Saturday, June 29, 2013
Fighting For Our States' Rats
Gettin' to Gettysburg. Pettigrew and Buford are just a day away now, and it's a perfect time to examine a big myth surrounding the war itself. For that, I'll once again turn to Gettysburg, a movie I love that happens to perpetuate more than a few Lost Causisms--hey, I was talking about film earlier, and it shows just how insidious the background BS really is (plus it's easier than trying to quote Killer Angels or Confederate memoirs).
First this snippet from an exchange between Lt Tom Chamberlain (Col Chamberlain's younger brother) and a few captured Confederate soldiers:
REB: I don't know about other folk, but I ain't fighting for no darkies. I'm fighting for my rats. That's what we're all fighting for.
YANK: For your what?
REB: For our rats. Why is it you folks can't just live the way you want to live, and let us live the way we do?
And a scene where General Kemper (and Virginia's Speaker of the House) explains to Colonel Fremantle (of Her Majesty's Coldstream Guard) why the South is fighting:
KEMPER: You've got to tell [the Queen and Parliament] that what we're fighting for here is the freedom from what we consider to be the rule of a foreign power. I mean, that's all we want. That's what this war is all about. Now we established this country in the first place with very strong state governments [ed. note: bless his heart!] just for that very reason.
I mean, those damn fools, they don't get the message. Always the darkies. Nothing but the darkies.
Oh yeah, it had nothing to do with "the darkies" and it was all about just getting Washington out of everybody's bidness. Except for the documented fact that the rebels were fighting for slavery and against states' rights.
Slavery was featured prominently in: Virginia's ordinance of secession; Georgia's (and others') declared causes of secession; constitutions like Alabama's and, of course, the CSA's. And for fun, let's take a gander at South Carolina's declaration of causes:
- The ends for which the Constitution was framed...it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions...
- Yeah, but...
- [T]he non-slaveholding States...they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
- Other States and their people cannot enjoy free speech or control over their own institutions. What's more...
- 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.
- Those other States also get to vote in national elections, and we don't like the result. Worse yet...
- 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.
- These States exercise their constitutional powers to determine voter qualifications, and that includes "the darkies."
So as they said in Confederate Arkansas, that dog just won't hunt. Even if there are rats.
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Given the eternal ability of people to rationalize the shit out of their actions, it is possible that those quotes are accurate while your summary is accurate with regard to the actual root cause.
It is, in short, easier to ignore the elephant in the room than to deal with it. Even 150 years later.
Posted by: Darryl Brashier | Jun 29, 2013 11:20:25 PM