Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
Richard Stockton was a Founding Father and signer of the Declaration of Independence. He pledged his life, fortune and sacred honor to America. During the American Revolution, Stockton facilitated the war effort through several committees. He fell prisoner to the British, who subjected him to extreme hunger and cold temperatures. When released on parole, he returned to his home estate near Princeton, only to find it pillaged and partially burned at the hands of the British. He opened a law practice and taught students until he developed cancer and died in 1781. So Stockton lost his fortune, but kept his sacred honor, that is, until the university that bears his name decided he was no longer honorable and removed his statue. You see, Stockton owned slaves, and the morally pure administration of Stockton University in New Jersey, just couldn’t have that.
However, during the 18th century, slavery was maintained across the entire globe. Both India and China captured slaves and sold them. In Russia, serfdom existed into the middle of the 19th century, and serf were virtual slaves in thrall to their aristocratic landlords. Historical perspective is worth noting here.
According to the College Fix, University President Harvey Kesselman told the Press of Atlantic City that although the bust was just removed on Aug. 23, Stockton’s identity as a slave-owner has been a point of contention on campus for some time.
He noted the statue “was never placed in context.” In a statement released Aug. 28, Kesselman announced the establishment of the Richard Stockton Exhibit Committee, which will plan the reinstallation of the bust in a setting that explains its historical context and controversy.
“We are hopeful that through the development of the Richard Stockton Exhibit we will demonstrate that difficult issues can be dealt with in a way that strengthens and unites us,” the statement reads.
Diane D’Amico, director of news and media relations at Stockton, told The College Fix that the Aug. 28 statement comprises the university’s official comments on the matter. She also mentioned that, in accordance with the statement, the exhibit committee has had its initial meetings and consulted expert opinions to determine the best way to contextualize Stockton’s legacy.
Others have seen the bust’s removal as unnecessary. After hearing about the decision, some students have called it an overreaction.
Senior Dylan Perry told the Press of Atlantic City that he has hardly hears complaints about the namesake on campus, and that in fact most students do not know much about Richard Stockton.
“The real problem in our nation is not statues of historical figures,” Perry added. “Rather, the problem is that we have people in our nation with hate in their hearts.”
Commenting on the pushback, D’Amico emphasized that the bust has not been discarded but remains, well preserved, in the university’s archives.
“It’s still here in the library, just not on display,” she told The Fix. The bust has been temporarily removed, she continued, given “what’s been happening in the country,” alluding to the sometimes violent protests of statues, such as the one in Charlottesville.
According to D’Amico, the university plans to release another statement soon regarding the committee’s progress, as well as the expected time of the bust’s return.
Removal and destruction of statuary is unworthy of great institutions. Oxford University refused to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes, empire builder and donor of the Rhodes Scholarship. “Following careful consideration, the college’s governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place and that the college will seek to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there,” it said.
The college confirmed it had been warned of the possibility that it would lose about £100m in gifts should the statue be taken down but a spokesman insisted the financial implications were not the primary consideration.
He said the college believed the discussion over whether or not the statue should stay needed to be addressed “in a spirit of free speech and open debate, with a readiness to listen to divergent views”.
The college had intended to open such a debate when, in December last year, it issued a statement making clear it was ready to consult on taking the statue down and agreed to move a plaque dedicated to Rhodes.
“Since that announcement, we have received an enormous amount of input, including comments from students and academics, alumni, heritage bodies, national and student polls and a further petition, as well as over 500 direct written responses to the college,” the spokesman said.
“The overwhelming message we have received has been in support of the statue remaining in place, for a variety of reasons.”
Oxford is a great university, Stockton University will never be in their league unless they end groupthink.