By Jeff Melton, Commander, General William MacRae Camp 2063, Sons of Confederate Veterans
Keith Olberman, not content to spout out ignorance in the political arena, has not put his two cents into Southern history. In a recent editorial, arrogantly titled “Commemorating 150 Years of Treason”, Olberman went on a six-minute rant against the Sesquicentennial events throughout the South in general and the Secession Ball in South Carolina in particular.
In his commentary, Olberman ignorantly referred to the Sesquicentennial as an anniversary of “treason”, “defense of servitude”, “genocide”, and “murder”. He also referred to slavery repeatedly, alleging it to be the cause of the war? His proof? That slavery was mentioned in the ordinance of secession by South Carolina. Obviously, there were many causes for the secession of each State, but those secessions did not necessitate an illegal invasion of those States by Lincoln and his cronies.
Olberman, aided by another commentator from the Chicago Tribune, whose expertise in this matter was never explained, but is as dubious as Olberman’s, went on to make disparaging remarks about the Sons of Confederate Veterans—a group Olberman appeared to be just learning about. The South Carolina and Georgia divisions recently produced segments honoring the Confederacy and its warriors. Airing these segments, Olberman referred to them as “bullshit” (in fact leaving that caption on the screen while playing the segment), whining that the SCV “must not have gotten the memo” that the war was about slavery.
MSNBC’s resident idiot was joined by the Chicago Tribune columnist, Clarence Page, as the two went on to postulate that the SCV is making a “movement to rewrite history”. Whose history? Olberman’s? He didn’t even know what the SCV was!
Naturally, Olberman had to cite a statement by the NAACP that the Sesquicentennial was a “glamorization of slavery”. The long-suffering Clarence Page simply explaining that he’s been dealing with this kind of thing for years, and that the SCV’s historical arguments “just go on and on”. One has to wonder what experience Page may have in the area, given his lack of knowledge of the subject matter.
Olberman also made other observations in mocking the Sequicentennial events, such as his assertion that there would be a “silent slave auction” (which one assumes that he fought was amusing). He was also quick to point to historical places in Charleston, near to where the Secession Ball will take place—including a slave auction house (which, much to Olberman’s chagrin, has been closed for over a century and a half) and Fort Sumter. He also referred to Charleston as a “slave port”, which was intriguing. He was apparently suggesting that this was a major import at Charleston, which is not borne out by the historical record (not that this ever stopped Olberman before, of course). If he wants to look to the main slave trading ports, he would have to look much further North—to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York.
Of course, Olberman and his equally intellectually void guest, contend that “protecting slavery was the cause of the war”, and that it is “intellectually dishonest” to suggest otherwise—not that Olberman’s an expert on anything intellectual, honest or otherwise.
The main charge by Olberman is that the Confederacy was “treasonous”, and that their “treasonous uprising against the central government was a fact”. Since we’re on the subject of facts, let’s examine the actual facts, and not make ridiculous assertions, as Olberman did throughout his media rant.
There could be no “uprising” against the government by the South because the central government was not superior to the governments that created it. The Southern States, and the Northern States, came together and collectively created a common agent, the federal government. Therefore, “uprising” is a disingenuous description of what the Southern States did in 1860-1861. It could, however, be used to describe what happened in Virginia, when a small group of people there committed treason against their home State, and ultimately formed the illegal State of West Virginia—an act that clearly violated the Constitution.
One has to wonder if Olberman would call the patriots of 1776 “treasonous” in their “uprising” against a very strong central government—England. Perhaps he would. They certainly would have been tried and hung had England won that war. At any rate, while England considered the American colonists its subjects, the situation was quite different in 1861. At that time, the Southern States were simply voluntarily leaving a union that they voluntarily entered. There was no grounds to suggest that they were forbidden from doing so. Would it be “treason” for seven partners in a firm to voluntarily leave that firm because they thought that the nature of the firm had radically changed since they first entered it? Of course not. And the South made it clear that it had no interest in a war against the North. They wanted to be left alone to pursue their own destiny, and to govern themselves? Sound like the decision made by the colonists of 1776? Of course it does, because it’s the same rationale. And, because there were two tyrants involved—King George II and Abraham Lincoln—the response by the central government was the same. They would prefer to go to war to maintain an empire, as opposed to allowing people to determine their own self government.
Next, Olberman makes the oft-heard assertion that the Southern States went to war in “defense of servitude—the slavery argument. He stated that South Carolina’s ordinance of secession made fourteen references to slavery in support of his contention. The truth is that the ordinance of secession passed by South Carolina makes no mention of slavery. Another document, published a few days later, titled the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union does reference slavery, but most of these references are historical in nature, and also use terms such as “slaveholding” and “nonslaveholding” States. Most of the document explains the nature of the Constitutional compact and why secession is legal. It would do Olberman and many other so-called historians to study up on that section of the document.
While some of the first wave of secession States did mention property rights (including slavery) as a cause of secession, the second wave of secession States, including North Carolina, did not. They seceded only after Lincoln called for an invasion of their sister Southern States. Lincoln used the myth of restoring order in the States as a pretext for his invasion of those States, calling them “combinations”. They were duly-elected representatives of the people. They were States, not “combinations”. Nowhere in the Constitution is Lincoln, or Congress, given the authority to invade and subjugate other States.
Lincoln acknowledged that he had no authority to interfere with slavery in the States and the Northern generals, including Grant (who was himself a slave owner) had no interest in fighting a war over slavery. The Northern people, despite years of propaganda by radical abolitionists like Harriet Beecher Stowe also had no interest in a war over slavery. Grant made it clear that he would be fighting on the other side if this was the case, and there was widespread uprising in the North whenever that was intimated. A prime example is the New York City draft riots immediately following the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation.
As to Olberman’s charge of “genocide” and “murder”, there is no indication of what he was actually talking about, but he apparently thought it sounded good. The truth is that the Union Army was itself responsible for numerous murders throughout the South, both slave and free. Many of these murders were committed over theft by avaricious Union soldiers. Union soldiers were also guilty en masse of rape and the intentional destruction of property and food. These petty actions, often occurring during winter, were directly responsible for the deaths of numerous civilians (mostly women and children), as detailed in the Union’s own military records (Official Records) and books like Walter Cisco’s War Crimes Against Southern Civilians.
Genocide is an interesting charge, and one that the Union army holds a virtual monopoly on. Sherman himself called for the genocide of the entire Southern people—literally calling for them to be wiped out of existence from their land and replacing them with good Yankees. Consider these quotes from Sherman himself on the subject:
“Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of it’s roads, houses, and PEOPLE will cripple their military resources….I can make the march, and make Georgia howl.”
“We are in our enemy’s country, and I act accordingly…the war will soon assume a turn to extermination not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”
That sounds like genocide to me. However, it did not end there. It was the same Union officers who cut their teeth with the mass murders of Southerners who went out west and committed genocide against the American Indians. The names of those who later made genocidal war against the Indians should be familiar, even to someone as ill-versed on history as Olberman—Sherman, Custer, Sheridan, etc. Did the war result in genocide? Certainly; but by the Union army.
It is one thing to be ignorant, but open to the truth. Olberman and left-wing ideologues like him are not interested in the truth, but are content to bask in their own willful ignorance. However, it is important for Southerners to be prepared for these attacks, and to be ready to defend against them. People like Olberman like to make pronouncements, as if they have final authority to determine history. This is not the case. If Southerners do not know their own history, they will be vulnerable to such clowns as Olberman, and unable to defend against these attacks. The SCV has many people well-versed in historical matters, but it is incumbent on every Southerner to learn their own history and be prepared for such ignorant assaults, wherever they may find them.