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Ostrom: Dictators -- and leftists -- try to erase history

September 12, 2017

Dictatorships erase history. The Left today is trying to control the historical narrative and delete issues they want expunged from the record.

Some of the Civil War monument destruction now underway is understandable, because African Americans and others are offended by artifacts associated with slavery. Some could be moved to museums and battlefields, or balanced with monuments to black leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.

But the current rush to remove monuments to Confederate heroes in New Orleans, Charlottesville, Richmond and elsewhere is an attempt to whitewash history.

The inhumane slave system was the underlying cause of the war. But President Abraham Lincoln initially sent troops into the South to save the Union, not to free slaves. Other background causes included sectional (regional) differences, tariffs, congressional power, rural/urban demographic and socioeconomic conflicts, Southern and Northern nationalism, and states’ rights.

Supporters and opponents of slavery fought for the Union and Confederacy.

The immediate cause of the war was the firing on the federal Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., by Confederate rebels. Lincoln responded militarily. Southerners believed the precedent of independent America’s first government, a state’s rights confederacy that seceded from Britain and the Articles of Confederation, validated secession.

Thomas Jefferson thought states had a right to secede. South Carolina threatened secession in the 1830s over tariff issues. New England considered secession during the War of 1812-1815. Lincoln did accept the Civil War secession of western Virginia into the Union as West Virginia.

The Emancipation Proclamation came later in the war for moral reasons, and to keep Britain, already covertly aiding the South, from officially entering the war. Emancipation opponents included high ranking Union officers, Gens. William Sherman and George McClellan, and New York City draft rioters. Secretary of State William Seward favored postponement. Some troops threatened desertion and mutiny.

Lincoln’s compelling pre-war solution, “compensated emancipation” for slave holders, failed because Congress wouldn’t compromise. Lincoln postponed his emancipation declaration to keep the border slave states fighting for the Union.

For today’s Democrats and leftists to call Republicans racists is ludicrous. A former KKK member was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Segregationist Democrat politicians such as Gore, Fulbright, Ervin, Thurmond, and Wallace opposed the 1960s Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. The 1954 Supreme Court decision that integrated public schools, Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, was enforced by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.

If the current rush to eliminate monuments is the way we’re going to proceed, then let’s expunge the statues and institutions that commemorate President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat who has been called racist. Let’s demonize feminist icon Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who advocated eugenic birth control policies.

Let’s destroy monuments to slave owner Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence; the U.S. Constitution, written and signed by slave holders; and Revolutionary War general and President George Washington. Change the name of the nation’s capital. Destroy Mount Rushmore. Maybe the Democratic Party, founded by slave owner Andrew Jackson, should be expunged.

Or -- should we preserve historical monuments and learn from the rights, wrongs and progress of history?