Historian Jonathan Horn — author of The Man Who Would Not Be Washington, a biography of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — told CNN on Saturday that Lee himself was opposed to war memorials because “communities move on quicker from sectional strife” if there aren’t reminders around.
In an op-ed essay for CNN.com, Horn explained that Lee “wanted to put the Civil War behind him” and refused during his lifetime to sanction the creation of memorials in his name.
On Saturday, Horn — a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush — told CNN’s Ana Cabrera that Lee didn’t want to anger the victorious federalists or lend his name to any effort to disrupt the peace.
“If the purpose of a statue is only to hold people up as an ideal role model,” Horn said, “it’s pretty clear that no Confederate memorial could ever achieve that aim because anybody who fought for a confederacy dedicated to securing human property cannot be an ideal role model.”
These statues say more about the efforts of people in the 19th and 20th century to restrict the rights of people of color and remind them who the dominant class is in the south.
Lee, Horn said, would want to “do away with the statues” in modern times because “he really wanted to put the Civil War behind him. He had no nostalgia for what had happened.”
“I think certainly with the Robert E. Lee statues, you really have an intent to glorify the cause that the south fought for in the Civil War and it really is hiding what the real cause of the Civil War was, which, of course, was slavery.”
Watch the video, embedded below: