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As Long as We Remember...

May 6, 2019

Who Greased The Slippery Slope

John W. Ashbury

An article in the Frederick News-Post of April 23 on Page 1 by Ryan Massey detailed an effort by some to change the name of Governor Thomas Johnson High and Middle Schools – because Johnson owned slaves.


            We have already seen revisionist history taking place in Frederick with the removal of the Johnson bust and that of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney from in front of what is now Frederick City Hall. It is obvious to many that both of these men hold a place in the history of Frederick, particularly that of the Taney bust which was dedicated on September 26, 1931, by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. And, it was the first national broadcast on radio.


            Only recently the city alderman behind that move was quoted in another FNP article saying that we must preserve the historical integrity of the fountain at the entrance to Baker Park during renovations. Hypocrisy?


            Perhaps a recount of Governor Johnson’s accomplishments is in order, for his record as a statesman in colonial America is surpassed by only a few.


            ---in 1762 he was a member of the lower House of the Maryland Assembly.


            ---He represented Maryland in the first Continental Congress in 1774.


            ---He was a member of the Second Continual Congress in 1775


            ---He nominated George Washington to be the commander of the Continental Army.


            ---He became a brigadier general of the Maryland Militia for the Upper District in 1776.


            ---He came the supreme commander of the Maryland Militia in 1777


            ---He was elected and sworn in as the first non-colonial governor of Maryland in 1777, and served three years.


            ---He signed the United States Constitution for Maryland in 1788.


            ---In 1790 he became the chief judge of the General Court of Maryland.


            ---In 1791 he was appointed by President George Washington to head the Federal City Planning Commission that laid out Washington, D.C.


            ---Also in 1791 he was appointed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.


            ---And in his last public event appearance, he delivered the eulogy for George Washington at a lavish funeral for the former president held in Frederick on February 22, 1800.


            It is easy to see that his contributions to the birth of our nation were exceeded by only a handful of men beyond those of The Founding Fathers themselves.


            If we continue down this “slippery slope” of wiping out the history of slavery, at some point we are condemned to repeat this mark on our society.


            Consider that if we continue this path:


---Mount Vernon will have to be torn down because George Washington owned slaves.


            ---the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial will have to be destroyed.


            ---Our nation’s capital will have to be renamed.


            --- George Washington University will need a new name.


            ---Lee Highway in Virginia will have to be renamed and all statues to the memory of Robert E. Lee – wherever they are – will have to be taken down – as will those to any of the valiant men and women who fought for something they believed in.


            ---How many towns across the nation named Leesburg will have to be renamed.


            ---and what about Lynchburg, Virginia?


            ---All monuments to any one who fought for the Confederacy – even those not raised to a specific individual.


            The list is endless. We can become obsessed with this whole idea that there are some people in our history who were not of sterling character. And there are numerous event that we don’t like remembering, but if we forget them we are “doomed” to repeat them.


            So enough with this idea of changing the name of Governor Thomas Johnson High School and Governor Thomas Johnson Middle School. There are much more important things to be considered – like teaching our elected officials how to talk to each other to get something done for the citizens of the great nation.


[Also published as a Letter to The Editor in the Frederick News-Post on May 4, 2019]



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