Why I refuse to romanticize antebellum life in the old hometown (Lexington, MO)


By Max R. Weller

The slaveholding state of Missouri never seceded from the Union, thanks to the valiant efforts of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon (below), but a sizable portion of its population was openly in favor of the Confederacy. I grew up listening to the locals endlessly praising the beautiful old homes built in the antebellum period — but nobody mentioned that the wealth which paid for these homes was created by the labor of African slaves.

Bust view, Cap. U. S. A., Brigadier General of Volunteers, date unknown

In the past 40 to 50 years, as a great variety of businesses have closed their doors in downtown Lexington, the town’s upper crust has insisted that tourism with a focus on Old South “charms” and revisionist history — whitewashing slavery — is the way to revive the local economy. It hasn’t worked, and Lexington has lost population since the 1960s when it had over 5,000 residents. Those citizens, like me, who have told it like it really was in the pre-Civil War era have been excoriated and our proposals to pursue an industrial park for job creation ignored. Wal-Mart built a new Supercenter in neighboring Richmond, MO and many from Lexington shop there for goods unavailable in the hometown.

Recently, I came across a most interesting document, which I posted on the Facebook page I Remember When . . . Lexington, MO. This is that document:

Address to the people of the of the United States . . . Quoting very briefly from it below:

“That portion of Missouri which borders on Kansas contains, as nearly as can now be ascertained, a population of fifty thousand slaves, and their estimated value, at the prices prevailing here, is about twenty-five millions of dollars. As the whole State contains but about one hundred thousand slaves, it will be seen that one-half of the entire slave population of Missouri is located in the eighteen counties bordering on Kansas, the greater portion of which is separated from that Territory by no natural boundary, and is within a day’s ride of the line.”

As this was written in 1855, it’s clear what the future held in store: a terrible, bloody conflict in which the end of slavery was inevitable.

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.” — Abraham Lincoln

How can anyone cling to a romantic view of the so-called peculiar institution, or deny its inherent evil?

Back in 2000, during a reenactment of the 1861 Battle of Lexington, a group of Confederate reenactors sought permission from the Second Baptist Church (a predominately black congregation) to camp on church property, complete with the Confederate Battle Flag being flown at this encampment. This group and its supporters could NOT understand why many people, including yours truly, were outraged. It took a pointed letter-to-the-editor of The Lexington News from the pastor of the Second Baptist Church to enlighten a few of ’em, but others remain clueless to this day.

Nothing good will ever come from this fascination with a fake history of Lexington, nor will any prominent business ever want to come to a town which remains so BACKWARD.


2 thoughts on “Why I refuse to romanticize antebellum life in the old hometown (Lexington, MO)

  1. pimom1

    I’m sure that owning a plantation back in the day of slave labor had “some” romance and pleasant memories…for some people. There IS romantic Antebellum history in Lexington! I don’t see the purpose of self fladulating though Max! How about….it is what it is, (it was what it was) and leave it at that.

    1. homelessphilosopher Post author

      “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” — Frederick Douglass


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