I hope everyone can agree that racism, white supremacy, prejudice in any form, along with government oppression against any person or people are evils that we need to remove from both our society and government. Additionally, the confederate flag and symbols have also become racial symbols of hate and offensive to not only people of color but to many Americans.
It is apparent that debating this monument the issues have exclusively been based on standard “confederacy versus Union” talking points developed by outside organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU. It is painfully obvious that the vast majority have little to no knowledge of the side of history that was most important to Marylanders at that time – Federal Government against Maryland. It is an ugly side to American history that many thought best not to highlight. It is a history, that in part could very well be repeated, if we refuse to learn the lessons from that time.
The Talbot Boys were unique in that Maryland, along with Talbot County, has a history completely different and independent from any other State – confederate or Union. Maryland experienced the greatest crushing of civil liberties ever conducted by a US President against people of a free State. What happened to Maryland and her citizens was unlawful, unconstitutional and brutal as described in my July 8th letter to the Spy. Attempting to apply the standard “Union versus confederate” talking points towards the Talbot Boys is attempting to place a square peg in a round hole – it does not fit.
I am very disheartened by many of the opponents to the Talbot Boys monument. I see people that will not take the time to understand people of a different culture and blindly believe the judgments of others. I cringe when I hear them talk about the people of that time to include their description of the County Council and Maryland society in general by saying “They were all ….”. Then give proof of this opinion due to a national movie that was playing at the time or the racists laws enacted by others. Saying “They were all” is just one tense away from saying “They are all.” I see this as a lack of understanding that the roots of racism and prejudice are the product of refusing to understand another culture, blindly following preconceived judgments proposed by others then blindly applying those preconceived judgments to any individual that they associate with that group. We do have a long way to go.
The opponents base their opposition on three main national talking points; offensiveness of confederate symbols, preservation of slavery as the motivation to rise against the Union, and the sole purpose of the monument is to intimidate people of color. I am in full agreement that confederate symbols have become symbols of racism and hate and should be removed from public property. Now let’s take a look at the other two talking points, without prejudging and stereotyping, while using the facts as they apply to Talbot and Maryland.
It is a national talking point that “they all” fought to preserve slavery, but Maryland did not secede, and slavery was protected by both the US and Maryland Constitutions when these men took arms. Additionally, abolition was not even in contention during the first years of the conflict. The opponents state that the Talbot Boys fought due to a fear that free people of color would exceed them in the social status of their society. This theory makes little sense on many levels not the least of which is that Talbot County already held one of the highest percentages of free people of color in the Country at that time. Additionally, data shows that as a percentage of population, a person from Talbot or Caroline county was 10 to 11 times more likely to take arms against the Union then the men just over the State line in Delaware. The difference was Maryland was subject to extreme Federal abuses where Delaware was spared.
The overwhelming historical evidence, along with the recent unearthing of General Tench Tilghman’s last order to his men before his arrest, overwhelmingly support that the men from Talbot were primarily motivated by the Federal oppression of their homeland. (as outlined in my July 8th letter to the Spy). These men did not have a crystal ball to tell them how things would turn out, all they knew is that their democracy and liberties, which their forefathers valiantly fought to give them, had been taken.
The national talking point about confederate monuments is that they were established by the Daughters of the Confederacy during the Jim Crow era for the purpose of intimidating people of color. Support of this view includes statements that Talbot county’s council of a century ago, along with most of Maryland’s society “were all” white supremacists. Lynn Mielke’s research, also published in the Spy, reveals that this monument was commissioned and paid for by local citizens. Someone, most likely members of the Talbot boys themselves, made a conscious choice on both the statue and the presentation of the flag. They chose an unarmed boy. The presentation of the flag is of extreme importance towards understanding the motivation of the citizens who commissioned this statue. A flag held on the left side, lowered and held tight to its staff is a symbol of submission and would only be presented in that manner during a ceremony of surrender. I would think if the intent were to intimidate then something other then a small unarmed boy holding a flag in the ceremonial position of surrender would have been selected. Why not a sabre wielding confederate charging on horseback? The selection speaks for itself. When the Union memorial is established the flag will be held on the right (sword arm side), held high and flying freely.
Instead of removing I would like to recommend that we modify and re-dedicate this monument to reflect the history of Maryland and Talbot County during that conflict. My recommendation is to modify the statue, through private funding, to remove all symbols of the confederacy. In discussion with a company that makes bronze statues the cost to modify would be a fraction of the cost of a new statue. If the funds cannot be raised by a specific date, then the statue could be removed with county funding and stored. It would be up to the county to remove the “CSA” from the base. Any excess funds raised would go towards a Union memorial.
When the monument returns it can be re-dedicated, not as a confederate monument, but to the men who rose against the Constitutional abuses committed against Maryland and her citizens. The purpose is to not only separate this monument from symbols of hate but to separate it from the confederacy, it’s cause and from any perceived intent of malice during the time of its original placement.
I envision a permanent plaque which would state why this monument is here along with Maryland’s and Talbot’s history during the conflict. It could include General Tilghman’s order to his militia warning that Maryland was being occupied against her will and to prepare for deployment to protect her citizens. That members of our legislature, a congressman and other elected officials were arrested by Lincoln due to their political views. It could mention Judge Carmichael who in this very courthouse was pistol whipped and drug from his bench by Federal troops for attempting to enforce the Constitutional protections of his citizens. It would mention the arrest and imprisonment of the editor of the Easton Star and how our militia’s guns and munitions were confiscated from the Easton Armory. It would state how our press was censored, vote suppressed and how Talbot countians feared imprisonment if they were suspected of harboring different political views. It would also state how Lincoln instructed his top commander to bombard our cities if Marylander’s rose against him. It could end with a quote from Douglass stating how deeds and not just verbiage is required to protect citizens liberties.
If you have followed these debates and have learned something about Maryland’s history that you have never heard before, then that is exactly why we need a monument remembering what happened to Maryland during that time. It is becoming apparent that with events we see every morning in the news history could very well repeat itself.
The corrected message of this monument would imply that our Constitutional rights and liberties are not given to us by our government but are secured by the sacrifices of our citizens. That at one time in our history our government denied Marylanders the rights and liberties which most now take for granted. That it has always been up to our citizens, through great efforts and sacrifice, to affect change in our government and it rests upon their shoulders to take action when our government oppresses us.
Such a monument would be unique not just in Maryland but throughout the Nation. It would provide positive exposure towards Talbot County and set an example of how our citizens came together to remove symbols of racism while at the same time protecting and cherishing our history.