Thursday, May 24, 2012

2012 Letter to Obama

                                                                                                        May 24, 2012

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

During your Presidency, you have annually sent Presidential wreathes to the Arlington Confederate monument on Memorial Day. I am writing to ask you to stop this practice. The United Daughters of the Confederacy regularly uses photographs of your  wreathes in its magazine accompanying appeals to celebrate the birthday of Jefferson Davis and to honor Confederate soldiers at an annual commemoration in Arlington. A Presidential wreath implicitly sanctions this event and legitimates the Confederacy and its leader. Please do not send a Presidential wreath to the Arlington Confederate monument in 2012.

Until the administration of President George H. W. Bush, American presidents had sent a wreath to the Confederate memorial on Jefferson Davis’s birthday: President Bush ended this practice, instead sending a wreath on Memorial Day. Although the wreath is no longer sent on Davis’s birthday (3rd June), Memorial Day is close enough such that the wreath will likely still be on the Arlington Confederate monument and it can be used to celebrate Davis’s birthday, as seen in the UDC Magazine in 2010 and 2011 (I enclose copies of the relevant pages).

When the President of the Unites States sends a wreath to the Arlington Confederate monument, the prestige of the monument is enhanced. It augments the celebration of Jefferson Davis and justifies his beliefs and those of the Confederate States he led. I urge you to end this practice. Jefferson Davis was a white supremacist and fiercely pro-slavery. In Augusta, Maine, in 1858, for example, Davis praised his audience for remaining racially pure, in contrast to Latin Americans who he said were racially mixed and incapable of self-government.[1] Davis opposed efforts to ban slavery in the Oregon territory in 1848 and, in a lengthy Senate speech, described the inhabitants of Oregon and the newly acquired territories from Mexico as “mongrels of the Spanish and Indian races, inheriting from both the characteristics, pertinacity, treachery, and revenge.” [2] He spoke out and voted against the African Squadron to suppress the transatlantic slave trade.[3]  He advised the Mississippi legislature in 1858 to secede if an abolitionist was elected president and to prepare by stocking up arms.[4] When Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Davis denounced it as the “the most execrable measure recorded in the history of guilty man” which he felt was “a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race, peaceful and contented laborers in their sphere, are doomed to extermination.”[5] He advocated that captured African American soldiers not be treated as prisoners of war, nor should their officers.[6]

After the Civil War, Davis’s book, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” published in 1881, described African Americans as racially inferior, argued that emancipation was a mistake, and claimed it was an outrage that African Americans were allowed on juries and in state legislatures. Davis died never regretting his lifelong fight for slavery, nor altering his views regarding African Americans.

A President of the United States should not be contributing to the celebration of Jefferson Davis in any way, shape, or form. The annual sending of a wreath to the Arlington Confederate monument by Presidents of the United States contributes in a prominent way to perpetuating the celebration of Jefferson Davis. I request that you no longer aid the celebration of Jefferson Davis. Please do not send a Presidential wreath to the Arlington Confederate monument in 2012.


                                                                    Sincerely Yours,

                                                                    Edward H. Sebesta

[1] Davis, Jefferson, “Speech of Jefferson Davis at the Portland Convention,” Vol. 3 pages, 284-88, and “Speech of Jefferson Davis at State Fair at Augusta, Me. ,” from the Eastern Argus, Sept. 29, 1858, reprinted Vol. 3, pages 312-314,  both from “Jefferson Davis: Constitutionalist, His Letters , papers, and Speeches,” editor Dunbar Rowland, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, 1923.
[2] Davis, Jefferson, Speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, July 12, 1848,  Appendix to the Congressional Globe, 30th Congress, 1st Session, pages 907-914.
[3] Congressional Globe, 31st Congress, 2nd Session, pages 307-309.
[4] Rowland, Dunbar, “Jefferson Davis Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers, and Speeches,” Vol. III, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, 1923, speech on pages 339-360, quotes on pages 356, 359.
[5] Dunbar Rowland, “Jefferson Davis to the Confederate Congress,” from Jefferson Davis Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers, and Speeches, 5, (Jackson: MS Dept. of Archives and History, 1923), 396-415. Also in the Journal of the Confederate Congress, 3, 58th Cong., 2d sess., 1904, S. Doc. 234, Serial 4612, 13-14.
[6] Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. / Series II - Volume 3: Proclamations, Appointments, etc. of President Davis; State Department Correspondence with Diplomatic Agents,etc., page 142.
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