12 June 2008

If It's Good Enough For The NPS . . .

Some of our academic friends seem to be stressing out over the proposed Jefferson Davis statue proposed for Tredegar. While we suffer through the predictable hand-wringing over whether or not this is "appropriate", let us not forget that these professional historians failed to mention one salient fact, to wit: at least what the SCV is proposing is legal and above board. Those who pushed the Lincoln statue at Tredegar can't say the same thing about that project.

The organization that placed a statue of Abraham Lincoln and son Tad at Tredegar, the United States Historical Society, apparently drew the attention of the IRS and, according to this news article, lost its tax-exempt status over their--shall we say--less than transparent fund solicitation. The Washington Times piece noted the following:

"The historical society had also been operating under two names — the U.S. Historical Society, a nonprofit group, and the United States Historical Society, listed by the Virginia State Corporate Commission as a fictitious name belonging to a for-profit company named FKAO Inc., which had been owned by historical society Chairman Robert H. Kline. The historical society had not been registered with the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs, which is required under state law in order to solicit contributions."

My sources also tell me that this organization, while admitting no wrong-doing, paid a $25,000 "fine" as a result of an investigation conducted by the Virginia Attorney's General office. The critics have jumped on the SCV for proposing the Davis statue but have given this organization a pass.

Ah yes, so committed to the truth. The silence is deafening. More double standards and less credibility with every passing day. But I digress.

Other than concerns over hyper-political correctness, why wouldn't this statue be appropriate in Richmond? This year marks the 200th anniversary of Davis's birth. The Museum of the Confederacy is celebrating, not just commemorating, "the year of Davis" and points out that:

"His commission to West Point by President Andrew Jackson, his tenure with the U.S. Army, and his time spent in the U.S. politics all contribute to the depth of Davis’s life and patriotic career." (My emphasis)

Furthermore, the MOC notes that Davis, in addition to serving as the Confederacy's only President, also,

". . . served in the U.S. Military, fought in the Mexican War, was a U.S. Congressman and Senator from Mississippi, and served as Secretary of War for President Franklin Pierce."

Given these facts; if the statue is historically accurate, tastefully done, and privately financed, there is no reason why it should not be placed. Regarding the statue's sculptor, Gary Casteel is someone I've come to know over the last year. I've seen his work and know his reputation. His work is highly regarded by the National Park Service, state and local governments, and private corporations. His impressive lists of commissions can be seen here. A few months ago, I visited Gary's studio in Lexington and he gave me and a friend a personal tour, showing us some of his work and the process that goes into a typical sculpture. I'm confident he will produce a beautiful and historically accurate statue.

Gary's done a statue of both Davis and Lincoln before, making him the perfect man for this job. The image shown here is a photo of that monument and is part of the Kentucky State Memorial which features the figures of Presidents Davis and Lincoln for the Vicksburg National Military Park. The National Park Service site which tells about this monument states:

"The memorial symbolized the division within Kentucky during the Civil War as well as the reunification of the state and country afterward."

The organization responsible for this work was the "Official Kentucky Vicksburg Monument Association" and was charged with "designing and erecting a memorial to honor both Union and Confederate Kentuckians."

If the National Park Service can have a statue and memorial featuring both Davis and Lincoln, while symbolizing the division, as well as the reunification of the country, and at the same time "honor both Union and Confederate" concerns, can't Tredegar, Virginians, and the City of Richmond do the same thing? Yes we can. And we should.

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