GOLDMAN: Will public support new Confederacy, Civil War Museum ?

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Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. – “You can’t handle the truth!”

Jack Nicholson’s tells Tom Cruise in their climatic courtroom confrontation in the super movie A Few Good Men. So I am not sure how many of us can handle the following truth:

A stand-alone Museum of the Confederacy lacked the necessary public interest to have survived past the next generation.

That’s a cold-hard political, social and economic fact of 21st century life, essentially conceded by S. Waite Rawls III, head honcho at the Museum of the Confederacy in the RTD story about his decision to merge with the Tredegar Civil War Center to form a new Confederacy/Civil War Museum.

The two merged groups claim to already have most of the money needed to complete their new $30 million complex at the current Riverfront site for the Tredegar American Civil War Center.

The leaders of the two merging organizations will be co-leaders for the new entity, with highly respected UR President Ed Ayers, a civil war expert, chairing the now combined boards.

“It is going to be a great thing for people who care about the Civil War,” Ayers was quoted as saying in the RTD.

The current “White House of the Confederacy, at 1201 E. Clay St., will continue to tell the story of Jefferson Davis and his family from 1861 to 1865 while he served as president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War,” according to the Times Dispatch.

“I think this moves us from trying to survive to trying to excel,” Rawls said.

SURVIVE: Mr. Rawls is right. But he is under much criticism for his decision from “confederate heritage” groups who feel he has sold out their ancestors and Virginia’s heritage.

Quite the opposite: He made the only practical, logical decision available.

THE HARD TRUTH: Too many, even now 148 years after the Civil War’s end, refuse to acknowledge the fundamental truth about the origins for the conflict. By modern numbers, 6 million Americans dead in combat, millions more maimed and crippled and damaged for life in one way or another.

The carnage is, I submit, incomprehensible to the U.S. today.

Moreover, from a purely political level, the Civil War would have been the easiest thing to avoid. Contrary to the claims of so many even today, the 1860 GOP platform of Mr. Lincoln’s party DID NOT call for the abolition of slavery. Quite the contrary, it pledged to allow slavery to continue in the Southern states.

The platform wanted to ban the expansion of slavery into the territories. If the South had accepted this policy, there is no Civil War.

But those in power in the Southern states – who had used slavery to get the personal benefit of enforcing a certain economic, political and social order on a far bigger percentage of the population than many still are willing to admit – saw Lincoln’s policy as ultimately leading to slavery’s fatal demise.

They were right, Lincoln regarded slavery as inhuman, an abomination; but immorality alone would not end it. He opted for his version of “with all deliberate speed” figuring politics at the national level and economics at the local level would end slavery over time, too slow for him personally but at least it would end.

A Civil War had never been the North’s choice. The Southern rebels choose a war believing the North didn’t have the will to win.

This is great irony of Civil War history, had the slave owners in the South truly believed in the social, political and economic viability of their policy, Lincoln was prepared to stand down and let them compete in the free market place. But the South rebelled, claiming Lincoln wanted to use federal power to “enslave them” to the federal government.

This is not true then and it doesn’t become any more true by making the claim for 148 more years.

This is why the Confederate Museum is doomed, a refusal to face the larger truth.

Like General Grant, I have no quarrel, indeed a certain admiration, for the young men and women who died for the Confederate side believing in their hearts and minds they were protecting their families and states from Lincoln’s oppression. They were wrong, but as in the Vietnam War a 100 years later, young men and women do what their political leaders demand, at least for the most part.

They listen to their elders, their parents, and do their duty, “to die and not ask why” according to the old adage.

It is what young men and women, along with their Generals and officers, have always done since the days of Pharaoh, likely tens of thousands of years before.

General Grant showed admiration for General Lee and the rebel army. I don’t know how we can do any less than those who fought each other. Grant despised the Southern political leaders for causing so many good men to die needlessly, on both sides.

Let’s cut to the chase, those whose power economically, politically and socially flowed from the “slave nation” forced this horrible tragedy on millions of Southerners who could have easily supported Lincoln’s platform. Virginians on several occasions rejected joining the Deep South rebellion.

The “whole South” therefore never wanted to fight a war to the death against the North. But their economic, political and social leaders did, for their own selfish reasons.

BOTTOM LINE: The refusal of Confederate Museums to tell the larger truth, to accept the true origins of the war, to know who to honor and who to condemn, has made their story less and less relevant to succeeding generations.

One can tell the truth about Slavery in the South, the truth about the origins of the Civil War, and the truth about the conflict itself at the same time, from the same collective truth.

“Truth crushed to earth will rise” said the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He didn’t merely mean facts long buried will eventually see the light of day to expose the sinners. Rather he meant, in a large sense, truth will free us to bloom anew, to join to build a new world, to not be ruled from the grave.

As a history buff, all history is interesting to me, and all history needs to be told, as honestly as possible. The Confederate history to be told that all Americans should learn, that is for sure. But unless told honestly, it only continues to add to the casualty list.

Enough already.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.


  • L Rubio

    What is sad about truth it that there are many people who turn away from it, preferring instead to believe in a history that is limited to their own interpretation of it. History that excuses or prefers to look the other way at the atrocities committed against an entire culture of people is not truth. If we are to move forward and understand the history of America and the Civil war, we must embrace it in its entirety. Choosing to exclude the history of African Americans, and their “truth” as a part of the conversation about the Confederacy and the Civil war is deliberate ignorance.

  • Pappy Yokum

    “The [Republican] platform wanted to ban the expansion of slavery into the territories. If the South had accepted this policy, there is no Civil War.”
    This is incorrect. The logic of this argument is mysterious. By seceding, the South could not expand slavery into the territories because the Union retained those territories. The South, for all practical purposes, did accept that policy. So, why was there a war? Try again.

  • Pappy Yokum

    “This is great irony of Civil War history, had the slave owners in the South truly believed in the social, political and economic viability of their policy, Lincoln was prepared to stand down and let them compete in the free market place. But the South rebelled, claiming Lincoln wanted to use federal power to “enslave them” to the federal government.”

    Do read up on sectionalism. The North had been pushing for protective tariffs since the end of the War of 1812. Because slavery was disallowed in the territories, as these became states, the South lost control of the government – and its ability to prevent the passage of the Morrill Tariff which about tripled the tax on imports. The South was involved in international trade in cotton, so they would be paying the tariff. The North could raise prices on manufactures because the tariff shut out competition. The scheme was to transfer wealth from South to North. That is how Lincoln was going to enslave the South to the North using federal taxing authority. Lincoln offered over and over to save slavery, but he never offered to lower the tax to save the Union.
    That is why the South had no choice but to leave and the North none, but to prevent that from happening other than by going to war.

  • BorderRuffian

    “ ‘Truth crushed to earth will rise’ said the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

    Many have said that, including Jefferson Davis.

  • Billy Bearden

    Mr. Goldman,
    Whatever life expectancy the Museum of the Confederacy projected it would have had left, was thrown away last week by Waite Rawls, III.

    Mr. Rawls, you see, has been dragging the Museum into the mud during his tenure. That Mr. Rawls has now destroyed the M.o.C. to join with Ed Ayers and Christy Coleman will only serve his wallet and the rabid left – like yourself – in heaping more derision on our Confederate ancestors.

    I would like to thank BorderRuffian for correctly pointing out that it was Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy who said the quote on truth, that was parroted in part by MLK, Jr. But in your zeal to assist in the derision heaping, you left that part out….

    So, no our precious priceless Confederate heirlooms will move into a place where sits the Illegal Lincoln Statue. The American Civil War Center boss Christy Coleman – who stated that Museum of the Confederacy supporters are “Billy-Bobs” and “Neo-Confederates” will lead those who visit into her biased interpretations. And all of this will be under the Chairmanship of Anti-Confederate leftist Ed Ayers.

    The Museum of the Confederacy holds artifacts utilized by my ancestors (such as the Battleflag of the 41st Georgia Infantry) and I have already been inside and witnessed the lies, the omissions, the propaganda inside the ACWC, and am seriously concerned that visitors will now see the flag outside it’s historical truth, and thru the fog of lies and derision heaped on it by Ayers and Coleman will come away with a less than honest opinion of what it meant.

    Mr. Goldman, you should be ashamed of what you write above. It is disgusting. Shame on Waite Rawls.

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