Civil Agreement: I wrote this letter to The Boston Globe regarding Jeff Jacoby's January 5, 2011 article entitled "Reliving -- and denying -- an Ugly Past (link below)
Jeff, astounding we agree. Your January 5, 2011 The Boston Globe article "Reliving -- and denying -- an ugly past" was beautifully written and quite correct. It did not skirt the obvious and provable pre and post Civil War history of our country that slavery, indeed, was the Civil War's centrifugal force. To say that slavery was not the inextricable fact of the so called southern "cause" is like a Holocaust denier saying the Holocaust did not exist to the extent that Jews say it did. Those who deny both make me see red.
I suggest, if you haven't already, watching on PBS "American Experience" a biography of exalted-to-sainthood-by-the-south General of Confederate forces, Robert E. Lee. It speaks to interesting truths most especially about the background and personality of Lee. I never have held any illusions about southern Confederate history as I hold no illusions about the morphing of the contemporary Republican Party into its Dixiecrat child. The Republican Party bears absolutely no resemblance to the party of Lincoln despite the myth that Republicans love to perpetrate themselves as the party of him. The Republican Party today and its Dixiecrat parent resemble more the biography of Robert E. Lee.
Until his death the only regret Lee had was that he lost the biggest battle of his life, the Civil War. He did not regret ever having fought for essentially the preservation of slavery (he had 200 slaves) and for what he considered was "the cause of states rights.” States Rights was the ever-present euphemism (and still is in other ways today) which gave cerebral comfort to those who used it as intellectual cover for the perpetuation of slavery and the insurance it bestowed of a permanent black under class in the south. It was an intellectual ruse so that the southern states could maintain slavery and not have it be declared illegal by Federal executive order.
The south first thought the election of Lincoln would undermine the white valued way of life. They were wrong. Lincoln wanted compromise and wanted to do anything to keep the union together. The Emancipation Proclamation was done not so much because Lincoln loathed slavery, although he did not like it very much, but was rather revenge since the south did not capitulate immediately after its initial heavy losses. Contrary to what Lincoln thought, the Emancipation Proclamation gave the Confederacy under the command of Robert E. Lee its necessary infusion of anger which fueled the righteous might of their cause. Robert E. Lee held that and, indeed, used it to catapult him to southern fame.
Lee believed in the white Christian male superiority above everything else and that god ordered him to defend it. He became a fanatically religious Christian despite the obvious hypocrisy that he believed in (as de Tocqueville stated) that "peculiar institution" his entire life. To forget this fact is to deny history. Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis too, in the end, were lucky they were not hanged for treason. Were it not for the benevolence of President Lincoln and Union General Ulysses S. Grant they would have.
There are hundreds of monuments to Lee in the south. Having those monuments would be like Germany making hundreds of monuments to Hitler and scattering them all over Europe. In total deaths, the American Civil War was the deadliest war in American History with over 620,000 fatalities. Lee died of a massive stroke maybe as he contemplated the death he delivered both to his beloved Confederate troops and to the nation against which he committed treason.
The angry sentiments surrounding our nation's fracture have not mended entirely even to this day. One can clearly see much of it. Whether one calls our fight the Civil War, the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression, it is emblematic that the passionate divisions which created that war still exist. Robert E. Lee, I believe, would find a home in the Republican Party today in general and the Tea Bag Party movement in particular. This is a sad fact of our collective American experience indeed but one which cannot be denied!