At the Sept. 17 public hearing on the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials and Street Names, I asked City Council to pass a resolution expressing Alexandrians’ shock and dismay at the murder of nine people in Charleston, S.C., in June 2015, conveying our sympathy for their loss, and sending our condolences. I also asked that a copy be sent to the Charleston city government and each of the victims’ families. The Ad Hoc Group had not included this recommendation in its report to council as I had requested. As a speaker at the hearing said about another matter: It’s never too late to do the right thing. However, no one on council expressed approval – just stony stares.
I learned later that the Sons of the Confederate Veterans had expressed its sympathy to the families immediately after the tragedy, and The United Daughters of the Confederacy followed suit after the last victim was laid to rest. I commend them for acting appropriately as Americans.
Council’s ignoring the victims’ painful losses and only wrongly scapegoating our Confederate heritage does them and our city no credit. I am greatly disappointed councilors obviously used the Charleston murders as an excuse to pursue their anti-Confederate agendas.
Some councilors, like the Ad Hoc Group and other citizens, misstated facts. Some attacked the location of “Appomattox” as a traffic hazard. However, my recent Alexandria Gazette letter and Sept. 13 memo, which all councilors acknowledged receiving, provided Alexandria Department of Transportation figures proving it is not a traffic hazard; more accidents have happened at other Washington Street intersections.
The councilor who said he thought Confederates intended to keep slavery forever seems unfamiliar with the Constitution of the Confederate States of America and other aspects of American history. That document prohibited the importation of slaves. As noted earlier, Davis’ first veto — with a stinging criticism to the man raising the issue — was to prevent creating more slaves. Responsible Southern slave owners wanted gradual emancipation, first educating their slaves for freedom. (Washington set an early example – and he was the model for the new confederacy, appearing on the CSA seal.) Freeing all the slaves at once would have ruined everyone, including slaves with no means of support. Unfortunately, that happened at the war’s end. Former landowners had no means to employ them, so many became sharecroppers abused by Northern carpetbaggers or went to an inhospitable North.
By contrast, the U.S. Constitution never ended the importation of slaves. Slavery existed under the U.S. flag for decades, including in the four slave Union states during the War. Yankee ships brought slaves here at great profit. Yankees profited again from slave labor when they reaped the benefit of tariffs levied only on Southern goods and used for internal improvements made almost entirely in the North. History books written/edited by Northerners neglect to mention such. Amazingly, the 13th amendment extends permission for slavery, even though we are taught the Unionists ended it. Surprises abound when one looks closely.
Ellen Latane Tabb