Growing up in Germany, at times I felt pride in its military might during the early years of World War II. That conflicted with the shame over treatments in that same period of people who had been cast as inferior by some of my countrymen.
Later, settling in the United States and absorbing my new home country’s culture, I experienced similar emotions getting captured up in songs like “Johnny Reb.” For a while, I was able to put myself at ease, hearing that the Civil War arose from economic inequities between the North and South, not slavery.
Then one day I came across a Feb. 2, 1861, document titled “Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union.” It’s quite specific about the reason for the secession. Talking with others, I found that few people are aware of this declaration.
We have movies and stories of the good old time in the South with its grand antebellum homes. And the admiration for the bravery of its troops has some of us celebrating the symbols of the Confederacy.
While we have a right to express ourselves freely, we need to be aware of what those truly stand for in order to understand others’ reaction to it.
All this notwithstanding, I’m proud of being an American and Texan, knowing we’re striving to overcome those aspects of our past.
Below are excerpts from that declaration which can be found by searching for the above mentioned title in the Texas State Library at www.tsl.texas.gov.
“Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union ... . She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery — the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits — a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.
“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
“That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.”