Alien Southerners

Has it occurred to many that the same people who have major reservations about the Confederate Monuments generally favor amnesty for undocumented aliens? Sure, that might seem like an inconsistency but the nooks and crannies of citizenship for aliens have more square inches than a container of Thomas’ English muffins.

Consider, for instance, the recent statement by the American Historical Association, the (trigger warning) Cadillac historical professional bodies:

Decisions to remove memorials to Confederate generals and officials who have no other major historical accomplishment does not necessarily create a slippery slope towards removing the nation’s founders, former presidents, or other historical figures whose flaws have received substantial publicity in recent years. George Washington owned enslaved people, but the Washington Monument exists because of his contributions to the building of a nation. There is no logical equivalence between the builders and protectors of a nation—however imperfect—and the men who sought to sunder that nation in the name of slavery.

Thing is, historians do not have the power to determine who is an American citizen. After the Civil War, President Johnson and Congress had to walk a very delicate line between preventing rebels to resume power of state governments while also honoring that the southern states had never seceded and so their governments were still legitimate. Here‘s one angle of the tight rope, namely that President Lincoln advised leniency (more than the AHA):

Lincoln desired to hasten the end of hostilities and quickly reestablish the fraternity of the parted Union. After asking Lincoln what to do with the defeated rebel armies in March 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman remarked that, “all [Lincoln] wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes at work on their farms and in their shops.” Additionally, the Secretary of the Navy remarked after Lincoln’s last cabinet meeting that Lincoln “was particularly desirous to avoid . . . any vindictiveness of punishment.” Other members of Lincoln’s party were not so forgiving. Many felt that Lincoln’s policies and desires were too soft and wished to punish former Confederates more harshly. They feared that former Confederates, returned to power, would not accept the fruits of Union victory, namely emancipation, and would harass black and white former Unionists in the South. To this extent, The New York Herald on April 16, 1865, estimated that Andrew Johnson’s policy towards former Confederates would be “more tinctured with the inflexible justice of Andrew Jackson than with the prevailing tenderness of Abraham Lincoln.”

Here’s how amnesty worked:

It was under these proclamations that, from May 1865 to December 1868, former Confederates flooded the office of Andrew Johnson with thousands of amnesty requests, with the numbers eventually tapering off as the exemptions narrowed. Each request for amnesty included a signed copy of the oath certifying the individual’s compliance, as well as a personally-written request and a third party endorsement, generally by the governor of that person’s state. The personally written requests generally followed the same sequence: the individual introduced himself and his place of residence and often proclaimed his age. He then described his actions (and/or sentiments) before secession, his conduct during the war, the clause under which he was exempted, and whether or not he had any property confiscated from him. The petitions ranged from brief requests for amnesty to “long and well-prepared defenses” of their conduct.

Petitioners were “anxious” to have their amnesty requests granted and their rights and privileges as citizens of the United States resumed. Their exemption from amnesty precluded them from such activities as the “transfer of titles or properties” and the obtainment of copyrights and patents, making business very difficult. Some were even tentative to marry. Until these individuals were pardoned, they lacked civil rights and faced the prospect of having their property confiscated. Above all, they lacked political rights, and thus could not take part in the discourse involving Reconstruction, and were unable to participate in the future of the South. Thus, asking for pardon was the “sensible thing for these people to do.”

Imagine that. Wanting a working society rather than attitudinal purity.

Finally, President Johnson declared “unconditionally, and without reservation, … a full pardon and amnesty for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws …”

That pardon went to everyone but Robert E. Lee. He did not receive his executive pardon until Michigan’s own, President Ford:

Lee sent an application to Grant and wrote to President Johnson on June 13, 1865:

“Being excluded from the provisions of amnesty & pardon contained in the proclamation of the 29th Ulto; I hereby apply for the benefits, & full restoration of all rights & privileges extended to those included in its terms. I graduated at the Mil. Academy at West Point in June 1829. Resigned from the U.S. Army April ’61. Was a General in the Confederate Army, & included in the surrender of the Army of N. Va. 9 April ’65.”

On October 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, he signed his Amnesty Oath, thereby complying fully with the provision of Johnson’s proclamation. But Lee was not pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. And the fact that he had submitted an amnesty oath at all was soon lost to history.

More than a hundred years later, in 1970, an archivist at the National Archives discovered Lee’s Amnesty Oath among State Department records (reported in Prologue, Winter 1970). Apparently Secretary of State William H. Seward had given Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir, and the State Department had pigeonholed the oath.

In 1975, Lee’s full rights of citizenship were posthumously restored by a joint congressional resolution effective June 13, 1865.

At the August 5, 1975, signing ceremony, President Gerald R. Ford acknowledged the discovery of Lee’s Oath of Allegiance in the National Archives and remarked: “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.”

When will the social justice warriors be heading for Grand Rapids to show their rectitude on the facade of the Ford Presidential Library? If they go, they’ll find good beer.

Not Blogging?

Remember the old days of trying to have a conversation about race. Turns out blogging is not where Americans are turning:

About 1 in 4 of those surveyed say the office of the president has the best chance of fostering healthy public conversations (23%), while about 1 in 10 say pastors of local churches (11%) or university professors (10%). Members of the media (8%) faired slightly better than business leaders (7%) or members of Congress (6%). Few Americans look to professional athletes (1%) or musicians (less than 1%) to lead healthy conversations about the nation’s challenges.

The most common response: “None of these” (33%).

Among other findings:

Southerners are more likely to look to the president (25%) than those in the Midwest (18%).

Those in the Northeast choose the media (11%) more than those in the South (5%).

Younger Americans—those 18 to 34—look to the media (12%) more than those 65 and older (3%).

African-Americans are the most likely ethnic group to choose local pastors (21%) and the president (37%).

Hispanic Americans are the least likely ethnic group to choose the media (3%).

Christians are more likely to look to pastors (16%) than those from other faiths (1%) or those with no religious preference (2%).

Christians (7%) are less likely to look to professors than those from other faiths (18%) or those with no religious preference (15%).

Americans with evangelical beliefs have faith in pastors (36%) but little faith in the media (3%) or professors (3%) to guide such conversations.

A couple observations.

Notice bond between Southerners and African-Americans (are they they same?) — they trust the president more than other groups. Makes sense for blacks but what the heck did white southerners not learn from that excitement back in the 1860s?

Notice also Christians’ regard for professors. Maybe this explains the lack of Christian intellectuals. The more intellectual, the less trustworthy among the faithful.


Without Sabbath Observance We Could Not Identify Christians

How do you spot a Christian? That may be easy compared to defining religion. Damon Linker had a go at religion recently:

Religion is any set of norms, practices, and beliefs that establishes a comprehensive way of life that is held out as the right or best way of life for those who adhere to it.

Noah Millman agreed but wanted to amend the definition:

. . . religion is a comprehensive set of normative practices that reflect or imply a set of beliefs about the nature of life and the right way to live it. Those beliefs may or may not be conscious, and may or may not be articulated and taught, in the way that the practices are.

I wonder why both Linker and Millman are so hung up on comprehensive. They don’t seem to understand a two-kingdom (read Augustinian) presentation of Christianity, one that recognizes some aspects of a believers life are religious, some are common or creational. It’s the hyphenation thing. But it’s especially a worry about “all of me” or comprehensive accounts of Christianity when in fact the Bible or bishops haven’t weighed in on everything and Christians have some liberty to figure it out themselves (rue the uncertainty).

In which case, the recent story about the decline of Sabbath observance may be a better indication of how to define religion and spot Christianity, as in Christians are people who take worship seriously and set aside a day for it. But that is changing in the South:

Signs are beginning to emerge suggesting that role of religion in the Bible Belt may be declining, at least to some degree.

The shift is increasingly apparent in local cafes and restaurants in towns across the South, particularly on Sundays. The sale of alcohol on Sundays has long been prohibited in many traditionally religious conservative communities. But recently, more and more of those communities are repealing so-called Blue Laws.

In Sylacauga, Alabama, a small town of just 12,700 people that hosts 78 churches, after-church lunch-goers are now bumping into craft beer drinking sports fans at local restaurants, following a September vote to do away with the Sunday exclusion. Similar initiatives are also underway in parts of Georgia and Mississippi.

A Pew Research Center survey showed 19 percent of Southerners do not identify with any organized religion, a 6 percent rise since 2007 and a number that more closely matches that of the rest of the country.

In another Pew study, 35 percent of Millennials surveyed self-identified as atheist or agnostic. The tendencies appear to be consistent across races.

“We’ve seen this sort of broader shift throughout the country as a whole with fewer people identifying as being part of the religious base,” Jessica Martinez, a senior researcher in religion and public life at Pew told the Associated Press. “In the South you see a pattern very similar to what we are seeing in other regions.”

Maybe sanctification of the Lord’s Day is something that “obedience boys” and Old Lifers could both get behind.

States' Rights, States' Flags

After crossing the eastern half of the country and listening to NPR for at least 10 per cent of it, you’d have thought that the Confederate Flag shot those AME church members in Charleston (though it sure did knock Laudato Si below the fold). Nothing about Dylann Roof and his family or background, nothing about the families of the victims, or about the congregation itself and how it is going to go on. Instead, aside from the escaped convicts in New York State, the media is all about stories related to taking the flag down.

I have long suspected that the Confederate Flag stood not for slavery or white supremacy but signified a form of protest resolutely American. Most Americans believe in limited government. Even proponents of big federal programs don’t want government infringing on civil liberties. So if you see a Confederate Flag in a dorm room window at the University of Michigan, which I have, my suspicion is that here is a mid-westerner who has chosen the flag of one political body that tried to resist the centralization of the federal government.

Many people do not view the flag so innocently. And I can well understand why African-Americans object to it. But I have trouble believing that the flag is a means for vindicating homicide or starting race wars. David Duke is not Dylann Roof who is not Robert L. Dabney.

At the same time, the Confederate Flag could hardly represent well the political conviction of states’ rights. It is one flag that stood for the 11 states that fought the North. Each of those southern states had their own flag. That is why I, as a states’ rightser, have always flown the state flags of our several residences. When we had only lived in four states, I would change the flag at each season — Massachusetts in the winter, Pennsylvania in the spring, Maryland in the summer, and Illinois in the fall. The flaw in this plan came when a funny and cynical friend told our neighbors during the First Iraq War that the red, white, black, and gold flag we flew in the summer was the Iraqi flag.

But if you do want to show your loyalty to states, we have 50 options. And almost 48 of them communicate nothing offensive to the descendants of American slaves.

Male Pattern Sensitivity

Who is more sensitive?

Bill Smith in response to Thabiti Anyabwile on crazy Confederate uncles?

I should not have to say these things, but I will, though I know some, perhaps including Brother Anyabwile, will take it as the equivalent of “I have black friends”: (1) I have no sympathy for the League of the South. I have never been to Monroe, Louisiana, or attended a Confederate Ball. While I am eligible for membership, I have not joined the Sons of the Confederacy because I do not want anything to do with the racism of some of its members. (2) In seminary in the early 1970s I spent two summers working as an assistant to a black Presbyterian pastor in Jackson, MS. (3) I was run off as a RUM campus minister, with a wife and five babies, in part because of my racial views and practice. Ours was the only integrated RUF in Mississippi, and we integrated the statewide conferences. I stood by an interracial dating couple which included my sitting in an office hearing one of them described as a “white N-word” by a person threatening my job. (4) I have a love-hate relationship with the South, and particularly with Mississippi. Mississippi is a place where place (both geography and status) and people (your family and social group) make a great deal of difference. I hate indirection and insincerity in relationships. But the South is like my family. I can point out theie faults, but if you go to talking bad about my people, I’ll bow my neck and clench my fists. (5) I read B.B. Warfield and listen to B.B. King.

But, nevertheless I am one of those crazy Confederates I suppose because I am (1) white (so far as I know, though there are questions) , (2) Reformed (in my case defined by the 39 Articles); (3) western (in civilization – the “dead white guys”); (4) Southern (by heritage and affection).

Like all paranoid schizophrenics, I feel I have been persecuted.

Or Jemar Tisby on Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson?

So, Blacks were happier during the Jim Crow era? Does he assume that all Blacks now are on welfare?

I’ve actually heard similar reasoning quite often. Usually these comments come from older Whites who grew up in the South and remember it fondly. I understand their point. They look back on their experience of a historical moment that was mostly positive, and they want to remember it that way. The problem in a segregated society, then and now, is that our perceptions tend only to reflect our particular realities. We have little exposure to the realities of others, including an awareness of their hardships.

What Phil Robertson and others get wrong is how they diagnose the state of race relations in America. They use external cues like the frequency of a smile, and their personal exposure to overt instances of racism to judge the climate of a culture. But what some people fail to understand is that there are unwritten rules of conduct when Blacks interact with Whites. . . .

It’s possible that Phil Robertson knew Blacks who were genuinely happy. It’s possible that in his community there truly were exceptionally positive relationships between Blacks and Whites. It’s possible, but not likely. What’s probably closer to reality is that he saw Black people who knew the rules. They knew what they could say and do around Whites who held the power. Even if those Whites were lower-income or “white trash” as Mr. Robertson describes it. There was still a cultural curtain separating the races.

I am merely asking, since it seems that everyone is sensitive and that everyone also expects others to moderate their sensitivity for the sake of getting along, though Joe Carter may differ.

I do believe that Tisby is correct to conclude that:

We all need to examine our tools of discernment. What are we using as evidence for a hypothesis about a people? Are we employing superficial and anecdotal proofs for our theories? Or are we engaging in meaningful dialogue with those who are different from us?

I am not sure that Anyabwile or Smith’s posts meet Tisby’s guidelines, nor do I think either man is without a point. The issue may be whether each man can acknowledge the other’s grievance, or whether one grievance trumps the other and lowers Tisby’s threshold for “meaningful dialogue.” That’s why Ross Douthat’s point (in the context of “12 Years A Slave”) is worth repeating:

A fruitful conversation about race in America, then, would require both sides to somehow pick a different starting point. To get a fair hearing from liberals — and, more importantly, from black Americans — the right would need to begin from a place of greater empathy for the black experience, and greater respect for the historical reasons that voter ID laws and Rush Limbaugh soliloquies can raise so many hackles. To get a fair hearing from conservatives, liberals would need to begin by imputing racism less frequently, attacking racially-entangled policies that aren’t remotely like Jim Crow on the merits rather than just calling them Jim Crow, Round Two, and recognizing that (as with Hitler analogies) the sooner you link your interlocutors to slaveowners, the faster they will tune you out.

Obama-era conservatism has often gone backward, not forward, where this potential conversation is concerned. But a liberalism that expects conservatives to see their present-day positions and rhetoric illuminated and condemned by a cinematic portrait of the evils of slavery in 1840s Louisiana — or that declares them unreachable when they don’t — is a liberalism that’s as unready for dialogue as any insensitive right-wing talk show host.

Rebellions, Good and Bad

While Rush Hannivine (a conglomeration of Rush, Sean, and Mark) bemoan the federal government’s shut down of war memorials (and closing them to veterans), John Judis likens the Shutdown to one of the worst crises in American history. Since (all about) I am in the middle of a course on the Civil War and how Americans remember it and conjure its meaning, I was taken aback by any comparison of the current dysfunction in Washington (though it is constitutional dysfunction since the Constitution was designed with built-in dysfunction) to a war that took 640,000 lives and that forever underscores the dysfunctions of the founding (as in states vs. federal prerogatives or the legality of slavery). For all of the memorials that Americans have funded, built, and maintained, they don’t seem to be very adept at remembering arguably the bleakest part of U.S. history.

But Judis sticks to his comparison:

There is no simple explanation for why this is happening now, but there are precedents in American history for the kind of assault on government that the Republicans are mounting. First, there is the South of John Calhoun, which Sam Tannenhaus wrote about in The New Republic. Calhoun developed the doctrine of nullification—that states, claiming a higher Constitutional authority, could refuse to obey federal laws—in order to justify South Carolina’s opposition to tariffs adopted in 1828 and 1832. Calhoun’s doctrine became the basis of the state’s rights argument against attempts by the federal government to limit the expansion of slavery and a century later to enforce racial desegregation.

Secondly, there is the rise in 1937 of a conservative coalition of conservative Southern Democrats and rural Midwestern Republicans to block and repeal the New Deal through parliamentary maneuvers and investigations, which I wrote about two years ago. Calhounist nullification anticipates the anti-federal tactics of today’s Republican right. The conservative coalition of the late 1930s anticipates the composition of today’s Republican coalition and its grievance: the expansion of the federal safety net. Both of these older movements cited the United States Constitution as their authority for attempting to defy or dismantle the federal government. Like today’s Republican rightists, both older movements claimed to represent tradition and morality against a decadent modernity. They looked backwards. They were reactionary rather than conservative movements.

What happened to these movements gives some indication of what could happen to today’s Republican intransigents. The Calhounists precipitated a civil war, in which over 600,000 Americans died. The conservative coalition, on the other hand, faded temporarily from view and only reemerged in the last decades. That was because in 1941 Americans went to war against Nazi Germany and Japan. World War II unified Americans. In modern wars, the national government has to call upon all its citizens to do their part and to submerge their differences. Business made peace with labor; blacks served alongside whites. And that spirit of national unification lasted for 15 years after the war. It helped to give rise—although not without conflict—to a social compact between business and labor, an end to racial segregation and the preservation and expansion of New Deal programs like social security. If World War II had not intervened, it’s very likely that the conservative coalition would have grown stronger, and would have been able to stop the expansion of, if not undermine, social security.

Dismissing these rebellious Americans as reactionary is one way to make sense of U.S. history, but it stumbles and breaks its neck when U.S. administration after U.S. administration supports rebel groups in places like Syria and Egypt. Had a U.S. administration in 1861, say, opted for a two-state solution to the U.S. — which is what many Americans support in Israel — the South may have had the U.S.’s blessing in secession. In other words, Americans on both the left and the right are remarkably selective in how they celebrate freedom fighters, independence, and resistance to tyranny. What is still lacking is some kind of metric that says Muslim rebels are better than Christian southern rebels who are both inferior to deist Tea Party (original) rebels. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no advocate of rebellion at all times and in all places. But I do tire of making the South the whipping boy for defenders of the federal government when America has a long tradition of resisting the consolidation of power in the hands of centralized (national) authorities. If folks like Judis can seen the problem with Hitler or Assad, how about the NSA under Bush and Obama?

The other annoying part of Judis’ comparison is to suggest that the Shutdown may turn the U.S. into the Weimar Republic.

The civil war, as Marx once wrote, was a revolutionary clash that pitted one mode of production against another. Nothing so momentous is at stake today. It also pitted one region against another, and it was fought with rifles and men on horseback. The largest effect is likely to be continued dysfunction in Washington, which if it continues over a decade or so, will threaten economic growth and America’s standing in the world, undermine social programs like the Affordable Care Act, and probably encourage more radical movements on the right and the left. Think of Italy, Greece, or Weimar Germany. Or think about what the United States would have been like if World War II had not occurred, and if Europe, the United States, and Japan had failed to pull themselves out of the Great Depression.

This is the Chamber-of-Commerce take on the Shutdown — it’s bad for business and all those programs that the economy funds through taxation and regulation. What Judis seems to forget (again) is that if you want economic growth, at least the kind we now “enjoy” with a stock market that rises seemingly independent of employment rates, property values, manufacturing, or agricultural output, a civil war may be what the Chamber ordered. Here is a reminder from Allen Guelzo:

Northern financiers benefited in even more remarkable ways [from the Civil War]. The seven Democratic administrations that straddled the first six decades of the nineteenth century gave little if any encouragement to the development of American finance by holding the government’s role in the economy strictly to exchanges of specie. A good deal of the capitalization of American industry in the 1820s and 1830s had to be imported from abroad. But the war and the Republicans changed that: First, the threat of the civil war drove foreign investors off the American securities market, drove down demand, and allowed American investors to step into the vacuum; then, the Republicans dismissed the Democrats’ abiding suspicion of the financial markets and took the nation off the gold standard; finally, the immense amounts of money needed to carry on the war crated a new class of financiers — bankers, insurers and brokers such as Jay Cooke — who dealt in unprecedented volumes of cash and securities. The creation of the national banking system in 1863, and the subsequent disappearance of state bank currencies from Northern circulation, helped to further shift massive new amounts of financial power in the hands of financiers.

But there was a downside, one that may still be fresh in our memory:

Northern finance quickly outstripped the capacity of the Federal government to oversee and regulate it, and the financial community soon found itself agitating for a return to the gold standard, to to restrain the freewheeling dealings of the financial markets, but to slow down currency inflation and attach the markets to a standard independent of federal control. This meant, in effect, returning the United States to its dependence on the international flow of specie, especially through the hands of British financiers, and when the British financial markets failed in 1873, they carried Jay Cooke and other American financiers down with them.

Guelzo continues:

The most important change in the shape of the postwar American economy was organizational rather than industrial or agricultural; . . . Before the Civil War, only about 7 percent of American manufacturing was organized in corporations. . . . By 1900 corporations accounted for 69 percent of all manufacturing. . . “Now,” warned James A. Garfield in 1874, “a class of corporations unknown to the early law writers has arisen, and to them have been committed the vast powers of the railroad and the telegraph, the great instruments by which modern communities live, move, and have their being.” (Fateful Lightning, 519-21)

The lesson very could well be that original notion of too big to fail came with a refusal to allow the South to secede and thereby reduce the size of the U.S. By insisting on perpetual union and continuing to mock those who dissent from the federal government’s demands for uniformity and standardization, the U.S. has become the sort of imperial power against which its founders rebelled.

Pugilist, Hit Thyself

Anthony Bradley has been dishing it out pretty good of late against Doug Wilson, almost to the point of making Wilson look like Tom Reagan from Miller’s Crossing. Bradley is alarmed by Wilson’s neo-Confederate arguments. He believes Wilson harbors racism because of his defense of slavery. And Bradley is surprised — maybe even aghast — at the traction that Wilson has among the co-allies of the gospel. These musings have led Bradley to wonder about a conspiracy among Christian Reconstructionists to use social and political issues to gain new recruits, especially among the young, restless, and gullible.

It’s been about 20 years since I first encountered this stuff but I think the combination America’s secularism, masculinity crisis, growing socialistic public policy, and the like, have opened the door for Christian Reconstruction to avail itself to new generation of young Calvinists but not through the front door–“Christian Reconstruction,” “Theonomy,” and the like–but through the back door of apologetics, the family, masculinity, big government, and so on.

Bradley even speculates on a connection between Christian Reconstruction and Roman Catholicism in that both groups use social teaching to gain converts.

What makes Bradley’s criticisms of Wilson, Christian Reconstruction, and the Young Restless crowd odd is that Bradley himself follows the political script that those he criticizes use. Bradley is generally a fan of neo-Calvinism. I have also heard him appeal to the language of cultural transformation in his interview at Christ the Center.

In which case, the problem with Wilson, slavery, the Confederacy and Christian Reconstruction may not be the actual forms these efforts to Christianize the social order take. The problem may be any attempt to read a social order out of Scripture. For instance, it would be interesting to know what Bradley thinks of his fellow Manhattanite, Tim Keller’s programs of word and deed ministry. Or for that matter, what does Bradley do with the use to which the creators of apartheid put neo-Calvinism? Does the gospel have a social program that Wilson, for example, misses or distorts? Or does the gospel have almost nothing to say about a social order?

Either way, it might be helpful to Wilson’s bruised ego to see Bradley acknowledge both men’s common debt to Kuyper.

And for what it’s worth, part of the appeal of the Confederacy, at least among political conservatives as opposed to the Religious Right, is that the South did stand for an understanding of the United States that was closer than Lincoln’s or the Progressive’s to the Constitution. The phrase, states’ rights, generally receives smirks from those who assume it represents a defense of slavery or worse, racism. But the Constitution itself was not particularly clear on how to sort out the relative powers of the states and the federal government, which was a large factor in the sectional crisis. But if folks want to dismiss states’ rights as simply the cant of “Crackers” who wanted to keep African-Americans in place, they should consider the good that states’ rights might serve today when applied to gay marriage and abortion. That may explain some of the appeal of the Confederacy, though I don’t presume to speak for Doug Wilson.