Since 1896, a statue of Calhoun has stood in Marion Square in the historic city’s downtown. However, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, statues of certain historical figures across the country — and also across the world — have been coming down, either having been forcibly removed by protesters, or ordered removed by the municipalities that manage them.
Most of those statues have been of Confederate generals or generic representations of foot soldiers who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Some, however, have been not of Confederate fighters, but of other individuals whose actions and attitudes — seen through the lens of current attitudes — were problematic.
Such is the case with Calhoun, who died a decade before the Civil War broke out. However, in his years serving as a statesman, he argued in favor of slavery. As HistoryNet reported in 2002, his defense of slavery is believed to have informed the Confederate states’ decision to secede from the Union — the act which started the Civil War.
To the authorities in Charleston, that means his statue has to go.
Last week, Mayor John Tecklenburg announced his intention to send a resolution to the city council calling for the removal of the statue. Since then, a majority of the council’s members have expressed their support for removing the monument, effectively indicating that Tuesday night’s vote is all but a sure thing.
“What a beautiful show of support from our City Council,” Tecklenburg said.
So far, what will become of the monument remains to be seen. Tecklenburg posited that it will likely go to an educational institution or to a museum, where it would at once be protected from vandals and would be understood in its historical context. Already, there’s a precedent for such a move. As previously documented by The Inquisitr, the city of Mobile, Alabama has put into motion plans to move a statue of Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes to a museum.
South Carolina does have a law intended to protect certain historical artifacts from being moved out of public spaces. The Heritage Act was passed in 2000 as an attempt to forestall the removal of such monuments, but it is not believed to be applicable in the Charleston case. The Calhoun monument is not on city land — but rather on land that the city leases — and is not directly related to the Civil War.