The Confederacy Is Not Worth CommemoratingRoundup
tags: slavery, memorials, Confederacy, libertarianism, public history
Jonathan H. Adler is the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
There is room for debate over when it is appropriate to rename institutions or remove or relocate statutes and memorials to disgraced public figures. For myself, I think the burden on those calling for such changes should be rather high, and I generally prefer supplementing such memorials or displays–such as by adding statues or memorials of other, more deserving figures–over removal. History is important, including (perhaps especially) when it concerns our shortcomings as a nation.
The one context in which I think such historical effacement is justified concerns memorials to leaders of the Confederacy. While I think it is perfectly appropriate, indeed important, to have such historical artifacts in museums and appropriate venues, I think it is appropriate to remove the names and visages of Confederate leaders from places of honor. There is no good reason to have such statutes in public squares or the names of Confederate generals on U.S. military bases.
My reasons are quite simple: The Confederacy was a traitorous uprising expressly inspired by a desire to maintain slavery as a racial institution.
While the true causes of secession have not always been adequately covered in history books (some of which repeat the fable that southern states seceded over tariffs or suggest it was a "war of Northern aggression), the historical record is abundantly clear. The South seceded over slavery, preemptively seeking to leave the Union after their preferred candidate lost the Presidential election.
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