Walter E. WilliamsGeorge Orwell said, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” In the former USSR, censorship, rewriting of history and eliminating undesirable people became part of Soviets’ effort to ensure that the correct ideological and political spin was put on their history. Deviation from official propaganda was punished by confinement in labor camps and execution.Today there are efforts to rewrite history in the U.S., albeit the punishment is not so draconian as that in the Soviet Union. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu had a Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee monument removed last month. Former Memphis Mayor A C Wharton wanted the statue of Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, as well as the graves of Forrest and his wife, removed from the city park. In Richmond, Virginia, there have been calls for the removal of the Monument Avenue statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. It’s not only Confederate statues that have come under attack. Just by having the name of a Confederate, such as J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Virginia, brings up calls for a name change. These history rewriters have enjoyed nearly total success in getting the Confederate flag removed from state capitol grounds and other public places.Slavery is an undeniable fact of our history. The costly war fought to end it is also a part of the nation’s history. Neither will go away through cultural cleansing. Removing statues of Confederates and renaming buildings are just a small part of the true agenda of America’s leftists. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and there’s a monument that bears his name — the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. George Washington also owned slaves, and there’s a monument to him, as well — the Washington Monument in Washington. Will the people who call for removal of statues in New Orleans and Richmond also call for the removal of the Washington, D.C., monuments honoring slaveholders Jefferson and Washington? Will the people demanding a change in the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School also demand that the name of the nation’s capital be changed?These leftists might demand that the name of my place of work — George Mason University — be changed. Even though Mason was the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which became a part of our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, he owned slaves. Not too far from my university is James Madison University. Will its name be changed? Even though Madison is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution,” he did own slaves.Rewriting American history is going to be challenging. Just imagine the task of purifying the nation’s currency. Slave owner George Washington’s picture graces the $1 bill. Slave owner Thomas Jefferson’s picture is on the $2 bill. Slave-owning Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s picture is on our $50 bill. Benjamin Franklin’s picture is on the $100 bill.The challenges of rewriting American history are endless, going beyond relatively trivial challenges such as finding new pictures for our currency. At least half of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were slave owners. Also consider that roughly half of the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were slave owners. Do those facts invalidate the U.S. Constitution, and would the history rewriters want us to convene a new convention to purge and purify our Constitution?The job of tyrants and busybodies is never done. When they accomplish one goal, they move their agenda to something else. If we Americans give them an inch, they’ll take a yard. So I say, don’t give them an inch in the first place. The hate-America types use every tool at their disposal to achieve their agenda of discrediting and demeaning our history. Our history of slavery is simply a convenient tool to further their cause.Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.********Were Confederate Generals Traitors?Consider the factsMy "Rewriting American History" column of a fortnight ago, about the dismantling of Confederate monuments, generated considerable mail. Some argued there should not be statues honoring traitors such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis, who fought against the Union. Victors of wars get to write the history, and the history they write often does not reflect the facts. Let's look at some of the facts and ask: Did the South have a right to secede from the Union? If it did, we can't label Confederate generals as traitors.Article 1 of the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the war between the Colonies and Great Britain, held "New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States." Representatives of these states came together in Philadelphia in 1787 to write a constitution and form a union.During the ratification debates, Virginia's delegates said, "The powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression." The ratification documents of New York and Rhode Island expressed similar sentiments.At the Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made to allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," rejected it. The minutes from the debate paraphrased his opinion: "A union of the states containing such an ingredient (would) provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound."America's first secessionist movement started in New England after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Many were infuriated by what they saw as an unconstitutional act by President Thomas Jefferson. The movement was led by Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts, George Washington's secretary of war and secretary of state. He later became a congressman and senator. "The principles of our Revolution point to the remedy — a separation," Pickering wrote to George Cabot in 1803, for "the people of the East cannot reconcile their habits, views, and interests with those of the South and West." His Senate colleague James Hillhouse of Connecticut agreed, saying, "The Eastern states must and will dissolve the union and form a separate government." This call for secession was shared by other prominent Americans, such as John Quincy Adams, Elbridge Gerry, Fisher Ames, Josiah Quincy III and Joseph Story. The call failed to garner support at the 1814-15 Hartford Convention.The U.S. Constitution would have never been ratified — and a union never created — if the people of those 13 "free sovereign and Independent States" did not believe that they had the right to secede. Even on the eve of the War of 1861, unionist politicians saw secession as a right that states had. Rep. Jacob M. Kunkel of Maryland said, "Any attempt to preserve the union between the states of this Confederacy by force would be impractical and destructive of republican liberty." The Northern Democratic and Republican parties favored allowing the South to secede in peace.Northern newspapers editorialized in favor of the South's right to secede. New-York Tribune (Feb. 5, 1860): "If tyranny and despotism justified the Revolution of 1776, then we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861." The Detroit Free Press (Feb. 19, 1861): "An attempt to subjugate the seceded States, even if successful, could produce nothing but evil — evil unmitigated in character and appalling in extent." The New-York Times (March 21, 1861): "There is a growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go."Confederate generals were fighting for independence from the Union just as George Washington and other generals fought for independence from Great Britain. Those who'd label Gen. Robert E. Lee as a traitor might also label George Washington as a traitor. I'm sure Great Britain's King George III would have agreed.Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.