Why T.J. Deserves a Place in Our Pantheon of Heroes

TJ-statueby James A. Bacon

Students at the College of William & Mary have carried on a long tradition of festooning the campus statue of Thomas Jefferson with accouterments ranging from woolen scarfs to party hats. The latest fad is to append the effigy with sticky notes denouncing the founding father as a slave holder, a racist and a rapist. The activity imitates a similar movement on the University of Missouri campus, which has been coupled with a petition to remove a Jefferson statue on the grounds that it was offensive to idealize someone who owned and raped slaves. I don’t know if the anti-Jefferson movement will gain the same momentum at William & Mary, a public university in a state where Jefferson is revered like no other historical figure. But, given the tenor of the times, some kind of debate is inevitable.

TJI find the negative sentiments expressed in the sticky notes to be indisputably true at one level and profoundly misinformed at another. True, by today’s standards, Jefferson’s views and behaviors were reprehensible. He did own slaves. He did sell slaves and break up slave families. He most likely (though not indisputably) did keep a slave woman as a concubine. He did believe blacks to be inferior to whites. It is not unreasonable to ask why, for all his brilliance as an author of the Declaration of Independence, a United States president, an architect, the founder of the University of Virginia, and all-around polymath, we should continue to hold him in such high esteem (or, for that matter, why we should esteem any member of Virginia’s slave-holding aristocracy).

The case I would make for Jefferson (along with James Madison, George Washington, Patrick Henry and George Mason) is not that they reflected 21st-century sensibilities, which they clearly did not, but that they articulated values and principles for the first time in history that laid the foundation for the values we hold today. We could not have gotten to where we are today had Jefferson & Company not laid the groundwork.

Colonial America imported its institutions and mental constructs from a Europe that was emerging from the Middle Ages. Collective entities such as towns, cities, guilds, social classes and ethnicities — not individuals — were imbued with rights. When Nathaniel Bacon led a revolt against the autocratic Governor Berkeley of Virginia in 1676, leading a rag-tag band of impoverished farmers and freed slaves, he called for a restoration of the “rights of Englishmen.” Virginians were entitled to rights and privileges, embodied in the Magna Carta and common law that their ancestors had fought for and won. But those rights were not regarded as universal; they were peculiar to Englishmen and derived from English institutions. Jefferson’s great contribution was to draw from Enlightenment-era principles to argue that all men were endowed by their creator with inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Essentially, he reinterpreted the rights of Englishmen as rights applied universally to everyone. In Jefferson’s formulation, rights did not belong to collective entities; they belonged to individuals, and they were intrinsic to a person’s existence as a human being — the core principle of 21st-century political thought.

What is perhaps most remarkable about Jefferson is that he articulated principles in direct conflict with his own material self interest as a slave holder. While Jefferson indisputably failed to live up to his own principles, it is intellectually facile and lazy to end the discussion there. It is a truism (and one of Karl Marx’s few useful insights) that economic and social classes, both the rulers and the oppressed, create ideologies that support their material self interest. One must ask: How many ruling elites in the history of mankind have ever developed a governing philosophy that undercut their material self interest? How many ruling elites in history have wrestled with the dichotomy between those principles and the way they actually lived their lives, as Jefferson, Madison, Washington and others did? The answer: precious few. Indeed, I cannot off-hand think of any other ruling elite in the history of mankind that has done such a thing.

Jefferson articulated principles that most Americans, including the people who now despise him, hold dear today. We should revere him for making the leap from rights rooted in collective entities to rights applying to all. We should respect him for making that leap in contravention of his own material self interest, and appreciate the fact that the contradiction haunted him until his dying day, even if he failed to free all his slaves and impoverish himself in the process. The journey to equal rights for all Americans certainly did not end with Jefferson, but it started with him, and he rightly deserves a place in our pantheon of heroes.

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75 responses to “Why T.J. Deserves a Place in Our Pantheon of Heroes

  1. I noted that Princeton University students are demanding that Woodrow Wilson not be recognized because of his actions or lack thereof while serving as President of Princeton etc.
    And across America college students are becoming more active than any time since the 1960s. So more may be coming to WM and Jefferson as the unrest spreads across the nation.
    And not all Virginians were for slavery. There was a movement at the beginning to seek freedom for African Americans which included John Marshall, James Monroe and many other well-known Virginians and across the nation in the early 1980s.
    There was a movement to raise money to buy freedom for slaves and then give them land in the new lands west or provide them the opportunity to go back to Africa free with money. I think Liberia was an American colony and served as a free land for former slaves. I think that Liberia means Land of Liberty and Monroeville is named for James Monroe.
    And when Jefferson went bankrupt several times Marshall and Monroe raised money to bail him out.
    Marshall had one “slave” when he died and his will provided freedom with resources in Marshall’s will but the man decided to continue to live with the Marshalls in Virginia.
    And Marshall and Jefferson were cousins and differed greatly in interpreting the constitution.
    So times have changed and are changing.

  2. If we run all historical figures through the 21st century meter, there will be no statues of anyone, anywhere. This purification of what one finds retroactively distasteful, morally abhorrent, or just plain threatening is what a tyrant does once in power (Mao, anyone?). Do these cleansers not understand the difference between acknowledging a role in history and a wholesale endorsement of all actions by the individual? To be significant does not mean to be 100% virtuous nor even admirable. Our US history is filled with significant types who held slaves, who fought under a Confederate battle flag, who were adulterers, wife beaters, child molesters, alcoholics…a statue of Robert E Lee doesn’t force to fall at its feet in blind worship, it reminds that he played an important part in our nation’s history.

    Better the cleansers put their energy into improving conditions in the world today–why don’t they get energized about fighting human trafficking, our current slavery crisis? Because it’s much easier to put a Post-It note on an inanimate object on their way to class. Meh.

  3. Dear Jim,

    I, personally, am pessimistic about democracy, which the Framers of the 1787 Constitution abhorred, and even of republicanism. I view that these things are Jefferson’s “chickens coming home to roost.” But I do not call myself a monarchist for two reasons: I respect, in spite of my skepticism, the consensus of most Americans for these two -isms as being the only source of political legitimacy, meaning I do not seek to overturn it. Also, I realize that a monarchy is only as good as the man who sits on the throne. But in terms of the trajectory of our country, I think that the tendency is for factions to destroy the society, and the checks and balances devised by those like Mr. Madison have been substantially overcome by the system of political parties and the moneyed interests that control them behind the scenes, and especially the Republican Party. I hope I am proven wrong, and that a genteel “Wade Hampton-esque” Conservative party arises that will unite Americans of all racial groups in an anti-plutocratic, broadly Christian and traditional coalition. Our current political culture is toxic and edging ever toward an 1850s atmosphere.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

    • As usual your comment is very thoughtful, and a breath of fresh air, in the stale air of our childish irresponsible times.

      With regard to Jefferson –

      A man of many faults and monumental and timeless achievements, his overweening rhetoric that pushed unrestrained democracy was matched only by his life and conduct in pursuits of his own perquisites, perks, and entitlement as pure breed 17th century aristocrat.

      So left to his own devices he surely would have left very rickety ship behind, a nation without an anchor or ballast, and far too much sail on stormy seas.

      In short, these children so passionately pelting Jefferson now are his children.

  4. And hence this just, this useful Lesson learn:

    If strong Desires thy reasoning Powers control;
    If arbitrary Passions sway thy soul;
    If Pride, Envy, if the Lust of Gain,
    If wild ambition in thy Bosom reign,
    Alas! Thou vaunt’st thy sober Sense in vain.
    In these poor Bedlamites thy Self survey,
    Thy Self, less innocently mad than They.

    Found in Bedlam, by Thomas Fitzgerald, 1776

  5. What happens when the foundation of an Ivory Tower begins to crumble?

    • This is an interesting question that you raise.

      The foundations of the Ivory Tower have already crumbled. The disordered remnants of the crumbled foundation are plain see.

      For example:

      Our President Barack Obama attended some of nations finest educational institutions – Occidental College (2 yrs), Columbia University (BA, international Relations) and Harvard Law School (JD, Magna Cum Laude).

      Yet it is obvious now that our President never learned any history at Occidental, Columbia or Harvard worth knowing. He learned ideology instead. So it is now also obvious that history ultimately will declare this to have resulted in a national tragedy. For our President’s mind has yet to escape that straitjacket of ideology that blinkers and blinds it.

      Obama is not alone in his misery. Ideology is rampant in our society. That plague is the progeny of our institutions of higher education whose foundations have now collapsed beneath them. This is why the Universities of Yale, Princeton and Missouri can’t muster the strength to stand against the temper tantrums of its own children.

      And it is also why the nation as a whole now acts like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming train. How sad, because in truth our nation simply confronts only its own children’s cry for help. For these children of ours are also the victims of our educational systems, just like their President Barack Obama was and still is.

  6. I have felt for some time that Jefferson’s failure to free his slaves was because he was not able to do so. My guess is that most of his slaves were used as collateral for his debts and he was not at liberty to free them even if that was his desire. Washington upon his death was only able to free some of his slaves and not those encumbered by others (his wife).

    We can argue that he should not have run up such debts, but many of them were accumulated in the service of his country (as ambassador and president) where he felt it was his obligation to represent his nation and entertain guests and foreign dignitaries. He was probably one of the few politicians who were poorer for having served in government. Washington was similar in his refusal to accept any pay as head of the revolutionary army, and his willingness to front the money for his wartime expenses.

    As I recall, Jefferson did try to address slavery a bit in his draft of the declaration but it was excised by the committee before the document was presented to the full Congress.

    His notion of inalienable individual rights (coming from Locke, the Virginia Constitution and other places) still live today. The other three main principles in the Declaration are less recognized and practiced:

    1. Governments are created to secure these natural rights. Jefferson’s idea was that governments existed to secure and protect these rights for its citizens.

    2. Every government owes its existence to and derives its just powers exclusively from the community that creates it. Jefferson’s native Virginia doesn’t even practice this. It is a Dillon’s rule state, where the power of the state can overrule what a local municipality deems is best for its citizens.

    3. When such governments become destructive of the peoples’ natural rights – or when the government no longer recognizes that its authority comes from the people who created it – the people have a right to alter that government or remove themselves from its improper influence and establish new systems which properly protect their safety and well-being. The essential notion is that our governments exist to serve the natural rights of the people – not to determine whether those natural rights should be exercised.

    This is the challenge of our times as our governments have become instruments of special interests from all points along the political spectrum. Most citizens behave as victims, rely only on carefully crafted and manipulated snippets of information and want to be saved by a demagogue from one party or another. Even our young people are often caught in the habit of only criticizing what exists rather than creating something better.

    • I have always heard Jefferson had financial problems. Then, I read a list like this –

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_Presidents_by_net_worth

      This list puts Jefferson as the US president with the second highest net worth (in 2010 dollars) after the incomparable George Washington.

      If Jefferson truly had a net worth of $212M (in 2010 dollars) but died bankrupt I’d have to affix another post-it note to that statue, “Spendthrift”.

      • I don’t know the basis used for this evaluation. Jefferson wrote many letters related to his debts. They were not imaginary. He was land rich and cash poor. He did like french wine and good food and spent a great deal importing various seeds, vines and orchard stock to test prospects for furthering American agriculture. Many of the experiments failed. He spent a fortune at the White House for state dinners and other expenses that are now not expected to be paid for by the President.

        He set up a nail making operation at Monticello to generate cash. This was run by slave boys, but the more productive workers earned a bonus.

        Washington was nearly bankrupt at the end of the war. He went back to Mount Vernon and started a distillery which contributed greatly to his fortune. He also tried valiantly to build a canal on the Potomac to make his western lands more valuable, but it was never successful. Washington was a great land speculator and some of his military adventures also served his real estate interests.

        • I suppose the net worth might have included the value of the land. I’ve seen several lists of the presidents with the highest net worth (in current dollars) and Jefferson is near the top.

          As a sidelight, if you visit Mt Vernon (and I would suggest that anybody interested in American history do that) you can buy liquor made from Washington’s recipes. The stuff is expensive and fantastic but tends to sell out. Try the rye for a real treat.

  7. Jefferson deserves to be remembered, studied and honored for his contributions to the founding of this country, and his vision. He also needs to be studied and remembered for his hypocrisy and his dedication to a hyper-democratic view that led him to applaud the French Revolution and the Terror. Nobody was in a better position than he to put slavery on the path to extinction, but instead he calculated the annual return on equity and doubled down. He is not in my pantheon of heroes of that era and most of them lie in forgotten graves near forgotten battlefields, or at the bottom of the ocean waiting for the sea to give up her dead.

    So the statues should stay up but I’m fine with the protests and the post it notes.

    • Good point, Steve. The Jeffersonians continued to praise the French Revolution even after the Jacobin Terror was well known. Jefferson also wrote his infamous “Adam and Eve” letter defending it. I, too, have very mixed views of Mr. Jefferson, though I think his statue should remain because I detest most iconoclasm. One of the interesting things about the American Revolution is how comparatively little iconoclasm took place. “King George County” “Prince William County”, etc. They are part of our heritage! And may “Beauregard Street” in Alexandria stay, too.

      Sincerely,

      Andrew

  8. Dear TomH

    If “people are power” in our system, according to how legitimacy is measured, through the winning of elections, then there is a built-in incentive to add to groups that will favor your own side and subtract from groups that oppose the same. This insight is not original to me, but I believe we are witnessing it now. The struggle to “own” the government becomes a war of social groups, and as the struggle intensifies, then “groups opposing us” are increasingly penalized. As this happens, then the anger of those targeted by such action also increases, and the demand goes forth either to end the penalties, only, or do the same back to their “tormentors.” Government is both craved and hated; craved for what it can do for “us” against “them” and hated when “they” are able to use it against “us” and for “them.” All law becomes arbitrary, and, so long as it “represents us” we will obey it, but once it becomes “theirs,” then it becomes “tyranny” and “unjust,” though the principles used by each side while in power are the same, and the cries of “injustice!” equally scoffed at, even by those who gave voice to them while on the bottom, once they have returned to the top. Nor is there a shared understanding of natural law or respect for others, but everything becomes “fudgeable”, subject to manipulation. Historical examples of these abound! This cycle only will end either after calamity has happened, or realizing that this is the “natural” end, statesmen step forward to stop it, by recognizing the just requirements of all involved. As long as we view each other as “enemies” in need of punishment and/or dissolution, rather then fellow creatures deserving of safety and possessed of souls, then the way “forward” will be marked with tears, and worse.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  9. Andrew,

    I agree with your assessment. We definitely see this at work with gerrymandering. In Virginia, I believe there are only a few districts where the vote is not already predetermined in favor of one party or another.

    We see the effects in “spin” and media aligned with one point of view or another. Our politics are now all about manipulation and setting one side against another. My discourse was for going back to the founding principles of “We the People of the United States”. I long for the days of statesmen rather than politicians, and civil discourse and compromise. We often romanticize the past. Jefferson/Madison vs Hamilton/Adams got very rancorous. The vile comments about Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel were truly ugly.

    I am not in favor of mob rule or more “us” vs “them”. Quite the opposite. I am in favor of remembering that we have many more common interests than opposing ones.

    We are better served when we are guided by basic principles, understood by all, and inclusive of all. Our laws have become so complex (and often internally inconsistent) that even our lawmakers don’t understand what they are voting for (it is probably designed this way). When people no longer understand the laws, they are less likely to follow them.

    We must stop behaving as a herd, pushed one way or another by fear stirred up by special interests, and take individual responsibility for engaging with our representatives.

    • “We must stop behaving as a herd, pushed one way or another by fear stirred up by special interests, and take individual responsibility for engaging with our representatives.”

      A grand observation, a key ingredient to turning our ship around.

      Each one of us, alone with our own conscience, need learn and decide what we believe, then take responsibility for acting on those beliefs as best we can even in the smallest of ways, given our own circumstances, to insure that we do own part in fixing what confronts us all.

      Example:

      Say one comes to believe that our families in this country are dying. That the old, the young, and the rest, too many of us in families, are too often alone, afraid, untutored, without rules or guidance, or receive active everyday tough love. If so, what can I do to fix it? How can I help? Maybe even every day at my own dinner table?

  10. The debate at Princeton will prove, I’m afraid, a watershed moment in the current wave of revisionism sweeping the country. If a man who was the President of the US during a world war, a Governor of New Jersey, and a President of Princeton University, is to have his name stripped from the University buildings and organizations named for him (including Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) simply because he did not contest the Jim Crow attitudes of his times. A leader of the student protests there had this to say:
    “We wanted to draw attention not only to the fact that he was, even for that time, extremely racist, but that his racist legacy is never acknowledged explicitly and publicly on campus, although he is touted and applauded for his contributions,” Obi-Onuoha said. “Additionally, we don’t believe that removing his name is a form of erasure, because we’re also asking for his history to be acknowledged permanently by the university, in its entirety.”
    Yesterday’s article about this in The Guardian is a good summary: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/nov/23/princeton-woodrow-wilson-racism-students-remove-name

    I don’t mean to distract from your message, Jim, about the abominable sticky-notes plastered all over T.J.’s statue at W&M, but it seems to me that Princeton presents this national wave of Political Correctness in its starkest light. Another example is at Yale, where some students are demanding that the University remove the name of John Calhoun (a Yale alumnus) from one of the residential colleges, named proudly in his honor in the 1930s, because he defended slavery on the floor of Congress. Here is an article from The Atlantic describing that ongoing controversy. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/the-cause-to-rename-calhoun-college/408682/

    These incidents all share the same principles. Slavery is an issue with which Britain’s leaders as well as our own Founding Fathers wrestled for decades, over which our nation fought a civil war, obviously divided Americans deeply at the time, on moral, economic, social, political, and even religious grounds. We amended our Constitution to reflect the legal views of the winning side of that war; but culture has evolved more slowly, leaving us 150 years later with inconsistent manners and attitudes and conduct which cannot be resolved through legislation, and others which can be and have been; but cultural differences still resurface from time to time.

    Our youth, and our colleges, see these inconsistencies for what they are: unresolved traces of the past. It is I suppose the very nature of an Ivory Tower to try to eradicate all inconsistency; to try to live and teach the Ideal. But we who live in the practical world of business and raising our families and going to churches where our inability to reach unattainable goals is preached, should have greater sympathy with those who COMPROMISE, including those who compromised to avoid (for a time) civil war, and those who advocated ideals which they themselves violated, not to mention those advocating political compromise today.

    I see nothing wrong with honoring those who compromised. Our greatest political heroes were masters of compromise; they achieved as much good as they did by sticking to a vision but foregoing its perfect achievement. Lincoln was a good example; are we going to plaster his statues with sticky-notes because he got the essential Constitutional changes passed in Congress, but compromised in laying the groundwork for reconciliation after the war? Or Jefferson, as you say, because “the journey to equal rights for all Americans certainly did not end with Jefferson, but it started with him”? Or Martin Luther King, whose life exemplifies the art of political compromise? Must we tear down each of these men because in hindsight they were good, but not perfect, not sufficiently ideologically-pure?

    It would be too easy to dismiss these college protests as just what happens when naive, over-indulged children are egged on by professors who have never lived in the real world, using tactics that make a mockery of intellectual inquiry and free speech. They are intolerant; they clearly do not respect history. Unfortunately, their underlying message contains an historical truth: there once was slavery based explicity on race in this country of ours, and evidence of that past can still be found in Richmond. Sometimes the current messengers of that truth do their cause a gross disservice; they make me want to ‘shoot the messenger’ rather than listen to them. But here’s where we are: we are pretty far down the road Mr. Jefferson started us on, with that “rights applying to all” stuff. That means we are stuck with the necessity to follow-through on the fundamentally radical idea of making equality with diversity work. We fought a civil war and many political battles over this and there’s no going back to a world based on class rights (whether that class is race, or gender, or religion).

    Let’s teach these campus radicals a little understanding of the imperfect world in which our ancestors lived, and let them teach us a little understanding of where our children’s world is headed. As RF said, “In short, these children so passionately pelting Jefferson now are his children.”

  11. Dear Tom,

    Gerrymandering helped kill moderate Democrats while helping Republicans and more militant Black politicians.

    Also, Calhoun had some interesting things to say about a system of perpetual winners and losers, and how that played into the quest for victory for control of the Presidency and thereby control of offices and other lucrative things coming from government. Of course, Calhoun’s position on “equality between the sections” also rested on his unswerving support for slavery. We have diagnosticians, but do we have physicians in sufficient number to implement them? Why should today’s “winner” “forfeit” his gains? That was Calhoun’s dilemma, he was asking the North to forgo its advantage in population in order to appease the South. Was Calhoun willing to give up on slavery “prematurely” to appease Northern moralists? We know the answers to both of these questions. Only statesmanship would do such a thing. Is such a thing possible, on a large scale, in our time? Is anyone even trying to do such a thing?

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

    • “Only statesmanship would do such a thing. Is such a thing possible, on a large scale, in our time? Is anyone even trying to do such a thing? ”

      It doesn’t appear so today. Anyone admitting to being willing to see alternative points of view and engaging with the “other side” would not make it through the primaries for either party. Those that are too independent from the party line can be victims of character assassination. It is also hard to convey a substantive opinion in 1-2 minutes (or 30 seconds). And the audience is not willing to read or listen to a true debate about the issues. We want our bread and circuses, whether sports is the arena or politics – we want to be entertained not informed.

      I am concerned that many are giving up on the process and many young people have never joined in. Must we wait for it all to fall in a heap rather than create a better way while we have a chance?

      • Dear TomH,

        It can only happen if the extremes of both sides are muzzled. It can also only happen if the things that get people angry can be discussed and resolved in a way that is mutually agreeable. My reason for supporting Donald Trump, someone I once loathed, is that the Establishment partieS (yes, plural) will not give ANY satisfaction on immigration or abortion or end the coercion on issues like homosexuality and the racial agitation, and their extra-constitutional ways of getting what they want. Until the Liberals agree to a political “cease fire” and stop these things, then what incentive is there for me to back away from “The Donald”? Instead, the Establishment keeps, to use today’s cliche, “doubling down” on these things. Until they signal that they are sincerely ready to meet us “half way,” then I have no incentive to not vote for the man most objectionable to them, and who even I admit can “act the cad.” See, I understand the perils, but to me the peril of the political “status quo” is worse. There is no compromise offered to people like me, only antagonization piled upon antagonization. With each one, they only feed my determination to stick by him. It is madness, yet “the players” keep “raising each other”, as in cards. One of these days, someone of these is going to “bust.”

        Sincerely,
        Andrew

  12. Between February 13 – 15, 1945 British and American air forces fire bombed the militarily insignificant city of Dresden in Germany. The combination of explosive and incendiary bombs cause a predictable firestorm which killed 25,000 people over the three days.

    I guess it’s time to wipe FDR’s likeness off of every statue, building and dime in the United States.

    Just yesterday I was reminded of another reality when Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to post, “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.” I believe Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey. It’s past time to wipe Slick Willy’s image from our collective memories.

    Pretty soon, the only president we’ll be able to honor is Jimmy Carter.

    • The debate at Princeton will prove, I’m afraid, a watershed moment in the current wave of revisionism sweeping the country, if a man who was the President of the US during a world war, a Governor of New Jersey, and a President of Princeton University, ends up having his name stripped from the University buildings and organizations named for him (including Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) simply because he did not contest the Jim Crow attitudes of his times. A leader of the student protests there had this to say:
      “We wanted to draw attention not only to the fact that he was, even for that time, extremely racist, but that his racist legacy is never acknowledged explicitly and publicly on campus, although he is touted and applauded for his contributions,” Obi-Onuoha said. “Additionally, we don’t believe that removing his name is a form of erasure, because we’re also asking for his history to be acknowledged permanently by the university, in its entirety.”
      Quoted from The Guardian, yesterday.

      I don’t mean to distract from your message, Jim, about the abominable sticky-notes plastered all over T.J.’s statue at W&M, but it seems to me that Princeton presents this national wave of Political Correctness in its starkest light. Another example is at Yale, where some students are demanding that the University remove the name of John Calhoun (a Yale alumnus) from one of the residential colleges, named proudly in his honor in the 1930s, because he defended slavery on the floor of Congress. There’s an October 2015 article in The Atlantic describing that ongoing controversy.

      These incidents all share the same principles. Slavery is an issue with which Britain’s leaders as well as our own Founding Fathers wrestled for decades, over which our nation fought a civil war, obviously divided Americans deeply at the time, on moral, economic, social, political, and even religious grounds. We amended our Constitution to reflect the legal views of the winning side of that war; but culture has evolved more slowly, leaving us 150 years later with inconsistent manners and attitudes and conduct which cannot be resolved through legislation, and others which can be and have been; but cultural differences still resurface from time to time.

      Our youth, and our colleges, see these inconsistencies for what they are: unresolved traces of the past. It is I suppose the very nature of an Ivory Tower to try to eradicate all inconsistency; to try to live and teach the Ideal. But we who live in the practical world of business and raising our families and going to churches where our inability to reach unattainable goals is preached, should have greater sympathy with those who COMPROMISE, including those who compromised to avoid (for a time) civil war, and those who advocated ideals which they themselves violated, not to mention those advocating political compromise today.

      I see nothing wrong with honoring those who compromised. Our greatest political heroes were masters of compromise; they achieved as much good as they did by sticking to a vision but foregoing its perfect achievement. Lincoln was a good example; are we going to plaster his statues with sticky-notes because he got the essential Constitutional changes passed in Congress, but compromised in laying the groundwork for reconciliation after the war? Or Jefferson, as you say, because “the journey to equal rights for all Americans certainly did not end with Jefferson, but it started with him”? Or Martin Luther King, whose life exemplifies the art of political compromise? Must we tear down each of these men because in hindsight they were good, but not perfect, not sufficiently ideologically-pure?

      It would be too easy to dismiss these college protests as just what happens when naive, over-indulged children are egged on by professors who have never lived in the real world, using tactics that make a mockery of intellectual inquiry and free speech. They are intolerant; they clearly do not respect history. Unfortunately, their underlying message contains an historical truth: there once was slavery based explicity on race in this country of ours, and evidence of that past can still be found in Richmond. Sometimes the current messengers of that truth do their cause a gross disservice; they make me want to ‘shoot the messenger’ rather than listen to them. But here’s where we are: we are pretty far down the road Mr. Jefferson started us on, with that “rights applying to all” stuff. That means we are stuck with the necessity to follow-through on the fundamentally radical idea of making equality with diversity work. We fought a civil war and many political battles over this and there’s no going back to a world based on class rights (whether that class is race, or gender, or religion).

      Let’s teach these campus radicals a little understanding of the imperfect world in which our ancestors lived, and let them teach us a little understanding of where our children’s world is headed. As RF said, “In short, these children so passionately pelting Jefferson now are his children.”

  13. The American War for Independence lasted 8 years, 1775-1783, and no wonder Washington had to sell whiskey to make some money when he finally got home after being President.
    Not all noble figures served in the army. At Valley Forge that cold winter those there made a list and each one kept a copy for the rest of their lives.
    That list was of who was there ….and who was not there.
    Guess who was not there?

    • If you are speaking of Jefferson, he served as governor of Virginia during much of the war and had a close call with the British army when they invaded Williamsburg. Jefferson and the legislature narrowly escaped and reestablished the government in Charlottesville and points west. Virginia was one of the more generous states in funding the Confederation during the war.

  14. Some very fine comments in this string. A little long on description, perhaps, rather than prescription. But then this is a blog, where bloviating reigns.

    After meeting my hero Eric Severeid back in the early 70’s, I remarked to my landlord, Paul Nitze, how much I admired Severeid, how wise I thought he was. Nitze said that while he appreciated his commentary, Severeid had never really DONE anything. Would it be fair of me to ask what you guys propose should be DONE?

    • Dear CrazyJD,

      I think I KNOW what NEEDS to be done, what I mentioned earlier. A party or movement based on the spirit of Wade Hampton of South Carolina after 1877, that would be Conservative in the sense of “conserving”, and not tearing the social fabric. It would neither “roll over” for Big Business nor be Socialistic in its use of envy to tame its rougher aspects, including supporting environmental regulations and incentives that are sensible. It would favor equality before the law (ending affirmative action), of all racial groups. It would favor a moratorium on immigration as politically, economically, and not least, culturally, destabilizing. It would end Roe v. Wade and send that issue back to the states. It would end activism in the Federal courts in favor of homosexuality and sent that, too, back to the states. It would require Congressional declarations for wars to take place, though its members could disagree on when a war is necessary. It would seek to tax the rich at a higher rate, but not punitively so. It would favor trade laws that do not reward companies to move off shore but would favor them to remain. There are doubtless many issues that could be further addressed. Those are some of my thoughts, too idealistic as they surely are.

      Sincerely,

      Andrew

    • I believe we need a significant shift in perspective more than just different policies. Einstein reminded us that we cannot use the same level of thinking to solve a problem that we used to create it.

      Recently, three separate experiments proved Bell’s Theorem regarding quantum entanglement, which Einstein described as “spooky action at a distance”. Quantum physicists hailed the results, metaphysicists said this proves that everything is connected to everything else.

      If we were to see our world from this perspective, we would need very few laws to guide our actions. Once we remove our particular lens through which we view the world, there is no longer “us” and “them”. It is all just “us”. We would actually listen rather than judge. If we did not attack, no one would need to defend. Differences would be valued rather than be a source of fear.

      The best way to start is small and local. Several of us have started a group based on Ben Franklin’s Junto, which led to the establishment of the nation’s first library among many other things. Look it up, it is based on many interesting principles and supports the respectful discussion of a variety of topics.

      Pro-life groups could work with Planned Parenthood supporters to agree on ways that they could work together on programs to make sure more children were brought into the world by parents who can properly care for them. We can begin to work on areas of common interest and stop making enemies of those who don’t see the world in exactly the same way. Diversity results in greater innovation.

      Just down the road, many from the community prepared a welcome dinner for a number of Syrian refugees coming to the area. It was an opportunity to see one another as people rather than an abstraction of the media.

  15. can’t really talk seriously about equality when many still believe entire races of people not considered to be “equal” whether it was in TJ’s time or now.

    younger folks, college types tend to be unyielding in their idealism and their impatience with addressing it while older folks seem more
    willing to let it stay unresolved.

    TJ and others revered nowdays were not geniuses… they were ordinary men – drawn into extraordinary times – and they performed – to do what needed to be accomplished – but perfection was never in the cards – and those that remember it that way maybe are expecting more than is reasonable.

    that’s the problem with statues…

    • Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were most certainly geniuses – of the highest order. Of course, Ted Kaczynski was clearly a genius too.

      Here’s a question for you, LarryG …

      The Irish-American branch of my family tree included Grandparents and Great Grandparents who claimed lineage back to County Cork. They claimed (with some insistence) that the British captured Irishmen and Irishwomen in the 1600’s and sold them as slaves in the Caribbean and in the Colonies. I always took this as mere Irish-American storytelling. However, I have read some accounts that seem to corroborate what old Kathryn Coughlin was saying.

      http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-irish-slave-trade-the-forgotten-white-slaves/31076

      I have no idea whether this is legit. I’d guess not since it would have gotten more official “airtime” over the years if there was any evidence.

      What say you, LarryG? Should I go get my pad of Post-It Notes ready to apply to various statues of Colonial figures?

  16. Don – I always look for supporting references to material like this – easily followed and verified.

    I do not doubt for a minute there were indentured servants, some more or less forced into it but entire fleets of ships over decades carting a specific race and it became institutional … that’s not the same.

    but I do not think it is particularly unusual for young folks, college folks to not only question authority but to question forefathers.

    I think many, if not most of our historical figures to most folks who have not studied them in depth – are comic book hero images and once
    folks learn more about them – as men – they become disillusioned that such “great” men had a lot of ordinary traits, and sometimes even bad traits.

    So the statues only talk about their greatness which makes them easy targets for those who study them in depth!

    I do NOT think that TJ was a racist …. per se … but rather was an ordinary man who saw the institution of slavery as built in to society.

    However, when the words written – say “all men are created equal” – it’s a hard thing to see how one justifies some as not being equal – no matter the time or place

    And as some have pointed out here – other men of that time did openly question the institution of slavery.

    so I consider TJ on this aspect – an ordinary man going along with conventional mores as opposed to an avowed racist – now found guilty of that by young folks.

    that does not excuse it and it certainly means that all men should grow in their thinking….

  17. Oh – and part of the problem is the quotes attributed to TJ by his admirers… who often ignore the quotes of his that don’t support their beliefs – and for some – out and out bogus quotes he never said:

    https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/spurious-quotations

    and one that is often ignored – I think shows Jefferson as a reasonable man willing to adapt and evolve as times do change – not an abandoment of principles or values but a recognition that technologies never envisioned originally can alter the way we think about things:

    here’s the quote and it is actually on one of the panels at the monument:

    ” Panel Four
    “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

    ORIGINAL PASSAGE
    “I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” – Jefferson to H. Tompkinson (AKA Samuel Kercheval), July 12, 1816[10] ”

    Also – Jefferson – the socialist he was – believed in govt being a provider of education, something now days that more than a few Conservatives claim is not a proper role of govt.

    • Thank you for the research into Jefferson’s remarks. I can understand why someone might abridge the original before chiseling it into stone, but to do so undisclosed at the Jeff Memorial itself (I have read it there, without indication that changes were made) is quite surprising to me.

    • “Also – Jefferson – the socialist he was”

      I am a bit puzzled by this statement. Jefferson opposed Hamilton’s moves to create a strong federal government at almost every turn, especially regarding the creation of a central national bank. He believed that there were essential functions for a national government, but for the most part he felt that government would be least tainted when kept local and guided by the common sense of farmers and craftsmen looking after their shared interests. We know of his passion for the rights of mankind, but I don’t think there is any evidence that he supported a role for government that we would equate to a “socialist” state. He supported education because it furthered the interests of both the individual and their communities. Greater wisdom would advance both tolerance and industry.

      Unfortunately, the clash of the great minds of Jefferson and Hamilton created a two-party system of government, an outcome unforeseen by the Constitution, and we have reaped the whirlwind of “us” vs “them” ever since. He would be astonished to see the extent to which Hamilton’s vision has taken hold. Jefferson and Madison would probably weep to see how easily we have forsaken many of the basic rights they worked so hard to codify in our founding documents, in exchange for a false promise of security.

      • Jefferson fundamentally believed in govt – in the role of govt – right?

        to the extent that each of us picks and chooses the specific personal philosophies of the various founding fathers – should – at the least – give us pause as to rejecting founding father philosophies that we essentially disagree with and latching on to those we do agree with.

        the real world – is and was that there were differences of philosophies as to the purpose and role of govt –

        AND citing one guy as now – as what we were supposed to turn out to be as a country – … well… isn’t that more of picking the forefather whose philosophy you agree with?

        we have become the greatest country on the face of the earth – because of the way we have evolved in governance.

        I think it is unquestionable that our roads, ports, airports, electricity, pipelines, communications including satellites – all have become robust – because of govt – eminent domain and govt spending for infrastructure.

        No country that I know of that has rejected the role of govt in these things has become a first world country.

        I think Mr Jefferson would have supported these things for the same reason he supported education… benefit to people and communities.

        • TJ was more of a socialist than the right wingers from Central Virginia (specific name withheld, initials … JB) would like to admit.

          “Many of the opposition [to the new Federal Constitution] wish to
          take from Congress the power of internal taxation. Calculation
          has convinced me that this would be very mischievous.” –Thomas
          Jefferson to William Carmichael, 1788.

          “Taxes should be proportioned to what may be annually spared by
          the individual.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1784.

          “Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is
          to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the
          higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they
          rise.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785.

          “Taxes on consumption, like those on capital or income, to be
          just, must be uniform.” –Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Smith, 1823.

          “The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the
          whole taxes of the General Government are levied… Our revenues
          liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus
          applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see
          his government supported, his children educated, and the face of
          his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich
          alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his
          earnings.” –Thomas Jefferson to Thaddeus Kosciusko, 1811.

          “Excessive taxation… will carry reason and reflection to every
          man’s door, and particularly in the hour of election.” –Thomas
          Jefferson to John Taylor, 1798.

  18. Gotta love these guys defending their version of historical mythology.

    Read Kristen Green’s personal history of racism in Prince Edward County where they shut down the entire school system rather than educate children about it.

    Read my book on Massey Energy and West Virginia where entire chapters of history such as the massive 1920-21 mine wars with U.S. Army aircraft strafing miners, was simply not mentioned in school history when I was in grade school there.

    So, the BR folk still want to pick and choose what they want to believe about Tom Jeff. And that makes Sally H. a bigger hoot than ever.

    Sometimes I miss BR, but too often it’s the same older and entitled white guys saying the same things over and over and over again.

    One wonders what their spin will be on recent current events. McDonnell was never really convicted of corruption and, if so, it was a flawed verdict?

    • Oh, Peter! Our mythology is fighting in wars for arcane principles like freedom of speech and liberation from dictatorship. Yours is too, just different wars. But these entitled kids at W&M pasting blame all over T.J.’s statue, what have they had to fight for? What are they fighting for?

    • Sally Hemmings?

      Certainly Jefferson’s lover / abused woman / concubine. No real doubt about that since the DNA testing of her ancestors.

      How old was she when he started having sex with her? 14 is a good guess.

      Was she simply an abused woman all through her life with Jefferson? Now that’s a much harder question. When she accompanied him to France she was no longer a slave from the moment she stepped off the ship. Jefferson could not make her return to the United States. By all accounts she was a bright woman and understood all this. So, she negotiated. She would go back to America with Jefferson if he promised to free their children when the children turned 21. Jefferson agreed. The children were freed.

      When Jefferson died many years later it was Sally Hemmings who was at his bedside.

      I am old enough to have learned that jumping to conclusions about the relationship of other couples is a mistake. Understanding your own relationship should be victory enough for anybody.

  19. well – you fight for what you believe in – and if you don’t believe in something – you won’t fight for it.

    right?

    so – do the W&M kids not believe in TJ as a representative of our principles or do they believe in our principles but not in TJ as a legitimate messenger?

    I would assert that those that oppose racism – DO have principles – right?

  20. McDonnell was a poor governor but I doubt he realized he should not have been taking gifts from people who wanted something from the governor. He just did not know what he was doing. And that includes a broad spectrum of acts and issues. For example, his transportation bill was a real Rube Goldberg scheme. He taxed anything in sight but not gasoline. Gasoline taxes are clearly aligned with Harry Byrd’s “pay as you go” philosophy. McDonnell included in the bill taxation on internet purchases for transportation support when there was no federal law authorizing it. Several Virginia congressmen told him but to no effect. Then he had to opt for the second option of a wholesale tax.
    McDonnell along with Allen and Robb were the worse governors in my memory. He like Allen and Robb had no idea what he was doing. But none of those were criminal acts.

  21. I would have said that McDonnell, Allen and Gilmore but I thought Warner as an ex-telecom guy had some idea of the role of the private sector.

    Gilmore was just as bad as McDonnell with his tax “ideas” and the car tax “rebates” Allen for his efforts to lock up folks and not parole them.

    but the new transportation tax – I actually think it has some good aspects to it. Because it is a percent now – it will keep pace better with inflation …and it’s diversified – such that now when fuel is low priced – the sales tax maintains some level of stability because of diversity of sources. I also like the regional supplemental taxes for NoVa and Hampton. I like the HB2 process even though somewhat flawed and I like the idea of congestion tolling for the urban areas.

    getting away from fixed price per gallon on fuel was a very good thing.

    I’d be hard pressed to come up with a better approach.. to be honest.

  22. One element of the “new transportation tax” is something called “Congestion Tax” which a person pays when they sell home. So if home prices drop then funds from this tax drop unrelated to cost of fuel. And the tax on gas is a wholesale tax and the traveler never sees it. In effect when you sell your home you pay the state a sales tax to be spent on transportation.
    And Virginia has a tax on Reverse Mortgages where when if an older couple decides they need to take some of their home equity out to live on and do it through a reverse mortgage Virginia, the only state in the union, imposes a sales tax on the entire value of the equity of the home not on the amount taken out in one year.
    We have one of the most crazy tax codes in the country. Texas is the only other state that taxes reverse mortgages. On the other hand many states do not tax income such as Florida and Tennessee but do it with a sales or user tax. And college tuition is dramatically lower in those states…in Tennessee community colleges are free and that was put in place by a Republican governor.
    And remember that southside “road to no where” that McDonnell wanted to build through a Public Private Partnership? The project failed and Virginian lost $200 million in tax dollars to the private partners in court.

  23. I have to admit – I’m ignorant on the congestion and reverse mortgage tax..did not realize either one existed and was used for transportation.

    this is where I’ve been looking for Virginia transportation revenues:

    https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/tracking_oct15.pdf

    I’d be the first to admit that other sources of revenues for transportation may well exist.. and would surely fold them in to my understanding.

    re: US460 – yep… but they did do HOT lanes on I-495 and I-95 and tolls on tunnels in Hampton…. successfully (depending on one’s definition of “success”!)

  24. speaking of roads and the role of the Federal govt and TJ –

    ” Construction of the “Cumberland Road” (which later became part of the longer “National Road”) was authorized on March 29, 1806, by third President Thomas Jefferson. The new “Cumberland Road” would replace the wagon and foot paths of the “Braddock Road” for travel between the Potomac and Ohio Rivers, following roughly the same alignment until just east of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. ”

    ” Thomas Jefferson Also Supported [mandated] Government Run Health Care”

    Act for the Relief of Sick & Disabled Seamen, July 1798

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2011/01/17/congress-passes-socialized-medicine-and-mandates-health-insurance-in-1798/

    the point of pointing this out – is to demonstrate that one can indeed compile a series of posts from the founding fathers to assert some claimed principle about the role of govt – but by ignoring or not recognizing these other actual votes and actions – an inaccurate history is portrayed.

    Perhaps instead of folks looking ONLY for he quotes that back up their own pre-conceived beliefs – folks should actually try to recognize ALL the facts associated with the founding fathers.

    I think the argument about the role of govt is an important one and is decided not just by elected leaders but as intended by the forefathers, by voters but I also think the idea that the fore fathers wanted a much more limited govt than we have now is not proven out by their own actions – where Jefferson himself and others did support and voted in the majority for education, roads, and even healthcare legislation.

    The formation of a new country and the simultaneous rejection of royal governance certainly would engender serious and substantial discussions among those who would set up the new country.

  25. Just wondering. What if alumni withdrew financial support which would raise tuition rates for the little darlings who don’t appreciate the opportunity afforded them at an institution of the caliber of W&M?

  26. hey – get rid of those ridiculously subsidized student loans also!

    maybe if they have to work for their tuition – they’ll have less time to mess around and have more time to contemplate the value of real work and efforts towards a goal!

    no loans unless you work – and your course-work is pointed to jobs actually available in the economy. Anything else is on your own dime.

    remember also -every one of these “coddled” has real parents somewhere who are part and parcel of their precious offsprings behavior and activities.

  27. Back under Ike we had National Student Defense Loans which would pay half the tuition and fees at places like U. Va. and VA Tech. You could work them off by serving in the military or working for the federal government or by working for local or state governments.
    The top loan in 1960 was $500, as I remember it, and that paid for half of a year of tuition and room and board at VT. It gave Americans the opportunity to advance themselves and promoted service to country. Of course, there was already VA help and ROTC scholarships.
    Ike was a great president. He not only did this but set up, with congress, the Interstate Highway system with a new federal gasoline tax which Byrd’s Virginians liked and bought into because it was consistent with “pay as you go.”
    And Ike, immediately, after winning election and before being sworn into office, went to Korea and settled that issue.
    When there was an uprising in Egypt Ike sent forces in and regained control of the Suez Canal and then brought the troops home.
    And Ike was so tough on one senator from Wisconsin that it promoted civility in congress.
    And the in his last address to the nation he said he feared the Industrial Military Complex more than he did the USSR.
    What a smart guy.
    And we have 16 memorials to Kennedy and not one to Ike…he was not into that. And we are spending millions a year to have to Bush Libraries in Texas and they want one in Florida.
    Woe is USA.

    • Not one memorial to Ike? What a travesty!

    • all this time I thought Eisenhower had been messing around with a mistress …..at one point… something we seem to be less tolerant of for other POTUS.

      and if Eisenhower had this Congress to deal with – building and financing an interstate and strengthening Social Security would be summarily rejected as not the role of govt

      and he also failed to enforce the SCOTUS ruling on Brown vs Brown.

      that’s the problem with memorials and statues… they essentially, by their nature – tend to promote people as if they had no flaws and that leaves them open to those who would cite those ignored flaws as hypocrisy.

      Never forget – you don’t get to be POTUS without being a politician – it’s the nature of the gig. And it takes one whale of an ego to be so arrogant as to believe you could be POTUS to begin with – IMHO of course.

    • re: the “loans”. I totally agree – the loans need to have strings. Govt service as well as no loans for courses that don’t have economic value in the private sector.

      In other words – you pay the govt back by providing service to the govt and even then – no loan unless it leads to a job in demand in the private economy.

      we’ve totally ruined education in this country – and it starts in K-12 where we provide soup-to-nuts “electives” with scant requirements for core academic and no money left over for real vocational ed for folks not headed to college.

      so we incentivize “do what you want to do” education in K-12 and that mindset continues with College.

      talk about expectation of entitlements.

      College today for most is one giant and ugly entitlement – a ode to NOT working hard to make your way in life. Freebies in K-12, then freebies in College and non-stop whining about having to pay back loans and not finding a job in the economy.

      College-bound Kids today, egged on by their parents – are not at all feeling responsible for their own efforts – they very much expect stuff to be “made available” to them.

      If you’re headed to college – you’re on the gravy train … if not – too bad – you should have gone to college! But the fact is – too many go to college without having taken to time to become proficient in core academics and actually have to be remediated …. and imagine this – at the same time we’re “remediating” them and giving them free loans – we’re saying we don’t have the money to train those not bound for college for a trade job in the economy… and instead let them go do street drugs.. til we catch them and incarcerate them.

      THEN – we want to talk about how to “help” them not “recidivate” by funding programs!

      we could not be more stupid if we tried.

      so yeah.. let them put sticky notes on statues.. it really symbolizes how we, in general, approach education today , anyhow.

  28. There’s a very powerful book out of Australia titled, “Why Weren’t We Told.” It discusses the history swept under the rug by Anglos ref their forefathers’ treatment of aboriginals.

    As one who loves history, I try to remember that humans tell it and, hence, it is always flawed. Living in Cville, I often think that “Mr. Jefferson” is lauded far too much by citizens here. But I also love that he is lauded. I think we need “heroes;” we need to have role models who seemingly did what was “right” — even when they didn’t quite know what “right” would be in our time. We need, I think, to “want to” be the best we can be. It worries me today that our “heroes” are the ones who can throw a football the furthest, or sink 3-pointers, or … and I THINK I’d rather have flawed humans who at least engaged in reality-based societal issues.

    After all, to take the easy way out is always easier (isn’t it?) than to stand up for conviction. I worry that attacks on people like Kim Davis (the Kentucky clerk who refused same-sex marriage licenses); or the city councils who set themselves up as “sanctuary cities” (refusing to help Immigration and Naturalization send back illegals); or that juries that use “jury nullification” to declare people obviously guilty of some alleged crime as not guilty, might be exactly what we DON’T WANT in this country while being exactly what we DO NEED in this country.

    I don’t claim to know. That, I think, is why history is fascinating.

    When I lived in Richmond, I loved the fact that I bicycled everyday past the “Lee” statue on Monument Avenue to teach at an HBCU. Not that I cared, or had any opinion on whether “Marse Robert” supported slavery or not; but that, unlike every other statue along Monument Avenue, nothing beyond “Lee” was needed on his statute. Still today, he needs no further explanation — and damn I wish I had that kind of character.

    But I don’t, though I’ll never fight for slave owners or believe that I’m any smarter than someone else due to what I have between my legs; the color of my skin; the place I was born; where I went to college (even if the “other” didn’t); where my ancestors came from….

    At the same time, when I grew up in Texas, I loved the fact that all the “great Texas heroes” (of which we are damn proud) were all scoundrels. Sam Houston, who actually tried to treat — for god’s sake! — Cheyenne Indians as if they were as human as anyone wearing a top hat in Washington, was run out of that town for beating a fellow senator and then run out of Nashville for asking his young “flower of Nashville society” wife to act like she understood there are two functions in a bedroom. Without those incidents — and his love of alcohol — he’d have never ended up in Texas to win the Battle of San Jacinto, serve as President and then Governor of my “great” state.

    The wonderful — and horrible — thing about history is that we flawed humans write it. And obviously “re-write” it. And then “re-write” it yet again.

    I love Churchill’s: “History will be kind to me because I intend to write it” while he also called Gandhi a “half naked kafir (which I have no idea what is).” Can one be on the right side of history at the same moment one is one the wrong side? Churchill’s history seems to say, “Yes.”

    I’m always left wondering if Jesus and Mohammed both turn over in their graves based on what has been done in their names. If they had the opportunity to write their own histories with today’s sensibilities, what would they write?

    And would they “fire” most/some/all/any of their modern-day press agents?

  29. Ike sent the army into Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling on segregated schools and a lot of people in Virginia did not appreciate it..
    Kennedy served less than three years and his only international adventure was the failed “Bay of Pigs.” He now has dozens of monuments named for him. Ike also had fruitcakes in the congress including a guy named McCarthy in the senate. Ike publically scolded McCarthy during the 1952 presidential campaign when the guy accused General George Marshall as being a Communist.
    And Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun gave Ike credit for bringing the space scientist in from Germany that gave the USA a huge boost to the spaced program while Kennedy gave a speech about putting a man on the moon.
    Ike also sent 1.5 million emigrants back to Mexico in the middle 1950s. During WW II we had 16 million men and women in the armed forces and we needed labor to build the things needed for the economy and to defeat the Nazis. They came on temporary work permits and went home when unemployment began to rise in the 1950s…
    So critique Ike if one wants to but not to glorify politicians.
    And my parents voted for a guy (Stevenson) from Chicago because of what the economy just as it was beginning to rise on a firm foundation in the 1960s. So I came to respect Ike later in life. And I voted for Kennedy.

    • ” EISENHOWER’S DOMESTIC POLICY
      As a moderate Republican, Eisenhower was able to achieve numerous legislative victories despite a Democratic majority in Congress during six of his eight years in office. In addition to continuing most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs of his predecessors (Franklin Roosevelt and Truman, respectively), he strengthened the Social Security program, increased the minimum wage and created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 1956, Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System, the single largest public works program in U.S. history, which would construct 41,000 miles of roads across the country.”

      by today’s standards Ike would be considered a govt-loving left wing socialist… by many of the Conservative admirers of Jefferson.

      http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/dwight-d-eisenhower

  30. Well Ike balanced the budget and only increased taxes for specific things such as building the best transportation infrastructure in the world.
    He kept us out of wars or “police actions” as Truman called them.
    But Johnson etc. went off policing again and again and now we have $17 trillion debt on the path to $30 trillion of unsustainable debt. And the turkey is coming home to roost.

    • well only Congress can increase taxes and the deficit… the POTUS has to go along… i.e. not veto…

      same thing with new programs and spending… has to come from Congress – first.

  31. Ike was chief of staff when MacArthur was the top military general in the 1930s.
    Then he had the war experience.
    Then he served as President of Columbia University
    Then both parties offered him their spot but he chose the Repubs as they were more to his thinking even if they had some crazy guys like McCarthy.
    And one thing sold me. I had an uncle who was a military policeman and in Europe after the war where he served at three different concentration camps…Ike ordered more more than regular rotation because he wanted to make as many witnesses as possible to ensure the memory of what happened there would never be forgotten. My uncle had difficult memories but he shared some with me before he passed.
    So I like Ike.

  32. I think if you look at Ike’s major accomplishments – they would be utterly rejected today by most Conservatives and his accomplishments sound very much like what most Dems support.

    As a moderate Republican, (who are the moderate GOP today?)

    continuing most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs of his predecessors (Franklin Roosevelt and Truman, respectively),

    he strengthened the Social Security program,

    increased the minimum wage and

    created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

    In 1956, Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System – funded from increased taxes

    how many modern day GOP would “own” the above things?

    how many modern day Dems would “own” them?

    I rest my case.

  33. That is right. Wallace Dems are the right wing of the Reps and radical socialists are controlling the Dems all a fall out from the Nixon and the Kennedy view of politics.
    There are three choices for America: Radical Fascism, Radical Socialism or or modern Lincolnism which is what Ike was.
    Who wins will determine the future of America.
    Some hybrid is the best possibility right now.

  34. so if I support the things that Eisenhower supported – I’d be what?

    someone who supports minimum wage and social security is modern Lincolnism?

    geeze … who knew?

    looks to me that Eisenhower supported the very same things that many Dems today support and always have and most GOP oppose when prior GOP like Eisenhower did support.

    never understood how this gets all turned around…

  35. One more thing. While he was not perfect TJ was a great guy and one of the key fathers of our nation. And he was against fighting foreign wars.

    • Oh I think TJ was a great leader, statesman, – and human being – but also an ordinary man with his own flaws.

      With TJ and others – it’s important to recognize ALL of his thinking and both his good points and flaws…. to get the true measure of the man.

      And he clearly was a man who thought the govt should be involved in education and roads… and other transportation infrastructure and even mandated taxes and healthcare for seamen.

      these are all true and I feel much more representative of his entire philosophy than just what some folks selectively focus on.

      I think TJ and Eisenhower would both be near each other – philosophically .. Eisenhower would certainly not be considered a socialist by TJ – but actually more in tune with TJ’s philosophies of govt. For instance, TJ supported national roads and so did Ike!

  36. “Ike ordered more more than regular rotation because he wanted to make as many witnesses as possible to ensure the memory of what happened there would never be forgotten.” “Ike sent the army into Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling on segregated schools and a lot of people in Virginia did not appreciate it.” “Ike balanced the budget and only increased taxes for specific things such as building the best transportation infrastructure in the world.” “And then in his last address to the nation he said he feared the Industrial Military Complex more than he did the USSR.”

    JWG, you make the case that Ike understood that history is memory. And that his legacy would be what war is all about, and why we have a civilian Commander in Chief, and why it’s important to build up people and things not debt. He made hard decisions without following the political weather-vane. As you say, “So critique Ike if one wants to but not to glorify politicians.”

    His was not the promise of a great society. Or of a man on the moon. He simply made sure we had the national economic strength to get there. Infrastructure became his monument. He did not stand on principle whether the federal government or the States or the marketplace had the initiative or the final say.

    I agree, “TJ and Eisenhower would both be near each other – philosophically.” They both served in war and knew the price and value of peace. They both knew what government was there to do, and how, unrestrained, government could easily go too far. Yes, TJ was “an ordinary man with his own flaws” and I submit so was Ike by reputation, and both men freely admitted it.

    Where are those skills among the present field of POTUS candidates? [Don’t answer that! But do tell:] How does this bunch of college kids mean to advance civilization by tearing down TJ for his slaves, or Ike for his Mexican deportations, or Woodrow Wilson for his (undeniable) racial bias, without considering the huge holes in history that would be left had none of these men lived?

    • I looked at Ike very hard during his early War II Years.

      This included studying things such as his diary, letters, important planning documents, memos, correspondences, as well as many subsequent narrative histories, official and unofficial, and the diaries of many he worked with, peers, subordinates, US and British.

      Several things about this early War Ike jumped out.

      1/ How green and inexperienced at war he was, early on.
      2. How, by intention of George Marshall, Ike did not have a clue as to big picture very early on, nor did he or Marshall have a clue as how to accomplish the nuts and bolts of the tasks he was given by May 1942, namely first the invasion of Europe, then suddenly North Africa by surprise both as to planning and operations.
      3. How great was his temperament, his ability to roll with and withstand monumental pressure suddenly and mercilessly applied.
      4. How solid was his integrity, sense of decency, his quick and facile intelligence, his ability to absorb grand ideas and detail, and express them plainly, intelligently and with imagination on paper.
      5/ How great and quick was his ability to gain the respect, trust, and confidence of other people, of all sorts, ranks, and kinds of people.
      6/ How great was his potential for rapid growth maintained on a remarkably even keel, and his sharp practical sense, and keen judgement.

      Ike’s first year of War was a stunning achievement, given that so much had to go so wrong so fast, and easily could have been far worse but for good fortune, and Ike’s remarkable talents for what the job required.

      This debacle over his national memorial is an absolute disgrace. A perfect metaphor for what has gone so wrong in this country, a perfect insult to one of its greatest men.

  37. Reed, I agree with your sentiment; but I also feel Ike would be the last person to wish to see the popularity-contest-sized “Great Man” memorials being built along the Mall and River these days, and he’d probably wish not to be measured alongside them.

    • Acbar –

      You are right.

      The most efficient way to understand Ike the Man is to visit, walk through room by room, the Eisenhower Farm outside Gettysburg, PA.

      Once though the front door head left into the living room and slowly walk thought it into glassed in porch finally that wraps the back of the house then toward the front again to Ike’s tiny office –

      – doing so take in every detail of this fierce yet powerfully modest and unassuming man, once one of the most powerful military commanders in World History, how and where he chose to spend his last days. See and feel his surroundings, compare them not only to any preconception of Ike but to our modern day Post Presidents, their homes, their Presidential library, their vast security apparatus, their crass pretensions to history after leaving office. Do this I suggest and you will prove the very point Acbar that you made above.

      Ike would despise Frank Gehry’s modern day monstrosity of Art (akin to Fascist Art that Ike defeated) but incredibly now is proposed to honor his memory, yet in fact is nothing more than cheap and vapid and pretentious memorial to Frank Gehry and the Phillip Kennicott School of cultural nonsense.

      I say this while being an admirer of much of Frank Gehry’s earlier work. He has however lost perspective, and overstayed his time on the stage.

  38. There has been a group planning an Ike Memorial here in DC which is more recently headed by former Senator Bob Dole. There have been several large proposals and raising the money is not an issue. Ike’s family wants something more modest that they think he would approve of. But one is coming and it will be different from Clinton, The Bushes or Obama. Ike will have earned his.

  39. I’m not a great fan of memorials… in part because they tend to emphasize some things and ignore other things and create a facade of the person memorialized and as we have learned over time – virtually all of those memorialized are flawed and have less than wonderful aspects that most humans possess.

    I, for instance, having read the history of the Interstate Highway System KNOW that it was NOT – IKE’s idea – that the Bureau of Public Roads had been contemplating such a road for years as a follow on to the original U.S. signed highway system that we all take for granted today – Federal national roads like US 29 and US 50 pre-dated the interstate system by decades. To wit:

    ” Origins

    Planning for what is now known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, commonly called “The Interstate System,” began in the late 1930’s. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938 called on the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR), the predecessor of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), to study the feasibility of a toll-financed system of three east-west and three north-south superhighways. The BPR’s report, Toll Roads and Free Roads, demonstrated that a toll network would not be self-supporting. Instead, the BPR’s report advocated a 26,700-mile interregional highway network.

    In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed a National Interregional Highway Committee, headed by Commissioner of Public Roads Thomas H. MacDonald, to evaluate the need for a national expressway system. The committee’s January 1944 report, Interregional Highways, supported a system of 33,900 miles, plus an additional 5,000 miles of auxiliary urban routes.”

    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/interstate.cfm

    yet today – we essentially have a revised sound-bite history that most people believe and the truth is that Eisenhower was in the right place and the right time – to add his support – to move the issue forward.

    I don’t discount his role – it was significant and critical – but it was not his sole idea.

    And this is what happens when we select history to remember.

    it really is a disservice to history and the downside is – in my view – it actually legitimizes and encourages the creation of “select” history that we want to “believe”.

    and finally – when the young and other students of “history” – see statues – and then learn ALL the history – they see those statues as hypocrisy… deserving of disdain and even sticky notes.

    and to be brutally honest – there are statues of folks that should have never been – later taken down.

    • Ike did have an experience that burned into his memory the importance of a national highway system. In the late 1920’s, I believe, he was charged with leading a convoy from California to Washington D.C. The trip required 28 days because of the confused network of often poorly marked and poorly maintained roads that existed at the time. After D-Day as he traveled through Europe, he saw first hand the value of a modern network of roads to move men and material. His first thought was as a benefit to national defense, but he was also knew how a network of high-speed highways would advance our economy; both as a source of employment and and as a means of commerce. He certainly was not the only one with the idea, but he knew more than most of its potential benefits.

      • Interesting. Ike marveled at Hitler’s Autobahns. Hitler then became the Grandfather of America’s Interstate Road system, with Ike its father.

        An quirk of history, the Roman’s defeat the Greeks then adopt key elements of Greek culture lock stock and barrel. America defeats the Germans then using German science defeats Japan then absconds with German highway system, and key technologies for jet engines and missiles.

  40. I do not think that to get some credit for getting something done does not mean a leader had to have the original idea. But it takes a “can do” president to get something done or almost anything done.
    Ike did not come up with the idea of community colleges for that happened in California etc. generations earlier but the mechanisms for getting it done or starting down the path is key to getting something worth while done. During the late 1950s Virginia created a statewide array of two year branch colleges which in 1966 was transformed into the Virginia community college system.
    Actions speak louder than words and Ike pushed many important idea along. And he used the “National Defense” phrase to justify many initiatives. And with the danger of the Soviet Union hovering over the world Washington DC moved forward on many ideas even in the face of people like Sen. McCarthy from Wisconsin.
    I do not know if the effort to dramatically increase the number of Americans who saw first hand what happened in the concentration camps was Ike’s idea but he did it and I think it was a good thing.
    So ideas and words are important but effective action is where the rubber meets the road. And unfortunately we are now absent that type of leadership today.
    In Virginia our leaders are now strongly against any movements like the Interstate Highway System because it causes someone…the users to pay. We now argue that we do not have to pay for anything. And that is going to get worse as we now use Rube Goldberg tax schemes. The taxing of the home equity of seniors long before they receive themoney so we do not have to raise gas taxes to pay for the roads etc.
    Tough times indeed.

  41. well I do give credit to Eisenhower and yes he was one of the folks on the 1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1919_Motor_Transport_Corps_convoy

    but the history of the US highway system also is this:

    ” Before the Interstate Highway system brought fast, limited access highways to the United States, there was, and still remains, another nationwide system of highways that enabled travelers to follow standardized routes to any part of the nation. This system, known as the United States Highway System or simply as “US” highways, was the first time in history that a national standard was set for roads and highways. This system of highways existed

    This system was created by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1925 as a response to the confusion created by the 250 or so named many named highways, such as the Lincoln Highway or the National Old Trails Highway. Instead of using names and colored bands on telephone poles, this new system would use uniform numbers for inter-state highways and a standardized shield that would be universally recognizable. The most important change was that this new system would be administered by the states, not by for-profit private road clubs. Even then, people decried the idea of giving roads numbers since they felt numbers would make highways cold and impersonal.”

    Now to be fair to history – Calvin Coolidge was the guy who signed that act into law and yet how many of us credit him for creating the National Highway System?

    see this is the thing about the way we do “history” – it sometimes is pretty selective – as to who gets credit for what or not.

    so where is Mr. Coolidge’s statue and memorial?

    😉

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