Debate over Asheville’s Confederate memorials continues

TROUBLED HISTORY: The Vance Monument has been a backdrop to Asheville’s history: the scene of protests, rallies, victory parades, festivals, and the subject endless debate over whose history it symbolizes. With cities across the South removing Confederate landmarks from public spaces, the Vance monument and other local Confederate memorials have come under scrutiny once more. Photo by Max Hunt
TROUBLED HISTORY: The Vance Monument has been a backdrop to Asheville’s history: the scene of protests, rallies, victory parades, festivals, and the subject endless debate over whose history it symbolizes. With cities across the South removing Confederate landmarks from public spaces, the Vance monument and other local Confederate memorials have come under scrutiny once more. Photo by Max Hunt

It’s hard to miss Asheville’s most controversial landmark: Towering above busy Pack Square, the soaring 75-foot granite obelisk bearing the name Vance emphatically marks the center of the city. During its 120-plus years, the monument — erected in 1896 at the intersection of Biltmore and Patton avenues — has silently witnessed shootouts, parades and protests, been a target of vandalism and inspired its share of controversy.

Some see it as a vital part of the region’s heritage: a tribute to Zebulon Vance, North Carolina’s famed Civil War governor. For others, it’s a bitter reminder of the segregation, white supremacy and violence that spiral through the heart of Asheville’s past like a kudzu vine.

The recent removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans and elsewhere has triggered renewed debate about such issues nationwide. In Asheville, residents, scholars and city officials have once again turned a critical eye on the Vance Monument and other local markers, raising questions as to what they really say about our collective identity — and what should be done with them now.

Hidden in plain sight

After a white supremacist shot and killed nine people in a historically African-American church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, local discussion of Asheville’s Confederate landmarks bubbled up again. (See “Letter writer: Take down the Vance Monument,” April 22, 2016, Xpress; “Letter writer: Vance was a great man who served our people well,” May 6, 2016, Xpress; When Past is Present: Zeb Vance and His Monument, June 25, 2015, Xpress; “Vance Monument Restoration Raises Troubling Questions,” April 8, 2015, Xpress.)

The city of New Orleans’ decision to remove four high-profile Confederate monuments from public spaces around the city earlier this year has only added fuel to the fire: On June 3, the Asheville Citizen-Times ran an op-ed calling for the removal or renaming of Asheville’s prominent obelisk; meanwhile, a series of May and June op-eds in The Asheville Tribune decried such actions as historical whitewashing.

UNDER THE RADAR: While the Vance monument receives the lion's share of attention, several other Confederate monuments, like the one commemorating Robert E. Lee and the Dixie Highway (above), occupy prominent positions in Pack Square. Photo by Max Hunt
UNDER THE RADAR: While the Vance monument receives the lion’s share of attention, several other Confederate monuments, like the one commemorating Robert E. Lee and the Dixie Highway (above), occupy prominent positions in Pack Square. Photo by Max Hunt

But while the Vance Monument draws plenty of attention, other nearby memorials tend to escape notice. Just in front of the towering obelisk, a small granite marker commemorates the Dixie Highway, Confederate icon Robert E. Lee and Col. John Connally, a Confederate officer who was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. And near the courthouse entrance, another smaller obelisk commemorates Confederate soldiers from Buncombe County who fought at Chickamauga and in other Civil War battles.

Sometimes, landmarks can be as subtle as a street sign: Merrimon, Clingman, Patton and other Asheville thoroughfares bear the names of some of the region’s founding families, many of whose members either owned slaves or actively served the Confederacy. “Eighty percent of the [original] street names in Asheville were named after slave owners, largely because James Patton was the person who laid out the street network,” says Deborah Miles, executive director of UNC Asheville’s Center for Diversity Education.

What’s in a name?

As with Vance, these founders’ legacies get complicated when viewed from a 21st-century perspective. “These wealthy families served in local government, pushed to fund improvements in roads, opened stores and hotels to build the tourist economy — and they did so on the backs of slaves,” says Kimberly Floyd, site manager for the Vance Birthplace, a state historic site in Reems Creek where Vance spent the first four years of his life.

Merrimon Avenue, for instance, bears the name of Augustus Merrimon, a notoriously partisan postwar Democratic senator who actively feuded with Vance and summarily dismissed African-American claims of voter intimidation in the South during Reconstruction.

Both Clingman Avenue and Clingman’s Dome are named for North Carolina explorer and legislator Thomas Clingman. Less recognized is Clingman’s use of regional North/South divides and racial partisanship to further his political career before and during the Civil War.

MEN BEHIND THE MONUMENTS: Zebulon Vance (bottom left), Thomas Clingman (bottom right) and Thomas Patton (top) helped to build Asheville into the booming city it is today, but often did so by exploiting African Americans for fianancial or political gain, orespousing racist rhetoric. Their complicated lagacies continue to haunt the landmarks that commemorate them. Images courtesy of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library
MEN BEHIND THE MONUMENTS: Zebulon Vance (bottom left), Thomas Clingman (bottom right) and Thomas Patton (top) helped to build Asheville into the booming city it is today, but often did so by exploiting African Americans for financial or political gain, or espousing racist rhetoric. Their complicated legacies continue to haunt the landmarks that commemorate them. Images courtesy of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library

Historical records show that the Woodfin and Patton families, who helped lay the foundations for the bustling city Asheville would become, were the two largest slave-owning families in Buncombe County. Several of their progeny served as Confederate officers.

“History is interesting because the people that make it are complicated and contradictory,” says Floyd. “The most important thing we can do when telling the stories of these influential families is to also tell the stories of the enslaved men, women and children.”

Accordingly, says Floyd, the Vance Birthplace, created in the 1960s as a memorial to a historical figure, now focuses more on educating visitors about life in the mountains during the early 1800s than on the man himself.

Still, Floyd concedes that it’s hard to get out from under Vance’s substantial shadow. Attempts to partner with a number of local businesses and organizations have been rejected, because “they don’t want to work with a ‘Confederate’ organization, even though the site itself has nothing to do with the Confederacy or the war,” she says.

Eye of the beholder

Cultural biases inevitably influence one’s view of men like Vance. Too often, the public tends to simplify controversial historical figures, says Sharon Fahrer, whose Asheville-based business, History @ Hand, offers tours and other services. “We only talk about Zebulon Vance or others in sound bites, but a person isn’t all bad or good,” she points out. “You have to put them in context.”

In the Jewish community, which Vance spoke up for in his famous “Scattered Nation” speech, perceptions of the former governor have evolved over the years, notes Fahrer. “There wasn’t even a mention in the Jewish press when Zebulon Vance died; he wasn’t considered any kind of hero to the Jewish people.”

By the 1920s, however, “You had the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the B’nai B’rith doing ceremonies at the Vance Monument for his birthday. Those are very unlikely bedfellows.”

For many African-Americans, however, Vance’s legacy represents a dark chapter in American history that has yet to be fully addressed. “I understand when white North Carolinians talk about the good things that Vance did,” says Darin Waters, an assistant professor of history at UNCA. “We’re not debating the humanity of someone like Zebulon Vance; we’re only talking about his memory. But I still feel like I’m in the position where I have to fight for the humanity of my ancestors.”

Sasha Mitchell, who runs the African-American history and networking website colorofasheville.net and serves on the African American Heritage Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County, puts it more bluntly. “The only Confederate ancestors I had owned my ancestors and raped their mothers,” she says. “You can remember [Confederate] history — that they wanted to protect their family — but waving that flag and putting up statues in their memory is different than saying you’re remembering your ancestors.”

Dialectical debate

While it’s easy to get caught up in the auras of the people these monuments commemorate, the historical context in which many Confederate monuments were built is equally important, argues Waters. With the advent of Jim Crow laws and the reimposition of segregation in the late 19th century, “There was a concerted effort to begin to construct a narrative of the history of the South that stayed a certain way,” the historian notes.

Commonly referred to as the “Lost Cause,” this ideology maintains that the Confederacy was not a defense of slavery but a response to draconian interference in the South’s affairs by Northern abolitionists and the federal government. Bolstered by popular 20th-century works such as Gone With the Wind and The Birth of a Nation, the Lost Cause remains a core part of many Southerners’ conception of their heritage.

POSITIONS OF POWER: Just as controversial as the historical figures they memorialize, the locations of Confederate monuments often tell a sordid tale of their own, says historian Darin Waters. Often, Confederate monuments were placed near the center of town or outside courthouses, like the one commemorating Confederate regiments from WNC that sits outside the Buncombe County courthouse (above). Photo by Max Hunt
POSITIONS OF POWER: Just as controversial as the historical figures they memorialize, the locations of Confederate monuments often tell a sordid tale of their own, says historian Darin Waters. Often, Confederate monuments were placed near the center of town or outside courthouses, like the one commemorating Confederate regiments from WNC that sits outside the Buncombe County courthouse (above). Photo by Max Hunt

“It’s no mistake that you can go to any town in the state of North Carolina and find a Confederate monument,” Waters points out. “All you have to do is go to the places of power: the courthouse, City Hall. They’re all there.”

Others maintain that the Lost Cause view is not an attempt to absolve Southerners for slavery but to set the record straight in the wake of politically correct revisionism. “In the last two decades, Confederate flags, monuments, symbols and heroes have come under increasing slander and contemptuous treatment by those who have uncritically accepted the prevailing counterfactual narrative of Civil War history,” historian and syndicated columnist Mike Scruggs wrote in a May 17 op-ed in The Asheville Tribune.

Conflating Confederate monuments with racial prejudice amounts to historical cherry-picking, he argues, particularly when Northerners of that era were just as bigoted. “Most Northern states did not want blacks within their borders, and Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Oregon had strict laws to enforce this bias,” Scruggs wrote in a May 24 Tribune op-ed. “As an Illinois legislator, Abraham Lincoln fully approved of such laws.”

Waters agrees that racism isn’t specifically a Southern phenomenon, but he disputes the idea that the Confederacy was centered on a heroic defense of states’ rights. “This wasn’t a noble cause when the outcome would have been the continued enslavement of another group of people,” he says, citing Southern Agrarian writer Robert Penn Warren’s book The Legacy of the Civil War. “It was a tragic war, across the board. We’ve built these monuments to glorify it, but there was nothing glorious about it.”

The burden of memory

Some might question the relevance of debating the underlying meaning of events that happened 150 years ago. But for many contemporary Americans, the psychic scars left by the Civil War, and the ensuing battle over how to view its legacy today, are inextricable parts of their identity.

“When you lose a war, there is a pall over your culture,” says state Rep. John Ager. “That’s doubly so when you were defending an institution like slavery that was an anathema to the ideals of freedom and equality.” Ager grew up in Atlanta near the Peachtree Creek battlefield.

Numerous academic studies have confirmed the importance of appreciating one’s family and community history, which can affect a child’s self-worth, confidence and performance in school. “There is a sense of agency when children understand they have a place here, that their ancestors contributed,” says UNCA’s Miles. “Their voice is valued; their ancestors’ voice is valued. It gives a sense of belonging.”

But that’s precisely why some Southerners see calls to remove Confederate monuments as an attack on their heritage. “It’s cultural genocide,” says Kirk Lyons, a Black Mountain attorney who serves as chief counsel for the Southern Legal Resource Center. The organization says it works to defend the rights of “Confederate Southern Americans.” These monuments, notes Lyons, “have been around for over 100 years. They’re part of the heart of Asheville.”

On several occasions, the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center has accused Lyons and his organization of having ties to white supremacist groups. Lyons, however, rebuts those accusations.

“People call me a white supremacist, but I’m nothing compared to these people on the so-called ‘tolerant left,’” he says, likening those advocating the removal of such monuments to the Taliban and ISIS. “The same type of intolerant mindset is driving it. What happened to free association? What happened to free speech? What happened to live and let live?”

HERITAGE OR HATE? Debate over the Vance monument and other Confederate landmarks is a flashpoint in the larger debate over what message Confederate symbols convey. Some say they are reminders of the segregation and racial strife that continues to beleaguer America; others argue that these monuments are a tribute to Southern heritage and identity, and accuse removal advocates of trying to whitewash history. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library
HERITAGE OR HATE? Debate over the Vance monument and other Confederate landmarks is a flashpoint in the larger debate over what message Confederate symbols convey. Some say they are reminders of the segregation and racial strife that continues to beleaguer America; others argue that these monuments are a tribute to Southern heritage and identity, and accuse removal advocates of trying to whitewash history. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library

Other Confederate heritage organizations, however, worry about being lumped together with white supremacists because of their support of monuments honoring Civil War figures and events. The local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, for example, declined to comment for this article, but its website clearly states that the organization “does not believe in slavery in the past or present” or in “racial superiority, bigotry or hatred” against any group or individual. The site also highlights the group’s charitable work in the community to benefit people of all colors.

While Miles says she appreciates the role such groups play in maintaining cemeteries and honoring the dead, she contends that simply repudiating racial bias doesn’t resolve important concerns about the institutional racism that many Confederate monuments represent.

“If people don’t feel like they act on racist attitudes, they excuse themselves from all the racism that’s perpetuated around us,” says Miles. In Pack Square, she continues, “What does it mean to have three monuments and two historical markers that refer to enslavement and the Civil War and nothing that talks about the contributions of the people who built the railroad, or the construction of buildings, or the fight for equality?”

Stories we tell ourselves

The sheer number and high visibility of such monuments in Asheville also belie Western North Carolina’s ambivalent relationship with the Confederacy during the war. While most Buncombe County residents were solidly Confederate, other rural communities, especially in Madison and Watauga counties, were lukewarm — if not outright hostile — toward the rebel cause. (See “Blood in the Valley,” Jan. 28, 2016, Xpress.)

A couple of miles from the Pack Square monuments, markers in Asheville’s historic Newton Academy Cemetery commemorate local Unionists and Confederates who died in the war. The Confederate monument is easy to spot: a large obelisk near the center of the grounds, flanked by several rows of gravestones inscribed with “C.S.A. 1861-1865.” Dedicated in 1903, the monument is believed to be one of the oldest Confederate markers in the state erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

In contrast, the memorial to Union supporters consists of five nondescript, weathered stones marked simply “U.S. soldier.” The disparity begs the question: What other local history is being overshadowed?

COMPETING NARRATIVES: The Confederate monument and memorial gravestones at Asheville's historic Newton Cemetery (above), stand prominently among the resting place of Asheville's earliest white settlers. By comparison, the markers to local Union soldiers are smaller and discreet. Photo by Max Hunt
COMPETING NARRATIVES: The Confederate monument and memorial gravestones at Asheville’s historic Newton Cemetery (above), stand prominently among the resting place of Asheville’s earliest white settlers. By comparison, the markers to local Union soldiers are smaller and discreet. Photo by Max Hunt

While most Ashevilleans know about Vance, for example, relatively few have heard of Virgil Lusk, a former Confederate who spent his postwar years as an Asheville attorney battling the Ku Klux Klan in the courtroom, in Congress and even in a shootout with local Klan members in Pack Square.

Or how about Lillian Exum Clement, the first woman to serve in a state legislature in the South? Or Newton Shepherd, who became the city’s first African-American to serve on the Board of Aldermen (the equivalent of City Council) in the 1880s?

“You don’t hear anything about Newton Shepherd; there are no streets named for Newton Shepherd,” says Waters. “He’s buried somewhere in Riverside Cemetery in an unmarked grave.”

The monuments to local black history that do exist, notes Waters, are usually confined to historic African-American communities. “That’s great, but they need to be part of the larger city of Asheville as well,” he maintains.

Efforts at equity

Several local neighborhoods and organizations are working to do just that. Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell recently proposed renaming Broadway north of Interstate 240 in honor of Shepherd. “The switch from Broadway downtown to that section is confusing; there aren’t many addresses on that street at this point, so a name change wouldn’t be a big problem,” Bothwell maintains.

Meanwhile, in Montford, Fahrer is busy developing a “museum without walls” — historic panels placed throughout the neighborhood that will help tell the local African-American community’s history. “Are you going to alter history because you don’t like what it says? No! But you can give a much broader perspective on it,” the historian explains. “Let’s talk about making better monuments that people can connect to and interact with.”

Residents along Clingman Avenue and in the River Arts District successfully lobbied recently to change the proposed name of a previously unnamed stream from Clingman Branch to Bacoate Branch in honor of a prominent African-American family from the neighborhood.

“It’s actually named after Osie W. Bacoate, who moved her family into the neighborhood in the 1940s,” says Pattiy Torno of the West End/Clingman Avenue Neighborhood Association. “Her son, Matthew Bacoate, has been a civil rights activist in Asheville for many years and also had the largest African-American-owned business in Asheville’s history, called AFRAM.”

HISTORY IN MOTION: A circus procession files past onlookers gathered around the Vance monument. While the Vance monument linked to Zebulon Vance’s legacy, historian Sharon Fahrer questions whether it’s role in the city’s more recent history transcends the man it’s named for. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library
HISTORY IN MOTION: A circus procession files past onlookers gathered around the Vance monument. While the Vance monument linked to Zebulon Vance’s legacy, historian Sharon Fahrer questions whether it’s role in the city’s more recent history transcends the man it’s named for. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library

A proposed greenway in what’s now the South Slope will feature historic panels documenting African-American businesses and the people who lived in the area during segregation. Funding for the Bacoate & Town Branch greenway projects is currently in limbo, however, due to higher-than-expected construction costs that forced the city to cut them from its transportation improvement plan for the River Arts District, according to a June 22 Citizen-Times report.

City officials, meanwhile, have charged the African American Heritage Commission with devising a proposal for a new monument that might be placed in Pack Square alongside the others. Mitchell says she’s glad to see the community address the idea, but worries that the focus on monuments may distract from more significant issues.

“Recognizing that history is important,” she points out, “but bigger than that is the struggle of the black community right now. We’re talking about a shrinking number of people who have very little voice or opportunity to stay and grow in Asheville. Any money we raise for [a monument] should probably go elsewhere.”

A capital decision

Bothwell, meanwhile, also has his sights set on removing the Connally/Lee monument from Pack Square. “Lee has no historic connection to Asheville,” he argues. “Asheville must utilize public spaces to reflect the air of the future: equality, inclusiveness, coexistence. It is long past time that we followed in the footsteps of cities such as New Orleans.”

That campaign, however, could run into resistance from Raleigh: A 2015 law requires state approval before any monument can be removed from public grounds.

“I’m embarrassed to have to tell you this, but I don’t think that any of us quite understood what we were voting on” at the time, confesses Democratic Sen. Terry Van Duyn, who voted in favor of the bill. “The debate on the floor was very limited and never mentioned Confederates. I don’t have an opinion about any particular statue, other than I think we need to debate it honestly.”

Ager, who voted against the bill in the House, says he was bothered by its political tone, its lack of regard for the African-American community’s sentiments, and the implications of the General Assembly’s dictating the way local communities remember their past. Nonetheless, Ager says he’s generally opposed to removing monuments.

AT THE CROSSROADS: As Asheville continues to come to terms with its history of segregation and inequity, UNC Asheville assistant professor Darin Waters says that Confederate landmarks can offer a view into the fluid nature of history, and how we as a community interpret that history. Photo by Max Hunt
AT THE CROSSROADS: As Asheville continues to come to terms with its history of segregation and inequity, UNC Asheville assistant professor Darin Waters says that Confederate landmarks can offer a view into the fluid nature of history, and how we as a community interpret that history. Photo by Max Hunt

“Are we trying to sanitize our past?” he asks. “If people once believed ideas I disagree with now, what ideas do I assume to be true that my grandchildren will question? I think present and future generations need to think about the past and consider the political ideas that drove people to action in a different time.”

For his part, Lyons says the Southern Legal Resource Center will continue to fight tooth and nail against any attempts to remove Asheville’s monuments, but he wouldn’t necessarily oppose adding interpretive signage. “If you want to put your stupid little plaque there saying, ‘It’s white supremacy; it’s evil,’ fine. Just leave the damn monument alone!”

So that the future may learn from the past

In 2015, workers renovating the Vance Monument unearthed a time capsule buried beneath the cornerstone in 1897. Among the artifacts it contained were two seemingly incongruous items: a muster roll from Vance’s Confederate Army company and what’s believed to be the only extant copy of The Colored Enterprise, an African-American newspaper.

The discovery, says Fahrer, underscores the monument’s enduring — and evolving — place in the city’s cultural fabric. “It’s like our witness to history,” she says. “If you look at it as not just a monument to that man, then there’s more questions than just taking his name off of it.”

In that sense, Confederate memorials can play a vital role in framing how we view the complex nature of the past, Waters suggests. “These monuments are artifacts of the time period in which they were built,” he explains. “If we use them as such, it’s a lens into what was going on, how that group of people acted. For me that’s a positive, because it enhances our understanding of the past as a fluid thing that’s constantly changing.”

Regardless of what becomes of these landmarks moving forward, Miles believes the current debate is a signal of the broader conversations the community must have with itself. In Latin, she points out, “Monument means ‘to remember and to warn.’ We need to do big-time storytelling about our local histories, and the monuments are a great way to centralize that conversation.”

That sentiment is echoed on the bottom of the 2015 rededication plaque in front of the monument. Underneath the names of people and organizations that contributed to its repair, notes Floyd, “It simply states, ‘So that the future may learn from the past.’ Whether the monument stays or goes, we must use it as a teachable moment.”

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About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

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134 thoughts on “Debate over Asheville’s Confederate memorials continues

  1. Don

    Let’s remove the Vance Monument and pretend we don’t have any history (Americans by far and large being so completely and absolutely ignorant when it comes to the history of this country anyway) and it will all be fine.

    • John Brown

      How about we honor people who weren’t responsible for a fuck ton of racist government policy? In germany they don’t need monuments to Nazis in order to remember the history.

        • john brown

          those look like historical locations and buildings to me. There is a huge difernce between that and erecting a giant phallus in someone’s honor. If this debate were about tours of plantations, then maybe that would be relevant

          Though tours of plantations do tend to glorify the time, which is very different than how those locations are handled in germany.

          • jimmy

            ought to read sites before reaching a wrong conclusion

          • bsummers

            john brown is right. Those are historical sites meant to educate people about the Nazis, not centrally-placed monuments celebrating them.

          • john brown

            ok my bad Jimmy. shoulda known about definition 2. Guess, with relying on common use, Im not pedantic enough for the weekly newspaper’s online comments so let me rephrase since you can’t understand common use and the way dictionary definitions are ranked.

            There is a difference between preserving a building to educate people about atrocities and creating a statue in the center of town with a big plaque(definition 1, not 2 http://www.dictionary.com/browse/plaque?s=t) to honor the people that committed atrocities.

            For example, the focus of the article is statues, not plantation houses.

            Lets build a statue to an abolitionist out of the rubble of Vance monument since that is a history that actually needs our efforts to preserve.

  2. Big Al

    How is the Vance monument a CONFEDERATE monument?

    Zebulon Baird Vance served only one year as a Confederate Army Officer and three years as Confederate Governor of North Carolina.

    He served two terms (eight years) as North Carolina Governor after it returned to the UNION and was elected Senator to the UNITED STATES CONGRESS, which would have been a six-year term if the bigoted post-war government had allowed him to serve.

    FOURTEEN YEARS offered or served to the UNION versus FOUR to the Confederacy. If anything, the Vance Monument is a UNION rather than a Confederate monument.

    • Max Hunt

      You raise a good point, Al. I think what qualifies the monument as “Confederate” in many people’s minds is the context that the plaque erected on the front of the monument offers. It identifies Vance first as a Confederate governor, with his other achievements following. The distinction, while subtle, does seem to suggest that that part of his legacy is first among Vance’ s many distinctions.

      • luther blissett

        The other question to ask is “what was the impetus for the monument’s creation?” Many Confederate monuments were put up specifically to celebrate the end of Reconstruction and the return of segregation; others were motivated by reaction to the Civil Rights movement in the 50s. What was motivating the Vance memorialists in 1896-7, or the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903? Were the political dynamics in the west similar to those that triggered the Wilmington massacre in 1898?

        Monuments are a conversation between the time of the event or person memorialized, the time the monument was created, and the present day. Part of that conversation is understanding that they don’t appear from nowhere.

        • Big Al

          Take this one step further: what is the motivation NOW for wanting to tear down monuments? Without the plaque at its’ base highlighting his Confederate service, the monument is about the entirety of Vance’s career and his place as Asheville’s most prominent political figure. But removing the plaque would fall short of the true goal. Tearing down the entire monument, and in a very public way, would have so much more “gotcha” impact, and that is what this is really all about. “Progressives” can’t have “justice” until they have humiliated the opposition.

          • John Brown

            This isn’t about “progressives”, unless folks on the right want to bring back slavery and segregation.

        • Phil Williams

          The impetus for this particular monument’s creation was the desire of one individual, Mr. George W. Pack (who, ironically, served as a Presidential Elector for Michigan, supporting Abraham Lincoln during the Election of 1860), to honor his friend Zebulon Vance following Vance’s death. Pack, a Northerner, came to WNC in the 1880’s for his wife’s health, and became friends with the then Senator Vance. Pack was so impressed with WNC in general and Asheville in particular, that he made it his adopted home and bestowed many gifts on the City including the monument and the public square.

          If Vance hadn’t proclaimed Asheville’s virtues to the rest of the Nation and lobbied tirelessly to get the railroad built to Asheville and points west, Pack might never have come. He was impressed by Vance’s accomplishments and contributions, not by his birth into slaveholding privilege, former Confederate service, or his negative racial attitudes which, unfortunately, were shared with much of the American and European world of that era.

          • Peter Robbins

            Of course, some of those unfortunately negative racial attitudes informed how the good timber baron’s beloved railroad got built by “vagrants.” See https://mountainx.com/news/honor-system-vance-monument-restoration-raises-troubling-questions/. Could be time to weigh the pros and cons for ourselves without Pack’s guidance. Though I concur in the use of a nuanced methodology, I start the analysis by using words a little stronger than “negative” and “unfortunately.”

          • Phil Williams

            Mr. Robbins – I am not sure that race was the entire consideration with NC’s penal system in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s – poverty and economics had some to do with it as well. While that era was not a good time to be black, neither was it a good time to be poor. It would be interesting to see whether the NCDOC has ever tracked the racial and social demographics of the convict population during those decades.

      • Phil Williams

        As Sigmund Freud once said “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”. I seriously doubt that the distinction is a subtle promotion of the Confederacy – it most likely just reflects the actual chronology of Vance’s public service – in that he WAS the wartime Governor of NC before his subsequent post-War service as governor and US senator.

        • Max Hunt

          Point taken, Phil, but actually, Vance served as the United States youngest representative (up until that time) in the House prior to the Civil War. It was only when North Carolina voted to secede that he resigned and formed his own regiment in service of the rebellion. So chronologically, Vance’s public service record starts off with his work as a representative of the United States, not as a Confederate soldier.

          The west-facing plaque (which was added in 1938 by the UDC and not part of the original monument design) identifies Vance as “CONFEDERATE SOLDIER, WAR GOVERNOR / U.S. SENATOR, ORATOR, STATESMAN”. While I completely understand how many could see this as nitpicking, the order one lists a person’s accomplishments can have a subtle influence and effect on how that person is perceived. Think about a resume: you generally list your most applicable qualifications/attributes first, so they are more prominent to a potential employer.

          Just some food for thought. Thanks for continuing the discussion!

          • Phil Williams

            But in the case of the monument, Vance’s potential was no longer an issue – only his memory was, as he had been dead for a number of years. Also – consider that 1938 was a big year for Civil War history – the last Blue and Gray Reunion at Gettysburg was held that year with President Roosevelt as the keynote speaker (you can still see some newsreels covering the event on YouTube).

            A lot of UDC and SCV sponsored monuments sprang up around that time – I don’t think it was so much in the spirit of white supremacy or the Lost Cause, but probably more due to the fact that the Nation had been recently reminded that the population of Civil War veterans was plummeting – much as the WWII guys are today.

  3. Rick Slagle

    All articles like this do is stir the pot. If you think that removing monuments ir renaming streets lessens a “divide “, just look at the communities where they have been removed , against the wishes if the majority by the way. The divisiveness caused is deep, wide and will not be soon reconciled.

  4. Ron

    First of all let me state that your article is one of the more fair pieces on this subject I’ve read. So I’d like to give you kudos for that. With that being said I’d like to address a couple of things. First I’d like to address the idea that the confederates were traitors.

    Max, if you and I enter into an agreement and we both WILLFULLY sign a contract that defines our rights and responsibilities under said agreement. Years later I come back and say, “You know what, I never liked this part of our agreement because I think it’s immoral. As such I am no longer going to honor that part of our contract whether you like it or not.” You respond with, “That’s fine, if you want to unilaterally alter our agreement without my consent then I want out of our partnership.”

    Who is the traitor in that scenario you or I?

    If I then come back and say, “No you’re not leaving our partnership and if I have to murder your men, women and children to stop you then that’s what I’m going to do. L”

    Who is in the right and who is in the wrong? Furthermore if you were placed in that position would you not fight back?

  5. Ron

    Second of all, I can PROVE that the civil war was not fought over slavery. Slavery was the impetus but it was not the CAUSE.

    At the HEIGHT of slavery, less than 6% of white southerners owned slaves. The other 94% broke their backs in the fields daily to compete against that free slave labor. To assert that the 94%, who didn’t own slaves, went to war and sent their children to fight and die so that the 6% could keep their slaves is patently absurd.

    If the argument is that the leaders of the confederacy, many of whom were slave owners, were simply fighting to preserve slavery, then why did they risk EVERYTHING by refusing to sign the Corwin amendment? An amendment which would have ended the war, kept them in positions of money and power as well as preserved slavery as a constitutional right? Why would they refuse to do that which would have entailed 0 risk and a 100% guarantee that slavery would be preserved… As opposed to waging a war, risking EVERYTHING they had included their lives and the lives of their families in order to engage in a war which they KNEW they had little to no chance of winning as well as almost no chance of preserving slavery, the thing the other side claims they were fighting for?

    That makes no sense whatsoever. The ONLY logical explanation is that they must have been fighting for something else.

    • bsummers

      “To assert that the 94%, who didn’t own slaves, went to war and sent their children to fight and die so that the 6% could keep their slaves is patently absurd.”

      Yeah, that’d be like in a modern election, millions of poor, working class voters supporting a billionaire whose economic policies are clearly going to make their lives worse, while only benefiting other billionaires. COULD. NOT. HAPPEN.

          • Huhsure

            What are you even talking about? Unless you have an infallible intuition, it’s best not to assume.

      • Ron

        Even IF your premise about conservative economic ideology wasn’t preposterous, your argument Isn’t logical.

        There is a HUGE difference between convincing people to vote for you and convincing people to kill others and to send their children to die so that you can keep your slaves.

        • The Real World

          Yes Ron, illogic is very frequent in the comment (and Letters to the Editor) section of this website.

          It would be a full-time job for someone to continuously correct it all. Lovely Asheville needs some real help in the logic dimension.

        • bsummers

          People can be coaxed into believing all sorts of bogus reasons to go fight and die.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdDp_jlgC9M

          Just because the majority of Confederate men didn’t own slaves, doesn’t mean they didn’t believe in the institution. The Southern economy only worked because so much of the labor was free. Just like today, you can bet the average working man was told that if slavery ended, fair treatment and a level playing field for all would result in them losing out to some undeserving dark-skinned person. It’s the oldest game around.

          • Lulz

            LOL doesn’t say that dark skinned people who cross the border illegally are already playing by no rules. But it would take one who has actually worked for that perspective.

          • Ron

            bsummers what are you even talking about? What do you think the 94% of the white people, who didn’t own slaves, did? They just sat around on their porches watching the black people work?They worked TIRELESSLY in the fields every single day to provide for their families. And not only did they have to deal with getting screwed by the ABSURD level of taxation imposed upon them by the northern states and their representatives in congress but they had to offer their goods at a higher prices (making them more difficult to sell) because they didn’t have slave labor like the 6% did.

            Furthermore if the south was simply interested in the propagation of slavery then why did their constitution ban slave importation from other countries? Why would they put mechanisms in place for the States

          • Ron

            Stupid phone. For the individual States to ban slavery within their territories? We would expect a bunch of hungry slavers t expand slavery not curb it. Wouldn’t we?

          • Huhsure

            Yeah, it’s all about taxes. Keep telling yourself that.

            The rest of the world knows better.

          • Ron

            Huhsure I didn’t say it was all about taxes. They didn’t fight over taxes or they would have gone to war LONG before the civil war occurred. They went to war because the North along with the federal government refused to follow the constitution. They also ignored TWO direct orders of unconstitutionality from the SCOTUS, they attempted to change the constitution without going through the prescribed constitutional process and they violently oppressed anyone who disagreed.

            The South went to war in defense of our constitution.

          • Ron

            Peter Robbins the history channel is using a HIGHLY dishonest argument when they use the “household” numbers.

            To show what I mean, if you have 2 grandparents, two parents and four children in a household and one of those children save up enough money to buy a slave, you’ve just impugned EIGHT people because ONE of them owned a slave. That’s patently absurd and it’s used because the ACTUAL number of individuals who owned slaves was incredibly low at less than 6% so they use the household argument to try to inflate the numbers and make it look worse than they are.

            That’s tantamount to saying you have a child and your 18 year old child is a habitual thief. Does that make EVEYONE, including yourself, your parents and your other children thieves? Of course not. That’s HIGHLY dishonest.

          • Ron

            And here is something else the history channel fails to disclose. They used ONE of the more tame quotes from Lincoln in regards to black people. Here are some more. You tell me if this sounds like a man who gives one slight crap about black people:

            Lincoln, in 1858, remarked, “I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes.”

            Lincoln said, “Our republican system was meant for a homogeneous people. As long as blacks continue to live with the whites they constitute a threat to the national life. Family life may also collapse and the increase of mixed breed bastards may some day challenge the supremacy of the white man.”

            When addressing the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, Lincoln quoted the following: “There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas…”

            Lincoln was not firmly insistent on freeing the slaves of the South, his following quote reveals that he personally did not want to: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

            While debating Douglas in 1858, Lincoln declared the following: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.”

            In his 1858 debate with Sen. Steven Douglas, Lincoln maintained, “And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

            He used slavery and equality as propaganda because his numerically superior army was getting stomped out by a perceived inferior force and he was losing support in the northern states. He didn’t care about the equality or freedom of black people even one iota.

          • Peter Robbins

            In your example, all members of the slaveholding household would have an incentive to support slavery because all members of the household benefit from it. I doubt that granny, husband, wife and kids would all oppose slavery merely because gramps holds title. But the more meaningful indicator is the founding documents of the Confederacy itself. When the leaders of a revolt repeatedly identify slavery as their biggest concern, you can be reasonably sure that slavery was on their minds somehow.

          • Huhsure

            Peter: there is no honest argument about this any more. We’re in climate-change-denier territory; they’re arguing for argument’s sake, or for some other agenda.

            There’s not gonna be any convincing of the holdouts. All we can do is tear down their monuments, dance in the rubble (if you’re me), and then leave them to their grumbling.

          • Ron

            Peter Robbins again that’s ludicrous. If one of your children is a thief that doesn’t make EVERYBODY in the house a thief even though ALL of you benefit from it. You don’t have to support his lifestyle or habits because he’s providing for himself rather than using you and your money. You don’t have to drive him around because he has a car from where he’s been stealing. Just because you’re part of the household doesn’t mean you’re guilty of the crime even if you have somehow benefitted from it.

            Huhsure look we can all agree that slavery was egregious and that the fugitive slave clause should have been removed from the constitution. HOWEVER, the precedent CANNOT be allowed to stand that the federal government can simply declare a portion of the constitution to be immoral, refuse to honor that part of the constitution, ignore TWO direct orders of unconstitutionality from the SCOTUS, attempt to change the constitution without going through the prescribed constitutional process and without the consent of the governed and then violently oppress anyone who opposes them.

            That is UNACCEPTABLE and it must be met with the fiercest and utmost opposition up to and including warfare. That’s what the Confederates did. And they did so against all odds, outsupplied, outgunned, outnumbered and with much sacrifice and blood spilled. They should be honored for that.

          • Ron

            Huhsure, no we are arguing because ignorant fools who are completely uneducated on the civil war and it’s causes are spouting revisionist propaganda written by the winners as if it’s gospel truth. And it’s not. You have less than absolutely no idea what you’re talking about and are simply regurgitating propaganda that you’ve been taught because you’re incapable of logically defending your position or justifying your argument.

          • Ron

            Peter Robbins and I’ll ask you again in response to the last part of your comment.

            If the argument is that the leaders of the confederacy, many of whom were slave owners, were simply fighting to preserve slavery, then why did they risk EVERYTHING by refusing to sign the Corwin amendment? An amendment which would have ended the war, kept them in positions of money and power as well as preserved slavery as a constitutional right? Why would they refuse to do that which would have entailed 0 risk and a 100% guarantee that slavery would be preserved… As opposed to waging a war, risking EVERYTHING they had included their lives and the lives of their families in order to engage in a war which they KNEW they had little to no chance of winning as well as almost no chance of preserving slavery, the thing the other side claims they were fighting for?

            That makes no sense whatsoever. The ONLY logical explanation is that they must have been fighting for something else.

          • Ron

            Peter Robbins you didn’t answer the question.
            The Corwin amendment would have ended the war and preserved slavery as a constitutional right while risking absolutely nothing.

            If the confederates were simply fighting to preserve slavery which is your ridiculous claim… why wouldn’t they sign it and risk NOTHING rather than risk EVERYTHING to accomplish the EXACT same goal?

          • Peter Robbins

            No need to wait. Click on the link I gave you, and you will find all sorts of interesting speculations about why the Corwin Amendment did not satisfy pro-slavery southerners who had already seceded. If you put your mind to it, you can probably do that, too. Enjoy.

          • Ron

            Peter that was from 2015 and the OP doesn’t even know what he’s talking about given that the South had ALREADY won at the Supreme Court in regards to incoming states being allowed to be slaveholding. So his assertion that the reason they didn’t sign it is because it didn’t include territories is ridiculous. It didn’t need to because the SCOTUS already determined That requiring territories to be nonslaveholding as a requirement to joining the union was unconstitutional.

            But let’s just call this like it is. You can’t answer the question so you tell me to go talk to someone else about it.

          • Peter Robbins

            If you are referring to the Dred Scott decision, the portion relevant to the extension of slavery into the territories was treated (correctly) by the Lincoln Administration as dictum in that horribly written opinion. The failure of the Corwin Amendment to address the territories was one reason, but hardly the only one, why it convinced no one to change course after secession had started. But why are you so obsessed with what Southern leaders logically should have thought, anyway? That Southern fireeaters — carried away by passion — overestimated the extent of Lincoln’s opposition to slavery is no doubt true, but it hardly makes slavery any less of a causal factor in their thinking.

      • Lulz

        Because hordes of illegals coming in during the last 8 years incentivised with welfare freebies doesn’t like kill wages.

        • Able Allen

          Let’s keep this discussion on topic and leave immigration discussions to another thread. Thank you.

      • SmokeBringer

        You mean the guy who lives in a massive penthouse (with gold doors and gold chairs) on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, some of the most expensive real estate in the world. The guy who is the VERY DEFINITION of coastal elitism gone extreme? That guy? Yeah, there’s no way millions of working class people would swallow that guy’s BS hook line and sinker. Nah. Couldn’t happen.

        • Able Allen

          Okay, let’s stay on topic please. We don’t need this to turn into another thread about present day presidential politics. Thank you.

  6. Deplorable Infidel

    I read where millions are being spent making Monticello back to the way it was when Thomas Jefferson lived there with his slave Sally Hemmings, whose room was adjacent to his…more recently called a library I think…

    Shouldn’t they be tearing that place down because of it’s slavery histoire? Glad it’s not in NOLA ….

    • luther blissett

      There’s a difference between a house and a monument.

      The monuments recently removed in New Orleans were explicitly put up to commemorate the return of white supremacy to the state after Reconstruction. Their function was to remind white people that they were back in charge, and black people that they should get used to that. They’re more akin to the Lenin and Stalin statues that were slapped up over eastern Europe after WW2. Not many of those still around.

      • Ron

        Luther that’s absurd these are MEMORIALS. They’re to honor fallen dead. Not white supremacy. If they were going to do that they would have just quoted Lincoln.

        Lincoln, in 1858, remarked, “I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes.”

        Lincoln said, “Our republican system was meant for a homogeneous people. As long as blacks continue to live with the whites they constitute a threat to the national life. Family life may also collapse and the increase of mixed breed bastards may some day challenge the supremacy of the white man.”

        When addressing the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, Lincoln quoted the following: “There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas…”

        Lincoln was not firmly insistent on freeing the slaves of the South, his following quote reveals that he personally did not want to: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

        While debating Douglas in 1858, Lincoln declared the following: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.”

        In his 1858 debate with Sen. Steven Douglas, Lincoln maintained, “And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

        • luther blissett

          “Luther that’s absurd these are MEMORIALS. They’re to honor fallen dead. Not white supremacy.”

          The Battle of Liberty Place Monument in New Orleans commemorated the failed attempt by the White League to overthrow the Reconstructionist Republican state government. The inscription (added in 1932) read “United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”

          That’s just the most blatant example. Just as southern states slapped the dixie flag on their state flags in the 1950s as a mark of their commitment to segregation, many southern monuments are really commemorations of the revisionism that you’ve brought in ample amounts to this thread.

  7. joshk

    Why are confederate flags and monuments displayed in central public places of prominence? Shouldn’t they all be at historical sites remembering the place of birth or residence? Why should they be the heroes and not outstanding, diverse citizens from other conflicts or endeavors? They need to be relocated to those places to make room for our highest ideals.

    • The Real World

      “for our highest ideals” — oh, pray tell, please advise what our highest ideals are?

      Do these fit? The lying, scheming, fraudulent mainstream media in the USA? The fools rioting and looting in American cities after a Presidential election? (Many did so for a paycheck, not conviction). Women parading in the streets wearing idiotic hats that are supposed resemble female private parts….they being all mad because their candidate (a decades-long enabler of a habitual sexual predator) didn’t win? Shall we talk about the extremely ugly and violent “ideals” being brainwashed into young minds on college campuses? There’s much more……..

      How about we focus on cleaning up our era? Rather than tear down or move some monuments and then feel all sanctimonious, as if we actually did something of lasting impact!

      • SmokeBringer

        Getting rid of the last public vestiges honoring slavery and secession will make a lasting impact.

  8. bsummers

    Poor whites have always had more in common with poor blacks than they have with rich whites. Take the Confederate stuff out of the public square and put it in the museums where it belongs. It will take a couple more generations, but we gotta try to heal as a nation. That will never happen while there’s still people saying that the attempt to split us in half was a good, honorable thing that should be celebrated.

    • Peter Robbins

      Confederate pride is precisely why these monuments should be pulled down. How better to memorialize the Lost Cause than with a pile of rubble awaiting transport to the dump?

      • Huhsure

        I’d be fine just keeping the pile of rubble in place. Fitting monument.

        • Peter Robbins

          See, you guys? Compromise is possible if we all maintain a civil tone.

          • The Real World

            See how easy it was to predict this? We have several of the self-congratulatory and sanctimonious commenters just above. Presto!

            They prefer to wag their finger at ancestors than lift a finger to clean up nasty, outrageous behavior and treatment occurring today. Given their choice to overlook the transgressions of our time, how are they any better than the ones they chastise? (Rhetorical, we all know the answer)

          • Peter Robbins

            I’m not averse to pointing a finger (but not a middle one; that would be uncivil) at some of our modern-day white supremacists. Raleigh is northeast, right?

          • Peter Robbins

            And before you do any more critiquing of my civic involvement, Real One, you might want to be sure you have all the facts. Your copy of my resume might be out of date.

  9. Spike211

    Thank you for this excellent article that has stimulated (mostly) thoughtful discussion. My great-grandfather was a dirt-poor subsistence farmer from rural South Carolina who did not own a slave but who enlisted in the 22nd SC Volunteer Regiment, was captured in the trenches of Petersburg in June 1864, shipped to prison camp in Elmira, NY, and released after taking the Oath of Allegiance in June 1865 to get home any way he could—I’m grateful that he managed because otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. Sadly, though, he, like hundreds of thousands of other poor whites bought into the rich planter classes’ lies about (‘Biblically-justified’) white supremacy as well as the threat of black violence against white women, and was willing to fight for those lies, defending hearth and home against invading Yankees. In my opinion Confederate monuments and flags should be displayed in museums and on battlefields so we never forget our history. Regardless of where they’re located, since they only tell our Nation’s history from one perspective, that of Southern while men, we should raise new monuments to tell our Nation’s history from the perspective of women, African-Americans, and yes, Native Americans, all of whom were alive and actively involved in- and impacted by the Civil War. Lastly, I’m always amazed at the length’s to which Confederate apologists will twist themselves to deny that slavery was the root cause of the Civil War. While it’s true that Lincoln’s original goal was solely the preservation of the Union, as Grant’s Western Armies then Eastern Armies penetrated the South and saw the human toll of the slave system up close and personal, hundreds of thousands of Northern soldiers began revealing that ugly truth in letters and during furloughs to wives, families and politicians up North, spreading the fervor of abolition well beyond its Northeastern origins. (Also, let’s not forget the persuasive influence of Frederick Douglas’ on his friend, Lincoln.) Of course, we will always have the infamous words of Confederate Vice President, Alexander Stephens on March 21, 1861: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind — from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just — but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.”

    • bsummers

      Thank you. Otherwise known as the “Cornerstone Speech”. And the final paragraph really sums it up:

      “With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of his ordinances, or to question them.”

      ‘The negro is inferior, and God wants us to enslave him (in fact, he passed an ordinance). The North wants us to stop. We will fight back.’

      But sure, apologists. Go ahead & tell yourself that it was about taxes, or in “defense of the Constitution”, whatever. The rest of us know what it was about: subjugating an entire race for economic gain. Gross.

    • Ron

      I’ve asked this several times Spike with no response. Since you’re asserting the same thing… I’ll ask you.

      Ron
      32 mins ago
      Peter Robbins and I’ll ask you again in response to the last part of your comment.

      If the argument is that the leaders of the confederacy, many of whom were slave owners, were simply fighting to preserve slavery, then why did they risk EVERYTHING by refusing to sign the Corwin amendment? An amendment which would have ended the war, kept them in positions of money and power as well as preserved slavery as a constitutional right? Why would they refuse to do that which would have entailed 0 risk and a 100% guarantee that slavery would be preserved… As opposed to waging a war, risking EVERYTHING they had included their lives and the lives of their families in order to engage in a war which they KNEW they had little to no chance of winning as well as almost no chance of preserving slavery, the thing the other side claims they were fighting for?

      That makes no sense whatsoever. The ONLY logical explanation is that they must have been fighting for something else.

        • Ron

          Bsummers no you are mistaken. Slavery was the IMPETUS but it was not the CAUSE. what I mean is if the northern states and federal government had removed slavery by going through the constitutional process there would have been no war. However if the north and federal government had refused to honor ANY part of the constitution without going through the constitutional process for doing so war would have ensued. It just so happened that the constitutional provision that the North and federal government unilaterally decided they were going to refuse to follow was in reference to slavery. But war would have happened if they did that to ANY part of the constitution because the precedent set that allowing the federal government to simply declare a portion of the constitution immoral and ignore direct orders of unconstitutionality from the SCOTUS is unacceptable.

          • bsummers

            im·pe·tus noun
            the force that makes something happen or happen more quickly.

            cause noun
            a person or thing that gives rise to an action, phenomenon, or condition.

            Ron, that’s what’s known as a “distinction without a difference”.
            https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/80/Distinction-Without-a-Difference

            Slavery was going to end, one way or another. Unfortunately, people in the southern states who really wanted to keep it were going to fight to keep it, and they dressed it up (and still do) in cloaks of “defending the Constitution” or “states rights” or some such canard. These canards persuaded those who wouldn’t openly fight and die for the right to continue to enslave others.

            And these revisionist canards continue to this day. The political landscape still involves trying to motivate poor/working class southern whites to support policies and politicians that aren’t really in their best interests. In the words of the poet, “SAD!”

          • Ron

            Bsummers it’s not a distinction without a difference. Let’s say, hypothetically, that I’m right and that the cause of the war was that the north and federal government were breaking the constitution and refusing to stop.

            That means that even though the fugitive slave clause was the part of the constitution they broke, the clause was not the issue. The issue was ANY breaking of the constitution. If they had refused to honor the first or second amendments war would have ensued. So while ANYTHING from the fugitive slave clause to gun rights to free speech to freedom of religion could have been the impetus, the CAUSE was the breach of contract in regards to the constitution by the northern states and federal government.

            The only canard being offered here is the idea that the north fought to free slaves and the South fought to keep them.

            Even the ENGLISH knew what was going on:

            “The Union government liberates the enemy’s slaves as it would the enemy’s cattle, simply to weaken them in the conflict. The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.”
            London Spectator in reference to the Emancipation Proclamation

            “The Northern onslaught upon slavery was no more than a piece of specious humbug designed to conceal its desire for economic control of the Southern states.”
            Charles Dickens, 1862

            “[T]he contest is really for empire on the side of the North, and for independence on that of the South, and in this respect we recognize an exact analogy between the North and the Government of George III, and the South and the Thirteen Revolted Provinces. These opinions…are the general opinions of the English nation.”
            London Times, November 7, 1861

          • Lulz

            LOL do tell us what’s in their best interests.

          • luther blissett

            “Let’s say, hypothetically, that I’m right”

            How about let’s not? How about “let’s contemplate why there aren’t as many people who argue that the American colonists were wrong to declare independence” and “let’s consider why people get irate about Confederate monuments when there are so many defenders of the Confederacy”?

    • Ron

      And btw Spike… that’s real cute that you quoted the VP. Here I’ll call your VP and raise you a president. Does this sound like a man who gave one slight damn about the equality and freedom of black people?

      Lincoln, in 1858, remarked, “I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes.”

      Lincoln said, “Our republican system was meant for a homogeneous people. As long as blacks continue to live with the whites they constitute a threat to the national life. Family life may also collapse and the increase of mixed breed bastards may some day challenge the supremacy of the white man.”

      When addressing the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, Lincoln quoted the following: “There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas…”

      Lincoln was not firmly insistent on freeing the slaves of the South, his following quote reveals that he personally did not want to: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

      While debating Douglas in 1858, Lincoln declared the following: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.”

      In his 1858 debate with Sen. Steven Douglas, Lincoln maintained, “And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

      • bsummers

        You keep quoting Lincoln’s less-than admiration of blacks as… what? Proof that the South didn’t secede and trigger the civil war over slavery? Weak. Yes, Lincoln wasn’t at heart an abolitionist. But that has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. Nice attempt at misdirection, although somewhat repetitive.

  10. Roger

    I’ve got a novel idea: Why don’t we all agree that both sides were equally wrong in going to war to prove which was morally superior–one side for maintaining the institution of slavery and the other side for violating the nation’s sacred Constitutional order? Then, we could erect a monument to ME for coming up with this novel solution. The upside to this action is that each and every one of us could reside in bliss and claim to be “politically correct,” to one and the other…and for always. Why, we could even plan summer picnics and beer parties near MY monument. But, wait! Wouldn’t we each begin to wonder why there wasn’t a monument erected to each and everyone? In my view, there is already enough stress and discord in our world to allow for another local politician to lead us astray from the more pressing issues in question. Perhaps one and all should bear in mind that Pres. Lincoln had first turned to Gen. Lee as his choice for leading the Federal Army into the South. Folks, there is no simply way to resolve this enduring emotional matter, short of admitting to ourselves that both sides were horribly wrong and that neither side was victorious.

    • Phil Williams

      Roger, Your comment brought to mind an old song from the 60’s about the Blue and the Gray – “A war which both sides had to lose, no matter which side won.”

      • Roger

        Phil, thanks for the link to the “old song from the 60s.” If only we had local political leaders who could inspire the electorate to see how beating up neighbors with a “shame bat” is no way to bring about what is most needed in the county and the country: courage to be a citizen first and a partisan last. Given how nasty and backward this kind of politics can become, I would much rather not give a hen’s butt about whether I’m politically correct or not. Now that I think about it, jumping on the boat labeled “politically correct” before thinking first about where it is bound is why we’re in the mess we’re in. Would’t it be great to erect an ever larger monument to all the wasted time, expended energy, and lost opportunities that the politically correct on both sides of this argument have cost the community?

  11. Michael Arrowood

    Thank you for a well-balanced article that seems to have stimulated some positive debate. For the sake of full disclosure, I fall on the Confederate side of the equation, that being the history of my family, and I have consistently upheld that monuments to the Confederacy or individual Confederates should not be obliterated. Let us build new monuments and elevate new heroes – but in the awareness that future generations may view them just as some do the Confederacy today. Nothing is guaranteed, and truth isn’t absolute. I’m also a student of history, and I love all things that embellish the history of humankind. Let’s now be like the Taliban destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan, which made we weep; let’s not be like the Islamic State looting and defacing Nineveh. Let’s not emulate Stalin as he wiped the monuments and the encyclopedias clean of the enemies he had destroyed. My hope is that we can all tolerate history. learn from it, discuss it and be better for it. The path to achieving higher ends isn’t to obliterate the past through a 21st-century lens.

    • bsummers

      You don’t think any society should be allowed to move on? Were former Soviet citizens right to take down Communist monuments? Iraqis pulling down statues of Saddam? Germans taking down Nazi monuments? I’m not saying that the Southern states during the Confederacy were as evil as those examples. But would you go back to each of those eras and ask those people to continue to give places of honor in their public spaces to celebrating persons or ideologies that they no longer wanted there? That seems to be what you’re saying.

      We can tolerate, learn from, and discuss the history of slavery and the Confederacy without having to celebrate it.

      • Michael Arrowood

        I’m actually trying to make a broader point, about the erasure of history. And I actually lived in the Soviet Union and am fluent in Russian, so I’m familiar with that debate (which is ongoing in some parts of the former USSR). No, victims of an oppressive regime should have to honor the regime when it’s overthrown. But… Soviet leaders had attempted to obliterate the heritage of the past, and made their state-approved symbols omnipresent, to the exclusion of all others. That created a backlash, with streets and cities renamed, monuments taken down, etc. over the past 25 years. But the Confederacy was not imposed from without, it was approved by the legislatures of the time (though in NC, for example, one-third of citizens could not vote because they were enslaved – an obvious injustice). But the monument up in the late 19th and early 20th century, and many of them were paid for by public subscription rather than tax dollars. I’ve viewed so many of them across the South, and most honor veterans and the Southern dead. The Vance monument is a tribute to an Asheville-area native who had a distinguished life. No one is preventing anyone else from raising any monument they like, or restricting any other public speech or interpretation of history. I guess that’s what I’m saying… whoever has the current hold on power should leave history alone, and allow for other views while writing a new page. Do you stop honoring Buffalo Soldiers because they killed Native Americans? Rename Columbus, NC? Tear down Monticello? Kazakhstan has a statue honoring Genghis Khan in Washington DC – he’s a national hero to Kazakhs! And on and on it goes. That’s how we’ve gotten along for so many years in the USA – compromise and tolerance. We won’t reach consensus, and even if we did I don’t think it would be a very healthy. Let’s leave the stones alone and let them speak for themselves. People can figure things out on their own.

    • Peter Robbins

      Perhaps we should rededicate the Vance Monument as a tribute to those plucky nonconformists who, against impossible odds, defended their longstanding political institutions against arbitrary and oppressive interference by radical Republican outsiders. None of us wants to be doomed to repeat that.

  12. cecil bothwell

    Rehashing the debate about the civil war is all well and good, but in specific reference to the Lee monument in Pack Square: It was installed in a resurgence of white supremacy, as Jim Crow laws were enacted to disempower the black population. The early 1900s were a time of lynchings and KKK cross burnings and imprisonment of blacks pressed into forced labor – in many ways a resurgence of slavery. Lee has no historic connection to Asheville apart from leading many local men to their deaths. I’m for removal of the Lee stone and then let the GOP in Raleigh try to undo the effort.

    • Michael Arrowood

      The “Lee” monument on Pack Square is actually a monument to the Dixie Highway, a north-south route that was developed to encourage tourism and economic progress in the South by connecting a system of roads from Michigan to Florida. There are 7 identical monuments in WNC, along the route of the former Dixie Highway, which existed from 1915 until 1925, at which time it was absorbed by the U.S. highways system as Hwy. 25. The monuments were paid for by individual groups of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Locally, you can find them in Hot Springs (2), Marshall, Asheville, Fletcher, Hendersonville, at the NC/SC line and in downtown Greenville, SC. So – those markers are there for a reason.

      • bsummers

        The “Lee” monument on Pack Square is actually a monument to the Dixie Highway

        Actually that’s a little bit untrue, Michael, isn’t it? The first sentence on the inscription says what the monument is really about. The ‘Dixie Highway’ reference appers to merely be a pretext for honoring the commanding general of the Confederacy:

        ERECTED AND DEDICATED BY THE UNITED DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY AND FRIENDS IN LOVING MEMORY OF ROBERT E. LEE AND TO MARK THE ROUTE OF THE DIXIE HIGHWAY
        http://docsouth.unc.edu/commland/monument/742/

        Spreading deliberate distortions of the facts is not the way to learn from history.

        • Michael Arrowood

          That’s absolutely true, and no distortion. I didn’t give the entire inscription, just the motivation behind erecting the monuments. Without understanding why a string of monuments suddenly appeared in 1926, it would be puzzling that Robert E. Lee and his horse Traveler were on them. Lee did have a tremendous reservoir of good will at that time, and was associated with Dixie, hence the connection.

          What I’m saying is that the 7 monuments in our area do have a connection with history and the development of Western North Carolina. In fact, the one on Pack Square is a perfect complement to the Buncombe Turnpike monument right in front of it, because they follow the same route and both served our region’s economic development. It’s not a “pretext” it’s a reality of civic pride at the time (and one that cost no tax dollars).

          As you may have gathered, I’m not a fan of tearing down anyone’s history. I think that’s a progressive position to take, and I’m a progressive. That’s why I have a deep distrust of someone wanting to keep others from seeing some message, right or wrong. Let people make up their own minds.

          • bsummers

            Right. So let’s try to tell the truth and the whole truth. The monument in Pack Square was officially dedicated “in loving memory of Robert E. Lee”, with a bronze image of Lee astride his horse (the same image is being taken down in Charlottesville, much to the chagrin of the KKK: “White Power!!!”).
            https://www.reuters.com/article/us-virginia-klan-idUSKBN19T142

            Attaching some historical “economic development” connection to this public monument to the Confederacy is pretty desperate, IMO. It’s time for it to go into a museum.

          • A. Hill

            Thanks to Mr. Arrowood for thoughtful and civil tone of your comments.

          • luther blissett

            “It’s not a “pretext” it’s a reality of civic pride at the time ”

            Isn’t this the crux of the debate, though? This isn’t simply about preserving history, it’s about defining civic space, which is both an accumulation of past definitions of that space and a statement of civic identity today. If your argument is akin to the classic first amendment position that you address speech with more speech, then building more monuments to address the ones that already exist inevitably runs into questions of pre-eminence, aesthetics and space limitations. The Vance Memorial is a much more ambiguous monument than many of the ones that have been taken down of late, but it’s still a big ol’ obelisk that anchors downtown and one side of the city’s explicitly civic space.

            Fundamentally: Asheville was barely a city during the Civil War, barely touched by actual fighting, and its significant history comes later. The position of mountain regions in the conflict doesn’t need re-stating. Everything related to the Civil War in the city’s civic space is an after-the-fact commentary, some of it more revisionist than other parts. Phil Williams’s comments on the role of George Pack in defining that space, and the post-war role of Vance in opening up WNC, are especially valuable for context here, but the question of who has had the right to place memorials and define civic space over the past 120 years (and who has not) shouldn’t be ignored.

    • BC

      Maybe you can use some of your greenway bond money to move the big rock. Just try not to go $20 million over budget when you do.

      • Lulz

        LOL he’s for slavery but he just doesn’t get it. Good on you for thinking it too. Bothwell is no different than the slaveholder of he past. His plantation is just as vile.

  13. bsummers

    Klan members rally against removal of General Lee statue in Virginia
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-virginia-klan-idUSKBN19T142

    “A few dozen Ku Klux Klan members and supporters shouted “white power” at a rally on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia where they protested against a city council decision to remove a statute honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee.”

    It’s hard to believe this “it’s heritage not hate” stuff, when you have the KKK front and center saying, “yep, it’s about hate.”

  14. Don yelton

    now for those sexual intellectuals that use a comedy show as their source of information and also color their perception with limited one sided attitudes, Go ahead and destroy our history so we can repeat our history. Become a Bernie Slave and ignore that the KKK and other activities were done by power hungry people. Most were democrats or dixiecrats, like how AyCock stimulated the Wilmington Race Riots and the Democrats kept it a secret. I suggest that those on this list read ” The Real Lincoln” , Lincoln Unmasked”, “The Wilmington Campaign”, and most importantly Fredrick Douglas in “My Bondage and My Freedom before you accept the arguments for taking down monuments.

    There are many reasons for the Civil War, North Charging taxes and the south not charging taxes at Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans and then the other countries doing business with the south and ignoring the northern ports. New York tried to have a tax free zone but God Lincoln said no.
    Now the northern industries had no cotton and were suffering. The Unions did not want the freed slaves to lower their wages. Lincoln was a prince of the railroads and gave them money when he was able to do so and all trade with Europe kept the Cotton off the trains going north.
    Slavery was becoming too expensive as the slave owner, big plantations, had young working slaves, young children, and older slaves working plus the older infirm, sick, and very young to care for. Just like today when big corporations give retired folks good money and good benefits, like government, the cost become prohibitive. See big governments like Chicago, and Detroit, and California.
    Lincoln used the war powers act to kill more Americans than the wars today, put editors in prison if they disagreed with him, put elected officials in prison, and we sing his praises. Hell no. It is not about Republican or Democrat it is about people using things to their advantage.
    Since we had so much reference to the History Channel, which is entertainment, I ask this question. who did all of these types of things plus used railroads as a tool of war, and stayed in touch and commanded the army personally. History channel said that Hitler did, Well so did Lincoln.

    You see Rob keep it up because the truth I believe lies in the fact that Lincoln and Douglass became close friends and Lincoln had a change of heart after all of this murder, destroying the way of life in the South, destruction of homes, towns, schools, killing women, raping young girls so I guess we better start taking down all the Northern Statutes as well.

    Actually when Lincoln said the next step is to let the black man vote and did not say black man, Douglass and Lincoln used the term negro, that set Booth in motion. After the war Grant had problems with the indians and was advised by that murdering piece of human flesh Sherman to destroy the indians way of life. So for all of you bleeding heart liberals, Sherman, the big hero for the North said kill the Buffalo, wipe them out, and you will solve the problem with the indians. Well Lincolns subsidized rails roads actually had buffalo hunts from trains, pilling them up to rot. History Channel again folks) LOL. if you going to quote the History Channel go all the way and don’t pick and chose what you want to believe.

    Thanks Ron for having the patience to argue with the sexual intellectuals and give an side of the story that is not heard. Thank God that they did bury the Black News paper in the Vance monument. Mountain EXpress was the first to expose that today with this article and they should talk about that more. “It is just as important to decide what to forget as it is to decide what to remember” is a paraphrase from Hitler. So for all you tear downers look at your company.

    Don Yelton

    • Lulz

      He sent troops into NYC and killed mainly Irish. And we all know how corrupt that place was and still is.

  15. Peter Robbins

    In the spirit of grudging compromise, I offer the following final suggestion: On the west face of the Vance Monument, there is an inscription added in 1938 “[i]n honor” (not memory or acknowledgement or some other term of lesser adoration) of Zebulon Baird Vance. It reads as follows: “CONFEDERATE SOLDIER, WAR GOVERNOR, U.S. SENATOR, ORATOR, STATESMAN.” At an appropriate historical milestone, let us hold a ceremony and unveil the words “WHITE SUPREMACIST” to complete the record. This purely factual information will embellish our understanding of history by placing the man, his values and his legacy in proper context. Inasmuch as the monument says nothing about the people who currently display it proudly in the center of their town (other than to confirm their admirable curiosity about things that happened in the past), there will be no risk of misinterpretation. Everybody wins. All we need now is an appropriate organization to act as private sponsor.

    • bsummers

      Wicked Weed has spread half a million dollars (and counting?) to various non-profits around town since they sold out to Anheuser-Busch.

      • Lulz

        Ooh we like corporate money now? Well until the next blowup of downtown business NIMBYs are pushed out.

  16. BC

    While you are in the Taliban/ISIS monument-destroying mode, you revisionists should go to DC and take down the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial before you mess with Vance’s little monument. Vance was minor-league compared to those two founding fathers, who held more than 500 slaves between them. 2nd-guessing the actions of the people who put together a monument 120 years ago and who had a much better perspective of the times than you is total bullshit.

    • Lulz

      Amen. Banning everything and white males who aren’t wussified and then wondering why they voted “against their best interests” says it all.

  17. Lulz

    The only agenda here is to humiliate whites. Period. These leftist don’t care one iota about blacks. Oh they say they do from the comfort of their cozy homes but in all reality have nothing to do socially with minorities.

    • john brown

      Im white and not humiliated. Vance, Pritchard, Patton were all despicable people.

      Lets honor abolitionists instead. There were white people alive at the time who didn’t think slavery was a good idea so they fought to end it. and I’m not talking about union soldiers. There were countless white southerners who fought for abolition and their names are being forgotten to history. Its humiliating that other whites want to honor people who did something as horrible as slavery and segregation when there were whites who fought those things.

      Ex. heres a monument to John Brown. Hes a white guy who was willing to lead a militia and die fighting against slavery. No one wants to tear it down because he was a decent human being.
      https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g60722-d10700673-i209182987-John_Brown_Monument-Harpers_Ferry_West_Virginia.html

      • Phil Williams

        How do you know they were truly despicable people? They were likely no more despicable than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or most of the Presidents up until Abraham Lincoln, at least in the matter of having owned slaves or benefited from slavery directly and indirectly.

        Most of these men and their contemporaries were born into a culture and social system that trapped them as surely as it did the slaves and the poor. What made it unique in the US was the hypocrisy of it when set against our founding documents and principals. Men like Jefferson realized this and acknowledged it – but did not know how to change it.

        Even some abolitionists thought that slavery might die even quicker if the slave States were allowed to secede and were made to go it alone. Many of the abolitionists were like other brave people who have walked the walk and put their reputations, fortunes and even lives on the line.

        History is full of them – Harriet Tubman, William Wilberforce, Miss Corrie Ten Boom, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, Reverend Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mahondas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King….unfortunately they have almost always been vastly outnumbered by the complacent and the fearful – and I am afraid that they always will be.

        One thing I would add about folks like these – they were not obsessed with identifying themselves with their respective causes nor did they busy themselves with very many symbolic gestures – they were, however, committed to their causes to the point of personal expense and mortal danger – and most of them were quite humble and quiet about it, concentrating on deeds rather than demonstrations and letters to the editor.

        • luther blissett

          “Most of these men and their contemporaries were born into a culture and social system that trapped them as surely as it did the slaves and the poor. ”

          Then the question becomes whether future generations are constrained when civic space becomes framed around that culture and social system, especially through monuments to individuals. It’s not a foregone conclusion — the Vance Memorial is a focal point for rallies and protests, giving it an ongoing purpose beyond that specific commemoration — but again, who historically has had the right to memorialize and who has not?

          • Phil Williams

            I understand what you are saying – and I do not entirely disagree with your point. I admit that I am a WNC native and also white, so my perspective is necessarily affected by those factors. But still must ask who has the right to do away with or alter memorials? In any case, given the current State statutes, most of our discussion is pretty much theoretical.

  18. Bright

    Taking down all the trees in favor of making more money (for what, to create more “jobs” that pay people piss-poor wages?) is OK. People are arguing to not remove these blocks of concrete? Yo…take em down and put up some more HOTELS, RESTAURANTS AND STORES! $$$$$$$$$$$$👀👀👀

  19. Phil Williams

    One thing that is conspicuous by its absence – both in the article and in the discussion – is the actual origin of the Vance Monument or any mention of the man behind it. I can’t see where anybody has mentioned the story behind the proposal, the funding and the eventual construction of the monument.

    It was proposed and more or less gifted to the City along with Pack Square, by George Willis Pack, a timberman who was born in New York State in 1831 and became one of Michigan’s first millionaires shortly after the Civil War. Pack came to Asheville for his wife’s health in the 1880’s and here he met and befriended then Senator Vance.

    Upon Vance’s death in 1894, Pack wanted to honor him – if it hadn’t been for Vance’s constant promotion of Western North Carolina and his push to get the railroad to Asheville and further west, our region might have turned out very differently. And so, Pack personally funded about two thirds of the monument’s cost and solicited private contributions for the balance. It is interesting to note that GW Pack, a grown man by the Civil War, was a strong Unionist, voted for Abraham Lincoln, and was against slavery. But, like a number of Northerners – and Southerners – of that era, he was also committed to Lincoln’s vision of “binding up the Nation’s wounds”.

    Besides Pack Square and the Vance Monument, Pack’s other contributions to his adopted home included the Public Library, Montford Park, land for a new courthouse, Aston Park, and contributions to the modernization of Asheville (paved streets, sewer system, electricity, etc), healthcare and education (including paying the salaries of teachers at the Beaumont School – one of Asheville’s first black schools). http://toto.lib.unca.edu/web_exhibits/WNC_pack/default_pack.htm

    • Max Hunt

      Thanks for the background and info, Phil! The article did not touch on the details and history of the monument’s construction as deeply as I would have liked — space limitations unfortunately prohibited that in this case.

      The history of the monument’s funding, design and upkeep through its existence is a fascinating topic in its own right. George Pack certainly played a central role in its coming to fruition, as did the local Masonic chapter — hence the strange dedication date on the cornerstone of the base. Even as recently as 2015, you can see a variety of groups, organizations and businesses listed as supporters on the new dedication plaque. I think this speaks to the nuanced and complex legacy Vance left, and how different people have perceived that legacy through time, and filtered the monument through their own historical biases/perspectives.

      For more info on the construction and funding of the monument (and subsequent upkeep), I suggest these articles/resources:

      http://avl.mx/3xj
      http://docsouth.unc.edu/commland/monument/205/

    • john brown

      That railroad was built by mostly by Black people, many of whom were picked up for crimes like loitering and homelessness. They were forced to work in prison labor in conditions that got many of them killed. Vance’s policy of taking homeless Black people and forcing them to do prison labor just for being homeless was pretty messed up.

      Also, things aren’t black and white. Sure Pack supported Lincoln but things are way more complex than the idea that North= not racist, south= racist. like wayyy more complex.

      • Phil Williams

        Mr. Brown, Complexity and context are the two key elements that I have always tried to point out – for instance, the biographical information on Pack indicates that he was not only one of Lincoln’s electors, but joined a branch of the Presbyterian Church that had split off due to the mother Church’s refusal to officially condemn slavery. Admittedly, he was very wealthy, and the plight of certain elements of the Southern population were doubtless out of sight, out of mind – communications, news, etc. were very different in those day – but the historical record still shows Mr. Pack standing out in many positive ways when compared to his fellow millionaires of the era and of the present day.

        It seems that some folks are talking out of both sides of their mouth – they argue complexity, moral relativity, etc., when it supports their own argument, but ignore it or say it is irrelevant when it supports another point of view. I thought that my comments introduced even more shades of gray – not an attempt at “black and white” as you suggest.

        • Peter Robbins

          No, a reasonably balanced approach to the facts leads some of us to the inescapable conclusion that the Vance monument is, on balance, objectionable.

          • Phil Williams

            I reckon we must “agree to disagree” on what is objectionable, and what constitutes reasonable balance. In any case, the current law favors preservation of historical monuments so it is all just personal opinion – for the time being, anyhow.

          • Phil Williams

            One of my favorite movies of all time! “Shoot ‘im now, Abe! Shoot ‘im now!” “Shut up, Lige”….

  20. Phil Williams

    Also it is interesting to note all of the comparisons of the CSA to Hitler’s Germany. There are a couple of considerations folks ought to think about once they get thru the emotions surrounding slavery and racial discrimination. Consider a couple of major factors:

    1) The States that seceded from the Union did so one at a time, by vote. They did not annex or occupy other territories. Nazi Germany, on the other hand, annexed and occupied most of continental Europe, sections of North Africa, and attempted to occupy Russia – their ultimate goal was to subjugate as much of the world as possible – that the world would turn on an “Axis” between Tokyo and Berlin.

    2) The Nazis were committed to racial purity and the actual subjugation and elimination (by death) not only of “undesirable” races, but also of religious and political groups. The Confederacy didn’t attempt any type of genocide – slaves were valuable property and the last thing a Southern planter wanted was to kill or deport the very people who made his plantation go.

    Legal minds, even today, argue about the legality of the secession of US States under our Constitution. It was not a new idea – there had been numerous squabbles and even a few actual fights that broke out when groups tried to test just how much power the Federal government had as opposed to State governments (Shay’s Rebellion, Fries’ Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, John Sevier and the “State of Franklin”, etc). There was even a secession movement among abolitionists at one point, urging the Free States to secede and form a country where slavery was illegal once and for all.

    Some Confederates basically thought that they were fighting a “Second American Revolution” – and some, like Zebulon Vance and Robert E. Lee, joined the Confederacy only reluctantly, being more loyal to their States, their families and their communities. This sentiment is more understandable in 1861 than in the present day – many Southerners had never traveled outside of their native States and had no practical choice but to join their friends and relatives.

    There were many exceptions to this in the “Border States” of Kentucky and Missouri, and in actual Confederate States like Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia – where many families and communities were completely divided over the issues of secession and slavery. This was so pronounced in Virginia that the western region of the State broke off to form West Virginia, which was admitted to the Union in 1863.

    Certainly the preservation and expansion of slavery under US law was one major reason for secession – but President Lincoln’s decision to use a military intervention was not based on anything to do with slavery. He was committed to preservation of the Union at all costs – despite urgings by many prominent Northerners and abolitionists to let the Southern States break away. One school of thought was that they would come to their senses and return to the fold, and that Slavery would die a “natural death” as the South became more industrialized. Freeing the slaves did not become a recognized aim of the Union until the middle of the War.

    Another fallacy is the perceived blamelessness of many Union generals, especially after the war. Generals Phil Sheridan, William Sherman, George Crook and Nelson Miles became some of the most renowned “Injun fighters” following the War, and savagely carried out the United States’ programme of removal and, occasionally, butchery, of the Native population in the West. Our treatment of the American Indians before and after the War more closely parallels the activities of the Nazis than anything the Confederacy ever did during its 4-year existence.

    • john brown

      Thats nice and all, but very much a strawman. No one is saying they are the same and I doubt anyone disagrees with you about how they are different. They’re just using the nazis and a few other examples to look at how people deal with complex histories of racial oppression.

      • Phil Williams

        I am not sure how you arrive at that conclusion, Mr. Brown. All up and down this thread, people have pretty well stated that monuments honoring deceased Confederates in the USA are the moral equivalent of monuments honoring Nazis in Germany or Stalin in Russia or Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Complexity is what I am talking about – especially in that racial bigotry and oppression was not so much a Southern problem or a Confederate problem as it was – and still is to a degree – an American problem.

        The facts are that as late as the 1940’s a black laborer in Washington DC had to walk to the black section of town to get lunch at a restaurant. Louis Armstrong could perform at hotels, supper clubs and theatres in major Northern cities but could not be admitted as a patron there. The US Armed Services were segregated until President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948 – which wasn’t put into actual practice until the Korean War was underway.

        Some folks are apparently determined to ensure, as Marc Antony said, that “…the evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.” (Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2). The bottom line is that Vance served our State during some unimaginable times and did some great things particularly for our end of the State.

        I reckon my point is, how can folks reasonably figure that the American South or the failed Confederacy invented racial injustices that live on in other parts of our Nation even to this day? And how do folks imagine that expending time, money and eloquence in attacking the memory of deceased Southerners is going to help anyone in the here and now?

        Some folks believe it will help things along, but I disagree. Most of the protesters and spokespersons I see in these instances are white – and it appears that they are more concerned with cementing their “identity” with the cause of racial justice by attacking those long dead and clamoring for destruction/alteration of monuments and renaming streets and landmarks than they are about taking on the far more difficult reality of actually doing something to materially help the disadvantaged.

        • luther blissett

          This isn’t simply about racial injustice, but about how it intertwined with civic institutions, and how it continued (and continues) to cast the shadow of the Confederacy, first at the end of Reconstruction, then in the rise of the second KKK, then in the resistance to Civil Rights, and so on.

          There aren’t many memorials to colonial governors. There’s no statue or monument to King Charles in Charleston. There’s a tacit understanding that civic memorials should focus on American self-government. Yet across the south the focal points of civic space tend to recall the failed Confederacy and grant it a long civic afterlife that it barely deserved if judged solely on its short lifespan.

          • Phil Williams

            Again, I understand and do not completely disagree – however – this monument in particular was not erected to celebrate the end of Reconstruction (1877), the rise of the second KKK (started approx. 1915) or the resistance to the Civil Rights Movement (1950’s-60’s). It was erected in the late 1890’s by a wealthy Northern benefactor who adopted WNC as his home and wanted to honor a native son who was his friend, and who was instrumental in the general improvement of WNC.

            This was generally applauded throughout the State and the Nation – and was only one of many philanthropic benefits GW Pack bestowed on Asheville and Buncombe County – and these gifts were eagerly accepted by the leaders and common citizens of those days. Statues and other tributes to Vance exist all over the State – there are actual statues of the man himself in Raleigh and also in the Statuary Hall of the US Capitol Building in DC.

            I completely agree with the idea that a civic space is no place for someone to erect a new memorial to anything associated with the Confederacy or slavery, however, I also maintain that most of the current monuments throughout the South are part of the historical fabric of those communities – and many are in memory of citizens of those communities who died in the conflict – and it is should not be for any of us to decide which ones need to be altered, moved or destroyed. This is, of course, only my opinion.

            In any case, the current statutes favor the preservation viewpoint and render all of this discussion hypothetical – not that the law cannot be changed, but for now it is what it is, and the best thing folks can do is try to learn from it. Once the monuments are gone, some significant discussion and awareness of the history will be gone too – and some things should not be forgotten.

  21. Don

    thanks Phil…. all well put. We should also note that not only are our “modern sensibilities” incapable of putting the civil war in context with the experience and reality of southern and northern plain folk back then… it should also be noted the the Declaration of Independence refers to the united States of America….. united NOT being capitalized. Many southerners -slave holding and not slave owners- did think of the civil war as the 2nd American revolution…. and why northern sympathizers here in NC were more often than not referred to as Tories. The men and boys who fought for NC in the civil war fought for their respective towns, counties and NC… not for the CSA per se. AND, as everyone knows…. the civil war was a rich man’s war (the ruling class/ slave holding class) egged on and led by the Fire-eaters…. whom seem reincarnated as the present GOP and their rabble. Yes, history does repeat itself… especially when it’s unlearned. Sigh.

    • Phil Williams

      You are most welcome, Good Sir. Interesting that you mention the current rabble that passes for conservatism these days…It almost never fails that some folks immediately assume that I am a republican – and have even called me a “Confederate apologist” or a racist when I encouraged a realistic view of the past that honestly attempts to identify the good and bad – and tries to understand – both sides of past issues and struggles.

      In actuality, I am a lifelong Democrat who supports Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity, openly supported LGBT rights, gay marriage, gay military service, etc – long before it was popular to do so, would like to see universal healthcare implemented, and openly despises the KKK, American Nazis and other white supremacy groups.

      Modernist and revisionist historians invariably throw up other nations to compare against the US in terms of racial injustice – but almost always fail to mention the brutal colonialism that was practiced by the principal industrialized nations – including the United States – well into the 20th century, and whose influence still infects the nations that they once “owned”.

      Many, especially the UK and the US, tried to dress up international racism under the insufferably condescending notion of “The White Man’s Burden” – to provide social enlightenment, moral guidance and improved living conditions to their “little brown brothers” because they were not capable of governing themselves – all the while exploiting the natural resources of those lands and making the natives second class citizens in the countries of their birth!

      • Michael Arrowood

        I’ve enjoyed your comments, Phil. They add needed information and a reasonable tone to this thread, and help put these monuments in context.

        • Phil Williams

          Michael, I am a native of the area and stay down in the Sandhills most of the time, but maintain a home in Arden, so have kept a deep attachment to WNC and to our history. I believe that, while we should be aware of and acknowledge the faults of those who lived so long ago and lived according to what they knew, we should also acknowledge the things they did right and be willing to look at the negative in the appropriate historical context of the country, culture, world situation for those times.

          I am sure some of our more passionate commenters will read into this that I mean because Hitler made the trains run on time perhaps Germany should erect something to him in the train stations – but that is not so. Some of history’s villains were very obvious in all respects and any good they achieved was outweighed by the nature and magnitude of their crimes.

          From one reasonable guy to another, I greatly appreciated your comments as well!

          • Michael Arrowood

            Thanks, it’s mutual. I’m a WNC native of liberal/progressive views who nonetheless isn’t an iconoclast. And I greatly appreciate civil discourse and the ability to have debates that don’t degenerate into name-calling or sarcasm. Kudos to Mountain Xpress readers for posting thoughtful comments on a variety of topics.

          • Phil Williams

            I echo your sentiment – even insofar as those with whom I heartily disagree. If nothing else, many of them at very least provoke thought and introspection, and for that I am truly grateful.

          • Peter Robbins

            Me three! I hate it when commenters compare people they’ve never met to the Taliban, ISIS and Stalin.

  22. Don

    We should also note that not only are our “modern sensibilities” incapable of putting the civil war in context with the experience and reality of southern and northern plain folk back then… it should also be noted the the Declaration of Independence refers to the united States of America….. united NOT being capitalized. Many southerners -slave holding and not slave owners- did think of the civil war as the 2nd American revolution…. and why northern sympathizers here in NC were more often than not referred to as Tories. The men and boys who fought for NC in the civil war fought for their respective towns, counties and NC… not for the CSA per se. AND, as everyone knows…. the civil war was a rich man’s war (the ruling class/ slave holding class) egged on and led by the Fire-eaters…. whom seem reincarnated as the present GOP and their rabble. Yes, history does repeat itself… especially when it’s unlearned. Sigh.

  23. Peter Robbins

    Good point. Let’s remember the past by not dwelling on it.

  24. Peter Robbins

    Gawk! An editor’s deletion and programming quirk caused my comment above to now appear directly below Phil Williams’ comment about George Pack. For the record, I think his comment was valuable and interesting — perhaps the best one on this thread so far.

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