The recent catastrophe in Charlottesville is being used by some state-level politicians as an opportunity to grandstand by exploiting a tragedy. This includes our governor who is originally from Syracuse, New York. He now seeks to impose his personal social values and misunderstanding of history upon the people of this Commonwealth and Rappahannock County by demanding the removal of all monuments that honor the Confederacy.
In typical left-wing fashion, his understanding of complex historical subjects is limited to discussing “feelings” and using hyperbolic emotional statements. This is the kind of nonsense one would expect to hear from Oprah Winfrey. Slavery was bad, therefore the South and her brave soldiers must have been “traitors.” Nothing could be further from the truth. What is going on now is nothing less than a cultural cleansing aimed at destroying any positive memory of Confederate history.
The fact is that slavery was facilitated largely with the active assistance of northern ports in places such as Boston and Rhode Island, where the owners of slave ships profited handsomely. Due to differences in climate and economy, the northern states gradually enacted anti-slavery laws beginning in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. New England enacted laws that emancipated the children of adult slaves upon reaching the age of 21. However, most New England slave owners sold their children slaves to southern plantations before they reached that age, and happily pocketed the profits. The adult slaves in 1801 New England were in bondage until they died, but this is rarely discussed and is part of the continuing myth of the morally superior Yankee.
As one who was born in Pennsylvania (Southern Pennsylvania, mind you) and whose Quaker ancestor began the abolitionist movement in that province in 1754, I have no allegiance to the practice of slavery. But my family and I moved to Rappahannock County as full-time resident landowners in 2010 and I fully embrace the culture, institutions, heritage and history of this great county as my adopted home. I don’t seek to change anything about us like some self-appointed Yankee morality policeman, rather I strive to be a part of this vibrant community in every way that I can.
I don’t wish to turn Rappahannock County into some kind of whitewashed tourist Disneyland that is too ashamed to acknowledge its noble history. We should not strive to emulate crime-ridden places like the city of Baltimore that removed their sacred monuments in the middle of the night, like thieves acting under the cover of darkness. I do not vilify those who have lived on my land before me, rather I salute those noble families and their ancestors. They fought to defend their homes and families against great odds. Those are tales of courage, honor and sacrifice that we can all learn from if we try.
The Rappahannock County troops and their heroic sacrifices are what we honor to this day with our War for Southern Independence memorial on the lawn of our county courthouse. Those men fought for four years in defense of their homeland against overwhelming odds. They fought enemy forces that were always in greater numbers, better armed and equipped and very well-supplied. They fought to protect Virginia from invaders that never hesitated to burn their crops and their homes to the ground, against all convention and customs of the laws of war. Their courage, sacrifice and desire to be left alone and have their independence is what we as Americans should all remember.
Thomas A. Woolman
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