To the Editor:
Re “Misplaced Honor” (Sunday Review, May 26):
Jamie Malanowski’s observation that naming military posts after Confederate generals borders on the ludicrous reminds us that many Americans have a basic misunderstanding about the nature of the Civil War. They think that men on both sides fought bravely and courageously for what they believed, and both should be honored for that commitment.
Evaluating that belief matters. The Confederates fought for their freedom, yes, but the freedom they cherished most was to deny that freedom to four million slaves.
To say this is not to impose contemporary standards of morality on Civil War America. Rather, the Revolutionary generation of 1776 enshrined that standard in the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming that “all men are created equal.” The Constitution of 1787 protected slavery, mocking the Declaration’s standard, until both the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery.
Now, 150 years later, as Mr. Malanowski urges, let us stop celebrating the Confederacy.
PHILIP J. AVILLO Jr.
York, Pa., May 26, 2013
The writer is professor emeritus of history at York College of Pennsylvania.Note from KBJ: This man, who, qua historian, has no evaluative expertise, is doing exactly what he denies doing, namely, "impos[ing] contemporary standards of morality [actually, his standards of morality] on Civil War America." Could we please stop fighting the Civil War?