No more foot-drag­ging

Our view: Bal­ti­more’s com­mis­sion on Con­fed­er­ate-re­lated mon­u­ments made a clear case for which to keep and which to scrap; the mayor should fol­low through

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

The fi­nal re­port by the com­mis­sion that de­bated what to do with Bal­ti­more’s Con­fed­er­ate-re­lated mon­u­ments makes a clear and com­pelling case: We should re­move two statutes that don’t il­lu­mi­nate Bal­ti­more’s his­tory dur­ing the Civil War years and the decades there­after, and we should keep two that do, pro­vided they are put in ap­pro­pri­ate con­text. It’s not that com­pli­cated, and we don’t un­der­stand why Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake is drag­ging her feet about putting the rec­om­men­da­tion into ef­fect.

Those who worry that Bal­ti­more is on the verge of white­wash­ing its his­tory by re­mov­ing stat­ues of for­mer Supreme Court Jus­tice Roger B. Taney — au­thor of the in­fa­mous Dred Scott de­ci­sion — and of Con­fed­er­ate gen­er­als Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jack­son would do well to read the com­mis­sion’s re­port. In con­tent and con­text, the two stat­ues the com­mis­sion rec­om­mended keep­ing — the Con­fed­er­ate Women’s Mon­u­ment near the Johns Hop­kins Home­wood cam­pus and the Con­fed­er­ate Sol­diers and Sailors mon­u­ment on Mount Royal Av­enue — re­flect far more poorly on Bal­ti­more’s his­tory than do the two that would be re­moved. They are tes­ta­ments not only to the fact that many in Bal­ti­more sup­ported the South dur­ing the Civil War but also the ex­tent to which city lead­ers spent the en­su­ing decades mythol­o­giz­ing the Con­fed­er­acy as a no­ble, lost cause. They are go­ing to re­quire some heavy-duty con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion.

Mary­land’s sym­pa­thies were split dur­ing the Civil War, but the Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments that re­main in Bal­ti­more are, the com­mis­sion found, tes­ta­ments to “lost cause” mythol­ogy that was preva­lent through­out the South in the decades af­ter the war ended. It down­played slav­ery as an is­sue and exalted the no­bil­ity of Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers. The Sol­diers and Sailors Mon­u­ment in­cludes a winged, an­gelic fig­ure rep­re­sent­ing glory clutch­ing a lau­rel wreath of vic­tory in one hand and a dy­ing Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier in the other. The statue is in­scribed with “glo­ria vic­tis,” or glory to the van­quished, and with “deo vin­dice,” the Con­fed­er­ate States of Amer­ica motto, which means “God our vin­di­ca­tor.” It was ded­i­cated in1903 by the Daugh­ters of the Con­fed­er­acy and re­flects en­dur­ing nos­tal­gia for the South­ern cause in Bal­ti­more.

The Con­fed­er­ate Women’s mon­u­ment comes from the same impulse. Con­ceived and erected in the 1910s, also by Daugh­ters of the Con­fed­er­acy, it de­picts one woman stand­ing erect and gaz­ing into the dis­tance while an­other kneels to tend to a dy­ing Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier. The com­mis­sion notes in its re­port that the statue re­sem­bles a clas­sic “rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Vir­gin Mary hold­ing the dy­ing body of Christ” and that the bed of wheat the sol­dier lies on is a “sym­bol of sac­ri­fice and res­ur­rec­tion.” Though a bit sub­tler than the Sol­diers and Sailors Mon­u­ment, it, too, sanc­ti­fies the South­ern cause and wishes for its re­vival.

The Jack­son/Lee statue of the gen­er­als at their fi­nal meet­ing on the eve of the bat­tle of Chan­cel­lorsville, in­cludes in­scrip­tions and Moving Bal­ti­more’s Lee-Jack­son memo­rial to Chan­cel­lorsville likely isn’t fea­si­ble. im­agery de­signed to con­vey no­bil­ity, but it arose out of the be­quest of an in­di­vid­ual, J. Henry Fer­gu­son, who had con­sid­ered the men he­roes, rather than out of a gen­eral move­ment. Ded­i­cated in 1948, it de­picts two men with­out sig­nif­i­cant ties to Mary­land at an event that took place in Vir­ginia. The Taney statue is a replica of one that sits out­side the State House in An­napo­lis, which is bal­anced by a more prom­i­nent statue of Mary­land’s more cel­e­brated Supreme Court jus­tice, civil rights hero Thur­good Mar­shall. Both the Jack­son/Lee and Taney stat­ues can be re­moved with­out eras­ing Mary­land’s past.

As for the prac­ti­cal is­sues in­volved in get­ting rid of them, the idea that the Jack­son/Lee statue could be given to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice and re­lo­cated to the site of the bat­tle of Chan­cel­lorsville, while in­tu­itively ap­peal­ing, is a non-starter. A Park Ser­vice of­fi­cial de­clined to say whether the agency would ac­cept the statue on­the grounds that it has not for­mally been asked to. But NPS pol­icy states that the agency “will not ac­quire his­toric struc­tures for re­lo­ca­tion to parks un­less those struc­tures were re­moved from the park and are nec­es­sary to achieve the park pur­pose or au­tho­rized leg­is­la­tion,” and “with re­gard to Civil War parks, new com­mem­o­ra­tive works will not be ap­proved, except where specif­i­cally au­tho­rized by leg­is­la­tion.”

Mayor Rawl­ings-Blake should of­fer the two stat­ues up to any tak­ers, though that may not work. It’s a buyer’s mar­ket now with re­gard to Con­fed­er­ate-re­lated mon­u­ments. Fred­er­ick is also hav­ing trou­ble find­ing some­one who will ac­cept the bust of Taney that is dis­played out­side its city hall. But no mat­ter. Surely Bal­ti­more has a ware­house where they can be stored for the time be­ing. Just be­cause no one else has stepped for­ward to dis­play them doesn’t mean Bal­ti­more should have to.


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