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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Whitewashing Virginia's history

The governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell has issued a proclamation to recognize Confederate History Month celebrating Confederate heritage while ignoring the issue of slavery.
Instead, Mr. McDonnell's proclamation chose to omit this, declaring instead that Virginians fought "for their homes and communities and Commonwealth." The words "slavery" and "slaves" do not appear.

Even more incendiary is the proclamation's directive that "all Virginians" must appreciate the state's "shared" history and the Confederacy's sacrifices. Surely he isn't including the 500,000 Virginia slaves who constituted more than a quarter of the state's Civil War-era population, who cheered the Union and ran away to it when they could.
The governor's explanations are quite lame.
McDonnell said he did not include a reference to slavery because "there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia."
While such a move might appeal to those Virginians who are still motivated by pride in their Confederate heritage, it betrays an ignorance about the history of his state. Virginia was primarily concerned with its status as a slave-holding state and its concern that the Lincoln administration and Republicans would work to limit the spread of slavery. If Governor McDonnell doesn't understand this, he should get a little remedial education. He could read some of the resolutions adopted by the Virginia Secession Convention. For example, consider this resolution and then try to convince an impartial observer that slavery wasn't at the heart of Virginia's decision to secede.
Resolved by the general assembly of Virginia, that this commonwealth and the rest of the southern states have just cause of complaint against the non-slaveholding states, for their unfriendly legislation, in attempting to render worthless, constitutional provisions for the rendition of fugitives from labor; in obstructing the execution of constitutional laws; in imprisoning our citizens, and imposing oppressive penalties upon them for asserting in those states their legal rights; in denying the usual comity of nations--the mere right of transit through their territory with property legally acquired and rightfully held under our state constitutions, and guaranteed to us by the constitution of the United States; in endeavoring, by teachings, by declarations from the pulpit, from the hustings and in public meetings, to instill into the minds of our slaves feelings calculated to produce domestic insurrection among us, annoying by their constant repetition, and jeoparding our peace and safety; by the industrious circulation of incendiary publications to produce discord and division in our midst, and incite to midnight murder and every imaginable atrocity against an unoffending community; by their openly avowed determination to circumscribe the institution of slavery within the territory of the states now recognizing it; by subscribing money, paying for arms and munitions of war, and encouraging fanatics to invade our territory and subvert our government; by a persistent denial of the equal rights of the citizens of each state to settle with their property in the common territory acquired by the blood and treasure of all; and finally, in the election, by a sectional majority of the free states alone, to the first office in the republic, of the author and advocate of the sentiments--which he is pledged to carry into his administration of the government--that the states of this Union must be all free or all slave states; that all of the territories belonging equally and in common to the states of this confederacy, shall be forever devoted to freedom; and that slavery shall be put in the course of ultimate extinction: And in our deliberate judgment, such systematic opposition denotes a hostility which imperiously demands the most prompt and decisive action on the part of the states aggrieved, to remedy the evil, and if possible to restore friendly intercourse and fraternal regard and affection among the people and the respective state governments.
As respected Civil War historian James McPherson said in response to McDonnell's proclamation,
"I find it obnoxious, but it's extremely typical. The people that emphasize Confederate heritage and the legacy, and the importance of understanding Confederate history, want to deny that Confederate history was ultimately bound up with slavery. But that was the principal reason for secession -- that an anti-slavery party was elected to the White House. . . . And without secession, there wouldn't have been a war."
McDonnell might claim that his statement is in anticipation of the 150-year anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War which starts next year. I know that Virginia is devoting a lot of effort on education and tourism for the 150-year anniversary, but that doesn't mean that they have to ignore the full history. Those tourists who are interested in coming to Virginia to study Civil War history wouldn't be deterred by an honest gubernatorial proclamation. Let's face it, no one would care about this proclamation if McDonnell had followed the pattern of both previous Republican and Democratic governors who had issued such proclamations that included a condemnation of slavery. Instead, McDonnell, who conducted a model campaign for governor will now waste time trying to explain away his myopic celebration of Confederate heritage.

UPDATE: Governor McDonnell apologizes for leaving out slavery and amends his proclamation.

26 comments:

Stan said...

The overwhelming majority of those Virginians who fought and died in the Civil War did not own slaves. To say that their primary motivation for fighting was a desire to keep slaves is mind-boggling.

The governor has a serious point and it is one that never gets enough consideration. Of course, slavery was the overriding issue in sparking the war. It was not, however, the dominant motivation for the men who fought and died.

Southern Man said...

Many will be outraged. But as is obvious from my handle, I'm proud of my Southern heritage. Of course I focus on the positives, such as our famous hospitality and wonderful cooking, and not on the darker aspects of the past - much as my children watch movies that romanticize, say, pirates, while ignoring the ugly truth of rape and plunder. I'm a patriotic American who delights in the good that we have done in the world and proudly flies the Stars and Stripes in front of my home in spite of the fact that slavery was legal under that banner for over a century. Should I - or the governor of Virginia - be ashamed instead?

LarryD said...

They fought to persevere their community and way of life, which included slavery. Slave owning was tied up with prosperity and status, due to the South's plantation economy. I doubt any of them cared for owning slaves as such, but they had hopes of becoming prosperous someday, and being slave-owners would have been an inescapable part of that.

So yeah, they were fighting to protect slavery as an institution, even though they themselves did not own slaves.

scripto said...

Most German soldiers in WWII didn't personally kill any Jews so maybe Germany should celebrate Nazi History Month. You know, for heritage sake.

For a group of guys that were ambivalent about slavery the Confederate Army in Pennsylvanis spent an awful lot of time rounding up free blacks and "contraband" and sending them back down south.

The Governor has a point. The same one that was made in The Birth of a Nation.

Ken Ashford said...

Honoring southern heritage is one thing, but let's not forget, the proclamation was for Confederate HISTORY month.

Omitting mention or recognition of the institution of slavery presents a skewed history, period. It's like trying to honor NASA's Apollo program without making reference to the Moon.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

The governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell has issued a proclamation to recognize Confederate History Month celebrating Confederate heritage while ignoring the issue of slavery.

bravo, Betsy

one of our principal strengths in this country is our ability to face up to our errors unblinkingly. when the soviet union fell apart, one of the most empowering changes was the fact that the new government frankly acknowledged errors and problems, a practice keenly missed by soviet citizens during the 70 years of dictatorship

Stan said...

And I'm sure that when Indiana celebrates its history, the KKK dominance in the 20s will have a prominent place in any such celebration. Same for the sordid corruption that underlies so much of the history of New York or Chicago or Boston. Uh, huh. Sure. Don't hold your breath waiting.

Do people who celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday and laud him for his character also make sure to mention the ugly side? Of course not.

Everyone skews their presentation of history. But for his performance in WWII, FDR was arguably the worst president in US history. I haven't made it to the FDR memorial in DC, but I rather doubt that his negatives are highlighted there.

pops said...

Both MacPherson and the original poster should both review their history, or more aptly, review American history, not the drivel taught by politically motivated schools.
You stated "it betrays an ignorance about the history of his state. Virginia was primarily concerned with its status as a slave-holding state and its concern that the Lincoln administration and Republicans would work to limit the spread of slavery". First your post and your total lack of historical basis makes you the one that is ignorant of history. First off, Virginia was within 1 vote of stopping the purchase of slaves in Virginia in 1859, 2 years before the Civil War. Lincoln was personally against slavery but did not support making ownership of slaves illegal where it was currently legal. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 only freed slaves in eleven states and only in those areas not under federal control, so in Fredericksburg and Norfolk, the slaves were not freed, so much for that little bit of myopia on the vision of Lincoln. Third and most important, Virginia was 13 votes short of seceding from the Union and did not vote for secession until shots were fired on Ft. Sumter in SC. Lincoln then ordered VA (still part of the Union) to provide 7500 troops to fight SC, Virginia declined to shed the blood of another Southerner, thereby voting to secede. Lincoln learned a lesson on this and decided to allow Kentucky to remain out of the war and not provide troops to fight for the North.
The real facts of the Civil War is that it was fought over "Nullification" Since you and McPherson are supposed to be teachers, look that up and you will find the crisis that culminated in the Civil War after a bitter sectional disputes for thirty years. By the way, the slaves in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and the rest of the North were not freed until the Thirteenth Amendment, so much for the Abolitionist movement in the North and those fine states.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

By the way, the slaves in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and the rest of the North

slavery had been abolished in new york in 1827. no slaves were found in pennsylvania in the census of 1860

Tacitus Voltaire said...

The real facts of the Civil War is that it was fought over "Nullification"

Nullification is a legal theory that a U.S. State has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional. The theory is based on a view that the sovereign States formed the Union, and as creators of the compact hold final authority regarding the limits of the power of the central government. Under this, the compact theory, the States and not the Federal Bench are the ultimate interpreters of the extent of the national Government's power. A more extreme assertion of state sovereignty than nullification is the related action of secession, by which a state terminates its political affiliation with the Union.
.
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While some interests in northern states occasionally considered the possibility of secession after Jefferson's party gained control of the federal government in the years after 1801, for example at the Hartford Convention, the idea of nullification increasingly became associated with the southern states as a means of protecting the institution of slavery.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nullification_(U.S._Constitution)

Mr. A-Hole said...

Except for coal mine accidents, how else is a state like Virginia going to make it in the news?

Pat Patterson said...

The fact that the census found no slaves in PA is hardly surprising since the state didn't recognize slaves that were brought into the state as slaves but rather as free men of color. The nullification theory resides firmly in the Ninth Amendment and Dredd Scott v Sandford which was never overturned but part was made moot a court ruled by the 14th Amendment. Slavery still existed throughout the North but no new slaves were imported nor could citizens claim a slave as property.


That being said the US has the cross to bear for being a slave nation just as Germany has for the Holocaust. Comparable in the idea of a national shame.

Also most southerners in the CSA were sharecroppers essentially ordered to serve by the landowners as a condition of keeping their rights. But an interesting sideline is that Sherman ordered all the property of Confederate legislators to be seized and destroyed and the owners arrested. As he marched to Savannah it was left to the barefoot sharecroppers to protect their holdings while they ran for Gainsville.

pops said...

The entire point of nullification was to protect the southern states against a massive tariff that the northern states wanted to impose against the agricultural states to bankrupt them. Follow the bouncing ball and it leads all the way to secession. And by the way, no university, community college, or even high schools accepts Wikipedia as an authorized source, so if you want to debate find an authorized source that isn't biased, really difficult for you libtards but it can be done.

Locomotive Breath said...

Hey, aptly named A-hole. The coal mining accident was in WEST Virginia. Government school I guess. And parents who didn't teach you any manners.
------
Every time you feel the Federal Government's hand up your skirt you should wish that the individual states had been able to fend off the Feds no matter how wrong the slave states were. (Does anyone think slavery would have survived the industrial revolution?)

Once the Federal Government arrogates to itself authority over a state to correct an actual great wrong it arrogates to itself the power to arbitrarily declare an infinite number of things "a great wrong" that require Federal intervention.

There are those justifying the Federal takeover of health care as correcting a "great moral wrong" imperative for the Federal Government to "fix". Before the Civil War everyone in the country would have laughed at the concept that the government should take over such a thing.

Enjoy your Obamacare. There is a long long list of similar things that have been imposed on you and the list just keeps getting longer.

scripto said...

" (Does anyone think slavery would have survived the industrial revolution?)"

Apparently. It seems to have been doing quite well even though the Industrial Revolution had been underway for at least 80 years. And if you think the master/slave relationship in the south was purely a matter of economics you have some reading to do.

scripto said...

"Also most southerners in the CSA were sharecroppers essentially ordered to serve by the landowners as a condition of keeping their rights."

They fought pretty well for a bunch of reluctant draftees. I don't know how ambivalent the average southern soldier was about slavery but white southerners of all classes were enthusiastic enforcers of the Jim Crow laws after the collapse of Reconstruction.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

pops said...
The entire point of nullification


you ideas would have been a big surprise to the leaders of the rebellion who argued so passionately about how they thought chattel slavery was a positive good and the only viable basis of a civilized society. their marvelous theory that the north was leeching the lifeblood out of the south and would wither without it was quickly disproven by facts

a massive tariff

do you really want to argue about the history of tariffs with me?

accepts Wikipedia

i don't notice that you adduced a single source to support your ahistorical theories

and, pat - do you hate me so much that you will expend all your energy to argue details against my points even if it means you are taking the side of a pro-slavery idiot? perhaps you could lift a finger to show that the rest of this group doesn't share the same stupid and unpatriotic ideas as "pops"

Stan said...

I don't think anyone would doubt that southerners were every bit as racist as the New Yorkers who rioted and killed rather than serve in the army to free slaves. Or as racist as the rioters in Boston in the early 70s. That's 1970s.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

every bit as racist as the New Yorkers who rioted and killed rather than serve in the army to free slaves

no doubt about that. it was about the ugliest thing that ever happened in NYC, and i say that as a native of that town

Joe said...

You know I get sick and tired of hearing what a great president Lincoln was. He was responible for more death and suffering than any one man in American history, all to prove that 'he had the plan', sort of like Obama. A president that would entertain bringing in foreign military leaders to more expediently kill American citizens he didn't agree with is not worth a single paragraph of praise. He was possibly the most power hungry person who ever spent the night in the White House.

And if anyone thinks that slavery originated in the United States or was originated by white men, they are ignorant. Some of the most successful slave trader were black and they were ruthless.

If the real truth were known, the poor unfortunates who did end up in America, were probably lucky. I'm convinced their descendants are.

Pat Patterson said...

Simple as in the South's case they argued in favor of nullification only after the presidential vote not before when it might, might, have been considered a legitimate issue. Why don't you read my entire comment before assuming that I hate you or that I agree with your bete noir.

But I think a reliance on Wikipedia is the mark of a lazy and unserious intellect considering the many other sources on nullification that are available, notably Calhoun's. But this theory was originally argued that it was the tax and tariff policy of the North that was causing such turmoil. Not slavery though the Missouri Compromise was a dagger pointed and used against the South simply by changing the balance between free and slave state.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

But I think a reliance on Wikipedia is the mark of a lazy and unserious intellect considering the many other sources on nullification that are available, notably Calhoun's

well, thank you so much. wikipedia is easily accessable, is heavily moderated (so that it represents a cross section of current opinion, and not just that of one author), and, very importantly, is easy to cut and paste. i don't have time to painstakingly research and type out by hand the relevant quotes from printed history books, and they aren't usually readily available online

if you're so un-lazy and serious, why don't you copy us out a few paragraphs from calhoun?

Why don't you read my entire comment

my point was to show that "pops" was incorrect when he wrote "the slaves in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and the rest of the North were not freed until the Thirteenth Amendment" since slavery had already been outlawed in NY in 1827 and no slaves were detected in pennsylvania in the 1860 census.

perhaps you could explain the point of your rejoinder:

The fact that the census found no slaves in PA is hardly surprising since the state didn't recognize slaves that were brought into the state as slaves but rather as free men of color. The nullification theory resides firmly in the Ninth Amendment and Dredd Scott v Sandford which was never overturned but part was made moot a court ruled by the 14th Amendment. Slavery still existed throughout the North but no new slaves were imported nor could citizens claim a slave as property

Tacitus Voltaire said...

The fact that the census found no slaves in PA is hardly surprising since the state didn't recognize slaves that were brought into the state as slaves but rather as free men of color.

Slavery still existed throughout the North but no new slaves were imported nor could citizens claim a slave as property.


now, put on your thinking cap, pat. these statements basically say that pennsylvania didn't count slaves as slaves since they recognized them as free, and that there were slaves in new york, but nobody could own them.

i mean, seriously, pat, did you even read what you wrote?

think about 'burning kansas' (look it up for crissakes if you don't know what i'm talking about). if there were slaves "throughout the north", what would be the meaning of 'free states' and 'slave states'? why would the bloody war called 'burning kansas' have been fought over the issue of whether slavery would be legal in kansas or not, if there was slavery in 'free' states?

here's a little history lesson for the logic challenged: the compromise of 1850 included the despicable "fugitive slave act". previously, by convention, if an escaped slave managed to stay for a while in a free state, that is, a state where slavery was illegal, he or she would be considered free, and not be returned to his or her "owner". the 'fugitive slave law' required that these escaped persons be returned, by free state authorities, to the person that claimed to "own" them

read up on it

Pat Patterson said...

I did not say that no one could own slaves in New York but rather that relying on the census as proof ignores Dred Scott v Sandford. The slave was not counted as a slave for census purposes but as a resident, thus as a whole person, unlike the 2/3 rule followed in the South. To clarify in New York slaves could still be brought in as property and the state wouldn't interfere as long as he or she remained in service and no attempt was made to sell the slave while in New York.

Dr Weevil said...

You can look up "burning Kansas", but you'll find a lot more pertinent information by searching for "bleeding Kansas". (Oops.)

Melinda said...

The majority of Virginians voted for John Bell, a unionist candidate in the 1860 presidential election. It's only when Lincoln called for a 75,000 strong army to put down the insurrection in S.C. that Virginians voted to secede.