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Bans on Desecrating Confederate Flags:

The Miami Herald reports:

Bob Hurst walked into a Tallahassee art museum this week and saw the symbol of his Southern heritage hanging by a noose.

The art work, which has led to a standoff between descendants of Confederate soldiers and the museum, is a life-size gallows with the Confederate flag dangling from a frayed rope. Created by a black artist from Detroit and titled The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag, the piece has brought an old debate to Florida anew.

Hurst and his compatriots at the Sons of Confederate Veterans want the exhibit taken down, and they've invoked a 1961 Florida law to support them.

"I didn't find it clever. I didn't find it amusing. I found it offensive. I found it tasteless," said Hurst, whose great-great-grandfather led a company for the Confederacy and committed suicide after the South's surrender.

The leaders of the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science decided this week they'll put up with the backlash for the sake of freedom of speech and political dialogue....

A 1961 Florida law actually says it is illegal to defile or "cast contempt upon" the Confederate flag.... Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — have laws that specifically safeguard the Confederate flag....

Message for Mr. Hurst and his companions: The First Amendment guarantees not just the "freedom of clever or amusing speech," but even the freedom to express views that you or even the majority of your fellow citizens — or the majority of the representatives of those fellow citizens who were allowed to vote in 1961 — find "offensive" and "tasteless."

A question for those who hold that the Constitution doesn't protect flagburning on the grounds that flagburning isn't literally "speech": Would you likewise say that the Constitution doesn't protect displaying the Confederate flag in a noose, on the grounds that that isn't speech? What if a state (or a public university) decided to ban the display of the Confederate flag standing alone, with no nooses at all — would that be constitutionally permissible, too, on the grounds that flying the Confederate flag isn't "speech"? What if it decided to enjoin the display of a painting because it saw it as representing a racist viewpoint — would that too be constitutional, on the grounds that paintings aren't "speech"?

Or would you join the Supreme Court's position, which is that when symbolic expression is banned precisely because of the viewpoint it expresses, it is protected whether it's in words, flags, pictures, symbols (religious or not, e.g., donkey or elephant pins to symbolize the Democratic or Republican party, peace symbols, swastikas, or what have you)? Note that the Court has essentially taken this view ever since 1931; one of the first few cases to strike down a restriction on expressive freedom grounds involved a ban on display of anarchist flags.

(Note that of course expressive conduct may be restricted when this is done for reasons unrelated to its expressive content, for instance if a genuinely evenhanded and evenhandedly applied ban on open fires in high-fire-risk areas were applied to the burning of a flag; but of course such restrictions are generally permissible as to verbal speech, too.)

The Florida statute, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 256.051, provides, "It shall ... be unlawful ... to mutilate, deface, defile, or contemptuously abuse the flag or emblem of Florida or the flag or emblem of the Confederate States by any act whatever," and "Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the use of any flag, standard, color, shield, ensign, or other insignia of Florida or of the Confederate States for decorative or patriotic purposes."

Justin (mail):
I remember reading the original article, and it had the curator say they thought they were within the 1961 statute. My initial thought was that this was in irrelevant notion - that the statute was such an overbroad violation of the First Amendnment as to be facially unconstitutional - and that this was an easy case.
3.19.2007 12:13pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

It is amazing to see that Florida's efforts to have the silliest laws of the Union go as far back as 1961. Seriously, issues about the difference between "speach" and expressive actions aside, how could anyone think that this statute is even remotely constitutional?
3.19.2007 12:17pm
Paddy O. (mail):
My great-great-great grandfather and his oldest son died in the Civil War fighting for an Indiana regiment. I will happily cast contempt on that flag of rebellion and treason.

And I think it fitting and proper to use the Constitution that flag rejected to allow me to do it.

Though, maybe Bob Hurst would have more success in San Francisco where they take flag desecration much more seriously.
3.19.2007 12:19pm
John Herbison (mail):
In a crminal prosecution for desecrating a flag, would the government be required to prove that, prior to the offending act, the flag in question had been sacred or holy?
3.19.2007 12:27pm
markm (mail):
I agree, that is the proper way to hang the Confederate flag.
3.19.2007 12:33pm
Jam (mail):
I fly the flag of Saint Andrews and the cause against Federal unconstitutional usupraptions right.

But the SCV folks are wrong and misguided on this issue.

Hey, Paddy. It was your forebearer who invaded the South. Had he stayed at home he would not, at least, died from participating in the real rebellion: the destruction of the voluntary union of soverign States.

It was the Yankees who were the real traitors.

The uSC does not grant the Central government the authority to force a State to remain in union.
3.19.2007 12:38pm
Dave N (mail):
Of course, the flag depicted was most likely not the Confederate flag--but rather either a version of the battle flag or the Confederate Maval Cross.

I realize that the Civil War was extremely divisive and that millions died on both sides, but I am always amazed that the side that LOST wants to act forever as if it had WON.
3.19.2007 12:39pm
Dave N (mail):
Jam,

You certainly are free to believe what you like but the war Civil War was fought on the terms of succession and your position lost.

I would also point out that your position was not even won held throughout the slave-owning South. Andrew Jackson, a slave owner from Tennessee, made it crystal clear during his Presdency that he would not countenance succession.
3.19.2007 12:50pm
FantasiaWHT:
Flag burning really disturbs me, but yet I do see the constitutional right. I've always wondered if there was a good way around it, however, and I came up with this possibility.

Nationalize the flag industry.
1- Congress passes a law that only the government can manufacture and distribute American flags.
2- Then pass a law declaring that people can't "buy" American flags, they can only borrow, or rent, or lease (whatever you want to call it) a flag.
3- Make a condition of this transfer of property that the flag cannot be desecrated in any manner, and
4- Maybe even make a condition of possession that the standard flag "etiquette" (not touching the ground, not being flown at night without lighting, etc.) must be upheld

Bada-bing, bada-boom! You can't damage other people's property as part of free expression. Graffiti can constitutionally be made illegal.
3.19.2007 12:51pm
Ken Arromdee:
My great-great-great grandfather and his oldest son died in the Civil War fighting for an Indiana regiment. I will happily cast contempt on that flag of rebellion and treason.

And the American flag is treason against Britain.
3.19.2007 12:51pm
Simon (391563) (mail) (www):
Dave N-

Maybe they act like they won because they successfully resisted integration for a hundred more years.
3.19.2007 12:52pm
Dave N (mail):
Note to self:

READ comment before posting--fix ugly word choices: "one" should have been used instead of "won" and edit ugly typos: "Naval" instead of "Maval." You will look less like a moron if you do.
3.19.2007 12:55pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

I realize that the Civil War was extremely divisive and that millions died on both sides, but I am always amazed that the side that LOST wants to act forever as if it had WON.


I'm willing to bet that if it had been the Stars &Stripes as opposed to the Stars &Bars, Mr Hurst would have been just as upset.

Many people are proud of their heritage, and they are proud of the glories of that heritage not the darker days. How many people of German descent are proud of being German? Do we denigrate them by saying, "Oh you're all a bunch of Nazis"?

Despite a person's opinion of the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression/War of State's Rights/etc, you can be nothing but admiring of the people who laid down their lives for both sides. Whether they were fighting to support or overthrow slavery, to throw off the perceived violations of state's rights or to maintain the integrity of the Union, or just to defend the land that they owned and the people they loved from, they gave their lives for something they considered valuable.

Ever since then, people have used the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of their Southern heritage. And some have used it as a symbol of racial division. However, it isn't hard to argue that the North-South divide has been maintained to this day, and that there are ways in which the two sections of the nation are as distinct as say, England and Ireland. Or Northern Ireland and Ireland. But when was the last time you scolded an Irishman for wearing green or orange?
3.19.2007 12:59pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
All that said, the law is clearly stupid and unconstitutional.

The artist was tying to be provocative and succeeded. His job as an artist has been fulfilled.
3.19.2007 1:02pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

And the American flag is treason against Britain.


And the British flag depicts the foreign domination of Scotland and Ireland.

Or maybe, the flag of Hawaii is declaring it's allegiance to Britain over America.
3.19.2007 1:04pm
M. Gross (mail):
...and last I heard Ken, you're free to express your contempt to our flag, although I wouldn't expect the natives to share your views on the issue.
3.19.2007 1:05pm
Paddy O. (mail):
The US won against Britain, and we became a sovereign nation recognized by Britain. The CSA was never recognized by anyone, let alone the USA, so the flag remains a symbol of rebellion.

And my forebear carried the United States flag, made an oath to the Constitution of the United States of American, and spilled blood for his country. The same flag our present military salutes, and our present soldiers swear to defend. Traitors are those who once swore to defend the Constitution but then kill those who salute the US flag and who swear to defend the Constitution.

He was not invading another territory. He was defending the Constitution. There was no different country to invade. It was always the United States, and sadly some folks got it into their heads to dismiss the Constitution and had to be convinced of the error of their ways.
3.19.2007 1:07pm
Colin (mail):
Despite a person's opinion of the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression/War of State's Rights/etc, you can be nothing but admiring of the people who laid down their lives for both sides. Whether they were fighting to support or overthrow slavery . . . .

I have nothing but contempt for those who died to defend the institution of slavery. Self-sacrifice is not necessarily admirable--we should honor those who gave their lives so that others may be free, and scorn those who died so that others would be enslaved. Insofar as their motives were mixed, perhaps we can separate out their noble causes from their deplorable sins, but I rarely see neo-Confederates attempt that difficult task. The legacy of the Confederacy is not honorable or decent, but a terrible blight on our nation's history.
3.19.2007 1:08pm
sksmith (mail):
"Message for Mr. Hurst and his companions"

Mr. Hurst and his companions are trying to get the State to enforce its own laws. Shouldn't your comment be directed at the Florida State Legislature?

A pretty lame post. It reminds me of the Blues Brothers scene where they run the Nazis off the bridge. Does it really take a lot of courage to publicly dislike Nazis (the Blues Brothers apparently think so)?

Does it really take alot of courage to publicly defend the defamation of the Confederate flag? I'm sure in academia, you'll be toasted at the latest soiree, but in the real world, this is a pretty easy call, and Hurst's argument is clearly silly. Congradulations, you warrior for the truth!

Sk
3.19.2007 1:09pm
Anon1ms (mail):
"How many people of German descent are proud of being German? Do we denigrate them by saying, "Oh you're all a bunch of Nazis"? "

We do if they march around with swastikas.
3.19.2007 1:20pm
Bob R (mail):
I'm a mathematician, not a lawyer. So I won't express an opinion on what the law actually is. But I would prefer a constitutional jurisprudence that protected actual speech more zealously than it is now, yet allowed legislatures to control other forms of expression. This would at least keep the courts from making fools of themselves dealing with such essentially frivolous issues as burning flags, g-strings, etc. For those who worry about the terrible loss of freedom, my wife has a good piece of advice that she has to give a room full of screaming preschool students every day, "Use your words."
3.19.2007 1:21pm
T_C:

Many people are proud of their heritage, and they are proud of the glories of that heritage not the darker days. How many people of German descent are proud of being German? Do we denigrate them by saying, "Oh you're all a bunch of Nazis"?


We don't denigrate Germans by calling them all Nazis, but the vast majority of Germans, a mere fifty years after WWII, realize that Nazism and the Third Reich were bad things and don't celebrate them. What we have here is a minority of Southerners who deliberately harken back to the Confederacy and ask all of us to believe the extraordinary fiction that it had nothing to do with keeping millions of human beings in thrall. That is something that we should point out and disapprove of, which is what the display in question here is doing.
3.19.2007 1:21pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):

I have nothing but contempt for those who died to defend the institution of slavery. Self-sacrifice is not necessarily admirable--we should honor those who gave their lives so that others may be free, and scorn those who died so that others would be enslaved. Insofar as their motives were mixed, perhaps we can separate out their noble causes from their deplorable sins, but I rarely see neo-Confederates attempt that difficult task. The legacy of the Confederacy is not honorable or decent, but a terrible blight on our nation's history.


You're right, I should have qualified that. I do not support slavery, and don't condone anyone else supporting it.

However saying "the legacy of the Confederacy" is clearly shifting all blame for slavery and the repercussions thereof onto the states that attempted to secede. That is patently unfair. Slavery is a terrible blight on our nations history, yes. The Confederacy itself is not. Was one of the aspects of the Confederacy a support of slavery? Yes, but it was also an aspect of the United States as a whole. Lincoln himself said that he did not intend to end slavery, and the Emancipation Proclamation was a side effect of events during the war.

I'm not trying to romanticize the war at all. I am however strongly in support of being realistic about the people who were actually fighting the war for the South. The vast majority of the enlisted men were not slave owners. And many of the officer corps as well did not own slaves. Claiming that the legacy of those men is a blight on our history is a dishonor to their names and their families.
3.19.2007 1:21pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
sksmith: (1) Under article VI of the U.S. Constitution, a state may not enforce its laws when they conflict with the Constitution. Hurst and his friends should not call for the enforcement of laws that the state has no constitutional power to enforce.

(2) If you're looking for the Constant Courageous Posts blog, I think you've gotten the wrong one. While it's always a privilege to post on something that requires real courage, I think it legitimate to post a wide range of sound observations, and the fact that public opinion is with me on them is not reason to reject such posts any more than it is reason to make them.
3.19.2007 1:30pm
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
I don't want to dip my toe into these waters. Just wanted to point out something that Prof. Volokh didn't fully disclose:

But Supreme Court rulings don't make a law disappear, said Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles.

"It's not magically erased from the books," he said. "The Legislature would have to take some affirmative step."
3.19.2007 1:37pm
Steve:
And the American flag is treason against Britain.

My sense is, if Britain had WON the Revolutionary War, they wouldn't be okay with people flying the revolutionary flag after the fact.

We see in this comment thread that there are still people who believe the Confederacy was RIGHT - not about slavery, one hopes, but about their decision to secede from the US. Somehow, in our everyday lives, we tend to give the unpatriotic nature of that position a pass.
3.19.2007 1:37pm
Shawn-non-anonymous:

I'm a native of Central California. I now live in Central Florida. There are several things I was shocked to learn of after moving here.

1) Open racism is more acceptable.
2) The KKK and World Church of the Creator are active here.
3) Confederate flags are flown in a variety of places and in general are viewed as a racist symbol.

But, if you were to draw up a map of Florida and attempt to display the areas of the state where racism is more prevalent, you'd likely get a picture something like this: The I-4 corridor (remember that from national elections?) runs through the center of the state. Above it is pretty "redneck." Below it is generally not. The exception is the swatch of rural land down the center of the state to lake Okachobee--that's pretty redneck too. A large number of non-southerners have moved into the state and tend to live in the South Florida (Miami) area and up the Western Coast through Tampa Bay. This is why the top half of the state votes "red", the bottom votes "blue", and the I-4 corridor gets all the media attention.

That this exhibit was placed in Tallahassee, our capital in the Northern part of the state, is pretty provocative. I'm not surprised at the reaction, even if it causes me to shake my head.

Remember, this is the state that prohibits custom license plates with "political messages" but has no problem issuing a plate that says "Choose Life" in the fashion of a child's crayola scrawl across the top. That part of the state is as Red as the field on the Confederate flag itself.
3.19.2007 1:45pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
There's a question here that nobody ever wants to consider.

Why should YOUR idea of what the flag represents dictate MY treatment of that flag?

I should treat the flag in a way that befits my idea of what it represents. You should then respond in a way that befits your idea of what it represents.

Imagine that the piece were titled "The Rape of the South". That would be a whole different message, wouldn't it? It would indicate that what happened to the Confederacy was wrong, that it was a crime, and that some sort of restitution should be in order. But while THE PIECE ITSELF DOES NOT CHANGE, attitudes change toward it.

So what if this piece were "Untitled"?
3.19.2007 1:55pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
And some people use the rebel flag to show a go-to-hell rebelliousness, no other political or racist motive involved.
3.19.2007 2:14pm
Fub:
Dave N (mail) wrote:
Andrew Jackson, a slave owner from Tennessee, made it crystal clear during his Presdency that he would not countenance succession.
But didn't he also let Martin Van Buren succeed him in 1837?
3.19.2007 2:23pm
Jam (mail):
Oaths can be taken that are only valid for a while, for example, while holding office.

Prior to Lincoln, to my knowledge, no oaths of allegiance existed other than oaths of office. And, again, the oath would only be valid while in office.

Yes, my adoptive South did loose the military conflict. That does not change the fact that the uS Constitution DOES NOT grants the Central government the authority to force a State to remain in union, hence, the invading North and their sympathizers are the real rebels.

I wonder why no oaths of loyalty were instituted during/after the War of 1812?

The South was right just like the Colonialists were (with less political/legal standing) to secede.
3.19.2007 2:38pm
Xmas (mail) (www):
What I would have done, if I was the artist was simply have a statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman and called it, "The Best Thing to Happen to the South".

That would have been far less provocative.
3.19.2007 2:42pm
Gary McGath (www):
Sksmith wrote: "Mr. Hurst and his companions are trying to get the State to enforce its own laws. Shouldn't your comment be directed at the Florida State Legislature?"

These people are not robots, who have no choice but to invoke unconstitutional, unjust laws simply because they're still on the books. They are responsible for their actions.
3.19.2007 2:48pm
gasman (mail):
It would seem the confederate flag was sufficiently desecrated by the traitorous acts of the 'loyal' southerners of the time that there is little we can do now to further sully the flag as a symbol of the old South.
3.19.2007 2:51pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
@EV and the other lawyers:

If a state constitution had a clause that provided a legal outline for secession from the Union, how would that be treated in relation to the US Constitution?
3.19.2007 2:52pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

1. I believe the CSA was recognized by the British. Mostly as a thumb in Union's eye more than anything else.

2. The vast majority of Confederate soldiers who fought and died in the War of Northern Aggression, and I won extraordinary amounts of brownie points with an old girlfriend's mother by using that phrase btw, did not own slaves, had never owned slaves and probably would have never owned slaves. For them it wasn't about slavery at all. It was, as has been described, about states rights.

3. However the whole War of Northern Aggression was really pretty silly in a blood drenched comic book sort of way. The South had onto the concept of state's rights to such an absurd degree that each separate state organized it's own army and would refuse to supply the army of any other state. At one point the Gov of Maryland had 40,000 uniforms in stock but refused to release them to anyone other than a soldier in service to Maryland and Maryland alone.

It was this divisiveness, along with the stupidity in starting a war with almost no industrial capability whatsoever, that really cost the CSA.

4. As for the Confederate flag being a symbol of racism. *shrug* depends on who you talk to. I've known quite a few people down south for whom the flag is a symbol of great deprivation, sorrow and loss. They revere the flag because of family who died for it, not for slavery.

5. Frankly the victimhood from slavery is vastly overrated. A lot of peoples and cultures have been enslaved or oppressed at various times. Look at the Chinese Exclusion Act along with it's California predecessors. And those were long after the Civil War.

6. Considering the opinions about free speech here vs the opinions about the Confederate flag; would people be so willing to defend the "art" if it had instead included a dark skinned mannequin in the noose rather than the flag?
3.19.2007 2:53pm
Dave N (mail):
Fub,

I am not sure what your reference to Martin Van Buren was all about. Martin Van Buren was later the Free Soil candidate for President (in 1848) but overall, he has been forgotten by history.

If you could explain what you mean, I might be able to provide more than a puzzled response.
3.19.2007 2:56pm
Dave N (mail):
Ed,

I was puzzled by two portions of your last post:

1. Britain never recognized the South. The Confederacy desperately wanted diplomatic relations with other countries but to my knowledge, no nation ever recognized the CSA as an independent nation.

2. Maryland, though a slave state, did not succeed--which might explain why uniforms in Maryland were not being worn by other southerners.
3.19.2007 3:01pm
Dave N (mail):
Maryland has succeeded as a state, but what I meant to say is that it did not secede.
3.19.2007 3:04pm
Seamus (mail):
My sense is, if Britain had WON the Revolutionary War, they wouldn't be okay with people flying the revolutionary flag after the fact.

Hell, they *lost* the War for Irish Independence, yet the government of Northern Ireland still banned the display of the Irish tricolour in the Six Counties.

I don't think we in the United States ought to be following that model.
3.19.2007 3:05pm
jvarisco (www):
I think it is very different. Flag burning can be banned because it essentially amounts to treason: our government can (and should) favor our flag over others. The pledge of allegiance is to our flag; is forcing people to salute it a violation of their rights? The Confederate flag represents a bunch of loonies who tried to rebel and got smashed. It deserves no deference.
3.19.2007 3:07pm
Prigos:
succeed: To come next in time or succession; follow after another; replace another in an office or a position; To accomplish something desired or intended:

secede: to withdraw formally from an alliance, federation, or association, as from a political union, a religious organization, etc.
3.19.2007 3:11pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

- The militia power in art. I (8) states: "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repeal Invasions;"

- The habeas clause refers to "Rebellion or Invasion" implying that the Federal government has the right to resist either.

- There is the definition of treason in art. III (3)

- The constitution is the "supreme law of the land" (art. VI), which it would not be after secession.

Since the civil war, there is a reference to insurrection in paragraph 4 of the 14th amendment, which clearly refers to the civil war as well.
3.19.2007 3:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
ed:

Answering your points in turn:

1. So what? The confederacy was a conspiracy to commit treason against the United States.

2. Again, so what? I've heard this argument a lot. It just demosntrates that the vast majority of soldiers in any army will be drawn from the upper classes. Nonetheless, they fought for the right of slaveholders to own slaves, the power of states to keep slavery legal, and policies of the US government to ensure that there would never be a majority in the Senate to outlaw slavery. (Remember, the reason for "secession winter" was that Lincoln opposed slavery in the territories, which meant that while the Southern States could continue having slavery in the short term, there was a danger they might get outvoted in the future.)

Also, there was no Northern Aggression whatsoever. The South fired on Fort Sumter to start the war. Had they not insisted on attempting to appropriate US government property, even the secessions might have stood at least in the short term.

3. What cost the South was not accepting the results of an election in 1860.

4. There's no resolving the debate of what the stars and bars "stands for". But I do think that people who insist it isn't racist should be more sensitive as to the fact that it was certainly flown by an army whose objectives included keeping slavery legal in the South, and was later used as a symbol by segregationists in the '50's and '60's. At the very least, understand that whether or not MEANT to be racist, it has that connotation to many blacks for perfectly understandable reasons, and there's good reason not to fly it simply because it offends blacks.

5. Yes there has been other oppression. But no, the victimhood of slavery is not overstated in any sense. The number of people killed, whipped, tortured, thrown off of ships, raped, beaten, prevented from getting an education, etc. is astronomical. Let's put it this way-- you wouldn't want to live your life as a slave.

6. That would be offensive, but it would be protected by the First Amendment.

In contrast, this particular piece of art is likewise protected by the First Amendment, but also has the virtue of making an entirely sound point.
3.19.2007 3:11pm
Shangui (mail):
Frankly the victimhood from slavery is vastly overrated. A lot of peoples and cultures have been enslaved or oppressed at various times. Look at the Chinese Exclusion Act along with it's California predecessors.

Bad as the CEA was, it's absurd to say that a law banning people from coming to the country is as bad as the practice of kidnapping them, forcing them to come here, and then making them legally property of other people.
3.19.2007 3:14pm
Colin (mail):
The vast majority of Confederate soldiers who fought and died in the War of Northern Aggression . . . had never owned slaves and probably would have never owned slaves.

Ed, I doubt the majority of the SS ever personally murdered a civilian. I'm still not inclined to be sympathetic towards Nazis. Whether or not those soldiers personally owned slaves, they were consciously and voluntarily fighting in defense of the institution of slavery.

I've known quite a few people down south for whom the flag is a symbol of great deprivation, sorrow and loss. They revere the flag because of family who died for it, not for slavery.

There are those who view the Nazi swastika with the same misplaced affection. I am not sympathetic to the cult of either symbol.

Dave N, Fub was making a joke - your original post had a typo, spelling "secession" as "succession." Jackson may have opposed secession, but he was evidently fine with succession, being as how he let van Buren succeed him without a fight.
3.19.2007 3:18pm
wooga:
I think flag desecration is 'speech,' although a vile form of it. I'm comfortable with time/place/manner restrictions, but I'm extremely wary of setting aside certain symbols, on a slippery slope basis (think about the readiness of some EU politicians - and US college admins -- to ban speech/symbol which 'offends' some Islamic religious sensibilities).

I say:
1. flag desecration should only be illegal to the extent it conflicts with someone's loyalty of office (I would be fine with a law authorizing impeachment for a Senator who desecrated the flag)
2. Beyond that, the only rules (aside from fire codes, etc) should be the social stigma and contempt shown towards people who are only intellectually capable of expressing themselves through poo-flinging and flag burning.
3.19.2007 3:18pm
Jam (mail):
martinned: The 14th "amendment" was not inserted until after the war.

And the uSC is not applicable to a State that has seceded. It is no longer in union, under the "the law."

And the uSC may be the "supreme law" that is only for those areas which were expressely delegated.

And, since, authority to seceded was not delegated away a State can secede. It is not insurrection for it is not private groups taking over a State government but it is the State, the soverign political entity, acting according to her authority.
3.19.2007 3:19pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
simply have a statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman and called it, "The Best Thing to Happen to the South".

That would have been far less provocative.


Except perhaps in Atlanta (grin), esp. if accompanied by audio of "As we were marching thru Georgia." This despite the major boost to urban renewal played by Sherman (paralleling the boost that Bedford Forrest gave to nothern rail-producing facilities).
3.19.2007 3:20pm
Spartacus (www):
Secede, not succeed, all.

I think the supremacy clause pretty much rules secession unconstitutional--but then, the Constitution itself was in violation of the Articles fo Confederation; that didn't make it treason. It also seems that Texas is the only state with a viable claim to legitimate seccession, since it is the only state to have joined the union pursuant to a treaty with the US as a sovereign republic. The other states all joined after being recognized as federal territorties with no real sovereignty. The only exceptions are the original 13, which might have some claim (thus continuing seccessionist sympathy remains strongest in SC &Georgia), or even better Vermont, which adopted its own Declaration of Independence in 1777 and was refused recognition as a state by the Union.

But it is interesting that in the context of eg the Baltics, Kosova, Aceh, and others, people are often more sympathetic to seccessionism when it's not right on their own doorstep.
3.19.2007 3:21pm
Steve Dillard (mail) (www):
It's times like these that I wish Southern Appeal was still up and running.

I don't really have anything to add to the discussion beyond what bornyesterday has so eloquently noted.

The art exhibit is question, while tasteless and unnecessarily divisive, is nonetheless protected speech under the Constitution, and should be treated as such.

That having been said, what I find disheartening is the degree of historical ignornance on display in this comment thread. Yes, slavery was (and remains) an utterly evil institution. But any suggestion that slavery was the primary reason the vast majority of men fought and died for the Confederacy is patently ridiculous. Most were simply defending their homeland from an invader. It is also fanciful to suggest that the plight of the slaves was foremost on the mind of Lincoln when he sent in troops to quell the "rebellion." What concerned Lincoln most, and understandably so, was the economic impact that secession would have on the remaining states in the union. Indeed, Lincoln was willing to do anything to preserve the union, even if that meant permanently allowing slavery in the States where it then existed. In this respect, it is notable that Lincoln's emancipation proclamation was solely aimed at the "rebelling" states, and not at any of the border states where slavery exisited. This doesn't mean, of course, that Lincoln shouldn't be given his due for his effort to bring an end to slavery. Whatever his motivations, he helped end a patently evil institution, and for that he is to be commended. I think reasonable people can quibble as to the methods he employed to achieve this end, but that's a discussion for another day, I suppose.

Here's my point: War is complicated. And while it may make many of you feel better to lay all of the the blame for slavery at the South's doorstep, the truth is that our entire nation bears responsibility for this national disgrace. That something none of us should lose sight of.

Finally, and for what it's worth, I am proud of my ancestors who fought to defend their homeland and against injustices that they believed were being committed against the Southern States by the federal government. i am also pleased that the union was ultimately saved, even if I strongly disagree with many of the tactics used to preserve it. I realize that may seem strange to many of you, but I know many Southerners feel the same way.

My hope is that we can one day get back to the point where the history of the Civil War is presented in a fair and unpoliticized manner, and where we can all agree that many brave men died fighting for what they believed was was right, and for that they should be commended.

Sorry if there are any typos. I am getting ready to go into a meeting, and I didn't have time to go back and proof this comment.
3.19.2007 3:24pm
Huh? (mail):
It certainly cannot be convincingly argued that the South was fighting for the institution of slavery. That is the best red herring argument that has pervaded history books for over a century now. While slavery was in fact a state's right issue, it was not the central issue. Please read your history with a more acute understanding of the times, the debates, and the social atmosphere to understand the political climate.
Why: A good place to start would be the State Conventions that led the various Southern States to secession.
Under What Authority: Look to the Federalist Papers, the debates on the constitution, the writings of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, the US Constitution, the CSA papers, etc. Don't take it for face value what you are told, read and make your own opinion based on scholarship and research.

That being said, who cares if the BATTLE FLAG, not the Stars and Bars, is desecrated? So what? Liberals and anti-war activists regularly defile the US Flag. People die every day so people with nothing to say can prattle on about a war they did not understand, a Civil Rights era they were not part of, and an injury they never suffered. They are commonly referred to as liberals. Freedom of Speech is a right in this country, whether one agrees with what is said or not. The statute is facially unconstitutional, hence, it should be stricken from the books as such.

Most commentors on this thread have mislabled the flag, cited incorrect historical facts (FRANCE and BRITAIN both recognized the CSA, as did the USA), launched tirades on the South as both an institution, geographic area, and people. It is fine to have an opinion, like other things, everyone has one. Just make sure when you articulate it, it is thought out, cogent, and factually correct. I won't call anyone out on this, but I think you know who I am looking towards.
3.19.2007 3:27pm
subpatre (mail):
Ah yes .... Xmas talks of reconciliation. [/sarcasm]

Part of the South's failing to blank-out over is due to (as mentioned) the failure to find any legal standing to 'preserve the Union'. It's not unlike the school bully beating another child to a pulp in order to extract lunch money; then crowing that "you owe the money" for the next hundred years.

[Anyone knowing a legal basis for 'preservation of the Union' please feel free to rid themselves of the thug title.]

Another not insignificant reason were some of the acts necessary to 'preserve the Union': total war and the policy of obliteration. It was Sheridan —not 20th century Germans— who took the experience and first applied the term "Final Solution" to the liquidation of an entire people (the plains Indians) by terrorism against non-combatants.

The period following the war was marked by equal inhumanity. Physical devastation was completed by economic and political destruction. Southern government was abolished, military participants and civil authorities disenfranchised, the South into divided military districts where the army registered voters, ran elections, instituted martial law, and ensured that Radicals ruled.

The only proposal the Radicals failed to impose on the former Confederate states was land re-distribution and mass executions. The South did not economically recover until after WWII.


It is too ironic the many of the same commenters who whinge about legal and human rights (Guantanamo) appear almost sadistic in their attitudes toward fellow citizens.
3.19.2007 3:27pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ Colin


Ed, I doubt the majority of the SS ever personally murdered a civilian. I'm still not inclined to be sympathetic towards Nazis. Whether or not those soldiers personally owned slaves, they were consciously and voluntarily fighting in defense of the institution of slavery.


Completely and utterly false as I had outlined.

They were consciously and voluntarily fighting for their states which *was* their country. Even in the regimental nomenclature of the Union Army the name of the state from which the regiment was drawn had high significance.

It might salve your mind to ascribe to them such base ideal as fighting for slavery but the real fact is that most Confederate soldiers weren't rich and at that time a slave cost a lot of money. Moreover there never was going to be a time where these Confederate soldiers would have gained enough booty from the war to buy a slave upon discharge. In fact the very act of entering into military service made it far less likely that the average Confederate soldier would be a slave owner since the active duty soldier couldn't work in the shop or the field to earn money.
3.19.2007 3:32pm
Colin (mail):
Ed, et al, why on earth would it matter whether the Confederate soldier actually owned a slave or primarily intended to defend the institution? Supporting slavery was the obvious and inevitable conclusion of fighting in defense of the Confederacy. I see little to no justification for fighting to defend one's state, nation, and/or country against an invader if (A) that homeland practices slavery and (B) the invader means to free the slaves.

It does not matter to me if the soldier owned a slave, or if the soldier intended to own a slave, or if any soldier or politician on either side was primarily motivated by slavery. The consequences of the war were obvious, and one side--the losing side--chose infamy, shame, and dishonor when it stood up to defend its right to put collars on men.
3.19.2007 3:44pm
Colin (mail):
It might salve your mind to ascribe to them such base ideal as fighting for slavery but the real fact is that most Confederate soldiers weren't rich and at that time a slave cost a lot of money.

The average secret policeman wasn't shopping in the party stores at GUM, either. That hardly cleanses Stalinist iconography of the human rights violations bound up in the history of the people and symbols.
3.19.2007 3:46pm
Preferred Customer:

It certainly cannot be convincingly argued that the South was fighting for the institution of slavery. That is the best red herring argument that has pervaded history books for over a century now. While slavery was in fact a state's right issue, it was not the central issue.


Those who doubt that the preservation of slavery was not the "central issue" animating the Southern rebellion would do well to re-read South Carolina's "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union."

Some quotes:


The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.

The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

Emphasis added.

Slavery is the "central issue" animating that document. Sure, there's a lot of rhetoric about states rights and contract law, but even the most casual inspection reveals that the underlying cause is slavery--indeed, it is the "failure" of the Northern states to continue to aid and abet the Southern states in their slaveholding that South Carolina cites as the reason it is released from the Union.

Slavery was the sine qua non of the rebellion. All of the economic and social reasons for the war trace back to this one institution. You can criticize Northern abolitionists or even Lincoln all you want for failing to move faster to get rid of slavery--but the point remains that any such efforts in the North would simply have sped the rebellion up, rather than headed it off.
3.19.2007 3:48pm
Steve:
Indeed, Lincoln was willing to do anything to preserve the union, even if that meant permanently allowing slavery in the States where it then existed.

As I'm sure you know, Steve, mainstream Republican thinking at the time was that so long as slavery was restricted to the States where it then existed, it would inevitably die out as a consequence of the political process. The fact that (in contrast to the abolitionists) they favored a slow process in the name of keeping the Union together hardly means that they were fine with "permanently" allowing slavery in the South.

To look at it another way, the South in 1861 surely wouldn't have agreed that Lincoln and the Republicans were just fine with letting slavery permanently remain in the States where it then existed. If that was anything close to a majority view at the time, we wouldn't have had a civil war.
3.19.2007 3:48pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ Dave N.


Britain never recognized the South.


Jeeesz. A bad day to give up caffeine. You're right. No idea why that stuck in my head but for some reason I had thought the British had recognized the CSA.


Maryland, though a slave state, did not succeed--which might explain why uniforms in Maryland were not being worn by other southerners.


And another mistake on my part. Might have been North Carolina. It's been about 10 years since I last read the relevant passage from a book by Charles Fair called "From the Jaws of Victory". I definitely remember the passage but some of the details are fuzzy.

Sorry all.
3.19.2007 3:49pm
Colin (mail):
No idea why that stuck in my head but for some reason I had thought the British had recognized the CSA.

Perhaps you were thinking of their trade policies? I don't know that I'm recalling it correctly, but I thought that Britain ran Union blockades for Confederate cotton.
3.19.2007 3:51pm
Jam (mail):
Unfortunately some of the links are dead.

===============

Lincoln suppoarted the Corwin amendment, permanently establishing slavery:
corwin

===============

Lincoln reverses Fremont emancipation in Missouri:
narrative2lincoln-slave-order.htm

===============

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything."

Mr. Lincoln's Speech, Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois," September 18, 1858
debate4

===============

"Mr. Jefferson did not mean to say, nor do I, that the power of emancipation is in the Federal Government. He spoke of Virginia; and, as to the power of emancipation, I speak of the slaveholding States only. The Federal Government, however, as we insist, has the power of restraining the extension of the institution — the power to insure that a slave insurrection shall never occur on any American soil which is now free from slavery. "

Abraham Lincoln, "Cooper Institute Address," 27 February 1860
douglassarchives/linc_a89.htm

===============

"I cannot make it better known than it already is that I strongly favor colonization."

Abraham Lincoln', 2nd Annual Message, December 1,1862, Washington, DC

presidentialspeeches
3.19.2007 3:57pm
Dave N (mail):
Huh?

I am the one who stated that neither Great Britain nor France formally recognized the CSA as a sovereign nation.

Wikpipedia confirmed that which I have read in other places. I do not trust Wikipedia as a primary source, but it does provide an electronic link for information. If you can provide documentation that Great Britain and/or France formally recognized the Confederacy, I would be interested--because I am unaware that any such evidence exists.
3.19.2007 3:58pm
Adeez (mail):
Huh, you chide many of the above commenters with this:

"It is fine to have an opinion, like other things, everyone has one. Just make sure when you articulate it, it is thought out, cogent, and factually correct. I won't call anyone out on this, but I think you know who I am looking towards."

OK, fair enough. But prior to this you write
"Liberals and anti-war activists regularly defile the US Flag"

OK, so given what you said, please recite for me the last ten times that you've seen the flag burned in protest. It should be very easy for you, b/c there were protests all over the nation this weekend due to the 4th anniversary of the war/occupation. After all, it does happen regularly. And I'm not being cute: you seem to be very sure of yourself, so I am very interested in learning about this phenomenon.
3.19.2007 4:02pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ Colin


It does not matter to me if the soldier owned a slave, or if the soldier intended to own a slave, or if any soldier or politician on either side was primarily motivated by slavery. The consequences of the war were obvious, and one side--the losing side--chose infamy, shame, and dishonor when it stood up to defend its right to put collars on men.


Well then what about the Russian soldier? He fought for Mother Russia against the Germans but he was also at the same time fighting to preserve a government that condemned millions of Ukrainians to death by famine, millions of peasants to death in the collectivizations and countless numbers to the gulags.

Is the Russian soldier to be admired for fighting to the death in defense of his country? Or is he to be derided for preserving a murderous regime?

Or how about the British troops in the Indian Raj period? Are they to be embraced for trying to preserve the British control over the Indian subcontinent? Or considered vile for the myriad abuses, including a couple massacres, they inflicted there?

How about the Mexican War where American soldiers fought Mexicans over Texas. Were American soldiers valiant in fighting for their country? Or were American soldiers little more than jackals deliberately instigating a war with a weaker country in the hopes of seizing territory that America was too cheap to purchase? How noble was that?
3.19.2007 4:02pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ Colin


Perhaps you were thinking of their trade policies? I don't know that I'm recalling it correctly, but I thought that Britain ran Union blockades for Confederate cotton.


I wish it were that logical. I think I had mistaken the difference between considering and actually recognizing. Definitely my mistake though.

Wish I had more time to read. All I seem to be reading lately are computer books.
3.19.2007 4:05pm
Fub:
Dave N wrote:
I am not sure what your reference to Martin Van Buren was all about.
I think that Prigos addressed your uncertainty thoroughly at 3.19.2007 2:11pm.
3.19.2007 4:20pm
Colin (mail):
Ed, I would say that a Russian soldier pre-1950 is ethically and morally distinct from a Confederate soldier for at least two reasons: first, the Russian might plausibly be unaware of the crimes committed by his polity. Russia is large enough, and state misinformation was prevalent enough, that most soldiers might have been unaware of the human rights violations that had occurred. (Of course he'd also be unaware of the violations that would occur after the war.) Second, the Russian would have the powerful defense that however bad his government was, from all appearances Nazi victory would be worse. Nazi propaganda clearly indicated the Reich's plans for "the Slav," and they were not as benign as the Union's plans for the Confederacy.

I don't know enough about the context of the other examples you cite to analyze them. In general, I agree that a person can ethically defend a state that is committing a human rights violation, under certain circumstances - i.e., as in Russia, if the consequences of losing are probably going to be worse. I suppose I'm utilitarian in that respect. That certainly wasn't the case for the Confederacy.

Moreover, to defend the ethics of fighting for an immoral and unethical state, you have to make the case. It would be one thing if neo-Confederates were willing to say, "Slavery was the worst thing this country ever did, and the memory of the Confederacy is indelibly tainted by the monstrous crimes our ancestors committed. Here is why it was the best option available, and why refusing to capitulate to the forces of emancipation was a morally legitimate choice." The usual response, though, is just to pretend that slavery was a tangential irrelevancy to the glory of the fallen South, which is untrue. I think the refusal to deal with the taint of slavery is due to the impossibility of defending it, not its irrelevancy to the cause.
3.19.2007 4:20pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Yes, my adoptive South did loose the military conflict. That does not change the fact that the uS Constitution DOES NOT grants the Central government the authority to force a State to remain in union, hence, the invading North and their sympathizers are the real rebels.


I always find it amusing to read Confederate apologists try to argue that under the Constitution, States have retained the "right" to secede (a laughable claim in light of the fact that one of the enumerated powers includes calling out the militia to stop an insurrection) while ignoring the fact that if they seceded and are no longer part of the United States, they no more have a claim to the protections of its Constitution than someone who renounces their citizenship and goes to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban.

In which case once they fired on a fort that belonged to the United States, it was perfectly right to invade them, kill their leaders, and . . . well you know the rest.
3.19.2007 4:43pm
john w. (mail):
A few random comments:
1.) Regardless of what the South's motivations may have been, it is totally ingenuous to claim that the North was motivated by a purely altruistic desire to simply end slavery. Lincoln himself was (by modern standards) a vicious racist. (If you want to judge the Confederates by modern, 21st century standards, then please be consistent and judge the Northern leaders by the SAME standards).

2.) If the South had been allowed to secede bloodlessly, slavery would have withered away within a generation or so anyhow, because it would have become impractical to maintain once the Unferground Railroad ended at the Mason-Dixon line instead of ending at Canada.

3.)If the North had been sincere about just wanting to end slavery, they could have allowed the South to secede, and then applied political / military pressure via Naval blockades in coperation with England &France to bring about an orderly end to slavery. That would have achieved the same (alleged) goal with little or no bloodshed.

4.) Every country in the Western hemisphere that had slavery managed to end it bloodlessly except for the United States and Haiti.

5.) The real motivation for the War was to subdue the South economically and ensure a reliable source of cheap raw materials for New England sweatshops.

6.) Slavery has been an integral part of the human experience (for EVERY ethnic group on the planet) for at least 5 or 10 THOUSAND years; so what is the big deal if one group of Americans took a few years more to see the light than some other group of Americans?

7.) I can't understand why the people who are so obsessed about the evils of slavery don't dedicate their efforts to ending it in the countries where IT STILL EXISTS TODAY (e.g. various African &Islamic countries) instead of getting their knickers all knotted up over things that may or may not have happened here 150 years ago.
3.19.2007 4:50pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
Colin, I love that you believe that you would have been one of the educated few in 1860 America who would not have supported the institution of slavery.

But you make an argument where the cause and result of things are mixed. You earlier stated that it was the institution of slavery that defined the economical and social differences between the North and South. In fact, it was the other way around. The economic and social situation in the South is what led to the continued use of slave labor for agriculture. The North had the right idea and had begun to modernize and industrialize and made widespread use of child labor instead of slaves. Without the South to provide it food and cotton, the North would have been heavily dependent upon imports for the bare necessities. The South would have had to import its luxuries. By staying part of the Union, the South would essentially have been subject to the rule of a majority of outsiders (the North had more Senators and Representatives). And in the end, many draconian laws were established to severely effect the economies and societies of the Southern states.

As per Russian soldiers. First, they were Soviet -- they came from 20 different countries, not just Russian. Second, by 1950, there had been at least 2 purges of military and civilian authorities by Stalin. Everyone knew about it. It's hard to miss that 80% of the officer corps disappeared in the span of 5 years in the 30s.
3.19.2007 4:53pm
Mark Field (mail):

If you can provide documentation that Great Britain and/or France formally recognized the Confederacy, I would be interested--because I am unaware that any such evidence exists.


Your original statement was correct. Neither country recognized the Confederacy.
3.19.2007 4:57pm
Mark Field (mail):

The economic and social situation in the South is what led to the continued use of slave labor for agriculture.


This is much too simple. Slavery played a HUGE causal role in every aspect of Southern culture. It's far more accurate to say that slavery determined culture and economics.


Without the South to provide it food and cotton, the North would have been heavily dependent upon imports for the bare necessities.


This is not true for food. The Midwest grew plenty of food for the North. As for cotton, the South wasn't going to eat it. The only thing the planters could do was sell it, whether to mills in England or in MA. This was true whether or not the South was part of the Union.


By staying part of the Union, the South would essentially have been subject to the rule of a majority of outsiders (the North had more Senators and Representatives).


I think it's telling that the South considered (considers?) the rest of us fellow Americans as "outsiders".
3.19.2007 5:03pm
Steve Dillard (mail) (www):
FWIW, the Vatican is the only foreign nation/country to directly/implicitly recognize the CSA (see Pope Pius IX's correspondence with President Davis).
3.19.2007 5:03pm
Preferred Customer:

Regardless of what the South's motivations may have been, it is totally ingenuous to claim that the North was motivated by a purely altruistic desire to simply end slavery. Lincoln himself was (by modern standards) a vicious racist. (If you want to judge the Confederates by modern, 21st century standards, then please be consistent and judge the Northern leaders by the SAME standards).



This is a logical sleight of hand. The claim that slavery caused the civil war does not equal a claim that the North was motivated purely (or even at all) by a desire to end slavery. Remember, it was the Southern states that seceded. Re-read the South Carolina declaration I posted above--the decision to secede was driven entirely by Southern concerns about slavery.

Thus, the motivations for the North "attacking" or "invading" the South are beside the point. Did the Northerners do this to end slavery? Did they do it to preserve the Union? Did they do it to "subjugate" the South? Doesn't matter. The Southern states provoked the conflict by seceding, and that provocation was motivated by slavery. Thus, slavery is the root cause of the conflict, and its centrality to the Southern desire for secession is the moral stain that taints the entire rebellion.
3.19.2007 5:11pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Jam,

Your understanding of Lincoln's position on slavery is colored by pro-South propaganda.

Lincoln was opposed to slavery with every fiber of his being. However, having learned that "perfection is the enemy of the good" when his spot resolutions cost him his Congressional seat during the Mexican War, he was pragmatic in achieving his goal.

This was why Lincoln won the Republican nomination in 1860 - he was a moderate who acknowledged the supremacy of the Constitution (unlike William "Higher Law than the Constitution Seward). Lincoln was for blocking the extension of slavery into the territories - which would have taken America down the path of gradual abolition - once the South didn't have any more slave states coming in, there would eventually be a consitutional amendment banning slavery. Everyone at the time knew this - which is why expansion was such a touchy topic in the antebellum period (Think Missouri Copromise, Compromise of 1850, Nashville Convention, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Popular Soverignty, Dred Scott, and Bleeding Kansas).

Lincoln moved against slavery to the extent the political environment allowed him to do so. He did not move against slavery and actually denied that he was fighting to end slavery because he had to keep the support of the racist urban North and the border states. At the same time, he and Seward were laying the groundwork to use Aticle II powers to end slavery constitutionally - as an anti-rebellion measure. They had to, for political reasons, delay the Emancipation Proclamation until the secessionist elements in the border states were supressed. Heck, he even had to repudiate Fremont's emancipation order in the West. But his goal was the same. He was just canny about how he approached it.

The quotes Jam provides are examples of Lincoln being a politician - telling essential members of his coalition what they wanted to here. The record also shows where he was counseling patience to the radical Republicans. Since he made statements on both sides of the fence, one has to look at his actions - which consistenly move toward abolition. Recall that one of the major elements Lincoln included in his clemency offer was an acceptance of the end of slavery.

Lincoln was not a believer in equality - he did support colonization for real as a young man, having contributed money to the American Colonization Society. But he moved - he eventually moved toward the idea of equality. If Booth had put a round in his head, perhaps he would have reached a belief in equality. But his shift on race issues is apparent throughout the war. By the end of the war he was in favor of voting rights for black veterans.

Jam, please look at the primary sources. The Southerners who seceded were not in doubt abiout what they were fighting for. The ordinances of secession, Calhoun's Address, South Carolina's Appeal to the Slaveholding States, and the Democratic platform of 1860 all made no bones about their primary goal of preserving slavery. If the Sons of Confederate Veterans want to celebrate their heritage, they ought to celebrate their heritage.

When folks say that "Well, most soldiers didn't own slaves," I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the argument. The fact that you personally don't benefit from the ideology doesn't mean you don't support it. A majority of Americans support ending the "Death tax" even though it actually hurts them. The ideology of the South was deeply tied to slavery. Poor whites supported the system whole-heartedly because it was taught to them in their churches and schools. There was a great fear of what freed blacks would do after Nat Turner's rebellion. This isn't just sociological theory. Breckinridge's platform in 1860 was explicitly about slavery and doesn't mention the tariff at all - and he won the vast majority of Southern votes.

Finally, the states' rights claim is easily tested. If the doctrine of states' rights was the true motive behind the South's secession, one ought to be able to find examples where the South supported states' rights even when the states' rights argument did not support slavery.

If, however, the South argued for national power when national power could advance the cause of slavery, this would be conclusive proof that the states' rights argument was just a way to justify protecting slavery.

The South opposed states' rights when it came to personal liberty laws.

The South opposed states' rights when Wisconsin nullified the Fugitive Slave Law.

The South supported Dred Scot's use of national power to protect slavery EVEN IN THE NORTH.

In fact, in South Carolina's exposition about secession, the only time she mentions states' rights issues is to complain that the national government hasn't forced the Northern states to support slavery.

It's pretty clear that states' rights is a bullshit explanation. It's also clear that people didn't start making the argument until the Civil Rights era, when the South was against Federal imposition of desegregation.

The best modern example would be pro-life folks who claim that abortion should be decided on a state-level. Their support on states rights is purely tactical - to overturn Roe. Once the pro-life states ban abortion, pro-lifers will then call for the federal government to intervene in pro-choice states. The pro-life movement is very analagous to the abolitionist movement.
3.19.2007 5:12pm
Colin (mail):
bornyesterday, I have no idea what I would have believed in 1860. I imagine that it would depend on where I was born, how educated I was, and whether I was white or black. Nor can I imagine what difference it makes to any issue in the real world; if I had believed that slavery was defensible, I would have been wrong. (Would have had been?)

John W.,

1) Why does it matter whether the North's goals were altruistic? Their intentions were obvious - to end slavery. The goal was worthy and the means justified, whether or not Northern hearts were pure. Nor does it matter whether Lincoln was a living saint or a dirty racist; I judge him by his actions, rather than his words or thoughts. I judge the Confederacy by the same stick. They kept slaves, the North freed them. There is no moral equivalence between the two.

2) "If the South had been allowed to secede bloodlessly, slavery would have withered away within a generation or so anyhow, because it would have become impractical to maintain once the Unferground Railroad ended at the Mason-Dixon line instead of ending at Canada."

A dubious claim. Accepting it arguendo I would not support allowing the Southern states to illegally secede for the purpose of enslaving even one generation. Even if only one generation actually wore shackles, it would not be worth it. I also doubt that the Confederacy would have managed to find its way to equal rights anywhere near as quickly as it did as part of the Union; the Union did more for the southern states than just end slavery itself.

3) "If the North had been sincere about just wanting to end slavery, they could have allowed the South to secede, and then applied political / military pressure via Naval blockades in coperation with England &France to bring about an orderly end to slavery. That would have achieved the same (alleged) goal with little or no bloodshed."

Again, it is purely speculative that this would have succeeded, especially seen from the eyes of the decisionmakers at the time. Nor would the intervening generations of slavery have been an acceptable cost. You're arguing that X number of people should have been slaves to spare the Y number of people killed in defense of the Confederacy; I do not accept the proposition that innocent people should have borne a yoke as a sacrifice for criminals.

4) "Every country in the Western hemisphere that had slavery managed to end it bloodlessly except for the United States and Haiti."

That we had to end our greatest shame with bloodshed is the fault of the slaveowners, not the emancipators.

5) "The real motivation for the War was to subdue the South economically and ensure a reliable source of cheap raw materials for New England sweatshops."

I do not care what the motivations were; the result was emancipation. The South was free after the war to buy and sell their own labor at whatever price they chose. That was hardly true beforehand, was it? The war protected the economic liberties of the South, by allowing all Southerners, not just the white ones, to contract freely.

6) "Slavery has been an integral part of the human experience (for EVERY ethnic group on the planet) for at least 5 or 10 THOUSAND years; so what is the big deal if one group of Americans took a few years more to see the light than some other group of Americans?"

Ask the slaves.

7) "I can't understand why the people who are so obsessed about the evils of slavery don't dedicate their efforts to ending it in the countries where IT STILL EXISTS TODAY (e.g. various African &Islamic countries) instead of getting their knickers all knotted up over things that may or may not have happened here 150 years ago."

You can't understand it because you haven't thought about it very clearly. People who scorn the memory of slavery in the United States also scorn the idea of slavery elsewhere. What makes you think otherwise? But bear in mind that the fact that other people do bad things does not mean that we are absolved of our own malfeasance. It's the old saw about the speck in your neighbor's eye - we are first and foremost responsible for order in our own house, even when we are compelled to oppose injustice somewhere else.
3.19.2007 5:19pm
Colin (mail):
Steve,

That's very interesting. Do you have a link to online examples of that correspondence? Or, would you mind giving us some details?
3.19.2007 5:21pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Saying Lincoln and many folks in the north were racists and/or were willing to tolerate slavery in the then-existing south is true but not the point. The Civil War was about whether slavery should be expanded to new territories. The South strongly believed it should be and the North disagreed. The South saw it was losing that debate, nationally, and the rest is, well, history.

The original post, however, was about the Confederate flag, and Dilan Esper made the correct point about that many comments ago: the Confederate flag was revived in the 50s and 60s specificially as an anti-integration, pro-Jim Crow symbol. That's why many folks -- including, but not limited to most blacks -- react to it today the way they do.

Oh yeah, and flag burning is extremely rare, and absolutely deserves Constitutional protection.
3.19.2007 5:28pm
Jam (mail):
I do not claim that the South appealed to Constitutional protections after secession. I claim that the North engaged in empire building by engaging in war against legal political sovereigns.

And if you think that the South started the war I recommend what Ft. Sumter's commander wrote when he receive noticce of the Star of the West's resupply mission. The North indeed began the war.

My view of "Lincoln's position on slavery is colored by pro-South propaganda?" Maybe it is your pro-Northern propaganda that is coloring your views. That was a lot of explaining away of Lincoln's benevolent racial "ship 'em away" view.
3.19.2007 5:37pm
Dave N (mail):
Colin,

I believe you are referring to Steve Dillard's post.

My Wikipedia link above actually described the purported Vatican recognition of the CSA.

To quote Wikipedia:

In November 1863, Confederate diplomat A. Dudley Mann met Pope Pius IX and received a letter addressed "to the Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America." Mann, in his dispatch to Richmond, interpreted the letter as "a positive recognition of our Government," and some have mistakenly viewed it as a de facto recognition of the C.S.A. Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, however, interpreted it as "a mere inferential recognition, unconnected with political action or the regular establishment of diplomatic relations" and thus did not assign it the weight of formal recognition.For the remainder of the war, Confederate commissioners continued meeting with Cardinal Antonelli, the Vatican Secretary of State. In 1864, Catholic Bishop Patrick N. Lynch of Charleston traveled to the Vatican with an authorization from Jefferson Davis to represent the Confederacy before the Holy See.


I hope you find this information helpful.
3.19.2007 5:37pm
Colin (mail):
Thank you, Dave, that is very interesting. I appreciate the reply.

Jam, what did the commander of Fort Sumter write that forced the South to open fire on him? Those must have been enormously powerful words.
3.19.2007 5:40pm
Steve Dillard (mail) (www):
Colin-

Sure. One small clarification though, I meant to type "the Vatican is the only foreign nation/country to arguably directly/implicitly recognize the CSA . . . ."

Anyway, there is some discussion of the CSA/Vatican relationship in the Wikipedia entry on the CSA:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_of_America

"In November 1863, Confederate diplomat A. Dudley Mann met Pope Pius IX and received a letter addressed "to the Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America." Mann, in his dispatch to Richmond, interpreted the letter as "a positive recognition of our Government," and some have mistakenly viewed it as a de facto recognition of the C.S.A. Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, however, interpreted it as "a mere inferential recognition, unconnected with political action or the regular establishment of diplomatic relations" and thus did not assign it the weight of formal recognition.[10] For the remainder of the war, Confederate commissioners continued meeting with Cardinal Antonelli, the Vatican Secretary of State. In 1864, Catholic Bishop Patrick N. Lynch of Charleston traveled to the Vatican with an authorization from Jefferson Davis to represent the Confederacy before the Holy See."

I first learned of the letter from Pope Pius IX from this article, which I found rather interesting in many respects:

http://www.catholicism.org/catholicism-south.html
3.19.2007 5:41pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
John W.,

You wrote:


1.) Regardless of what the South's motivations may have been, it is totally ingenuous to claim that the North was motivated by a purely altruistic desire to simply end slavery. Lincoln himself was (by modern standards) a vicious racist. (If you want to judge the Confederates by modern, 21st century standards, then please be consistent and judge the Northern leaders by the SAME standards).


Most abolitionists were racist. Folks like Charles "Rights of Man" Sumner and "Black Thad" Stevens were few and far between. But is entirely possible to be a racist and oppose slavery. I make this point to my students by casually syaing in class that I "kicked my dog in the face today." The class reacts in horror - "What, do you think dogs are equal to people?" You are right, by 21st century standards, almost all Americans were racist. That said, there is still a significant moral difference between folks who went to war to free the slaves (and then make them second class citizens) and those folks who fought to keep their fellow man in bondage. Even Confederate apologists understand this at some level - why else would they go to such incredible lengths to deny that the Civil War was about slavery.

You also wrote:


2.) If the South had been allowed to secede bloodlessly, slavery would have withered away within a generation or so anyhow, because it would have become impractical to maintain once the Unferground Railroad ended at the Mason-Dixon line instead of ending at Canada.


Slavery would not have withered away - the Southern plantation owners who controlled the state houses in the South were in what modern economists call the "resource trap" - much like Middle Eastern governments today. We know that reliance on a single economic endeavor doesn't work, but broadening economic activity reduces the percentage of the economy that the ruling class controls. So the ruling class clings to a failing system. There could not be an internal change - abolitionist ideas were banned in the South after Nat Turner's rebellion. Written expression of abolitionist sentiment was illegal (I guess the First Amendment wasn't a part of the Constitution cherished by the South). There wasn't any discussion of the merits of slavery anymore. Hinton Helper's "Impending Crisis" tried to discuss how slavery was bad for whites, but they banned his book. The insitution was also embedded in the theology of the region's churches. Besides, telling people convinced that slavery is a sin against God AND telling the slaves themselves to "wait a few more generations" seems to be rather weak morality. Imagine telling a pro-lifer "Well, we'll leave abortion legal for now because we think improved birth control will obviate the need for abortion in a few generations." and expecting the pro-lifer to say, "Oh, okay, carry on."
Finally, the undergroung railroad was nothing but symbolic - we celebrate its symbol of resistance to slavery but the vast majority of slaves never tried to escape. The underground railroad was important to the handful it helped, but was a drop in the bucket next to the teeming millions in bondage.

You then wrote:


3.)If the North had been sincere about just wanting to end slavery, they could have allowed the South to secede, and then applied political / military pressure via Naval blockades in coperation with England &France to bring about an orderly end to slavery. That would have achieved the same (alleged) goal with little or no bloodshed.


See above - the South would not give up slavery without a fight. In fact, they didn't. And they fought well past any reasonable expectation of victory.

The insitution could have been ended Constitutionally if the South had been willing to accept the nation's decision to ban slavery in the territories (which was Lincoln's main campaign theme, supported by a majority of voters in the North and a plurality of national voters). The reason for secession was to PREVENT GRADUAL abolition - which is what Lincoln favored as a practical matter (he wasn't an extremist). It is more accurate to say that the South fought to preserve slavery in the future because it was secure within the Southern states under Lincoln's pragmatic constitutional approach.

You continued:


4.) Every country in the Western hemisphere that had slavery managed to end it bloodlessly except for the United States and Haiti.


No other independent nation had the monoreliance on slavery that the South did. In most Caribbean islands, slavery was abolished by fiat from the home country. These were abolitions imposed from above. I guess the difference is that the planters on St. Lucia didn't want to fight a losing war and accepted the will of the larger government.


5.) The real motivation for the War was to subdue the South economically and ensure a reliable source of cheap raw materials for New England sweatshops.


This item is just silly. The North already had access to as much cotton as it wanted. In fact, there was an oversupply at rock bottom prices. Agricultural economies always end up overproducing. Thomas Bailey's seminal diplomatic history notes that Northern and British textile plants were scaling back their production prior to secession AND had two years' supply in warehouses when the war broke out. A war could only increase the cost of cotton. I'm just astounded by the lack of economic understanding here. It's almost like the "no blood for oil" folks are here with their inability to understand that if we wanted cheap oil, Saddam was quite willing to sell to us. Good grief.


6.) Slavery has been an integral part of the human experience (for EVERY ethnic group on the planet) for at least 5 or 10 THOUSAND years; so what is the big deal if one group of Americans took a few years more to see the light than some other group of Americans?



It's a big deal to the folks who are enslaved. And for the folks who are crusading to end slavery (or abortion) and doing God's will, counseling patience is ridiculous. George Fitzhugh's "Cannibals All" made your argument - but the North rejected it.


7.) I can't understand why the people who are so obsessed about the evils of slavery don't dedicate their efforts to ending it in the countries where IT STILL EXISTS TODAY (e.g. various African &Islamic countries) instead of getting their knickers all knotted up over things that may or may not have happened here 150 years ago.


If it's not such a big deal, why do the Confederate apologists tie themselves in such knots denying the Confederacy's own primary source documents, quoting Lincoln out of context, and inventing specious economic arguments?
3.19.2007 5:45pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Jam, re: Sumter

Lincoln absolutely manuevered South Carolina into firing on the fort. He knew that getting South Carolina to fire the first shot would ensure the suppoer of patriotic Americans who did not care about slavery. It is one more example of Lincoln's Machiavellian manuervering to end slavery.

Nevertheless, it was the South that fired the first shots - and they were proud of it, embossing Charleston's guns with commemerative plaques (one of which was captured by German soldiers from Wisconsin marching through Georgia with Sherman).

The resupply of the fort was not a causus belli. Shelling Major Anderson was.
3.19.2007 5:50pm
kldimond:
I'd just like to remind everyone that the oath of public office in the United States always speaks first to the Constitution, not the government.

The oath binds the taker to the Constitution, not the institution. This applies to every office, down to the footsoldier--which is why even the lowest-ranking cadet, judge or "peace officer" is legally (not only morally) obligated to defy illegal orders.

If the government violates the Constitution, then it is the traitor, and those who seek to correct it or replace it are, if they support the Constitution, patriots.

Honestly, the oath should go to liberty and the founding principles. But since the Constitution is the more forceful voice of the people (amendment being as challenging as it is, requiring greater general agreement) as opposed to any other body of law, then I can go with an oath to the Constitution.

Where the Congress ignored the improper tarriffing of southern by northern states and did not regulate interstate commerce, and where the North was treating the South as Britain had treated the colonies economically, there was a violation of constitutional principles. Slavery was just the final straw.

This same breakdown ontributed to calling a constitutional convention, leading up to which the conspiracy was formed to discard the Articles of Confederation and create a new, federal constitution.

Either way, the constitutional convention was premised on correcting these wrongs and a few operational concerns. But some people are just too boneheaded to cooperate with such measures, kept doing what they were doing, so we got the Civil War.

Thus, the first treason in Civil War times came from the North. Secession could conceiveably be treated as treason, but to my understanding, (Andrew Jackson and his many bad acts aside), it was understood as an option for a state demonstrating substantial approval of its citizens (up to 14th Amendment days, you were a citizen of your state, not the United States--even now, the construct of a citizen of the U.S. is constitutionally tenuous), whatever the reasons.

In the public debate that took place in what is now called the "Federalist" and "Anti-Federalist" Papers, both sides eschewed (at least for public consumption) the formation of a "one nation" concept. The Anti-Federalists raised the concern that federalism would demean the states' sovereignty, and the Federalists argued that it wouldn't. Who was right, once Lincoln did his business?

The Bill of Rights tried to assure a minimum level of freedom to the people, a limitation on the historical usurpations of government. Then, a level of same was tried via the questionably passed 14th Amendment, which was so badly written that it opened the door to "incorporation," where some parts of the Bill of Rights are incorporated and others parts--especially the ones that should never have needed incorporation--are not. This is a corrupt conception.

Nevertheless, the First Amendment has been incorporated, which means that all levels of government in the U.S. must honor it. Florida's law is illegal.
3.19.2007 5:51pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Huh -

You wrote:


Most commentors on this thread have mislabled the flag, cited incorrect historical facts (FRANCE and BRITAIN both recognized the CSA, as did the USA), launched tirades on the South as both an institution, geographic area, and people. It is fine to have an opinion, like other things, everyone has one. Just make sure when you articulate it, it is thought out, cogent, and factually correct.


Um, no.

The governments of Great Britain and France toyed with recognizing the South but their own public's opposition to slavery made this impossible. Great Britain was semi-democratic and the cabinet feared 1848 levels of unrest. Napoleon III was not directly responsible to the electorate but he rested his power on public support.

I'm not sure who you were calling out on the recognition issue, but methinks an apology is in order.
3.19.2007 5:56pm
Jacob T. Levy (mail) (www):
One important consequence of the South Carolina independence document quoted above (and that document was hardly alone in this)--


the southern obsession with the treatment of fugitive slaves by northern states makes it impossible to see them as having been committed to a consistent states' rights or federalism view. The objection wasn't that the federal government was coming into the south and abolishing slavery-- that clearly wasn't happening, and Lincoln was willing to constitutionalize a commitment that it not happen. The objection was that the federal government was *failing* to force *northern* states to recognize slavery-- which, after all, is required if you're going to decide that the case before you is not a case of kidnapping a human being but rather a case of the reclamation of property that ran off.

Similarly, of course, the CSA constitution, *unlike* the federal constitution, forbade interstate differences on slavery; no state was allowed to abolish it. Again, federalism and states' rights were sacrificed to the cause of holding slaves.
3.19.2007 6:19pm
TMac (mail):
On a macro level, the war was about slavery. From the point of view of one soldier from north Arkansas, it was about defending his home and community. I doubt he knew anything of the SC declaration of secession-- or the AR declaration for that matter. My grandfather's participation on the confederate side of the war is a matter of family history that I am not ashamed or supportive of. It is only a matter of family history. Back to the original point of this thread, I could care less about the "hanging flag" or someone's offense at seeing a confederate flag. Since when has it been a right to not be offended? I proudly served the constitution and this government for 28 years as a member of our armed forces and take a back seat to no one in love for this country. That doesn't mean I have to hate my grandfather for his participation in an ill-concieved, ill-begotten endeavor.
3.19.2007 6:23pm
Baseballhead (mail):
I have a number of serious issues with John W.'s post, but I'll restrict my comments to two areas.

5.) The real motivation for the War was to subdue the South economically and ensure a reliable source of cheap raw materials for New England sweatshops.

Anyone making this claim will have to explain why "subduing" the South was a good idea in 1860, but not 1856, 1850, or any of the years from Kansas onward. Moreover, the South produced three-quarters of the world's cotton, in part because they were so dependent upon cash crops -- a slave economy is fearfully inefficient. If they didn't have the Northern markets buying up their cotton, who were they going to sell it to? They needed northern manufacturers to keep buying, so there was no need for the North to "subdue" Southern croppers.

6.) Slavery has been an integral part of the human experience (for EVERY ethnic group on the planet) for at least 5 or 10 THOUSAND years; so what is the big deal if one group of Americans took a few years more to see the light than some other group of Americans?

It'd be much less a deal if the South hadn't decided they'd rather break up the Union and go to war to defend their peculiar institution, even when the incoming president had already declared is intention to NOT outlaw slavery (a pre-emptive war, if you will). Over half a million Americans died during the war; you'll have to excuse those of us who think that happens to be a big deal.
3.19.2007 6:37pm
Jam (mail):
I did not say Ft. Sumter's commander started the war by his words. Anderson reacted to the news of the resupply attempt that war had started.
3.19.2007 6:56pm
John Herbison (mail):
The post that started this comment thread was about display of a flag, with some tangential references to flag burning. Do those who take offense at the burning of a flag take equal offense at the burning of a cross?
3.19.2007 7:02pm
Toby:

Why does it matter whether the North's goals were altruistic? Their intentions were obvious - to end slavery. The goal was worthy and the means justified, whether or not Northern hearts were pure. Nor does it matter whether Lincoln was a living saint or a dirty racist; I judge him by his actions, rather than his words or thoughts. I judge the Confederacy by the same stick. They kept slaves, the North freed them. There is no moral equivalence between the two

I wonder if it relevant to this that the Emancipation Declaration occurred at a time when troops and supplies were always being marshalled in the midwest but somehow never came? It was the emancipation declaration that brought the midwest fully in. Up until that time, the midwest had been wondering whether they should take this moment to depart from the USA as well.
3.19.2007 7:09pm
Anon. Lib.:
If the rank and file of the Confederate Armies truly fought for nobler reasons than the defense of slavery, a horrible injustice was perpetrated against them by the Confederate government and the slave-owning elite. And the nobility of the Confederate soldier (if true) is just another black mark against the Confederacy not a defense of it. Such honorable southern soldiers were victims of the confederacy. I would think that descendants of such soldiers, who want to honor them, would begin by scorning the traitors who fooled them into killing and dying, not just unnecessarily (which is bad enough), but in the defense of evil.
3.19.2007 7:32pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
You know, none of this is relevant to the issue of burning or otherwise defacing a Confederate flag (or battle standard, or whatever). It is free speech. The law is bad.
3.19.2007 7:43pm
Ken Arromdee:
Also, there was no Northern Aggression whatsoever. The South fired on Fort Sumter to start the war. Had they not insisted on attempting to appropriate US government property, even the secessions might have stood at least in the short term.

That argument becomes "if the South didn't have the right to secede anyway, then they also started the war."

Because if they did have the right to secede, then when a country gains independence, military installations belonging to the former rulers normally don't stay under their control. The North was, in essence, occupying part of the South, and that's why they were fired upon.
3.19.2007 8:00pm
Colin (mail):
You know, none of this is relevant to the issue of burning or otherwise defacing a Confederate flag (or battle standard, or whatever). It is free speech. The law is bad.

Yeah, but since no one seems inclined to argue otherwise, we might as well chew on the underlying issues.
3.19.2007 8:17pm
Mark Field (mail):

That argument becomes "if the South didn't have the right to secede anyway, then they also started the war."

Because if they did have the right to secede, then when a country gains independence, military installations belonging to the former rulers normally don't stay under their control. The North was, in essence, occupying part of the South, and that's why they were fired upon.


There was also the small matter of shooting at them. It's far from clear that even a valid secession would have given them that right.
3.19.2007 8:45pm
john w. (mail):
baseballhead wrote: " ...Over half a million Americans died during the war; you'll have to excuse those of us who think that happens to be a big deal. ..."

I agree *completely* that it's a big deal. 600,000 dead in a completely unnecessary war that was instigated by the North. (The fact that the South, technically, fired the first shot is a strawman.)

If you look at the War Between the States in its historical context, it is part of a virtually unbroken chain of agression and/or territorial expansion on the part of the US government that started in 1846 and continues (some would argue) right up to the present day.

First the Mexican War and the theft of half of Mexico's territory, then the conquest of the CSA, then the genocide campaign against the Plains Indians, then the annexation of Hawaii (which set the stage for our eventual involvement in WW-II), then the Spanish-American War, then WW-I ...... doesn't anybody see a pattern here?

I'm not saying that the Confederate leaders were saints; I'm objecting to the double standard that portrays the Confederates as devils and the Unionists as saints.

How can you glorify these Union Generals who committed acts that, today, would be considered War-crimes, and as soon as they were finished raping the South, before the blood was even dry on the battlefields, they went rushing out West to murder Indians?? I'm thinking specifically about William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" Sheridan.
3.19.2007 9:21pm
Colin (mail):
in a completely unnecessary war

Do you ascribe any moral blame whatsoever to the slaveowners? Even if you believe, on the basis of no evidence, that slavery would have ended in the South eventually, it would have ended later than it did. How many people have to live as slaves, and for how long, for their emancipation to be necessary?

How can you glorify these Union Generals who committed acts that, today, would be considered War-crimes, and as soon as they were finished raping the South, before the blood was even dry on the battlefields, they went rushing out West to murder Indians??

Find me someone here who's glorifying them, and we can try to figure that out. But I think you're making up a straw man.
3.19.2007 9:30pm
john w. (mail):
Colin wrote: " ...Do you ascribe any moral blame whatsoever to the slaveowners? ..."

'slaveowners'? You mean people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson

Seriously, that's a good question. I'm not at all convinced that 'moral blame' is a meaningful concept when we are talking about a situation where something has been almost universally accepted for thousands &thousands of years, and then all of a sudden -- almost overnight -- there's a paradigm shift, but some people are a little slower than others to recognize it.
3.19.2007 9:55pm
Colin (mail):
Ah - a moral relativist.
3.19.2007 10:01pm
doubting thomas (mail):
Why doesn't the 13th Amendment ban all Confederate flags as "badges of slavery"?
3.19.2007 10:12pm
William Smit (mail):

Setting aside issues of right and wrong in the Civil War, the text of the act does strike me as introducing an odd inconsistency in its exemption of "patriotic purposes".

As a citizen of a country with which the Confederacy was at war for essentially all its existence, could I not reasonably justify denigrating or damaging its flag as a patriotic act?
3.19.2007 10:30pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
"Because if they did have the right to secede, then when a country gains independence, military installations belonging to the former rulers normally don't stay under their control."

What do you mean "normally"? There's no consistent international law that provides that when you become independent, you get all the former ruler's properties. Sometimes, a state becomes independent at the consent of its former ruler, in which case the issue of who gets what property is ironed out between the two parties. Other times, a state wins its independence in a war, in which case it often CONQUERS the territory.

Of course, in many situations, the former rulers KEEP military bases or are able to demand that they be kept on certain terms as a condition of independence. Guantanamo Bay N.A.S. is a very nice example of this.

But there isn't a rule that says when you secede, you get all the former ruling state's property. Rather you have to fight for it, if you want it. The South decided they did and attacked the north. The War of Southern Aggression has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
3.19.2007 10:32pm
Baseballhead (mail):
I'm not at all convinced that 'moral blame' is a meaningful concept when we are talking about a situation where something has been almost universally accepted for thousands &thousands of years, and then all of a sudden -- almost overnight -- there's a paradigm shift, but some people are a little slower than others to recognize it.

Oh, come on. Arguments against slavery have been around for almost as long as the existance slavery, and to say that the sun rose one day and things were different is just ridiculous. By 1820, all the other great powers of the world had already outlawed it in one form or another, and even within the United States half the country had either banned it.

Slavery was a sticking point during the Continental Congress debates, it was a sticking point in the writing of the Constitution, and it was a constant source of legislative fire for the first 80 years of the nation's existance -- at NO point during the entire history of the United States up until then could the South have been oblivious to the tug-of-war that the slavery issue was. Even defenders of slavery, such as Henry Clay, acknowledged slavery as being a "great evil." To claim that, well, the South was a victim of a sudden paradigm shift and it shouldn't have been a big deal, that's just garbage.
3.19.2007 10:36pm
Fub:
TMac (3.19.2007 5:23pm) wrote:
On a macro level, the war was about slavery. From the point of view of one soldier from north Arkansas, it was about defending his home and community. ...

... That doesn't mean I have to hate my grandfather for his participation in an ill-concieved, ill-begotten endeavor.
Exacly! Excellent point! Thank you for making it amid all the sturm und drang in this comment thread.
3.19.2007 11:16pm
Jacob T. Levy (mail) (www):
If you look at the War Between the States in its historical context, it is part of a virtually unbroken chain of agression and/or territorial expansion on the part of the US government that started in 1846 and continues (some would argue) right up to the present day.

Oh, please. The Mexican war was supported by the south and by supporters of slavery, opposed by northern opponents of slavery-- that opposition is the cause for which abolitionist Thoreau went to jail, and the cause for which Lincoln made his name. The Mexican War was a war to expand the slave territories, and was clearly and openly acknowledged as such. The corporate entity of the U.S. government may have been continuous between 1846 and 1861, but the cause as stake in 1846 was the southern cause, not the northern.
3.19.2007 11:37pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):

The post that started this comment thread was about display of a flag, with some tangential references to flag burning. Do those who take offense at the burning of a flag take equal offense at the burning of a cross?



Do we have a right to not be offended by what others say?
3.19.2007 11:44pm
Baseballhead (mail):
... That doesn't mean I have to hate my grandfather for his participation in an ill-concieved, ill-begotten endeavor.
Exacly! Excellent point! Thank you for making it amid all the sturm und drang in this comment thread.
Who said Southerners had to hate their forebearers? We all of us recognize that the defense of the Southern way of life circa 1860 was "an ill-concieved, ill-begotten endeavor." The point is not that Southerners should be constantly filled with self-loathing, but that the Confederate banners (Stars &Bars, the St. Andrews Cross battleflag, etc.) represent a society which went to war against the United States to defend its ill-conceived, ill-begotten core.

Just speaking for myself, I don't feel like ever dwelling on it, and it'd be a whole lot easier to put the Civil War behind us if a few former Confederate states would stop flying reminders on their state capitals or treating those banners as sacred objects.
3.20.2007 12:10am
Mark Field (mail):

The fact that the South, technically, fired the first shot is a strawman.


Do you feel the same way about Pearl Harbor?
3.20.2007 12:36am
Randy R. (mail):
Look, if slavery did not exist in the south, there simply would have been no Civil War. States' rights? Sure. But what right was it that they were fighing for? Back in those days, there was hardly a federal gov't as we know it today. There was no Bureay of Measurements and Standards (let's go to war to defend our right to define the inch as we damn please!), there was no EPA (Let's fight for our right to abolish wetlands!), and there was no CIA (Let's fight for our right to privacy in our telephone calls -- which aren't even invented yet!)

All serious policians, from the founding fathers on down, knew that the issue of slavery would divide the nation, and it would have to be resolved one way or another. They did their best to issue compromises, but there simply was no room for compromise. The South believed that even ex-slaves living in the North should be repatriated back into slavery.

Yes, you could argue that it was about property rights -- the right to protect your investment in your slaves. In the ante-bellum South, all roads lead right back to slavery.

IF it was NOT about slavery, then what 'states rights' was at issue? If there was no slavery, why would the South want to secede from the Union?

I have never seen a convincing answer to either question. It is always danced around by southern apologists, trying to say that the problem was an agressive north, or Lincoln was meanie to the southerers, or other such nonsense.
3.20.2007 1:26am
Randy R. (mail):
I recall a number of years ago, I was visiting a friend in Atlanta. This was the time when there was a debate about flying confederate flags over the state houses. Earlier, a friend and I toured Charleston, Savannah, and numerous other places in between, and we had a lovely time.

So in Atlanta, I was in a mall somewhere, and the tv cameras were rolling, and a reporter came up to me to ask my opinion about the confederate flag. What I said is that everyone keeps telling me about how the flag is a symbol of their southern heritage and all this. But when I toured the South, I saw many instances of the southern heritage being destroyed and forgotten. Too many wonderful buildings being torn down. The open space that your ancestors roamed around was being gobbled up by suburban sprawl. Downtown Atlanta is practically a wasteland. So instead of worrying about the symbols of your heritage, maybe you should work harder to preserve that actual subjects of your heritage. It's fun and easy to get all worked up about a stupid flag -- it's a lot harder to fight to restore your neighborhood and fight developers.
3.20.2007 1:31am
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you look at the War Between the States in its historical context, it is part of a virtually unbroken chain of agression and/or territorial expansion on the part of the US government that started in 1846 and continues (some would argue) right up to the present day.

First the Mexican War and the theft of half of Mexico's territory, then the conquest of the CSA,
Priceless. Someone who attempts to defend the CSA by calling the US aggressive, by citing the Mexican War? The Mexican War -- starting with the Texas Revolution -- was started by Southerners who were seeking land to expand slavery to. Cuba -- since you mention the Spanish-American War -- was also a favorite target of pre-Civil War southerners who were looking for more slave territory.


Because if they did have the right to secede, then when a country gains independence, military installations belonging to the former rulers normally don't stay under their control. The North was, in essence, occupying part of the South, and that's why they were fired upon.
Leaving aside the ahistorical use of the term "normally" pointed out by Dilan Esper, it was not "in essence" "part of the South." It was in fact and law federal territory.
3.20.2007 1:56am
Malvolio:
The fact that the South, technically, fired the first shot is a strawman.
Do you feel the same way about Pearl Harbor?
Excellent comparison. In each case, the attacking side believed that war was inevitable and decided (very mistakenly) that it would have an advantage if it struck first.

The defending side (the US in both cases) affected a great deal of shock, reflecting both (a) a weak grasp of the military situation and (b) its wholly accurate understanding that it is in the right and the attacking power is in the wrong. It's that last bit we should keep track of.
Slavery has been an integral part of the human experience (for EVERY ethnic group on the planet) for at least 5 or 10 THOUSAND years; so what is the big deal if one group of Americans took a few years more to see the light than some other group of Americans?
"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."

Let's say hypothetically that your family were subject to just one small aspect of slavery: the guy in the big house up the street gets to come over every few days and rape your wife. And maybe your daughters when he gets bored. Would you rather (a) the police hung out for 20 or 30 years, waiting to see if he would quit of his own accord or (b) the police came over and grabbed the bastard RIGHT NOW? If you chose door (b), you support the US prosecution of the Civil War. If you choose (a), you might not want to mention it to your wife.

Why do I worry about slavery in the US more than slavery in, for example, Britain (where it lasted millennia longer) or the Sudan (where it still exists)? Well, partly because the US (with no small justification) holds itself out as a beacon of freedom and justice and I want that promise to be sincere.

But mostly: because I fucking live here and the idea that human beings were treated like dogs, here, in my home, bugs me. I won't forget and I won't minimize it and I won't let anything like it happen again.

Any other questions?
3.20.2007 2:00am
steve (mail):
For those who deny the centrality of the institution of slavery to the Civil War, I refer you to the Confederate Constitution (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/csa/csa.html):

Art. I
...
Sec. 9 (4): No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

Art. IV
...
Sec. 2. (1) The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.
3.20.2007 6:54am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Spartacus writes:
I think the supremacy clause pretty much rules secession unconstitutional — but then, the Constitution itself was in violation of the Articles of Confederation; that didn't make it treason.

A seemingly obvious point that may in fact, intriguingly, be wrong. The Constitution, in addition to clear language such as (Article VI) "This Constitution... shall be the supreme Law of the Land," forbids any state to "enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State" (Article I, Section 10), however notice that it also stipulates "without the Consent of Congress" in this regard. Thus, something like a "confederacy" composed of only a portion of the states might theoretically be constitutional according to the U.S. Constitution, if only Congress aquiesces in the formation of the new organization — which of course Congress emphatically did not when the actual Confederacy arose, especially after the latter then started a war with the remaining United States via violently attacking its legitimately acquired (and previously ratified by the state) property and its agents occupying those premises.

In my view, had the Confederacy once it arrived at de facto independence strenuously avoided war insofar as possible, certainly not by launching a military attack, but had rather sought to isolate the remaining U.S. installations in the South as enclaves while negotiating for their eventual evactuation, then in my view likely Congress would have cut off funding for Ft. Sumter and its kin with a few years at most, and the South would be completely free (except for its slaves, of course).

The model might have been the post-Revolutionary War period when Britain was legally required by the Treaty of Paris ending that war to abandon certain forts it held in the Old Northwest of the U.S. — but failed to do so for several additional decades. The U.S. would have been within its rights (far more so than the South was in the case of starting the Civil War) to attack those forts, or at least insist that they be evacuated — but prudently didn't do so till the Brits themselves decided to leave — fortunately, as a more bellicose decision on the part of the fledgling nation might have been its suicide.

The South wasn't so smart — they did commit suicide by attacking these United States, causing a political sensation across the North — and showing that, in essence, the Southerners really weren't mature enough to run a nation, but rather might well be characterized as arrogant, militaristic assholes.

Profound French observer of early American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville put it well; pointing (three decades before the Civil War) to the contrasting natures of Southerners (slaveowners in their cultural milieu) and Northerners (shopkeepers and entrepreneurs of all types), he writes that for the Northerner:
his eagerness to possess things goes beyond the ordinary limits of human cupidity; tormented by a longing for wealth, he boldly follows every path to fortune that is open to him; he is equally prepared to turn into a sailor, pioneer, artisan, or cultivator, facing the labors or dangers of these various ways of life with even constancy; there is something wonderful in his resourcefulness and a sort of heroism in his greed for gain.

The Southerner, on the other hand, as Tocqueville writes:
scorns not only work itself but also enterprises in which work is necessary to success; living in idle ease, he has the tastes of idle men; money has lost some of its value in his eyes; he is less interested in wealth than in excitement and pleasure and expends in that direction the energy which his neighbor puts to other use; he is passionately fond of hunting and war; he enjoys all the most strenuous forms of bodily exercise; he is accustomed to the use of weapons and from childhood has been ready to risk his life in single combat.

Recall once again that these were Tocqueville's observations made during the early 1830's, some three decades before the Civil War. As he characterized the situation, the South-North conflict was based on the "contrasting effects of slavery and of freedom [which] are easy to understand; they are enough to explain the differences between ancient civilization and modern." As Tocqueville writes:
Slavery therefore not only prevents the white men [in the South] from making their fortunes but even diverts them from wishing to do so.

The constant operation of these opposite influences throughout two centuries in the English North American colonies has in the end brought about a vast difference in the commercial capabilities of southerners and northerners. Today [in the 1830's] the North alone has ships, manufactures, railways, and canals.

And that much more so by the 1860's. Read Tocqueville's entire comments in this regard, which you can find here.

Getting back to the question of whether it's "unconstitutional" according to the Articles of Confederation for the U.S. Constitution to have been drafted and adopted, with the effect of superceding those Articles, it's worth noting that, just as the U.S. Constitution allows "agreements" between the states outside the Constitutional system if Congress approves, so too the Articles of Confederation (in Article VI) state: "No two or more States shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled [...]."

Notice that, unlike the situation at the time of the establishment of the Confederacy prior to the Civil War, the new U.S. Constitution did obtain approval of the (Articles) Congress; and thus the establishment of the Constitution does not, superficially at least, appear to be in direct conflict (unconstitutional) with respect to those Articles.
3.20.2007 8:05am
Harvey Mosley (mail):
Professor Volokh, in response to your actual question, I don't like the idea that expression equals speech, but that is the standard. I don't like the idea that it is OK to desecrate either of the flags that I consider my own. However, I will stand up for any (fill in the pejorative of your choice) who does desecrate those flags. I do support a constitutional amendment to ban the desecration of the US flag. I think it would take an amendment for it to be valid. I refuse to say that the first amendment is irrelevant or doesn't mean what it says because I don't like the result we get. I would not support a constitutional amendment for the flag of the Confederacy.

By the way, to those of you who seem to have missed the Professors question, maybe you can clear something up for me. I have heard that almost every person who was born in Africa that became a slave was actually enslaved and sold by fellow Africans to the people who ended up selling them in America and elsewhere. Is this true? Is there a legitimate source on the net you can show me?

The War Between the States was about many issues, including slavery. Slavery was our greatest evil. However, the northern states were violating the constitution by assisting escaped slaves, weren't they? Wouldn't it have been better to change the law (including the constitution) than to try to force a war with the South?

One last thing. The US flag flew over a country that practised slavery for nearly a century. Don't try to make me a monster because I fly a flag that did so for a few of years. There is more to the south than racism.
3.20.2007 8:12am
loki13 (mail):
Mr. Mosley wrote


The US flag flew over a country that practised slavery for nearly a century. Don't try to make me a monster because I fly a flag that did so for a few of years. There is more to the south than racism.


I would think that the difference is that the US flag symbolizes an imperfect country that managed to overcome slavery, the Confederate Flag (and battle standard) only symbolize a 'country' whose sole existence was predicated on keeping others in bondage.

I have been following this thread for some time with a growing sense of amazement. The sheer number of falsehoods (Britain, France, Mexico war, States Rights et al) trumped up in order to avoid the simple and unavoidable truth- the South wanted slavery. The South seceded for slavery. The Civil War was 'about' slavery. If you support the CSA, you support slavery- because that is the core of the CSA's creation. Moreover, you're not really a patriotic American anymore, are you? This has nothing to do with honoring Southern Heritage, or respecting your ancestors in others ways... but there's a distinction.

What does this have to do with the Confederate Flag (I'm using this as an all-inclusive term)? The Confederate Flag is a hateful symbol of both the CSA and segregation. 'Southern heritage' is a cover story. I will not impugn the motives of other posters by saying they don't believe the cover story, but that is what it is. If you go to Germany, and you see someone's house decorated with swastikas, that person can have a few explanations:
1. Honoring the Navajo Culture
2. Honoring their father, who fought bravely in WW2

But a swastika in Germany has a certain meaning, regardless of the alleged intent of the person who's decorating with it- if they don't know, they should know. The same applies to the Confederate Flag in the South. Having been born and raised in the South, I have yet to see a black person celebrate their own Southern Heritage with one.
3.20.2007 9:26am
Jam (mail):
Steve: The CSA's Constitution just avoids the euphemism "other persons."

On firing on Ft. Sumnter (a customs installation): I do agree that it was a mistake but it was already understood by the uS tht resupplying Ft. Sumnter was an act of war. It was viewd as the first step by the North to wage war. Firing on Sumnter was justified. Lincoln, while the Southern delegation was in Washington under the impression of going through good faith negotiations, planned the resupplying of Ft. Sumnter. Ft. Sumnter was in no danger of running out of supplies for they were being provided by South Carolina.

As to the uS Constitution: it no longer applied to seceded States!

Pearl Harbor: If these uS took actions and policies designed to give the impression that war was inevitable, is the other country justified to preempt the coming war? What is it called? Preemptive war? Anyways Day of Deceit, if true, is very disturbing.

De Tocqueville : Didn't he also observe that race relations in the South were better than in the North? De Tocqueville reminds me also of the Englishman view of the Scots-Irish.

Hiding the ugly past: The North were so pure of heart: Disowning Slavery might be a good read and Slavery in New York a worthy visit. And all dem black code laws - so enlightened.

The War of Southern Independence: Slavery was the spark that ignited an already made stick of dynamite. Secession would have occurred all the same. Remember:
1) Louisianna Purchase
2) War of 1812
3) Texas Annexation
4) Tariffs of Abominations
5) Nullification
3.20.2007 11:35am
Randy R. (mail):
And it's curious that 'southern heritage' can only be celebrated with a flag, and this flag in particular. Can't it be celebrated in other ways? Like with fried chicken, or iced tea? Or cotton bales, even? I mean, up in the north, we celebrate our heritage in a myriad of ways. Usually, it's each ethnicity celebrating itself, like on St. Pat's Day, or Dingus Day. And food is central to these celebrations, along with ethnic costumes, dances and so on.

YOu cannot tell me that the southern heritage is so limited that only a flag will suffice.
3.20.2007 11:40am
loki13 (mail):
When reading Jam's posts, I can only imagine the following:

Someone from Germany claiming that WW2 was really America's fault, because Germany didn't really declare war on the US, after all, the US provoked Germany by helping the UK, and look at how evil FDR was, and... and... the Japanese internment camps! and, uh, nevermind about the holocaust. Anyway, we're just celebrating German pride, right?

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. In this day and age, for someone to claim the South was 'right' requires Stevie Wonder-level blinders. And the inability to fully capitalize the country in which you reside.
3.20.2007 11:45am
Anna:
I think it is very different. Flag burning can be banned because it essentially amounts to treason: our government can (and should) favor our flag over others. The pledge of allegiance is to our flag; is forcing people to salute it a violation of their rights? The Confederate flag represents a bunch of loonies who tried to rebel and got smashed. It deserves no deference.


Actually, yes, it is a violation of people's rights to force them to salute the flag. See West Virginia v. Barnette. Treason involves betraying one's country by helping a foreign power to damage it. Insufficient deference to a piece of fabric, regardless of what meaning you or anyone else attach to it, doesn't qualify.
3.20.2007 12:23pm
Mark Field (mail):

it was already understood by the uS tht resupplying Ft. Sumnter was an act of war.


This is delusional. Whatever you might think of the re-supply, the record is clear that Lincoln himself understood that it was NOT a belligerent act. In general, sending in food and water is not considered such.


Firing on Sumnter was justified. Lincoln, while the Southern delegation was in Washington under the impression of going through good faith negotiations, planned the resupplying of Ft. Sumnter. Ft. Sumnter was in no danger of running out of supplies for they were being provided by South Carolina.


Hmm. First you say the Southerners "planned" to re-supply the fort, then you say they "were" doing it. The fact is, Anderson reported to Lincoln that he was out of supplies.


As to the uS Constitution: it no longer applied to seceded States!


It's always convenient to assume your conclusion.


Pearl Harbor: If these uS took actions and policies designed to give the impression that war was inevitable, is the other country justified to preempt the coming war?


The validity of preemptive war depends on the specific facts. The facts are agin you with respect to both Pearl Harbor and Ft. Sumter.


Slavery was the spark that ignited an already made stick of dynamite.


Slavery WAS the dynamite. Everybody knew this from the beginning. Madison said in the Convention that it was the essential difference between North and South.
3.20.2007 12:37pm
chris s (mail):
I think most commenters here are missing the reason so many white Southerners insist on honoring what's termed 'heritage'. Many Southerners have ancestors who fought or directly experienced the Civil War, and the memories of those ancestors were passed down generation by generation.
The North is different - between mass immigration there post-war and the simple fact that only Northern soldiers experienced the war (not civilians, save some unfortunates in Md and Pa), few in the North have that kind of living tie to the past.
so when people like commenter Colin here insist on tossing out insults, the reaction among many of these otherwise well meaning Southerners is not 'gee, you're right, I guess my great great grandfather was basically part of the Waffen SS, and those stories of hardship and woe I learned from my grandmother were his just desserts.' the reaction is, in PG terms, 'go to hell.' one way that reaction manifests itself is by flying the stars and bars.
none of which is to say no one who celebrates 'heritage' is a bigot. of course some are, and they usually reveal that fact pretty quickly. but not everyone who honors an ancestor who fought for the South is a Klansman.
3.20.2007 1:10pm
Baseballhead (mail):
One last thing. The US flag flew over a country that practised slavery for nearly a century. Don't try to make me a monster because I fly a flag that did so for a few of years. There is more to the south than racism.


That's one way to minimize the evil. The Stars &Bars and the Confederate battleflag were flown by men who took up arms against the United States of America in order to defend the institution of slavery. These weren't stupid men; they understood what leveling guns against the Army of the United States meant, and did it anyways. So feel free to fly the Stars &Bars, just be aware that a lot of people aren't going to blind themselves to major aspects of the CSA and what it stood for. I won't call you a traitor, but you certainly are flying a traitor's flag.
3.20.2007 1:23pm
Colin (mail):
but not everyone who honors an ancestor who fought for the South is a Klansman.

I don't recall ever saying otherwise.
3.20.2007 1:25pm
Ken Arromdee:
And it's curious that 'southern heritage' can only be celebrated with a flag, and this flag in particular. Can't it be celebrated in other ways?

That's like the argument that any particular sentiment expressed with profanity can be expressed without it, so obviously we don't need profanity.

It's always the case that any sentiment expressed with X can be expressed without it, no matter what X is. That is not, however, any sort of argument about not using X.
3.20.2007 1:50pm
Ken Arromdee:
Anyway, we're just celebrating German pride, right?

If the only period in which Germany was an independent country was under the Nazis, I'd be more tolerant of people who wish to use a Nazi flag as a symbol of German pride, as long as they themselves don't think the Holocaust was a good thing.

This would be especially so if the person's family had been victims of the forcible post-war population transfer or other acts that only escape being called atrocities because they were done by the winning side.
3.20.2007 1:57pm
Matthew B. (mail):
Jam: The CSA Constitution did not merely reword the "other persons" phrasing. Neither of the passages quoted above by Steve has any counterpart in the US Constitution. The CSA Constitution added a great deal of original language, much of it with the intended effect of removing states' rights by forcing them to accept the institution of slavery. Other additions gave the CSA federal government new powers to tax interstate commerce, etc. Confederate states gained no significant rights under their new constitution.

You can see a side-by-side comparison of the two constitutions here. Take a look. The CSA document is about the last thing you'd draught if you had any interest in states' rights; its self-evident purpose is to enshrine slavery forever.
3.20.2007 2:03pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
One last thing. The US flag flew over a country that practised slavery for nearly a century. Don't try to make me a monster because I fly a flag that did so for a few of years. There is more to the south than racism.
There's more to the south than racism, but there's not more to the Confederacy than racism (or, rather, slavery).
3.20.2007 6:45pm
John Rosenberg (mail) (www):
Well, it's at least good to see that the Civil War (War Between The States? War Of Northern Aggression? War For Southern Independence?) no longer stirs emotion or controversy.

Like most of you I agree that the Florida statute is, and should be, unconstitutional. But I would also like to see some test of the museum's devotion to the First Amendment by the submission of some art that expressed a markedly contrary viewpoint.

On the theory that history is not out of place in this thread, let me suggest that some readers may be interested in this old post (May 2002) from none other than Professor Volokh defending (although he found it a difficult case, with good arguments on both sides) an opinion by the Fourth Circuit striking down Virginia's policy of barring Confederate flags from custom-designed license plates.

Sticking with history, at the time I commented on that post in a post of my own and added:
A similar flap occurred in Washington back in 1993. The Senate was all set to renew, as a matter of routine, the "design patent" of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, as it had done a number of times in the past. Senator Carol Mosely-Braun of Ill. (subsequently defeated, alas not over this) objected on all the predictable grounds, and the Senate, embarrassed, backed down and refused to renew. All the issues Eugene mentioned re flags on license plates were present then — content neutrality, govt speech, govt "endorsement," awarding an honor, etc., as well as the same selective censorship/First Amendment issues. Although I thought (and think) the arguments on the politically correct side were not frivolous, I also thought (and think) the free speech argument was stronger, except that nobody really made it.
3.20.2007 10:42pm
jam:
Where is the conflict between the fact that S.C was supplying Ft. Sumter and finding out that the Star of the West was sent, with escort, to supply Ft. Sumter. And that being understood to have been a war declaration, while the Southern delegation was in Washington negotiating in what they thought was in good faith from the Lincoln administration?

And there is a letter where the "failure" to resupply F.t Sumnter was viewd as a success. Wonder why?

Secretary of State William H. Seward, who warned, "The dispatch of an expedition to supply or reinforce Sumter would provoke an attack and so involve a war at that point."

"The Sumter expedition failed of its ostensible object, but it brought about the Southern attack on that fort. The first gun fired there effectively cleared the air... and placed Lincoln at the head of the united people." ~ Secretary of State Seward's opinion about Ft. Sumter.

(Unfortunately, my HDD crashed a few months ago and many of my links are lost, along with many family pics. No, no backups)

"You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail, and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result." ~ Lincoln to Gustavus Fox, in a letter dated May 1 1865. The phrase 'even if it should fail' is a tip off to Lincoln's real motivations.

"President Lincoln in deciding the Sumter question had adopted a simple but effective policy. To use his own words, he determined to "send bread to Anderson"; if the rebels fired on that, they would not be able to convince the world that he had begun the civil war." ~ The account of John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Lincoln's trusted confidential secretaries.
3.20.2007 11:12pm
jam:
"It's always convenient to assume your conclusion."

Hmmm. So you are bound to a compact you no longer are part of? I'd be carefull to sign a contract with you.
3.20.2007 11:17pm
Baseballhead (mail):
So you are bound to a compact you no longer are part of?

It takes two to amicably deem a contract null.
3.20.2007 11:20pm
Abandon:
Loki13 wrote:

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

Omg, I call the shot on the quote of the day.
3.21.2007 1:57am
Abandon:
Many comments addressed the constitutionality of secession. I personally see this as a no brainer. How many constitutions make provisions for the break away of their own territorial sovereignty? I bet not too many. I doubt the American revolution was considered legal in regards to British laws, but it was nevertheless legitimate under many regards (this being said by a non-American).

Should we see the Confederate secession as legitimate then? On a strictly moral point of view, I do not think many people would argue that insuring the continuity of an economic system which depended on slavery for its survival would have been a step forward for humanity. The racial burden seems to be, by far, the greatest scar on the still young yet admirable American adventure, and lies at the very center of the nation's history and collective pyche...

More on topic, southerners must understand that their flag, although it may be looked at in a positive manner (at least from the point of view of those who whished to see a more decentralized system), is largelly attached to pejorative connotations. Not having any known American ancestors myself, I have no emotional ties to the American Civil war as I don't feel affected by its heritage. But I do know the evocation this flag bears with it transcends the sole Civil War context even outside US: it has been associated to jim crowism, the KKK, the lynching of African American, white supremacist movements, anti civic rights, and is still quite popular within extremist movements all around the world. One can draw the comparison to the swastika since it had been corrupted by the nazis, although on a different symbolic scale for obvious reasons.

Still closer to topic, let people desecrate this flag, just like any other, as they see fit. Whose right does it challenge anyways? How should it represent a threat to security? Depicting a flag in a piece of art shouldn't be censured, even if it could be seen as provocative.
3.21.2007 2:57am
Randy R. (mail):
Ken: Well, you are right -- I didn't mean to imply that people who revere the confederate flag should revere something else just to make the issue go away. (Though that WOULD be nice of them. Gentlemanly, even!)

Nonetheless, when people tie the phrase "southern heritage" so closely with a flag, it might make other people a bit nervous. There are many southern heritages, and there are many ways to celebrate it. It's a shame, in my opinion, that all these other heritages and ways rarely get the attention that they deserve.

And I love a good mint julep!
3.21.2007 3:37am
Randy R. (mail):
Some have commented on why southerners revere their past so much, in a way that is very different from the northerners.

It's speculation on my part, I'll admit, but I think southerners look nostalgically on their ante-bellum past as some sort of golden age. It was a time of beautiful plantations, courtly manners, everyone knew his place, society was elegant and everyone was just dag burn happy.

In a way, it's not dissimiliar on how Americans view the British past. And we always look at those rich nobles and think what a wonderful lifestyle they lead, and why are we more like them, blah, blah, blah. You see it when teenaged girls dress up like some parody of a ante-bellum fashion plate and go to their cotillions, and what not. The thing that no one likes to face is the fact that if you WERE living in the past, you would likely be not the top rich 1% that lead that movie-style life, but you'd more likely a working stiff trying, and usually failing, to make ends meet.

But it's lovely to think otherwise. And so the flag and what it supposedly represents, becomes very important. We northerers have our own vices, of course. But that's for another day.
3.21.2007 3:43am
Randy R. (mail):
Perhaps we can all agree with that great southern writer, William Faulkner, who once stated that the past isn't even past yet. This post proves it true!
3.21.2007 3:46am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Secretary of State William H. Seward, who warned, "The dispatch of an expedition to supply or reinforce Sumter would provoke an attack and so involve a war at that point."
You confuse "provoke" with "justify." Did Lincoln know that resupplying Fort Sumter would likely provoke South Carolina? Probably. But that doesn't make it a legitimate casus belli. On the other hand, a military attack on a U.S. fort is.

"It's always convenient to assume your conclusion."

Hmmm. So you are bound to a compact you no longer are part of? I'd be carefull to sign a contract with you.
So you think you can be "no longer part of" a contract just because you say you're not? I'd be careful not to tell anybody you think that, if you expect anybody to sign a contract with you.

The point here is that you're assuming they were "no longer part of" the compact -- but that's the part that needs to be proven, not assumed. Have you ever heard of circular reasoning? You argue that they were allowed to secede because they weren't bound by the constitution, and they weren't bound by the constitution because they seceded.
3.21.2007 6:24am
Jam:
My point is that North engaged in a war of conquest.

The uS Constitution does not grant authority to the uS Central government to prevent a State from seceding. After the South seceded it was up to the member States in the uS to force Lincoln to abide by their compact.

And it was up to the seceded nation-States to defend themselves.
3.21.2007 9:51pm
Jam:
Circular reasoning? Where is the explicitly stated authority to prevent a State from seceding?
3.21.2007 10:02pm
markm (mail):

That does not change the fact that the uS Constitution DOES NOT grants the Central government the authority to force a State to remain in union, hence, the invading North and their sympathizers are the real rebels.

I could agree with that, but people who claimed the right to own other human beings have no case for complaining about their rights being violated.

And don't tell me about the Confederate soldiers that had no realistic hope of ever being rich enough to own slaves; they still solidly supported slavery, and rallied behind their slave-owning neighbors. And it was mostly the poor-as-dirt non-slaveowning southerners who swarmed into Kansas and Nebraska during the 1850's in an attempt to swing elections pro-slavery, and knifed anti-slavery advocates in the streets in furtherance of that attempt. (Not that abolitionist mass-murderers like John Brown were any better.)
3.22.2007 6:11pm