Confronting the Truth Behind the Monument Debates

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The raging debate over statues honoring Southern leaders in the Civil War turns on the true nature of the Confederate cause.

Ten days after adoption of the Confederate Constitution, the future Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, proclaimed:

Our new government is founded upon exactly this idea: its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery-subordination to the superior race-is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical and moral truth.

Yes. Most of those who fought and died for the South never owned slaves, but suggesting that the Confederate cause had nothing to do with slavery or racism is ignorant and irresponsible.

Decisions about local monuments should be made by local authorities, but those decisions should avoid any distortion of our national history.

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  1. B.J.  •  Aug 25, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I have never lived in the South, but It has been my understanding that after the South lost the war, Confederate leaders preached the importance of uniting the nation once again and for that reason they were hesitant to erect statues of southern leaders at that time. However, those that were finally erected were meant to be reminders of the devastating war, which often pitted brother against brother. caused the deaths of untold numbers of soldiers from both sides, and which the South had lost. Anything that prevented unity was avoided. Why then have these statues become offensive to some many decades later, causing havoc and the death of a young woman? I submit it is the result of specific people who want to divide us once again. These people need to be identified and their names known so that if they are involved in future efforts to divide our people, they will be held accountable.

  2. Fungah!  •  Aug 26, 2017 at 12:14 am

    To say the civil war had nothing to do with slavery is ridiculous. To say slavery was the only reason for the conflict is also ridiculous. Slavery is an abomination. So is tyranny of any kind.

    The civil war was as much about federal overreach as it was about slavery. The northern states were right in their opposition to slavery. The southern states were right in their opposition to nothern aggression. The North was wrong to enforcing their morality on the south through military force. The end result was over half a million American casualties and decades of persitent conflict over race.

    Britain did it the right way. The US was heading that direction when the North got overly aggressive. A little patience would have seen slavery eradicated through the legislative process in a decade or two. Imagine how this would have changed our culture and race relations in the US.

    The civil war was an unneccessay tragedy that used one evil to try and and stop another evil. It did irreparable damage to the balance of power between the states and the federal government, and allowed the executive branch assume unprecedented authority for itself.

    Many in the south still view the civil war as the war of northern aggression. There are legitimate reasons for this.

    Perhaps instead of tearing down monuments, we should be discussing one of the most tragic times in our history with the intention of understanding why it occurred and how it could have been avoided.

    I'm not saying these things to pick a fight with anyone. That's exactly what we're trying to avoid and what should have been avoided before.

    There's a meme out there that summarizes the situation perfectly. "We are about to start a second civil war because we are offended by the first one."

    • Jan G  •  Aug 30, 2017 at 12:30 pm

      I appreciate your comments regarding our country's civil war. Your are correct in pointing out the problematic issues on both sides. This needs to be taught in our schools. For many years the civil war was taught with the weight in favor of the northern issues being in the "right" and the southern stance all in the "wrong". As in most situations there are bad or wrong issues as well as good ones. The issue of slavery being abolished was a huge "in the right" category but the north did not handle the solution very well so the southern issue of northern overreach was not a small one. All of our people of this nation need to openly and honestly discuss these issues and work together towards healing and understanding allowing for recognition and allowances for differences in perception and experiences. I was unaware of the British method for abolishing slavery in their country until a few years ago when a friend of mine enlightened me. This should be a part of the civil war discussion in our schools as an example of settling issues without war. (I do recognize there are times when war is unavoidable). I agree that just tearing down statues is not a solution to the problem plus erasing history IS NOT a good thing. Let us look for ways to deal with the strong negative feelings (understandably so) with some of the statues in a way that is agreeable to both sides without destroying the statues yet not be "in your face" to the people it is painful to. I especial like your point of "discussing one of the most tragic times in our history with the intention of understanding why it occurred and how it could have been avoided." This is why history is SO important. It is studied in the hopes of learning ways to avoid the mistakes of the past, to seek solutions in the present, and to lead to reconciliation and healing. Thank you for your salient points!

  3. Andy Floyd  •  Aug 26, 2017 at 6:26 am

    I agree with you that the South seceded over slavery of this there is no question. However the issue that the war settled is the same question that the EU and the UK are negotiating now, whether once united in a federation does a state or group of states have a right to leave. Once the people of a state voted in a peaceful way to leave does the remaining union have the right by force of arms to compel the seceding states to stay. If the EU raised an army and tried to force the UK to stay would you support the EU and vilify the UK over their reason for leaving? My ancestors fought for their right to govern themselves as sovereign states. The Union in an effort to preserve the union changed the United States from a union of states to a single state with subservient provinces.

  4. Pat Allen  •  Aug 26, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    I agree that the core issue of the civil war was slavery. That the cause of the south was wrong and immoral, especially by todays standards. However, I respect the fact that a large part of this nation (the south) committed and lost their sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers in that war. That in some cases there was brilliance shown in the generalship. To an extent I think memorials to that sacrifice and the great leadership that was shown is a way of the south maintaining its pride as a people that were destroyed in an unholy war. I would also not begrudge the German people mourning their war dead and honoring their military leaders that were exceptional on the battlefield as a way of saving some national honor after a war (WW II) for an embarrassing cause by immoral political leaders. Distinguishing between the politics behind a war and the politicians and the average citizen who sacrifices their life and the military leaders that showed great skill is appropriate.

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