The Charlotte News

Saturday, June 4, 1938


Site Ed. Note: We doubt the first editorial, for its undying veneration to the Confederate dead, was by Cash. Cash did not appear to hold such a brief. On the other hand, counterbalanced this date by "Marion Butler", it might have been--to suggest finally that you really cannot have one without the other, premature death and rampant destruction to avenge some felling of wrong bringing only the reckless sentimentality and more cycles of same to avenge that yet which went before the last.

Cash did not look upon the Confederacy with disdain, it would appear, but tried to understand it, without offering the incessant excuses which many did and in fact some still do. Some of that has passed away from the South but much of it appears still to remain, as was amply reflected in the passionate response to the Civil War documentary of Ken Burns sixteen years ago, a fine documentary in its overall impact but also overly appealing to sentimentality, especially as to the recurring readings of the fanciful entries from the dazed Mary Chestnut.

It is a fit study, in our opinion, to understand the Civil War from both perspectives as an example of what not to do, to learn from that history of the mistakes, that one does not haul up arms in disagreement and start firing at one another, but blushingly to offer stupid obsequies to the Confederates who in fact were nothing more than a bunch of ignorant fools, many conscripted, who were acting as traitors to their land because they were bred as racists, both adamantly cruel and paternalistic, sometimes by shades of mood in the same person, to defend a corrupt economic system which did most of them only harm economically, themselves nearly equally slaves to the plantation system as the slaves proper were, is, well, stupid.

Even the conscripts, at least in North Carolina, could sue under habeas corpus and be freed from conscription or, in the North, buy their way out of it. So, for the most part, those who fought did so out of some sense of nationalistic loyalty, confused though that loyalty obviously was in the South.

The North fought honorably, to preserve the fabric of the Constitution; the South fought disgracefully to undo it and keep up the fantasy of a life believed to be reliant upon the subjugation of others. This concept, passed generationally, is still quite evident within an ever-diminishing subset in the South, a foolish and tenaciously held consistency of practice to maintain foolish traditions thought to be sacrosanct and somehow even rationalized as part of religious doctrine--just as it was in antebellum days.

It is why, we suggest, that many of the howls and calls for deporting Mexican workers are originating from within the South, (or from a subset in Southern California, a subset not entirely different sociologically from a good portion of the South, having been in great part founded by refugees from the South), the present Administration's last bastion of support--and only clear regional bastion of support with any large populace in it from the beginning.

These very notions regarding the hot buttons in Southerners over the Civil War is likely the reason Cash made little direct mention of it in his book, especially at a time when the country was heading into another war, and at a time when it was drippingly celebrating Ms. Mitchell's work, both in print and cinematically, as well the 75th anniversary of the end of the war by 1940.

It was, in the end, a disgraceful affair to the Constitution and to all for which this country stands and for which it should have stood consistently from its foundations; but, with the South threatening to remain even at the founding a confederation of states, nothing could be done for this stubbornly recalcitrant region, stubbornly clinging to the ancien regime and its sentimental tears wrenched to justify it, because it was a tradition without which the South would not have been, most then thought, without its unique bi-polar character. And so, without the shedding of more blood, its ritual sacrifice would be lost to the cause of the perceived demonic influences from the outside, those who couldn't understand this battle within--within each of us, ultimately.

It is, at base, the emotion of the blood sacrifice on the cross at the heart of it, not understanding enough the laughter but only the tragedy of life. The typical Southerner laughs only at the foibles of the outsider, perhaps even himself, but rarely understands the laughter of life, that is the laughter in the poetry, the laughter in the Bible itself, not in ridicule but in shaping the sensations which the various parables ultimately are meant to convey, to get along with one's neighbor and else.

"Je-he-sus died for me and my si-hins, and so I'll cry and cry until this blood sacrifice they did to Him is repaid with blood on Them, the heathens, the Catholics, the Jews, and those among them who wish to tell us how to deal with our Negro problem with which only we, sir, know how to deal."

That is the conscious or sub-conscious thought-simplex to which the greater part of the simpler, lesser lighted South boils down, even within recent times.

It is stupid and ridiculous, childish and pitiful. And drippingly to memorialize the Confederate dead is just another part of that old simplex.

And of course, it misunderstands the whole basic point of the Biblical parable of Jesus, at its heart, to lay down the weapons and achieve understanding in peace, not to fight over which verse should have the most forceful meaning of the moment, to fit momentary events, momentous or not.

It misunderstands even so simple a thing as "a time to kill" from Ecclesiastes. To square that with the proscription on killing, one does not obviously view a certain season as the killing season, all other times of year to be held sacrosanct. It is a reference plainly, in context, by the seasons, to a healing notion regarding the harshest results of Nature itself--that Nature, apart from the influences of Man, does at times kill, whether individually, as we all ultimately succomb to Nature, or en masse in some cataclysmic event, be it the flood or fire. That, in our estimation, is the resolution exegetically of those seemingly conflicting phrases. Otherwise, you just pluck 'em as you please, chicken-flew plucker, until all the feathers are gone.

And it is, this misunderstanding, precisely why this country is in the present situation it is, because of tear-wrenched people, predominating in the South, though elsewhere also obviously, still who are susceptible to being shined up a tree of sentiment by some huckster who sells them snake-oil, sentimentality, feeling rather than thought, about many things, but, especially and most critically to our collective future, the appeal to intense nationalism regarding going to war when there isn't the least threat calling for warfare on any sovereignty. Install someone who will bring back that old Cold War tension we all missed so much in the Nineties, together with its inevitable partner, economic woe and near depression, both economically and spiritually. And so we did, and so we did.

What we need, perhaps, is a Royal Commission to look into it all, for it takes sometimes a Royal Commission to find out the problem with those who think they are Royalty, as strange as that ironic complexity may at first sound. We did it once in 1973-74. It is time to do it again. And if the Republican Congress won't, then it is time for the Republican Congress to go home.

But, all that said, we had no idea that J. E. Hoover fought for the Confederacy. So, without this piece, we wouldn't have known that factum. We are glad to know it as it clears up many things.

Sorry, if we tipped your canoe unduly. But we saw some snakes in the trees and would not wish you to be bitten by them.


William Henry Harrison (Tippecanoe and Tyler too) had just become President, only to die within a few weeks. The new republic had only eight Presidents. Florida wasn't even a state, neither was Texas. The War with Mexico hadn't been fought, but already another war, a bitter internecine struggle, was shaping up when James Porter, who died yesterday, was born.

The young South Carolinian was of the prime generation for this war, and he fought with the Army of Northern Virginia--fought in every major battle of that army, it is said, except Gettysburg. In his latter days, he was wont, as old men are, more and more to re-live those times with his few remaining comrades, and the bare squad of them who are left in this county will miss him. To him, James Porter, all the honor that a no longer existent nation can bestow, and to them--Thomas N. Alexander, A. S. Beaty, C. W. Benson, J. E. Hoover, D. W. Mayes and J. R. Paul--our continuing affection and veneration.

Site Ed. Note: Their numbers in life within the county would be reduced to but two by March 20, 1939; yet, sadly, the spirit of their cause would continue to linger, dispiritedly so, killingly so, to those who stood for anything outside their gestalt, from that of those at least who never became from their callow youth more than what they had been then, the lone adventurer, the rebel Confederate, full of fire and unremitting independence, charging that little hill, lonely and lost to them always, an unholy linger--ghostly, pale, cutthroat, stark, damned for all time, shuffling the echoing hallways of Charlotte still on their final retreat to the haze in those spring days of 1865, carrying with them still the iron from the heights of Chickamauga above the Clouds, the shallow pits at Sharpsburg, and on in the blood curdling yell, the echo--and so for decades after their last frail bodies finally were enimgled with the dust again, they, notwithstanding, by the rails which were twisted about their necks in olden times, continued to charge, to rage, to yell, to fire, to fall, and kill--kill--kill, by the tracks, by the rails.

Election Day

Like hawkers in some market place, the poll workers press cards upon you. That is good for the printing business, but if anybody's mind has ever been influenced by this impersonal solicitation, he probably changed it before he put down his mark. Inside, the election judges and registrars, take a keen interest in the proceedings, since it is early yet. Later, before their twelve-hour stretch is over, they will look upon every application for ballots as almost a personal affront. And before the long counting is over, they will hate the candidates themselves with a low and deadly hate.

In the curtained booths, much scratching, both of tickets and of heads. Gosh all hemlock! Who are all these birds? Never heard of half of them? Do they all live here? Ah, here's a familiar name. Oh, Mr. Election Judge, is Charlotte Township the same as Charlotte? Well, that's that.

The people who thus exercise their franchise have the comfortable feeling of having done their duty in taking part in the formation of their governments. And it is essential that they do so, for otherwise citizenship becomes meaningless and effete. But these casual voters, messires, are not the ones who carry elections. They are too casual about it, and only sway the balance. It is the political organizations, cliques, the tight little ward blocs, the groups of 30 and 40 and 100 obedient voters under the direction of some professional--they actually play the greater part in determining the victors. It is sad, but it is true.

Dusty Answers

In England, when they want to get to the bottom of some complex national issue, they appoint what they call a Royal Commission. That commission holds hearings, gathers and compiles the most minute information, deliberates and ponders independent of any external pressure whatsoever until finally it produces a report which is the last and most comprehensive work on the subject.

Something like a Royal Commission, at least in superficial resemblance, is the Presidential Commission which is to go to England this Summer to examine the British Trade Union Act. But there is a typical difference. This commission is under orders to clear up what the President considers to be a misconception of the British act prevailing in this country--in fine, it is to bring in a directed verdict. And at least one potential member of the President's Commission, CIO's invited representative, is under impulsion not to serve at all if the findings of the commission are to be related in any way to this country's Wagner Labor Relations Act.

The truth about the British Trade Union Act? Only so far as it suits the purposes of the labor movement in this country.

Marion Butler

His name was thunder and lightning in North Carolina once. In the 1890's, which in so many ways begin to seem almost as remote from us as the time when the great pyramid of Cheops was building, a storm was growing--and raging for that matter. A storm which perhaps had in it the promise of our own times.

It had begun with the Farmers' Alliance movement in the 1880's. In the beginning, it was fundamentally and simply a movement of protest of all farmers both great and small--in both the South and West--against an economy heavily loaded against them by the high protective tariff system--a movement directed at the Money Power in Wall Street and at the men who were conceived to be the allies of that power at home. Then the Populist movement was cooked up in the West and the Farmers' Alliance joined in with its demand for such things as popular election of Senators, sub-treasuries, subsidies for farmers such as Mr. Wallace deals out now, and Free Silver (that is, the coinage of silver at a fixed ratio with gold of 10 to 1.)

And over that program the traditionally conservative South and the traditionally conservative Democratic Party split wide open. The greater part of the bigger planters, the industrial and commercial community, and many thousands of the smaller farmers turned Gold Bug and claimed the Democratic banner for their own. And in North Carolina, the lesser farmers generally and many of the tenants, who were beginning to grow bitter after years of steadily falling cotton prices, lined up under the banner of the new People's Party, with Butler, who had begun as a Democrat, at their head.

The fight was the bitterest the state has ever known since Reconstruction, and what made it most bitter is the fact that the split in the Democratic front had brought the Negro back into politics. In the desire to win, the Populists lined up with the Republicans, and began to vote the blacks. The other side, too, used them occasionally, but waged its campaigns more and more on the issue of White Supremacy. Then in 1896 cotton fell to five cents, and that year Butler swept into the United States Senate.

Almost immediately, however, the movement which made him was spent. It fell dead nationally with the defeat of Bryan. And fell dead in the South, particularly in North Carolina, because of the horror generated in the rank and file by the re-raising of the racial issue and such incidents as the race riot at Wilmington--that and the Red Shirts. Butler served only one term in the Senate, though while there he did some useful work, such as fathering rural free delivery of mail. And afterward he was heard of only now and then as a Republican politician. But once men in North Carolina either cheered or cursed when they heard his name.

The Long Faith

Cordell Hull was, for all immediate purposes, whistling in the dark Friday night at Nashville when he once more proposed a drastic scaling down of armaments and the extension of agreements to "humanize" warfare. When a Franco can deliberately murder nearly 500 poor women lined up in the marketplace of Valencia, described by the Associated Press as "far from any military objectives," and when German airmen can deliberately machine gun to death 700 men, women, and children in a village like Guernica, without any military value whatever, it seems idle to talk of "humanizing" war. And with the Hitlers and the Mussolinis and the Francos preaching war as the natural and single glorious end of man, it seems even more idle to hope to scale down armaments.

And yet perhaps he is justified in his faith that presently war will become so odious to the conscience of mankind that it will be relegated to the limbo of things forgotten. As he himself suggested, there have been other things which men argued were just as inevitable as they now argue that war is. Chattel slavery, for instance. It was as old in the mores of the race as war itself. And at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the prospect of ever getting rid of it looked pretty dark: for after a great breaking of chains in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, it was again enormously increasing in the Southern United States and among the English colonies. But actually it was already in its death throes--and perhaps the things we are witnessing really represent the last dying surge of vitality in the war spirit.

Site Ed. Note: Herewith, the solution to yesterday's puzzle.

Also, the front page, with the comparison in Washington Merry-Go-Round of the Cardenas regime's reforms in Mexico to that of the New Deal, among other things.

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