President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that if someone like Joe Biden were president at this moment, vandals would be able to knock down the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington.
Given the almost complete silence by Biden and the Democrats as statues of heroes like Jefferson, George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant have been taken down, I’m inclined to think that Trump is right.
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked the president in an interview that aired Tuesday about the push to tear down and remove various statues.
“I don’t like it at all,” Trump responded. “Now federal, I’ve stopped federal, but a lot of states are weak. A lot of people are weak and they’re allowing it to happen.”
“They want to take down Ulysses S. Grant,” Trump continued, praising the Union general who became the country’s 18th president. “Well, he’s the one who stopped the Confederates. He was a great general. Nobody’s stock went up more than his stock over the last 10 or 15 years.”
“If I weren’t president, if a guy like Biden was president, they will knock down the Jefferson Memorial. Not going to happen.”@realDonaldTrump says vandals are “ripping down things, they have no idea what they are ripping down.” pic.twitter.com/beiV2mioNB
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) June 23, 2020
“I’ve stopped them twice now from going over to the Jefferson Memorial,” he added. “If I weren’t president … if a guy like Biden was president, they will knock down the Jefferson Memorial. Not going to happen.”
Kilmeade asked Trump how he would address the issue of Jefferson and Washington and other founders being slaveowners.
“You have to understand history. You have to understand the culture, and so many other aspects of our country,” the president responded. “And people can study that and hate it, and let’s all hate it, but you can’t take down George Washington’s statue and half of our country is named after Washington.
“We have to remember the heritage, the culture of our country,” he added.
While it is true Jefferson was a slaveholder in Virginia, he pushed for slavery’s abolition and Washington opposed the institution too.
Contrary to what’s being taught in The New York Times’ 1619 Project curriculum in 3,500 classrooms across 50 states, a primary cause of the Revolutionary War was not the colonists’ desire to protect slavery.
The Declaration of Independence, which lists dozens of grievances the Colonies had against the king and Parliament, makes just a passing reference to slavery by pointing to England’s efforts to “excite domestic insurrections.”
Jefferson’s original draft submitted to the Continental Congress included a condemnation of the king’s support for the African slave trade, calling it a violation of the “most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”
The 1619 Project derives its name from the year slavery was introduced into the English colony of Virginia.
The Times’ lead writer on the project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was honest enough to admit that slavery in America predated the nation’s founding by over 150 years.
However, she alleged that by 1776, Britain “had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution.”
Slavery was abolished in Great Britain in 1833 — over a half-century after the founding of the United States.
Also working completely against Hannah-Jones’ narrative is the fact that almost all the states north of the Mason-Dixon Line had voted to abolish slavery by the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783.
By 1804, all the Northern states had passed legislation ending slavery.
There were no other governments in the world taking such legislative action at that point in history.
In other words, the northern states in the U.S. led the world in launching the abolition movement.
So to say that slavery was America’s “original sin,” as many do, is not fair to the founding generation, who took the initial steps to end the institution inherited from their English forebears.
In 1787, the Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which established the laws governing the territorial land encompassing the future states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. The ordinance outlawed the introduction of slavery in the territory.
That same year, delegates to the Constitution Convention, which was presided over by Washington, specifically authorized the federal government to ban the importation of slaves in 1808 (approximately 20 years from the date the document was ratified).
Congress voted for the ban in 1807 so it could go into effect at the earliest possible date, and President Thomas Jefferson signed the bill into law.
Jefferson would write about the evils of slavery in his only published work, “Notes on the State of Virginia” in 1781.
“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?” he asked. “That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?
“Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever,” Jefferson wrote.
Those words are inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial.
Also on the Memorial’s walls are these words by Jefferson from the Declaration, which have defined what it means to be an American: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Trump’s right. The Jefferson Memorial must be protected, along with our heritage as Americans.
The founders, Grant, Abraham Lincoln — the people who helped positively shape our nation’s history — were not perfect (as no one today is), but they played their part in the great unfolding story of liberty in the United States.
Randy DeSoto is the author of the book “We Hold These Truths” about the influence of the Declaration of Independence throughout U.S. history.
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