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  • Writer's pictureThe Naming Commission Facts

Matthew Fontaine Maury & Distraction Tactics

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

The Naming Commission's blurb on Maury may be one of the worst in the entire report. The commission found it difficult to deal with established facts that Maury was against slavery & against secession, so they distract readers with a ridiculous blurb and a footnote to a source that does not support their position.. They even hide the year of the source that it is published in the footnotes, so you may think Maury wrote the article during the war.

On page 12 of part II the commission states: "Despite these contributions, he viewed African Americans as unworthy of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness." While this statement would probably apply to everyone in ante-bellum America, it is still hard to pin this concept on Maury, as he was against slavery and for emancipation, though did not think it was possible within the United States. The article cited by the committee is actually about a long-term emancipation strategy to South America. Maury argues that Northerners will not accept emancipated slaves, pointing to state laws that ban blacks from settling, including the Indiana State Constitution of 1851.

Would it be possible for The Naming Commission to say the entire state of Indiana did not care about the "life, liberty or pursuit of happiness" of Black people? It is important to note that Maury makes direct reference to this provision in the article the committee cites! They either did not read the article (which seems logical) or hoped that you would never find the details.

Maury's private letters are readily available but it appears these key sources were never consulted. In an 1851 letter to his cousin, he calls slavery "a curse," but points out that emancipation in VA will simply make slave-owners sell slaves South, so there needs to be a long-term solution. He goes on to say:

Maury was practical about dealing with the world as it was: whether you disagree or agree with him does not change the fact that his ideas were mischaracterized by The Naming Commission. Moreover, Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, attempted multiple colonization plans to South America, which all ended in failure and tragedy for the colonized Blacks. This is why a complete understanding of the historical record is required to understand the context of the times and prevalent ideas in the America of 1861.. Keep in mind that all of these character attacks are designed to distract you from the primary question: did Maury voluntarily serve in the Confederacy?

We have private letters that clearly demonstrate Maury's position. On March 4th, 1861 Maury wrote:

Before Virginia seceded, Maury declared his that loyalty to one's state was paramount. When he resigned from the US Navy on April 20th, 1861 (the same day Lee resigned), he made his way to Richmond where he joined the Governor's council to advise on the defense of the state and received a commission in the Navy of Virginia on January 23rd, 1861. The VA Navy was incorporated into the Confederate Navy on June 10th, 1861; is that when Maury "volunteered" for the Confederate Navy? By Maury's own words, he is only following the wishes of his state. On October 21st, 1861 in a private letter declining a job offer from Russia, he said:

In the eyes of Matthew Fontaine Maury, right or wrong, his service on behalf of his state is mandatory and therefore he was never a volunteer for the Confederacy. This is why The Naming Commission must establish its view on voluntary service, which must be a standard that can be consistently applied across the service records of all of these men.

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