Video: McDonnell proclaims Confederate History Month in Virginia; Update: McDonnell apologizes, adds slavery clause

posted at 3:35 pm on April 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

I’ve often been told that, as a Northerner (more like a Westerner), I just don’t “get” the attachment of Southerners to the Confederacy — and I confess that I don’t, especially when it comes to official recognition of it by Southern states. Newly-elected Republican Governor Bob McDonnell reversed eight years of refusals by Democrats to proclaim an official Confederate History Month in the state, which has restarted a debate over slavery, racism, and the kind of associations to states rights issues that the GOP hardly needs at the moment while fighting a federal health-care mandate:

Reviving an observance that many thought had been buried eight years ago, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has declared April “Confederate History Month” in Virginia. Maybe it’s not like firing on Ft. Sumter, but it’s close.

One of two Republicans elected to statehouses last year in races widely seen as a referendum on Barack Obama‘s presidency, McDonnell said he is restoring the commemoration because it is important to study history. In fact, Virginia and other states are preparing commemorations in 2011 to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

But in McDonnell’s proclamation announcing the commemoration, he never mentions slavery — or the 500,000 slaves who constituted one-fourth of Virginia’s population and cheered the Union soldiers to victory. Instead, the governor declares Virginians fought “for their homes and communities and Commonwealth” and that “all Virginians” must appreciate the state’s “shared” history and the Confederacy’s sacrifices.

As a history buff myself, I agree that it’s important to study history, but that doesn’t require a Confederacy Appreciation Month, which is what this sounds like.  McDonnell could have broadened the perspective to a Civil War History Month, which would have allowed for all of the issues in the nation’s only armed rebellion to be studied. This approach seems needlessly provocative and almost guaranteed to create problems for Republicans in Virginia and across the country.  It might have a short term effect of strengthening McDonnell’s attachment to his base, which didn’t appear to be threatened at all in the first place.

What do you think? Take the poll:

Update (AP): McDonnell climbs down:

The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission. The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed. The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation. In 2007, the Virginia General Assembly approved a formal statement of “profound regret” for the Commonwealth’s history of slavery, which was the right thing to do.

Full statement at the link.


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Jimbo3 on April 8, 2010 at 12:00 PM

I disagree.

A careful reading of your point:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States

If you’re a citizen of, say, Texas, and that conveys the same “immunities and privileges” of US citizenship, then the state can legally revoke your US citizenship. It’s not the status of “US Citizen” which is protected.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 12:07 PM

I live in Virginia, and I am outraged. A Civil War History Month would make sense, and be okay.

There was nothing noble about the Confederacy, or the politicians who created it, or the soldiers who fought for it.

If you’ve heard that the War was fought over “states’ rights” rather than slavery, you’ve been lied to. The only “right” the southern States were asserting was the “right” for some men to enslave others. The South hated, for instance, the protectionist tariffs on manufactured imports, but they never tried to use nullification on those laws.

McDonnell really screwed the pooch on this one–the only people happy are neoconfederates.

The States are sovereign. When a state voluntarily joined the union, it delegated certain powers to the federal government as enumerated in the Constitution. It did not give up it’s [sic] sovereignty, otherwise it would just be an administrative district in a single large nation.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Epic civics fail.

hicsuget on April 8, 2010 at 12:25 PM

McDonnell really screwed the pooch on this one–the only people happy are neoconfederates.

hicsuget on April 8, 2010 at 12:25 PM

Yep. Worst political move ever! The confederacy is the stain on America’s cloth. We need to be flipping the cloth over, not highlighting that ugly point in our history. A Civil War History Month would’ve been great. This? Disgusting.

Narutoboy on April 8, 2010 at 12:46 PM

I live in Virginia, and I am outraged. A Civil War History Month would make sense, and be okay.

There was nothing noble about the Confederacy, or the politicians who created it, or the soldiers who fought for it.

You are also a fool who knows nothing about history or this war. The so-called Civil War (which it was not) was no more about slavery than World War 2 was about the Jewish people or the holocaust! These people were fighting for the exact same thing as the founding fathers of 1776, independence, and the right to govern themselves! And I have news for you moron, slaver existed in every one of the 13 colonies in 1776, and England was starting to free slaves! So were they “dishonorable as well?”

I find that most people who think the war was about slaver can not tell you the Robert E. Lee did not own a single slave in his entire life, or the Grant did own slaves, or that Lincoln was a racist pig! Not one of you hypocrites out there can tell you the at NO TIME did Lincoln state he was going to free the slaves! Learn so damn facts before you start lying about other people’s heritage. Oh and by the way over 95% of the soldiers in the Confederate army DID NOT OWN SLAVES!!!

You people are in desperate need if a history lesson!

Confederate on April 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM

You people are in desperate need if a history lesson!

Confederate on April 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM

I do not think those words mean what you think they mean.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Jimbo3 on April 8, 2010 at 12:00 PM
I disagree.

A careful reading of your point:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States
If you’re a citizen of, say, Texas, and that conveys the same “immunities and privileges” of US citizenship, then the state can legally revoke your US citizenship. It’s not the status of “US Citizen” which is protected.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 12:07 PM

–Some of the privileges involve the right to travel between states. Tough to do that if Texas is alone.

Jimbo3 on April 8, 2010 at 1:26 PM

Oh and by the way over 95% of the soldiers in the Confederate army DID NOT OWN SLAVES!!!

Confederate on April 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM

Probably not even 1% owned slaves. Those who owned slaves mostly did not fight. They tricked the fodder into doing it for them by convincing them that it was all about Southern Pride. They had those whom they would never have introduced to their daughters fight for them in their battle to retrain being able to keep Human Beings as Slaves so that they could keep sitting on their lazy asses.

MB4 on April 8, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Sorry Uncle they won’t let my comment thru.

Texas Gal on April 8, 2010 at 2:41 AM

Try not using suksession or rubellon. It’s like they deliberately set up situations to suppress comments.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Some of the privileges involve the right to travel between states. Tough to do that if Texas is alone.

Jimbo3 on April 8, 2010 at 1:26 PM

A minor quibble, if Texas left undoubtably other states would join it.

They tricked the fodder into doing it for them by convincing them that it was all about Southern Pride.

MB4 on April 8, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Isn’t that the argument progressives make today, that “common people” are too dumb to know what’s good for them? Perhaps people were like they are now, well aware of their interests and willing to do what’s necessary to preserve them. Just a theory.

I also note that no one answered the question: if we should demolish the Washington and Jefferson memorials, since they were evil slave owners too.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 1:38 PM

Nothing you said disproved what I said. Basically, what you said was, “The USA had the same laws originally.” I know that slavery existed in the United States and in its constitution, so don’t tell me to argue from facts and not just option [sic]. What a straw man. My POINT was that you can’t hail them as good guys fighting for state’s rights when they have slavery legislated.

Narutoboy on April 8, 2010 at 11:22 AM

True. But not a straw man. The question you are trying to respond to involves reasons other than slavery for sukceccion, and a comparison of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America to that of the Constitution of the United States of America would have been appropriate. Your wording seems to indicate that the CSA was the inventor of slavery, rather than merely its supposed guardian after the fact.

Again, I believe the South had won on the issue of slavery, allowing it to be extended not only in new territories and states, but into the Northern states as well. Then they threw all that advantage away by sukcedding.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 1:38 PM

That’s what happens when traitors take up arms against their own nation. It’s an insult to actual Americans to pay any homage to these insurgents and terrorists.

The Race Card on April 8, 2010 at 2:45 AM

General Ulysses S. Grant would like a word with you, President Johnson.

MB4 on April 8, 2010 at 1:39 PM

I also note that no one answered the question: if we should demolish the Washington and Jefferson memorials, since they were evil slave owners too.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 1:38 PM

I vote for painting the Washington Monument brown, putting a giant gold cigar band around it, and renaming it the Clinton Monument.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 1:39 PM

General Ulysses S. Grant would like a word with you, President Johnson.

MB4 on April 8, 2010 at 1:39 PM

That’s impressive. I think the argument Johnson had with Grant (about punishing Lee and other Confederates) was kabuki — given what Johnson later did for the planters.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 1:43 PM

I vote for painting the Washington Monument brown, putting a giant gold cigar band around it, and renaming it the Clinton Monument.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Well I vote for painting the Washington Monument light brown, putting knuckle joint facsimiles on it, and renaming it the Obama [middle finger] Monument.

MB4 on April 8, 2010 at 1:46 PM

That’s impressive. I think the argument Johnson had with Grant (about punishing Lee and other Confederates) was kabuki — given what Johnson later did for the planters.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 1:43 PM

I duuno. I have the impression that he wanted vengeance. He may have just decided later that he could benefit personally by altering his attitude. Politicians do that a lot nowadays and probably did it a fair amount of it back then. Maybe Johnson was John Kerry’s great granddad.

MB4 on April 8, 2010 at 1:51 PM

Try not using suksession or rubellon. It’s like they deliberately set up situations to suppress comments.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 1:30 PM

They do this because there are many people within the modern conservative movement who want to suksede from or rubell against the United States today. So much for patriotism!

You are also a fool who knows nothing about history or this war. The so-called Civil War (which it was not) was no more about slavery than World War 2 was about the Jewish people or the holocaust! These people were fighting for the exact same thing as the founding fathers of 1776, independence, and the right to govern themselves!…

Confederate on April 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM

A Gedankenexperiment for you: suppose a group of Germans decides to cultivate pride in their history in the days before they became a NATO puppet. They were just looking for a little Lebensraum and self-governance for the Aryan race, after all, but the English despot oppressors fought back. So they declare a Third Reich Geschichte Monat to celebrate their ancestors’ bold and unorthodox strides in politics, industry, and warfare. And since the war was “not about the Holocaust,” they don’t mention it.

How, materially, does such a scenario differ from a Confederate History Month in America? I argue that it does not differ at all.

I also note that no one answered the question: if we should demolish the Washington and Jefferson memorials, since they were evil slave owners too.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 1:38 PM

They owned slaves, yes, but they did not commit acts of treason against the United States and precipitate a terrible war on our soil against their fellow countrymen to preserve slavery as an institution. They instead, of course, committed acts of treason against the Crown and precipitated a terrible war on our soil against their fellow countrymen to establish liberty as an institution (for white property-owning male Christians only, but it was a decent start).

hicsuget on April 8, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Are people still arguing that the Civil War was not about slavery? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

You have me confused with other commenters. My argument was that if the Civil War was “90% about slavery and 10% about other things”, doesn’t it behoove us to take a look at the other 10%, since we all agree that slavery was and is bad?

I was arguing with Narutoboy because (a) he was acting like a jerk, offering to p*** on people’s graves; (b) he was carrying on as if both the antebellum South and the modern South of today were and are irremediably evil, and that is BS. They are our fellow-countrymen! We are one nation now.

I’m a states’ rights advocate. But, the secessionists were fighting to maintain their stately-sovereign right to enslave other humans, thereby violating the US Constitution, they needed to be defeated.

I don’t argue with that, and never did. Again, I think you’re mixing up my arguments with someone else’s.

It would make more sense to have a Civil War over abortion and its states’ rights implications, not to mention millions of aborted fetuses. Slavery was a stupid issue to die for.

Not arguing with that, either. Can’t think of anyone who would.

The Race Card on April 7, 2010 at 10:58 PM

I hope this clears up my position. I am not a racist nor an espouser of the position that “the South will rise again!” As I said numerous times upthread, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I was arguing with Narutoboy because I couldn’t stand the coarseness and crudity of his argument, and because it was sowing division where we need unity. Perhaps my biggest mistake was engaging him in the first place.

Mary in LA on April 8, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Are people still arguing that the Civil War was not about slavery? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

That wasn’t my argument. I think you have me confused with other posters. My argument was that if the Civil War was 90% about slavery and 10% about other things, doesn’t it behoove us to look at the other 10% (which I think of as economic issues), since no sane person would argue in favor of slavery? Narutoboy seemed to think we have nothing at all to learn from studying the Confederacy.

I objected to the coarseness, crudity, and divisiveness of Narutoboy’s argument. I hope this clarifies my position.

(I had a longer post, but HotAir ate it.)

Mary in LA on April 8, 2010 at 2:48 PM

…since no sane person would argue in favor of slavery…
Mary in LA on April 8, 2010 at 2:48 PM

While that is true, it is entirely possible you are overestimating the number of sane people inhabiting this great nation.

hicsuget on April 8, 2010 at 3:09 PM

They owned slaves, yes, but they did not commit acts of treason against the United States and precipitate a terrible war on our soil against their fellow countrymen to preserve slavery as an institution. They instead, of course, committed acts of treason against the Crown and precipitated a terrible war on our soil against their fellow countrymen to establish liberty as an institution (for white property-owning male Christians only, but it was a decent start).

hicsuget on April 8, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Leaving the union was, and is not, “treason”. This is a voluntary union and any state can leave if their citizens choose to.

Moreover, when Washington/Jefferson etc. created their new nation, it was in fact a slave nation, which they had to assume would remain so in perpetuity. In fact both were slave owners while in office, as were many of the first presidents, even though they all had the perfect option to free them at will.

You cannot have it both ways, bashing the Southern States while at the same time celebrating the Founding Fathers – it makes no logical sense, since they were both “guilty” of the same exact thing. Rather, admit that both groups were mistaken, that both inherited a difficult and unsustainable institution, both sides were both right in some things and wrong in others, and that both need to be studied in context.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 3:14 PM

Leaving the union was, and is not, “treason”.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 3:14 PM

Yes it is.

trea·son (trzn) KEY

NOUN:

Violation of allegiance toward one’s country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one’s country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies.

One can not claim to honor the Constitution by discarding it.

One can not claim to be a patriot to the US by trying to destroy it.

Goodbye Rebar.

rukiddingme on April 8, 2010 at 3:30 PM

rukiddingme on April 8, 2010 at 3:30 PM

States are sovereign, states entered into the contract of the Constitution based on very carefully delineated conditions. If the federal government violates that contract, a state or states have every right to withdraw from it, as per the 10th amendment.

If you think that’s treason, you need to read this.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM

States are sovereign, states entered into the contract of the Constitution based on very carefully delineated conditions. If the federal government violates that contract, a state or states have every right to withdraw from it, as per the 10th amendment.

If you think that’s treason, you need to read this.

Rebar on April 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Whatever. Your interpretation of those words lost sometime in the 19th Century.

As for violation, the only states having their rights violated under the Constitution at that point were the Northern states. The South had won every Court case and had succeeded in allowing slavery in all territories and even in the Free States under the Commerce clause.

What they lost was an insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) election for the executive. Had they sat it out, Lincoln would have been out in four years and the abolitionists demoralized with the realization that the President is powerless to change a Constitution which enshrines the right to keep slaves as an absolute.

Instead they performed inserekton, and got beat badly.

unclesmrgol on April 8, 2010 at 7:09 PM

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