George Washington, Confederate Idol?

Was the Confederacy justified in using Washington as a patriotic icon? I don’t think so, given his strong support of the Union and his warnings against sectionalism in his day. But take a look at this article and let me know what you think:

Why shouldn’t they? He was revered as a founding father just as we in the U.S. do. Remember, from a Confederate POV, the US took a wrong turn between Washington and 1860, and the Confederates felt that they were establishing a union more along the lines of what the FF intended.

Weirddave, did you read the linked article?

So, they picked the things about him that they liked, and ingored those that didn’t fit their worldview. Color me not surprised.

Yes. Why?

The author attempts to extrapolate that Washington would have supported the Union in 1860 because he supported it in 1787, and because he had reservations about slavery. A dubious proposition, in my view.

Yes, Washington supported a strong central government–when the alternative was the Articles of Confederation or worse. And yes, he had reservations about slavery, as did every Eighteenth Century slave owner. It was only after the institution came under attack that slave owners developed asinine rationalizations to defend it.

By 1860, the world had changed, and no one can say how Washington would have reacted.

As for the Confederates “appropriating” his legacy, I don’t think anything done in defense of slavery was “justifiable”, but it’s certainly understandable. By way of analogy, when the United States seceded from the British Empire, we didn’t repudiate our entire British heritage. Indeed, the revolutionaries thought they were better upholding British tradition (rule of law, representative government, trial by jury) than the usurping King and Parliament, who had deviated from proper constitutional practice.

Just like the Confederates thought they were being better Americans than the Yankee blackguards. I don’t agree, but George Washington might have.

Because it gives the lie to the point of view expressed in your post.

It does? How?

Perhaps you should read it again (if you have in fact read it at all).

Washington was no advocate of states’ rights (he was a strong unionist), nor of the institution of slavery (he advocated gradual abolition).

The Confederacy was in no way what that particular “FF intended.” Cite.

Not sure that snark is approriate, spoke- — I think that reasonable minds can differ about what a man dead for over 200 years would have felt about an event that occurred 60-some odd years after his death.

Mmm-hmmm… With apologies to Freddy the Pig - I’m going to quote the entire of his post:

Read that.

I find it fascinating that you are using the very article that we are debating (on its merits) as a cite for this statement. The author of that article is advocating a point of view. Maybe he has a point - maybe he doesn’t. But reasonable minds can differ.

And for the part of my post that got away:

Re: The Confederacy being closer to what the “FF intended.”

Weirddave is not really arguing that the Confederacy was indeed closer to what the FF intended - but that some of the participants of succession might have thought that.

Re: The OP - were the Confederates JUSTIFIED in using Washington as a patriotic idol?

I don’t see why not.

For my part, it’s clear that - for purposes of political pragmatism and necessity - the Founding Fathers “ducked” the issue of slavery. In effect, they left that pot boiling and boil it did in 1860.

The Confederacy appropriated Washington because he was a rebel (against Britain) and in rebelling, had established a new nation. Then he had led that young nation to stability. Sort of like they were trying to do. Seems like an ideal idol to rally around to me.

As for the details… So Washington wasn’t too keen on slavery? So what, neither was General Lee. So Washington was a strong federalist? So what, if had been around, maybe he would have felt the same way about the newly born Confederacy. There’s just no way to know how he would have felt, so opportunists on BOTH sides (yes, kick me for calling Honest Abe an opportunist) used Washington’s shadow to advocate their point of view.

So, I think it’s justifiable. Although I think it’s almost impossible to say what Washington truly would have thought of the whole mess.

Gee spoke, you don’t read very well, do you?

Yes, Weirdave, I read quite well. Here is the relevant part of your post:

If you had read the article, you’d see quite clearly why they shouldn’t.

But then, I don’t believe you had bothered to read the link before you posted.

In 1860 when the issue of state power (Confederate) vs national power (Union) led to war, Washington was invoked by both sides. The evidence presented in the article is that in the 1780’s when the issue of state power vs national power arose, Washington was an advocate for national power and arguably would have chosen that side in 1860.

You may read well, but you don’t comprehend for shit. And you have a very poor grasp of history.

Is this the Pit? Start a thread there, and I’ll trade insults with you.

In this forum, I’d rather see if you have anything to offer intellectually. So far I’m not seeing any reason to think so.

Try this little exercise: Make a factual assertion and back it up with a cite. If you think (as you seem to) that it was appropriate for the Confederate government to claim Washington’s mantle, explain your reasons. Do you suppose that Washington would have supported the Confederate cause? If so, please explain why you think so. With cites. That’s how we do it here in GD.

It was a satirical post designed to highlight the fact that Weirddave didn’t bother to read the OP’s cite before spouting off. (Explaining this takes the fun right out of it.)

Nevertheless, the cited article is chock full of quotes which suggest that Washington would not have supported the Confederacy:

I see nothing there which remotely suggests Washington might have been swayed to support the Confederacy. He expresses plainly his support of Union and his opposition to smaller confederations of states. Moreover he disparages slavery, which according to Confederate VP Alexander Stephens was the very “cornerstone” of the Confederacy.

So the OP has provided a cite, with references to primary sources, which support his position.

It is now incumbent upon the posters who think it was proper for the Confederacy to appropriate Washington’s image to show why. If you trhink Washington would have, or even might have supported the Confederacy, show us what makes you think so. All I see so far is bald assertions, unsupported by evidence. “The world had changed?” In what way, specifically? And how might that have changed Washington’s thinking?

There were still plenty of Southerners at the time of the Civil War who advocated preservation of the Union and gradual abolition. Why do you think Washington would have been any different?

Dave, I think spoke is pointing out the difference between Freddy the Pig’s response, in which he identifies and refutes the points of the linked article, and yours, in which you essentially seem to be ignoring the article.

Was it appropriate for the Confederacy to claim Washington’s support? Sure. They were trying to justify succession and rebellion against a government they claimed no longer represented them. Who better to claim as your hero a prominent…the most prominent Virginian, who did just that (and who was your best general’s step-great grandson in law).

Does this mean that Washington would have approved of the Confederacy or its values? Like the article says, almost definately not. He likely would have been a staunch Unionist. But, he was dead at the time, and when you’re a dead national hero, you’re going to be appropriated as a figureheadby the types of people you’d cross the street to avoid.

  1. Slavery was under attack in 1860 in a manner in which it wasn’t in the 1780’s. In the 1780’s, the consensus both North and South was that slavery was in decline, and could be contained (there was little opposition, even in the South, to the exclusion of slavery from the Northwest Territories), and would eventually die of its own accord. It was easy for a Southerner of Washington’s generation to express reservations about slavery.

By 1860, the cotton gin and cotton cultivation had spread throughout the South, and it was obvious slavery wasn’t dying. Northerners opposed it and fought to stop its spread, or abolish it altogether. Slave owners, in response, defended slavery as a positive good and insisted on its legality in the territories. By 1860 it was all but treasonous for a white Southerner to express anything less than unqualified enthusiasm for slavery.

Had he been alive in the 1850’s, Washington would have been inundated with pro-slavery arguments from his neighbors and colleagues, and required to conform if he wished to maintain a political career. Maybe he would have had the integrity to resist, but to assert it based on his behavior during the very different era of the Revolution is a long leap.

  1. The antifederalist agenda of the 1780’s, which Washington opposed, was rather different from the Confederate agenda of the 1860’s, which Washington may or may not have opposed. The antifederalists opposed any central authority; the Confederates merely wanted to replace the one in Washington with another in Richmond which would embrace slavery.

Many of the fears which drove Washington to support federalism in 1787 (for example, that the new nation would be unable to defend the frontier against Indians, or maintain its credit, or would fall under European domination) had abated by 1860. Agan, it’s a leap to assume that a person who took a federalist position in response to given issues in a given era in 1787 would have done the same in response to new issues in a new era in 1860.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t think it was a bad article–Washington was, after all, the founder of the Federalist Party, and his federalism is worth highlighting. But I part company with the extrapolation to the Civil War era.