South didn't mandate slavery

In the article on the Confederate Flag [October 10, 2002, Cover Story, "Heritage or Hate?"] (http://www.readthehook.com/92580/cover-cross-bear-southern-prideor-preju...) UVA Professor Gary Gallagher was quoted as saying that the Confederate Constitution "mandated slavery."

Even a cursory glance at the document reveals the fallacy of this statement. The Confederate Constitution specifically prohibited the African slave trade. In the United States Constitution, prohibition of the African slave trade was left up to the discretion of Congress.

It is difficult to see how a specific Constitutional prohibition on the slave trade supports the idea that there was a mandate for slavery in that same document.

The Confederate Constitution did recognize the right of slave owners to "transit and sojourn" with their slaves in all of the individual Confederate States, and it protected the property interest in the slaves while in transit or sojourn. The Confederate Constitution also limited the power of the central government in Richmond to interfere with the institution in any new territories which might be acquired.

However, it did not mandate slavery in any State carved out of that territory. In the Confederacy, just as in the Union, slavery was a matter for the States, not the central government, to regulate.

In fact, the slavery provisions of the Confederate Constitution did no more than reflect a quite valid interpretation of the relevant provisions of the United States Constitution at the time. Under both Constitutions, the institution of slavery was recognized and accepted. Strong evidence of this Constitutional sanction is the fact that slavery in the United States was abolished only by a post-War Constitutional Amendment.

Those who find the Confederate Flag to be an offensive reminder of slavery might do well to pause and consider that the institution endured under the United States Flag for a much longer period.

How one views the Confederate Flag is a personal matter. But historical exaggerations hardly lend themselves to a reasoned view of the Flag's place in American history. One can never know what might offend another. As a general rule, though, no offense should be taken where none is intended. None of the proponents of the Confederate Flag indicated any desire to offend anyone. For them, the Flag is a symbol of "Heritage, not Hate."

H. Wayne Elliott
Albemarle County
hwayne@prodigy.net