Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

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ken_sylvania
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Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby ken_sylvania » Mon Aug 21, 2017 9:37 pm

Bootstrap wrote:
ken_sylvania wrote:
Bootstrap wrote:Huh? It was the City of Charlottesville that decided to take the statue down, not Antifa. And if you think Charlottesville would tear down the statues of Jefferson, you don't know much about Charlottesville, a city that takes American history much more seriously than most places in America, very close to Monticello, with a university that is one of the best in American history.

I admit I don't know very much about Charlottesville. Jefferson's and Washington's ownership of slaves has come under scrutiny a number of times in the past. I'm curious why you are so confident that they would not become the focal point of protests calling for the removal of their statues? I believe Monticello has been working diligently over the last few years to uncover some of the details about slavery as it related to Jefferson and his estate. Do you think this will make a difference on how statues of him are treated?


I have heard historians from Charlottesville talk about this in the Backstory Radio shows, and I think it would. A lot of that has to do with the actual history and the role of these figures in the events of their day. Give me a one sentence summary of who Robert E Lee was. He was a rebel who fought the American government in a bloody war over whether to enslave Americans. A one-sentence summary of who Jefferson was or who Washington was probably would not mention slaves at all, and neither of them were leaders of a rebellion against the American government. And both Jefferson and Washington had much more complicated relationships with slavery.

Some historians would really prefer that we add more statues to tell the whole story. Add a statue of Ulysses S. Grant and a statue of Abraham Lincoln, for instance. But I think that would spark a whole lot of controversy too. After all, the real meaning of the Robert E Lee statue is probably the myth of the Noble Cause, in the time after "The Birth of a Nation", in the Jim Crow era. And there's no way on earth that there is too for Lincoln or Grant in these parks. I kind of scratch my head when people suggest that taking down a secular monument that white supremacists basically worship would be a form of idolatry.

Should we explore this in a separate thread? It has very little to do with Antifa. The Charlottesville City Council is not an Antifa hotbed, and I really doubt that either Antifa or the white ring extremists have much say in what Charlottesville decides on these matters. I certainly hope not. That should be up to Charlottesville. And there are certainly many cities that will not remove such monuments.
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ken_sylvania
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby ken_sylvania » Mon Aug 21, 2017 9:54 pm

Bootstrap wrote:I have heard historians from Charlottesville talk about this in the Backstory Radio shows, and I think it would. A lot of that has to do with the actual history and the role of these figures in the events of their day. Give me a one sentence summary of who Robert E Lee was. He was a rebel who fought the American government in a bloody war over whether to enslave Americans. A one-sentence summary of who Jefferson was or who Washington was probably would not mention slaves at all, and neither of them were leaders of a rebellion against the American government. And both Jefferson and Washington had much more complicated relationships with slavery.

Some historians would really prefer that we add more statues to tell the whole story. Add a statue of Ulysses S. Grant and a statue of Abraham Lincoln, for instance. But I think that would spark a whole lot of controversy too. After all, the real meaning of the Robert E Lee statue is probably the myth of the Noble Cause, in the time after "The Birth of a Nation", in the Jim Crow era. And there's no way on earth that there is too for Lincoln or Grant in these parks. I kind of scratch my head when people suggest that taking down a secular monument that white supremacists basically worship would be a form of idolatry.

Should we explore this in a separate thread? It has very little to do with Antifa. The Charlottesville City Council is not an Antifa hotbed, and I really doubt that either Antifa or the white ring extremists have much say in what Charlottesville decides on these matters. I certainly hope not. That should be up to Charlottesville. And there are certainly many cities that will not remove such monuments.


I imagine that what each of us tends to see in these various leaders will vary greatly depending on the influences we've been subjected to in life. I have to admit that when I think about Robert E. Lee, I don't immediately think of him as representing the cause of slavery. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to think of him as a man who reluctantly joined the war against the North out of a sense of duty to his state. I picture a man loyal to his own people, whose state initially was very much "on the fence" but was unwilling to fight against the other seceding states to force them back into the union. A man who gave his very best in service to what he believed was his duty, mistaken though it was. Please bear in mind that I've not exhaustively studied Mr. Lee's life, nor do I intend to, but this informs my impressions of the man and monuments dedicated to him. As you suggest, it may be a myth. I have no way of knowing. The winners write the history books.
It is my opinion that the biggest difference between Robert E. Lee and George Washington is that the one won his war, and the other lost. The one was fighting a government that had to prosecute its war across an ocean, the other was fighting a government that was directly on his doorstep. I do not believe that the colonial war for independence was any more righteous or had any better motives than the Civil war had.

[quote=Bootstrap]And there's no way on earth that there is too for Lincoln or Grant in these parks.[/quote]
?????
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Bootstrap
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby Bootstrap » Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:09 am

ohio jones wrote:
Bootstrap wrote:A one-sentence summary of who Jefferson was or who Washington was probably would not mention slaves at all, and neither of them were leaders of a rebellion against the American government.

Both of them were leaders of a rebellion against the British government. Is that really so different?


Well, let's start with this: This is largely a discussion of how Caesar chooses to glorify its wars, and the most important thing is that Caesar finds peaceful ways to make these decisions. I think Charlottesville should make up its own mind free from threat.

But if I were Caesar, I would not want monuments to honor a bloody war fought against me. Instead of a military statue showing a general commanding the troops, perhaps something that points to the reunification of the country would be better. Since Charlottesville is a university town - a university founded by Jefferson - perhaps a statue depicting Lee as president of Washington Lee College after the war?

Image

While president of the college, Lee told a colleague that the greatest mistake of his life was taking a military education. So why memorialize him in that role? Lee was opposed to building memorials to military leaders because he thought it would keep animosity alive. So why remember him with the kind of memorial he opposed?
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby Bootstrap » Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:50 am

ken_sylvania wrote:I imagine that what each of us tends to see in these various leaders will vary greatly depending on the influences we've been subjected to in life. I have to admit that when I think about Robert E. Lee, I don't immediately think of him as representing the cause of slavery. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to think of him as a man who reluctantly joined the war against the North out of a sense of duty to his state. I picture a man loyal to his own people, whose state initially was very much "on the fence" but was unwilling to fight against the other seceding states to force them back into the union. A man who gave his very best in service to what he believed was his duty, mistaken though it was. Please bear in mind that I've not exhaustively studied Mr. Lee's life, nor do I intend to, but this informs my impressions of the man and monuments dedicated to him. As you suggest, it may be a myth. I have no way of knowing. The winners write the history books.


Well, in this case the losers have written their own history books, and the history of the Civil War and Reconciliation has been taught very differently in the South than in the North. And most of these monuments went up during a period of revisionist history, this was about 9 years after The Birth of a Nation, an extremely popular movie that launched the modern Ku Klux Klan. At the time, I really do think they were put up to say reconstruction is over, we're back in charge, our cause was noble, the South shall rise again. And all of that is deeply at odds with what Robert E Lee stood for after the war, the kind of memorial he said he opposed.

Try the Lincoln test. Can you put a statue of Lincoln next to this one? For Washington, Jefferson, etc., the answer is yes. For Lee, I think the answer is yes if it is a statue of post-war Lee at the College, or perhaps a statue of the surrender at Appomatox. But if it is a General Lee defiant against the United States led by Lincoln, I think the answer is no. When we honor the dead of the Civil War, I would also prefer to honor all dead.

Now to be perfectly honest, I suspect that most people just see a statue and don't think about the historical context. Few Americans remember much about reconstruction, and those who do tend to remember the version from The Birth of a Nation rather than a more historically accurate version. In most places, I don't think voters will decide to take these statues down.

ken_sylvania wrote:It is my opinion that the biggest difference between Robert E. Lee and George Washington is that the one won his war, and the other lost. The one was fighting a government that had to prosecute its war across an ocean, the other was fighting a government that was directly on his doorstep. I do not believe that the colonial war for independence was any more righteous or had any better motives than the Civil war had.


Well, yes. This is definitely an issue for Caesar to sort out. But I do think that Washington and Jefferson did a lot to create a democratically ruled country, which has turned out well in the long run. And I would generally suggest that Caesar choose monuments to the reunification of the country rather than division. Monuments that the KKK doesn't consider so holy.
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby PeterG » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:30 am

It's helpful to compare the Declaration of Independence with the declarations of secession.

The Declaration of Independence says things like,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.__ That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.


The declarations of secession say things like,
The secessionists of Texas wrote:We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.


------------------------

ken_sylvania wrote:It is my opinion that the biggest difference between Robert E. Lee and George Washington is that the one won his war, and the other lost. The one was fighting a government that had to prosecute its war across an ocean, the other was fighting a government that was directly on his doorstep. I do not believe that the colonial war for independence was any more righteous or had any better motives than the Civil war had.

I disagree (but not entirely). Forgive me for generalizing, but the Revolution was fought for principles of good government; the secessionists of the Civil War explicitly fought for the preservation of slavery and white supremacy. The documents make it painfully clear. Even if one could ascribe the best possible motives to Lee, he could not have been ignorant of the motivations of those for whom he fought. To be clear, the Union, to a large extent, fought for the imposition of power, and to the extent that it opposed slavery it did so in perhaps the most ineffective way possible. (One interesting aspect of the secession documents is how they reveal the moral compromise and sheer clumsiness of political approaches to issues such as slavery.) And of course, fighting and warfare are wrong, period. Even assuming the best of ends, they do not justify the means.

For what it's worth, I find the Declaration of Independence and its ideas incredibly seductive and deceptive. It's a potent mixture of truth and error. The secession documents are easier to deal with because their truth-to-error ratio is so much lower. And I am deeply uncomfortable with political monuments of all kinds.
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby Bootstrap » Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:12 am

PeterG wrote:And I am deeply uncomfortable with political monuments of all kinds.


Me too, actually. Especially those that glorify war. I would be much more comfortable with a monument to grieve the victims of this terrible war.

PeterG wrote:It's helpful to compare the Declaration of Independence with the declarations of secession.


Excellent. It's also worth looking at the speeches made to advocate it, such as the Cornerstone Speech.

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact.


Here's what it says about the foundations of the two constitutions. The first sentence is about the American Constitution, the second about the constitution of the Confederate States of America.

Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.


Also, Jim McCullough did an excellent comparison of the United States Constitution and the Confederate States of America constitution, which is largely a word-for-word copy of the United States Constitution, but with several key changes. That makes it easy to see what they wanted to change.

He shows both documents with differences in yellow, commenting on each difference, and eventually reaches this conclusion. It isn't about state's rights, and doesn't really give states more rights.

Overall, the CSA constitution does not radically alter the federal system that was established by the United States constitution. It is therefore very debatable as to whether the CSA was a significantly more pro-"states' rights" country (as supporters claim) in any meaningful sense. At least three states rights are explicitly taken away — the freedom of states to grant voting rights to non-citizens, the freedom of states to trade freely with each other, and, of course, the freedom of states to outlaw slavery within their borders.

States only gain four minor rights under the Confederate system — the power to enter into treaties with other states to regulate waterways, the power to tax foreign and domestic ships that use their waterways, the power to impeach (some) federally-appointed officials, and the power to distribute "bills of credit."

As previously noted, the CSA constitution does not modify many of the most controversial (from a states' rights perspective) clauses of the American constitution, including the "Supremacy" clause (Art. VI, Sec. 1[3]), the "Commerce" clause (Art. I, Sec. 8[3]) and the "Necessary and Proper" clause (Art. I, Sec. 8[18]). Nor does the CSA take away the federal government's right to suspend habeus corpus or "suppress insurrections."


It's clearly about slavery:

As far as slave-owning rights go, however, the document is much more effective. Four different clauses entrench the legality of slavery in a number of different ways, and together they virtually guarantee that any sort of anti-slave law or policy would be unconstitutional. People can claim the Civil War was "not about slavery" as much as they want, but the fact remains that anyone who fought for the Confederacy was fighting for a country in which a universal right to own slaves was one of the most entrenched laws of the land.


Incidentally, he also finds a few promising ideas in the CSA constitution:

In the end, however, many of the most interesting changes introduced in the CSA constitution have nothing to do with federalism or slavery at all. The president's term limit and line-item veto, along with the various fiscal restraints, and the ability of cabinet members to answer questions on the floor of Congress are all innovative, neutral ideals whose merits may still be worth pondering today.
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Bootstrap
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby Bootstrap » Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:40 am

ken_sylvania wrote:
Bootstrap wrote:And there's no way on earth that there is too for Lincoln or Grant in these parks.

?????


Ooops, wrong word. Let me fix that:

Bootstrap wrote:Some historians would really prefer that we add more statues to tell the whole story. Add a statue of Ulysses S. Grant and a statue of Abraham Lincoln, for instance. But I think that would spark a whole lot of controversy too. After all, the real meaning of the Robert E Lee statue is probably the myth of the Noble Cause, in the time after "The Birth of a Nation", in the Jim Crow era. And there's no way on earth that there is room for Lincoln or Grant in these parks. I kind of scratch my head when people suggest that taking down a secular monument that white supremacists basically worship would be a form of idolatry.
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ken_sylvania
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby ken_sylvania » Tue Aug 22, 2017 11:04 am

Bootstrap wrote:
ken_sylvania wrote:
Bootstrap wrote:And there's no way on earth that there is too for Lincoln or Grant in these parks.

?????


Ooops, wrong word. Let me fix that:

Bootstrap wrote:Some historians would really prefer that we add more statues to tell the whole story. Add a statue of Ulysses S. Grant and a statue of Abraham Lincoln, for instance. But I think that would spark a whole lot of controversy too. After all, the real meaning of the Robert E Lee statue is probably the myth of the Noble Cause, in the time after "The Birth of a Nation", in the Jim Crow era. And there's no way on earth that there is room for Lincoln or Grant in these parks. I kind of scratch my head when people suggest that taking down a secular monument that white supremacists basically worship would be a form of idolatry.

Thanks. I tend to agree.
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby ohio jones » Tue Aug 22, 2017 11:39 am

Bootstrap wrote:But if I were Caesar, I would not want monuments to honor a bloody war fought against me.

Exactly. The victor not only writes the history, but erects the monuments. The South seems to be an odd exception to this, having lost the war but never really conceded. Still, there are few if any statues of Lee in the North or of Lincoln in the South.

Actually there are statues of King George in Philadelphia, and of President George in London, installed years after the countries had become allies; but Viktor the Viking has no trophies commemorating the Super Bowls his team didn't win.

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the aim of this iconoclasm is to clear a site for a sixty-cubit statue of someone else who likes gold ...
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Re: Monumental Differences - Lee vs. Grant vs. Jefferson vs. Lincoln

Postby Bootstrap » Tue Aug 22, 2017 11:59 am

ohio jones wrote:Actually there are statues of King George in Philadelphia, and of President George in London, installed years after the countries had become allies; but Viktor the Viking has no trophies commemorating the Super Bowls his team didn't win.


In Nicaragua, you can buy T-shirts celebrating the losers of major sporting events as though they had won. The companies that make these T-shirts make two sets, since they don't know who will win and most of their sales are immediately after the game. The set that celebrates the wrong victor gets sent to a third world country, where it can be sold cheaply, and the company gets a tax write-off for their charity.

I imagine you could buy a Grendel T-shirt in Nicaragua if you looked long enough.
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