Every once and while, there is a controversy that arises surrounding Civil War history and Confederate symbolism. This time, it was over the city of New Orleans and their plans to remove four Confederate monuments.
A Timeline of Removal
The first monument that the city removed was an obelisk that commemorated the Battle of Liberty Place. The battle took place after the Civil War, when militant members of the Democratic Party battled the Reconstruction-era government of Louisiana.
Demonstrations broke out last week when the city officially removed the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. On Wednesday, the city removed a statue of General P.G.T Beauregard, and again there were those who protested the removal.
Future plans also call for the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee.
Protesters expressed similar sentiments Virginia, when the Charlottesville city council voted to remove a statue of Lee. Richard Spencer, the white nationalist at the forefront of the alt-right movement, led a torch-carry protest against the removal.
These instances have put the issue of Confederate symbolism in public places in the national spotlight once again.
America has previously had this conversation in 2015, after Dylan Roof murdered nine black individuals in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. That conversation ultimately resulted in South Carolina taking down the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capitol.
Nobody seriously believed that removing the flag from the grounds of the state capitol would change people’s hearts. However, it was welcomed as a step forward by both Republicans and Democrats.
The Bigger Question
This debate has raised serious disagreements over public monuments to Civil War leaders. What should be done about Confederate symbols in public spaces?
Some people object to the removal of Confederate symbols from public spaces. That’s not because they are Richard Spencer or David Duke, but because we do not want to erase history. The Civil War is part of this country’s history, and there is no denying it, no matter how unpleasant it may be. Removing these symbols may be said to be politically correct.
This, however, is a misguided interpretation. We do not need statues of Confederate politicians or generals, or battle flags on the grounds of state capitols, to remind us of the Civil War.
The Confederacy was a treasonous experiment that was formed and fought to preserve a sinful enterprise. The Civil War was about slavery, plan and simple, and anyone who disagrees should read the Cornerstone Speech by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens. Opposing statues of Confederate generals or politicians is not at all like opposing statues or buildings named after people such as Thomas Jefferson.
In their nation’s darkest hour, Confederate politicians and military officers cut and ran. They chose the easy way out. Aside from the slavery issue, every single one of those Confederate statues is of a man who committed treason. The fact that they were pardoned does not change the fact that they “levied war against [the United States].”
Their country was kind enough to pardon them, but that doesn’t mean we should honor them with monuments a century-and-a-half later.