Top 5 Reasons Confederate Flag should stop Flying at SC Statehouse

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

1. The Confederate flag in its current form was adopted by the seceding slave states to differentiate their banner from the Stars and Stripes on the battlefield. It isn’t a symbol of regionalism. It is a symbol of violent attack on the Union.

2. Those who fought beneath the Confederate flag were fighting to retain slavery. They wanted an economic system in which they could kidnap people from Africa and coerce them into working for no salary. Any individual found kidnapping people today and coercing their labor for no remuneration would go straight to jail. So why should the flag symbolizing these activities be retained?

3. The flag was a symbol of Jim Crow segregation laws in the American South, which resembled those of Apartheid South Africa.

4. The flag was used in the 1950s and after as a symbol of opposition to the Civil Rights movement.

5. The flag has been adopted as a symbol by many members of the white supremacist and KKK movements. Putting it in the statehouse just makes it look as though the state condones that sort of thing.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

BBC News: “Charleston: Demands for removal of Confederate flag”

32 Responses

  1. Makes it “look like”?!?!

    That’s exactly why it’s there.

    Top two reasons: it’s a symbol of slavery and treason. End. Of. Story.

  2. Have to disagree with part of point #2. You wrote “They wanted an economic system in which they could kidnap people from Africa and coerce them into working for no salary.” To retain slavery, yes, that was the justification in the various articles of Secession, starting with South Carolina. But the Southern states in 1787-89 accepted a Constitution allowing for the banning of the importation of slavery in 1808, and that happened with Congressional action. I am unaware of any attempt by Southern politicians to reopen the Slave trade, even during the Confederacy itself.

    • No a robust illegal slave trade was born after federal law prohibited Importation.

    • Southern states almost certainly banned the importation of slaves as a matter of economics: local “stock” values were kept high through the elimination of competition from foreign supplies. If there were other more noble motives for this action, they didn’t show up in subsequent history.

  3. On #2, yes the South was fighting to retain slavery. But no, the South wasn’t fighting to retain kidnapping slaves from Africa. That was against the law after 1808. By the time of the Civil War, the South was raising more slaves than it could consume locally.

  4. I lived in the South for a few years in the early 60’s, before the civil rights legislation was passed. The general impression I got was that all five of your “reasons” were actually points of white pride. In other words, five reasons to keep the flag flying, not to take it down.

    The moral rationale supporting slavery and Jim Crow was that the Blacks liked things that way. It was all for their own good.

  5. Another reason:

    “The Confederate battle flag is what makes America stupid” By David P. Goldman – link to – in which he notes “As the New York Times reports this morning, not a single Republican presidential candidate has the courage to tell South Carolina to stop flying the Confederate battle flag from its state capitol.”

    • Barack Obama lost almost every single Deep South state in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections – which averted an Obama landslide nationwide in the election.

      Obama lost Mississippi by landslides in 2008 and 2012. The Confederate flag is part of the state flag of Mississippi.

      The only reasonable explanation for this electoral anomaly of southern states is the discriminatory attitudes of large blocs of white voters in the Deep South.

      GOP presidential candidates do not want to alienate the white electorate in the South.

    • One of Obama’s biggest victories in the 2008 Democratic primaries was in South Carolina, the third primary. Hillary and especially Bill Clinton were rattled by the size of Obama’s victory. He also won in Virginia and sealed the nomination with his HUGE win in North Carolina. Outside of Iowa, Obama’s biggest victories were in Southern states of the old Confederacy.

        • Bill Clinton did compare Obama’s victory to Jesse Jackson’s 20 years earlier. He tried to claim it was just a black thing. However, Obama drew from a wider range of voters which was bad news for Hillary Clinton. Both Clintons knew Hillary wouldn’t be able to knock Obama out on Super Tuesday, which was just a week away. In 2008, the S.C. primary marked the beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes.

    • It’s not the place of any Republican (except those that represent SC) to say anything about that flag. I have always hated that flag, but i will stand by each individual’s right to fly it. Why does everything have to be twisted into Rep. vs. Demo? Wish people would think before the speak.

  6. Dr. Cole and with all due respect, as “politically correct” as removing the Confederate Battle Flag and what it clearly represents would be – now may be ill-timed, unless magnifying the number of misguided and hateful limited capacity gun owners spurred into despicable actions was not an actual threat.

    Mississippi has the same flag within their State flag. Other States flags have fragments and symbols pointing to their Confederate histories, as well.

    Concurrently, assorted Presidential candidates, declared and not, are getting lots of cheap unearned yardage from this corporate-controlled-media punted political football.

    Unintended consequence is more of an issue than those who do not reside in the South can realize.

    The flag can wait and is currently a distraction.

  7. As of Monday afternoon the news has broken that Gov. Haley will start the process of removing the flag from the state house grounds. It took a massacre and a shift in public opinion to make Lindsey Graham come out in favor of removing the flag.

  8. Reasons 2-5 are good arguments and I support your conclusion.

    But I think reason 1 is weak. If the US could secede from Britain, the CSA could secede too. It could be regionalism AND a symbol of a war of independence (if we forget, for argument’s sake, that the real motive was slavery, which is argument #2).

    • what did Civil War resolve? per Antonin Scalia: (10-31-2006) I am afraid I cannot be of much help with your problem, principally because I cannot imagine that such a question could ever reach the Supreme Court. To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, “one Nation, indivisible.”) Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.

      • A little devil’s advocating, perhaps: First, the pledge of allegiance post-dates the Civil War. And I see no reason why this should be considered a sacred text. Second, what the Civil War did was establish by force of arms that the Union could be preserved only against the wishes of many of its inhabitants. Might makes right is not a constitutional doctrine, is it? In short, the winners do what they want and justify it afterward however they wish and the losers must accept what they must. If the American revolution had failed, we’d be taught today that the “founding fathers” were all traitors.

        I’m not going to defend the CSA flag or the battle flag at the center of so much controversy, but I will note that stoking the fires of white southern resentment by attacking a symbol that their ancestors may have fought for is a needless provocation; also, that the KKK also marches under the stars and stripes, so is that flag also now corrupt? And also, atrocities were committed wholesale against American Indians by soldiers flying the national flag. Perhaps Indians should demand the stars and stripes be removed from reservations or public buildings, too? They certainly have the same right to be offended by its display. Finally, if we’re going to take a moral high ground against the Confederacy simply on the slavery issue, let’s remember that the Northern states also denied women the right to vote and that the Greeks and Romans also were slave societies — should we remove all classical civilization literature from schools and ancient art from museums and stop teaching Plato or Greek drama?

  9. In 1860, slavery was legal and Lincoln has no plans or authority to end it. The deep south cotton states seceded because the Republican platform was 100% against any EXPANSION of slavery. Their platform led to secession which was the real cause of the Civil War. That and Confederates committing TREASON when they attacked Fort Sumter.They were guilty of TREASON and lucky not to be executed when their foolish rebellion was crushed. Ben Franklin warning about hanging together or separately comes to mind. The Queen of England would have hung Robert E. Lee in a heartbeat.

    “The time has come to remove the flag”…S.C. Governor Nikki Haley

    It will be interesting to see the reaction of die-hard Neo-Confederates. There’s a lot of neos out there. For the most part, Republican presidential candidates won’t comment one way or the other. They want this to go away ASAP. Another Southern rebellion won’t help the Republicans win in 2016.

  10. “Those who fought beneath the Confederate flag were fighting to retain slavery.”


    “They wanted an economic system in which they could kidnap people from Africa . . . ”

    By the time the Civil War began, kidnapping slaves from Africa had been illegal in the US for decades (1808). The slaves that the South fought over were mostly the children and grandchildren of those kidnapped. In fact, one reason the South wanted to expand slavery was to create a market for excess slaves.

  11. The seeming incongruity between the costitution limiting importation of slaves in 1808 was the introduction of the cotton gin. Tobacco plantation slavery had lost money for many years. That is why jefferson died bankrupt. To ourfounders slavery was a dying institution. The cotton gin changed that. Per pound cotton was highervalue than any other fiber. One man could clean 1 pound perday with the gin he could clean (remove seeds/husk from lint) 100 pounds/day. In 1860 the greatest concentration of millionaires was in Natchez Mississippi. Cotton exhausted ths soil and new ground was regularly needed to maintain production(no chemical fertilizers yet). Stopping expansion into new territory threatened the good times from cotton money from the labor of slaves. While the south made money on cotton the north and england made money on the weaving into fabric. The southerners thought england would come totheir aid, instead thebritish introduced cotton to egypt and india.

    incidently cotton culture changed slavery. Typically cotton fieldhands were dead in 5 years from the work znd frontier conditions. Hence there was ongoing demand for young people to go to cotton plantztions. While tobacco was still produced the real cash crop was youngpeople for the cotton fields of alabama, missippi, texas. This made slavery a different character than experienced by thefounders.

    The immense profitability is why the southerners were willing to commit treason.

    • Cotton was not going to be a suitable crop to grow west of the Mississippi, in most of the “new territory” you claim the South wished to expand into. So I’m not sure this argument has a grounding in reality. Then there’s the matter of Indian lands, which most of this territory consisted of. The Civil war curtailed white expansion into Indian lands for a short time but after thew war, the restored national government eagerly resumed its genocidal war against the Indians. So much for moral high ground.

  12. Excess slaves, declining soil fertility and no expansion of slavery in the Republican platform led to the wealthy southern planters in the deep south seceding and starting the Civil War. Without the attack on Fort Sumter and Lincoln calling for 300,000 troops to put down the rebellion, Virginia and North Carolina would have stayed in the union. Lincoln’s call up was exactly what the plantation owners needed for a big war. They rolled the dice and lost. A blockade of Charleston, Mobile, New Orleans and other ports would have probably worked out much better. Lincoln acted hastily.

    • Lincoln acted hastily? SC unleashes a treasonous artillery barrage on a Union fort, and when Lincoln responds in kind, that was hasty? Response to massive treason can never be fast enough!
      The Virginia Rationalization to Justify Treason Society continues to try to sell the ridiculous claim that Lincoln “forced” them to join up with the traitor States when he prepared to put down the insurrection in SC.

      Absurd on its face.

      • Yea, I think Lincoln overreacted without thinking about the consequences of calling for 300,000 troops to put down the rebellion. A blockade would have been more effective and far less bloody. Without Virginia and North Carolina, the treason of the deep south cotton states would have been over in a year or two at most.

        Think about it…Florida and Texas were undeveloped states on the fringe. That leaves just five states seceding–Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. How long do you think they would have lasted after a blockade was put in place? They would have been completely cut off and isolated and not even close enough geographically to attack the north. How would they attack the north when North Carolina and Virginia are still in the union?

        Arkansas and Tennessee went out when Virginia and North Carolina did.

  13. The problem, in my mind, was more about how men and women perceived themselves in social stature; owning slaves was in the 18th and mid 19th century symbolic of class, wealth, and superiority in the minds of wealthy plantation owners in the south, however cruel and erronious a notion that was and is. Today, it seems that white men who are insecure, being pinched economically, turn to old, ugly racism as a way of trying to increase their self-esteem (by having someone else to look down upon), and to have someone to vent all of their frustration on.
    The Confederate flag has a mixed record, symbolic of independence, rebellion and due to racism’s appeal among those feeling insecure, the chosen symbol of hate groups; it ought to be retired from service, replaced with symbols keeping up with the times.

  14. It is ridiculous to make such a big deal over flying the confederate flag. Southern states should have the right to fly the flag and be proud of their heritage. Many blacks proudly wear African garb to symbolize pride in their heritage when in fact may of the slaves that ended up in America were already enslaved in Africa and were sold to slavers by blacks themselves. They are making a big issues out of this because Dylan Roof was in pictures with the flag, well he also had flowers in the pictures lets have the flowers removed from the statehouse as well. While slavery was an issue, the civil war was not just about slavery. Taking down many peoples symbol of their proud heritage will do nothing for race relations. And while there are a few individuals that embrace the flag as a symbol of hate, they are few. Even if stores stop selling confederate flag merchandise and the flag disappears from the earth what have you done to stop hate? In fact it’s just another reason for southern whites to be angry and hate groups will just embrace another symbol. I suppose we should tear down the pyramids as well they were built by slaves? Oh wait it’s only offensive if color is involved right?

  15. ” Those who fought beneath the Confederate flag were fighting to retain slavery. ”

    True of the elitist officers and those of the academic class (such as yourself Professor Cole) who were huge supporters of the central Confederate government.

    But the private soldier most likely had no slaves what so ever. Typically it was a ‘rich mans war and a poor mans fight’.

  16. I have lived in SC for 38 years. When I first saw the Confederate flag around homes, pasted on car bumpers, , trucks..on shirts etc. It scared me, it made me
    feel unsafe in the area. ” Dam Yankees go home!” You could feel the hatred everywhere, stores, restaurants even law enforcement.
    This was not my Town, it was that’s flags town.

    The mentality of the southerners was very disturbing.
    Take the flag down: Peace, Truth and Justice for All.

  17. I doubt they will but,,,
    If they really take that rag down in SC & MS,
    I’ll drink a Bud-Lite-Lime.
    I won’t chug-a-lug it like John Oliver did,
    but I’ll finish it off,,, eventually. OK?

  18. If only the frequent school massacres in the US sparked as much outrage against gun violence and the plague of guns that is an American cult, and spurred action to correct this, as the Charleston killings have produced against a mere symbol and piece of cloth. But Americans usually favor symbolic action over practical action, and won’t question the death-grip the gun lobby and gun worshippers have over national policy. Much easier to pick on those despised rednecks and bigots of the South and target a flag that doesn’t have a well-funded political action committee to defend it.

  19. Any official action(s) regarding the confederate flag should be put on hold. Give no more notoriety to the to the ill individual generating the current discussion.

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