General Lee’s battle flag is also known as the “rebel flag”, and has long been a symbol against central authority. It was, after all, the symbol of the rank-and-file soldiers, for whom the Civil War was by far about resisting an intrusive Federal government, and by less about slavery. General Lee, who adopted the flag as the symbol of his army, had a rather interesting view on slavery

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, there are increasing and ever louder calls for the removal of all symbols, objects and persons connected to slavery or the Confederate States of America. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and so all honors given him should be renamed, and all copies of the Declaration of Independence shredded. Robert E. Lee fought for the South, so all his effigies should be melted down and his rebel flags shredded, even though the Confederacy had nothing to do with the shooting. The Confederacy is no more; however, there still exists an organization that gained power from instituting slavery and segregation: the Democratic Party.

The founders of the Democratic-Republican Party were prominent slave holders, like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Its opponent, the Federalist Party, was founded by abolitionists, like Alexander Hamilton. While the main point of contention was Federalism vs anti-Federalism, the parties were strangely divided between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists. The Democratic-Republican Party split in 1832, due to the rivalry of John Quincy Adams (abolitionist) and Henry Clay (emancipator) against Andrew Jackson (slavery advocate). Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren (anti-abolitionist), James K. Polk (slavery compromiser), and Stephen A. Douglas (slavery fence-sitter) founded the current Democratic Party. The abolitionists wandered in the wilderness for a while, mixing with Whigs, and finally coalescing into the Republican Party in 1854, with abolition as its singular purpose.

During the first half of the 1800’s, slavery was a contentious and persistent issue. Many slave owners and Democrats viewed slavery as a necessary evil, and abolition as unnecessary contention. Thomas Jefferson advocated for mass emancipation and deportation, for he viewed the black race as too childish, and based on the 1791 Haiti rebellion, unable to handle the anger engendered by their enslavement. Another common view held that the black race was simply unable to care for itself, and thus slaves were better off under the care of their masters, and that slavery only needed greater compassion, a view still held by the Democratic Party to this day. Why do you think Democrats promote government assistance programs for African Americans? If Democrat-advocated programs are taking care of blacks, then who is the master?

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