Lord Acton on The Southern Cause

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.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Confederate Colonel and The Southern Agrarian blogs. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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7 Responses to Lord Acton on The Southern Cause

  1. You fear that the truth would be heard because it is you and your position that the truth would indict.

    Amen. You may be interested in this from Val tonight.

    Sebasta has a request:)

  2. dan says:

    Ah yes, the old canard of “freedom”. No one on the so-called “Southern side” ever finishes the sentence. Freedom… to do what?

    Oh, right, to own black people. That was the only freedom the North was infringing upon. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

    P.S. It’s been 150 years. You lost. Get over it. Seriously, what other culture in the world still can’t deal with a defeat that occurred a century and a half ago?

  3. “dan” stops by and leaves a reply every once in a while. Most are pretty much like this one. Most are routed directly to the trash.

    I approved this one just to remind folks that there really are people who think like this. They really believe this stuff. They really believe that somehow whichever side wins a military conflict is automatically “the good guys” and those they defeated have some sort of twisted moral obligation to join their tormenters and embrace the evil. They believe that we have some secret longing to “own black people”. They truly believe that slavery “was the only freedom the North was infringing upon.” They believe that The South was (and is) populated by such a wicked, evil people that unlike every other country in the world, it required a devastating war that laid waste to the land and the people for the sole purpose of “freeing the slaves.”

    Pay attention, my fellow Southerners. These people really exist – and as seen by what is currently in Washington, DC – they vote. The destruction of the country founded in 1776 began in earnest in 1865, and is now in the last stage of terminal rot.

    Lord Acton was right.

  4. The Redneck says:

    –Oh, right, to own black people. That was the only freedom the North was infringing upon.–
    Yeah, infringing upon with their Corwin Amendment that would have guaranteed slavery ~forever~ if we’d returned to the Union. It’s not as if there was a massive tax issue that had already almost caused a rebellion, right? It’s not like the Union made it clear, several times, that they weren’t fighting to free any slaves, right?

    Oh, wait, those did happen? Well, dang–maybe now you’ll have to drop the race-card and come up with a real argument.

    –P.S. It’s been 150 years. You lost. Get over it. Seriously, what other culture in the world still can’t deal with a defeat that occurred a century and a half ago?–
    Scots, Irish, Native Americans….

    Here’s a deal for you. We’ll “get over it” when you yankees quit honoring terrorists who bravely made war by stealing food from children, murdering people at random, and raping women. We’ll “get over it,” when you quit slandering the people who stood and fought for their freedom against your war of tribute. We’ll “get over it” when you remove the bloated tentacles of the all-powerful federal government that began its campaign of oppression with Lincoln’s defeat of the last safeguard of the Constitution.

    Until then, don’t tell us to “get over it”–because as long as you’re still advancing and supporting the crime, it’s clear that YOU haven’t gotten over it.

  5. dan says:

    SCMG — nice one. Instead of a coherent refutation, just a personal attack. Par for the course. You know I’m right, and you can’t deal with it.

    Redneck — North was fighting to prevent the *spread* of slavery. Either you have zero knowledge of your own history, or you are hoping that I do. Either way, epic fail.

    Also, I’ve never heard the Scots or the Native Americans rambling, delusionally, that “Aberdeen will rise again” or “Sitting Bull shall lead us to victory soon”. Scotland may not love England, but they’ve made peace with reality.

  6. I retrieved this one from the Trash where I initially put it – again, to illustrate a point.

    People like “dan” seem to think they have a right to utilize someone else’s platform to spew their own views. Here’s a novel concept: put your own money and your own work and your own time into your own web site. If you have a valid point, then people will read it.

    Stop acting like a spoiled child when you don’t get your way. “You know I’m right, and you can’t deal with it.” Please grow up – then perhaps we can have a discussion. (I really need to look up that rule somewhere that says a person must be at least 13 years of age before participating on a web site.)

    Apparently I am expected to provide a “coherent refutation” to his opinions. That brings to mind a 12-year old wanting someone else to do his homework and then getting upset when the reply is “No”. There is ample material freely available; do your own research. Here’s a good place to start – http://www.confederatecolonel.com/book-reprints/. Most of these are original books and documents from the time period rather than Yankee rewritten “analysis”.

    Confederate Colonel has a very specific purpose, and it is not to provide a debate platform.

  7. Southron says:

    Dan claims we fought to “spread slavery.” Dan is quite ignorant. By withdrawing from the Union the South renounced any right to expand slavery into the U.S. territories.

    By obsessing on Southern slavery, which admittedly had its failings, the Yankees shift focus from the brutal mistreatment of their so-called “free” white Northern workers, depicted in all its horror in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

    Without Yankees trying to incite race war, the South could have ended slavery peacefully–as did so many other countries during the 19th century. But that was not to be as the North launched an illegal, immoral and unprovoked invasion of the South.

    The oppression imposed by that war lingers to this day, with Northern economic domination of the South, judicial tyranny, and a Northern liberal media and entertainment complex that viciously mocks and ridicules Southerners.

    Another example of your ignorance, Dan, is that the Scots are talking about rising again. If you bother to read the news you will find that Scottish independence could be a reality within a few years. I certainly understand how they feel.

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