Letter to AJC
Here’s a letter-to-the-editor that I wrote in response to http://www.ajc.com/services/content/printedition/2009/04/24/collinsed0424.html that appeared last Thursday in the Atlanta Constitution and Journal:
To the Editor:
Even if Mr. Loren Collins holds the questionable view that slavery in the South was an unmitigated evil (“Confederate history month bill honors ignoble past,” @issue, April 24), it seems to me that he, as a matter of Constitutional Law, should validate that struggle as “legal” and be proud that his ancestors fought the Yankee invaders.
But I fear that Mr. Collins, in spite of being a lawyer, has let his “noble” sentiments about the evils of slavery interfere with constitutional due-process. Surely he knows that the right of peaceful secession from the Union by any state was the order of that day. After all, the states were sovereign. And, if he doubts that, let him consider that the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and other southern political leaders were never charged with any crime. I submit that they could not be convicted for leading their states to secede from the Union because no law had been broken: secession was legal.
Does it not seem passing strange to Mr. Collins that slavery disappeared peacefully from every other civilized nation in the world, as it surely would have done from this continent, if the United States Constitution had been followed? Yes, that means there would have been a Confederate States of America. But a C.S.A. does not destroy the U.S.A. Mr. Collin’s noble sires only wanted to be left alone—to live under a government of their own choosing. Even Mr. Lincoln, in a speech to Congress in 1848, granted, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.” He must have had a change of heart during the intervening dozen years, before he declared war against his own countrymen, our people here in the South.
Mr. Collins says, “States rights. Only the right to own people.” and, to bolster that argument, quotes Southern political leaders saying things like Mr. Lincoln said in the Lincoln-Douglass debates of 1858, “I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
The average Southern plantation owner controlled a few dozen individuals in a system that would have been phased out in the Christian South of the C.S.A. in a few decades. Mr. Lincoln’s empowered federal government, on the other hand, has become a behemoth, invading every area of our life. Who then is the real tyrant? Does the “sacred cause” ring hollow now?
I pray that Mr. Collins will return to the house of his forebears where “states rights” is a bulwark against tyranny. His kinfolk were right!