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Bob McDonnell: No More “Confederate History Month”

by @ 9:21 am on September 25, 2010. Filed under Bob McDonnell, History, Virginia, Virginia Politics

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell took a lot of (well-justified) heat back in March when he stepped into the long-running controversy over Virginia’s Confederate History month by not only officially marking the event, but also initially signing a resolution that completely ignored the role of slavery in the Civil War or the Confederacy itself. He got hit pretty hard by the national press, and by me:

I am writing to express my profound disappointment your decision earlier this month to issue a proclamation designating April to be Confederate History Month in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Speaking as someone who voted for you last year based on the campaign you ran, this is not the image of the Old Dominion that I want to see spread across the nation, and I think it’s unfortunate that you choose to issue a proclamation that has resulted in just that.

First, it was an egregious mistake to fail to include any reference to the role that the institution of slavery played in the run up to the Civil War and in life in Virginia under the Confederacy. As you said in the amended proclamation that you issued yesterday afternoon “the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights.” While you corrected this mistake yesterday, it is disturbing to me that you, or someone in your office, apparently considered the very reason for the Civil War to be irrelevant to a proclamation about the Civil War.

More important than the omission of slavery, though, is the very idea of having a “Confederate History Month” in the 21st Century. It’s worth noting that in his Cornerstone Speech in March 1861, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens called slavery and the subjugation of an entire race to be the cornerstone upon which the Confederate States of America were founded. Setting aside a day to commemorate such a government, or even just Virginia’s involvement in that government, is not in fitting with the image that Virginia, one of the birth places of the American Revolution and home to some of it’s greatest Presidents, should be projecting to the rest of the United States and the world.

At the time, I and other Virginia bloggers, suggested an alternative:

Instead of marking Confederate History Month, the Commonwealth should designate April of each year, and April is appropriate because it is the month in which Virginia’s involvement in the war both began and ended, as Virginia Civil War History Month.

Instead of just marking the state’s association with a nation with a checkered history, such a month could be a method of remembering the pivotal historic role that the Old Dominion, and it’s citizens, played in the most pivotal event in the history of America. Virginia was, after all, the site of more Civil War battles than any other state, including both the first and the final battles of that war. Moreover, such a month could also serve to remember the Virginian’s who fought for, or otherwise supported, the Union while living in enemy territory; including those Virginian’s who decided to secede from their home state altogether.

Virginia Civil War History Month could serve to remember the Virginian’s who fought and died for both sides during our nation’s worst time without the taint of honoring a regime created to preserve the institution of human bondage.

Who’s with me ?

Well, I’m not going claim any credit for it because I’m just a humble blogger in Warrenton, but that’s essentially what Governor McDonnell is going to do:

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell announced Friday that he will declare next April “Civil War in Virginia” month, rather than “Confederate History Month,” as he once again expressed regret for a proclamation earlier this year that omitted a reference to slavery’s role in the war.

Speaking at a scholarly conference on slavery and race held at Norfolk State University, McDonnell called on Virginians to remember the war with a solemn spirit of racial unity.

He called April’s proclamation an “error of haste and not of heart,” a misstep by an administration only a few months in office.

“My major and unacceptable omission of slavery disappointed and hurt a lot of people – myself included,” he said. “And it is an error that will be fixed.”

(…)

In welcoming remarks at Friday’s conference, part of Virginia’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, McDonnell promised that next year he will issue a proclamation that acknowledges the broad sweep of the war in Virginia. He said it will be written to remember “all Virginians” – free and enslaved, and those who fought for both sides.

“One hundred and fifty years is long enough for Virginia to fight the Civil War,” he said, drawing laughs and then appreciative applause from the 1,600 attendees of the seminar, titled “Race, Slavery and Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory.”

An inclusive gubernatorial proclamation will ensure that “people across the world will understand that Virginia has the capacity to grow and to change and to acknowledge truth,” said state Sen. Yvonne B. Miller (D-Norfolk), a member of Virginia’s legislative black caucus.

Good for you Governor, you’re doing the right thing. Virginia left the Confederacy almost 150 years ago, it’s time to leave that four year long mistake behind.

7 Responses to “Bob McDonnell: No More “Confederate History Month””

  1. Anomaly100 says:

    This is more confirmation that they want to take our country waaay waaay back.

  2. Christopher W. says:

    You, Sir, are sadly deficient in your knowledge and understanding of The War Between The States, despite the bloviating and pontificating to the contrary. Lincoln himself said the war was not about slavery. He said the war was to maintain the Union, and that he would not fight for ending slavery in any case. Hundreds of thousands of Southerners did not fight to maintain it; they fought because an army was invading their homes. You have no right to dishonor them this way with your statements. Yes, Alexander Stephens and others said slavery was to be maintained. This was in the face of those who would take property (as was accepted since time immemorial, and still exists in the Islamic world, by the way) without compensation. Taking property, as was proposed by the Republican party and Abolitionists, without due process and compensation would have been wrong. This was recognized by even Lincoln himself when he proposed a Constitutional Amendment which would have ended slavery by 1900, and would have compensated the owners for the slaves. Regrettably, he proposed this too late, and the South seceded as was its right. Please don’t argue secession, either, because even New England threatened to secede several times, and it was felt to be legal and Constitutional.

    None of my ancestors owned slaves, but they fought for their homes and their States after an invasion from the North began. Many of my ancestors lost everything they had, especially due to the barbaric and illegal warfare conducted by General Sherman, whose name is rightfully cursed to this day.

    I don’t expect that this will have any impact on your thinking. Most people who feel as you do, feel that no one has anything of value to impart to them, and they know all there is to know on the subject already. That doesn’t mean you are not wrong. It only means you don’t know it, and don’t have the capacity to know or understand it. Commemorations of the Confederacy are about the sacrifice those men made for freedom and self-determination and honor, something you know little about. You have no understanding of what happened then, and you have no conception of how it impacts the here and now. Pundit, heal thyself. I don’t know where you learned History, but you learned and fostered a very one-sided and inaccurate version of it. If you have ancestors who fought for the South, you have dishonored them greatly, and they would be ashamed of you.

    As I said, I’m sure this will have no impact, and I will have wasted my time, but the Honor of several hundred thousand men deserves at least a response to such drivel.

  3. As you may recall, I have come to your defense on some of your postings in the past, and we have agreed on many libertarian issues over the past few years. However, you seem to ignore a major factor regarding the feelings of many Virginians and their Southern brethren with regard to our Confederate Veterans and their actions during the War for Southern Independence.

    I imagine that if you lived on an Apache reservation and heard Indians of today speaking of the bravery and honor with which their forefathers fought the “White Man” you would at least try to see things from their perspective. You probably would not try to stop them from honoring their forefathers, even though their people’s “bravery” included attempts to kill our countrymen.

    In the case of Southerners in general, and Virginians in particular, we know that the Confederacy was seen by some as an insurrection, but most of us are quite certain that secession was the right move, and indeed lawful. My family honors our Confederate Veterans right along with our other veterans. In fact, the US Congress has acted to do the same, by voting to grant US veteran’s status for our Confederate Veterans in the last century.

    I disagree with some of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who advocate in favor of, “Confederate History Month” and I strongly disagree with Mr. McDonnell’s attempt to bend over backwards so that he can kiss black asses; something everyone knew he would do on this issue. McDonnell is just like Mark Earley when it comes to wanting to kiss the backsides of the NAACP and any other group of blacks, in the hopes of altering their long-held Republican hating ways. Some Republicans will never learn; kissing black ass never works and foments even deeper contempt for the Republicans.

    No, we won’t celebrate, “Confederate History Month” or “Toll Road Bob” McDonnell’s PC abomination. We will celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of our Confederate forefathers EVERY DAY of EVERY YEAR!

    This is why we fly the Battle Flag right along with Old Glory at our home, all year long.

  4. mdan says:

    Sigh. Whether it was a war over slaves or a war over some states wanting to preserve their rights (to own slaves), at the end of the day the focal point of the fight was the fact a group of Americans were keeping another group of Americans as property. The mental gymnastics people go through to find that defensible – including the My Great Great Grandfather Didn’t Own Slaves and He Fought meme – is a little sad. As is the inclination to dismiss the sentiments of people whose great great grandfathers and mothers were slaves.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Ballance. The Union did not fight the Civil War to free the slaves, it fought to “preserve the union.” Lincoln crippled federalism; FDR would later destroy it. The bad guys won the American Civil War, and we are ALL less free for it.

  6. Ellie Light says:

    A “nation with such a checkered history?” Are you referring to the USA.

    As for the nonsensical comment about a group of people fighting to own another group of people as slaves perhaps ten per cent of Southerners owned slaves. I doubt that the 90% who fought against such overwhelming odds did so for the right to own slaves. As for involuntary servitude, the US had a draft till the 70s, it still has a tax system that confiscates 50% of the industrious to reward the lazy.

    I wonder if people understand what the civil war was about.

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