Writing at The Federalist, Kyle Sammin shows a lack of knowledge about the War Between the States and about Robert E. Lee that astounds me. Sammin is not some reactionary leftist. Far from it. Yet, he sounds like a mis-educated non-thinker in his piece calling for a reconsideration of Lee
The answer lies somewhere in between the two extremes of neo-Confederate reactionaries and Antifa memory-holers. As radical as they are, lefty extremists’ position is at least useful in making us rethink the elevation of Confederate leaders to heights that, even ignoring the fact that they bore arms against the United States, would be undeserved.
I would assume that Sammin is calling “neo-Confederate reactionaries” leftists? To be entirely honest, I am not sure what Sammin means by neo-Confederate reactionaries. Certainly he cannot mean members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, or the United daughters of the Confederacy. I have belonged to the SCV in both Florida and Texas. The people I met were very dedicated to history, preserving it, and honoring ancestors. Many were involved in reenactments, and went to schools, educating kids about the war, the soldiers, etc. In short good people, and good Conservatives. Many of the same people I knew from the SCV and UDC I saw at Tea Party events. Perhaps Sammin could benefit by attending some SCV meetings?
Now to his historical blindspots. First of all Sammin attempts to belittle Lee as a field general, many modern “historians” seem to take this approach.
In the decades following the Civil War, proponents of the Lost Cause myth created legends of men who were often merely mediocre. Nowhere is that more true than in the near-deification of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
I would say many legendary figure did emerge from that war, and many great men as well. Lee would be at the top of my list. No, he was not perfect but he was a devoted family man, a great general, an honorable man who ONLY fought after Virginia seceded. To call Lee mediocre is simply sad. By the way, Virginia’s decision to secede was not focused on slavery. One thing drove Virginia to seek seperation. Lincoln’s demand that Virginia raise troops to force Confederate states back into aunion they no longer wished to belong to. Mr. Sammin might also note that Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina also secceded after Lincolns call for them to raise troops.
This reminds me that after Virinia seceded, the people of the western part of that state chose to secede and become their own state. Would Sammin force Virginia to be reunited? Would he support the right of those he chose to form a new state? Clearly Sammin believes that secession was not a right for states in 1861. Would he also deny those western virginia people the right?
Sammin also seems to fall into the North good South bad mindset. Generally people do this because they see slavery, and only slavery as the only cause of the war on both sides. By doing so these folks miss out on grasping the broad spectrums of causes/issues of the war. I have a piece by Walter Williams I will quote from that would greatly benefit Sammin.
Did the South have a right to secede from the Union? If it did, we can’t label Confederate generals as traitors.
Article 1 of the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the war between the Colonies and Great Britain, held “New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States.” Representatives of these states came together in Philadelphia in 1787 to write a constitution and form a union.
During the ratification debates, Virginia’s delegates said, “The powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.” The ratification documents of New York and Rhode Island expressed similar sentiments.
At the Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made to allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” rejected it. The minutes from the debate paraphrased his opinion: “A union of the states containing such an ingredient (would) provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”
Here is a key part
The U.S. Constitution would have never been ratified — and a union never created — if the people of those 13 “free sovereign and Independent States” did not believe that they had the right to secede. Even on the eve of the War of 1861, unionist politicians saw secession as a right that states had. Rep. Jacob M. Kunkel of Maryland said, “Any attempt to preserve the union between the states of this Confederacy by force would be impractical and destructive of republican liberty.” The Northern Democratic and Republican parties favored allowing the South to secede in peace.
The question to ponder is would the Founders have created a union so strong as to deny the right of the people of the States, which all proclaimed their sovereignty proudly, to secede? That seems difficult for me to believe. Even Lincoln, at least at one time believed in such a right
“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.”
In the end history, our American story must be preseved, and yes, debated when necessary. I would glady welcome debate with Mr. Sammin anytime. And likely we would still disagree at the debates end. But what the left is currently doing is not debate, discussion, or civil discourse. It is cultural and historical genocide. That must never be allowed. And preserving history means fighting back against those that are trying to erase it. One sure way to destroy a nation is to destroy its history. that, we cannot allow!