Foreword of Family History, 2003

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Families are the basic institutions of society. They are of vital importance. The values and moral characters of the people produced by families are very important to the future as well as the present. If families are to function successfully, then family histories, oral or written, that impart the family’s positive vision of themselves, socialize their young, and instill common values are most helpful. These histories must also be able to capture the imagination if they are to “take hold.” That is why stories and interpretations are more important than dry dates in time.
This family history of my mother’s family was compiled by myself and my mother’s older brother. It was the wish of the older generation of the family, my mother, her immediate older sister, her older brother and some of their first cousins that the family history they valued might not be lost to the future because of carelessness and time. I think this was a very wise decision on their part. I was glad to help do this for them.
It seems to me the increasing amoral indifference of contemporary times, lack of appreciation of the need of morality, and current dysfunctional thinking on family issues, have caused a loss of appreciation of inspirational history. Inspirational history affirms the place and necessity of faith, morality and common vision in the social history of families and institutions. You will notice a previous review of this book remarked it was sometimes “moralistic.” God, I hope sot I certainly wish the descendents of families to face squarely the moral and religious implications of their American heritage.
Also you may notice my mother’s family were unashamed of their Confederate heritage. My mother’s uncle (her father’s older brother,) was killed in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia in The War Between The States. It was a source of pride to the family that their soldier boy served and died honorably in the service of his country and was not a draft dodger or a deserter.
If a cause for which the Confederacy suffered was proven later to be wrong, the idealism and gallantry for which some Confederates supported and endured their “cause” was always right. lt was to be admired even if misplaced. They felt if the Confederate cause was proved to be wrong in some things later, it did not necessarily mean it was wrong in everything at the time. I think their vision on this was true.
Good people can often be wrong in opinion or wrongfully placed by time and circumstances. To be right is not always guaranteed to everyone even good people. There are usually good people on every side. To serve where you are placed with idealism, sincerity and graciousness is the challenge of good people. This they did. That was what was important to them.
This was an old-fashioned family of a type once very common in America. A few of these families are left but most have vanished with the times. In their vanishing can be explained the loss of much that was good, uniquely American and distinctively elevating in the American character. Of course such families had their flaws and their cover-ups but they were for the most part good people of many faiths and had a salutary influence on the social life of America. They were concerned, genuine, considerate, neighborly, had a strong Protestant work ethic, much sincerity and a commitment to morality and the service of others.
As I look back the thing that seems strangest now to me is how they never locked doors. No one felt the need to. One of my great-aunts always left a cake on the kitchen table in case anyone came by in her absence. I being young one asked her, what if a bum came by? She said that would be even better since a bum probably needed a piece of her pound cake more than her relatives did. My little cousin asked, what if he were black? My aunt said that all the black people she knew liked cake too. “After all” she said, “the Book of Hebrews says we are supposed to be ready for angels who may come on us unaware.” We as children called the pound cake always on my aunt’s kitchen table “the angels’ cake.”
There is something priceless gone from America today. The sad thing is so many of the young, ignorant or thoughtless do not even know what was once here that is missing because they know the price of everything and the value of nothing. But I tell you this truth. The country shall not be whole or healthy again until in some way or other we see the like of that spiritual quality of grace once real to many in America returning in our lives some fine and future day.

Dr. James MacLeod



Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.


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