Richmond’s revenge

Because Lincoln was there, all of his biographers describe it. Here’s how Stephen Oates’s account starts:

At last Richmond came into view, with columns of smoke billowing up against the sky. When Lincoln stepped onto the docks, followed by a dozen sailors armed with navy carbines, black workers recognized the tall, gaunt man with the stovepipe hat. “Glory!” cried a black woman. “Glory glory!”1

The fall of Richmond is still tough for many to swallow down here. Last month, Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination to unseat Senator Kaine in part by defending the Confederate monuments built in defiance after the fall along Richmond’s Monument Avenue. And my aunt corrected me years ago when I told her of my plans to live in Northern Virginia: I was to say “Upper Virginia.” After Richmond, north was no longer on the Old Dominion’s compass.

We wish to indulge this regional pride, of course, without considering its source: an historicist (i.e., lacking a moral compass) account of the Constitution that gives legal sanction to white supremacy. This attack on the Founders’ natural-law principles didn’t stop with Richmond’s fall; on the contrary, as conservative political theorist Harry Jaffa points out, “if ever there was a nation annihilated politically on the battlefield that nonetheless imposed the yoke of its thought upon its conquerers, it was the Confederacy.”2

It seems that the movement toward moral relativism among American conservative leadership that Jaffa warned of3 is complete, and Washington only awaits its conqueror. Those who never gave up the Lost Cause may not have the satisfaction of watching Jefferson Davis stroll the singed streets of Georgetown and Capitol Hill. But they’ll have something better this fall: the world’s greatest exponent of white fascism, Vladimir Putin, will enter our abject capital in triumph, receiving the hosannahs of his vassal and his congressional supporters.

  1. Oates, Stephen B., With Malice Toward None (1977), p. 420
  2. Jaffa, Harry V., A New Birth of Freedom (2000), p. 86.
  3. See, for instance, his 1999 book Storm Over the Constitution, which accounts for the conservatives’ internecine struggle that seems to have ended with Mr. Trump’s election.
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