Nazis, Confederates, and Stupid Pills in the Water Supply
by Bill Vallante, 5/03/2010
There is indeed a certain childish willfulness in the American mind that insists on chastising the people of the past for not being like them, or else pretending that they were. Which is a certain way not to learn anything from history. –Dr. Clyde Wilson
If you haven’t heard the analogy at some point in the last few years, then you’ve probably been on an extended journey to another planet. I’m talking about the comparison of the Confederacy to Nazi Germany. It’s a comparison that, these days, is hawked by everyone from mindless morons who prowl the internet posting boards to award winning journalists.
Most recently, Roland S. Martin, noted CNN harpy, made such an analogy when he said that honoring the Confederate soldier was akin to honoring Nazi soldiers for killing Jews during the Holocaust. How he arrives at the analogy, he does not say. In fact, no one who has made this type of analogy has been able or willing to state how they arrived at it and any challenges I have made regarding it have gone unanswered. It’s almost as if they believe that something becomes true simply because they say it is true. Back when I worked as a mental health professional we used to call this type of thing “magical thinking.” There are therapies and medication for the treatment of this type of thing but I don’t think either Roland Martin and his journalist buddies or the trolls who prowl the internet posting boards are particularly interested in getting help.
In the last 20 years or so it has become popular to chastise the people of the past for doing things that were commonplace to their time but to not ours. I suppose that as the fervor of this type of mindless behavior increases, analogies like “the Confederates were Nazis” become inevitable. Funny though – I do not recall such chastisements or analogies back when I was growing up, or when I was studying history as an undergraduate in the late 60s and early 70s. I’m not sure how, why or when such thinking began to become commonplace but more and more, I grow convinced that for the last 20 or 30 years, someone has been putting stupid pills in the water supply.
So how do people today arrive at this analogy? Is there any substance to it, are there any factors in that period of history, real or imagined, which might lead one to believe that anything the Confederacy did remotely resembled anything that Nazi Germany did?
If we drop the “stupid pills” theory for a moment and try to guess what their line of reasoning might be, the first guess might be that it has something to do with the “racial superiority” thing. This myopic view however, ignores the fact that racial prejudices are a part of human history, not just European or white or Southern history. It ignores the fact that not every people or polity that holds such beliefs goes out and exterminates someone. It also ignores the fact that the farther back you go in history, the more likely you are to run into such prejudices. Most especially, in this particular case, it ignores the fact that when Alexander Stephens said, “…that the Negro is not the equal of the white man,” it wasn’t a whole lot different from Lincoln’s statement that “I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” As much as such ideas might appall people today, these were the views of the vast majority of Americans in the mid 19th century. To shed tears or place blame over such a thing 150 years in the future makes no sense whatsoever. And to equate racial views expressed above with the racial views of Germany’s National Socialism is simply to go over the edge.
Is there a correlation between American slavery and the European holocaust? Not in Mr. Martin’s wildest of wet dreams.
First, slavery was a labor system that has been practiced by most civilizations since the dawn of time. Over a 200+ year period, some 14 million slaves were purchased in Africa from other Africans [who enslaved and sold them] and brought to the western hemisphere to be laborers, the vast majority being taken to Spanish, French, Dutch and English colonies in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. About 600,000 of those 14 million were deposited in North America. The purpose was not extermination or genocide or a “final solution,” it was labor.
Second, holocausts occur with alarming regularity throughout history and they usually have one deciding characteristic in common. If, for example, you checked the population of Armenia in 1918, you would have found that it was 1 million fewer than it was in 1914. Where did they all go? Ask the Turks. If you checked the Jewish population of Europe in 1945, you would have found that it was 6 million fewer than in 1933. What happened to them? Ask the Nazis. And if you checked the Tutsi population in Rwanda in 1995, you would have found that it was 800,000 fewer than in 1994. What happened to 800,000 people? I suppose the Hutu tribe could provide the answer because as I recall, that’s how many Tutsis they butchered. By contrast, the 600,000 Africans taken to North America grew to nearly a million by 1800. By the time of the Civil War the population had mushroomed to over 4 million, and by the time of Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta exposition speech it had swelled to 8 million. Today it stands at over 40 million. Do the math. The figures indicate that there was no genocide, no holocaust, and nothing resembling what the Roland Martins of the world would like to believe. In a holocaust, the targeted people’s population drops like a stone – it does not grow and flourish.
So how, then, is the Confederacy like Nazi Germany? Is there any other evidence which would support this analogy?
It is a documented fact that Nazi Germany sent its armies crashing over its neighbors’ borders in an effort to dominate them. The South, by contrast, declared its independence and fought a four year long defensive struggle, mostly on its own territory, against armies sent to subjugate it. It seems to me that if you want to find a "Nazi analogy" in America’s civil war that you’d have to look north of the Mason Dixon line, not south of it. It was the north that sent its armies across the border to attack its neighbor, not the reverse. This isn’t conjecture – it’s a matter of historical record. All one need to do is to look where nearly all the battles were fought – in the South.
Indeed, the words of one of the generals who led those northern armies in that invasion sound like something I would have expected to hear coming out of the Third Reich, not out of a country touting “government of, by and for the people.” Substitute “the fatherland” or “Germany” for “the United States” in the following quote and the words could just as easily have been coming out of the mouth of da’ Fuehrer himself. And if you think the author of these words was simply one lone loose cannon who was just shooting off his mouth and that his sentiments did not reflect those of Father Abraham, think again. In his memoirs, the author makes it clear that Lincoln knew of his statement and heartily approved of it.
“I would banish all minor questions, assert the broad doctrine that as a nation the United States has the right, and also the physical power, to penetrate to every part of our national domain, and that we will do it…that we will remove and destroy every obstacle, if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, every thing that to us seems proper; that we will not cease till the end is attained; that all who do not aid us are our enemies, and that we will not account to them for our acts.” –General William T. Sherman, ( Source: “One Nation Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution,” By Robert F. Hawes, Copyright 2006, Published by the Fultus Corporation, Page 162)
One might also examine the words of the Confederates themselves. Many Confederates, among them, Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and Mary Chestnut, made the following statement, "All we ask is to be left alone." Now, I know something about the history of WWII and for the life of me, I cannot remember any Nazi of any rank ever uttering those words between 1933 and 1945. My guess is that it is because simply wanting to be “left alone” is not a part of the National Socialist philosophy. In fact, its philosophy is the exact opposite. It is an aggressive system which forces others into adopting its way. If there is one side in our civil war whose policies resemble National Socialism in this regard, it isn’t the side that sits on the lower side of the Mason Dixon line:
“In order to prepare a treaty of peace it would only be necessary to write on a blank sheet of paper, the words, ‘self government’. Let the Yankees accord that, and they might fill up the paper in any manner they choose. We don’t want any state that doesn’t want us; but we only wish that each State should decide fairly upon its own destiny. All we are struggling for is to be let alone.” — Judah Benjamin, ( Source: “Three Months in the Southern States,” by Colonel Arthur Freemantle, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, copyright 1991, page 210)
"The New York Tribune is so unfair. It began howling to get rid of us. We were so wicked. Now that we are so willing to leave them to their over righteous self-consciousness, they cry ‘crush our enemy or they will subjugate us.’! The idea that we want to invade or to subjugate! We would only be too grateful to be let alone. Only let us alone. We ask no more of Gods or men.” –Mary Boykin Chesnut (Source: “Southern by the Grace of God," by Michael Andrew Grissom, Pelican Publishing, Gretna, La., 1999, Page 99, (As quoted in Mary Boykin Chestnut’s Diary)
“I am with the South in life or in death, in victory or in defeat…… I believe the North is about to wage a brutal and unholy war on a people who have done them no wrong, in violation of the Constitution and the fundamental principles of government. They no longer acknowledge that all government derives its validity from the consent of the governed. They are about to invade our peaceful homes, destroy our property, and inaugurate a servile insurrection, murder our men and dishonor our women. We propose no invasion of the North, no attack on them, and only ask to be left alone." –General Patrick Cleburne, 1861
“We feel that our cause is just and holy; we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacrifice save that of honor and independence; we ask no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms.” –President Jefferson Davis, (Speech to the Confederate Congress, 29 April 1861)
Matthew Maury Fontaine was studying in Russia when Virginia seceded. A Russian admiral tried to convince him to remain in Russia and forego the dangers and rigors of war in his homeland.
”He told the (Russian) admiral that he was a citizen of Virginia, in whose ‘green bosom are the graves of my fathers,’ and that ‘the political whirlpool from which your kind forethought sought to rescue me has already plunged her into a fierce and bloody civil war.’ Then after outlining the doctrine of States’ Rights, he explained his choice; ‘Thus my sword has been tendered to her cause, and the tender has been accepted. Her soil has been invaded, the enemy is actually at her gates; and here I am contending, as the fathers of the Republic did, for the right of self-government, and those very principles for the maintenance of which Washington fought, when this, his native state, was a colony of Great Britain. The path of duty and honor is therefore plain.’” –Matthew Maury Fontaine (Source: “The Southern Tradition at Bay,” by Richard Weaver, Regnery Gateway, Washington DC, Third Printing, 1989, page 169 )
”The real issue involved in the relations between the North and the South of the American States, is the great principle of self-government. Shall a dominant party of the North rule the South, or shall the people of the South rule themselves. This is the great matter in controversy.” Robert Barnwell Rhett (Montgomery, Alabama, 1860)
”My friends, there is one issue before you, and to all sensible men but one issue, and but two sides of that issue. The slavery question is but one of the symbols of that issue; the commercial question is but one of the symbols of that issue; the Union question is but one of those symbols; the only issue before this country in this canvas is the integrity and the safety of the Constitution.” –William Lowndes Yancey (Speech in Washington DC, 21 Sept 1860)
“All we ask is to be left alone,” “consent of the governed,” “self government,” “safety of the Constitution,” and defense of home and hearth – none are a match for the principles of National Socialism.
How did the respective governments of the CSA and USA govern their people during the war? Did either resemble the dictatorial regimes that we have come to associate with a country that operates under a National Socialist system? For an answer, let’s go to the Cherokee Indians, who, in their October 1861 “Declaration of Causes” (Yes folks, the Cherokee fought on the Confederate side), took note of the differences between the respective warring countries.
First, the Southern States:
”Throughout the Confederate States we saw this great revolution effected without violence or the suspension of the laws or the closing of the courts. The military power was nowhere placed above the civil authorities. None were seized and imprisoned at the mandate of arbitrary power. All division among the people disappeared, and the determination became unanimous that there should never again be any union with the Northern States …”
Then, the Northern States:
"But in the Northern States the Cherokee people saw with alarm a violated Constitution, all civil liberty put in peril, and all the rules of civilized warfare and the dictates of common humanity and decency unhesitatingly disregarded. In States which still adhered to the Union a military despotism has displaced the civil power and the laws became silent amid arms. Free speech and almost free thought became a crime. The right to the writ of habeas corpus, guaranteed by the Constitution, disappeared at the nod of a Secretary of State or a general of the lowest grade. The mandate of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was set at naught by the military power, and this outrage on common right approved by a President sworn to support the Constitution. War on the largest scale was waged, and the immense bodies of troops called into the field in the absence of any law warranting it under the pretense of suppressing unlawful combination of men…”
Civil liberties curtailed, free speech a crime, laws set aside, the Constitution trampled upon, civil government replaced with a military government, and the state has the power to toss you in prison without so much as a by-your-leave. You tell me – which side sounds more like National Socialism?
Did Hitler himself have any thoughts on the American Civil war? Actually, he did. It’s a bit embarrassing for those who think that the boys in blue went to war so that they could “die to make men free.” Centralization, not decentralization or secession, you see, is the goal of most, if not all tyrants.
“The individual states of the American Union could not have possessed any state sovereignty of their own. For it was not these states that formed the Union, on the contrary it was the Union which formed a great part of the so-called states.” –Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, New York, Houghton Mifflin 1998. (from “Lincoln Unmasked”, Thomas DiLorenzo, Page 82, Crown Forum Publishing, New York, 2006)
How did other nations of the time view the American conflict?
In 1862 a French correspondent, after numerous interviews with Confederate soldiers and officers, noted the following:
“They took high ground, which appeared to them above all discussion or controversy. They have vowed to the North a mortal hatred, they will wage against it an implacable war, because the North has made an armed invasion of their territories, their native land; because they are driven to defend against it their homes, their honour, and their liberty. From the general in chief to the lowest soldier, everybody held the same language with wonderful unanimity.” (Source: “When in the Course of Human Events,” by Charles Adams, Rowman Littlefield Publishers, copyright 2000, Pages 12-13)
Defense of one’s home against armed invasion? Defense of liberty? I would bet serious money that you could read every book ever written by a National Socialist and never find the word “liberty” described as something to be aspired to or fought for.
And the English, despite being abolitionists themselves, were not so blind as to not notice the fact that the war seemed to be more about one side trying to force another into accepting a government that it did not want rather than either side having any desire to “make men free.” Once again, the cry is heard, “all we ask is to be let alone…” Apparently, it was a cry so loud that it was heard all the way across the Atlantic – yet we today are deaf to it.
“The British were especially puzzled at the North’s outrage over the South’s wanting to withdraw from the Union. The Lincoln administration maintained that a person was a traitor to even talk about such a criminal act. It seemed self-evident to the British that America was founded on the right of secession – the right of a people by popular consent to secede from a larger nation or confederation when the people believed it no longer served their needs and interest, or that they, a minority, were oppressed by a larger power. Article after article and editorial after editorial commented on this enigma, for example, ‘It does seem the most monstrous of anomalies that a government founded on the sacred right of insurrection should pretend to treat as traitors and rebels, 6 or 7 million people who withdrew from the Union, and merely asked to be let alone.’” (Source: “When in the Course of Human Events,” by Charles Adams, Rowman Littlefield Publishers, copyright 2000, Page 13 )
I suppose the aspersions I cast upon the North and its leaders might upset a few folks. No matter. I’m not doing anything that won’t eventually be done anyway somewhere down the road. If you’re going to target one part of your history for extermination because you are too stupid or too blind or too damned lazy to interpret it within the context of its time, or because it doesn’t measure up to your oh-so-holy modern day standards, or, as in the case of the Roland Martin’s of the world, because you have some sort of agenda, then fair is fair, and you’ve got to do it to all parts of your history. And eventually, you WILL do it to all parts of your history, because to you, the only thing that matters is the present. Everything before it that doesn’t measure up to the present is irrelevant. And at that point, you will cease to have any history at all. It’s only a matter of time.
When I was growing up, the people of the Confederate States were viewed as Americans who made a choice regarding their survival that they believed was correct and well within their purview. Those in the Northern States saw that choice as being wrong and sought to block it. The result was a bloody conflict, the likes of which America has yet to see again. From that cauldron of blood, America emerged as a nation. No good guys, no bad guys, no recriminations, no chastisements, no analogies – indeed, just Americans doing their duty as each side saw it. The nearly 500 Confederate soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery are a testimony to the fact that Americans once thought in this way. Public law 85-425, which declares the Confederate soldier to be “an American Veteran,” is yet more testimony.
There is yet more testimony in Eisenhower’s 1957 Proclamation to the States, which exhorted the States to remember the upcoming “Civil War Centennial,” – “….that a Nation which contained hardly more than 30 million people, North and South together, could sustain 600,000 deaths without faltering is a lasting testimonial to something unconquerable in the American spirit. And that a transcending sense of unity and larger common purpose could, in the end, cause the men and women who had suffered so greatly to close ranks once the contest ended and to go on together to build a greater, freer and happier America, must be a source of inspiration as long as our country may last.”
And there are the words of historian Bruce Catton, certainly no “Lost Cause” advocate, who eulogized the Confederate soldier in this way – “There is no legend quite like that of the Confederate fighting man. He reached the end of his haunted road long ago. He fought for a star-crossed cause and in the end he was beaten, but as he carried his slashed red battle flag into the dusty twilight of the Lost Cause, he walked straight into a legend that will last as long as the American people care to remember anything about the American past.”
Eisenhower’s words from 53 years ago…..Catton’s eulogy, an obscure public law that’s been forgotten by most, and 500 soldiers buried in a military cemetery… All testaments to an earlier, saner time before America lost its collective mind and declared its fellow Americans to be “Nazis”. I don’t believe that anyone 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago, would have dreamed about comparing the Confederate soldier to a Nazi. Such a comparison would have earned you the scorn of your fellow Americans at best, and a punch in the mouth at worst. But sometime in the last 20 or 30 years, something seems to have changed. What that something is, be it stupid pills in the water supply or something else, is a topic for another time I suppose. But the difference between then and now is there, it is stark, it says volumes about the type of people we have become, and it does not bode well for our future.
In one of the few statements Lincoln made that I actually agree with, he warned that “as a nation of free men, we must live for all time, or die of suicide.” In other words, no outside power can take us down. The only ones who can take us down are ourselves. And we appear to be doing just that right now. We seem to have reached the point that Catton described, the point where we as Americans no longer care to remember anything about our past. I submit that we have just begun to eat some of our own, that as time goes on we will eat even more of our own, and that it is only a matter of time before we begin to eat ALL of our own and eventually be left with nothing. Once that happens our fate will be sealed. It would appear that indeed, we are dying “of suicide.”
“A Nation that forgets its past has no future.” –Winston Churchill
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