A Member of the Adams Family Discusses Confederate Statues (in 1902)

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A Member of the Adams Family Discusses Confederate Statues (in 1902)

In the first place, Charles Francis Adams, Jr wasn't a member of that Addams family. He had nothing to do with Morticia and Gomez. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams, 6th president of the United States, and great-grandson of John Adams, second president of the United States. CF Adams, Jr was a colonel in the Union Army, which means he was involved in the US Civil War on the winning side, the one that preserved the Union. And, apparently, he thought Robert E Lee deserved a statue. He said so, in a long speech before the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Chicago on Tuesday, 17 June, 19021.

(Don't get excited. I disagree with him as much as you do. Let me get to why.)

CF Adams, Jr, thought Robert E Lee was a fine example of a human being. This tells us a lot about 1902, but not much else:

Every inch a soldier, he was as an opponent not less generous and humane than formidable, a type of highest martial character; – cautious, magnanimous and bold, a very thunderbolt in war, he was self-contained in victory, but greatest in defeat. To that escutcheon attaches no stain.

Well, not if you buy into that ideal. But if you think we shouldn't be glorifying 'martial characters' who were 'thunderbolts in war' so much as people who actually did something for someone else…

Adams admits that he knows exactly why they had to defeat the Confederacy:

That the leaders in Secession were men with large views, and that they had matured a comprehensive policy as the ultimate outcome of their movement, I entertain no doubt. Thev looked unquestionably to an easy military success, and the complete establishment of their Confederacy; more remotely, there can be no question they contemplated a policy of
extension, and the establishment along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and in the Antilles of a great semi-tropical, slave-labor republic; finally, all my investigations have tended to satisfy me that they confidently anticipated an early disintegration of the Union, and the accession of the bulk of the Northern States to the Confederacy, New England only being sternly excluded therefrom– 'sloughed off,' as they expressed it2. The capital of the new Confederacy was to be Washington: African servitude, under reasonable limitations3, was to be recognized throughout its limits; agriculture was to be its ruling interest, with a tariff and foreign policy in strict accord therewith.

'Secession is not intended to break up the present government, but to perpetuate it. We go out of the Union, not to destroy it, but for the purpose of getting further guarantees and security,' – this was said in January. 1861…

In other words, they did intend to take over the country and impose their own ideas on everybody, while creating a vast slave-holding empire. Personally, I would like to have been a mouse at a discussion between John Adams and his great-grandson on the subject of the Lees of Old Virginia. The song from the musical 1776 leaps unbidden to mind.

Read the whole speech, if you care to (it's long), at Internet Archive, It's called 'Shall Cromwell Have a Statue?' See, nothing is new under the sun.

PS for History Buffs: In case you're interested, 1902 was a year when the popularity of Confederate monuments was on the rise. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the peak year for erecting them was 1909. In case you're confused, remember that the Confederacy ended in 1865.

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

06.07.20 Front Page

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1All the Phi Beta Kappas (it's an academic honour) Your Editor has ever known were women. I'm willing to bet there were no women at that speech.2This bothered CF Adams. The Adamses were old New England people.3You can't make this stuff up.

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