As an amateur historian I grow weary of hearing some apologist for the Slave Trade opine we must not remove this statue or that monument because to do so would be to risk repeating that evil day of our American Middle History, some time between 1787 and 1865. Their point seems to be we have to maintain all monuments to all mistaken moments because we will revert to slavery if we remove them.
My opinion is different. We are not going to return to slavery, or even to historical racism, no matter how many Confederate generals lose their roost. We worked too hard as a nation to ever consider such a travesty to the brave men and women living and dead who fought to rid this nation of slavery.
The statues and monuments need to stay only if we can ask and answer the very voluble question, “Does this person/place/thing deserve commemoration?”
We are now told the Washington Monument has to come down. Likewise, anything even loosely associated with Thomas Jefferson must fall. In Britain anarchists are pulling down or defacing statues of Winston Churchill. And, likewise in Britain, monuments to Abraham Lincoln are bludgeoned.
In our country, we hear, the giant monument to Mr. Lincoln in Washington, DC must likewise be pulverized to dust. No one should be terribly surprised. Statues to General Grant and President Theodore Roosevelt are being removed, though one wonders why.
Or, is it because they were powerful historical figures who happened to be white and happened to live in times when it was dangerous to take a stand against the various evils of their times? General Grant was given a slave by this wife’s father. He did gain from the man’s labor, though he soon freed him and repaid him as best he could. TR never owned a slave, of course, and did manage to get himself threatened and derided for daring to invite an African-American hero to break bread with him in the White House.
Of course, Mr. Grant’s record toward native Americans during his presidency was not so great. And, for TR, someone dared carve a statue of him on horseback with a native American next to him on one side and an African American on the other, but both on foot. The TR statue was placed in New York in 1940 long years after TR, the old lion, roared his last.
Mr. Lincoln? His sin(s) are political in nature. He had the misfortune to serve as President during a time when the Slave Masters insisted they would leave the Union if the non-slave holding states dared elect him President.
(By the way, the people of the sovereign nation of Chaz/Chop took over six blocks of downtown Seattle. The first thing they did was put up walls to keep out people they did not want. Then they painted bigoted rhetoric around their little country. Then they put heavily armed persons behind the walls to make certain their walls held and no one defaced their defacing. I know what you are thinking; walls, hate speech and heavily armed militia.They claim they do so because other states dared elect Mr. Donald Trump president.TheCHOPians seceded in armed rebellion for exactly the reason the Lower Slave States left the Union in 1860.).
I digress. Mr. Lincoln pledged to preserve the Union at all costs. In August of 1862 while Mr. Lincoln was preserving the Union at all costs, a Mr. Horace Greeley wrote him a letter asking him his intentions. Mr. Greeley, an adamant abolitionist, also happened to own a newspaper. Mr. Greeley revealed Mr. Lincoln’s consistent answer to the persistent question, what will you do for our Union?
Mr. Lincoln, privately replying, told Horace Greeley:
…if I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others slaves, I would also do that…
We need to ask, nuanced gradualists that we are, what, exactly, do you think would have happened to slaves if Mr. Lincoln had not preserved the Union? If Britain or France or anyone had merged with the Confederacy for the sake of cheap cotton, what then for the slaves?
You are correct in saying Mr. Lincoln intended to save the Union at whatever cost and not just to end all slavery. In spending billions of dollars of treasure and expending the lives of hundreds of thousands of American men and then his own life, neither of us can deny his acts, along with that of numerous other men and women did end America slavery.
I wonder if some of the hooded children pulling down statues around our county would accept a monument to Lenin or Marx. Would they bow before a statue of some of the 9/11 terrorists?
No, really, I would like to know about the heroes of our rebellious multitudes. Just whose statue would they erect? And which to leave standing?
History is nuanced. My heroes may not he yours. Let us hear a bit more about the heroes you do venerate before we pull down another statue.
And, Old Abe? Leave Mr. Lincoln alone.