If ever there was an indication that the racial justice movement has run astray, it has manifested in Chicago.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Wednesday that the Chicago Monuments Project, convened in August to decide which of the Windy City’s monuments should be removed, compiled a list of 41 statues and other commemorative plaques for careful review.
The official Illinois state slogan is the “Land of Lincoln.”
Prior to the Civil War, Lincoln spoke out in a speech in Chicago in 1858 against Democrat Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas’ “popular sovereignty” plan, which allowed slavery to expand into the western territories and states formed from those lands to enter the union as slave states if they so chose.
The Republicans argued that the founders had placed the institution on the path of “ultimate extinction” and that’s where it should remain.
During the war, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freeing the slaves in the states which were then in rebellion, and two years later Congress passed the 13th Amendment, ending slavery nationwide.
The amendment was ratified by the states in the months following Lincoln’s assassination.
The 16th president gave his very life in the cause of freeing the slaves.
Assassin John Wilkes Booth infamously pronounced after hearing Lincoln speak of black people being given the right to vote in April 1865, “That means n—-r citizenship. That is the last speech he will ever make.” Booth shot him three days later.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Grant, who was then living in Galena, Illinois, north of Chicago, entered the Union ranks as a colonel in the Illinois militia.
He ultimately rose to commanding general of the U.S. Army and oversaw Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia in April 1865.
The American people turned to Grant for leadership in 1868 at the end of the contentious presidency of Andrew Johnson, who had assumed the presidency after Lincoln’s assassination.
Among Grant’s most notable achievements as president was the implementation of the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed African-Americans the full rights of citizenship and equal protection under the law. The Republicans also championed the passage of the 15th Amendment, which secured the vote for African-Americans.
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As commander in chief, he also deployed federal agents and troops to crush the Ku Klux Klan in his day.
For Chicago to take down Lincoln’s and Grant’s statues in the name of “racial healing and historical reckoning” would be ridiculous.
These men, along with Washington, did more in the cause of human freedom and dignity than any who would pass judgment against them now have ever done.
They deserve to continue to be honored in our nation’s history, public parks and places.