One Man’s Reply
The Confederate Flag: Heritage or Racism?
The flag that we know as the Confederate Battle Flag was used by many (but by no means all) Confederate military units during the War for Southern Independence (1861-1865). It was their flag, and they alone had the right to interpret its meaning.
When the War was over, the Confederate soldiers became Confederate veterans. They formed an organization known as the United Confederate Veterans. The Confederate Battle Flag was still their Flag, and they alone had the right to interpret its meaning.
In 1896, since many of the Confederate veterans were aged, infirm, and dying off, the Sons of Confederate Veterans was formed as the successor organization to the United Confederate Veterans. The legacy and authority of the United Confederate Veterans was transferred to them over the next ten years. This transfer of power culminated in a speech given 25 April 1906 at New Orleans, Louisiana by Stephen Dill Lee, Confederate lieutenant-general, and commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans:
"To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish. Are you also ready to die for your country? Is your life worthy to be remembered along with theirs? Do you choose for yourself this greatness of soul?
Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves are triumph and defeat."
Since 25 April 1906, therefore, the Confederate Battle Flag has been the flag of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They alone have the right to interpret its meaning. They have interpreted its meaning, and explained (repeatedly!) that meaning – and it is not hatred, nor is it bigotry.
The Confederate Battle Flag is not the flag of the Kluxers or any other group of racists They do not have the right to interpret its meaning.
The Confederate Battle Flag is not the flag of the NAACP. They do not have the right to interpret its meaning.
As for the War having been fought over slavery: If the seceded States had wanted slavery to be perpetuated, all they had to do was re-enter the Union and ratify the Corwin Amendment.
The War was fought because the United States invaded the Confederate States. That invasion was triggered by the Confederate States’ having seceded from the United States. The secessions were triggered by dissatisfaction over an overly-intrusive, irresponsible government — the same causes that triggered the secession of thirteen States from Britain in 1776, the secession of Mexico from the Spanish Empire in 1818, and the secession of Texas from Mexico in 1836.
Clifton Palmer McLendon
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