Two sides are worlds apart on Confederate monument
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
GEORGETOWN — In front of the backdrop of national tension over race relations, two groups gathered – only a few feet apart – in protest of one another near the base of the Confederate memorial at the County Courthouse in Georgetown. Despite their physical proximity, their take on history and what it means could not be farther apart.
The group protesting to have the memorial relocated from the Courthouse grounds has pledged to be on the square in protest each Wednesday until a change is made.
Colonel Shelby Little, a Commander of the South Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans, said as long as there is a group present advocating for removal, his group will be present defending the monument.
“The statue is just like it says,” Little said. “It’s in memory of the soldiers and sailors. It’s a generic veterans memorial to honor those men – and frankly women – who served in the war. We have over 1,000 Confederate veterans buried here in Williamson County. There were almost 2,000 who served either in the regular Confederate army or in the Texas state troops. Just about every able-bodied male was involved physically in the effort during those four years.”
Each group had about a dozen supporters in attendance, and the opposition to the monument calls it misguided praise.
“The real problem is that it praises people for evil acts,” said speaker Brian Register who organizes and attends similar protests in Travis County. “When it was erected everyone knew that. There was no question about the white supremacist intention with this thing when it was erected.
Anybody who wants to know that can find it out very easily. Anybody who doesn’t want to know it will say you can’t show me anything.”
He also argued that not only was the monument misguided praise, but wasn’t history at all.
“One of the main issues about these monuments is that people don’t know what history is,” Register said. “History is a whole bunch of past events and the study of those past events. This is a monument in honor of someone, to praise them, it’s not history. It’s not an artifact from the Civil War, it is not state information about the Civil War, it is not a historical document and it has no historical value at all.”
Little said he did not see the other side of the argument regarding what the monument symbolized for those who wish to see it moved.
“It’s a smokescreen and it’s unfortunate,” he said. “Society at large, but these folks in particular are consumed with hatred and they are filled with ignorance. This is really basic stuff where all they have to do is look up some reputable source and see that they are in the wrong, but they all are fueled by emotion. The answer to everything for them is slavery.”
Those opposed to the monument do see it as a symbol of racial oppression and slavery, but are not advocating for the destruction of the monument.
“We definitely don’t want it destroyed. I know this means a lot to the gentlemen here,” said organizer and Round Rock resident Michael Petino, gesturing toward the Sons of Confederate Veterans in attendance. “We would like it either relocated to the (Williamson County Museum) or the Odd Fellow Cemetery nearby, rather than being in front of a place that is supposed to represent justice for all.”
The slavery issue has been a roadblock for the two sides of debate over this particular monument for years.
“Whenever you start talking about stuff, they cannot help themselves, they always come back that it was about slavery,” Little said. “That is certainly wrong. Was slavery an issue? Absolutely. Was it the issue that caused fellows like this to go away and risk their lives to give up house, home and family to risk their lives for somebody else’s slaves? It doesn’t even make the common sense test. It’s ridiculous. They are just very shallow thinkers.”
The Sons of Confederate Veterans contend that legislative efforts like the push to pass the Corwin amendment prior to the start of the Civil War demonstrate that slavery was not the issue leading to war, arguing that if passed the amendment would have ensured slavery continued in slave states. Had those states been fighting for that issue, Little said, they would have accepted that compromise.
But scholars have long-since debated whether the Corwin amendment would have provided the guaranteed long-term legality of slavery among slave states, and also did not address another core issue in the slave debate, which was the expansion of slavery.
Contrary to the argument made by those who claim the states didn’t secede and the Civil War was not primarily fought over the issue of slavery is the fact that in the letters of secession from the various states, slavery was listed as a cause, and a letter from Texas addressed the issue further.
“(Texas) was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association.”
On the issue of moving the monument to another location, Little said his organization has no interest considering such a plan.
“We are not compromising on this, at least from our perspective,” Little said, referencing a proposed compromise on the issue from five years ago. “The compromise I was in favor of was if they wanted to put up, at their expense, another monument – not adjacent to this one but on another side of the courthouse – we’re ok with that.”
Little said the group suggested a statue of former physician Dr. James Dickey, who was a prominent Black community leader in Taylor.
“He was a fellow who was a bridge builder,” Little said. “He did more for race relations during that time than anybody. The response I got was that was not enough. They needed something more aggressive. They wanted the statue from Barbados with the half-naked African American man with his chains and shackles broken, lifting his eyes to heaven. That is not going to fly here in Williamson County. It is not part of the Williamson County experience. It is the thought process of some with an agenda they want to force on everybody else.”