It is a shame that the vandals who defaced the Beauregard statue were not aware that he believed that black lives mattered as well. He swore an oath of loyalty, applied for a pardon under terms of President Andrew Johnston’s amnesty proclamation for ex-Confederates, and after it was granted, his remaining civil rights, including being able to hold office, were restored by an act of Congress.
In 1873, Beauregard was a leader of the “Louisiana Unification Movement” that sought to persuade blacks to leave the Republican Party and join with them in the Democratic Party. Beauregard was chairman of the resolutions committee at a public meeting of the organization, which Dr. T. Harry Williams wrote “advocated complete political equality for the Negro, equal division of state offices between the races (and) denounced discrimination because of color in hiring laborers or selecting directors of corporations, and called for abandonment of segregation in public conveyances, public places, railroads, steamboats, and public schools.” With many whites opposed to these proposals, and blacks suspicious of the motives of whites, the reform movement failed.
Regardless of his own motives or views, Beauregard advocated reconciliation throughout the postwar years. He was not a slave owner, but a career soldier, and if he is to be regarded as a traitor to the U.S. government, then surely the soldiers of our Revolution were traitors to the British government.
It is said that in war, the victors get to write the history of it. After the guns were silenced, the South wrote its own history of the war, and it is regrettable that the Confederate flag became associated with the Klan, the Dixiecrats and opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision outlawing segregation in public schools.
We now seem to be in the midst of a Second Reconstruction that calls for removal of all symbols of the Confederacy and its leaders, but to misrepresent the beliefs and actions of many of them, including P.G.T. Beauregard, is a rewriting of history that does a disservice to his heroism in the war with Mexico, his generalship in the Civil War and his leadership in his community after the war. It is ironic that his name was removed from a public school a few years ago when he called for an end to segregation in 1873.
Jack B. McGuire
historian and savings and loan vice president