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Guest Opinion: Take the statue down

By John P. Flannery

Take that Confederate soldier statue down that stands in front of the historic Leesburg courthouse.

It’s a symbol of disunion and slavery. If it’s to stand anywhere, let it be in a museum but not at the front of a court of law on public grounds.

Our forebears could have placed a less offensive symbol in front of the courthouse in 1908. But they didn’t. They intended to make a statement – an unacceptable statement – and it’s high time we rejected that offensive statement.

Years ago, in the 1980s, there were stocks and whipping posts in front of this same courthouse.

I made reference at a sentencing in the courthouse once, how it was “unfortunate” that such dehumanizing and tortuous methods of punishment stood directly in front of a courthouse when we were considering punishment in a criminal case.

According to the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1839, a slave “was placed in a sitting position, with his hands made fast above his head, and feet in the stocks, so that he could not move any part of the body.”

This took less effort than whipping. So, it became preferred as a punishment because, well, it took less physical effort.

No doubt others thought that these instruments of torture should be removed – and they were.

Now we should finish the job – and remove the statue as well.

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” and granted Congress the power to enact “appropriate legislation.” By the 1866 Civil Rights Act, black citizens enjoyed “the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

Under the amendment and the 1866 Act, what were called “badges of slavery” were outlawed.

Plainly, stocks and a whipping post were “badges of slavery.” This statue is as well.

Since 1908, this Confederate soldier has stood directly in front of the old courthouse, elevated on a pedestal, with his rifle pointed straight at you as you approach the old courthouse.

A Confederate soldier plainly represents what he fought for, for disunion, so that any state could ignore the constitution and break its constitutional compact with every other state, violate the law of the land, in order to preserve and spread slavery into the territories, to continue the stigma, the badges of slavery, in perpetuity.

President Andrew Jackson reprimanded Vice President John C. Calhoun at a party in 1830, saying, “Our Union must be preserved.”

Calhoun feared that, if slavery were abolished, whites would be forced into that working class, at low pay. Calhoun asserted the right of states to nullify what they didn’t want.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln said in Springfield, Ill. that, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” He said those who favored slavery were of the view, “if any one man, choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.” Lincoln said one object of the Scott decision was to deny citizenship to slaves so they had no rights or privileges.

All who approach this statue may rightly recall the unequal treatment before the law suffered by persons of color and how it persists to this day long after the civil war.

Many know about the kidnapping and murder in 1955 of the black youth, Emmett Till, 14, how the trial concluded with acquittals, followed by the admissions of the acquitted defendants, bragging to a magazine, how they had really done the dirty deed.

Medgar Evers, an NAACP field secretary, was killed in 1963 because he sought to overturn segregation in the South. When Byron De La Beckwith, of the White Citizens Counsel, was tried, two all-white juries deadlocked. In 1994, 30 years later, De La Beckwith was tried and convicted.

The NAACP came into existence about the time our Confederate soldier was installed; the Klu Klux Klan returned re-vitalized about the same time.

Virginia was infamously known for its massive resistance against segregation. In Loudoun, we had segregated schools, movie theaters, the pool; in fact, when directed to open the pool to black and white alike, the pool was filled with cement.

It’s therefore no metaphorical coincidence that we have this imposing bronze soldier, the symbol of the southern nullification movement that set out to disunite our nation, confronting every citizen who approaches our courts of law.

It is long past the time when we can pretend that a Confederate soldier statue is not itself a badge of slavery.

It’s long past the time when we should take it down.

John Flannery is a Leesburg attorney and local activist.


By removing the Confederate statue from the County’s Court House Grounds, is akin to whitewashing & sterilizing Virginia’s vast history.

This statue was unveiled on May 8, 1909 (on Memorial Day).  Leesburg was an outpost for the Confederacy’s Potomac Frontier. The Loudoun U.D.C Chapter, present and gifted this statue in memory of all the “faithful sons of Loudoun County”.

Why on earth would Jon Flannery want to remove a crucial history?

Bluedog your answer is better then the orginal piece. thanks!

I’m always amused when an otherwise well-educated person automatically equates the Confederate soldier with Slavery, particularly here in Virginia.  Nothing could be further from the truth and it just takes a bit of digging into Virginia history to undermine the argument in this editorial.  Of the southern states at the beginning of the Civil War, Virginia was more moderate.  While the first seven states seceded largely because of the issue of Slavery in the new territories (Lincoln’s inaugural address promised not to meddle with slavery in states where it already existed), Virginia’s bone of contention was over the authority of a strong Federal government in the area of secession and when Lincoln noted that secession was “the essence of anarchy” Virginia had to take stock of what this meant for the states in the deep south and over the issue of a strong Federal government.  When Lincoln called for troops after the Fort Sumpter incident, Virginia sided with the southern states and voted for secession.  Virginia’s entry was more about States’ rights and less about slavery.  Robert E. Lee took command of the Confederate Army in defense of Virginia, not for slavery.  That monument to soldiers from this city and county in a memorial to American soldiers who fought for their rights and the rights of their homeland, much as our soldiers do today.  To equate the soldier monument at the courthouse with merely slavery shows a lack of historical knowledge and a distorted view of the facts.

Why is it that those like swswsw above who wish to perpetuate such icons as the Confederate soldier reduce an argument to absurdity? The statue is clearly a symbol of a time long past and of actions that are embarrassing to thinking people. The place of justice is not the place to remind those who come there of injustice and discrimination. The statue should be removed.

And let’s wipe out the names of former slaveholders as well.
Let’s start Washington and Jefferson.
Hey, let’s get rid of the Constitution too.

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