Allow "The Lincoln Statue" on Bascom Hill to stand
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Recently, there has been a push by some of UW Madison’s student body to remove Bascom Hill’s statue of Abraham Lincoln. The reasons behind these students’ resolve to do away with the monument are worthy of consideration.
The two main donors of the statue were virulent racists. One was a journalist who used his pen to incite violence against black Americans; the other was an outspoken member of the Ku Klux Klan. We do not seek to deny this fact. However, we do seek to assert that in the century since the monument was erected, it has become a symbol of honor and unity for our university. A symbol that for decades, graduating badgers of all walks of life have gathered to to celebrate their graduation from our institution. This is Abe’s enduring legacy. The White House may have been built on the backs of slaves, but today it is a symbol of enduring institutions. Buildings, statues, human makings of stone and steel, their value and meaning can change over time.
Additionally, these concerned students take issue with President Lincoln’s legacy, namely his relationship with the United States’ Native American population. Lincoln signed the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 into law, which would displace thousands of Native Americans. However, these policies, as atrocious as they may be, were not uncommon or unpopular in Lincoln’s time or the times of his successor. It’s easy to judge people that lived hundreds or thousands of years ago by modern standards. But in doing so, any person born more than a few decades ago suddenly becomes a monster. No, we must judge people in the context of their time.
What Lincoln did that was extraordinary for his time was end slavery. He liberated millions from bondage, he gave every measure of his devotion to preserve our union, and ultimately he gave his life so that his nation, our nation, may have a new birth of freedom. There’s a reason that Americans from across the aisle regard him as one of the greatest, if not the greatest president in American history.
We are more than open to compromises regarding the future of the statue. It would be entirely appropriate to put a plaque on the base of the statue acknowledging the statue’s sordid origins, as well as President Lincoln’s legacy. If what it takes to preserve this piece of the university and American history is to put an asterisk next to it, then that is fine with us. Additionally, we will be fully supportive of the erection of monuments to Native Americans, namely the Ho-Chunk people, on whose land this university was built.
If you agree with us, please take the time to sign our petition.
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