For the most tragic of reasons, but it’s good that apologists for the antediluvian US Confederacy and the war it started are being publicly called out. And for those who aren’t sure what they stood for, as The Atlantic says, “The meaning of the Confederate flag is best discerned in the words of those who bore it.”
It was in South Carolina that the Civil War began, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. The state’s casus belli was neither vague nor hard to comprehend:
...A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
Nor was it difficult to understand in Mississippi:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world. Its labour supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin…
Nor was it hard to understand in Louisiana, Alabama, or Texas. Nor from the speeches of planters like James Henry Hammond – “Our slaves are black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we have placed them is an elevation. They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves” – or of the Confederate president or Vice-president, who declared at war’s start: “Our slaves are black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we have placed them is an elevation. They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves.”
The prevailing ideas entertained by [Thomas Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. … Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
So in the very words of those who bore it, that is what the Confederate flag stood for and stands for. It should be reviled no less than the swastika or the hammer-and-sickle, and for precisely the same reason.
[Hat tip Monica Beth]