Last Thursday, the New Orleans City Council Voted 6-1 to take down four Confederate Monuments. [And may God-Bless Councilwoman Stacy Head, the sole dissenter, an White Uptown New Orleanian I had the privilege of meeting once at a special event at the Prytania Theatre in 2013]. The monuments in question were namely,
(1) an equestrian statue of Confederate General Pierre-Gustav Toutant Beauregard, a lifetime French Creole who was born and died in New Orleans;
(2) a standing statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who died in New Orleans after presiding over the founding of the first museum to the memory of the nation over which he presided for four years, as statesman and orator;
(3) a truly monumental column crowned by a bronze standing statue of General Robert Edward Lee (forever facing North, never turning his back on the enemy); Robert E. Lee was a close kinsman of George Washington from Virginia who was and still is widely revered as one of the great heroes of all American history; and
(4) finally, a much smaller obelisk moment to the memory of those who dies in a much-too-little-known post-war Urban Battle seven years into Reconstruction, called “the Battle of Liberty Place”, where White citizens of Louisiana overthrew the hateful occupation government imposed on them after the surrender of the Confederacy.
Polls following this vote show that more than 90% of the actively interested public oppose the removal of these statues. But the debate rages on. Those on the side of removal, sponsored by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, call their opponents hateful racist reactionaries who support monuments to traitors. They accuse us of irrational adherence to a culture of hate and to the “Memory of the Lost Cause”…
Listening, at several meetings of the New Orleans City Council, and reading online, the only wildly irrational hatred and hateful speech I hear in this debate comes from people on Mitch Landrieu-pro-Removal side of the fence. Just this morning, a fellow named Michael Dominici posted on “Save our Circle in New Orleans on Facebook: “Slavery was an American Holocaust.” Let’s start there. I challenged him to explain what on earth he could possibly mean by that choice of words.
You think that slaves were destined to murder or sacrifice? Well, not in the USA or anywhere in the New World, but in Africa only, where slaves were kept like cattle as food reserves for cannibalism. Many slaves who told their stories later in life said that they expected to be eaten when they arrived at the end of their slave-ship journey. That was based on African experience and tradition, nothing else. So please check and restudy your history carefully.
The origins of the slave trade were that first Arab and European slave traders saw the slaughter of human beings on the “dark continent” and decided that Africa’s food reserves could be better used as labor reserves than chopped up and eaten.
So that’s point number one: slavery may not have been a great life, but it WAS life for slaves instead of death in the cannibal stew pots or having gotten too old to be eaten and just executed.
Second point: Africans sold the African slaves to Anglo-American white slavers up until 1808, but never to Confederates. By the time the Confederate States of America came into being, the international slave trade had been abolished everywhere in the world EXCEPT in Africa. And many, many African-Americans in the South actively supported the Confederate States of America both as soldiers and, in the state of Louisiana, as Planters who financially backed the CSA. Like it or not, that’s just reality: there WERE African American (Mulatto, Quadroon, Octaroon) southern planters who owned slaves and supported the Confederacy “as if their life depended on it” because in a sense, it did.
Third point: “Confederate” is a constitutional term whose definition reflects a constitutional argument. Many of us today (who do not and would never approve of slavery) still hold to the Confederate States side of the Constitutional argument. Look at the writings of Donnie Kennedy and his brother James, of Thomas DiLorenzo, Mike Maharrey and of a not specifically “Southern” but in fact Los Angeles-based group called “The Tenth Amendment Center”.
Fourth point: ironically, the reason many of us do favor Jefferson Davis’ constitutionalism is that we feel that all free people lost a great deal of Freedom in the War of 1861-5 AND IN THE 150 years since, so that we Americans and our society as a whole is more slave-like now than ever before.
Fifth point: want statistical proof? More black people, and many more white people, are now in prison or on probation today than were ever slaves in the South, and why? Maybe you think Alex Jones is a nut, maybe you like him, but the fact remains that nobody ever called the USA a “Prison Planet” in the early 19th century. Alexander de Tocqueville called slavery America’s “peculiar institution” precisely because this was the freest land on earth—back then, but now it’s more controlled and under constant state surveillance than any dictatorship in the world, prior to 1950, ever had the technological capacity to achieve. We are living in a slave society today, and we look back with some substantial envy on the States which were free enough, and technologically self-sufficient enough, to secede in 1860-1861.
Sixth point: the 13th Amendment at least indirectly inspired an explosion in American prison populations. Again, look carefully at the statistics. Prior to the 13th Amendment, which established that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude could exist EXCEPT as a punishment for crime, there was almost no such thing as a “prison population” in the USA…. now the prison population of the USA is more than twice what the original TOTAL population of the United States was at the time of the first census 1790, 14 years after independence.
Seventh: the other cause for the explosion of American prison populations is the criminalization of so much of the country’s commercial and general economic and scientific, even food producing and consuming, activity by Federal laws and policies spread to the states. There was hardly such a thing as “Economic Regulation” on the Federal level in 1860, unless you count Andrew Jackson abolishing the Bank of the United States in the early 1830s.
The centralized planning of agriculture, industry, and the social-economy generally which began during the “Civil War” in the North under Abraham Lincoln’s administration, and was brutally imposed on the South during Reconstruction and afterwards, was and remains exactly what people of a “Confederate” mindset hated and feared then and still hate and fear today: the loss of economic freedom (and thus all meaningful freedom) to a tyrannical Federal government.