New Historical Monument for Monument Ave. in Richmond Virginia.

New Historical Monument for Monument Ave. in Richmond Virginia.

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Joel Betts started this petition to Office of the Mayor of Richmond Virginia Levar Stoney and

To the Honorable Ralph Northam, Eileen Filler and members of the House of Delegates of Virginia,
We the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia humbly request that the City of Richmond strongly consider replacing one of the recently removed Confederate monuments with one of Virginia Anti-slavery Unionist, John Minor Botts of Richmond Virginia, Who lies interred with honors at Shockoe Hill Cemetery.

He who had attempts on his life on the night of Abraham Lincolns assassination, who was arrested and imprisoned by the Confederate Provost Marshal John H. Winder and CSA General J.E.B. Stewart for refusing to remain silent on the subject of slavery as an immoral institution, and who refused to sign the articles of secession for Virginia, nor to willingly relinquish his seat to which he was elected by the people in the House of Representatives

I feel that he is a significant historical figure that could possibly be accepted and admired by all peoples who may hold opposing views. For many generations his deeds and accomplishments have been over-shadowed by the local focus on Confederate iconology.

Short History of John Minor "The Bison" Botts

  •  Member of the US House of Representatives
  • Served three terms in Congress
  • Led the campaign to impeach President Tyler
  • One of only five Southern politicians to vote for repeal of the gag resolution.
  • Rejected the Kansas-Nebraska Act
  • Republican presidential nominee
  • Anti-secessionist
  • Believed in a free labor Union
  • Did not "go with his state", like other well-known Virginia sons, But stood his ground on his beliefs. 
  • 2nd swiftest person in history to read law and pass the bar exam. (surpassed only by Patrick Henry) 
  • His father Benjamin Botts was Aaron Burr's trial lawyer. 
  • Created innovative farming techniques still in use today. 
  • Bred world famous horses.

Botts was a Virginia landholder who at an early stage showed striking independence from his party, the Whigs on slavery-related issues. In 1841, as a member of the US House of Representatives where he led the campaign to impeach President Tyler for betraying the Whigs he was one of five Upper South Whigs to vote for repeal of the so-called "gag resolution" on receiving anti-slavery petitions.

Many years later, in a well-known speech denouncing the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Botts noted that he himself was a slaveholder and that anyone who called him an abolitionist was a fool or a knave but- "My position on the question of slavery is this, and, so far from wishing to conceal it, I desire it should be known to all. Muzzles were made for dogs, and not for men, and no press and no party can put a muzzle on my mouth so long as I value my freedom. I make bold, then, to proclaim that I am no slavery propagandist. I will resort to all proper remedies to protect and defend slavery where it exists, but I will neither assist in nor encourage any attempt to force it upon a reluctant people any where, and still less will I justify the use of the military power of the country to establish it in any of the territories..".
-Unlike some other Virginians, Botts did not "go with his state", but continued to make his anti-secessionist sentiments known, and on a couple of occasions was arrested by Confederate authorities...

William Freehling in The Road to Disunion, Volume II : Secessionists Triumphant describes Botts at some length:

"Both worshippers and detesters called Botts “the Bison.” Botts possessed the right credentials to charge against the Virginia establishment: a proper father. Benjamin Botts was a famous Virginia lawyer. But John Minor’s father and mother perished in the Richmond Theater’s famous fire on the day after Christmas, 1811.

"The orphan considered himself old enough, at age nine(!), to make his own way. During the nine years after flames consumed his parents, Botts streaked through school, conquering Greek, Latin, French, and mathematics, and then, in a six-week spree, read the law. Only Patrick Henry had been admitted to the Virginia bar as swiftly, and Henry, unlike Botts, had served an apprenticeship to a senior lawyer.

"In his six subsequent years at the Richmond bar, young Botts secured a golden trail of clients. Then, in his mid-twenties, the comer decided that lawyering offered too little reward. On his Henrico County estate, the precocious squire achieved record farm yields and raised famous blooded horses. In 1828, still under thirty, Botts swept into the state legislature as a Whig representative of a usually Democratic district. In the 1840s, he served three terms in Congress from Richmond City.

"After all these unlikely triumphs, no one could tell John Minor Botts anything; and he did love to tell off the secessionists. In the Bison’s opinion, a land of opportunity deserved loving patriots. Instead, the land harbored reeking traitors. Botts dammed the Kansas-Nebraska Act as “the most wanton, the most mischievous, the most suicidal, and the most unpardonable act ever committed.” With “utter loathing and contempt,” he termed the secessionists “enemies,” “insane,” “infamous.”..."As befit an unmuzzled insulter, the Bison flaunted a huge frame with a massive chest, a bulging waist, and a thick face. While other squires looked as overbearing, no Virginia titan matched Botts’s hint of the savage: his unruly hair. Wayward locks curled crookedly down his stern face and stout neck before brushing his exquisite suit, fashioned from the best English cloth. In appearance as in language, this Virginia squire fused polish and pugnacity.

"Botts’s pugnacious agitation for non-agitation contrasted revealingly with the other 1860 comer who could be seen as an incongruous combination of opposites. Renowned aristocrats in the oldest South sired Botts and William Lowndes Yancey. Both fathers died tragically early. But where Yancey suffered dependence on a righteous abolitionist stepfather, Botts cherished the independence of an Horatio Alger striver. Where Yancey’s experience with a castigator of southern morality provoked hatred of Yankee presumption, Botts’s performance of a rags-to-riches saga inspired adoration of a free labor Union. Where the Alabama extremist surprised moderates with his mellow voice and mild appearance, the Virginia moderate unsettled ultras with his fiery insults and unbridled appearance. By acting and looking exactly the opposite of the way that folks expected, both stood out from their own crowd; and opponents considered both eccentrics perilously attractive."

Botts in 1860 seriously considered a fusion movement of Oppositionists like himself with the Republicans. He tried to persuade the Republicans that instead of denouncing slavery per se, they should denounce the "unnatural" expansion of slavery. As Botts saw it--and as he privately assured Republicans--this was the same for practical purposes as coming out openly for no further extension of slavery--because "unnatural" expansion fostered by the federal government was the only way slavery could expand at all. (He classified any attempt to obtain new slave territory in Latin America as "unnatural" expansion, as was of course the Missourians' fraud in Kansas.)

"The would-be Republican presidential nominee remained discreetly silent about his belief that without unnatural slavery expansion, the institution would naturally contract to a few Lower South states. To lure Republicans with this disguised antislavery bait, Botts chose Anna Carroll, the wealthy Baltimore lobbyist. Although barred from voting or holding office, rich ladies charmed politicians in Washington drawing rooms. The provoking Botts relied on the winsome Carroll to cajole the cautious Thurlow Weed, New York’s Republican titan and a likely mover and shaker in the party’s presidential nomination process.

"If Southern Democrats had discovered that their Richmond nemesis “unsexed” himself by secretly appointing a lady to sweet-talk him to a Republican presidential nomination, much less that he privately hoped for slavery’s Upper South extinction, they would have possessed the smoking gun, demonstrating that this agitating non-agitator masked disloyal principles. But Southern Democrats thought that Botts’s thick smoke sufficiently demonstrated a hidden fire.

After the Richmonder outdid Republicans in slandering proslavery agitators as immoral and in smearing slaveholder expansionism as unnatural, how could he help but be a secret opponent of slavery? And how could a barely hidden Republican collaborator fail to shuck his camouflage, once his northern friends held power and offered patronage? Then no one would outdo the Bison in selling Republicanism to restive non-slaveholders and (inadvertently) to restive slaves. Thus for a season, John Minor Botts swelled up as the most dangerous of potential Upper South Republicans..."

In the end of course Republicans decided that slavery expansion could be blocked only by denouncing it unequivocally. And Botts supported Bell as the only candidate who could carry Virginia against Breckinridge. But with Lincoln elected--and the Republicans organizing several territories without restrictions on slavery--Botts could claim that the Republicans had embraced his position of opposing only the "unnatural" expansion of slavery (in the knowledge of course that slavery simply could not expand without "unnatural" support). So the way for cooperation of an Upper South "Oppositionist" like Botts and Lincoln would be open. Leading to a Lincoln-Botts ticket in 1864.

BTW, the secessionists weren't the only people who found Botts anti-slavery. So did Hinton Rowan Helper in The Impending Crisis of the South who explained that his denunciation of slaveholding politicians did not apply to people like Botts: "But what shall we say of such men as Botts, Stuart, and Macfarland of Virginia; of Raynor, Morehead, Miller, Stanly, Graves, and Graham of North Carolina; of Davis and Hoffman of Maryland; of Blair and Benton of Missouri; of the Marshalls of Kentucky; and of Etheridge of Tennessee?

All these gentlemen, and many others of the same school, entertain, we believe, sentiments similar to those that were entertained by the immortal Fathers of the Republic--that slavery is a great moral, social, civil, and political evil, to be got rid of at the earliest practical period--and if they do, in order to secure our votes, it is only necessary for them to "have the courage of their opinions," to renounce slavery, and to come out frankly, fairly and squarely, in favor of freedom. To neither of these patriotic sons of the South, nor to any one of the class to which they belong, would we give any offence whatever. In our strictures on the criminality of pro-slavery demagogues we have had heretofore, and shall have hereafter, no sort of reference to any respectable slaveholder--by which we mean, any slaveholder who admits the injustice and inhumanity of slavery, and who is not averse to the discussion of measures for its speedy and total extinction. Such slaveholders are virtually on our side, that is, on the side of the non-slaveholding whites, with whom they may very properly be classified...."

"I know no North, no South, no East, no West. I know only my Country, my whole Country, and nothing but my Country."  -John M. Botts

John Minor Botts Wikipedia Page

Link to a book written by John Minor Botts "The Great Rebellion"

Thank you for your time and consideration.


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