December 7, 2020
Dear Ms. Lunelle,
On Sunday morning, December 6, 2020, the local newspaper, the Asheville Citizen Times’ front page headline story would read: “Confederate Reckoning / Southern History TextBooks.”
This story is a part of “Confederate Reckoning”… a collaborative project of USA Today Network newsrooms across the South to critically examine the legacy of the Confederacy and its influence on systematic racism today.
As if this was not enough, the headline continued… “A Long History of Deception; Southern textbooks distorted Civil War for generations.”
What a crockpot of poppycock this is coming from those who established the public school system in the South in 1865 to do just what they are accusing the South of doing. This is one of the reasons very close attention should be paid to the Dabney letter to Howard. And, I wonder if one of these Yankee leaning newspapers will print the series I have written on the subject matter covered by Dabney in his letter.
To Major General Howard
Chief of the Freedmen’s Bureau Washington.
In that we still refuse to cast off those families, although, by reason of the incumbrance of old persons, sick, and little children, their present labor is worse than worthless to us, and we know we shall receive no future recompense in the labor of the children we are thus rearing gratis for other men as independent of us in future as we are of them. And this is done (often times in spite of a present requital of insolence, misconception, ingratitude, and a petty warfare of thefts and injuries) by Southern gentlemen and ladies, who appropriate thereto a part of the avails of their own personal labors, undertaken to procure subsistence for their own children.
And this is done, not in a few exceptional cases, but in a multitude of cases, in every neighborhood of every county, so that the number of destitute freedmen under which the able hands of your Bureau now faint, are not a tithe of those who are still maintained by the impoverished people of the South. And this is done simply because humanity makes us unwilling to thrust out those for whose happiness we have so long been accustomed to care into the hardships of their new and untried future.
And unless you can expect this delicate sentiment to exhibit a permanence which would be almost miraculous under the “wear and tear” of our future poverty, I forewarn you that you must stand prepared for a tenfold increase in your present responsibilities, when these families are committed to you. That tenfold burden you must learn to bear successfully.
Having shown you the starting point of that career of beneficence to the African, from which you are solemnly bound to God and history to advance, I now return to strengthen the already irresistible argument of that obligation. If the South, with all its disadvantages, has done this modicum of good to this poor people, the North, their present guardians, with their vast advantages, must do more. The South was the inferior section (so the North told us) in number, in wealth, in progress, in intelligence, in education, in religion.
The South (so the North says) held the Africans under an antiquated, unrighteous and mischievous relation – that of domestic slavery. The north now has them on the new footing which is, of course, precisely the right one. The South was their oppressor; the North is their generous liberator. The South has hagridden in all its energies for good (so we were instructed) by the “barbarism of slavery;” the North contains the most civilized, enlightened and efficient people on earth.
Now, if you do not surpass our poor performances for the negro with this mighty contrast in your favor, how mighty will be the just reprobation which will be visited upon you by the common sentiment of mankind and by the Lord of Hosts? If you do not surpass our deeds as far as your power and greatness surpass ours, how can you stand at His bar, even beside us sinners? He has taught us that “a man is accepted according to that which he hath, and not according to that which he hath not.” To this righteous rule, we intend to hold you, as our successors in the guardianship of the negro.
If there are any who endeavor to lull your energies in this work, by saying that the negro, being now a free man, must take of himself, like other people; that he be thrown on his own resources and that, if he does not provide for his own well-being, he should be left to suffer, I beseech you, in the behalf of humanity, of justice and of your own good name, not to harken to them.
I ask you solemnly whether the freedmen have an “even start” in the race for subsistence with the other laboring men of the nation, marked as they are by differences of race and color, obstructed by stubborn prejudices, and disqualified (as you hold) for the responsibilities of self-support, to some extent, by the evil effects of their recent bondage upon their character? Is it fair, or right, or merciful to compel him to enter the stadium, and leave him to this fierce competition under these grave disadvantages?
Again, no peasantry under the sun was ever required or was able to sustain themselves when connected with the soil by no tenure of any form. Under our system of slaves had the most permanent form of tenancy; for their master’s lands were bound to them by law for furnishing them homes, occupations and subsistence during the whole continuance of the master’s tenure. But you have ended all this and consigned four million of people to a condition of homelessness.
Will the North thus make gypsies of them, and then hold them responsible for the ruin which is inevitable from such a condition?
God bless you!
Chairman, Board of Advisors Emeritus, Southern Legal Resource Center
Member, Save Southern Heritage Florida
Recipient, Virginia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans Robert E. Lee Medal
Recipient, Key to the City of Toccoa Georgia
Recipient, Key to the City of Carthage, Texas
Recipient, National Sons of Confederate Veterans, H.L. Hunley Award
Recipient, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis Medal
Honorary Life Member, Jackson Rangers Camp 1917, Sons of Confederate Veterans
Honorary Life Member, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia Orders of the Confederate Rose
President, Southern Heritage 411