MIDDLETOWN – Calling it an “indignation and affront to every resident who values New Jersey’s rich history,” Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger is urging veterans’ groups to make their voices heard opposing a State Senate measure petitioning the Library of Congress to remove General Phillip Kearny‘s statue from Statuary Hall in the US Capitol.
Democrat Senators from New Jersey introduced a bill to remove the statue and replace it with suffragist Alice Paul, a woman widely known for her fight for women’s suffrage. Born in 1885 in Mount Laurel, reared in a Quaker home and graduated from Swarthmore College, Paul studied in New York before doing settlement work in England and studying there as well as earning a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in absentia. Once back in her native country, she advocated the use of militant tactics to publicize the need for women’s suffrage by a Constitutional amendment, and eventually left the National American Woman Suffrage Association to found the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage when she felt the earlier association was too timid in their protest. Her Union merged with the Woman’s Party to form the National Woman’s Party. Imprisoned several times for her militant tactics and failing to have her draft of an equal rights amendment passed, Paul carried her crusade to the League of Nations and founded what became the World Women’s Party. She said World War II would not have occurred had women been able to participate in the Paris Peace Conference which ended World War I. Paul died in Moorestown in 1978.
General Kearny, for whom the city is named, was a Union army general from New Jersey who lost his arm in battle during the Mexican American War, yet continued to lead his troops, armed and on horseback during the Civil War. It was Kearny who recommended Freehold’s Pvt. Thomas Fallon for the Congressional Medal of Honor now on display in the Springsteen Exhibition at the Monmouth County Historical Association, for his valor at the Battle of Williamsburg shortly before Kearny himself was killed in battle in 1862 fighting for the abolition of slavery.
Kearny is one of the two American heroes selected by New Jersey to be honored at Statuary Hall. The second, Richard Stockton, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Eighteen years after his death, Generals US Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and George McLellan all attended a ceremony at Military Park in Newark honoring General Kearny’s heroism and devotion to his country. Each state I the Union is permitted to name two heroes from their state to be represented in Statuary Hall. Kearny’s statue is not under the Rotunda, as with several statues from various states, it is a short distance away in a main corridor set aside for the statues of heroes.
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The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill, introduced last month in the Senate as S-1369. It would be necessary for the Assembly to also approve the bill before it heads to Governor Phil Murphy for his signature.
In his opposition to the bill, Scharfenberger praised Paul’s distinction as a “giant in the fight for women’s suffrage,” the Assemblyman said that as an archaeologist and university professor by profession, he has a unique understanding of the importance of maintain the nation’s history. “However well-meaning intentions may be, the eradication of symbols from our rich historic past must be prevented.” He urged veterans groups and individuals to make their voices heard not only to protect the legacy of an American war hero who gave his life for his country, but also to ensure that a true patriot who fought for women’s rights also gets a visible permanent place in the state’s public sphere.