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Is the Constitution Wrong?

Written by Briton Ryle
Posted August 14, 2017 at 1:45PM

I wanted to write something about the market, about investments, something else. Definitely not this. After all, I'm paid for my ability to analyze companies, consumer behavior, and economic trends. I'm not here to talk politics, even though I sometimes stray. And I'm certainly not here to talk beliefs and morality. 

But I'm from Richmond, Virginia, just about 65 miles east of Charlottesville. I've spent a good deal of time in and around Charlottesville — camped in the mountains, learned to ski, been to UVA football and basketball games. So the events of this weekend hit close to home. In fact, it is home.

The second apartment I ever rented was 1028 W. Franklin Street. As it happens, one of my roommates was Dave Brockie, founder and lead singer of a heavy metal band, GWAR. The idea for GWAR started in that apartment. But that's another story.

About three blocks west of where we lived is where Monument Avenue turns into Franklin Street. There's a huge roundabout where a statue of Robert E. Lee on his horse stands. We threw a football on the grass there a time or two.

I've driven down the beautiful Monument Avenue thousands of times in my life, past the statues of Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, and Stonewall Jackson. My ex-wife is a Hawks, and it was a relative of hers to whom Stonewall Jackson uttered what may have been his last words: "Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks..." 

I love being a Southerner. I love the pace of life in the South. I love the language, the food, the whiskey — it really is my heritage. And I grew up learning that Lee and Jackson were honorable men, called to action to defend the democratically decided fate of their home states: to secede from the American Union. I was taught in school that the Civil War wasn't just about slavery, it was also about whether federal or state was the highest authority.

The Cornerstone Speech 

When I was younger, I always thought the Confederate flag was a regional pride thing. It just meant you were proud to be from the South. But as I grew up, I learned some other things...

On March 21, 1861, the Vice President of the Confederacy gave a speech in Savannah, Georgia. Alexander Stephens' speech is known as the Cornerstone Speech. Here's an excerpt:

The prevailing ideas entertained by him [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. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. ... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error...

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone 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.

A month later, Stephens gave another speech in Virginia:

As a race, the African is inferior to the white man. Subordination to the white man is his normal condition. He is not his equal by nature, and cannot be made so by human laws or human institutions. Our system, therefore, so far as regards this inferior race, rests upon this great immutable law of nature. It is founded not upon wrong or injustice, but upon the eternal fitness of things. Hence, its harmonious working for the benefit and advantage of both. Why one race was made inferior to another, is not for us to inquire. The statesman and the Christian, as well as the philosopher, must take things as they find them, and do the best he can with them as he finds them.

The great truth, I repeat, upon which our system rests, is the inferiority of the African.

There's no way around it. You can't call it "heritage" anymore. What Stephens has to say about slavery speaks for itself. There's only one conclusion that can be reached: The Confederate flag is a symbol of white supremacy, and anyone who fought to establish the Confederate government fought in support of white supremacy. 

One of JFK's favorite quotes is credited to Dante: The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. Yeah, that's why I'm writing this piece today. 

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was right to remove those Confederate flags from government buildings after Dylann Roof murdered nine people in a Charleston church. The Confederate flag should be banned. And I don't like what it will do to Richmond's beautiful Monument Avenue, but those statues of Robert E. Lee should come down, too. 

This is America. We were founded on the concept that all men are created equal. It seems pretty simple to me.

Until next time,

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Briton Ryle

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A 21-year veteran of the newsletter business, Briton Ryle is the editor of The Wealth Advisory income stock newsletter, with a focus on top-quality dividend growth stocks and REITs. Briton also manages the Real Income Trader advisory service, where his readers take regular cash payouts using a low-risk covered call option strategy. He also contributes a weekly column to the Wealth Daily e-letter. To learn more about Briton, click here.

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