A Celebration of Treason

Many of the articles written in the current furor over symbols of the Confederacy claim that the men (many of them were boys) who fought for the South were guilty of treason. Never mind that although the United States imprisoned Jefferson Davis and held him for two years, he was released because the government realized it would be unable to convict him. Threats of indictment for treason were made against other Southern officials, including high ranking  officers like Robert E. Lee, but they all came to naught although they were prohibited from holding elected Federal office by the Fourteenth Amendment. Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were restored to full citizenship in the 1970s, Davis during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. http://news.yahoo.com/pardon-jefferson-davis-14th-amendment-163609181.html

What those who hold these views are forgetting is that the nation from which eleven of the fifteen Southern states seceded (two others proposed secession articles which didn’t pass) and which we ourselves are citizens of was in fact founded as a result of treason. Tomorrow we celebrate an act that was, under the laws of the day, an act of high treason against the British Crown. John Hancock affixed his name to a document branding him a traitor to the country of which he was a citizen. “Taxation without representation” is one of the reasons given for the decision made by some colonial leaders to rebel against the king to whom they owed allegiance and the nation whose citizenship the enjoyed. (The taxes were actually low, but colonists were upset because they had no representation in Parliament.) Thomas Jefferson rattled off of a list of grievances against King George, grievances some of which seem almost petty in today’s world –

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness of his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these states

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Bear in mind that while Thomas Jefferson’s words are written as if they are directed at a king from his subjects, they only applied to the subjects in the American colonies, not including those in what became Canada. Nor did they apply to Australia and New Zealand, where England also had colonies, or the British colonies in Central America and the Caribbean. In his words, Jefferson was attempting to justify what he, as a lawyer, knew was an act of treason against the king to whom he was subject. Furthermore, Jefferson was writing in 1776, a decade after American colonists had first rebelled against their king although the rebellion didn’t become openly hostile until 1775 when Massachusetts was declared to be in open rebellion after locals fired on British troops at Concord and Lexington. Later that year, colonial troops invaded Quebec although the invasion was unsuccessful. The Continental Congress appealed to the British parliament to end the conflict but the king refused to read the appeal. He then declared certain colonies in rebellion and branded those involved in the rebellion as traitors.

It is important to remember that the thirteen colonies only existed by permission of the Crown. Each colony was established under a charter obtained from the British government by individuals and corporations. By 1776, most of the colonies had been in existence for well over a century. Their inhabitants were subjects of the king. By declaring the colonies independent, Jefferson and those who signed the declaration were committing high treason – and they knew it. Although they called themselves “patriots,” they were actually rebels and were key figures in a rebellion that had started in 1765 when colonists declared that the Crown had no right to tax them and eventually escalated to armed conflict. The war we now call the Revolutionary War went back and forth until the new government formed an alliance with France which was joined by Spain. With a wider war on their hands, the British reduced the number of troops in the colonies and started recruiting Loyalists and slaves.

We have been led to believe that everyone in the America colonies shared the feelings of those who rebelled against the authority of King George and the British government. In fact, large numbers of colonists were not in sympathy with the revolution that started in the 1760s in protest of British taxes, which the colonists called tyranny. Historians estimate that those who remained loyal to England accounted for approximately 20% of the population. This estimate is probably conservative. There were also large numbers of colonists who didn’t really care whether they were under the Crown or not. This group was the largest of the factions in the colonies. Patriots are estimated to have only accounted for some 45% of the white colonists. At best, Patriots had a bare majority. The war finally ended when the British fleet bringing troops to Yorktown found itself facing the French Navy and retreated to New York. Cornwallis’ army at Yorktown was then defeated in a battle fought primarily by French artillerists. Cornwallis surrendered and even though King George wanted to continue the war, Parliament wasn’t willing to support him. In 1783 the Treaty of Paris brought an end to hostilities and Britain withdrew its remaining troops from its former colonies. The treaty gave the former rebels control of all of North America south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River except Florida. (The Indian tribes who controlled the region west of the Appalachians were not consulted and did not sign the treaty.) Britain ceded Florida back to Spain in a separate treaty.

Of course, all of that happened almost 250 years ago. The second American rebellion, which we now call the Civil War, ended 150 years ago. Those who remained in the Union called those who voted to withdraw “traitors” and accused them of treason, just as King George had done regarding their ancestors a century before. Now, we are all Americans and the British are our best friends (and some consider the French as our enemies.) However, it would do us well to remember tomorrow when we celebrate the birth of our nation that we are actually celebrating treason.

A Southern Country Graveyard

CartersChapel

I’ve been considering what to make my first post about, and decided that since many are refighting the Civil War, or the Southern War of Independence, War of Secession or whatever you want to call it, a proper subject would be my ancestral graveyard in West Tennessee. My great-great grandfather, Jesse H. Carter migrated from Fishing Creek in South Carolina to West Tennessee sometime around 1830 or perhaps possibly earlier. He and a couple of his brothers and cousins their families settled in Carroll County. Jesse became a wealthy landowner who is believed to have owned several hundred, if not thousands, acres of land in and around the Obion River bottom south of McLemoresville. The Carters and their McKinney cousins were devout Methodists but there were no Methodist congregations (or congregations of any kind) in the vicinity. They started meeting in a brush arbor on my great-great-grandfather’s land and eventually erected a church and graveyard on land he donated. Carters Chapel Methodist Church is still an active  congregation and the cemetery is still in use. Many of my ancestors and relatives are buried there although my parents are buried in another cemetery a few miles to the south in the community where they lived.

A number of years ago my wife, then my girlfriend, and I visited the cemetery and spent an hour or so looking around. We had just stopped at Fort Harrod in Kentucky on our way down to Tennessee. I noticed some graves marked with sandstone in the same manner as the graves at the fort. I suspect they are the graves of the early settlers although my family claims they are graves of slaves. That’s not what this post is about. I also noticed a number of graves in the cemetery with white markings identifying the person whose remains are buried beneath them as a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans of the Civil War. Some, if not all, of them identify the person as a veteran of the 7th Tennessee Cavalry. At the time, I didn’t know that the 7th Tennessee was a Union regiment (I probably knew but had forgotten.) There are also graves in the cemetery of men who were on the other side, although their graves aren’t marked to identify them as having been Confederate veterans.

Americans today think that the Civil War was between North and South. In reality, it was between those who supported the Union and those who supported the right of the Southern states to secede. Yes, slavery was part of it but Abraham Lincoln didn’t raise an army to send south to free the slaves. His intent was to repress what he saw as a rebellion. After all, Confederates were called rebels. The Union Army included Southerners, large numbers of them, like the men buried in those graves. These particular veterans were men who enlisted in a regiment organized by Isaac Hawkins, a lawyer and slave owner from nearby Huntingdon, the county seat. Hawkins’ cousin was an officer in a Tennessee regiment serving under the legendary Nathan Bedford Forrest. In fact, the 7th Tennessee Cavalry (CSA) captured the entire 7th Tennessee Cavalry (USA) at Union City. After Union officers refused a prisoner exchange, the West Tennessee  Union men went to Southern prisons, particularly one at the tiny Georgia town of Andersonville where many of them died of disease aggravated by malnutrition. It was hard to feed prisoners since Sherman’s men had stripped the region of all food a few months before. Some of the 7th Tenn. (USA) veterans are my relatives although not all of them were still in the regiment when it was captured. One of my relatives, John Carter, spent a year in the 7th Tennessee but got out at the end of his one-year enlistment. He, like the rest of the 7th Tennessee (USA) was captured at Trenton. That time, the prisoners were exchanged.

My family has been in what is now the United States since the earliest days of the European immigration. Although my branch of the Carter family can only be traced back to the 1700s in Virginia, they are most likely descended from the Carters who established a plantation at Jamestown then spread out of from there. Jesse Carter’s wife Betsy, my great-great-grandmother, was descended from a German Anabaptist who immigrated to Pennsylvania then moved south to the Carolinas and from a Scottish immigrant who also settled on Fishing Creek. My McGowan ancestor was born in London but his father was a Scottish Baptist preacher who had settled in England after fighting with Bonnie Prince Charley at Culloden. (My maternal ancestors are not part of this particular narrative.) However, it wasn’t until late in the 19th century that my McGowan great-grandfather came to West Tennessee and pastored Carters Chapel, and his son met and married my grandmother.) I honestly don’t know if the Carters and McKinneys owned slaves or not. There’s no doubt that their ancestor, Alexander Carter, owned slaves in South Carolina. For years I didn’t think they did primarily because one elderly Carter woman who wrote a narrative about them said they were Union men and later Republicans. I think the latter is true but I’m not sure that all of the Carters supported the Union. I know my grandfather was a strong Republican but, then again, his father came from Middle Tennessee (and his grandfather was probably a Confederate soldier, although he never knew him.) I’m not sure about my grandmother. The 1860 slave census shows very few slaves in that part of Carroll County.

I was born in 1945 and grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s. There really was very little talk about the Civil War at either of the two schools I attended, Lavinia Elementary and Trezevant High School. There were kids whose families were strong Democrats but whether or not it was because they were descended from Confederates or whether they had become Democrats during the New Deal is unclear. No doubt, many were both. Tennessee was largely under control of the Democrats but that was largely because of the influence of “Boss” Crump, a Memphis politician who ran the Democratic party in Tennessee and was able to control the vote in Memphis, which accounted (and still does) for 25% of the votes in the entire state. There were no Confederate flags to be seen except in parks, particularly the Shiloh National Battlefield Park in the southeast corner of West Tennessee. I went there one time as a child. I don’t remember if it was a family outing or a school trip. There was probably one in Forrest Park in Memphis, since it was established in honor of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, who is buried there along with his wife. (The black mayor of Memphis wants to move them. They already changed the name of the park.) I’m not sure that I’ve ever been to the park. My family usually made a trip to Memphis every summer but it was to go to the zoo in Overton Park. My parents and grandparents knew men who had fought during the war. One of my great-uncles told me stories and sometimes mentioned veterans but he never said anything about the war itself. The men in the community socialized after the war, as did men who were on opposing sides in other communities.(There was a lot of postwar strife but it was due to outlaw bands that roamed the countryside immediately after the war.)

The Civil War centennial started while I was in high school but I don’t remember there being any attention paid to it. A famous battle was fought only about 10-12 miles from where I grew up, but although there’s a park there now, it wasn’t established until recently. If any of my classmates’ fathers were members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I never heard about it. If there were any Klan members around, they stayed hidden. (One of my maternal great-grandfathers was active with the Klan in the early Twentieth Century but I was in my 50s before I ever heard anything about it. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother but she never said anything about it.) I was stationed in North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina but except for Charleston, where Civil War cannon overlook the harbor in Battery Park, there was very little homage paid to the war. I knew no one who displayed the Confederate flag, not even the guys, most of whom were from  the north, who weren’t particularly fond of blacks.

Back to Carters Chapel – the people who lie buried in that cemetery are Southerners, Yet many of those who were alive at the time who lie in that graveyard supported the Union. Others didn’t. After the war, there was some animosity among the men who went to Andersonville but within a generation, families were intermingling. I have friends whose families lie in that cemetery who were staunch Democrats but I have more friends who were from Republican families. None of them wave the Confederate battle flag.

As for myself, I have never owned a Confederate flag of any kind. My first wife was from Virginia and while her mother was from New Jersey and the granddaughter of a Union naval officer, her father was a Virginia native. They had a Confederate flag that had belonged to an ancestor. If I remember correctly, it hung in the sunroom. My homosexual VMI graduate brother-in-law got it and later sold it. My wife’s grandmother’s house in New Jersey had two .45 revolvers and her (or her late husband’s) sabre in the sun room. Yet even though I have no particularly affection for the  flat of the Army of Northern Virginia, I am very disturbed by the big flap raised by political activists, the media and the Indian governor of South Carolina who has no connection to the heritage of the state she was elected to govern.

A Presidential Proclamation – #3382 Civil War Centennial Dec. 7, 1960

The years 1961 to 1965 will mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the American Civil War.

That war was America’s most tragic experience. But like most truly great tragedies, it carries with it an enduring lesson and a profound inspiration. It was a demonstration of heroism and sacrifice by men and women of both sides who valued principle above life itself and whose devotion to duty is a part of our Nation’s noblest tradition.

Both sections of our now magnificently reunited country sent into their armies men who became soldiers as good as any who ever fought under any flag. Military history records nothing finer than the courage and spirit displayed at such battles as Chickamauga, Antietam, Kennesaw Mountain, and Gettysburg. That America could produce men so valiant and so enduring is a matter for deep and abiding pride.

The same spirit on the part of the people at home supported and strengthened those soldiers through four years of great trial. That a Nation which contained hardly more than thirty million people, North and South together, could sustain six hundred thousand deaths without faltering is a lasting testimonial to something unconquerable in the American spirit. And that a transcending sense of unity and larger common purpose could, in the end, cause the men and women who had suffered so greatly to close ranks once the contest ended and to go on together to build a greater, freer, and happier America must be a source of inspiration as long as our country may last.

By a joint resolution approved on September 7, 1957 (71 Stat. 626), the Congress established the Civil War Centennial Commission to prepare plans and programs for the nationwide observances of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Civil War, and requested the President to issue proclamations inviting the people of the United States to participate in those observances.

Now, Therefore, I, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America, do hereby invite all of the people of our country to take a direct and active part in the Centennial of the Civil War.

I request all units and agencies of government–Federal, State, and local–and their officials to encourage, foster, and participate in Centennial observances. And I especially urge our Nation’s schools and colleges, its libraries and museums, its churches and religious bodies, its civic, service, and patriotic organizations, its learned and professional societies, its arts, sciences, and industries, and its informational media, to plan and carry out their own appropriate Centennial observances during the years 1961 to 1965; all to the end of enriching our knowledge and appreciation of this momentous chapter in our Nation’s history and of making this memorable period truly a Centennial for all Americans.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this sixth day of December in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and eighty-fifth.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, 34th President (October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969

Getting Started

I decided to start a Word Press blog on a whim. Actually, I should be in bed but I saw someone else’s blog and decided to start one of my own rather than posting my thoughts on my own web site (www.sammcgowan.com). I’ve got a lot to say about a lot of things. We’ll see how things go.

I’ve slept on this and am  going to update the post. First, let me tell you a little about me. My name is Sam and I grew up in West Tennessee (not west Tennessee, it’s a proper name.) I’ll be 70 my next birthday. Right after my high school graduation in 1963, I enlisted in the Air Force and spent 12 years. No, I did not retire – that takes 20 years. I just got out because I was tired of military politics. Unlike the majority of Air Force “airmen”, I actually flew. I started out in aircraft maintenance then became an aircraft loadmaster and spent 11 of my 12 years on aircrew duty. I saw a lot of the world, particularly Southeast Asia. I am what the media likes to call a “decorated combat veteran,” whatever that means. After my first marriage, my new wife and I decided we wanted to become involved in church. She was Episcopalian and I had been raised Southern Baptist. We joined an independent Baptist church in Dover, Delaware and our lives changed drastically. I had already decided not to reenlist so I got out in July 1975 and we went back to Tennessee, back for me at least since my wife was from Virginia. That marriage lasted almost 20 years. My current  – and last – wife is a Chicago native who became a transplant to Texas, where we now live.

While I did not graduate from college, I have enough credits that I probably could had I elected to. Although I was unable to take off-duty courses for my most of my time in the military, I was able to take some during my last year or so before I got out, courses in aviation management. After I was discharged, I enrolled at Tristate Baptist College in Memphis where I studied systematic theology and the Bible. Some would say I am an accomplished author since I’ve authored, what, ten books? Right now I’m working on two more.

When I was a little boy, I decided I wanted to fly airplanes when I grew up. While stationed on Okinawa, where I rarely spent more than three days at a time, I started taking flying lessons but didn’t solo until I returned to the States in 1967. Over the next 43 years I logged over 16,000 hours in the air as a pilot, most of it professionally. I started flying corporate jets in 1991 and flew them until I quit flying for medical reasons in 2010.

My politics are what many call “classical liberalism,” the political philosophy that goes back to John Locke. The main principle of classical liberalism is limited government. While I believe in the rights of the individual, I’m not into the modern concept of “group identity.”  My ancestors date back to the 1600s in America, some of them at least. Some go back at least 15,000 years. My ancestry is Scottish, Irish, German, English – possibly Welsh – and Cherokee. My great-grandmother was at least half Cherokee and probably 3/4s. I do not like the term “native American.” Any child born in America is a native. Although I grew up in the South, my parents were Republicans, my dad all his life and my mother from right after they were married. My mother came from a family of Democrats, some of whom would have voted for Satan if he ran on the Democratic ticket. When I was in my 50s, I learned that one of my great-grandfathers was a night-rider. I suppose that means he was active in the Klan, the rejuvenated Klan, not the original. My parents were in favor of school integration. However, after blacks started marching and making demands, they became less enthusiastic about the “civil rights movement.” I am all for rights for everyone but I oppose special treatment for someone just because they happen to be of a particular ethnicity or race or have some kind of sexual quirk. I do not own a Confederate flag, never have and never intend to own one but I don’t believe it is a “hate symbol” nor do I believe the men who fought for the South and the women who supported them are “traitors.” There is a movement among Northerners today – and some Southern Democrats – to marginalize the South although I don’t really know why unless it is due to jealousy.

I plan to blog about all kinds of things. Some posts may be political but most will not. This will be my place to vent and take time off from my writing.

Sam McGowan 7/1/2015

http://www.sammcgowan.com