Wednesday, October 6, 1999
History lesson is in order on issue of `Confederate' Ga. flag

The Rev. Dr. John Hatcher stated in his column on the Georgia flag issue, “It would be a good thing if . . . Christian Georgians could pluck the rebel flag out of our state flag.” However, I find that most of his persuasive points are based on common assumptions that are not historically accurate and crumble when faced with facts.

First of all, Rev. Hatcher continually insinuates that racial prejudice and discrimination are evils that originated in the South and were “practiced so unapologetically” here that a change was made in our state flag to signify our acceptance of these wrongs. I would genuinely like to know where he got this idea.

Everyone knows that Southerners owned African slaves, so the South deserves a share of the blame, but you may not be as familiar with how the slaves got here. Though historians have conveniently overlooked the fact, nearly every American slave ship was owned and operated by Northerners. Therefore, in 1860, there were about 3,500,000 slaves in the South for whom the Southerners had paid the Northern traders millions of dollars.

Rev. Hatcher seems surprised that the Southern plantation owners did not think it was right for the North, which had grown rich by the trade, to suddenly decide that slavery was wrong and that they would free all the slaves without repaying one cent of the purchase money. And as for prejudice, I challenge you to guess who made the following statements:

“You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong, I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. Your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side.”

“But, even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race. The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours.”

These quotes came from a speech made by President Abraham Lincoln to a group of free blacks who had been invited to the White House in 1862. These sentiments make it easier to understand why Mr. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation only freed the slaves in the “any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States.”

The slaves outside of the Confederacy, or in places occupied by Federal troops were “left precisely as if the proclamation were not issued.” Palmerston, Premier of England, tauntingly remarked that Lincoln undertook to abolish slavery where he was without power to do so, while protecting it where he had the power to destroy it.

Secondly, the South did not rally behind the “stars and bars” to preserve slavery, but to defend their land, homes, and families from a Federal government that was usurping their Constitutional rights. They were tired of unfair taxation (if you do not believe me consider Mr. Lincoln's response when asked why he did not simply let the South go: “Let the South go? Let the South go! Where then shall we get our revenues!”) and Federal intrusion into matters specifically delegated to the individual states.

They did not rebel, they simply withdrew from a government that had turned a deaf ear to their pleas for a peaceful end to slavery (among other issues) and formed a new government that held fast to the principles of free government handed down to them by their forefathers. Consider the following testimony of a Confederate soldier:

“I was a soldier in Virginia in the campaigns of Lee and Jackson, and I declare I never met a Southern soldier who had drawn his sword to perpetuate slavery ... What he had chiefly at heart was the preservation of the supreme and sacred right of self government.”

Therefore, I simply cannot understand how Rev. Hatcher arrives at the conclusion that a Confederate battle flag is a reminder of humiliation and segregation.

I cannot deny that some Southern slaves were cruelly treated, but what about the horrible conditions aboard the slave ships flying the United States flag? There are cases of racial prejudice in the South, but these incidents are not isolated to one region of the country.

I do not think it would be a good thing to remove this symbol of our heritage from our state flag because of the false presuppositions of misinformed individuals. The flag should be a reminder that in every generation there must be those who are willing to stand for freedom, for all people, not just a select few.

I am proud of our Southern legacy of liberty and independence and I believe that if Rev. Hatcher sincerely wishes to “undo the pain and suffering” of the past, he could do far more by promoting the following views of Confederate General Lee, than by promoting a false view of history:

“I have fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest right. But I have never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and I have never seen the day when I did not pray for them.”

Heather Harbin

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