This week the Texas House Committee on Culture, Tourism and Recreation held a public forum on legislation that would remove “Confederate Heroes Day” and create a new holiday called, “Civil War Remembrance Day.” The sponsor of the bill is Jacob Hale, an eighth grader in Austin, who convinced his local representative to sponsor the bill. Coverage of the bill’s public discussion begins at the 2:42:50 mark.
While a few supporters of the bill spoke out that vast majority of people in attendance took a stand against it. What is so striking is that while the bill and at least the stated intent by the bill’s sponsor do not revolve around a concern over slavery, practically every speaker brought it up. The position against the bill turned into a collective attempt to get Confederates right on the issue of slavery. It was an admittance of the centrality of slavery and in the case of Texas they are absolutely right on target.
Of course, their approach was to completely distort their own state’s history by referencing the myth of the black Confederate soldier and anything else that would help their cause. Their defensiveness is somewhat justified. Listening to the interview with Hale convinces me that while he claims not to be concerned about the issue of slavery, it lingers in the background given the holiday’s proximity to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Why not just raise that issue directly?
The state of Texas certainly did in its Ordinance of Secession, which was issued on February 2, 1861. Its authors explain why Texas originally joined the union (or confederacy) and why it chose to leave.
She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery–the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits–a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time…
In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon the unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color–a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and the negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States…
We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
It goes on and on. Texans were very clear as to why they needed to leave the Union before Lincoln took office and join what became the Confederate States of America.
I appreciate the one speakers honesty in proclaiming all Texas Unionists as traitors. They betrayed the cause for which Texas fought. If the holiday is maintained a public reading of this secession document should be mandatory. After all, if these men were heroes than the cause for which they fought, as expressed by their own state government, ought to be honored as well.
Are the men who fought to make these goals a reality worthy of being called heroes? You decide.