On that hot July day in Philadelphia in 1776 the founding fathers of our country knew that by declaring themselves independent of Great Britain and raising their swords against the King of England they were committing a capital crime.
It is said that once Benjamin Franklin signed the document, he reemphasized unity and reminded them of the gravity of their actions with these immortal words: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Franklin knew that if they lost the impending war, he, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock, and many other leaders of the rebellion would, more than likely, hang together or separately. Disregarding all peril and expecting no quarter in defeat, they joined battle against what was, at that time, the mightiest military power on earth and — against all odds — they ultimately prevailed.
Eighty-five years later, eleven states seceded from the Union and declared themselves the Confederate States of America. As role models for their drastic action, they cited the Declaration of Independence, the bravery of the founding fathers and the success of the Revolutionary War. They then raised an army, attacked a U.S. garrison at Fort Sumter in South Carolina and provoked the Civil War — the deadliest war in American history.
It is interesting, however, that none of the rebellious leaders followed Franklin’s noble example and declared publicly a commitment to hanging together or separately if they lost their war. Surely they knew what they were doing was treason.
If the leaders of the Confederacy saw themselves as moral and political heirs of the founding fathers of the United States, why weren’t they profoundly grateful and contrite not to meet the fate described by Franklin when they lost the war?
In fact, they were not only ungrateful, but one of their supporters, John Wilkes Booth, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865 — less than a week after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
What would have happened to the leaders of the American Revolution had they lost the war and one of their supporters assassinated King George III within a week of their surrender? Would England have allowed the “Stars and Stripes” to be displayed in public places of honor as the Rebel Flag is flown in the U.S. today? Would England allow schools, highways and courthouses to be named after leaders of the rebellion? Would the colonists have been able to ignore laws of the British Parliament for more than a century-with impunity?
The defeated rebels were not only unremorseful for their deeds, they were arrogant and returned home to institute a system of racial segregation and sharecropping that was only slightly different from slavery. Moreover, they and their descendants have flown the flag of the Confederacy in places of honor for 150 years and celebrate its lost cause with license plates and other memorabilia to this day!
Persons of fair mind should examine any celebration of the attack on Fort Sumter, secession and the subsequent havoc heaped upon the American people as more than a symbolic observance. What is celebrated is a bloody rebellion against the government and people of the United States of America.
How would these celebrants feel if descendants of General William T. Sherman’s army and the slaves he liberated were to commemorate (in period dress) the burning of Atlanta and retrace Sherman’s devastating march through Georgia while referring to the harm inflicted on civilians as mere “collateral damage?”