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  2. Slavery and the Civil War

    From the Houston Chronicle this morning: Confederates in their own words LISA FALKENBERG Today, I’m turning my column over to the Confederacy. Given the lack of trust in the media, and in experts, and in institutions, it’s probably the only prudent thing to do. You see, if I wrote in my own words about how Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is right to call for the removal of the Children of the Confederacy Creed plaque at the state Capitol, many of you would dismiss it. If I tried to argue that the San Antonio Republican has facts and history on his side when he says the plaque is inaccurate and that Texans are not well-served by distortions of our history, some might laugh it off. If I quoted directly from the plaque, which expresses “a desire to perpetuate, in love and honor, the heroic deeds of those who enlisted in the Confederate Army” and pledges allegiance to “pure ideals” including that the “war between the states was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery,” many might be inclined to believe it. Never mind that the plaque was erected 100 years after the Civil War. You might still argue, as Gov. Greg Abbott did last month, that “racist and hate-filled violence” is never acceptable, but that symbols of the past — apparently even if they glorify racism, hate and violence — should not be buried. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it,” Abbott said at the time. Well, governor, on that we agree. Let’s get to learning. Let us revisit history, at its source: the Texans who attended the secession convention in Austin in 1861. Why Texas seceded They proclaimed their reasons loud and clear in a document called the Declaration of Causes, meaning “the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union.” Many of us didn’t read this in school, but a simple Google search takes you right to it via the Texas state archives or the Library of Congress. It gets to the slavery issue right quick — in the third paragraph. The document explains how The Republic of Texas, a sovereign nation, was admitted into the union in 1845, “received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery, the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits — a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.” The Texans accused people in the non-slave-holding states of hostility toward “Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery.” The Texans also accused the northern states of proclaiming “the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men, irrespective of race or color — a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of the Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and the negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States. “For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.” The Texans continue: “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable. “That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding States. “By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.” A picture of our past In closing, the document appeals to the “intelligence and patriotism” of free men in Texas to ratify the ordinance at the ballot box. It is signed by those who attended the convention, including President Oran M. Roberts, a South Carolina native who became a Supreme Court justice in Texas and was later elected governor. As hard as it is to read the racist, hate-filled words defending the violent institution of slavery, they represent a true and accurate picture of our past. Some would like to bury that past. Some tried to cloak it in bronze and whitewash it with lies. That plaque erected in 1959, in the days of Jim Crow, isn’t history; it’s harmful propaganda that humiliates our black brothers and sisters and divides us as a state and a nation. Governor, the sins of the revisionists aren’t yours. But any leader who lets them stand is complicit.lisa.falkenberg@chron.com
  3. Slavery and the Civil War

    Slavery and the Civil War -- Joe McQuade challenges the view, still widely held in the South, that the Civil War was not about slavery.
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