The statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson, arguably the world’s greatest naval hero, is slated for destruction.
The Sun reports that Nelson is on a 78-strong list of statues in the U. K. listed on a “topple the racists” website, reportedly sponsored by Black Lives Matter.
Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square was erected in 1840 to honor Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Also on the list is a statue of Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing. Powerline notes an irony: Peel’s police were “famously unarmed.”
History, and indeed most individuals, contain much for good and much for ill in their stories. But the anarchists have a narrower view, caring only whether you support them. Complexity and dissent are not tolerated. Neither are gentleness and kindness, if you don’t kneel to them.
London’s Mayor Khan commented:
Mr Khan told Sky News yesterday: “We’ve got to realise that our public realm statues, squares, street names don’t accurately reflect our values, or London, in 2020.”
A commission will make the decisions about statues:
Sadiq Khan added the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm would work to introduce statues and memorials which “better reflect London” including the inclusion of more black, disabled and LGBTQ+ people.
I don’t know what you think about tearing down statues of Confederate generals. But this, as Dominic Green of he [U.K.] Spectator points out, we are waaaay beyond that:
The war of the statues is no longer a battle over the memory of slavery, or the Confederacy, or the deployment of stone dead generals to reinforce Jim Crow. It is a battle over the legitimacy of the United States which, despite all the evils, is history’s greatest and possibly final experiment in human freedom.
The struggle has turned from Confederate generals to the Founders: from those who seceded from the United States to those who laid its foundations. Students at the University of Missouri are petitioning for the removal of a statue of ‘racist slave owner’ Thomas Jefferson, whose statue at Birmingham, Alabama was damaged in an arson attack. Last week at George Washington University, Washington’s bust was toppled from its plinth.
On Tuesday night, Christopher Columbus was decapitated in effigy in Boston and overturned, vandalized and tipped into a lake in Richmond, Virginia.
Statues, like all monumental architecture, are visible symbols of a political order. This is why their identity and placement matter so much. This is why revolutions begin by attacking symbols: the Virgin and Child, the Bastille, Lenin, Saddam. And this is why pulling down a monument is always a mere prelude to the real action. The iconoclast never stops there.
He is clearing the ground for building a new order, as the Taliban smashed the Bamiyan Buddhas and Isis blew up ancient Palmyra.
‘Écrasez l’infâme,’ Voltaire advised. ‘Crush the loathsome thing.’ He was talking about the Catholic Church before the French Revolution. The history of religion becoming the history of politics, the French Revolution crushed and killed everything it loathed. The people who attack statues of Washington and Jefferson loathe everything about the United States.
The barbarians are not the descendants of the slaves, but the descendants of the masters. They are privileged whites who learnt the script of revolutionary theater in expensive colleges. The statues are proxies for their ultimate target, which is the Constitution and the liberties it endows. So deeply do these spoilt vandals loathe their home and civilization that they seek to erase its ‘original sin’, racism, by erasing the original sinner, Columbus — in order to raise a new order on the ruins.
Green takes a dim view of Confederate statues, but observes:
We owe the past a fair reckoning. We also owe the future a fair chance at arriving at its own reckoning. If we simply destroy the evidence, we impoverish our heirs’ understanding. Jefferson was wrong to own slaves, and he was wrong when he told Madison that the Earth ‘belongs in usufruct always to the living: that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it’.
There can be no usufruct if the living destroy the soil and plant the seeds of evil. Society, Edmund Burke said, is ‘a partnership of the dead, the living and the unborn’. We owe it to the dead and the unborn to tell the truth through the Confederate statues, and to tell the truth about Jefferson’s feet of clay. For the same reason, we also owe it to the dead and the unborn to protect the symbols of liberty. If we fail, other, illiberal symbols will be installed in their places.
Someone should tell Mayor Khan that this is 2020 but sometime in the future, sooner rather than later given the breakdown of civic order, a new crop of barbarians will arise. What if they decide disabled and LGBTQ+ people are not useful? Without a tradition of legal rights upon which to depend, those whom Khan purports to protect find themselves unprotected. The mob will furthermore be free to set destroyers upon the Khan-approved statues.
Chaos and vitriol beget chaos and vitriol. Ask Mr. Robespierre what happens when you succumb to a rule of terror.
I would caution the Mayor of London on one particular lesson that can be gleaned from the study of the history he wants to obliterate: live by the mob, die by the mob.