June 4, 2020
Governor orders removal of Robert E. Lee statue
The general’s great-great grandson, Robert W. Lee IV speaks at Thursday morning’s press conference in Richmond.
Crafted in France and erected in 1890, the bronze statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee towers above its surroundings on Monument Avenue in Richmond.
We have two pandemics in this nation — COVID-19 and racism. One is six months old, the other 400 years old. Both are lethal, especially for black and brown people.
— Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney
In a press conference unimaginable most of the last 130 years, Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday morning ordered a six-story statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee removed from state-owned property on Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue.
Nationwide protests after the recorded police killing of George Floyd, an African American, on Memorial Day in Minneapolis expedited the movement to remove symbols of “The Lost Cause” in Virginia.
“I made the decision Tuesday afternoon,” Gov. Northam said in reply to a reporter’s question. “It’s time to heal.”
In prepared remarks earlier, he said: “We must take action. So, I am directing the Department of General Services to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee as soon as possible. It will go into storage, and we will work with the community to determine its future.”
> Do you agree with the governor’s decision
The governor discussed Virginia’s 400-year history, including its role in the slave trade, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws and institutional opposition to desegregation, known as “Massive Resistance.”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney opened the 11 a.m. press conference saying: “It’s time. It’s time. It’s time to end ‘The Lost Cause.’ It’s time to heal.”
He will recommend the city council order the removal of four other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue after a new state law, giving local governments control of such monuments, takes effect July 1, Mr. Stoney said.
“We have two pandemics in this nation — COVID-19 and racism,” the mayor added. “One is six months old, the other 400 years old. Both are lethal, especially for black and brown people.”
Robert W. Lee IV, minister and the Confederate general’s great-great grandson, joined speakers at the lectern and praised the decision to take down the statue.
Gen. Lee, “a complex” man, would not want a statue of himself, Rev. Lee said, quoting him: “I think it wiser…not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
In closing, the minister said: “On behalf of my line of the Lees, we support you.”
The full text of the governor’s speech:
Governor Northam to Remove
Robert E. Lee Statue in Richmond
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced plans to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee located on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.
The Governor directed the Department of General Services to safely remove the statue from its pedestal and house it in storage until an appropriate location is determined.
Speakers joining the Governor at today’s announcement include City of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Reverend Robert W. Lee IV, Robert Johns, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Zyahna Bryant.
Governor Northam is acting under his executive authority and Section § 2.2-2402 of the Code of Virginia, which provides the Governor the sole authority to approve the removal of a work of art owned by the Commonwealth upon submission of a plan to do so. The Robert E. Lee monument was erected for and is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and is considered a work of art pursuant to Section 2.2-2401 of the Code of Virginia.
The Governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery are available here and below.
REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY:
Good morning, everyone.
I want to thank everyone watching from around Virginia and around the country, and I want to thank the many guests who have joined us as we chart a new course in Virginia’s history.
Today, we’re here to be honest about our past and talk about our future.
I’m no historian, but I strongly believe that we have to confront where we’ve been, in order to shape where we’re going.
And in Virginia, for more than 400 years, we have set high ideals about freedom and equality, but we have fallen short of them.
Some of America’s most hopeful and forward-looking moments happened in this Commonwealth and in this capital city. When Americans first dreamed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—they dreamed here in the Commonwealth.
Virginia adopted a Declaration of Rights before the United States declared independence. It said that all are “equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights.” It specifically called out freedom of the press and freedom of religion.
And in a church on a hill 15 blocks from here, Virginia’s first elected Governor helped launch the American Revolution when he cried, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” That was Patrick Henry, and I now have the job that he once held—72 governors later.
These are our greatest legacies as Americans. But there’s a whole lot more to the story, because those inspiring words and high ideals did not apply to everyone, not then and not now.
Because at the bottom of that same hill, one of the country’s largest slave-trading markets was coming to life. A place where Virginians would sell men, women, and children for profit. Americans buying and selling other Americans.
This is just as much the American story, and it’s one that we are only just now beginning to tell more fully.
Through 400 years of American history, starting with the enslavement of Africans, through the Civil War, through Jim Crow, and Massive Resistance, and mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms.
The legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents like we saw in Minneapolis a few days ago—and I want to acknowledge that our country will honor the life of George Floyd in a memorial service in about three hours.
The legacy of racism also continues as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not. But hearts are in different places, and not everyone can see it—or they don’t want to see it.
When I used to teach ambitious young doctors, I would tell them, “The eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know.” That’s true for all of us.
So, it’s time to acknowledge the reality of institutional racism, even if you can’t see it. Public policies have kept this reality in place for a long time. That’s why we’ve been working so hard to reform criminal justice laws, expand health care access, make it easier to vote, and so much more.
But symbols matter too, and Virginia has never been willing to deal with symbols. Until now.
Today, Virginia is home to more Confederate commemorations than any other state. That’s true because generations ago, Virginia made the decision not to celebrate unity, but to honor the cause of division. You’ll see this if you look around Virginia and our capital city.
The statue of Robert E. Lee is the most prominent. Lee himself didn’t want a monument, but Virginia built one any way. Lee once said, “I think it is wiser not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.” Those are wise words indeed.
So, what happened? Virginia leaders said, we know better.
Instead of choosing to heal the wounds of the American civil war, they chose to keep them on display. They launched a new campaign to undo the results of the Civil War by other means.
They needed a symbol to shore up the cause. And it’s quite a symbol. The Lee statue was built in France, and when it arrived by boat on the James River docks, it took 10,000 citizens—and a whole lot of rope to haul three large crates out into the tobacco field where it would be installed. Some business people put it out in the field, so they could eventually build a housing development around it, and make money. It worked.
This happened in May 1890, twenty years after Lee died and a generation after the Civil War ended. 150,000 people came out when the statue was unveiled. But from the beginning, there was no secret about what the statue meant. Almost every one of those 150,000 people waved Confederate flags that day.
John Mitchell was the editor of the Black newspaper, the Richmond Planet, at the time. He wrote, “The emblem of the union had been left behind—a glorification of the lost cause was everywhere.” It was a big day, and more big days followed throughout the old south. And as the statues went up, so did lots of new laws. It was all part of the same campaign.
Here’s just one example: New laws limited the right to vote. In the years after the Civil War, more than 100,000 African American men were registered to vote in Virginia. But once this campaign took off, that number plummeted by 90 percent, to barely 10,000.
That worked too. Because the people who wrote these laws knew what they were doing. They wrote other new laws to say that once a statue goes up, it can never come down. They wanted the statues to remain forever—they needed the statues to stay forever, because they helped keep the system in place. That also worked. Those laws ruled for more than a century.
But voting matters, and elections matter, and laws can be changed. And this year, we changed them. This year, I proposed legislation to let cities and counties decide what to do with monuments in their communities—take them down, move them somewhere else, or add additional context.
That law takes effect in four weeks, and then local communities will decide. I know Richmond is going to do the right thing.
But the Lee statue is unique. It’s different from every other statue in Virginia—both in size and in legal status.
You see, the state owns it, unlike most other statues. That was another part of the plan to keep it up forever. It sits on a 100-foot circle of land, a state-owned island, surrounded by the City of Richmond.
The whole thing is six stories tall. It towers over homes, businesses, and everyone who lives in Richmond—from elegant Monument Avenue to the public housing neighborhood of Gilpin Court. The statue itself weighs 12 tons, and it sits atop a large pedestal. A pedestal is a place of honor. We put things on pedestals when we want people to look up.
Think about the message this sends to people coming from around the world to visit the capital city of one of the largest states in the country. Or to young children. What do you say when a six-year-old African American little girl looks you in the eye, and says: What does this big statue mean? Why is it here?
When a young child looks up and sees something that big and prominent, she knows that it’s important. And when it’s the biggest thing around, it sends a clear message: This is what we value the most. But that’s just not true anymore.
In Virginia, we no longer preach a false version of history. One that pretends the Civil War was about “state rights” and not the evils of slavery. No one believes that any longer.
And in 2020, we can no longer honor a system that was based on the buying and selling of enslaved people. In 2020!
I want us all to tell the little girl the truth. Yes, that statue has been there for a long time. But it was wrong then, and it is wrong now.
So, we’re taking it down.
Now, I know some will protest. Some will say, Lee was an honorable man. I know many people will be angry.
But my friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe that when we learn more, we can do more. And I believe that when we learn more—when we take that honest look at our past—we must do more than just talk about the future.
We must take action. So, I am directing the Department of General Services to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee as soon as possible. It will go into storage, and we will work with the community to determine its future.
Before we turn to the next speakers, I want to acknowledge all the elected officials, scholars, members of our advisory boards, and other guests who here.
In particular, I want to acknowledge members of the family of Barbara Johns: Mr. Robert Johns and his grandson Mr. Tyrone Mayer, Jr. You all know their family’s story.
In 1951, a 16-year-old girl, Barbara Johns, stood up and led a protest—a student strike against substandard conditions at Robert Russa Moton High School in Prince Edward County. She pushed and pushed, and two great American attorneys took up her cause. Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson filed suit, next door, in the federal courthouse at the bottom of the hill. That case became Brown v. Board of Education, and it eventually threw out segregated schools in the United States of America.
That is how you make change—you push on the outside, and you push on the inside too.
We’ll hear in just a moment from a few of the people who are making change happen.
My friends, I believe in a Virginia that studies its past in an honest way. I believe in a Virginia that learns lessons from the past. And we all know our country needs that example right now.
America is once again looking to Virginia to lead. But make no mistake—removing a symbol is important, but it’s only a step.
It doesn’t mean problems are solved. We still need change in this country. We need healing most of all. But symbols do matter.
My friends, we all know it’s time. And history will prove that.
Now, I would like to introduce the Reverend Robert W. Lee IV. We’ve been talking about his great-great-grandfather.
Please, be polite. Avoid name-calling and profanity.
For credibility, sign your real name; stand behind your comments. Readers will give less credence to anonymous posts.
ryan90274 · August 6, 2020 at 2:38 pm
It is plain that Gov. Northam had never talked to, or met, Robert W. Lee IV, before he introduced the gentleman with the statement, "We have been talking about his great, great grandfather." Mr. Lee's "great, great grandfather was named Osborne Lee, who was born in Butler Co., AL., in 1865. Osborne came to Mr. Lee's hometown, Statesville, NC, in 1923, married a woman named Wright and from the marriage came a son, Robert W. Lee, Mr. Lee's great grandfather. Mr. Lee has no ancestor that connects him to R.E. Lee, R.E. Lee's "family," or "The Lees of Virginia." He simply made the connection up, to become the go-to-guy to spit on Lee.
Linda Ward · June 11, 2020 at 6:33 pm
"On the debate to take down Confederate monuments in America: I doubt Germany has monuments of and military bases named after its former Nazi leaders, nor Italy of its fascist leaders. By the same logic, why should the U.S. honor its traitors in this day and age?
The Fix editor Natalie Jennings: By the same logic, they wouldn’t. But that logic — to be ashamed of past atrocities — isn’t applied to the Confederacy by a lot of people, especially in the states that used to belong to it. That’s by design, due to historical efforts to glorify the pre-Civil War South in official ways. I grew up in the Deep South and I’m still, to this day, learning things about the Civil War that were presented in a rosy light in the culture and in my formal education. Those lessons lead people to want to want to glorify “heritage” and not reckon with the legacy of enslavement and racism. Germany, I understand, has been much more willing to confront the ugly realities."
Jeffersonian American · June 7, 2020 at 10:28 pm
We search out hate everywhere, turning our whole world into Orwell's Ministry of Love, the agency and bureaucracy pursuing thoughtcrime. How many "Hate Has No Home Here" lawn signs cover a house where "Orange Man Racist, Death to Deplorables" is an article of faith?
How many of the "Hate Has No Home Here" yard sign residents and business owners are quite fine through their Historic Ignorance On Fire to cheer the removal of General Robert E. Lee's historic statue in Richmond with their continued uncontrolled hatred and contempt for one of the greatest Christian souls from our American history whose views on race were we are all God's children; and whose view was the institution of slavery was an evil in any country (at that time a national blight in the both the American North and the American South); and as one who, working with his wife Mary, lovingly taught their inherited slaves to read and write at a time when it was against the law in Virginia to do so; and then sought to set them free- 170 of them- each with a year's salary accrued in a Christian approach to emancipation (to give them the best chance of survival to obtain shelter, food and clothing) long before Mr. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation? It actually applied only to the Southern States not under Lincoln's control- it did not apply to the Northern States which were under Lincoln's Control. It was President Lincoln who said of any emancipated slaves, "Let them root, hog or die..."
How many today preach "Hatred Has No Home Here," yet vilify those of us of a certain race; by our 1600's European Protestant America-Settling ancestors; by our family Patriots who sacrificed and fought for our liberty and independence in 1776 during the First American Secession from the British Crown, and again in 1861 during the Second American Secession from Washington, D.C.; and who attack our dearest American heroes to the point where all of what we find good and noble in our American history and culture are to be reviled, lied about, and banished from public view while everything else anti-Christian, vile and ignoble in our American life and culture is to be celebrated?
Will they be joining us in condemning our Racist Governor, the awful Democrat-majority Legislature and the voters who either blindly or willingly support their hegemony here in Virginia on the removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond- truly a crime against Virginia of historic ignorance and intolerance of the very worst kind? (CONTINUED NEXT POSTING)
Jeffersonian American · June 7, 2020 at 10:22 pm
(CONTINUED) We all know the institution of slavery was and is evil. Most thoughtful and educated Southerners and Northerners alike understood this at the time. The key point to remember is that in America, slavery was a national blight in 1861 and not just a Southern problem. As I noted previously, Robert E. Lee himself deemed slavery as un-Christian. Lee had married well, and in fact had inherited some 170 slaves upon marriage. However, Lee emancipated his acquired slaves long before Mr. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. To the contrary, the Union Army General Grant, who accepted Lee’s surrender at Appomattox kept his slaves that he owned throughout the war, citing "good help is hard to find."
Indeed, much tribute today is given to Harriet Tubman in the history books for her efforts to free 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad (a railroad which, by the way, did not end in freedom for any slave apprehended in the northern states and returned to their owners, as the Fugitive Slave Laws were being fully enforced by the Lincoln Administration). Yet Harriet Tubman is richly deserving of such recognition today that is both honorable and fitting. By historic comparison, it is never noted today- but should be noted- that Robert E. Lee freed 170 slaves on his own accord, and did so having educated many of them to read and write and after having accrued the equivalent of one full year’s wages set aside for each of them before freeing them to give them the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. It was Lee’s Christian approach to gradual emancipation that is worth noting, rather than the overnight freedom which found many former slaves starving and left to forage for themselves off the land with no food or lodging or protection from the weather. In a letter to his wife in 1856, Lee wrote, “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,” and as “the final abolition of human Slavery is onward… we must give it all the aid of our prayers and justifiable means of our power,” but “emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influence of Christianity, than the storms and tempests of fiery controversy.”
Lee later reflected, “We had, I was satisfied, sacred principles to maintain and rights to defend, for which we were in duty bound to do our best, even if we perished in the endeavor. You cannot barter manhood for peace, nor the right of self-government for life or property… Let us then oppose constancy to adversity, fortitude to suffering, and courage to danger, with the firm assurance that He who gave freedom to our fathers will bless the efforts of their children to preserve it. I had no other guide, nor had I any other object than the defense of those principles of American liberty upon which the constitutions of the several states were originally founded; and unless they are strictly observed, I fear there will be an end to republican government in this country.” President Lincoln sent Francis P. Blair to offer Robert E. Lee field command of the United States Army, thinking this would appeal to his ambition as well as the common instinct of self-preservation, with all the renown, riches, comforts, and personal and family security that acceptance would have provided him. But Colonel Lee replied simply to Mr. Blair, “If I owned four million slaves, I would cheerfully sacrifice them to the preservation of the Union, but to lift my hand against my own State and people is impossible.” Lee saw rule on one hand and ruin on another when he replied again to his old commanding General Scott, “I am compelled to; I cannot consult my own feelings on the matter.” Once Lee had made what he believed to be the right decision with God, his heart appeared fixed and he never again entertained any question as to the rightness of his course.
I join those in prayer for a better America today and in the future- but I see everything I hold dear from the good and nobler aspects of our American history today being systematically eradicated by a Cultural Marxism Reign of Terror, built on Spectacular Lies. If our American citizenry does not stand together to put a stop to this Bolshevik Revolution today that promotes special favoritism of groups without an honest and open dialog and promotes only one ideology over others- away from the concept We Are All God's Children and civil public debate- then where this current illogical intolerance and historic ignorance on fire will end is too horrible to contemplate.
DonkeyFarmer · June 5, 2020 at 7:33 pm
look at that Sh!t faced grin on Governor Northams face. Tells you all you need to know.
Jerome Fields · June 5, 2020 at 6:14 pm
"LOST CAUSE" enough said right there.
Jerome Fields · June 5, 2020 at 4:11 pm
brandonj - "Mark my words soon people will be calling for Monticello and Mt Vernon to be torn down."
Why? They are private homes, not on public thoroughfares maintained by public taxes. Both those properties have private trusts that pay for their upkeep.
You do realize that the Daughters of the Confederacy rewrote Civil War history in the late 1800's and early 1900's to teach the children born in the south to see the south not as losing the Civil War but fighting for their way of life. They are the ones that rewrote history to suit the fiction they had of themselves, not the facts.
brandonj · June 5, 2020 at 10:05 am
As others have echoed, it is probably for the best. I'd rather see some of these statues in local museums or national park battlefields than in public squares where can be damaged or defaced.
What bothers me more is the rewriting of history and narratives over the Civil War. Many believe that these characters should be erased from history because they represent slavery, which is a gross distortion, unless of your you were incorrectly taught that the war was fought over slavery.
Mark my words soon people will be calling for Monticello and Mt Vernon to be torn down.
Jeffersonian American · June 5, 2020 at 9:08 am
LEE’S UNDERSTANDING OF OUR CONSTITIONAL GOVERNMENT AS ENVISIONED BY OUR FOUNDING FATHERS AND THE REAL CAUSES OF THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES
In order to understand the character and principles Lee brought to bear on his momentous decision to refuse field command of the United States Army in the spring of 1861, we must first gain a brief perspective- for a few minutes- to review the essential truths of the founding of our republic and the circumstances as Lee understood them to be which swept over him and his native state by the spring of 1861.
Today, our proud and distinguished Virginia- the Mother of All States- deserves to have her rich history presented- and taught factually and truthfully- to all citizens and tourists from the world over who come here to learn about our unique Virginia and American heritage and the birth of our nation. And that is especially relevant for our Confederate heritage here in Virginia. Confederate history is American history. Dr. Donald Livingston of Emory University describes The War Between the States as “a massive rupture of our American political system,” with the Confederate States of America fighting for Constitutional Government as bequeathed to us by our founding fathers. Our founders were outspoken in their desire to avoid creating a massive, highly centralized national government controlling our everyday lives- and everything they warned us about has come to pass- so we are still very much living with the consequences of the War Between the States to this very day and we ought to study and teach it truthfully and learn from it.
Lee understood our nation was originally established by the Founders as a Confederation of States. The Articles of Confederation- and by its silence, the Constitution- provided for peaceful legal secession if at any time such states deem their membership in a voluntary Union to be not in their best interests as the ultimate safeguard against tyranny, or another King George III, or an all-powerful, massive concentration of power in our national government. Constitutional scholar John Remington Graham notes that in launching their new Union in 1789, the Founding Fathers of the United States renewed and strengthened their confederacy of free, sovereign, and independent states. And in adapting the principle of the Glorious Revolution of England to their own situation, they reserved a constitutional right of the people in each of the several States to elect a convention of delegates in extraordinary circumstances if warranted, to withdraw or secede from the Union and assume their place among the nations of the earth. The Glorious Revolution was distinguished by transfer of the Crown from James II to William and Mary (and significant, that it established a particularly enlightened constitutional custom accommodated by natural law for a peaceful and lawful transformation of government into a new legal order without rebellion). Graham notes for a long while it seemed that the right of a State to secede from the Union was destroyed in the United States by force of arms overwhelming the South in 1861 – 1865. It has been denied by judicial decision, and discredited in literature and politics. It has become by reputation a quaint antique gathering dust, yet it is as real as natural law and human nature itself waiting to be rediscovered by future generations to be used for the good of mankind from the deathless legions which surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse and Durham Station. The Founders bequeathed to us a small, limited national government, essentially providing three functions: law and order; national security (an Army, Navy and a Marine Corps); and delivery of the mail. Prior to the election of Abraham Lincoln, the most interaction any citizen had with their national government was mailing a letter at the Post Office. Much of the balance of power resided among the sovereign states. King George III, when officially recognizing the independence of the former English colonies, cited each one separately by name.
Furthermore, a very key fact to remember in our current time- although it is virtually never spoken- that, at the time of the ratification debates over the U.S. Constitution in 1788, if the sovereign States (both North and South) were told that they never were sovereign in the past; and that they were not now sovereign; and that upon ratification of the U.S. Constitution, that they would never be sovereign in the future, there would have been no voluntary Federal Union and no ratified U.S. Constitution in 1788.
It is important to recognize from our vantage point today, the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" has a Jeffersonian answer and a Lincolnian answer. Both views are diametrically opposed to one another. (CONTINUED)
Jeffersonian American · June 5, 2020 at 9:07 am
By the spring of 1861, the American Army’s most distinguished officer, Robert E. Lee, understood our U.S. Constitution of the founders better than politician President Abraham Lincoln, who thought he would appeal to any man’s most base instincts, offering him fame, fortune, and security for his family if he only agreed to lead the invasion of his native state, Virginia, by bloody force of arms, to return Virginia and the other seceding states forcibly back into the union.
Historian Gamaliel Bradford wrote in 1912, “How many men have we all met who seemed built to play heroic parts, yet did not and could not play them. It is well, perhaps, that such a part should occasionally be played by a man whom nature has molded for it.” In 1861, Colonel Robert E. Lee found himself making the same sobering decision that his lifelong hero, George Washington had made 85 years earlier, when he gave up everything he had ever known in this life on principle. Robert E. Lee rejected President Lincoln’s offer of fame and fortune as commander of the Federal Army that would invade the seceding southern states.
THE MYTH OF THE WAR AS A HOLY CRUSADE TO ABOLISH SLAVERY
We all know the institution of slavery was and is evil. Most thoughtful and educated Southerners and Northerners alike understood this at the time. The key point to remember is that in America, slavery was a national blight in 1861 and not just a Southern problem. As I noted previously, Robert E. Lee himself deemed slavery as un-Christian. Lee had married well, and in fact had inherited some 170 slaves upon marriage. However, Lee emancipated his acquired slaves long before Mr. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. To the contrary, the Union Army General who accepted Lee’s surrender at Appomattox kept his slaves that he owned throughout the war, citing "good help is hard to find." Indeed, much tribute today is given to Harriet Tubman in the history books for her efforts to free 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad (a railroad which, by the way, did not end in freedom for any slave apprehended in the northern states and returned to their owners, as the Fugitive Slave Laws were being fully enforced by the Lincoln Administration). Yet Harriet Tubman is richly deserving of such recognition today that is both honorable and fitting. By historic comparison, it is never noted today- but should be noted- that Robert E. Lee freed 170 slaves on his own accord, and did so having educated many of them to read and write and after having accrued the equivalent of one full year’s wages set aside for each of them before freeing them to give them the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. It was Lee’s Christian approach to gradual emancipation that is worth noting, rather than the overnight freedom which found many former slaves starving and left to forage for themselves off the land with no food or lodging or protection from the weather. In a letter to his wife in 1856, Lee wrote, “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,” and as “the final abolition of human Slavery is onward… we must give it all the aid of our prayers and justifiable means of our power,” but “emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influence of Christianity, than the storms and tempests of fiery controversy.” It is here that Dr. Livingston notes the virulent one-dimensional agitation that began in New England in the 1830s for immediate and uncompensated emancipation and which gradually spread throughout the North. Dr. Livingston also questions the moral content of this agitation, and the Northern Anti-Slavery rhetoric in general, for the institution of slavery was not of Southern origin (the first colony to legalize the slave trade was Massachusetts in 1641; and for 160 years, New England grew wealthy by plying the international slave trade; and for 220 years, New England serviced the slave economies from the South to Brazil). Dr. Livingston also notes the New York of 1861 was largely built on cotton which fueled the hungry textile mills of the emerging industrial revolution in America and abroad. Professor Eugene Genovese reminds us that slavery was a national enormity, and that from our perspective today, it would require three things: emancipation; compensation to slave holders; and integration of freed slaves into American society as social and political equals; but this is not at all how Northern antebellum Americans thought. By the time of the signing of our Constitution in 1789, slavery had been an institution in New England for over 150 years; and by 1861, at the outset of disagreement over a Union which had become unworkable, slavery as an institution was still found in the Northern States and the District of Columbia (but these facts are conveniently omitted from most modern history books).(CONTINUED)
Jeffersonian American · June 5, 2020 at 9:05 am
Quite clearly, less than five percent of the Confederate army soldiers came from families who owned slaves, yet they sacrificed for liberty and Constitutional government for four long years under the worst conditions imaginable that had nothing to do with the preservation of slavery. Dr. Livingston also notes by 1861, no national party of any significance, since the founding of our nation 70 years earlier, ever advocated or advanced a bill in Congress abolishing the institution of slavery. Lincoln himself once said he could accept slavery lasting for another 100 years provided that it could be confined to the South. Before the war, Lincoln even drafted an emancipation plan for New Jersey that would take effect in 1914. Just how far the North and Lincoln were prepared to go in supporting slavery in the South can be seen in an Amendment to the Constitution by Congress on March 2, 1861. This Amendment ordained:
No Amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere with any state with the domestic institutions thereof including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of the said State.” Here, in these very words, the protection of slavery was tied to the Union itself. If the Southern states truly wanted to preserve slavery within their borders, all they needed to do was to remain in the Union in the Spring of 1861.
Two days later, in his First Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln promised to support the amendment even though he believed that the Constitution already prohibited the Federal Government from interfering with institution of slavery. As he stated:
"I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution... has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose, not to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable (emphasis added)."
Of course, many Northern and Southern Americans at the time, believed that a military invasion of the Southern states would destroy the union by destroying its voluntary nature. Dr. Livingston notes for Lincoln, "saving the Union" meant destroying the secession movement and with it the Jeffersonian political tradition of states' rights as a check on the tyrannical proclivities of the central government. His war might have "saved" the union geographically, but it destroyed it philosophically as the country became a consolidated empire as opposed to a constitutional republic of sovereign states.
On July 22, 1861, the U.S. Congress issued a "Joint Resolution on the War," the Crittenden Resolution, passed by two-thirds majority of both Houses, that echoed Lincoln's reasons for the invasion of the Southern states: "Resolved: That this war is not being prosecuted upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those states, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and all laws made in pursuance thereof and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality and rights of the several states unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease."
In the Crittenden Resolution, by "the established institutions of those states," the U.S. Congress was referring to slavery. As with Lincoln, destroying the secession movement took precedence over doing anything about slavery.
Ladies and gentlemen, shouldn't we believe today the written words passed by the U.S. Congress in 1861 regarding what the war was really about- and their real reasons why the Southern American States were being invaded by force of arms?
This of course was consistent with one of the opening statements of the First Inaugural, where Lincoln quoted himself as saying: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." That's what Lincoln said his invasion of the Southern states was not about. In an August 22, 1862, letter to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley he explained to the world what the war was about:
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union."
Jeffersonian American · June 5, 2020 at 9:03 am
Furthermore, “The War Between the States” is the correct terminology to describe the great conflict, not a "Civil War," which is defined as when two or more sides fight for control of the national government. Southern leaders like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were not fighting for control of Washington, D.C., in 1861, any more than Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were fighting for control of the British Crown in 1776. The South simply wanted to be left alone- with peaceful, legal secession as allowed under our Constitutional Government. The 1861-1865 war was waged over control of territory and resources; it was a war of tariffs; it was in every respect an immoral and unnecessary war whose best solution would have been a peaceful, negotiated settlement forming an alternative union of states. It was between two constitutionally-sanctioned governments that the war was waged. The Confederate States of America wanted to leave the northern Union states intact and its United States Government untrammeled. Southern states voted after careful deliberations in those states to form an alternative union to maintain a purer form of Constitutional government as bequeathed by our Founding Fathers. Slavery itself as an institution was disappearing around Europe and the rest of the civilized world- in all but a few pockets which remain around the globe today. Many of the institutions of slavery died a natural death in the civilized world by the 1880's, and many scholars of today contend it would have suffered the same fate in the years following 1861 in North America. And yet the irony is, even after Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox in 1865, slavery was still legal in the District of Columbia.
The distinguished historian Dr. Clyde Wilson perhaps summarizes it best when he observes Lee's decision to resign from the U.S. Army to serve in the defense of the invaded South was one of the most important and monumental decisions in American history, similar to George Washington's gradual increasing resistance to the acts of the British ministry (whereupon he came to believe the English government had a deliberate intent to subvert Virginia's traditional liberty). The progression of Lee's thought in regard to Lincoln and the Republican Party was exactly the same. Was George Washington, who had held a royal commission, a traitor for fighting the invaders and would-be conquerors of his country? Was he obligated to fight for the King against the American states?
Dr. Clyde Wilson observes, in Virginia with the carefully considered official act of secession, a solemn act of the sovereign people representing the consent of the people, represents the most fundamental principal of American government. How could the people of Virginia commit treason against themselves? How could any act in their defense be treason? Dr. Wilson notes, despite Lee's personal feelings against Virginia secession, for a man of Lee's inheritance, the Union was not the government, especially when it was under the control of a minority party obviously hostile to a part of the voluntary Union. Lee could not accept the Republican redefinition of the Union as centralized force. Lincoln and his accomplices were modern statists, and the Union meant to them the machinery of the federal government, under the control of their party, to be used for their agenda. Dr. Wilson also notes, as Lee and his fellow southrons understood it, the original Union was a gentleman's agreement and not a group of buildings in Washington, D.C., from which sacred commandments were issued.
Dr. Livingston adds further illumination to the epoch struggle of 1861-1865 by observing no responsible person today would ever disagree that slavery is evil; but slavery is not the only evil in the world- though it is indeed evil. Livingston observes America has never fully come to terms with the evil of waging total war against a civilian population of unimaginable horror and brutality that ravaged the South- the bloodiest conflict of the 19th Century that left Europeans aghast at the destruction unleashed against the southern States, a mere 80 years after the greatest triumph of human liberty and the right to self-determination the world has ever known- killing one-fourth of its able-bodied male population and leaving untold hundreds of thousands of women, children, the elderly, slaves and freemen orphaned, homeless, starving and destitute merely to preserve a Northeastern industrial empire. Livingston also observes many people today contend Lincoln waged the war to preserve the Union. They mistakenly believe Lincoln took the oath of office as President to preserve the Union. But Lincoln took no such oath- he took an oath to uphold the Constitution.
AmericanPatriot · June 5, 2020 at 6:46 am
Removing a statue does not remove the bloodstains democrats have smeared our inner cities with.
But I guess it makes them feel woke and meaningful.
Truepat · June 5, 2020 at 6:38 am
You can't legislate away history and culture........
Demosthenes · June 4, 2020 at 9:44 pm
Yes, AmericanPatriot, morals based on the enslavement of others for economic prosperity...
No one in defense of Lee can claim it is about moral superiority. Historical significance, yes, but morality absolutely not.
Your point about family history is important of course. I thought we all believed in the American Dream, in which we all have the chance to rise to our greatest potential, regardless of our family history.
AmericanPatriot · June 4, 2020 at 9:06 pm
Lee had more decency and morals in his stools than northam has in his entire family history
Demosthenes · June 4, 2020 at 8:41 pm
Our schools should definitely teach Lee, and from multiple perspectives so that students can form their own opinions. But it is time to take down that statue, for sure.
Jeffersonian American · June 4, 2020 at 8:19 pm
Few times in my life have I been more saddened than to witness in our modern era the spreading of Spectacular Lies, deliberate or incompetent errors and omissions of fact, in direct contradiction of the documented facts contained in the historic record pertaining to the immense character and legacy of Robert Edward Lee, one of the very greatest sons ever produced by Virginia and our nation; an American for the ages and the Virginian who left us with a legacy of deep spiritual faith, integrity, dignity, honor, civility, a deep sense of humility, unsurpassed patriotic self-sacrifice, unfaltering patience and courage, a strong sense of duty and a lifelong quest for excellence. It is a legacy that our current generation of Americans would be well-served to learn, to honor and remember, and to keep dear in our hearts.
With the desecration and removal of this renowned Virginia and American cultural heritage landmark by a loathing, petty Governor and Democrat-majority legislature of a very opposite character, this shameful official act represents a historic ignorance, and Politically Correct intolerance and bigotry of the very worst kind.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a lifelong admirer of Lee, kept a portrait of the General in the Oval Office all eight years of his presidency, explaining the portrait to a cynical American from Massachusetts with these eloquent words in August, 1960 worth repeating:
Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War Between the States the issue of Secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted.
General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.
From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained.
Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall.
In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed into law a congressional resolution that restored Lee’s citizenship with the words, “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.”
(Note Robert E. Lee’s direct descendants are present in the 1975 image linked above, standing to the right of the President’s table at the Lee-Custis Mansion are 12-year-old Robert E. Lee V and his father, Robert E. Lee IV. I will clarify for readers that the cleric Robert W. Lee IV is a misguided political activist younger nephew, brought in by the current Governor, and is from another branch of the family who has enjoyed some fashionable popularity criticizing the legacy of his namesake uncle throughout Virginia in recent years. It speaks volumes that the now older, direct descendant of the late General, Robert E. Lee V, was not present at today’s event in Richmond, 45 years later).
Since this American history is no longer taught in the public schools and universities, I will pass along for those interested in historic truths the following overview article by the scholar many other distinguished scholars consider to be America’s Greatest Living Historian, who notes if America today does not wish to share in the glory and honour of Lee and his men, that is a judgment on America and not on them:
From America’s Raging Culture War (no American monuments are now safe):
Indeed, a nation (and a State) that cannot remember its past will itself soon be forgotten.
Rgibbs · June 4, 2020 at 7:22 pm
Place the statues in a museum or in Gettysburg so that others can learn from our nation’s past. Apparently, people don’t need to have the past staring them in the face every time they visit Richmond to understand it was the capital of the Confederacy. The ideals that they symbolize do not represent the nation’s and Richmond’s diverse population. This indoctrination of the past continues to negatively impact the future of our country no matter who won or who lost the war.
Silii · June 4, 2020 at 7:05 pm
Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" perfectly describe Trump! Thank you for posting.
Virtus · June 4, 2020 at 5:50 pm
BTW Robert W. Lee IV is the fourth great-nephew of Gen Robert E. Lee, not the great-great grandson.
Virtus · June 4, 2020 at 5:43 pm
VA’s future is being formed by a racist as evidenced by his college era escapades. This now apologetic “leader,” who goes with latest political leaning of the moment, stood by while Monument Avenue monuments were desecrated so it would be easier to call for their removal now.
The governor and the white guilt movement (a form of racism in itself) is falling right into the hands of the Marxists. At least several of Saul Alinsky's “Rules for Radicals” are being followed to take advantage of a situation, while tragic, that has nothing to do with monuments that at the time they were erected were erected as symbols of racism.
Actions in play from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals:”
No. 5 - "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon;"
No. 8 - "Keep the pressure on;"
No. 10 - "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition;"
No. 11 - "If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside;"
No. 13 - "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it;"
If the Monument Avenue monuments were erected as signs of racism, how did they portray racism at the time they were erected?
All VA historical monuments are under risk of removal by local jurisdictions effective July 1.
I imagine the VA state seal is next on the Governor’s “hit list” as it depicts a white woman, Virtus, and a white tyrant.
I weep for Virginia. If you care about the direction Virginia state and local governance has taken and will take, speak up and make your voice heard!
Jerome Fields · June 4, 2020 at 4:21 pm
AP - "Until then, stop calling decent Americans racists to provide cover for your friends"
And who do you consider decent Americans? Please name some names and who are these friends you mention? If the MAGA hat fits............
I can think of a lot of decent Americans and they wouldn't wear a MAGA hat if you gave them a million bucks. I can also think of family members that would put that hat on in a heartbeat. There is no happy place in this country.
Rover 530 · June 4, 2020 at 3:38 pm
If the statues are to come down, then so be it. This is the time to heal not commemorate division. The governor is right in taking this courageous step and it appears the Richmond City Council may follow similarly. Since the statues are on Monument Avenue, will the monuments of Lee, Stuart, Davis, Jack and Maury be replaced by those honoring other Virginians? Will the monument to Arthur Ashe be moved to Arthur Ashe Blvd. to replace that of Stonewall Jackson?
AmericanPatriot · June 4, 2020 at 3:20 pm
However this is only symbolic. I want our leaders to quit dancing around and start fixing the real problems. Clean up the ghettos, bring back good paying jobs, start denouncing and cleaning up the increasing gang violence would be a good start.
I want the people who live in the ghettos to clean them up and since all police are racist, to stamp out the gangs themselves.
When they clean their house, stop committing the ghastly crime, the business and jobs will come.
Until then, stop calling decent Americans racists to provide cover for your friends
Joan Smith · June 4, 2020 at 3:12 pm
If he wants to fight racism, he should remove himself.
nrad3 · June 4, 2020 at 1:41 pm
Since the statue is offensive to 20% of the commonwealth population and since Lee's descendants have requested its removal, it should be removed from the Capitol grounds and placed in a museum location.
CalHickey · June 4, 2020 at 1:40 pm
It is long past the time to move on. I heartily agree with the removal of Lee's statue.
Blackfaceralph · June 4, 2020 at 1:04 pm
1900-1930 must of the statues went up. Not 1930-1940.
Blackfaceralph · June 4, 2020 at 12:56 pm
Good move. Even Lee didn’t want confederate statues or national parks after the civil war. He thought it would keep the country divided. But the dems that ran the south in the 1930 and 40’s thought they would be a good idea. Should have been removed along time ago.
Joan Smith · June 4, 2020 at 12:48 pm
Enter your email address above to begin receiving
news updates from FauquierNow.com via email.
Wednesday, October 20
Virginia Department of Health reports 47 more deaths and 1,822 new infections statewide
Wednesday, October 20
State with “amazing biodiversity” has 71 plants and animals on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list
More Fauquier news
Tuesday, October 19
Headquarters branch and Wealth Management Building on 1.6 acres offered for $7.5 million