I recently purchased the book John C. Calhoun: A Statesman for the 21st Century by Clyde Wilson.[i] Clyde’s work on Calhoun is extensive, but this is a wonderful distillation for those just beginning to study Calhoun. One might expect the book cover to feature a nice portrait or statue of Calhoun, but the image that graces the front of this book is the photograph of his statue bound with yellow webbing as it is being removed by men in fluorescent vests.
As I have read this book and contemplated on why a statue of Mr. Calhoun was removed, I have found meaning in the photograph on the cover. The stature of the man Calhoun cannot in all honesty be disputed. His significance in history is factual and the statue, colossal and commanding, inspired the title of this piece. Calhoun; grand, chiseled, confident, powerful, intelligent, graceful; the folds of his cape accenting the height and nobility of his person, stands bound by measly straps dwarfing the tiny, insignificant men assigned to get rid of him. When you think about a man like Calhoun and then compare him to the type of people desperately trying to erase him, the contrast is just like the photograph portrays; you see ants trying to tear down a man “ten times their consequence”. The most pathetic part of all is that they believe they are succeeding.
You cannot topple giants by removing their likenesses. Even if you were to destroy all their statues and busts, burn all their writings, rename their old homes or lands, you could never undo the influence they had on the people of their own time and continue to have on current and future generations. They have made their mark on the world and although their work may be misinterpreted, obscured, or erased by careful censorship, their impact on American and world history can never be reversed. No puny man or group of mediocrities can have any effect on the positive legacy of men like Calhoun.
As I write this, another memorial has come down. A statue of Ambrose Powell Hill has been torn down and his body dug up from his grave. As the contractor was committing this crime he glibly used foul language and posted pictures on social media celebrating his “heroic” performance. Also present were BLM thugs harassing and taunting the bereaved descendants of General Hill. It is incomprehensible that people exist who are so cowardly as to attack the remains of a man and his posterity. How powerful he must be that his image and very bones are a threat to their existence! We are truly to be pitied that we live among American descendants so ignorant and weak that they claim to be unable to define their own place in society without destroying beautiful public art and the memories of others.
As with John C. Calhoun, A. P. Hill is beyond the reach of mortal men. They can do nothing to him, but their actions are damning to themselves. In Roll Jordan, Roll Eugene Genovese wrote about how much respect was given to the slaves’ need to grieve and bury their dead.[ii] Most people would be surprised to learn just how much leniency was granted for this important activity, but Genovese rightly concluded that the way a community celebrates their dead illuminates their understanding of the purpose of life and the value they place on an individual soul. The following is explained in his chapter, “Let the Dead Bury Their Dead”:
“The Nazis knew what they were doing when they refused to bury concentration-camp victims. Consideration of cost and convenience were not paramount. Joost A. M. Meerlo comments: ‘There is in this mass murder and defiance of the dead the defiance of life itself, the defiance of the vital and moral forces guiding men. It is the denial of any aim in this world.’ Conversely, respect for the dead signifies respect for the living --respect for the continuity of the human community and recognition of each man’s place within it.”
What we are seeing now tells a chilling tale about how far we have fallen as a society in valuing life and putting our history into perspective. Our depraved state manifests itself in every issue across the board, but ultimately has its root in our society’s abandonment of God and it is this national departure that has given license to degenerate behavior. It is a detour from religious truth that has given unmitigated power to the mob.
In a recent Abbeville Institute interview, Catesby Leigh identified this godlessness in the Marxist movement that seeks to delegitimize the influence of European people that gave rise to the freedom and greatness of America. The agenda to wipe out a culture that created the freest society in modern existence is bigger than what on the surface looks like the simple removal of statues.
Al Arnold made this point in an interview he recently did for Monuments Across Dixie.[iii] He reminded us that history, even the puzzling kind, is literally His (God’s) story. It is not our story. The whole thing from Adam to the present is the story of a loving Father in Heaven who gave us his Son and through Him, is in a continual process of redeeming his children. It is only through this lens that we productively interpret history. It allows us to apply grace to people from the past and forgive those in the present who trespass against us. The teachings of Jesus Christ temper and restrain our behavior in the face of difficulty and subdue the atheistic aggression of the day. Without the gospel of Jesus Christ, ignorance, hate, envy, and violence will prevail. It is Satan that stirs people up to contention and he is the master of those who tear down. Al holds to the assertion that only under the cross are we able to truly come together to find understanding and peace.
America at large appears to be uninterested in the consequences that await an unrepentant country, but this land has been particularly blessed and where much is given, much is expected. Should she fail to live up to her privileges, a just God cannot stay his hand. It is distressing to watch the destruction of our heritage, but I am encouraged by good Christian brothers and sisters who continue to teach the truth with love, in the hope of overcoming the growing darkness. The mob may continue to try to topple giants, but it cannot touch the eternal verities.
[i] Wilson, Clyde N.. Calhoun: A Statesman for the 21st Century. Shotwell Publishing LLC, 2022.
[ii] Genovese, Eugene. Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. Pantheon Books, 1974.
[iii] Arnold, Al. Facebook Live interview. Conducted by Vincent Balducci, 15 Dec. 2022, (https://fb.watch/hIkIWZOxNi/).
This piece was previously published at Confederate Jasmine on January 20, 2024.
Born and raised in Utah, Julie Paine is a full-time homeschool mom living in Idaho with her husband and four children. She has a