The Assault On Our Past

Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Image credit: 
Poster US US 5484, Poster collection, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

Image credit: 
Poster US US 5484, Poster collection, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

The assault on our past continues unabated. In its efforts to further “racial healing” in something called the “historical reckoning project,” the City of Chicago is deciding whether to eliminate some forty plus statues from its environs. Included in the potential hit list are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Ulysses S. Grant, and a number of others who have apparently fallen within the target set of the politically correct crowd. For those of you who are of Scandinavian descent the statue of Lief Erikson is on the list. Christopher Columbus’s statue has already been removed from its pedestal, supposedly, one would guess, because he was responsible for all the bad things the Europeans have done to indigenous people and to those whom they brought over to serve as slaves after Columbus had died.

Why Abraham Lincoln is on the list is difficult to fathom; perhaps because he took until September 1862 to announce the freeing of the slaves. Washington is obviously on the list because he owned a considerable number of slaves, although he did free them on his death. Franklin and Grant are on the list, I suppose, because they owned slaves for short periods of time. Franklin was a slave owner early in his career, but in later life became a confirmed abolitionist.

In Grant’s case, the future commander of Union armies was given a slave by his father-in-law as he was trying to eke out a living as a hard scrabble farmer in Missouri. Forced into bankruptcy by hard times, Grant freed the slave rather than sell him for a substantial amount of money which would have limited his debts. For the city fathers of Chicago to even consider removing the statues of Lincoln and Grant takes one’s breath away.

The proposal to trash their historical heritage by the politicians in Chicago has followed in the steps of last summer in which the local Yahoos in San Francisco trashed the statue of Ulysses S. Grant, supposedly because he owned a single slave. In Boston, the great sculpture honoring the 54th Massachusetts Black regiment received spray painted slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” and “f**k 12” (an anti-police slogan). Of course, black lives did matter to the soldiers of the 54th since they were willing to put their lives on the line to free the slaves. Some have claimed that it was right-wing racists who were responsible, but that was as unlikely as the current claim that the events of January 6th were the work of Antifa activists.

And as sad as the trashing of the 54th’s monument was, what happened to the statue of Colonel Hans Christian Heg that stood in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol is equally appalling. Here the students of the new American history used a towing vehicle to pull it off its pedestal, then decapitated it, and subsequently threw the wreckage in a local lake.

Heg’s record is particularly noteworthy. Before the war he had been active in abolitionist politics; he clearly was a man who believed that black lives mattered. During the Civil War he enlisted and rose to the rank of colonel and by September 1863 was commander of a brigade in the Army of the Cumberland. At the Battle of Chickamauga on September 18, he took a bullet in the stomach. It took him two days to die, undoubtedly in excruciating pain.

Whence cometh this idiocy? In the largest sense it comes from the deep ignorance of their own history by the great majority of the American people. Admittedly, political correctness, as well as the willful disregard of most aspects of the past by most of America’s colleges and universities have played their part. But in the end a knowledge of the historical past is the responsibility of each individual citizen. And to be frank, most don’t give a damn.