Much Noted And Long Remembered

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Presidents during their presidencies make hundreds of speeches.  Most are utterly forgotten soon after they are delivered.  Even most of the speeches by a president who is also a skilled orator, as Lincoln was, are recalled only by historians and trivia buffs.  Yet the Gettysburg address has achieved immortality.

Lincoln was invited to say a few words at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.  The featured speaker was Edward Everett, one of the most accomplished men in American public life, who gave a two hour oration.  It is a fine example of nineteenth century oratory, full of learning, argument and passion.  It may seem very odd to contemplate in our sound bite age, but audiences in America in Lincoln’s time expected these type of lengthy excursions into eloquence and felt cheated when a speaker skimped on either length or ornateness in his efforts.

Lincoln then got up and spoke for two minutes.

We are not really sure what Lincoln said.  There are two drafts of the speech in Lincoln’s hand, and they differ from each other.  It is quite likely that neither reflects precisely the words that Lincoln used in the Gettysburg Address.  For the sake of simplicity, and because it is the version people usually think of when reference is made to the Gettysburg address, the text used here is the version carved on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth
on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing
whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so
dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-
field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of
that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave
their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether
fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot
consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men,
living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it
far above our poor power to add or detract. The world
will little note nor long remember what we say here, but
it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the
living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished
work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly
advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the
great task remaining before us…that from these honored
dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which
they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here
highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of
freedom; and that government of the people, by the people,
for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Here was the masterpiece of Lincoln’s passion for concise, almost terse, argument.  No doubt many in the audience were amazed when Lincoln sat down, probably assuming that this was a preamble to his main speech.

“Fourscore and seven years ago”

Lincoln starts out with an attention grabber.  Rather than the prosaic eighty-seven years, he treats his listeners to a poetic line that causes them to think and follow Lincoln back in time to the founding.

“our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation,”

Not an alliance, but a new nation, brought forth by the founding fathers, the fount of Lincoln’s political philosophy.

“and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”

Here we have the heart of Lincoln’s lifelong abhorrence and battle against slavery, and against those who attacked the phrase “that all men are created equal” in the Declaration.  In this letter to Joshua Speed in 1855 he summed up his fear that the nation was falling away from this basic truth of the founding: ” Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes” When the Know—Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty —— to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic]. “

In the Dred Scott decision Chief Justice Taney stated his belief that the opinion of whites was more favorable to the negro in the 1850s than it was in 1776.  Lincoln ridiculed this opinion:

In these the Chief Justice does not directly assert, but plainly assumes, as a fact, that the public estimate of the black man is more favorable now than it was in the days of the Revolution. This assumption is a mistake. In some trifling particulars, the condition of that race has been ameliorated; but, as a whole, in this country, the change between then and now is decidedly the other way; and their ultimate destiny has never appeared so hopeless as in the last three or four years. In two of the five States—New Jersey and North Carolina —that then gave the free Negro the right of voting, the right has since been taken away; and in a third—New York—it has been greatly abridged; while it has not been extended, so far as I know, to a single additional State, though the number of the States has more than doubled. In those days, as I understand, masters could, at their own pleasure, emancipate their slaves; but since then, such legal restraints have been made upon emancipation, as to amount almost to prohibition. In those days, Legislatures held the unquestioned power to abolish slavery, in their respective States; but now it is becoming quite fashionable for State Constitutions to withhold that power from the Legislatures. In those days, by common consent, the spread of the black man’s bondage to new countries was prohibited; but now, Congress decides that it will not continue the prohibition, and the Supreme Court decides that it could not if it would. In those days, our Declaration of Independence was held sacred by all, and thought to include all; but now, to aid in making the bondage of the Negro universal and eternal, it is assailed, and sneered at, and construed, and hawked at, and torn, till, if its framers could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it. All the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon is after him; ambition follows, and philosophy follows, and the Theology of the day is fast joining the cry. They have him in his prison house; they have searched his person, and left no prying instrument with him. One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors upon him, and now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a lock of a hundred keys, which can never be unlocked without the concurrent of every key; the keys in the hands of a hundred different men, and they scattered to a hundred different and distant places; and they stand musing as to what invention, in all the dominions of mind and matter, can be produced to make the impossibility of his escape more complete than it is.
It is grossly incorrect to say or assume, that the public estimate of the Negro is more favorable now than it was at the origin of the government.”

Lincoln was more correct than he knew.  Traditional racism was receiving reinforcement from “scientific racism”,  the putrid fruits of which were seen during the era of Jim Crow after the Civil War, and enshrined in most of our more prestigious colleges.  I have a book in my private library entitled Reconstruction and the Constitution by John W. Burgess, Dean of the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, and published in 1902.  Burgess, a Union veteran, was one of the founders of political science as an academic discipline in this country.  He states baldly throughout the book that blacks are an inferior race and that this was the prime error of Reconstruction in attempting to place political power in the hands of a race manifestly unable to wield it wisely.  While deploring  the violence of whites against blacks during and after Reconstruction, he regards the political subjugation of the blacks as the natural order of things.  On page 298 he has this chilling sentence:  “The white men of the South need now have no further fear that the Republican party, or Republican Administrations, will ever again give themselves over to the vain imagination of the political equality of man.”    Well educated racism of this type, fortunately, never reached the nadir in this country that was reached in Europe in the forties of the last century.  Lincoln and his anti-slavery colleagues were fighting against not just bigotry but a strong intellectual tide that was very much against the basic equality of man set forth in Mr. Jefferson’s immortal phrase.  Who can say what bleaker path our history may have taken if Lincoln’s attempt to defend the proposition that all men are created equal had been forgotten in the aftermath of defeat for the Union and the creation of a new American nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

Republics had proven themselves fragile things since 1776.  The Latin American republics had entered into their disheartening dance of republics punctuated by dictatorships and chaos.  France after two attempts at being a republic was a Napoleonic empire again.  Now the great American republic, the beacon light of free institutions, was shattered by civil war.  Whether republicanism was a viable form of government was very much in doubt in 1863.

“We are met on a great battle-field of that war.”

And a great Union victory, the only great victory the Union had thus far attained over Robert E. Lee and his hitherto well-nigh invincible Army of Northern Virginia.  No wonder that Lincoln was willing to take time to visit this battlefield.

“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Lincoln here shifts the focus from the ceremony to the battle and the soldiers who fought it.  He views their sacrifice as the consecration of the ground, and not the words he, or anyone else, says after the battle.  Note how Lincoln does not limit his last sentence to the Union soldiers.

“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

This was a safe bet on Lincoln’s part since speeches by politicians are ephemeral in nature and Gettysburg was the biggest battle of the war.  He would have been astonished if told that 145 years later the Gettysburg address is the one speech by a president that most Americans have heard of, while, sadly, the details of the battle itself grow dimmer in the public mind as the years roll by.

“It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

Lincoln skillfully shifts from a remembrance of the dead to a clarion call to finish the war.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion;”

The last full measure of devotion.  Amazing that someone in as prosaic a profession as the law could have so much of the poet about him.

“that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;”

Lincoln here addresses the nightmare that haunted both North and South throughout the Civil War:  “After so much pain, suffering and death, what if my side loses?”

This pro-Lincoln illustration played upon this theme during the election campaign in 1864 where a crippled Union soldier shakes hands with a victorious Confederate soldier across a symbolic grave for the Union war dead.  Lady Liberty is weeping by the grave.  To the right a Union black soldier and his wife and child, abandoned to re-enslavement, are shackled and weeping.

peace_poster

“that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom;”

What Lincoln meant by the phrase “under God” is open to conjecture.  Reading it together with the Second Inaugural I believe that Lincoln was stating that if God willed it that the nation would pass through its terrible trial.  A new birth of freedom is clear enough.  The nation needed to embrace again the revolutionary faith embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

“and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln viewed our experiment in Democracy as something that could “perish from the earth”.  In one of his earliest public addresses on January 27, 1838 Lincoln stated his fear that free government in America could die of suicide.

“How then shall we perform it?–At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

What Lincoln said was quite true in his time and is just as true in our time.  Every generation of Americans determines through their actions whether “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

25 Responses to Much Noted And Long Remembered

  • The speech is a masterpiece of rhetoric and composition.

    The content is malarkey.

    First, note he only praises the Union dead and their devotion to their cause. He does not even recognizing the good will of the Confederates, the significance of their sacrifice, or the nobility of their cause. I disagree that his remarks could reasonably be read to apply to the southern soldiers… the whole tenor of the address is the rightness of the union cause.

    Next, he cleverly shifts the founding philosophy of this nation from the limited and modest purposes laid out in the Constitution (federalism, limited national government) and takes one phrase not from the Constitution (our founding document) but from the Declaration of Independence, to assert that our nation was founded on the equality principle with respect to race, an entirely false statement that he uses to rationalize what everybody acknowledges was a revolutionary shift his war brought about in the way this nation is governed.

    The framers of the Declaration certainly would spin in their graves at the suggestion that this statement would be used as a jusitification for armed invasion of sovereign states in order to abolish a practice the stronger states disapproved of but which was entirely permissible constitutionally.

    But most significantly, one wonders that Lincoln’s phony appeal to democracy and liberty did not cause lightning to strike.

    His decision to forcibly invade states which had not taken up arms against the federal government (Maryland, Virginia) was a gross violation of the democratic will of those states.

    Underlying his statements is the false premise that one can rationally speak of a “union” where half the states are forcibly compelled to submit to federal rule against their wishes and against the will of their people, by invasion, by armed occupation, and by forced (and unconstitutional) dismemberment of their state (in the case of Virginia).

    Last, Lincoln’s cynical resort to slavery (as evidenced by his statement that he would keep slavery to save the union if that’s what it took; his Emancipation Proclamation; his efforts to ship off liberated blacks to Africa) as a moral cloak for his invasion of the southern states, his disregard of habeas corpus, his disdain for free speech, all make this beautiful piece of rhetoric unfortunately an empty and hollow exercize.

  • I still prefer the Second Inaugural address over this, but as I said to Jay, it’s like choosing between prime rib and porterhouse.

    The funny part about the Gettysburg Address is that that Lincoln wasn’t even the featured speaker. Edward (?) Everett had given a two-hour long speech that, at the time, got all the attention. In two minutes Lincoln said what it took Everett two hours to say, and Everett said as much in a latter to Lincoln.

    The GA fits in with Lincoln’s conception of the DoI as the “apple of gold,” and the Constitution is the “picture of silver” designed to adorn it. Even as a Lincoln admirer I have some philosophical difficulties with this conception. But I don’t think he’s too far of the mark. If we take the DoI as a basic expression of certain fundamental principles, it is not a stretch to view the Constitution as the Framers way of trying to make those principles a reality.

  • BTW, Don, I don’t want to pull you off-topic, but I was wondering if you’ll be talking about the Lincoln-Douglas debates at some point. I just read them for the first time in a few years, and I was actually a little disappointed in Douglas. I had remembered being impressed by him, if not agreeing with what he said, but he basically just kept repeating himself for 7 debates. At least Lincoln brought up different topics.

  • Ah, Tom, spoken like a true Virginian.
    ;-)

    Don’s piece had me wanting to break out in a chorus of Battle Cry of Freedom: “The Union forever, hurrah, boys hurrah! … O we’ll rally round the flag, boys, we’ll rally once again. Shouting the battle cry of freedom!”

    Now, your comment has me in the mood for The Bonnie Blue Flag: “Hurrah, hurrah, for Southern rights, hurrah! Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star!”

    Divided loyalties, so to speak.

  • “BTW, Don, I don’t want to pull you off-topic, but I was wondering if you’ll be talking about the Lincoln-Douglas debates at some point.”

    If not before February 12, soon thereafter.

  • “His decision to forcibly invade states which had not taken up arms against the federal government (Maryland, Virginia) was a gross violation of the democratic will of those states.”

    Rubbish. Baltimore mobs attacked Union troops on the way to Washington and the troops defended themselves. Maryland was divided like most border states, although far more Maryland men fought for the Union than for the Confederacy. After Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to preserve the Union Virginia seceeded and joined the Confederacy. As for Democratic will of those states, I wonder how many of the black slaves would have been in favor of secession in defense of slavery? Of course western Virginia was predominantly opposed to secession, and until protected by Union troops found themselves attacked as traitors, ironically, by Confederates in rebellion against the federal government. Most states in the Confedacy had regions where Union sentiment predominated as in Eastern Tennessee for example. The Civil War was more than just a war between north and south, but also between supporters and opponents within the Confederacy.

    “to assert that our nation was founded on the equality principle with respect to race, an entirely false statement”

    Mr. Jefferson placed no racial limitation on his statement in the Declaration of Indepence which created our nation. Most of the Founding Fathers, including the slaveholders, regarded slavery as an evil which would die out in the relatively near future. The restriction of slavery from the territories in the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, the abolition of the slave trade commencing in 1808 in the Constitution, and other acts of the founding fathers all evinced a negative attitude towards slavery.

  • “The framers of the Declaration certainly would spin in their graves at the suggestion that this statement would be used as a jusitification for armed invasion of sovereign states in order to abolish a practice the stronger states disapproved of but which was entirely permissible constitutionally.”

    Actually Lincoln only wished to restrict slavery from the territories. He hated slavery but realized he had no warrant from the Constitution to act against it in the slave states. The Confederates signed the death knell of slavery by secession, which allowed the abolition of slavery as a war measure, followed by the Thirteenth Amendment.

  • “Underlying his statements is the false premise that one can rationally speak of a “union” where half the states are forcibly compelled to submit to federal rule against their wishes and against the will of their people, by invasion, by armed occupation, and by forced (and unconstitutional) dismemberment of their state (in the case of Virginia).”

    Only if one believes that the Union is one of states and not of the American people. Your argument also conveniently overlooks the wishes of black slaves. Even without taking them into consideration, a clear majority of the American people did not wish the Union to be destroyed. Of course time has confirmed the wisdom of Lincoln. We have one united country, free of slavery, and not two or more squabbling countries, in one of which holding people as chattels, or treating them as fifth class citizens, might very well still occur.

  • Seeing where this thread may be going, can someone please, FOR ONCE, explain to me the long train of abuses that justified confederate secession from the Union. I’m not even getting into the legality of secession itself. I’d like to know what Lincoln and the Republicans managed to accomplish between November 8, 1860 and March 4, 1861, that justified seven states withdrawing from the Union, especially when the man had not even taken the oath of office.

    Can secession be justified merely because you don’t like who won an election? Isn’t that a pretty weak justification for rebellion?

    Lincoln’s platform, repeated ad nauseum, is that he had no desire to interfere with slavery in the states – he opposed territorial extension of slavery. It’s as though the confederates bought, hook, line and sinker, the demagoguery of Stephen A. Douglas, even if they voted against him in the 1860 election.

  • Ah, the War Between the States still divides us I see. Here we have 4 people commenting on this post who probably see eye-to-eye 98% of the time, but who will never accept one another’s take on the great sectional rivalry.

    For what it’s worth – and Don, I’m actually surprised that an astute constitutional historian like yourself seems to take the opposite view, it does seem fairly clear from both a historical and constitutional perspective that this country was formed as a union of states and not as some sort of super-democracy based on popular sovereignty.

  • Well, Lincoln himself re-framed the war as a crusade to abolish slavery, bowing to pressure from his party’s radical wing. His expansion of federal power is what gave us the leviathan we suffer under today. His destruction of the original federalist framework has given us such gems as Roe v. Wade, federalization of education, and restriction of states’ voting practices.

    Look, that a moral evil exists in a state is not a justification for invasion, or do you think that if we could get enough pro-life states together, we could invade NY or CA?

    No, the slavery thing was a cynical device. So there was no democracy in the south because of the lack of a black franchise? And since the black franchise was not universal in the North, does that mean that their decision to wage war was not truly democratic? Or that because women could not vote, neither side could claim democratic purity?

    I find it amusing that federalists get all tender about Lincoln vindicating civil rights for blacks, while that tenderness did not extend to non-occupied territory or even to states remaining in the union.

    Look, if Lincoln wanted to have a beef with SC about Ft. Sumter, that’s one thing. Invading Virginia, which committed no agression against the North prior to Northern agression, was sheer despotism. You’re obviously kidding about rioters in Baltimore, which was a police problem, not a justification for federal occupation, disbanding of the state legislature, and imprisoning of confederate sympathizers without trial.

  • Ah, the War Between the States still divides us I see.

    That’s why I kind of ignored Tom (sorry), because we’ve been down this road so many times before. In fact, wasn’t there a 50+ comment thread here not even two weeks ago? But I do wish someone would address the question I raised. I’ve heard all the complaints about Lincoln before. I disagree with them, but I understand what they are. And I understand – though disagree with – the arguments for the legality of secession. But I’ve never heard anyone adequately explain the “long train of abuses” that justified secession.

    And yes I know what DiLorenzo says. Anyone else have any real reasons?

  • Well, Lincoln himself re-framed the war as a crusade to abolish slavery,

    In a sense, correct.

    bowing to pressure from his party’s radical wing.

    No. Lincoln, in fact, continued to incur the wrath of the abolitionists because of his refusal to issue general emancipation, and for doing things like countermanding the orders of General Fremont which had freed slaves in certain Union-occupied confederate territory. Lincoln did become convinced that emancipation was a useful wartime measure. Sure, it doesn’t sound romantic, but the Emancipation Proclamation changed the nature of the war. But Lincoln’s first concern was restoration of the Union, and he believed that emancipation served that purpose.

    His expansion of federal power is what gave us the leviathan we suffer under today.

    No, no, and no. Point to me one thing that Lincoln did that prefigured the rise of the leviathan state. Between 1865 and 1932, states continued to have significant power. It was not until FDR and the New Deal that the federal leviathan state truly came into existence. As for as Roe v Wade and the like, it’s interesting to read the Lincoln-Douglas debates especially as they relate to the Dred Scott case. It’s Lincoln who maintained that Supreme Court decisions were not the final word, and it was Douglas – like modern Democrats – who insisted on blind obedience to the Court.

    that a moral evil exists in a state is not a justification for invasion,

    That’s true. Had Lincoln invaded the confederate states because they held slaves, he would not have been justified in his action. But that’s not what happened, so you are arguing a strawman.

    No, the slavery thing was a cynical device.

    You can’t seem to make up your mind. Either Lincoln was some idealist seeking to impose his morality on all the states, or he was a cynical tyant who invaded the south because . . . ?

  • As for Jay’s point, isn’t it possible that the the original Union was one of states, and that the Constitution changed the nature of the Union to a union of people? After all, that’s why John Henry and the anti-Federalists got into a huff over that whole “We the People” phraseology.

    On the other hand, we could not have gained independence separately. It’s not as though it were possible for Virginia and South Carolina to gain their independence while the rest of the states were subjugated once again. It seems that the war effort indicated a unity of purpose that, while recognizing the relative independence of the states, also implied a firmer Union. I’m not sure, just throwing it out there.

    Either way, I think by 1788 any idea the secession or nullification were valid devices had kind of flown out the window.

  • I’m not saying anything else on the subject beyond this. I am a great fan of Mr. Lincoln, I believe the Gettysburg Address to be the finest piece of political rhetoric ever crafted, and am merely a hobbyist and a historian when it comes to The Lost Cause. I have no truck with secession, and agree that the alleged long train of abuses that led to the break are rather spurious.

    That said, I am a Southerner by birth and by temperment (if no longer by residency), and so, like General Lee, despite grave doubts as to the justness of the Cause, I throw in my lot with my fellow “countrymen”.
    ;-)

  • I’m not saying anything else on the subject beyond this.

    I’d say, “Ditto,” but I cannot tell a lie. :)

  • Paul Zummo: Let me recommend an excellent book, “The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy” by William C. Davis. Davis, a descendent of Rebel soldiers, would not be very welcome at any Sons of the Confederacy gathering, as he effectively debunks Confederate justifications for the war.

    Davis notes that Southern politicans had been in fact pretty indifferent to the whole business of state rights in any context in which slavery was not involved. Ironically, in 1814 when New England state representatives convened to protest the War of 1812 and federal interference with their militias, the South united in opposing the New Englanders for raising the issue of state rights. John C. Calhoun joined with Henry Clay in the 1820′s in pushing for a program that used federal money to build roads and canals and harbors. The only other regional matter that really irritated Southern leaders was the tariff, which they believed discriminated against the South, and yet they never managed to organize even a unified protest against the government on that issue. They never would have seceded or gone to war over the tariff.

    State rights basically boiled down to the issue of slavery and not so much the right to own slaves as the right for a slaveholder to take slaves into federal property. Slaveholders argued (and they had a strong point) that those lands prior to admission to statehood had belonged to all of the people of the US and so excluding slavery from them constituted a de facto exclusion of slaveholders. Eventually, they realized that the free states would outnumber the slave states and the slaveholders would have an ever-shrinking voice in Washington. In the end, they would have no way out should Congress decide to abolish slavery in areas where it existed. In 1860, one-third of the South’s population were slaves. Southern leaders simply could not envision an economic and social system without slavery and yes, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for them.

    Davis notes it is impossible to point to any other issue but slavery and say that Southerners would have seceded and fought over it. Howver, he writes, slavery was not “the reason 1 million Southern men subsequently fought. Probably 90 percent of the men who wore the gray had never owned a slave and had no personal interest at all either in slavery or in the shadow issue of state rights. The widespread Northern myth that the Confederates went to the battlefields to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries, in the tens of thousands, reveal again and again that they fought and died because their Southern homeland was invaded and their natural instinct was to protect home and hearth.”

    I’m a Northerner whose own ancestors were still in Europe when the Civil War was fought. I admire the valor and courage of both Billy Yank and Johnny Reb. I am very glad Johnny Reb lost.

    (An old flame of mine was a Virginian and there was no talking to him on this particular subject. He once bought me flowers by way of apology for calling me a ‘Damn Yankee’ and after that, we never discussed the War Between the States ever again :-)

  • Can secession be justified merely because you don’t like who won an election? Isn’t that a pretty weak justification for rebellion?

    Yes, it is. But since last Nov. 4, I’ve had my moments,…,
    ;-)

  • Jay, in my estimation George Washington is the finest man in secular history, and Robert E. Lee is not far from him in my regard. As a matter of fact I am planning on doing a tribute to Lee in the near future. The Civil War is one of my historical passions, and I free admit that my heart belongs to the Union in that struggle. However, I also regard the brave men who died under the Confederate battleflag as no less my countrymen than I do the Union men who died under the Old Flag. For me the great lesson of the Late Unpleasantness is that we are one people: Union, Confederate, black slave. When I read the history of the Confederacy, and I have passages of Douglas Southall Freeman memorized by heart, I am reading the history of my countrymen. I agree with the late Shelby Foote as to the Great Compromise when viewing the Civil War that I think all Americans should embrace: It was a good thing that the Union was preserved and slavery ended, and that the Confederates fought with great honor and courage for what they believed was right. Whatever else I say on the Civil War in posts and comboxes, this is my core belief in regard to that conflict.

  • Donald, I never thought I’d encounter someone more passionate about the Civil War than me, so kudos.

    I might check this thread out later, but I might be busy reading “Battle Cry of Freedom” and watching the Ken Burns documentary tonight to get on-line much. ;)

  • “Jay, in my estimation George Washington is the finest man in secular history, and Robert E. Lee is not far from him in my regard.”

    I’m in complete whole-hearted agreement with you there (of course, I’m usually in complete agreement with you, regardless of the topic). I also count Mr. Lincoln among their number.

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