A Student of History

March 16, 2007

What are they really doing in Georgia?

Filed under: The strange place called the South — John Maass @ 10:24 am

“A bill that would permanently establish April as Confederate History and Heritage Month in Georgia sailed through a Senate committee Thursday without any opposition.  Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), the sponsor of Senate Bill 283, told the Senate Rules Committee that the proposal would help promote tourism in the state and preserve an important part of the state’s and the nation’s history.”

Is this all the guy is up to?  Why am I not convinced?

The rest of the article is here.



  1. Considering the fact that just about every aspect of Confederate history – including its symbols and figures – are almost constantly under attack from different quarters, it makes sense to ‘disarm’ those launching the assaults before they can begin. Once it is understood that there’s nothing intrinsicly ‘evil’ about either the Confederacy or a study of it, then perhaps cooler heads will prevail and we won’t have ‘shouting matches’ that usually deteriorate into unedifying name calling which produce much heat but little light.

    For the Confederacy and the men who formed and fought for it weren’t evil. Were there ‘evils’ in the various arguments pertaining to the reasons that eleven states in the South pursued that course? Certainly. But the evils weren’t all on one side nor, in fact, was one of the main ‘evils’ – the institution of slavery – distinctly ‘Southern’ in nature. In their book, ‘Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged and Profited from Slavery’, authors Anne Farrow, Joel Lang and Jenifer (with one ‘f’) Frank clearly put the old belief that the South was the only participant in slavery to rest. Oh, and the three authors are journalists with the Hartford (CONNECTICUT) Courant, so it cannot be said that they have a regional ‘axe’ to grind.

    In the same way, Lincoln is quoted as saying that he would have accepted slavery ‘in perpetuity’ in order to keep the Union together. As well, when the war shifted from a war to preserve the Union to one whose goal was to free the slaves, the war lost popularity IN THE NORTH. Men deserted the Union army, saying that they were not willing to put their lives on the line for, as one New York cavalry man said, ‘the eternal Negro’.

    In the same way, the belief that some seem to have that the South was a hotbed of racist hatred while the North was an oasis of tolerance and egalitarianism is pure fantasy. ‘White supremecy’ was prevalent North and South – and everywhere in Western Civilization. Remember the British Empire’s motto regarding ‘natives’ in their colonies in which they spoke of ‘The White Man’s Burden’. Of course, that ‘burden’ was the BLACK man! Lincoln believed that freed slaves should be returned to Africa or sent to colonies in the West Indies established to receive them. His quotes regarding his own view of the place of the Negro in society vis a vie the white man does NOT match what most people believe about The Great Emancipator.

    Ergo, if there is a problem studying the Confederacy or honoring men like Robert E. Lee and Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson or displaying its honorable devices and symbols BECAUSE OF THE ISSUE OF SLAVERY, I’d like to point out that a great deal of history on BOTH sides – including men like Lincoln and Grant – whose wife Julia Dent Grant owned slaves not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation – and symbols like the AMERICAN flag – which, by the way, was the ONLY flag that ever flew on slave ships run out of New England, not North Carolina – will be consigned to the ash heap.

    One cannot judge the people of the past or those who live in alien cultures by the standards of the present or of one’s particular culture. Not only is it silly, but it’s patently wrong. The men (and women) of the Civil War era in the United States lived in a culture far different from our own. In some cases it was a worse culture as in matters such as slavery and child labor. In others, it was a better culture as in matters of the acknowledged rules of civilized behavior and the acceptance of moral absolutes. But better or worse, we play a dangerous game when we try to pick and choose what aspect of that past we will allow to be remembered and honored. It is far better be historically accurate than politically correct.

    Comment by Valerie Protopapas — March 16, 2007 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  2. Hmmm, I don’t exactly think that the Ga state legistlature’s goal is to be “historically accurate” over being “politically correct.” Any legislature is bound to be politically correct in their own way – namely keeping their jobs. I would guess that they are less interested in encouraging historical accuracy than playing to their constituants.

    I grew up in the South. The South certainly had and has no corner on racism – however, when push came to shove, they went to mat defending the institution. In the popular public debate about slavery, things get portrayed starkly and often inaccaurately. I would say that most people don’t know that Lincoln did not adopt an anti-slavery position till after he was president for several years or that he thought about sending them back to Africa. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Geogia state legistlatures motives shouldn’t be examined a bit.

    Interesting questions though – discussing the Civil War still fires people up!

    Comment by John Y — March 17, 2007 @ 8:06 am | Reply

  3. I find it unsettling that the state assembly wants to celebrate only one part of its history-the Confederate side of the Civil War. I am not PC by any stretch of the imagination (as those who know me can attest!), and I often find that interest groups are often way too oversensitive to their own perspectives–but in this case, how can a commemoration of only one slice of the war be a good idea when that state in particular needs to focus on so much more-like racial healing!

    Comment by John Maass — March 17, 2007 @ 8:11 am | Reply

  4. There is an old adage that the ‘winner’ writes history. It is hardly necessary for Georgia or any other state of the former Confederacy to present the UNION side of the issue as that has been our ‘accepted history’ since the end of the war.

    For instance, everyone KNOWS of the ‘horrors’ of Andersonville and of the fate of the man who was its commandant and the wretched state of Union prisoners in Libby or Belle Isle. But few know of the suffering of Confederate prisoners in places like Elmira (a/k/a ‘HELLmira’) and other Union hell holes where it was the POLICY of those who ran them to have their prisoners die of neglect and malnutrition (one commandant boasted that he had killed more Confederates than the Union Army!). In the South, on the other hand, food and medicine were lacking for EVERYONE and therefore one could hardly expect Union prisoners to eat better than their guards. These are facts that are well documented but largely ignored in the ‘history’ of the era as presented by ‘the winner’. Ergo, I see no reason why Georgia or any other Southern state should be ‘balanced’ in their historical perspective since no NORTHERN state has been forced to present a ‘balanced’ history of the war and its causes.

    As for ‘racism’: again, it was prevelant throughout the culture up to a very few years ago and many who cry out against Southern symbols do so NOT because of the War Between the States but because there were those who DISHONORED those symbols AFTER the war by their actions. Since a study in Confederate history is not going to honor such people, I fail to see the problem. Remember, the swastica was a venerable HINDU symbol long before Hitler and his minions chose to make of it a symbol of hatred and murder.

    Comment by Valerie Protopapas — March 17, 2007 @ 12:17 pm | Reply

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