Don’t Know Much About History

Nancy Pelosi has recently said that the National Park Service should deny a permit to a group she opposes rather than let them “spew forth their venom.” She says that the Constitution doesn’t allow one to “yell wolf in a crowded theater.” David French has a piece over at NRO that looks at how her misquoting Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., shows her ignorance of constitutional law and our country’s history. (The fire in a crowded theater comment is dicta found in Schenck v. U.S. which is no longer good law. Brandenburg v. Ohio is now the proper standard.)

Mrs. Pelosi has also called for Speaker Ryan to remove statues of Confederates from the Capitol, something she failed to do when she was Speaker of the House. (She did order the statue of Robert E. Lee moved to a less prominent spot and his old spot given to a statue of Rosa Parks.) OTOH, at least she didn’t dedicate any such statues—as her father did when he was Mayor of Baltimore. AFAIK, she’s failed to make any public comments concerning her family’s history related to Confederate monuments.

One more thing … Because it will come up, here’s my opinion on Confederate monuments:

I grew up in the South. One of my great-great-grandfathers served as an officer in the Confederate Army. Another great-great-grandfather was a slaveholder. What both of them did was wrong, and I like to believe that I would have been among the substantial minority of Tennesseans who opposed secession and supported the Union.

The monuments that were built by people with a living memory of the war should probably be left alone as historical artifacts. However, later monuments erected as pushback to the 20th-century civil rights movement should have no such protection. If, for example, Baltimore decides to remove the Lee-Jackson monument Nancy Pelosi’s father dedicated in 1948, I would be inclined to believe that city was making a wise choice.

34 thoughts on “Don’t Know Much About History

  1. As a life member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, I have to disagree with you about the Confederacy. There is a false virtue for associating oneself with the Union, a combination of both virtue signaling and ignorance of history, I suspect. However, the South was right (both morally and Constitutionally) and the North wrong in that historic struggle. I suspect your ancestors would be as proud of you as you are of them, I.e., not very. Read a book. Start with Charles Adams’s “In the Course of Human Events, Arguing the Case for Southern Secession.”

    • Actually, I am proud of my ancestors. That pride is not grounded in their mistakes but in their otherwise successful and honorable lives.

      The real political tragedy of the war was the resulting expansion of the power of the State in day-to-day life. This occurred on both sides, and it continued afterwards. The things Lincoln and Davis did to fight the Civil War laid the foundation for what Wilson did to fight WWI and FDR did to “fight” the Great Depression.

      • It is entirely possible to conduct oneself honorably while on the “wrong side” (and, I might add, dishonorably while on the “right side.”) History is replete with examples.

      • They were both right and wrong (as is usually the case in major events like this). The slavery, and the fight for it, were wrong. However, the South’s entire economy was based around this. As we saw during Reconstruction (along with other factors like carpetbaggers corruption and thievery), their economy was devastated and stayed that way for decades. The other main reason they fought (and this is still an issue today) was to defend themselves against the usurpation of their right of self-governance by other states dictating how their states should be run. We see that today with folks from New York and California trying to dictate to the flyover states how things like guns, race relations, energy, and others should be handled.

        In short, the best way to describe it would be “It’s complicated.”

        And I’ve got relatives that fought on both sides (from the same side of the family).

        • There’s one problem with this view – The Constitution of the Confederate States of America required that slavery be legal in all states and that no state could be admitted without slavery. So much for states’ rights.

          • I’m not saying that slavery didn’t factor into the decision. As I said, it was a large component of their economy. Most of the politically powerful people were plantation owners and were slave owners, no matter how reluctant. The issue of slavery was not the only factor. So, yes, the South was both right and wrong in their decision to secede. States rights entered when the Northern states decided to use their economic clout to dictate to the Southern states. When one state interferes in the running of another, that’s when states rights comes in.

            As I said, it’s complicated. The causes of the war, and what caused people for fight for one side or the other, was not one reason. There were a myriad of issues that entangled both sides. Look at, General R.E. Lee. He did not agree with the decision to secede, nor the reasons. However, his loyalty to his home state is what caused him to resign his commission in the U.S. Army to join the Confederate Army.

          • States rights entered when the Northern states decided to use their economic clout to dictate to the Southern states. When one state interferes in the running of another, that’s when states rights comes in.

            Exactly such interference was enshrined in the Confederate Constitution. It’s tough to argue that you’re fighting for the sort of rights you’ve just outlawed.

          • As I understand it, the Confederate Constitution specifically prohibited states from abolishing slavery.

            They didn’t believe in state’s rights.

          • One factor that seems to be missing in the “but the interference was enshrined in the confederate states constitution” argument – Just like the original governments under the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution, joining the Confederated States was VOLUNTARY on the part of the states. If they didn’t agree with the mandate of slavery, then they didn’t have to join. There was no one (that I am aware of) telling them that they had to join the Confederacy.

          • “The Constitution of the Confederate States of America required that slavery be legal in all states and that no state could be admitted without slavery. So much for states’ rights.”

            It is also true that the Constitution of the United States of America, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, found that slavery was to be legal in every state just before the commencement of the Civil War. A slaveholder visiting the North took with him his personal servant/slave. Abolitionist argued that since slavery was illegal in the North, by transporting a slave North of the Mason-Dixon line his property rights over the slave were nullified. The Court ruled that the slave was his property and remained so during his travels up North.

        • The idea that States Rights was a”Southern Issue” circa 1860 is a later distortion of history. One of many such distortions. At the the time of the first Lincoln election, States Rights was a Northern demand, a Republican issue. Northern states demanded the right to nullify locally the federal Fugitive Slave Law, Northern states demanded the right to enforce their on laws against slavery in the face of the Southern control of the U S congress forcing the enforcement of slavery upon them.

          It may have been Lincoln’s wartime Federalism that caused the reversal in perception.

          • There is one big problem with your argument i.e. “Southern control of the U S congress” In 1860 the south had neither the population nor the number of states to control either house of congress.

            Yes the federal Fugitive Slave Law was a major problem but could have been compromised if the abolitionist been willing to.

          • The effective control of congress in that era is one which historians have debated for many decades, and will continue to debate. I doubt that we will settle this issue.

            As for the intransigence of the abolitionists, there are some moral issues in which compromise is heinously immoral. Should a Chinese mother being held down for a forced abortion “compromise” with the government? Should we continue to turn a blind eye to to Khartoum selling Nuban boys and girls into slavery in Saudi Arabia? Once the path of compromise on moral absolutes is begun, there is no end until the gate of hell.

            Now on the question of whether the abolitionists were correct in considering slavery to be an absolute moral evil, yes, an argument can be made that their alleged basis was flawed. However, by 1860, that question had been mooted by Taney’s words re Dred Scott. Taney is alleged to have said “one a slave, a;ways a slave”. Recently I read his full decision at the SCOTUS website; his words can be accurately paraphrased “once an African, never a citizen”. Where I expected to see the word “slave”, there was the word “African”. This reduction of an entire class of persons to sub-human status genetically is a heinous evil on which there can be no compromise.

    • The cultural and political division in Maryland in the 1850s and 1860s was massive. The German-speaking Anabaptist plurality was anti-slavery, the high-church old money were pro-slavery, and the Methodist Church in the “Birthplace of American methodism” split right down the middle.

      The slave-owning gentry in the Episcopal Church sent their daughters to the Hannah More Academy, which was secretly a station on the Underground Railroad.

      • I think it was more down to simple economics than any religious angle. Southern MD and Eastern shore benefited from slave labor on tobacco farms. Baltimore and points west had a decent shipping and manufacturing economy. Quite frankly, as was often the case, America in miniature.

        • Good point. I believe both factors were in play here. Being from a German Anabaptist turned Wesleyan family, I know that religion played a bigger role than many want to admit. At the same time, economics played a bigger role than some others want to admit. That’s a very good description of the economic geography of Maryland.

          Recently someone gave me a reproduction of a sketch that a Union soldier made of the razing of the Samuel Mumma farm by the Confederate army during the Antietam/Sharpsburg campaign; Samuel Mumma was my great-grandmother’s grandfather. That whole region was German-speaking at the time, which among other things caused Robert E. Lee’s army to get lost on the way to Gettysburg a year later. One of the reasons that Maryland was politically a “slave” state was that a large percentage of the German speaking population either from language or religious reasons never voted.

  2. John,
    Look at our family history. Remember about Andy? He had been one of the Hoge Family “Slaves,” After the war he was practically a member of the family. If I remember the story correctly, the First William John Joseph Hoge died while defending Andy’s life. Andy was in charge of the Hoge’s toll bridge over the Sequatchie River. A Northern Carpetbagger tried to pass over the bridge without paying the toll. Andy, good to his word tried to block the carpetbagger. On hearing the fight WJJH ran to the bridge and was stabbed by the Carpetbagger. From then on Andy was the most loving and loyal member of the family group. Andy was said to be the chief mourner at family funerals and the happiest celebrant at family weddings, births and baptisms.
    Robert Barker Hoge

    • It was William G. Hoge, WJJH’s father, who was killed defending the life of an elderly slave who ran the toll booth on the family’s bridge over the Sequatchie River. That was in 1861. The murderer wasn’t a genuine carpetbagger because the Civil War had not yet begun. William G. Hoge died well before Reconstruction stated.

      However, you are correct that Andy stayed with the family after the Civil War. He worked as a paid farmhand until he died in the 1890s.

  3. My own family history is that I’m descended from abolitionists in Missouri. Still doesn’t help me when liberals play their white guilt card, for some reason.

    As far as the Civil War goes, I think I agree with what General Longstreet said in the movie Gettysburg: “We should have freed the slaves, THEN fired on Fort Sumter.” If that had happened, I’d be 100% behind the South.

    But slavery is a bit hard to overlook. And yeah, when it comes to that, I’m a one-issue voter. I just can’t support the South on that.

    • They don’t care that my g-g-grandfather, born in Germany, fought with the 72nd Ohio, and after Brice’s Crossroads spent a year in Andersonville, being too ill to be transferred out in early ’65.

      Liberals don’t really care about where anyone or their family actually stood on slavery, or any other issue for that matter; they just hate whites and asians.

    • And, some Southern general could have quipped, “If Lincoln had marched into Missouri and abolished slavery I would have fought for the union.”

      No matter how problematic overlooking slavery may be, the fact remains that if the individual states had the right to leave the Union, then, the Civil War really was a war of Northern aggression. The Constitution was intended to improve the Union of states, and, not create a single central authority. I would think Thomas Jefferson would have thought the notions that states could not opt out as absurd.

      China’s one-child policy is barbaric. Does that really mean any government has the moral blank check to invade China, even if their primary motive is annexing China?

  4. The thing is, most Americans of the time didn’t think of themselves as Americans first – they were Virginians, Mainers, Ohioans first. So, loyalty to one’s home state was a conclusion one could come to in an entirely reasonable fashion.

    (Ancestors: Massachusetts abolitionists.)

  5. I have to vigorous disagree with our esteemed host as to his prescription to remove certain monuments. We are dealing with a highly irrational, illogical, immoral and racist Left that has begun a campaign of vilification of nearly two-hundred million Americans simply because they are White. One leftist stated that all unborn babies that are the offspring of two Whites ought to be aborted simply because the child will be White. Others, have demanded a more immediate act of White genocide. They make outrageous and insane proclamations that all Whites are “racists,” and, that no non-Whites can possibly be racist, even though it is crystal clear that folks like Louis Farahkhan are hateful bigots. Just this morning I read an article at that noted the University of Iowa investigated an “offensive flyer” that had the audacity to ask, “Are you sick of anti-white propaganda in college?” Apparently, asking that question is beyond the pale, but, apparently, having an assistant professor, Jodi Lindley, “expose her students to ‘their own white ignorance’” is not.

    These people deserve condemnation, not compromise. To the extent they may have had a point they long ago forfeited any moral authority to have their “demands” taken seriously. It is ignorant to believe any other than attempting to compromise with such people will be meet with anything other than escalating demands and more extreme rhetoric.

    The real solution to such people is more monuments, not less.

    • Perhaps I did not state my position clearly. Let me try once more.

      First, as to monuments erected by people with a living memory of the war, I believe that they should be left alone as historical artifacts. Period.

      Second, as to monument that were erected in the 20th century as symbols of resistance to the civil rights movement, I believe that whether they go or stay should be a local decision made by the entities that own them. If Baltimore wanted to replace its Lee-Jackson monument with one of a native son such as Thurgood Marshall, that should be up to the people of Baltimore and their elected government.

      You are correct in pointing out that hateful bigots are using what appears to be a manufactured controversy to stir up violence. Those bigots are on both sides of this manufactured controversy.

      • Careful, John. Pointing out that bigots (and, frankly, lunatics) exist on both sides of this matter is wrongthink. Doubleplusungood.

      • I understood your position clearly from the original formulation. And, again, I will not this is not the time and context to reconsider such monuments. Again, I will note that doing so would be giving aid and comfort to folks who are evil.

        As to modern trend to judge the past by our standards, I would note that Abraham Lincoln was a self-professed White supremacist who viscerally opposed miscegenation. So, maybe the Lincoln monument will have to be torn down.

        As to the canard that the civil war was about slavery I would note that Abraham Lincoln, the White Supremacist, and racist, stated the real issue was the preservation of the Union, and, that that slavery was a secondary consideration. I would note that after we beat the Spanish one of our conditions was they cede the Philippines, but, abolishing slavery in Cuba was not.

        Spain, France, England, Portugal and other colonial powers used, and, abandoned slavery at various rates, but, it was never suggested that that was a factor in which side ought to prevail in their various conflicts.

      • And, John, I would note you are now firmly on both sides in your clarified position. On one hand, you are claiming local entries have every right to construction additional monuments. But, on the other hand, you claimed previously that that window closed decades ago. Or, are you suggesting local entities only have the right to destroy such monuments? “I’m not telling you what to do, but, I am telling you what not to do,” isn’t my idea of local control.

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