No one has asked me for the solution to the issue of Confederate monuments, but I have it.
To quote one of my favorite historians, Larry David (who has bachelors in history from the University of Maryland), a good compromise is when both sides are equally unhappy. Larry was referring to Henry Clay when he said that. Clay, a native of Ashland, was known as the Great Compromiser. We could use a Henry Clay now. But I’d settle for a Larry David.
The monument debate has been quiet lately. And that’s a good thing. Sure, we still have some Tennessee yahoos with assault rifles dropping in occasionally to let us know that there will always be a handful of hillbillies willing to waste their Saturday in defense of dead Confederates. But things have calmed down. Month long government shut downs have a way of focusing our energies on other things.
The Monument Avenue Commission has spoken: and they think it would be a good idea to remove the cluttered and garish Jefferson Davis statue. The wheel of justice moves slowly, though, especially in Richmond. Who knows how long, if ever, it will take to remove Senator Davis from his perch?
My plan is bolder. It involves removing most of the Confederate statues from Monument Avenue. In the spirit of Henry Clay, it’s something of an Omnibus Bill.
How will this be paid for, you ask? With public funds, naturally. Not a tax, mind you. But revenue enhancement. The legislature needs to consider HB-137, more commonly known as the “Heritage Not Hate” bill, which calls for a 1 cent tax on Mountain Dew, chewing tobacco, antiques, diapers, cable news subscriptions, peanuts, and any and all flag reproductions (foreign or domestic) to pay for the removal, maintenance, and interpretation of Richmond statues and historic sites.
Let’s start with A. P. Hill. The Hill statue needs to go. Not because Hill fought in the Confederate army. No, because of traffic. The Hill statue stands at the intersection of Labernum and Hermitage. It’s a busy intersection and one that doesn’t need a statue of anyone or anything in the middle of it. As it is, it’s a magnet for accidents. Hill was killed in Petersburg in 1865 during the last days of the war. He was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, though family initially wanted him brought back to his birthplace of Culpeper. The statue on Labernum wasn’t dedicated until 1892. Let’s be purists and put General Hill back in Petersburg, where he died. All we have to do is get permission from Pamplin Historical Park, which owns the land where Hill died. That shouldn’t be a problem, right?
Matthew Fontaine Maury. Leave him. Nobody cares about Mr. Maury.
Moving on: Stonewall Jackson. Thomas J. was killed at Chancellorsville in 1863. There’s a marker on the Wilderness battlefield grounds noting where he was shot by fellow Confederates. There’s a marker to where his arm was amputated. And there’s a marker for where the amputated arm was supposedly laid to rest. But there’s certainly no statue of Jackson. The Richmond Stonewall monument would be a wonderful addition to the site. May I suggest a heavily wooded, hard to get to spot?
Jeb Stuart. “Beauty” was another Rebel who didn’t survive the war. He was mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern in Henrico in 1864. Stuart has a nice little park dedicated to him, about a mile off of Route 1 near where he was killed. I say, remove him from Monument and put him in Henrico. Let the suburbs deal with w while. When I visited the site last year, one resident nearby had a Confederate flag on his property. My guess is the neighborhood would have little resistance to further “southerning up.”
In addition to the removal of monuments, name changes are in order. Monument Avenue will be changed to “Longstreet Street.” Some want to rename the Boulevard “Arthur Ashe Boulevard.” Instead, I vote that Confederate Avenue, located just north of the Hill statue, be renamed Arthur Ashe Avenue.
And what about Saint Robert? Let Robert E. Lee stay where he is. It is the only statue the heritage crowd really cares about. The other monuments can go, but apparently Robert must stay. Were a vote taken today on whether or not his statue should be removed, the votes would likely be for letting him remain. And so let him. Marse Robert. The Marble Model. Now as ever, winning the battle but losing the war.