|WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-6) delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 7573, legislation to replace the bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and remove Confederate statues and other reminders of slavery and segregation from the U.S. Capitol:
“I thank the speaker for yielding me the time and I thank my friend from North Carolina for his leadership and his management of this significant piece of legislation. I want to thank Mr. Davis and the other members on the other side for their tremendous cooperation and trying to help us move to a more perfect union.
“Mr. Speaker, several years ago I stood on this floor and I referred to this chamber, this great hall, as America’s classroom, and it’s in that spirit that I think of this building as America’s schoolhouse, and what is taught in this building, what is experienced by the people who visit this building ought to be about the uplifting of this great nation, and what people see when they come here, who people see lauded, glorified, and honored when they visit this building ought to be people who are uplifting to history and the human spirit.
“It is in that light that I recall the writings of one great writer who wrote that, “if we fail to learn the lessons of history,” I think it was George Santayana, “we are bound to repeat them.” There are a lot of lessons to be learned from history. I study it every day. Hardly a day goes by without spending some time looking at some facet of American history. We did not come to this Floor with this legislation to get rid of that history. A lot of it, we don’t like. A lot of it, we do like, and I think that what we need to do is discern between what should be honored and what should be relegated to the museums and to other places to commemorate that history. That’s not eradicating history. That is putting history in its proper place, and for those who did not do what I think they should have done; they’ve got a place in the history books, but it’s not to be honored, and it’s not to be glorified. It ought to be put in its proper perspective.
“So I don’t have a problem with the fact that one of the statues in here, John C. Calhoun—he was a historical figure, died in 1850, if my memory serves, 10 years before the war broke out. So, we aren’t talking about John C. Calhoun as a Confederate. We’re talking about John C. Calhoun as one of the nation’s biggest proponents of slavery and the relegation of human beings, and I want to thank my home state of South Carolina because the people of Charleston, Mayor Tecklenburg and the City Council in Charleston decided several weeks ago that John C. Calhoun’s statue should be taken down, and they did it. Clemson University, Calhoun, one of the great founders of that university, one of the original land grant schools. Clemson University decided that they would take John C. Calhoun’s name off of their honors college. So, if the state of South Carolina, where he was from, sees that, why is it that we are going to laud him in this building? I’m asking my colleagues to do for John C. Calhoun what his home state is doing for him. Putting him in his proper place. Not a place of honor. They didn’t tear down his statue; they very meticulously took it down to retire it to his proper place.
“Mr. Speaker, you and I spoke last night about one of the other gentlemen whose statue is in this building, Wade Hampton. Wade Hampton, he was not a Confederate, but he was a perseverer. There were three Wade Hamptons, senior and the third, but Wade Hampton’s history should not be glorified. I don’t know what my state’s going to do about him, but what I would like to see us do here is put him in his proper place. So, those two statues that are here representing the state of South Carolina need to be removed from their places of honor and at some point, I would hope the state would bring them back home and put them in their proper place.
“And so, I’d like to say today that I’m not for destroying any statue. I’m not here for burning down any building. I’m here to ask my colleagues to very properly and lawfully return these people to their proper place. Put them where they can be studied, put them where people will know exactly who and what they were, but do not honor them. Do not glorify them. Take them out of this great schoolhouse, so that the people who visit here can be uplifted by what this country is all about. Thank you, and I yield back.”