The Politicians Who Celebrate Jeff Davis
Mr. Gould is a Stanford law professor and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, is the author of the recently published, Diary of a Contraband: The Civil War Passage of a Black Sailor.New Year's Day marked the 140th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which declared freedom for slaves in the 13 states that were in rebellion.
At the time, Confederate President Jefferson Davis characterized Lincoln's order as "the most execrable measure in the history of guilty man." Davis' response also promised to execute captured Union officers for "inciting servile insurrection," though the threat was pulled back. But the Confederates did in fact execute imprisoned black soldiers and their officers.
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott's long-standing advocacy of segregation and racial discrimination is now well chronicled. All of this was dramatized by Lott's laudatory tribute to Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1948 Dixiecrat presidential campaign. But the support that the former Senate majority leader and many of his conservative right-wing Republican colleagues have provided for the defeated Confederacy has received less attention. That support suggests that Lott is only one of a number in public life whose nostalgia for the past has roots that run deeper than 1948.
Lott's love affair with Jefferson Davis -- he has stated that he feels "closer to Jefferson Davis than any other man in America" -- has manifested itself in his successful restoration of Davis' citizenship, notwithstanding a lack of any repentance for his pro-slavery position or his rebellion against the lawfully constituted government of the United States.
My great-grandfather, William B. Gould, an escaped slave fighting in the U. S. Navy, derided "would-be King Jeff" and made the following entry in his diary on June 16, 1865: "We heard that Davis has been carried to Washington to be tried by court-martial on the indictment of treason. We hope that the sour apple tree is all ready."
He was referring to the popular Civil War song "Good Bye Jeff," which noted that the conclusion of the war should find Davis "hanging on a sour apple tree" because of his traitorous conduct. Davis was not tried for treason, and today his memory is glorified, not only by Lott, but also by other prominent politicians in the Republican Party, such as Attorney General John Ashcroft, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey -- all of whom have given lengthy interviews carried by the extremist Confederate Southern Partisan magazine.
Like Lott, Ashcroft waxed eloquent about "setting the record straight" and "defending Southern patriots" such as Davis. Davis' position on slavery and race went unmentioned.
This past decade, political polarization flowered fully as the Republican Party acquired its current Southern cast, obstructing numerous initiatives of President Bill Clinton, attacking New Deal and civil rights legislation, and declaring war on the role for the federal government in the social welfare protection arena. This process achieved its logical absurdity when congressional Republicans produced a government shutdown in 1995.
The impetus for this tilt has its origins in the civil rights legislation of four decades ago, when President Lyndon Johnson accurately prophesied that the Democratic Party's support for these reforms would translate into electoral punishment in the South. Erstwhile Thurmond Dixiecrats and other Southern Democrats transplanted themselves into the Republican Party. Lott just happens to be one of the most visible proponents of segregationist and discriminatory policies rooted in Confederate philosophy. His leadership position lead to his exposure -- but he obtained leadership because so many in his party support his ideas, so long as they are expressed subliminally.
Again in 1865, my great-grandfather noted in April the "glad tidings that the "Stars and Stripes" had been planted over Richmond, Va., the capital of the defeated Confederacy by the "invincible Grant." He wrote in his diary: "While we honor the living soldiers who have done so much, we must not forget to whisper for fear of disturbing [sic] the glorious sleep of the many who have fallen" -- martyrs, he noted, to the "cause of Right and Equality."
As we mark the historic anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,
it will be appropriate to ask not only the former Senate majority leader but
many of his colleagues on his side of the aisle, about which side they support
-- that of Jefferson Davis (who viewed Lincoln's executive order as "execrable")
or the flag of "Right and Equality" that brought him down two years
later in the midst of unprecedented casualties and suffering. Only then can
we truly begin to bind up the wounds of which Lincoln spoke eloquently in his
historic Second Inaugural Address.
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Javier Ramirez - 10/25/2003
There are several misleading and half truths in Mr. Worley's latest post. The issue of slavery is more complicated than he would like to paint. First on the question of seccession Mr/ Worley would do well to read J.Q. Adams speech on the 50th anniversary of the constituiton in which he said that the union was one of the "heart" not of a "right". Mr. Worley is simply factually wrong on New England's seccession movement. Quite the opposite he actually gave it his blessing! Please read any standard collected works on Jefferson for proper citation. This is consistent w/ his K/V Resolutions. I agree that he did later make some contridictory statements but to dismiss him because you don't like his "idealism" is a little extreme. By the same token Madison made statements that were inconsistent w/ his previous comments. Madison for example believed that the Fed. Govt. could not coerce a state from leaving the union and he stated that the constitution was a "compact" which if broken by one state was would be basis for any state to declare the compact void. Even Justice Story a strong nationalist who in his commentary wrote against seccesion nonetheless supported N.E. Seccesionist movement.
Several delegates to the const. convention spoke on the right to leave the union if the new govt. ever trangressed its powers.
Here Davis stood on solid legal grounds. BTW Mr. Worley what ever happened to what was supposed to be the trial of the century, Davis' supposed treason trial?
As for slavery the confederate constitution forbade the importation of slaves from foreign countries, something no other western nation had done before. Davis acknowledged the reality that slavery was a cause of the war, but in a letter to his wife(written in 1862 I believe) he also was convinced that even if the south were to win the war slavery would see a natural death.
Bottom line is that there was no monolithic view on slavery in the south despite what many leaders decried.
hiphippy - 9/6/2003
Lott was a white supremacist and in the course of patting his friend on the back reiterated his long held believes about race and America.
Can a leopard change it's spots, if he can it would be very difficult. If there had been some great conscience raising amount white supremacist, then you would have reason to believe he had saved his soul. In the absence of some a Gandhi , King, or Dahlia Lama I doubt there has been much of a change of heart. All Trent Lott's record shows is he will do or say that which he does not believe in to get elected.
German history has this same sort history however it has done a much better job with education. One should not that in the former east Germany the never acknowledge it and that's were the neo-nazi/skinhead movement it.
hip - 9/6/2003
"Yes the argument about Lincoln's Emancipation Proclaimation is correct." I'm not sure this is true because in kentucky slaves were freed Auguest 9th 1864 after Kentucky left revolt.
Oscar Chamberlain - 1/9/2003
One can imagine a peaceful ending of slavery. It is harder to imagine a peaceful end that would have placed equal rights provisions (14th and 15th amendments) in the Constitution.
The more likely outcome of peaceful emancipation would have been a national apartheid similar to what developed in the post Civil War South.
That lack of sectionalism--and the absence of constitutional declarations of racial equality--would have made it much harder for a civil rights movement to succeed.
Mark Coleman - 1/8/2003
Here's an interesting comment by Tyler Anbinder, history professor at George Washington University, which appears elsewhere on this Web site, in the discussion between him and NPR host Robert Siegel about the accuracy of Martin Scorsese's new film "Gangs of New York":
ROBERT SIEGEL: "The movie concludes with a depiction of a very famous historical episode in New York: the draft riots, Civil War-era draft riots. How well does he do, do you think, in showing us what that was all about?"
Prof. TYLER ANBINDER: "In showing what that was all about, he does a pretty good job. New Yorkers were very much ambivalent about fighting the war by 1863, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE BY THEN IT HAD BECOME A WAR NOT ONLY TO SAVE THE UNION, BUT TO FREE THE SLAVES. And New Yorkers were not very enthusiastic about fighting for African-Americans. So he does a very good job showing the rage of the mob; their animosity towards the fact that for $300 you could get out of the draft; their animosity towards African-Americans; how they took out their vengeance on the city's black population." (emphasis added)
Now, is it just me or does that statement sound like some Americans thought the war was about something other than slavery when it first got under way?
And just to clarify, nobody in this thread has said that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War. The issue was framed more as a question, to explore why America was virtually the only nation during that era that was unable to peacefully eliminate slavery. Here is what was actually said:
"Every other nation abolished slavery through compensated emacipation. Why couldn't the United States do the same thing? One answer could be that the war was not really about slavery. Do you think that viewpoint has any merit?"
Some people, obviously, think the answer to that last question is no. Slavery, they say, was the cause of the war, whether directly or indirectly, and, actually, I think that opinion has much merit. Others think the answer is more complex, and that if the other possible causes were better understood, it would help us better understand America's history since the Civil War.
Poindexter - 1/8/2003
My apologies, but I was not arguing for sainthood for Abraham Lincoln, nor did I express the belief that Northern leaders were angelic. Earlier in this thread it was stated that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War... excuse me, the War of Northern Agression. I am expressing my view that slavery was the primary cause of the war and that if slavery had not existed, there would have been no Civil War. Abraham Lincoln's racist beliefs are immaterial to that fact.
What is material is that slavery was the direct cause of secession, and the secession of the Southern Confederacy led directly to the Civil War.
As to whether Confederate leaders were traitors: wouldn't it be great to be empowered to pass judgment on constitutionality based on my whim and convenience. But I'm not and neither was Jefferson Davis. Of course, the Confederate leaders held the position that the had the right to secede and that they were not traitors. But their position on secession was as immaterial as Ol' Abe's bigotry. They did secede, they did set up their own government and they did attack Fort Sumner. That, my friend, was treason - pure and simple.
Could the war have been avoided? I think so, but it wasn't. Who is playing "What if?" now?
Mr. Coleman, I must admit this Confederate apologia revisionist history that the Trent Lott buffoonery has pulled the cutain back upon is just distasteful to me. I call it Confederacy-Lite. These people from the Council of Conservative Citizens or the League of the South and the Southern Patriot would have us all forget that slavery ever existed at all. It was all just mint julips and minstrel shows and great fun for all down on the plantation. Sorry, not distasteful, just plain disgusting.
If Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee had been hung from the nearest tree like any common traitor, and if all the plantation properties had been deeded over to the slaves who had built them, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.
Mark Coleman - 1/8/2003
Pointdexter, you asked, if there had been no World War II, would there still have been a Holocaust? I don't know. But if you want to play the "What If?" game, would we have had World War II, Hitler and the Holocaust if there hadn't been World War I? And would there have been World War I if there hadn't been the Spanish American War? And would we have had the Spanish American War if there hadn't been the U.S. Civil War? It all flows from the corruption of constitutional principles that Lincoln initiated by declaring war on the states that wished to secede. As I said earlier, one may disagree that the states had a right to secede, but that was not the position of the leaders of the states that did, so it is extremely dubious to call them traitors. Despite both yours and Jesse Worley's eloquent comments, I still believe the War Between the States could have been avoided -- and many lives saved -- if other actions had been taken. For example, the Fugitive Slave Act, which forced residents of the free states to return runaway slaves to their owners, could have been abolished, and that would have contributed to the crumbling of the slavery edifice. I don't recall Lincoln ever advocating that that law be repealed. In fact, as a lawyer, he represented slave owners in cases involving runaway slaves. He never represented slaves in such cases. As I noted earlier, the Emancipation Proclamation wasn't even issued until well into the war, and it didn't even apply to the states in the Union that still had slavery. I was impressed that Mr. Worley would recommend Thomas DiLorenzo's book, "The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War," even though he disagreed with it. I'd like to recommend it to you, in case you haven't already read it. I'd also like to recommend "Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War," by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel," as well as Charles Adams' "When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession." Slavery was wrong, we all agree. But sometimes the end does not justify the means, and I think the Civil War / War Between the States might be one of those instances.
Poindexter - 1/8/2003
If there had been no World War II, would there still have been a Holocaust? I suppose Hitler would have stopped "eventually."
To argue that the South would have given up slavery "eventually" is not a foundation I would want to built my house upon. To paraphrase TR: they were traitors, plain and simple.
The right to secession fairly explicitly implies that the secessionist has sovereignty. From the time of the Constitutional Convention, through ratification and continuing through all Supreme Court precedence, the states of the United States are not individually sovereign entities.
By the 1850's the writing was on the wall; "free" states would eventually outnumber and out-vote slave states. Jefferson Davis and his fellow traitors knew that in the long run they must secede to preserve slavery. Why else would they secede? If slavery were so obviously doomed, as you argue, why then secede? Why not just wait for slavery to die? The South had no intention of ending slavery and to guess how long it would have continued without the Civil War is pure speculation. We do know that international moral revulsion was not to be the factor to turn the tide - European markets were only too happy to continue purchasing Southern cotton as long as they could get it.
Certainly, slavery was not the only matter separating the North and the South, but it was slavery that provided the powder, struck the match and lit the fuse.
There would have been no Civil War if there had not been slavery.
Poindexter - 1/8/2003
Your history lesson was appreciated, but unnecessary. All of us have work to do; no American hands are clean - the ghosts of the long nights haunt us all. However, Senator Lott's sins are in the present, the Republican Party's embrace of his wickedness ends not even today, the Democratic Party looks on askance even now. We condemn Lott's foolish unmasking of his sin, but not the sin itself.
And you are quite correct, all parties share the blame. And the shame.
Mark Coleman - 1/7/2003
Thank you for your kind words, Mr. Worley. I appreciate your additional information and insight. I'm also impressed that you have read Mr. DiLorenzo's book. I certainly did and enjoyed it very much. I've enjoyed this discussion also. All the best.
Mark Coleman - 1/7/2003
A better question might be: If there had been no Civil War, would the United States still have slavery? I don't think so. As I said, almost every other slave-holding nation of that era managed to eliminate the practice peacefully, and I suspect the United States could eventually have done the same thing, without wasting 620,000 American lives and ruining many more. Thus, I don't think it's facetious or obscurantist to ask why Lincoln would have pushed such a travesty, unless perhaps there were other reasons involved, such as his insistence on preserving the Union or his desire to advance his economic agenda. We, of course, may disagree that those were good enough reasons for the war, as opposed to the more noble goal of abolishing slavery, but that doesn't mean they might not, in fact, have been among the reasons.
Jesse E. Worley, II - 1/7/2003
Lincoln offered a compensated emancipation to all states including the Southern states on the condition that the war ended. In at least one of his annual messages to Congress he proposed that the Congress pass legislation to fund a compensated emancipation plan. The Border States refused Lincoln's private offers and the Southern States would not end the war. As far as why the South seceded, I would point out Jefferson Davis' address of 29 April 1861 in which he stated that the reason for seccession was the issue of slavery as well as Alexander Stephens "Cornor Stone Speech." After the war, Davis and others would push the "Lost Cause" myth in which the role of slavery in the hostilities was at best down-played if not outright ignored. As far as the legality of seccession, I would argue that such a right does not exist based on the argument that if a state has the power then why can't I secede from my state or county if I do not like their policies. But what was the cause of the South's seccession. I would argue that they felt they had lost control of the government and I would also state that they had a weak argument. What did they loose control of except the Presidency. A COnstitutional amendment could have been passed that ended slavery. The Supreme Court is a possibility, though that is assuming Lincoln could have stacked the Court. What did the Founder think of seccession? Washington put down the Whiskey Rebellion with force. (THey too felt they had lost control fo the government). Alexander Hamilton told the New England Federalists they could not secede. That really leaves Madison and Jefferson. I am more familar with Jefferson's arguements so I won't argue about Madison. Virginia and Kentucky passed the Resolutions written by madison and Jefferson, however, no other state followed suit. My major argument with Jefferson, (and I do like Jefferson for his idealism,) is that he was a bundle of contradicitions. Most people who use his arguments that would seem to support the idea of seccsion or state sovereignty freely ignore his contradictory statements that do not. As I recall, Jefferson stated New England Federalists did not have the power to secede. Mr. Coleman, you have asked some very good questions. Could slavery have been ended without the war? I don't think so. The South was long passed the point of accepting any plan that would have ended slavery peacefully. You ahve not mentioned tariffs as a cause however I think you might be alluding to that as a cause. (Again please correct me if I am wrong) The South passed a tariff that was identical to the 1857? (again not sure of exact date) Tariff. I dont have figures but the Tariff produced revenue that was in the thousands. The war cost the Union a million dollars a day roughly not counting pensions and other costs following the war. So I would propose that the tariff was not the cause. State's rights versus Federalism? Considering the nationalist positions of several promenant Confederates I don't think that was a cause. While I will accept the argument that there were other causes that helped contribute to the war, slavery was the major cause. Davis and Stephens and many others (notably Zebulon Vance) admitted as much in the early days of the war. I hope this has offered some clarity to my position. I could not offer everything and I apologize for the questionalbe dates that I have offered in some places. Thomas Dilorenzo has a book on Lincoln (which I totally disagree with but will reccomend it anyway) which offers a disccusion along the lines of yours. I would suggest David Long's The jewel of Liberty for a counter point. By the way thank you for a good intellectual debate. I enjoy the free exchange of ideas. We may never agree but this has been fun.
Bill Heuisler - 1/7/2003
Democrats are letting the Republican Party off because they have a great deal to hide in their past - even after FDR.
Look up the Southern Manifesto, signed in the early Fifties by
Walter George, Richard Russell, John Stennis, Sam Elvin, Strom Thurmond, Harry Byrd, A. Willis Robertson, John L. McClellan, Allen Ellender, Russell Long, Lister Hill, James Eastland, W. Kerr Scott, John Sparkman, Olin Johnston, Price Daniel, J.W. Fulbright, George Smathers, and Spessard Holland - all Dems. Eighty Democrat Reps also signed this segregationist document.
As you can see, some of them are icons of the Democrat Party.
Hell, Al Gore's father voted against the Civil Rights Act.
Embarrassing? Yes. Forgivable? Ask Mr Gould.
Poindexter - 1/7/2003
In fairness, United States Senators are not stupid. And to believe a U.S. Senator from Mississippi could be ignorant of the historic, political and social significance of Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat past stretches the limits of credibility. That Lott thought he could get away with it was either arrogant or stupid, or both, but he could not have been unaware of the meaning of what he said. There was nothing subtle or vague about it.
Further, Lott has made statements like these in the past. His views were known. The real question in this mess, the bullet the GOP has thus far successfully dodged: knowing the man had these views, how did he become the Senate leader of his party? And why are the Democrats letting the Republican Party off the hook?
Poindexter - 1/7/2003
The Civil War was not about slavery? The facetiousness and deliberate obscurantist aim of this argument can be easily revealed by turning the question on its ear: If there had been no slavery, would there have been a Civil War?
I don't think so.
Mark Coleman - 1/7/2003
Thank you, Jesse, for acknowledging that "the argument about Lincoln's Emancipation Proclaimation is correct." Did you notice that right after conceding that point, you immediately referred to "states in rebellion," as if you hadn't read any of my earlier comments about the right of secession. I'd appreciate it if you would look over my original comments again and let me know what you think. Regarding Lincoln, I think you are far too forgiving of him, regardless of his political and personal pressures or his historical context. The United States is the only nation in the world during that era that went to war to abolish slavery (not counting Haiti, which had a slave revolt). Every other nation abolished slavery through compensated emacipation. Why couldn't the United States do the same thing? One answer could be that the war was not really about slavery. Do you think that viewpoint has any merit?
Steven Frasher - 1/7/2003
Regarding Lincoln, Lott and Thurmond and comments made earlier in their careers - the point made against Lott is that he, unlike Lincoln and Thurmond, did not change with the times. Lott's comment at Thurmond's party merely refreshed longstanding Lott comments and brought them to the fore.
Lott was in trouble not for patting an old man on the back, saying his state was proud to have voted for the old guy - he was in trouble for saying that if the country had followed Mississippi's lead and elected the segregationist, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years." When he tried to explain himself, he made it worse. That's why Lott ended up in trouble. Thurmond's record shows he remained staunchly conservative but was no longer rabidly segregationist.
Confederate history is part of American history, as is Native American and immigrant history, and none of it should be erased. This country always has trouble with revisionist history. Even if a plaque is later found to be incorrect, rose-colored or offensive, I believe it should stand as a testament to its times and be allowed to stand, perhaps beside an updated version. The trouble with Confederate history as practiced by some is the glorification of the slave-holding, secessionist states, whose economy was upheld entirely by slave labor and the forced subjugation of other human beings.
How many people insisting on flying the Confederate battle flag, not the government stars and bars of the Confederacy, are the Southern gentlemen, or Daughters of the Confederacy, honoring their war dead and how many are rednecks, little better than neo-Nazis, glorying in a simpler time when whites could do whatever cruel mischief they wanted in the South merely because they were white?
Lewis L. Gould - 1/5/2003
William Jefferson Blythe III, who became William Jefferson Clinton, was named after his father William Jefferson "Bill" Blythe, who, according to David Maraniss in First In His Class, p. 24, was born in February 1917 in Texas. What the origins of the elder Blythe's middle name was can only be conjectured at this distance, but any political motive applicable to his son seems remote. In addition, it would be quite possible for male children in Arkansas to have been named for another Jeff Davis 1862-1913), the popular governor and Senator, discussed in Richard L. Niswonger, Arkansas Democratic Politics, 1896-1920 (1990).
Charles Knustson - 1/5/2003
How about Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States.
Doug Williams - 1/5/2003
Anyone doubt that William Jefferson Clinton is not named after Jefferson Davis?
Please find another white boy born in 1946 Arkansas and named the other President Jefferson.
Jesse E. Worley, II - 1/4/2003
Trent Lott needed to step down or be pushed aside on the basic grounds of general stupidity. He should have known better to say anything that even closely resembled his remarks, which were reprehensible as well as stupid.
Jesse E. Worley, II - 1/4/2003
Yes the argument about Lincoln's Emancipation Proclaimation is correct. It did only apply to slaves held in states in rebellion and for the very good reason that it was issued under Lincoln's Presidental War Powers and as such could have just have easily been declared unconstitutional after the war. Considering the Jim Crow Laws that were in place throughout the nation (No the South was not the only place), it is highly likely that it would have been. In the 1864 election, Lincoln ran on a platform that called for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by the COngress. SO while his previous statements can be used to incriminate him, look at the context they were issued in, a campaign in which he was trying to get elected in a state that slavery was a swing issue or more precisely, the rights of blacks. Illinois as I recall had a law prohibiting free blacks from residing within the state. SO , yes, Linocln siad what the crowd wanted to hear. he said what he had to to get elected. Looking at the steps he took in the first year of the war, I would say that he made every effort to get states that were not in rebellion to free their slaves. Noting his inaugural address, he stated he had no power or intention to harm slavery where it existed. He apparently intended to pursue polcies taht would prevent it from extending into the territories or free states. I freely admit Lincoln was a man of his time but he did work for freedom, which is different than equality. In the context of his time, he moved as far and as fast as anyone could have and perhaps much furthur than anyone else who could have been elected President. In other words, while William L. Garrison may have pursued a more radical agenda if he could have been elected, the fact is he could not have been.
Mark Coleman - 1/3/2003
One premise of Mr. Gould's article is that Jefferson Davis was guilty of treason, and he laments that Davis was not court-martialed on that charge after being taken to Washington, D.C. Mr. Gould apparently is unaware of the thesis that Davis was not tried for treason most likely because Lincoln's Unionists then would have had to argue in court that there was no right of secession. Davis (or his lawyers) surely would have argued that the Southern states did indeed have a right to secede, and that therefore secession was not treason and the leaders of the states that seceded were not rebels or traitors. Perhaps Mr. Gould would argue that there was no right of secession, but the issue nevertheless probably would have been central at Davis' trial. Considering the respectable arguments in favor of the right of secession, I suspect that Lincoln's Unionists might well have lost their case (assuming the court wasn't stacked), thus exposing the entire war not as an effort to put down an insurrection, or even as a civil war, but as a war of aggression by Lincoln's Unionists against the states that had wanted, and claimed the lawful right, to peacefully secede. Regarding Mr. Gould's opening remark about Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, I wonder if he is aware that it applied only to the states that had seceded, and not to the states still in the Union that also had slavery.
Kasper - 1/3/2003
People too often try to pigeonhole Davis as Satan and Lincoln as saint. Those people point out statements of Davis's that show him in a bad light, and ignore statements that Lincoln
made that might lower opinions of him. This article mentions
Lincoln's Second Inaugural. People often when mentioning Lincoln will refer to it or the Gettysburg Address.
It makes no mention of the Senate debates with Stephen Douglas where he promoted his own white supremacist views, or his letter to Horace Greeley where he stated his purpose was to preserve the Union no matter whether slavery lived or died.
David Quick - 1/3/2003
You're absolutely right. Aside from his battlefield prowess, which makes him a hero to millions of Southerners AND Northerners, Lee was the only person to ever get out of West Point without a single demerit, yet on NPR Stanley Crouch says Lee is not worthy of hero status, only traitor status. To each his own.
It strikes me odd that Lott should be vilified merely for saying something (something stupid) about a man who is actually sitting there serving in the government. Nobody is upset that Thurmond actually promoted those white supremacist policies (and is still serving) that were merely commented upon by Lott. I don't think either one should be vilified or demonized, but it seems awfully incongruous to me to lean into one and not the other. It weakens the case on Lott.
Ron Turner - 1/2/2003
I respect people who hate Jefferson Davis, the Confederate flag, and anything to do with the Old South. They are entitled to their views. However, I am deeply disturbed by the shocking intolerance and hatred shown to people who disagree. I have noticed a recent trend growing against the field of Confederate History itself
-- politicians such as Trent Lott are hailed as racists because they admire Jefferson Davis, even though he is the boyhood hero of millions of good people in the South.
-- Virginia Senator George Allen was criticized because, while governor, he proclaimed Confederate History Month.
-- there have been many attempts to remove a number of Confederate historical markers.
-- such institutions as Southern Partisan magazine and Daughters of the Confederacy are dumped into the same category as the KKK because of their support for Confederate History.
I know this is a very controversial subject, made even more emotional because it involves the issue of race, but I really think some people need to calm down before they embarass themselves and the field of history with the hysterical rhetoric. The intolerance can get out of hand.
Ralph E. Luker - 1/2/2003
As one who called on HNN for Lott to step or be pushed aside as Senate Majority Leader and who feels that Lott should never have held that position in the first place, I feel obliged to question several of Professor Gould's assertions.
1) "U.S. Sen. Trent Lott's long-standing advocacy of segregation and racial discrimination is now well chronicled." To my knowledge, there is no evidence that Lott has ever, since entering public life in the 1970s, publicly advocated a return to racial segregation as it was known in the South prior to the 1960s. There was obviously an element of historical ignorance in his tribute to Strom Thurmond, as evidenced by an earlier recollection by him that the presidential election of 1948 took place in 1947.
2)"Lott just happens to be one of the most visible proponents of segregationist and discriminatory policies rooted in Confederate philosophy."
You may argue with any number of Senator Lott's votes in the United States Senate. If anything, he is more vulnerable on the grounds of having no coherent "philosophy" -- of being too quick to "strike the deal in order to bring home the pork." But to claim that his is a public record grounded in some coherent "Confederate philosophy" is ludicrous.
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