Foreword of Family History, 2003
|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
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. For comments or corrections
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