The following was written by Valerie Protopapas at the request of the Jubal Early SCV Camp in Tampa, Florida. It was submitted to the local media on the occasion of Confederate Memorial Day. Two publications involved had promised to print it, but reneged when the time came. It was originally titled By All Means Celebrate Confederate Memorial Day.
There was no greater mind in the 19th century than the British philosopher and historian, Lord Acton. Acton, famous for the quote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” was not only a great mind, but a great spirit. He rejected tyranny however “patriotic” and refused the spoils of war however enticing. Acton watched closely as the crisis built up between the old Union and the states of the South in America. He was aware of the various economic, political and moral issues—including slavery—but nonetheless, cast his lot with the South. After the war, he wrote the following to General Robert E. Lee:
“I saw in States’ rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy…Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization, and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.”
Acton saw in the South’s struggle for independence, not an attempt to save slavery or even an effort to throw off the economic yoke of the North with its American System of crony capitalism which has become so familiar to us today. Rather, he saw an effort to hold fast to the Founding Principles upon which the original Union was established and which had long since been abandoned by the ever increasing statism and centralization embraced by the North. Acton saw States’ rights as “the only availing check” on that statism and centralization. Today see the ultimate victory of the Union in the overwhelming power of Washington, D. C. Acton believed that the Confederacy was fighting for more than its own liberty, progress and civilization; it was fighting for all mankind. Indeed, in another place, he states that had the Confederacy been victorious, it would have “blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom…” As Lord Acton was contemporary to the struggle, it would be ludicrous to suggest the he had been duped, elevating the cause of the South into something greater than it was.
Yet, today no such vision of that struggle or definition of that cause is even permitted to be entertained. We are told that the South fought for slavery and tyranny and that her heroes were wicked or corrupt or lacking in sufficient wit to understand the nature of the cause for which they fought. The Grand Bargain—which for so many years allowed Americans on both sides to embrace the heroes in Blue and Gray—has been repudiated and now, all things Confederate are held in contempt. Southern heritage and history including her symbols, monuments and heroes are pronounced as unfit for anything but the ash heap of history. Yet, one of the greatest minds of the time, Lord Acton, clearly thought otherwise. Furthermore, most of what people are told about the South and its cause are myths, mistakes, half-truths and outright lies. Efforts to disseminate the truth and well documented facts are shouted down by the politically correct revisionists of academia, government and the media. No attempt is made to disprove the facts. Rather the truth is simply kept from the people. A great mind of the 18th century, the Scottish poet Robert Burns, had this to say about those who feared to advance the truth:
Here’s freedom to him who would speak,
Here’s freedom to him who would write,
For there’s none ever feared that the truth should be heard,
Except he who the truth would indict.
For those who would reject the right of Southerners to celebrate their great and noble heritage, I say that you are among those whom the poet rightly condemns. You fear that the truth would be heard because it is you and your position that the truth would indict.