Editor’s Note: What did the Confederates actually believe about race? This is a source of considerable confusion on the internet due to 1.) distrust of liberal academics who have an axe to grind against the South and 2.) a generation of Baby Boomer Rainbow Confederates who have tried in vain to downplay the racialism, slavery and white supremacy of the Old South. We’re only curious about the truth of the matter and couldn’t care less about the politics.
In the previous article, we saw that Robert E. Lee wanted to repopulate Virginia with White free laborers in the Reconstruction era and for freed blacks to relocate to the Deep South. This reflected Lee’s dismal take of race relations and the prospects of the African under the free labor system:
The following excerpt comes from Emory M. Thomas’s book Robert E. Lee: A Biography:
“Wherever you find the negro, everything is going down around him, and wherever you find the white man, you see everything around him improving.”
– Robert E. Lee to Thomas Carter, April 15, 1865
The following excerpt comes from Charles Bracelon Flood’s book Lee: The Last Years:
“You will never prosper with the blacks, and it is abhorrent to a reflecting mind to be supporting and cherishing those who are plotting and working for your injury, and all of whose sympathies and associations are antagonistic to yours. I wish them no evil in the world – on the contrary, will do them every good in my power, and know that they are misled by those to whom they have given their confidence; but our material, social, and political interests are naturally with the whites.”
– Robert E. Lee to R.E. Lee, Jr., March 19, 1868
Robert E. Lee’s attitude was that while he wished the emancipated blacks well his loyalties and interests were aligned with that of his fellow Whites. He was a humane race realist who saw blacks as a different race with different capabilities, loyalties and interests. The traditional Southern view of race was never one of total and complete hostility to blacks.