They ain’t just whistling ‘Dixie’. Charleston and South Carolina blunder over gala celebrating 150th secession anniversary.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Yes sir, the folks of Charleston and South Carolina
generally are at it again, this times spurred by the
150th anniversary of the secession of South Carolina
from the federal Union and the commencement of
the Civil War, which dutiful Southerners always call
the War Between the States.
Some brief history
Charming though its citizens are (I know for my family
landed in South Carolina in the mid-18th century),
they can nonetheless be obtuse and obstinate to a
degree. Take South Carolina’s history, for example.
Its leading statesman, much revered and honored
(though never read) is John C. Calhoun, who never
met a nation-building project he didn’t abhor and
obstruct. He invented a silly system about how South
Carolina could nullify any federal laws it didn’t like
and wished to ignore. It was looney (as leading to
one secession after another) but Calhoun,
determined, bitter, adamant, spent his lifetime
inventing and then defending a system that would
have wrecked the Union without doing anything useful
for his state.
Calhoun’s theories came to fruition in what was
called the Nullification Crisis of 1832. When South
Carolina (always in the vanguard of treason) rushed
to seize all federal properties within its borders,
President Andrew Jackson promptly called for troops
and was ready, willing, and able to crush the rebellion.
Given the fact that he was born in South Carolina
(though North Carolina disagrees), his “takes one to
know one” stance was most apropos. He was the
ultimate Union man… and he knew what to do to
show the people of South Carolina exactly what
Chastened, these citizens of South Carolina folded like
a house of cards, their time thereafter filled by muttering,
threats, connivances, and plan after hare-brained
plan to try again to disrupt their own prosperity
by undermining at all times and at every opportunity
the federal Union. It was perverse… it was pointless…
it was so South Carolina.
In 1860, when Abe Lincoln was elected president
of the United States, the elite of South Carolina
decided to act… and so seceded from that united union
and made the state’s most rash decision ever:
to fight and by so fighting undermine the lifestyle
they all wanted but which could never, ever
survive after their war. Victory (though many South
Carolinians from the best antebellum families
might disagree) was never a possibility once
the Union got itself focused. It took awhile, but
once awakened its power was irresistible.
Was there another, better course than hazarding
all on the most precarious of policies: war?
Of course there was. Instead, Southern
statesmen should have stayed in the Union,
remaining in Congress and the Democratic
Party, the highest of officials and always its
least cooperative. As such they would have
been an immovable presence, an irksome dilemma
dislocating the Union and its vibrant Manifest Destiny
But hotter heads prevailed.
The state which had everything to keep by
staying in the Union, chose the least sensible
alternative of all: WAR. Once declared, one of Charleston’s
canniest sons, Rhett Butler, bought up all
the cotton he could and ran it to London, where
it ultimately rose to the amazing price of $1 a
pound. Rhett was level headed; his peers
And so the war came.
The state seceded.
Fort Sumter was fired on and after a
valiant defense… capitulated
And bit by inexorable bit the Confederates
of South Carolina were ground into the
dust… with the deepest misery for all, whatever
These are the events that the organizers of
Charleston’s December 20, 2010 secession
gala (and countless other secession commemoration events)
ask us to remember with respect and even admiration.
We cannot do so, we must not do so.
Organizers of the secession gala and similar
events taking place now and for the next several
years across the states of the Confederacy
(finishing up at Appomattox Court House) need to
be very clear on their appropriate mission and
The story of the South’s and particularly South
Carolina’s myopic and self-destructive leaders
must be told… as historical fact… for to forget
is to obliterate, and this will never do. But historical
fact and outlandish fictional celebrations are two very
different things… as event organizers should have known.
Because they failed to insist upon an inclusionary ball, the
radical Confederate apologists in the persons of some of South
Carolina’s most prominent citizens, not least state Senate
president pro tem Glenn McConnell, took over
the event. They did so with the same self-destructive energy with
which their ancestors took Fort Sumter. Immediately they turned
it into a fanciful, colorful paean to the state’s most destructive and completely
witless act. Common sense and the very truth were also
prompt casualties while these high stepping folks prated about the things
most calculated to disgust, infuriate, and divide:
Glory, Chivalry, Darkies, and The Cause.
These organizers, keen to open their divisive event
with “Dixie”, the best reel ever written, overlooked or
never knew one important point about this ditty:
what Abraham Lincoln said about it upon returning in early April, 1865
to Washington with son Tad after visiting burning Richmond, the
Confederate capital, the symbolic end of the war.
“I have always thought ‘Dixie’ one of the best
tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over
the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted
that we fairly captured it. I presented it to the
Attorney General, and he gave it as his legal opinion
that it is our lawful prize. I now request the band to
favor me with its performance.” The band played
“Dixie”, followed by “Yankee Doodle.”
And so, even dead, Abraham Lincoln and his politics
of humane inclusion trump the living Confederate
dinosaurs who insist that Dixie never look away from
the imaginary land they have invented. Voltaire was oh
so right: “History is a pack of tricks we play upon the dead” But,
of course, the gray uniformed officers with ear-splitting
Rebel yells and their lavishly appointed ladies in silk crinolines
know that… as did their fire-breathing ancestors from
Charleston, the epicenter of treason and silliness.
About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of
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Author: Jeffrey LantThis author has published 572 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.