Editor’s Note: On May 9, 2023, Art History Professor Erin Thompson published a piece at The Nation gleefully announcing that Arlington Cemetery will finally be rid of its “racist” Confederate monument. The piece is indicative of the current level of scholarship by modern mainstream academics. Most of it centers on Tweets that attacked her public joy–also through a Tweet–at the Naming Commission’s recommendations to remove Confederate iconography on federal property. Her research into the Arlington Confederate monument is cursory at best. She does not cite any of the speeches or histories of the Monument written at the time of its dedication and erection. She does not address the “Defend Arlington” white papers recently published in defense of the Monument, including one by Abbeville Institute President Brion McClanahan. Instead, she takes aim at Twitter posts that she thinks she can easily refute. One of the individual Twitter posts she mocked belongs to a pseudonymous account under the name “Jefferson Davis.” The owner of that account asked The Nation to publish his response. They declined, and thus the Abbeville Institute offered to publish his remarks.
In September of 2017, Yale historian David Blight told CBS News, “I am for removal of some Confederate monuments. The time has come. Not all of them, not every single one of them, certainly not in cemeteries. I just want the process to be historical, deliberative and based on research.” By Professor Blight’s standard, the “New South” Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery should remain in place; by the letter of the law, it must remain in place.
Professor Thompson accuses her opponents of the crime in which she is guilty: rebranding the monument. She does this with three tricks: misrepresent the law, misrepresent the monument and misrepresent its defenders.
Section 370 of the 2021 NDAA limited the recommendations of the Naming Commission to assets named for those that “voluntarily served in the CSA” or “honored the CSA.” The “New South” does neither. Section 370 also specifically excluded grave markers. Professor Thompsons cannot find any reference to the appellation “Reconciliation:” if she reads the Naming Commission’s report, she would see that Reconciliation Plaza at West Point is also recommended for destruction. In reality this is all part of the Naming Commission’s rebrand of the national movement of reconciliation as an “honor” towards the CSA. This may make sense only to people that don’t know the Union veteran, President William McKinley, is most responsible for moving Confederate graves to Arlington in the first place.
The monument itself has no official name, though Ezekiel called it the “New South.” The name of the monument and its description by his biographers in his memoir all refer to peace & reunion, including the statue at the top. This is not surprising considering the monument was approved by a Republican from Ohio, William Howard Taft. The multiple northern, Republican presidents that supported the monument were not “honoring” the Confederacy. President Warren G. Harding sent remarks to Ezekiel’s funeral in 1921, declaring the monument would “mark his grave” and was a “memorial to a reunited America.” How is Defend Arlington rebranding the monument when a US President from Ohio declared it was a memorial to reunion and a grave marker? Both classifications exclude the “New South” monument from the Naming Commission’s remit.
The real question is where does this “slave monument” designation come from? Nobody knows. Slavery is not mentioned at the dedication speeches, except one passing reference. Whether there were loyal slaves is an irrelevant question according to section 370. If Americans care, they can read many slave narratives and decide for themselves. One thing is for sure, Moses Ezekiel could not capture the feelings of 4 million slaves with his chisel any better than he could capture the feelings of 8 million whites. Why are we talking about something outside of the law? Because Thompson needs to inspire the cancel mob to ignore the actual words of section 370.
Washington Gardner, of the nation’s largest Union Veteran Organization the GAR, said at the monument’s dedication: “This memorial structure speaks the language of peace and good-will. It says to all who come hither and read the super-scription that the swords and bayonets that once gleamed along the battle’s fiery front have been ‘beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks.’” Americans should trust the words of leading Union veterans and not art critics that do no research.
Professor Thompson’s attempt to destroy an American treasure will be rejected by intelligent Americans. And remember, if defending the “New South” makes someone a Neo-Confederate, David Blight of 2017 needs to be included in the group.
Oh, give these devils time….they will not stop. They’ll dig up the Confederate bodies next in Arlington – probably in the middle of the night like the thieves they are. The devil loves darkness. They’ve done it before.
Just another reason the yanks can defend their own empire. Southern men who still honor their ancestors’ sacrifices made long ago against a tyrannical invader can find a better use of their service because it’s Lincoln’s corrupt, sectional, global leaning experiment that is The Lost Cause.
Of course it was an article in “The Nation.” What else can one expect from a Communist rag?
It seems relevant to mention that Arlington House and property were illegally seized from Mrs. Lee, the heir of GWP Custis, by the Federal Government during the Civil War. In 1882, her son Custis Lee sued for its return to him as the successor heir, and Arlington was awarded to him by a Federal court. He then agreed to sell it to the Federal Government, allowing for the continuation of Arlington as our National Cemetery, just outside Washington, DC. At the time, it held only Union casualties. Custis Lee could well have refused to sell, required the removal of those graves, and returned the land to productive use for himself and future generations of Lees. He chose not to. This gesture of reconciliation is rarely mentioned and never dwelt upon by who have become fixated on a sad but wilfull misunderstanding of events from our past. Virtually all Confederates who survived the War became US citizens again; they have the right to have their ancestors honored on Federal property. In addition, no mention has been made of the Federal law requiring all monuments on Federal property to be protected from destruction or removal, the same law that protected the statue of Andrew Jackson on the Mall in 2020. Has that legislation been amended? The original promises of “they’ll be safe in cemeteries” was clearly a total hypocrisy, as has this entire episode.
In the broader picture of the renaming commission, did anyone ever ask why those bases were named after confederates in the first place?
I suspect no. My guess is it was in order to get “buy in” from the locals, who are all gone now. Whatever documents on the subject have about as much value as most Indian treaties.
Know your enemies David Blight, Edward L. Ayers, and many many others like them of C. Vann Woodward’s School of thought have been undermining and corrupting our national narrative for many years, they are in fact Socialists./Communists educators and propagandists. Academics like Erin Thompson have gained tenure and most of our leading universities are rife with socialist theories that are detrimental and not beneficial to peaceful coexistence. The latter are more so based within their utopian idealism to make the world conform to their views and deny freedom of others. To put it plainly even though they have the best of intentions they willfully ignore and deny accountability for the road to hell that they have set others upon. Consider the destruction and deaths that have been incurred by what they have accomplished.
Wouldn’t the application of the golden rule be better applied here? I was raised to value freedom of opinion to consider and value everyone’s history and that we all share multifaceted views of history and others and ourselves, that doesn’t necessarily we have to agree with others views and deny our own.
So, why are they privileged to omit and obfuscate facts and allowed to coerce others to their ideologies, forcing society to accept a singular narrative according to what they think is important? They are in fact oppressors, they are terrorist and inciting hate and violence! How much profiteering and aggrandizement have they made from their oppressing pursuits? They should be held accountable for the suffering they have incited and the deaths that have occurred because of their pursuits.
Unfortunately, few bother to read the actual inscriptions on these memorials. The Arlington Confederate memorial describes men who observed duty as “they understood it.” That phrase comes close to saying the soldiers remembered here might have served for the wrong reasons. You cannot get closer to non-Lost Cause than that. Heck, all the memorials that have been torn down, *no* one ever describes their inscriptions. Having viewed a couple dozen of these Confederate memorials over the years, I can attest that even when they mark a particular general, they *always* ask folks to remember those who fell. That makes them memorials, not monuments.