Political Correctness and Historical Revisionism Gone Amok

Political Correctness and Historical Revisionism Gone Amok

© David Burton 2017

Tear Down George Washington Statues

     Today’s media are full of stories and pictures of a rush to remove all physical evidence of the South’s part in the mid-19th century American Civil War. That war resulted in the deaths of roughly 2% of the population, an estimated 620,000 men. The Civil War was America's bloodiest conflict. As a percentage of population, the toll was equivalent to two million deaths in today’s America. [1] It also resulted in the destruction of a considerable amount of property, mainly in the South. The two positives that resulted from the war were the emancipation the Black slave population in America and the end of the threat of secession of the Southern states. Nearly 160 years have passed since that terrible episode in American history. Now, a vociferous amalgamation of political correctness fanatics and antagonistic historical revisionists have embarked on a course designed to remove all evidence and memory of those who fought on the side of the South – all in the name of removing any possible offenses to the sensibilities of current day Black Americans – some 8 generations removed from the horrors of slavery. Rather than focusing on the now, on the problems of the present and future, and in determining solutions to the problems that face today’s generation of Black Americans, these self-appointed enforcers of Political Correctness and self-righteous revisionists of American history are trying to destroy landmarks in the history of our nation and to remake American history as they today want it remembered.

     As an American Jew, I detest bigots and racists in all forms; I detest neo-Nazis; I detest white supremacists; I detest anti-Semites; I detest radical extremists. I also abhor the self-righteous and self-appointed politically correct and I dislike historical revisionism in the name of political correctness.

     History is history as it occurred, not as a few would interpret history as they would like it to have been or as how it should have been in the context of today’s values and ideals.

     Today, there are many who would tear down every statue and memorial to anyone who fought for or represented the South at the time of the Civil War. Statues of Robert E. Lee are a favorite of these people. Yet, the facts are that Robert E. Lee was held in such esteem by Abraham Lincoln that he was offered the leadership of the Northern army at the start of the Civil War. Lee’s character was above reproach, and even during and after the Civil War he was highly respected in both the North and the South. His leadership of the South’s armies was due to his loyalty to and his love of his State of Virginia and not because he was a racist or hated Negroes - I beg the PC police to excuse my use of the term Negro, but that was an historically acceptable term for Blacks and one which I grew up with. Until the PC police came along, it was not necessarily derogatory, it simply was a word to identify Blacks, much the same as words like Jews, Italians, and Irish were used to describe other groups of people. Lee saw it as his solemn duty and obligation to fight on the side of his State of Virginia and the people with whom he grew up and was a part of. When Abraham Lincoln asked Lee to head the entire Union Army, Lee humbly said no, because he could never take up arms against his beloved state. He did not undertake this obligation because of a hatred of Negroes or of the North – instead it was a moral obligation which he was beholden to accept. Jefferson Davis from Mississippi, left Congress to be the leader of The Confederacy, because he too couldn’t turn his back on the land he so loved.


     It may come as a shock that, as of 2012, more than one in four U.S. presidents were slaveholders: “12 owned slaves at some point in their lives. Significantly, 8 presidents owned slaves while living in the Executive Mansion. Put another way, for 50 of the first 60 years of the new republic, the president was a slaveholder. [Emphasis mine}

  1. GEORGE WASHINGTON (between 250-350 slaves)
  2. THOMAS JEFFERSON (about 200)
  3. JAMES MADISON (more than 100)
  4. JAMES MONROE (about 75)
  5. ANDREW JACKSON (fewer than 200)
  8. JOHN TYLER (about 70)
  9. JAMES POLK (about 25)
  10. ZACHARY TAYLOR (fewer than 150)
  11. ANDREW JOHNSON (probably eight)
  12. ULYSSES S. GRANT (probably five)
     “It’s a commonplace that Abraham Lincoln never trafficked in slaves, much less owned them — indeed, he ‘freed the slaves.’ But here’s the shocker: Although the slave trade had been abolished in the District of Columbia in 1850, slaves inhabited the capital for another 15 years — till the end of the Civil War. Dwell on that thought: Lincoln fought the Civil War in a slave city — the Great Emancipator inhabited a White House staffed by slaves.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 2)

     If we are going to tear down the statues of and memorials to the leaders of the South, leading up to and during the Civil War, why should we let stand the statues and memorials to these twelve presidents of the United States? Why not tear them all down? And let’s not stop there. Let’s topple the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital. Let’s demolish the Jefferson Memorial. But still the memory of these slaveholding presidents would remain in the names of streets, cities, states and even our national capital – we would have to rename all of them. That would still be inadequate to satisfy our extremists. Like so many despotic and radical movements throughout history, we would need a national book-burning to erase all traces of the slavery injustice that occurred here in America, and we would then need a corps of revisionists to rewrite the history of America without any reference to all these slaveholding presidents and other slaveholding historical figures. Tear down one statue and who is deny the extremists the right or the power to tear down the next and the next and the next …


     It may also shock many Americans that the Constitution of the United States explicitly allowed slavery and even counted Negro slaves as equivalent to 3/5 of a free white person!

     In the Articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution, there is no mention of slavery. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, which, famously, declares that "all men are created equal," was a life-long slaveholder and defender of the practice of slavery. The great American scientist and publisher Benjamin Franklin held several slaves during his lifetime.

     “Slavery is seen in the Constitution in a few key places. The first is in the Enumeration Clause, where representatives are apportioned. Each state is given a number of representatives based on its population - in that population, slaves, called 'other persons,' are counted as three-fifths of a whole person. This compromise was hard-fought, with Northerners wishing that slaves, legally property, be uncounted, much as mules and horses are uncounted. Southerners, however, well aware of the high proportion of slaves to the total population in their states, wanted them counted as whole persons despite their legal status. The three-fifths number was a ratio used by the Congress in contemporary legislation and was agreed upon with little debate.
     “In Article 1, Section 9, Congress is limited, expressly, from prohibiting the Importation of slaves, before 1808. . . The 1808 date, a compromise of 20 years, allowed the slave trade to continue, but placed a date-certain on its survival. Congress eventually passed a law outlawing the slave trade that became effective on January 1, 1808.
     “The Fugitive Slave Clause is the last mention. In it, a problem that slave states had with extradition of escaped slaves was resolved. The laws of one state, the clause says, cannot excuse a person from ‘Service or Labour’ in another state. The clause expressly requires that the state in which an escapee is found deliver the slave to the state he escaped from ‘on Claim of the Party.’ " (Ref. 3)

     At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, “Southern delegates argued that black slaves should be counted as complete persons, while Northern delegates didn’t want them counted at all since they were not citizens and couldn’t vote. To get over this hurdle and create a unified nation (their highest priority), the delegates decided to negotiate . . . they compromised at three-fifths.
     “The ‘three-fifths’ clause in the Constitution (Article I, section 2) was all about determining a state’s representation in Congress. That meant southern states collectively gained an advantage that often provided the margin of victory in close elections. . . {The} slave states always had one-third more seats in Congress than their free population justified. This was decisive in the Election of 1800 in which Thomas Jefferson beat out northern rivals John Adams and Aaron Burr in the House of Representatives.
     “Also, three key Southerners — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison — finagled locating the national capital, Washington, DC, in slave territory. The capital started out in New York City, in a free state, then moved to Philadelphia. But in Philadelphia a slave-owner could only keep a slave for six months before freeing him, unless he was temporarily sent into slave territory, which was inconvenient to the owner. So the founders set aside land around a slave town, Alexandria, Virginia, to serve as the capital of the new nation.
      - - -
     “. . . Partly because of the clause in the Constitution that gave the South added political representation for three-fifths of its slave population, Southern slaveholding presidents governed the nation for roughly 50 of those {first} 72 years. And four of the six Northern presidents in that span catered to Southern proslavery policies. . . . (Ref. 2)

     If the statue of someone who honorably fought for his beliefs, no matter how those beliefs are regarded 160 years later, is so offensive that today it needs to be torn down, then how offensive is it that our founding fathers generated a constitution that allowed slavery? Should we tear up the Constitution (even though it today has reversed its earlier position)? Should we simply forbid any document that references the original Constitution and its acceptance of slavery? Should we not allow any discussions in our schools of this phase of America’s development? Should we rewrite history?


     When George Washington’s father, Augustine, died in 1743, George Washington became a slave owner at the early age of eleven. In his will, Augustine left his son 10 slaves. Furthermore, as a young adult, Washington purchased at least 8 more slaves. Washington purchased more enslaved people in 1755, including 4 men, 2 women, and a child.

     At the time of Washington’s death, the Mount Vernon enslaved population consisted of 317 people. Washington frequently utilized harsh punishment against the enslaved population, including whippings and the threat of particularly taxing work assignments. Perhaps most severely, Washington could sell a slave to a buyer in the West Indies, ensuring that the person would never see their family or friends at Mount Vernon again. Washington conducted such sales on several occasions. When possible, Mount Vernon’s slaves took opportunities to escape. For example, in April of 1781 during the American Revolution, 17 Mount Vernon slaves fled to a British warship anchored off the shore of the plantation.[4] Shouldn't George Wahington's actions as a slave owner demand that all statues in his honor be torn down? If not, why not? Isn't what's good for the goose, also good for the gander? Why up with George Washington and down with Robert E. Lee?

     Why is George Washington, a lifelong slaveholder, not viewed in the same light as Robert E. Lee? Why should Washington’s statues remain while Lee’s are destroyed? Who should decide on the answers to questions such as these? Why should these questions even be raised at this time? Are there not more serious issues that demand America’s attention?


     “Over the centuries, militant groups and radical regimes have targeted not just innocent lives but also historic and cultural artifacts preserved and revered by their victims.
     “In Afghanistan, it was the Taliban.
     “In 2001, Taliban fighters demolished two sandstone statues of Buddha that dated back to the 6th century with dynamite in the Bamiyan Valley.
      - - -
     “In Cambodia, it was the Khmer Rouge. . .
     “The Khmer Rouge and other groups ‘began decimating that country’s ancient sites in search of treasures to sell on the international art market,’ . . .
     “In Germany, it was the Nazis.
     “The Third Reich's reign from 1933 to 1945 saw the destruction and disappearance of hundreds of thousands of priceless pieces of art. . .
     “The latest group to join the list is ISIS. {It was the latest until the PC police began their campaign to tear down statues of the Civil War leaders of the South.}
     “A video . . . show{s} ISIS militants summarily destroying archaeological relics.
     “In the video, an unnamed man says, ‘The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him.’
     " ‘dozens of original statues from 7th century BC Nineveh — which might have then been the world's largest and most important city — were destroyed beyond repair.’ “(Ref. 5)

     The rush to destroy all statues and memorials to the leaders of the Confederacy bears a strong resemblance to the destruction of historical and religious artifacts by the Nazis, Taliban, Khmer Rouge, and ISIS and other militant groups and radical regimes. In all cases, the objective has been to eliminate all traces of whatever these groups found offensive. Is America heading in the same direction? Will America give in to those who demand uniformity and historical conformity?


     America’s forefathers as well as those Americans who fought in the Civil War – for both the North and the South – predominantly did what they did according to what they believed was right in the context of what was judged to be virtuous at the time they lived. That was then and this is today – a very different period of time. There is no value in trying to impose today’s values and standards upon the actions and beliefs of those who lived 160 years ago – that is meaningless and an exercise in futility. Quite simply, history is as it was and cannot be changed because of the political correctness views of some. The PC police and those who would rewrite history as they would wish it are no better than the Taliban and ISIS who have destroyed priceless historical monuments of past cultures because they want to erase all traces of those things that do not conform to their misbegotten beliefs. Today’s PC police and historical revisionists here in America should be ignored and all of us should, instead, focus on our present day national problems and on finding current and future solutions to these problems. Tearing down monuments and rewriting history is not the way to move our nation forward. Slavery in America died with the end of the Civil War. Today, why resurrect what transpired so long ago?

  1. Civil War Casualties, https://www.civilwar.org, Accessed 17 August 2017.
  2. Slaveholding Presidents, The Hauenstein Center, 29 May 2012.
  3. Constitutional Topic: Slavery, USConstitution.net, Accessed 17 August 2017.
  4. Ten Facts About Washington & Slavery, www.mountvernon.org, Accessed 17 August 2017.
  5. ISIS Is Latest Radical Group to Destroy Ancient Art, NBC NEWS, 2 March 2015.


  18 August 2017 {Article 302; Undecided_56}    
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