The Art of Remembering

GW Custis Lee, Lee, Walter Taylor colorized

We gather here today to honor the memory of brave men who willingly faced the deadly fire of war in order to protect their kith and kin—their blood relatives, their friends and neighbors—they fought to protect their kith and kin from the horrors of the invader’s torch and sword. General Robert E. Lee was one of the main leaders in the struggle to maintain Southern Independence. Prior to the War Lee was asked about the possibility of the North fighting to prevent the South from leaving their Union. He replied thusly: “A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.”

Lee fought because he knew that to deny a free people the right to leave an oppressive Union would not save the Constitutional Union created by our founding fathers but it would deny freedom to those seeking to leave an oppressive Union. As it has been said time and time again; “If you can’t leave, then you are not free.” A cage, even a gilded cage, is a cage not-the-less. The people of the South resisted even though they were confronted with the might of an emerging financial, industrial, and military empire. They resisted against impossible odds for four long years—out numbered four to one with no friend in the family of nations to offer them succor. The vast majority of the men who wore the gray in the War for Southern Independence had no personal interest in the system of slavery but they resisted invasion none-the-less.

Those who have been indoctrinated in the victor’s education establishment ask why we remember. This is a reasonable question especially when coming from those who have been confused by years of the victor’s propaganda disguised as education. After all, the Northern narrative is that the “Civil War” was fought by the virtuous North to save the Union and free their black brothers and sisters held in harsh bondage by evil racist Southerners. If this narrative were true, it would be illogical if not actually evil for us to remember and honor men who fought against the virtuous Northern invader who was fighting for the cause of freedom, equality and human brotherhood.

When asked why the South wanted to be an independent nation and why Southerners were willing to resist Northern invasion, General P.G.T. Beauregard answered clearly and simply when he declared: “One came as an invader the other stood as a defender of his home.”

The South asked only to be allowed to live under a government ordered upon the American principle enshrined in the Declaration of Independence—a government of our own based upon the consent of the governed; we asked simply to withdraw from a Union into which we, as sovereign states, had voluntarily joined—reserving all rights not renounced or delegated to the Federal government—rights such as the right of state nullification and secession. We the people of the sovereign states of the South asked only to be left alone. But this was more than the emerging Federal Empire would allow—an empire that for years had extracted 70% of the Federal government’s revenue from “we the people” of the sovereign states of the South. By 1860 the South had become the Federal government’s cash cow and as Lincoln declared when asked why not avoid war and let the South go he replied “Let the South go! Where then shall we gain our revenue?”

The late Mel Bradford of Texas, an outstanding scholar and my friend, noted that Southerners practiced the art of remembering. There are some things in every nation’s past that should be remembered but not celebrated—the Federal government’s treatment of Native Americans at Wounded Knee for example. But the art of remembering requires us to remember those virtues, values, and experiences of the past that deserve to be emulated. Not everything in the South’s past was moon light and magnolias but the good and virtuous should be remembered—remembered and passed on to the next generation of Southerners.

And so today we come here to remember those who fought the War of Southern Independence. They did not fight to maintain slavery—as the Federal Empire’s narrative would have the world believe—but to prevent their kith and kin from becoming political, social, and economic slaves of the Federal Empire. We remember because the struggle for freedom and independence of a people deserves to be remembered; we remember because by remembering the bravery of the past we assure that the brave will beget the brave; we remember because not remembering would be the end of us as a people as we become merely second class Yankees. And always remember that this legacy of freedom and bravery is open to all our kith and kin. The South is not an exclusive club but is open to all who love tradition, heritage, civility, freedom, and the dream of a government ordered upon the free and unfettered consent of the governed. We remember because we are the South regardless of where we were born or what our blood line might be or what our skin color might be—we remember because we are kith and kin.

You and I as Southerners have a duty to the past to honor the memory of men such as General Robert E. Lee; we have a duty to assure that the present generation of Southerners understand their true history and we have a duty to future generations of Southerners to pass to them their true heritage vindicated in the eyes of the world. It is a heavy duty but remember General Lee’s admonition regarding duty: “Duty then is the most sublime word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.”

About James Ronald Kennedy

Ron and his twin brother Don are the authors of Punished by Poverty, The South Was Right!, Why Not Freedom!, Was Jefferson Davis Right?, and Nullify Tyranny; Ron is the author of Reclaiming Liberty, Nullification: Why and How, and Uncle Seth Fought the Yankees. Ron is past Commander of the Louisiana Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and is a life member of the Louisiana Division and the National Sons of Confederate Veterans. Ron is a frequent speaker at SCV, Southern Heritage and other pro-Liberty groups. Ron received a Masters in Health Administration (MHA) from Tulane University in New Orleans, a Master of Jurisprudence in Healthcare Law (MJ) from Loyola University Chicago, a Bachelor’s degree from Northeast Louisiana University, a certificate in Paralegal Studies from Louisiana State University and holds numerous professional designations in healthcare and insurance Risk Management. More from James Ronald Kennedy

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