I have been doing a lot of reading about Richard Stockton lately. He was one of the founders of the College of New Jersey at Princeton, he was married to Annis Boudinot Stockton, one of the great female American poets of the eighteenth-century. He was a member of the Continental Congress and he signed the Declaration of Independence. He almost became the revolutionary-era governor of New Jersey, but he lost that honor to William Livingston in a very close election. In the Revolutionary War, Stockton was captured by the British and imprisoned in New York. He died in 1781 at Morven, his Princeton home.
Stockton also owned slaves.
Here is a taste of Suzanne Marino and Claire Lowe’s piece at The Press of Atlantic City:
GALLOWAY (NJ) — The bust of Richard Stockton has been removed from Stockton University’s campus library in an attempt to address a longtime controversy surrounding the college’s slave-owning namesake, college officials said Thursday.
Although recent protests have erupted around the country over other controversial statues, Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman said that controversy about the college’s namesake has been going on for several years.
“If you look in our 40th (anniversary), you’ll see that the discussion began to take place then,” he said, adding even during the university’s founding it was controversial. “It never was placed in context and I think that’s the most important thing about this.”
The bust of Stockton was on display at the Richard E. Bjork Library. It was taken down Wednesday. Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, also owned slaves.
Stockton Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lori Vermeulen sent a letter to the campus community Thursday to inform them of the decision to remove the statue.
Vermeulen said the mission of Stockton University — “to develop engaged and effective citizens with a commitment to lifelong learning and the capacity to adapt to change in a multicultural, interdependent world” — affords the university the responsibility to provide an opportunity for students to learn about the facts surrounding Richard Stockton’s place in American history as well as in Stockton’s history.
The removal of the bust is temporary, and will return with an exhibit that is being developed that will show a more historical perspective and one that will allow meaningful dialog about Richard Stockton as a controversial figure, Vermeulen explained.
Read the rest here.
I like the idea of contextualizing the Stockton statue. At the same time, I am starting to think that National Review writer Victor Davis Hanson may have a few good points in this piece. Indeed, cleansing the past can be “dangerous business.”