Why Disrespecting America’s Colors and Monuments Dishonors Black Civil War Patriots
By Paul Dowling
“As quick as a thought, I threw away my gun, seized the colors, and made my way to the head of the column. Boys, I did but my duty; the dear old flag never touched the ground.” – William Carney, former slave and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who risked his life to protect the “dear old flag”
“[I]f the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army [of the American Republic]. . . .” – Frederick Douglass, who was known to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” frequently on his violin for his grandchildren
Old Glory: The Symbol of Freedom for Abolitionist Republicans
According to the National Park Service, “by 1865 almost two hundred thousand African Americans had served from 1863-1865, comprising roughly ten percent of the American soldiers who served in the US Army during the Civil War. . . . Sergeant William H. Carney [of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment], born enslaved in Virginia, settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, after escaping bondage via the Underground Railroad. While serving with the 54th, he was severely injured in the assault on [Fort] Wagner and saved the national colors after the color bearer fell. ‘As quick as a thought,’ recounted Carney years later, ‘I threw away my gun, seized the colors, and made my way to the head of the column.’ Carney proclaimed to fellow survivors of the 54th: ‘Boys, I did but my duty; the dear old flag never touched the ground.’ On May 23, 1900, President Theodore Roosevelt awarded Carney the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor 37 years earlier, becoming the first African American to receive the honor.” Carney was one of the many former slaves and black freemen who heeded the call to arms of Frederick Douglass – an ex-slave himself – to fight for the promise of freedom enshrined in the US Constitution. Quoth Douglass, “Abolish slavery tomorrow, and not a sentence or syllable of the Constitution need be altered. It was purposely so framed as to give no claim, no sanction to the claim, of property in man. If in its origin slavery had any relation to the government, it was only as the scaffolding to the magnificent structure, to be removed as soon as the building was completed.”
Frederick Douglass’ brilliant thinking on the Constitution is well-known among American patriots. The scaffolding of which he speaks refers to clauses in the Constitution that were put there in an attempt to incentivize the decline and hasten the abolition of slavery. For example: The Constitution’s Three-Fifths Clause, known also as the Antislavery Clause, states that persons who are not free count only as three-fifths a person, denying slave states the same representation in the House of Representatives as free states unless all slaves within their jurisdictions are freed; and the 1808 Clause – ultimately enacted by President Thomas Jefferson – enabled the abolition of the importation of slaves by 1808. Douglass knew that the Constitution never had anything in it to reward or support the continuance of slavery. But a civil war would be required to accomplish the final work of freeing the slaves. Lincoln’s war to save the Union brought about a rebirth for America that would fulfill the Founders’ promissory note of individual freedom and equal rights for all people. Without the help of Frederick Douglass to solicit warfighters, and the bravery of black patriots to carry Old Glory into battle – resulting from Douglass’ recruitment efforts – the war would have been far less meaningful (and perhaps more prolonged), from the standpoint of black patriots being able to prove their value as citizens to their peers.
Neither William Carney Nor Frederick Douglass Would Disrespect the Stars and Stripes
The American flag was held in such high esteem, during the American Civil War, that Union soldiers who fought for what it symbolized – the republican ideal of liberty and justice for all – were committed to doing everything they could to keep the Star-Spangled Banner from touching the ground. If the color bearer were to fall in battle, another soldier would rush forward to lay hold of the Stars and Stripes, in order to protect the flag from doing likewise. It is, therefore, inconceivable that William Carney would ever have disrespected the American flag, at a public event, upon the playing of the National Anthem; Carney never would have sunk to his knee in protest or countenanced false claims that the colors of the American Republic embodied racism.
Frederick Douglass visited Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1871, to give a speech honoring those who died to free the slaves while fighting under the “star-spangled banner.” Douglass’ love for America’s flag came through loud and clear in his speech, “The Unknown Loyal Dead,” as he closed his remarks by saying, “[I]f now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.”
A Black Patriot on Twitter Who Loves the American Flag Speaks Out
A black patriot on Twitter explains his devotion to the American flag: “I’m going to tell you why I fly the American flag. During the Civil War, there were two types of flags that were flying. You had the American flag that represents the Northern Republican Party and the Southern flag which is the Confederate flag that represents the Democratic Party. What’s the difference between both? One for freedom and one not to stop slavery. Black Americans, I want you to educate yourselves. The American flag is our symbol of freedom. Without that flag, we would have lost the war. Democrats want you to hate something that gave you freedom. Don’t fall for it. Thank you.” Frederick Douglass would support what this man says, wholeheartedly. Douglass himself once said, “I am a Republican, a black, dyed in the wool Republican, and I never intend to belong to any other party than the party of freedom and progress.”
Boston’s Monument to the 54th Regiment Was Defaced in the Wake of the George Floyd Riots
Misguided Americans, during the chaos surrounding the George Floyd Riots, defaced one of the most famous public works of art in all of America – the Monument to the 54th Regiment in Boston! Given the rioters’ pretense of seeking revenge on behalf of George Floyd and the deaths of unarmed blacks at the hands of the police, it is tragically ironic that these violent destroyers have murdered more people in the name of Floyd than the total number of unarmed blacks killed by police in 2019. But these criminal rabble-rousers, it would appear, will vandalize anything their Democrat leaders hate, including monuments depicting black Union soldiers fighting under Lincoln’s Star-Spangled Banner for the abolition of slavery.
Boston’s Mayor Wants the Monument to Lincoln Removed
Lincoln’s statue in Boston is in danger of being taken down. The mayor of Boston, Democrat Marty Walsh, “wants a community discussion about its future and whether a new statue commemorating the end of slavery should be commissioned to take its place.” The statue in question, a copy of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington, DC, portrays Lincoln with a hand raised above a kneeling slave with his wrist-shackles having been broken. The symbolism is that of Lincoln pronouncing that the slave is now a freeman. The slave who has been freed is shown with one knee on the ground and is in the process of raising the other knee up, moving towards a standing position with eyes uplifted and looking forward. Nobody ever misunderstood the meaning of this statue until Democrat leaders began a false narrative alleging that the statue’s meaning is racist, that it shows a black man kneeling to a white man. But this is not what the memorial is depicting, or else former slaves would not have been so eager to donate their money to fund the sculpting of the original in Washington, DC, of which the Boston statue is a replica.
The truth is that the black freeman is not kneeling to a white man, but, having had his shackles broken, is in the act of rising up to assume his equal stature in society next to Lincoln himself, demonstrating true equality in a nation where every person is the equal of every other under the law of the land, the US Constitution. The original meaning of the statue is clear for all to see. Tory Bullock, who created the petition to get rid of the statue, has claimed that the statue has a negative message for black people: “Know your place, because that’s where you belong.” But, if this were true, the statue would never have been commissioned in the first place. What is more likely the case is that Mr. Bullock is interpreting the monument in line with his own negative thoughts and feelings about black people – which is classic Freudian projection. Perhaps it would be more fruitful for everybody, Bullock included, if people who object to the statue would deal with the issue of their own collective racism, rather than subject everyone else to the unpleasant political fallout of their personal shortcomings by bringing about the loss of a valuable work of art that provides a positive function for healthy-minded individuals who know and understand what the historical Lincoln represented in real life.
Lincoln Fought to Overcome Racism
If Lincoln had demanded the obeisance of blacks, he never would have accorded Frederick Douglass the respect he did. Douglass, a patriot in the cause of extending freedom and equal rights to all people, was originally denied equal access to the White House when he attempted to visit Lincoln, due to the fact he had been deemed an “inadmissible black man”; but Lincoln, upon hearing of this, commanded that Douglass be admitted. On the occasion of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, Douglass paid Lincoln a visit at the White House. According to Douglass, “In less than half a minute I was invited into the East Room of the White House. A perfect sea of beauty and elegance, too, it was. The ladies were in very fine attire, and Mrs. Lincoln was standing there. I could not have been more than ten feet from him when Mr. Lincoln saw me; his countenance lightened up, and he said in a voice which was heard all round; ‘Here comes my friend Douglass.’ As I approached him he reached out his hand, gave me a cordial shake, and said: ‘Douglass, I saw you in the crowd today listening to my inaugural address. There is no man’s opinion that I value more than yours; what do you think of it?’ I said: ‘Mr. Lincoln, I cannot stop here to talk with you, as there are thousands waiting to shake you by the hand’; he said again: ‘What did you think of it?’ I said: ‘Mr. Lincoln, it was a sacred effort,’ and then I walked off. ‘I am glad you liked it,’ he said. That was the last time I saw him to speak with him.” Indeed, such a conversation between Douglass and Lincoln could not have existed in a White House where the president demanded the subservience of blacks to whites; Lincoln, by suggesting that Douglass’ opinion was esteemed above and beyond other men’s, was giving pride of place to a black man’s approval over that of any white man.
Without Tory Bullock and the media promoting a dishonest narrative of a racist Lincoln who wants blacks to kneel before him, it is doubtful that this new, negative meaning of Lincoln’s Emancipation Memorial would ever have occurred to anyone. For 155 years, this negative Lincoln never existed in anyone’s wildest imaginings. Assassinated for setting in motion the formal freeing of slaves, having successfully shepherded the Thirteenth Amendment through Congress (although he would be murdered before seeing it ratified by the States), Lincoln has always been viewed heroically through the eyes of educated people everywhere. Lincoln’s assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, was a member of the American “Know-Nothing” Party, which was aligned with the Democrat Party in its racist belief that “America was only for native-born whites.” It was in opposition to this very belief that Lincoln ran for the presidency, and it was the first Republican president’s election to office that spurred the pro-slavery Democrats of the South to secede from the Union to preserve their peculiar institution.
Booth took great exception to Lincoln’s policy of manumitting the slaves. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, “A vigorous supporter of the Southern cause, Booth was outspoken in his advocacy of slavery and his hatred of Lincoln.” In the end, Booth’s evil plan bore fruit, as America’s great abolitionist president was martyred, due to his being “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In seeking to “kill” Lincoln a second time, this time symbolically in Boston, the benighted Tory Bullock is walking metaphorically in the footsteps of fellow traveler John Wilkes Booth, who murdered Lincoln so appallingly one somber night in Washington, DC.
Why Democrats Wish to Remove Historical Statuary
The truth about the Democrat Party leaders’ desire to remove historical statues is this: They want to erase the reminders of their own terrible history. (In contrast to the Democrats, the Party of Lincoln has an admirable history – although this history has been regularly misrepresented or censored by the media and the Democrats for decades.) By destroying and defacing statues of Confederates, such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, reminders that these defenders of human bondage were Democrats disappear. And by removing and vandalizing statues of famous Republicans, such as Abe Lincoln and the 54th Regiment, the remembrance of how much the Republican Party has done to nurture the freedom of all people vanishes from view as well. Painting Republicans as racists and Democrats as saviors of the black community is a Big Lie, in line with Goebbels’ Maxim that a “lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
With the mass-media being exposed and discredited by President Trump, finally the truth is starting to emerge about the Republicans and their history. It is time for all Americans to put aside the revisionist history of the Democrats and relearn the inspiring history of America’s larger-than-life figures and events – warts and all – for only then can Americans truly know what has and has not worked across people and situations and, therefore, where improvement is truly needed. William Carney received four wounds at Fort Wagner, even as he stubbornly refused to allow the American flag to touch the ground. Reports Thomas M. Hammond: “[W]ord soon spread of his unselfish actions. When Carney’s commanders heard about his conduct, he was promoted to sergeant. . . . When asked about his heroic actions, he simply said, ‘I only did my duty.’” If a black patriot like Carney could care so much about the liberty for which the American flag stands, and deeply enough to suffer wounds he would bear for the rest of his life, then perhaps there is value for all Americans in trying to see things from Carney’s point of view.
Americans Must Be Taught the Value of Individual Freedom and Natural Rights
It is time for Americans to care more seriously about freedom than ever before. Liberty is, after all, a value that must be taught if American freedom is to endure. As President Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same.” After having been methodically misinformed for over half a century with regard to America’s history and the motives of America’s Founding Fathers (the large majority of whom were antislavery), a no-nonsense reboot of the “well-taught lessons” needed to pass freedom from one generation to the next is sorely needed.
A complete understanding must be inculcated in America’s young minds as to why the natural rights of every individual must be maintained if a free America is to continue to prosper and thrive. Keeping the light of liberty burning down through the ages will always prove to be a challenge, for liberty is a value that must be taught, not a natural human inclination. What comes naturally to the human being is the desire to be taken care of, and it is out of this desire that man creates big governments in the naïve hope that he might outsource his self-care to others. But such utopian endeavors have always turned tyrannical as the power of the state has grown, becoming deadly to every citizen whose power has shrunk in comparison. It must always be kept in mind that the State never enlarges individual freedom and property rights of its own accord, although government always tends to lean towards the assumption of more power over property. Therefore, supporting the growth of government is never compatible with the advocacy for more vigorous enforcement of human rights, since every human right is a property right.
As Frederick Douglass has wisely pointed out, “Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude.” Perhaps this is because so many are so easily fooled into thinking that enlarging the power of the State helps the cause of freedom, when in reality doing so further disempowers the people and diminishes their rights. Americans have traditionally chosen – and have through Trump’s election to the presidency reaffirmed – the ongoing experiment of expanding the people’s rights and freedoms. The American people can only do this by taking Douglass’ “road seldom traveled,” limiting the power of the State while enlarging the power of the people. Douglass said that, because of the struggles of patriots fighting for freedom, and with the Star-Spangled Banner flying over an America where all citizens are free, “our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization.” It is the continuing mission of all American patriots to keep alive this culture of freedom by honoring and embracing its symbols and memorials, for only by respecting and following the examples of such heroic Americans as William Carney and Frederick Douglass can freedom continue to ring throughout the land.
For Further Research
- Carol Swain, professor of political science at Vanderbilt, teaches about the Democrat Party: LINK.
- Dr. Alveda King explains her uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, was a Republican: LINK.
- Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story, a history of America, warts and all: LINK.
- “Our Composite Nationality” a speech by Frederick Douglass, on December 7, 1869: LINK.
- “The Unknown Loyal Dead” – a speech by Frederick Douglass, on May 30, 1871: LINK.
- President Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction”: LINK.
- “Both Freedom & Fairness Must Be Maintained for a Democratic Republic to Continue”: LINK.
- “What Do Democrats & Republicans Believe, & Just What Is a Free Republic All About?”: LINK.