Lord Fairfax VI

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In his letter to the Rappahannock News Mr. Mike Wenger asserts with solemn authority that Lord Thomas Fairfax, “never had to work … he was not a scholar or a great military leader … He left no significant contributions to the political development of colonial Virginia.” [“A name that doesn’t match LFCC’s mission, values or students,” Feb. 25]

The truth is that Lord Fairfax did work. As is well documented in the archives of the Commonwealth — he served as County Lieutenant and as Justice of the Peace. 

While discharging his responsibilities Lord Fairfax and his fellow Virginians were at the center of a momentous global conflict. France and Great Britain were facing each other along the entire length of the Allegheny Mountains, from the Blue Ridge in the south to the Adirondacks in the north. The French, the English and the Indigenous Peoples were armed to the teeth, fighting to the death for the land they claimed as their own. 

The truth, as the record shows, in military reports and in copious correspondence between Lord Fairfax, Governor Dinwiddie, members of the House of Burgesses, General George Braddock, Major George Washington, with the Houses of Parliament, the Duke of Cumberland and with King George II himself — is this. Thomas Fairfax was completely and desperately engaged with his fellow Virginians in the defense of the colony. He was an essential participant in the foundation and defense of the Old Dominion — when it found itself confronted by nothing less than an existential crisis. 

The French and Indian War, which began with Major George Washington on May 28, 1754 at Jumonville Glen and afterwards at Fort Necessity, would continue for seven long bloody years before England and her colonies emerged triumphant. There is much Virginia blood in the ground we call our own.

On the eve of the revolution in 1775 the thirteen colonies were divided between Patriots who wanted independence and Tories who wanted to remain loyal to the Crown. The un-committed third of the population sat on the fence, warily taking this side or that depending on which way the wind was blowing. 

General George Washington and the now aging Lord Thomas Fairfax found themselves on opposite sides of this great conflict. How did they conduct themselves? To his credit, Lord Fairfax kept his opinions to himself, remaining quietly at Greenway, never undermining his old friend. And to his credit, General Washington never insulted, maligned or molested his old friend and mentor. For George Washington, friendship and personal loyalty was never sacrificed to the expediencies of the moment. 

In 1781, less than two months after the Battle of Yorktown, Lord Thomas Fairfax died at the age of 88.

Like almost all large landowners of this time, whether in Virginia, the West Indies, Brazil, Cuba or anywhere else in the New World, Fairfax owned slaves. He bought and sold human beings. One doesn’t have to be Woke to understand how vile and abhorrent slavery was. 

But in the middle of the 18th century the whole world practiced slavery. As well as child labor, wars of religion and a host of other horrors no people of compassion countenance today.

It is incumbent on us to see people as they once were, in their full humanity. Imperfect then as now. Striving then as now. Just as it's incumbent on our descendants two hundred and forty years from now to look upon us in the same way. Otherwise, we have no culture, no history, no heritage … no shared humanity. We are simply set adrift, floating on an imaginary foundation made up of little more than the thin air our own puritanical rectitude and moral narcissism.

Is this what we want for our children? Is this what we want to teach them? That they too can be erased by a future generation more woke than even this one?

By the standards of the LFCC board we will soon embark on a re-naming crusade — as cities, counties, towns, parks, roads and institutions of higher learning named after any of the generation who founded this country are removed and replaced, one by one. 

No longer shall our children be taught to know and respect the names Jefferson, Madison, Henry, Hamilton, Monroe, Marshall, Mason, Franklin or Washington. Whose names will be propped up to replace them? And which committee of public safety will devise the new approved list?

Is the renaming of this college about education or is it about indoctrination? When we pull the floor out from under our children, how far will they fall?

Mr. Wenger’s actions on the LFCC board have brought neither harmony nor peace to our community. The opprobrium he has heaped on old Lord Fairfax has fallen instead upon his and this college president’s head. Good intentions aren’t sufficient when turning the world upside down and inside out.

The writer lives in Flint Hill.

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