Sons of American Revolution wades into monument debate

by Walter Pierce

The local chapter is asking the state Legislature to craft a constitutional amendment that would allow voters statewide to decide whether historic monuments should be permanently shielded from “destruction, dismantling, removal, moving, storage or hiding.”

The local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution is asking the state Legislature to craft a constitutional amendment that would allow voters statewide to decide whether historic monuments should be permanently shielded from “destruction, dismantling, removal, moving, storage or hiding.”

The resolution, sent to local media by SAR Attakapas Chapter representative Tom Angers, is curious in its failure to explicitly mention the U.S. Civil War:

The Attakapas Chapter, Louisiana Society, Sons of the American Revolution does hereby urge and request that the Louisiana Legislature, and each chamber thereof, pass a constitutional amendment for submission to and review and consideration by the citizens of the State of Louisiana prohibiting the destruction, dismantling, removal, moving, storage or hiding of historic monuments, structures, images, plaques and things and any vestiges thereof and forbidding the elimination of historic sites and particularly those monuments, buildings, structures, images, plaques, things and sites pertaining to the American Revolution and its patriots and those who gave aid and comfort to the cause of the American Revolution and those serving in the American Revolution, our Founding Fathers, our nations presidents, supporters of our nations Constitution and the officers and soldiers and sailors of the Wars of the United States of America.

This resolution shall be transmitted immediately upon passage to all members of the Louisiana Senate and House of Representatives and the leadership of each chamber and forthwith disseminated to the press and major news organizations in Louisiana so that the citizens of Louisiana, and each and all of them may participate in an open and uninhibited debate and final resolution of this most important and vital issue that affects all Louisianians living and yet unborn.

In a follow-up email exchange, Angers initially told The IND the purpose of the proposed constitutional amendment was to protect monuments to Gen. Andrew Jackson and other presidents, repeating the “wars of the United States” reference in the resolution without mentioning the Civil War and the Confederacy.

“Movements are underway to remove monuments and sites honoring for instance, Andrew Jackson,” Angers wrote. “Jackson fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. The amendment would protect monuments and sites etc. honoring Jackson. Some have sought removal of the name of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and other patriots from sites, schools and monuments which is unacceptable to us. All who fought in any war of the United States and have been honored in their time by citizens with monuments and sites of any kind should be protected. The proposed amendment would grant protection to monuments to soldiers, sailors and officers of all wars of the United States without exclusion.”

Pressed for a clarification on whether the local SAR chapter wants Confederate monuments protected, Angers confirmed it is the case, using the politically loaded term War Between the States, a preferred term used by many Southerners and groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy who in many cases feel the term Civil War de-legitimizes the Confederacy as a genuine political entity: “The War Between the States was a war of the United States fought between factions,” Angers wrote. “Many Louisianians descend from officers, soldiers and sailors who fought in the War Between the States. Certainly they are included in the proposed protection.”

The timing of the SAR resolution is certainly not arbitrary. The New Orleans City Council last year voted to remove several monuments to Confederate figures, Gen. Robert E. Lee chief among them, from places of prominence in the city. While that initiative is tied up in court, it did not include the monument to Andrew Jackson located at New Orleans’ most-photographed public square, although others in the city have targeted the Jackson statue because Jackson, like Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves.

The New Orleans movement against its Confederate monuments also spurred other communities across the former Confederacy to discuss similar legislation, including here in Lafayette. In February dozens of residents squared off before the City-Parish Council during public debate over the Downtown Lafayette monument to Confederate slave-owning Gen. Alfred Mouton.

The hearing tilted overwhelmingly in favor of those who oppose moving the Mouton monument to his family’s nearby homestead, now a museum. But those who want to see the Mouton monument moved to a more context-sensitive location — as opposed to a place of public reverence where it’s now located at the Jefferson Street-Lee Avenue gateway to Downtown Lafayette — have soldiered on, forming a group called Move the Mindset, one of The Independent's 2016 Influencers of the Year. The group plans to launch a public-awareness campaign in 2017 in an effort to help the community see the Confederacy more historically and realistically — as an armed government formed for the express purpose of preserving the institution of slavery.