Charles Rehn - Democrat for President 2004

A Conversation With America
Questions That Must Be Answered
Web Edition (c) 2002, 2003 Charles Rehn All Rights Reserved




Legacies of War:
Grant, Lee and the Civil War

"Let Us Have Peace"
-- Ulysses S. Grant

Not long ago, I read a news report of how 36 high school students had been sent home because they had all worn t-shirts to school that displayed the Confederate Flag.

Their explanation regarding their actions was that it wasn't about "hate" (racism), but that it was about "heritage". That's difficult for me to reconcile, since the emblem is a symbol of hate to many people, much like the Nazi Swastika.

I couldn't help but wonder what "heritage" they had been taught, and to which they cling.  Even more, I wondered how that would compare with the actual history of the establishment of the Confederacy, and the reasons for it and the Civil War.

Even more, I couldn't help but relate the Civil War and the concept of States' Rights with the ambiguous rhetoric used to describe the "New World Order", the socio-political structure of the European Union, and the current economic plans proposed by the Bush Administration, as well as their position on affirmative action..

Find Out More

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant from the PBS Program American Experience

Robert E. Lee - Biographical information

The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns on PBS - As with any civil strife, the war was marked by excruciating ironies. Robert E. Lee became a legend in the Confederate army only after turning down an offer to command the entire Union force. Four of Lincoln’s own brothers-in-law fought on the Confederate side, and one was killed. The little town of Winchester, Virginia, changed hands seventy-two times during the war, and the state of Missouri sent thirty-nine regiments to fight in the siege of Vicksburg: seventeen to the Confederacy and twenty-two to the Union.

Note: These links are but a very, very few available if you do a search on the web.


I'm not going to go into a great deal of detail on what I believe are extremely related topics. 

I do want to point out, though, that I am going to discuss slavery, but not as a moral issue or the religious issue of "divine rights". I will put that to rest by simply stating that I believe slavery, racism and bigotry are wrong under all circumstances, and that I do not believe that God made any race superior to another.

Slavery Was The "Tipping Point"of States' Rights

Slavery and economic corruption were certainly a part of the issue that led to the Civil War. But, the issue was not the greater question.  The greater issue was whether or not each state had the right to set its own social and political agendas, with sovereignty and autonomy from the central federal government.

This kind of thinking is displayed in our current pornography laws which have been interpreted by the Supreme Court as being applicable based on the standards of the community. It's as simple as the idea of birds of a feather flock together. Except, that in our mobile and communication age, it is less possible to define the boundaries of any given community.

What would surprise most people, though, is that the majority of Southerners were neither slave or land owners.  Further, that most slave owners were not so much opposed to the end of slavery, but of losing their economic investment in slaves. Slaves were expensive, and the use of slaves was not actually profitable for many years.

Secondarily, they were concerned of a violent "black backlash" toward former slave owners when they became free.

For the most part, the manufacturers in the North benefited from slavery as well. Even though the North did not utilize slaves themselves, the wages they paid to blacks were low and the quality of life itself (not counting basic liberty) was not much better than living on the plantation.

The North had something of a "don't ask, don't tell policy".  Their objections toward slavery became heightened when they were asked to accept legislation that would require other states and the Federal Government to assist the slave owners in capturing and enforcing, as a federal mandate, the laws of the states.  That same sentiment is expressed in the original, unamended U.S. Constitution.

That attitude is very similar to the way we now turn our heads to certain human rights violations in other nations so that we do not disturb our economic relationships.

If you think about autonomy and how Federal law supercedes local law, and think about it in terms of States' Rights and self-governance, it would be like all of the states having laws with the ability to charge Federal agencies with the job of enforcing them.

If you study the writing of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, it quickly becomes apparent that this movement to require the North to honor the Southern States demand for enforcement of laws that supported ownership of slaves, coupled with the election of (and economic corruption in the administration of) Abraham Lincoln who endorsed an end to slavery, that led to heightened tensions, secession of Southern States, and ultimately, the Civil War.

If you look a little more closely, though, they both cite the words and actions of Jefferson Davis as inciting division instead of seeking ways to resolve the impasse.   He and his proxies used the issue of religious "divine rights" and defiance of a central government that sought to impose statutes over the states regardless of the preferences and interests of their communities.

But, the defiance, division and hatred they generated became the rallying cry for the troops they amassed. And, like Robert E. Lee himself, even though not totally convinced or committed by the cause of either side, sides were chosen based on loyalty to home states, communities and families.

Both state that if compromises had been reached concerning compensation for emancipated slaves, or at least tolerance of the unwillingness of the North to enforce the property rights the Southerners claimed, that the Civil War may have been delayed or avoided altogether.

Instead, divisive politics led 620,000 Americans to fight and die. Instead, John Wilkes Booth and others assassinated Abraham Lincoln and other heads of state in order to "decapitate the Lincoln regime" (as we would put it these days).

Despite the military victory by the North, it has often been argued (credibly, in my opinion) that either side could have won, depending on the turn of a few key events. Further, that the population and wealth of the North overcame the Southern armies.   Many Southerners did not accept that they had been beaten, but that the majority overcame their minority, and wealth overpowered will. (Notice any similarities to modern events?)

Lee set an example for the South by accepting defeat and surrendering to Grant at Appomattox.  He was a true statesman, and supported the policies of the administrations after the assassination of Lincoln.

But, a military victory did not settle the question for many in the South.  It simply forced them to accept it, but they resented it.

In the years following the war, the Ku Klux Klan emerged, and used terrorist tactics to suppress voting by blacks,  and physically attacking political candidates with whom they disagreed (a practice that seems to be reemerging. 5/12/2003 in Florida)

More than 130 years later, it is still a source of division in this country.   I say, it's an issue we're facing again. It's a conversation we need to complete.

But that conversation can only be completed if our leaders actually believe in the unity of the United States. It can only be effective if our leaders actually agree with the Constitution, and if our leaders actually uphold their oaths of office.

Just because a war becomes covert does not mean the war is over. 

When cells of Americans or a political party seeks to deprive others of Civil Rights, it is called racketeering.

When they take physical actions to harm or intimidate others, they become terrorists.  

When the government refuses to take appropriate action against that terrorism and racketeering (as in the example of Saudi Arabia), then it becomes state sponsored terrorism (the U.S. definition). 

And, someone who offers themselves up as representatives to this government who oppose the basic tenets of this nation are perjuring themselves when they take the oath of office, and are traitors to the great American dream.

They do not have the courage to declare their real motives and beliefs, simply because they know that their hatred of freedom and American Democracy would be rejected.

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." -- Abraham Lincoln


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