Opinion/Letter: Lincoln has nothing to do with Putin | Opinion
In its July 23 op-ed regarding Governor Glenn Youngkin’s choice of Ann McLean for the Virginia Historic Resources Board, the editorial page editor rightly criticized the claim that Lincoln’s military action to save the Union was just as wrong as Putin’s war to subjugate Ukraine. The editor also questioned McLean’s view that slaves would have been emancipated in five to 10 years after 1861 anyway. The claims were consistent with Mclean’s 1998 doctoral dissertation, “UNVEILING THE LOST CAUSE: A study of Monuments to the Civil War Memory in Richmond, Virginia and Vicinity”, to which was attached an interview with Robert E. Lee in 1866 where he sowed the seeds of the lost cause myth by declaring unconstitutional Lincoln’s preparations to save the Union – thus justifying secession – and asserting that the end of slavery was imminent until the abolitionists began to force the question. But, rather than simply portraying it as a scholar would, McLean embraced it, championed it, and, in large part, perpetuated it.
People also read…
This could be a teachable moment for McLean. If she admitted that Lee had been wrong to lead a military insurrection to defend the right of some to enslave others and that the Confederacy’s actions were in no way comparable to Ukraine’s resistance to the “holy Putin’s “crusade” to reunite God-given Russia, there would be hope. A more likely outcome is a lack of apologies. Also, if the past is a prologue, McLean’s concern over the stewardship of Richmond’s Lee Monument time capsule for posterity would likely lead her to double down on the lost cause mythos. She feared that “central planning” conspirators might hijack the contents of the capsule in an effort to undo the true intent of those who, in 1890, wanted to explain the lost cause.
Should there be someone at the Virginia Board of Historic Resources who describes slavery as a “bad thing”? Mclean’s appointment is not about ‘balance’ or ‘good people on both sides’. The simple truth is that glorifying those who fought to perpetuate slavery in the face of the millions of black people who lived and died in slavery in the United States is profane. Perpetuating such glorification based on inaccurate legal theories is worse.