CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Descendants of John C. Calhoun — a former United States Vice President and controversial figure known for fervently defending the institution of slavery — have filed a lawsuit against the City of Charleston regarding the removal of the Calhoun monument from Marion Square. Local lawmakers have backed the litigation and proposed withholding state funding from the city.
In addition to the City of Charleston, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is named as a defendant.
The lawsuit was filed by Mark Calhoun and Arthur Francis Doty III — descendants of Calhoun himself — as well as F. Preston Wilson, who is a descendant of members of the Ladies’ Calhoun Monument Association, which gave the monument to the city.
In 1898, a letter was sent by the Ladies’ Calhoun Monument Association asking the city to “receive from [them] this sacred trust, and to accept the custody, control, and care of the Calhoun monument and the grounds around it.”
In response, City Council passed a resolution in which the city “gratefully accepts with high honor and the responsibilities which it involves and pledges the faith of the city to watch over and keep it as priceless treasure and sacred trust.” According to the lawsuit, the removal of the monument violated that resolution.
Recent consideration by city council to ship the statue to California for display in a museum exhibit has prompted South Carolina Representative Lin Bennett (R-Charleston) to propose legislation that withhold “millions in state funding to the City of Charleston if they move the monument to California.”
Bennett plans to introduce that legislation on the first day of the 2022 session, and it is backed by SC Representatives Joe Bustos and Mark Smith. State Treasurer Curtis Loftis has also pledged to support the bill.
The American Heritage Association (AHA) will assist with legal fees. AHA President Brett Barry said “this is a South Carolina monument, paid for by South Carolinians, and it needs to stay in South Carolina.”
The City of Charleston said that it could not comment on pending litigation.
Editor’s note: This story is breaking and will be updated.