Amid Recent Events, Professor Damon Fordham Sheds Lights On “The Truth of The Confederacy”

South Carolina’s Confederate flag taken down at South Carolina statehouse July 10, 2015

By Professor Damon L. Fordham, MA

Once again, the Confederate Flag is back in the news. Many would have felt the matter was done with after the flag was removed from the Statehouse grounds after Dylann Roof was shown embracing it in his website after the terrorist murders at Mother Emanuel AME in 2015 but with the Secessionist protest and local reaction to that, some matters need to be cleared up for the general public. To those who question whether the flag and the Confederacy were about slavery and racism, the following facts should suffice.

The Confederate flag in question was the Battle flag, and it was also a large portion of the Second National Flag of the Confederate States of America with a white background, which was used from 1863 until shortly before the Confederacy fell in 1865. William Tappan Thompson said of this particular flag in an editorial for the Savannah Morning News of April 23, 1863, “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”

Shortly after the Southern states began leaving the Union, on December 22, 1860, newly elected President Abraham Lincoln (whose elected caused the Southern states to rebel) wrote a letter to Alexander Stevens of Georgia, who would soon become the Vice President of the Confederacy. “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us. Yours very truly.-A. LINCOLN.”

Several months later, this same Alexander Stevens said this in a speech about the new Confederate government in Savannah, Georgia on March 21, 1861. “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone 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.”

When South Carolina left the Union and became the first of the Confederate States, this is what this state gave for reasons for leaving the United States in its Articles of Secession on December 24, 1860. “We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; 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.”

Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America, had this to say about slavery in Volume 1, page 458 of his 1881 book “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.” “They see that the slaves in their present condition in the South are comfortable and happy; they see them advancing in intelligence; they see the kindest relations existing between them and their masters; they see them provided for in age and sickness, in infancy and in disability; they see them in useful employment, restrained from the vicious indulgences to which their inferior nature inclines them.”

Finally, this is from a local editorial in the Charleston Mercury newspaper on January 13, 1865, shortly before the end of the Civil War. In 1860 South Carolina seceded alone from the old union of States. Her people, in Convention assembled, invited the slaveholding States (none others) of the old Union to join her in erecting a separate Government of Slave States, for the protection of their common interests. All of the slave states, with the exception of Maryland and Kentucky, responded to her invitation. The Southern Confederacy of slave States was formed. It was on account of encroachments upon the institution of slavery by the sectional majority of the old Union, that South Carolina seceded from that Union. It is not at this late day, after the loss of thirty thousand of her best and bravest men in battle, that she will suffer it to be bartered away; or ground between the upper and nether mill stones, by the madness of Congress, or the counsels of shallow men elsewhere. By the compact we made with Virginia and the other States of this Confederacy, South Carolina will stand to the bitter end of destruction. By that compact she intends to stand or to fall.

So given these facts, was the Confederacy and the flag that represents it really about heritage as its defenders say, or was it about slavery and racism? Draw your conclusions from what you’ve just read, and use these quotes whenever you face a challenge on that subject.

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