By Nathan Barton
The 21st of January, 2017 is the 193rd anniversary of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, better known as Stonewall Jackson, and a man who should be admired by all lovers of liberty for his life, his words, his beliefs, and the price he paid for liberty and love of his people and his country.
This may come as a shock to readers, because it takes only a few seconds online to find that Stonewall Jackson was a slaveholder – and of course, he fought against the FedGov on behalf of all those Southron racists and slaveholders. But there is much more to his life, and his story.
He was a deeply religious man, and very much conflicted about slavery. His life explains a good deal of this: he was mostly orphaned and raised by slaves, who (according to their descendants and their own writings) were as much family as “property.” But (unlike many) he treated them as humans: friends and even family, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Does that excuse him owning slaves? Of course not, but reason to treat him the same way that we do Thomas Jefferson or George Mason, as flawed humans (aren’t we all?) and products of 18th/19th Century society and religious mores. And whose life didn’t always meet the high standards of their writing.
He had great concern and took much effort to improve the condition of blacks in western Virginia all his life and right up to his untimely death, including supporting education and actually teaching many children and adults himself.
Although best known as a soldier, a military officer (and not really accepted by many of his peers, especially at West Point), he was also an educator, returning to the service before the outbreak of the War between the States when he participated in the mission against John Brown revolt at Harper’s Ferry. There was no doubt he found the hypocrisy of the Northern states, politicians, and even people, so frustrating. Although he taught in a public school (Virginia Military Institute), he spent much time teaching privately as well – especially to the children of slaves.
Like his friend and commander, Robert E. Lee, he believed that Virginia was his country and deserved his loyalty over that to a federal government which had nullified the Constitution and betrayed the freedom of both the States and the people. It seems clear that he did not go to war to protect the peculiar institution of slavery, or even the Virginia or Southron way of life – but rather, to restore and defend liberty. I do not think it is too much to believe that he would have welcomed the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of slaves, provided that all people did not join them in some disguised form of slavery.
There are many quotes that we could share from Thomas J Jackson that show his love of country and of liberty, as well as his love for God and ALL people. Here is one of the best:
The truth of this was and is demonstrated constantly. These is not the words (unless totally hypocritical) of a man who embodied the racism, hatred, and even tyranny which many people today associate with the Confederacy and antebellum Virginia and the South.
His reputation as a follower of God, a lover of liberty, a soldier, an educator, is indeed stainless, despite his faults. Had he not died prematurely in 1863, killed by accident by his own men and the inability of medical providers of the time to save his life, he would no doubt have been an important contributor to the liberation, not just the emancipation, of Virginia and Southron blacks, and their education as free men and women.