Keep Calhoun statue as a valuable history lessonRoundup
tags: Confederate flag, Confederate Memorials, John C Calhoun
Aedes mores juraque curat
(“She guards her buildings, customs and laws”)
— Motto of the City of Charleston
I read with amusement the op-ed “Why should Charleston keep honoring John C. Calhoun?” by James W. Loewen, a liberal social activist, historian, and author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” because I could have written it myself — 40 years ago.
Today, however, I do not agree with either Mr. Loewen or with my younger self. The Calhoun statue itself is in a history lesson, and we are in the preservation business in Charleston, not the demolition business.
I assume that Mr. Loewen’s quotations demonstrating that Calhoun was a racist are correct. His argument that Calhoun championed nullification and the protection of slavery are irrefutable. I wrote in “A Short History of Charleston” in 1982:
“The greatest apologist for slavery, states’ rights, and ironically, minority rights was not a Charlestonian at all, but a figure who towers over the city’s history like a great cloud: John C. Calhoun. He is buried in St. Philip’s churchyard, Calhoun Street is named in his honor, and a statue of him was erected on Marion Square. Although married to a Charleston heiress, he never cared much for the city. It 1807 he said that the fever in Charleston was ‘a curse for their intemperance and debaucheries.’
“This fanatical Upcountry puritan (a friend said she ‘never heard him utter a jest’) nevertheless possessed a brilliant mind. Richard Hofstadter, in ‘The American Political Tradition,’ wrote that Calhoun was ‘probably the last American statesman to do any primary political thinking.’ Unfortunately, he was the first to argue in the Senate of the United States that slavery ‘is, instead of an evil, a good — a positive good.’ In his ‘Disquisition on Government,’ he anticipated Karl Marx by identifying class conflict as inevitable. Indeed, Hofstadter called him the ‘Marx of the Master Class.’ ” ...
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