Peca: Removal is not destruction

Published 4:39 pm Thursday, October 5, 2017

There has been much confusion and misinformation being bandied about since Charlottesville. “Lost Causer” and slavery apologist Karl Schmidt wants to treat every Confederate monument like a religious statue; just the thought of moving one being akin to sacrilege.

President Donald Trump added to the confusion, saying Gen. Robert E. Lee was the same as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they all owned slaves.

Here are the facts. First, the monuments being removed are not being destroyed. They are being moved from public areas to private areas.

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If you want a statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson on your property, the First Amendment protects your right to do so. If Washington & Lee University needs a statute of Lee, they can buy Charlottesville’s statue.

Secondly, the reason the statues of Confederate generals should be removed isn’t because they owned slaves but because unlike Washington & Jefferson, they were traitors. Yes, traitors.

One of the definitions of treason in the Constitution is taking up arms against the government. If you put up a statue of Lee you might as well put up one for Benedict Arnold. It makes no difference what Lee’s motivation or reasoning was.

As President Abraham Lincoln said in his second inauguration speech, “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”

It was the generosity and political savvy of Lincoln that kept Confederate generals from facing a firing squad after the war.

There should be no statues of Confederate generals just like there are no statutes of Erwin Rommel in Germany. Why? Because they fought for the wrong side.

Third, between 1865-1900 the monuments put up by the Civil War generation were nearly all tributes to fallen comrades, not to generals.

Lee himself did not want a statue: “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.”

Statues of generals are not erected for aesthetic or sentimental reasons, but for political reasons.

From 1900-1940 during the Jim Crow period, a new generation started erecting statues to generals as symbols of states’ rights. In the 1960s another wave of monument building ensued as a response to the Civil Rights Movement.

I offer a compromise about Confederate monuments.

Let all statues built by the Civil War generation be left untouched where they currently rest.

Allow all monuments built after 1900 to be moved from public property to private property like museums, Confederate cemeteries and other similar properties.

James Peca is a retired government analyst who lives in Farmville. His email address is