Catholicism and the Old South

My Children, Father, Thy forgiveness need;
Alas! their hearts have only place for tears!
Forgive them, Father, ev’ry wrongful deed,
And every sin of those four bloody years;
And give them strength to bear their boundless loss,
And from their hearts take every thought of hate;
And while they climb their Calvary with their Cross,
Oh! help them, Father, to endure its weight.
— from The Prayer of the South

Following the War Between the States (1861-65), Jefferson Davis, President of the defeated Confederate States of America, was imprisoned with a view to his being tried for treason on account of his leadership role in the South’s effort to make of itself an independent nation. Two years later, however, he was released and went into exile in Montreal (in Catholic Quebec) and then wandered in Europe before returning to these shores to spend his final days in his home state of Mississippi. His release came after a finding by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Salmon P. Chase, that there was nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prohibited the secession of states. If secession was not illegal, neither Davis nor any other Confederate leaders could be guilty of treason.

The treatment endured in prison by Davis — a gentleman, a hero of the Mexican War, one-time son-in-law of a U.S. President (Zachary Taylor), a U.S. Secretary of War and U.S. Senator from Mississippi prior to becoming President of the C.S.A. — ill bespoke those who imprisoned him. It was clearly calculated to break him as a man. For instance, guards were posted around the clock inside his cell in order to deprive him of all privacy, including even at the times every day when nature required that he take care of the most private needs of all.

As unchivalrous and plain indecent as was the treatment meted out to him by his vindictive jailers, President Davis was not without solace during confinement. A rosary sent by some sisters in Savannah reached him. More notably, comfort was extended by the Vicar of Christ himself, Ven. Pope Pius IX. It took the form of a crown of thorns woven by the pope with his own hands and a portrait of the pontiff autographed with the words from Scripture, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

These items, the crown and the portrait, were sent to the Confederate President when he was still in prison and they may be viewed today at a museum in New Orleans. The portrait is an etching. The crown, with thorns about two inches long, is such that it is hard to see how the pope could have fashioned it without hurting himself.

Why did this pope who is a Venerable of the Church — the very one who promulgated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, published to the world the famous Syllabus of Errors, and presided over the Vatican Council that solemnly defined the dogma of papal infallibility — seek to comfort Davis, who was not a Catholic?

Varina’s Consolation

Mrs. Davis also suffered, and also — like the President — received comfort from a Catholic direction. Stranded with her children in Georgia when the fighting was over, her husband imprisoned, destitute, she would later write a friend: “No institution of my own Church offered to teach my children. One day three Sisters of Charity came to see me and brought me five gold dollars, all the money they had. They almost forced me to take the money, but I did not. They then offered to take my children to their school in the neighborhood of Savannah, where the air was cool and they could be comfortably cared for during the summer months.”

It could not be learned for this writing if the sisters who helped Mrs. Davis were the same ones who sent a rosary to her imprisoned husband, but it would not be surprising if they were. Catholic charity, when it is truly itself, is always designed to uplift souls as well as furnish practical help.

Catholic Influence

If Pope Pius sought to comfort the President as well as the man — and when can a man, whether President, Pope or CEO, ever be completely separated from his office? — the reason most likely can be found in an understanding of the Old South’s way of life and by considering the life of the Church in the South both before and during the years that the region fought unsuccessfully for its nationhood. Arriving at the understanding, and undertaking the consideration are worthwhile, since the picture that will emerge is part of the heritage of Catholic Americans in whatever part of the country they live, or even if their own ancestors did not reach these shores until after the War Between the States.

That last point is an excellent one at which to begin to look for the answer to why Pope Pius sought to comfort Davis. (It should be noted that he was the only European prince of the day to recognize — at least in a de facto way — the Southern nation, the Confederate States of America.) Quite simply, though Catholicism was a minority religion in both parts of the country, the Catholic influence in American society was much stronger in the less populous South than in the North at the time of the war. This is because the first ancestors in this country of the majority of today’s U.S. Catholics did not arrive until after the conflict.

To be sure, the potato famine drove many Irish to America in the 1840s and many of them settled in the North, particularly in seaboard cities like New York. There were also other Catholics in the North before the war, notably German ones in southern Ohio and Indiana. However, the great waves of Catholic immigrants that eventually populated Northern cities and would make the Church the largest single Christian body in the country did not begin to arrive until later. Certainly there was no place in the North at the time of the war that could be described as Catholic the way, for instance, New Orleans could.

Moreover, the majority of prewar Northern Catholics, the Irish who had settled in the seaboard cities, were laborers. Their influence was virtually nil in a society dominated by Protestant manufacturers, bankers, and merchants that tolerated them — to the extent it did — because their labor was cheap.

It was otherwise in the South. In a region where family mattered, numerous leading families were Catholic. The Carrolls of Maryland can be cited in this regard. Charles Carroll was the wealthiest man in the Colonies when he signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Many leading Southern families that were not Catholic had members who were. An example would be the Lees of Virginia from whom was sprung the Confederacy’s Gen. Robert E. Lee. A nephew of his was the founding pastor of the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, D.C.

Even when the leading families of the South were not Catholic — and most were not — they tended to have a high regard and deep respect for the Church and her institutions, especially her schools. It was very common for these families to send their children to them simply because that is where the best education was to be had. An example in this regard is Jefferson Davis himself, the eventual President of the C.S.A. His father sent him as a boy to Kentucky to be schooled by Dominicans.

While among them young Davis — he was but nine — asked to be received into the Church. His desire was not realized. Alas, for what amounts to secondary concerns (family, youth, etc.), the Dominicans did not do as the boy wished and receive him into the Church.

Despite the ostentatious piety of many of his public pronouncements, Abraham Lincoln is not known ever to have joined any Christian body as a member. (He did use to walk over to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, a couple of blocks from the White House, on some Sundays, tipping his hat to passersby. This was an 1860s equivalent of the photo-op.) In contrast, Davis embraced a form of Episcopalianism adhered to by many leading Southerners that was very “High Church,” very “Catholic” in its externals. It was exemplified by the cleric who received Davis into Episcopalianism, his former West Point classmate Bishop Leonidas Polk, who would die in battle during the War Between the States as a general of the Army of the C.S.A.

Add to the fact that Davis became the kind of “High Church” Episcopalian he did, the additional one that the southern part of Mississippi from which he hailed was quite Catholic on account of the area’s Spanish and French past. (His home, Beauvoir, was within easy striking distance of New Orleans, where he would die while on a visit.) Further, Davis and his wife, Varina, were comfortable enough around Catholics to count numerous of them among their friends. Then there is also the fact that it was in Catholic places they took refuge when exile was their lot. All this, and more, suggests that the desire of Davis to become a Catholic when a boy was preserved into his manhood as at least a high regard for the Church and an admiration for Catholic culture.

The Pope and the President

Enough of that regard and admiration doubtless was communicated in letters from Davis to Pope Pius for it to be manifest to the pontiff, if only in terms of the letters’ tone. The correspondence between the Confederate President and Ven. Pope Pius IX was not voluminous, but illuminating. It began when Union agents set about trying to recruit mercenaries from such European Catholic lands as Poland and Ireland. President Davis wrote to Pius, appealing to him to exercise the powers of his office to frustrate the recruiting effort. At his end, Pius communicated to the relevant bishops his concern that the recruitment risked internationalizing the American conflict. Moreover, when he responded directly to Davis he took care to address him as: “His Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.”

Some historians have tried to contend otherwise, as if Vatican diplomacy, famous for its punctiliousness, suddenly went slipshod, but for Pius so to address Davis constituted recognition of the existence of the C.S.A. So would the pontiff’s later agreement to receive a personal envoy, an ambassador, of President Davis.

Why did Pius, alone among European heads of state, extend recognition? On this score, there is no particular historical document to which the historian can refer, no memorandum ever retrieved from the archives of the Holy See or Confederate State Department that explains in black and white why he did. We can still arrive at a likely explanation. This will be by coming to a deeper understanding of Southern culture, of the Southern way of life. We shall be helped in this by a remarkable essay, Religion and the Old South, written nearly 70 years ago by Allen Tate, poet, essayist, Southerner, and convert to the Faith. (He also wrote a novel, The Fathers, that cannot be too highly recommended. When it was published in 1938, one critic hailed it as “the novel Gone With The Wind should have been.”)

The Old South, Tate shows, had the only truly European civilization ever known in America. That is in the sense that it was a civilization rooted in its own soil. It was one that produced men who measured their success in life according to non-material standards, perhaps the chief of them being honor. It was an agricultural civilization, and a hierarchical one. That by itself was enough to make Pius or even most ordinary Catholics of the day sympathetic to the South. Certainly the Catholic Bishops of the South were sympathetic. There is no record of any failing to support the Confederacy. One of them, Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston, South Carolina, became President Davis’ envoy to Ven. Pope Pius IX.

The Wrong Religion

Unfortunately — we are continuing with Tate’s presentation of Southern reality — the South did not adopt an agricultural and hierarchical religion to support its civilization. Even the “High Church” Episcopalianism exemplified by Bishop Polk and embraced by President Davis was not very widely practiced by ordinary Southerners. Instead, too much of the South adopted, as Tate puts it, “the Teutonic Puritanism of the New England textile manufacturers.”

The result was tragic. Without the right religion to support and sustain its civilization, the South, it can be said, lost the War Between the States even before the first shots were fired. This brings us close to the answer to a question once asked by the Spanish historian, Salvador de Madariaga.

As have very many other Europeans over the years, the Spaniard once undertook a study of the War Between the States. At the end of it, he asked, referring to the South, “Why didn’t they try again?” That is, he perceived that the South’s struggle was a nationalist one, and he was thinking of European peoples like the Poles and Hungarians who would revolt every 50 years until they finally achieved independence. The South did not do that.

Secession and Racism — Northern Style

Did Abraham Lincoln always hold that secession was treason? Here is something he said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, in 1847, when he was a member of Congress: “Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.” Would not Southerners qualify as being among “any people, anywhere”?

In 1845, fifteen years before the Southern states seceded, many New Englanders were so opposed to the admission of Texas to the Union that they threatened to withdraw from it. They were led by former U.S. President John Quincy Adams. Even before that, in 1806, U.S. Senator Plumer of New Hampshire was so outraged by the admission of Louisiana that he declared: “The Eastern States must and will dissolve the Union and form a separate government of their own; and the sooner they do this, the better.” Plumer was joined by U.S. Senator Pickering of Massachusetts. He wrote: “I rather anticipate a new Confederacy exempt from the corrupt influence of the aristocratic Democrats of the South… There will be a separation… The British provinces [of Canada], even with the consent of Great Britain, will become members of the Northern Confederacy.”

Sen. Pickering’s talk of a Northern Confederacy is striking enough. What asks to be underlined is the reference to the “corrupt influence” of aristocratic Southerners on the nation. Northern leaders saw that Southern society, being agricultural and — like the Church — hierarchical, was different from their own, which had commerce for its main activity and whose leaders (themselves) were bourgeois. They did not like the difference. Eventually it would be eliminated by going to war and imposing on the South a years-long military occupation known as “Reconstruction.” What was “reconstructed” was the Southern way of life. The history of that period is its own horror story, in large part because the time was seen by many Northerners as an opportunity to make of the South a “graveyard of whites,” a region to be governed by blacks “upheld by Northern white bayonets.” One Massachusetts politician even urged that South Carolina, Georgia and Florida “be set apart as the home of the Negro.”

These were Northerners revealed to be — as many would be again at the time of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka in the 1950s — as segregation-minded as any Southerner during the period of Jim Crow, and much more so than any in the Old South when their agricultural labors brought Southern whites and slaves into daily and close contact. Had the Northern dream of a separate homeland for blacks been fulfilled, the suffering that could have resulted, first of all among blacks, is incalculable.

Abraham Lincoln certainly was segregation-minded, but he never envisioned a separate homeland within these shores for blacks. His solution to the problem caused by slavery was more radical. He wanted to “colonize” blacks — back to Africa. In August, 1862, he convened a White House conference with black leaders and said to them: “Why should people of your race be colonized, and where? Why should they leave this country? You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong, I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. Your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while we suffer from your presence. If this is admitted, it affords a reason, at least, why we should be separated.”

Tate, we say, explains why. Having adopted the worst kind of Protestantism (a form of it perhaps sufficient for commercial types concentrated on making money, as long as that is all they seek 1 ), the South quite simply lacked the spiritual resources even to sustain its way of life, let alone to defend it again with arms. What the South needed was the religion whose very liturgical cycles reflect the lives of men attuned to nature’s cycles because they live on the land and work it; men who understand they are equal only in terms of life’s ultimate end, which is to say before God; men bent on loftier tasks than money-making, like preserving their honor; men of peace but ready to fight if need be, like the famous and anonymous Confederate soldier captured after Mr. Lincoln sent his troops into the South and who was asked, “Why do you fight us, Johnny Reb?”

“Because you are here,” the soldier answered.

Although to note it risks widening too far the scope of these lines having to do with the War Between the States, the defeat of the Southerners is paralleled in history, and was even presaged, by that of other gallants — the cavaliers who fought and died for Charles I of England against the Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell. As writer Matthew Anger recently observed in a commentary on Hilaire Belloc’s Cromwell (see The Remnant , February 15, 1998):

“It is important to realize that the English Civil Wars contained within them the seeds of future conflicts and revolution. Unfortunately, we seldom reflect upon the period because it comes so early in the chronology of our own [English] colonial settlement. Yet, as Will Durant points out, the Civil War of 1861-65 was in many ways a replay of events two centuries before, even down to the level of the material and doctrinal motivations. Permitting some degree of generalization, more traditional and agrarian interests were pitted against radical and moneyed urban interests. Both contests, while not overt struggles between Catholicism and its opponents, nevertheless ended in a decided victory for the anti-Catholic tendency. It was a further stage in the ongoing revolt against Christendom begun with Luther and Calvin.”

We have said that many leading Southerners had the right religion, or were sympathetic to it, and it would be easy in a short essay to focus on them, to speak exclusively of prominent men, of heroes of the fighting like the twenty Confederate generals who were Catholic, including, very notably, Gen. James Longstreet, a convert, or of the Catholics who were members of President Davis’ cabinet. 2

Cherokee Confederates

As long as our subject is neglected figures of the Old South, like the sisters who nursed the soldiers’ wounds and the chaplains who succored their souls, it is fitting to speak of a people who had a nation of their own but fought for the South, as allies, as hard as any Confederate. We speak of Native Americans, Cherokees and others belonging to the so-called “five civilized tribes,” but especially the Cherokees, who had an independent nation in what is now Oklahoma.

They were not Catholic, but their constitution, though modeled on that of the U.S., differed from it insofar as it at least stipulated belief in a “Supreme Being” as a requirement for holding public office. So close was their alliance with the Confederacy that they had representatives in Congress in Richmond. A full-blood Cherokee, Stand Watie, was the very last Confederate general to surrender his arms.

Of course the main reason to evoke here the Cherokee-Confederate alliance is to suggest that the Old South may not have been quite as “racist” as decades of hostile propaganda have given everyone to believe. Received knowledge on this subject will be further thrown into confusion if it is mentioned that among the Confederacy’s Native-American allies were planters with slave-holdings greater than were possessed by all but a handful of the small minority of white Southerners who owned slaves.

That these prominent figures existed, and in greater number (proportionally) than in the North, helps explain the Catholic influence in the Old South, but to focus on them would be to distort the overall picture. Many ordinary Southerners were also Catholic. Not a few of them, or their sons and daughters, joined religious orders. In this regard it needs to be remembered more often than it is that Catholic sisters of various orders, in the North as well as the South (more than 600 on both sides), became the first nurses to tend wounded and ill troops during the war. If Clara Barton and her Red Cross get the credit for this, let it be observed that most historians of the war have not been Catholic.

(Thanks to the ministrations of the sisters, many Catholic soldiers who had become lax, or fallen away, were renewed in their practice of the Faith. Though the number can never be known in this world, there were also many beautiful conversions.)

Southern priests were among the first, if they were not the very first, chaplains in the armies of either side. More than one observer would be struck by the sight of one of these priests looking among battlefield dead for a fallen soldier with a rosary or holy medal and then kneeling in prayer beside him, regardless of the color of his uniform. That these fallen existed and that there were Confederate Catholic chaplains to succor Southern soldiers is further testimony to the Faith not being limited to the South’s leading circles.

There is one Catholic chaplain in particular who must be mentioned in a treatment of the Faith in the Old South. This is Fr. Abram J. Ryan. Born in Virginia and ordained shortly before the war broke out, he is known as the “poet of the Confederacy.” One poem of his, Conquered Banner, composed in the immediate aftermath of the South’s defeat and whose measure, its author told friends, was modeled on a Gregorian Chant melody, can still be recited by heart by very many Southerners. At the Confederate Museum in New Orleans, where is displayed the crown of thorns and portrait sent to President Davis by Ven. Pope Pius IX, there is also a beautiful stained-glass window that depicts Fr. Ryan.

What If?

What if the South had succeeded in establishing its independence? At least there would have been an American nation in the mid-nineteenth century marked by a strong Catholic influence. Further, the children sent to Southern Catholic schools by leading families would have grown up and taken their positions as leaders of society; slavery doubtless would have ended; the waves of European Catholic immigrants at the end of the century and beginning of this one would probably have washed onto Southern shores instead of flooding Northern cities, possibly neutralizing or even submerging the “Teutonic Puritanism of the New England textile manufacturers” embraced by too many in the South; and there could have arisen an English-speaking Catholic nation in North America.

Bishop Lynch pays for his “crime”

President Davis was not the only one to suffer after the war. Bishop Lynch, Davis’ ambassador to Pius, was sorely tried. The end of the conflict catching His Excellency in Europe, he was refused permission by a triumphant Union to return to his diocese. Not until Baltimore’s Archbishop John Spalding appealed to U.S. President Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor, was he allowed to resume his duties in Charlston. When he did, it was in a city largely destroyed by Union bombardment (his own cathedral and residence were gone) and a diocese $200,000 in debt — a vast sum in those days. Through his hard work, all but a fraction of the debt was paid by the time he died in 1882.

All that, and more, could have resulted from the one big “if.” There are other “ifs.” For instance, could the War Between the States have ended differently if Bishop Lynch had reached Rome and been received by Ven. Pope Pius IX earlier than a couple of months before Appomattox? It is conceivable that Vatican diplomacy, given time to do its work, could have moved other European powers to recognize the C.S.A., notably France in light of what was then going on in Mexico.

That suggests another interesting “if.” Bishop Lynch was not the only envoy sent by President Davis to Europe late in the war. Another was dispatched to Paris with the aim of obtaining an audience with Maximilian of Austria, about to assume the Throne of Mexico with French help. Alas, he did not arrive in time to establish contact before Maximilian embarked for his new country. What if contact had been made and relations established between the C.S.A. and the Empire of Mexico? At the least it would have been more difficult for the U.S. to act as it did against the consolidation of a Catholic monarchy in North America. To speculate on how today’s world might look if an English-speaking Catholic republic had come to share a border with a Spanish-speaking Catholic monarchy in this continent probably takes the game of historical “ifs” too far.

Whatever, honest Catholics will have to admit that the influence of the Faith is negligible in America today. Our leading families do not seek a Catholic education for their children as did the father of President Davis. Today’s U.S. President sent his daughter to Sidwell Friends, an extremely liberal Washington, D.C., school founded by Quakers, and then on to Stanford University, now famous for abandoning a curriculum based on the achievements of “dead white men.” Now, not only do those outside the Church lack Catholic influence, but modern Catholics lack it as well. Today’s prominent Catholic political figures, such as they be, show their true loyalties by invariably saying, “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but…” As for the way of life, the culture, of ordinary Catholics today, they divorce, contracept and abort at as great a rate as non-Catholics.

If that is the way of things today, Americans who still cling to the undiluted Faith can recall there was a time and place when it was not so. That was in the South before the War Between the States. Recalling it, not merely can they be proud. They can take heart that if once things were otherwise, they can be again — and for not one region only. It depends on our finding in the past the inspiration we need. It depends on us, period. The spirit of the Old South can rise again, and this time animate all of America. A nation with the Faith as influential somewhere as it was in the Old South would be nice. A Catholic America will be better.

Is it possible? If one of the greatest popes in papal history saw enough evidence of the possibility to honor President Davis with the gifts he did, it ought not be for Catholics still clinging to the Faith to abandon hope of living in a land that would be truly home — truly, because it was become, like themselves, Catholic. And that’s not just whistlin’ Dixie! 3

The Problem of Slavery

In pages like these meant to show that Catholics, though a minority, were an integral part of the Old South, that some of them held high positions in the Confederacy, and that their Faith exercised an influence in the region that it did not in the North, it would be intellectually dishonest to dodge the subject of slavery. Obviously there were Catholics among the minority of white Southerners who owned slaves. To be fair to them, however, most understood — as did many slave-holders who were not Catholic — that the slave trade was evil.

The Church understood it. When the Faith was first brought to the Western Hemisphere, and that was first of all to the part of it now known as Latin America, she did everything possible to prevent the enslavement of indigenous peoples, and she largely succeeded. Then, when the Spanish, soon followed by the French, brought the Faith to North America, there was no effort to enslave Native Americans. The effort was to baptize and civilize them, to include them as full-fledged beneficiaries of the expansion of Christendom that was the great European colonizing enterprise of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Only as the English became increasingly dominant in North America and after they began the import of laborers from Africa did slavery become a problem.

A problem it was, but contrary to popular notions nowadays, it was the South that first began to grapple with it even as it was the same region that first met and has most successfully overcome the challenges posed by the rise of the civil rights movement in this century. Thus it was that in 1831, thirty years before the outbreak of the War Between the States and at a time when slavery was still legal in Massachusetts, its abolition failed in Virginia by just one vote in the state legislature.

More to the point of these lines, there was never any Catholic effort, qua Catholic, to defend slavery. We have said there was no Catholic bishop in the South who failed to support the Confederacy. It is equally true that they did not preach about slavery as if it were anything but evil. (An exception is the French-born Bishop Augustin Verot, of Savannah, Ga., who, while defending the institution, was against its abuse, opposed the slave trade, and took great pains to help the negroes both before and after the war. He also gave succor to the Union POWs in Andersonville prison.) Catholic theologians did not try to defend it as very many Protestant preachers did, and as some Fundamentalists, citing biblical verses, still attempt to do. When Ven. Pope Pius IX agreed in 1865 to receive Bishop Lynch as envoy of the President of the C.S.A., the only condition stipulated for his reception was that slavery would not be a subject for discussion. There is no evidence that His Excellency wanted to try to discuss it or that President Davis instructed him to do so.

If much about slavery in the Old South is successfully misrepresented today, doubtless it is for two reasons: 1) A very great deal of hypocrisy has surrounded the issue at the time of the War Between the States and ever since. 2) Much has been successfully misrepresented in the past.

On the latter score, the most important misrepresentation has been that the North went into the war as a crusade against slavery. That myth was born while the war still raged and it was given birth by the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, probably the most widely unread important document in American history (except perhaps for the Declaration of Independence with its talk of “merciless Indian Savages” so shocking to modern sensibilities).

According to the myth, Mr. Lincoln’s Proclamation “freed the slaves.” In truth, not one slave was freed because of it. It spoke of “all slaves in areas still in rebellion,” not the ones in parts of the C.S.A. already militarily occupied by Union forces, nor those in border states or anywhere else. Naturally those in “areas still in rebellion” were not freed by the Proclamation. Mr. Lincoln knew they would not be. His purpose, plain and simple, was to incite them into a rebellion of their own. In that he failed.

That his purpose was successfully misrepresented at the time, and has been ever since, is not owed exclusively to his careful and lawyerly language going widely unread. It also has to do with the hypocrisy that has always surrounded the slavery issue and the matter of race in general in this country. Northern whites, not being willing openly to admit their own feelings of superiority over “inferior” African Americans, have preferred to impute such “racism” to Southern whites, as if this made the Southerners, also, inferior to themselves, at least morally. In this they have been somewhat like famous modern televangelists thundering against sins of the flesh even as they privately seduced young women or men or were patronizing prostitutes. Only, the truth about Northern whites was not exposed by investigative journalists or trial proceedings. It was desegregation of the public schools that did it. Then the whites showed their true feelings by fleeing to the suburbs.

One case will suffice to illustrate the immensity of Northern hypocrisy in the matter of slavery and race. Outside the South, few today know that Gen. Robert E. Lee freed his slaves before the War Between the States broke out. Even fewer know that Julia Grant, wife of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, still owned three slaves at the end of the war. Two of them were rented out. The third, a female also named Julia, was kept by Mrs. Grant as a maid. When Richmond fell and the war was effectively over, Mrs. Grant traveled down there from Washington, D.C., to visit her husband. She took Julia with her. Thus, at that moment, the only slave in the former Confederate capital who was not freed belonged to the wife of the commanding general of the Union forces!

That is the kind of small but illuminating fact that is kept obscured by writers and others who must distort or hide true past reality in order to fabricate a history on which to base a present and future shaped according to their own idea of what they should be.

Here are some other obscured facts:

• We have just reported that the wife of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was a slave-holder. So was Abraham Lincoln’s father-in-law, and Mrs. Lincoln profited from it. Her share in her father’s estate was derived in part from the sale of his slaves.

• No more than one out of fifteen Southern whites ever owned a slave. That means there were fewer than 350,000 slave-holders in all the South. Yet, about 600,000 soldiers served in the Confederate Armies. If, then, every slave-holder was in uniform — and, certainly, that was not so — there were still hundreds of thousands of soldiers with no personal stake in slavery. So much for the idea that it was to keep their slaves that Southerners fought!

• The price of an able-bodied slave at the time of the war was about $1,000 — still a fair-sized sum today and a very large amount of money in the 1860s. How many slave-holders would starve, beat or otherwise abuse such valuable property? Rare was the mistreatment of any slave.

• Most African laborers brought to America as slaves were animists. Nearly all would embrace the Christianity of their eventual owners. Is it likely they would convert to the religion of owners who brutalized them?

• The English were responsible for most of the slave traffic into North America, but not all. This was illustrated in the recent hit movie, Amistad. What the movie did not show was that the leader of the slave uprising, Cinque, went back to Africa and himself became a big-time slave-trader. (The misrepresentation of historical reality never stops.)

1 We do not mean even remotely to suggest that any type of Protestantism is sufficient for salvation, for to deny just one doctrine of the true Faith, is to be out of the way of salvation. It can be said, though, that some false religions have more capacity than others for sustaining a respectable culture on the purely natural level. The closer a religion is to Catholicism, the more of this capacity it has.

2 The first Catholic to attain such rank in any American administration was in Davis’ cabinet. The first Jew, C.S.A. Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, was also a member.

3 The song Dixie, virtually the national anthem of the South, was written by a Catholic, Dan Emmet.

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  • Brnmar

    Father Chiniquy was right. Reading this article confirms what he wrote about the Catholics’ aim for America over 100 years ago.

    He said that Jefferson Davis had been given assurances before the American Civil War that Catholics all over the world would come to the aid of the South. The intent was to establish a nation (in the South) that would be under Catholic control.

  • Father Chiniquy was a scoundrel, a conman, and a fraud:

    That anti-Catholic bigots still cite the ravings of this shyster proves their mental vacuity and lack of intellectual integrity.

  • Brnmar

    I am not anti-Catholic.

    Father Chiniquy was an honest, pure-hearted priest for over 25 year.

    All open-minded Catholics should read his book, “50 Years in the Church of Rome.”

  • Brnmar,

    I didn’t say that you were anti-Catholic. The fact is that Father Chiniquy was dismissed from the priesthood because of his immorality. He then went on to become a professional anti-Catholic of the kind that were in vogue at the time in certain circles. As a Protestant minister, he was accused of misappropriation of funds. The man was, as I said, a shyster.

  • witold

    please send my greetings to old friend Gary, and ask him to be kind to drop a few lines

  • Genfrost
    Judah Benjamin “The Brains Behind the Confederacy.”  Being legally allowed to leave the Union doesn’t make it morally acceptable.  I fall on the side of great priests like Father Hughes and Father Corby.  There is nothing immoral about wanting your country to remain united.  It speaks volumes that the brains behind the confederacy and the Secretary of War was a Jew.  I don’t understand why Traditional Catholics always hold the confederacy in such high regard?

  • Slavery and the trade in human persons was a sin against God and those Catholics who even in private attempted to defend it were anathema and in grave sin.
    We warn and adjure earnestly in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to vex anyone, despoil him of his possessions, reduce to servitude, or lend aid and favour to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not men but rather animals, having been brought into servitude, in no matter what way, are, without any distinction, in contempt of the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold, and devoted sometimes to the hardest labour.  Gregory XVl 1839

  •  We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately, opinions contrary to what We have set forth in this Apostolic Letter.

  • Sue

    You are sadly in error about the cause of the Civil War. While the North may not have been initially motivated to war against slavery, it was unequivocally the purpose of the _Southern_ states to secede to preserve slavery. I refer you to the Declaration of Causes of Seceding States for your proof.

  • Genfrost

    That crown of thorns was NOT woven nor given by the pope. Who started this myth? It was made by Davis’ wife.

  • Bonifacius

    I am writing to concur with Genfrost: the crown of thorns was woven by Mr. Davis’ wife, not by the Pope. There was later confusion on this point, but that is all it is: confusion. The crown of thorns Mrs. Davis wove was hung up near the Pope’s picture and someone or other got the mistaken idea that it came from the Pope. The first article is especially good:

  • Sallie Parker

    Sue: NO THAT WAS NOT THE PURPOSE of secession. STOP with that. GET a GRIP. The “slavery” issue was just chum thrown on the water to bring in the Fire-eaters to get them stirred up, because the Scholastic subtleties of the argument would be too too much for these mostly non-Catholic doofuses.

    “SLAVERY” had become political shorthand; it no longer meant some spurious “right” to own lazy, unprofitable negroes, which was probably a bad idea from beginning to end. It now was a CODEWORD for an entire worldview.

    An exhaustive summation of this outlook is impossible here, but it would have included such obvious realities as the observation that negroes were not humans in the conventional sense; that the “all men are created equal” fluff by Jefferson was never meant to apply to negroes or highly intelligent orangoutangs, however much we may love them or like to see them sing and dance; that just as free men might buy cattle or breed mules, so might they buy and breed negroes, and bring them into territories in which free people might reside.

    If you don’t like this description, that’s fine; but understand that this was the political reality of the 1850s, and the outlook of the secessionists at the start of the War.

  • Sallie Parker

    Judah P. Benjamin was a baptized Catholic. That is how he was able to be married in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

    Some biographers have tried to fuss this over, as though to suggest that he merely pretended to be a baptized Catholic, and the bishop of New Orleans was none the wiser.

    Please! Come ON! If an obvious Jew did not have documentation for his baptism, he was not getting married in St Louis Cathedral. If he wasn’t baptized already, Benjamin got baptized for the marriage.

    The Catholic Church did not fool around. This is not the Big Box Evangelical Holy-Roller Church we are talking about, it’s the real thing, the Church founded by Jesus Christ and Saint Peter.

    Jefferson Davis made many mistakes, but he checked out people’s bonafides. Jeff Davis had deeply wished to become officially Catholic at several points throughout his life, so he definitely would have paid attention to Judah Benjamin’s baptism. And he held onto Benjamin. Baptism in N’Orleans was good enough for him!

    When Benjamin went to England in 1865 and applied for the bar in 1866 he put down his religion as “Christian,” as he was not only baptized but baptized by the bishop of New Orleans…a prelate whom not even the sleaziest low-church anti-Papist Anglican would ever dare to contradict.

  • Davis’s wife did not create the myth, oh no. Possibly she made the crown of thorns, however.

  • Wow. Heady stuff. I am going to need a minute or two to digest it.

  • Eve

    I didn’t mean she started the rumor. I mean she made the crown, not the rumor. I was rhetorically asking who started the myth.

  • Eve

    There is NO evidence he was Baptized Catholic. You can get married in a Catholic church without being Catholic, you just can’t have the Mass. I’ve also seen no evidence about the Davis claim either. Just more myth like the crown of thrones “woven by the pope.” He also made an open and nasty comment about Gentiles being the posterity of swine herders.

  • Eve

    And that crummy battle flag was originally supposed to be a Latin Cross but because the Jews complained, it was changed to an x. The largest ethnic group fighting in the CSA Army was Jews. The largest ethnic group fighting for the Union was Germans. The South was very Jew friendly and they fought not to preserve slavery but to SPREAD it. Lincoln was no threat to southern slavery, but he was determined to contain it. It is beyond me how Catholics have romanticized this wickedness into piety.

  • Eve

    I suggest you read the secession statements and the Constitution of the CSA. Then you can read quotes from the leaders themselves(Stephen’s cornerstone speech is a good place to start). The Imperial south(the north wanted to secede earlier because they were tired of southern war and land grabs) wanted to expand so they could spread slavery. In his memoirs Grant called the Mexican American War one of the most unjust ever waged by a large country against a smaller. Why did the south want that land? For slavery. The south also wanted to force other states in their wicked union(they had two extra stars on their flag for the states they wanted). Where were they going to stop? They were aggressive and obsessed with slavery. Lincoln was a lot more merciful than I would have been. They brought misery on everyone(especially the southern sections that tried to secede from the secession google state Nickajack). The first draft in this country was instituted by the south, Davis had the crops of families impressed to feed the army. He was a tyrant and southerners even said as much

  • Rob

    From Wikipedia – Cinqué and the other Africans reached their homeland in 1842. In Sierra Leone, Cinqué was faced with civil war. He and his company maintained contact with the local mission for a while, but Cinqué left to trade along the coast. Little is known of his later life, and rumors circulated. Some maintained that he had moved to Jamaica.[2] Others held that he had become a merchant or a chief, perhaps trading in slaves himself.[3] The latter charge derived from oral accounts from Africa cited by the twentieth-century author William A. Owens, who claimed that he had seen letters from AMAmissionaries suggesting Cinqué was a slave trader. Although some of the Africans associated with the Amistad probably did engage in the slave trade upon their return, most historians agree that the allegations of Cinqué’s involvement are not substantiated.[4] A dying Cinqué was said to have returned to the mission in 1879, where he requested and received a Christian burial.[5]

  • Gator Joe

    This article is just wonderful! I already knew some of the information in here, but it is so full of shocking facts and very insightful information. This is one of the best pieces I have ever read about the War for Southern Independence; it combines two of my favorite things: Catholicism and the South! I love the opening with the Southern prayer; I will be sure to learn it. I know the Confederacy was a Christian nation, but I was very curious about Catholicism’s presence within the Confederacy as far as specific Christian religions go. I am truly proud to have come from wonderful people who were led by some of the greatest role models in Confederate history.

  • James Crowley

    That’s just terrible, wanting to expand that wicked union. Tyrant? hey smart babe, get a grip, it was crony corporatist Abe Lincoln who suspended the constitution, arrested editors and legislatures who disagreed with him, launched a war that cost 750,000 American lives, and who had barbarians such as Sherman and Phil Sheridan (the only good Indian is a dead Indian) make war on noncombatants in the South. The only imperialists are your big money Yankee businessmen

  • James Crowley

    Great post Gator. My Irish great-great grandparents immigrated as young people (separately) and settled in Mobile, Alabama in the mid 1830s. They met, married and their first born son in America, my great grandfather, was born in 1841. He joined the 3rd Alabama Infantry regiment in 1861 and fought with the Army of Northern Virginia in many of the battles.He was wounded in the battle of Chancellorsville where his regiment led Stonewall Jackson’s famous flank march around the union lines. His grandsons, my dad and 3 uncles all served in the US Army in WW2, My favorite uncle was a paratrooper with the Screaming Eagles who fought at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.

  • GeneDe

    Hello, James… I couldn’t help to say that I have just written a story about a returning Vietnam vet. In that story, there are two brothers — the older was involved in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and served on the carrier Constellation (my own brother served on the carrier Constellation during that crisis). The father of the brothers served in the 101 Airborne Screaming Eagles and also fought at Normandy, Anzio, and the Battle of the Bulge. What a coincidence! The story is in the final proof stage and should go to the publisher sometime in the spring of this year.

  • Eve

    It was the crony capitalists who started the Mexican American War? Manifest Destiny was a product of crony capitalists? Nope. These were southern slavery babies. The Union was about protectionism, not crony capitalism. It was the southern slavers who wanted to expand and conquer. Davis suspended habeas corpus and threw “political prisoners” (one man was jailed for keeping a private diary, I guess that counts as “political”) immediately after Sumter. Confederate leaders even labeled him a tyrant.
    Lincoln did not start the war. The south was attacking the Union before Lincoln was even swore into office. 12 times BEFORE Sumter the Union was attacked by the south. These were ALL acts of war. Davis began amassing an army before Sumter. If you know anything about the Just War Doctrine, then you know that is enough for someone to defend themselves. But that is neither here nor there because the south attacked first and repeatedly before the Union responded. Lincoln didn’t attack Sumter, the Confederates did.

  • Andrew Pieri

    Thank you for speaking the truth.

  • Mr. Pieri: You may be interested in this more recently posted article, too—

  • EnuffBS

    Sorry, Eve… do a little more research– your raising all that hell about the Mexican War doesn’t cut it. It was your pals in the North who were both the imperialists and the racists in the war of the Northern Aggression. And I can’t believe you’d mention the suspension of Habeas Corpus… which Lincoln did and had THOUSANDS imprisoned. Eve if your knowledge of economics is as poor as your knowledge of history–I guess that explains your display of colossal ignorance in talking about Southern aggression in a country where nearly 70% of taxes paid were from the South to an imperialist NORTH that imposed tariff after tariff on them to prop up their own flailing economy–King Cotton, held up the US economy–not those northern textile mills–but they sure as hell made sure the South couldn’t sell to anyone else, nor buy goods from anyone else. Get your facts straight because you’re looking awfully silly.

  • Eve

    I’ve done research. You did not refute a single point I made. The North was not the imperialist, that was the slave owning southerners. Which wars did the North start for the purpose of gaining land?
    Why wouldn’t I mention Habeas Corpus? If you have a problem with it, then you would condemn Jefferson, who also suspended it and arrested people for no good reason. If you don’t have a problem with that, then you can’t have a problem with Lincoln doing it.
    My facts are straight, the only two things the south out produced the north in were cotton and donkeys. The north was far from flailing. Excuse me for not having pity on slave owners being taxed excessively (btw, the south kept some of those tariffs after seceding so I guess they couldn’t have been too terrible).
    And it was the War of Southern Aggression. The only person looking silly is you. You got your free trade now. Did you enjoy that giant sucking sound? Do you enjoy the sin of holding human beings (mostly Christians) as chattel? If the races were reversed, I bet you’d sing a different tune. The south attacked first. The south was aggressive. The slave owners were committing grave sin. Try cracking a history book. You’ll learn a few things

  • Eve

    It wasn’t a conflict between north and south. It was Union v rebels. Many, many southrons were against the war. Quite a few areas in the south tried to secede from the secession. 25% of the Union military was made up of southrons. Every southern state, save for SC, had a Union regiment. The CSA was brutal to loyal citizen (and there were many of them). Without question, if the CSA was muslim and the Union was Christian, you would side with the Union. But because it was White Christians and jews holding black Christians (and sometimes White Christians) as slaves, somehow “states’ rights” becomes more important

  • EnuffBS

    Here’s some research for you: “Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most “sacred” right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world”…….

    — Abraham Lincoln: Floor of the US House of Representatives 1847.

    I mention “habeas corpus” because you so cleverly failed to mention Mr. Lincoln’s suspension of those self-same rights to thousands during the war, including the imprisonment of hundreds of journalists without this constitutional right… so spare me the righteous indignation. I’d recommend a few good books you could read that would actually enlighten you on how the South was RIGHT (with regard to the States’ Rights issue–NOT “slavery” so spare me that canard)… and the North WAS the aggressor in the entire conflict. If you prefer to wallow in your ignorance of the facts and your skewed and ridiculous references to the “South’s” imperialism… failing to note all the similar “imperialist” moves by the much more politically powerful NORTH… then there is no hope of us ever agreeing on this one… so you can remain blissfully ignorant of history, and I will continue to know the truth. It was a war of Northern Aggression.

  • Eve

    That is an excellent quote by Lincoln. He was a great man. The quote applies to the oppressed, not the oppressor. I didn’t fail to mention Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, everyone already knows he did that. What people don’t know is that Jefferson did it too (and first iirc). But that’s never a problem.
    This was not a states rights issue. The south was against states rights. The south was against the northern states making laws preventing slavers travelling there with their slaves. I guess some states rights don’t matter. The south was FOR the Fugitive Slave Act, which crushed states rights (and property rights as well). The CSA constitution would not allow states to join unless they agreed with slaver- again, I guess it’s only certain “rights” states should have.
    The south was absolutely the aggressor. How can you deny undisputed history. The rebels attacked Sumter. And that wasn’t even the first attack. They had been sacking forts in the south for some time. Sherman was working in the south and was so disgusted with the theft and violence against government property, he left. Neo-confederates are ashamed (and rightly so) of the actions of the confederates, so they lie about them. The Union was attacked first and repeatedly and was within the Just War Doctrine when She defended herself.

  • True American

    It’s called the Civil War you racist apologist

  • Name calling is easy. If you knew the man, you’d know he’s not a racist. Some of his favorite places on earth are inhabited by brown people. Seriously.

  • Daniel H

    Couldn’t let this drivel sit here like this. As a Catholic who committed his entire life to the Truth through religious vows, I have encountered the burden of saying something when I see misrepresentations. These attacks on the character of Lincoln that are placed as a contrast to Jefferson Davis are very telling, as well as everything else, and my Church has, from the time of Charlemagne to the time of Victor Emmanuel II, assumed a place that God did not ordain for it.

    So let’s go back to the very simple principles of Jesus Christ. “love one another ,” “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Not all Catholics pine for a return to Christendom, and the ones who do, I don’t even know what to say to them. They are blind and deaf. Jesus came and restored the dignity of the human person. A central teaching of our faith is God becoming a man – restoring our dignity as his image – and calling every one of us brother, making each of us capable of this dignity. Another is that God gave us freedom – the ability to choose with our own will, how we would live. So dignity, freedom, and equality are what God gave us and taught us. And then he taught us we were bound to legitimate temporal authority in a manner that he would not interfere with. God did not make political rebels or extremist theocrats – he commands us to be responsible citizens.

    So let’s get this straight – the United States of America is the ultimate and pinnacle expression of Christianity in political theory or reality. it is the flower of Christian civilization, while the Church is the foundation and the strength. The United States is not a lasting spiritual power or reality, but a temporal expression of Christianity – there is no comparison between it or the Church, or the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven. But it is – finally – a practical application of Christian teaching most pertinent to government/temporal authority to the reality of government/temporal authority. It is based on the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence – God created man, and thus he has an inborn dignity from which are derived his rights – freedom and equality. Abraham Lincoln, it seems, while he meandered in his lawyerese to avoid the conflict and minimize the damage and loss of life, was the only one willing to recognize what our Declaration implied all along – that black people were American citizens and were being held in captivity and bondage by a people that claimed itself independent of the authority of the United States and its own sovereign country, and then attacked a United States installation without military provocation.

    There is no excusing Davis or Lee for these actions, regardless of what they said. What you say is not important when what you do is not the same. Davis and Lee are traitors who kept American citizens enslaved, and Lincoln and Grant fought to free them. Lincoln was filled with doubts at the misery he saw in the world, and Grant was a drunk who did not respect the finest traditions of US Military decorum and professionalism, but with these sinners, God’s justice was served, and the 13th Amendment was passed, and black people, whether by fairness or by cheating, were given the freedom their dignity always demanded, regardless of anyone’s “way of life.” Lincoln and Grant may be excused for their sinfulness – they were effective instruments in bringing America more into conformity with its mission of universal human rights, a mission born from the heart of the Christian message. Davis and Lee are not villainized – they made themselves villains by setting themselves against the liberties of people in bondage.
    The pope is no longer a secular European authority – he never should have been – and the popes have caused much suffering to the people who are blindly loyal to him even in secular matters as in spiritual ones. The Cristeros, fully justified in the armed civil defense against minority freemason dictators in Mexico suffered execution and assassination because of the pope’s call for them to lay down their arms. Crusades and petty conflicts in Europe were ordered by popes who had no place to call for armed defense or attack, no matter how justified. So this “hey, the pope recognized the confederacy, so Catholics should be pro-confederate” nonsense should not be carried on to today, and especially not here. God didn’t force anyone to be Catholic, and God does not side with Catholics if they do not live according to his principles. Neither should we. The Civil War is not Lincoln’s sin, it is the price of the atrocity of slavery – a price is always paid for such diabolical practices, because injustice is contrary to the natural order and causes the suffering by that contradiction.
    And no one should ever pretend that poor whites from the South did not benefit from their society with slavery. With slaves doing menial tasks and hard work, they were automatically not the bottom tier of society, did not have the worst work, and they were certainly willing to fight to keep things that way.
    No one is proclaiming the “North” holy or without sin – but this is shameful for Catholicism to cling to culturalism above its own principles, and to embrace the South/Confederacy on that premise. As a follower of Jesus Christ, nothing disgusts me more than Europhilia that is sold as Catholicism. I love the beautiful cathedrals of Rome and the heritage of Gregorian chant, the Latin rite and European devotions such as Fatima and the Sacred Heart, but I would trade all of it for the three drops of wine and one drop of water in the hand of an imprisoned priest, and the host hidden in a flashlight case, and the pages of the Scriptures buried in the dirt floor of the re-education camps in Vietnam, where the words were memorized and recited through ACTS of faith, hope, and charity. The Church is alive where there are Christians. And Jesus is present where Christians act on his words, and not all of the tradition or majestic buildings in the world amount to those things. No glorious cathedral with a crucifix matches the greatness of a soul bearing the crucified Christ and the grace from the Sacraments, and the vindication of God’s grace by doing the right thing.
    Lincoln, in his doubt, made men free as God intended, fulfilling our Declaration of Independence to a fuller degree. He paid for this act of love for humanity with his life, and therefore was unable to bring his merciful reconciliation with the South to reality – including clemency for Davis and Lee. In what he was able to accomplish, he will be remembered as one of the greatest men in history.