The other reparations movement.
August 19, 2002 9:25 AM   Subscribe

The other reparations movement. According to this article, Jack Kershaw, of Memphis, Tennessee wants to file a lawsuit which seeks redress for grievances with the federal government for gross violation of international law during the War Between the States, especially during Sherman's March to the Sea (some call it a myth). Kershaw is a board member of the League of the South, a non-racial Southern secessionist movement located in Alabama). Can a small secession movement which publishes a magazine called the Southern Patriot and sports a Confederate flag everywhere be taken seriously by mainstream America? I personally don't think Kershaw has a snowball's chance in hell of winning such a suit, but the idea is interesting, especially if one is trying to trace the origins of America's practice of ignoring international law and just conduct in war, which seemed to start with the un-Civil War. What do you think?
posted by insomnyuk (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Fairly loaded question there, isn't it? I'm fairly certain that "Southern Patriot" was the magazine that I read a library once (where I worked for a time - it was always sent to us unsolicited), had something about how slavery was actually not immoral. Can't find the article in the archives, but maybe they cleaned them up. Here's a good one in the meantime: Get rid of the 14th Amendment. From the article:

But leaving aside the intent of the framers of the 14th Amendment, let us pursue an equally important question that is left out of the history books-the fraudulent 'ratification' of that amendment in 1868. This issue looms large because most of the judicial mischief of the present century has been done under vague interpretations of the language of the amendment-'privileges and immunities,' 'due process,' and 'equal protection.' Indeed, wrong-headed liberal interpretations of the 14th Amendment have turned Abraham Lincoln's malignant egalitarianism into rights-based social policies. And the evil genie of universal 'human rights,' once loosed from its bottle, can never be restrained because 'rights'-for women, racial and ethnic minorities, homosexuals, pedophiles, etc.-can be manufactured endlessly. This produces a demand that can never be satisfied and thus an excuse for an infinite 'refashioning' of society.

Pedophiles are associated with minorities, women and gays? You've pointed to a hate site, insomnyuk. What Sherman did was certainly immoral (although, curiously enough, he thought Reconstruction was too harsh, if I remember correctly), and yes, America was given the very idea idea that war would and should always be this way. George Kennan, in American Diplomacy, says it was WWII that gave us the idea that opponents had to be absolutely crushed, and that the Civil War's purpose and situation made it an isolated case. I wouldn't be so sure about that. Still, Southern Partisan and the League of the South aren't going to convince anyone of the rightness of this position anytime soon, and for fairly obvious reasons.

Besides, Atlanta does OK these days, y'now, although black resident of the city proper are disproportionately poor.
posted by raysmj at 10:20 AM on August 19, 2002

You've pointed to a hate site, insomnyuk.

I agree. And also, pointed to a hate site mostly to balance out the recent fpp and debate on the slave reparations movement. All done hastily, and in bad form. IMHO.
posted by Shane at 10:25 AM on August 19, 2002

You've pointed to a hate site, insomnyuk.

I agree. And also, pointed to a hate site mostly to balance out the recent fpp and debate on the slave reparations movement. All done tastelessly and in bad form. IMHO.
posted by Shane at 10:26 AM on August 19, 2002

Oh f***!

My connection timed out and I typed again/hit "post": again.

Sorry for the double post (triple if you count this one.)
posted by Shane at 10:28 AM on August 19, 2002

Oh, Southern Partisan was the magazine in which I read the pro-morality-of-slavery piece. It's not the same as Southern Patriot, but it's associated with the same neo-Confederate movement.
posted by raysmj at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2002

Next, they'll want reparations for this Sherman's March, too...
posted by y2karl at 10:43 AM on August 19, 2002

On the serious tip, however...
posted by y2karl at 10:50 AM on August 19, 2002

That's one of the Top 10 funniest (especially when you go from a cliched, standard Civil War documentary to a guy in a loft, pacing, and ranting about his being dumped) and most f'd up movies I've ever seen.
posted by raysmj at 10:54 AM on August 19, 2002

Actually, William Tecumseh Sherman has been on my mind of late. But then, so has Andersonville. I remember a movie about that, too, but it wasn't as funny.
posted by y2karl at 10:57 AM on August 19, 2002

You've pointed to a hate site, insomnyuk.

Hmm, I don't think its a hate site, since your analysis was colored by the fact that you confused Southern Partisan with Southern Patriot. It is probably a relevant distinction. I also don't think Confederate neccesarily equals racist. Remember, less than 20% of Southerners owned slaves.

Also, their legalistic argument about rights does not necessarily equal hate, either. The author also is right in that homosexuals and pedophiles are minorities (that was the only thing he said the two groups had in common).

All of those issues aside, I think the interesting point is that for 150 years, our country has been willing to practice basically unrestricted warfare on civilians. The Civil War fundamentally changed the way our country operated, from a more federalist system to a more centralized system of government.

pointed to a hate site mostly to balance out the recent fpp and debate on the slave reparations movement. All done tastelessly and in bad form. IMHO.

What do you mean? Was my post in haste and bad form? I wanted to present what I thought was an interesting fringe movement (which I am not a part of, I'm a damn yankee) that I did not perceive to be racist. I have met the occasional Southerner who considers Robert E. Lee a hero for standing up to what they believed was government tyranny. They weren't racist. I think that unfortunately racists have adopted certain symbols of the South, and forever clouded the issue and made almost impossible the ability to rationally debate the justifications for and against secession, for example.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:08 PM on August 19, 2002

This would be easy to dismiss as more neoconfederate claptrap, but people outside the South need to realize that there has been a continuous rewriting of Southern history since 1865, and far too many powerful people have fallen for it. Lies Across America by James Loewen is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about history being whitewashed for the benefit of the confederacy; although this book is about much more than Southern revisionism, that revisionism is a recurring theme. It is particularly concerning to see how many conservative Republicans support this movement; remember the flap over Ashcroft and Southern Partisan?
posted by TedW at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2002

I have met the occasional Southerner who considers Robert E. Lee a hero... They weren't racist. I think that unfortunately racists have adopted certain symbols of the South...

I will agree with this much. I currently live in Ohio and, while I hesitate to generalize too much, I have to say I have experienced much more racism here than I have ever seen evident in the true South. It's very fashionable here to put Confederate flags on pickup trucks, and even to speak with a bit of a drawl (which sometimes has a basis in Southern roots but more than often does not.)

When you enter a new workplace or social place here, inevitably someone who feels they have known you long enough tells you a corny racist joke (I guess I should clarify that I'm white.) It seems to be almost a rite of initiation.

At my job I continually communicate with people in TN. They are my favorite people to deal with, along with the occasional Canuck. Easy going, friendly, intelligent, progressive-minded.

Again, I'm (off-topic) generalising... but Confederate flag wavers in the North have done plenty of damage to the South's image (the way rowdy green-beer-drinking Irish-Americans have hurt the image of the Irish.) The South knows this and often resents it (same as the Irish.)

After all, we know the Civil War was faught over economics, not the slave issue, anyway...
posted by Shane at 12:33 PM on August 19, 2002

Shane: as someone who is an Ohioan, I have seen Northern racism on occasion, and I also think it's more prevalent here than in the South. It's kind of the North's dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about while we sport our holier than thou attitude and use the South as the convenient whipping boy.

TedW: the stuff I linked to doesn't have anything to do with Southern Partisan, they are only similar in that they claim the South was justified in seceding, and you obviously buy into the notion that there were no redeeming qualities about the CSA.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:41 PM on August 19, 2002

insomnyuk: Blah, blah, blah. The League of the South has a rather prominent link to Southern Partisan on its site. Please. According to this media watchdog site, the League owns the publication, even. There's a bit more in that last link about the organization's hostility to the 14th Amendment.
posted by raysmj at 12:46 PM on August 19, 2002

That first link didn't work, so here's the cached version.
posted by raysmj at 12:50 PM on August 19, 2002

raysmj, from the League/South Library on your cached link:

"Fundamental differences between Southerners and Northerners shaped the course of antebellum America; their conflict in the 1860s was not so much brother against brother as culture against culture."

Amazing. Where do they get this shite? "Their conflict in the 1860s" was a product of taxes on the goods the South bought from the North.

Of course, America's war for independence was fought for Freedom from British Tyranny, too... not because of taxes on the colonies that interfered with the Economic Prosperity of people coming here looking for Economic Prosperity in the first place (um, Boston Tea Party = Don't Tax My Caffeine!)

It's always about something more grand than the Bottom Line $$, inn't it?
posted by Shane at 1:06 PM on August 19, 2002

Thomas Fleming, a founding board member of the League of the South, was also the founder of Southern Partisan, according to this neo-Confederate site. Another, lefty site says he started Southern Patriot.
posted by raysmj at 1:37 PM on August 19, 2002

Which is more important to a free and decent state, Federalism or not having slavery? Hearing people say that the Confederates were fighting for freedom sickens me.
posted by Wood at 1:44 PM on August 19, 2002

I think both are important Wood. But the fact is, all of the other civilized (or perhaps more civilized, as the case may be) nations of the world were able to abolish slavery without bloodshed.

I don't think it was necessarily a choice between federalism or slavery. Many states had already abolished slavery anyway.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:14 PM on August 19, 2002

Which is more important insomnyuk? No idea? Can't decide? I take it that you aren't black. Maybe it wasn't necessarily a choice between federalism and slavery, but we'll never know. Given the choice, I know which side I'd pick.

I am black. I'd've killed a Confederate any day of the week and slept like a baby. Or at least I'd like to think so.
posted by Wood at 2:45 PM on August 19, 2002

Many states had already abolished slavery anyway.

Like Kansas, maybe?

Boy, the Civil War avoided--talk about science fiction. Or the willful ignorance of history.
posted by y2karl at 2:49 PM on August 19, 2002

Hmm I think those last few sentences of mine were maybe over the top. A bit inflammatory. I just feel like these discussions can easily go too far in the other direction, towards dispassion. As though the issues at hand weren't deep moral issues. So I guess the bit about killing is my way of saying how I feel about slavery. It's way worse than big government.
posted by Wood at 3:01 PM on August 19, 2002

I'm with wood, here.

As for reparations--well, ok, if they can prove that they were held back and harmed physically and economically, and were prevented from owning land, or promised land and not given it, or not hired, or not allowed to vote, or go to the same schools as other citizens, or lynched because they existed, or considered 5/8ths of a human being by the courts, etc
posted by amberglow at 3:04 PM on August 19, 2002

3/5ths a citizen for tax and representation purposes.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:15 PM on August 19, 2002

oops, sorry...
but still...
posted by amberglow at 3:16 PM on August 19, 2002

Well reparations are either over slavery then or the discrimination now that may because by the slavery then. If its slavery then, then all of that "It happen 150 years ago" and "every people has been enslaved at one time or another" goes into effect. If its about the discrimination now, whatever the root cause, the discrimination is the problem, as much as against any group. The history is irrelevant because its not over slavery at that point; its over the present racism. And if it is discrimination now and not slavery then, what is this money going to do to help reducing racism?

That's my view anyway.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:26 PM on August 19, 2002

Wood: Federalism changed more as a consequence of the industrialization of America anyway. The Civil War is unquestionably a big federalism-related landmark, but it wasn't quite the turning point it is in cliched accounts. The era of dual federalism continued for a good bit longer, Reconstruction to the contrary notwithstanding. (And then the black codes and Jim Crow came along regardless.)

amberglow: The South as a whole was unquestionably held back by the aftereffects of the Civil War, and the failure of Reconstruction (or rather, that failure and the eventual capitulation of the North in tacitly OK'ing Jim Crow, and disfranchisement of blacks and poor whites, etc.), and to some small degree probably still is. The South as northern colony, all that. It's less noticeable all the time, though. Also, some Confederate veterans were kept from voting for a time in Arkansas, maybe some other places. Note the disfranchisement of a largish percentage of poor whites too, although that was approved by white elites in the states. Just to be thorough here. The rest of your list is, for the most part, more exclusive to blacks, with a few exceptions (as in, women weren't able to go to the same schools as other citizens for the longest time, and were kept from voting, etc. - blacks as a group just came last on the whole).
posted by raysmj at 3:36 PM on August 19, 2002

ok ray, let's give the poor whites reparations (although it sounds like it's based on property damage alone--and I'm trying to be consistent, but I think this whole idea is a racist response to the other reparations lawsuits)

[on a related note, crossfire is doing the reparations (the other other reparations) issue right now on CNN]
posted by amberglow at 4:04 PM on August 19, 2002

oops...mostly, not alone
posted by amberglow at 4:21 PM on August 19, 2002

Which is more important insomnyuk?

Of course abolishing slavery is more important than the difference between certain political systems. The loss of federalism in the Civil War was one contributing factor to the overall loss of freedom today. I do believe, though, that the Civil War served as a catalyst for the overall loss of freedoms for everyone, it allowed greater centralization and enaction of a protectionist racket into politics (a political legacy Lincoln had inherited from Henry Clay, a slaveowner who was Lincoln's political hero). We are seeing it finally play out today as our government seizes unprecedented powers. There are many reasons for this decline, but war is always a major contributing factor.

of saying how I feel about slavery. It's way worse than big government.

However, if I had to choose between one slavery and another (say a Hitlerian government), how could I begin to choose? Would you have traded slavery to live under Josef Stalin or Adolph Hitler's version of big government? I doubt it. In those regimes, you wouldn't have even had the chance to survive.

I'm sorry if it came across wrong, but my point was that the Civil War was perhaps a pyrrhic victory, especially in light of the fact that the rest of the West was able to peacefully abolish slavery. Certainly, some good things came of it, but so did some bad. No issue is ever purely black and white (pardon the pun).
posted by insomnyuk at 4:35 PM on August 19, 2002

amberglow: No reparations. Just being thorough there. Poor whites still didn't have it as bad, on the whole. Also, poor whites, at least in Appalachia, had the Appalachian Regional Commission and the TVA, etc. Billions of dollars spent on those two, millions and probably billions still being spent today. The GOP Congress has in fact given the ARC a boost.

Did the predominantly black, and even more poor, Mississippi Delta ever get as much help? No. Not even close. The inner cities? Nope. (Anyone who brings up welfare is begging to be shot down, by the way. Most welfare recipients are white.) It's not so much a reparations plan that I think is needed specifically (in light of the hysterical reaction seen here, it sure doesn't seem like such a hot idea - it's all the phrasing, the politics) as some sort of coming to terms with what needs to be and should be done to level the playing field. A "this happened to us, but nothing else bad ever happened to anyone else" attitude isn't going to convince anyone, although the minds of at least half the hysterical crowd are closed to begin with, admittedly.
posted by raysmj at 5:11 PM on August 19, 2002

For an opposing libertarian position, which argues that Lincoln was not just right politically but also morally, see Harry Jaffa. Strictly speaking, Jaffa represents the authoritarian strain in libertarian politics (the one that limits "freedom" to those who adhere to a somewhat narrow list of "virtuous" behaviors), but there's no denying that he knows his political philosophy and his Founders.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:35 PM on August 19, 2002

Ray...I wish people didn't see these sorts of issues as irrelevant or just dead history...they directly impact our lives today even if some people don't think they do.

I think that being an American means that we have a collective responsibility regarding our past actions, present circumstances, and future possibilities...(my .02)
posted by amberglow at 6:08 PM on August 19, 2002

So the correct course of action is ____________.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:33 PM on August 19, 2002

Lord, that's what we need to discuss, on a national level...I don't know if it's possible though, especially nowadays
posted by amberglow at 7:36 PM on August 19, 2002

Crawfish tracks the neo-confederate movement. Crawfish is a bit of a character--and he has his own biases of course--but he's done a great deal of research on the movement, lets the neo-confederates speak for themselves and is on the whole pretty reliable, I think. Crawfish demonstrates that the LoS and the neo-confederate movement implicitly (and explicitly when they think they can get away with it) endorse attitudes on "race," gender, and sexual orientation that most Americans would find very, um, unenlightened, to say the least.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:25 PM on August 19, 2002

Crawfish has some interesting information there.

Personally, I'm not as much interested in the South's particular claims, but in the idea of secession. Certainly, there is some interplay between the LoS and the von Mises institute, but it is only with a few members, and generally when they are discussing the topic of secession (something I am quite interested in). For example, I read some of those LoS articles about cultural preservation etc, which sound kooky and xenophobic, and I have heard Mises scholars arguing for no immigration laws. I don't see the point of him listing all of the people connected to the von Mises Institute, as it is a fairly diverse conglomeration of people, who have problems with the Civil War not for racial reasons, but political ones.

thomas j wise: I think the crux of Jaffa's argument is that the South was not justified in seceding because it took with it unwilling groups (the slaves, namely). This is an ironic argument, since he did not oppose the Revolutionary secession, where slaves were most certainly involved.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:25 PM on August 19, 2002

Oops. Actually, I misattributed that argument to Jaffa, it belongs to Professor Tibor Machan, a libertarian thinker.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:00 PM on August 19, 2002

Why on earth is a free-market economics outfit so interested in whether the Civil War was just or not? Because economics is only tangential to what it's scholars are really into, even if it appears to be the central thing? Because they have no lives? Again, dual federalism did not really end until industrialization in America, the expansion of suffrage, and so forth. And its death knell only really comes with the New Deal and World War II.

"Well, we've discussed the gold standard again, as well as the evils of central banking. (Pause.) OK, was Lincoln evil or what?"

I'm sorry. I don't get it.
posted by raysmj at 10:01 PM on August 19, 2002

Also, insomnyuk, you're really into telling us that most southerners of the antebellum era were not slave owners. True. But how would free-market economics and a non-violent secession in the South have really helped poor dirt farmers? Surely a non-violent end to slavery would have been preferable, but that's a big, "What if?" If the elites in power in the South would have had total power after the war, however, it's clear that the ancestors of non-slave owners in the South might have suffered more. Surely those same elites did their poorer white brethren absolutely no favors after Reconstruction, when they did have absolute power. Ever hear of the populist revolt, and the consequent Redeemer constitutions that locked at least 30 percent of whites out of elections in states such as Alabama?

Yeah, southerners are unfairly stereotyped too often, and the victors wrote history as to leave many of their negatives out, blah blah, but I'll be damned if I want these people writing said history instead or acting as some sort of southern cultural czars.
posted by raysmj at 10:20 PM on August 19, 2002

You bring up some very good points raysmj. I'm also confused why they would dedicate so much time to Lincoln. I googled for it and got ten pages of results. I guess they have a Lincoln fetish. Although our country does have the perennial problem of lionizing just about every past president and elevating him to the level of a mythological king of yore. An Austrian economics professor of mine once mentioned the Mises institute in passing and said to be wary of their racial bias. Now I think I know what he meant. It's ironic and perplexing, however, because Ludwig von Mises himself was a free market economist and I don't think he had anything to say about the Civil War. I believe they have some good points about the legality and constitutionality of what Lincoln did, and how it affected the balance of power, but their constant discussion of the issue seems pathological. I guess I'll just have to stick with FEE or FFF. Actually, FFF has a lot to say about Lincoln too. I suspect the issue for many of these people, as I said before, is a political one.

I don't have answers to your hypothetical questions, however.

But how would free-market economics and a non-violent secession in the South have really helped poor dirt farmers?

I believe a true free market benefits everyone, and its a mercantilist system which prospers the powerful elites and profits off of the labor of everyone else.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:28 PM on August 19, 2002

Wood: I am black. I'd've killed a Confederate any day of the week and slept like a baby. Or at least I'd like to think so.

Okay. But, again, let's make sure we're not being hoodwinked by history:

The Civil War was not fought over the issue of slavery. The North did not fight to free slaves, the South did not fight to keep slaves. That is a great big myth. The true underlying resaons were purely economic.

The North had all the industry. The South was dependent on the North for finished goods. The North was taxing these goods. The North had the South by the cojones and was squeezing...

The true underpinnings of almost any conflict are almost always economic. It's always the gravy. This is good to remember as we watch the "War On Terrorism"...

Oil in Kazakhstan. A pipeline direct to Kurachi. War hero status and re-election...
posted by Shane at 6:17 AM on August 20, 2002

The true underlying reasons were purely economic.

Well, not to nick-pick, but in the case of the American Civil War, the underlying causes were mostly economic. It is a myth that the war was fought to end slavery, but it's equally a myth that the existence of slavery had little or nothing to do with the war. Slavery colored everything including the nature of the competing economic systems.

the South did not fight to keep slaves

Perhaps not. But the South certainly fought to keep it's political and economic structure intact--a structure which at that time mostly relied on the institution of slavery.

The point being that American Southern society at that time was inextricably linked with the institution of slavery. Had slavery never existed in America, the other regional conflicts could probably have been settled peacefully. It's accurate therefore to note that war was not fought to "free the slaves" but inaccurate, I think, to minimize the influence of slavery on the other conflicts of the time, or as one of the causes that led to war.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:20 AM on August 20, 2002 [1 favorite]

insomnyuk: Benefits everyone? I'm not talking about now. I'm talking about then, and with the leadership that existed at the time.
posted by raysmj at 7:21 AM on August 20, 2002

OK, nevermind. Looks like you got it. It wasn't really a mercantilist system, though, but oligarchical, agricultural-based capitalism. Add a total lack of regulations there, and you have a nightmare, but that's a whole 'nother story.
posted by raysmj at 7:25 AM on August 20, 2002

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