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Richmond's mayor Levar Stoney was quoted as saying (in the context of the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee)

Mr Northam called the statue "a monument to the Confederate insurrection". [...]

"There's no other country in the world that erects monuments to those who took up arms against their country," Mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney, told BBC News.

No doubt it's unusual for a country/government to have monuments honoring those that "took up arms against it". But if one considers winning revolutions/insurrections, surely there are plenty of examples of statues for those who overthrew the old regime. In the more autocratic cases, statues even ordered by themselves after taking power, but often enough by later generations if the change/revolution was stable enough in terms of outcome.

So, I'm thinking that the claim needs to be more narrowly interpreted as in: no country that hasn't seen a [dramatic/substantial] change in regime or constitutional order has erected such statues to defeated insurrectionists, revolutionaries, or separatists. I.e. given some reasonable level of regime or constitutional continuity, such statues really are non-existent. Is the claim true in this sense, which is probably how it was meant? Or are there some counter-examples even to this?

(I could ask this on Skeptics, but given that the claim is not literally true as in the quote, I may get flak there for asking my own question/interpretation.)

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Sep 9 at 21:08
  • 7
    It seems very common to me to hear people claim "this is the only one" of something without checking carefully. Sep 10 at 0:59
  • Related: streets and military grounds in germany named after WW(I+II) „heros“.
    – eckes
    Sep 10 at 14:46
  • 1
    The general claim is not true in the slightest, but perhaps if it was limited to insurgencies from the 19th century and forward it would be true. Sep 10 at 21:06
  • 1
    @PCLuddite: yeah, asking about losing a civil war is a somewhat stronger/narrower version of it. (More isolated events/plots like Guy Fawkes would no longer qualify.) But it wasn't my edit. And I agree that it was a rather late edit, so I've rolled it back. It's perfectly fine if an answer makes that point that civil wars of the magnitude of the US one are rare.
    – Fizz
    Sep 10 at 22:01

16 Answers 16

92

There are plenty of counter-examples in the UK; commenters have mentioned Guy Fawkes, who unsuccessfully plotted to assassinate King James I and restore the Catholic monarchy - commemorated with a statue, and carnival, in Bridgwater, Somerset, and Oliver Cromwell, who successfully overthrew King Charles I in the English Civil War and ruled as Lord Protector until his death in 1658 - commemorated with a statue outside of Parliament, as well as others in St Ives, Manchester, Warrington, and Bradford. The monarchy was later restored, so I suppose Cromwell could also be classified as having been unsuccessful.

Other examples of statues commemorating participants in an unsuccessful rebellion might be those in memory of the Jacobite Risings of 1745. Charles Edward Stuart, often known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, led the rebellion in an attempt to reclaim the British throne for his father, James Stuart, son of James II and IV. Both the Glenfinnan Monument of the Unknown Highlander, located at the spot where the rising began, as well as the statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Derby, England, where the Jacobites retreated back to Scotland, commemorate the participants.

Another example might be the statue in St Keverne, Cornwall, of two of the leaders of the Cornish rebellion of 1497 - Thomas Flamank and Michael An Gof.

Further examples mentioned by commenters:

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    The Jacobites are a good example, and Scotland also has many monuments to the Covenanters, puritans who took up arms against the Stuart monarchs who were Bonnie Prince Charlie's ancestors.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 9 at 10:11
  • 7
    Of course, if you consider the Roundheads the winners, there are plenty of statues of Royalists as well en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – origimbo
    Sep 9 at 14:48
  • 11
    There's a statue of Mahatma Ghandi in Parliament Square. But I suspect the UK is knee-deep in this sort of thing. Sep 9 at 19:47
  • 6
    Possibly the earliest example in the UK would be the memorial to Wat Tyler, the leader of the Peasant's Revolt in 1381 - describing it as a "civil war" might be a bit over the top, but it certainly involved conflict between an armed popular uprising and the monarchy.
    – alephzero
    Sep 10 at 15:26
  • 3
    You’ve given examples from England and Scotland, so for the sake of completeness you might add the statues of Owain Glyndwr in Wales.
    – Mike Scott
    Sep 11 at 8:31
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It's certainly not true in the way the mayor stated, there is a statue of George Washington in London:

It's a statue of George Washington, onetime citizen of Great Britain, father of the United States and rebellious colonial. In a square that marks one of Britain's greatest victories stands a reminder of one of its greatest defeats. Washington's statue is not only there, it's resplendent with symbols of authority, like the 13 wooden rods on which he leans (also a symbol of the 13 colonies). It's just hanging out in a square owned by the crown -- and built on soil shipped in from the state of Virginia.

https://www.military.com/history/george-washington-statue-london-british-soil.html

I'm sure if you add enough caveats you could stretch it to true, but I'm guessing this was more of a case of a politician who was more interested in saying something that makes a good soundbite than caring about the truth of what they were saying.

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    In re last para: I'm guessing it's the argument brought in the US in that discussion when they don't want to get to the issue of what the Confederates stood for in more detail... But that's besides the point here. Although I've upvoted your answer, it is about a separatist who won (in their attempt)... and then the new and old country became friends/allies, so... it's not the most striking example.
    – Fizz
    Sep 9 at 7:53
  • 44
    Didn't Washington take up arms and win?
    – Caleth
    Sep 9 at 8:37
  • 5
    @Caleth Maybe the question title should have been "... and didn't replace the government they fought against"?
    – LarsH
    Sep 9 at 12:05
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    @LarsH the Confederacy were trying to secede
    – Caleth
    Sep 9 at 12:06
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    It's a useful comparison, but do you think the American colonies held the same level of importance to Great Britain's sense of national identity; as the Confederate states had to the USA's sense of national identity? Sep 9 at 16:40
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Right next door in Canada, there are a couple of counterexamples.

In Winnipeg, there are two statues of Louis Riel, one of them being on the grounds of the provincial legislature, and Louis Riel Day is a statutory holiday in Manitoba. He led the North-West Rebellion in 1885.

In Montreal, there is a "Le Monument aux Patriotes" statue commemorating those executed or exiled for participating in the Rebellions of 1837–38, and Quebec commemorates them on the National Patriots' Day statutory holiday, which coincides with Victoria Day in the rest of Canada.

In Toronto, there is a statue (a bust) of William Lyon Mackenzie on the grounds of the Ontario provincial legislature. He was the military leader of the 1837 rebellion in Ontario. His grandson, incidentally, was the longest-serving prime minister of Canada.

Technically, the 1837 rebellions didn't happen in the modern country of Canada, which was formed in Confederation in 1867, but rather in the provinces of Upper Canada and Lower Canada in British North America, but that's a mere quibble. It's taught as part of Canadian history.

Meanwhile, statues of Sir John A. Macdonald are these days being removed or vandalized. He was the first prime minister of Canada and pre-eminent founding father of the country, and he had Louis Riel hanged. Go figure.

37

According to wikipedia the Romans built a number statues to honor their defeated Carthaginian enemy Hannibal.

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    It's important (if somewhat disingenuous) to note that much of American political tradition is founded in a worshipful love of Roman antiquity, to boot. Sep 9 at 14:01
  • But that hardly was a revolt, rather just a war between two powers. The revolts came later after Carthago lost those first wars and even than it was very different.
    – Vladimir F
    Sep 11 at 7:03
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    @VladimirF Then that's even more strange than Confederate statues. I mean at least Robert E. Lee was an American before the war; Hannibal was never a Roman. It'd be more like the US putting up statues of Ho Chi Minh or Erwin Rommel.
    – Ryan_L
    Sep 11 at 17:04
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Here are two examples from Sweden. The modern Kingdom of Sweden is generally said to have been founded by Gustav Vasa, who ascended the throne in 1523. These examples assume that Sweden fulfills the criterion of "reasonable level of regime or constitutional continuity" since then.

Nils Dacke

Nils Dacke, the famous leader of a peasant revolt in the 16th century, is commemorated with at least one statue and a memorial in the province of Småland, where the revolt originated.

Nils Dacke statue Nils Dacke memorial

[source] and [source]

Snapphanarna

Here are a two examples of statues commemorating the pro-Danish Snapphane militia, which during the 17th century fought against the Swedish army in a series of conflicts in the recently conquered province of Scania. Both statues depict unnamed soldiers.

Snapphane statue Snapphane statue

[source] and [source]

Context

Both Nils Dacke and Snapphanarna are symbols of local patriotism in their respective regions. Claiming that their rebellions were justified is not controversial today, although some may disagree. Neither of them is intimately associated with a morally abhorrent institution, such as chattel slavery.

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Australia - Ned Kelly

According to Wikipedia:

Ned Kelly (December 1854 – 11 November 1880)[a] was an Australian bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and convicted police-murderer. ... In a manifesto letter, Kelly—denouncing the police, the Victorian government and the British Empire—set down his own account of the events leading up to his outlawry.

To be clear, this wasn't just an ordinary criminal, he tried to take on a police train and lots of supporters!

In 1880, when Kelly's attempt to derail and ambush a police train failed, he and his gang, dressed in armour fashioned from stolen plough mouldboards, engaged in a final gun battle with the police at Glenrowan. Kelly, the only survivor, was severely wounded by police fire and captured. Despite thousands of supporters attending rallies and signing a petition for his reprieve, Kelly was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out at the Old Melbourne Gaol. His last words were famously reported to have been, "Such is life".

Now to the issue, of statues, I can find at least three notable examples:

The Big Ned Kelly, Maryborough:

The Big Ned Kelly, Maryborough

Big Ned Kelly, Warrenheip:

Big Ned Kelly, Warrenheip

The Big Ned Kelly, Glenrowan:

The Big Ned Kelly, Glenrowan

All shamelessly appropriated from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia%27s_big_things.


To be fair, none of these appear to be sponsored by the government, unlike some (but not all) confederate statues. Also, Ned Kelly is obviously not tied to slavery or the like.

However, the spirit of rebellion against what is seen as an unfair oppressor, so far as becoming a controversial cultural icon that is still widely recognized, taught about, and even celebrated over a hundred years later has similarities.

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    In a similar spirit, Australia has a public swimming pool named after a Prime Minister who vanished while swimming in the ocean.
    – nick012000
    Sep 10 at 12:54
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    I mean, Ned Kelly’s a huge figure in Australia’s cultural identity, never mind the statues, like lots of other bushrangers. Sep 10 at 23:36
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This is trivially disproven for almost every European country, considering the nature of European wars of annexation, and insurrections against aristocratic or totalitarian regimes. The US is relatively unusual in only having had one attempted insurrection over the course of its history, and no attempted annexations.

To modify the mayor's statement though, it certainly is true that it is very rare to erect statues to insurrectionists whose cause even at the time was clearly morally wrong.

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    Only one attempted insurrection up until Jan 6th 2021. Sep 9 at 13:16
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    @DJClayworth I really don't think you can compare that to the civil war. The scales of both are vastly different. I wouldn't be surprised if their were "attempted" insurrections at the capital every year. It's just unprecedented that they were actually able to get in the building this time.
    – PC Luddite
    Sep 9 at 13:51
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    rare to erect statues to insurrectionists whose cause even at the time was clearly morally wrong seems implausible. Failed insurrections by definition inspire enough supporters to fight them and enough opposition to quash them. I very much doubt it's unusual at all for those who erect such statues to take a different moral view to those who defeated their subjects' insurrection.
    – Will
    Sep 9 at 16:02
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    @Will I had a similar concern. Perhaps a better description would be "whose cause was on the wrong side of history".
    – J.G.
    Sep 9 at 21:16
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    @Wossname technically, all of North America was annexed from the Native Americans. They certainly didn't give up their land without a fight, and there are statues of Native Americans all over the continent (with varying degrees of reverence).
    – PC Luddite
    Sep 10 at 12:14
10

Brazil has a repertoire of insurrectionists glorified as heroes, some nowadays declared heroes by law in civic memorial Panteão da Pátria e da Liberdade ("Pantheon of Homeland and Freedom"). Examples include:

  • Tiradentes was an insurrectionist against Portugal colonization around 1790, ended up being publicly executed by the government. Since Brazil became a republic near a century later in 1889, he became a symbol of brazilian identity, patron of Police Forces and has a national holiday. His face is shown in the 5 centavos coin, and there are many statues of him all over the country, including major monuments in Belo Horizonte and Brasília.
  • Zumbi dos Palmares led a resistance of over 30000 black slaves against the Portuguese Crown by the end of the 17th century, and had his head served to the governor. He is nowadays considered "The Black Leader Of All Races", a symbol of brazilian black people, and the day of his death is also the holiday of Black Awareness Day. There are monuments of his image all over the country, especially in the states of Pernambuco and Bahia.
  • Anita Garibaldi participated in the Farrapos war, in which the province of Rio Grande do Sul became by arms a Republic independent from the Brazilian Empire, from 1835 to 1845, before becoming once again part of the Empire. She also fought in the Risorgimento, Italia's unification war, and died while fleeing from the Austrian Army. She has monuments in Belo Horizonte and Rome (Italy), and her name was given to two brazilian cities.
  • Antônio Conselheiro was a religious leader who led a resistance in the village of Canudos against the newly installed Republic in 1896-1897, known as the Canudos War. The supposedly monarchic-sympathists religious village was massacred and wiped by the Republican Army in the fourth attempt, after three failed sieges. There are two museums in his honor, one in the modern city of Canudos, the other in the house he grew up in the city of Quixeramobim, Ceará.

While the first three were insurrectionists against a "country" that no longer exists (either the Portuguese Crown or the Brazilian Empire), the last one should fit all the criteria, and was fought against the currently existing Brazilian Republic. Though historians may argue the politics of the Canudos War, Conselheiro is often portrayed with sayings somewhat equivalent to "the Republic is the materialization of the Anti-Christ, a profanation of the Catholic Church", and that "the civil marriage and the separation of Church and State is cabal proof of the end of the world". These teachings are very against current values and morals of the brazilian people, however the law declaring him a national hero in 2019 mentions his "social leadership" and "the fight against social and economic inequality".

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There are many statues in Germany to commemorate the unsuccessful democratic March revolution of 1848.


Of course one can discuss if it was really unsuccessful. At least the modern Germany tries to trace back its tradition more to the Weimar republic and the March revolution. For example the "Schwarz-Rot-Gold" (black-red-yellow) national flag comes directly from this tradition.

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    The exceptional thing about the US is that up until the first half of the 20th century, the spiritual inheritors of the defeated secessionists were still erecting new statues to the losers. This is, I believe, what Mayor Stoney was really trying to bring out. Sep 9 at 13:04
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    They were still making movies about William Wallace and Guy Fawkes in the 1990s. Grant is a genuine part of us history and a pivotal figure. Not having statues to him would be weird.
    – user38958
    Sep 9 at 13:51
  • @AaarghZombies You mean Lee, not Grant, I assume? Those statues appeared in the *19*60s in protest against the Civil Rights Act. There was nothing normal about them, either at the time or now.
    – StephenS
    Sep 12 at 4:48
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If we stretch the term "took up arms against" a bit, then Abdurrahman Abdi Pasha might qualify. (is it "taking up arms" if you're the leader of an occupying army and you resist an army sent to liberate the lands you are occupying?)

He was the governor of Hungary most of which was under Ottoman occupation at that time. He fell defending a castle when a Christian army retook Hungary from the Ottomans, and he now has a monument there.

A memorial to the late commander, the last vizier of Buda, stands on the Anjou bastion of the Buda castle, halfway between the Military History Museum and the Vienna Gate. The memorial was erected in 1932 by the descendants of György Szabó, who was a Hungarian soldier of the liberating army and also fell on this spot on September 2. The inscription, in Hungarian and Turkish, says: "The last governor of the 145 year long occupation of Buda, Abdurrahman Abdi Pasha the Albanian fell at this place on September 2, 1686, when he was 70 years old. He was a heroic enemy, may he rest in peace."

Also, if we can stretch the "and lost" part, there is another example, also from Hungary. I would guess the purpose of the "... and lost" in the question was to exclude statues built by the winner. However, in this second example, even though the conquerors won, it was not them who erected the monument, but the conquered people, long after they have regained their freedom. It's a monument of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who conquered large parts of Hungary before dying in a pyrrhic victory in a siege. The monument commemorates both the attackers and the defenders, and a bust of the leaders of both armies are present there.

8

Spain has a good share of statues to Largo Cabellero, Manuel Azaña and others of the losing side of their civil war.

Ireland's losing warriors in 1921-23 eventually won power in 1932 and we now have statues of de Valera, Lemass, Barry, etc.

I wouldn't be surprised if other countries did likewise.

In Turkey they didn't have civil war. But they did have a number of coups to remove 'weak' or 'corrupt' administrations. In some cases the leaders were imprisoned or hanged. Yet years afterwards the merits of of some of these deposed leaders have been rehabilitated by history, evolution of society and the unviability of military governments and military policing. Adnan Menderes was hanged by the Grey Wolves junta led by Alparslan Türkeş in 1961. A generation later in 1990 he was officially pardoned by the Turkish parliament and a public tomb, airport and university created in his name.

Time is a great factor in changing previously hardened attitudes. Hate is a poor inheritance and most young people - thankfully - see this for themselves.

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I know this is a little specific, but I think there's a bit of mistake here. This statue wasn't built by the United States of America to honor Robert E Lee. It was built by the people of Richmond, VA to honor someone that had fought for their beliefs and protected their lives during the Civil War. Due to the way the US constitution works, I doubt there's much that the federal government could have done to actually prevent/take down the statue; which why many have stood until their local municipalities wised up. So it's not really an example of a government building a statue of someone that took arms against them...The mayor majorly misspoke when he said that, but hey politicians always try to bend their words for the best outcome for them.

PS: I am completely for the removal of the statues.

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    The thing is, the belief he fought for was the belief in the right to maintain other people in bondage, and the lives he fought for were the comfortable lives of Southern slave owners.
    – Obie 2.0
    Sep 9 at 19:59
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    And? I wasn't justifying his actions/the statue, merely pointing out a flaw in the question. He still fought for what the people in Richmond, VA believed in at the time and THEY built a statue in his honor; not the US Gov't. Sep 9 at 20:19
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    It's worth noting that the statue was erected in 1890, about 25 years (roughly one generation) after the end of the civil war and 13 years after reconstruction ended. Most folks say it was part of the South's re-interpretation of the Civil War into The Lost Cause (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Cause_of_the_Confederacy)
    – Flydog57
    Sep 9 at 21:46
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    @Obie2.0 No, it wasn't. There were plenty of people fighting for that reason, mostly in the Deep South, but Lee was not one of them. Lee opposed both slavery and secession. Just not quite as much as he opposed the Union army invading the South. Border states like Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri opposed secession on the grounds of protecting slavery. VA and TN both voted to reject secession (overwhelmingly so in TN's case.) They left the union only when Lincoln demanded that they each produce 75,000 troops to go invade the states which had already seceded.
    – reirab
    Sep 10 at 19:40
  • @Obie2.0 For example, a vote was held in TN on the issue of secession on Feb 9, 1861, which was after all of the Deep South states had already seceded and just after the Confederacy was formed. The vote rejected even holding a convention to consider the matter by 69,675 to 57,798. On the separate question of who the delegates would be if the convention were held, 88,803 votes were for anti-secession candidates vs. 22,749 for pro-secession ones, just under a 4-to-1 rejection.
    – reirab
    Sep 10 at 19:49
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Spartacus There are statues of Spartacus all over the Roman Empire. Spartacus led a slave revolt against Rome that was ultimately defeated.

Vercingetorix There are several statues of Vercingetorix, who led the resistance to Roman conquest of Gaul.

Edit:

Pompey. He lost to Caesar in the civil war. His statue was kept in the place where the Senate met.

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  • But these were more rebels against an occupying power rather than an internal war.
    – Trunk
    Sep 10 at 9:43
  • THere are still people who believe that Lincoln's election made the North an occupying power. I don't share that view, but I think it's highly relevant to the impetus behind erecting statues to Robert E. Lee, and others like him. Sep 10 at 12:10
  • Some folks will say that. But the North-South schism was already there for decades before Lincoln. The stupid 'compromises' which Clay et al came up with only consolidated the underlying cause - kind of like grouting over a full-length gable crack in a big house. We must not forget though that the decision to have a statue to anyone is more a local decision than a national one is so many cases. Local authorities - even small communities and sports clubs willing to fork out the money to do so - will be sensitive to popular sentiment.
    – Trunk
    Sep 10 at 13:17
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The July 20, 1944 plot was a failed attempt to kill Adolph Hitler and replace the Nazi government. It is better known as Operation Valkyrie, which was the plan for continuity in case of the loss of the Nazi leadership. The overall plot was led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who was put to death with the other conspirators after the attempt failed to kill Hitler.

A statue and plaque commemorating the conspirators was erected in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, where they were executed.

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  • The statue wasn't put up by the Nazi government, so this wouldn't meet his criteria.
    – Ariah
    Sep 10 at 19:18
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    @Ariah It does meet the criteria of the original claim which was, "There's no other country in the world that erects monuments to those who took up arms against their country." Clearly, Germany was their country, both before and after Hitler's suicide and the end of the war.
    – reirab
    Sep 10 at 19:28
  • Actually, it could be easily argued that Colonel Stauffenberg did not take up arms against his country, but that he took up arms to take it back. Sep 11 at 6:19
5

Seven years after the failed Spartacus uprising of 1919 in Berlin, a monument for its (murdered) leaders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg was erected in the Berlin-Friedrichsfelde ccemetery. The monument was privately funded, but it was erected on public ground and with the necessary permits from the authorities. (Btw this monument was one of the earlier works of the well-known architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe)

0

Many William Wallace statues and at least one William Wallace monument exist in the UK. They are more often found of course in then region that tried to secede, Scotland, much like American statues of Jackson and Lee are more often found in the American South.

And in America we have numerous monuments to insurrectionists from various American Indian tribes. FSU has a statue of Tecumseh. Even the US Naval Academy has a statue for Tecumseh. There is an ongoing effort to carve a large statue of Crazy Horse into a mountain.

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