Why maintain monuments of generals who fought to destroy the United States?

By Dr. Marvin A. McMickle

There is no doubt that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners. There is no avoiding their complicity in America’s original sin. What distinguishes them from Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson is that Washington and Jefferson labored militarily and legislatively to establish the United States.

True, slavery and white supremacy were built into the foundation of life in this nation. However, Lee, Jackson and their Confederate cohorts fought to destroy the union that Washington and Jefferson worked so hard to establish.

Lee violated his oath as a West Point-trained military officer to defend the United States “against all enemies foreign and domestic.” By preferring his status as a Virginian over his status as an American, Lee engaged in treason in his attempt to overthrow the U.S. government. Remember that fact as people fight to maintain Confederate monuments around the nation.

There is no statue to any British general who fought against the United States, 1776–1781. There are no statues to German or Japanese generals who fought against the United States in World War II. If we do not honor defeated British generals who fought against the establishment of the United States of America, why do we maintain monuments and statues in honor of generals who fought to destroy it?

It is sad that President Donald J. Trump, who appears unfamiliar with U.S. history, cannot make the distinction between our nation’s founders and the traitors who fought to destroy our “more perfect union.”


Dr. Marvin A. McMickle is president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.