by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We previously discussed the effort at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to have the famous statue of Abraham Lincoln removed as racist. The student government has now voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that calls for the removal of the Abraham Lincoln statue on campus. The students declared that the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, advocated for the 13th Amendment, and led the war against the South and slavery was “not pro-Black” and a “remnant of White Supremacy.” That would likely have come as something of a surprise to John Wilkes Booth.
One issue that was raised by student is that Lincoln ordered the execution of 38 Dakota men and signed the Homestead Act, which gave settlers land forcibly taken from Native Americans.
1904paintingAttackNewUlmAntonGagAs I previously discussed, Lincoln’s role in the Dakota executions is legitimately controversial but has been presented without some countervailing facts. …
… This is not the first time Lincoln has faced the ire of some in Wisconsin. When Lincoln called the nation to war against the South, many in Wisconsin did not support the cause and rioted against Lincoln. Ultimately, however, Wisconsin sent multiple regiments who fought valiantly in the War and sacrificed much to defeat both the South and slavery.
Having a statue to a leader like Lincoln is not an endorsement of his entire legacy. I have heavily criticized Lincoln for the unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus and the loss of free speech rights as well as other decisions. We learn from such public memorials, which can be augmented with a more full historical context and criticism. However, to say that Lincoln is a symbol of white supremacy ignores his pivotal role in fighting slavery, a cause for which he would ultimately give his own life.