- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2000

Times reporters respectful during family's bereavement

On behalf of the Del Ray Baptist Church and the Arthur Shifflett family, we offer our sincere thanks for the cooperation and understanding of your reporters during the family's bereavement and funeral of their son, Kevin.

We approached these events with some degree of apprehension, realizing that such a tragedy is indeed an interest to many and worthy of the media's competitive nature.

All of your reporters who visited the church were most courteous and maintained themselves well within the ground rules that were requested by Mr. Shifflett so that his family and friends could come to grips with their loss in a private manner.

We all appreciate these courtesies and the positive photos and comments that were presented to the public.

CLETA E. MALONE

Chairwoman

Building and Grounds Committee

Del Ray Baptist Church

Alexandria

Readers say Pat Buchanan's enslaved to a mythical 'lost cause'

In "White flag or battle flag" (Op-Ed, May 2), Pat Buchanan broadcasts errors concerning Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War that are hard to reconcile with mere ignorance.

He writes: "For in his First Inaugural Abraham Lincoln proposed a 13th amendment to the Constitution to make slavery permanent in the 15 states, and even offered a new federal law to help run down fugitive slaves."

Lincoln was elected on a platform that called for the end of slavery in the U.S. territories. That same platform declared that the federal government had no jurisdiction over the domestic institutions of the states. Lincoln had always insisted that he had no lawful power, and no inclination, to interfere with slavery in the slave states. The proposed 13th Amendment would of itself do nothing to make slavery permanent. Any state might, of its own motion, abolish slavery as all the Northern states had done. Under the antebellum Constitution, only state action might abolish slavery in a state.

Lincoln did not offer "a new federal law to help run down fugitive slaves." What he did was propose changes in the 1850 law that would offer protection to free blacks against false enslavement.

Mr. Buchanan also writes: "To Horace Greeley, Lincoln protested that if he could restore the Union without freeing a single slave, he would do so. In his Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln denied freedom to the slaves in Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia and parts of Tennessee."

Lincoln's famous letter to Greeley in July 1862 only reaffirmed his understanding of his constitutional powers as president and commander in chief.

He was engaged in suppressing a rebellion against the lawful government of the United States. He might confiscate the slave property of those in rebellion, but he had no authority to confiscate the property of those who were loyal citizens. Lincoln's antislavery policy was directed only against the extension of slavery in the territories, a goal accomplished in 1862 by a law passed by Congress.

For that law to be effective, however, the Union had to be preserved. Lincoln, however, refused to go beyond his political and constitutional mandates. What he was telling Greeley was that freeing slaves in slave states could become lawful only if indispensable to the military goal of suppressing rebellion.

The Emancipation Proclamation excepted those areas not in rebellion because, to repeat, Lincoln did not think he had lawful power to take the property of loyal citizens. The proclamation, however, did fulfill its mission of breaking the back of the Confederacy and, ultimately, guaranteeing the end of slavery and the freedom of all the slaves.

HARRY V. JAFFA

Claremont, Calif.

SETH LEIBSOHN

Washington

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Upon reading Pat Buchanan's lament about a "culture war" that is tearing at the heart of our beloved America, I was reminded of what a former president once said: "There you go again."

According to Mr. Buchanan, all Christians with Western European roots must take heed, for the cultural apocalypse is at hand.

When speaking of the Confederate flag issue, Mr. Buchanan wrote, "[T]his assault on the battle flag … is a minor skirmish in a culture war where the end goal is extirpation of every symbol that testifies to America's Christian and Western character and heritage."

One is left to conclude that all that has made America great is under siege and, therefore, America's future is in grave jeopardy. Apparently within our midst are those who seek the "deconstruction of our country" by suggesting that perhaps America has not yet acknowledged all the facts with regard to her history.

I fail to see, however, how the arguments that Christopher Columbus may have had less than noble intentions with regard to American Indians or that Thomas Jefferson may have had a sexual affair with one of his slaves are in any way a threat to our way of life as a freedom-loving country.

America is not a great country because George Washington and Abraham Lincoln each had their own holidays or that government-mandated prayer was once allowed in public schools or even that our government institutions presuppose the existence of a Supreme Being.

America is a great country because our design of government acknowledges the human rights of all people no matter what they believe. In America, every citizen is to be treated with equality and given full recourse to the law. When America falls short of these ideals, we all have the right to voice these failures and demand redress of such wrongs.

Yes, the founders of our government were Christians from Western Europe, but that does not preclude others from voicing their concerns in our government about the kind of place America should be.

Where Mr. Buchanan sees sinister work being done to America, I see that our true values of equality and free speech are being embraced by so many people who are now finding their voice and expressing their concerns.

What matters is not cultural differences or religious beliefs, but the willingness to acknowledge the rule of law and the virtues of representative government.

It is not just Mr. Buchanan's Christian beliefs or Western heritage that make America great, but also that others can choose not to share Mr. Buchanan's beliefs. And they can announce their beliefs no matter what the established traditions and heritage may be.

Furthermore, our duty as Americans compels us to listen to the concerns of all Americans without becoming suspicious and defensive.

KEVIN P. CICALA

Waldorf

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Pat Buchanan made a number of assertions in his column on the Confederate flag that cry out for refutation. Mr. Buchanan is not alone, however, as I hear the same claims again and again with regard to the Confederate flag controversy in South Carolina.

Someone needs to assert to the contrary: Slavery was indeed the main cause of the Civil War. Debate has swirled around this issue for decades and scholars have come down on both sides of the issue.

I believe, however, the totality of evidence shows that without slavery there was no social or economic rift between the North and South of sufficient force to have led the South to attempt to leave the Union. Slavery was the underlying basis for both the social and economic system of the antebellum South.

Despite Abraham Lincoln's assurances to the contrary, the landed aristocracy of the South saw the 16th president as a threat to their way of life. They could no more imagine living without slavery as we today could imagine living with it.

Many will disagree with me, but before doubters revile me for diminishing the "lost cause," I suggest they read Alan T. Nolan's "Lee Considered," one of the clearest and most straightforward presentations of this issue.

I am new to this area, and I confess that I do not understand the intense romantic attachment of so many to what was at its root a fundamentally flawed cause.

The South fought to preserve a social and economic system based on two institutions that are antithetical to the cherished American ideal of freedom slavery and the aristocracy. In other words, the South fought to preserve the ancient ideal that a person's inherent value is determined by his station at birth. The human race was sufficiently enlightened in the mid-19th century to know that the enslavement of fellow human beings was wrong.

While we rightly honor the common men of the Confederacy who nobly fought for a cause in which they believed, we also rightly condemn the cause for which they were induced to fight.

The Confederate flag is a tangible symbol of this cause. That it is highly offensive to a large segment of the American public is not only inevitable, but also understandable. Its state-sanctioned public honor and reverence are inappropriate in a pluralistic society such as ours.

GARY WOLLER

Rockville

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Spare us Mr. Buchanan. Just because Abraham Lincoln would have put saving the Union before the preservation of slavery does not mean that slavery and the Confederacy were not abominations.

Recognizing that some symbols of the Confederacy and all it stood for are offensive to many Americans has not a thing to do with the culture wars.

I am an opponent of Jefferson debunkers and multiculturalists and refuse to be lumped in with them by opposing hateful symbols of slavery and the entire antebellum social structure, without which we are a better people and a better country.

GARY LAMBERT

Lafayette, Calif.

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