In the wake of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's insistence that his Confederate History Month proclamation didn't focus on the issue of slavery because it "focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia" (link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/... ), maybe he could enlighten all of us regarding which "issues" were more important than this:
"Runaway from the plantation of the undersigned the negro man Shedrick, a
preacher, 5 feet 9 inches high, about 40 years old, but looking not over 23, stamped N. E. on the breast, and having both small toes cut off. He is of a very dark complexion, with eyes small but bright, and a look quite insolent. He dresses good, and was arrested as a runaway at Donaldsonville, some three years ago. The above reward will be paid for his arrest, by addressing Messrs. Armant Brothers, St. James parish, or A. Miltenberger & Co., 30, Carondelet-street."
Twenty-five dollars, with the payment of all necessary expenses, will be given for the apprehension and delivery of my man CHARLES, if taken on the Appo-mattox river, or within the precincts of Petersburgh. He ran off about a week ago, and if he leaves the neighbourhood, will no doubt make for Farmville and Petersburgh. He is a mulatto, rather below the medium height and size, but well proportioned, and very active and sensible. He is aged about 27 years, has a mild, submissive look, and will, no doubt, show the marks of a recent whipping if taken. He must be delivered to the care of Peebles, White, Davis, & Co.
BROUGHT TO THE FIRST DISTRICT POLICE PRISON.
NANCY, a griffe, about 34 years old, 5 feet 1¾ inch high, a scar on left wrist; says she belongs to Madame Wolf.
CHARLES HALL, a black, about 18 years old, 5 feet 6 inches high; says he is free, but supposed to be a slave.
PHILOMONIA, a mulattress, about 10 years old, 4 feet 3 inches high; says she is free, but supposed to be a slave.
COLUMBUS, a griffe, about 21 years old, 5 feet 5¾ inches high; says he is free, but supposed to be a slave.
SEYMOUR, a black, about 21 years old, 5 feet 1¾ inch high; says he is free, but supposed to be a slave.
The owners will please to comply with the law respecting them.
J. Worrall, Warden.
New Orleans, Dec. 14, 1852.
The above are all real notices in Southern newspapers, cited by Harriet Beecher Stowe in The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, her non-fiction follow up work to her best selling novel: http://etext.virginia.edu/...
Maybe there's something more important to the governor's reading of the history of the Civil War than stories like this:
My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means of knowing was withheld from me. My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant--before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor. For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child's affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result.
From the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/...
When Isabel heard that her son had been sold South, she immediately started on foot and alone, to find the man who had thus dared, in the face of all law, human and divine, to sell her child out of the State; and if possible, to bring him to account for the deed.
Arriving at New Paltz, she went directly to her former mistress, Dumont, complaining bitterly of the removal of her son. Her mistress heard her through, and then replied–'Ugh! a fine fuss to make about a little nigger! Why, haven't you as many of 'em left as you can see to, and take care of? A pity 'tis, the niggers are not all in Guinea!! Making such a halloo-balloo about the neighborhood; and all for a paltry nigger!!!' Isabella heard her through, and after a moment's hesitation, answered, in tones of deep determination–'I'll have my child again.' 'Have your child again!' repeated her mistress–her tones big with contempt, and scorning the absurd idea of her getting him. 'How can you get him? And what have you to support him with, if you could? Have you any money?' 'No,' answered Bell, 'I have no money, but God has enough, or what's better! And I'll have my child again.' These words were pronounced in the most slow, solemn, and determined measure and manner. And in speaking of it, she says, 'Oh my God! I know'd I'd have him agin. I was sure God would help me to get him. Why, I felt so tall within–I felt as if the power of a nation was with me!'
From The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/...
I'm sure that Governor McDonnell really meant that the political impact of slavery - and not the human tragedy of it - was the "issue" that was trumped by so many others. Maybe the passions stirred by these "other issues" were the ones that caused the conflict between the states to escalate to a Civil War.
Surely the issue of slavery could never have stirred passions that resulted in acts of violence against a sitting United States Senator - oh, wait:
Mr. H.H. St. John being present when Mr. Brooks of South Carolina made the assault upon Charles Sumner in the Senate, says that "Mr. Brooks stood in front [of] Mr. Sumner talking with him. Suddenly he struck Mr. Sumner over the head with a black gutta percha cane that he had in his hand, and felled Mr. Sumner to the floor. The cane flew to pieces and I picked up the gold head of the cane and handed it to Mr. S.A. Douglas who stood by. Mr. Rusk, Mr. Douglas, and others stood by but did not interfere. Mr. Bassett assisted Mr. Sumner to the Reception Room and bathed his head which bled profusely.
[From the editor's note:] In 1856 Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts delivered his famous "Crime Against Kansas" speech. In that speech Sumner insulted slave states and Southern senators, most notably Andrew Butler of South Carolina whose relative, Preston Brooks, served in the House of Representatives at the time.
And surely there were more important "issues" than the issue of giving freed slaves certain rights - like the right to vote - that led to the assassination of a President of the United States:
Booth may have made the decision to kill the President after hearing Lincoln deliver a speech urging Negro suffrage, according to Booth's former friend, Louis Weichmann. Weichmann spoke of his viewing of the the President's speech with Booth:
"I had never seen Mr. Lincoln up close and I knew he was a tall man, however nothing could have prepared me for the sight of him. A long shadow did he have. And his arms, when at his sides, touched near his knees. Very professionally he said that there would never be any suffrage based on differences in the way people look. Upon this, Booth turned to the two of us and said, "That means nigger citizenship. Now by God I’ll put him through!"
Governor McDonnell, I just have one simple question to ask you: what "issues" are more "significant" to understanding the Civil War - and Virginia's role in it - than slavery?
I doubt any of us will get an answer to that question - but I'd sure like one.
UPDATE: It seems the Governor has (finally) decided to apologize for ignoring slavery in the discussion of the Civil War:
"The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed," McDonnell wrote in a statement. "The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation."
He also added a clause to the proclamation that declares slavery "led to this war."
WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history.
I hope this has been a learning experience for the Governor, and I hope this is followed up with more educational outreach to the citizens of Virginia so that the actual facts of slavery and the Civil War are understood and accepted, and not spun or otherwise belittled.
History has consequences, after all, and it's better to face it square in the face than not.