Independence Day, the Fourth of July is a time for celebration, barbecues, pool parties and fireworks! This month, it seems that the fireworks have not stopped when in comes to flying the Confederate flag.
I’m proud to be an American and I’m honored to sing our National Anthem and God Bless America at community ceremonies while our flag waves freely. I believe in free expression but I don’t understand the display of the Confederate flag at public events amongst the southern states. I would also think that I was in a time warp if I saw the Yankee flag exhibited in the northern states. The Civil War is over, folks! OUR American flag of these UNITED States has survived many trials and tribulations of war, generation to generation. All ethnic backgrounds have shared the battle field to protect our freedom and our flag.
My friend, fellow author Augustin Stucker is an expert on the Civil War Presidents and posted the following argument that is based on historical facts:
“Even Jefferson Davis would oppose the Confederate battle flag in government/public forums. Surprised?
Not nearly as surprised as I was by the number of people checking my book, “Lincoln & Davis: A Dual Biography of America’s Civil War Presidents,” looking for support for their side of the argument. The argument, of course, is whether the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of racism or southern heritage. As is detailed in my book, if you accept the fact that the flag is a symbol of southern racist heritage, then you get to have it both ways. (I apologize in advance only for the length of this post.)
So how can I be so sure of my assertion that Jefferson Davis – President of the Confederacy and one of America’s greatest promoters of the southern slavery system – would adamantly oppose those who claim the flag merely represents their southern pride and heritage? I rely on those pesky details called historical facts.
Let’s start off with the term, “state’s rights.” Word use and meanings change over time. What we think of as state’s rights today is entirely different from what it meant until near the end of the 19th century: Slavery. Many of the founding fathers, including those from the south, were extremely ashamed of allowing slavery to remain part of the makeup of the United States. It was such an embarrassment that nobody wanted to use the term “slavery.” The word was not even mentioned in the Constitution. Slavery was considered so vulgar and distasteful that nobody dared used the word in public. Euphemisms were required, so in the South slavery was “our peculiar institution” and nationally it was known as “state’s rights.” In those times, when you spoke of state’s rights, you were discussing slavery, and everybody knew it. This brings us to the people who claim the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery and was fought for state’s rights. Those people are what I like to refer to as wrong. 100% wrong. When South Carolina, the first state to secede, declared their reason for its secession, they asserted in writing their one and only reason for doing so was to preserve slavery in their state. Nothing more, nothing less. Other seceding southern states made the same declaration. And when the Confederate Constitution was created, it was remarkably similar to the U.S. Constitution. Except for a leading clause proclaiming slavery was and forever would be the law of the would-be new nation. So, knowing at the time that state’s rights meant slavery (and nothing else), and with the blatant wording of each state’s secession acts, plus the declaration in the Confederate Constitution, anybody claiming the Civil War was fought for any reason other than slavery is not only denying the facts of history, they are also denying their own beloved southern heritage.
As for the flag itself, the “stars and bars” design causing such an uproar today was never the national flag of the Confederate States of America. Three official CSA flags were designed and used, but since they are not part of the problem, we can ignore them. The “stars and bars” was created as a battle flag for the Army of Northern Virginia. It was intended to, and did, distinguish the Confederate army and troops from those of the Union. After the war the design was so popular it was copyrighted as the emblem to be used by groups such as the United Confederate Veterans, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and United Daughters of the Confederacy.
And here’s where it gets confusing for most people. As a design to distinguish Confederate soldiers, descendants of those soldiers argue the flag is their way of honoring their ancestors and southern heritage in general. Which is about as myopic an argument or excuse as I’ve ever heard. The troops it was designed for were fighting in a rebellion against the United States for the singular cause of preserving slavery. Any and all other arguments – “most the soldiers fighting didn’t own slaves,” or “my ancestors never owned slaves” – are irrelevant. They were fighting to preserve slavery, pure and simple.
On a personal note, one of my great-great grandfathers was a doctor who owned a small plantation outside of Macon, Georgia. He owned up to perhaps 10 slaves, and when the Civil War broke out he served as a doctor in the Army of Northern Virginia. What he saw and experienced in the war made him an alcoholic. He lost his small plantation after the war, but continued to practice medicine the rest of his life. He never flew any Confederate flags, displayed any “rebel” mementos in his home, nor pass anything of that nature down to his family. He is now remembered by my family as a loving family man who successfully passed on the practice of medicine to his two sons. I do not deny my ancestry (note to Ben Affleck – own your ancestry, don’t deny it – unless you are the same person they were). Nor do I wallow in it. Personally, I would tell other southern descendants who only “honor” their slave-holding ancestors by displaying the Confederate battle flag that they are either lazy, lacking in imagination, hypocritical, or all three.
Now let’s bring Jefferson Davis into the mixture. Yes, he was a southern plantation owner who owned dozens of slaves. As a leading southern politician he was the major advocate for the continued expansion of slavery. He was, however, hardly alone in his attitudes. The vast majority of Americans then were extremely racist by today’s standards, including his political opposite, Abraham Lincoln. (Read my book for the irrefutable evidence that, for the majority of his life, Lincoln was a racist. He obviously overcame his upbringing and belief system, which I believe makes him even more exceptional a human being than most people believe him to be. Yes, it’s another controversial statement, but the facts support the truth.) Back to Davis, the facts were he never believed a war should be fought to keep slavery alive, even though he constantly used the threat of war as a political lever to maintain the South’s political power. He was drafted, much against his will, to be the President of the Confederacy, and only served because he felt it was his duty.
After the war Davis was the most prominent figure and representative of the failed Confederacy. He was imprisoned for almost a year before the federal government realized he could not be tried for treason. Secession was not then, nor is it now, against the law. It’s just not a very good or practical idea, as the Civil War proved. Davis became the living embodiment of “The Man Without A Country,” and while he encouraged all other former Confederates to swear allegiance back to the United States, he did not do so himself because that would have been admitting the effort to secede was wrong. Still, when he wrote his biography, he concluded it by acknowledging the war proved the effort at secession to be wrong, and that the United States should go on in perpetuity.
Davis was not ashamed of the Confederacy – he believed Confederate soldiers were the greatest and most honorable soldiers ever to have fought in battle. But Davis never wanted to revisit the war or its causes. Once it was over, it was over, and people should keep moving forward with their lives. He never collected any Confederate mementos. He never flew any flag other than that of the United States outside of his home. And, in spite of a lifetime of promoting slavery and inequality among men, Davis recognized the law of the land. Following passage of the 14th Amendment Davis treated all men equally, engaging in business transactions with both blacks and whites.
I am not claiming he deserves forgiveness and absolution for all the loathsome beliefs he expressed through most of his life. But at least he turned the corner for himself and was trying to do the right thing.
Before his death he expressed his love for the United States. He felt proud to be an American, and in fact did great service to the United States as a soldier and politician outside of his stances on slavery. He believed in the Bill of Rights, and certainly supported freedom of speech. Logically, however, he also recognized the difference between what a private citizen can express and what a government can express. If an individual wishes to fly the Confederate battle flag on their own private property, they are free to do so. If a state or governmental agency does the same thing on government or public property, however, it is much more problematic. The state or government has the obligation to represent all the people, not one select group or another. For that reason alone, the state should remove all questionable emblems from state properties and public places, and set those emblems aside in museums for proper historical context.
Jefferson Davis was a very complex man. He was absolutely on the wrong side of history when it came to slavery and racism. But on this particular issue today, I have every reason to believe he would be on the right side.
To those people who wish to wallow in their ignorance and blind (or maybe not so blind) bigotry and hatred, I say go ahead and knock yourself out. Exercise your freedom of speech and fly all the Confederate flags you want on your personal and private property. But don’t insist on infringing on my rights and the rights of millions of other Americans who find your symbols repugnant. Keep those symbols off the public property which belongs to all Americans. A little civility and common sense would go a long ways in keeping the United States truly united instead of continuing to divide us.” – Augustin Stucker
Thank you Augustin for your thoughtful and powerful argument. You have expanded my mind in the process.
The American flag represents equality for all. To touch on another issue, I accept the separation of religion and government as I don’t think anyone should be told what or how to believe. On the other hand, I must admit that it gives me a feeling of security to have the words, “In God We Trust” on our money and “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance but that’s me. I think our nation needs the blessing from above. Please know, if you sneeze, I instinctively say, ‘God bless you.’
It is unfortunate and deplorable that slavery still exists today. A fellow blogger that I am following tells a story of a woman who was unwittingly sold into slavery but was able to escape. The post is called, Psalm 12:15 (Rescue).
Wishing you freedom and blessings,
Maria Lauren, AKA: Maria Elena Alberici – Riccio
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Fitness model, Marianna Riccio is an entertainer and certified fitness instructor who is passionate about being healthy.
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