Ready to rethink past, present America?

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 23, 1998

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / November 23, 1998

GRETNA – In these politically-correct times, certain aspects of American history continue to be reviewed and reconsidered, depending upon prevailing winds of change.

Flying against the winds of the past 130 years, though, are the authors of “Was Jefferson Davis Right?” recently issued by Pelican Publishing.

James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy have penned a follow-up to their earlier “The South Was Right!” in reviewing the causes and issues of the Civil War, or (as termed here) the War for Southern Independence.

Contrary to accepted commonly-held beliefs, the War was not fought to free the slaves, the Kennedys declare. Rather, the War was fought byhonorable men defending their Constitutionally-held rights to preserve the sovereign nature of the states, as conceived by the Founding Fathers.

Slave ownership was very much in the minority among Southerners and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in its language, promised Southern states they could keep slavery if they returned peaceably to the Union.

Indeed, the Confederate leadership contended they were in the right, and it was the imperialistic, jingoistic Northern leadership which disenfranchised the South, wreaked economic destruction and put the region into a subservient, dependent role from which it has yet to recover.

The right for a state to secede from the United States, the Kennedys write, is one of those inherent rights reserved to the states, but sacrificed on the altar of Gettysburg.

Jefferson Davis, martyr to the Lost Cause, is viewed here as a Constitutional scholar and champion who was slandered for the rest of his life and denied his rightful day in court to restore his good name.

According to the authors, quoting from Davis and other Constitutional scholars, northern and southern, America’s government has never recovered from its change from an antebellum confederacy of quasi- independent states to a centralized federal government with too much power concentrated in Washington.

The authors offer well-reasoned and convincing arguments which fly in the face of generally-accepted “fact” and conclude in declaring Davis was certainly no “traitor” to America. In fact, they contend, Abraham Lincolnwas more of a traitor to the ideals and convictions of the Founding Fathers than Davis ever was, by taking advantage of the war to alter forever the basic philosophy upon which America was governed before the War.

Themselves descendants of Civil War soldiers, the Kennedy twins are associated with the Sons of Confederate Veterans re-enactment group.

The book is an easy read, complete in its research and presentation and made user-friendly through its chapter summaries. For the student andenthusiast of 1860s American history, this is a valuable and thought- provoking document.

Many scholars, especially those of African-American descent, will denounce the book as alien to their own closely-held beliefs. Yet, Davis isdepicted as a non-racist, stalwart Christian and as the epitome of the Southern gentleman, soldier and statesman.

“Was Jefferson Davis Right?” will make every American who reads it re- think not only the Civil War, but present-day America as well.

The book retails at popular bookstores at $16.95.

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