My Controversial Speech On The Civil War
Hi folks- this is the talk I gave on April 8, 2006 in Chicago at the The College Of Complexes. First- here is a posting I did explaining what happened- followed by the controversial speech.
The talk on the Civil War Saturday night I gave to a two room packed audience actually became an emotional roller coaster. There were people who rose from their seats in shock yelling as I spoke of Lincoln's policies. Others who cheered as I went on. By the end of the night, three hours had passed, the restaurant was closing, it took me twenty more minutes to leave from the people standing around - some still in shock. I was actually surprised the response was far more emotional than the Joe McCarthy speech I gave some months back.
The first thing I said that caused some people to yell BS and a few to walk out, was that historians and the press had long ago wiped out the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves. Here by the way, is what I was talking about-
The Emancipation Proclamation is often mistakenly praised as the legal instrument that ended slaveryâactually, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in December 1865, outlawed slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was actually the SECOND paper to free the slaves in the south! The southern slaves had already been freed- on a document called the CONFISCATION ACT OF 1862. This first document was hidden over the years by Lincoln cultists because it also outlined rules for seizing property and shutting down newspapers that questioned the war. Hiding the first act keeps the public over time from finding out about the ten thousand people held without charges in the U.S.! ( If you missed this talk, you not only missed the fireworks- but many facts deliberately hidden in the history of the war.) Here's my proof:
Now- the speech!
My nameâs Mike Flores and I do many things. I am the 20 some odd year head of the Chicago Psychotronic Film Society. Our events have included a party for the late Russ Meyer, director of films such as SUPERVIXEN and FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL, KILL, hosted an event with John Cleese of Monty Python fame, held parties for Kenneth Anger the underground filmmaker, Penn and Teller hosted a Halloween party for us at Excalibur, Bill Murray hosted a party for our members at his home, and much more. The society was created by myself and the late Del Close of Second City and Improv Olympic fame.
I DJ a new form of music called mashups in the Chicago area under the name DJ Psychomike. Iâve done this about 4 or 5 years at places like THE LIARâS CLUB and SONOTHEQUE.
I work as an entertainer, writer, producer, and director and writer. My shows have included BETTIE PAGE UNCENSORED which ran for 43 weeks and was made into a movie, THE ACID TEST 1966, CUBS WIN!, BRING ME THE HEAD OF DEL CLOSE which ran for 33 weeks and played two theatre festivals.
I also did comedy with Del Close for about 6 years as the Pope of the Church of Subgenius on radio, TV and live appearances.
I am strictly an amateur at history, but as Stan Brakhage the underground filmmaker told me, the word amateur when broken down, means with love.
Because I did spend years in the south, tonightâs talk will be a bit more personal, and different. I will be floating through time on this one, from what I saw as a kid, to our present illusions. The hidden truths, the illusions and just maybe, the why.
I was last here some months back and talked to you about revelations about the CIA in recently declassified files on the McCarthy era. Since that time, in the last month I was surprised to discover that many of those materials have been re-classified. For the first time, unclassified documents that have been available for in some cases years and some only months, were quietly being re-classified. So what we discussed last time may become illegal to discuss in coming months. The New York Times reported that historians and authors had protested these actions and that they have been halted pending a review. What is interesting about this is that we are able to watch right out in the open the mechanizations of creating our history. Usually this happens over time, and not with the wave of a hand of a bureaucrat. Donât like discovering the truth of what happened during the McCarthy era that doesnât fit the âRed Scareâ spin? Donât worry. If they continue on the present censorship you will be able to relax in knowing âwhat everyone knowsâ about McCarthy.
War is part of diplomacy. We like to see wars end and big parades. Wars, or rather, diplomacy doesnât end. There isnât really an end. Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and for over two years while he lay fading in and out and partially paralyzed his wife, now in effect our first woman President, authorized the Versailles Treaty as punishment on Germany. To the average person, the war was over. The anger Germany felt, the economic depression that made some turn to cannibalism, the effect of that treaty would lead to the National Socialists and finally Hitler. So, did the war really end?
Everything Hitler wanted to stop, the reds in Europe, Jews in the Middle East, the British in the Middle East, happened. After the war. Now look at Iraq, Iran, Israel and changing rules in Russia and ask yourself if the war really ended. Because diplomacy we never know 80% of what has taken place, it is hard to know our history.
History can also be lost. Did you know the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the end of the communal farming the first colonists tried here? We had 7 Presidents before George Washington, the first was named Hanson. How did we lose this information? What was life like before the Boston Tea Party? All lost. The Indian wars between Puritans and Native Americans- replaced by school observations that have the Indian share food with the Pilgrims. The reality? Lost. And we arenât even an old nation!
The War Between The States is not immune to time fashioning what happened. In many ways, the war has not ended. The perception of the war, almost always obscuring the realities, keeps the war ongoing.
I was born in California. My father was Mexican. His parents came across the border in Texas and had him here. So he was by birth a citizen as the rules were then. My mom was from Irish stock her family had come here as a result of British policies. That they paired up after meeting in the Navy (both served) how a woman from the deep south at the height of segregation ended up with a Mexican baffles me. And they got away with it. I LOVE LUCY was huge so maybe that explains it. The only celebrity I know of that was an Irish Mexican was Anthony Quinn. Famous for playing ZORBA THE GREEK. I bet there arenât many Irish Mexicans in Ireland.
I grew up in Japan raised by a Japanese nanny, much the same way white children on the plantation I suppose were raised by the female slaves. From Japan we moved to the American South. Virginia, followed by South Carolina and then Georgia. The generation I grew up with had to get out of the house. There were no video games and endless cable channels. Kids on the block would form baseball teams and fight pretend war games. Armed with toy guns we would re-enact Combat episodes in the woods nearby. Sometimes in the dirt coming up with arrowheads on the ground or old musket balls.
Everywhere then was the Civil War.
There were trading cards that came with bubble gum that showed in gruesome detail the violent horrors of the war. There were monuments to the Confederate Generals everywhere. Places that battles took place at had placards explaining the battles that happened there. The big store chain was Winn Dixie. As in Win- Dixie. Rebel Yell whiskey had a Confederate general on the label and was not for sale in the North. The billboards the whiskey had showed the General on raised horse holding a sword, and the tag line was something like IF YOU SEE IT FOR SALE IN THE NORTH, TELL US. WEâLL STOP THEM!
GONE WITH THE WIND was only released every seven years and never shown on TV. The near hysteria over the re-release would go on for a year before the actual date.
I watched COMBAT one night and a southerner was shown on the program. The episode was written and directed by Robert Altman who would later do MASH, and in the episode the soldier carries a southern flag and makes jokes about the north throughout the episode â My granddaddy would never let a car named Lincoln at his homeâ and jokes like that. We as kids tried to play Civil War battles, but no kid wanted to be a Yankee.
There was Aunt Fannyâs Cabin. Located in Smyrna Georgia on Campbell Road it was the most astonishing restaurant I had ever been to. It was huge and always packed, with rows of tables so you were really eating picnic style. A pre-teen black boy would come out in rags with a chalkboard around his neck He would recite what was on the board:
WHATâLL IT BE?
ALL COMPLETE DINNERS
OUR FAMOUS FRIED CHICKEN
GEN-U-INE SMITHFIELD HAM
CHARCOAL BROILED STEAK
FRESH RAINBOWN TROUT
Then the little boy would take off for the next table. Thing is, the chicken really was the best I ever had. Soaked in buttermilk, crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Stone Mountain had carved on one side Confederate Generals. My first time there some branch of the Ku Klux Klan was having a family picnic. No one wore the robes; there were no confederate flags only the stars and stripes. About 100 feet away was an all Black church group having a picnic. No one yelled at the other. No one threw rocks. It was the south.
The schoolbooks I had, hereâs one called ROBERT E. LEE AND THE ROAD OF HONOR printed by Random House had lines like this:
THIS BOOK IS ABOUT A GREAT AMERICAN WHO WAS GUIDED BY SOMETHING HE BELIEVED TO BE THE MOST PRECIOUS QUALITY IN LIFE. IT IS CALLED A SENSE OF HONOR, A FORCE INSIDE US WHICH NOT ONLY TELLS US WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING FOR US TO DO BUT ALSO IMPELS US TO DO IT. ROBERT EDWARD LEE OF VIRGINIA, WHO LED THE ARMIES OF THE SECEDING SOUTH IN THE WAR FOR SOUTHERN INDEPENDENCE, WALKED STRAIGHT ON HONORâS ROAD ALL HIS LIFE.
BUT THE STORY OF LEE OF VIRGINIA DOES NOT HAVE AN END, NOT SO LONG AS MEN RESPECT AND REMEMBER COURAGE AND HIGH PURPOSE AND A SENSE OF DUTY AND HONOR.
My mom was no fan of the old south. She loved GONE WITH THE WIND but for the wrong reasons. I have always suspected that Southern women see in Scarlet OâHara the Irish spirit in love with the land who kept the towns running when the men were gone to war and then rebuilt it from the ashes. Which is what southern women actually did? For men, GONE WITH THE WIND is the story of men dealing with war and fickle women. For women I suspect there is much more.
At least, back then. As a child thinking about GONE WITH THE WINDâŚ..
The Irish that went north took their love of the land in Ireland and kept it with them over the generations. Northern Irish Americans have a point of view and are vocal about it when it comes to Ireland.
The Irish in the south however saw the hills and mountains, the cliffs and lakes, and fell in love with the south.
Recently I watched on the news as about a dozen people from hate groups had united to march through a neighborhood they didnât live to protest black crime. I watched as the hate group carried southern battle flags, and the hundreds who had shown up organized by the Progressive Labor Party, a pro Stalin group, threw rocks- at police. Then in order to teach the hate groups a lesson that frankly eludes me, the anti-hate crowd broke into and looted nearby homes, attacked cars and more. So angered they were by the rebel flag. The tiny hate group didnât even live in the neighborhood! One looter explained the hatred she had for the stars and bars, a flag that to her stood for treason and slavery. States remove their battle flags from their state seals, colleges are pressured to ban confederate flags.
Long gone from TV and film are references to the southerner who still talks bad about the north, but would die for it. Gone is Fannyâs. You can travel all over Atlanta and only hear northern accents. I have seen the history change twice in my life about a period that was over 100 years ago.
My mother tried to instill in me a dislike for the old south and for segregation. I was raised in Japan during my formative years and born in California. This isnât my war.
So, where to start?
Letâs begin with the first war on this soil over slavery.
The abolitionist and religious movements that hated slavery had painted a picture of constant whippings, brandings and sexual abuse. In fact, according to their propaganda, there was little time for actual work. Dunmore suggested to the secretary of state in 1772 using slaves to quell war with foreign powers believing the slaves would rise up and seek revenge on their masters for the daily abuse.
In 1775 Dunmoreâs Proclamation placed Virginia into a state of martial law. It offered freedom to slaves and bonded servants and families if they would fight for the British. Thousands fled the plantations and signed up. It wasnât however motivations of revenge that they fled to the British side for. It was the promise of liberty. Whoever offered the best concrete offer of freedom would get their support.
George Washington urged for Dunmore to be crushed.
At the Boston Massacre of 1770 when Crispus Attucks, a freed black was killed, slaves must have asked âWhose freedom did he die for?â
As the war moved south the former slaves found themselves in Florida when the end came. The British took off on their ships and advised the blacks to head to Canada. It is a long walk from Florida to Canada.
Some tried to swim out to the boats to leave with the British. The sailors were ordered to use their machetes to chop the arms off the slaves to keep them from boarding. Yet they kept coming. Because on the beach, angry former colonists were killing them as they swam in.
The tortures, lynching and murders that befell these blacks as they journeyed north have never been made into a movie or novel. The industrialized states barred entry by blacks (thatâs why the Underground Railroad ended in Canada, not Illinois). It is unknown how many made it to Canada. Until recently it was thought less than 800 blacks joined the British, now we know through records it was in the thousands. It is safe to say that thousands were murdered in gruesome fashion on the journey to Canada.
The British would end all slavery in 1832 in all their territories. If the slave owners had lost the Revolution, they still would have lost all their slaves without question almost 30 years before our civil war, without firing a shot or losing one life.
The stories that were told in the slaveâs quarters were that the tortures and murders were longer and more chilling in the north. Those that had fled with families faced horrors so bad, that the record was until recently, âforgottenâ.
Right about now you should strap on your seat belts and buy me a beer because we are getting to the second war about slavery in this country.
Civil War buffs all know the Robert E. Lee quote, âIT IS WELL THAT WAR IS SO TERRIBLE, ELSE WE SHOULD GROW TOO FOND OF IT`
But hereâs one you may have missed: WHEN YOU ELIMINATE THE BLACK CONFEDERATE SOLDIER, YOUâVE ELIMINATED THE HISTORY OF THE SOUTH.
So I read these words over. When you eliminate the black confederate soldier- what black confederate soldier? What is Robert E. Lee talking about? What did the north and the south tell themselves were the reasons for war in the first place? What really happened?
When I lived down south I had daily reminders of the War Between the States. Bumper stickers that had a rebel flag and the words, DONâT BLAME ME I VOTED FOR JEFF DAVIS, license plates with confederate battle flags and some cutesy rebel soldier with a leg in a cast and the words HELL NO I AINâT FERGETINâ. When I moved up north I had discovered that the north had no interest in the war. Though a great deal of interest in Lincoln. Note the name of this restaurant. The Lincoln Restaurant on Lincoln Avenue in the Land of Lincoln!
It was a let down that the battles I had memorized and day dreamed about were ignored up here, but all that would change with Ken Burns and his PBS show. Suddenly restaurants with southern themes and food swept the big cities of the north. Krispy Kreme donuts suddenly appeared. And horror of all horrors, today you can buy REBEL YELL whiskey in finer liquor and wine stores in the north. I highly recommend the whiskey by the way. I began to find people interested in the war that continues to define us, even though the message long ago replaced the facts. This is knowledge that canât fit on a bumper sticker or a license plate. Much of it will be new. And yes we will find out why what happened to the runaway slaves of the south during the first war over slavery would play a role in the second.
What started this argument between slaves, freedmen, families and everyone alive at the time on earth that read papers?
The Constitution is the first player in this family squabble. The South believed that the Union formed under the Constitution was of consent and not force. The states were not beholden to the government, it was the reverse. The government must always answer to the people. No war without the consent of the states, because the states were the creators of government, not its creatures. The South felt it had earned its independence from England, were granted by England their freedom and sovereignty and had not surrendered these on entering the union. They stated that there was nothing in the Constitution that gave anyone the power to invade a state or use force of any kind against it.
For Lincoln and the federalists, the union was perpetual. The unit could not be divided. The right of self preservation that every nation on earth had so did the union.
When I say the name Abraham Lincoln you have an image in your mind. That image looms large over our terrain and remains a potent image for everything from restaurant signs to poetry to paintings to furniture sales, statues in the park, his face on our coins and bills.
There is no such image when I say Jefferson Davis. You canât get more erased out of history. So let me tell you about him and the times he lived so that I when I mention his name youâll have an idea of the man who doesnât have hundreds of books, TV shows, statues and mythology.
The south itself in the 1850âs had a period of unprecedented prosperity. The laws of how long a slave could be a slave before being freed were in effect, and more and more blacks were becoming free. In Charleston homes in white neighborhoods were bought by blacks and rented to whites. One group of black speculators held properties worth $500,000 in 1850âs money- a mind boggling amount today. About 25% of freed blacks owned slaves in the south- some to free other family members, some to make money and some did both. Freed slaves could open bank accounts, run stores and shops and in the case of New Orleans, actually participate in the local government.
The north has a different story. The north was being hurt- industrialization was expensive. So was building homes and buildings to grow. It was running out of money to change itself, and higher tariffs on the south were used to get that money. There was another way. Cheap labor could have been brought in. But blacks were barred from the states that were trying to grow, Irish tradesmen in the north kept the cheaper labor force out. So the North needed more money and the south felt angry as the tariffs rose.
Jefferson Davis is among the names of the somewhat eccentric or colorful people who make up the story. There was also Judah Benjamin the Jew in charge of the treasury, Colonel Benavides from Mexico and General Standwaite- a Native American who was actually the last southern general to surrender at the end of the war- whom Southern mythmakers would replace with Lee and Grant- even though that Appomattox surrender document was reversed and dropped later.
Davis had told states that wanted to re-introduce slavery no way. He adopted a black child that he raised as his own. Taken prisoner by Union soldiers who beat and clubbed him with their rifles when they arrested him, his child ran out and lay on top of him, absorbing the blows from the soldiers. Yelling for them not to hit his daddy. Which, by the way stunned the soldiers?
Held in prison without charges for two and a half years after the war, he was kept in solitary confinement and was not allowed visits from family or lawyers. The Pope made a crown of thorns with his own hands, cutting himself in the process, and sent it to President Johnson urging him to either charge Davis or let him go. Davis was finally freed after the President received the bloodied crown.
The issue of slavery was a cloud over tariffs and the Constitution. Yet it would eventually replace all the original reasons for the war.
The north killed more slaves in inhuman conditions than the south. It brought the slaves here to New York and New England and did not start selling them in the south until the market in the north was saturated. The slaves built New York City and were instantly forgotten for having done so.
Lincoln let it be known he opposed citizenship for Blacks. He wanted to gather them together, and we are talking about people who had been here a few generations, and send
them back to Africa. He did not bar slave states from entering the union; he did nothing to free slaves in northern states still mostly agricultural. The companies trafficking in slaves during the war staid in New England, and their offices paid tariffs all through the war!
Davis argued that slavery was winding down everywhere. He argued that only by welcoming the freed slaves into the community could the south survive. That played a role in his legal adoption. Robert E. Lee freed his family slaves before the war because he said, âhe wanted no one to say he fought for slavery instead of the right for a state to leave the union.â Article 1 section 9 of the Confederate Constitution outlawed the slavery trade. No more buying and selling.
Blacks could not open bank accounts, own property or work in most of the states in the north. They could in the south. Alex deTocqueville had earlier expressed shock after seeing all white builders and tradesmen in the north when he saw black and white tradesmen working side by side in the south!
South Carolina was the first to leave the Union after Lincolnâs election, half dozen states followed suit. Which at the time included Mississippi, the number one cash making state in the country? And the highest tariff payer.
West Virginia in an irony lost in time. It was created illegally by Lincoln by succeeding it from Virginia. Thatâs right. The man who argued the South had no right to leave the union, he could divide up states if he wanted. West Virginia was allowed to keep their slaves! General Grant took some of his slaves with him into battle, as did his troops. So succession was wrong unless it was done by the government!
For decades southern racists have insisted that the southâs black soldiers saw little combat, and are insignificant. The truth of the matter is that years before the south called up Blacks to fight for the cause and before slavery had become the issue, many blacks served unofficially. Dr. Lewis Steiner was a Yankee that was in Frederick Maryland when he saw the rebel troops on their way to Sharpsburg. Here is the message he sent to the union forces:
THE MOVEMENT (OF TROOPS) CONTINUED UNTIL 8:00 PM, OCCUPYING 16 HOURS. THE MOST LIBERAL CALCULATION COULD NOT GIVE THEM NORE THAN 65,000 MEN. OVER 5000 NEGROES MUST BE INCLUDED IN THAT NUMBER BRANDISHING ARMS, RIFLES, MUSKETS, SABERS, BOWIE KNIVES. THEY CARRY KNAPSACKS, WATER CANTEENS AND SLEEPING MATERIALS ISSUED BY THE CSA. MORE NEGROES COULD BE SEEN DRIVING WAGONS, RIDING ON CAISONS, IN AMBULANCES, WITH THE STAFF OF GENERALS AND PROMISCUOSILY MIXED IN WITH THE WHITE TROOPS.
In all the decades of civil war art, not one painting has ever included the black troops that fought the north at Sharpsburg. Perhaps I shouldnât be so surprised that we have changed out attitudes so radically over time about the war, when the attitudes and meaning of the war were changed half way through the war as well.
That happened with a failed propaganda piece called the EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION.
First, hidden from us, is the fact that the 1862 Confiscation Act had already freed the slaves in the southern states by declaring them âforever freeâ! The Confiscation Act also authorized the seizure of land, homes and businesses that assisted the rebellion. It led to shutting down newspapers, jailing reporters without charges, and abuses far beyond anything done with our Patriot Act.
Lincoln never mentioned or wrote on the First Amendment. He is in fact the only President we ever had that never mentioned it. In all his speeches on liberty, you will find no mention of free speech or a free press.
Lincoln suspended habeus corpus. The confiscation act was used to silence any newspaper that called on the North to use the courts against the south. In fact, if you even told a joke about Lincoln you would lose your home and go to jail.
More than 10,000 were arrested and held without trial or charges. He secretly paid newspaper publishers, and wrote articles praising his actions under assumed names.
There is far more to Lincoln than âHonest Abeâ.
The Proclamation itself was meant to encourage the slaves in the slave states to rebel. They didnât. They remembered what happened to the slaves that had joined the British, and decided to just sit it out. The proclamation however, was a much cleaner paper than the Confiscation Act which freed the same slaves, yet left embarrassing questions about Constitutional abuse away from the prying eyes of historians.
Here in Chicago the Sun Times was shut down. Camp Douglas was a prison for southerners in Chicago. Black confederates were shot on the spot upon entry to the camp. The guards would actually fire into the crowd of prisoners to hit the Blacks. If they had to take down white Confederates to get them, well that just added to the fun. Food for the prisoners was allowed to rot to âpunish themâ. When some Chicagoans signed a petition to allow doctors and food into the camp, all that signed it were arrested and sent to Camp Douglas without a trial.
Southerners began re-writing the war in the 1870âs. To explain the loss of life, the confederate soldier was praised. Duty and honor was what the south came to see as the reasons for fighting the war.
By the war of 1896 the Spanish- American War the courage of southerners in battle was praised, and soon even the North looked with delight at these folks who couldnât let the old south, which never existed, go. Lee became a national hero, blue and grey re-unions would become the order of the day.
The absence of concern for Black people made it easy for the entire nation to romanticize the old south. Interesting that blacks stopped going to the re-unions after the first one.
Today we are just as wrong in our analysis of the war. A great northern migration to the south is currently happening, and northern blacks get angry when they see the Confederate flags and monuments. Yet as long as the story of the period ignores all the other issues save one, as long as the role of Blacks and Indians in the war is ignored, the wounds will remain open, the quest for what happened, unending.