John Kelly’s Statement About General Lee And The Civil War Was Fair, Benign And Accurate, And The Historians And Journalists Claiming Otherwise Have Exposed Themselves And Their Professions, Not Kelly, And Not The President

[I’m sorry: this post is long. The provocation for it is serious, however, and I couldn’t thoroughly shred this despicable media effort to make what John Kelly said yesterday something it was not and not even close to being without going over my word limit. I hope you read it. It’s hard to try to counter a concerted effort to mislead and lie to the public from this tiny outpost.]

This development yesterday really depressed me. Either the leftward professions are losing their collective minds, or they are so dedicated to turning the public against the president that they will engage in complete fabrication. Both conclusions are frightening.

Yesterday, CNN reporter April Ryan thought it was appropriate to end a White House press briefing by shouting, “Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?” What, other than a complete absence of fairness and professionalism, provoked this unethical outburst? It was this statement by Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly, as he was interviewed by Fox News’ latest star, Laura Ingraham, regarding the The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, specifically the Charlottesville controversy over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Here is Kelly’s entire statement:

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

Based on that statement, April Ryan, and other hair-trigger “resistance” zealots, concluded that there was now a question whether the Trump administration “thinks slavery is wrong.”

Astounding.

But such is the dishonest and biased state of the news media today.

Let’s begin by examining the components of Kelly’s statement.

A. “I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.”

There are no contemporary  accounts from anyone who knew Lee that he was not honorable, meaning honest, moral, ethical, and principled, the usual synonyms for honorable. I doubt Kelly was using the word in its most literal sense, “worthy of honor,” but he might have been, The argument is, and I would make it, that such traits a honesty, integrity, courage and other ethical values make any individual, famous or not, worthy of honor.

Lee was terribly, tragically wrong in his choice regarding which side to fight for during the Civil War. I am not an admirer of Lee for this reason. However, during his life there were many episodes where he exhibited exemplary character.  His immediate acceptance of responsibility for the failure of Pickett’s Charge was one, meeting his returning soldiers personally and exclaiming, “It was all my fault.” Another was his insistence that the Confederate army surrender rather than take to the hills in guerrilla resistance that might have extended the Civil War indefinitely.  Lee was flawed, and few men in history who were so admired by their contemporaries have made such a tragic mistake. That does not alter the fact that he was an honorable man.

The problem is that the modern Left does not believe that it is possible to be honorable and to not embrace the Left’s most fervently held principles, even if you lived centuries ago. This is, in part, why  our politics are so uncivil, and why partisans today show less respect to those with differing opinions on public policy than Lee and many of his generation showed to members of the enemy army who were trying to kill them.

B. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today.”

This is a statement of fact. Lee’s position was certainly consistent with Kelly’s statement. In some kind of magic, un-negotiated  conspiracy to take what Kelly said to mean something he emphatically did not say, one writer after another has claimed that Kelly was arguing that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Here, for example, is Vox:

“Though this view has long been promoted and even taught in schools around the country, there has been a new push to recognize the cause of the Civil War as rooted in a disagreement about slavery and the refusal of Southern states to give it up…”

Though what view?  Kelly wasn’t opining on the reason for the Civil War, or what was the root cause. He was talking about Robert E. Lee. Is there any question that if Virginia had decided not to secede—as of course it seceded over slavery—Lee would have fought with the Union? I have never read any historian or biographer who said otherwise. Here’s Biography.com, usually an uncontroversial distiller of historical consensus in its Lee biography:

“But Lee’s commitment to the Army was superseded by his commitment to Virginia. After turning down an offer from President Abraham Lincoln to command the Union forces, Lee resigned from the military and returned home. While Lee had misgivings about centering a war on the slavery issue, after Virginia voted to secede from the nation on April 17, 1861, Lee agreed to help lead the Confederate forces.”

That’s what Kelly said. Not every soldier thought that loyalty to state over country was the correct priority, and Kelly wasn’t saying that Lee’s position was the dominant one. It was a common one, however. 1861 was less than a hundred years after the culturally diverse Colonies came together to fight the American Revolution, and the states had been fighting over the balance of power between the federal and state governments almost non-stop ever since. Kelly was acknowledging the fact that Lee’s extreme state loyalty seems odd today, when so many citizens live in several states during their lives, and move from one to another without giving it a second thought. 150 years ago, citizen bonds to the state of their birth was a far, far greater issue, and being asked to take up arms to fight against that state would have posed a wrenching dilemma for most Americans.

That is all Kelly said. If one doesn’t understand the context of Lee’s decision to fight on the same side as the defenders of slavery, then one cannot begin to assess Lee’s status as an American figure. Anyone leaping from that statement to “the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery” is engaging in a clinical level of confirmation bias, and that’s exactly where the attacks on Kelly are coming from. This statement, that doesn’t mention slavery, isn’t about the root cases of the Civil War, and that only explicates Robert E. Lee’s  overwhelming reason for fighting for the Confederacy, is being deliberately distorted to show that President Trump and others in his administration are apologists for racism. The fact that nothing in Kelly’s words even hint at that didn’t stop this example of mass race-baiting, based on air.

[I might, however, take issue with Kelly’s statement that “it’s different today.” It appears that the only difference for the Left is that many of its members would take up arms with its partisan tribes and ideological movements against their country. It is certainly beginning to look that way. But I digress…]

The worst distortion of Kelly’s statement, however, involved the final section:

C. “But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

I have been astounded at the dishonest, almost perverse attacks on this statement. Kelly was not saying that the famous Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, both crafted to try to cool what was obviously becoming an existential argument between the slave-holding states and the free states. Kelly said that in the end, no compromise could be reached to avert war. In the end, there was no longer sufficient trust and willingness to yield on core issues to stop the momentum to a violent split.

The Washington Post’s Phillip Bump tracked down two historians Stephanie McCurry, a history professor at Columbia University, and David Blight, a history professor at Yale University, to support the fantasy  thesis that Kelly had misstated the facts and was embracing a “Jim Crow version  of the causes of the Civil War.”  [Aside: the Post headline, “Historians respond to John F. Kelly’s Civil War remarks: ‘Strange,’ ‘sad,’ ‘wrong’” is misleading. I thought that this meant that there was a wide consensus against Kelly’s statement. No, Bump found two historians with this opinion. Two historians are not “historians,” and the headline is deceit.] They embarrassed themselves, and should have embarrassed their profession, except that historians are so slanted Left and so anti-Trump that they are beyond shame on such topics.

“This is profound ignorance, that’s what one has to say first, at least of pretty basic things about the American historical narrative,” Blight said. “I mean, it’s one thing to hear it from Trump, who, let’s be honest, just really doesn’t know any history and has demonstrated it over and over and over. But General Kelly has a long history in the American military.”

“It was not about slavery, it was about honorable men fighting for honorable causes?” McCurry tells Bump. “Well, what was the cause? . . . In 1861, they were very clear on what the causes of the war were. The reason there was no compromise possible was that people in the country could not agree over the wisdom of the continued and expanding enslavement of millions of African Americans.”

Kelly didn’t say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, and he didn’t say that “it” was about “honorable men fighting for honorable causes.”  Kelly was talking abut Lee and only Lee, while noting that his “State, then Country” priority was not unusual at the time. When he said that men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand,” he did not call slavery an “honorable cause.” He never called slavery an honorable cause, or referred to it at all. He says there were people of good faith on both sides of the conflict—true—and that they believed they were following their conscience. How can anyone argue with that? What’s the converse? Those who fought for the South knew they were fighting for an evil cause, and defied their conscience to do so? They were wrong. That’s all. Wrong. Not evil, not of bad faith, not psychopaths or sociopaths. Just wrong.

But the new Left narrative holds that not grasping the full degree of human rights abomination that was slavery the second an individual was ejected from the womb is an indelible black mark on their character.

Then Blight joins in regarding the compromise statement:

“Any serious person who knows anything about this can look at the late 1850s and then the secession crisis and know that they tried all kinds of compromise measures during the secession winter, and nothing worked. Nothing was viable.”

The Civil War wasn’t fought in the late 1850s, you shameless strawman flogger! The war broke out in 1861, after the two sides lost their ability to compromise, or, as Kelly correctly said and you dishonestly insist on misinterpreting him, after there was a “lack of an ability to compromise.”

Two other articles attacking Kelly show how unethical this contrived criticism is. Another Post article by Avi Selk, with the factually false title “Actually, John Kelly, the failed ‘compromise’ to avoid Civil War would have enshrined slavery,  begins this way:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, whose boss is well known for unique opinions about the Civil War, introduced his own hypothesis to the world last night when he blamed the war on “the lack of an ability to compromise.”

The Washington Post has already written about what historians think of Kelly’s thoughts, their assessments ranging from “dangerous” to “kind of depressing.”

But the truth is, the panicky months before the Civil War were full of attempts to compromise with the rebellious South.

The most popular proposal, by far, was a constitutional amendment that would have irreversibly immortalized slavery as a feature of the United States.

And although supporters of this compromise — up to and including Abraham Lincoln and most of Congress — did fail to pull it off, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

This so awful and obviously awful that I am temped, as I often am, to leave it to intelligent readers to pick out the dishonesty and stupidity, but okay, to save time:

1 It begins by “poisoning the well,” mocking Trump’s historical acumen, when Kelly isn’t Trump.

2. The Post article doesn’t discuss “what historians think” about what Kelly said. As I noted, it discusses what two historians obviously chosen for their position think, and their position misrepresented what Kelly said.

3.  Kelly didn’t say that the Civil War happened because there were no attempts to compromise. That “the panicky months before the Civil War were full of attempts to compromise with the rebellious South” doesn’t in any way contradict Kelly. Nor does the fact that the sides tried to compromise and failed show that Kelly’s representation that there was a “lack of ability to compromise”  at the end. In fact, it shows he was correct. Did Kelly at any time, in any way, say “The Civil War started because nobody tried to compromise”?

Let’s say that I want to have another child, try and try, but cannot get my wife pregnant, because of low sperm count. The doctor says, “Jack, you cannot conceive because you have a lack of the ability to conceive,” and I say, “Liar! I’ve been trying!”

It’s really funny, when you read the article. Selk extensively cites Daniel W. Crofts’  “Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery,” which recounts how last ditch efforts to stop the war with a grand compromise, an Amendment that would assure that only the states could end slavery individually (as they eventually would have, hence the absurdity of the headline*), failed. That’s right: the article that claims that Kelly was wrong and ignorant to say that a failure to compromise led to the Civil War devotes itself to the failure of a compromise that would have stopped the Civil  War.

The second outrageously dishonest article I referred to is this one, in The Atlantic. The post is way too long already, so I will largely leave it to readers to discern the utter bait-and-switch of the  piece, and its complete distortion of what Kelly said. It begins by accusing Kelly of embracing the Confederate apologists “Lost Cause” rationale, when, as I have shown, he did nothing of the sort.

“But all the better to call the President a racist with, my dear,” as the Wolf said to Little Red Riding Hood,

_______________________

*The other problem with the headline is that Kelly didn’t argue that a compromise would have been ideal, effective or even good. That a Civil War stopping compromise would have had bad consequences is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

92 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media

92 responses to “John Kelly’s Statement About General Lee And The Civil War Was Fair, Benign And Accurate, And The Historians And Journalists Claiming Otherwise Have Exposed Themselves And Their Professions, Not Kelly, And Not The President

  1. dragin_dragon

    I can actually sympathize with Lee. Even in this modern day and age, loyalty to state sometimes takes precedent. After watching the Left’s meltdown of the last decade (or longer), I no longer trust the Fed to do anything right. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, but eventually, the disintegration will happen. We are too dichotomized to avoid it. When it happens, and it will, if I’m still alive, as useless as I’ll be, I’ll stand with Texas.

  2. The Atlantic article is titled, “The Civil War Was Not A Mistake.” First of all, Kelly didn’t suggest it was or it wasn’t a mistake, so the title is a non sequitur. But the North didn’t want a civil war—who in their right mind wants a civil war?—and the war was certainly a catastrophe for the South. Granted that “a mistake” is a gross simplification of something as complex as the Civil War, Any civil war is the culmination of many mistakes, miscalculations and bad choices. But how can anyone say that a war that killed over 600,000 men and has left scars that still haven’t healed over wasn’t a ?mistake”? Oh, you know: it ended slavery, so the ends justify the means. To today’s Left, tearing the nation apart over race is what they want to do now—what’s 600,000 dead? Except that if anyone suspected that the war would cost that much, the public would have said, Let ’em go—slavery will be dead eventually anyway.” So the war was entered with false expectations and a mistaken understanding of just hwo horrible it would be. Moreover, the North very easily could have lost. That it didn’t was pure moral luck. THEN would it have been a mistake? The US would have been cut in half, AND slavery would have survived.. Is it a mistake for a President to take such a risk, especially when the case that a state couldn’t leave a union it voluntarily joined was a dubious constitutional theory, and still is.

    Now that we are so far away from all the death, the mayhem, and the Andersonville living skeletons,, it is too facile to say, “The Civil War was a good thing.” That’s ignorant, simple-minded, and also callous. It had one good result, by the skin of the nation’s teeth, and missed destroying us by a hair. The Atlantic article is an idiot making screed, for idiots, by idiots.

    • Jack wrote, “Now that we are so far away from all the death, the mayhem, and the Andersonville living skeletons,, it is too facile to say, “The Civil War was a good thing.” That’s ignorant, simple-minded, and also callous. It had one good result, by the skin of the nation’s teeth, and missed destroying us by a hair.”

      Spot on!!!

    • In Kelly vs Ryan, you have a substantial man, educated and aware of history in detail, vs. an actual idiot, a woman with no knowledge of history, and a propagandist’s sense of flame-throwing. And the idiots in the media actually accredit her. Mindboggling.

  3. A couple of things: I think that state loyalty probably varied somewhat from state to state. Ironically, people from the opposite pole, New England, also strongly identified with the their states. There were also strong regional pulls.

    With respect to compromise, Lincoln, who always saw the reason in the other side of the argument, nonetheless drew a line beyond which he would not go. He wrote to Congressman Elihu Washburne on December 13, 1860: “Prevent, as far as possible, any of our friends from demoralizing themselves, and our cause, by entertaining propositions for compromise of any sort, on ‘slaver extention.’ there is no possible compromise upon it, but which puts us under again, and leaves all our work to do over again. Whether it be a Mo. Line, or Eli Thayer’s Pop. Sov. it is all the same. Let either be done, & immediately filibustering and extending slavery recommences. On that point hold firm, as with a chain of steel.”

    Lincoln’s was not a lonely voice. The extension of slavery was the issue that set the country on fire seven years before, and that resulted in the formation of the Republican Party. Lincoln himself had turned to politics full time to oppose the possibility of the extension of slavery, he took on the burden of confronting Stephen Douglas on the issue, and he had spoken about it repeatedly in the East and Midwest. For him to do a reversal on the issue would undermine the reasoning that the party had for nominating him in the first place.

    • But read the article! Lincoln was ready to support the amendment that WOULD extend slavery. He also said that he would live with slavery to preserve the Union. Lincoln was not always consistent, and was less an ideologue than a true politician. He would have compromised to stop a civil war. He wasn’t crazy.

    • A point about slavery in regards to the Civil War that seems to be missed by many is that slavery was really on it’s way out even if the Civil War had not happened, doing nothing would not have changed that fact. The tides were beginning to turn both morally and politically throughout the country. Both the North and the South knew this; compromise would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. There were between 620,000 to 750,000 soldiers that died as a direct result of the Civil War and there were an undetermined number of civilians that died, and their deaths were at the hands of those in high political places, on both sides of the argument, that were pig-headed and chose to force their ideology.

      As Jack said, the Civil War had “one good result, by the skin of the nation’s teeth, and missed destroying us by a hair.”

      • “that slavery was really on it’s way out even if the Civil War had not happened”

        I disagree.

        I’ll have to dig for the stats, but I did a full analysis of the census for the pre-war years. The percentage of slave-owning households was consistently INCREASING throughout most of the slave owning states up to the start of the war (though decreasing in a handful of them).

        I don’t recall this specific, but it seems familiar in my memory: that the larger slave owning properties were decreasing quantities of owned slaves. But that’s not a trend that implies slavery was on the way out any time soon.

        Sans Civil War, I’d guess slavery lasts at least past the turn of the century (if not much longer).

        I’ve heard it posited by some historians that the stats implied that slavery was soon on it’s way out, but I never can figure out their justification. Probably because I’ve got other books on my priority list than theirs.

        My opinion, futile so far away from the time, was the the Civil War was the only way to end Slavery sooner and, despite the brutality, the only way to end it with a sense of honor instead of letting it peter out as though it never was a barbaric practice but just no longer an economically feasible practice. Within that opinion, the Civil War *should* have been fought (since it had to be fought) back in the 1820s, 30s or 40s when the body count would have been much much lower.

        And I think even then, everyone knew some sort of conflict was the only true way to end slavery. Part of the Democrat party’s origin was to create can-kicking compromise after can-kicking compromise to continue pushing Slavery-problem-resolution down the road (a practice that history time and again proves never resolves the problem, and only ensures the problem is solved in an even uglier mess than it could’ve been).

        • I don’t remember the book titles and I no longer have them in my possession, but I did read some books, I seem to remember three, about the how the moral, political, and the economical tides were turning away from slavery. You should consider reading a couple of the books to get the opposing point of view, it might be useful to you in the future.

  4. Kyjo

    Jack,

    Lee didn’t found a college; he accepted an invitation to become the president of what was then Washington College. After his death, the school was renamed to Washington and Lee University.

    Also, you made a small typo:

    The war broke out in 1961

  5. You accidentally slipped in a 1961 instead of 1861.

    Great article.

    • Ah. Pulled the trigger too quickly. Kyjo got it.

    • I always get Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record and the firing on Fort Sumter mixed up.

    • But it takes so much time to try to clean up the massive, cross media disinformation in a case like this. So I end up with a 2000 word plus piece that most people won’t read. It’s so much easier to just accept the straw men and the distortions from one of dozens of similarly incompetent articles. What chance does reality have?

      This one really depresses me for some reason…

      • Joe Fowler

        Be of good cheer for the valuable work you do, Jack. One day, in the future, a scholar may be researching ethics, AND have an interest in the Civil War. The internet archives will probably be pretty well scrubbed by then, and academic ‘scholarship’ is already waning rapidly in the face of nonstop political indoctrination. It’s just possible that your corner of the archives will remain as untouched by the history ‘correctors’ as a brussel sprout casserole at a pot-luck. (such people do tend to avoid ethics!). And so, our future scholar may find this post, and begin to wonder about the reality that they have been presented.

      • Jack Marshall wrote, “This one really depresses me for some reason…”

        What’s happening is social justice warriors are twisting history to fit their needs so they can smear those they oppose in current political times.

        This kind of intellectual dishonesty should anger you not depress you.

      • It bothers me because the aggressive left *has no decency* anymore. You CANNOT call them out, because they flat out do not care that they are being dishonest.

  6. Chris

    The problem is that the modern Left does not believe that it is possible to be honorable and to not embrace the Left’s most fervently held principles, even if you lived centuries ago.

    I find it jaw-dropping that you are identifying opposition to slavery as one of “the Left’s most fervently held principles,” rather than just, y’know, one of America’s most fervently held principles.

    I do find parts of your argument compelling, though as usual I’m inclined to sympathize more with Popehat’s mocking take than anything else:

    • Another gotcha, Chris. It gets tiresome. The full statement was

      Lee was flawed, and few men in history who were so admired by their contemporaries have made such a tragic mistake. That does not alter the fact that he was an honorable man.

      The problem is that the modern Left does not believe that it is possible to be honorable and to not embrace the Left’s most fervently held principles, even if you lived centuries ago. This is, in part, why our politics are so uncivil, and why partisans today show less respect to those with differing opinions on public policy than Lee and many of his generation showed to members of the enemy army who were trying to kill them.

      As usual, your understanding of English is oddly flawed. There is nothing in the sentence to suggest that all of the Left’s principles are unique to the Left, or that opposition to slavery was the single value under discussion. The Left treats opposition to abortion, open borders confiscation of guns as if they were all the equivalent of supporting slavery. That’s what the statement meant, and that’s what I wrote. What is unique about the modern left’s doctrinaire judgments is, as I said, the presentism and presumption of bad character when a 19th, 18th or 17th century individual didn’t quite grasp the wisdom conferred by centuries of experience and enlightenment. Who wants to strip out memorials to George Washington because he owned slaves, Chris? It’s not conservatives, and not because they don’t think slavery is wrong, but because they have the braisn and integrity to realize George was still honorable despite taking a while to figure out how wrong it was.

      Eventually, I’m going to get fed up with you intentionally misrepresenting what I write, even though all it does is make you look a jerk.

      Here is what would be refreshing: acknowledging that the attacks and distortions of what Kelly said are unconscionable, rather than looking for tangential nits to pick to avoid doing so.

      • Wayne

        Why is it that the Left can’t accept that historical figures like Lee and Washington living in the times they did could be honorable men despite what today looks unacceptable and wrong. Yet the Left lionesses more recent figures such as Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez who actively pursued policies that resulted in the ruin of their countries and major human rights violations resulting in the deaths and imprisonment of scores of their opponents. Leftism is primarily based on the ends justify the means mentality. Perhaps we should replace those old statues of Confederate generals and slave owning historical figures like Washington and Jefferson and build monuments to Che and Hugo Chavez!

        • Sue Dunim

          ‘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. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.’

          – Robert E Lee, to his wife.

          .Slavers were doing their slaves a great favour, and at their own cost, apparently.

          ” Lee’s cruelty as a slavemaster was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading the Man, the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families,” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.”

          The trauma of rupturing families lasted lifetimes for the enslaved—it was, as my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates described it, “a kind of murder.” After the war, thousands of the emancipated searched desperately for kin lost to the market for human flesh, fruitlessly for most. In Reconstruction, the historian Eric Foner quotes a Freedmen’s Bureau agent who notes of the emancipated, “in their eyes, the work of emancipation was incomplete until the families which had been dispersed by slavery were reunited.”

          Lee’s heavy hand on the Arlington plantation, Pryor writes, nearly led to a slave revolt, in part because the enslaved had been expected to be freed upon their previous master’s death, and Lee had engaged in a dubious legal interpretation of his will in order to keep them as his property, one that lasted until a Virginia court forced him to free them.

          When two of his slaves escaped and were recaptured, Lee either beat them himself or ordered the overseer to “lay it on well.” Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.”

          https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-myth-of-the-kindly-general-lee/529038/

          Lee’s turning a blind eye – at best – to the massacre of captured Black soldiers by troops under his command, and the carrying off of Black women from conquered territory by his army to act as camp followers – or as the Japanese called them, “comfort women” – speaks for itself.

          80 years later, the Nuremberg tribunals hanged Generals for less than this. So the “Can’t judge by modern standards” excuse doesn’t wash.

          • Huh? That was a rather revelatory and critical 80 years, Sue. Lee was a man of his time, and better than most. Those executed for war crimes were executed because their conduct was specifically found to violate the standards of humanity as they were then understood.

            That Atlantic article also cherry picks the worst possible accounts and words about Lee. There is another side.

            • The conflict does insist on some level of definition, however. What is the smallest time frame between a culture having a barbaric idea and the same culture having a civilized idea on a topic that one can still “understand” the older generation’s conduct & attitudes within that culture? 30 years? 20?

              How does the intensity of the barbaric conduct affect that time frame?

          • Rusty Rebar

            ooh… let me play now. Lets do Lincoln.

            I will say then, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters of the negroes, or jurors, or qualifying them to hold office, of having them to marry with white people. I will say in addition, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which I suppose, will forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality, and inasmuch, as they cannot so live, that while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, that I as much as any other man am in favor of the superior position being assigned to the white man.

            –Abraham Lincoln

            Anyone can find a quote from history that conflicts with the morals of today. You need to be careful not to view morality of the time through the lens of today.

            • Chris

              Reasonable people can distinguish between Lincoln’s position of institutionalized racism without slavery, which actually the moderate position at the time, and Lee’s “Slavery now, slavery tomorrow, slavert forever” position, which was the extreme position even then.

              We can also acknowledge that the good Lincoln did far outweighs the bad, while acknowledging that nothing could ever make up for Lee’s leadership in a war that claimed more American lives than any other, all to advance the position that the white race must always keep blacks in chains.

              • Kyjo

                That’s not a fair characterization of Lee’s position on the matter, and you almost certainly know that. But please, tell us more about how Kelly’s statement is one-sided.

                • Chris

                  I did not know that, but having just spent a few minutes on Google, I am now aware that you are correct. I withdraw that part of my comment in embarassment.

                  It would have been more accurate to say that was the position of the illegitimate government Lee was fighting for. How much one holds him responsible for the official positions of that government is a subject where one’s mileage may vary. I think that he should be held responsible for fighting to enshrine that position even if it was not his personal position, but I can respect disagreement on that issue.

      • Jack Marshall wrote, “As usual, your understanding of English is oddly flawed.”

        Since the source of that “oddly flawed” understanding of the English language is from a self proclaimed English teacher, I think that’s a bit of an understatement.

        Jack Marshall wrote, “Eventually, I’m going to get fed up with you intentionally misrepresenting what I write, even though all it does is make you look a jerk.”

        Now you’re startin’ to get there.

        Do your own search on this little tidbit of information if you like; I don’t think there is any commenter here that can equal (not even close) the number of times that Chris has misunderstood and/or misrepresented others here because of his oddly flawed understanding of the English language, and Chris is supposedly a Middle School English teacher.

        Whether Chris wants to acknowledge it or not, it appears that he’s trolling with a facade of stupidity. Personally I’d like Chris to drop the facade; we see the “real” Chris peek through once in awhile and that’s really refreshing. I know he’s in there behind that facade and the world of Ethics Alarms would be a much better place if he’d just drop it.

        Sorry for piling on.

        • Steve-O-in-NJ

          The real Chris is the one who slings insults and acts all outraged when some of us sling them back, then accuses US of making this blog a shittier place by doing it. Like I said, he’s just the grownup version of the mouthy little fucker who was annoying in school, but either too fast for his classmates to catch him, or too well known of a tattletale for them to risk catching him after school, beating him up, and leaving him bleeding in two inches of water in a drainage ditch to reflect on his obnoxious ways. I vote for the latter.

          • Steve-O-in-NJ,
            I know I started this piling on, but I didn’t post my comment for someone to reply with that kind of Vomit Comment crap.

            Grow the fuck up Steve.

            • Steve-O-in-NJ

              OK, that was an attack, I admit. Chalk it up to hate makes you dumb. That said, I will change my approach when he does. I am happy to be an intellect, but I’m happy to Pier 6 it.

              • Steve-O-in-NJ wrote, “I’m happy to Pier 6 it.”

                That statement must have some kind regional social relevance because I don’t get it.

                • Steve-O-in-NJ

                  Sorry – Pier 6 was a docking/warehouse area known as a rough neighborhood, where brawling was common.

                  • Steve-O-in-NJ wrote, “Sorry – Pier 6 was a docking/warehouse area known as a rough neighborhood, where brawling was common.”

                    Aaaaa… now I get it.

                    Now I can overstretch my upper arm and pat myself on the back for somehow “knowing” that it had regional social relevance. 😉

      • Ah, but you know what IS one of “the Left’s most fervently held principles” relating to this? Whenever it can be pushed, even subtly, the idea that somehow the Right in some way, sorta kinda likes Slavery is one of the Left’s notions. Certainly if they don’t believe it, they enjoy the smear.

        I didn’t misread your intent, but Chris misread it, because he approaches the discussion with that “fervently held principle”.

      • Chris

        As usual, your understanding of English is oddly flawed. There is nothing in the sentence to suggest that all of the Left’s principles are unique to the Left, or that opposition to slavery was the single value under discussion. The Left treats opposition to abortion, open borders confiscation of guns as if they were all the equivalent of supporting slavery. That’s what the statement meant, and that’s what I wrote.

        This post isn’t about opposition to abortion, open borders or confiscation of guns, so I have no idea how I was expected to know that’s what you meant. It’s not what you wrote.

        What is unique about the modern left’s doctrinaire judgments is, as I said, the presentism and presumption of bad character when a 19th, 18th or 17th century individual didn’t quite grasp the wisdom conferred by centuries of experience and enlightenment.

        Plenty of people grasped the wisdom of opposing slavery at the time of the Civil War. That’s why it’s called the Civil War, and not the Civil Agreement to Keep Slavery.

        The argument that Lee and others just didn’t know any better doesn’t wash. Everything Kelly said about Robert E. Lee may be true, but it is completely one-sided, and thus a whitewash of history. But you only seem to mind one-sided views of history if it favors the liberal side.

        • Chris, “Plenty of people grasped the wisdom of opposing slavery at the time of the Civil War. That’s why it’s called the Civil War, and not the Civil Agreement to Keep Slavery.”

          I can’t believe an English teacher would write such nonsense.

          No Chris, it was not called the Civil War because “plenty of people grasped the wisdom of opposing slavery at the time”, it was called the Civil War because the United States of America was literally at WAR with itself.

          • Chris

            You missed the point entirely.

            The Civil War happened because the South was absolutely terrified that the federal government was going to outlaw slavery, so they overreacted and seceded, thus ensuring that slavery would end if the North won. It would be like if the South under Obama seceded out of fear that he was going to take away their guns.

            True, most Northerners weren’t outright abolitionists; the moderate position at the time was “Let the South do what they want, but we don’t want slavery here.” That’s still opposition to slavery, though more as a regional value than a universal one. If even that mild opposition did not exist, there would have been no Civil War.

            But the Civil War was caused by disagreement over slavery, so to say that Robert E. Lee is being judged because he “didn’t quite grasp the wisdom conferred by centuries of experience and enlightenment” is disingenuous. It hasn’t even been “centuries” since 1860, and Lee is rightly judged as being on the wrong side of a major conflict of his own time, not just by modern standards.

            • That Mr. English Teacher is NOT what you wrote; therefore I did not miss any implied point of what you actually wrote.

              When are you going to learn that you can’t slither your way out of things like that. Why not just say something like “oops, sorry I didn’t write what I was really thinking”.

              • Chris

                “Plenty of people grasped the wisdom of opposing slavery at the time of the Civil War. That’s why it’s called the Civil War, and not the Civil Agreement to Keep Slavery.”

                Zoltar, the above is clearly a joke, and it went over your head. You took it literally; I have already explained my meaning, and I’m not entertaining this tangent any longer.

        • Chris wrote, “But you only seem to mind one-sided views of history if it favors the liberal side.”

          What were you really trying to say there English teacher?

          • Chris

            Sorry, I meant to say “But you only seem to mind one-sided views of history if they favor the liberal side.”

            • Chris wrote, “Sorry, I meant to say “But you only seem to mind one-sided views of history if they favor the liberal side.”

              Didn’t you really mean to say “But you only seem to oppose one-sided views of history if they favor the liberal side”? The English language is finicky especially when some words seem to imply more than one meaning which can change the perception of a sentence.

              None of that really matters, you’re essentially saying that Jack has a double standard; you’re wrong.

        • Chris wrote, “This post isn’t about opposition to abortion, open borders or confiscation of guns, so I have no idea how I was expected to know that’s what you meant.”

          Chris, this statement makes you appear to be a complete idiot. Stop trolling.

  7. Sue Dunim

    WWII was to the same degree caused by a failure to compromise. Hitler wanted Eastern Europe, and Western Europe only gave him Czechoslovakia, not all of it.

    The attack on Pearl Harbour was also caused by a failure to compromise. Japan wanted the rest of China, not just Manchuria, and the US imposed economic sanctions on them rather than letting them have the rest.

    That is, using the good general’s definition of compromise, that goes well beyond mere appeasement.

  8. Sue Dunim

    The Confederacy insisted that any new state or territory not then part of the US be a slave state, and this was not negotiable. What was negotiable was the timetable for making the other, existing states safe for slavery to exist within them. See the Dredd Scott decision on that.

    Please, please read the documents of the time.

    • So? How does that disprove what Kelly said? It is completely consistent with what he said.

      • Because this has nothing to do with what Kelly said and everything to do with being a platform to continue the “Evil America” trope that the left insists on re-litigating EVERY SINGLE CHANCE it gets.

        That’s why Sue keeps going off on these tangents.

        • Chris

          I don’t see her comment as promoting an “Evil America” narrative so much as an “Evil Confederacy” narrative.

          • It’s funny. Every time something remotely tangential to race arises, or someone mentions something about the civil war, or someone gives a passing a positive evaluation about something from that era who happened to be on the bad guy side, the Left runs through its Sermons on the evils of the South and Slavery as though America doesn’t get it.

            That tells us something about the attitude of the Left towards us all. And it isn’t a good attitude.

            This whole Kelly kerfuffle is case in point.

            • My sister, a loyal Democrat and card-carrying Trump-foe, said the same thing yesterday. She compared the distortion of the Kelly interview with the gotcha on Trump’s bereavement call, and said that it makes no sense to manufacture criticism when its so obvious that none is called for, because it make legitimate criticism suspect later, and treats the public like it is so stupid and gullible that it can’t tell the difference.

              • Steve-O-in-NJ

                The Democratic Party and the left do generally think the public is stupid and gullible, they just want them only to be stupid and gullible in their favor.

              • I almost get the notion that the Leftists have internalized what they used to acknowledge as smears, and they really, in their heart of hearts, believe the average Republican would love to have slavery back. And have so internalized this attitude, that when individuals, capable of nuanced thought and commentary, make a comment like that which Kelly made they genuinely believe it’s a subtle advancement of the cause to re-enslave African Americans.

                The knee jerk reveals something I think is unhealthy.

                Glad your sister recognized it.

          • Kyjo

            Her style of argumentation was exactly the same concerning the 3rd verse national anthem.

      • Kyjo

        Honestly I think Sue was trying to address what I said about the Civil War not involving demands for international territorial concessions, defending her analogy to the causes of WWII. But the Civil War was fought between the established government and rebels attempting to break away, all within one country over an internal domestic situation, so the analogy is pretty bad prima facie.

  9. Sue Dunim

    “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests 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…. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. ”

    The first, but not the last. The Third Reich was founded on the same principle, that if the Herrenvolk, the Master Race.

    And just like the Third Reich, this ideology had to expand continent-wide, lest it wither on the vine.

    “I want Cuba, and I know that sooner or later we must have it. If the worm-eaten throne of Spain is willing to give it for a fair equivalent, well—if not, we must take it. I want Tamaulipas, Potosi, and one or two other Mexican States; and I want them all for the same reason—for the planting and spreading of slavery.

    And a footing in Central America will powerfully aid us in acquiring those other states. It will render them less valuable to the other powers of the earth, and thereby diminish competition with us. Yes, I want these countries for the spread of slavery. I would spread the blessings of slavery, like the religion of our Divine Master, to the uttermost ends of the earth, and rebellious and wicked as the Yankees have been, I would even extend it to them.

    I would not force it upon them, as I would not force religion upon them, but I would preach it to them, as I would preach the gospel. They are a stiff-necked and rebellious race, and I have little hope that they will receive the blessing, and I would therefore prepare for its spread to other more favored lands.”

    Of course if War happened – as it would unless every single demand of the Confederacy was granted – the stiff necked and rebellious North would have to be brought to heel.

    None of this is a secret.

    • Kyjo

      The slave states wanted the expansion of slavery into the new US territories in order to strengthen (or, at the very least, maintain) their influence in the federal government. As long as the US was expanding, they wanted no less than half of the states to be slave states. Certainly they preferred more, but compromises were reached several times. However, North and South increasingly identified as distinct regions, and the anti- and pro-slavery partisans respectively in either region became ever more strident. Southern pro-slavery arguments became more bold, self-assured, and grandiose precisely as abolitionism increased its influence in the North (Albert G. Brown’s speech, which you here quote, was made in 1858.) When Lincoln was elected, the Northern abolitionists had effectively won the political battle whether slavery would continue to expand with the US, guaranteeing that the Southern slaveholders would not be able to dominate the federal government. The time for compromise really had passed already, late proposals notwithstanding.

      Your careful cherry-picking fails to demonstrate the aptness of your analogy of the causes of the Civil War to the Third Reich’s and Imperial Japan’s demands for massive international territorial concessions, never mind the little matter of totalitarianism, which was not a characteristic of the CSA.

    • Kyjo

      Reaching a compromise to prevent the Civil War meant preserving the Union without bloodshed. Reaching a compromise with Germany or Japan meant tearing other countries apart or allowing them to be swallowed whole. There is obviously a material difference.

    • Sue,
      I’ve read your comments in this thread and it appears that you are using a combination of tactics commonly used by the political left;

      1.Liberal Critical Thinking.
      2.Liberal Magical Thinking.
      3.Progressive Magical Thinking.

      On top of that, you are ignoring any logic that contradicts your implications. It’s easy for people to judge others from a vastly different time periods of history based on today’s standards and completely ignore the standards that dominated during the historical time period being discussed; this is intellectually dishonest.

      What’s happening is social justice warriors twisting of history to fit their needs in current political times.

    • YAWN!

      Hey, Sue, in case you are curious, the rest of us are all on board that Slavery was bad.

      Feel free to join us in modern-land where we don’t need to be convinced of this and are capable of analyzing the topic at hand.

  10. Jack,
    Thanks for writing this, it’s an outstanding evaluation of the issue!

  11. It strikes me now, having read Sue’s posts… As it does so many other times, that a quirk of internet culture is that while everyone might have an opinion on everything, no matter how uninformed or ignorant it might be, the internet, and specifically net 2.0, has given them the ability to voice their opinion with the pretenses that their opinion is as informed as anyone that coming from anyone else.

    So many of the left’s issues are based in a culture of being ignorant, studiously avoiding knowledge, and wielding that ignorance like a club. There can be no better example than in the wake of the Vegas shooting when Hillary Clinton opined that silencers would have made the tragedy worse.

    Well, Hillary, they’re called suppressors, not silencers, and you’ve been watching too much TV, because suppressors don’t silence shots, they merely take about 20 decibels off the top, reducing the sound emitted from the level of gunfire to merely that of a jackhammer. Suppressors aren’t designed for covert shooting, they’re designed to protect your ears, More… Suppressors increase the heat build up in the barrel of the firearm, and no one uses them in conjunction with bump stocks because that’s a great way to warp your barrel and slag your firearm. In short: Had the Vegas shooter been using a suppressor, fewer people might have died.

    This is a common trope, things that people haven’t cared about for years, they’re all of a sudden experts in, much to the cringing of actual experts. Following Trump’s election, all of a sudden, people who hadn’t even known “emoluments” was a word suddenly not only knew it was a word, but had expertise in it, and it was going to be the final nail in Trump’s coffin…. Except they didn’t understand it, and it wasn’t.

    The list is varied… Guns and political procedure are just two lines on the list; People who don’t care about enumerated rights, except when they think they might be able to warp them to their purposes, people who have no conception under God in how nuclear power works, people who don’t even know how to properly math out a percentage, but want to talk about statistics, anti-vaxxers, antifa, communists, Keynsians… The list goes on.

    • Other Bill

      This is a huge problem with liberal education HT, of which almost all journalists are a product. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I particularly get a kick out of journalists with undergraduate degrees from Harvard and Yale, typically English Lit, expounding upon things military. There’s nothing a journalist doesn’t think they’re qualified to comment upon because, hey, they’ve never failed at anything or made a mistake because, … wait for it,… they’ve never tried to actually DO anything. They just kibitz. And now with the interweb, everyone’s a journalist and therefore, an expert. On everything.

      And trust me, it takes one to know one. I’m an English major myself. But I know how little I know. Which I think is a matter of temperament more than anything else.

      • So much of modern snarky “I’m an expert when I’m really not” argumentation derives from our education system dumping tons of *facts* on people, but scant little ability to *think*, *reason*, or *process* those facts.

        I look more and more to Grammar-Logic-Rhetoric style of education that focused more heavily on *how to think* than we do today as a solution for many of our woes.

        Though, it could be said that modern education focuses on “how” to think…only it’s teaching an incredibly flawed “how”.

        • Other Bill

          Oh trust me, Tex, my liberal arts college brags all the time in its fund raising literature and alumni magazine, but I repeat myself, what a glorious thing a liberal arts education is and how wonderful the college is at providing such a thing. Unfortunately, the place has been turned into an indoctrination camp. As you well know, “critical thinking” is now a complete misnomer. It means the “really strange, contorted thinking Herbert Marcuse has popularized in the academy.” It’s depressing.

    • Chris

      HT, I don’t see how you can accuse Sue of being “ignorant,” and your comment didn’t provide any support for this accusation. You may disagree with her but she never appears uninformed.

      • I think the conversation speaks for itself, but even if you disagree with me that Sue has just enough information to be dangerous but not enough to actually have a point… Well, it sure is a good thing I didn’t actually say that, only that she reminded me of it.

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