The Transylvania Times -

Egregious Claims


September 11, 2017

Jack Matthews, in a recent letter to the Transylvania Times, spoke to the controversy surrounding the monuments erected to commemorate and celebrate the men who fought on behalf of the seceding states.

Matthews makes a particularly egregious false equivalency on several occasions when he implies that the ‘Democrats” of the Deep South before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are the Democrats of the present era. With the exception of Robert Byrd, whose more enlightened position on racism came after his earlier oppressive stance, those instances he cites of “Democrats” are actions by people whose political descendants are present-day Republicans, not present-day Democrats. While neither is alive, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms come to mind.

The action of FDR in his executive order to intern all people of Japanese origins living on the West Coast of these United States has been roundly condemned by virtually all who have studied it. Even so, and this is no justification of that order, the numbers of Japanese people so affected was less than 150,000, while the number of slaves affected by the Emancipation Proclamation was about 3,000,000.

But perhaps the most startling claim that Matthews makes is that Lee did not own slaves. Lee, on the other hand, as he managed the financially troubled estate of his late father-in-law in the 1850s and ‘60s, is well documented to have separated slave families, caused escaped slaves to be returned to the plantation and later transferred under lock and key into the hands of a slave trader, and caused male and female slaves to be lashed for escaping. These were actions of an individual who was either a slave owner or acting as if he were a slave owner. I discern no distinction between these alternatives.

Either Matthews denies Lee’s role in treating African Americans as slaves or he is willing to absolve Lee of these actions because of a legal technicality. Neither stance is particularly admirable.

Peter B. Mockridge



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