Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Charlottesville Update

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 1, 2019

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The struggle over Confederate monuments in Charlottesville continues:

A Charlottesville judge on Wednesday revisited his ruling that two downtown statues of Confederate generals are war monuments. He also gave a loose timeline for the lengthy lawsuit over City Council’s votes to remove them.

Last week, Judge Richard E. Moore stated in a letter that the city’s statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are war memorials and therefore protected under state code.

“I find this conclusion inescapable,” he wrote. “It is the very reason the statues have been complained about from the beginning. It does no good pretending they are something other than what they actually are.”

The Monument Fund filed a lawsuit in March 2017, claiming the Charlottesville City Council in 2016 violated a state code section that bans the removal of war memorials when it voted to remove the statue of Lee. The suit was later amended to include the council’s Jackson vote.

Charlottesville City Councilors Wes Bellamy, Kathy Galvin and Mike Signer and former Councilor Kristin Szakos were all present in Charlottesville Circuit Court for the hearing Wednesday. Only former Councilor Bob Fenwick, who is being represented by different counsel, was absent.

On Wednesday, Moore expanded on the reasoning behind his recent order and clarified what he called “misconceptions” that the general public has reached.

While both the statues are clearly monuments and memorials to two Civil War veterans, as shown by their attire, Moore said, he clarified that only the Jackson statue could be taken definitively to be a monument to the Civil War, as well, pointing to the language on the statue, which lists three military engagements.

The Jackson statue was unveiled in 1921, and the Lee statue followed in 1924. Both were donated by philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire.

Because they are monuments to veterans and — perhaps in the case of Jackson — to the Civil War, as well, that brings them under the umbrella of the state code preventing the removal or encroachment of monuments to veterans and wars, Moore said.

“It has never been about whether I think they should be removed, whether the majority wants them removed or whether moving them would be helpful to certain parts of the population,” he said. “It’s about whether moving them would violate the state statute.”

 

While it’s hard to argue against Judge Moore’s ruling under current Virginia law, the law itself is bad practice. Local governments should be able to decide for themselves what to do on their own property.

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Photo by Zack Wajsgras/The Daily Progress

7 Responses

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  1. J.B.Richman said, on May 1, 2019 at 11:27 pm

    It is good to see that you still believe in the Rule of Law. A good number of people on the hard Left and the Nazis do not believe in it at all. Paul Goodloe McIntire donated many buildings, endowments and public places that the City of Charlottesville and UVa dearly love. I have a little bit of a problem with the idea that these monuments to long dead warriors are so egregiously evil that the citizens of Charlottesville should show this level of disrespect to the man who by all measures was their greatest benefactor ever.

    I do understand the passions of the Civil War, since my Great-Grandfather nearly died in Belle Isle Prison. My Mother met him when she was a child. My ancestry is either post-Civil War immigrant or Union only. My Wife is pretty much the same kind of mix (although one line came out West from Tennessee before the Civil War). She had a Great-Grandfather who was a Massachusetts Republican State Legislator. Even the Tennessee branch were probably Unionists from what they did during the War and afterward. My Wife has told me that she would like to visit the South to see the Civil War Memorials and Battle sites. And she doesn’t like the idea that the memorials may be mostly gone before we get around to it. Maybe a better solution would be for some modern philanthropist to put up money for monuments in the former Confederacy to Southern Unionists (both Black and White), and to the Union Army. That way we would get to see even more memorials on our future trip. With the Klan on the ropes it os about time to recognize the contributions of Southern-born Union supporters and to the ultimately positive impact of the Union victory on the South.

    • Andy Hall said, on May 2, 2019 at 8:53 am

      “Rule of law” can be a loaded term. There have been plenty of laws that are fundamentally harmful to wider concerns of justice (broadly writ), and in those cases following the rule of law simply because it’s the law is not really something to aspire to.

      The state monument preservation law in Virginia (and similar laws in others states) isn’t particularly harmful to persons in the way other laws sometimes are, but they are wrong-headed and set a bad precedent. Moore’s ruling is (IMO) correct on the application of the law of the Commonwealth, but it’s a bad law nonetheless.

      • J.B. Richman said, on May 10, 2019 at 11:50 pm

        Not every law is a good one. That is why many laws get repealed eventually. Constitutionality is not the same thing as wise or prudent. Laws allowable in our system put forward by both parties have caused harm to the greater public. ( I won’t bother naming them one by one as that would be way too long a list.) That is why we should enact as few laws as are absolutely necessary for an orderly society. Unfortunately, legislators get more publicity fo pushing new laws than for preventing the enactment of them.

        Our legal system isn’t perfect but the proposed alternatives to it are much worse. The South had segregationist mob rule for many years. Destruction of legally protected monuments by mobs can be a bad thing also, more for the precedent it sets. I think building new monuments to tell the other side is a better thing to do.

  2. J.B.Richman said, on May 1, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    Here is a link to a truly weird Confederate Memorial:

    https://www.pennlive.com/news/2017/08/confederate_monument_in_hampde.html

    Put up by local history buffs to commemorate the Confederate occupation of a Pennsylvania town. They also erected a monument to Union forces nearby. I love it!!

  3. Reader said, on May 3, 2019 at 8:59 am

    It’s worth noting that the law only protects a monument whose erection the locality has authorized or permitted. At the time these statues were authorized, the law only applied to counties, not the city of Charlottesville. The law wasn’t broadened to apply to all localities until 1997. That’s separate from the point about the recent addition of language defining “disturb” to include the respectful moving of the monument.

    The filing of legal claims against the council members based on the way they voted is bizarre, especially since the status of these statues as “monuments or memorials for any war or conflict, or for any engagement of such war or conflict,” which is what the law requires, is so obviously debatable. I mean, the court itself wasn’t even certain until this week, so how could the council be faulted for casting a vote in good faith two years ago?

    The law does seem likely to be amended after the legislature changes hands in January. At the very least the “War between the States” language could be replaced.

    • Andy Hall said, on May 3, 2019 at 12:17 pm

      “The filing of legal claims against the council members based on the way they voted is bizarre. . . .”

      But it fits entirely with the “heritage” folks’ methods. They always — ALWAYS — single out specific individuals to target as the “cause” of the problem. With the flags at the chapel at the VMFA, it wasn’t because the museum was adopting the polciy because of changes in wider community standard, but because the director, Alex Neygres, was a Yankee transplant and carpetbagger. With Charlottesville, same thing with Szarkos, even though she’s lived there for decades and served on community boards and causes for YEARS, not to mention having been elected by the citizens of that city. In 2015, when the city dropped Lee-Jackson Day as a paid holiday, it was because the mayor at the time was a Sikh who wore a turban. In Lexington in 2012 it was because the mayor’s day job was with the university and she had an Obama campaign sign in her yard.

      It’s always. always, because of evil people. I suppose they have to think that way, because it lets them avoid the more unpleasant idea that they really don’t have the wide and deep popular support they imagine they do.

  4. Msb said, on May 13, 2019 at 8:49 am

    I’m sorry to read this news, and agree with you that the law in question is a bad one, as it subverts the local community’s right to control its own environment. I hope the two statues do not suffer the Silent Sam treatment, as a result of the community’s frustration. Both statues are beautiful in themselves, although I see them as stained with Heather Heyer’s blood.


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