Trump's Right about Confederate Statues and the Slippery Slope

There’s been a lot of talk about the Civil War lately, given the left’s furor over Confederate statues and whatnot.  These statues and monuments have long existed without any such uproar, so we can assume it’s the leftist cause du jour only because there’s little meat left on the “Russia collusion” bone, so the media is sticking to its go-to strategy of fomenting racial division.

But what’s most interesting about all of this is that the people offering the most historically ignorant comments about the Civil War generally preface their statements with “people should learn their history,” or something to that effect. 

Take Keith Boykin, for example, who stated what is perhaps the most historically ignorant comment about the American Civil War that I’ve ever heard, and given the deluge of historically ignorant commentary on the subject in recent times, that’s saying something. 

On Don Lemon’s CNN panel, Boykin was clearly bothered by the fact that Ben Shapiro suggested that the Confederate statues are a “local issue.”  Boykin followed with this splendidly stupid statement:

We can’t celebrate the history of a man named Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis, who took up arms against the United States of America.  I don’t know where everybody else draws the line, but I draw the line there.  It is very possible to distinguish what Robert E. Lee did, what Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson did, from what George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, though they were slaveholders, never took up arms against the United States of America.

It boggles the mind that it’s necessary to point out something so simple.  When George Washington took up arms against the King George III’s army, there was no United States of America to take up arms against.  So, the point holds absolutely no water, and it’s silly for him to even suggest that signifies some grand distinction between George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

However, to miss the historical parallels in the circumstances surrounding the wars for American and Confederate independence (the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, respectively) requires an astounding effort to ignore facts.

Look back to 1861, with a bit of added context.  Slavery was outlawed in the Northern states, just as it was outlawed in the British Isles in 1776.  But their countrymen in the Southern states were not prohibited from employing the institution to promote their primarily agrarian economy that was uniquely reliant upon slave labor, just as many of the American colonies had been allowed in George Washington’s time.  Indeed, the United States government profited handsomely via tariffs from the South’s revenue created by slave labor, just as England had economically benefited from the American colonies. 

As such, Lincoln’s government in 1861 was not interested in proclaiming edicts abolishing it among the Southern states, as they knew it might be at the expense of a unified government.  He said as much in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861:

“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.” 

His primary concern, just as it was for King George III, was the preservation of governmental control over his vassal states, and economic control of the capital that those states represented.

How, again, are these two circumstances nothing alike?

Drawing meaningful distinctions between Robert E. Lee and George Washington, two Virginians who valiantly fought for independence on similar grounds, is far more difficult than recognizing the parallels between the two.  Hence the slippery slope that President Trump referenced recently, suggesting that if you are willing to destroy monuments to history solely on the basis of presumed racism in slave ownership (and without any context of history), the logical end is that American figures like George Washington will be the next who need to be removed from the public square.

Indeed, if it can be successfully argued that men like Washington and Lee have no contemporary value, simply for the fact that they fought to forge a nation where slavery might exist, then what value has the government of their creation, or the documents which define it?  You know, like our United States Constitution?

Make no mistake, that is the left’s endgame.  This is not about a truthful discussion of history.  It’s not about the Confederacy, or even about racism.  It’s about destroying the cultural and ideological pillars of America in order to establish new cultural and ideological pillars of the left’s design which are based not upon liberty, but based upon a central government with the authority to subsidize equal outcomes.  The new pillars will be collectivized healthcare, affirmative action, and expansive redistribution, and so on.  All of which is antithetical to the government our Founders prescribed.  The left knows it, and as such, that’s their target.

The historical truth, however, is that there are myriad reasons to admire and revere Robert E. Lee, which are far too numerous to fully list here.  Though, as he often does, historian H.W. Crocker III summarizes it well in his recent article at The American Spectator.

Lee was not a zealot bent on preserving slavery at all costs, and efforts to paint him as such are wholly disingenuous and little more than calculated efforts to smear his legacy for political benefit. 

Lee chose not to fight for the Union forces when asked, citing that “though opposed to secession and deprecating war, I could take no part in the invasion of the Southern States.” 

“As he had earlier confessed,” Crocker reminds us of Lee’s words, “a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets… has no charm for me… If the Union is dissolved and the government disrupted, I shall return to my native state and share the miseries of my people and save in defense will draw my sword on none.”