Cook: Calls For Freedman Memorial Removal Is a Rejection of Our Founding Ethos
By Robert Cook
This past week protesters in Washington D.C. called for the removal of the Freedman’s memorial. This week, the city of Boston capitulated to protestors and decided to remove their own replica from public view. In addition, we have seen vandalism and destruction against monuments and memorials depicting our founding fathers, Christopher Columbus, and Jesus Christ. The widespread disdain for monuments that represent our core American ideals confirms that the violent protesters’ standard for honor or remembrance is too steep for anyone to attain.
The destruction of these monuments is a challenge against the American ethos in our Declaration. It echoes the calls for total systemic change made in France in the 1790s. During the French Revolution, those protesting the estate system destroyed monasteries and symbols representing the clergy and monarchy. They utterly rejected all their church and government stood for, and called for starting society anew. During this time, some church statues were hidden to spare them from the violent mobs. Over the past 227 years, those saved have only
recently been rediscovered.
Edmund Burke, the father of Conservatism, criticized how France fell into turmoil and revolution. In his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France, he stated,
“You had all these advantages in your ancient states, but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society and had to begin everything anew. You began badly by despising everything that belonged to you, setting up in trade without any capital… Respecting your forefathers, you would have learned to respect yourselves. You wouldn’t have chosen to consider the French as a people of yesterday, as a nation of lowborn servile wretches until the emancipating year of 1789… by following wise examples you would have given new examples of wisdom to the world. You would have: 1. made the cause of liberty venerable in the eyes of every worthy mind in every nation; 2. shamed despotism from the earth by showing that freedom is not only reconcilable with law but helpful to law; 3. had an unoppressive but productive revenue; 4. had a ?ourishing commerce to feed it; 5. had a free constitution, a potent monarchy, a disciplined army, a reformed and venerated clergy, a friendlier but spirited nobility to lead your virtue, not to oppress it; 6. had a liberal order of commons to emulate and to recruit that nobility; 7. had a protected, satis?ed, hard-working and obedient people, taught to seek and to recognize the happiness that is to be found by virtue in all conditions.”
Burke understood that protests without principle are not constructive. He thought the French had potential and could have restored virtue, law, order, and liberty by anchoring themselves to a greater ideal rooted in their history.
Unfortunately, today we do not see the building of such an anchor. The destruction of statues and monuments related to our history and founding, the creation of “autonomous zones,” and casting aside our founding fathers as merely slave owners and nothing else is an example of tearing down and opposing our foundations instead of upholding them. Like the French with their revolution, the violent and unprincipled actions of passion fueled protesters bring our nation low.
The irony of the protests against the Freedman’s memorial is that it stands for the liberation of slaves. It marks a moment when our Declaration’s ideals were carried out. When it was dedicated in 1876, Fredrick Douglass gave a speech eulogizing Lincoln, criticizing him for being a “white man’s President,” and then thanking him for his role in bringing liberty and freedom to many in the United States.
If the protesters wanted to establish themselves on following “wise examples,” the Freedman’s monument is that foundation. Like Juneteenth, it marks a moment where our ideals in the Declaration were fulfilled.
Robert Cook is a candidate for Presidential Elector in the 6th Republican Congressional District. He received his MA in Government and Political Communication from Johns Hopkins University, and is a secondary History and Government teacher, who has been involved with the GOP since he joined the Rockbridge Area Republican Committee in high school.