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Views on Confederates, circa 2001

In a January 2001 national poll -- four years after Virgina Gov. George Allen proclaimed the first Confederate History Month -- 50 percent of Americans said it was appropriate for public officials to acclaim Confederate leaders; 40 percent said such praise was not okay. Nearly two-thirds said that such comments were not racist.

The poll, conducted by Gallup, USA Today and CNN, also revealed large differences in opinion across regions, race and party affiliation.

At the time, majorities in the South and the Midwest said that praise for Confederate Civil War leaders was appropriate, while opinion divided about down-the-middle in the West and the Northeast. Whites split 53 percent to 36 percent on the question, tilting toward its being appropriate, while African Americans broke 60 percent to 39 percent the other way.

Nationally, some 45 percent of blacks said such positive comments were racist; 46 percent said they were not. By contrast, 67 percent of whites said praise of Confederate leaders was not racist; 22 percent said it was. (There was very little difference on this question between whites with and without college degrees.)

On both items, independents' responses were in between those of the partisans, with those in the political center dividing 49-40 on the appropriateness question, and 23 yes racist, 65 not on the other.

By Jon Cohen  |  April 8, 2010; 10:57 AM ET
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I think it was inappropriate to completely ignore the history of the true reason for the civil war by the statesman.

The question simply isn't was it appropriate or not but was it intentially left out. My question than would be how could a knowledgeable man like himself FORGET to mention slavery and the ugly history it has and still have divided a country so desperately in need of healing.

I think what should and continue to happen is that we as a nation discuss it but leave the emotions out of it. Let's attempt to fix it just as we attempt to fix every others countries ugly struggles...

I know we can as Americans set aside our own emotional feelings and fix the ongoing racisms that continue to plague such a great country...

Posted by: mcarte01 | April 8, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

When the confederates fired on Ft. Sumpter it was an act of treason. Today, we would call them terrorists. When will the Confederate states realize they lost. It's time to move on and bury the Confederacy and what it stood for rather than romanticizing it.

Posted by: mouley | April 8, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Why don't you try providing us with some up-to-date information?

Posted by: cougartonyusa | April 8, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

The American Civil War WAS fought over slavery. That was the primary cause... but not the only one, and it was not the motivating reason for many, many soldiers and others who participated in the war on one side or the other: defense of home, patriotism toward one's State (attitudes toward the national government were different then), youthful seeking after adventure and dangerous challenge, revenge for the loss of a loved one, communal or regional solidarity... the reasons are legion, and likely were different for everyone.

For many Americans, the Confederacy doesn't represent the heinous institution it was established to preserve so much as it does their patriotic heritage, their pride in their home state and region.

For other Americans, the Confederacy can represent nothing else but the abominable institution it was established to preserve. That is an entirely reasonable perception, too... who can sincerely contend that it is not?

The best any of us can do in this situation is to try to understand and make allowances for the points of view others hold on the matter, "...with malice toward none, and charity toward all", as a great American once urged.

Posted by: Observer44 | April 8, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Virginians of all people should have an understanding of the devastation brought by slavery and the Civil War, especially to Virginia. For McDonnell not to understand is inexcusable.

Posted by: chucky-el | April 8, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

The Confederacy represented the worst aspects of the first American Republic: Intolerance, bigotry, exclusivity, and ignorance. The Southern States started the war and I am reminded of its cost every day when I walk by Civil War memorials to US Army soldiers who died to united the country.
Any celebration of the Confederacy is an offense to the dignity of all Americans who believe in a United States of America.
In truth the Civil War didn't end until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed. And with the Republican Party embracing and encouraging dissatisfied Dixiecrats from 1968 on, we are still living in a 'Reconstruction-like' era of post Confederate life.
Unfortunately by electing morons to their leadership, the electorate in many former Confederate states have exhibited a laughable grasp on social realities in the 21st century and continue to hold back the true promise of our nation.

Posted by: ReverendX-Ray | April 8, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Virginia History month would of been nice.
Civil War History month would of been ok.
Confederate History month is backwards and diversive.

the south lost, get over it.

Posted by: MarilynManson | April 8, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

history says slavery was not the main reason for the civil war...
but, it did free the slaves...
which would have ended anyway...
so, to everyone, i say the following...
we have enough problems, today...
the past shoud be left in the past...
and we should work on our future...
because the dems are wrecking our future...
and we have to act...

Posted by: DwightCollins | April 8, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

As an African American, I would have no problem with a "Civil War History Month" as that would mean we would celebrate ALL those involved in that war and those affected by that war (Union and Confederate, Slave and Free, Black and White). We would be reflecting on our History as a nation involved in a bloody war and all citizens would be part of the history lesson. I have a REAL problem with the state I live in celebrating "Confederate History Month" because it celebrates a bunch of confederates who did not want other humans (my ancestors) to live free. These same confederates and those who came behind them (generations of confederates) the KKK and the Aryan Nation, etc. continued to extract pain and brutality on former slaves and their ancestors,well into the 21st century (even though they were freed by President Lincoln's Proclamation) The mind-set of the hate groups mentioned above and many who wish to celebrate the confederacy are inextricably entwined.

Posted by: OHREALLYNOW | April 8, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

This issue is complicated - because Lincoln never said in the election of 1860 that he wanted to free the slaves -

So it does NOT follow that Lincoln was going to free the slaves upon taking office.

In fact, the South had enough votes in the Senate to block actions.

So what STARTED the WAR ???


Posted by: 37thand0street | April 8, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Look, we celebrate Black History month withut mentioning that it was blacks in Africa who provided the slaves to the traders. We celebrate Lincoln's birthday without mentioning that Sherman's march to the sea was a rape and pillage expedition that introduced "total war" to the modern world (studied by every army in Europe, in person). So shut the f up about it already.

Posted by: jhr1 | April 8, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse




Posted by: demtse | April 8, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

What would be really -- REALLY -- amazing is that people could see commemorating the Confederacy as unrelated to tolerance of slavery. But of course, there is no such thing. What all this tells us is that the majority of whites in the red states are profoundly racist. In 2010 ! Which makes one wonder: wouldn't a real secession be advisable today?

Posted by: Makhno1 | April 8, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

How history can change: While it’s now PC to state that the Confederacy stood primarily for slavery, it’s just not true. Yet, thank God the institution of slavery was virtually eliminated in this country by this “war between the states”. However, history shows that over 95% of those who fought for the south and died during the civil war were not slave holders but just your everyday common working man who perceived that their states were being wronged economically by the Northern industrial base. You can be sure that most of the northern troops were not fighting the south over the existence of slavery or the emancipation proclamation! If anything, they went to war to preserve the union. Congress didn’t mention freeing anybody in their declarations at the time nor did Mr. Lincoln. The war started over so called States Rights. The eventual freeing of the slaves i.e. “40 acres and a mule” came much later after Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation and as Gen. Sherman army marched to the sea. Regardless of how you feel about the civil war…. there is no reason to demonize our ancestors for fighting and dying for what they believed was a just cause.

Posted by: tonyholst | April 8, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad it's been nine years since Gallup did a poll on this "issue". What are the latest numbers on the proper way to hang toilet paper?

Posted by: posttoastie1 | April 8, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps few know of Virginia's attempts to free itself of the institution of slavery prior to the Civil War. In the early 1700's the British government struck down about 9 ordinances passed by the assembly in Williamsburg to ban the importation of more slaves into the colony due to profitability of the slave trade to British merchants. Robert Carter, the richest man in Virginia freed his slaves, George Washington freed his after his death, Thomas Jefferson tried and failed to get an ordinance to roll back slavery in Virginia. Robert E Lees' uncle freed his slaves, Robert E Lee himself argued that the Confederacy would not survive unless the freedom of slaves was exchanged for service to the Confederacy. Perhaps this struggle with an institution that chained itself to Virginia is just cause for a month of deliberation.

By 1859 the use of slavery for industrial and agricultural use in Virgina was on a decline. The main industry in Virginia in 1859 was the business of selling its slaves to the cotton producing states.

The Civil War is of course about the issue of slavery but it is more about the inability of the political leaders to compromise in times of crisis. Few wanted a war to settle these arguments but those who did not fear a war managed to drag the majority into their realm. The folly of acting on principle without the thought of consequences should be studied by all contemporary politicians.

Posted by: driley | April 8, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how most Americans would feel about modern day Germany establishing a day to recognize the positive contributions of the NAZIs, be sure there were many, the driving force of the Nazis was just the Jews there were other national, history, religion issues at play. Can you imagine pictures of Hitler being displayed, with pride and honor all over Bavaria. How would you feel. How would the Jews, the Gypies all those who suffered and died.

Posted by: 22meagan | April 8, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

It's interesting that in 2010 certain people attack political correctness and claim reverse racism in order to justify their own racism. As if that makes it OK.

Some history books and some people want us to believe the civil war and the confederacy was not about slavery, but States Rights. The southern states were exerting indeed their rights....for slavery. Why were the southern states so upset that Lincoln was elected President that they decided to leave the United States of America? They read his own words, speeches and platform (during the run up to the election)that advocated the end of slavery. One of the main reasons the Republican party came into existence was to end slavery. Now the Republican party has gone to the other extreme, advocating state rights to hate/limit freedoms and yearning for the old Confederacy.

Posted by: KevinAF | April 8, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

With all that there is to celebrate about Virginia the governor chose to declare a month of celebration dedicated to the confederacy. It is actually moronic. How about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson James Madison and the countlesss others who were in at the framing of the Constitution. Virginians all. The Confederacy was a loss the Revolution was a win. What history books was the governor reading? Don't make Virginia look foolish, celebrate all there is about Virginia that is positive.

Posted by: maryacarroll | April 8, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

The conflict in people's comments about the "cause" of the Civil War arises from confusing the reason the country split with what Northern leaders said once the war started, and various motivations of non-slaveholding whites to fight for the Confederacy.

Simplfying somewhat, Lincoln and many Republicans made it clear that their goal was to limit the growth of slavery into the western territories. They were also clear that they were adverse to slavery in general (see the "house divided" speech).

The Southern pro-slavery position held that slavery would die if not allowed to expand.
Hence, one gets open guerilla warfare in Kansas BEFORE the Civil War, on the issue of whether it would be "slave or free". Once Lincoln and the republicans won in 1860, the proslavery forces felt the government would not only limit slavery's expansion, but also move to outlaw it everywhere (as the British Empire did some 30 years earlier). There is a great question as to whether those goals could have, or would have been achieved in Washington, but the slave states were not going to wait and find out. There was little in the way of "let's talk this over". So, the south seceded. They then started the shooting at Fort Sumter, despite attempts by Lincoln to start a dialogue.

Once the cannons fired, the rush to join the colors on both sides took over. Lincoln's emphasis on "saving the Union" to the neglect of ending slavery does NOT prove the war wasn't caused by the slavery issue, but rather IS proof of how badly Lincoln wanted to keep the country together, particulalry to show the world our type of government could last (see the Gettysburg address). Remember, only the abolitionists saw blacks as people. Emphasizing slavery too early would have definitely caused divsion in the North at a time when unity was desperately needed. Even Lincoln's slow change of public policy on slavery was originally only to help the war effort.

Lastly, the various motivations of non-slaveholding whites to fight for the Confederacy is simply a red herring in the "cause" of the war. First, because their motivations largely developed AFTER war broke out. Second, because their state governments were controlled by the planter class, and that class decided to secede based on their perceived interests.

As a student of history, I always found it puzzling that "regular folks" manned the armies of powers that clearly did not have their best interests at heart. Why did serfs fight for the Czar? Why did workers fight for Hitler? Frenchmen for Napoleon? Anybody in the First World War?

Seeing what occurred in the US after 9/11, and during the Bush presidency, I am no longer as puzzled. It remains true that the motivations of individual soldiers often have little to do with why a country goes to war.

Posted by: marklewski | April 8, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

A little bit of Mr. Lincoln's "civil war" history in Arizona. General Carleton led the California Column of Union troops into the Confederate Territory of Arizona. The Confederates from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas under Col. Hunter were mostly in Tucson to defend the region. After the skirmishes at Stanwyx and Picacho, the Confederates withdrew. There is no record of any of the Confederates having any slaves with them. No eyewitness accounts, no records, etc.
However- it is recorded in more than one source that Gen. Carleton- USA, did bring his African-American slave named Joe with him from California- supposedly a "free" state. The Union troops called Joe the "N" word liberally and did not allow Joe to dance with the Mexican girls in Tucson. The irony of this is the HYPOCRISY of the Yankees. Now where oh where did those Yankee boys from the free state of California get their RACISM and slavery? California isn't part of the South.
There is more than meets the eye when we read the Yankee version of US History. We have to dig deeper than the Northern victor's version of history to get the facts and truth.
Indeed, truth is a jewel.

Posted by: dixieforever | April 8, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Dear Dixieforever-

The roots of your anecdote arise from a rather close election in California as to whether it would be slave or free. Most people don't know this, because California did not erupt into the violence of Kansas (too isolated?).

Although that is the "truth", as is your story about Carleton, what's your point?
That hypocrisy existed in the 1860's? That racists existed on BOTH sides (basically a given amongst whites at that time)? That many Federals fought more for Union than slavery? That antislavery southerners (Lee) fought for the South? That mid 19th century Americans were much more regional/parochial? That the South was right, and slavery was a good idea because some (many?) Unionists were hypocrites? The fact remains that the division of the USA into slave/nonslave halfs was THE divisive issue (morally, legally, economically) in the 1840's-1860's. There is simply no explanation for the Civil War absent slavery.

Posted by: marklewski | April 9, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

This is not the only Civil War History scandal in Virginia.


Posted by: MikeLicht | April 10, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

All posting on this site would do well to review their history!
I would suggest reading "Civil War Handbook" by William H. Price (1961) and "The Civil War - An outline history" (American Heritage Publishing Co. 1961)
It should be available in your local libraries.
The Civil war began in the 1830's as a cold war (according to the literature).On April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter was fired on by Southernors, starting the Civil war. According to the book, the South wanted its independence, some southern states seceded from the Union.
Read the true history, and don't try to recreate your own version of history. More than 600,000 lives were lost.
A tragedy, whether they were northerners or southerners, they were "American"!

Posted by: SeniorVet | April 11, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

The civil war was started over State rights. The democratic party back then supported state rights & a majority of the democrats who ruled their states decided to secede from the union by majorities in their states. Slavery may had been the main reason the North detested the south as they didn't want to expand slavery but the south roiled over the power that the north was applying on the south to end slavery & their way of life.

Posted by: tony_gil | April 14, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

To a Northerner fed the pretentious Union view of the war, the war was a war fought for Slavery. That is a justification for stealing from the Condfederacy what America itself had to steal from England.
In truth, the American Civil War wasn't fought to keep a people oppressed. Slavery was on the fast lane to extinction anyway, education was becoming much too prevalent, and it is only possible to enslave ignorance. No, the war was fought to protect state's rights and prevent the federal government from becoming too strong. You must remember the time period. We had not been an independent nation for a full century and were adding much land. The fighting over slave state or free state caused tension, yes, but it all came to state's rights. Does the federal government have the right to mandate a state's economy? Under the constitution, no. The states were given the right to set their own economies while the federal government was given control over interstate commerce and importing and exporting goods, because a single state can not decide what affects another. By claiming secession illegal the federal government forever took away much of the state's ability to think and act for themselves. So, Northerners should stop hating Southerners. We fought for our homes, you fought for money. It is unrealistic to believe that a poor farmer and his sons ran off to war to keep down the blackies. It's as ignorant as people saying Asians are smarter than other people. If you still harbot resentment its because you've never stopped to think. You weren't in the situation, you never stopped to think. Also, you were never a slave. Food for thought.

Posted by: ckbogue | April 15, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

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