Rebuttal to Nevin’s Nonsense on Southern Flag

Commentary by Steve Scroggins

Will Nevin recently opined in the University of Alabama’s school newspaper, Crimson White Online, that the Confederate flag was a "banner of hate." The text of his opinion is presented below my commentary.

I have no idea how long his 8/24/2006 opinion or the dozens of responses posted on the site will remain available online. There were many good rebuttals all signed by the authors. Almost all the posts written in support of Nevin’s bigotry used pseudonyms. Can’t say that I blame them, I wouldn’t sign my name to such nonsense either. Given the luxury of some additional time, I have enhanced or fortified my response here with supporting information below.

Author and scholar Thomas DiLorenzo has blasted the Lincoln myths (see the DiLorenzo section in the King Lincoln Archives), but one I want to dispute here is: "War was necessary to end slavery." Bullfeathers! DiLorenzo writes:

Myth #6: War was necessary to end slavery. During the 19th century, dozens of countries, including the British and Spanish empires, ended slavery peacefully through compensated emancipation. Among such countries were Argentina, Colombia, Chile, all of Central America, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, the French and Danish colonies, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. (Lincoln did propose compensated emancipation for the border states, but coupled his proposal with deportation of any freed slaves. He failed to see it through, however). Only in America was war associated with emancipation. {Bold emphasis mine}

The second myth or exaggeration is that America (specifically the American South) was a primary evil-doer in the world-wide institution of African slavery. Joseph Sobran, in his column, Slavery In Perspective, provides the bigger picture in the process of reviewing a book on the Atlantic slave trade by Hugh Thomas. This book is on our Suggested Reading List.

Of the 11 million African slaves transported across the Atlantic to the New World between 1440 and 1870, less than five percent (5% –about 500,000) were brought to what is now the United States. All the others were taken to Spanish, French, British, Danish and Portuguese colonies. Regarding Lincoln’s impact on slavery Sobran writes,

"Thomas indirectly punctures another cherished American notion: that Abraham Lincoln “ended slavery.” Lincoln is mentioned only three times, very briefly, in the entire book. Against the huge backdrop of the slave trade, he was only a local, marginal, and rather tardy figure. By 1850 it was clear that slavery was doomed throughout the Christian world. But just as we exaggerate our role in fostering slavery, we exaggerate our role in destroying it. We Americans tend to be self-important even in our self- flagellations. "

Sobran goes on to say that Africa, the continent, is a much better "symbol of slavery" than the Confederate flag. I’ll let him speak for himself.

All this puts something of a damper on the assumption that slavery was a sin specific or “peculiar” to the American South. The slaves had been Africans who were sold to European merchants by other Africans who had enslaved them in the first place. Several of Africa’s proudest empires were built on the sale of slaves. For centuries Africa’s chief export was human beings. When Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaks of “my African ancestors’ struggle for freedom,” she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Slavery was an African institution long before it spread to the South, and there was no abolition movement to trouble it. When Europe banned the slave trade, African economies reeled.

So it’s rather comical for American blacks to sentimentalize Africa and stress that they are “African Americans” while cursing the Confederate flag as a symbol of slavery. Africa has a much better claim to be such a symbol. Slavery still exists there, in Sudan and Mauritania and probably elsewhere.

DiLorenzo (and others) document the fact that Confederate flags are used world-wide as a symbol of opposition to tyrrany.

"By calling for the eradication of the Confederate battle flag from public places the Cato Institute, the NAACP, and the Southern Poverty Law Center are saying that we should destroy the most enduring symbol of opposition to centralized governmental power and tyranny, a symbol that to this day is a part of secession movements around the world, from Quebec to Northern Italy." –Thomas DiLorenzo

I found this link rather comical. An American who views the Confederate flag with the same ignorant contempt as Nevin is Baffled by Confederate Flags in Montreal. She’s off on a racist witch hunt in Quebec. Quick! Call Morris Dees to make sure the SPLC starts listing "hate groups" in Quebec!

With the help of DiLorenzo and Sobran above, we have some perspective needed to address my rebuttal below and Niven’s nonsense that inspired it.

[Note: You can hear Mr. DiLorenzo and others lecture at the Stephen Dill Lee Institute Oct. 20-21 in Macon, GA at Macon State College.]

Revised Rebuttal to Niven’s bigotry
by Steve Scroggins

Anyone with more than a passing interest in the War to Preserve Federal Revenues knows that slavery was NOT the key issue. Lincoln made clear in his inaugural address that he would approve a Constitutional Amendment (the 13th Amendment that was never ratified by the States—the “Slavery Forever Amendment” ) to permanently protect slavery….IF, IF the Southern states would remain in the Union as taxpaying serfs.

That amendment was not necessary; slavery was already protected by the Constitution and there was not a majority sufficient to abolish slavery via amendment (given its presence in many of the remaining States—at the outset 8 Union slave States vs. 7 Confederate states) in the immediate future so long as the South remained in the Union.

Lincoln stated that his intent and purpose was to collect tax revenues by force if necessary. Still, several Southern and border states (VA, NC, TN, et al) did not secede until Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to march into the South and force the “rebels” back into the Union. Their secession was about principle (unconstitutional and immoral use of force) and nothing to do with slavery. Maryland would have seceded, but Lincoln ordered most of the Maryland legislature arrested and jailed.

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…” —Declaration of Independence

[That famous secession document celebrated by all Americans each July 4!]

Niven asserts that Confederate soldiers were marching under their flag “to defend the Confederacy’s right to exist.” That’s true, but not in the sense that Niven and Coski imply, which is to “support all the policies” of the CSA government. They were defending a principle, namely that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

To put it in the vernacular, they didn’t want any Yankees or outsiders trying to boss them around or intimidate them with threats. Many viewed the war as the "second American revolution"—their fathers and grandfathers had seceded from the British empire. The Southern states had the right to leave the union and no one had a “right” to make them remain in it.

The Southern states were being robbed (tariffs) and that money was going almost entirely for “internal improvements” in the North (lighthouses, canals, railroads, etc.) Estimates are that Southern states were paying 75 to 90 percent of all federal taxes. The issues were largely the same as in 1776, and the list of grievances just as real.

Of course, even those issues became somewhat secondary in short order. They were fighting to defend their homes, their families and their lives against an invader who was determined to use force and take what they would not voluntarily give up. Cities, homes and farms were going up in flames! The invader was coming to kill, loot, rape and pillage.

Self defense—there’s no way anyone can put an evil or racist slant on that. Even those who didn’t want their states to secede were willing to fight to stop an invader from burning their homes and killing their families.

Let’s be clear. It was the Union armies who invaded the South with the objective to control or destroy it. When Confederate forces invaded Northern states, the objective was to seek advantage against military units. There was never any intent to occupy or control territory in northern States. Confederate armies observed the generally accepted rules of war; they didn’t make war on civilians, unlike their counterparts in the Union forces. Grant, Sherman and Sheridan made phrases like "scorched earth" and "totar war" and "war criminal" an American reality. [ Union Military Code of Conduct ]

"The Northern onslaught upon slavery is no more than a piece of specious humbug designed to conceal its desire for economic control of the Southern States." –Charles Dickens, 1862

When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, it was generally known that it was simply a propaganda ploy to keep Britain and France out of the war….and in the hopes of inciting a slave revolt in the South to further cripple and starve it. It’s noteworthy that Lincoln in September of 1862 offered to cancel the Proclamation if the Confederate States would return to the Union. There were no takers, there was no trust and at that point the outcome of the war remained very much in doubt.

Secretary of State William Seward said of the Proclamation, "We show our symapthy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free." Lincoln knew it was a transparent ploy but he would not risk antagonizing the "loyal" slave states that were still in the Union (the war wasn’t going well).

Emancipation was a VERY low priority for Lincoln to be followed by quickly deporting the free blacks outside the U.S. As Joseph Sobran suggested, Lincoln’s dream was an all white America. It’s well documented that Lincoln repeatedly for years seriously proposed to "colonize" blacks outside the U.S.

The slaves in the Union states remained slaves until well after the war. The laws passed by Northern States banning free blacks made it clear they didn’t want blacks on their soil. The pretense that freeing slaves was even a remote purpose of the war is totally refuted by documented fact. Abolition (in the South only) was a RESULT of the war, but never a true purpose. Abolition in the Northern states didn’t take place until the 13th Amendment was ratified by 27 of 36 states in December 1865.

The slaves in the South did not revolt as Lincoln had hoped. Most of the Southern blacks stayed at home and supported their land and their people against the invader…and they suffered greatly at the hands of the invader who robbed, raped and murdered them and who left them destitute by destroying their food, shelter and livestock.

The South was Right. States joined the Union by ratifying the Constitution and those “free and independent” States (see Declaration of Independence) retained the right to leave it at will. But the Constitution is not worth the paper it’s written on if the members of the pact have no integrity. The other partners, the Northern states, were willing to use force to keep the Southern states under their control because to allow their departure would have meant economic losses for the North—their ports and shipping economically undercut by the much lower tariffs in the Southern ports of Charleston, Savannah, Mobile and New Orleans.

The Lincoln Mythology machine is a powerful thing. It’s ironic that the Union painted itself as the glorious defenders of Liberty who freed the slaves….when in fact they shackled all the states to serve as slaves and serfs to a tyrannical central government which has grown larger and more powerful with each passing decade since. The Southern states were kept “down on the plantation” to serve the economic interests of the North. After they looted the South for another decade (they called it “Reconstruction”), they figured the South was whipped in spirit (not to mention dirt poor and destitute) and incapable of trying to leave again.

The Confederate flag stands for the Southern people and their righteous Cause which has not been snuffed out. As President Jefferson Davis said after the war, “[T]he principle for which we contended is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form.”

The Confederate flag stands for the Southern soldiers who gave their all to defend their homeland. It stands for Southern pride and defiance against tyranny—a desire to keep the limited government as established by the American Founders.

The Confederate flag is flown around the world as a symbol of defiance against tyranny. The people in eastern Europe flew it to denote their desire to be free of the Soviet Union. The people of Quebec fly it to show their desire to depart from Canadian control.

To an extent, any symbol’s meaning is variable within the eye of the beholder. Those beholders who assert that the symbol represents only “hatred” or “racial supremacy” are self-centered and ignorant of history—OR they are deliberate demagogues and race hustlers. To presume such evil intent on the part of proud Southerners is bigotry—bigotry as odious in every way as that which they denounce in others. Everyone is welcome to look the other way. With respect to flags and Southern symbols, where is the "tolerance" these bigots profess so often?

I know that many atrocities and injustices have been carried out under the U.S. flag. I choose to see the righteous, the positive in the Stars and Stripes. I choose to see “the Republic for which it stands” as articulated in the Constitution….a worthy ideal that my Southern ancestors sought to preserve by separating from those who wanted socialism and Empire. That Constitution is now widely ignored and abused…but our Flags and our Cause of liberty remains.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison on the benefits of a Bill of Rights: "Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, yet they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may again rally and recall the people. They fix, too, for the people the principles of their political creed."

The Confederate flag stands for our desire to return to limited government constrained by the Constitution and —the most necessary ingredient—- a moral people to give it backbone. America was built on capitalism and the profit motive is NOT evil or immoral per se. But when the worship of Mammon pushes all ethics and morals aside, we justify our actions by saying “it’s to preserve the Union” or “it’s manifest destiny” or whatever and we become a conquering Empire destined to follow all the previous Empires into the dust of history.

"The consolidation of the States into one vast empire, sure to be agressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of ruin which has overwhelmed all that preceded it." –General Robert E Lee

The military conquest and occupation (looting) of the South and the genocide of the plains Indians were a dark period of American history. During those dark days, the rights of ALL Americans were suppressed. Thousands of Southern sympathizers in the North were jailed as political prisoners (without trial) while “disloyal” newspapers were shutdown and the Constitution and Bill of Rights was suspended.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis (hero in the Mexican War, U.S. Senator from Mississippi, U.S. Secretary of War) was held in shackles in Fortress Monroe (VA) [despite his failing health] as a political prisoner for two years without benefit of a trial. Davis wanted nothing more than his day in court to vindicate the Southern Cause. He was released after two years with no trial.

WHY? Because the South was Right. He knew it. They knew it. And they didn’t want it shown to the world in a court of law.

Hell, No, we Ain’t Forgettin’!

–Steve Scroggins
Macon, GA

A nation’s flag, a banner of hate
by Will Nevin

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in the Civil War.

Just think about it – from 1861 to 1865, our nation tore itself to pieces as men from Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee marched against men from Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania. For four years, the United States danced around the edge of the abyss – and nearly fell in.

Even now, nearly 150 years later, it seems as if I’m immersed in the War Between the States. The cemetery that passes for my next-door neighbor honors four Confederate unknowns; Union counterparts rest in lonely unmarked graves, vertically stacked like cordwood for the rest of time.

Coupled with the pageantry, heroism and leadership of men like Confederate Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson and Union Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a love of Civil War history has grown into a vigorous and passionate pursuit of knowledge.

Even with the academic interest, there’s still one aspect of the Civil War that has gnawed on my conscience: the Confederate battle flag.

As John Coski wrote in his book, "The Confederate Battle Flag," the blue St. Andrew’s cross on a red field first appeared in 1861 in Virginia. From there, it spread to the other armies of the Confederacy, and by the war’s end, it was the de facto national flag for the Confederate states.

Of course, the flag didn’t disappear with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender in 1865. It lives on today in a myriad of forms, from clothing and other apparel to sitting proud atop flag poles across the South.

But why do we continue to embrace this flag?

For some, it’s cultural heritage.

"The flags of the Confederacy represented the Southern people, their nation, and their armies. There was no hate associated or intended with the making or displaying of the Confederate symbols of 1861-1865," reads a Sons of Confederate Veterans Web site. "Those symbols represent our ancestors and their struggles and sacrifices. They are a part of this countries [sic] history."

If we could examine the flag in a vacuum, then sure, it could very well mean only a link to the past. However, since the flag first flew with the Army of Northern Virginia, it has accrued multiple layers of meaning – namely the unceasing carnage of war, slavery and white supremacy.

In his book, Coski tells the story of the 26th North Carolina Infantry at the pinnacle battle of Gettysburg. There, the single division lost 14 men from its color guard alone, a savagery mirrored throughout the war. In total, approximately 600,000 men lost their lives during the conflict, according to Encyclopedia Americana. Holding that flag in such an esteemed light merely glorifies and celebrates that horrific carnage.

While soldiers clashed on the battlefield, politicians made policy. And in the South, no policy was more popular than slavery.

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone 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," said CSA Vice President Alexander Stephens in an 1861 speech.

As Coski points out, if the army marched under the battle flag to defend the Confederacy’s right to exist, it’s certainly not hard to connect the flag to the South’s policies – including slavery.

The battle flag’s life continued with the offspring of slavery, white supremacy. As the fight to end segregation gained steam, white supremacists began to use the flag as Ku Klux Klan members posed with it and White Citizen’s Councils covered their offices with it. Coski, however, tells a story that hits much closer to home.

On Feb. 3, 1956, Autherine Lucy was the first black student to enroll at the University. That same night, a group of students marched from campus to downtown, singing "Dixie" and chanting "Keep Bama white," and "To hell with Autherine" – all the while backed by Confederate flag.

And we want to celebrate this flag?

"If you’re wearing it just to wear it or waving it just to wave it, it’s offensive," said Tiffany Blevins, a sophomore majoring in telecommunication and film.

"Some people use it to say they’re rednecks. Some people use it to say they’re racists," said Derryck Gleaton, a freshman majoring in music performance. "Some just use it as a flag."

Blevins and Gleaton are black. As such they bring a perspective to the table that has been relegated to the fringes for far too long.

The Confederate battle flag is not for trashy shirts or tacky jewelry. The Confederate battle flag is not for misguided pride or impudent display. The Confederate battle flag is not for celebration.

The Confederate flag should be mourned – mourned for the carnage of generations ago, mourned for the evil of slavery and mourned for the soul-crushing wickedness of white supremacy.

"For a split second, it makes you feel like a second class citizen," Blevins said.

And that’s a split second too long.

Will Nevin is managing editor: Web of The Crimson White. His column appears on Thursdays.

It is apparent that Will Nevin, separated from this TRUE history, is easily persuaded to believe demagogues. His education has, as General Cleburne predicted, inclined Nevin to "regard our gallant dead as traitors" and their symbol as something to be hidden in shame. Yes, the victors write the history, but as Tilley said, "crushed or not the truth is still the truth."


"Surrender means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the War; will be impressed by all the influences of history and to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit subjects for derision." –Gen. Pat Cleburne, CSA"

"The sword is mighty, but principles laugh at swords. Overwhelming force may crush truth to earth but, crushed or not the truth is still the truth." –John S. Tilley, The Coming of the Glory (author of War for What? and The Coming of the Glory)

"All that was, or is now, desired is that error and injustice be excluded from the text books of the schools and from the literature brought into our homes; that the truth be told, without exaggeration and without omission, truth for its own sake and for the sake of honest history, and that the generations to come after us not be left to bear the burden of shame and dishonor unrighteously laid upon the name of their noble sires.” Rev. James P. Smith, Staff of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, C.S.A

"People separated from their history are easily persuaded." –Karl Marx "No nation can long survive without pride in its tradition." –Sir Winston Churchill

" A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know where it is today…The reputation of an individual is of minor importance to the opinion posterity may form of the motives which governed the South in their late struggle for the maintenance of the principles of the Constitution. I hope therefore, a true history will be written, and justice will be done them." –Gen. Robert E. Lee."

"I saw in States Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. . . . I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo." —Lord Acton in a letter to Robert E. Lee, November 14, 1866

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