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Thomas Gallatin / Feb. 9, 2017

The Latest Chapter in the Left's Campaign of Historical Purges

Charlottesville votes to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a public park.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, Mayor Mike Signer and his uber-leftist City Council voted to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Lee Park and to rename both Lee and Jackson Parks — the latter, of course, named for Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The measure also includes $1 million in funding to redesign the parks, including the eventual placing of a new monument intended to honor the slaves of the city’s past.

In what is the latest Stalinist-style purging of history across our nation, the action in Charlottesville constitutes a shocking degree of intellectual dishonesty and hubris. This city council’s actions reveal more than mere concern over the lack of honor given to those who suffered under the cruelty of slavery. There is a vindictiveness inherent in this decision. Why did they not seek a reasonable compromise and allow for the honoring of both war hero and slave? By any fair measure, Gen. Lee was an honorable man and great military leader — in fact Abraham Lincoln asked Lee to command the Union Army of the Potomac. But Lee declined, writing, “I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the army, and save in defense of my native state … I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.” He entered the war on the side of the Confederacy out of loyalty defend the rights of the state of Virginia, not out of some imagined “evil” desire to maintain slavery. To suggest otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

Almost as egregious is the council’s decision to recognize March 3 as “Liberation and Freedom Day,” that date in 1865 when Charlottesville was occupied by invading Union forces. After all, Virginians who engaged in the War Between the States were fighting first and foremost for the same principles of Liberty as an earlier generation of Virginians — those who made the intellectual arguments for and then fought in the Revolutionary War — among them, Charlottesville native and author of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. Irrespective of our own modern-day judgment on the legitimacy of their cause, it does great violence to the historical record to so limit their rationale as being motivated solely or even primarily by a desire to preserve the institution of slavery. We betray the historical record if we erase from it the narrative and perspective of those who experienced it. Indeed, it is the fool who rejects the lessons of the past in favor of his own modern prejudices.

So, while Robert E. Lee was not a slave owner, Charlottesville most famous native, Thomas Jefferson, was. Is it time for the city to tear down monuments to Jefferson — starting with his beloved University of Virginia?

Update, February 17: Meanwhile, Tennessee will become the first state to guarantee funding to preserve War Between the States battle sites.

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