Civil War

The Rights and Wrongs of Taking Down Monuments

There is good reason to take down Confederate monuments. But rioting and vandalism are the wrong way to go about it.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Controversial statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

The current debate over taking down Confederate monuments gives me a strong sense of deja vu. Most of the arguments on both sides are the same as those made when I last wrote about this issue in 2017. Indeed, many are the same as those made back in the 1870s, when Frederick Douglass condemned early efforts to honor Confederates on par with those who fought for the Union, and denounced what he called the "nauseating flatteries" of  Confederate  General Robert E. Lee, from which "it would seem . . . that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven."

Douglass was right back then, and he is still right now. There is good reason to take down Confederate monuments. At the same time, it is both wrong and counterproductive to do so by means of rioting and vandalism, as has happened in some places in recent weeks. Moreover, some of those who (rightly) advocate taking down Confederate statues themselves honor left-wing perpetrators of comparable or even greater atrocities.

I made a more detailed case for taking down Confederate monuments back in 2017. Here, I will just include a few key points:

The issue comes down to this simple proposition: the government should not honor people whose principal claim to fame is that they fought a bloody war in defense of the evil institution of slavery….

You don't have to take my word for the centrality of slavery to the Confederate cause, or even the word of the overwhelming majority of Civil War historians. Take that of Confederate President Jefferson Davis himself, who unequivocally stated in 1861 that the cause of his state's secession was that "she had heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races." Or that of Davis's vice president, Alexander Stephens, who famously avowed that "slavery . . . was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution" and that protecting it was the "cornerstone" of the new Confederate government. Consider also the Southern states' official statements outlining their reasons for secession, which focus on slavery far more than any other issue….

[R]emoving Confederate monuments does not require any "whitewashing" of history. No one claims that we should erase the Confederacy and its leaders from the historical record. Far from it. We should certainly remember them and continue to study their history. We just should not honor them.

Robert E. Lee, whose statues are a focus of many monument controversies, was no exception to the pro-slavery nature of Confederate leaders. He was a staunch supporter of slavery who chose the Confederacy over the Union in large part for that very reason and denounced the Emancipation Proclamation as a "degradation worse than death."

Nor can the Confederates be defended on the ground that they were fighting for the "self-determination" of the people of the southern states—at least not if blacks count as part of the relevant people:

The Confederacy cannot even be justified on the theory that the majority of the people in any state or region have a right to secede for any reason they want. As John Stuart Mill pointed out at the time, southern secession lacked majority support in any state, once you recognize that blacks count as people too, and were a part of the relevant population whose consent secessionists had an obligation to secure. African-Americans were some 40% of the population of the seceding states; it's a safe bet that the overwhelming majority opposed secession. Between blacks and the substantial minority of southern whites who wanted to stay in the Union, it is likely that secessionists did not enjoy majority support in any state.

In a follow-up post, I criticized "slippery slope" arguments to the effect that taking down Confederate monuments would also justify taking down monuments to the Founding Fathers and any other historical figures who owned slaves or held racist views:

The [slippery slope] argument fails because there are obviously relevant distinctions that can be made between Washington and Jefferson on the one hand and Confederate leaders on the other.

One crucial distinction it misses is that few if any monuments to Washington, Jefferson and other slaveowning Founders were erected for the specific purpose of honoring their slaveholding. By contrast, the vast majority of monuments to Confederate leaders were erected to honor their service to the Confederacy, whose main reason for existing was to protect and extend slavery…

lT]he Founders deserve commemoration because their complicity in slavery was outweighed by other, more positive achievements, such as establishing the Constitution. By contrast, leading a war in defense of slavery was by far the most important historical legacy of Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other Confederate leaders. If not for secession and [the] Civil War, few would remember them today.

Moreover, the slippery slope rationale for keeping Confederate monuments in place creates a slippery slope of its own:

If we should not remove monuments to perpetrators of evil for fear that it might lead to the removal of monuments to more worthy honorees, that implies that eastern European nations were wrong to remove monuments to communist mass murderers like Lenin and Stalin, and Germany and Italy were wrong to remove monuments to Nazi and Fascist leaders. After all, there is no telling where such removals might lead!…  [T]aking down German monuments to Hitler and Goebbels might lead to the removal of monuments to Immanuel Kant, who expressed racist sentiments in some of his writings. Getting rid of monuments to Lenin and Stalin might lead people to take down monuments to Picasso, who was also a communist. Where will it all stop?

The case for taking down Confederate monuments is strong. But it doesn't follow that rioting and vandalism are the right way to do it. When the monuments in question are privately owned, the vandals are violating the property rights and freedom of speech of the owners. In a free society, private individuals must have the right to put up such statues and images as they wish—even ones that express awful viewpoints, such as support for the Confederacy. When the statues are publicly owned, removing them by wanton destruction still usurps decision-making authority from the public.

The fact that pro-Confederate sentiments have become unpopular is not a reason to resort to mob rule to get rid of them. Those who think otherwise should recall that allowing mobs to suppress unpopular minorities has rarely worked out well for racial and ethnic minorities, including African-Americans.

Moreover, rioters and vandals are unlikely to limit their destructive activities to memorials whose removal is justified. In recent weeks, they have damaged or torn down such monuments as a statue of Ulysses S. Grant (the general who did more than any other military leader to defeat the Confederacy, and later sought to protect black rights as president) and the Boston Common memorial to the 54th Massachusetts, the African-American Civil War regiment made famous by the 1989 film Glory. Anyone who imagines that such actions somehow strike a blow against racism is seriously misguided—at best.

Removal of monuments by rioting and vandalism creates genuine slippery slope risks in a way that removal through peaceful persuasion generally does not. The latter works through the development of a relatively broad social consensus, which limits the influence of delusional extremists. By contrast, any small group of thugs with spray paint and power tools can tear down or deface a statue, no matter how ridiculous their reasons for doing so.

Even when vandals target monuments whose removal is justified, conducting the removal in this way is likely to be counterproductive. The point of removing Confederate monuments is not just to to get rid of the statues themselves, but to develop a strong social consensus that recognizes the wrongness of the Confederacy's cause. Removal through persuasion can help achieve that goal. Indeed, it has already taken major steps in that direction. The image of the Confederacy in popular culture today is vastly different from what it was several decades ago, even if there are still significant pockets of pro-Confederate sentiment out there.

Over the last several years, some 130 Confederate monuments were removed through peaceful means. The public debate accompanying these actions helped open people's eyes to the evils of slavery and racism, and the true nature of the Confederacy. By contrast, removal through rioting and vandalism does no such thing. In the eyes of anyone who doesn't already support removal, it just makes critics of honoring the Confederacy look like a bunch of hooligans and thugs. Wanton destruction is unlikely to persuade; if anything, it is more likely to discredit the cause and spark a backlash.

Finally, it's important to recognize that the moral standards that condemn Confederate monuments should be applied to monuments to left-wing perpetrators of historical atrocities, no less than those venerated by the right. Thus, if you support removing Confederate monuments (as you should!), you cannot simultaneously defend monuments to the likes of Vladimir Lenin or—worse still—put up new ones. Lenin was a brutal mass murderer who founded a regime that killed tens of millions of people and inspired similarly oppressive dictatorships in numerous other nations around the world.

I recognize there are close cases where it is hard to tell whether the good a historical figure did outweighs the evil by enough to justify honoring them with a monument. Such situations are unavoidable in a world where we cannot honor everyone, and there is room for legitimate disagreement about exactly where to draw the line. Communist and Confederate leaders are relatively easy cases, since the vast evil they perpetrated far outstrips the very small good. We should stop honoring such people. But that just end should be pursued by just means.

UPDATE: I should mention this excellent op ed on the same issue, by conservative Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who reaches similar conclusions, but based on somewhat different reasoning.

 

 

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  1. “The [slippery slope] argument fails because there are obviously relevant distinctions that can be made between Washington and Jefferson on the one hand and Confederate leaders on the other.”

    Of course there are. Slippery slope arguments aren’t based on the idea that there are no distinctions at each point along the slope. They’re based on the idea that each step down the slope makes traversing the next step easier. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and if you really don’t wish to make that journey, you’d better think long and hard about making that single step.

    Because once you do, you’re back where you were, not wanting to finish a journey of 1000-n steps, and somebody’s saying “this is just one step, why are you objecting?

    At some point I’d hope you’d realize that, while slippery slope arguments don’t have the logical force of a syllogism, they actually describe how the real world works. You’re watching that prove out in front of you, how is it not sinking in?

    1. It’s funny because they *are* in fact, tearing down statues of Jefferson and Washington.

      1. And Ulysses S. Grant who was not only an abolitionist but led the Union Army to victory.

        And a couple weeks ago in Boston, they vandalized (spray paint) the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts — the all-Black unit depicted in the movie _Glory_. I don’t know which is worse — that they didn’t know what the 54th Massachusetts was, or that they didn’t care.

        In other news, there was a fatal shooting last night in CHAZ — well, it might not have been fatal if they’d let the cops in, but one Black male is dead and another in the ICU. I thought this was about Black Lives Mattering…..

        1. And a couple weeks ago in Boston, they vandalized (spray paint) the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts

          https://www.wcvb.com/article/shaw-54th-regiment-memorial-defaced/32733306

          Not that I’m defending it, but the actual story seems to be that someone spray painted a piece of plywood next to the memorial.

          well, it might not have been fatal if they’d let the cops in

          And what’s your basis for that claim?

          1. Basis for claim:
            1: any delay between scene and ER increases both morbidity & mortality.
            2: The quicker you can start putting plasma or something in, the better as GSW cause of death is usually bleeding out.

            1. In other words, you made it up.

              Shocking………….

              1. “Well, that’s it, he’s dead.”
                “What’s your basis for saying that?”
                “He jumped out of a plane without a parachute.”
                “In other words, you made it up.”

                1. It looks like the Capitol Hill mob kept police away from a homicide scene. That’s bad, and should be ample grounds for criticism.

                  There is no basis (except sheer speculation) to suppose that this delay actually had any effect on the outcome for the victim. When the actual facts are already bad, reaching like this is counterproductive.

                  1. “might not have been” means what it says — and we have 50+ years of trauma medicine that says that quicker treatment saves lives.

                    1. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new.DXs after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

                      Here’s what I do………………Home Profit System

                  2. You’re basically just asserting that making rational deductions is “just making it up”. That’s all that is going on here.

                  3. It looks like the Capitol Hill mob kept police away from a homicide scene. That’s bad, and should be ample grounds for criticism.

                    It should be ample grounds for removing those who have seized private property, returning it to its owners and prosecuting those who committed the criminal acts. Those who obstructed the police should have been arrested for their criminal acts.

                  4. There is no basis (except sheer speculation) to suppose that this delay actually had any effect on the outcome for the victim.

                    Anyone: “If someone hadn’t shot that man in the head yesterday, he might be alive today.”

                    You: “That’s sheer speculation, and you’re just making stuff up!”

                  5. “There is no basis (except sheer speculation) to suppose that this delay actually had any effect on the outcome for the victim. When the actual facts are already bad, reaching like this is counterproductive.”

                    Oh screw that mealy-mouthed bullshit. This is even more absurd than to claim that noted criminal George Floyd’s health problems and drug usage caused his death and Chauvin was totally in the clear over the incident.

      2. He thinks it would somehow work out differently if only it weren’t literal mobs doing it.

        What he doesn’t quite get is that there’s always a worst statue, no matter how many you tear down. All tearing the statues YOU think are bad down does, is make the statues YOU don’t think are bad the worst statues.

        It’s just like objecting to censorship of “bad” speech: You don’t protect the bad statues because you like bad statues. You protect them because somebody else thinks YOUR statues are bad. And once you compromise the principle, it doesn’t protect you anymore.

        1. Brett,

          What principle are you advocating here? Once a statue goes up, it should never come down? Of course statutes honoring people for bad reasons should come down. Yes, it is true that the removal of some statues means that people might feel more free to voice their opinion (free speech) that other statues be removed. The horror!

          Society should generally honor people that society, in general, think should be honored. If statues honoring people that I think are good people and worth honoring are removed, well, maybe I should convince people they are worth honoring. But keeping up statues that a majority of people find offensive is anti-democratic, at minimum.

          As Illya states, it is wrong for groups of people to physically tear down statues that are either public property or someone else’s private property.

          (All of this applies to statues erected by the public. Do what you want on your private property. But people can certainly protest you honoring someone that supported pro-slavery traitors to the U.S. or anti-semetic Nazis or murderous communists.)

          1. I think that, if a monument has been in place for decades, if should not be torn down in a moment of passion, by a transitory majority responding to literal mobs. This isn’t deliberation, it’s appeasement.

            If these monuments are to be removed it should only be AFTER the mobs are gone, and with a process that actually permits people to organize in opposition. After an election, maybe by citizen initiative.

            And even then they shouldn’t be destroyed, just relocated. Maybe even sold.

            1. Yours is obviously the preferred approach. Unfortunately morons on the right[1] make it impossible in practice by mistaking decency for “erasing history” or other nonsense.

              Let’s imagine how it works in an alternate universe:

              1. Conservatives listen.
              2. Everyone acknowledges some basic truths.
              Confederate statues were:
              Erected as promotions for Jim Crow are:
              Confederate statues remain:
              Painful reminders of systemic oppression for many
              Sources of conflict within the community
              Publically funded displays of men who fought for the right to own people

              From there it’s a matter of a simple joint statement from political leaders:
              “Confederate statues are a continuing source of pain for our community. We choose to remove them because it is the right thing to do.”
              There are no downsides to disappearing them. Zero.

              But that wasn’t even remotely close to happening. So people got fed up with the intransigience and sought altrenative remedies. Good on them for making the world a better place.

              [1] Yes, I’m aware that “the left” has it’s share of unreasonable people. It’s almost as if “the right” and “libs” are individuals and not some Bose-Einstein condensate of political purity.

              1. So, what you’re saying is, if the opposition is allowed time to organize, they might prevail? And this justifies doing it in the heat of the moment?

                At least you’re honest about thinking the mob should be appeased when it’s your mob.

                1. He clearly said, if there is reasonable discussion, there is no real reasonable argument to keep up monuments erected during Jim Crow often for the express purpose of racial intimidation, but even where that is not the case, it is pretty clear that the negatives of honoring people who fought for the right to own other people outweighs the positives of honoring…what, supposed personal integrity in some instances (and/or tactical military abilities?).

                  He did not at all suggest that an organized opposition would prevail in the arena of ideas. He said the opposite.

                  What is funny is you have no problem that mobs acting in the passion of the moment put up these statues and, by getting them up, they have the right to remain until there is a sustained (length of time undetermined) majority opinion to take them down rather than a majority of citizens (“mob”) at a particular moment in time who wants them down.

                  At the least, the standard that applied when they went up (the people in control at that moment chose to put them up) is the same standard when they come down (the people in control at a particular moment that want them down get them down). Preferably, in a democracy, this would be a majority of people, not just the power brokers. Of course, when the statues went up, all citizens did not having equal voting power, much less equal power in their local government.

                  In short, the monuments largely went up at the behest of a minority of citizens for the purpose of maintaining their political and racial privilege. They can come down after a decision on one day supported by a duly elected city council or whatever other body has authority and responsibility for determining what monuments are up and down. If you don’t like it, organize and vote those people out. That’s how it works.

                  1. Meh. If the mob is contented to take their anger out on inanimate statues rather than upon living persons, that’s a positive development.

                    1. You think they’ll stop there?

                  2. He, boiled down, said, “I’m right, and if we follow your procedure, I might not get my way. So doing it this way is fine.”

                    “What is funny is you have no problem that mobs acting in the passion of the moment put up these statues”

                    I have never yet met the mob that was any good at casting bronze or working stone. These statues were NOT put up by the sort of “mob” that are taking them down.

              2. “Yes, I’m aware that “the left” has it’s share of unreasonable people.”

                “Unreasonable” is an interesting word to choose for the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro et. al. Occasionally went overboard, some excesses but hearts in the right place generally speaking.

                1. In contrast, of course, there are no examples of right-wing totalitarians. Never happened.

                  1. I was responding to Montrous’ statement. Who were you responding to, the voices in your head?

                  2. In contrast, of course, there are no examples of right-wing totalitarians. Never happened.

                    Take that, straw man!!!

              3. “Almost 3 out of 4 of the soldiers who had ever served in Lee’s army were either killed, captured or wounded, or discharged due to disability.” If Joseph Glatthaar, the Stephenson Distinguished Professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is right on that — that alone deserves a memorial.

                Just sayin….

        2. There are no ‘good’ government statues, because they’re sponsored by the government. Government should not be in command of our history or how we remember it.

          1. Interesting theory you see to have, that the power to make a statue commands history or how you remember it.

            May I suggest consulting Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias” for some guidance?

            1. Speaking of statues thlusands of years old, I recall people got bent out of shape by one governmental organization blowing up a bunch of ’em because they, and the times they came from, didn’t jive with current thinking of the masses, who were mortally offended.

            2. Interesting theory you see to have, that the power to make a statue commands history or how you remember it.

              So you’re arguing against the basis for taking these statues down?

    2. The slippery slope argument would suggest that as speed limits were raised, they’d raise into infinity.

      The truth that everyone knows, unless they are against that first step is, things escalate, then they taper off and there is a new platuea or valley.

    3. And now in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park they’ve torn down statues of Ulysses S Grant, Francis Scott Key, and Cervantes.

    4. The slippery slope logic would mean that taking down statues of Stalin is wrong because then one day someone might want to take down a statue of Washington.

      1. How about the statues of Lenin? There are ones in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New York City, Los Angeles, and — yes — Seattle, Washington.

        https://www.newsmax.com/MichaelDorstewitz/lenin-che-guevara-statues-robert-e-lee/2017/08/21/id/808898/

        1. How about them? You seem to believe you’ve made some sort of point.

          1. He made you sputter and laid bare how you are motivated by tribal spite not actual principle. Maybe that isn’t a point but he sure made you look foolish.

            1. How so? I merely asked Ed a question.

              You, on the other hand, left no doubt.

            2. Not seeing this sputtering you write of. Are you sure it’s not just in your head?

      2. Conspicuously, the mob aren’t tearing down statues of Stalin or Lenin.

        That’s because they’re communist mobs, or at least communist organized. Antifa is a communist organization, has been for as long as they’ve been around. (They brag about fighting Nazis in Germany, but they were fighting EVERYBODY but the communists, because they were fighting for a communist dictatorship.)

        That’s why they’re not limiting their attacks to Confederate statues. Because, basically, they want to destroy all the monuments that aren’t to communists.

        1. Conspicuously, the mob aren’t tearing down statues of Stalin or Lenin.

          That’s because they’re communist mobs

          This is some impressively specious reasoning.

          1. I never thought that these mobs were Communists because they weren’t tearing down statues of Communists.

            For me, it was the hammer and sickle emblems so many of them are carrying.

        2. “Conspicuously, the mob aren’t tearing down statues of Stalin or Lenin.”

          Conspicuously, there aren’t any statues of Stalin or Lenin to tear down.

          1. There’s a huge statue of Lenin about five miles from the CHOP, in Fremont. Quite easy to get to, and well known to everyone in the area.

          2. Conspicuously, you’re wrong, again.

        3. Would you settle for tearing down a statue of John Lennon? There’s one in Tampa.

    5. The slippery slope is getting slipperyer.

      In New Orleans “protesters” tore down and dumped a statue of John McDonoghl a slave owner in the Mississippi. He devised a scheme where his slaves could be freed after a period of service, donated money to to the American Colonization Society which facilitated at least some of his freed slaves immigrating to Liberia. When he died in 1850 he left the bulk of his fortune including his properties to the to the cities of Baltimore and New Orleans for the purpose of building public schools for poor white and freed black children. His bequest built 30 schools in New Orleans most named for him and given numbers. Many are still in existence.

      There is a suggestion that the statue of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square be removed because Jackson owned slaves, ignoring the fact s that he was President of the United States and saved New Orleans from British Invasion during the war of 1812.

      The LSU Board of Supervisors just removed the name of Lt. General Troy Middleton from the main library building on the basis of a letter he wrote to the Chancellor of the University of Texas. Not withstanding his service in both World Wars, to LSU and the State of Louisiana as the chair of the Commission on Human Relations, Rights, and Responsibilities , which was charged with helping implement the Civil Rights Acts. It was composed of 21 prominent whites and 21 prominent blacks.

      It seems that it’s not just Confederate monuments which are being targeted.

      1. Jackson not only owned slaves, he was briefly in the slave trading business.

  2. Ann Coulter put it best:

    “Myanmar has been in a civil war since 1948. Israel’s been fighting Palestinians since 1948. The Kurds and Turks have been fighting for half a century. At last count, there are two civil wars going on in the Philippines, and at least three in India.

    America concluded its civil war by dominating and subjugating the losers, but also honoring their bravery.

    At Appomattox, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant allowed Gen. Robert E. Lee to keep his sword. As Lee mounted his horse to leave, Grant saluted him. After announcing the South’s surrender at the White House, President Lincoln ordered the band to play “Dixie.”

    https://anncoulter.com/2020/06/17/yale-has-to-go/

    1. And the thing that’s forgotten about Lee is that but for him, there’d have been a guerrilla war that went on well into the 1870’s.

    2. Did that really work out so well for the United States? Post-reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, etc., the South has continued to fight a guerrilla war (though the bullets have generally not been aimed at U.S. troops) ever since.

      And, of course, the statues and memorials started going up as the guerrilla war ramped up (the rise of terror groups like the KKK, etc.). They weren’t part of reconciliation. They were part of an effort to claw back at least a partial victory and rehabilitate the racial hierarchy for which people like the traitor Lee fought. (He died without regaining his U.S. citizenship.)

      Also:

      Post-war Lee: “”My own opinion is that, at this time, they [black Southerners] cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of demagogism, and lead to embarrassments in various ways.”

      Post-war Lee again: “The relations between the Negroes and the whites were friendly formerly [i.e., while they were enslaved and could be raped, beaten, abused, or killed with impunity by their ‘owners’], and would remain so if legislation be not passed in favor of the blacks, in a way that will only do them harm.”

      Having lost on the battlefield, he continued to fight for the Confederacy and that for which the Confederacy stood. He was a bad man even judged by his times. We can do better.

      1. “Post-reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, etc., the South has continued to fight a guerrilla war (though the bullets have generally not been aimed at U.S. troops) ever since.”

        The black population were actually doing fairly well by most metrics, until ‘the war on poverty ‘. Mind, its damage wasn’t limited to blacks, they were just in a particularly vulnerable position.

        But allying with the party of slavery and Jim Crow? A move that stupidly self destructive boggles the mind. It sure worked out well, didn’t it?

        1. The black population were actually doing fairly well by most metrics.

          Except for, you know, the blatant segregation and lynchings.

          There is a lot more to life than numbers going up. Otherwise Cuba would be a pretty great place.

          1. I’m talking about social metrics like rising incomes, educational levels, rate of single motherhood. Yes, there was segregation and occasional lynchings, but they were, by and large, coping and gaining ground, though doing so in some cases required creating their own parallel institutions like the black colleges.

            At this point the rate of single motherhood among blacks is pushing 75%. Do you have any idea how poor the prospects of a child being raised by one parent are, unless that parent is wealthy enough to afford all sorts of expensive compensations? A whole generation of blacks are essentially doomed to poverty at this point!

            We fought a “war on poverty”, and poverty is having the last laugh, and the primary victims are blacks. Oh, and it was fought by the party of slavery and Jim Crow. Odd coincidence, that.

          2. Sarcastr0….don’t be stupid, and you’re not. Blacks in America enjoy a higher standard of living than blacks anywhere else in the world. They are doing quite well by any metric you care to examine, comparatively speaking. Brett’s point is a valid one. The social programs of the 1960’s did terrible damage to the black nuclear family, and we are reaping the harvest. I do not doubt the good intention of the policy-makers of that time…but they were completely wrong in their policy approach. We know this now.

            Mob rule has never lead to a good conclusion. Can you point to a single historical example in the last millenium or so where mob rule did lead to good conclusion? Just one, please.

            What is happening now is a manifestation of mob rule, and it needs to stop. Or maybe, put it on pause until passions have cooled. The way this is being done is not right. Means matter.

            1. Sarcastr0….don’t be stupid, and you’re not.

              I used to say the same thing, but now I think I gave him far too much credit.

        2. “But allying with the party of slavery and Jim Crow? A move that stupidly self destructive boggles the mind. It sure worked out well, didn’t it?”

          The majority of the partisans of Jim Crow switched parties and are now in the party of Lincoln

          1. Are you suggesting that there are now lots of 175-year-old partisans in the party of Lincoln?

          2. The old “switched parties” line. So name all the politicians that switched parties, jackhole. You’ll have difficulty naming more than one.

        3. There is a reason Strom Thurmond died a Republican. It wasn’t because the modern Democratic Party is the party of slavery and Jim Crow.

          There is a reason preserving monuments to traitorous Confederate soldiers is a mission pushed almost exclusively by Republicans.

          1. Many parts of the South remained firmly under Democratic control well into the 80’s, 90’s and in some cases even after the turn of the century. (Example: Georgia didn’t elect a Republican Governor until 2002. Mississippi didn’t elect a Republican Governor until 1992.)

            It’s funny how the ‘anti-racist’ Democrats didn’t see removing these statues or Confederate flags as much of a priority when they held local control over these places.

          2. There is a reason Strom Thurmond died a Republican.

            Is it the same reason that Robert “Grand Kleagle” Byrd died a Democrat?

  3. Maybe the infamous statues can be relocated to somewhere “bad”, where there badness can be appreciated. Such as some sort of Hell Zone, of place of disrepute?

    1. “Maybe the infamous statues can be relocated to somewhere ‘bad'”

      They’re already in the South. In the summertime, that can get plenty Hellish.

  4. Rioting and vandalism were part and parcel of taking down other monuments (of George III for example). Are others in opposition to our United States different? Someone help me here.

    1. Your United States? lol your family came here 70 years ago in steerage.

    2. Throughout New England, “King” street got re-named to either “Washington Street” or “Congress Street” after the Revolution.

      Are these Antafa/BLM thugs attempting to overthrow the US government? Is that what you are saying?

  5. Slippery slope isn’t a fallacy if its happening before your very eyes. They are already turning on Founding Father and clergy statues now that they’re running out of Confederate monuments.

  6. We have not nearly run out of Confederate monuments to remove and treat with disdain. Those monuments should be removed in an orderly fashion, by government, without involvement of any mob, and without delay. The mob should be scorned and deprived of the opportunity to what should have been done long ago.

    The bigots and cowards who enabled the disgusting monuments to racists, traitors, and losers to stay in place for decades deserve ample scorn, too. They should not be enabled to hide behind euphemisms such as “traditional values,” or “southern pride,” or “conservative values,” or the like.

    1. I agree, without reservation.

    2. Tell it to Congress, who gave Confederates veteran status.

  7. Form Jacob Levy’s Twitter:

    Murdering people under color of law
    is worse than
    assaulting protestors under color of law
    is worse than
    destroying or stealing the private property of innocent third parties during protests
    is worse than
    vandalizing public property that honors people who should be honored
    is worse than vandalizing public property honoring those who should not be honored.

    [several people have noted in replies, & I agree, that the ranking between 2 & 3 isn’t categorical, though I think it’s right as a generalization. There’s been some minimization of property attacks around here lately, as if Kristallnacht wasn’t violent; that’s not what I intend.]

    1. The violent pulling down, defacement, and destruction of all kinds of monuments, along with looting and burning of public and private property, is a terrible reflection on those claiming moral superiority and speaking of the need to change Americans’ thinking.  What’s being achieved, instead, are optics that these protesters would like to tear down the whole country but aren’t effectual on their own.  

      To more and more people, the Antifa/ BLM protesters look like pawns and tools of the Deep State that is behind the chaos, else the protests and riots wouldn’t be funded, organized, instigated, and tolerated so well by our Corporate-State media, local LE, and FBI.  They’re putting the rest of us into house lockdown and mask bondage over the flu and very questionable statistics, not to mention dismantling the economy, while proclaiming the violence in the streets against racism and its costly destruction trump the fight against deadly disease and any consideration of cost.

      Shame that the rioting and destruction manage to engender fear in some sectors but, overall, little additional respect for the cause and appear to be of a piece with the Covid fear campaign of command and control by the State.  

      Meanwhile, the Belmont winner today was Tiz the Law!   Most of us have to obey but not others, it would appear.

      1. If you can’t argue against pulling down statues without going full tin-foil brigade, this may indicate a problem with your side’s ability to persuade.

      2. “The violent pulling down, defacement, and destruction of all kinds of monuments, along with looting and burning of public and private property, is a terrible reflection on those claiming moral superiority and speaking of the need to change Americans’ thinking. ”

        You seem to be assuming that the same people are doing both of these things. Have you given any consideration to the possibility, even likelihood, that they are not?

        1. I assume that, by and large, the same people are doing both, because the tactics are very much in line with how-to radical primers, even down to following the examples of prior “people’s revolutions” made iconic by photo images of the toppling of walls and statues, such as in Berlin, Moscow, Baghdad, etc.

          Btw, no surprise here that the de-plinthing of Saddam’s statue in 2002 appears to have been an Army psyop designed to look as if the local people did it spontaneously and of their own accord. Images of rebellion and triumph by the dispossessed can be powerful propaganda.

          As I’ve said before, I support and encourage the legal taking down of public monuments, as agreed upon by their citizen owners and campus trustees and all those offended by them. One has to wonder if these statures pulled down really had been troubling to most blacks in their vicinities or were identified by the professional provocateurs. Anyway, good riddance to some of the memorials, but just not in the manner they were toppled or destroyed, because this is not a revolution or a psyop. Or, is it?

          Why don’t you make the argument how the rampant defacement and destruction of buildings and monuments, looting, assaults, and assorted other criminality, by largely white Antifa radicals and black BLM protesters and rioters, helps the cause of blacks in America?   There is no way that any of it does any good, other than to get a few cheap concessions in the heat of the moment.  Where’s the respect for themselves and from others?

          I disagree with the idea planted in the media that these violent demonstrations were genuine and spontaneous, because they don’t serve black interests at all.  Criminals took advantage, yes, but, by and large, black America isn’t interested in discrediting itself as an out of control destructive people whom white America needs to distrust and protect against.  Black peaceful protests, angry but not inciting speeches, strong op-eds, and constructive proposals are the real deal, not the rampaging. Some blacks I know are praying hard for love all around.

          Look into the founding, funding, and training of Antifa and BLM, and you’ll see why most Establishment politicians and press are excusing, approving, and celebrating the street drama.  They’re even ritualistically taking the knee for the martyr Floyd who happened to have a telling tattoo on his chest.  There is an agenda of divisiveness, and it won’t benefit any of us in the end.

    2. Why isn’t “rioters and looters murdering innocent people” included in the list? And where would it go? I assume, if he considered it at all, he would place it under the first but David Dorn is just as dead as George Floyd.

    3. Murdering people under color of law
      is worse than
      assaulting protestors under color of law
      is worse than
      destroying or stealing the private property of innocent third parties during protests
      is worse than
      vandalizing public property that honors people who should be honored
      is worse than vandalizing public property honoring those who should not be honored.

      When you think, “Anything is OK so long as you can point to something else that’s worse” is a compelling argument….

  8. Actually there is a way to justify removing confederate monuments without the slippery slope to removing all monuments of founders who owned slaves.

    The justification for removing the monuments is not their defense of slavery. It’s that they waged war against the United states. They are traitors.

    1. Cool. I’m and gonna go buck wild on statues of Indian chiefs.

      1. Me too — and then I’m going to take a bulldozer to the Indian Casino as well.

      2. Did those Indian chiefs take an oath to “…bear true allegiance to the United States of America?”

    2. As a matter of fact, there are no statues of Confederate traitors: see ISBN 1108415520 for details regarding the long-ago-settled “traitor” poppycock. Moreover, in 1978, President Carter signed SJR 16 (restoring all rights to Jefferson Davis), following President Ford’s signing of SJR 23 (correcting an error which had precluded full restoration of rights of R. E. Lee).

  9. We need to quickly find a civil way of arbitrating the divide between offense and history, without indulging a PC Reign of Terror.  Somehow, we either uphold our principles of freedom and individual dignity that have always been imperfectly met to, sometimes, tragically forgotten, and historically contextualize them, or we lose the past and forget who we are now.  

    Make no mistake, Southern slavers and those supporting them who regarded some people as property to be used and abused merit no sympathy or homage, given the egregious lack of their own humanity.  I had always seen Confederate memorials as dusty history of what the country was once like, and not at all compelling these days, but their removal as civic monuments may heal some old wounds.

    Still, it could be we’re being a little myopic, considering how a slippery slope of PC outrage du jour could very well extend to the deracination of most of monumental America on grounds of past or current wrongs done to other races and ethnicities, women, gays, minority religions, etc. Today, it’s BLM, but tomorrow it’s blacks and women who are deeply angry over Jefferson’s taking advantage of a black slave woman.  Should he be erased from Mt. Rushmore, along with slave-owner Washington, racist but emancipator Lincoln and white nationalist but suffrage supporting Roosevelt?  

    1. Economic slavery existed in the North, too — “I owe my soul to the Company Store.” Railroads & steel mills were incredibly dangerous, one of two telephone linemen died on the job from electrocution.

      1. Yes, economic slavery was and still is a terrible abuse.

    2. ” I had always seen Confederate memorials as dusty history of what the country was once like”

      Are you referring to memorials erected during or immediately subsequent to the Confederacy, or the ones put up to symbolize Jim Crow, or do you see these as interchangeable?

      1. What’s your point? The Civil War is one kind of blood-soaked history and the reactionary Jim Crow South another difficult history.

        I did not happen to grow up in the deep South but believe the vast majority of its population today is not racist or wanting to refight the Civil War. By the grace of God, I, too, was not taught prejudice or historical resentment of any kind.

        Our family fought in the Revolutionary War and on both sides of the Civil War. Today, on Father’s Day, had a nice chat with Dad who told me that a month ago he saw his first cousin mentioned several times for heroism in a WWII retrospective on TV. He had no idea. There are hot wars which people get induced or drafted to fight, and, afterwards, there are challenging periods of rebuilding physical, social and political structures. Such is how too much of history goes.

        Faulkner’s post-war South was one of spiritual malaise and identity crisis, as it struggled to hold onto its past and face the future. The South certainly had its beautiful minds and souls, then, and always will, but, now, 150 years later, though it has lost some of its regional character, it seems more universally welcoming and generous. Look at all of the southern black city and town mayors, police chiefs, DAs, other office holders, and governmental workers in recent decades.

        Still, it’s the hideous KKK hoods, separate water fountains, and the racist drawling demagogues in the Congress from yesteryear that today’s South gets identified with. Will riots and rampaging by Antifa and BLM and their illegal pulling down of public monuments help the cause of bettering not only race relations but conditions and opportunities for black Americans? I doubt it, but they will help damage everyone’s sense of security and have some people screaming for martial law at some point, and which very well may be the point… and highly unfortunate for us all, black, white, or any color.

        There are no easy answers, but civilly and fairly addressing offending reminders of a hurtful past that has lingered too long may be a start. The different calls for outrageous redress and for endless apology, though, may be more about picking at scabbing wounds than healing. We have to ask ourselves who benefits from this all of this.

  10. Statues that are repugnant to the Constitution are null of themselves? lol.

  11. Can’t wait until some militia gets the idea they can rip down some communist or socialist monument in the public square. Don’t know where they might have learned that tactic from, but it will be fun to see it transpire. Time to get some popcorn.

    1. I keep thinking of MLK2 — he WAS sexist & homophobic.

    2. “Remove all government statues and monuments. Government should not be in the business of telling us which parts of history to remember or honor – permitting them to do so is downright Orwellian.[…] it will be fun to see it transpire.”

      From what I’ve heard from people who were there, it was indeed quite the party when the Berlin Wall was torn down.

      ” Time to get some popcorn.”

      You’re a bit late to the party, popcorn or not.

      1. I have yet to see a statue kill anyone, though the idiots that dropped one on one of their own came close.

  12. When the statues are publicly owned, removing them by wanton destruction still usurps decision-making authority from the public.

    That overlooks the contrasting political dynamics governing taking action to do something, and taking action to reverse something already done. In the former instance, it is typical for the balance of political opinion to be weighed and heeded more carefully than in the latter.

    Before political action gets initiated, politicians ask how many favor it, vs. how many opposed. There are potential political rewards for letting majority opinion guide outcomes. That seems to be the kind of political process Somin has in mind for the monuments question. But that isn’t how American politics work in cases where former political actions are proposed for reversal.

    Instead, once an action—including erection of a monument—has already been accomplished, small minorities who oppose change have better opportunities to dictate outcomes. In instances such as those, politicians treat the minority in opposition as a potentially dangerous electoral swing vote. Political inertia in such cases acts on behalf of avoiding the question, doing nothing, and thus placating what appears to be politically dangerous opposition. That seems to be why confederate monuments have stood so long against fairly clear opposition by a majority of Americans.

    Frustration with that lopsided dynamic is why majority-offending monuments are finally getting torn down without reliance on the political process. It is because the process Somin prefers seems unavailing, even for majorities.

    More generally, a political system seems destined to become progressively less stable if it gives to smaller voting blocs an out-sized veto power to use against changes to the status quo. As evolving political majorities suffer loss after loss to the power of minorities opposed to change, the majorities become restive, and look increasingly to try the consequences of direct action. The majorities will reason they have on their side both utilitarian and moral advantage. The minorities can reply only by insisting that the political system itself is designed to deliver stasis, which is the result they prefer. To the majorities, repetition of that kind of argument seems more like a taunt than an answer.

  13. One almost might reach the conclusion that these riots are not because of police violence, racism, or any of the other platitudes that the chattering class ascribes to them.

  14. This is all manufactured nonsense. Most of the idiots knocking down the statues have no idea who the subjects of the statues were and have never thought about, nor had ‘painful reminders’ about any of it.
    So, now that all the statues are gone and all the white politicians and celebrities are trying to out-virtue signal each other with saccharine platitudes , does that mean blacks are going to stop committing violent crimes, get jobs, and be civilized?

    1. You’re missing an important point here: They’re not ordinary idiots, they’re useful idiots. The people we have to worry about are the people who are pulling their strings.

    2. My point about vandalizing the temporary while-its-being-repointed facade of the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts — they either didn’t know what the 54th Massachusetts was, or didn’t care.

  15. Remove all government statues and monuments. Government should not be in the business of telling us which parts of history to remember or honor – permitting them to do so is downright Orwellian.

    Let private individuals decide who is worth honoring, and the marketplace of ideas will sort it out.

    1. “Remove all government statues and monuments. Government should not be in the business of telling us which parts of history to remember or honor – permitting them to do so is downright Orwellian.”

      Sure. Whose face(s) go on the money, then? Picking the guy(s) who won the war(s) rewards people who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, but at least it tend to be unequivocal. So that’s Lincoln on the cent, Washington on the quarter, and Roosevelt on the dime. Jefferson sneaks in on the Nickel because he expanded the country without firing a shot.

      1. Most of the faces on our money are ex-Presidents.

        The two major exceptions are Hamilton (first secretary of the Treasury) and Ben Franklin.

        “Whose face(s) go on the money, then?”

        Is there some technical reason I am unaware of that requires that we have faces on our money?

      2. Once upon a time the faces on US coinage were all, so far as I know, either anonymous Indians or metaphorical figures from classical mythology. Paper money was always different, though. I think it significant that images of dead presidents on coinage portrayed in the manner of deified Ceasars became the norm at about the same time our government was changed, in practice, from a Republic to an Administrative State.

  16. Can we please stop with slippery slope arguments? Like, forever? Every action is on a slippery slope to one or more catastrophic outcomes.

    1. The traditional way to make this request is to deride the “parade of horribles”. However, the reason people make “slippery slope” arguments is because they work quite well on people with poor reasoning skills.

      1. People make slippery slope arguments because the real world actually works that way, and deriding slippery slope arguments even as we’re sliding down one and picking up speed is just delusional.

        1. Yes. The action taken today will be used as a justification for further similar actions in the future. How many times have you heard some proposed regulation being justified on the grounds that “you don’t object to having to get a driver’s license, do you?” I’ve heard this used to justify all kinds of various infringements of individual liberty which have no relation to driver’s licenses.

  17. The first answer is that the local community or other rightful owner of a property right to either take down or not take down a Confederate monument should be able to exercise that property right in either direction, and in most cases there’s not any good reason to get your knickers in a twist over it when you are not that property owner or part of that municipality, other than being a virtue signalling busybody with an abject ignorance of history.

    As someone who has never lived in the South and never gave a second thought to Confederate monuments until a few years ago, I have no dog in this fight. But what I’ve come to realize is that a lot of the inaccurate history and ideological agenda behind this push is just a continuation of the ideological struggle between decentralized self-government and the imperialist, totalitarian impulse of centralized government.

  18. “Robert E. Lee . .. was a staunch supporter of slavery who chose the Confederacy over the Union in large part for that very reason”

    Nonsense.

    https://bit.ly/37RVjky

    “First, Lee deplored slavery, describing it as a “moral and political evil” in a letter to his wife, Mary Anna. Lee told her that they should give “the final abolition of human slavery…the aid of our prayers and all justifiable means in our power,” praying for “the mild and melting influence of Christianity” over “the storm and tempest of fiery controversy” driving America to disunion. Lee elsewhere called slavery a “national sin” for which he feared America would be punished. “If the slaves of the South were mine,” Lee wrote to Bishop Joseph P.B. Wilmer, “I would surrender them all without a struggle to avert this terrible war.” Lee himself was never willingly involved in the slave economy. When his wife inherited some slaves through her father-in-law, Lee freed them in accordance with his wishes, and stayed in touch with many of them. Near the end of the war, Lee supported the late General Patrick R. Cleburne’s revolutionary plan to emancipate and compensate any slaves who enlisted in the Confederate army, along with their families. Lee recommended that arming and freeing the slaves be followed by a “well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation.” After the war, Lee endorsed emancipation. “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished,” Lee told Pastor John Leyburn. “I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.” In a correspondence with Lord Acton, the great English classical liberal, Lee said, “Although the South would have preferred any honorable compromise to the fratricidal war which has taken place, she now accepts in good faith its constitutional results, and receives without reserve the amendment which has already been made to the Constitution for the extinction of slavery.” According to Lee, emancipation was “an event that has been long sought, though in a different way, and by none has it been more earnestly desired than by citizens of Virginia.” The fact that the Confederacy’s champion was an enemy of slavery and proponent of emancipation should force everyone to question what they assume the Confederate flag symbolizes – slavery and hate or independence and honor?

    Second, Lee initially opposed secession, but his loyalty to his native state – the Commonwealth of Virginia – surpassed his loyalty to the abstraction of the Union. …When invited to lead the Federal invasion of the Confederacy – which, as President Abraham Lincoln painstakingly affirmed, was solely for “preserving the Union” rather than “freeing the slaves” – Lee declined and resigned his commission in the U.S. Army. …

    Third, Lee did not believe he was fighting for the particular issue of slavery, but for the foundational principles of American freedom – self-government, independence, and the constitutional rights of the states. As the Confederacy rejected three offers from Lincoln to exchange submission to the Union for the protection of slavery, Lee’s convictions were confirmed. “Our sole object,” Lee wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, “is the establishment of our independence and the attainment of an honorable peace.” Before his very first battle at Cheat Mountain, Lee did not encourage his men to fight for slavery, but for home, hearth, kith, and kin. “The eyes of the country are upon you. The safety of your homes and the lives of all you hold dear depend upon your courage and exertions. Let each man resolve to be victorious, and that the right of self-government, liberty, and peace shall find in him a defender.” Lee supported states’ rights not because they protected slavery, but because, as the Founding Fathers understood, they were the “safeguard to the continuance of a free government” and “the chief source of stability to our political system.” As Lee explained to Acton, “The consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.” Lee further noted that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom were secessionists in their day, opposed “centralization of power” as the gateway to “despotism.” According to Lee, “The South has contended only for the supremacy of the Constitution, and the just administration of the laws made in pursuance to it.””

    1. When his wife inherited some slaves through her father-in-law, Lee freed them in accordance with his wishes, and stayed in touch with many of them.

      Lee kept these slaves in bondage for five years after inheriting them, broke up their families, treated them so cruelly he nearly incited a revolt, and organized the torture of some who escaped and were recaptured. He betrayed his oath of office and his country to defend slavery: if he in fact had the moral insight to recognize how evil slavery was, that makes his actions all the worse.

      1. Some of that is questionable. https://bit.ly/2V4FRMI

        But I agree his actions were bad. Perhaps he should not be honored, and other as well. Such as Lincoln, since he started a war that killed more Americans than any other before or since, and he did so for empire and money and power.

    2. In addition to Robert E. Lee’s cruel treatment of his slaves and refusal to grant freedom to his father-in-law’s slaves despite his father-in-law’s express wishes, he actively undermined the rights and freedoms of black people after the war.

      “My own opinion is that, at this time, they [black Southerners] cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of demagogism, and lead to embarrassments in various ways.” – Traitor Lee

      “It is true that the people of the South, in common with a large majority of the people of the North and West, are, for obvious reasons, inflexibly opposed to any system of laws that would place the political power of the country in the hands of the negro race.” – Traitor Lee

      “The relations between the Negroes and the whites were friendly formerly, [you know, when I could abuse them at will, sell their children, spouse, or parents, and otherwise terrorize them,] and would remain so if legislation be not passed in favor of the blacks, in a way that will only do them harm.” – Traitor Lee

      The man was not honorable and should be afforded no honor.

      1. That is not even as bad as some of Lincoln’s statements regarding black people. So perhaps you are right, and the same applies to Lincoln. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the rest were also traitors, so perhaps you are right, and the same applies to them.

        1. Okay, against my better judgment, I’ll bite. How were Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin traitors?

          1. How is this even a question? https://mises.org/library/founding-fathers-smugglers-tax-evaders-and-traitors

            Recall that in the moments of signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin remarked, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

            1. Ah, I see, you mean against Great Britain. Well, I suppose being on the winning side of a war definitely improves one’s historical reputation, whether in 1783 or 1865. Also retroactively rehabilitating that reputation is often used to make some contemporary political point.

  19. “Consider also the Southern states’ official statements outlining their reasons for secession, which focus on slavery far more than any other issue….”

    Actually, many of the states made no mention whatsoever of slavery in their official statements. A number of them only seceded in response to Lincoln’s acts of war against seceded states. And of course, some slave states did not secede.

    1. ” A number of them only seceded in response to Lincoln’s acts of war against seceded states.”

      Review your logic.
      1. States attempt to secede
      2. Including attempting to seize property of the United States.
      3. The US troops occupying and protecting these US assets defend them.

      How, exactly does 3 cause 1 in your understanding?

    2. “Actually, many of the states made no mention whatsoever of slavery in their official statements. A number of them only seceded in response to Lincoln’s acts of war against seceded states.”

      That would require that those states only seceeded after the start of the Civil War. Name them and their dates of secession.

      1. The war began three days after Ft Sumter, when Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer troops to take up arms and go to war against their brothers and fellow countrymen.

        This action was the direct cause of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas seceding immediately thereafter.

        1. M L — You are reading Ft. Sumter right out of the history of the Civil War? Get a grip. Ask yourself, “What makes me want to do that?”

          1. I’m not reading Fort Sumter out of history by any stretch. Historians are of two minds about which of these two events is “when the war started” and I stated the less popularly known event. But either way this is irrelevant to the point I was making, which is that four states seceded directly in response to Lincoln’s call for troops to go to war against the South.

    3. “A number of them only seceded in response to Lincoln’s acts of war against seceded states.”

      The start of the Civil War is considered to be the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. That happened only a month after Lincoln Inauguration and the only “act of war” by Lincoln before that was an expedition to resupply Fort Sumter.

      Secession Dates

      Only one state definitively seceded after the attack on Fort Sumter.

      For two states there isn’t a specific date of secession.

      1. Check your dates again. Your link shows that Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas all came soon after Ft Sumter, and more to the point, soon after Lincoln declared war on the Confederate states by calling for 75,000 troops to march against them.

      2. Matthew…There was a long lead up to secession and the Civil War. People are generally ignorant about the 1820-60 time frame. A lot happened in that period that brought secession to the forefront.

  20. “One crucial distinction it misses is that few if any monuments to Washington, Jefferson and other slaveowning Founders were erected for the specific purpose of honoring their slaveholding.”

    None of the Confederate monuments were erected for the specific purpose of honoring their slaveholding, either.

    1. No, they were (ostensibly) erected to honor their contribution to the Confederacy, and the mission of the Confederacy was to preserve the institution of chattel slavery in the Confederate states.
      Their mission failed. Because they raised in open rebellion, the 13th and 14th amendments were able to be passed in Reconstruction. Had they not rebelled, the southern states could have held off these amendments in Congress, because they controlled enough Senators.

      1. The vast majority of existing “Confederate” monuments were erected in the period of 1950-1980 as a direct FU to the civil rights movement.

        1. Vast majority? I don’t think that is even close to accurate. Many are from the late 19th and early 20th century.

          This month has seen the removal of a 125 year old monument to the unknown, unnamed dead soldiers that fought for independence and in defense of their families and homelands.

          1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_Soldiers_and_Sailors_Monument_(Birmingham,_Alabama)

            Regardless of the timing, the reality of the overall intention is less that the South wanted to cherish the legacy of slavery and racism, and more that they wanted to minimize it and emphasize the other more positive aspects of their heritage — at times of course even to the point of wrongly whitewashing history. Even in the 1860s and especially when the war ended, you can see many were deeply ashamed of slavery, even as racism persisted through Jim Crow, which then brought more shame. The South is proud, but they changed.

  21. “lT]he Founders deserve commemoration because their complicity in slavery was outweighed by other, more positive achievements, such as establishing the Constitution. By contrast, leading a war in defense of slavery ”

    Few people are aware of the fact there were TWO (2) emancipation proclamations during the Revolutionary War. They were a war measure to encourage soldier defection, same as Lincoln’s. Odd isn’t it? If the British had won the war then we would be celebrating THOSE emancipation proclamations.

    The reality is that the Confederate cause was centered on the basic principle of self-government and independence, to about the same extent as the Revolutionary cause was. Both are awfully tainted by slavery and racism. The Confederate cause perhaps moreso, but only slightly. This perception is mostly only due to the fact that the Confederacy lost. Might doesn’t make right, but it allows victors to write history in such a way. Lincoln’s cause was the same as Britain, empire, tax revenues, domination and control.

    Few people are also aware of the fact that Lincoln offered three times to protect slavery if the seceding states would remain in or rejoin the Union, and the states rejected this each time in favor of independence.

    Even less known is the Confederate plan to abolish slavery in order to gain the support of Britain and France. Independence was paramount:

    “In 1864, Duncan F. Kenner, perhaps the largest slave holder in the South at the time and representative from Louisiana, approached Davis with a unique proposal. In order to gain the recognition of the British and French governments, something that had eluded the Confederacy since the beginning of the War, Kenner suggested that Davis tell both governments that the Confederacy would abolish slavery. No timeframe was discussed, and Kenner originally floated the idea of presenting the plan to the Confederate Congress. Davis asked Kenner not to do so and rejected the idea outright, thinking that the situation was not yet desperate enough to warrant such a move, but in late 1864 he sent for Kenner and told him to put the plan in motion. Kenner was given credentials and set out on a secret mission to Europe in January 1865. He arrived just weeks before Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse and met with the two Confederate commissioners, James M. Mason (grandson of George Mason) and John Slidell, in Paris. Slidell at first refused to support the plan, but Kenner told him that such refusal would result in his immediate suspension.

    The three men met with French Emperor Napoleon III, who agreed to recognize the Confederacy under these terms if the British would follow suit. The commissioners quickly sailed to London, where they met with the Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, who sternly rebuked their proposal, stating that Her Majesty’s government would never recognize the Confederacy under any condition. Lee’s surrender dashed any lingering hopes of continuing diplomacy, and this last-ditch effort to win international support died a swift death.”

    1. Few people are also aware of the fact that Lincoln offered three times to protect slavery if the seceding states would remain in or rejoin the Union, and the states rejected this each time in favor of independence.

      Virtually everyone is aware that the US government was willing to make virtually any accommodation to avoid war. The fact that the southern states were so fanatically devoted to protecting slavery that they preferred to betray their country and kill hundreds of thousands of Americans over even the remote risk that slavery might be weakened some day in the far distant future does not, in my view, ennoble their cause.

      1. “the US government was willing to make virtually any accommodation to avoid war.”

        Um, well, anything except entertain the possibility of peaceful separation. There were those that would entertain it, but Lincoln would not have it. Lincoln refused to receive the Confederate delegates sent to negotiate peaceful separation. Lincoln was bent on preserving empire and he was bent on war as necessary to do so, and that is why he made war. Lincoln made very clear that he was more than willing to either preserve slavery or abolish it, in either case, whichever would further his aim of “preserving the Union.”

  22. As a final comment I would note that Ilya Somin treats “Confederate monuments” as a monolithic category, when in reality each monument is a different case.

    Some of these monuments being torn down are monuments to the unknown soldiers that never returned and were buried in mass graves on the battlefield. The common Confederate soldier was certainly never fighting for slavery in their mind. Instead, they were fighting for the self-defense of their homes and homelands and for independence. These monuments are their headstones and desecrating them is no different than desecrating graves.

    What I have observed is that among well-meaning and good-hearted Southerners, many of them may favor taking down certain Confederate monuments, but never those of the kind described above. Others, just as good-hearted and extremely learned in history, are more opposed generally to taking down Confederate monuments because while they acknowledge the role of slavery, they justifiably identify the Confederate cause more primarily with the same principles that the Revolutionary cause was ostensibly premised on. I think the reality is that while these noble ideals have their role, war almost always comes down to power and money.

    1. How about “Silent Sam”, who was removed from the UNC-Chapel Hill campus? A good number of people (I can’t judge whether they are “well-meaning” or “good-hearted”) demanded that he be returned to his honored position on campus.

  23. ” if you support removing Confederate monuments (as you should!), you cannot simultaneously defend monuments to the likes of Vladimir Lenin ”

    How are these comparable? The Confederates led an unsuccessful revolution against the United States, whereas Mr. Lenin led a successful revolution against the Russian monarchy. My support for the United States does not imply anything about my opinion of the Russian monarchs, nor the regime that replaced them.

    1. If anything, there’s a closer tie between the United States and the French Revolution, which was plenty bloody. I look forward to someone’s arguments the taking down monuments to the Confederacy implies that we should tear down the statue of Liberty Enlightening the World from New York harbor, since it came from the French after the revolution.

    2. Unfortunately, Lenin replaced the abusive Russian monarchy with an ideological and political system that was at least as oppressive and opposed to freedom as the monarchy (evil as it was) that was replaced. I think the general pro-freedom and anti-cruelty/terrorism principles that lead most of us to want the Confederate monuments taken down would equally suggest not honoring Lenin and his ilk (or the Russian monarchy that preceded him).

      1. Historically speaking, Lenin didn’t replace the Russian monarchy. The Russian monarchy had already been toppled by about March 1917. (The February revolution.) Then Lenin overthrew the new government later that year in the October revolution. Then the Red Terror starts the next year.

        Lenin didn’t overthrow the monarchy, he overthrew the people who’d overthrown the monarchy.

  24. I’m starting a petition to re-name an American naval base in Hawaii for a fine, honorable naval commander who, at that very spot, pulled off an incredibly bold and successful military operation — Isoruko Yamamoto. Anybody want to sign?

    1. It makes as more sense than Fort Bragg in North Carolina. General Bragg was a decidedly mediocre (at best) general who also fought against the United States and is considered to have been not a very nice person in addition to being a poor military strategist.

      At least Yamamoto was a competent (and possibly brilliant) military tactician, he opposed Japan’s invasion of and full-scale war with China, opposed the alliance with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, and opposed war with the United States (which puts him a step above Bragg). I won’t be signing your petition. But I would sign it before I would sign one to keep Fort Bragg named Fort Bragg.

  25. Or that of Davis’s vice president, Alexander Stephens, who famously avowed that “slavery . . . was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution” and that protecting it was the “cornerstone” of the new Confederate government.

    Stephens made public statements for a public audience. He had to remain in sync with official Confederate policy. In private he said something different. In a private letter to J. Henly Smith on December 31, 1860 Alexander Stephens disclosed that the real reason the South seceded was that the southern leaders didn’t want any redress of grievances but were for breaking up because they were “tired of the gov[ernme]nt. They have played out, dried up, and want something new.” So in private, Stephens was saying that it was not primarily about slavery.

    All that the South has at present just cause to complain of, and the chief ground of just complaints, is the personal liberty bill[s] of some of the non-slaveholding states. These ought to be repealed, and I doubt not if the whole South had united in asking their repeal with firmness and decision and with an honest intent to be satisfied with it when they got it that success would have crowned their efforts. Of this I am satisfied. But the truth is our ultra men do not desire any redress of these grievances. They would really obstruct indirectly any effort to that end. They are for breaking up. They are tired of the gov[ernme]nt. They have played out, dried up, and want something new. Here was all the danger or the great difficulty in the way of making any settlement or adjustment. It seems to me at present insurmountable! I do not see how it can be removed or gotten over.

    Stephens had said in the summer of 1860, “I consider slavery much more secure in the Union than out of it, if our people were but wise” and that was undoubtedly true.

    1. My link above is broken. Here’s one that works.

  26. The Constitution never would have been ratified if it were made plain that a President could invade and kill citizens of a state that seceded.

    The North suffered economically when the Southern states , producers of cotton, left the Union. They lost their monopoly on the supply of cotton for their Textile Mills, and faced competition from Textile Mills in Europe who could now freely trade with the South.

    If the war was about Slavery, why didn’t Kentucky and Maryland secede? And to follow up, why didn’t Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation free the slaves in Kentucky and Maryland?

    I’ve got a hundred more. It still doesn’t make slavery right, it wasn’t. It just shatters the myth of Lincoln as a God and of Uncle Sam as a protector of the innocents.
    Ask the extinct native American tribes how well Uncle Sam treated those in his way.

    1. I didn’t see anyone here argue that Lincoln was a god or Uncle Sam is a protector of innocents. And both Maryland and Kentucky were prevented from seceding by direct federal government and military action. Maryland would certainly have seceded otherwise, and Kentucky probably would have.

  27. It is interesting that the photo atop this post is of the Lee statue in Charlottesville. Those who failed in their efforts to remove the statute (the “losers”) currently owe the successful preservationists $350,000+ in legal fees.

    What if statue-preservers outnumber revisionists? If those in a locality take a vote and decide to keep a statue, does that foreclose the issue or do those outside of the locality have some say in the matter? I ask because “foot voting” and localization of law has always been Somin’s theme.

    1. Revisionists? The historical revision is the erecting of the statue in the first place, thus promoting the noble cause version of Civil War history. The ridiculous debate about who deserves a statue is all about contemporary politics, and has nothing to do with history at all.

      1. I agree with your last sentence.

  28. Lenin stopped the ‘Great War’, and was a mass life-saver.

  29. I don’t know many who defend mob action

    But one has to admit, 50 years of protesting waiting for racists to take down racist monuments is pretty damn patient

    Then you elect a racist president

    I mean, at some point, things will happen

    That is why gov’t by a minority of old white guys is of limited utility

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