“Texans! The troops of other states have their reputations to gain, but the sons of the defenders of the Alamo have theirs to maintain. I am assured that you will be faithful to the trust.” – Jefferson Davis, 1861
This ruling was a foregone conclusion. As soon as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg implicitly compared Confederates – the descendants of American leaders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and American folk heroes like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett – to Nazis and ISIS, everyone’s mind was made up. The campaign for the Confederacy’s expulsion from the public square advances triumphantly, demanding nothing less than unconditional surrender and total extermination. As Abraham Lincoln admitted himself, “The South is to be destroyed and replaced by new ideas and propositions” – “with malice towards none, with charity for all,” right, Honest Abe?
Texas has a plethora of specialty plates commemorating various aspects of her heritage, but the War of Southern Independence – perhaps the most monumental event in her history, in which two-thirds of her sons went off to war and a quarter of whom never came home – is not just ignored, but now suppressed. Meanwhile, Dr. Pepper gets a specialty plate. The only other people with such venomous hatred of their heritage are the radical Muslims who destroy anything from their pagan, pre-Islamic history. While Americans wail over ISIS’ demolition of the Mosul Museum, they cheer at the desecration of General Robert E. Lee’s tomb.
As conservatives from Cicero to Edmund Burke have known, it is profoundly unnatural and unhealthy for a people to be divorced from their roots, yet this is exactly what is happening to Southerners. “We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity – an increasingly successful campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white Southerners, and arguably black Southerners as well, of their heritage, and, therefore, their identity,” declared Eugene Genovese in a lecture series at Harvard University. “They are being taught to forget their forebears or to remember them with shame.” In contrast to the hard form of ethnic cleansing attempted during the so-called “Civil War,” this form of ethnic cleansing is soft.
First of all, the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction in this case. Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution grants no jurisdiction to the federal judiciary over disputes between the citizens of a State and their State government. In fact, in 1794, the Eleventh Amendment was ratified to prohibit any pretension to such power! Only by the spurious doctrine of “incorporation,” by which the Supreme Court has extended the Bill of Rights – which the States ratified to limit the powers of the federal government – to the States, can any federal jurisdiction be contrived. Thus, amendments which were meant to protect the States from the federal government – the First Amendment begins with the expression “Congress shall make no law,” not “the Texas State Legislature shall make no law” – have become a means by which the federal government assumes control over the States. This unchecked centralization of power in an uncontrollable federal government is precisely the sort of tyranny that the Confederates fought to prevent.
Second, the Supreme Court did not just lack jurisdiction, but ruled incorrectly as well. If the Supreme Court is going to stick its nose in where it does not belong, then it could at least do us lowly citizens the courtesy of applying the law correctly. The First Amendment, by any construction, is clear: the freedom of speech shall not be abridged. If freedom of speech does not protect controversial speech, then it protects nothing at all. James Madison and George Mason were not concerned with protecting Americans’ right to talk about sports and the weather, but about truths that others might not want to hear. As the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ attorney remarked, “Speech we hate is speech we should be proud of protecting.” Such integrity is lost on the likes of Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Thomas – Republican and Democrat appointees alike – who rule not on the law, but on their opinions, and act not like judges, but like lawgivers. “Contrary to all correct example, they are in the habit of going out of the question before them, to throw an anchor ahead and grappled further hold for future advances of power,” Thomas Jefferson once observed of the Supreme Court. “They are then in fact the corps of sappers and miners, steadily working to undermine the independent rights of the States and to consolidate all power in the hands of that government in which they have so important a freehold estate.”
Third, and most importantly, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have nothing of which to be ashamed. The Confederates were not traitors; secession was a lawful right rooted in the foundational principles of American freedom and recognized by most of the Founding Fathers. The Confederates did not start the war, but took up arms to defend their homeland from an invasion of unprecedented bloodshed and brutality. Moreover, the Confederates fought one of the greatest fights for independence in history – a struggle worthy of their revolutionary forefathers. “Our reputation, next to the Greeks, will be the most heroic of nations,” reflected General James J. Pettigrew on his way to the Battle of Gettysburg – and death shortly thereafter. Although the Confederates did not win their freedom, they did win the admiration of the civilized world. “The Confederate Army’s fight against overwhelming odds,” claimed Sir Winston Churchill, “is one of the most glorious moments in Anglo-Saxon history.” During the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when the socialist Lincoln admirer Eric Foner was urging Mikhail Gorbachev to crush the seceding states, Confederate flags were waving from the crowds. Today, Novorossian separatists in Ukraine have adopted the Confederate flag as their own banner.
On November 28, 1861, the Confederate battle flag was unveiled before the Confederate Army. The creation of the flag was kept secret from the Confederate government, conceived in the minds of Generals Joseph E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard and created by sewing circles of Richmond ladies. One by one, Johnston and Beauregard presented a battle flag to the colonel of each regiment, who in turn presented the flag to his color guard. Thomas Jordan, Adjutant General of the First Corps, made the following announcement:
“Soldiers: Your mothers, your wives, and your sisters have made it. Consecrated by their hands, it must lead you to substantial victory, and the complete triumph of our cause. It can never be surrendered, save to your unspeakable dishonor and with consequences fraught with immeasurable evil. Under its untarnished folds beat back the invader, and find nationality, everlasting immunity from an atrocious despotism, and honor and renown for yourselves – or death.”
It does not matter if the Supreme Court brands the Confederate flag “hate speech.” This is the cause for which the Confederate flag will always stand – independence, liberty, and honor – and that is why it will always make us proud.