Historian Peter Feinman, who founded the Institute of History, Archaeology and Education, seeks to bring the wonder of these subjects to the public and he has dealt with the subject of Confederate and other recently reviled statues.
Few know that there once was a beautiful statue of King George III in Manhattan that arrived from London on April 26, 1770. It was situated in Bowling Green at the southern tip of the island, Mr. Feinman wrote.
The statue, were it to exist today as an exemplary piece of art and history, tells the story of the American Revolution but a mob tore it down.
Besides pulling down the statue of George III, patriots also knocked the ornamental finials from the posts of a wrought-iron fence that still encircles the Bowling Green.
Much of the statue had been melted down into musket balls.
Other remnants of that fateful moment may have come to light at the Monmouth Battlefield State Park in New Jersey. Daniel M. Sivilich, the author of “Musket Ball and Small Shot Identification: A Guide,” said that nine musket balls found there seem to bear the same chemical signature — of lead, tin, copper and antimony — as samples taken from the statue fragments.
Mr. Feinman writes that the New York Assembly commissioned the statue, That an Equestrian Statue of his present Majesty, be erected in the City of New York to perpetuate to the latest Posterity, the deep Sense this Colony has of the eminent and singular Blessings received from him during his most auspicious Reign.
What a lesson that would be to have that statue today. Unfortunately it was destroyed. Being of partial Irish descent, I am no fan of pre-revolutionary England, but this is history.
The Sons of Liberty destroyed it and it was understandable just as it is understandable when blacks of slave-descent want all statues and names tied to slavery eviscerated. That doesn’t make it right. Truth is never wrong.
The statue was pulled down for two reasons as a symbolic act of dissolving all connection with tyrannical rule, and it was made of two tons of lead. It was broken up and the pieces were sent to Connecticut to a foundry to be made into musket balls.
The head was separated. According to Captain John Montresor, a British officer, “The Rebels cut the king’s head off … cut the nose off, dipt the laurels that were wretched round his head [he was depicted in Roman garb], and drove a musket Bullet part of the way through his Head, and otherwise disfigured it … it was carried to Moore’s tavern, adjoining Fort Washington … in order to be fixed on a Spike on the Truck of that Flagstaff as soon as it could be got ready. I immediately sent Corby through the rebel Camp in the beginning of September … to [John] Cox, who kept the Tavern at King’s bridge, to steal it from thence, and to bury it, which was effected, and was dug up on our arrival, I rewarded the men, and sent the Head by the Lady Gage to Lord Townshend in order to convince them at home of the Infamous Disposition of the Ungrateful people of this distressed Country.”
The Sons of Liberty intended to impale it upon a stake, but by the next morning it had been stolen by Tories as mentioned above, who smuggled it to England. It showed up there, a year later, in the home of Lord and Lady Townshend (of the hated Townshend Acts) and was seen there by Thomas Hutchinson, who noted it in his diary, stating it’s great likeness to the king despite the disfigurement. It has not been seen since.
George Washington, in his orderly book on July 10th expressed his disapproval of this sort of mob action and his hope that in the future the military would leave this kind of work “to the proper authorities.”
Today our mob consists of Antifa, Black Lives Matter, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the Worker’s World Party, et al. Should they be making these decisions? Most of the people who tore down a Durham, North Carolina statue dedicated to confederates who dies were members of the communist party.
The practice of destroying statues can be traced to Stalin, Mao, Rome, Queen Hatshepsut and Pharoah Akhanaton of Egypt. They did it to erase history which is exactly what is going on in the United States. We are the poorer for it.
That’s not to say some statues shouldn’t go, but wholesale renouncing of our heritage leaves a vacuum to be filled by the most left-wing radicals in our society. Mr. Feinman didn’t say that, but we are.
Art historian Arthur Marks wrote about the destruction of the statue as an outlet for the rage of the revolutionaries in “The Statue of King George III in New York and the iconology of Regicide”:
“Some in the crowd, an educated minority no doubt, might have been encouraged in their destructive actions by a recollection of the ancient process of Damnatio Memoriae, the means by which all traces of a man condemned of treason, including such lofty figures as emperors, could be obliterated from the public view and expunged from the historical record.”
Historians want a measured view and some want none removed.
Statues aren’t simply to honor people, they are lessons in history. A KKK couple buried in a public park with a huge monument should perhaps be relocated or a plaque and another statue added to tell the entire story. But to eliminate our Founding Fathers and all who had anything to do with our nation’s founding is to destroy our heritage and allow others to define it for us. That would not be history, it would be a dangerous lie.
Mr. Feinman has recommendations for dealing with the statue controversy. He thinks the sanity should begin in New York by setting up a reasonable model. Although, in my opinion, it’s highly unlikely the politicians in New York will be gifted or reasonable enough to do it.
Feinman also suggests the National Parks Service become involved.
Certainly the mob has to be stopped. Breaking the law and destroying public property, regardless of historical and artistic value, is anarchy if left unpunished.