|Rivers Bridge Camp No. 842
Sons of Confederate Veterans
|"It is our duty to keep the memory of our heroes green..." Jefferson Davis
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|Motives Don’t Matter
Long have I pondered about how to deal with the problems of slavery and
race in any discussion or symposium on the War of Secession. Should one
include references to race and slavery quite apart from anything directly
involved with the issue being discussed? I considered a treatise of mine on
the Titanic as an allegory which reveals that there was so much more about
the origins of the war than the question of slavery—just as there was so
much more about the Titanic than the story of a boat and a berg. Then I
pondered the “apologia” with which many begin any presentation of the
Southern side pointing out how the presenter isn’t about criticizing blacks or
excusing slavery etc., etc. etc., positions which seem to obtain in any
attempt to bring up the facts about the War of Secession that do not reflect
the current orthodoxy. It seemed to me that opening on such a note
probably influences the audience to think exactly the opposite of what the
presenter wants them to think and leads to the dismissal of entire effort as
the ranting of racists.
Then I remembered something in a presentation of my own and that
proverbial “light bulb” went off in my brain. Frankly, I believe that for once in
my life, I am being brilliant with regards to the entire business of the whos,
whats and whys of the war! Below is Lincoln’s quote and my comment upon
“Can this government stand, if it indulges constitutional constructions by
which men in open rebellion against it, are to be accounted, man for man,
the equals of those who maintain their loyalty to it?”
Here again, Lincoln excuses an openly unconstitutional act, the creation of
West Virginia and its admission into the Union. Remember, that new state
was removed unconstitutionally from the State of Virginia. As do so many
amoral people, he blames Virginia, the State wronged by his actions, for
pointing out the unconstitutionality of the deed. Instead of doing what a true
representative of the law does—that is, follow the law—he points out that
those who agree with the admission are “loyal” to the government while
those who disagree are “rebels” and “insurrectionists.” But no mention is
made in the Constitution about the patriotism or lack thereof of those
committing an unconstitutional act or those who reject it. The act is either
constitutional or it is unconstitutional; it does not stand or fall by any other
For the first time I realized that there is no reason to defend or reject the
motives put forth surrounding the War! Was it about slavery? I’m sure to
many—both North and South—it was. Was it about economics? Again, the
same is true. Was it about religion? Culture? Corruption? Yes, yes, and
yes. But the point is, we don’t have to—and shouldn’t—waste our time on
any of this! There is only one criteria here as I said at the end of my
comment above: “(t)he act is either constitutional or it is unconstitutional; it
does not stand or fall by any other criteria.”
Secession is either constitutional or unconstitutional; the war to prevent or
end secession was either constitutional or unconstitutional. It matters not
what the motives involved on either side were, only the legality and
constitutionality of their actions. In the middle of the 19th Century,
secession was considered constitutional and therefore legal. Indeed, it took
a false decision by the Supreme Court four years after the War (Texas v.
White in 1869) to make secession a crime! Jefferson Davis was not brought
to trial as a traitor because several federal attorneys including Richard
Dana and Salmon Chase stated that Davis had committed no crime as
secession was legal! So despite Lincoln’s (and the other radicals’) belief
that the government created the States(!), as that was not the acceptable
constitutional understanding of the matter at the time, nothing that the
Southern States did was illegal no matter what motivated them to do so. On
the other hand, an attack by the federal government on the States was
treason according to the Constitution and no matter what motivated Lincoln
and the federals that fact does not change!
So the only argument we have to make is the constitutionality of the actions
of both parties. Their motives mean nothing. They neither validate nor
repudiate the actions taken. Motives in these circumstances have no
bearing on the legitimacy of the acts and calling something “constitutional”
or, in the alternative “unconstitutional" on that basis has no meaning in law
and thus, no meaning in regard to a presentation of historical facts.
Concerns about the good or evil of the motives of those involved in
historical actions might make a wonderful book, but it cannot be used to
create a policy or an historical judgment of either side.
Walter E. Williams · Jul. 15, 2015
The victors of war write its history in order to cast themselves in the most
favorable light. That explains the considerable historical ignorance about
our war of 1861 and panic over the Confederate flag. To create better
understanding, we have to start a bit before the 1787 Constitutional
Convention in Philadelphia.
The 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the war between the colonies and Great
Britain. Its first article declared the 13 colonies “to be free, sovereign and
independent states.” These 13 sovereign nations came together in 1787
as principals and created the federal government as their agent.
Principals have always held the right to fire agents. In other words, states
held a right to withdraw from the pact — secede.
During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made that
would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James
Madison rejected it, saying, “A union of the states containing such an
ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force
against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction
of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked
as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”
In fact, the ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island
explicitly said they held the right to resume powers delegated should the
federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution
never would have been ratified if states thought they could not regain
their sovereignty — in a word, secede.
On March 2, 1861, after seven states seceded and two days before
Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, Sen. James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin
proposed a constitutional amendment that read, “No state or any part
thereof, heretofore admitted or hereafter admitted into the union, shall
have the power to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the United States.”
Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B.
Florence of Pennsylvania and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a
constitutional amendment to prohibit secession. Here’s a question for the
reader: Would there have been any point to offering these amendments
if secession were already unconstitutional?
On the eve of the War of 1861, even unionist politicians saw secession
as a right of states. Rep. Jacob M. Kunkel of Maryland said, “Any attempt
to preserve the union between the states of this Confederacy by force
would be impractical, and destructive of republican liberty.”
Both Northern Democratic and Republican Parties favored allowing the
South to secede in peace. Just about every major Northern newspaper
editorialized in favor of the South’s right to secede. New York Tribune
(Feb. 5, 1860): “If tyranny and despotism justified the Revolution of 1776,
then we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions
of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.” Detroit Free Press (Feb.
19, 1861): “An attempt to subjugate the seceded states, even if
successful, could produce nothing but evil — evil unmitigated in
character and appalling in content.” The New York Times (March 21,
1861): “There is growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of
letting the Gulf States go.”
The War of 1861 settled the issue of secession through brute force that
cost 600,000 American lives. We Americans celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s
Gettysburg Address, but H.L. Mencken correctly evaluated the speech:
“It is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense.” Lincoln said the soldiers
sacrificed their lives “to the cause of self-determination — that
government of the people, by the people, for the people should not
perish from the earth.” Mencken says: “It is difficult to imagine anything
more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-
determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of people
to govern themselves.”
The War of 1861 brutally established that states could not secede. We
are still living with its effects. Because states cannot secede, the federal
government can run roughshod over the U.S. Constitution’s limitations of
the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. States have little or no response.
|Historical Ignorance II
Walter E. Williams · Jul. 22, 2015
We call the war of 1861 the Civil War. But is that right? A civil war is a
struggle between two or more entities trying to take over the central
government. Confederate President Jefferson Davis no more sought to
take over Washington, D.C., than George Washington sought to take
over London in 1776. Both wars, those of 1776 and 1861, were wars of
independence. Such a recognition does not require one to sanction the
horrors of slavery. We might ask, how much of the war was about
Was President Abraham Lincoln really for outlawing slavery? Let’s look
at his words. In an 1858 letter, Lincoln said, “I have declared a thousand
times, and now repeat that, in my opinion neither the General
Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can
constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it
already exists.” In a Springfield, Illinois, speech, he explained: “My
declarations upon this subject of Negro slavery may be misrepresented
but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the
Declaration (of Independence) to mean that all men were created equal
in all respects.” Debating Sen. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said, “I am not,
nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of
qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people; and I
will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the
white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races
living together on terms of social and political equality.”
What about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation? Here are his words: “I
view the matter (of slaves’ emancipation) as a practical war measure, to
be decided upon according to the advantages or disadvantages it may
offer to the suppression of the rebellion.” He also wrote: “I will also
concede that emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them
that we are incited by something more than ambition.” When Lincoln first
drafted the proclamation, war was going badly for the Union. London and
Paris were considering recognizing the Confederacy and assisting it in its
war against the Union.
The Emancipation Proclamation was not a universal declaration. It
specifically detailed where slaves were to be freed: only in those states
“in rebellion against the United States.” Slaves remained slaves in states
not in rebellion – such as Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and Missouri.
The hypocrisy of the Emancipation Proclamation came in for heavy
criticism. Lincoln’s own secretary of state, William Seward, sarcastically
said, “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where
we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set
Lincoln did articulate a view of secession that would have been heartily
endorsed by the Confederacy: “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. … Nor is this
right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing
government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that
can may revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as
they inhabit.” Lincoln expressed that view in an 1848 speech in the U.S.
House of Representatives, supporting the secession of Texas from
Why didn’t Lincoln share the same feelings about Southern secession?
Following the money might help with an answer. Throughout most of our
nation’s history, the only sources of federal revenue were excise taxes
and tariffs. During the 1850s, tariffs amounted to 90 percent of federal
revenue. Southern ports paid 75 percent of tariffs in 1859. What
“responsible” politician would let that much revenue go?
Ben "Cooter" Jones is perhaps best known for his roles in Smokey and the
Bandit and in The Dukes of Hazard but after his acting career he served
two terms in the United States Congress as a representative from Georgia.
Currently retired in Virginia, he is a Heritage Defense Officer for the Sons
of Confederate Veterans.
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right
to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
-- George Orwell
In our ceaseless struggle against the seemingly overwhelming forces of
Cultural Marxism, political correctness, identity politics, and historical
“presentism”, I believe we have great allies in an unlikely pair of 20th
century Englishmen. Eric Blair, whose nom de plume was George Orwell, so
despised totalitarianism that his pen name now applies to the mindless
miseries that have been created by the demagogues of right and left.
And without Winston Churchill, we all would likely live in a very different and
dystopian world, an “Orwellian” world.
For those of us who are daily being falsely attacked as racists and smeared
as bigots by a cabal of leftist academics, politicians, and journalists, the
words of those who have fought these fights before are a comfort and a
Quite simply, we are up against it. Those whose profession it is to vilify the
South and Southern culture and heritage have surrounded us with their
perfidious propaganda. They have enormous resources. They have a
national media which is almost entirely “woke” with the maxims of the radical
left. They have hundreds of millions of dollars. (The disgraced Southern
Poverty Law Center alone has an endowment of $477,000,000.) Our
opponents control the entire apparatus of the national Democratic Party.
They seemingly have the vast majority of academia. And of course, they
have long had the active support of the Hollywood film industry, whose
power and influence are a major determinant in American opinion.
If one believed what is being taught in our schools, read in our newspapers
and seen on our televisions and at movie theatres, one would have to
believe that those of us who dissent from this conventional wisdom are
indeed vile and scabrous reactionaries to all that is good and decent. And
that, of course, is exactly what they want you to believe.
But, and it’s a huge BUT, those who propagate this fiction are not, by a long
shot, in the majority. Serious polling shows that the nation is divided in
almost equal numbers about all of our social and political issues. It is
obvious that the United States is politically polarized between “urban” and
“heartland” viewpoints. Yet, although the “heartland” has electoral clout, as
was witnessed in the last Presidential election, it has no influence on the
national “narrative”. And with the notable exception of Fox TV, only one
viewpoint is being force fed to our citizenry.
Our story, about who we are and what we believe, is being buried by the
power of urban Interests. In fact, it is not just buried, but presented as
something dark, with hateful and dangerous intent. We are being defined,
brothers and sisters, by people who don’t know us and who really don’t
want to know us.
But we certainly do have the wonderful right to tell them what they don’t
want to hear. Here are just a few things they don’t want to hear, right off the
top of my head and in no particular order of importance:
They don’t want to hear that American slavery was a Northern enterprise
from beginning to end.
They don’t want to hear that the Emancipation Proclamation was a cynical
political move to influence Britain and France.
They don’t want to hear that the worst race riots in our history have been in
They don’t want to hear that slavery existed in all of the colonies and in all
of our original States.
They don’t want to hear about Lincoln’s belief that black folks and white
folks could not co-exist and that blacks should be deported to colonies
They don’t want to comprehend Lincoln’s words in his first Inaugural
Address, when he said that slavery was Constitutionally legal, and that the
states should pass the Corwin Amendment to make it perpetually protected
by the Constitution.
They don’t want to hear that 12 American Presidents owned slaves, as did
patriots like Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock.
They don’t want to hear that hundreds of blacks owned black slaves.
They don’t want to believe that black Southerners fought for the
They don’t want to see the War Between the States as a terrible event that
should have and could have been avoided.
They don’t want to believe that Lincoln could have withheld the
reinforcement of Ft. Sumter and extended diplomatic overtures to save the
They don’t want to hear that Reconstruction was a vindictive punishment
that hobbled the South and set the nation back. (There was no “Marshall
Plan for Dixie.)
They do not want to hear that the American Revolution was won in the
South, or that seven of our first ten Presidents were Southerners.
They don’t want to hear that the current wave of cultural Marxism with its
wave of attacks against Southern culture and legacy are doing very real
damage to the hard-won progress towards racial equality and
understanding that has been made in the last five decades.
They don’t want to hear that our nation is fed up with “snowflakes”, “social
justice warriors” and upper class “victims” of whatever the fashionable
They don’t want to acknowledge that the media has been complicit in
censoring voices of dissent. (Or to accept that the same media has been
complicit in the endless and omnipresent flow of sleazy “adult”
entertainment available to any child of any age.)
They don’t want to hear that there is an orderly process of immigration into
our nation which has worked well for a very long time.
They don’t want to hear that somewhere on this Earth an American in
uniform is in jeopardy, risking his or her life for our right to speak freely like
There is a lot that they don’t want to hear. So, we must continue to raise
our voices to the rooftops and press our cause at every chance. We are
Southerners. We are of all colors and religions and ages. And we will be
“Never, give in! Never give in! Never, never, never… In nothing great or
small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions or honor and good
sense!” -- Sir Winston Churchill
"The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak
it." -- George Orwell.
|Whose History – and Why It Matters
Some time ago, I wrote an article in response to a review of the book,
REBEL YELL: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall
Jackson. I did so because I believed what the review’s author, Matthew
Price, had written should not be allowed to go unchallenged. Mr. Price
noted that, “(Stonewall) Jackson was no proslavery zealot, but (author)
Gwynne does not address directly the somewhat vexed issue of writing
sympathetically about a figure who still fought for a cause utterly
discredited by history.” My question to Mr. Price was, to “whose history”
was he alluding when he made that claim?
Because the matter involved the history and heritage of the South, I
submitted my position to a Southern publication holding the same beliefs
as expressed in my essay. However, it was rejected not because of my
premise but because, in the words of those involved, the publication was
“. . . not publishing as many Confederate history articles as previously . .
. [Our] focus has shifted to current issues and to the future of the South.”
Frankly, I fail to see the “disconnect” between that which I countered—
Mr. Price’s definition of the cause for which Stonewall Jackson fought as
“discredited”—and those same “current issues” which the publication
wishes to address. After all, this contention is the very basis for the
ongoing efforts of cultural genocide “currently” directed against the
South! Ergo, it is neither rational nor intelligent to fight the present anti-
Southern brushfires while ignoring the inferno causing them; that is, Mr.
Price’s accepted version of “whose history!”
To further illustrate the importance of the defeat of Jackson’s “cause,” I
ended my article by stating, “For those who look at this country today
and wonder how we got a government that is essentially lawless . . . and
a Constitution that has been nullified along with its Bill of Rights, most of
the answers to their questions can be found in the defeat of General
Thomas Stonewall Jackson’s noble cause, a cause which has been made
ignoble through the triumph of that present version of “history.” I believe
that such a conclusion does address “current issues” for until and unless
we directly counter the present myth of the South’s seceding because of
and fighting for slavery, nothing else we do will matter. If we vacate that
“historic” field and leave Mr. Price’s version of “whose history” to define
all issues relative to the South’s past, then every present effort, no
matter how intelligent, rational or spirited, is going to be dashed to pieces
on the rocks of politically correct, factually inaccurate racial rhetoric.
Responding to every claim that the Southern cause was all about slavery
is analogous to going back and correcting a miscalculation at the
beginning of a mathematical equation. For no matter how involved and
lengthy the equation, if one starts with error one will never reach truth no
matter how many years one takes to solve the problem. All efforts to
avoid “Confederate history” and “move on” so as to address “current
issues,” is a study in futility for each and every time the South is
considered or discussed in the present, we invariably—and inevitably—
go back to that same “Confederate history.” This cannot be avoided and
all attempts to disconnect present from past only gives credence to those
who say that we do so because the South’s past is shameful and has
been discredited by actual (rather than “whose”) history.
Did my response to Mr. Price involve merely matter of history or did it not
represent an attempt to enlighten people to the facts that undergird the
entire question of “today’s” South? Do we who desire to re-establish the
South as representing the true vision of the Founding Fathers not
understand that until people realize the ante-bellum South was not all
moonlight, magnolias and slavery, we have little chance of achieving our
goal? Do we not realize that if we do not thwart this wretched narrative
about slavery as the South’s only cause, all of our efforts to stave off
oblivion are in vain? If we do not understand this reality, then we are
wasting our time trying to refute the image of the South as it is currently
understood in the 21st century. The simple fact is that we must repudiate
“whose history” and re-establish authentic history. Only by doing so will
the people of the South—their faith, intellect, morality, humanity and way
of life—be understood to be what is missing from the current United
States! On the other hand, if we do not—if we permit “whose history” to
remain the only history, the South will be consigned to oblivion.
|Walter E. Williams
|What They Don't
Want to Hear
Motives Don't Matter
Historical Ignorance II
What They Don't Want to Hear
Whose History and Why it Matters