Further Thoughts on the Confederate Flag(s)

June 24, 2015

Interesting notes on the history of the flags of the Confederacy, according to Wikipedia.

One of the first acts of the Provisional Confederate Congress was to create the “Committee on the Flag and Seal”, chaired by William Porcher Miles of South Carolina. The committee asked the public to submit thoughts and ideas on the topic and was, as historian John M. Coski puts it, “overwhelmed by requests not to abandon the ‘old flag’ of the United States.”

Read more.  My takeaways (subject to the obligatory caveats about trusting Wikipedia):

  • Even in the South, the elites had trouble imposing a new flag, because a lot of Southerners still loved America and the American flag.
  • The new, Confederate flags always represented being anti-America.

10 Responses to “Further Thoughts on the Confederate Flag(s)”

  1. Will S. Says:

    No doubt the reason for the design of the earlier Stars and Bars flags was they indeed were heavily referencing the American flag, because the Confederate people were still attached to it. That’s also why the Great Seal of the Confederacy contains an image of George Washington – a Virginian, and the first president under the current constitution (not including those under the Articles of Confederation), and of course the hero of the revolution.

    The Confederates, thus, were fully American; they were not ‘anti-America’, and they considered themselves to be in the tradition of Washington and those who broke away from a far-away government perceived as tyrannical (in that case, Britain; the Confederates sometimes referred to their secession as the Second American Revolution, because they saw themselves as continuing in that tradition).

    I’m not American, and I have no stake in any of these matters. But I think we misrepresent those of the past when we see them through the lenses of today. Just because we officially reject white supremacism as an ideology doesn’t make the Confederates ‘anti-American’. They were Americans, just like the Northerners, and if they could have kept slavery, they’d have been happy to stay in the Union. I reject historical revisionism.

    • Sure, no doubt the history is complicated, and the feelings of the Rebels were complicated. I don’t doubt that they understood themselves as starting a Second American Revolution, as you say.

      But you also said, “Just because we officially reject white supremacism as an ideology doesn’t make the Confederates ‘anti-American’.”

      With again the caveats about the reliability of Wikipedia, I’m just relying on what it says about the history.

      However, the flag received criticism on ideological grounds for its aesthetic resemblance to the U.S. flag, which many Confederates disliked, seeing it as symbolizing of abolitionism and emancipation, which the Confederacy was officially in opposition to. As early as April 1861, a month after the flag’s adoption, some were already criticizing the flag, calling it a “servile imitation” and a “detested parody” of the U.S. flag.[16] In January 1862, George William Bagby, writing for the Southern Literary Messenger, wrote that many Confederates disliked the flag. “Every body wants a new Confederate flag,” Bagby wrote, also stating that “The present one is universally hated. It resembles the Yankee flag and that is enough to make it unutterably detestable.” The editor of the Charleston Mercury expressed a similar view, stating that “It seems to be generally agreed that the ‘Stars and Bars’ will never do for us. They resemble too closely the dishonored ‘Flag of Yankee Doodle’ … we imagine that the “Battle Flag” will become the Southern Flag by popular acclaim.” In addition, William T. Thompson, the editor of the Savannah-based Daily Morning News also objected to the flag, stating in April 1863 that he was opposed to it “on account of its resemblance to that of the abolition despotism against which we are fighting.”[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] In 1863, Thompson would go on to design the flag that would succeed the “Stars and Bars”, the “Stainless Banner”.[4][5][6][7]



      I don’t want historical revisionism, either. I’m increasingly persuaded that the pro-flag side is the more revisionist.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        I told you to ban that guy.

      • Will S. Says:

        But the Confederate battle flag is what most of those who identify with Confederate symbolism fly today, and that’s the flag flying on the capitol grounds – it was simply the military flag, and as Pat Buchanan has noted, only ever flew over military camps, not over slave plantations.

        I don’t deny that many modern-day neo-Confederates who argue that the war was not about slavery are guilty of historical revisionism – they are, even if the war was also about other things. But regardless, I think their picking the battle flag, rather than the other ones, as their main symbol today, shows that their main motivation isn’t white supremacy. (Not that there aren’t also neo-Confederates today, like the murderer, who do associate the flag with white supremacy. It’s problematic, indeed. But the flag does mean different things to different people, and IMO, just because progs uniformly hate it and blame it for the latest atrocity, doesn’t mean it must needs be eliminated.)

      • A couple of years ago, if you had asked what I thought about removing the Confederate flag(s) from within state flags, or from flagpoles over state capitols, I would have been inclined to give the same answer as you—don’t give in just because some liberal is offended.

        But as I’ve heard more about the history, I’ve increasingly come to believe that the Confederate battle flag isn’t some empty vessel that can be filled with different subjective meanings by different people; to a significant extent, it represents and has always represented racism and slavery, as well as rebellion or treason against the United States.

        See, e.g., this longish piece in The Atlantic, with lots of quotes from primary sources:

        Or see (at least according to Wikipedia) the designer of the second official national flag of the Confederacy, on why he made it all white:
        “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”

        With respect, your distinguishing the most recognizable flag currently being disputed as “simply the military flag” strikes me as legalistic and beside the point. So the people who fly it aren’t in favor of actually owning slaves, only in favor of fighting to preserve slavery? The historical succession of multiple Confederate flags and battle flags is interesting but irrelevant. They’re all flags of the Confederacy. They all represent the same side in the Civil War.

      • Will S. Says:

        I suppose the non-racist supporters of the ‘heritage not hate’ school of thought are indeed a bit disingenuous, but even if they be a bit revisionist, the fact that they, like rock bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd that champion the Confederate battle flag do demonstrate that it is possible to hold to that symbol without holding to all that it originally stood for. And I’m astonished at how swiftly everyone is capitulating to the left on this, and am a bit dismayed by it. And I guess I’ve thought that one measure of how free a society is, is how much they can tolerate dissent from the zeitgeist, how magnanimous they can be towards the defeated side, by allowing their continued expression of their symbols / opinions. For good or ill, after defeating the French, the British here did not try to impose the English language and Protestant religion upon them, and we’ve managed to keep the peace, despite an ever-present (even if sometimes minimal, as now) threat of future secession. It’s something I’m proud of as a Canadian, despite my irritation at some of the after-effects, such as having to put up with a French tail wagging the English dog, in terms of political influence of the French minority being disproportionate to their numbers.

        Ah well. Perhaps some good may come of the move to remove the symbols of the defeated Confederacy, if instead of focusing on the mindset of the killers, people focus in future massacres more upon on the easy availability of weapons to the insane / criminal. That would be a victory for good, indeed, IMO.

  2. Will S. Says:

    Ah yes, Snoodickle displays the prog impulse, ban anyone who utters things with which one disagrees. Typical…

    Ban heretical thoughts! Ban symbols we don’t like!

    You see where this goes…

  3. In sum, any Confederate flag represents—the more so the more recognizable it is as historically representing the Confederacy—racism and slavery, as well as rebellion or treason against the United States. To the extent that it also represents (at least to some) limited government, or federalism (a. k. a. states’ rights), or liberty, or small-“r” republicanism and self-rule, or any other good thing, I am at a loss to see how the ordinary flag of the United States does not also represent the same. That being the case, I see little use in flying a Confederate flag in particular, other than to represent what sets it apart—ugly racial arrogance.

  4. […] I agree!  (See, for example, this lengthy piece in The Atlantic, which quotes a lot of primary sources.) […]

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