April 28, 2014 9:42:39 AM
Today is Confederate Memorial Day in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.
South Carolina and North Carolina celebrate Confederate Memorial Day on May 10. It is known as Confederate Heroes Day in Texas and held on Jan. 19 each year, which is also recognized as Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday. You can form you own opinion as to why Texas would hold its Confederate Heroes Day on the same day that is set aside to honor King.
Although it has been 149 years since the end of the Civil War, many white residents of the South retain an abiding pride in the "Southern Cause," a sentiment that might have been expected in the bitter years of Reconstruction in the years that followed the end of the war. Today, however, any attempt to honor the Cause requires some philosophical gymnastics in order reconcile the "Cause"with conscience.
The old quote, origins unknown but most often attributed to Winston Churchill, says, "history is written by the victors" and there is little doubt that the South was cast in the most unfavorable of lights in the immediate aftermath of the war by those in the North who sought to punish the South.
Lincoln famously did not hold this view. "With malice toward none, charity for all," he said.
In the intervening years, a new narrative has evolved, perpetrated by Southerners who hope rehabilitate the Southern cause into something that can be celebrated in good conscience.
The theme that emerged is that the Civil War was not about the institution of slavery, but rather, the North's efforts to cripple the Southern economy. Why the North would want to do that is something you never hear about, of course, mainly because the whole argument is a silly idea constructed on the flimsiest of "facts."
To the degree you could make this argument, you would have to separate the Southern economy of the day from the institution of slavery, which is an impossibility.
Rather than argue what Mississippi's leaders may or may not have believed as the causes of secession and war, only a look at the facts is enough to satisfy the fair-minded observer that the slavery was its root cause.
In 1861, a special session of the Mississippi Legislature was convened, during which Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union. We are not left to guess why Mississippi left the Union because the Legislature explained its motives in a document titled "A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union."
The first two graphs of the document should be sufficient to dispel the recently concocted theory that slavery was not the issue:
In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
The argument, at least as far as what motivated Mississippi to leave the union and take up arms with the other Southern states, should end there.
Clearly, any efforts to sanitize the Southern Cause is an affront not only to decency -- bear in mind that 37 percent of Mississippi's population is black -- but to history, as well.
That many Southerners fought with great valor and skill is not in question. The same can be said of the Panzer Units of the German army in World War II, after all. It can be said of the kamikaze pilots of Imperial Japan as well. Yet we would be appalled if Germany or Japan celebrated their bravery with holidays.
That our state still recognizes Confederate Memorial Day as a state holiday is unfortunate and demeaning and benefits no one, living or dead.
1. Voice of the people: Robert Gillis LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
2. William Browning: A hero's passing LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Voice of the people: Johann Christoph Arnold LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
4. Editorial Cartoon for 11-25-14 NATIONAL COLUMNS