Historic Artifact Management and Patriotism Act
I was proud to vote for SB 22, Historic Artifact Management and Patriotism Act to uphold proper treatment of the North Carolina flag and the American flag, to protect historical documents, and to protect historical monuments from unwarranted removal. There was a senseless controversy that arose over this bill, with false accusations of racism and outrageous slander against Confederate soldiers.
When we heard the bill in my committee, Homeland Security, Military and Veterans Affairs, I made a statement which, predictably, was misquoted and butchered in most of the press. In response to the insistence of some that certain monuments should be removed because they offended some people, I stated that such a suggestion reminded me of George Orwell’s 1984. In that book, the government removed all monuments and suppressed any knowledge of history to keep the people from knowing the truth, and the people just accepted whatever the government said because they didn’t know any better. I said that I didn’t come to Raleigh to be a part of that kind of government. I said that if you don’t know your history, you don’t know who you are. History is what it is, regardless of whether we like it, and we need to know it, whatever it is.
In the debate on the House floor, Rep. Blust pointed out that if we start destroying monuments just because somebody doesn’t like them, we will be no better than ISIS. I heartily agree. There is no guarantee in this State or in America to some supposed right not to be offended.
I was pleasantly surprised when Gov. McCrory signed SB 22 into law. He was under significant pressure not to do so. Some days before we voted on this bill in the House, I put the following statement out on Facebook.
What some people apparently do not understand is that Lincoln pushed us into that war for economic and political reasons, not to set the slaves free. Robert E. Lee despised slavery. When he inherited slaves, he immediately set them free, long before (let's call it what it was) Lincoln's War Against the States. When Lee's wife inherited slaves, he could not set them free before a certain date without dishonoring the will by which she inherited them. By the time that date arrived, Lee was a bit busy defending Virginia and the other States from Lincoln's war of tyranny; but he sent letters of manumission through Yankee lines to set his wife's slaves free. Gen. Grant, on the other hand, did not set his slaves free until he was forced to do so by the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in December, 1865, approximately eight months after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Lincoln made it very clear along the way that he did not wish to make the slaves equal citizens. He wanted to send them all to Liberia, Africa, where many freed slaves were sent. The Confederate Battle Flag is not properly a symbol of racism or slavery. It is a symbol of the States' rights to govern themselves free of federal tyranny. My great-great-grandfather, Amos Wetherington, who never owned a slave and did not support slavery, fought under that flag to uphold the constitutional rights of North Carolina and all the States. That struggle continues today, as long as I am alive. The men who fought for that cause deserve to be remembered and honored. When that flag is used by racists, they dishonor the flag.
That is what should be outlawed, the misuse of the flag to represent racial hatred, not the flag itself or monuments to the memory of brave men who defended their States against brutal invaders and federal tyranny. No one loved the Union more than Robert E. Lee. But he considered Virginia to be his nation, as I do North Carolina. He defended these United States long and vigorously; but he could not stand by and watch the usurper, Lincoln, attack his beloved homeland, or participate in that attack. He did the only honorable thing he could do under the circumstances. Those monuments stand for thousands more who did the same. I would never agree to dishonor the memory of those Union troops who died as pawns in Lincoln's unjust war. But neither will I ever agree to dishonor our Confederate dead.