April 14, 1865 and June 17, 2015. Two dates seemingly 150 years apart without much relevance to them. However, if the events of the first date do not take place, then the events of the second date do not take place and we are not having the discussion we are having about the Confederate flag today.
On April 14th, 1865 John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head. Lincoln’s assassination has had a profound effect on the course of American history that is often overlooked and never truly discussed. Just in the simple way that we discuss that slavery was the central reason for the Civil War. The causes for the Civil War go way beyond the simple problem of slavery. Slavery was always being phased out in the United States Constitution and slavery was being phased out by the Confederate States Constitution as well.
With Lincoln’s assassination came the possible ease for the Confederate states to “rejoin” the Union, especially since Lincoln never viewed the states as having left the Union. The Confederates states in fact were never officially recognized by any other government. After Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Lincoln had proposed that it would take a simple ten percent of voters to pledge their allegiance to the United States, abolish slavery, and cancel acts of secession. Though Lincoln’s initial plan was rejected by Congress, Lincoln was continually working on a way to bring the Union back together peacefully. And had Lincoln been able to do so, maybe some of the resentment that followed would not have taken place.
Because of Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson succeeded him as President and Johnson and Congress was not nearly as forgiving of the Southern states as Lincoln was attempting. Instead, the Southern states had to endure over 12 years of Reconstruction which included being “supervised” by the Union Army to make sure that the rights of Blacks were being protected.
However, during this entire period of time in the South, the Confederate flag could not be found flying in the South. In fact, it is not until 1933 when we see it adopted by the United Daughters of Confederacy that is prominently displayed again. And then even worse, we begin to see it begin to be displayed during the Second Reconstruction period under John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson with school integration and the Civil Rights Movement.
So had Lincoln not been assassinated in 1865 and the terrible period of Reconstruction of the North towards the South not been enacted, but maybe, just MAYBE race relations between whites and blacks would have happened differently. Maybe there would not have been and still be so much hatred between people. Maybe people would not be hanging unto this “tradition” and “heritage” that is linked to a flag that only flew for four years of a war. Of a country that was never recognized by another country. That was led by a General that did not want to fight the war but knew he had to lead the fight for his home state of Virginia.
That should be the legacy and tradition that we should be remembering, and that legacy and tradition unfortunately is not represented by the Confederate flag. That tradition was usurped by the Klan and other hate groups that were opposed to school integration and Civil Rights for Blacks.
So the only legacy that the Confederate flag holds is one of treason or one of hatred, you decide? And I will respect your right to fly the flag of the Confederacy if you want, but it has no place flying over any government building or on any other property other than a museum.