Thursday, April 14, 2011

Black Presidents

150 years later, the Confederacy still hasn't figured out that it lost the War.

Anonymous Comment
Repealing Reality, March 24, 2010

Since Obama's election I've written a few pieces noting how his becoming President has caused certain elements of society to stoke the flames of sentiments tracing back to the Civil War. Others have noticed this as well, and last week CNN featured a John Blake piece noting these themes, including a poll detailing the ways in which Southern sentiments remain.

The conversation continues to spread. This week Rachel Maddow picked it up and noted that some have been writing on the subject for years, in particular Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic (1999) which discusses how certain groups of society just can't let go, can't move on, can't join the progress of civilization towards a world that works for everyone. It should be no surprise that such energies would approach fever pitch with the election of an African American President.

The irony of the thematic links between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln is rich. The cast of characters that demonize Obama are essentially the same set of folks that despised Lincoln during his presidency. For the same reasons. In fact, during Lincoln's presidency these individuals contemptuously referred to him as "the Black President."

Literally, and while words like "socialist" and "fascist" were not around, the same rhetorical themes existed with "tyrant, dictator, despot..." towards Lincoln. With it came the resulting noise about nullification, secession, and the like. (The 1863 cartoon refers to Lincoln as "King Abraham.")

A certain, 150-year déjà vu itches the national psyche as we see over the top vilification of Obama and rabid attempts to undermine his legitimacy. It's not hard to find the 1860 version of the same sentiments towards the first president referred to as "black." Unlike then, these days everyone appears afraid of offending those behind the vitriol. We see efforts to lie and/or sugar coat the ugly reality underneath the animosity, including attempts to re-write history regarding the Civil War and what it was all about, lies and deception piled higher and higher on what these folks are and were.

The lies are old and have changed little. The Confederacy lied back then. This included ludicrous assertions such as that the slaves liked slavery (not kidding). Of course, when John Brown raided Harper's Ferry, the South went ballistic, because in truth they were terrified the "happy" slaves would join the revolt.

More significantly, the Confederacy lied about the conflict being about states rights. We still hear conservatives pushing this nonsense today. What a crock. The Confederacy was more hostile to states rights than the North. Immediately after it was created, it started imposing its will on states far more intrusively than what occurred in the North, invading both West Virginia and Tennessee to keep them in line. In December 1862 President Jefferson Davis denounced states rights as destructive. In February of 1864, Davis remarked, "Public meetings of a treasonous nature are being held in the name of states rights."

I'll jump to the punch line - the rather simple fact that whites in the South founded the Confederacy on the ideology of white supremacy. Its sole mission and purpose was to justify and protect the institution of slavery.

Occam's Razor, and unlike today's mouthpieces and all of their gobbledygook, back then Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens didn't mince words, "Our new government's foundations are laid, it cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man - that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."

You won't find that quote in a high school history book in this country, not one. That's the snake, and rather than denounce it for what it is, rather than fight it as we did in the 1960s, the GOP has chosen to wine, dine, and dance with it, ironically betraying the first "black president," the very man who founded their party in the first place.

If you want a deep dive, The Truth About the Confederacy provides considerable food for thought and shows how its material is particularly relevant in the current political discourse.


Blogger Sirocco said...

From the Georgia articles of succession:

"The Presidential election of 1852 resulted in the total overthrow of the advocates of restriction and their party friends. Immediately after this result the anti-slavery portion of the defeated party resolved to unite all the elements in the North opposed to slavery an to stake their future political fortunes upon their hostility to slavery everywhere. This is the party two whom the people of the North have committed the Government. They raised their standard in 1856 and were barely defeated. They entered the Presidential contest again in 1860 and succeeded.

The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers.

With these principles on their banners and these utterances on their lips the majority of the people of the North demand that we shall receive them as our rulers.

The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization.

For forty years this question has been considered and debated in the halls of Congress, before the people, by the press, and before the tribunals of justice. The majority of the people of the North in 1860 decided it in their own favor. We refuse to submit to that judgment, and in vindication of our refusal we offer the Constitution of our country and point to the total absence of any express power to exclude us."

4/14/2011 2:39 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

From the Mississippi articles of succession:

"In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."

4/14/2011 2:40 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

From the South Carolina articles of succession:

"The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue. ...

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief.

We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do. "

4/14/2011 2:44 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

Regarding the states right argument, it's worth noting, among other things, the Confederacy enacted national conscription in early 1862, which even a number of Southerners at the time saw as a gross violation of state's rights.

I believe attempts to limit the amount of cotton available for export to Europe (even disregarding the limits imposed by the Union blockade) were also imposed on the states by the Davis administration. There are numerous other examples.

All of which means, of course, "states rights" was never the major issue of the war, other than as it applied to a state's right to determine whether or not slavery would be considered legal within it's borders.

4/14/2011 2:52 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Sirocco's direct quotes from the articles eliminate any doubt as to what the Civil War was about, which is as x4mr described.

It is interesting to see people making efforts to invent other views of the war or the people that supported slavery, which if we're honest is completely founded on the convictions of white supremacy.

Without racism, and brutal racism at that, slavery makes no sense.

If Obama were white, the current political environment would be completely different.

4/14/2011 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intelligent post, better than most blogs.

It is rather fascinating the way the country tries to white wash the racism that persists to this day, almost like a perverse "inverse political correctness" seeking to avoid straight talk.

Sirocco points out that the truth is right there, repeatedly, in irrefutable black and white, and Navigator's point is well taken - without racism slavery can make no sense.

4/15/2011 3:34 PM  

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