This Isn't Just About Confederate Statues | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by John Daniel Davidson during a Newsweek podcast debate on confederate monuments. You can listen to the podcast here:

There are cases in which public lands used to be private lands and they were given to the public with covenants attached. The example that comes to mind is here in Austin, Texas at the UT campus, there's the George Littlefield fountain on the historic UT quad. It's these horses coming out of water, it's a very ornate statue at the south end of the quad. That was paid for by George Littlefield, who was a big UT donor who bequeathed a whole bunch of land and other things to the university. This is a public university, that's public land. And I bring that up only because some statues from the quad were removed in recent years, not just Confederate statues, but a statue of Woodrow Wilson, a statue of Jefferson Davis, obviously. And there's been talk about removing the Littlefield fountain as well, simply because George Littlefield had views that today, all of us would consider offensive and wrong. He was a Confederate army officer and after the war was a sort of a "lost causer."
The answer to your question is yes, most of the time I think communities should have a say in what their public monuments are and what the public land looks like. There should be a democratic process, and I'm not opposed to there being an actual democratic process to decide about some of these statues. If I were part of such a democratic process, I would vote to keep them, and add more statues because I think more statues are better than removing statues.

Richmond Confederate Statues
People visit the graffiti-covered statue of Confederate General JEB Stuart on June 14, 2020 at Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

I don't think the question really is, should we have a democratic process to decide what our monuments should be? I think the question is, why is this happening now? And why did it quickly move beyond Confederate statues to the founding fathers to really a whole host of historical figures. They just removed a Teddy Roosevelt statue in New York. So, I circle back to this limiting principle, we were told when this started a couple years back that we have to remove these Confederate statues because these men were traitors and we shouldn't have statues of traitors up, and we can debate the historical appropriateness of calling everyone who fought for the Confederacy a traitor, or maybe even the prudence of doing that. But it obviously was not really about that. It was about something else.

Daniel Davidson is Senior Editor at The Federalist

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.