Sons of Confederate Veterans Respond to Governor McDonnell

Brooks Simpson came across the Virginia SCV’s response to Gov. McDonnell’s Confederate History Month proclamation today while teaching his course on research methods.  I recommend that you read the entire post, but here is the SCV’s proclamation for your consideration.  Brooks has already pointed out the false claim that Ulysses S. Grant and his wife owned slaves until the adoption of the 13th amendment.  Have fun with locating the other mistakes and the distortions.  What I find truly bizarre is why the SCV feels a need to reference Lincoln on race as well as the Emancipation Proclamation.  They have nothing to do with the governor’s proclamation or amendment to it.  The governor’s amendment pointed out that slavery was a cause of the war and that it cannot be ignored in trying to understand the scope of the conflict.  I think this reflects just how defensive the SCV has become, but it also reflects an intellectual bankruptcy that should be apparent to anyone who has reads serious Civil War history.  More importantly, it suggests to me that the SCV is not going to be a significant player in influencing Virginia’s remembrance through the sesquicentennial.  Nice try guys, but the sooner you come to term with the fact that we no longer live in 1961 the better off you will be.

The Virginia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans statement regarding the Confederate History Month Proclamation as issued by Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, TO WIT:

WHEREAS, Governor McDonnell declared the Month of April to be Confederate History Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; and

WHEREAS, governors of Virginia have issued proclamations for diverse groups and individuals; and

WHEREAS, Members of the Democratic Party and its leadership, including former Governor Douglas Wilder, have repeatedly made statements in regards to the proclamation that the only reason that Confederate soldiers took to the field of battle was to defend the institution of slavery; and

WHEREAS, President Abraham Lincoln stated “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” and further stated at the outset of the crisis that “I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists,” and “my paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union;” and

WHEREAS, The Commonwealth of Virginia seceded from the Union not in the defense of slavery, but only after President Lincoln called for troops to make war against the lower Southern States; and

WHEREAS, The Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave in any slave state that had remained loyal to the Union during the War Between the States, nor did it free any slave in the District of Columbia or any part of the Confederacy which was occupied and controlled by the U.S. military; and

WHEREAS, The Commonwealth of Virginia was cleaved in two by an executive order of President Lincoln, creating the State of West Virginia which was admitted to the Union as a slave state in 1863; and

WHEREAS, General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife held slaves until forced to release them with the adoption of the 13th Amendment after the war and when questioned as to why he had done so, Grant replied because “good help is hard to find;” and

WHEREAS, Governor McDonnell altered the original Confederate History Month Proclamation to include a clause which states that the Civil War was fought solely over the existence of slavery despite numerous contrary arguments and a host of other social, moral, political, and economic factors.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

THE VIRGINIA DIVISION, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS, does hereby commend Governor Robert F. McDonnell for the issuance of the Confederate History Month proclamation; and

THE VIRGINIA DIVISION, does hereby absolutely refute the claim that Confederate soldiers went to the field of battle for the sole purpose of preserving slavery as an intellectually dishonest argument; and

THE VIRGINIA DIVISION does not endorse any statement that the Confederacy existed entirely for the defense of slavery and considers such statements to be a detriment to the memory of the many Virginians who gave their lives to defend against the illegal federal invasion of the Commonwealth of Virginia in a long and bloody war.

ADOPTED this 9th day of April, 2010.  Attest: John Sawyer, Division Commander

9th day of April, 2010.  Attest: John Sawyer, Division Commander

37 thoughts on “Sons of Confederate Veterans Respond to Governor McDonnell

  1. Emmanuel Dabney

    Well, I don’t even know why I am going to just more or less post to repeat what Kevin has said already BUT…

    This commentary from the SCV is indeed starved of refined intellectual thought. The intent in 1861 of the Federal government was immensely different by 1863 and there was more changing in 1864 and 1865. Northern troops also had emotional changes from their entrance into the war until the war ended for them. Numerous scholars have traced the varied responses of Lincoln, the Federal Congress, Northern troops, and some of the Northern home front. The selective quoting from Lincoln discredits the man’s ability to change. When will people stop hijacking specific lines from Lincoln to further an inaccurate portrayal of the Civil War? The same people seem to have selective amnesia in regards to the secession conventions attended primarily by slave owners and in the ordinances of secession. Many of these same people in the Deep South reestablished Old South political power from 1865-1867 and clearly intended to perpetuate white supremacy.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I am the first person to admit that I do not know much about the internal workings and profile of the SCV. That said, I have to wonder whether this proclamation really reflects the intellectual level of the entire organization. I have to assume that there are individuals who must be utterly embarrassed by this nonsense. Thanks for the comment.

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      1. Chris Evans

        I think the SCV should take more to heart what Jefferson Davis said in his final public speech at Mississippi City in 1888 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast:
        “Mr. Chairmen and Fellow Citizens: “Ah, pardon me, the laws of the United States no longer permit me to designate you as fellow citizens, but I am thankful that I may address you you as friends. I feel no regret that I stand before you this afternoon a man without a country, for my ambition lies buried in the grave of the Confederacy. There has been consigned not only my ambition, but the dogmas upon which that Government was based. The faces I see before me are those of young men; had I not known this I would not have appeared before you. Men in whose hands the destinies of the South land lie, for love of her I break my silence, to let it bury its dead, its hopes and aspirations ; before you lies the future – a future full of golden promise; a future of expanding national glory, before which all of the world shall stand amazed. Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to make your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished – a reunited country”

        Thanks,
        Chris

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      2. Glenn Beck's Chalkboard

        I have to assume that there are individuals who must be utterly embarrassed by this nonsense.

        My personal, one-on-one interactions with a local SCV camp several years ago left me with the strong impression that its members were well-intentioned, but woefully unread, and susceptible to authoritative pronouncements and interpretations distributed through the larger organization. As for the organization as a whole, it seems clear that its leadership was pretty thoroughly purged about a decade ago of anyone who was likely to go all wobbly on them when it came to supporting the mythology of the Lost Cause. I suspect anyone in the SCV who would’ve been embarrassed by this sort of statement left a long while ago.

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      3. Glenn Beck's Chalkboard

        Additional to my post above:

        One reason that (I believe) rank-and-file SCV members are easily lead astray by historical charlatans is that, on this particular subject, they’re willing to be led, and are probably more credulous in this area than they otherwise are. There’s a great, natural appeal in someone with a pseudoacademic background who says, in effect, “the history books have it wrong; your ancestors fought for something good, and purse, and noble; here’s the story the politically-correct elites don’t want you to know.” Throw in a few selected quotes from Abrahan Lincoln, some grainy copies of microfilm pension records, some stirring music and a dash of resentment and thinly-veiled bigotry, and you can get easy buy-in to the Lost Cause in all its absurdities.

        Reply
  2. Chris Evans

    I hate when that old canard about Grant is trotted out. It is very insulting to a Civil War reader’s intelligence. Grant was very honorable to Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia and should be greatly respected by all Americans by his conduct at Appomattox.
    Chris

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  3. Chris Meekins

    “WHEREAS, The Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave in any slave state that had remained loyal to the Union during the War Between the States, nor did it free any slave in the District of Columbia or any part of the Confederacy which was occupied and controlled by the U.S. military.”

    I think the slaves in Elizabeth City NC who were freed under terms of the Emancipation Proclamation would be surprised to learn that they were in error and not freed at all. I suspect that the Unionist slave holders who began paying wages to those same freedmen would be surprised as well – and perhaps a bit put out. But I nit pick.

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    1. Brooks D. Simpson

      Apparently the drafter of the SCV proclamation did not recall that slavery had already been abolished in the District of Columbia. There’s simply something astonishing about such ignorance.

      Reply
      1. Leonard Lanier

        Neither does the SCV proclamation mention DC slaveholders receiving financial compensation for their “losses.”

        Reply
    2. Ken Noe

      Keith Poulter once estimated that the EP freed about 15,000-20,000 slaves in the Sea Islands on the first day alone, 1/1/63. By the end of the war, Union soldiers using the EP as they marched south had freed close to a million people. This old canard about the EP not freeing “any slave” is one of those infamous “big lies,” although sadly I’m quite sure that the authors of that proclamation actually believe it.

      Reply
  4. Lee

    As I argued in a previous thread, I think the SCV would be much better off by simply saying that it honors Confederates for their courage and sacrifice on the battlefield. There is no sense in stubbornly insisting that every partisan justification for the Confederate cause is valid (the reference to the supposedly “illegal federal invasion of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” for example).

    Furthermore, the SCV needs to look at the big picture. Even if slavery really did have nothing to do with the creation of the Confederacy and the war (obviously it did, but let’s just imagine that it didn’t), it’s hard to believe that most Americans today would agree that the country should have split up almost 150 years ago, given that since then, the U.S. has grown into the most powerful nation in the history of the world.

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    1. Chris Evans

      I agree. Very well put. The emphasis by the SCV should be put elsewhere instead of going over ‘the cause’ again and again.
      Chris

      Reply
    2. toby

      Given the part played in the wider world by the United States in the 20th in preserving freedom from Fascism and Communism, there is hadly anyone who would agree that the division of the Republic in 1861 would have been a good thing.

      Also, democratic-republican government would not have been as popular among emerging nations in the 19th and 20th centuries, if the US had not shown that government of the people could survive major internal subversion and rebellion.

      Reply
    3. Glenn Beck's Chalkboard

      As I argued in a previous thread, I think the SCV would be much better off by simply saying that it honors Confederates for their courage and sacrifice on the battlefield.

      Yes, but the SCV also has a serious persecution complex, viewing itself as being oppressed by a conspiracy between the liberal media elites, political correctness, and. . . .

      As a result, they have spent recent years digging themselves in further and further, grasping at dubious historical research (see also: Black Confederates) and hoary old trope to support their visions of the glorious Lost Cause. It’s really quite sad, actually. Of course, the more they do that, the more they put themselves in line for public scorn, the more persecuted they feel, and so on.

      Reply
  5. Bob Huddleston

    The SCV resolution is such a sad farce one does not know where to begin but I will attempt to detail the common claim that the Emancipation Proclamation made no difference.
    The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in areas considered to be in rebellion, many of which were controlled by the United States on January 1, 1863.
    The Declaration of Independence did not make the US a “free and independent nation.” That took seven more years to accomplish. And, had the British prevailed, the Declaration would be of interest only to students of failed revolutions. All of the slaves in the areas delineated were free de facto with thirty months of the Emancipation Proclamation and a large number were freed immediately. The Emancipation Proclamation was prospective, i.e., it would free slaves as the United States Army marched south, and they were on the advance.
    Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, and comparing the areas included and excluded, shows that the immediate effect of the Emancipation Proclamation was to free a large number of slaves, in areas under United States’ control, but still considered to be in rebellion. The Emancipation Proclamation preserved slavery only those areas *not in rebellion,* not those areas under United States’ control on January 1, 1863. And that is a huge difference.
    Note that in Louisiana, the excluded areas are New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta and the area immediately west of the Delta (county lines were a little different in 1863 than now, but close enough to use Rand-McNally). However, the US Army had occupied more of the state to the North, heading, as they were, towards Port Hudson. So all of those slaves were freed.
    The excluded areas of Virginia included West Virginia (small slave population anyway), and Berkeley County, which is the start of the strip of West Virginia which today takes in both Berkeley and Jefferson (Harpers Ferry) counties. But Jefferson County was not excluded. (Trivia point: obviously the boundaries of the new state of West Virginia were still in a bit of a state of flux. I believe [which means I do not know enough West Virginia history to say one way or another] the inclusion of the lower Shenandoah Valley into West Virginia was a political stroke to make certain that if there was a peace treaty between the US and the CS, the B&O Railroad would all be in the United States).
    The only other parts of Virginia excluded were the Eastern Shore (the peninsula that stretches South from Eastern Maryland towards Cape Charles), and the area around Norfolk-Hampton-Fortress Monroe.
    However, the United States controlled *all* of Virginia north of the Rappahannock, including, obviously, Alexandria County, which then consisted of Arlington and Alexandria. They also had a presence in the Shenandoah. Now “control” is a relative word: John Mosby would have disputed the above paragraph! But, nevertheless, the Confederacy did not control most of Northern Virginia. So there are two big areas, and, in the case of Virginia, important areas, where the slaves *were* freed on January 1, 1863.
    In addition, the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Arkansas, Georgia and the Carolinas. On Emancipation Day, the United States controlled much of tidewater and the barrier islands of Georgia and North and South Carolina. The Union also controlled the Ozarks of Arkansas (not many slaves) but also the heavily slave areas of the extreme northeastern counties of Arkansas. The blue coats were in possession of major portions of North Mississippi and Alabama, and they would, within a few months, liberate the densely slave occupied areas of the Mississippi black belt between the Mississippi and the Yazoo.
    Quite a large number – probably hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million or more, of the slaves *were* freed – and freed immediately – by the Emancipation Proclamation.
    And the balance of the four million would be de facto free within thirty months.

    Reply
    1. Will Keene

      Bob, Why do you “believe” that “the inclusion of the lower Shenandoah Valley into West Virginia was a political stroke to make certain that if there was a peace treaty between the US and the CS, the B&O Railroad would all be in the United States”? I am curious for what this is based on.

      Reply
      1. Ken Noe

        Richard Orr Curry’s _A House Divided_ remains the definitive account of West Virginia’s creation, including its boundaries. But in general, both the “big state” and “small state” backers wanted control of the economically vital B&O. The real issue was how far south to go, only to Charleston or all the way into modern southwest Virginia. In the end, the boundaries roughly corresponded to actual Union occupation.

        Reply
  6. Robert Moore

    Though the EP didn’t free slaves in the border states, this resolution makes it clear that those in the Virginia Division, SCV who drafted this are either ignorant of the full details of history or are ignoring those items that compromise their argument. A fine example is the fact that well before issuing the EP, Lincoln had appealed to those states regarding the issue of slavery. As we know, Maryland passed legislation on her own to free slaves and made it official in 1864. I’ve often made the argument that to see their own worst enemy, Confederate “celebrationists” need only to look into a mirror.

    Reply
  7. Glenn Beck's Chalkboard

    What I find truly bizarre is why the SCV feels a need to reference Lincoln on race as well as the Emancipation Proclamation.

    They do this constantly. It’s a childish rationalization: “See? Lincoln himself was cool with the whole slavery thing.”

    Reply
    1. Robert Moore

      Oh, I’m very familiar with the SCV, having been a member for 20 years… until a few years back. Absolutely, the Lincoln “punching” is typical and very childish.

      Reply
  8. Charles Lovejoy

    WARNING: Kevin all your doing is playing into the SCV’s hands . They printout stuff like this and use it as recruiting propaganda. Best to let ghost sleep .

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Charles,

      I’m not sure what you mean. Are you suggesting that I craft my posts so as not to be taken advantage of by the SCV? I’m not sure how I could do that nor do I care whether they do so. In fact, if they do it’s just more evidence that they are intellectually bankrupt.

      Thanks for the warning.

      Reply
      1. Charles Lovejoy

        No I’m not saying you “craft you post to be taken advantage of by the SCV” In saying people like the LOS and SCV use post like yours and other post like yours to recruit members. Their claim is , they are being attacked . See to for them to defend thay need an attacker.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Levin Post author

          It’s good publicity for me. As I’ve said all along, the folks who have the biggest problem with what I write tend to spend the most time on the blog. Thanks

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          1. Charles Lovejoy

            Where does the SCV get all the money for its many billboards? Around Atlanta billboards are very expensive to rent.

            Reply
  9. Larry Davis

    Hello,

    I believe you guys are missing the point although it is clearly presented in the SCV’s statement. The South is continuously demonized for the institution of slavery but the North is proceeded as morally superior and as liberators for their role in the war between the states.

    When you actually reseach the historal facts you see a different image than the one that has been painted by liberals the main stream media and the Federal Government. The facts are that the North was not morally superior and the war wasn’t centered on the sole issue of slavery.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, the North had many anti-black laws on the books during and before the war. The “Free States” had anti-settle laws on the books. Thats right, more than a few northern states said if you were black free or slave it was illegal to even enter the state. The truth is the most people from the north knew where there were slaves there were free black people and black communities, thats why that had these laws on the books. Tell me this, how is that morally superior?

    The truth is Lincoln was elected not carrying a single Southern State eventhough he was very clear during the champaign that he didn’t intend to interfering with slavery were it exist. The single biggest issue Southern states had with Lincoln was his support for Morrill tariff act which directly effected the Southern Farmers. It effected the South to the point where they were paying near 80% of the total revenue and not seeing anything in return as that revenue was being spent to fund the Northern industral revolution.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Larry,

      First, thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s safe to say that very few regular readers of this blog need to be educated regarding the point you’ve made. You are correct in pointing out that there is a distorted picture of slavery/race between North and South. Robert Penn Warren made this point quite eloquently in the 1960s. Slavery could be found in most northern states well into the nineteenth century as many of them worked through their gradual abolition laws. A few states carved out of the Northwest Ordinance actually barred free blacks from living within their borders. The “single biggest” issue that white southerners had with Lincoln was not the Morrill tariff, but the threat they he posed to the institution of slavery. No reputable historian disputes this.

      The problem is that you are mixing apples and oranges. The governor’s proclamation has to do with the war in Virginia and has nothing to do with what was the case outside of the state. You may perceive that the South is still under assault, but that is your perception. If you want to defend the content of the governor’s proclamation than go ahead, but please don’t waste our time with trying to balance out the moral scales that in the end will only serve to assuage your own defensiveness. The response to the proclamation is about how Americans today perceive the war and their refusal to allow an elected official to legitimize a mistaken view of the past.

      The SCV’s response is full of errors. Is this the kind of history and commemoration that you endorse?

      Reply
      1. Larry Davis

        I’ll assume that’s a rhetorical question. I’ll return it with my own. Do you condone the misguidance historical fact based on a political agenda?

        Reply
    2. Will Keene

      Mr Davis,

      It doesn’t seem possible for the single biggest issue to have been the Morrill tariff act, when it is not the biggest issue referred to in the speeches of southern leaders, in the editorial of southern newspapers or in the declarations of causes for secession. Your statistic about tariff collection is also not supported by fact.

      In addition, you are engaging in a ‘fallacy of diversion’ by concocting a strawman about the “north” being perceived as “morally superior”. Governor McDonnell’s proclamation and the SCV statement regarding it are about Virginia.

      Reply
    3. Glenn Beck's Chalkboard

      The facts are that the North was not morally superior and the war wasn’t centered on the sole issue of slavery.

      The Southern states’ secession was indisputably over the issue of slavery, and central purpose of the Confederacy was to preserve the institution of slavery, and ensure its expansion into new territories. Read the articles of secession, and read the Confederate constitution — it’s right there, in black and white, explicitly. Or read the almost any newspaper from the South from that period. While there were many cultural and economic differences/tensions/issues between North and South, the institution of slavery and its future was the reason the Southern states seceded.

      The “Free States” had anti-settle laws on the books. Thats right, more than a few northern states said if you were black free or slave it was illegal to even enter the state. The truth is the most people from the north knew where there were slaves there were free black people and black communities, thats why that had these laws on the books. Tell me this, how is that morally superior?

      I personally don’t care for the good/evil, hero/villain way of categorizing issues; the world (both then and now) is much too complex for that. And there ain’t none of us, then or now, who can claim moral purity. The Northern practices you describe are real, and deeply offensive to modern ears. But as odious as they are, they still are not as fundamentally wrongs as human chattel bondage. You’re making a false equivalency; you’re saying, “well, look at them, they’re just as bad!” Even if that were objectively true — and it’s not, in this case — your argument is one that people make when they cannot actually defend the actions they purport to, so instead shift the focus onto the faults and misdeeds of the other. When folks have to do that, frankly, they’ve already lost the argument.

      Reply
      1. Lee

        Glenn,

        You said “The Northern practices you describe are real, and deeply offensive to modern ears. But as odious as they are, they still are not as fundamentally wrongs as human chattel bondage. You’re making a false equivalency; you’re saying, “well, look at them, they’re just as bad!” Even if that were objectively true — and it’s not, in this case — your argument is one that people make when they cannot actually defend the actions they purport to, so instead shift the focus onto the faults and misdeeds of the other. When folks have to do that, frankly, they’ve already lost the argument.”

        While I agree with you that slavery was worse than laws excluding blacks from individual states (something which was certainly bad enough itself), I disagree that if you say that someone else has done things just as bad as you, that automatically means you’ve “lost the argument.” If your opponent is arguing that their cause is more worthy than yours because you’ve done something bad, and you can show that they’ve done the same thing or worse, you may not have proven that you and your cause deserve to prevail, but you have still deprived your opponent of a particular argument for why they deserve to win rather than you. Say that the Republican nominee for president correctly accuses the Democratic one of being a draft dodger. If the Democrat can show that the Republican dodged the draft as well, it doesn’t mean the Democrat necessarily deserves to win the election. But it does mean the Republican no longer has a right to argue the Democrat doesn’t deserve to because of the draft-dodging, since the Republican did exactly the same thing himself. If the Democrat doesn’t deserve to be president because of it, then neither does the Republican. In fact, the Republican actually comes off as the worse of the two because in addition to being a draft dodger, he is also a hypocrite.

        Reply
        1. Lee

          Glenn,

          One more thing. In “The South Was Right!,” the Kennedy brothers have a whole chapter entitled “Yankee Atrocities,” while making no mention whatsoever of similar Confederate atrocities. If someone points out this discrepancy I don’t think it means they’re losing the argument to the Kennedy brothers–I think they’re just correctly showing that the Confederacy did not have the moral high ground where atrocities were concerned.

          Reply
  10. Mark Tueting

    From the Proclamation:

    “THE VIRGINIA DIVISION does not endorse any statement that the Confederacy existed entirely for the defense of slavery and considers such statements to be a detriment to the memory of the many Virginians who gave their lives to defend against the illegal federal invasion of the Commonwealth of Virginia in a long and bloody war.”

    I guess the SCV must hate that darn liberal Northern Yankee liar who somehow got elected Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, whose Cornerstone Speech begins:

    “The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.”

    And continues:

    “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [The Founder's assumption that slavery would and should end]; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…

    …It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator.”

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Hi Mark,

      I wouldn’t look for much historical consistency from the SCV. That first statement alone reflects an almost complete lack of understanding of the relevant historiography and history. No serious historian argues that the Confederacy existed “entirely for the defense of slavery” though the CSA Constitution and the writings and speeches of their leaders do reveal just how important the institution was to the men who formed the government.

      Reply

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