Cities are ripping down statues of Civil War generals all over the country. This movement isn’t as much about racism or slavery as it is about erasing American history.
The drive to tear down statues is now moving away from just the Confederacy and the Civil War and is expanding to our Founding Fathers, namely George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Bishop James Dukes, pastor of Liberation Christian Center of Chicago, is asking mayor Rahm Emanuel to remove the statue of George Washington from Washington Park in the predominantly black South Chicago. He says “When I see that, I see a person who fought for the liberties, and I see people that fought for the justice and freedom of white America, because at that moment, we were still chattel slavery, and was three-fifths of humans.”
The pastor’s comments and viewpoint demonstrate a complete ignorance of history.
First, he is partially correct. George Washington did own slaves. But he was a lifelong proponent of abolition.The laws of his state, Virginia, prohibited any slave owner from releasing and freeing any slaves. George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, fought against these laws.
Washington wrote: “I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery]; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is by Legislative authority; and this, as far as my suffrage [vote and support] will go, shall never be wanting [lacking].”
There are those who say that if Washington indeed did not believe in slavery, he should have sold those he owned. He took great pains to care for the slaves on his estate. Washington would not sell his slaves. If he had, it would have necessarily broke up families, which he found abhorrent:
“Were it not that I am principled against selling Negroes . . . I would not in twelve months from this date be possessed of one as a slave.” A devout Christian, it was against all he believed in for one person to sell another.
The only way Washington could legally free his slaves was upon his death, if he was free of any debt. Otherwise, the state recognized that slaves were property and an asset. They would therefore have to be sold to satisfy any outstanding debts of the estate.
Thomas Jefferson was deeply in debt upon his death and could not free his slaves, or in the legal sense of the time, dispose of his property while he still owed people money. Both of these great men fought to end the practice of slavery. On that topic, Washington wrote: “I wish from my soul that the legislature of this State could see the policy of a gradual abolition of slavery.”
(See also Jefferson and Slavery)
On the second part of the Chicago pastor’s assertion that slaves were only three-fifths of a person. This refers to Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution which states:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
This clause of the Constitution was a compromise between free states and slave states. The slaves states wanted their slaves to count as a whole person. The free states didn’t want the slaves counted at all. Article I spells out representation in the House of Representatives. The determination of how many representatives the states will have in the federal government is by population. The lower the population of a given state, the less representation that state will have in the federal government.
The three-fifths compromise was to diminish the power of slave states in the federal government. It was a pro-freedom compromise and was anti-slavery. The more power the slave states had in the federal government, the more entrenched slavery would become in America and the harder it would be to eventually eradicate. Still, it took a Civil War to finally put an end to the practice.
Bishop Dukes is also calling for the names of Washington Park and nearby Jackson Park, named after President Andrew Jackson, to be named after other people. He suggested Washington Park could be named after former Mayor Harold Washington, and Jackson Park could be named after civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson or singer Michael Jackson.
What he doesn’t mention is how Jesse Jackson made his entire career on perpetuating racism and how Michael Jackson was a drug-addicted pedophile. I think George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and even Andrew Jackson are far better role models for all Americans.
This drive to erase our history is staggering in its ignorance. The people depicted in these statues were not perfect. They were not angels but they created the best country the world has ever seen.
Also missing in the outcry against our history is recognition for the nearly 400,000 men who died in the Civil War fighting for the Union to free the slaves.