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13 April 2010

The Lost Cause of Confederate History Month


The American Civil War (1861–1865)
More than 600,000 dead.

In 1861 eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. After the Confederate States were defeated, Reconstruction was begun to rebuild the decimated South. Southern White society set about almost immediately to rewrite history to explain their defeat by the North. The movement became known as The Lost Cause after the 1866 publication of a book by Edward A. Pollard, The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates.

The movement was one of the portrayal of the leaders of the Confederate States as exemplifying chivalry and representing proud Southern nobility. The North, in contrast, was characterized as being led by men with low moral standards set on destroying Southern culture.
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The Lost Cause also sought to characterize the nature of the War Between the States, not as one about freedom versus slavery, but of the preservation of States’ Rights as provided by 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They also sought to justify secession as a constitutional response to the encroachment of Northern “culture” on their way of life. Traditional White Southern society attributed their loss to the North’s superior resources and larger armies. Finally, the Lost Cause claimed that slavery was a victim- less institution with benevolent masters whose slaves were loyal and faithful.

Slavery as the cause of the Civil War was downplayed while the alleged aggression of the Northern culture was exaggerated. The Civil War has been mythologized to suit the political agendas of politicians, political parties, and social groups. They have manipulated the cause of the War (from an issue of slavery to resisting a powerful federal government) to create a rallying point to unite poor Southern White society against what they perceive as an affluent and elitist Northern culture. The claim of White supremacy was a central concept of the Lost Cause.
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Jim Crow, lynchings, segregation, and the violent reaction of Southern White Society to the Civil Rights Movement are evidence of the heritage of post- Civil War reaction by the so- called “benevolent” slave owners to their former “loyal and faithful slaves” asserting the same Constitutional rights that had been reserved for Whites only. There is an attitude among many Southerners that the Federal Government is evil and the Northern States aren’t the real America. There exists among the people of the South a general distrust of education and intellectualism. Anecdotal evidence of individual success in business despite a lack of formal education is offered as proof that a higher education has little value.

There has been a general expression of outrage at Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declaring April to be Confederate History Month in his State. I was a bit surprised at all the hoopla about this announcement. Confederate History Month is not a new idea. In fact, “celebrations” take place each year in April to mark the secession from the Union in most every Confederate State. The memorials, statues, parades and Confederate flags are to be found in every Southern State. The hope that the South will rise again has been the constant prayer of almost every White Southerner since the day General Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.

Rewriting history to present the Confederacy as a noble people oppressed by an evil federal government and looked down upon by an elitist Northern culture was a lost cause in the 19th Century, and it is a lost cause today. The Civil War was about slavery. The revisionists can manipulate the history of the War any way they please, but slavery is an immoral and evil institution that was the foundation of the Southern economy.

What is really being celebrated by Confederate History Month is the rebellion of a White supremacist slave owning society that would rather die in a War against their own federal government than share the liberties embodied in the Constitution with an African American.
Confederate History Month is a celebration of death and slavery. Personally, I wouldn’t wish any one a happy Confederate History Month, because other than the end of slavery, there isn’t much to be happy about.


Notes:

Seven states declared their secession from the United States before Abraham Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861:

South Carolina
Mississippi
Florida
Alabama
Georgia
Louisiana
Texas

After theConfederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 the following States seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy:

Virginia
Arkansas
Tennessee
North Carolina

State governments that regularly and traditionally have declared Confederate History Month include:

Alabama
Mississippi
Texas
Louisiana
Florida
Georgia
Virginia
North Carolina

United States Constitution, Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

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