by John Grooms
The Secession Gala we wrote about in yesterdays blog took place as scheduled last night in Charleston, S.C. Some among the 400 gala attendees showed up in antebellum costumes, some even in Confederate uniforms, while most wore modern formal clothes. About 100 protesters, black and white, stood outside the civic auditorium where the gala was held. The $100-a-person gala was organized by the Confederate Heritage Trust, a private group; CHT spokesmen said the event was meant to honor the Southern men who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their homes and their vision of states' rights, while one spokesman called the secession movement in S.C. "a demonstration of freedom" and denied that secession had anything to do with slavery. Back in the real world, however, many, including this writer, have pointed out that the very documents declaring secession from the U.S. repeatedly presented the preservation of slavery as the main reason for leaving the Union. As John Adams famously said, facts are stubborn things.
It has to be emphasized here that the CHT is a private group. The states official Lowcountry Sesquicentennial Commission is presenting a much more thorough, and balanced, four-year series of observances, commemorations, programs and lectures that are looking at the Civil War from the Northern, Southern, and African-American points of view. If you dont think thats a huge improvement in official S.C. attitudes, then you dont know that states history. Check out a good column on the subject by Will Moredock, a former Creative Loafing news writer who writes weekly for the Charleston City Paper. For more details of yesterdays gala and protests, including a good photo gallery, read this article from the citys daily Post & Courier.
Earlier in the day yesterday, a disciple of S.C. congressman Joe You lie! Wilson apparently attended the unveiling of a new Charleston historical marker commemorating the signing of the Ordinance of Secession. When Charleston mayor Joe Riley talked during the unveiling about the direct relationship between slavery and secession, someone shouted, Youre a liar!
To repeat something from yesterdays post, theres no problem with commemorating events of the Civil War. In fact, considering its importance to our national history, it would be kind of crazy not to commemorate it. Commemoration of a devastating war whose root cause was the practice of slavery becomes a problem, however, when it turns into a festive celebration. But then, Charleston's bluebloods have never turned away from self-involved partying. Heck, during the bombardment of Fort Sumter, while the noise of the cannons roared nearby, the secessionists of the planter class were busy throwing parties on their rooftops, drinking freely and toasting themselves for the great moment at hand. All of them, it seems, had forgotten that when S.C., at the instigation of S.C. political giant John C. Calhoun, tried to nullify a federal tariff law, Pres. Andrew Jackson (of South Carolina, no less) sent troops to Charleston to enforce federal policy, and threatened to have Calhoun hanged. Memory and history are often two different things, as were seeing now and will no doubt see a lot more of in the coming four years.