The Preacher Whose Statue Was Booted for Reagan

Roundup
tags: Ronald Reagan, Confederate Monuments, Reverend Thomas Starr King



Gil Troy, a native New Yorker, is Professor of History at McGill University. His tenth book on American history, The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, was just published by Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin’s Press. Follow him on Twitter @GilTroy

Although many patriots die on battlefields, the Reverend Thomas Starr King may be the rare patriot who died on the speaker’s circuit. 

President Abraham Lincoln considered King the man most responsible for keeping California in the Union. King also helped keep California free and united defying pro-slavery Southern Californians threatening to bolt. Giving the small, sickly King an audience and a cause roused him. “Though I weigh only 120 pounds,” he acknowledged, “when I’m mad, I weigh a ton.”

Amid America’s ugly brawl over slavery, King never let his patriotism turn harsh, defensive, pinched, or xenophobic. His patriotism was lyrical, expansive, idealistic, charitable and redemptive. Just 10 years ago, Ronald Reagan’s statue replaced King’s in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. In this age of Monumental musical chairs, let’s move the marbleized figure of this big-hearted patriot into Donald Trump’s Oval Office—immediately.

Surprisingly, this California icon only lived out West for four years. King was as Bostonian as Clam Chowda. Born in 1824, King had to work as a clerk in his teens to support five younger siblings, when their father, a leading Unitarian Minister, died. This made him, he would say, “A graduate of the Charlestown Navy Yard.” 

This humble-bragger emphasized that he taught himself French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, and German. But the description also represented the intellectual’s eternal insecurity, ever-aware that others are better credentialed, better known. At one point, a New York parish offered him a job, contingent on attending Harvard for a year. Insulted, King refused. ...




comments powered by Disqus