“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Had Lee won, where would the US be today?

To my mind the South had every right to secede and I would have worn the gray. History calls it a civil war, which it was not. A civil war would imply that time had solidified the USA to be one country and it was not. It was evolving and still acquiring western territories. It was very much a work in process and subject to debate and change. Honorable men would have had differing opinions as to what the country was and where it was going. Had it been a corporation it would have been a "spin-off".

The keeper of the gates of current American group think would not agree, and you?

Symposium to honor Lee, villain or 'the noblest ever' ?
By Robert Stacy McCain
April 25, 2007

Winston Churchill called him "one of the noblest Americans who ever lived," and Theodore Roosevelt called him "the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth."

But has political correctness turned Robert E. Lee into a villain? That will be the question explored by six historians this weekend at a symposium commemorating the bicentennial of the Confederate commander's birth.

"We were afraid that Lee would not receive the honors he should get because of the prevailing political correctness," says Brag Bowling, a Richmond resident who helped organize Saturday's event at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Arlington.

The symposium will be the largest event of its kind this year honoring Lee, who was born Jan. 19, 1807.

The event site was chosen in part to be near the former Lee family home in Arlington (which now overlooks Arlington National Cemetery). He and his wife, Mary Custis Lee, were married there in 1831, and Mrs. Lee inherited her grandfather's mansion on his death in 1857.

The symposium site was chosen because of its proximity to Washington.
"We wanted to take this to the nation's capital," says Mr. Bowling, a national board member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is hosting the symposium. More than 200 have registered to attend.

"They're coming in from all over the country," he says. "I had one phone call ... from some guy in Norway. We've got people coming from California, Texas, Massachusetts -- all over the country, and from Canada."

Lee, the son of Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse Harry" Lee, was born in Westmoreland County, Va., and graduated from West Point. He served more than 30 years in the U.S. Army, distinguishing himself in the Mexican War as an aide to Gen. Winfield Scott.

Lee, who freed the slaves his wife inherited from the Custis family, called slavery "a moral and political evil" and opposed secession. After Virginia seceded in 1861, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army rather than bear arms against "my native state."

Hostility to Confederate heritage "has really gotten bad in the last decade," says Mr. Bowling, who says that political correctness in academia and in the press often leads to "dishonoring Confederate soldiers and ignoring the true reasons why the South wished to secede."

Such hostility is based on a misunderstanding of the political background of the war, says Thomas DiLorenzo, who will speak at Saturday's symposium.

"It's hard for people to understand Lee's legacy unless they understand the political philosophy that he held and that informed him as to why he was fighting," says Mr. DiLorenzo, a professor of economics at Baltimore's Loyola College. "Lee was a military man, so he very seldom said anything about politics. But after the war, he did."

Lee saw the war as "a continuation of the battle between the Hamiltonian consolidationists and the Jeffersonian decentralists," says Mr. DiLorenzo, referring to the "remarkable correspondence" between Lee and British statesman Lord John Acton in 1866.

In a letter to Acton, Lee referred to the writings of Jefferson and Washington and warned that "the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded."

Lee's letter was "a very eloquent expression of the Jeffersonian philosophy of the Constitution ... and I think it tells us a lot about why he believed he was fighting this war," Mr. DiLorenzo says.

Joining Mr. DiLorenzo at the symposium will be author Kent Masterson Brown, historian John J. Dwyer, Donald Livingston of Emory University, novelist Thomas Moore and Clyde Wilson of the University of South Carolina. Robert Krick, former chief historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, will speak at a banquet Saturday evening.

"We have people who are going to make you think," Mr. Bowling says. "When you leave this seminar, you're going to say, 'That's a really unique way of looking at things. I haven't thought of it like that before.' "

The official sponsor of Saturday's symposium is the S.D. Lee Institute, which was begun in 2005 as the "academic wing" of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Mr. Bowling says. The institute is named for Confederate Lt. Gen. Stephen Dill Lee (no relation to Robert E. Lee), who at a 1906 SCV gathering declared: "To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought."

Mr. Bowling hopes the Arlington symposium "will be the blueprint for other S.D. Lee seminars around the country."

Nationally, the Sons of Confederate Veterans enrolls 30,000 members who are descendants of those who served in the Confederate military services.

"There are tons and tons of people who are proud to be Southerners and proud of their Confederate heritage," says Mr. Bowling. "We've taken polls and we have overwhelming support in Virginia, but you'd never know it, to read the newspapers."


  1. North of the Mason-Dixon Line.

    I've read some learned commentary to the effect that slavery would have withered away with the coming of the machine age, though I don't think I believe it.

    I don't see it's possible to speculate how things would have worked out in WWI or WWII. Who knows.

    Thankfully the good guys won. It's hard to imagine it any other way. As long as Lincoln lived, the south was doomed, I think, sooner or later, as, is said in "Gone With The Wind", we got no cannon, boys, or something to that effect. The north had the people and the industry.

    Bobby Lee put up a good fight though. After he lost, and signed the surrender, he worshipped in a church, right next to a black man.

  2. I didn't know it until I was about 14 years old, but my momma dun told me then, her side of the family--by far the oldest side, going back to Virginia before Independence--had a small plantation in Tennessee, and a family of blacks. I was shocked to my roots. I hope, if I had been alive then, I would have fought for the Union, and helped them 'whip those wicked people.'

    We have a moron in Moscow, who calls himself a preacher, who wrote a book saying what a wonderful good patriarchal compassionate institution slavery was. Christ Almighty. Great back slapping deal all around. I don't agree with the university crowd on much around Moscow, but on that one I'm with em.

    After the war they moved to Kansas and tried to farm, then to Seattle, where mom was born.

  3. One local wag wrote a letter to the editor saying, I, too, am qualified to be a deacon in Christ Church cause I have a pecker and I'm ignorant. They don't allow the women positions of power, you see.

  4. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

    Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me
    "Virgil, quick, come see, there goes Robert E. Lee!"
    Now I don't mind choppin' wood, and I don't care if the money's no good
    Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
    But they should never have taken the very best

    Like my father before me, I will work the land
    And like my brother before me, who took a rebel stand

    He was just eighteen, proud and brave
    But a Yankee laid him in his grave
    I swear by the mud below my feet
    You can't raise a Caine back up when he's in defeat.

  5. If Lee won, and both nations raced to the Pacific Ocean, the CSA would have the illegal immigrant problem with Mexico. The Union (with a large German immigrant population) would have come in on the side of Kaiser Bill against Great Britain as payback for their support of the south in the Civil War, and at the very least would have supplied and aided the German U-Boat campaign, which would have been sufficient to knock the UK out of the first World War.

    Russia's communist revolution would have been nipped in the bud by the occupying Hun. There would not have been a second World War, but the Pacific War with Japan might have occurred as the Imperial Japanese Navy filled the void left by the collapse of the British Royal Navy.

    Committed to their slave-driven agrarian economy during the crucial years of the late 19th Century, the South would have remained an economic backwater and largely missed the Industrial revolution until well into the 20th Century. Even if slavery was abandoned, civil rights for blacks, Catholics, and Jews across the Southern states would be frozen roughly where they were in the 1920s.

    California would not exist as we know it today with Hollywood and Silicon Valley and San Fran Sicko, but look more like Texas. Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia (54'40" or Fight, anyone?) would be the "Left Coast" of the United States.

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  7. Being full of pride of your family is fine...

    Owning slaves in the style and ways the north and south did?

    no different that most of the world at that time...

    today you can still own slaves in most of africa or the arab world...

    Part of revisonism is to defang the horror of the past..

    that is why the holocaust is not that big of a deal, after all it created lots of job opportunies to less skilled workers to move up the corporate ladder once the jews were fed into ovens...

  8. Those are interesting speculations of yours, T.