Goose, Lindo Lake © Robert Sommers 2020

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Confederate Indignation

I received this letter from a friend today.

Hi Robert,

This article influenced how I see the Confederate flag and references to "heritage".  What do you think?


I skimmed it, need to read it more thoroughly. Thank you for sending it. I am going to give it some thought. But a few things off the top of my head. It is hard for me to get selectively moralistic about our history of slavery towards the africans we subjugated without also considering what we did to the original inhabitants of these lands.

The long marches, the internment camps, the outright genocide, the intentional distribution of smallpox and typhoid laden blankets. The great emancipator Lincoln himself once ordered the extermination of the Minnesota native americans.

Consider a few quotes of our most noble statesmen, writers and founding fathers:

"The Indians' disappearance from the human family will be no great loss to the world. I do not think them, as a race, worth preserving." Secretary of State Henry Clay

“They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.”
President Andrew Jackson, in his fifth annual message, December 3, 1833

General Philip Sheridan
“The only good Indians I ever saw were dead."
General Philip Henry Sheridan, 1869

“If ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi… in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy them all.”
President Thomas Jefferson

“I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

President Theodore Roosevelt

He is ignoble—base and treacherous, and hateful in every way. Not even imminent death can startle him into a spasm of virtue. The ruling trait of all savages is a greedy and consuming selfishness, and in our Noble Red Man it is found in its amplest development. His heart is a cesspool of falsehood, of treachery, and of low and devilish instincts. With him, gratitude is an unknown emotion; and when one does him a kindness, it is safest to keep the face toward him, lest the reward be an arrow in the back. To accept of a favor from him is to assume a debt which you can never repay to his satisfaction, though you bankrupt yourself trying. To give him a dinner when he is starving, is to precipitate the whole hungry tribe upon your hospitality, for he will go straight and fetch them, men, women, children, and dogs, and these they will huddle patiently around your door, or flatten their noses against your window, day after day, gazing beseechingly upon every mouthful you take, and unconsciously swallowing when you swallow! The scum of the earth!

Mark Twain - The Noble Red Man - 1870

I read a book called the Most Southern Place on Earth last year and was startled to see how many New York garment manufacturers were behind the south's efforts to retain slavery during the civil war era, needing a cheap supply of cotton for their businesses to survive.

Many northern cities had and continue to harbor incredible racist attitudes as did many in California where in some tony burgs, blacks, jews and hispanics were explicitly prohibited by deed restriction and land covenant until the early 1960's.  So there is something rather selective and overly moralizing to heap a bunch of opprobrium on the south at this point in time when in reality nobody's hands appear to be all that clean.

Bosque Redondo internment camp - 1864

I don't ask my german friends about their grandparents activities during the second world war and I don't revisit the sins of slavery with my friends from the south. Everyone should be entitled to take pride in their heritage and nobody's past is spotless.


isak said...

Shocking. Stunning. Beyond disgraceful. It is/was another world, our early America, one we rarely look at or remember except for the "cowboys and indians" adventure part of the "Wild West"... These quotes are the tip of a wretched iceberg, the huge one which sunk more than the Titanic, upon which our land of the free, home of the brave(no pun intended), "with liberty and justice for all" is predicated. How can we even open our mouths about racism in the South today? How can there be significant change for the better when we have all but buried real recognition of the many sins of our past? All but obliterating the Native Americans, as you say, is but the first of many hate-laden aggressions against groups in our society which still resonate today. It's important to bring this up to our attention every once in a grand while...Thanks, Robert.

Kerr A. Lott said...

Taking down the Confederate battle flag is about making progress as Americans, it's not about punishing proud Southerners.

What does the Confederate battle flag represent ?

Heritage. But a heritage of Evil.

What is Evil ? It’s wilfull behavior that benefits a person, or a group of people that hurts another person or group of people.

The Confederate flag represents Slavery.

Slavery is extremely Evil.


Sorry rednecks.

Blue Heron said...

Well, I respectfully disagree with you. I could give you a much larger litany of abuses our country is responsible for. Slavery was an obscene horror but so was using blacks for syphilis testing in tuskeegee or with browns in central america. Or forced eugenics sterilizations. Show me somebody with clean hands, somewhere. Virgil Kane is the name and I served on the Danville train...

Kerr A. Lott said...

The fact that European settlers in America wiped out natives neither mitigates or aggravates slavery.

Genocide is obviously evil, lots of what humans do is evil, but let's discuss one horrible thing at a time.

By the way, slavery is alive and well in the modern world. It is still common in Africa and there are many interesting slavery stories in the Bible. The Nazis liked slaves too. But slavery is just not right. Not then, not now, not ever, nowhere, nohow.

I like The Band too by the way, but I always thought the way The Band romanticized the Civil War is a bit weird, the sentiment probably comes from Levon Helm, the only Southerner in The Band.

It's interesting, also by the way, that South Carolina was not shy about saying slavery was the real cause of the Civil War, nothing from South Carolina leaders about State's Rights, only blather about the natural inferiority of negroes.

Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephensen laid it all out in his Cornerstone Speech:

"The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization."

"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone 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."

Anonymous said...

Ahem, as I clear my throat, the Confederate Battle flag is a relic and has no meaning, except for pharmaceutically amped-up lower middle class Southern trash who take it upon themselves to rid the world of African American bible studys. Big Pharma will be sued quietly but no blame will be placed. That will go to the Battle Flag makers and beer stein purveyors who sell to Walmart in the Deep South.

Alas and alack, let's shitcan this tired notion, often told, of the typhoid and smallpox blanket narrative. No where in the historical record is it found, and scientifically it isn't possible to transmit said diseases thataway, pardner.

Just for your edification.

Blue Heron said...

"[May] 24th [1763] The Turtles Heart a principal Warrior of the Delawares and Mamaltee a Chief came within a small distance of the Fort Mr. McKee went out to them and they made a Speech letting us know that all our [POSTS] as [at] Ligonier was destroyed, that great numbers of Indians [were coming and] that out of regard to us, they had prevailed on 6 Nations [not to] attack us but give us time to go down the Country and they desired we would set of immediately. The Commanding Officer thanked them, let them know that we had everything we wanted, that we could defend it against all the Indians in the Woods, that we had three large Armys marching to Chastise those Indians that had struck us, told them to take care of their Women and Children, but not to tell any other Natives, they said they would go and speak to their Chiefs and come and tell us what they said, they returned and said they would hold fast of the Chain of friendship. Out of our regard to them we gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect. They then told us that Ligonier had been attacked, but that the Enemy were beat of."

Several weeks later, June 13, 1763, Captain Ecuyer wrote to Colonel Bouquet:

"Fort Pitt is in good state of defense against all attempts from Savages, who are daily firing upon the Fort; unluckily the Small Pox has broken out in the garrison, for which he has built an Hospital under the Draw Bridge to prevent the Spreading of that distemper."

The above quote from William Trent's Journal was written two months before the exchange of letters( July 13-26, 1763) between Amherst and Col. Bouquet. In a footnote of a letter (July 16, 1763) to Colonel Bouquet, Lord Amherst wrote:

"Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them".

Anonymous said...

Uh, still it ain't transmitted from blanket to Injun, sad to say. And you ain't gonna get much traction with typhus neither. Just cuz. It just don't work like that in tha real world, son.