There’s no way a blog called The Modern Southern Gentleman could stay silent on the issue of what flags should fly over what government buildings. So here’s my thoughts.
Why Did We Fight A War?
If the main reason for the Civil War was state’s rights as many say, the fact remains the cause will always be overshadowed by the specific issue people chose to rally around: the owning of another human being. I have a hard time believing the folks who wanted less interference from the federal government back then, couldn’t find a better hot button issue to fuel their cause.
As proof slavery was the driving force in the secessionist movement, let’s look at the designers of two of the flags for the Confederate States of America, including the one on the General Lee.
William T. Thompson
The first is Savannah newspaper editor, William T. Thompson.
Thompson was the main designer of the second flag for the Confederacy. Here’s what he had to say about the flag and the cause it represented.
“As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”—William T. Thompson
“As a national emblem, it is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism. Another merit in the new flag is, that it bears no resemblance to the now infamous banner of the Yankee vandals.”—William T. Thompson
Not much question on where Thompson stood on the issue of owning another human being and if it was worth going to war over.
William Porcher Miles
The other flag designer, William Porcher Miles of South Carolina, was an interesting guy. Miles was an attorney who also served as mayor of Charleston, where the Civil War started.
In a nutshell, Miles was a Fire Eater, a group of extreme secessionists who not only supported slavery but wished to resume the slave trade with Africa. He said slave trading laws should be left to individual states and the federal ban on owning another human being was an insult to southern honor.
His personal philosophy was summed up when he said he wanted to protect and preserve:
“southern rights, the equality of the states under the Constitution, and the honor of a slaveholding people.”
and then he said this about his perception of the North’s intentions:
“They are not contending for an abstract principle — they are not influenced by a mere spirit of fanatical opposition to slavery … they are deliberately, intentionally, and advisedly aiming a deadly blow at the South. It is intended as a blow. It is intended to repress her energies — to check her development — to diminish and eventually destroy her political weight and influence in this confederacy.”
It seems clear to me the main reason William Porcher Miles became a secessionist, was he wanted the owning of another human being to be legal. He wanted this because he believed in white superiority.
This is the same man who designed the flag that was originally rejected, but would later be adopted as the battle flag for Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Otherwise known as The Stars and Bars.
So the roots of the flag are the owning of another human being. No matter how many men who didn’t own another human being died defending that flag.
States rights is a just cause. A cause we should be taking up today because the tenth ammendmant to the Constitution makes it very clear the founding fathers never intended for the federal government to ever be as large and overpowering as it is today:
“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.”
Let’s just choose a better issue to rally around than the owning of another human being.
I hate the phrase “slippery slope”. Mainly because it’s used by hysterical liberals and conservatives to oppose an idea when they have run out of logical reasons. But the idea of removing all flags, statues or other reminders of our past worries me.
Because it’s censorship.
And that’s a path we do not want to go down as a country.
One of my favorite movies is “The American President” and there’s a great line in it about censorship and free speech.
“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”
It may be dialogue from a movie, but it’s still true.
What I’m saying is if we truly believe in freedom, then we can’t censor our past. Instead we need to learn about it and then learn from it.
The debate over race relations, flags and states rights won’t be solved easily or quickly. We need serious people willing to engage in frank discussions with the goal of finding solutions. Not race-baiters, white trash thugs and professional agitators looking to line their pockets and perpetuate their existence.
Brad Paisley and LL Cool J are an unlikely pair to collaborate on a song. But somehow it worked and they have given us song to frame this discussion and force all of us to confront our past and what we want our future to look like.