A More Perfect Fifty-Dollar Bill
"If I thought this war was to abolish slavery, I would resign
my commission and offer my sword to the other side."
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
THE CAMPAIGN was dismissed, at first, as "those Charleston Crazies at it again," but it grew legs and took off and now was the talk of the country. It appeared Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's days on the fifty-dollar bill were, indeed, numbered.
It was Saturday, April 4th, 2020, and Marion Square was jam packed with TV cameras and reporters as the debate was about to begin. A huge stage was set up on the north side of Marion Square close to Embassy Suites. A huge TV screen was set up on the south side at the back of John C. Calhoun's statue.
The Cooper River Bridge Run, with 75,000 runners, now the largest 10K in the world across the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America, had ended on Marion Square the weekend before. The place had been swarming with people, but this crowd was twice, maybe three times as large, and was getting boisterous.
"May I have your attention please," blared out a deep male voice that sounded like Trace Adkins. "Welcome to democracy and freedom of speech in ACTION!"
At that, the crowd erupted and everybody cheered loudly interspersed with shrill whistling and Rebel Yells.
"I'm John G. Gailliard of the Political Science Department of Charleston College, your moderator, and we are sponsoring this nationally broadcast event!"
There was another round of hooting, hollering, whistling and clapping as Fox News Network, CNN and others panned the crowd.
"As most of you know, negotiators for the three parties debating today have hammered out the rules, and the congressional delegations of every Southern state have agreed to introduce legislation in Congress supporting the position of the winner of this debate . . ." he paused then yelled right into the microphone, "and it's WINNER TAKE ALL!"
The crowd erupted again!
Earlier, the Post and Courier had published an entire section on the debate spelling out the positions of each of the three sides.
First, there was the genealogical group that had started the whole thing, the Sons and Daughters of the Confederate South, who were descended from Confederate soldiers. They were demanding that Ulysses S. Grant's picture be removed from the fifty-dollar bill and replaced with Gen. Robert E. Lee's, since Grant was a slaveowner throughout the War Between the States and Lee was not. Lee had freed his slaves and did not believe in slavery, unlike Grant, who just about had to have his slaves forcibly removed after the war.
At first, the public was skeptical about claims that the greatest Confederate general was not a slaveowner during the war, while the Yankee general, supposedly fighting to free the slaves, had sworn he'd join the Confederacy before he'd let his slaves go. Did Ulysses S. Grant actually own slaves during the War Between the States? It just didn't make sense to a lot of people, especially those who rely on public education and CNN for their information.
The second position was taken by Yankees who have felt so good about themselves for supposedly ending slavery that they were willing to overlook the fact that Grant was definitely a slaveowner, that Sherman had no problem with slavery, that five slave states fought for the North, and that Lincoln himself, before the fighting, supported the first 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would have protected slavery forever and placed it even beyond the reach of Congress.
This second group called itself, Brothers United to Limit Lee, or B.U.L.L. They were feeling so God-awful good, they never even thought about the million casualties in the War Between the States out of a total population of 33 million. They did not care that old Honest Abe Lincoln was so racist he'd make a Ku Klux Klansman blush, nor did they care that Lincoln, his whole life, favored sending blacks back to Africa. This second group just didn't care about any of this stuff because they won and could walk around feeling good about themselves.
The third position, put forth by Scholars for Justice, had come about in sort of a logical way. These folks reasoned that Grant was not the only slaveowner on American money. Washington, Jefferson, all of them had been white men who owned slaves, so what we really needed to do was put a black man who owned slaves on the fifty-dollar bill. That would make things fair. Then we wouldn't have to disturb any of the other slaveowning presidents on our money, which would happen if we put the non-slaveowning Robert E. Lee on the fifty-dollar bill. With a black slaveowning man on American money, everybody would be represented except Hispanics, but they were not significant players in the War Between the States, and the Indians were all Confederates, thus they'd be covered by Gen. Lee.
William Ellison, the famous cotton gin maker from Sumter, immediately came up because he was one of the largest slaveowners in South Carolina, and he was black. The Sons and Daughters of the Confederate South supported this position on a secondary basis because it only seemed fair. BULL was flat-out against it.
The concept that blacks willingly fought for the Confederacy -- because to Southern blacks, the South was home -- is another concept that people who rely on public education and CNN have a hard time believing, though these same people will sometimes believe that blacks fought in the American Revolution for America and back then every American colony was slaveholding. The reason they believe blacks fought in the Revolution for America is because they know stories like Crispus Attucks, a black man and great American patriot, who was the first man killed by the British in the Boston Massacre in 1770, God rest his soul.
The night before, a fight had broken out in the courtyard of the Blind Tiger on Broad Street between one of the Sons and Daughters, and a member of BULL. There was a table full of members of the Sons and Daughters of the Confederate South drinking and talking and having a good time in their gray Confederate coats, next to a table full of BULL drinking and talking and having a good time in their blue Yankee coats, next to a table full of Scholars for Justice drinking and talking and having a good time in their stylish black coats that looked sort of like tuxedo coats but had brown elbow pads on the sleeves.
Things started out with civility and fun, but the War Between the States was only 159 years ago, and that might as well have been yesterday, so it's understandable that emotions are always high.
"Why would you people glorify the side that wanted to destroy America?" said a member of BULL in jest, his chest poking out proudly.
"We don't. We just wanted to be left alone to govern ourselves, like the Colonies in 1776 wanted Great Britain to leave them alone so they could govern themselves," said a Confederate Son.
"That's hardly the same thing," said the BULL member.
"Oh yea, your Horace Greeley said it was exactly the same thing. If it was OK in 1776 for three million colonists to secede from Great Britain, it was certainly OK in 1861 for nine million Southrons to secede from the federal Union. That's what your Greeley himself wrote in his New York Tribune before the war."
"But that was treason. They had no right," said the member of BULL.
"Au contraire, they most certainly had the right. The right of secession was never questioned by the Founding Fathers. In the beginning, even Yankees didn't question it. You ever hear of the Hartford Convention of New England during the War of 1812?"
"Yea, but they didn't actually secede."
"True, but they sure as hell wanted to. They talked about seceding for weeks, non-stop, then sent delegates to Washington and the ONLY reason they didn't secede was because the Southerners in New Orleans whipped the British and the War of 1812 ended."
The member of BULL had picked the wrong Son to argue with, but he grabbed his mug of beer and continued on. "Don't you think we are a great nation today? Why would you people want to destroy that?"
"We would have been two great nations, even greater. Eight hundred thousand people didn't have to die to prove it. We would have been friends, North and South, and all fought Hitler together and traded together and things would have been fine."
"Including your black slaves, huh."
"Well, you Yankees brought them all here and made huge fortunes in the process. You built the entire infrastructure of the Old North on profits from the slave trade."
"Yea, but if there had not been a market for slaves in the South, we never would have done that."
"True, but there were slaves in the North until massive white immigration from Europe made it cheaper to hire a white man than buy a black. Only then did Northern states phase out slavery."
"At least we did phase it out."
"Let me ask you this. Every Northern state used gradual, compensated emancipation. There were still slaves in the North when the war started. Many Northerners waited until just before a slave was due to be emancipated, like just before his 21st birthday, then sold him back into slavery in the South. Not a pretty record." . . .