The routine removal of Confederate statues signifies a new stage in the evolution of political progressives. Their vision for a new order that can provide social justice for the so-called oppressed is becoming a secular religion. Assaults on statues are symptomatic that the new faith is working to destroy traditional values. The birth of a new religion—even a secular one—is always a dangerous time. Immature faiths tend toward totalitarian treatment of unbelievers while they fight among themselves over arcane points to settle upon a canonical creed.

As they work-out their victimology creed, Confederate statues serve as handy symbols where they can physically act out their hatred for the past. Under the influence of corrupted historian-activists, progressives imagine that Robert E. Lee’s recently removed statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond was erected to celebrate White Supremacy. In truth, it was put there to honor the leadership he provided to the Army of Northern Virginia, which kept the Union armies at bay for four years against long odds. Unlike other Southern armies Lee’s was composed of soldiers from every Confederate state.

Starting in 1874—four years after Lee died—it took sixteen years of collecting donations from all Southern states before the required $52,000 was raised. Unlike at removal last month, no tax dollars were used to erect it. A crowd of 150,000, including blacks, attended the statue’s unveiling in 1890. Despite the city’s smaller population 131 years ago, that crowd was about one hundred times larger than the one that cheered its destruction last month. Given that nearly half of Richmond’s 225,000 population is black, last month’s small crowd suggests that the removal and defacement of Confederate statues is not a priority for most blacks. It’s primarily done to provide virtue-signaling opportunities for Democrat politicians like Governor Ralph Northam. An ephemeral photo-op for any politician is an inexcusable reason for destroying a 131-year-old statue erected with funds provided by thousands of small donations when the South’s per capita income was half the national average. Northam says the statue does not represent the values of today’s Virginians. If that were so, why was the crowd at the removal so small?

Perhaps a Democrat Georgia legislator’s reaction to a proposal that would place a statue of Georgia-born-and-raised Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the state Capitol grounds shows that political conservatives are the true targets of those tearing down Confederate statues. When asked her opinion about the proposal, state Representative Donna McLeod said, “I’d rather them keep a Confederate monument than [erect] a statue of Clarence Thomas. That’s how much I don’t like the idea.” If you are a political conservative with no connection to Confederate Heritage, you may think the statue destroyers are targeting a supposedly immoral dead civilization whereas McLeod’s remark reveals the true target is you. In short, the whole destroy-Confederate-statues movement is a dreadful fraud that is divisive instead of inclusive as its proponents falsely claim.

Philip Leigh

Philip Leigh contributed twenty-four articles to The New York Times Disunion blog, which commemorated the Civil War Sesquicentennial. He is the author of U.S. Grant's Failed Presidency, Southern Reconstruction (2017), Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies (2015), and Trading With the Enemy (2014). Phil has lectured a various Civil War forums, including the 23rd Annual Sarasota Conference of the Civil War Education Association and various Civil War Roundtables. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology and an MBA from Northwestern University.


  • Amanda Warren says:

    This post brings to mind the wisdom expressed by an unnamed black man as debate over removal of Lee’s statue roiled the city of New Orleans several years ago. This elderly man frequently spent his days sitting on the base of the statue watching the flow of the city around Lee Circle, and on this occasion a reporter approached him to ask whether he felt the statue should be brought down. He glanced up at Lee’s erect form high above and replied, “He ain’t messing with me.”

    The unassailable truth expressed in his statement exceeds in brilliance all of the rhetoric blaring from the mouths of New Orleans’ city leaders. It reveals the utter falsehood beneath the protests and demands surrounding the contrived controversy of statue destruction. The surprising thing is that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution printed it, a gem quietly embedded among weeks of articles trumpeting the virtue of cultural cleansing.

  • Gary Mattox says:

    Tears my heart to sew my beloved Virginia go through yet another reconstruction after Virginia has given so much to the “re- united federal government” .
    Men and women who wanted nothing more than to be left alone and were CALLED BY THEIR STATE to defend it from a destructive invasion, now have that state government carpetbagger scoundrels desiccating their memory.
    Shame shame !

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