LANCASTER, Pa. — A statue of John Marshall, one of Franklin and Marshall College’s namesakes, was defaced over the weekend.
The statue was found splattered with red paint early Sunday. Both that statue and the nearby statue of Benjamin Franklin, the college’s other namesake, have been covered for protection while the college investigates the vandalism.
Though it remains unclear who’s responsible and their motive, Marshall is among many long-celebrated historical figures who have come under scrutiny in recent years for their connections to slavery.
The incident has sparked a discussion of Marshall’s legacy.
Marshall was the fourth U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, serving from 1801 to 1835. He is considered one of the most influential Chief Justices of all time on American law. Under his leadership the court moved toward its current system of issuing a majority opinion on rulings. He also helped implement the separation of powers between the branches of government.
F&M officials said they were not considering a name change, adding in a statement,
“F&M continues to support freedom of thought and expression. However, vandalism and the destruction of property is a crime and exceeds the boundary of free speech… The College is building upon last year’s Campus Climate Report and communitywide discussions with a new Legacy of Slavery study group, including students, faculty, and professional staff, for which many have already volunteered to serve. The charge to this group, which will begin meeting this fall, is not to change the name of the institution, but to examine the impact of naming and symbols on how we create an equitable climate in the F&M community moving forward.”
“Honestly a lot of colleges are named after Founding Fathers that were slave owners, so I didn't think much of it because… it's not the first thing I think,” said rising F&M junior Io Kovach.
“Obviously the school is not founded on that value of his, but at the end of the day he was a slave owner so it's a good thing to at least talk about,” added rising junior Zach Nusbickel.
There are several other statues of John Marshall throughout the country, including at John Marshall Park in Washington, D.C. and at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.