December 8, 2020
Dear Ms. Lunelle,
The attacks on the Southern woman continue as USA Today and its networks across the South propose to examine the legacy of the Confederacy on systemic racism; whatever that is supposed to mean.
My Yankee friends during the period of so-called Southern reconstruction created systemic racism in the South…the public school system, the Freedmen’s Bureau, the Union or Loyal Leagues, Governmental appointments, demonizing of Southern religions, the 14th Amendment…
I am so glad to present the Letter of R.L. Dabney to Union General Howard, because herein it lies the truth that accurately presents the Southern white race for the kind and moral people that they really are. And especially the Southern white woman, who shall always be revered for her courage, her moral compass, and the righteousness of her council.
To Major General Howard
Chief of the Freedmen’s Bureau, Washington
But there is another argument equally weighty. By adopting the unfeeling policy of throwing the negro upon his own resources, to sink or swim as he may, you run too great a risk of verifying the most hitting reproaches and objections of your enemies.
They, in case of his failure, will argue thus: that the great question in the debate between the defenders of slavery and the advocates of emancipation was whether the negro was capable of self-control; that the former, who professed to be more intimately acquainted with his character, denied that he was capable of it, and solemnly warned you of the danger of his ruin, if he was entrusted with his own direction, in this country, and that you, in insisting on the experiment in spite of this warning, assume the whole responsibility.
Sir, if the freedmen should perchance fail to swim successfully, that argument would be too damaging to you and your people. You cannot afford to venture this risk you are compelled by the interests of your own consistency and good name, to take effectual care that the negro shall swim; and that better than before. In the name of justice, I remonstrate against your throwing him off in his present state, by the inexorable fact that he was intranslated into it, neither by us, nor by himself, but by you alone; for out of that fact proceeds this farther obligation upon you, to make your experiment successful, which will cleave to you even to the judgment day.
And out of that fact proceeds this farther obligation: that seeing you have persisted, of your own free will, in making this experiment of his liberation, you and your people are bound to bestow anything or everything, and to do everything, except sin, to insure that it shall be, as compared with his previous condition, a blessing to him.
For, if you were not willing to do all this, were you not bound to let him alone? When the shipmaster urges landsmen to embark in his ship, and venture perils of the deep, he thereby incurs an obligation, if a storm arises to do everything and risk everything, even to his own life, for the rescue of his charge.
If then, you and your people should find that it will require the labors of another million of busy hands, and the expenditure of three thousand millions more of the national wealth, to obviate the evils and dangers arising to the freedmen from your experiment upon their previous condition; yea, if to do this, it is necessary to make the care and maintenance of the African the sole business and labor of the whole mighty North you will be bound to do it at this cost.
And I beg you, sir, let no one vainly think to evade this duty which they owe you in charge, by saying that perhaps even so profuse an expenditure as this, for benefit of the Africans, would fall of its object; because they hold that making a prosperous career is one of those things like chewing their own food, or repenting of their own sins, which people must do for themselves, or else they are impossible to be done; and that so no amount of help can make the freedmen prosperous as such, without the right putting forth of their own spontaneity.
For, do you not see that this plea surrenders you into the hands of those bitter adversaries, the Pro-Slavery men? Is this not the very thing they said? This was precisely their argument to show that philanthropy required the Africans in this country should be kept in dependent condition. If your section acquiesces in the failure of your experiment of their liberation on this ground, what will this be but the admission of the damning charge that your measure is a blunder and a crime, aggravated by the warning so emphatic, which your opponents gave you, and which you refused to listen?
But I feel bound, as your zealous and faithful supporter in your humane task, to give you one more caution. The objectors who watch you with so severe an eye have even a darker suggestion to make than the charge of headstrong rashness and criminal mistake in your experiment of emancipation. They are heard gloomily to insinuate that the ruin of the African (which they so persistently assert must result from the change) is not the blunder of the North, but the foreseen and intended result!
Are you aware of the existence of this frightful innuendo? It is my duty to reveal it to you, that you may be put upon your guard. These stern critics are heard darkly hinting that they know Northern statesmen and presses who now admit, with a sardonic shrug, that the black man, deprived of the benignant shield of domestic servitude, must of course perish like the red man.
These critics are heard inferring that the true meaning of Northern republicanism and Free Soil is, that the white race must be free to shoulder the black race off this continent and monopolize the sunny soil, which the God of nations gave the latter as their heritage.
God bless you!
Chairman, Board of Advisors Emeritus, Southern Legal Resource Center
Member, Save Southern Heritage Florida
Honorary Life Member, Zebulon Baird Vance Camp 15, Sons of Confederate Veterans
Honorary Life Member, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia Orders of the Confederate Rose
President, Southern Heritage 411