John C. Breckenridge – the Rand Paul of his day

This is the man standing on our Main Street – perhaps the most prominent piece of public art in the city. (that’s him, crowning the plaza.)

The revisionist history that literally surrounds the Breckenridge statue on Main Street is startling.  Reading the words that surround the statue make it seem as if Breck  was the absolute most awesome God-Certified American Patriot that ever walked the streets of Lexington.

Why take a read here:  This panel says he was a “Statesman”!

Yes he was.

In the US Senate, his condemnation as a “traitor,” who had “joined the enemies of his country” still rings.  He was unanimously expelled by the Senate.  This is the man we honor on our Main Street.

“Breckinridge became a spokesman for the proslavery Democrats, arguing that the federal government had no right to interfere with slavery anywhere, either in the District of Columbia or in any of the territories.” (from the Official US Senate biography:  http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/VP_John_Breckinridge.htm) This is the man we honor on our Main Street.

His beliefs were clear:  “Although his cousin Mary Todd Lincoln resided in the White House and his home state of Kentucky remained in the Union, Breckinridge chose to volunteer his services to the Confederate army.”  He obviously did this because he thought slavery was right.

He ran for President in 1860 as the State’s Rights (Pro-Slavery) candidate, and he was the darling of the secessionist south.  He won the votes of every state that would soon form the Confederacy.

What a statesman!  Funny though, none of the panels around the statue mention any of these particular facts.

This is the man we honor on our Main Street.

This panel says he was a “Citizen/Lawyer”! (whatever the fuck that means – I thought all lawyers had to be citizens, and that, unless you were black, you were a citizen in that day and age…I guess the powers that be here in Lex decided that it made him sound humble, yet a productive member of society. )

The panel says that Breck was in exile after the Civil War and received a presidential pardon.  “In exile” makes it sound like he had no choice.  He did have a choice.  He figured he was going to be hanged as a traitor so he split to Cuba as the war was winding down.  Then he moved to Canada (I assume cause there was more white people there…)

The panel says that Breck received Presidential amnesty. That makes it sound like it was some personal honor.  It was not. On Christmas Day, 1868, departing President Andrew Johnson issued a blanket amnesty for all Confederates. He was not given amnesty personally.

This is the man we honor on our Main Street.

This panel honors the “Soldier.” It says that he “participated in raid on Washington D.C.”  This must bring joy to every teabagging heart, and a tear to every government-hater’s eye.  What envy they must feel for this man, this awesome God-Certified American Patriot. He actually lived their dreams – a raid on Washington!

I guess there wasn’t room on the panel to tell of the stark defeat that met the raid.  But I guess people around here are smart enough to remember exactly how the whole ‘hate the government’ thing ended….arent they?

Folks, we cannot toss this off to wrong-headed people of the ancient past.  Last year, there was a conscious decision to move this man to where he faces Main Street.  Last year, there was a conscious decision to write and then place this revisionist, white-washed history at his feet.  Last year, all this occurred on land where humans were once sold.

We missed a great opportunity to have a real discussion about our past and what it means to our present and our future. Breckenridge was no doubt a very talented and gifted person.  No doubt that his life has a very deep relevance to us here.  But to blindly, and deliberately exalt him does not help.

But maybe all this only matters to me.

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