Opinion: The Lee Statue and the Rebellion to Come

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On Wednesday, the Commonwealth of Virginia took down and then sawed to pieces Robert E. Lee’s 21-foot bronze equestrian statue in the former Confederate capital of Richmond.

On paper, this was illegal. In 1889, the General Assembly guaranteed that the state would “hold the said [Lee Monument] perpetually sacred to the monumental purpose to which it has been devoted.” In 1890 the association to build the monument deeded the land to the Commonwealth. This month, the Virginia Supreme Court noted that:

The 1890 Deed states that The State of Virginia . . . executes this instrument in token of her acceptance of the gift and of her guarantee that she will hold [the Lee Monument and the land it stands on] perpetually sacred to the Monumental purpose to which they have been devoted and that she will faithfully guard it and affectionately protect it.

That should have been the end of the story, but Virginia Democrat Governor Ralph Northam had already decided to take the statue down in 2019. While he was in med-school, he posed in blackface or in a KKK costume (it’s still unclear which). He then told conflicting stories about the photograph, but admitted wearing blackface when he went to a party as Michael Jackson. He even offered to moonwalk for the press before his wife mercifully restrained him.

He survived the scandal, and to ensure black support, he claimed his “eyes had been opened” and that he would make “racial equity. . . a top priority for the remainder of our administration.” This included removing Confederate monuments, so Gov. Northam decided Virginia need no longer “affectionately protect” the statue. The heirs of those who donated the land for the statue sued to prevent its destruction.

Governor Northam’s legal team told the state supreme court that the Lee monument sent a message that “many believe contradicts the values of equality, inclusion, and diversity.”[1] It added that the post-war “white citizenry wanted to impose and state unapologetically their continued belief in the validity and honor of their ‘Lost Cause,’ and thereby vindicate their way of life and the former Confederacy.”[2] The court didn’t care that the statue was a National Historic Landmark, nor that a “colored” Confederate soldier attended the unveiling in 1890.

It also found that the 1889 guarantee did not bind the current government. It ruled that government speech “is a vital power of the Commonwealth,” and that though the statue said nothing except the word “Lee,” it “play[s] an important role in defining the identity that [the government] projects to its own residents and the outside world.”[3] It said further that the state not need be viewpoint neutral, and that affectionately protecting the statue “would contradict public policy and be unreasonable in light of changed circumstances.”[4]

“Democracy is inherently dynamic,” the court added. “Values change and public policy changes too.”[5] Therefore, the terms of the grant of property to the state in exchange for protecting the monument are “unenforceable” because they were “the product of a nineteenth-century attempt to barter away the free exercise of government speech regarding the Lee Monument in perpetuity.” Forcing the state to keep its promise to protect a statue with the word “Lee” on it would violate the state’s right to free speech.

Robert E. Lee’s horse is lifted onto a flatbed for transport after using a power saw to separate Lee from his horse so that it can be hauled under highway overpasses. The Confederate statue, installed in 1890, is the largest remaining in the US. (Credit Image: © Bob Karp/ZUMA Press Wire)

Many Americans think the Constitution — an eighteenth-century document — will secure their rights. They are clearly wrong. While corporations, NGOs, and the federal government restrict citizen free speech, Virginia’s supreme court claimed the state government’s free speech rights were so sacred it could break a clearly worded contract.

In a separate decision, the court went further: “[E]very single day that the statue remains standing inflicts harm across the Commonwealth – both on an individual level and more broadly by undermining our system of democratic governance.” How did the statue undermine democracy? “The Lee Monument communicates principles that many believe to be inconsistent with the values the Commonwealth currently wishes to express.”

What about those who don’t think a statue of General Lee “inflicts harm?” A September 2020 poll found that Virginia was about evenly divided on the question of removing Confederate memorials, but the opinions of white Southerners don’t count. The court repeatedly cited the supposed harm the Lee statue caused blacks. It was silent on what it meant to white Southerners who fought for their homes, lost, and returned to a wasteland.

The late Tony Horowitz’s book Confederates in the Attic reports that: “Roughly half of modern-day white Southerners are descended from Confederates, and one in four Southern men of military age died in the War.” Joan Baez, hardly a conservative, was inspired to sing her cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” because when she toured the South she found “there’s pain here, there is a sadness here.” The economic damage caused by the Union armies kept the South from reaching antebellum levels of prosperity until the 20th century. The suffering, sacrifice, and endurance of the Confederate army meant nothing to the judges.

The authorities were so thrilled by the removal, they livestreamed the whole thing. Unfortunately for the propagandists, the camera could not avoid depicting a truly noble work of art.

The government closed streets, ostensibly for security. Many media outlets promoted the story, but attendance was low. “Hundreds” celebrated. When the statue was originally unveiled in 1890, more than 150,000 people were there — more than the total population of Richmond.

Unveiling of the Lee statue in Richmond.

City workers were to remove a 133-year-old time capsule and replace it with a new one that the governor said would “better reflect who we are as a people in 2021.” A whole team of “historians, educators, and artists” had come up with such things to include as “Stop Asian Hate” flyers, Kente cloth from the “400th commemoration of 1619,” and an expired COVID-19 vaccination vial. As of this writing, workers couldn’t find the old time capsule.

This is supposed to be a new beginning for leftists. The Guardian quoted an attendee who favorably spoke about Germany’s post-war experience. State senator Jennifer McClellan said that now that the statue is gone, “the healing can begin.” Governor Northam said that it was all “part of the healing process so Virginia can move forward and be a welcoming state with inclusiveness and diversity.” “The last symbol of hate” is gone, said The Progress-Index.

What is Virginia “moving” towards? The city and Richmond’s Museum of Fine Arts will reportedly “reimagine” Monument Avenue. If the time capsule is any indication, it will be an embarrassment.

Richmond has seen better days. Its white population fell after desegregation because whites didn’t want to send their children to the public schools. That was wise.

According data from 2018–2019, the Richmond school system is 88 percent non-white. It is ranked 131st out of 135 Virginia school districts. But help is on the way. The district is “reimagining” the role of School Resource Officers because too many students of color are getting in trouble. (Appropriately, students from MLK High School were number one in arrests).

Murders in the city are up 40 percent this year. In the third quarter of 2020, they were up 60 percent over that period the year before. Councilwoman Reva Trammell, a white woman, says part of the reason is that veteran police officers are leaving the force.

There is hope. Gentrification is making Richmond ”whiter and wealthier.” Of course, according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, this is “colonization.” No doubt, when blacks displaced whites during the Civil Rights Era, that was “integration.”

Rather than glorious accounts of “healing,” I expect a year from now we’ll be reading worried articles about persistent racial disparities even though the “harmful” statue is gone.

The most forthright support for General Lee came from former president Donald Trump, who released a statement Wednesday saying: “He should be remembered perhaps as the greatest unifying force after the war was over, ardent in his resolve to bring the North and South together through many means of reconciliation and imploring his soldiers to do their duty in becoming good citizens of this Country.” Other Republicans were silent.

The former president makes an important point. On April 20, 1865, Lee wrote to President Jefferson Davis urging the “restoration of peace” rather than guerrilla warfare. “A partisan war may be continued, and hostilities protracted,” Lee wrote, “causing individual suffering and the devastation of the country, but I see no prospect by that means of achieving a separate independence.” Instead, Lee told Southerners to promote “harmony and good feeling.”

Lee wrote a letter to President Andrew Johnson in 1865 asking for amnesty and the restoration of citizenship. He didn’t get it in his lifetime, but in 1975, Congress passed a joint resolution backdated to June 13, 1865. “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations,” said President Gerald Ford when he signed the document, “making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.”

Occasionally, leftists say that World War II soldiers were the “original antifa.” If so, they should heed the words of Dwight Eisenhower, who called Lee a “great American,” said “a nation of men of Lee’s caliber would be unconquerable in spirit and soul.” The Kappa Alpha Order calls Lee its Spiritual Founder and the model of a gentleman.

General Lee’s personal integrity and his record in the Mexican-American War were beyond reproach. The federal government esteemed him so highly that he was offered command of the Union Army, but he felt he had to defend his state. His family had lived in Virginia for 200 years. If fighting for his home makes him a “traitor,” the Founding Fathers were no different, except that their rebellion succeeded.

Unlike the Union generals, General Lee forbade attacks against the “unarmed and defenseless” or the destruction of private property. The Union soldiers he fought respected him and his army. Their respect makes the faux courage of goons who boast about toppling a statue all the more pathetic.

The current rage against the South is more hateful than anything Union soldiers felt. Civil War reunions with combatants from both armies were relatively common after the war.

Reunion of Confederate and Union veterans at Gettysburg in 1913. They clasped hands over the stone wall marking the “Bloody Angle” where Pickett lost over 3,000 men.

Slavery may have been the root cause of the war, but removing it or preserving it was not the main goal of either side. Abraham Lincoln famously said he would keep slavery in the South if the Union could be preserved. Lee freed his own slaves and urged the government to enlist black soldiers in 1865. By the end of the war, he put independence above everything else, even if it meant arming blacks.

General Lee accepted defeat with grace. Reconstruction was brutal; Southerners might have rebelled again without Lee’s calls for peace. It may be no exaggeration to say that it is Lee, as much as Abraham Lincoln, ensured that America remained one country.

General Lee was the model Southerner who fought for his home but was reconciled to defeat. He was the Hector of the American Iliad. The heroism of the Confederate Army became part of the larger American epic, which is why American soldiers also flew the Confederate battle flag in World War II and Vietnam.

To revile Lee and white Southerners is to renounce the terms of the Confederate surrender. It is to say that white Southerners and their descendants should not be considered part of the Union. The new America will treat them as a conquered people rather than, as Lincoln believed they were, wayward sons. To use a leftist word, it “reimagines” Southern whites as outside the polity, whose feelings and interests don’t count, and whose heritage is a source of shame.

National Review is spineless, but many conservatives (including Donald Trump) know that the attack on the South is the precursor to an attack on the historic American nation. There are few arguments you can make against Robert E. Lee you can’t make against George Washington. Leftists are already attacking Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and countless white American heroes. It will not stop with Robert E. Lee. This not an attack against the South, or even the Confederacy. It’s against whites.

As Sam Francis warned 21 years ago:

What the racial assault on the Confederacy and other non-Confederate symbols really shows, however, is not only the dangerous flaws of multiracialism and the inexorable logic of the racial revolution of this century but also that today regional differences among whites — like many other cultural and political differences — are no longer very relevant. It shows that Southerners and “Yankees” today face common enemies and common threats to their rights, interests, identity, and heritage as whites, and that the forces that have declared war on them and their heritage define themselves as well as their foes not in political, regional, or cultural terms but in terms of race. Whites who have been indifferent to the fate of the Confederate flag and similar symbols in the recent controversies should not be surprised, therefore, when historical symbols important to their own identity come under assault from anti-white radicals in the future.

And it is as a race that whites must now learn to resist the war being waged on them. So far from being a symbol of a lost and forgotten cause relevant only to a dwindling band of Confederate loyalists, the Confederate flag and the battles swirling around it today should serve as reminders to all white men and women of a simple lesson: Unless they forsake the many obsolete quarrels and controversies that have long divided them and learn to stand, work, and fight together for their own survival as a people and a civilization, the war against them that their self-proclaimed racial enemies are waging will not permit them or their legacy as a people and civilization to survive at all.

The Confederate flag is no longer a regional symbol. It was in the Capitol on January 6, at Donald Trump rallies, and at gatherings around the country. However, those who seek to explain it as a sign of “white insurrection” miss the point. It is more inchoate — a symbol of populism, opposition to elites, and rebellion.

The Confederate battle flag now flies outside the South. Will Wilkinson recently wrote that the flag can be seen in Maine, Minnesota and in other rural areas. He has discovered a “Southernification of rural America,” a “relatively unfirm ethnocentric white culture.” However, he notes that he has no data, just anecdotes.

Damon Linker at The Week, drawing on Mr. Wilkinson’s essay, describes what could be happening:

Not just growing ideological unification across the rural areas of the country, but the drift of that ideology in the direction of the Confederacy. The point isn’t that the American countryside increasingly wants to avenge the honor of Southern slaveowners for their loss in a war that ended over a century and a half ago. Rather, the people who live in these areas share with the historic South an intense distrust of the federal government, veneration of local law enforcement, resentment of city folk, suspicion of minorities and foreigners, hostility to technologically driven change, and a keen sensitivity to cultural slights.

He says social media are a means of “virtual community”-building. He doesn’t say it directly, but the implied solution is censorship. Of course, censorship proves that right-wing populists are right. Hostile elites really are trying to shut you up.

No force on Earth could stop whites if we united as whites. However, just having a group of whites doesn’t always mean a healthy society. The Richmond gentrifiers will not put the monument back. White leftists dislike their own race. This does not mean they dislike themselves. Most probably feel superior to the other kind of whites. This is what John Derbyshire calls the “Cold Civil War” between liberal “goodwhites” and reactionary “badwhites.” The former want egalitarian policies that will lead to white extinction, culturally if not biologically.

And yet, even as the federal government discriminates against whites, Confederate monuments fall, and Black Lives Matter gains power, leftists still think they are rebels. CNN warns that “white supremacy” will still rule America even if whites become a minority. The Hill published an article claiming that “white supremacy has continued to grow in the United States and is now more prolific than ever.” As a 2018 study in Science found, those whose job it is to eliminate a problem (like racism) always broaden the definition of what needs to be eliminated.

Robert E. Lee stood for many things, but more than anything, he stood for duty. He called it the sublimest word in the English language. The British hymn “I Vow to Thee My Country” expressed it this way: “I vow to thee, my country, All earthly things above, Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love.” If one man in American history exemplifies this, besides George Washington, it is Robert E. Lee.

Portrait of Robert E. Lee in Richmond on April 16, 1865, just two days after Lincoln’s assassination. (Credit Image: © Mary Evans via ZUMA Press)

Robert E. Lee laid down his sword because the bid for Confederate independence had failed and unity was the best path forward. In return, Union leaders and the federal government granted him respect and after his death, restoration of citizenship and high honors. Now, these honorable terms of surrender have been revoked.

Many whites are mentally no longer part of the current political order, but we didn’t mentally secede. We were kicked out. Lee was the last straw, and the battle flag is a natural rallying point. Now is the time to begin organizing locally. Support secession efforts within the United States, especially in Virginia. Network with friends and form partnerships to make yourself financially and physically stronger. Don’t be like those jackals in Richmond. Build, don’t destroy.

A man wearing a confederate flag walks down a Washington D.C. street during the 2021 Inauguration. (Credit Image: © Steve Sanchez/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)

Most importantly, don’t despair. Accept the challenge of history. “Every time I look at Atlanta, I see what a quarter million Confederate soldiers died to prevent,” wrote John Shelton Reed. Today, that statement applies not just to Atlanta or Richmond but to the entire country. Once again, we are called to resist. It is not a struggle of arms, but of will. It is not North versus South, but patriotic whites versus those who despise us.

It may seem daunting, but we have Lee’s example before us. Do your duty and leave the rest in God’s hands.

[1] 1210113.pdf (state.va.us), p. 7

[2] Ibid, p. 9

[3] Ibid, p. 13

[4] Ibid, p. 15-16

[5] Ibid, 23.

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3 thoughts on “Opinion: The Lee Statue and the Rebellion to Come”

  1. Great commentary. The destruction of this incredible +130 year old world-famous historical monument will forever be remembered not only for how leftists have become akin to ISIS and the “American Taliban”, but also of how the honorable are attacked by the hateful and ignorant. Here’s how Robert E Lee will always be remembered by the educated:

    – “One of the Supremely gifted men produced by this nation” (5-star Allied Commander, 2x President Dwight Eisenhower)
    – “One of the noblest Americans who ever lived” (Winston Churchill)
    – “One of our greatest American Christians and one of our greatest American gentlemen” (President Franklin D Roosevelt)
    – “The very greatest of all the great Captains” (President Theodore Roosevelt)
    – Lee is “the model of a soldier and the beau ideal of a Christian man. He was kind and generous to all his subordinates, admired by all women, and respected by all men.” – Union General Montgomery Meigs who served under Lee in the US Army.
    – “Robert E Lee is not only the greatest soldier of America, but the greatest soldier now living in the world. This is my deliberate conviction, from a full knowledge of his extraordinary abilities, and, if the occasion ever arises, Lee will win the place in the estimation of the whole world” (Union General Winfield Scott, Commanding General of all US Army forces for 20 years).

  2. As a native Virginian raised in Richmond, I was sickened to the core by this blatant , illegal, act of racism rendered by a racist, black supremacy advocating , City Council and Northam’s Dem controlled Legislators and Supreme Court. Rather than using a State Referendum to decide the fate of all the Confederate Memorials in Virginia, these racist “white haters” have decided to attack all remembrance of Southern History, Heritage, Values, and Culture by a small percentage of a small percentage through illiterate, uneducated and vindictive press and intimidation of the spineless whites that won’t resist. I for one won’t comply.

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