Robert E. Lee would be mightily offended, to see what sort of rabble imagine they are defending his honour, back here on Earth. He would think of them, and the other trash attacking them, in much the same way. He would look over the New South, and much prefer the old one. But he has better things to do now, and incontestable reasons to look away, look away.

A lot of people died in what — as a descendent Loyalist, long transplanted to the northern wilds — I think of as the Third American Civil War (1776; 1812; 1861). We lost the first one, stretched the second to a draw, and weren’t invited to the third. (Though of course, we were discreetly cheering for the Confederacy.) If the issue were slavery, our consciences are fairly clear. The slaves who could run all ran to our side in that first encounter, and many fought heroically for our King. The grand question of racial bigotry — the strange prejudice that exists in almost every culture against the darker-skinned, that shames the lighter-skinned — shadows with confusion. It is some existential issue, traceable to fear, and through fear to the Sin of Adam.

But slaves have come in all colours. My own maternal ancestors enslaved an Irishman once — with, let me add, his glad cooperation. He was a starving squatter on the poorly-surveyed plot near Louisbourg in Cape Breton, which they were entitled to occupy by a ridiculous sheet of paper, signed by some bored office drudge in Halifax. “Holmville,” now Homeville; founded on slavery like the Southern plantations. Now the site of some USAmerican’s monstrous summer cottage. But in the woods adjoining, the old stones, the forgotten monuments of a few generations; and among those somewhere the marker for this poor old man — who helped clear the trees now grown back around him. Who will, I earnestly pray, be resurrected to glory in the final hour; and whom in the end we shall ourselves recognize, as a beloved member of our family.

Reconciliation is not an easy thing, the way things go on this planet. It is more like mercy than like justice; and justice, though rare, is actually more common. There can be no end, if we decide to re-litigate the past, armed as we are, with our ignorance, only.

There was much good and much evil in the Old South; and so, too, in the old, sanctimonious Yankee North. The hairs on our heads are beyond counting. Let the dead sleep; let their monuments stand.