For Independence Day: If You Fly the Confederate Flag, You Don't Deserve a Holiday

Senator Henry Wilson knew the score. At an event referred to as a "colored people's celebration," the July 4, 1865 Independence Day rally was the first after the end of the Civil War. It was held on the grounds of the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., and one of the purposes of the gathering was to call for "the immediate, complete, and universal enfranchisement" of all African Americans, as Frederick Douglass put it. Wilson, a Massachusetts Republican, had been an outspoken abolitionist and supporter of the rights of blacks, long-free and just-free. Later a vice-president to Ulysses Grant, he was the featured speaker that day.

Wilson had no patience for for anyone who still supported the "cause" of the Confederacy, mocking the mayor of Washington, D.C. for refusing to attend (and eventually getting mightily pissed at Andrew Johnson). He addressed how the nation should handle the unsteady future, so soon after the end of the nightmarish war and the assassination of Lincoln:

"Pardoned rebels, and rebels yet unpardoned, flippantly tell us that they hold in their hands, yet red with loyal blood, the rights of loyal colored men, of the heroes scarred and maimed beneath the dear old flag. I tell these repentant and unrepentant but conquered and subdued rebels that, while they hold the suffrage of the loyal black men in their hands, we, the loyal men of America, hold in our hands their lost privilege to hold office in the civil service, army, or navy. The Congress of the United States has placed upon the statute-book a law forever prohibiting anyone who has borne arms against the country, or given aid, comfort, and countenance to the Rebellion, from holding any office of honor, profit, or emolument in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States."

That was an in-yer-face proclamation there. Of course, in 1872, the Amnesty Act got rid of those restrictions on almost all former Confederate soldiers, thus ensuring that freed slaves would get dicked over post-Reconstruction.  Still, in 1865, Wilson's stand was clear. The people of the southern United States were disloyal, conquered rebels, and they should be treated as such.

There is something poignantly dumb about the fact that there will be a Confederate Heritage Rally in Tampa, Florida 150 years after the event on the 4th of July 1865. That the focus of the event will be the flag of the conquered rebels is pathetic. "Come join us in preserving and defending our proud Southern heritage. BRING YOUR FLAGS!" the rally-goers are commanded. Someone else informs the group that websites and stores are sold out of Confederate flags, so he doesn't know where he'll get one. Someone else says that they should order cakes with the flag on it for "Lee-Jackson Day, Confederate Memorial Day, Jefferson Davis Birthday, State Day (i.e. Florida Day, etc.), Confederate Flag Day," and that "commemorating an important Confederate battlefield victory would all be our major cultural holidays days."

Everyone who heard Wilson's speech way back when would be appalled to the point of despair to know that, a century and a half later, on Independence Day, the rebels don't believe they lost to the nation whose day they are supposed to be celebrating.