Like John Ashmore, Robert E. Lee lived most of his life as a “Union-loving” man, but ultimately decided to go with his state, and against the Union, when Virginia seceded in 1861. Most of the monuments and statues erected in Lee’s honor (at least implicitly) commemorate his service to the Confederacy. As demonstrated by recent protests in Virginia and elsewhere, statues of Confederate soldiers on public grounds mean different things to different people…
- But what about the Confederacy and its meaning during the Civil War?
To answer this question, you will need to contemplate how white southerners understood secession and Civil War: why did they secede? What were they fighting for?
- What does your textbook say? What did John Ashmore say? Were they fighting for slavery? white supremacy? state’s rights? or something else?
Consider the following statements:
- Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy, said that slavery was the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy, a new union based upon the “great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”
- Here in South Carolina, the delegates who launched the Confederacy explained their vote to secede as a response to Lincoln personally, a president whose “opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery,” and the north generally, which had “assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions.”
Given all of this, what is the “heritage” of the Confederacy? Based on its historical roots, what should a Robert E. Lee monument represent to any observer, black or white, northern or southern, American or other?