In response to some recent articles that I wrote in defense of honoring the memory of the Confederacy and such distinguished Confederate and American heroes as Robert E. Lee, I received some telling comments from readers who are, presumably, “conservative.”
These readers, some of whom explicitly claimed to agree with most of what I usually write, took unequivocal exception to my position on Confederate monuments. Their arguments ultimately boiled down to this:
(1)The Confederates fought in defense of slavery.
(2)Slavery is immoral.
(3)Therefore, via (1) and (2), the Confederates were immoral.
(4) The immoral should never be publicly honored.
(5) Thus, by way of (3) and (4), Confederates should not be publically honored.
As I have observed, while the War Between the States did indeed have something to do with slavery, (1) is simply incorrect. Most Confederate soldiers, as well as several prominent generals—including, most notably, Robert E. Lee—did not own slaves by the time that the war was raging. To claim that the mass of soldiers without whom the South never could have so much as thought of fighting sacrificed their lives and those of their family members for the sake of defending the right of a minority of wealthy aristocrats to own slaves is preposterous on its face. It is no less preposterous than the proposition that young lower and middle-class American men today would be willing to risk limb and life so that the “one-percent” can continue to get tax write offs or contracts with foreign businesses.
Besides this, there is no topic in perhaps the history of the entire world that has had more ink spilt over it than that of this war. That is, in more serious times, people, both the laity and scholars, realized that the complexity of this tragedy defied all attempts to reduce it to such simple-minded, one-dimensional caricatures of the sort advanced by those who would attribute to Confederates a single, nefarious motive: the love for slavery.
But I have already addressed this last point, and, at any rate, the first premise is false.
The second premise that asserts the immorality of slavery is true. Yet it is also irrelevant, for without (1), it is not possible to get to (3), and since the immorality of the Confederates cannot be established through (1) and (2), (3) cannot be combined with (4) to arrive at (5).
This argument fails.
However, an even larger problem with the anti-Confederate position is its profound inconsistency.
Let’s just assume (counterfactually) for the time being that the anti-Confederates are correct and that every single Southern man and woman that took up the cause of secession was committed to perpetuating the institution of slavery. Let us suppose that, as their most outspoken enemies assure us, Confederate symbols are monuments to “White Supremacy.” If Confederate symbols deserve to go the way of the dinosaur on the assumption that these claims are true, then so too do virtually all of the signs and symbols of Western civilization generally and America specifically deserve to be purged from public.
The roots of what today is recognized as Western civilization are to be found in ancient Greece. Though they weren’t the first of the West’s philosophers, Plato and Aristotle enjoy the distinction of being among their greatest. Indeed, Western philosophy and even Christian theology would be inconceivable without these two men. Yet even Plato’s ideal Republic included slaves and Aristotle articulated a defense of “natural slavery”—the enslavement of those who by nature were suited to be slaves.
Since slavery is immoral, then the reasoning of the anti-Confederates demands that Plato and Aristotle be given the same treatment as General Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and every other Confederate. They should no longer be honored with pride of place in philosophy texts and courses. Neither should The School of Athens, the famous fresco painting of the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, any longer be extolled as great art. The original should be removed from the Apostolic Palace, in the Vatican, where it has hung for centuries, and the numerous copies that decorate art galleries around the world should be expunged as well. After all, it is a tribute to Greek philosophy and features, at its center, Plato and Aristotle.
Since slavery is immoral, all public commemorations of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison, and a whole lot of other Founding Fathers involved with slavery are immoral as well. Of the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention, nearly half of them either owned slaves or in some capacity facilitated the slave trade (e.g. Robert Morris, of Pennsylvania, owned a slave ship and invested in slave plantations).
States, cities, schools, streets, and parks named after the Founders should be renamed. Statues and other monuments (like Mount Rushmore, which features the faces of Washington and Jefferson), must be toppled.
The United States Constitution, revered by many Americans, including those “conservatives” who now side with the left against Confederate monuments, must be divested of its honor. Like the statues of Lee and Jefferson Davis, it should be hidden out of sight and possibly scrapped altogether, for it was authored by a slave owner and ratified by many slave holders.
The Declaration of Independence, authored by a slave-owner, should also be relegated to the dustbin of history along with monuments to the Confederacy.
Since it is “White Supremacy” that is the real target of the anti-Confederates, the name of America itself must be retired. America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, a European explorer. Vespucci helped to inaugurate the European invasion of the New World, thus resulting in the exploitation, displacement, and killing of the indigenous peoples.
This list of candidates that, by the lights of the cultural cleansers, deserve at least as much as the Confederates to be expelled from the public could continue ad infinitum.
And this is because the war against monuments to the Confederacy is no such war at all. It is, rather, a war against the history of Western or European civilization, a history that its enemies deem is too “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” comprehensively, too white, Christian, heterosexual, and male.
Those “conservatives” who fail to recognize this are willfully blind. They are also helping to expedite the “fundamental transformation” of America and the West in aiding and abetting their nemeses against General Lee and the brave American soldiers who he led.