Lincoln statues under attack in the largest city in the Land of Lincoln

Lincoln: The Man in 2008

By John Ruberry

On Wednesday, in response to the summer riot in Chicago that nearly toppled a Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park last month–it and another Columbus statue have been since placed in storage–Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Monument Project revealed 41 monuments that “have been identified for public discussion.” 

The project’s web site cautions, in bold print no less, “No decisions have been made about the following monuments.”

Yeah, right. BS! Imagine that you work at a company where the annual reviews are conducted each December. But in June you are informed that you’ll soon have a mid-year review but then are told, “Don’t worry, nothing is wrong.” At that point a wise person will begin the process of résumé updating. 

The statues, reliefs, and plaques include monuments honoring four presidents, several memorials recalling the first Europeans to visit Chicago, Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette, as well as generals, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and many public art pieces with Native American themes. And yes of course those two Columbus statues. Oh, if you are one of those people who believe Leif Ericsson was the real European discoverer of America don’t be smug. He’s on Lightfoot commission’s list too.

This not a list of shame. It’s a tragic shame that there is such a list.

Five of the 41 monuments are Abraham Lincoln statues–and there are five Lincoln statues in Chicago. Hmm. Widely considered by liberals and conservatives as the greatest American president, the Great Emancipator’s presence in Illinois is profound and inescapable. “Land of Lincoln” is emblazoned on every Illinois license plate as is Honest Abe’s visage. 

I live on Lincoln Avenue in a Chicago suburb–that street winds its way south into Chicago and Lincoln Park, where you’ll encounter what Andrew Ferguson in his book Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America says is “what is generally thought to be the greatest Lincoln statue of the nineteenth century, a towering figure by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.” That makes this statue, generally referred to as Lincoln Standing although its formal name is Lincoln: The Man, a masterpiece. Yep, a masterpiece. So much so that it has been recast several times, and those Lincoln: The Man reproductions can be found in Parque Lincoln in Mexico City, Parliament Square in London, Forest Lawn Cemetery–Hollywood Hills, and the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield. Earlier this month Little Marathon Pundit and I visited the Detroit Institute of Arts, where we found one of the many miniatures of Lincoln: The Man

Of course back in Chicago the original artistic triumph is “under public discussion.” In Grant Park sits another targeted Saint-Gaudens work, Abraham Lincoln: Head of State.

Also troubling is the aforementioned Marquette and Jolliet memorials on this list. Jolliet, while crossing the Chicago Portage in what is now southwestern suburban Cook County, noted that it would be an excellent location for a canal, one that would connect the watersheds of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Lincoln, while a member of the Illinois legislature, was a proponent of the Illinois-Michigan Canal, which opened 17 decades after the Marquette-Jolliet expedition. While that canal very well may have been built without either men, if it hadn’t, Chicago may have ended up like many other small cities on Lake Michigan, like Sheboygan, Wisconin. (Oh, I’ve been there–it’s a lovely place by the way.)

George Washington has two “nominations” from the Chicago Monuments Project, including his horseback statue in his namesake park. McKinley Park’s statue of William McKinley is in peril too. Does that mean their park names will be next? While Grant Park doesn’t have a Ulysses S. Grant statue–Lincoln Park does. He has a nomination too, as do his fellow union generals Phil Sheridan, on Sheridan Road no less, and John Logan, whose statue stands in Grant Park.  

Lori Lightfoot is a failed mayor in a city that is in clear decline. Failed mayor? She’s up for reelection in a little more than two years and already there is speculation as to who her opponents will be. Since I declared Chicago a city in decline last summer its retail cash cow, North Michigan Avenue, has been hit by the announment of two closings, a massive Gap store and Macy’s at Water Tower Place. Chicago’s streets are potholed disasters, there are omnipresent red-light cameras to contend with, the murder rate is soaring, as are the number of car jackings. Taxes are oppresive, and its financial millstone, the worst-funded municipal pension progam in the nation, has never been properly addressed. Oh, this appears to be a little thing but graffiti is no longer routinely cleaned up along Chicago’s expressways. The proliferation of kudzu-like graffiti foreshadowed New York City’s descent in the 1970s.

Instead Lightfoot zooms in on statues and monuments to pander to her leftist base. 

The ultimate responsibility for this real-life dystopia of course goes to Chicago’s misguided voters. What was it that H.L Mencken said of democracy? Ah yes, here it is, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Chicago voters are a special kind of common people it seems

That being said there has been surprisingly little anger here in the Chicago area about these possible monument removals, as coverage has been modest and a major snowstorm earlier last week, on top of another one, had people focused on more immediate needs. 

But that needs to change. Click here on the Chicago Monuments Project web site to offer your thoughts. As always, please be polite–but be firm too. The form asks for a ZIP code. A Chicago one will make you more acceptable to those reading the replies; choose any 606 ZIP code between 60601 and 60661. Just saying.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit. He has visited Lincoln’s birthplace, his Springfield home, Ford’s Theatre, and the Peterson House, where our 16th president passed away.

After the statues are gone the leftists will come for the parks

George Washington statue in Chicago’s Washington Park

By John Ruberry

Early Friday morning before sunrise Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s sneaky order to remove Chicago’s two Christopher Columbus statues, one just south of downtown at Grant Park and the other in Arrigo Park in the Little Italy neighborhood, was carried out.

A week earlier a riot, where 49 police officers were injured with 18 of them being hospitalized, broke out at the Grant Park Columbus statue, fireworks and frozen bottles of water were thrown at the cops by the rioters. Amazingly, the media, as far as I can tell, didn’t call this melee a “mostly peaceful protest.” So there is a bit of good news in this story.

Although removal of the statues was called “temporary” by Lightfoot mark my words: If these bronze monuments ever escape from the Raiders of the Lost Ark-type warehouse where they are hidden, they’ll end up indoors in a museum behind bullet-proof glass and proximity alarms.

At my own blog, Marathon Pundit, I called it a victory of the rioters’ veto. The anarchists won–law, order, and tradition were defeated.

Even before the riots and the overreaching COVID-19 lockdown, Chicago and Illinois were losing population. The trickle will become a flood.

Mayor Lightweight believes she has satiated the leftist beast–her base is the far-left by the way. But the regular protests outside her home by that base of hers should serve as a warning. Now that the Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other leftists have learned that riots bring results, they’ll push for more. Power gained, or I should stay seized, is not casually abandoned by usurpers.

City parks may be next.

This is not just a Chicago story. I’m only singling out America’s third-largest city because of my familiarity with it. They same battles will be coming to your woke city and town too.

There are over 600 parks within the Chicago Park District. One of them is named for Columbus. I’d be surprised if a year from now the great explorer’s name will be on it. There’s a Jackson Park on the South Side, where the Obama Presidential Library will be built. That park is named for Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder who forced Native Americans out of the southeast on the Trail of Tears. Chicago doesn’t have an Obama Park. It’s pretty easy to predict what Jackson Park’s new name will be.

About a mile away from Jackson Park is Washington Park, of course our first president. Up until a few months ago I would have told you that changing the name of this park was an absurd notion. In this era of wokeness, it’s not. On the edge of the park is a statue of General Washington on horseback, which was recently vandalized. Washington Park offers the leftists a two-for-one bargain. A park to be renamed and a statue to topple.

Last week Douglas Park, named for Abraham Lincoln’s Democratic rival Stephen A. Douglas, was renamed Douglass Park, in honor of civil rights pioneer Frederick Douglass. The legacy of “the Little Giant” is complicated, through his wife he was a slaveowner and his Kansas-Nebraska Act initiated the carnage of Bleeding Kansas, but as a US Senator he laid the foundation that transformed his adopted hometown of Chicago into the major city it is now. Douglas was a fervent supporter of the Union and Lincoln after the Civil War broke out, which is forgotten because he died in the summer of 1861. Last month I wrote that the Lincoln and Douglas statues on the sites of their famous 1858 debates could be endangered. So far they are safe. But Michael Madigan, the longtime state House speaker and state Democratic chairman, though a statement (Boss Madigan rarely communicates directly with the media), has called for the removal of the Douglas statue on the state capitol grounds.

Douglas is buried in a tomb on the grounds of his former Chicago estate on the South Side. No one, so far, is calling for him to be exhumed but three state legislators want to take down the statue of him, which rests on a 30-foot high obelisk.

Today, I join with my colleagues @RepTarver@LamontJRobinson to implore @GovPritzker to remove the Stephen Douglas statue from the Neighborhood that I live in & rep. Douglas looked down on black people during his life. We shouldn’t allow it in his death. pic.twitter.com/qDu7n1b5le

— Kam Buckner (@RepKamBuckner) July 14, 2020

Back to the parks. Chicago has two parks honoring Thomas Jefferson, and a Battle of Fort Dearborn Park. That last one refers to what was called the Fort Dearborn Massacre when I was a kid. The battle was between soldiers and Chicago settlers with the Potawatomi.

Will those park names vanish?

When the leftists win the park wars they’ll move on to street names. A tougher fight, yes, as businesses and even run-of-the-mill residents balk at such name changes. But those conflicts are coming to Chicago and many other cities and towns.

Unless ordinary folks stand up, that is. A few have already did so in Chicago Saturday’s Back the Blue march.

That’s a start.

John Ruberry regularly blogs just north of Chicago at Marathon Pundit.