Sen. Chuck Grassley

Protesters in Washington D.C. tried unsuccessfully last night to topple a statue near the White House of Andrew Jackson. The seventh president who founded the Democratic Party was a soldier, a statesman, and a slaveholder.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley gave a floor speech earlier Monday saying, “Slavery is a great stain on our country’s history,” but he says the past can’t be changed.  “I don’t know what it accomplishes to try to destroy evidence of our history,” Grassley says. “Do you then start going through all of the history books and rewrite the history books?”

Grassley, a Republican, was co-sponsor of legislation that authorized the establishment of a National Liberty Memorial on the National Mall to honor the underappreciated contributions of black Revolutionary War patriots. Despite the “lingering legacy of slavery,” Grassley said in his floor speech, the “promise of liberty and equality is the shared heritage of all Americans from the founding generation to today.”

“I don’t find any fault with peaceful demonstrations. I don’t find any fault with people condemning people throughout history that they don’t like,” Grassley says. “I think it’s very important that we be sensitive towards their views but I think they ought to be sensitive towards the history of the United States.”

During last night’s demonstration, authorities were able to stop the destruction of the statue of Jackson, depicting him on horseback. The 15-ton statue was dedicated in 1853 in Lafayette Square, just north of the White House.  “A lot of things here in Washington are federal property. I’ll let states decide what they want to do, cities decide what they want to do,” Grassley says, “but I don’t really quite understand people wanting to ignore history or write history or change history, because I don’t think it ends with tearing statues down.”

Grassley notes that one of the black patriots honored at the National Liberty Memorial is claimed by Iowa. Cato Mead, who was born in Connecticut and is listed in Revolutionary War pension court records as a “free person of color,” lived out his twilight years in southeastern Iowa.

He’s buried in Montrose Cemetery in Montrose.