For some, the Confederate Flag represents racism, for others it serves as a representation of the south; however, many do not know the history behind it.
The modern flag that is now a representative of the confederacy was actually the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Army of Northern Virginia was commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Here is where it gets interesting.
On December 27, 1856, Gen. Lee wrote in a letter to his wife, “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”
Lee also supported the work conducted by his wife and her mother who fought to liberate slaves. His wife and daughter founded an illegal school for slaves on the Arlington plantation, which according to Virginia law, educating slaves was prohibited. Lee also encouraged slave owners to allow their slaves to volunteer for the confederacy.
Lee said, “I can make soldiers out of any human being that has arms and legs.”
Lee believed that owning slaves was sinful, and that it would only be ended when God willed it. For Lee, and many others like him, the Civil War was not just about slavery.
Slavery did play a major role in the Civil War, but it was not just about that issue. The battle goes all the way back to the founding of our nation.
The Articles of Confederation was the first governing document created by the new government. The thirteen states formed a loose confederation, that made the federal government quite weak. While the states were recognized as being united, each state was independent.
For example, while the federal government was able to print money, states were permitted to do so as well. Eventually, weaknesses of the Articles became apparent and leaders came together at a Constitutional Convention to create the US Constitution.
Strong advocates of states rights, like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, did not attend this meeting. Many Americans felt the Constitution ignored the rights of states, and prevented states from acting independently. They believed that states should retain the right to have the ability to decide whether they would accept certain federal acts. This led to a call for nullification, which would grant states the right to rule federal laws unconstitutional; however, the federal government denied states this right.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected, many southerners believed that he was biased, and was in favor of Northern interests. They then succeeded from the Union, which triggered the Civil War.
Once again, slavery did play a major role in the Civil War, but not with that flag. That flag represented Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army, who was a soldier who fought for the purpose of states’ rights, not slavery.
Those who are ignorant regarding the issue of states’ rights, say that the confederates were only fighting for states’ rights to enslave fellow humans, when in reality, this battle goes all the way back to the beginning our nation’s founding with the Articles of Confederation, which the Confederacy was named after.
Ignorant individuals claim that this flag has been embraced by the Ku Klux Klan, but I must remind everyone that for over 86 years, the American flag flew over a nation where slavery was legal. Not only that, but it was the American flag that was carried by the KKK in the march on Washington D.C. that took place in 1925. Does that mean that we should ban the American flag? No, we should not, because the American flag is not a representative of slavery, just like the actual meaning behind the Confederate Battle Flag is not related to slavery.