or with smart phones, all one needs to do is ask a question and the answer will be displayed on the screen within seconds. Just think about it for a moment and let your little gray cells do their job.

    Oddly enough, the most ignorant among us are the ones who try to equate the times during the Civil War with current times and apply today’s standards to the past. We know slavery was and still is wrong but at the time, it was accepted as legal and lawful. To further expound, it was not until well into the Civil War that some Northern states finally declared slavery illegal. The states in the North were not as unified on the subject of slavery as many are prone to believe.

    If one wishes to apply the standards of today to the Civil War days, then would approximately 33% of the population of California today be guilty of committing or supporting treason by pushing for secession from the Union? We get some media coverage about a couple of Southern states making noise about seceding but crickets about the actual movement in California. If secession of the Confederate states, is considered treasonous by today’s popular cultural belief, shouldn’t California supporters be judged by the same standards?

    1. David Carlton

      The “northern” states in which slavery was still legal at the time of the Civil War were the so-called Border States: Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware. In Delaware slavery was virtually defunct; the other three states all had strong secessionist movements, with federal occupation and, in Missouri’s case, out-and-out civil war. Calling them “northern” misleads.

      1. Claus2

        And the majority of slavery wouldn’t have survived another 10 years because of the Industrial Revolution. Machines could do the work of 10 men and not nearly the overhead of keeping slaves.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, I don’t know about that. A lot of people say that, but I think it’s hard to imagine that generation of leadership abandoning slavery.

          It was SO important to them. And remember, at least in South Carolina, you didn’t get to make political decisions unless you were a slaveholder. It was a prerequisite for serving in the General Assembly.

          First, I’m not sure it would be economical for a guy with 100 slaves to mechanize. And even if it did, I’m not sure those guys would let a mere monetary consideration get between them and the Peculiar Institution that they were willing to die to defend…

          1. Claus2

            Put it another way, if you were running The State, would you be using hand operated printing presses or automated printing presses? Why? There’s your answer.

            If you had 100 slaves you weren’t exactly eating beans every night for dinner. The average person in the South didn’t have slaves, they were a luxury item for the wealthy.

            Do you think the farmer with 6 mules refused to mechanize to one steam engine that could run all day and he wouldn’t have 6 animals to feed, house, and vet?

            1. Harry Harris

              Your point loses out to about 80 years of sharecropping and tenant farming that was ended mostly by wage laws and civil rights advancement. Automation in the south replaced cheap labor as it became more expensive.

              1. Claus2

                So what you’re saying is that the Industrial Revolution would have done nothing to farming in the South for at least 80 years. I wonder what the annual breakdown was for buying and supporting slaves was back in the 1860’s vs. mechanized farming the same acreage.

      2. Bart Rogers

        “Calling them “northern” misleads.” My apology, simply using “northern” as a generic. Thank you for the history lesson. But, I think you forgot New Jersey. Slavery was still legal until 1865 albeit there was few if any left when it was declared illegal in NJ.

        No matter at this point, it is in the past, statues of Confederates will come down, and the myth that only Southern states engaged in slavery will persist and eventually become accepted historical fact. This is not a comment in defense of slavery, just an acknowledgment of how perception overcomes reality.

  7. Chuckie

    It’s important to remember that “historical” monuments aren’t monuments to history. They are expressions of sentiments specific to the time and place in which they were erected. They may be made of stone, but they aren’t written in it.

  8. Doug Ross

    Please watch this video of the people taking down the Confederate statue in Durham. Maybe it’s just me, but if my kid was involved in that crime or else acted REAL brave by spitting on or kicking the statue after it was toppled, I’d be embarrassed.

    I just look at the people kicking the statue (young, white)) and wonder just who has brainwashed them to feel that level of outrage over an inanimate object completely unrelated to their personal history.

    What kind of jobs could these people have where that attitude could fit in the workplace?

  9. Karen Pearson

    Arial’s cartoon this morning accorded with the first thoughts I had when I saw Durham clips. I still think it would be a better idea to put up plaques explaining the person/event’s place in history. Just tearing them down seems senseless to me. Of course, a plaque explaining why Tillman was so honored would have to be rather long and convoluted tale to tell.

    1. Doug Ross

      That photo of the four rifle carrying, bandana wearing antifa crew won’t every be seen on the DailyKos, HuffPost, etc.

      Brainwashed hypocrites are the worst.

      1. bud

        The photo was in the New York Times, the poster child for “liberal” publications. This was bound to happen. The Trump inspired Alt-Right movement is growing rapidly so the antifa movement is the obvious response. Let’s not lose focus of where the blame lies. Trump is egging this divisiveness on.

          1. Mark Stewart

            But I get a kick out of their red bandannas – very soviet youth, not urban cowboy. And their old 70s style hiking boots. These are the same “ecowarriors” of another generation.

            They are as equally misguided and anti-civil as the white supremacists, anti-semites and militias; but their ideology is not as vile. There is still a stark difference; but I would call them all terror-types.

    2. Mark Stewart

      I find it the absolute height of hypocrisy that you would sputter on about anyone asserting the Second Amendment right to bare arms; especially assault style weapons.

      For the record; anyone who attends a “rally” in the United States armed is a fool, and idiot and a danger to themselves. And a clear and present menace to others. That ought to be the very definition of rioting right there.

      Also; gearing up in a motley array of “protective” wear and broom sticks etc that can be found at Walmart and through dumpster diviving (shields from industrial barrels – hahaha) is, to put no fine detail on it, a total loser.

  10. Burl Burlingame

    We damned Yankees up north always viewed Confederate statues not as monuments to a noble cause, but as icons of the Southern capacity for self-delusion.

      1. Burl Burlingame

        I’m not a Hawaiian. I just live there. My ancestors from Rhode Island and Connecticut were whupping Southern traitors throughout the Civil War.

        1. Richard

          I believe the RI and CT regiments got whupped their fair share of times during the Civil War.

          Smoking one of those Southern raised tobacco cigars I see.

          1. Bart Rogers

            Nah, probably Cuban or one from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. Why would he buy a cigar from one of the “traitorous” tobacconists from the South? That would be hypocritical.

        2. Bart Rogers

          “My ancestors from Rhode Island and Connecticut were whupping Southern traitors throughout the Civil War.”

          Interesting reply only in the sense that if comes from someone who chooses to portray Southerners who fought in the Civil War as “traitors”. The debate about the right to secession has been going on since well before the Civil War started. There were at least three SCOTUS decisions that on the surface seemed to classify secession as being treasonous. But, it was not until 1869 that it was finally declared by a SCOTUS ruling to be illegal, unconstitutional and settled. There were debates and decisions that lead in the direction of secession being illegal but it was never finally decided until 1869, once and for all.

          The Civil War had its roots planted well before Ft. Sumter and as the tree grew, so did the dissatisfaction between the South and North and whose will would be imposed on the other. No, this is not another argument about the war being fought over slavery, it is an attempt to offer a little more light on the subject. The events leading up to the war were more complex than slavery, it had to do with economics, political influence, an expanding central government role over states and individuals, and the question of state’s rights. These were more political than social and the aftermath of a changing demographic giving the Northern states more power and influence in Washington than the Southern states had formerly enjoyed.

          The United States was still in its infancy to a large degree and looking at the period of history in the proper context, the name calling and labeling used by both sides is immature and serves no purpose at all. If anything, it just widens and deepens the chasm that divides us.

          Depending on which argument one prefers to adopt, a case can be made on the rule of law at the time, not on how some tend to use a rearview mirror to interpret history and social and political mores of a time past based on current times.

          If Mr. Burlingame prefers calling Confederate soldiers traitors, that is his right. Will he also call Bradley Manning, aka Chelsea Manning, a traitor? Will he call Snowden a traitor? Or will he call them patriots? Again, semantics and one’s preferences when describing anyone he or she considers of less worth than they imagine themselves to be.

          Last comment about the Civil War and the inane practice of participating in Civil War reenactments. In my personal opinion, they are totally ridiculous and serve no practical purpose except to somehow fulfill the participants with something sorely lacking in their personal lives and emotional development. In other words, Burl looks just as damned ridiculous in his Union outfit as so do many of the old, big bellied men who dress up as Confederate soldiers and go through reenactments of a time when hundreds of thousands Americans on both sides lost their lives needlessly on our own soil.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Don’t know about Burl, but my answer to this:

            “Will he also call Bradley Manning, aka Chelsea Manning, a traitor? Will he call Snowden a traitor?”

            … is “yes,” at least in the broad sense, without getting all legalistic about it. They betrayed their country by revealing classified information with which they were entrusted — and then some (Snowden went out and found stuff he should not have had access to, if I recall). They would describe it otherwise, but they went out of their way to do as much damage to the country as they could with that information.

            Whether the Confederates were traitors is tricky. It’s difficult to draw other conclusions about serving military officers, graduates of West Point, who took up arms against their country.

            But there’s the problem of their curious, archaic mindset. They lived in a time when some people actually DID think of their state as their country. And whether a state, having freely joined the union, could freely leave it was not — in many people’s minds — a settled question until 1865.

            But as prevalent as that mindset may have been, it was more excusable in unlettered, untraveled people who had never been out of their home counties. As much as I tend to think of, say, Robert E. Lee as a man with an exquisite sense of honor, it’s hard to excuse a well-educated engineer who had served in the war in Mexico — a reading man who had been around in the service of the United States.

            Still, without excusing them a bit, “traitor” seems not quite the right word…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              With Snowden, you have the opposite problem — a guy who, whatever he says, probably thinks of himself as more of a citizen of the world than as an American. What other excuse might a Bradley Manning find, as a serving soldier, than the concept that he owed allegiance to something larger than a country?

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            “Treason” is usually a pretty tricky concept, especially if we are ready to assert that “It’s not treason if the ‘traitor’ wasn’t thinking of it that way.”

            Because people tend to rationalize their actions, however abhorrent.

            For instance, an American working for the Soviets during the Cold War might have rationalized that he was doing it in the name of “world peace,” or if he was an out-and-out Marxist, in the service of “history.”

            The human animal has a tremendous capacity for thinking up excuses, and convincing himself that they are the truth. Which, on a certain level, they may be.

            So it’s unusual to find an out-and-out traitor who woke up one day and decided, “I want to betray my country,” and then did so. (At least, at the moment I’m not coming up with examples that plain.) It’s generally more complicated, because people are complicated…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Reminds me of a joke some stand-up comic told decades ago, probably the 70s or earlier.

      It went something like “You ever see a radical try to throw?” It may have been “hippie” or “anti-war protester” or something instead of “radical.”

      He then demonstrated. The joke was that these were the kinds of boys whose daddies never taught them to throw a ball. Or maybe the lessons just didn’t take. Anyway, it was mildly funny.

      The thing was, I don’t think this was some right-wing guy. He was possibly even mildly sympathetic to the protesters. But he made the joke anyway…

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