Good work, people.
This year’s Juneteenth — the day Union Gen. Gordon Granger informed slaves in Galveston, Texas, of their freedom and the Emancipation Proclamation, two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox — was arguably one of the most symbolic in the history of the holiday, given the present cultural climate.
Liberals better hope it’ll be remembered for reasons other than what happened in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park during protests there.
As The Hill reported, protesters pulled down the statutes of early California missionary Junipero Serra, Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote what became the United States national anthem, and former President Ulysses S. Grant.
The scene in the park on Friday was an object lesson in how the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody have morphed into, in certain very visible corners, a historical event bereft of any sense of history.
At an atomic level, it was the perfect representation of a sub-group of protester, a subgroup that desperately needs basic American history courses.
In case you didn’t catch it already, here’s a group of people toppling the statue of our 18th president and the general who won the Civil War for the Union, thus freeing the slaves:
Lost Cause meet Crazy Cause: using Juneteenth to tear down of the San Fran. statue of Ulysses S. Grant —who won the Civil War that led to emancipation, long before had freed the 1 slave he had been given & who was later eulogized by Frederick Douglasspic.twitter.com/SjArCUYlQR
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) June 20, 2020
Context here: Marc Caputo isn’t exactly a producer for the Mark Levin show or anything. He’s a writing for the Washington-based Politico, a liberal-leaning news outlet.
This isn’t some righty being a grouch about the unfortunate and thought-free extent of Juneteenth protests for a certain cohort of demonstrators. It’s a Politico reporter being a grouch about the excesses of the people who — let’s face some facts — are on his side.
Now, we ought to point out that there’s technically a reason to cancel Grant if you want to. He did own a slave … a man he set free before the Civil War and who was apparently given to him as a “gift” in the first place.
He was a “slave owner” in that he was gifted a slave, hated the idea, and freed him within a year. Then won the Civil War, prosecuted the KKK, and appointed African Americans to prominent roles in government.
This might have gotten out of hand. https://t.co/5HdEDgodzm
— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) June 20, 2020
He also inherited some through marriage: “In 1848 Grant married into the slaveholding family of Julia Dent. Her father, Frederick Dent, owned 30 enslaved people and had ‘given’ Julia four enslaved people when she was a child: Eliza, Dan, Julia, and John. There is no evidence he legally transferred ownership to Julia but from her writings it is clear she considered them hers,” The American Civil War Museum’s website states.
Asking his father for a loan in 1854, here’s what he got, according to the website: “Ulysses, when you are ready to come North I will give you a start, but so long as you make your home among a tribe of slave-owners I will do nothing.’”
Meanwhile, he wasn’t necessarily a cheerful slave-owner.
“The use of slaves on the farm…was a source of irritation and shame to Grant. Jefferson Sapington told me that he and Grant used to work in the fields with the blacks,” Grant biographer Hamlin Garland wrote, according to the museum website.
Garland quoted a neighbor of Grant:
“He said with glee, ‘Grant was helpless when it came to making slaves work,’ and Mrs. Boggs corroborated this. ‘He was no hand to manage negroes,’ she said. ‘He couldn’t force them to do anything. He wouldn’t whip them. He was too gentle and good tempered and besides he was not a slavery man.’”
Here’s what Grant wrote to his slave-owning father-in-law after the attack on Fort Sumter, according to the museum website: “In all this I can see but the doom of slavery. The North do not want, nor will they want, to interfere with the institution. But they will refuse for all time to give it protection unless the South shall return soon to their allegiance.”
And to his father, Grant wrote: “My inclination is to whip the rebellion into submission, preserving all Constitutional rights. If it cannot be whipped any other way than through a war against slavery, let it come to that legitimately. If it is necessary that slavery should fall that the Republic may continue its existence, let slavery go.”
Many on the left deride Grant for writing in 1863 that he was not “what could be called antislavery.” However, in the same letter to a friend, here’s what he wrote, according to the museum’s website:
“I try to judge fairly and honestly, and it became patent in my mind early in the rebellion that the North and South could never live at peace with each other except as one nation, and that without slavery. As anxious as I am to see peace established, I would not therefore be willing to see any settlement until the question is forever settled.”
After the war, Grant was elected president in 1868 and was forced to fight the South’s former slave owners who rose again in the form of the Ku Klux Klan.
Caputo’s colleagues at Politico took note of Grant’s actions in a “This Day in Politics” piece published April 20, 2019. Grant had signed the law known as “The KKK Act” 148 years earlier, in 1871.
“The Third Force Act, also known as the KKK or the Civil Rights Act of 1871, empowered President Ulysses S. Grant to use the armed forces to combat those who conspired to deny equal protection of the laws and, if necessary, to suspend habeas corpus to enforce the act. Grant signed the legislation on this day in 1871,” Politico noted. “After the act’s passage, the president for the first time had the power to suppress state disorders on his own initiative and suspend the right of habeas corpus. Grant did not hesitate to use this authority.
“Shortly after Congress approved the law, nine counties in South Carolina, where KKK terrorism was rampant, were placed under martial law and thousands of persons were arrested.”
There’s no reason for Ulysses S. Grant, the general who helped the North set the slaves free, to have his memory treated like it was in San Francisco. However, his statue was toppled by modern Americans like they were Iraqis freed of the monstrous Saddam Hussein.
— Bob Lonsberry (@BobLonsberry) June 20, 2020
It’s probably worth asking at this point what kind of nation we are — and how we view our forebears.
Is cancel culture now so toxic that we’re pulling down statues of former presidents who helped end the Confederacy and slavery?
Grant was a towering figure in American history who helped restore the Union, free the slaves and was eulogized by abolitionist hero Frederick Douglass. And he’s treated as if he were a communist figure like Romania’s Ceaușescu?
Who cares? It’s Juneteenth, so let’s commemorate the day by assailing the legacy of Ulysses S. Grant.
Grant wasn’t perfect. Nor is any historical figure, being human. But to say he did more good than bad in a historical sense is to understate the case dramatically.
What happened to his statue isn’t just ahistorical, it lacks a complete understanding of history. Instead, it just looks at a figure and asks if he owned a slave. That’s apparently what we’re going to do from now on.
Again: Good work, people.
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