Lincoln Book Haul

Friday, June 10, AD 2016


Well, yesterday my family and I made our annual pilgrimage to Springfield to attend the Lincoln Museum and go to the Lincoln Tomb.  As we made our way though the Museum we encountered a large number of Amish touring the Museum, the women wearing long dresses and poke bonnets that made them look as if they stepped from the 1860s.  The Amish were obviously fascinated by what they were seeing and talked among themselves in “Pennsylvania Dutch”.   Illinois has had a large colony of Amish in the Arthur, Illinois area, about 72 miles from Springfield, since the 19th century.  (Although the Amish are as theologically as far from the Church as it is possible for Christians to be, I should note that I have a huge amount of respect for them.  They take care of their own, and ask nothing from the larger society in which they live, except to be left alone, a sentiment which resonates with me.)  After the museum my family went to the Prairie Archives bookstore where I again marveled at their large collection of Lincoln books.

As usual we had a first rate lunch at the nearby The Feed Store.  (Nothing shouts Midwest more than eating in a restaurant with a name like that.)  We finished our day at Lincoln’s tomb praying for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and kids.)  Once again I thought to myself how nice it was that the first or second greatest President in our history, has his tomb in a cemetery open to all, where there are no guards, no charges for admission, not even for parking.  You simply pull up to the small parking area next to the tomb, go in and make your way through the tomb.  We owe Mary Todd Lincoln for that.  After Lincoln’s murder, there was an attempt to have Lincoln buried in Washington with a grand mausoleum being erected thereafter over his remains.  Mary Lincoln would have none of it.  She took her dead husband, and had the remains of her dead son Willie exhumed, and traveled with them both back to Springfield for burial.  She wanted nothing more from Washington except to get out of there as quickly as she could, a city where she had suffered grief that makes her such a poignant figure in American history.  (An exhibit in the Museum shows her framed by a rain stained window, sitting forlornly, mourning the loss of Willie.  My bride observed to me yesterday that, sadly, we know precisely how she feels.)

It wouldn’t be a McClarey expedition if we didn’t buy books.  We bought books yesterday at the Museum, the Prairie Archives and a used book store in Bloomington during an extended pit stop on our way home to Dwight.  Most of the books were about Lincoln (surprise!) and here are those books:

  1.  Lincoln’s Political Generals, David Work (2009)-Usually the incompetence of the generals appointed for political reasons is highlighted by historians, but it has always struck me how many of them, a perfect example is Illinois Congressman turned general John “Black Jack” Logan, eventually became competent officers.  Just as more than a few West Pointers failed the iron test of war, more than a few politician-soldiers passed it.
  2. Abraham Lincoln:  The Quest For Immortality, Dwight G. Anderson (1982)-A controversial book, Anderson contends that Lincoln deliberately sought to achieve immortality by becoming a second Washington.  I find his thesis unconvincing, but I was happy to add his book to my collection as it is well argued and does highlight an aspect of Lincoln often missed, surprisingly, by other historians:  that Lincoln was very conscious of history and how he and his contemporaries would be perceived by future generations.
  3. Lincoln the President, volume II (1945-reprinted 1974)-James G. Randall’s Lincoln the President is an exhaustive look at Lincoln as President, from an interesting standpoint: an admirer of Lincoln who also thought the Civil War was unnecessary. Scholarship was superb, albeit dated after six decades.  I now have three volumes, of the four, in my library.
  4. Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Winter 2008 and Summer 2009. Cutting edge articles on studies of Lincoln and his times are published twice a year by the Springfield based Abraham Lincoln Association.
  5. Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen:  A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times, Rae Katherine Eighmey, (2013)-I told my bride that Lincoln had a marked indifference to what he ate, with a slight preference for the humble country fare on which he was raised, but that did not dampen her enthusiasm for this tome.
  6. “Here I Have Lived”:  A History of Lincoln’s Springfield, Paul M. Angle (1933-reprint 1971)-A look at Springfield during the life of Lincoln.  It is hard to overestimate the impact of that community on Lincoln.
  7. Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason, David Hirsch and Dan Van Haften (2010-first paperback printing 2015)-A look at the impact of Lincoln’s study of Euclid on the way he thought.  Go here to read a post I wrote back in 2012 on that subject.
  8. The Annotated Lincoln, edited by Harold Holzer and Thomas A. Horrocks (2016)-A 604 page look at most of the major writings of Lincoln and a representative sample of his correspondence.   The clarity, and logical precision, of Lincoln’s mind shines through in his writings.  When one considers the meager education that Lincoln had, viewing his body of work makes one weep for the output of most modern politicians, albeit one can rarely be certain what is written by any modern politician after they attain office, and what is the product of the minds of staffers.  O tempora, O mores!

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3 Responses to Lincoln Book Haul

  • I have another new-book recommendation. My Library had it.
    Lincoln and the Politics of Slavery – The Other Thirteenth Amendment and the Struggle to Save the Union by Daniel W. Crofts

    Apparently, early the morning of Lincoln’s first Inauguration, the US Senate (the House had earlier) passed an Amendment that would have stated the Federal government would never act against slavery in states where it existed. It never went to the states -deep south hiot heads, Fort Sumter – anywhere. The book was too detailed and I stopped after the lengthy prologue.

  • What fun! Thanks for the book titles.

    Re: Mary Todd Lincoln’s grief/loss in Washington DC & the poignancy of her suffering.

    My graduate work & the majority of my career (& life) has been spent working with people with multiple disabilities. I say that to say this. Mary seems to have exhibited many characteristics of having a traumatic brain injury after she was involved in that carriage accident, the attempted assassination of Lincoln through sabotage to his carriage, which ended up almost killing Mary, instead. To me, given the side effects of TBI, and the lack of treatment and understanding she endured, only increases the poignancy of her suffering.

  • It may be TCT. Having lost one child myself, and having experience that grief, I can only imagine the grief that Mary eventually dealt with, losing three of her four sons and having her husband murdered before her eyes. She has always struck me as one of the more poignant figures in American history.

What Might Have Been

Thursday, April 14, AD 2016

One of the great tragedies of American history is that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before he could implement his post war reconstruction policy.  In a letter in January 1864 to Major General James Wadsworth, a wealthy New York politician and philanthropist who helped found the Free Soil Party, Lincoln set forth his basic policy:

You desire to know, in the event of our complete success in the field, the same being followed by a loyal and cheerful submission on the part of the South, if universal amnesty should not be accompanied with universal suffrage.

Now, since you know my private inclinations as to what terms should be granted to the South in the contingency mentioned, I will here add, that if our success should thus be realized, followed by such desired results, I cannot see, if universal amnesty is granted, how, under the circumstances, I can avoid exacting in return universal suffrage, or, at least, suffrage on the basis of intelligence and military service.

How to better the condition of the colored race has long been a study which has attracted my serious and careful attention; hence I think I am clear and decided as to what course I shall pursue in the premises, regarding it a religious duty, as the nation’s guardian of these people, who have so heroically vindicated their manhood on the battle-field, where, in assisting to save the life of the Republic, they have demonstrated in blood their right to the ballot, which is but the humane protection of the flag they have so fearlessly defended.The restoration of the Rebel States to the Union must rest upon the principle of civil and political equality of the both races; and it must be sealed by general amnesty.

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5 Responses to What Might Have Been

  • He would presumably have also had to convince northern states to grant the franchise to blacks where that had not yet occurred. Ironically, Grant in 1868 probably won his narrow victory because of black votes in the south, while in NY he lost, but might have won if blacks in NY could have voted. The 15th Amendment would not be ratified until 1869, so where the south allowed blacks to vote under reconstruction, in some northern states, blacks could not vote until after the ratification of the 15th Amendment.

    If Lincoln had really given full amnesty and civil rights to former confederates, the reconstruction amendments would likely never have passed. Hard to see how those policies would have been implemented otherwise than they were, by disenfranchising vast swaths of the white southern population for a time, and by conditioning “re-admission” into the Union upon ratification (i.e., compelling votes under coercion).

  • Actually, Tom New York was one of the 4 states which continued to allowed (free) blacks to vote since the revolution.

  • My statement was a bit too broad. *Some* blacks in NY could vote, but NY did effectually disenfranchise most blacks by specifically excluding them when the state constitution was amended in 1821 to remove freehold property ownership as a requirement for voting. In the north, NY, Delaware, Connecticut, and Massachusetts had such property requirements, and as NY’s constitutional amendment demonstrates, racial bias was a prime reason for them.

  • It seems that Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire were the only antebellum states that did not restrict the franchise to whites. Rhode Island disenfranchised blacks by law in 1822 and then re-enfranchised them by the state’s new Constitution in 1842.

    In NY, in addition to what I mentioned above, black males were required to have paid taxes and lived in the state for three years, while white males could vote after one year of residence and the payment of taxes or the rendering of highway or military service.
    New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Lincoln’s own Illinois, and Indiana all placed some type of racial restriction on voting.

  • All women were disenfranchised during this time. Period.

    Just thought I would point that out.

His Childhood Home He Saw Again

Tuesday, April 12, AD 2016

All of his life Abraham Lincoln enjoyed poetry and would occasionally compose poetry.  In the fall of 1844 he was campaigning for Henry Clay in Clay’s unsuccessful run for the Presidency in southern Indiana and visited the region where he lived as a boy.  He told a friend that the terrain was the most unpoetic imaginable, but moved by nostalgia he set pen to paper:


My childhood’s home I see again,
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There’s pleasure in it too.

O Memory! thou midway world
‘Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed and loved ones lost
In dreamy shadows rise,

And, freed from all that’s earthly vile,
Seem hallowed, pure, and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle
All bathed in liquid light.

As dusky mountains please the eye
When twilight chases day;
As bugle-tones that, passing by,
In distance die away;

As leaving some grand waterfall,
We, lingering, list its roar–
So memory will hallow all
We’ve known, but know no more.

Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
And playmates loved so well.

Where many were, but few remain
Of old familiar things;
But seeing them, to mind again
The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day,
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
And half of all are dead.

I hear the loved survivors tell
How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,
And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)
I’m living in the tombs.

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One Response to The Better Angels: A Review

  • Thank you very much for this review and commentary. Much needed respite for me.

    I did not know this film existed. I now have it in my collection.


Lincoln on Mercy

Tuesday, April 5, AD 2016


I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.

Abraham Lincoln

Running down the origin of this quote was a lot of fun.  It sounded like something that Abraham Lincoln would have said, but I had difficulty finding a source for it.  It is cited all over the internet, but no reference is given other than a speech in 1865, and such a lack of citation is often the sign of a spurious quote.  After some searching I found it.  It is sourced in a conversation that Joseph Gillespie had with Abraham Lincoln.  Gillespie was a fellow member with Lincoln of the Illinois General Assembly.  With Lincoln he helped found the Republican party in Illinois.  Elected a circuit court judge in 1861, he helped set up the Illinois Appellate Court.

During a visit to Washington in Spring of 1864, Gillespie met with Lincoln and,  among other subjects they discussed, Lincoln mentioned the problem of captured paroled Confederate troops who were found in arms before they had properly been exchanged:

These men are liable to be put to death when recaptured for breach of parole.  If we do not do something of that sort, this outrage will be repeated on every occasion…It is indeed a serious question, and I have been more sorely tried by it than any other that has occurred during the war.  It will be an act of great injustice to our soldiers to allow the paroled rebels to be put into the field without exchange.  Such a practice would demoralize almost any army in the world if played off upon them.  It would be nearly impossible to induce them to spare the lives of prisoners they might capture.  On the other hand, these men were no doubt told by their superiors that they had been exchanged and it would be hard to put them to death under any circumstances.  On the whole, my impression is that mercy bears richer fruits than any other attribute.

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21 Responses to Lincoln on Mercy

  • Too bad that mercy quote wasn’t in an earlier letter he could have sent to General Sherman. Reading it again makes me also think this arguments appears to be similar to the thinking behind the Gitmo as a prison creation.

  • “Too bad that mercy quote wasn’t in an earlier letter he could have sent to General Sherman.”

    Lincoln in his conference with Grant and Sherman near the end of the War, when asked what sort of terms they should give, were told by Lincoln that he would suggest “letting them up easy” in regard to surrendering Confederate armies. Sherman gave such generous terms to Joe Johnston, that his terms were repudiated by President Johnson.

  • I think it’s true that LIncoln, having engaged in total war, without mercy or concern for what Catholics call jus in bello, was prepared, when victory was apparent, to be merciful as a pragmatic matter, understanding that politically it is far better to foster reconciliation than exact vengeance.
    He was very prepared to be merciless when he deemed it required of him, as in his treatment of journalists and state legislators and others who opposed his policy of invasion of the south. Or as in his treatment of the Sioux Indians, recounted here:
    He was a mere man, after all, not a god, nor even a saint. He was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish his goal, without regard for the means. Victors write the history, and people generally liked or acquiesced in the goal, so much is forgiven or forgotten.

  • The South was fully destroyed in 1865 and as completely (adjusting for 19th century technology/weaponry) wrecked as were Germany and Japan in 1945. Both sides proved themselves to be willing to “bear any burden and pay any price.” Each side would accept nothing less than total independence or return to the United States/unconditional surrender. As was preordained, even before Sumter, eventually the South was rendered critically deficient in arms, men and ground.
    Civil war, secession and slavery are unmitigated evils. America is blest to be (150+ years) rid of them.
    We will never know. Lincoln may have managed Reconstruction differently than did the radicals.

  • How could prisoners of war acquire weapons before they were released from custody?

  • I think Lincoln would have been much better for the south during Reconstruction than the radical Republicans, whom Andrew Johnson could not control and who imposed martial law on the south and dissolved their governments in 1867, two years *after* the end of the war. Then they disenfranchised former confederates and installed essentially puppet governments in southern states, under which the Civil War amendments were spuriously passed (since they would never pass if former confederates had the franchise) and the states were basically blackmailed into ratifying the amendments as a condition to “readmission” to the union (an odd idea, since the north had insisted for 5 years of war that these states had never *left* the union).
    Lincoln would have set his own policy, which would have been different, and probably milder, than that of the radicals. It would have been an interesting thing to see how Lincoln would have handled the radicals of his own party, and whether he would have been willing, with them, to shoehorn amendments to the constitution by essentially blackmailing prostrate, war-devastated states, or if he would have followed some other course entirely.

  • In Lincoln’s last public address, he gave a preview of his idea of what reconstruction would entail, focusing on Louisiana, where the Radical Republicans were already champing at the bit to impose a harsher solution. He would have had a much lighter hand than the Radicals.
    It’s safe to say that Lincoln would have had a fierce, bitter battle on his hands with a powerful section of his own party. But he also would have had many advantages that Johnson did not–starting with significant party support, the aura of victory and genuine political skills the haplessly combative Johnson lacked in their entirety. More than anything else, the last really crippled Andrew Johnson.

  • We are having technical difficulties on the blog that have prevented me from posting new content today. We are working on it and hopefully we will be back to normal operations by tomorrow.

  • Don, memory tells me the Shermans’ terms to Johnston were rejected by Stanton,contrary to Lincolns directive, indicative of Stantons hatred for the reb’s- and that is why Sherman refused to acknowledge Stanton[snubbed him] in the reviewing stand of the Grand Review day 2 of the Army of the Republic in Washington. I’ve not read of President Johnson having a hand in the reversal of terms; sherman always held halleck first and stanton ultimately for the reversal and embarrassment over the terms offered and forced to be withdrawn from Joe Johnston…… will read back on that after sending this; beautiful glimpse into the man who is Lincoln; myth and all. t-u

  • “Don, memory tells me the Shermans’ terms to Johnston were rejected by Stanton,contrary to Lincolns directive, indicative of Stantons hatred for the reb’s- and that is why Sherman refused to acknowledge Stanton[snubbed him] in the reviewing stand of the Grand Review day 2 of the Army of the Republic in Washington.’

    Sherman bore life long hatred for Stanton for the rejection of the peace terms. However, Sherman had gone far beyond the surrender terms that Grant gave Lee, to dealing with long term policy that had to be decided in Washington. Any President, including Lincoln, would have rejected the terms, and that is what Johnson did. See the link below for a post that I wrote on the subject.

  • “How could prisoners of war acquire weapons before they were released from custody?”

    Paroled prisoners were immediately released. That is what Grant did to Pemberton’s entire army after the fall of Vicksburg. They could not fight again until they had been exchanged with an enemy POW who was released. Grant was dismayed during the fighting at Chattanooga to see among the Confederates captured, men he had paroled at Vicksburg who had not yet been exchanged. The system of parole and exchange broke down in 1864 when the Confederates refused to allow Union colored troops to be part of the system, and when Grant realized that due to his manpower superiority exchanging prisoners benefitted Lee far more than him.

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  • Don – excellent re-direct. I have seen a number of commentators who state that the decision to reject shermans’ terms to Joe Johnston was done at the cabinet level in discussions led by Stanton, but i had forgotten the broader conditions Sherman had included regarding civil affairs in his MOU.

    Most students of that ugly affair between the states recall the animosity between Stanton and Sherman and the famous snub on the review stand- ah those jesuits!

    No where can i find wherein Pes. Johnson, himself, explicitly rejected the proposed terms.
    Can you help?

  • nice try Don, but no cigar- Where does Pres Johnson specifically reject the Sherman terms? was my question- saying it was “Washington ” is too vague…… i contend that it was done at the cabinet level, led by Stanton, hence the animosity between Sherman and Stanton – i would not be surprised to learn it was Grant himself who told Sherman personally , when he traveled to see him 3 days after the cabinet meeting, it was Stanton who took him out at the knees – note this lifting from your post- from G.W.’s diary – the president was invited but he does not mention him being there or even a word quoting the presidents feelings on this- i suggest that is “conspicuous by it’s absence”. G.W. itemizes Stantons objections…… but not one word about the Presidents comments.

    ………..General Grant had just received Sherman’s terms. “They are of such importance,” he wrote to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, “that I think immediate action should be taken on them and that I[sic] should be done by the President in council with his whole cabinet.” He strongly urged them to meet that night. By 6pm, Stanton was calling at the door of Gideon Welles, and two hours later, the meeting commenced.

    “Among the Cabinet and all present there was but one mind on this subject,” recorded Welles in his diary. “The plan was rejected, and Sherman’s arrangement disapproved. Stanton and [Joshuah] Speed were emphatic in their condemnation, though the latter expressed personal friendship for Sherman. General Grant, I was pleased to see, while disapproving what Sherman had done, and decidedly opposed to it, was tender to sensitiveness of his brother officer and abstained from censure. Stanton came charged with specified objections, four in number, counting them off on his fingers. Some of his argument was apt and well, some of it not in good taste nor precisely pertinent. It was decided that General Grant should immediately inform General Sherman that his course was disapproved, and that generals in the field must not take upon themselves to decide on political and civil questions, which belonged to the executive and civil service.”

    I’m not arguing the right or wrong of the rejection of the terms, only who did the rejection? as the basis for some of the hatred between these men. Stantons treatment of Lincoln when alive is another part of this picture me thinks, No where can i find Johnsons hand in the formal rejection but i know where to look – i have to get to a libraryfor J.G. Barrett . more later and best wishes…..

  • “nice try Don, but no cigar- Where does Pres Johnson specifically reject the Sherman terms?”
    Come off it Paul. He was at the cabinet meeting. He was in charge not Stanton. General Grant mentions that the rejection was done pursuant to his order. Are you seriously contending that Johnson did not want the terms rejected or you are arguing now simply for the sake of arguing?

  • i missed where Pres. Johnson was at this particular cabinet meeting. – i have yet to find , after considerable looking, any documented text that states President Johnson was in that cabinet meeting or that he specifically rejected the sherman terms. I did find that Grant asked permission of Johnson [sic] to go tell his ‘ subordinate’ in person about the rejection [rebuke] of terms – and then there is your own post that affirms it was Stanton , under his own signature, who rejected the terms –

    Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington.

    DEAR SIR: I have been furnished a copy of your letter of April 21st to General Grant, signifying your [ YOUR pc, not A.J’s. ,] disapproval of the terms on which General Johnston proposed to disarm and disperse the insurgents, on condition of amnesty, etc. I admit my folly in …..

    Recall April 17 and beyond, just days after the assassination of Mr. Lincoln , ‘Washington’ must have been a very busy place with lots of delegation going on and extra security[ hindrance to movement]- I will not ‘ come off it’ until i am satisfied . You risk appearing at times to be ‘too’ condescending – no research until monday when a library opens.
    once again don, you got some of us thinking…… never argue for the sake of argue ;

    do you not find it peculiar that Gideon Welles in his diary records nothing of what the President had to say, but itemizes 4 things of Stantons, to defend the rejection? We’re talking about bagging some 90,000 confederates here…and peace. I find it very odd that a subordinate would not in the first or last sentence of his letter invoke the authority of his greater, i.e. by Order of the President of the United States etc. etc. Stanton does not do this…… later

  • most excellent! i no longer need to go to the library – i am better for your time and help.
    thank you!

  • in doing some liesurley discovery, i came across this- pretty sure you’ve seen this- 1 more note to come-
    Shreman and Johnston
    battled each other time and time again throughout the Atlanta and Carolinas’ campaigns in 1864 and ’65. But the two men never met in person until 17 April 1865, when, a week after Lee’s surrender to Grant, Johnston decided to surrender almost 90,000 of his and other Confederate troops to Sherman, the largest surrender of the war.
    The two men met three times during the surrender negotiations. Johnston convinced Sherman to try to end the war once and for all by negotiating both military and civil terms. But the document Sherman drew up was rejected by President Johnson and his cabinet, who felt the proposed terms were too lenient with the South, and they insisted that Sherman give Johnston the same terms that Grant gave Lee and not concern himself with civil matters. Sherman wasn’t surprised by the cabinet’s rejection of the proposed terms, and Johnston—ignoring a suggestion from the Confederate secretary of war to fall back with his troops to Georgia—agreed to the Grant-Lee terms, which admittedly were already fairly generous. Sherman also gave Johnston 10 days’ worth of rations for 25,000 men, and the two generals left with a high opinion of each other.

    Johnston never forgot Sherman’s generosity, and the two cultivated a friendship after the war. When Sherman died in 1891, Johnston, then 84 years old, attended his funeral as a pallbearer. It was a cold February day, but when Johnston was told he should put on his hat so he didn’t catch cold, Johnston replied, “If I were in [Sherman’s] place, and he were standing in mine, he would not put on his hat.” Johnston consequently caught a cold at the funeral, which turned into pneumonia, and he died a month later.

  • my last word- confirming your statement; and yes, i cannot spell. note in this recounting, it is Halleck who sends Grant?? – that is purely captains mast stuff, i think. – your thoughts are always welcome and esteemed.

    ← April 20, 1865: Sherman’s mistake — beaten by BreckinridgeApril 22, 1865: Halleck sends Grant to end Sherman’s truce →
    April 21, 1865: Sherman’s agreement with Johnston rejected

    William Tecumseh Sherman

    The New York Times reports that Sherman’s agreement with Johnston was rejected by the President and cabinet in Washington. They sent him Lincoln’s instructions to Grant from March to use as a guide for the surrender renegotiations. A dispatch from Richmond suggests that one goal of Johnston and Breckinridge in the surrender was to provide an opportunity for Jefferson Davis to escape the country with the Confederate treasury. Grant is on his way to take over in North Carolina.

    WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, Saturday, April 22.
    Yesterday evening a bearer of dispatches arrived from Gen. SHERMAN.

    An agreement for a suspension of hostilities, and a memorandum of what is called a basis for peace, had been entered into on the 18th inst., by Gen. SHERMAN with the rebel Gen. JOHNSTON.

    The rebel Gen. BRECKINRIDGE was present at the conference.

    A Cabinet meeting was held at 8 o’clock in the evening, at which the action of Gen. SHERMAN was disapproved by the President, by the Secretary of War, by Gen. GRANT, and by every member of the Cabinet.

    Gen. SHERMAN was ordered to resume hostilities immediately, and was directed that the instructions given by the late President in the following telegram, which was penned by Mr. LINCOLN himself, at the Capitol, on the night of the 3d of March, were approved by President ANDREW JOHNSON, and were reiterated to govern the action of military commanders.

    On the night of the 3d of March, while President LINCOLN and his cabinet were at the Capitol, a telegram from Gen. GRANT was brought to the Secretary of War, informing him that Gen. LEE had requested an interview or conference to make an arrangement for terms of peace.

    The letter of Gen. LEE was published in a letter of DAVIS to the rebel Congress.

    Gen. GRANT’s telegram was submitted to Mr. LINCOLN, who, after pondering a few minutes, took up his pen and wrote with his own hand the following reply, which he submitted to the Secretary of State and Secretary of War.

    It was then dated, addressed and signed by the Secretary of War, and telegraphed to Gen. GRANT.


    WASHINGTON, March 3, 1865 — 12 P.M.
    Lieut.-Gen. Grant:

    The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with Gen. LEE unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. LEE’s army or on some minor and purely military matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.

    EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

Day by Day?

Wednesday, March 30, AD 2016

Recently at a library book sale I purchased two volumes Lincoln 1840-1846 (1939) and Lincoln 1809-1839 (1941).  Both volumes were written by Harry E. Pratt and published by the Abraham Lincoln Association of Springfield, Illinois.  These two volumes attempted to relate the events of Lincoln’s life day by day.  They joined two earlier volumes that accomplished the same task for the years 1847-1861.

The Abraham Lincoln Association still exists.  Go here to view their website.  The Association did pioneer work in the last century in studies about the Sixteenth President, particularly in assembling documents written by Lincoln and publishing them.  The publication of the eight volume work of the writings of Lincoln bankrupted the Association for a time.

The volumes about the day to day activities of Lincoln often focused upon legal documents filed with courts by Lincoln, and proved an effective weapon against the cottage industry of the forging of Lincoln legal documents.  I find the volumes make fascinating reading, perhaps because I am not only a Lincoln student, but also a lawyer. I have nothing but admiration for the hard work that went into compiling them and everyone who studies Lincoln is in the debt of Mr. Pratt and the two other authors of the series.

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One Response to Day by Day?

  • I have the one volume edition of Day By Day, and it is a great work.

    Nevertheless, I agree with you completely. What it does–and superbly well–is show Lincoln by his acts. It cannot–because no book can, at least not very well–show the inner man.

    Through a glass darkly, indeed.

Lincoln Biographies

Tuesday, March 8, AD 2016

Wonder how Jefferson Davis
Feels, down there in Montgomery, about Sumter.
He must be thinking pretty hard and fast,
For he’s an able man, no doubt of that.
We were born less than forty miles apart,
Less than a year apart–he got the start
Of me in age, and raising too, I guess,
In fact, from all you hear about the man,
If you set out to pick one of us two
For President, by birth and folks and schooling,
General raising, training up in office,
I guess you’d pick him, nine times out of ten
And yet, somehow, I’ve got to last him out.

These thoughts passed through the mind in a moment’s flash,
Then that mind turned to business.
It was the calling
Of seventy-five thousand volunteers.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

Commenter Greg Mockeridge asked my recommendation for a Lincoln biography.  The above video shows the Lincoln tower of books, a 34 foot tower of books about Lincoln located at the Ford’s Theater Center for Education and Lincoln.  The tower includes books about Lincoln as of 2011.  The number of books written about Lincoln are estimated to be approximately 16,000.  No one of course has read all of these books, nor should they.  Life is too short for such monomania, and in any case most of the books would be greatly repetitious and many of them mere hack work of little intrinsic value.  Here are the books I recommended:

1. Carl Sandburg-Poor scholarship even when it was written back in the forties, it is a magnificent oil painting of a biography that gets to the essence of Lincoln, while lacking the accurate detail of a photograph.
2. Michael Burlingame’s recent massive two volume bio is great for looking at the more recent Lincoln scholarship.
3. T. Harry Williams’ Lincoln and His Generals still remains, after more than six decades, the best look at Lincoln as commander in chief.
4. James G. Randall’s Lincoln the President is an exhaustive look at Lincoln as President, from an interesting standpoint: an admirer of Lincoln who also thought the Civil War was unnecessary. Scholarship was superb, albeit dated after six decades.
5. Allen Guelzo’s Redeemer President views Lincoln as a thinker, a surprisingly overlooked aspect of Lincoln as he first and foremost was a man of ideas. Lincoln had the ability of taking abstract and complicated concepts, stripping them down, and presenting them in his writing and speaking in a straightforward manner. He makes it all look easy, which perhaps detracts from what a powerful mind he possessed.
6. Stephen Mansfield’s Lincoln’s Battle With God is the best book on Lincoln in years. First rate scholarship directed at Lincoln’s religious views, a perennial subject of vitriolic debate in Lincoln Studies. Mansfield details the difficulties of making iron clad assertions about Lincoln on many topics because Lincoln often kept his cards tucked against his vest, and contemporary accounts by people who knew Lincoln often disagree about the most basic items.
7. Stephen B. Oates’ With Malice Towards None, stands out as perhaps the best one volume bio of Lincoln.

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25 Responses to Lincoln Biographies

  • Try these books:
    The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War

    Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe

  • Thoms DiLorenzo’s scholarship is so pitiful that it would be an insult to hacks to call him a hack.

  • “A devastating critique of America’s most famous president.”
    — Joseph Sobran, commentator and nationally syndicated columnist

    “Today’s federal government is considerably at odds with that envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. Thomas J. DiLorenzo gives an account of How this come about in The Real Lincoln.”
    — Walter E. Williams, from the foreword

    “A peacefully negotiated secession was the best way to handle all the problems facing Americans in 1860. A war of coercion was Lincoln’s creation. It sometimes takes a century or more to bring an important historical event into perspective. This study does just that and leaves the reader asking, ‘Why didn’t we know this before?'”
    — Donald Livingston, professor of philosophy, Emory University

    “Professor DiLorenzo has penetrated to the very heart and core of American history with a laser beam of fact and analysis.”
    — Clyde Wilson, professor of history, University of South Carolina, and editor, The John C. Calhoun Papers

  • “ Lincoln Unmasked is a masterpiece response to the crowd that DiLorenzo calls the Lincoln cult. He names names, and names places, in what is a fascinating read and correction to one of the most important episodes in U.S. history.” —Walter E. Williams, nationally syndicated columnist and John M. Olin Professor of Economics at George Mason University

    “Abe, climb down from Mt. Rushmore, and vacate the penny. Your days in the pantheon are over, thanks to the scholarship and courage of Thomas J. DiLorenzo.” —Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute

    “In The Real Lincoln, Professor DiLorenzo convincingly exposed Lincoln idolatry as a fraud that has poisoned America’s understanding of itself. Following up in Lincoln Unmasked, he shows who maintains and profits from the toxin in the body politic and the damage that they are doing to us to this very day. DiLorenzo’s masterful diagnosis, we may hope, will go a long way toward a cure.” —Clyde Wilson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, University of South Carolina

    “ Lincoln Unmasked is a masterful book. Finally, Lincoln has been held to account and the lies and machinations of the Lincoln cult exposed.” —Paul Craig Roberts, syndicated columnist and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury

    “Brilliant and withering, Lincoln Unmasked answers the kind of forbidden questions that our country now more than ever needs to hear. Thomas DiLorenzo deals in the kind of information that is consistently withheld from students in what we laughingly call our educational system.” —Thomas E. Woods, Jr., bestselling author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History

  • All your citations Eric are from non-historians, except for Clyde Wilson and Thomas Woods. Woods is noted for his mangling of history to support his political beliefs:

    Clyde Wilson is a serious historian and a bitter partisan for the Confederacy, as one could expect from the editor of the papers of John C. Calhoun.

    Now, I want you to actually read the articles I linked to and attempt to mount a factual defense of the “scholarship” of DiLorenzo. If you can’t do that, stop wasting the time of my readers.

    More factual errors for you to defend:

    DiLorenzo is as much an historian as Bill Clinton is a virgin.

  • What about the quote from Walter Williams? Why does his statement not count in your opinion?

  • Because Walter Williams is an economist not a historian. The citations are all from people who view Lincoln through the same ideological prism as does DiLorenzo. Their comments say nothing about DiLorenzo’s scholarship which is nil.

  • Just because Williams is not an historian but rather an economist does not make his statement any less true.

    The simple facts are that Lincoln wanted the money generated from the severe taxes imposed on the South to pay for the industrialization of the North, he did not care about freeing the slaves, he only wanted to preserve the Union. He unlawfully imprisoned the Maryland legislature before they could vote on secession as well as dozens of newspaper publishers and editors who spoke out against his policies.

    One of his quotes that gets little if any coverage in schools or the media is:
    “If I could preserve the Union by freeing all of the slaves I would do it. If I could preserve the Union by freeing none of the slaves I would do it. If I could preserve the Union by freeing some but not all of the slaves I would do it.”

  • The simple facts are that Lincoln wanted the money generated from the severe taxes imposed on the South to pay for the industrialization of the North

    No, these are not simple facts – these are distorted views presented by “historians” such as DiLorenzo. I must assume, therefore, that you did not actually bother reading the links Donald provided, which goes into much more detail about why DiLorenzo is so thoroughly wrong.

    One of his quotes that gets little if any coverage in schools or the media is:
    “If I could preserve the Union by freeing all of the slaves I would do it. If I could preserve the Union by freeing none of the slaves I would do it. If I could preserve the Union by freeing some but not all of the slaves I would do it.”

    This is a well-known quote to anyone who has any familiarity with Lincoln scholarship. This quote does nothing more than show that Lincoln’s primary concern was restoration of the union, not abolishing slavery. Again, most people are quite aware that Lincoln did not begin to push for abolition at the outset of the war. This actually hurts, not helps, the anti-Lincoln arguments, as it demonstrates that the confederate states voted to secede unnecessarily and unlawfully. There was no “long train of abuses” justifying rebellion or secession.

    Seriously, if you’re going to push forward scholarship that dents Lincoln’s character, you’ll have to do a lot better than DiLorenzo.

  • “Just because Williams is not an historian but rather an economist does not make his statement any less true.”

    His statement is worthless as to whether DiLorenzo is a terrible historian.

    “The simple facts are that Lincoln wanted the money generated from the severe taxes imposed on the South to pay for the industrialization of the North”

    Absolutely false. At the beginning of the War tariffs were at a near historic low for the century and the War cost many times more than could ever have been realized from tariffs during the same period.

    “he did not care about freeing the slaves, he only wanted to preserve the Union.’

    Lincoln always thought that slavery was an evil and should be abolished. However, except as a war measure, he lacked the power to abolish slavery. His duty as President was to preserve the Union, and he was determined not to fail in that duty.

    “He unlawfully imprisoned the Maryland legislature before they could vote on secession”

    He did not, and the Maryland legislature voted to reject secession.

    “If I could preserve the Union by freeing all of the slaves I would do it. If I could preserve the Union by freeing none of the slaves I would do it. If I could preserve the Union by freeing some but not all of the slaves I would do it.”

    That was a letter Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley. At the time that he wrote it, he had already drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, under which he abolished slavery in the Confederacy as a war measure. The letter ends as follows, somehow neo-Confederates always forgetting this portion of this letter: “I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

    A. Lincoln.”

  • “If I could preserve the Union by freeing all of the slaves I would do it. If I could preserve the Union by freeing none of the slaves I would do it. If I could preserve the Union by freeing some but not all of the slaves I would do it.”

    Stunning, that quote from the open letter to Greeley which has been known to anyone who’s read a biography of Lincoln not written by DiLorenzo. Errors aside, that’s the essential problem with DiLorenzo–he’s scandalized by quotes and anecdotes known to anyone who’s honestly cracked a book about the Sixteenth President, and he desperately wants you to be scandalized, too.

    Hey, Eric–Lincoln took the side of a slave owner in a fugitive slave case, too. Ergo, his entire life was a total fraud from that point on. That’s the basic argument of DiL’s laughable prosecutor’s brief with respect to each such anecdote, right there.

    His level of academic expertise is best directed at disabusing those who think Abe Lincoln chopped down the cherry tree.

  • “1. Carl Sandburg-Poor scholarship even when it was written back in the forties, it is a magnificent oil painting of a biography that gets to the essence of Lincoln, while lacking the accurate detail of a photograph.”

    I think the poor scholarship charge sticks better to the Prairie Years than the War Years. He’s a poet who takes poetic license, to be sure, but the last four volumes read more like a conventional biography than the meandering, sometimes maddening and sometimes sublime, first two.

  • I would agree with that Dale. Sandberg did little original research himself, relying on already published books on Lincoln. Lincoln’s White House years, so well documented, left little scope for a poet, while the Prairie Years, with the gaping holes in Lincoln’s life, allowed Sandburg to play mythmaker to his heart’s content.

  • The right of the states to secede is in the US Constitution.

    Lincoln suspended habeas corpus.

  • The right of the states to secede is in the US Constitution.

    Really? Show me where.

    Lincoln suspended habeas corpus.

    So immediately after bringing up a constitutional right that doesn’t exist, you deny a constitutional power plainly stated.

    From Article 1, Section 9 (note text in bold):

    The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

  • BTW, continuing to link to random articles while ignoring all of the points we have made is not really going to help you win any arguments.

  • The Morrill Tariff? Let me guess–as a spark to civil war?

    Too funny. Virginia secessionists actually proposed their own tariff, and only two secession conventions even mentioned the tariff.

    I’d say “try again,” but I’ve tired of arguing with a cut-and-paste program.

  • While Walter Williams’s modern day economic analysis may be stellar, his economic history is weak. Tariffs were paid on imports, not exports, and southern ports were mostly export ports. The port of New York accounted for 2/3 of all U.S. imports for most years leading up to 1860, and thus 2/3 of Federal revenue. Other northern ports like Boston and Philadelphia accounted for most of the rest.
    Great discussion, including historical records, etc here:

  • The history of the US in the first half of the nineteenth century shows that the Federal government consistently employed tariffs to foster and protect nascent industrial concerns. The South (“King Cotton” economy) and West (small-scale agricultural economy) did not develop manufacturing economies and paid higher prices on manufactured goods. BY 1860, the various sections were very different in culture and economics.
    Regarding NY, its financial sector was heavily involved in financing the South’s cotton trade.

    My purpose is not to judge. People need to eat, wear clothes, etc. Often, that translates into politics especially when the government is given (consent of the governed) power to affect outcomes.

  • Protective tariffs tended to cut across sectional lines:

    Historian James McPherson on who paid tariffs prior to the Civil War:

    “DILORENZO IS ESSENTIALLY CORRECT that the tariff supplied ninety percent of federal revenue before the Civil War. For the thirty years from 1831 to 1860 it was eighty-four percent, but for the 1850s as a decade it was indeed ninety percent.

    But the idea that the South paid about seventy-five percent of tariff revenues is totally absurd. DiLorenzo bases this on pages 26-27 of Charles Adams, When in the Course of Human Events, but Adams comes up with these figures out of thin air, and worse, appears to be measuring the South’s share of exports, and then transposing that percentage to their share of dutiable imports. Exports, of course, are not subject to taxation and never have been, because such taxes are prohibited by Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution — which Adams appears not to know. In any case, Adams claims that about eighty-two percent of exports from the U.S. were furnished by the South — he cites no source for this, and it is in fact wrong — the true figure was about sixty percent on the average, most of that cotton — and then by a slight of hand claims that this proves the South paid a similarly disproportionate share of tariffs. But of course the tariffs were only on imports.

    The idea that the South would pay a disproportionate share of import duties defies common sense as well as facts. The majority of imports from abroad entered ports in the Northeastern US, principally New York City. The importers paid duties at the customs houses in those cities. The free states had sixty-two percent of the US population in the 1850s and seventy-two percent of the free population. The standard of living was higher in the free states and the people of those states consumed more than their proportionate share of dutiable products, so a high proportion of tariff revenue (on both consumer and capital goods) was paid ultimately by the people of those states — a fair guess would be that the North paid about seventy percent of tariff duties. There is no way to measure this precisely, for once the duties were paid no statistics were kept on the final destination of dutiable products. But consider a few examples. There was a tariff on sugar, which benefited only sugar planters in Louisiana, but seventy percent of the sugar was consumed in the free states. There was a tariff on hemp, which benefited only the growers in Kentucky and Missouri, but the shipbuilding industry was almost entirely in the North, so Northern users of hemp paid a disproportionate amount of that tariff. There were duties on both raw wool and finished wool cloth, which of course benefited sheep farmers who were mostly in the North and woolen textile manufacturers who were almost entirely in the North, but it was Northern consumers who ultimately paid probably eighty percent of that tariff (woolen clothes were worn more in the North than the South, for obvious rea sons). Or take the tariff on iron — it benefited mainly Northern manufacturers (though there was an iron indus try in the South as well), but sixty-five percent of the railroad mileage and seventy-five percent of the railroad rolling stock were in the North, which meant that Northern railroads (and their customers, indirectly) paid those proportions of the duties on iron for their rails, locomotives, and wheels. One can come up with many more examples. “

Presidential Assassins: Born Under an Unlucky Star

Monday, February 15, AD 2016

Hattip for the above video to commenter Greg Mockeridge.

I have never liked Presidents’ Day. Why celebrate loser presidents like Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan, non-entities like Millard Fillmore, bad presidents, like Grant, with great presidents like Washington and Lincoln? However, most presidents, for good and ill, have shaped the story of America.

To say that presidents have had a large impact on our history is to merely recite a truism. Presidential assassins, regrettably, have also had a large impact on our history.

On this President’s day we will look at the murderer of Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth. The rest of the week we will look at other successful assasins of presidents.

On July 4, 1835 Junius Brutus Booth, founder of the Booth theatrical family, sat down and penned a letter to President Andrew Jackson. Booth and Jackson knew each other and were friends, which makes the letter quite odd indeed. The text of the letter:

To His Excellency, General Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, Washington City,

You damn’d old Scoundrel if you don’t sign the pardon of your fellow men now under sentence of Death, De Ruiz and De Soto, I will cut your throat whilst you are sleeping. I wrote to you repeated Cautions so look out or damn you. I’ll have you burnt at the Stake in the City of Washington.

Your Master, Junius Brutus Booth.

You know me! Look out!

Booth was one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his day, and he often gave unforgettable performances. However, he was often noted for his off stage escapades, usually fueled by copious amounts of alcohol. I have little doubt that when he penned this missive Booth was quite drunk. De Ruiz and De Soto had been convicted of piracy. Many Americans had asked for clemency for the men. De Soto did receive a Presidential pardon on July 6, 1835 after an interview with De Soto’s wife and defense attorney with Jackson. In 1832 De Soto had saved the lives of 70 Americans aboard the burning ship Minerva in 1831 and that made him a sympathetic figure to the American public and Jackson. De Ruiz and the other men convicted of piracy were hung. Go here for the details of the piracy trial.

And what happened to Booth? Nothing apparently. I assume that Jackson probably laughed off the letter, assuming that his friend was drunk when he wrote it, and in any case threatening to assassinate the president was not a crime in 1835. One fervently wishes that Booth’s son, John Wilkes Booth had merely written a letter threatening to assassinate Lincoln.

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4 Responses to Presidential Assassins: Born Under an Unlucky Star

  • Thank you, Sir. This was a fascinating read on a subject with which I had only passing familiarity.

  • Interesting stuff… I agree about President’s Day; in Virginia it is officially “Washington’s Day”.

    Lincoln’s assassination was one of the most immoral, tragic events in our history. I’ve often wondered how Lincoln would have handled Reconstruction, and if he would in fact have “let them up easy.” Andrew Johnson pretty much agreed but the radical Republicans rolled over him. I suspect Lincoln would have had much firmer control of the party. Fascinating to imagine what his actual steps would have been in the aftermath of the war.

  • “Initially Booth and his co-conspirators had planned to kidnap Lincoln and smuggle him South…”
    One recalls King Charles I’s prescient remark, “I know that there are but a few steps between the prison and the grave of princes.”

  • Well, the Union had similar plans for a hit and run strike on Richmond whereby they could kill Jeff Davis and the Confederate cabinet:

Lincoln Our Contemporary

Friday, February 12, AD 2016

Lincoln, six feet one in his stocking feet,

The lank man, knotty and tough as a hickory rail,

Whose hands were always too big for white-kid gloves’

Whose wit was a coonskin sack of dry, tall tales,

Whose weathered face was homely as a plowed field-

Abraham Lincoln, who padded up and down

The sacred White House in nightshirt and carpet-slippers,

And yet could strike young hero-worshipping Hay

As dignified past any neat, balanced, fine

Plutarchan sentences carved in Latin bronze;

The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,

The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,

State-character but comparative failure at forty

In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,

Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,

Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,

And a self-confidence like an iron-bar:

This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,

Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches

Which make the monumental booming of Webster

Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

Today is the 207th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.  Faithful readers of this blog know that I am an admirer of our sixteenth president.  My admiration is not a matter of mere historical antiquarianism.  I believe that many of the issues of Lincoln’s day are with us in our time under different guises.

  1.  Are all men created equal, or may we treat part of the “great family of man”, as Lincoln called humanity, as sub-humans, mere disposable property?
  2. Who should decide the great issues of our day:  the Supreme Court or the voters at the ballot box?
  3. What are the proper roles of the state governments and the federal union?
  4. Does God punish nations for sins?
  5. Are the Founding Fathers merely men of the past, or did they establish a movement that we should adhere to today?
  6. What is the meaning of freedom?
  7. Is this nation worth dying and killing for?
  8. Should the Constitution be amended to address the problems confronting us today?
  9. Are their evils like slavery that must be confronted no matter what the cost?
  10. Is a Republic a viable form of government long term?

When pondering these issues, I think Lincoln has much to teach us.

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12 Responses to Lincoln Our Contemporary

  • I agree with you wholeheartedly, except in one major respect. Lincoln held some views that were downright tyrannical. He did not believe in a premise of the Declaration of Independence, that government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed. The concept that residents of the 13 colonies agreed to the Union, and this forever after bound subsequent generations is nothing less than a complete contradiction to many of his other, rightly praised, beliefs.

  • “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

    Lincoln, First Inaugural

  • So he said, the point is, how did he act? Self governance and the right to overthrow for me, but not for thee, South.

  • I’m a rank layman in all this, notably the constitutional intricacies. Brace yourselves. I think the complicating feature (more so than sectionalism and slavery) of the American Republic was (note the past tense) the existences of sovereign states and the central government. Naturally, one would rise; the other decline.

  • “Self governance and the right to overthrow for me, but not for thee, South.”

    The right of revolution Tom never comes for free, as the Founding Fathers understood. According to the criteria established by Mr. Jefferson in the Declaration, I think it is difficult to argue that the South had any cause to launch their revolution.

  • Mere ipse dixit to say the South did not have a right to secede, or revolt to use the less precise term that Jefferson and apparently Lincoln at one time, would use.

    The whole point is that it’s not up to the *central government* or the tyrant (again to use the more old-fashioned word) to decide if the subject has the right to rise up. Under that logic, we never would have seceded from Britain, since they assuredly believed our complaints were not serious enough. And indeed, looking at the Declaration, they were pretty flimsy compared to say, now. Or compared to what the South believed its situation to be in 1861.

    Neither Jefferson nor Lincoln delimited the just cause for a separation to only those recognized by the ultimate “winner.”

  • “The whole point is that it’s not up to the *central government* or the tyrant (again to use the more old-fashioned word) to decide if the subject has the right to rise up.”

    Correct. An objective standard should be referred to which is precisely what Jefferson created in the Declaration of Independence. The South had suffered not a particle of the wrongs that the colonists had incurred under the rule of George III. The simple fact is that secession was an act of madness precipitated by a purely phantom menace to slavery, Lincoln having pledged not to interfere with slavery in the slave states. Of course if the slave holding states had not seceded, virtually all legislation that Lincoln wished to pass would have been bottled up in Congress. By seceding, the slaveholding states dug the grave of their own institution.

  • And to briefly in summary fashion answer your questions:
    1. Are all men created equal, or may we treat part of the “great family of man”, as Lincoln called humanity, as sub-humans, mere disposable property?
    Sorry, but the government is the *last* entity anyone should wish to make this determination. It’s what gave us the 20th century, full of states declaring people to be non-persons. And while the minority in the South who held slaves clung to that same determination about blacks, so did the north, so did Lincoln, who wanted to ship blacks off to Africa, and even when dissuaded from that, believed they could never be considered truly equal to whites. And the American Indians might have something to say about how the government led by Lincoln treated their humanity.

    2. Who should decide the great issues of our day: the Supreme Court or the voters at the ballot box?
    Lincoln certainly was willing to jettison the rule of law and the role of the Supreme Court when it got in the way of his war against the South, see, Ex Parte Merryman, and did not respect the ballot box when it interfered with his War, cf, his arrest of “Copperhead” politicians and journalists, and his suspension of the Maryland General Assembly when he feared they might vote to secede. Despite Maryland voting against secession, Lincoln hated that the G.A. wanted Maryland to remain neutral and forbid federal armies from traversing sovereign Maryland soil in order to invade other states. So he ordered legislators sympathetic to the South to be arrested. Popular will, indeed, but only on his terms. The entire invasion of the South was predicated on annulling the ballot box results of seceding states. And in the aftermath of the war, Reconstruction and Constitutional Amendments were cynically forced upon vanquished states in sham and manipulated elections which excluded by law voters who did not agree with the Republicans.

    3. What are the proper roles of the state governments and the federal union?

    Lincoln settled the question for the time by electing to invade a South that no longer wished to be in the Union. Lincoln’s choice was for a “union” maintained at the point of a gun and with over half a million dead men. He forever changed the nation from a limited federal Republic to a National state of vast powers, with states playing a substantially diminished role.

    4. Does God punish nations for sins?
    Of course, the war probably was, in my view, a national punishment of sorts; but this in no way justifies Lincoln’s policy choices. God’s wrath can, and many times does, manifest itself in the unloosing of evil political and social forces; the political forces are not thereby sanctified. Cromwell was a Divine punishment on a regicidal England. But Cromwell himself was nothing but a savage tyrant, even if God used him as a scourge.

    5. Are the Founding Fathers merely men of the past, or did they establish a movement that we should adhere to today?
    I doubt that Jefferson, Mason, Washington, and probably even Madison would have agreed that the federal government would ever be justified in forcibly compelling a state to remain in the union through military invasion and subjugation. We’ve long ago ceased to adhere to the limited constitutional Republic they established. Lincoln’s war and the 14th Amendment fundamentally re-ordered our nation.

    6. What is the meaning of freedom?
    The freedom of some should never be purchased by abrogating the freedom of others. And the quest to free some, even from a grave evil, is seldom justification to alter institutions, defy the will of the people, and engage in a horrifying and bloody war. We must always be cautious of those who crusade under the banner of “freedom.” Often, moral crusaders perpetrate the worst crimes.

    7. Is this nation worth dying and killing for?
    Certainly * both* sides had men very willing to offer their “last full measure of devotion” to their nation. Many Irish immigrants, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with Lincoln’s war of revolution, and viewed the idea of freeing black slaves as a grave threat to their economic livelihood. Enough so that they rioted violently against Lincoln’s draft.

    8. Should the Constitution be amended to address the problems confronting us today? Certainly an open question… much of the reason we face the need to consider this question is because of the damage wrought by the 14th Amendment, which was foisted on the country by the sham voting of only Republican southerners, former Confederates and sympathizers being excluded from the franchise during early Reconstruction. The 14th, which likely never would have passed if all Southerners had been allowed to vote, forever altered the relationship between the federal and the state governments, to the favor of the national government.

    9. Are their evils like slavery that must be confronted no matter what the cost?
    Sure, evil must be confronted. But beware the crusading ideologue who wants to, in the words of Thomas More, “cut down all the laws” to get at the Devil. As he supposedly said, few will stand in the winds that blow when the laws have been cut down. And in the specific context of slavery, even Lincoln knew he had no constitutional authority to invade states to abolish a practice specifically acknowledged and assumed lawful in the constitution itself. Yet he expressly changed his war aim to just that in 1862. Ask yourself: if enough of the public , except people in NY, somehow agreed that abortion was a grave evil that needed abolition would that fact give the federal government the right to invade NY? Not in our system of government, I would argue, and to do so would be lawless revolution, no matter the good end.

    10. Is a Republic a viable form of government long term?
    Self-apparently not, since as, mentioned above, we long ago ceased to be the kind of Republic our founders envisioned, one of strong state power and limited, enumerated, national power, and became a national government with severely limited state power.

  • And frankly, it matters not whether the South was worried over a “phantom” threat to slavery (although the threat to it was decidedly not phantom, limits to slavery’s expansion and new states coming in as non=slave only would have drastically threatened the political power of the south)… secession is a lawful tool whenever the people want to invoke it, for any reason *they see fit.* That’s the whole point, it;s not up to some outsider to judge their reasons inadequate (George III would have judged our reasons inadequate). Self-governance means that the people decide when and if to remain in the “political bonds” that tie them to another.

    And as I’ve said before, slavery was not the issue that really set the war in motion. Virginia, without whom the Confederacy would have been stillborn, seceded only after Lincoln’s calling up of troops to invade the south. Virginia had expressly rejected secession over the issue of Lincoln’s election and the perceived threat to slavery. Only when Lincoln decided to resort to military invasion did Virginia secede.

  • I don’t disagree with your analysis of the logic of southern secession, by the way. If I could have advised the deep south, I would have discouraged secession for the reasons you mention, which, by the way, were the primary reasons Virginia decided *not* to secede. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Lincoln had just waited, not called up troops, and thereby likely have kept Virginia in the Union. The Confederacy would likely have collapsed of its own accord without the wealthiest, largest state in their confederacy.
    But whether I think it was wise or not (and I think it was unwise), I can’t deny that under the constitution they have the right to secede, just as any New England state had the same right when they considered seceding 50 years before the south seceded.

  • “And frankly, it matters not whether the South was worried over a “phantom” threat to slavery (although the threat to it was decidedly not phantom, limits to slavery’s expansion and new states coming in as non=slave only would have drastically threatened the political power of the south)…”

    Under Dred Scott there were no restrictions that could withstand Constitutional muster in regard to Congress forbidding slavery in the territories, the Taney Court thus taking away from Congress a power it had enjoyed since the days of the Founding Fathers. If the South had been concerned about the imbalance in slave vs. free states the Texas annexation treaty allowed Texas to be divided into five slaveholding states. There was absolutely nothing to justify revolution which, as Robert E. Lee pointed out prior to the War, was what secession amounted to.

    The Declaration set forth an objective standard for exercising the right of revolution because otherwise such an entity as the United States of America could not long endure. The Founding Fathers of the Confederacy understood this, since they voted down in their Constitutional Convention South Carolina’s motion to make a right to secession part of the Confederate Constitution, only South Carolina voting for it.

  • “Sorry, but the government is the *last* entity anyone should wish to make this determination.”

    Oh, but it did in order to implement slavery. Slavery could not exist without a whole host of laws upholding it. From first to last slavery was an enterprise of the State, as emphasized during the Civil War when the Confederacy conscripted slaves for the building of field works and other projects supporting their military forces.

    “Lincoln certainly was willing”

    Objection, non-responsive. The Supreme Court, as in Roe, accrued to itself in Dred Scott the authority to “resolve” a national issue. The Civil War demonstrated how well they succeeded. All of Lincoln’s actions were confirmed by Congress and by the people at the ballot box. The Civil War came about because slave holders lost an election and decided to attempt to destroy the Union as a result.

    “Lincoln settled the question for the time by electing to invade a South that no longer wished to be in the Union.”

    By winning the Civil War Lincoln preserved the Union. The States had as much authority as they ever had, except to authorize the holding of parts of their population as chattel as slaves.

    “I doubt that Jefferson, Mason, Washington, and probably even Madison would have agreed that the federal government would ever be justified in forcibly compelling a state to remain in the union through military invasion and subjugation.”

    Actually they prevailed in a very long War where a good 20%-33% of their fellow Americans supported the other side, and they were not squeamish in using military force to suppress them, including the confiscation of their property and the suppression of their civil rights. This attitude towards those defying the new nation carried over into independent United States as the Whiskey Rebellion demonstrated. Of course, early Congresses gave to the President precisely the authority used by Lincoln against the Confederate states, most notably The Insurrection Act of 1807 signed by President Thomas Jefferson and which has this provision:

    § 332. Use of militia and armed forces to enforce Federal authority

    Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State or Territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he may call into Federal service such of the militia of any State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.

    “Of course, the war probably was, in my view, a national punishment of sorts; but this in no way justifies Lincoln’s policy choices.”

    Lincoln was as much controlled by events as controlling. Before he even took office the Confederacy had been created. War was inevitable once that was done, as demonstrated by the fact that even the weakest president in our history, Buchanan, could not countenance secession. The more intelligent Southern leaders, Davis for example, knew that a peaceful withdrawal from the Union was simply not going to occur. The North and the South had tolerated slavery for too long and the day of reckoning brought about a terrible Civil War to exact a dreadful price for that crime.

    “The freedom of some should never be purchased by abrogating the freedom of others.”

    Well said Tom! No abolitionist could have said it better! Slaveholders often claimed that slavery was an essential freedom for them, the rights of their slaves be hanged.

    “Enough so that they rioted violently against Lincoln’s draft.”
    And murdered hundreds of negroes in the draft riots of New York. The odd thing of course is that the Irish were rarely subject to the draft, voluntary enlistment, especially among the Irish, was steady and plentiful, making actual application of the draft a fairly rare occurrence in the North. Of the two million men who served in the Union Army only about 50,000 were draftees. In the South of course all white men were subject to a draft from 1862, with desertion and draft resistance severely hampering the Confederate war effort.

    “is because of the damage wrought by the 14th Amendment”

    Rather to generations of fairly lawless Supreme Courts. A Supreme Court which can read abortion and gay marriage into the Constitution needs no 14th Amendment to misconstrue.

    “Yet he expressly changed his war aim to just that in 1862.”

    In order to preserve the Union. Lincoln was not going to act as the guarantor of slavery and see the country go down the drain as a result. Lincoln was an adherent of reform through law. It was the Confederates who took the issue of slavery outside the orbit of elections and transformed it as a reason to dissolve the Union.

But We Have Forgotten God

Sunday, February 7, AD 2016

As we approach Lent in this Year of Mercy it is striking to me how most who call themselves Christians have lost any sense of sin.  Christ seems to be perceived as a divine Pal, with a dog like eagerness to embrace us just the way we are.  Such a deity would seem to resemble Barney the Dinosaur more than the God of the Bible.  Forgotten is the need for sorrow for sins, repentance for sins and amendment of life.  Our ancestors tended to think much differently.  Consider Proclamation 97 of Abraham Lincoln calling for a national day of prayer and humiliation to pray for forgiveness of national sins.  Here is the text of the proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.


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8 Responses to But We Have Forgotten God

  • “No God condones terror. No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.” President Obama 2/5/16. National Prayer Breakfast.

    Until abortion is classified as an act of terror, innocent lives, weaker and fewer in number, will continue to be slaughtered under the nose of an arrogant hypocritical President who continues to use God for his purposes… not asking God how he might do his will.

  • And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon…”

    Why is it that I sense a far stronger “Catholic” view of the essential need for man to actually have sorrow and “repentance” for sins, from this non-Catholic man, than I do from most of the modernists at the “Kasper show,” or for that matter, (in this “year of mercy”) from the Vatican?

  • Confess sins?
    Receive Mercy?

    How about that!

    Abe has it down pat.
    Go figure.

    Canon 915 is merciful.
    It reinforces the stance the Catholic Church has taken regarding abortion, and mercifully instructs as to the consequences instore for those who disobediently refuse the direction.

    Stop the sin of protecting abortion rights or do not present yourself for Holy Communion.
    Seek forgiveness, confess and receive Mercy!

  • How often does the Sunday Mass homily discuss sin? For more than 50 years, I dare say not much.

  • (I just noticed this gem.)
    “Jefferson Davis issued similar proclamations during the War. ”

    As this nation heads south for primaries and a leader which will determine our direction, the one remaining sin, according to our modern sophisticated liberalized nation, appears to be that Jefferson Davis’ people largely still believe in sin and the need to repent.

  • I’ve seen an uptick in various non-Catholics taking up Lent– as with when they take on other Catholic observations, they’re learning it from the ancient Jews.
    Kind of like explaining that of course we honor Mary, she’s Jesus’s mom, Lent can reach them by framing it as following in Christ’s steps, rather than “Oh, that CATHOLIC thing.”
    A rose by any other name does smell as sweet, but if you call it sinus destroying stinkbomb folks are unlikely to find out. 😀

  • Penguin Fan – I always wonder when I read comments like this. Our homily today was about sin, how each sinful act we commit is a decision we make to put ourselves above God. Awareness of sin isn’t the final goal, of course. Isaiah, Paul, and Peter were made aware of their unworthiness, but God moved them past that into a relationship with Him. Lent is a time for giving things up – not to some inanimate object, but to the God who is worthy of our adoration. We were urged to offer up this Lent for the people we have wronged, the people we have led into sin over our lives.

  • “….designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.”

    Yes we have a lot to be humiliated about especially for a number of Godless Supreme Court decisions made over the many years. The court has taken liberties with the law that were never intended by the founders. Let us, during this lent, set aside a day of prayer for the Supreme Court that a solution can be found to overturn their evil decisions.

To All His Creatures

Friday, January 22, AD 2016

March for Life



These communities, by their representatives in old  Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We  hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are  created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with  certain unalienable rights; that among these are life,  liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic  interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their  lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of  the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to  all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their  enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and  likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded,  and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole  race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized  upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide  their children and their children’s children, and the countless  myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise  statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity  to breed tyrants, and so they established these great  self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man,  some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that  none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life,  liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look  up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to  renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth,  and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues  might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would  hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles  on which the temple of liberty was being built.

Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858

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7 Responses to To All His Creatures

  • “…nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.”

    To all Pro-Life people’s everywhere… God be with you. My humble prayers go to you and may Gods grace accompany you today and everyday.

  • I wonder where the ‘Black Lives Matter’ are on abortion since they are the main target of Planned Parenthood. We have a black holocaust going on and very few care to take notice.

  • Of course, the Dying Legacy Media ignores it all.

  • It always fascinates me that in spite of the mass “education” of today, we radically fail to reach the wisdom of our forefathers and great leaders. We are now reduced to arguing about the economics of things as if money alone envelopes our humanity. We are blind to the fact that it is the social issues that are the very weapon that our enemies within have taken us down with so well. Perhaps radical Islam will reawaken us in time to resurrect the great cultural yeast given us by the wisdom of our forefathers and the pure gift of our Creator?

  • @Don L.

    If not radical Islam, then possibly an act of nature. Of course no one would wish disaster upon themselves, but as you correctly mentioned, a reawakening on a massive volume of people, could reorient them to the last four things and the importance therein.
    Death Judgement Heaven Hell

  • “…so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land”
    I think Abe Lincoln would have liked Marco Rubio’s answer to an atheist

  • “…We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal….” Perhaps the most profound quote of our forefathers! I embrace the word “self-evident” because the fact also covers the logic of the very human existence of man, and with that follows the sacred character of the Commandments, all of them resting upon that very same being, viz., man, and his very nature.

Royal Dano and Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, January 19, AD 2016

Royal Dano as Lincoln



Last night I was watching an old Rifleman episode and it was an odd one.  One of Lucas McCain’s neighbors turns out to be Abraham Lincoln!  Well, not the real Abraham Lincoln, but rather a man who incurred psychic trauma during his Civil War service and now he believes he is Abraham Lincoln.  However, the man, portrayed by the late actor Royal Dano, looks and acts just like Abraham Lincoln.  This show was broadcast in 1961 when the Civil War centennial was big news, and this was a clever way of getting Lincoln on the Rifleman show, a series set in the 1880’s, without having to invoke time travel!  The episode was moving and as I listened I thought the actor portraying Lincoln sounded familiar.  Then it struck me: the Disney Animatronics Lincoln!

Dano provided the voice of the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln show which Disney premiered at the World’s Fair in 1964. Disney chose Dano because he believed his voice was most like what Disney imagined Lincoln sounded like.  In this Disney was probably incorrect.  Most contemporaries described Lincoln as having a high pitched voice.  However, Disney was a showman and not an historian, and I think Disney hit upon a voice that did fit the popular imagination of what Lincoln sounded like, said imagination having been formed by deep voiced portrayals of Lincoln on film by actors such as Walter Huston, Henry Fonda and Raymond Massey.  The Animatronics Lincoln now has a new voice actor as Lincoln, but to generations that came of age in the final decades of the last century and visited Disney World, Dano’s voice will be that of Lincoln’s.

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5 Responses to Royal Dano and Abraham Lincoln

  • The 1950-60s cultural preference to baritones did a great disservice to America (as did the 60’s preference for JFK hair styles). Anyone who has listened to recordings of Teddy Roosevelt’s voice knows that voice has little to do with manliness.

  • on the other hand TomD, if you heard John Charles Thomas, Lawrence Tibbett or Leonard Warren or G.B Shea Speak or sing you would glimpse the love affair with the Baritone voice. Which i might suggest started much earlier, with the talkies and the Fox studios and 20th century merger @ 1931.
    Royal Dano was an effective actor.

    none of these men affected a disservice to the culture of their nation. quite the contrary i think…….. then there is a joke of a baritone singing ol man river at the end of the film salute to the genius of Jerome Kern @1946 – ‘Till the clouds roll by’ – a.k.a. Sinatra. that should start a clash of opinion. I should not write the names of these baritones together in the same post- one of these is not like the others…. like the scribes, i should get up, change my clothing, do a cleansing bath, put on new duds and then begin writing again – o well.

    the kennedy line i won’t touch – how dare one criticize ” Camelot” or any part thereof ;

  • Royal Dan also played a maimed and wounded Confederate soldier in another Rifleman Episode, too. Somehow this Confederate AND Phil Sheridan end up at the Lucas place where high jinks then occur including an assassination attempt on Sheridan by Dano’s character! Of course, after much blustering and name calling bluebelly, reb and secesh scum, Sheridan arranges for surgery to fix the maimed Confederate’s arm.

    McCain notes in at least two episodes that I remember that he served in either a Wisconsin or Michigan regiment.


  • I think McCain said in one episode that during the War he was a Lieutenant in the 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. I have also seen the 11th Indiana cited as his regiment. Of course, during the War a man might serve with several regiments.

  • Thanks. I knew the face but never the actor’s name. Royal Dano was a talented character actor and to me the best of the Lincolns.

Video Clip Worth Watching: Lincoln Calms a Lynch Mob

Tuesday, January 5, AD 2016

Henry Fonda didn’t resemble Abraham Lincoln, but in his folksy mannerisms and stump speech oratory, he conjures up well the spirit of Lincoln the prairie lawyer in John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).   Fonda didn’t want to take the role at first, feeling himself inadequate to play the Great Emancipator.  Ford called him up, and in a profanity laced tirade told Fonda that he would not be portraying President Lincoln, but rather Lincoln as a wet behind the ears attorney.  Fonda took the role.

Four years later, Fonda would star in the great anti-lynching movie, The Ox Bow Incident (1943):

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One Response to Video Clip Worth Watching: Lincoln Calms a Lynch Mob

  • “The Ox Bow Incident” was a great movie based on a great book. If memory serves me right I think that Anthony Quinn won an Oscar, making him the first Mexican-American to gain that honor.

Reality Always Wins

Thursday, December 17, AD 2015



One of the recurring themes of this blog is that reality always prevails in the end. Professor Anthony Esolen, who has commented here, has a brilliant post at Crisis on this theme:


It may be that all of the mad errors of the last hundred years have risen from one first and terrible error: that of refusing to honor reality, including human reality, as it is. In generations past, if you did not honor reality, you paid for it swiftly and severely. Try to plant strawberries in a desert, or fig trees in a swamp, and your belly will tell you that you have been a fool, even if your mind is stubborn and slow to admit it. Send your women out with the oxen and the plow, the cross-cut saw and the mattock, while your boys do the laundry and the mending, and the very stones will testify to your stupidity. But our wealth and sophisticated technology are a great buffer between us and those stones. We can seem to ourselves, for a while, to get away with ignoring the real.

Not that we actually do get away with it. Ideologies treat man as if he could be pressed into any shape, like molten plastic poured into a form. Stalin tried his hand at the human extruding machine, ignoring the ordinary farmer’s love for the land to which he and his forebears had given their sweat and their souls. The result was to turn one of the great breadbaskets of the world, the Ukraine, into barrens, while six million people died—not before some of them had sunk below the beast and eaten their own dead. Mao tried his hand at the human extruding machine, ignoring the ordinary man’s piety towards his ancestors and their ways, and the result was a mass destruction of culture, and sixty million people dead.

These are flagrant sinners against God and the reality he made. But the murderer of only one man is a murderer all the same, and more pleasant or vacuous sinners against reality are still sinners and still work harm. In the aggregate they can destroy every bit as much as Stalin and Mao did. Abortion of course is one obvious example of a refusal to look at reality. The child-making act has as its natural and foreseeable end the making of a child. We do know this, just as we know that men should revere their parents and grandparents, and that people who have lived on a tract of land for a hundred years love it and will tend it more carefully than a cadre of bureaucrats could ever imagine. We simply pretend that we do not know it. We pretend that when a man and a woman do the child-making thing, and they make a child, it can strike them as an utter surprise, a bolt from the blue. If you are walking beside a row of high-rise row houses, and you are struck by a piano falling from a great height, that is a surprise, that is an unnerving accident. Not the other.


But, having stiffed the real and embraced a fantasy, here the ideology of sexual liberation, having played at being husband and wife without being husband and wife, we claim all at once to be Surprised by Baby, Dismayed by Baby, Utterly Undone by Baby, and, hence, we want Baby out of the way. To have it out of the way, we have to plunge ourselves even deeper into the unreal. We have to pretend that the baby is not human, when we know, of course, that it is, and that it is not alive, when we know that if it were dead, it would be called a miscarriage, and no moral problem would arise. We have to cleave our minds in half to have our lives of license whole.

So it is that Planned Parenthood, which has never helped any woman to become a parent, sells as human body parts the members of the human beings they have killed under the fiction that they were not human at all, calling it “medical care” when nothing is remediated. So also the Pill, destructive of the common good and (like all synthetic growth hormones) deleterious to the health of the women who use it, is called “medical care,” when no disease is cured, and no limb or organ is restored to its normal and natural function; rather, its purpose is to thwart the natural function of the reproductive system, even at the cost of the woman’s health. It is thus not like an inoculation to protect you against a communicable disease. It is like deliberately putting a joint out of socket.

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5 Responses to Reality Always Wins

  • Seen at Instapundit blog.

    “Magical thinking – Islam and the left (both cases omitted “evil” because it would be redundant), lack self-awareness; are incapable of introspection; make excuses for their excesses; and always attempt to exercise control/power.”

  • Professor Esolen’s piece in Crisis is excellent. Thanks for pointing
    it out, Mr. McClarey.

  • Let freedom ring. When the truth is written, the essay regardless of length, is succulent to behold. Anthony Esolen served up a winner.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Another great essay by Anthony Esolen.

    Reality: “The world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.”

    Many people believe reality is what is perceived, not what is. They live in an imaginary reality, one of day dreams, of what might be. This could be due to ego centrism or selfishness. It a belief that we are in control and can make things happen the way we want.

    To face reality requires courage and commitment which, among many folks today, is simply lacking. Facing reality is much easier when we believe in God and have faith in Him and that He will help us.

    Perhaps the reason so many folks will not accept reality is because they do not have faith in God.

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Ghosts of the Library

Saturday, October 31, AD 2015


One of my favorite stops at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield.


The Thirty-third Infantry Illinois Volunteers was organized at Camp Butler, Illinois, in the month of September, 1861, by Colonel Chas. E. Hovey, and mustered into the United States service by Captain T. G. Pitcher, U. S. A.

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August 23, 1865: Lincoln, Argentina

Sunday, August 23, AD 2015


Americans traveling through Argentina are sometimes surprised when they come across the town of Lincoln.  Founded in 1871, the name of the town was the result of a decree of the government of Argentina on August 23, 1865 which ordered that the employees of the government of Argentina observe three days of mourning for Lincoln and decreed that the next town founded be named in honor of Lincoln.  Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, President of Argentina from 1868-1874, was such an admirer of Lincoln, that he wrote the first biography of him in Spanish.

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One Response to August 23, 1865: Lincoln, Argentina

  • While visiting the Sicilian town of Enna, atop a high, rocky prominence reached by a winding road, we found a memorial to Abraham Lincoln. Enna was the site of a famous slave revolt.

Is Abortion Moral?

Sunday, August 23, AD 2015



You’re going from dealing with people to dealing with what most people here at the Center consider a real hurdle, to do sterile room, because you have to deal with the actual abortion tissue. And for some people that’s really hard. They can be abstractly in favor of abortion rights, but they sure don’t want to see what an eighteen-week abortion looks like.

  • Anonymous clinic worker Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic Wendy Simonds (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick) 1996 p 69.


Dennis Prager zooms in on the essential question regarding abortion:  Is it moral?  Legal protection of the unborn is our goal, but winning the moral debate is all important, and the pro-life cause has been slowly winning that debate.

Today I will be driving by Galesburg, on my way to take my daughter back to college.  In the Lincoln-Douglas debate held at Galesburg on October 7, 1858, Lincoln got to the heart of the difference between him and Stephen Douglas regarding slavery:

But there still is a difference, I think, between Judge Douglas and the Republicans in this. I suppose that the real difference between Judge Douglas and his friends, and the Republicans on the contrary, is, that the Judge is not in favor of making any difference between slavery and liberty-that he is in favor of eradicating, of pressing out of view, the questions of preference in this country for free or slave institutions; and consequently every sentiment he utters discards the idea that there is any wrong in slavery. Every thing that emanates from him or his coadjutors in their course of policy, carefully excludes the thought that there is any thing wrong in slavery. All their arguments, if you will consider them, will be seen to exclude the thought that there is any thing whatever wrong in slavery. If you will take the Judge’s speeches, and select the short and pointed sentences expressed by him-as his declaration that he “don’t care whether slavery is voted up or down”- you will see at once that this is perfectly logical, if you do not admit that slavery is wrong. If you do admit that it is wrong, Judge Douglas cannot logically say he don’t care whether a wrong is voted up or voted down. Judge Douglas declares that if any community want slavery they have a right to have it. He can say that logically, if he says that there is no wrong in slavery; but if you admit that there is a wrong in it, he cannot logically say that any body has a right to do wrong. He insists that, upon the score of equality, the owners of slaves and owners of property-of horses and every other sort of property-should be alike and hold them alike in a new Territory. That is perfectly logical, if the two species of property are alike and are equally founded in right. But if you admit that one of them is wrong, you cannot institute any equality between right and wrong. And from this difference of sentiment-the belief on the part of one that the institution is wrong, and a policy springing from that belief which looks to the arrest of the enlargement of that wrong; and this other sentiment, that it is no wrong, and a policy sprung from that sentiment which will tolerate no idea of preventing that wrong from growing larger, and looks to there never being an end of it through all the existence of things,-arises the real difference between Judge Douglas and his friends on the one hand, and the Republicans on the other. Now, I confess myself as belonging to that class in the country who contemplate slavery as a moral, social and political evil, having due regard for its actual existence amongst us and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satisfactory way, and to all the Constitutional obligations which have been thrown about it; but, nevertheless, desire a policy that looks to the prevention of it as a wrong, and looks hopefully to the time when as a wrong it may come to an end.

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4 Responses to Is Abortion Moral?

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  • Now let us praise great men. And thank you much for two in one post. TR is held up by some on the Left as a progressive. I suspect perhaps thinking they rub our nose in the observation. But TR was no kind of progressive that inhabits the body politic today. He was a hero to my lately departed best friend, and I cannot but admire the man. Bring back the Bully Pulpit and fill it with such a person.

  • If a nation’s people cannot recognize sodomy as inherently evil, then how can it recognize infanticide as inherently evil?

  • By the good guys not giving into despair and by continuing to fight. Sheesh, if the history of the pro-life movement has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that. As Saint Francis said, let gloom and despair be among the Devil and his disciples.