There is so much craziness going on in the country, it is hard to know where to begin. On Friday, June 19, Attorney General William Barr put out a press release that the United States Attorney for the Southern District, Geoffrey S. Berman, had resigned. This was news to Berman. He responded to Barr that he wasn’t going anywhere. After a day of dueling emails, Berman agreed to leave on the condition that his deputy be appointed as the interim United States Attorney. Barr and the president have pointed fingers at each other for forcing Berman out. Barr said that the president fired Berman, and Trump said it was Barr’s idea and he had nothing to do with it.
They understand how bad this looks. The United States Attorney’s office for the Southern District has been investigating Trump cronies such as Rudy Giuliani and the Trump organization. It looks like an attempt to deep-six these investigations. To no surprise, there has been little reaction by Republican elected officials. They have not had the courage to criticize the president for more than three and a half years, so why would I expect anything different now?
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and leaders of the Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking that the Public Design Commission remove the 1883 statue of President Thomas Jefferson from the City Council chambers, calling it “inappropriate” and “a constant reminder of the injustices that have plagued communities of color since the inception of our country.” I do not want to minimize the shortcomings of Jefferson, but his critics pale in comparison to what Jefferson did for this country. To them, everything that he has done, such as writing the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and authorizing the Louisiana Purchase, is less important than his being a slave owner.
They also forget that on December 2, 1806, in his annual message to Congress, President Jefferson called for the criminalization of international slave trade. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves was signed into law by Jefferson on March 2, 1807, by which no new slaves were permitted to be imported into the United States. There are those who feel the same about other founding fathers such as George Washington. If you feel that way, here is the chance to put your money where your mouth is.
In November 1775, the Loyalist Governor Lord Dunmore of Virginia issued a proclamation that all slaves who escaped their patriot masters would be declared free in Virginia. On June 30, 1779, British Army General Henry Clinton expanded on Dunmore’s actions and issued the Philipsburg Proclamation, which promised protection and freedom to all slaves in the colonies who escaped from their patriot masters. There was no reciprocal response from the patriots.
If you believed that a person’s view on slavery was the most important issue in picking which side to support, then you would have been a loyalist during the American Revolution. After the war, you would have joined Benedict Arnold and other loyalists who escaped to England or to Canada. Of course, those who feel that way today are staying in America and, instead, are using the rights that Jefferson had help craft to try to erase his memory.
On Friday, June 19, a bust of Ulysses S. Grant was destroyed in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It was ironic that it was done on the anniversary of the day that the slaves in Texas found out that they were free. Texas was the last state to inform the slaves of their freedom. Ulysses S. Grant was the general who is most credited with achieving military victory over the Confederacy. In other words, it was Grant whose victories on the battlefield made Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation a reality. If the South had won the war, slavery would have remained.
In Minnesota, a statue of Calvin Griffith, who helped bring Major League Baseball to Minnesota, is being removed because of a one-time racist rant that he made. Others have lost jobs because of comments that some felt were not sensitive to the BLM [Black Lives Matter]. One guy lost a job because of something his wife said.
This is in contrast to what has happened to Al Sharpton. Sharpton has a position at MSNBC hosting a daily show, he has a political action group (National Action Network), and he was the featured speaker at George Floyd’s funeral. In November 1987, a black teenager named Tawana Brawley was found smeared with feces and in garbage bags in Wappinger Falls, New York. She claimed she was raped by four white men. Sharpton became her advisor and accused prosecutor Steven Pagones of being one of the rapists. In 1998, Pagones was awarded $345,000 through a lawsuit for defamation of character that he had brought against Sharpton and others. The jury found Sharpton liable for making seven defamatory statements about Pagones. A grand jury determined that the incident was a hoax.
Fast-forward to 1991, when a seven-year-old boy, Gavin Cato, was killed by a driver in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade in Crown Heights. An anti-Semitic riot ensued, during which rabbinical student Yankel Rosenbaum was murdered. Sharpton, at Cato’s funeral, reportedly said, “Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid… All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no coffee klatsch, no skinnin’ and grinnin’.” Sharpton declared at a rally in Harlem the day of the funeral: “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”
We are fortunate that our Founding Fathers created a system that will help us get past the mob rule that has swept this country. James Madison, in the Federalist Papers #10, warned of this phenomenon and helped create a system of checks and balances to make sure that mob rule will not destroy the country. One only has to look at the French Revolution to see what happens when the mob has unfettered control.