Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Reconstruction marches on at MTSU

The controversy is on at MTSU over whether Forrest Hall, the ROTC building at the university, should continue to bear that name, as it is named for the late General Nathan Bedford Forrest, General of the Confederate States Army and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

I agree with Kleinheider that the name should remain.

In explaining why let me admit my biases so that the reader will understand my prism of view. My third Great Grandfather on my mother's side fought in the Army of Northern Virginia. My family were Virginia people, and always had Southern sympathies and Southern leanings. It wasn't a matter of slavery for my anscestors or for a lot of people who fought for the Southern cause or believed in it-it was a matter of home and self and pride in what you were. People of that day had an understanding that the ground they lived on and the place they were from meant something in a way that I do not believe we can fathom today.

My Grandfather is a person that I count as a personal political mentor-he taught me much of what I know about politics even though he never served in public office-he was the only one of his brothers who did not do so at some point in their life. Like his brothers, my Grandfather was a born and bred Democrat, and he would tell you that in his younger days he was proud of that fact. But he was a conservative who believed in States' Rights, and when the Democratic Party decided it didn't believe in that anymore, he quit believing in the Democratic Party-he became a Republican and as a result of his conversion, his children and grandchildren (especially me) became Republicans too. He wasn't a racist who hated black people, and wasn't opposed to the idea of equality...he just wanted Washington to stay out of local affairs everywhere, and he was not ashamed to say that.

Because of my obvious background, it would be easy for the reader to say "David thinks the name should not be changed because he is obviously biased in favor of the Confederate cause." While it might be easy to make that assumption, and while I admit that it pisses me off makes me very angry when some group or other tries to erase all traces of the heritage of the South or the Confederate past in the South, this is not the only reason that I think Forrest's name should remain on that Hall and Forrest's bust should remain in the Tennessee State Capitol.

Yes, Forrest was a slave owner and a slave trader. If we start changing names based on that criteria our country would look very different. While we are at it, we should tear down the Capitol, the White House, and much of what is left of the original structures in Washington-they were built with slave labor. From what I can ascertain in reading many sources about the General, Forrest was a brutal slave trader. He was, however, a brilliant military tactician and he was one of the greatest Generals outside of Lee and Stonewall Jackson that the South ever produced.

Forrest was also an enigma in his own time. The man who was before the war a slave trader, and after it founded the Klan, ordered the group he had founded disbanded because it had become too violent. He would later become a respected citizen of Memphis and make several rather public condemnation of violence against African-Americans.

Southern history is what it is, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the in-between. Often, I think that people like Mike Faulk, whose family was from Tennessee and had Union sympathies, understand the paradoxes of the Southern history better than those on the Left who simply repeat the standard rediculous textbook lines about the war and about the South, showing little understanding of the conflict or the people who fought in it (to be fair, some of the folks who make such statements never had an anscestor who fought in the war).

Reconstruction marches on at MTSU-what the campus crowd decides it does not like, it shall merely erase like chalk on the blackboard of America.

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10 Comments:

At Wednesday, November 22, 2006 11:31:00 PM, Blogger Steve Mule said...

David,
Nathan Forrest rose in armed rebellion against the People and Consitiution of the United States of America. It's called TREASON. And he and the Confederate States lost. It's called DEFEAT. The great heritage you speak of is great only if you are White. It's called RACISM.
Despite all the sugary, syrupy, where's my insulin, sentimentality Ol' Dixie is defined by those three words.
Modern Dixie needs to get over the fact that Ol' Dixie lost and deal with the fact that Ol' Dixie wasn't that good, or nice or, for that matter, even very American.

SteveMule

 
At Thursday, November 23, 2006 7:05:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Some of us, including myself, would argue that the Confederate government did not rise in opposition to the Constitution, but in support of it. Defending the Constitutional rights of yourself and your State is not an act of treason-period. That is why Andrew Johnson pardoned Confederate war veterans-because whatever one thinks of the Southern cause, Johnson (and many Northern people who understood the true cause and nature of the war) understood that the South was not acting out of hatred toward the Constitution.

For further reading, I would recommend reading the notes of the Virginia Convention on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (1788)-Virginia laid it on the line that she adopted the Constitution on the condition that she had the right to secede-New York and Massachusetts also passed similar resolutions.

I expect liberals and many neocons to call anyone who supported the Southern cause a traitor-these people believe in the absolute and total power of the federal government, though you won't admit that. They also think that Lincoln's suspension of Habeus Corpus and his arrest of his political opponents without trial or reason for detention was bloody fine activity.

Because of that, it makes the Left's opposition to the PATRIOT Act disingenuous at best and hypocritical at worst. I can say with honesty that my opposition to such measures has been completely ideologically consistent.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 
At Saturday, November 25, 2006 7:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"July 4, 1875 - Memphis, Tennessee -

Miss Lou Lewis was introduced to General Forrest then presented him with a bouquet of flowers and said: 'Mr. Forrest - allow me to present you this bouquet as a token, of reconciliation, an offering of peace and good will.'

General Forrest received the flowers with a bow, and replied:

'Miss Lewis, ladies and gentlemen - I accept these flowers as a token of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the South. I accept them more particularly, since they come from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God's great earth who loves the ladies, it is myself.

This is a proud day for me. Having occupied the position I have for thirteen years, and being misunderstood by the colored race, I take this occasion to say that I am your friend. I am here as the representative of the Southern people - one that has been more maligned than any other.

I assure you that every man who was in the Confederate army is your friend. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, live in the same land, and why should we not be brothers and sisters.

When the war broke out I believed it to be my duty to fight for my country, and I did so. I came here with the jeers and sneers of a few white people, who did not think it right. I think it is right, and will do all I can to bring about harmony, peace and unity. I want to elevate every man, and to see you take your places in your shops, stores and offices.

I don't propose to say anything about politics, but I want you to do as I do - go to the polls and select the best men to vote for. I feel that you are free men, I am a free man, and we can do as we please. I came here as a friend and whenever I can serve any of you I will do so.

We have one Union, one flag, one country; therefore, let us stand together. Although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment.

Many things have been said in regard to myself, and many reports circulated, which may perhaps be believed by some of you, but there are many around me who can contradict them. I have been many times in the heat of battle - oftener, perhaps, than any within the sound of my voice. Men have come to me to ask for quarter, both black and white, and I have shielded them.

Do your duty as citizens, and if any are oppressed, I will be your friend. I thank you for the flowers, and assure you that I am with you in heart and hand.'"

 
At Saturday, November 25, 2006 7:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lt General Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Ku Klux Klan


The KKK was founded in Dec. 1865 by 6 former Confederate officers; Captain John C. Lester, Major James R. Crowe,
John D. Kennedy, Calvin Jones, Richard R. Reed, & Frank O. McCord. Kennedy, Lester and Reed were from the CSA 3rd TN Infantry. They put it together in the back room of J. Calvin Jones' father's law office in Pulaski , TN.

The six young men organized as a social club or fraternity and spent their time in horseplay of various types, including wearing disguises and galloping about town after dark. They were surprised to learn that their nightly appearances were causing fear, particularly among former slaves in the area. They quickly took advantage of this effect and the group began a rapid expansion. Various factions formed in different towns, which led to a meeting in April 1867 to codify rules and organizational structure.

On August 28, 1868, in the Cincinnati Commercial, Lt General Forrest was interviewed to get his "...views in regard to the condition of your civil and political affairs in the State of Tennessee, and the South generally..."
The following back and forth is between the reporter and Forrest. The reporter begins asking about the Klan.

"Why, General, we people up north have regarded the Ku-Klux as an organization which existed only in the frightened imagination of a few politicians"

"Well, sir, there is such an organization, not only in Tennessee, but all over the South, and its numbers have not been exaggerated."

"What are its numbers, general?"

"In Tennessee there are over 40,000; in all the Southern states they number about 550,000 men."

"What is the character of the organization; May I inquire?"

"Yes, sir. It is a protective political military organization. I am willing to show any man the constitution of the society. The members are sworn to recognize the government of the United States. It does not say anything at all about the government of Tennessee. Its objects originally were protection against Loyal Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic; but after it became general it was found that political matters and interests could best be promoted within it, and it was then made a political organization, giving its support, of course, to the Democratic party."

"Do you think, general, that the Ku-Klux have been of any benefit to the State?"

"No doubt of it. Since its organization, the leagues have quit killing and murdering our people. There were some foolish young men who put masks on their faces and rode over the country, frightening negroes, but orders have been issued to stop that, and it has ceased. You may say, further, that three members of the Ku-Klux have been court-martialed and shot for violations of the orders not to disturb or molest people."

"Do you think, General, that the Ku-Klux have been of any benefit to the State?"

"No doubt of it. Since its organization, the leagues have quit killing and murdering our people. There were some foolish young men who put masks on their faces and rode over the country, frightening negroes, but orders have been issued to stop that, and it has ceased. You may say, further, that three members of the Ku-Klux have been court-martialed and shot for violations of the orders not to disturb or molest people."

"Are you a member of the Ku-Klux, general?"

"I am not, but am in sympathy and will co-operate with them. I know that they are charged with many crimes that they are not guilty of. A case in point is the killing of Bierfield at Franklin, a few days ago. I sent a man up there especially to investigate the case, and report to me, and I have his letter here now, in which he states that they had nothing to do with it as an organization."

"Then I suppose that there can be no doubt of a conflict if the militia interfere with the people; is that your view?"

"Yes, sir; if they attempt to carry out Governor Brownlow's proclamation, by shooting down Ku-Klux - for he calls all Southern men Ku-Klux - if they go to hunting down and shooting these men, there will be war, and a bloodier one than we have ever witnessed. I have told these radicals here what they might expect in such an event. I have no power to burn or kill negroes. I intend to kill the radicals. I have told them this and more, there is not a radical leader in this town but is a marked man, and if a trouble should break out, none of them would be left alive. I have told them that they are trying to create a disturbance and then slip out and leave the consequences to fall upon the negroes, but they can't do it. When the fight comes not one of them would get out of this town asaying it was "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace"live. We don't intend they shall ever get out of the country. But I want it distinctly understood that I am opposed to any war, and will only fight in self-defence."

The Klan's increasing reputation for violence led the more prominent citizens to drop out while criminals and the dispossessed began to fill the ranks. Local chapters proved difficult, if not impossible, to monitor and direct. In disgust in January 1869, Forrest officially disbanded the organization saying it was "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace" and the vast majority of local groups followed his lead. a small number of local units continued to operate but were eventually disbanded or sent into hiding by federal troops.

In 1871 William Tecumseh Sherman chaired the 42nd U.S. Congressional Committee Investigation into the KKK and it's activities. Among the former Confederate officers investigated and interviewed was N.B. Forrest since his name was used in forming and recruiting the original Klan.

Sherman was never a friend or ally of Forrest "Forrest is the very devil", Union General William T. Sherman wrote Secretary of War Stanton on June 15th, 1864. " If we must sacrifice 10,000 lives and bankrupt the Federal Treasury, it will be worth it. There will never be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead.." Sherman was also noted to have stated before the investigation convened that, "We are here to investigate Forrest, charge Forrest, try Forrest and hang Forrest."

When the Congressional Committee completed its investigation ( including a revisiting of the alleged "Ft. Pillow Massacre" ) and concluded that while Forrest's name had been used in forming the Klan that it was likely done without his permission and that his only activities related to the Klan were his public efforts to compel it to disband.

 
At Thursday, June 14, 2007 6:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wanna’ stop reconstruction? Try this on for size: humility. I never see a shred of remorse from confederate heritage advocates. All I hear is pride, pride, pride. All I see is thrashing about casting the finger of blame on everyone but themselves. Would you care to think of anything to say to try to convince someone you are not a typical southern cracker?

 
At Friday, June 15, 2007 8:04:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

For most on the left "humility" involves being ashamed of your heritage. Victors write history, and in the case of the South, the victors have written the Southern story to suit their ends.

Our ancestors were not perfect people, but we do not need to sweep them under the rug in shame.

 
At Friday, June 15, 2007 4:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m going to take that as a no.

Look, I want folks to be able to freely celebrate their heritage. I really do. That’s why I’m communicating with you. Now, I know racism isn’t confined to the American south. I don’t think Lincoln was a saint. He wasn’t really a proponent of racial equality. He did overstep his authority on Habeas Corpus. Much to his credit he was, however, an abolitionist. I am going to present some historical facts and see if you care to dispute. First, American slavery was one of the biggest human rights atrocities of all time and, second, by 1860 the union was trying to figure out a way to get rid of it while the confederacy was seeking to perpetuate it. If you choose to dispute this please provide specific evidence supporting your argument that the statement is not true. (BTW, antebellum Tennesseans came really close to hanging with the Red, White and Blue, bless their hearts).

This issue can not be dismissed as merely one of political correctness by people of true conscience. Who we choose to honor reflects on our values as a university, a community and a State. As a member of all three and I would be ashamed if it turned out that we are tacitly endorsing racist attitudes through whom we choose to honor. The decision to honor Forrest was made under Jim Crow when racist attitudes were openly predominant and went unchallenged. I just need evidence that support for honoring Forrest is not based on white supremacy clouded by a debate regarding historical accuracy.

 
At Friday, June 15, 2007 6:07:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

I do not think that you sir/madam "need" anything, I think you are trying to do what militant liberals all over creation like to do to traditionalists-you are trying to pick a fight.

Frankly, I am above that sort of thing, but I will indulge you on a couple of points:

The Confederate Constitution did something that the U.S. Constitution never did-it outlawed the African Slave Trade. The U.S. Constitution allowed for it up to the year 1808. After that time, slaves were smuggled on to this continent, and New Englanders did a bustling business in the matter. I would argue that (with the exception of the militant abolitionists who were a minority in the North) that Northern opposition to slavery, not to mention Southern opposition to slavery, was based in the notion that those opposed to it didn't want to have to compete with free labor-it was an economic issue.

Slavery was a great evil, that neither I nor anyone else can dispute. However, a careful study of slavery in the Americas shows us that slavery in the Caribbean and Brazil was far more widespread and much more brutal than slavery in the American South ever was. I learned that from my old African studies professor who was a very liberal African-American from South Carolina. I became fascinated enough by the whole topic to read more about it

Slavery did not exist because of Southern attitudes. Slavery existed because it was brought here by the Spanish and the English and the economy of the South became dependent upon it. That is the historical reality.

If we are going to wage war on our own history because people had what we deem today as racist attitudes, we might as well wipe the entire Founding generation from our historical lexicon.

Slavery is an unfortunate and sad part of the Southern and American past. It is also a practice as old as humanity itself. We make utter hypocrites of ourselves if we go about selectively deciding who we will honor based on our 21st Century version of how things should be. Our ancestors did not live in the 21st Century, but in a different time, place, and circumstance, and when remembering our history and heritage we need to recognize that.

If we use a standard based on who was a racist or believed in the concept of white supremacy, nearly all of America's great leaders, North and South, from the 1600's to (arguably) the late 19th Century, accepted the notion of white superiority without questioning it. Frankly, it was wholly ingrained in American culture in nearly all parts of the country. The only real difference between North and South was that in one part of the country African-Americans had no masters but no real rights, and in the other their status was both de jure and de facto.

In our day we rightly see the injustice in that-we see the wrong in it. From the days the first Europeans landed on the African coast, they did not have the concept of equality that we have. We can brand our forebears as racists or bigots, but they would likely not even have a concept of what those things mean to us in 2007.

Forrest was a great Southern General from Tennessee, and that is the reason the building bears his name.

 
At Saturday, June 16, 2007 8:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need to see if there is any true merit to the argument supporting honoring Forrest before I lend my support to the opposition. This is because, as I mentioned before, whom we honor is a projection of the values we espouse. It is not simply a matter of political correctness, unless one means that racism is no longer politically correct.

“The only real difference between North and South was that in one part of the country African-Americans had no masters but no real rights, and in the other their status was both de jure and de facto.”

Like I said, I know racism wasn’t confined to the South, but this doesn’t fly. This is a poor attempt as rationalization, as is your whole position. One problem is that the tradition you refer to is a century of Jim Crow after the war.

It’s unfortunate that the cloud of white supremacy hangs over the American South. The best way to dissipate it is to stop rationalizing and own up.

 
At Sunday, June 17, 2007 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

As if Jim Crow was confined wholly to the South-it was not. Jim Crow existed as a matter of strict if unjust law in the South. In many Northern States it was also a matter of law and was applied in some places more strictly than others.

You see my position as flawed, but I note that you failed to answer for much else of what I said-the harsh reality that if racism (by our 21st Century standards) is our litmus test for historical purging, we must purge from our national memory the good things of most of the great figures in the first 300 years of our history for some reason or other due to our modern definition of racism or white supremacy-that would include everyone from George Washington to Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Franklin to U.S. Grant-name a great American of the first three centuries-some could argue that it would even include Mr. Lincoln himself.

I don't argue that we shouldn't own up to the problems, tragedies, and evils of the past-but we shouldn't destroy our collective history or heritage to do it.

 

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