Current arguments over Confederate monuments often involve the question of drawing a line. The majority of the first nine American presidents owned slaves, so should we destroy memorials to all of them?
The obvious answer is no—unless such monuments specifically honored these men for their support of an evil institution, and none of them do. The Jefferson memorial, for instance, focuses on his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and his support for religious liberty, but there’s no endorsement of slavery or racism.
Equestrian statues of General Robert E. Lee tell a very different story, and in nearly all of them he’s wearing the uniform of a hostile Army that killed more American soldiers than any foreign power. Lee could be honored appropriately for his post-war role as peacemaker and college president, but it’s wrong to hail him for waging needless war in defense of slavery and threatening the very existence of his own nation.