Clyde Wilson is a Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina. In my opinion, he is a regional treasure. I am taking the liberty of republishing here his article at the Abbeville Institute blog titled, “Our Hate Confederates Moment“:
The Confederacy makes up a sizable and interesting chunk of American history. Not only interesting but often regarded as admirable. Admiration for the Confederacy’s brave struggle against great odds and its noble leaders has lasted for generations and is worldwide. Its admirers have even included some of the best of the men who fought against it.
Wiping the Confederacy from American history, a currently mobilised campaign, or dismissing it by a shallow slogan like “treason,” is to make our history incomprehensible. It is like omitting Winston Churchill from British history or Bolivar from Latin American history.
The present destruction of memorial works of art and digging up of dead Americans of other times is an entirely trumped up crusade. It reflects no genuine public feeling. Has anybody ever been genuinely “hurt” by such monuments? I doubt it, but even so, uninformed emotions do not justify the government’s destruction of other peoples’ history. The demand for such is the behaviour of Communists and jihadists who are demonstrating their political dominance–their ability to control what we know about ourselves and our past.
The Hate-Confederates show their shallowness by ignorance of an essential element of understanding history–continuity. Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals R.E. Lee and J.E. Johnston were the sons of officers in the American Revolution. President Zachary Taylor’s son, Thomas Jefferson’s grandson, and nephews of Presidents James Madison, Andrew Jackson, and James K. Polk were generals in the Southern war for Independence. The families of Francis Scott Key and American frontier heroes Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were Confederates.
In the line of continuity we might mention heroes of World War II like Patton, Puller, Nimitz, Buckner, Forrest, Chenault, and Audie Murphy—all descendants of Confederates.
Doesn’t this rather call into question the whole business which is a party-line attempt to make “treason” preempt the basic issue of the war–the nature of the Union. To make it seem as if the whole business had to do with benevolently freeing the black man from his evil enemies. Thus the history of America becomes merely a subset of black history. It reduces all our history to the comic book level.
That is a false history. Lincoln’s government did not launch the largest military expeditions every seen in North America in order to free the slaves. That was “collateral damage.”
Such people never read the Constitution. Their ideas of it are shallow and emotional: what they would like for it to mean. It says “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in leveling War against them, or adhering to their Enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” Something which Lincoln was egregiously engaging in. Lee never gave an oath to defend the government and whatever gaggle of politicians had power. The oath required allegiance to the Constitution.
With the support of less than two-fifths of the people, Lincoln used the government to make massive warfare against a large number of the States and their people. Lee would have been a traitor indeed if he had made war on his own people–killing, looting, burning them out, and depriving them of their American self-government.
Of course, no serious charge of treason was ever pursued against Confederates even though Republicans had near total power at the end of the war.
Here is another point. During the American War of Independence, Edmund Burke pointed out to Parliament that “you cannot draw up an indictment against a whole people.” Millions of people fighting for self- government of their own societies under their own chosen leaders cannot be guilty of “treason.”
People whose knowledge is so shallow that they prefer virtue signaling to the complications of reality are not capable of being trusted with executive, military, or diplomatic power. I have looked up some of the generals now leading the hate-Confederate movement. These men are not graduates of West Point but of Northeastern colleges. None of them have ever been in harm’s way though they have chests full of medals. They are not soldiers but bureaucrats pure and simple. Although, according to the net worth reports they have become rich on a government job. Such leadership dooms a regime and may be working out that destiny as we write.
General Siedule, quondam professor of history at West Point, writes a book about himself and Robert E. Lee. That is like Joe Biden writing a book about “Julius Caesar and Me.” It is juvenile, self-referential drivel without any relationship to real history.
The elimination of the Confederate memorial at Arlington reaches the height of historical ignorance. The jihadists claim that it gives a sanitized view of slavery. The fact is that the memorial was the first major art work to give respectful attention to African Americans and include them in the Reconciliation then going on.
There had been at least two monuments erected in the South in respectful memory of faithful servants. And many former bondsmen had contributed to the Confederate statues then going up, out of local patriotism or in honour of people they had actually known. It is the jihadists who don’t understand American slavery.
For the better part of a century Confederate memorials were considered a natural part of the landscape. They commemorate our people.
Someone has estimated that about one-fourth of the U.S. population has Confederate ancestors. If so, we are a stateless people, completely excluded from decision-making about our own history. We had no representation on the group who decided on the elimination of all Southern symbols from society.
Southerners are the only large group of Americans who can trace families back to the 18th century or earlier. And the only Americans who have a personal memory of early American history. I know what my forebears did in the American War for Independence and the Southern War for Independence. And I am not unusual for an ordinary Southerner.
We have no defenders of our people in federal or state power. Only Republicans, shallow, slogan-centered, presentistic placeholders. The regime regards us as non-people. The other side of that coin is that we have no reason to love the regime that hates us or to serve it willingly as Southerners have done for so long.