The first hearing on the Harriet Tubman statue bill was on February 23, and there’s been a slew of newspaper coverage about the debate in the Maryland legislature. We’re trying to post snippets of every article in our Maryland Statue Project in the News roundup.
We were cheered to see the Baltimore Sun’s editoral page come out in favor of the bill. Here’s the lead from the editorial:
We mean no disrespect to John Hanson, a Colonial-era planter from Charles County whom most Marylanders haven’t heard of, much less most Americans. He was a dedicated champion of American liberty from Great Britain and served in a variety of political posts during the Revolution and its aftermath, culminating in a one-year term as the first president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation. But the idea of replacing him as one of Maryland’s two representatives in the U.S. Capitol’s Hall of Statuary with Harriet Tubman is a good one.
Hanson shares Maryland’s allotment of two statues with Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and arguably the most important figure in the state during the era. No one is considering him for removal from the hall. That means our state’s contribution to this depiction of our national heritage is limited to two white men, one significantly more prominent than the other, who represent the same aspect of Maryland’s history. Hanson’s replacement with Tubman would be justified simply on the grounds of providing a fuller depiction of the state’s role in our nation’s evolution, without attempting to parse which of them is the greater historical figure (although a case can easily be made that she at least matches and perhaps exceeds him on that score).
The editorial goes on to laud Tubman’s accomplishments, and point out that Maryland has been a little tardy in honoring this great woman’s legacy. The closing argument is very well put:
Each state’s contribution to the nation’s history is not fixed at a particular time, and there is no reason, once a statue is erected in the Capitol, that it should never be replaced. Maryland is too diverse a state, with too important a role throughout the nation’s history, to have its contribution to Statuary Hall forever frozen in the person of two men of similar circumstances who lived at the same time and contributed to the same cause. Hanson was worthy of recognition, but so is Tubman, and so, someday, might be others — Thurgood Marshall, for example, would be an excellent representative of Maryland’s role in the 20th century.
Hanson has had a good run. He has been in the hall for 108 years. It’s time for someone else to get a turn.
Thank you, Baltimore Sun!
Larry Reese says:
Am I the only one that sees the irony in all this? I understand the argument for replacing one of the two statues representative of the same time period, but to put a statue of someone who risked it all to free her fellow slaves next to one that had owned hundreds of slaves and did not want to free them is ludicrous! John Hanson was one-of-a-kind, the only President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation and no one else can claim that. I vote for having Harriet Tubman replace Charles Carroll.
Mr. Reese, thank you for your comment.
Actually, John Hanson was not the only “President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation.”
The office of President of the U.S. did not exist under the Articles; our republic hadn’t been founded yet and there was no executive branch. John Hanson was the president (presiding officer) of the Continental Congress. A total of fifteen different men served as president of Congress from 1774 to 1789. John Hanson was the third man to serve as president of Congress after the Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781. Seven men served after him.