The Contrarian

Paul Soglin Strikes a Pose

Oh-so virtuous Madison Mayor takes down Confederate Memorial.

By - Aug 21st, 2017 11:21 am
Paul Soglin. Photo from the City of Madison.

Paul Soglin. Photo from the City of Madison.

Surely it’s time for Madison to cease honoring slaveowners.

That thought comes to mind on reading in the Journal Sentinel that Mayor Paul Soglin has ordered the removal of a memorial to confederate soldiers at a city-owned cemetery.

As the Mayor boldly stated, “There should be no place in our country for bigotry, hatred, or violence against those who seek to unite our communities and our country.” And, in case anyone would be foolish to think otherwise, he added, “There is no disrespect to the dead with the removal of the plaque and stone.”

Moving right along, when will East and West Washington Avenue be renamed? And then there’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School on the city’s west side.

As historian Stephen Ambrose has written, “Jefferson owned slaves. He did not believe that all were created equal. He was a racist, incapable of rising above the thought of his time and place, and willing to profit from slave labor.” Washington, too, was a slaveholder (he eventually freed them).

More broadly, the nation’s founding fathers simply looked the other way when it came to incorporating women’s rights into the original Constitution. How can there be any “place in our country” where they are honored?

Soglin’s posturing, of course, is nothing but a self-absorbed grasp for attention. It’s the kind of virtue-signaling that increasingly has public figures groveling to demonstrate their sanctity. For the likes of Soglin, the Charlottesville story won’t be fully told until they declare, “Look. Over here. At me.”

Below is the wording of the hateful, bigoted, racist memorial that Soglin has ordered removed. And not a minute too soon.

The valiant Confederate soldiers who lie buried here were members of the 1st Alabama Inf. Reg., Confederate States of America. They were captured in the spring of 1862 in the Civil War Battle of Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River south of Cairo, Illinois. Their task was to stop traffic carrying men and supplies to Northern forces further south.

After weeks of fighting under extremely difficult conditions, they were forced to surrender. Constant fire from river gunboats and land forces made their position untenable. After surrender, they were moved to Camp Randall and when they arrived many were suffering from wounds, malnutrition and various diseases.

Within a few weeks 140 graves were filled, the last resting places for these unsung heroes, far from their homes in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Here, also, is the grave of Alice Whiting Waterman, a gracious Southern lady who devoted more than 30 years of her life caring for the graves of “her boys.”

35 thoughts on “The Contrarian: Paul Soglin Strikes a Pose”

  1. Vincent Hanna says:

    Washington and Jefferson were not traitors who fought against their own country.

    “Historians: No, Mr. President, Washington and Jefferson are not the same as Confederate generals.”

    Historians on Trump’s view: ‘The most kind explanation of that can only be ignorance’

    To make an equivalency between two of the Founding Fathers and Confederacy leaders is not only “absurd,” but also “unacceptable for the president of the United States,” said Jim Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association.

  2. Bob says:

    As the Mayor boldly stated, “There should be no place in our country for bigotry, hatred, or violence against those who seek to unite our communities and our country.” And, in case anyone would be foolish to think otherwise, he added, “There is no disrespect to the dead with the removal of the plaque and stone.”

    This coming from the same person who approved a 3,35 million dollar settlement (the largest police shooting settlement in Wisconsin history) to a family who made made a number of outrageous claims of civil rights violations even though Officer Kenny was cleared of criminal wrongdoing and an internal investigation found he acted within police policies. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne declined to charge him with any crime.

    This little move by soglin just screams pay attention to me as I am the idiot lib mayor of Madison Wisconsin..

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    Bob you should try reading non-Breitbart news sources. If you did you would realize it is not just “idiot libs” who support removing Confederate monuments. I mean Nikki Haley supports it and she’s part of the administration. Don’t be alt-right Bobby.

  4. George Mitchell says:

    “Traitors.” Yet Lincoln’s 1863-64 reconstruction plans offered amnesty, What a pushover.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    It’s also worth noting that Robert E. Lee himself opposed Confederate monuments. Imagine that George.

  6. Ed says:

    I too believe removal of this particular memorial was a mistake, though an understandable one given the times. Since I think much of the reasoning in the article is too snarky and immature, let me give my reasons for supporting the article’s conclusion.

    The memorial did not venerate any leader of the confederacy, nor was it installed in a frequently visited or government location (90% of Madisonians have never seen it and don’t know it exists, I’ll bet), nor was it part of the Lost Cause campaign in the South that sought to glorify the war and repaint what it was all about, nor was it used as a symbol of white supremacy, a daily reminder that the South will Rise Again. With all that entails.

    To the contrary. This was a quiet memorial in a secluded part of a graveyard, providing historically accurate context (answering the question — why are there rebs buried in Madison), and paying respect to the valor of 140 common American foot soldiers who died miserably and alone, far from home, without celebrating their cause. It was gracious, and it always seemed to me to reflect Grant’s magnanimity in victory at Appomattox Courthouse.

    There are a host of compelling reasons and circumstances that mandate, in my mind, the removal of the vast majority of confederate iconography where ever it may appear in the US, white supremacy and Lost-Cause fever being national, not a peculiarly Southern, afflictions.

    But I can’t find any of those reasons or circumstances applicable to the Madison monument to the confederate dead. Same goes for the monument to the Angel of Marye’s Heights (read more here Probably not many more examples.

    As I said, the times are difficult, and nice distinctions are not the coin of the realm at present. Given our history, if the choice is between being underinclusive or overinclusive in our removal of blight, color me the latter.

    And no, I’m not a lib (though I may be an idiot, depends on who you ask) — most of my family fought for the South, and every generation of my family has served in the military since then. Including me.

  7. Vincent Hanna says:

    Hopefully Germany removes the Hitler monuments soon. Oh wait.

  8. AG says:

    Very good comment, Ed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so elequently

  9. George Mitchell says:

    Good insights from Ed.

    The best single source of unvarnished Civil War history is Gary Gallagher.

  10. Ed says:

    Vincent, is that your response to my post? I’m thinking our two posts may have overlapped, as I cannot believe that you would equate Hitler monuments to a small slab memorial to dead confederate soldiers in a cemetery.

  11. Vincent Hanna says:

    I agree Ed’s comment is very thoughtful and much better than George’s tripe, and I agree with most of what he says. I don’t see the harm in removing this though.

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    Ed do you think this is accurate? I don’t know much about the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but in his telling they are a problematic organization. Is he wrong?

    -In 1931 the United Daughters of the Confederacy, “a racist and bigoted organization,” Soglin said, installed the monument, which names the deceased, honoring “treasonous rebels” as part of a national strategy of propaganda and determination to rewrite history providing a favorable interpretation of the Civil War.

    “The larger monument at Madison’s Forest Hill Cemetery is not a Civil War monument,” he said. “It was was installed over 60 years after the end of the war. It is slab of propaganda paid for by a racist organization on public property when our city was inattentive to both the new form of slavery propagated by the donors with the Black Codes and to the meaning of that despicable fixture honoring slavery, sedition and oppression.”

    In 1981, the memorial plaque at the Confederate Rest section was placed at Forest Hill cemetery. It described the people buried there as “valiant Confederate soldiers” and “unsung heroes.”

  13. Mike says:

    It’ll be interesting to see where all of this ends up going. It seems in any of these movements there’s a tendency to go after the low hanging fruit like the Confederate Monuments or Andrew Jackson. My guess is once those problems are fixed people will start moving to Washington/Jefferson etc. Almost any US historical figure prior to the Civil Rights bill being passed is going to have some troubling things about their past. Even liberal icons like FDR interned Japanese citizens and turned down Jewish immigrants. Can you imagine if Trump did that? There’s a movement to to remove the statue of Mayor Rizzo in Philly because he was a racist. Should we look at changing the name of the Summerfest grounds because Henry Maier likely condoned was Harold Brier was doing?

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    Because some people pre-1965 had problematic beliefs is not a very strong defense of leaving up Confederate monuments. No one is calling for removing monuments to Washington or Jefferson. Slippery slope isn’t a strong defense here.

    SIEGEL: What clearly distinguishes a Robert E. Lee statue from a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue since all those men owned slaves?

    SOMIN: There are two big distinctions. One, nobody honors George Washington precisely for the fact that he owned slaves, whereas the Confederate leaders, when they’re honored, are honored almost entirely for their service to the Confederacy, which was created for a purpose of perpetuating and extending slavery.

    Second, while I think it’s very much correct to criticize the Founding Fathers for owning slaves, those of them who did, they also had great achievements in other areas which do legitimately deserve honor. By contrast, the Confederate leaders – very few of them would be remembered today but for what they did in the Civil War to protect slavery.

  15. George Mitchell says:

    The Vicksburg battlefield today features very substantial memorials to the states, including Wisconsin, who led the siege that eventually forced the surrender of 30,000 confederate troops. Of course we should leave those up as reminders to the kin of ‘traitors.” Then we should systematically rid Vicksburg of anything memorializing a confederate.

    A couple years ago I attended a high school Christmas music program in Vicksburg. About 20 different groups of students, some Black, some white, some black and white, performed. The auditorium was packed with Black and white families seated side by side. It naturally occurred to me that such a scene would NEVER be encountered in Milwaukee or many other Northern cities. As I traveled through several Southern states I saw constant evidence of a region that has made far more progress than elsewhere. If we could just knock down all the confederate monuments in a Sherman-like rampage think how much better things would be.

  16. Ed says:

    Vincent, yes, the source of funding is troublesome to me. The UDC were big-time Lost Causers. I don’t agree the monument was “propaganda,” yet I agree that the funding moves the needle toward your view, which I understand. Don’t agree, but understand as principled.

    The Washington=Lee debate confounds me. They are not comparable. Lee served in the U.S. Army over 30 years before turning his sword against his brother officers and causing the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers, a number of whom he had served with. If he could not fight against the South, then he should have sheathed his sword.

    Washington served in a colonial militia alongside the Brits for five or so years in the 1750s, resigning his commission in 1758. He never served in the British army. He did not pick up the sword again until 1775. His military circumstances are no comparable to Lee’s.

    Nor are their slave-owning circumstances comparable. Washington’s vices were largely of his age, and while no saint, he did manumit his slaves upon his death in 1799. By 1860, informed opinion had turned decidedly against slavery. The Congress of Vienna, in which most of Europe participated, condemned slavery in 1815, and the British Navy actively suppressed the trade in the early 1800s.

    So regardless of what people in the time of Plato (400 BCE), Mohammad (600 CE) or the Aztecs (14th Century CE) may have found acceptable, their mores no longer held sway by 1860. Yet Lee was willing to go to war against his own country to preserve the sin.

  17. George Mitchell says:

    “Washington’s vices were largely of his age…”

    Whereas the confederate slave owners…?

  18. Vincent Hanna says:

    Indeed they are not comparable at all. You make many good points Ed. I understand your views. I don’t understand those who are vociferously arguing against removing any and all Confederate monuments, and they certainly aren’t making any convincing arguments here.

  19. Wait A Minute, Chester says:

    Excellent discussion here, and I join everyone in thanking Ed for his thoughtful comments. Ironic, though, that it would be sparked by such a boorish and insipid initial post.

    As the discussion indicates, there are lot of things to consider when evaluating our history and how to commemorate it. Falling back on the Trumpian “But Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, too!” is about as inane as it gets.

  20. Matt says:

    George Mitchell’s defense of slavery and the confederacy is weird, as is his attempt to sully Lincoln and Washington in a discussion that has little to do with a long history of oppression, slavery, discrimination and general racism, that recently resulted in a nutjob running into a crowd of people in an attempt at mass murder.

    We all pick our battles. Sometimes the battles we pick say a lot more about ourselves than we imagine. Thanks for sharing Mr. Mitchell. Now get back under your little rock. Recognize your time has passed. Being old is no longer an excuse for letting out whatever dumb stuff pops into your head. Show some grace and be quiet. Your descendants will appreciate it.

  21. George Mitchell says:

    A very nuanced reading of my views from Matt

  22. Vincent Hanna says:

    Matt raises a very good point. Why pick this battle George? Why so eager to defend Confederate monuments?

  23. George Mitchell says:

    Vince, it flows directly from my defense of slavery….just connect the dots

  24. Vincent Hanna says:

    And to think you were complaining about how others were interpreting your comments. Thanks for the unbiased sources.

  25. George Mitchell says:

    Vince, your defense of those who massacred and then created “reservations” for Native Americans is surprising

  26. Wait A Minute, Chester says:

    Who’s striking a pose now?

  27. George Mitchell says:

    can’t make it up

    ESPN Broadcaster Robert Lee Won’t Be Calling Virginia Game Due To Name

    ESPN announced tonight that broadcaster Robert Lee will not call the University of Virginia’s first home football game of the season, as originally planned, “simply because of the coincidence of his name,” which he shares with the Confederate icon.

  28. Kelly says:

    Thanks, Ed. I don’t see why the plaque needed to be removed. Sad that the governor seems anxious to get on the PC train. I thought he was smarter than that.

  29. Vincent Hanna says:

    You must be so proud to have Trump on your side here George as he really is a fine leader on this issue. What an inspiring and hopeful speech he gave last night, so eloquently stating his case on Confederate monuments.

  30. George Mitchell says:


    I was NeverTrump. I hoped as of Nov. 9 I would be wrong. His Phx rally was dumb, but no surprise.

    Your comment #32 employs the weak rhetorical tactic of not addressing what I said in my post. Similar to your claim that I am “eager to defend” the monuments.

    I admit to being undisciplined by even responding to you. Your stream of factual errors onn education should have warned me off for good. So I have learned my lesson No more

  31. Wait A Minute, Chester says:

    George, your links above, in particular to the execrable Victor Davis Hanson, belie your denial. You would never have made your initial post if you weren’t eager to defend the monuments. That’s fine – and as the discussion above shows, it’s not a simple question. But the cheap, hastily written and emotion-driven tirade against Paul Soglin lacks any of the nuance and complexity the issue requires. A lot like the president whom you deny supporting.

  32. Vincent Hanna says:

    There’s a whole lot more to the ESPN/Robert Lee story. It’s a pet cause for a right-wing Fox Sports guy who is part of a longtime right-wing crusade to tarnish ESPN. A good read.

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