“In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil in any country.”
All Americans would certainly agree with the statement above- and in a moment I’ll identify the man who wrote it.
The current effort by the San Antonio City Council to remove the Confederate statue in Travis Park is among many similar efforts underway across Texas and the South. As a descendant of several Confederate veterans, and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, you may be surprised to learn that I can support the removal of San Antonio’s Confederate monument.
I supported the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol, in large part because it was historically inaccurate-the battle flag never flew over a state capitol. Instead, South Carolina should’ve done what Texas has done for at least 30 years, and fly the first national flag of the Confederacy instead of the St Andrews cross inspired battle flag adopted by racist groups such as the KKK.
We shouldn’t do this in a haphazard manner. Instead, the San Antonio council should develop guidelines by which to measure monuments, as well as street names, park names, and historical plaques. Statues, streets, parks, etc. that don’t live up to the standard set by council should be removed or renamed. I think all would agree that any commemoration of a white supremacist would clearly run afoul of the guidelines adopted by council.
Maybe we should replace the Travis Park Confederate statue with a statue of a more politically acceptable historic figure, such as Abraham Lincoln? Certainly no one would object to a statute of “Honest Abe”?
Well they should object. When measured by any standard, the “Great Emancipator” was clearly a white supremacist.
During Lincolns inaugural address on March 4, 1861, he endorsed a constitutional amendment, commonly referred to as the Corwin amendment, as an inducement for the seceded states to rejoin the Union. The Corwin amendment would’ve forever protected slavery where it currently existed. Lincoln told the inaugural audience: “I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”
Lincoln was clearly quite prepared to perpetuate slavery to save the Union, writing abolition supporter Horace Greeley: “…if I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it…”.
During his famous debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln explained to the crowd: “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races…I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
Lincoln was no different than 95% of all other white males, North and South, he was a white supremacist. He also seriously supported the deportation of Blacks to either Central America or back to Africa, telling a Black delegation visiting the White House in 1862: “It is better for us both, however, therefore, to be separated”, and that for blacks to refuse to colonize elsewhere would be “extremely selfish.” In December of 1862 he told Congress while asking for funding for the effort, “I cannot make it better known than it is already is that I strongly favor colonization.”
Monument removal is a slippery slope fraught with unintended consequences. Would a monument to Buffalo Soldiers pass muster? Probably not. After all, couldn’t it be argued that Buffalo Soldiers participated in a genocidal, white supremacist, war against and entire race of people-the American Plains Indians - that in effect enslaved them on reservations?
I’m sure the comments that follow this narrative will say: “Secession was treason and Jeff Davis, General Lee and all Confederates should’ve been hung, not commemorated”. However, the events of 1776, 1810 (Mexico’s secession from Spain) and 1836 would also therefore be treasonous acts. And by the way, a reason Jeff Davis wasn’t tried for treason after the war was the concern by Washington he would be acquitted.
Early in this narrative I wrote that “I can support” the removal of Confederate symbols. All that is needed to gain my support is to change the name of San Antonio’s “Abe Lincoln Street”, “Lincoln Heights” and “Lincoln Park”. Surely any criteria council would adopt would support the removal of white supremacist names, and Lincoln was certainly that.
And, that quotation above about slavery being a “…moral and political evil…”? That was in a letter written by Robert E Lee in 1856 while he was stationed in Texas, 5 years before the Civil War began. Lee also wrote home from Texas in January 1861, “…I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than the dissolution of the Union.”, and, “Secession is nothing but revolution.”
History cannot be easily compartmentalized. It isn’t simply right versus wrong, black versus white, or blue versus gray. Unfortunately, there’s an entire crowd of folks who want to do just that because they believe it is all those things, and most egregiously, they believe there is an individual right for all to go through life unoffended.
Equal treatment. Fairness. Consistency. Who in this progressive and enlightened age can oppose any of those principles? In fact, maybe if we just removed all names and statues of historic figures. All streets would have numbers and letters, and all schools, like in New York City, would be “Public School #___”.
We certainly don’t anyone to go through their snowflake life being offended by history.
by Jerry Patterson
(Patterson is a Former Texas Land Commissioner, state senator, and retired Marine Vietnam veteran.)