The Talbot Boys Conversation: Statue Part of County History by Dirck Bartlett

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I read the recent letter to the editor and the recent editorial of The Sunday Star) and wanted to share my thoughts regarding the Talbot Boys statue.

The readers may recall that the Frederick Douglass statue, as originally proposed, included a larger statue as well as a large paved area with sign boards and other educational text describing the life of Frederick Douglass.

At the time, I was president of the Talbot County Council and I recall that we had a consensus to build a statue honoring Frederick Douglass.

The basic problem was that the monument, as proposed at the time, was too large and the proposed impervious paving that would have potentially damaged the adjacent Wye Oak tree. In addition, the scale of the proposed statue and other educational placards was simply too large for the courthouse grounds.

The Frederick Douglass Honor Society was formed to lead the project and to assist the county council in honoring Frederick Douglass.

Our solution back then was to allow for a new statue that would approximate the size and scale of the existing statue located on the opposite lawn area of the new Frederick Douglass statue. Our design consultant, and the Frederick Douglass Honor Society, recommended that it be scaled to the size of the other existing monuments.

In addition, we were renovating the Talbot County Free Library and we thought that a room dedicated to Frederick Douglass would certainly be appropriate and would give visitors to the area a place to go and study about or learn more about the life of Frederick Douglass. The library is directly across the street from the courthouse, so it was certainly an appropriate place for anyone who visited the statue.

We decided to dedicate the old Maryland Room as the space that would offer reference materials, etc., for anyone interested in learning about Frederick Douglass.

After all, one of his most important contributions was his message regarding the importance of education and learning to set one free. This room was subsequently dedicated the Frederick Douglass Reading Room and exists to provide visitors and scholars with valuable reading materials and other resources describing the life of Frederick Douglass.

Turning our attention to the Talbot Boys, I realize that the statue may offend some. The history of this area, however, included families split between the North and the South. Like it or not, it is part of our history here in Talbot County.

The statue of Frederick Douglass was a triumph for many people who thought that Talbot County should honor its most famous son. The Frederick Douglass statue stands in proud contrast to the Talbot Boys statue, and we cannot deny our history nor change what happened.

When I traveled to East Germany in college, I visited one of the Nazi Concentration Camps. I was sickened by what I saw and yet I am glad that these camps were preserved so that we would know what happened in World War II, lest we forget the history of what happened. Likewise, here in Talbot County, our past tells a story.

In summation, I suppose we could follow the trend of political correctness and remove the Talbot Boys statue. The editorial board has expressed its obvious opinion to remove the Talbot Boys statue.
I would hope, however, that we would pause to consider the contrast it represents. The victory of the life of Frederick Douglass cannot be viewed in proper context without the contrasting fight to end slavery and the victory of a great education.

The Talbot Boys statue reminds us that the Civil War tore families apart and young men went to war and died fighting against, in some cases, members of their own family. If it were removed from the courthouse grounds, the observer might never understand that our county faced an internal struggle of its own during the Civil War.

This struggle can likewise be viewed at St. Stephens Church in the village of Unionville, where African-American soldiers are buried, who fought for the Union and who returned to Talbot after the war.

There are so many stories to tell, some happy and some sad.

These monuments are made to remind us of our historical past, and we should not be so arrogant to think that we can correct the mistakes of history by removing the monuments of the past.

Dirck Bartlett is serving in his third term as a member of the Talbot County Council. This has been reprinted with Mr. Bartlett’s permission from the Star-Democrat from July 1.

Letters to Editor

  1. Tilghman McCabe Jr. says:

    What a sad commentary on how this is becoming the norm in how we address delicate issues in our society. We are awash in political correctness. And The Talbot Boys statue is now the latest victim of a non-majority group of citizens who demand its removal because they are “outraged” by what the statue represents – to them. Frankly, I am outraged that they are outraged! But why stop here. Our history is full of people who were slave owners, many of whom founded this country, fought the British to achieve freedom from tyranny, helped craft the Declaration of Independence, wrote our laws and established what we call, “the American dream.” Are statues of them to now be hidden and the names of towns, cities and streets that honor them to be changed too? They are no different than The Talbot Boys. One of the icons of the Eastern Shore, Lt. Col. Tench Tilghman, a distant relative of mine. But he and his family were slave owners. His uncle, Matthew Tilghman, crafted much of Maryland’s constitution. Should we take down their prominently displayed portraits and statues and banish the Tilghman name from use? Or, might we want to pause first and re-discover our past – good and bad – and how we might use it as a light for the future?

    Congress passed U.S. Public Law 85-425: Sec. 410 on 23 May 1958. It gave United States veteran status to all Confederate soldiers, sailors and marines who fought in the Civil War. It was done to further the strides made in national unity and reconciliation – 108 years after the Civil War ended. Obviously, we haven’t learned much since this time. We’re ready to abandon, hide, hush up, and stifle the very history that has made us what we are today. Shouldn’t we want to learn from our past – good and bad? A factual and complete history is important to our children and future generations. Isn’t it time we stopped this PC madness and addressed issues together like the compassionate citizens we think we are instead of rushing to cover up our history in the name of being “correct.” If no, then that is truly outrageous.

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