Fortnight for Freedom: Bishop Sheen-Life of Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, June 30, AD 2015

Fortnight For Freedom 2015

In our current struggle in this country for freedom, it is good to recall champions of it.  Two names stand above all others:  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln

In that regard,  Bishop Sheen retold the life of Abraham Lincoln on his television show.  Originally broadcast in 1954, it is an interesting take on the Great Emancipator.  Completely fascinating.  A great tribute by a son of Illinois to the greatest son of Illinois.

As a native of Peoria, Sheen knew that Lincoln re-emerged into political life on October 16, 1854 when he gave a speech in Peoria that attacked the repeal of the Missouri Compromise by Stephen Douglas’ Kansas-Nebraska Act.  Go here to read that speech.  The rest of Lincoln’s political life was set by that speech that catapulted him into the challenge to Douglas for his Senate seat in 1858, and his Presidential campaign against Douglas in 1860.  For Lincoln personally, the Peoria speech was the most significant of his life.

Of course Bishop Sheen did not celebrate Lincoln simply because of his connection with Illinois and Peoria.  In addition to his winning the Civil War and freeing the slaves, Lincoln was also ever a friend to Catholics.

In the 1840s America was beset by a wave of anti-Catholic riots.  An especially violent one occurred in Philadelphia on May 6-8.  These riots laid the seeds for a powerful anti-Catholic movement which became embodied in the years to come in the aptly named Know-Nothing movement.  To many American politicians Catholic-bashing seemed the path to electoral success.

Lincoln made clear where he stood on this issue when he organized a public meeting in Springfield, Illinois on June 12, 1844.  At the meeting he proposed and had the following resolution adopted by the meeting:

“Resolved, That the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition. Resolved, That we reprobate and condemn each and every thing in the Philadelphia riots, and the causes which led to them, from whatever quarter they may have come, which are in conflict with the principles above expressed.”

Lincoln remained true to this belief.  At the height of the political success of the Know-Nothing movement 11 years later, Mr. Lincoln in a letter to his friend Joshua Speed wrote:

“I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].”

On July 4, 1864, when Lincoln had much else to occupy his mind, he attended a fundraising for a  Catholic church for Washington blacks.  Lincoln had given permission for the fund raiser to be held on the lawn of the White House.

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4 Responses to Fortnight for Freedom: Bishop Sheen-Life of Abraham Lincoln

  • “Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid…”

    How prophetic can one be? Welcome to the same nation after much more degeneracy….

  • Catholics have bought into the lie that one’s “right to conscience” is a sign of freedom. This false teaching is designed by the Devil and got us to where we are today-legalizing sodomite “marriage”. The “Catholic” U.S. hierarchy used this tool of Satan in its “seamless garment” heresy, giving the green light for using contraceptives and having abortions.

  • True freedom exists only when the mind settles on the Truth of God, who is Jesus Christ, and the act conforms to His will.

  • I will steal that opportunity to post ANOTHER awesome Sheen video:

Fortnight For Freedom: Abraham Lincoln on Supreme Court Decisions

Sunday, June 28, AD 2015

Fortnight For Freedom 2015


Some quotes from Abraham Lincoln in how to react to illegitimate Supreme Court decisions.  An illegitimate decision is one in which the Court arrogates to itself the power of a legislature under the mendacious guise of merely interpreting the Constitution:



1.  I do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case, upon the parties to a suit; as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the government.

2.  Judicial decisions have two uses-first, to absolutely determine the case decided, and secondly, to indicate to the public how other similar cases will be decided when they arise. For the latter use, they are called “precedents” and “authorities.”

3.  We think its (the Supreme Court) decisions on Constitutional questions, when fully settled, should control, not only the particular cases decided, but the general policy of the country, subject to be disturbed only by amendments of the Constitution as provided in that instrument itself. More than this would be revolution.

4.  At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.

5.  Judicial decisions are of greater or less authority as precedents, according to circumstances. That this should be so, accords both with common sense, and the customary understanding of the legal profession.

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3 Responses to Fortnight For Freedom: Abraham Lincoln on Supreme Court Decisions

  • I was beyond angry when Obama brazenly attacked the SC at his SOTU speech. Now I which he had gone further.

  • Good post. The Dred Scott Justices, the Abortion Justices and the Sodomy Justices will all one day stand before that Supreme Justice from whom there is no escape.

  • This is some more comment re how Lincoln dealt with the S Ct. We appear to going down this road again.

    Honoring the Holy Innocents of America: The American Address

    Catholic Lane July 28,, 2015
    by Guy McClung, J.D., Ph.D.

    The 1857 SupremeCcourt Dred Scott decision said that Dred Scott, his wife, and their unborn child were not human beings, but were property to be bought and sold. Led by proslavery Chief Justice Roger Taney, the Court created a new national constitutional right to own slaves. Taney, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic, was born on a tobacco slave plantation, and was a former slave owner.

    Abraham Lincoln rejected the Dred Scott decision and rejected the Court’s ability to declare that certain human beings were subhuman. He denied that the Court could resolve and decide the meaning of the Constitution for the other coequal branches of the government or for all the people. Lincoln considered the Dred Scott decision lawless. He rejected the assumed supremacy of what he saw as a renegade Court, and therefore believed that the decision was non-binding on the executive and legislative branches. President Lincoln and the U.S. Congress, and many of the people, not only defied Taney and the Supreme Court, they refused to obey the decision.

    Their defiance led to the Civil War.

    In the summer of 1863, in the costliest of battles in terms of loss of life, over 50,000 soldiers from both sides died at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Now in America, the number of dead aborted children here exceeds by over a thousand times the number of dead at Gettysburg. Ironically, today the majority of the dead are minority children – over seventeen million of them are African-American – and many of these dead children are descendants of those for whom the Civil War was fought and won. In the Fall of 1863 President Lincoln went to dedicate a cemetery to the dead soldiers of Gettysburg. The words he spoke there have become known as The Gettysburg Address. Here is:

    The American Address

    A dozen score years ago our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men, women and children are created equal; and founded on the principle that they are all endowed, not by any government, not by any Constitution, not by any law, but endowed by their Creator with the inalienable right to life.
    Now we are engaged in a great civil conflict, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met at great battlefields of that conflict, in cities and towns across America, at the killing chambers of Planned Parenthood, and at numerous other death dealers whose business is abortion. We have come to dedicate a portion of these cities as the final resting places of thousands of innocent children who give their tiny lives; we are come to dedicate their unmarked graves, the dumpsters, the toilets, the biological waste incinerators, and the garbage cans that receive them. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — the ground across America where they have died and where more will die. The children, who struggle, suffer, cry out with silent screams, and die have consecrated this land far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget that the children have been and will continue to be killed here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which the children who die here have thus far so nobly advanced, the work they have begun in their small way, dying with their tiny voices unheard. But we hear them.

    It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead and living unborn children we take increased devotion to that cause for which they give the last full measure of devotion; that we here solemnly vow that no more children’s lives are taken in this Land of Freedom, this Land Of Life . That we here highly resolve that all these children have not died in vain in this American Holocaust– that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, including all the people, even the smallest people now warm and happy within their mothers wombs, that this nation, these people, and these children shall not perish from the earth.

    – See more at:

June 1, 1865: National Day of Mourning

Monday, June 1, AD 2015

Mourning Lincoln


Although a Thursday, the national day of mourning struck most Northerners like a Sunday.  Businesses and government offices were closed and people repaired to their churches where they prayed and heard sermons on Lincoln.  Pat McNamara at his blog in 2012 noted the remarks after communion of Father Sylvester Malone, the founder of Saints Peter and Paul parish in Brooklyn:

“Catholics, we join our tears to day with those of the nation. As citizens and as representatives of the great Catholic body, we are bowed down by this great, this fearful calamity, that has befallen us. Abraham Lincoln, the wise, the just, and Christian Magistrate, has been assassinated. But the event has a deeper significance. It is not that Abraham Lincoln has thus been murdered; it is more it is the President of the United States, the representative of a nation of freemen, the head and chosen of its people. We mourn to day for the Christian patriot gone from us, but we stand appalled and horror stricken at the murder of a magistrate whose heart was so filled with Christian charity and forgiveness for those who had, forgetting their allegiance, taken arms against the most humane government on earth, against their country. My friends, take up this new burden of woe as befits you. Pray today for the salvation of this nation now laboring under this dreadful affliction. Pray for it every day. The nation needs all your prayers. Pray that those in authority may have the Divine guidance and protection in the trying situation upon which they are entering.”

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One Response to June 1, 1865: National Day of Mourning

  • Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, and it’s not surprising that an Irish cleric in NYC would idealize a politician like this; many, especially Irish priests, were strongly influenced by an Americanist bent that sometimes clouded their Catholicity. It’s one thing to bemoan a criminal and evil assassination, but to refer to the America of Manifest Destiny as “the most humane” government?

    The Indians, the Mexicans, the civilians who suffered under Grant in Georgia and Hunter and Custer in the Shenandoah valley might disagree. But none of them were enlightened Yankees like this Irish priest, so we can safely discount their perspectives on the Federal government’s “humaneness.”

Lincoln and Pigs

Sunday, May 17, AD 2015


The state of Illinois has quite a few statues of Abraham Lincoln.  One of the more unusual is one erected in 2005 outside the Taylorville, Illinois courthouse showing Lincoln with a pig.  The statue is the work of noted sculptor John McClary.  According to local Lincoln lore, Lincoln was arguing a case in Taylorville when pigs were heard squealing under the floor.  Lincoln suggested to the presiding Judge that a Writ of Quietus be issued by the Court ordering the pigs to be silent!

A pig figures in another Lincoln story.  As the story goes Lincoln and other attorneys were riding on the old Eighth Judicial Circuit when they passed by a pig caught firmly in a mud mire.  The poor pig was squealing piteously, slowly sinking to its doom.  Lincoln and his fellow attorneys rode by.  After about a mile Lincoln stopped.  He couldn’t get that pig out of his mind.  Turning back he rescued the pig using two boards, the pig getting him muddy in the process and ruining the new suit he was wearing.  Lincoln noted that by freeing the pig from the mire, he had also freed him from his conscience, and that was worth a suit.

Lincoln seems to have been fond of pigs from his earliest days, at least according to this story written by Ferdinand C. Iglehart in 1902:

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One Response to Lincoln and Pigs

The Lasting Impact of Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, May 9, AD 2015

 In this temple
As in the hearts of the people for
whom he saved the Union
The memory of Abraham
Is enshrined forever 

Inscription above the Lincoln Memorial

Something for the weekend.  Lincoln and Liberty, Too.  The mortal remains of Abraham Lincoln were laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois a century and a half ago this week.  This is a good time to look at the impact of his life, a life more consequential for his country and the world than that of any other American except for George Washington.

1.  Lincoln ended slavery.  That is a simple three word sentence but what an accomplishment it was.  Slavery, a world wide institution, had existed in the American colonies since their foundation.  By the time of the Civil War the institution was two hundred and fifty years old and had tainted American history from its inception.  It tainted everything it touched, and, in the ringing words of Lincoln:

I hate [indifference to slavery] because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world-enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites-causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty-criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.

Slavery was such an entrenched institution in the South that only a mammoth Civil War, with atrocious blood-letting, brought about the conditions that ended it.  In four short years Lincoln lanced the boil of slavery, and if that were his only accomplishment that alone should ensure that his name will be honored by endless generations of Americans.  Critics of Lincoln often pretend that the South would have abolished slavery.  There is no evidence to support that belief, and much evidence to support the contention that slavery was an immensely strong institution and getting a new lease on life by having slaves work in factories.  Vast slave empires arose in the twentieth century, and the Confederacy, if it had won the Civil War, might now be regarded as a harbinger of the future on the issue of slavery, rather than as a rear guard defense of the past.  There is nothing inevitable about history, which is a human creation, and Lincoln ending slavery had global ramifications, and if he had failed opposite global ramifications might likely have occurred, which would have reverberated to this day.

2.  Lincoln preserved the Union.  There would be no United States today but for Lincoln.  There would be two or more nations where the United States of America now is.  Daniel Webster, in his immortal reply to Hayne in 1830 stated:  “Union and liberty, now and forever, one and inseparable.”  For this country and this world I believe his comment was prophetic.  Without a united America I suspect that this nation would not have successfully led the fight against Nazi Germany and then prevailed in the Cold War over the Soviet Union.  I think it all too likely that in addition to the United States and the Confederate States, there would have been other successor states to the original United States.  Allow secession once, and in times of national stress it would have been a “remedy” trumpeted by ambitious demagogues.  The founders of the Confederacy feared this, the drafters of the Confederate Constitution voting down South Carolina’s proposal that a right of secession be set forth in the Confederate Constitution and instead included in the preamble of the Constitution that they were forming a permanent federal government.

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11 Responses to The Lasting Impact of Abraham Lincoln

  • one word….Machiavelli

  • What Lincoln could not foresee was the advent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR pitted Americans against each other (wealthy versus poor), exponentially grew the Federal Government in both power and scope, interred Americans in, well, let’s be honest – concentration camps (the Japanese Americans who were forced to sell or abandon their property and live in these camps) and his blindness to the evils of both Hitler (until it was almost too late) and Stalin, whose secret service completely infiltrated the US Government.
    The Democrat Party has been following the same playbook ever since and if some parts of this country want out from a truly despotic and inept Federal Government, I don’t blame them.

    We needed someone with the wisdom of Lincoln during the Great Depression but did not get it. We could have used Lincoln’s wisdom in 2008 but we got the worst president in the history of this nation – and reelected him.

    Lincoln saw the South as people who were, are and will be countrymen. Who thinks anything similar of King Putt?

  • The principle of separation of church and state does not give the state power to separate the human body from his soul. The principle of separation of church and state does not give the state the power to disenfranchise the human soul, because the sovereign person dwells in his body and his soul, from his Constitutional freedom and his civil rights under the First Amendment.
    When a teacher, coach, or other personnel in charge of minor children and leaders of a peaceable assembly who choose to exercise their First Amendment freedom to express their Faith, they are guaranteed their freedom to express their Faith as sovereign persons, individuals as private persons, and not in the office of any state position. The time of their lives spent acknowledging “their Creator” is their private, personal time because these citizens are exercising their First Amendment Civil Rights and as such are giving witness to freedom.
    The atheist, the secular humanist, in being offended by the citizens’ free exercise of his freedom to acknowledge “their Creator” has charged that a state religion is being established by exercising our freedom. In exercising our First Amendment rights, we, the people, as citizens are giving witness to freedom and the power of the state to protect freedom and civil rights, and “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity” from The Declaration of Independence.
    Private persons given charge of minor children act “in loco parentis”, and are prohibited by reason of parental authority to teach or witness to anything other than that which the parents authorize the state official to teach or disseminate as truth, principle, or freedom. This would preclude any state official in charge of minor children from imposing his personal, private opinion on the captive audience of minors, who are un-emancipated children, not yet able to discern for themselves the truth of freedom.
    Acknowledging “their Creator” and Natural human rights endowed by Nature and Nature’s God acknowledges too, that the state is not supreme. The state does not own the person. Rather, the sovereign person constitutes the state. Therefore, the state must protect the sovereign person’s sovereignty. If the sovereign person indeed, wishes to exercise his First Amendment civil right to acknowledge “their Creator”, the state is not empowered or authentically authorized to prohibit his exercise. “or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment.
    Every state official in charge of minor children who does not pray as a private, sovereign person is enforcing atheism, precluding the free exercise thereof, and indoctrinating minor children in the prohibition of civil rights.
    It is argued that prayer, acknowledging “their Creator”, has no place on state owned property such as public school, town hall meetings or the public square. This concept of the state gives rise to totalitarianism, the total control of the people by government, the government which the people have constituted.
    All public lands, waterways and public squares, town meeting halls and municipal buildings (meaning the peoples’ building), and public schools are owned in joint and common tenancy by each and every sovereign person, the taxpayer who bought and paid for and built it. The administration administers the tax dollars which belong to the individual tax payer even as his tax dollars are administered by the administration. Possession is nine-tenths of the law.
    In terms of children, however, parental authority, and the choice of the child to survive, his natural will to survive is his civil Right to Life, and with his chosen parents is paramount.
    The florist, Baronnelle Stutzman and Melissa’s Sweet Cakes, who both and all chose to practice their free exercise of their civil rights are being temporarily prosecuted for the crime of “hatred and discrimination” for loving their neighbor as themselves. Being heterosexual and believing that being heterosexual and acknowledging our constitutional posterity as defended in The Preamble to our Constitution, the unchangeable purpose of our Constitution, is the correct path to loving their neighbor as themselves, since they are heterosexual, and exercising their freedom of religion thereof, “or prohibit the free exercise thereof” The First Amendment.

  • 1) Abolished slavery even though he himself knew he had no constitutional authority to do so and did not initiate the war to do it, but only grasped it as a war aim when the “glorious union” meme was not going well in the North (but since slavery was an evil, he gets a pass on this);

    2) Preserved a “union” by invading states who were simply resuming the limited authority they gave to the federal government when voluntarily joining the union after the war against England. What a “glorious union”– enforced at the point of a bayonet, at the cost of 600,000 lives. If it were a marriage, maintaining a union by such means would land someone in jail.

    3) It’s an absurd mockery to put Lincoln in the company of the founders, not one of whom would have remotely envisaged a federal army invading states in order to force their membership in what was a voluntary union of “free and independent states” after the Revolution. Nor would any of them entertained for a moment forcing a state to change a practice lawful under the federal constitution by forcing them at gunpoint to agree to the 13th amendment. Lincoln was the “anti-founder” unravelling the limited, modest role of the federal government envisioned by the founders. Pile on his repeated violation of the constitution during the war, shuttering newspapers he didn’t like; imprisoning political opponents, defying the Supreme Court about his abuse of habeas corpus… no, Lincoln introduced a new form of aggressive centralism that led in a straight line to late 19th, early 20th century progressivism and our modern unconstitutional government.

    Hey, I understand having a hero, but unreflective deification belies a lack of judgment. I love Lee and Davis, but do not hesitate to point out their many flaws, and I would never have the gall to compare them to the founders, even though they have much more in common with Jefferson, Madison, Mason, and others than Lincoln.

  • “1) Abolished slavery even though he himself knew he had no constitutional authority to do so and did not initiate the war to do it, but only grasped it as a war aim when the “glorious union” meme was not going well in the North (but since slavery was an evil, he gets a pass on this);”

    Lincoln always said that he had no power to interfere with slavery in the states except as a war measure. Once it was clear that the Confederates were in earnest in their attempt to split the country, Lincoln seized the opportunity to emancipate the slaves as an act of War, striking a blow against the Confederacy and liberating millions of people in the bargain. He then sponsored a Constitutional amendment banning slavery to ratify what he had done.

    2. “Preserved a “union” by invading states”
    As Robert E. Lee noted, secession was simply rebellion rather than a right under the Constitution. There was no mechanism for it under the Constitution and several provisions in the Constitution indicate that the Union was meant to be perpetual. In any case, no minority faction had the right to rend the Union without the consent of a majority of the people of the United States, which the Confederates clearly never had. The United States of America was created in a war in which up to one-third of the American people opposed the creation of the country and supported the British. That it took bloodshed against a minority faction of the American people to preserve that Union bothers me no more than the fact that the original establishment of the country occurred against the wishes of the Tories.

    3. “It’s an absurd mockery to put Lincoln in the company of the founders, not one of whom would have remotely envisaged a federal army invading states in order to force their membership in what was a voluntary union of “free and independent states” after the Revolution.”

    Not at all. Various acts of early Congresses while almost all of the Founding Fathers still lived, and the Constitution provided for federal intervention against either rebellion or insurrection. The Founding Fathers were quite familiar with using military force in times of dire necessity against fellow Americans who differed from them, which is precisely the way they suppressed the Tories during the Revolution. Lincoln deserves Founding Father status because of his carrying forward the proposition that all men are created equal and restoring to millions of Americans their God-given rights. As Jefferson stated, in regard to slavery, the Justice of God would not sleep forever, and it did not.

  • I wish we could get past the cult of Lincoln. He is simply not the saint we all want him to have been.

    Some reasons to discount his sainthood.

    1. Slavery – I tend to believe the man came around to the idea of ending slavery at some point just prior to or right after the start of the Civil War. I think he used it as part of his weaponry against the south. But let’s not pretend he started the whole thing to free the slaves. We know that’s dishonest.

    No question though that the Civil War did end slavery in the south.

    2. Sheer cost – Lincoln has some things to answer for in terms of morality of the war – before, during and after – the loss of 630,000 souls, the slaughter of civilians – the “mainstreaming” of total war, the utter destruction of the social structure in the south – flawed and horrific as it was, the destruction of the awful reconstruction of the south. Who could answer yes to these things being ok to start a war? Wouldn’t it have been better to find another option? Lincoln could have bought every slave their freedom for the price of the war and saved all those lives. Furthermore, what about all the other countries who ended slavery peacefully?

    3. Economic incentives – please be honest about the economic policies and incentives the Lincoln administration had regarding the south and the American System. It’s simply not fair to act like Lincoln was holding the south just to preserve the union. Part of the issue was that he didn’t want to lose the South’s tariff revenue.

    4. Constitutional interpretation – It’s open to debate whether what he did was constitutional or not. Do we want to praise constitutional innovators just because they “found” some new penumbras? Seccession had been openly understood as an option for the states and considered by many others than just the south prior to the Civil War. Lincoln won this debate because he outlasted the south. But the arguments are not still not overwhelmingly conclusive.

    These are just a few of the things we need to highlight about Lincoln’s run. I will leave aside the discussion of Lincoln’s personal ambition and even his faith as those are probably much lower on the list of things to worry about. I’m just trying to point out that he is not the saint we all hoped. And by doing so I hope to avoid putting our trust or our hope in any princes. Lincoln was a man with moral flaws just like the rest of us. It was a tremendously ugly time and Lincoln’s hands are stained with blood less than righteously shed at least as much as many others of the time. I do not know if the Civil War could pass Just War criteria prior to the war. And it definitely did not pass Just War criteria for prosecution of the war.

  • “But let’s not pretend he started the whole thing to free the slaves.”

    No one said that he did, least of all Lincoln. As he stated in his First Inaugural, the question of Civil War was in the hands of the Confederates and not his. Once the War started he seized upon ending slavery as a War measure to preserve the Union. That it ended slavery benefited the country greatly and was in line with Lincoln’s own belief that all men, everywhere, should be free. A lesser leader would have lost the War and seen slavery a fixture upon the continent for the foreseeable future.

    “Lincoln has some things to answer for in terms of morality of the war –”

    Those who fired on Fort Sumter and seceded in order to protect slavery bear the guilt of starting the War. In a larger sense Lincoln of course thought that both North and South were guilty for the War because of tolerating slavery for so long.

    “the slaughter of civilians”
    Lincoln never slaughtered civilians and the War was mercifully largely free of such atrocities.
    As for total war, both sides used stern measures by the end of the War, as Chambersburg, Pennsylvania could attest.

    “Part of the issue was that he didn’t want to lose the South’s tariff revenue.”

    Tariffs were at a low point prior to the War and simply were not an issue North or South. The War cost the North far more than any revenue that could be raised from the South in tariffs in a century.

    “Seccession had been openly understood as an option for the states and considered by many others than just the south prior to the Civil War.”

    More accurate to call it a highly debatable option on which there was no agreement in the country. Both Jackson and Taylor, two Southern presidents, viewed secession as treason to be met with military force.

    “Lincoln could have bought every slave their freedom for the price of the war and saved all those lives.”

    Lincoln proposed compensated emancipation throughout the War. The border states were not interested, let alone the Confederates.
    “I’m just trying to point out that he is not the saint we all hoped.”
    Someone who is both an attorney and a politician would find it hard to claim a halo! I do claim that Lincoln was a great man a very great president. He lived in controversial times, and what he did will remain controversial for centuries to come.

  • “That it took bloodshed against a minority faction of the American people to preserve that Union bothers me no more than . . . .”

    Mr. McClarey, please say that the deaths of 280,000 Southerners makes you sad. For the sake of your Southern readers, just say so.

  • The deaths of all Americans in war makes me sad MR. However, if the Tories had prevailed in the American Revolution there would be no United States. If the Confederates had prevailed in the Civil War, their descendants would not be my countrymen and might well be my adversaries. History took the right course in 1783 and 1865 and the blood price on all sides was not too high to pay.

April 29, 1865: Johnson Postpones Day of Mourning For Lincoln

Wednesday, April 29, AD 2015



On April 29, 1865, President Johnson in his second Presidential Proclamation postpones the national day of mourning that he proclaimed in his first Proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation



Whereas by my proclamation of the 25th instant Thursday, the 25th day of next month, was recommended as a day for special humiliation and prayer in consequence of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States; but

Whereas my attention has since been called to the fact that the day aforesaid is sacred to large numbers of Christians as one of rejoicing for the ascension of the Savior:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby suggest that the religious services recommended as aforesaid should be postponed until Thursday, the 1st day of June next.

In testimony 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 29th day of April, A. D. 1865, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-ninth.


By the President:


Acting Secretary of State.

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Sic Transit John Wilkes Booth

Tuesday, April 28, AD 2015

Death of Booth



Judging from his melodramatic “Sic, Semper Tyrannis!” at Ford’s Theater after murdering Lincoln, Booth perceived his role of assassin as  being his greatest role, a chance to play in real life a doomed Romantic hero, an avenger of a wronged people.  The last twelve days of his life, as he eluded capture must have been disappointing for him, as the newspapers he read, including those who had been highly critical of Lincoln, universally condemned his action.  Perhaps he perceived that instead of  being a hero, he was fated to be cast as a minor villain, remembered solely due to his slaying of a great hero.  Booth wrote in his diary, “With every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why; For doing what Brutus was honored for … And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat.”

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4 Responses to Sic Transit John Wilkes Booth

  • Yesterday’s WSJ published a reveiw of a recent book on the US Cavalry trooper (that had been paroled from Andersonville Prison) that shot Booth.

  • Sadly, Booth coming through Maryland in this escape route, visited a doctor to set his broken leg. That doctor, doing his medical duty and not recognizing Booth who was in disguise, was Dr. Samuel Mudd. Later Dr. Mudd, a civilian, was tried by a military court and found guilty of planning the conspiracy. He was a Catholic. He was not murdered but sent to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off Key West. His health was ruined there. Later on he was ‘pardoned’ but not declared innocent. The term “Your name will be Mudd” comes from this event.

    People were out for blood and even hung Booth’s land lady, Mrs. Surratt who was also a Catholic and daily communicant and almost certainly had nothing to do with the conspiracy.

  • Mudd knew who Booth was and had met him three times prior to the assassination:

    The expression “your name is mud” was long in vogue prior to Dr. Mudd:

  • In thinking of John Wilkes Booth, one cannot but recollect the words of Lamartine on Charlotte Corday, the assassin of Marat, the People’s Friend.

    “In the face of murder, history dares not praise, and in the face of heroism, dares not condemn her. The appreciation of such an act places us in the terrible alternative of blaming virtue or applauding assassination… There are deeds of which men are no judges, and which mount, without appeal, direct to the tribunal of God. There are human actions so strange a mixture of weakness and strength, pure intent and culpable means, error and truth, murder and martyrdom, that we know not whether to term them crime or virtue. The culpable devotion of Charlotte Corday is among those acts which admiration and horror would leave eternally in doubt, did not morality reprove them.”

April 19, 1865: Funeral Sermon on Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, April 19, AD 2015



Although it was a  Wednesday, many contemporary observers in the United States thought that April 19, 1865 felt like a Sunday.  Funeral rites were being conducted for Abraham Lincoln at the White House and a national holiday, a national day of mourning, was proclaimed.  After the funeral service at the White House, Lincoln’s body began its long trek back to Springfield, where it would pass through 180 cities with the people of the country given an opportunity to pass by Lincoln’s coffin.  The funeral sermon was preached by Dr. Phineas D. Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln attended.  He had been close to both Lincolns, the Lincolns had chosen him to preach the funeral sermon when their son Willie died, and he would accompany the body back to Springfield and preach the final funeral sermon there.  His sermon at the White House was a powerful effort and reflected a willingness to see the Hand of God in all things, a common sentiment at that time, that most of us today, even those of us who are religious, lack, especially when something terrible occurs.  God is relegated, in much contemporary religious thought, to being either a divine Santa Claus, or an ineffectual, albeit well meaning, divinity, who stands apart from the frequently terrible things that occur in this vale of tears and weeps with us.  I think Gurley is closer to the truth, even with his patina of Calvinism, as to the nature of I AM who created the universe. Here is the text of the sermon:



AS WE STAND HERE TODAY, MOURNERS AROUND THIS COFFIN AND AROUND THE LIFELESS REMAINS OF OUR BELOVED CHIEF MAGISTRATE, WE RECOGNIZE AND WE ADORE THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. His throne is in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all. He hath done, and He hath permitted to be done, whatsoever He pleased. “Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.” His way is in the sea, and His path in the great waters, and His footsteps are not known. “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. If He cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder Him? For He knoweth vain men; he seeth wickedness also; will He not then consider it?”–We bow before His infinite majesty. We bow, we weep, we worship.

“Where reason fails, with all her powers,
There faith prevails, and love adores.”

It was a cruel, cruel hand, that dark hand of the assassin, which smote our honored, wise, and noble President, and filled the land with sorrow. But above and beyond that hand there is another which we must see and acknowledge. It is the chastening hand of a wise and a faithful Father. He gives us this bitter cup. And the cup that our Father hath given us, shall we not drink it?

God of the just, Thou gavest us the cup:
We yield to thy behest, and drink it up.”

“Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” O how these blessed words have cheered and strengthened and sustained us through all these long and weary years of civil strife, while our friends and brothers on so many ensanguined fields were falling and dying for the cause of Liberty and Union! Let them cheer, and strengthen, and sustain us to-day. True, this new sorrow and chastening has come in such an hour and in such a way as we thought not, and it bears the impress of a rod that is very heavy, and of a mystery that is very deep. That such a life should be sacrificed, at such a time, by such a foul and diabolical agency; that the man at the head of the nation, whom the people had learned to trust with a confiding and a loving confidence, and upon whom more than upon any other were centered, under God, our best hopes for the true and speedy pacification of the country, the restoration of the Union, and the return of harmony and love; that he should be taken from us, and taken just as the prospect of peace was brightly opening upon our torn and bleeding country, and just as he was beginning to be animated and gladdened with the hope of ere long enjoying with the people the blessed fruit and reward of his and their toil, and care, and patience, and self-sacrificing devotion to the interests of Liberty and the Union–O it is a mysterious and a most afflicting visitation! But it is our Father in heaven, the God of our fathers, and our God, who permits us to be so suddenly and sorely smitten; and we know that His judgments are right, and that in faithfulness He has afflicted us. In the midst of our rejoicings we needed this stroke, this dealing, this discipline; and therefore He has sent it. Let us remember, our affliction has not come forth out of the dust, and our trouble has not sprung out of the ground. Through and beyond all second causes let us look, and see the sovereign permissive agency of the great First Cause. It is His prerogative to bring light out of darkness and good out of evil. Surely the wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain. In the light of a clearer day we may yet see that the wrath which planned and perpetuated the death of the President, was overruled by Him whose judgements are unsearchable, and His ways are past finding out, for the highest welfare of all those interests which are so dear to the Christian patriot and philanthropist, and for which a loyal people have made such an unexampled sacrifice of treasure and of blood. Let us not be faithless, but believing.

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6 Responses to April 19, 1865: Funeral Sermon on Abraham Lincoln

  • “The friends of Liberty and of the Union will repair to it in years and ages to come, to pronounce the memory of its occupant blessed, and, gathering from his very ashes, and from the rehearsal of his deeds and virtues, fresh incentives to patriotism, they will there renew their vows of fidelity to their country and their God.”

    Thank you for posting this, Don.

    Words such as those in this sermon are what I was thinking about when I worked to pass legislation this spring that would make sure high school students in our state had needed instruction on the origins of American history up through the Civil War. I believe this period of time is being excluded from public high school level instruction because of the religious faith, liberty concepts, and limited govt views of our leaders during these periods of time. We have so much work to do. FYI. The link to the bill we passed is below. It is not nearly enough.

  • If I remember right about 6 or 7 years ago, our current president was hoping to draw positive comparisons between himself and Abraham Lincoln (as well as FDR). He or his advisors gave up on that (Lincoln) idea.
    Wouldn’t it be great if he would read this sermon from Lincoln’s pastor, and think about it.

  • “He browses among the lilies” Man is facing his mortality every instance of his life. Atheists are dying. Catholics are dying. Agnostics are dying. Only atheists are recognized and acknowledged in the public square in America, Canada and Great Britain. Persons, as citizens, are denied their relationship with their Creator in the hour of their death, wherever and whenever the person’s death comes due.
    The state does not have authentic authority to deprive any person of his God at the hour of his death.
    If atheism, the absence of God is imposed, the taxpayers are being taxed without representation. Hell is being purveyed and heaven is being denied to the persons experiencing their final agony. Separation of church and state has been obliterated. If the state wants to go to hell, then, let the state go to hell. I want to go to heaven whenever or where ever I must. Abraham Lincoln was free to pray in a public place in his death throes. You and I are prohibited from the free exercise thereof and then make compliance to sound normal.
    Abraham Lincoln died in vain. This beautiful sermon (especially about the soul) would not be allowed in a public place today.

  • “Abraham Lincoln died in vain.” that breaks my heart Mary my friend. You are right this beautiful sermon would not be heard today.
    So much that tempts us to be discouraged. It does seem like the worst of times.
    Though so much has been lost in this last diabolic century the greatness of some past leaders can still have an effect.
    But it’s not over til it’s over- We must keep that “…steady enduring confidence in God, and in the complete ultimate success of the cause of God,,,,” just like the preacher said.

  • Anzlyne: “If this president were to read [the Lincoln funeral sermon] and think about it…”
    Sorry to observe but this president doesn’t seem to read much at all—there is nothing for a revolutionary to learn in books, books are about the past.

    Increasingly—esp. if you saw the photos published of him at his press conference Saturday 4/18/15—he has that demonic, glazed look in his eyes as he goes after his enemies, because he knows, even for a revolutionary, there is only so much time left ot him. And it is growing short.

Mourning Lincoln

Saturday, April 18, AD 2015


My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Lincoln’s Farewell to Springfield, February 11, 1861




Something for the weekend.  The Funeral March of President Lincoln.  One hundred and fifty years ago the North was convulsed in grief, as it mourned the commander in chief who just had successfully concluded the bloodiest war in American history.  Lincoln belongs to the entire nation, but Illinois has always taken pardonable pride in her favorite son.  On May 1-May 3, 2015 Springfield, Illinois will be commemorating the funeral of Lincoln:


Mary Todd Lincoln, prostrated with grief, angrily resisted all suggestions and pleas that Lincoln be buried in Washington, and brought him home to Illinois, along with the body of their son Willie.

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One Response to Mourning Lincoln

Now He Belongs to the Ages

Thursday, April 16, AD 2015



Now he belongs to the ages.”  So said Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, who had kept vigil at Lincoln’s deathbed, after Lincoln died from an assassin’s bullet.

In hundreds of posts since 2008 at The American Catholic and Almost Chosen People, I have examined various facets of the public life of Abraham Lincoln.  Of course, the most important part of Lincoln’s life came, as it will for each of us, after his death when he stood before God for the particular judgment.  In this life the outcome of that judgment is unknown to us.  However, I think  the record is well-established that during the Civil War Lincoln found his mind and his heart turning increasingly towards God.

Lincoln throughout his life had read the Bible and effortlessly used scriptural quotes in his speaking and writing, both in public and in private.  Lincoln had the Bible in his bones, and often turned to it.  Lincoln’s religious opinions are not simple to discern, however, as Mark Noll in a perceptive article skillfully points out.

In 1846 when Lincoln ran successfully for Congress against a well known Protestant minister, Peter Cartwright, he was attacked as an “infidel” and a scoffer against religion.  In a pamphlet Lincoln responded:  “That I am not a member of any Christian church is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular… I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, or scoffer at, religion.”  Before the election campaign Lincoln went to one of the revival meetings of Cartwright, probably to scope out the opposition.  During the meeting Cartwright asked all those who were intent on going to Heaven to stand, and Lincoln remained seated.  Cartwright then asked all those who were intent on going to Hell to stand, and Lincoln once again remained seated.  Cartwright then inquired of Lincoln directly where Lincoln intended to go since he stood neither for Heaven nor Hell.  Lincoln responded that he intended to go to Congress.

I have always thought that Mary Todd Lincoln, his wife and most perceptive observer, best understood Lincoln’s religious views:  “From the time of the death of our little Edward, I believe my husband’s heart was directed towards religion & as time passed on – when Mr. Lincoln became elevated to Office – with the care of a great Nation, upon his shoulders – when devastating war was upon us then indeed to my knowledge – did his great heart go up daily, hourly, in prayer to God – for his sustaining power When too – the overwhelming sorrow came upon us, our beautiful bright angelic boy, Willie was called away from us, to his Heavenly Home, with God’s chastising hand upon us – he turned his heart to Christ.”

Certainly Mr. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address gives strong evidence that Lincoln had thought long and very hard about God and human affairs.  Lincoln occasionally gave hints that indicated that he was thinking about his own destiny in the hereafter.  In August of 1864 it looked as if Lincoln was headed to electoral defeat.  A group of Wisconsin politicians visiting the White House suggested that perhaps Lincoln’s prospects would improve if he would agree to drop the Emancipation Proclamation in exchange for the Confederate states returning to the Union.  Lincoln responded briskly:

“I should be damned in time and in eternity were I to do that.  I will keep faith with the gallant black soldiers who have fought and died for this nation at Port Hudson and Olustee. The Proclamation sticks.”

As for the Bible, Lincoln gave frequent public and private comments that indicated his great respect for the book of books.  When Lincoln received the gift of a Bible from freed slaves in Maryland he made the following statement:  “In regard to this great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.

In the summer of 1864 Lincoln spent an evening with perhaps his closest friend Joshua F. Speed.  When Speed arrived Lincoln was reading the Bible.  Speed recounted the incident as follows:  “As I entered the room near night, [Lincoln] was sitting near a window reading his Bible. Approaching him, I said, ‘I am glad to see you profitably engaged.’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘I am profitably engaged.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if you have recovered from your skepticism I am sorry to say that I have not!’ Looking me earnestly in the face, and placing his hand upon my shoulder, he said: ‘You are wrong Speed; take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier and better man.’”

Very significant evidence as to the impact on Lincoln of the death of his son Willie and the war is given by Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln regularly attended.  In response to an inquiry as to whether Lincoln was a scoffer, Gurley replied as follows:  ” I do not believe a word of it. It could not have been true of him while here, for I have had frequent and intimate conversations with him on the Subject of the Bible and the Christian religion, when he could have had no motive to deceive me, and I considered him sound not only on the truth of the Christian religion but on all its fundamental doctrines and teachings. And more than that, in the latter days of his chastened and weary life, after the death of his son Willie, and his visit to the battlefield of Gettysburg, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he had lost confidence in everything but God, and that he now believed his heart was changed, and that he loved the Savior, and, if he was not deceived in himself, it was his intention soon to make a profession of religion.”

So much for the historical record.  When it comes to something of the heart and soul like religion, prose and facts can take us only so far.  Time to call on a poet.

Stephen Vincent Benet 87, four score and seven, years ago wrote an epic poem on the American Civil War, John Brown’s Body.  Courtesy of Project Gutenberg, it is available on line here.  In this section of the poem I think he gets close to the truth of Abraham Lincoln and his turning to God during the war.  Lincoln is sitting in the telegraph office at the War Department anxiously awaiting news of the battle of Antietam:

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8 Responses to Now He Belongs to the Ages

  • Stephen Mansfield’s book “Lincoln’s Battle With God” makes a decent case that our 16th President was a believing Christian before he died.

    It presents all of the evidence, pro and con, including a frank acknowledgment that Honest Abe was a “scoffer” and a virulent atheist at one point in his life. But the man who wrote the Second Inaugural Address and wanted to visit the “Holy Land” to see “where the Savior trod” right before he was murdered was no deist, much less an agnostic.

  • Thank you Mary.

    “Stephen Mansfield’s book “Lincoln’s Battle With God””

    It is a first rate study of Lincoln’s religious faith Dale, and I am surprised that it has not received more notice.

  • Oh, I understand why it hasn’t: Mansfield is an evangelical who makes no bones about it. Being one of “Them,” it’s simply dismissed as propaganda.

    Despite the fact his amassing and interpretation of the evidence is reasonable and within the realm of honest scholarly interpretation. Thus, I happily recommend it to anyone interested in the issue.

  • Why did Lincoln read the Bible, yet he did not bother going to church? Perhaps he preferred praying alone. As James Hilton once observed, “Every man his own priest” is only a few steps away from becoming “Every man his own church.”

    Of course, attending church is not a guarantee that you believe in God.

  • Lincoln did attend church regularly in the latter part of his life.

  • If Abraham Lincoln did not make it to Heaven, then what chance have we? What chance have I? Excellent post. Thank you.

  • Mr. Hilton, it is human nature to be turned off to organized religion once someone encounters a mean, nasty or corrupt clergyman. I’m not saying this happened to President Lincoln but I know of others to who this has happened.

    Ultimately it is up to God to allow us into heaven at our final judgment. I know not how President Lincoln was judged. If faced with the same situations, I am sure I could not have done any better than President Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln: February 12, 1809-April 15, 1865

Wednesday, April 15, AD 2015

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head;

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.
Walt Whitman
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April 14, 1865: Toward an Indefinite Shore

Tuesday, April 14, AD 2015

 Final Cabinet Meeting

On Friday April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln and his wife planned to go to Ford’s Theater in the evening.  But first, Lincoln had a day of work ahead of him, which included a cabinet meeting.

Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, made this notation in his diary regarding the cabinet meeting that occurred at noon:

Inquiry had been made as to army news on the first meeting of the Cabinet, and especially if any information had been received from Sherman. None of the members had heard anything, and Stanton, who makes it a point to be late, and who has the telegraph in his Department, had not arrived. General Grant, who was present, said he was hourly expecting word. The President remarked it would, he had no doubt, come soon, and come favorably, for he had last night the usual dream which he had preceding nearly every great and important event of the War. Generally the news had been favorable which succeeded this dream, and the dream itself was always the same. I inquired what this remarkable dream could be. He said it related to your (my) element, the water; that he seemed to be in some singular, indescribable vessel, and that he was moving with great rapidity towards an indefinite shore; that he had this dream preceding Sumter, Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, Wilmington, etc. General Grant said Stone River was certainly no victory, and he knew of no great results which followed from it. The President said however that might be, his dream preceded that fight.

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One Response to April 14, 1865: Toward an Indefinite Shore

  • So many events of the Civil War seem to show a hint of Providence and Divine Purpose, but just a hint, nothing more.

    Where are such hints today? Centrifuges spin, asteroids fall, Christians burn, and our leaders seem less concerned with possible failure in our future than Stephen Douglas and the other myopics and legal jugglers of his generation did of his. Does anyone graced with social standing or authority see an indefinite shore anywhere, or it is all just ambition?

Lincoln’s Last Speech

Monday, April 13, AD 2015


On April 11, 1865, Abraham Lincoln made his last speech.  It was to a jubilant crowd that had gathered at the White House in celebration of the surrender of Lee.  The speech was an impromptu effort and clearly indicated that Lincoln was shifting gears from the War to the problems of Reconstruction.  Here is the text of that speech:

We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing, be overlooked. Their honors must not be parcelled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you; but no part of the honor, for plan or execution, is mine. To Gen. Grant, his skilful officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant Navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.

By these recent successes the re-inauguration of the national authority — reconstruction — which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of a war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with. No one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with, and mould from, disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of reconstruction.

As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I can not properly offer an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up, and seeking to sustain, the new State government of Louisiana. In this I have done just so much as, and no more than, the public knows. In the Annual Message of Dec. 1863 and accompanying Proclamation, I presented a plan of re-construction (as the phrase goes) which, I promised, if adopted by any State, should be acceptable to, and sustained by, the Executive government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only plan which might possibly be acceptable; and I also distinctly protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when, or whether members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States. This plan was, in advance, submitted to the then Cabinet, and distinctly approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then, and in that connection, apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the theretofore excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed-people, and that I should omit the protest against my own power, in regard to the admission of members to Congress; but even he approved every part and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by the action of Louisiana. The new constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the Proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed-people; and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan. The message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the plan, written and verbal; and not a single objection to it, from any professed emancipationist, came to my knowledge, until after the news reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July 1862, I had corresponded with different persons, supposed to be interested, seeking a reconstruction of a State government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New-Orleans, Gen. Banks wrote me that he was confident the people, with his military co-operation, would reconstruct, substantially on that plan. I wrote him, and some of them to try it; they tried it, and the result is known. Such only has been my agency in getting up the Louisiana government. As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated. But, as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it, whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest. But I have not yet been so convinced.

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One Response to Lincoln’s Last Speech

April 4, 1865: Lincoln Visits Richmond

Saturday, April 4, AD 2015

Linoln in Richmond


When studying the past one of the primary rules is to remember how different one time is from another.  This rule comes jarringly to mind when we recall Lincoln’s visit to Richmond the day after it fell.  Lincoln was at City Point on the James River, so he was quite close to Richmond.  Lincoln was curious to see the city that had eluded Union armies for such a long time.  Since he wanted to see it, he did, almost with no security.  I cannot possibly imagine any chief of state today taking an informal tour of an enemy capital the day after it fell!  Any chief of security would have a stroke at the time.  John Hay, one of Lincoln’s secretaries, did note after the trip, that anyone who wanted to take a shot at Lincoln in Richmond could have.  Yes, the past is a different country!


Admiral David Dixon Porter who accompanied Lincoln in his journey into Richmond later wrote about it in his memoirs:

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Lincoln and His Second Term

Wednesday, April 1, AD 2015


One hundred and fifty years ago Lincoln was at the high point of his Presidency.  The Civil War was coming to a victorious conclusion.  His popularity would zoom to heights not reached by any President since Washington when on April 14, 1865 he foiled the assassination plot of John Wilkes Booth by wrestling him to the floor of the theater box at Ford’s Theater.  (One wonders if Booth would have succeeded if Lincoln had not been standing and stretching, his face to the door of the theater box, when Booth burst through the door.)  Less than four years later, he left Washington, widely reviled North and South.  Although revisionist histories appear occasionally defending Lincoln, the consensus of his contemporaries still stands:  that Lincoln made an adequate wartime President, but an abysmal peacetime President.  I think this verdict is overblown, but one cannot argue that his second term after the War was anything but a disaster.  Let us look at the factors that led to this.


1.  Former Confederate States-Lincoln’s theory was that the former Confederates States had never been out of the Union.  So soon as ten percent of the voters based on 1860 totals had taken an oath of allegiance to the Union and organized a state government that abolished slavery, the new state government would be recognized by the federal government and members elected to Congress seated.  This was far too lenient for Radical Republicans who feared that these new state governments would simply be replicas of the state governments that existed in 1860 with a de facto abolition of slavery while de jure blacks would be fifth class citizens.  Their fears were soon realized with new state governments recognized by the Lincoln administration adopting Black Codes, laws that severely restricted the freedom the newly freed slaves.  This remained a bone of contention between Lincoln and the Congress controlled by the Radical Republicans from the beginning until the end of his second term.

2.  Rights of Blacks-That Lincoln was sincerely committed to the civil rights of former slaves cannot be doubted in good faith by anyone.  The ringing words of his 1865 Fourth of July “Life and Liberty” oration before the freedmen of Richmond should eliminate any doubt on that score.  Throughout his second term Lincoln used military force to enforce the rights of blacks that were routinely trampled upon by the new governments in the former Confederate states that he recognized.  He was instrumental in establishing the largely black states of Liberty, Emancipation and Freedom in the West that ensured black representation in Congress and a haven for blacks disenfranchised in the rest of the country.  However, the use of the military was met by a virtual guerilla warfare in the South led by the Ku Klux Klan, often receiving clandestine aid from the governments that Lincoln had helped install.  This was all very confusing for the war weary citizens of the North, and a common complaint of “What did we fight the War for?” became ever more common in the North as Lincoln’s second term went on.

3.  Mary Lincoln- The assassination attempt on Lincoln seemed to unhinge Mrs. Lincoln.  She would often shriek in public to strangers that she knew that they were out to murder her husband.  Lincoln perhaps had no choice in having her committed to an insane asylum, but that decision added to his unpopularity.

4.  Fissions in the Republican Party-With slavery ended, the Republican party fractured between radicals and conservatives, former Whigs and former Democrats, and a myriad of different state factions.  Much of Lincoln’s time was devoted to healing these fractures, with Lincoln often receiving strong criticism from all factions for his troubles as a would be peacemaker.

5.  Seward’s Folly- Throughout the second term Democrats often attacked Lincoln for having run up a huge national debt during the Civil War.  This charge received more ammunition when the US purchased Alaska for 7.2 million dollars, which Democrats painted as money wasted for a worthless icy wasteland.  When it got out that Lincoln was considering attempting to set up  more black states in Alaska, he was subject to laughter and ridicule, often accompanied by a quoted statement from a black that he did not want to go and freeze in Alaska.

6.  Man of the Past-Lincoln often seemed like a figure of the past by the end of his second term.  Secession and slavery, the two issues most associated with Lincoln, quickly became relics of the past to a nation, at least the white part of the nation, eager to turn the page.  Heroes who win often seem outdated as times rapidly change, and that fate befell Lincoln.

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8 Responses to Lincoln and His Second Term

  • You’re good at this. You should take a stab at a book.
    Or is this what we’re seeing?

  • Thank you WK. For now it is merely idle amusement. If I live to retirement I probably will produce some alternate history e-books.

  • So long as you promise not to make Lincoln a vampire-hunter.

  • #2, of course, actually happened, although it was President Grant who used the Army to crush the KKK four years after this alternate Lincoln would have. And yes, after this success the Klan grew for a second time in Grant’s second term, and people of the North did then complain.

    The really interesting thing is to juxtapose #1 and #2. Reconstituted state governments led by ex-Confederates would have done everything to oppose the Army’s anti-Klan campaign, especially in Congress. For the Members of Congress it would have looked like the 1850’s all over again, but worse. This aspect alone would make a very interesting alternate history. One does wonder, however, how the canny Lincoln would not have foreseen this, or at least not listened to the Radical Republicans who did.

  • “One does wonder, however, how the canny Lincoln would not have foreseen this, or at least not listened to the Radical Republicans who did.”

    Oh, he foresaw it in my alternate history and that is why he set up the three black states in the West. Lincoln, a fan of Euclid, had a mathematical mind. He would have realized that he wanted two irreconcilable things: rapid reintegration of the former Confederate states back into the Union and the protection of civil rights for black. Lincoln would try to do both, as impossible as that would likely be, while laying the foundation for a better future.

  • Hmmm, “Oh, he [Lincoln] foresaw it in my alternate history and that is why he set up the three black states in the West”
    OK, that is a real complication. You have to come up with a reasonable set of politics that allows the country to support such a mass migration. You also need to explore the consequences: not all freed slaves would leave the South, so the perceived need by ex-Confederates for the Klan is lessened, but the effect of their depredations against the remaining ex-slaves is increased. So in the end you might have an ethnic cleansing. Also, how do the economies of these three states work? Like many attempts at redistribution, it could just produce poverty, and then alternate Lincoln becomes the father of a ghetto that someday might start its own secessionist movement. You’ve given yourself quite a task here Don. To be believable it must mirror real life: be subject to the conflicting ideals of real people (for example, Frederick Douglass would have opposed the idea, given his opposition to segregation and African resettlement), reflect politics compromise, and show both the glory and tragedy of American life.
    I wouldn’t mind peek before you publish.

  • “You have to come up with a reasonable set of politics that allows the country to support such a mass migration.”

    There was plenty of empty territory out West in the 1860’s. The colored regiments could have served as a nucleus for the new states. Both North and South would have had plenty of support for seeing newly freed blacks heading West, at least initially.

    “Confederates for the Klan is lessened, but the effect of their depredations against the remaining ex-slaves is increased.”

    Not necessarily. With blacks having an alternative where to live, it might have caused an improvement in conditions to keep black labor in place in the South. Blacks were an important part of the economy in the South, especially before agricultural mechanization, and if any black could head west with a train ticket paid for by either the federal government or private groups, there would be an economic incentive to treat them better, at least when labor scarcity was a factor.

    As for the black states becoming ghettoes, I don’t think so due to capitalism and our federal system.

    I doubt if Douglass would have opposed the idea, especially since Lincoln likely would have made him the governor of one of the black states during its territorial phase. The black states are less outlandish that the Mormon state of Utah, which established that American history is often much wilder than any novel.

  • “As for the black states becoming ghettoes, I don’t think so due to capitalism and our federal system.”
    Agreed, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. My point is that the western states developed economically due to the inward migration of people who were largely looking to better themselves economically. In your alt history we have people migrating to better themselves for largely non-economic reasons, and that makes a difference: freed slaves would have been tempted to overlook some initial deficiencies to avoid persecution. Yes, the Mormon experience points to a positive outcome, but there we are talking about a smaller number of people with a smaller footprint. I would think that the difference between success and failure in your alt history might hinge on the rate of migration. Also you need to look at the possibility of economic subversion of black states: a good place to look for inspiration might be the history of the Freedman’s Bank and the post-Reconstruction isolation of the anti-Confederates in Appalachia. Well, good luck, it sounds like fun.
    BTW, I disagree with you on Douglass: he would have insisted on a racially integrated migration in exchange for a governorship, if he supported the idea at all. Lincoln’s friends have to give him some heat in your history, don’t they? 😉

The Peacemakers

Saturday, March 28, AD 2015

The Peacemakers


A historic meeting occurred between Lincoln, Grant and Sherman on March 27-28, 1865 at City Point, Virginia.  Sherman had no idea that President Lincoln was going to be there, he having traveled by sea from North Carolina to coordinate with Grant the final campaign of the War.  This meeting was memorialized in the 1868 painting The Peacemakers, which was suggested by Sherman:

In Chicago about June or July of that year, when all the facts were fresh in my mind, I told them to George P. A. Healy, the artist, who was casting about for a subject for an historical painting, and he adopted this interview. Mr. Lincoln was then dead, but Healy had a portrait, which he himself had made at Springfield some five or six years before. With this portrait, some existing photographs, and the strong resemblance in form of [Leonard Swett], of Chicago, to Mr. Lincoln he made the picture of Mr. Lincoln seen in this group. For General Grant, Admiral Porter, and myself he had actual sittings, and I am satisfied the four portraits in this group of Healy’s are the best extant. The original picture, life-size, is, I believe, now in Chicago, the property of Mr. [Ezra B. McCagg]; but Healy afterwards, in Rome, painted ten smaller copies, about eighteen by twenty-four inches, one of which I now have, and it is now within view. I think the likeness of Mr. Lincoln by far the best of the many I have seen elsewhere, and those of General Grant, Admiral Porter, and myself equally good and faithful. I think Admiral Porter gave Healy a written description of our relative positions in that interview, also the dimensions, shape, and furniture of the cabin of the “Ocean Queen”; but the rainbow is Healy’s—typical, of course, of the coming peace. In this picture I seem to be talking, the others attentively listening. Whether Healy made this combination from Admiral Porter’s letter or not, I cannot say; but I thought that he caught the idea from what I told him had occurred when saying that “if Lee would only remain in Richmond till I could reach Burkesville, we would have him between our thumb and fingers,” suiting the action to the word. It matters little what Healy meant by his historic group, but it is certain that we four sat pretty much as represented, and were engaged in an important conversation during the forenoon of March 28, 1865, and that we parted never to meet again.

The original painting was destroyed in a fire, and what we have now is a copy found in 1922, lying forgotten in a family storehouse in Chicago.  Harry Truman, ironically a proud card carrying member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, purchased the copy of the painting for the White House in 1947.

Here is Sherman’s recollections of the meeting from his Memoirs:


The railroad was repaired to Goldsboro’ by the evening of March 25th, when, leaving General Schofield in chief command, with a couple of staff-officers I started for City Point, Virginia, in a locomotive, in company with Colonel Wright, the constructing engineer. We reached Newbern that evening, which was passed in the company of General Palmer and his accomplished lady, and early the next morning we continued on to Morehead City, where General Easton had provided for us the small captured steamer Russia, Captain Smith. We put to sea at once and steamed up the coast, reaching Fortress Monroe on the morning of the 27th, where I landed and telegraphed to my brother, Senator Sherman, at Washington, inviting him to come down and return with me to Goldsboro. We proceeded on up James River to City Point, which we reached the same afternoon. I found General Grant, with his family and staff, occupying a pretty group of huts on the bank of James River, overlooking the harbor, which was full of vessels of all classes, both war and merchant, with wharves and warehouses on an extensive scale. The general received me most heartily, and we talked over matters very fully. After I had been with him an hour or so, he remarked that the President, Mr. Lincoln, was then on board the steamer River Queen, lying at the wharf, and he proposed that we should call and see him. We walked down to the wharf, went on board, and found Mr. Lincoln alone, in the after-cabin. He remembered me perfectly, and at once engaged in a most interesting conversation. He was full of curiosity about the many incidents of our great march, which had reached him officially and through the newspapers, and seemed to enjoy very much the more ludicrous parts-about the “bummers,” and their devices to collect food and forage when the outside world supposed us to be starving; but at the same time he expressed a good deal of anxiety lest some accident might happen to the army in North Carolina during my absence. I explained to him that that army was snug and comfortable, in good camps, at Goldsboro’; that it would require some days to collect forage and food for another march; and that General Schofield was fully competent to command it in my absence. Having made a good, long, social visit, we took our leave and returned to General Grant’s quarters, where Mrs. Grant had provided tea. While at the table, Mrs. Grant inquired if we had seen Mrs. Lincoln. “No,” said the general, “I did not ask for her;” and I added that I did not even know that she was on board. Mrs. Grant then exclaimed, “Well, you are a pretty pair!” and added that our neglect was unpardonable; when the general said we would call again the next day, and make amends for the unintended slight.

Early the next day, March 28th, all the principal officers of the army and navy called to see me, Generals Meade, Ord, Ingalls, etc., and Admiral Porter. At this time the River Queen was at anchor out in the river, abreast of the wharf, and we again started to visit Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. Admiral Porter accompanied us. We took a small, tug at the wharf, which conveyed us on board, where we were again received most courteously by the President, who conducted us to the after-cabin. After the general compliments, General Grant inquired after Mrs. Lincoln, when the President went to her stateroom, returned, and begged us to excuse her, as she was not well. We then again entered upon a general conversation, during which General Grant explained to the President that at that very instant of time General Sheridan was crossing James River from the north, by a pontoon-bridge below City Point; that he had a large, well-appointed force of cavalry, with which he proposed to strike the Southside and Danville Railroads, by which alone General Lee, in Richmond, supplied his army; and that, in his judgment, matters were drawing to a crisis, his only apprehension being that General Lee would not wait long enough. I also explained that my army at Goldsboro’ was strong enough to fight Lee’s army and Johnston’s combined, provided that General Grant could come up within a day or so; that if Lee would only remain in Richmond another fortnight, I could march up to Burkesville, when Lee would have to starve inside of his lines, or come out from his intrenchments and fight us on equal terms.

Both General Grant and myself supposed that one or the other of us would have to fight one more bloody battle, and that it would be the last. Mr. Lincoln exclaimed, more than once, that there had been blood enough shed, and asked us if another battle could not be avoided. I remember well to have said that we could not control that event; that this necessarily rested with our enemy; and I inferred that both Jeff. Davis and General Lee would be forced to fight one more desperate and bloody battle. I rather supposed it would fall on me, somewhere near Raleigh; and General Grant added that, if Lee would only wait a few more days, he would have his army so disposed that if the enemy should abandon Richmond, and attempt to make junction with General Jos. Johnston in North Carolina, he (General Grant) would be on his heels. Mr. Lincoln more than once expressed uneasiness that I was not with my army at Goldsboro’, when I again assured him that General Schofield was fully competent to command in my absence; that I was going to start back that very day, and that Admiral Porter had kindly provided for me the steamer Bat, which he said was much swifter than my own vessel, the Russia. During this interview I inquired of the President if he was all ready for the end of the war. What was to be done with the rebel armies when defeated? And what should be done with the political leaders, such as Jeff. Davis, etc.? Should we allow them to escape, etc.? He said he was all ready; all he wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on their farms and in their shops. As to Jeff. Davis, he was hardly at liberty to speak his mind fully, but intimated that he ought to clear out, “escape the country,” only it would not do for him to say so openly. As usual, he illustrated his meaning by a story:

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4 Responses to The Peacemakers

  • I have a young friend, with a master’s in history who writes a history blog. Here him tell it, our Founding Fathers were racists and Lincoln the least honorable of men. This perversion of history is not new, but reading this recalls what injustice is being done to the memory of good men by our illiberal, progressive liberals.

  • Donald, I have spent the last week (literally day & night) helping to pass a bill through the AR Senate Ed Committee that will require relevant review of the origins of our country to the year 1890 at the high school level. The goal of the bill is provision for instruction in high school social studies/history classes in proper context & for mastery. It allows for the complete freedom of individual classroom teachers to meet the needs of their students/classes as they see fit. Our AR Dept of Ed has created social studies standards, for implementation across the state in July of this year, that literally allow for the teaching of the beginnings of US History to the year 1890 in the 5th Grade. Then 4-7 years later, they ask high school students to use analysis, comparison & contrast, & synthesis level thinking based on those same concepts. Of course the bureaucrats at large are responding to a push from the liberal college level down into the high school level that is an attempt to decrease any emphasis the great things that made our country free and how it continues to (relatively) be free–anywhere they possibly can. The usual suspects in the liberal media have gone beserk spreading misinformation even to the point of posting links to the wrong bill. They are doing all they can to kill the bill. The state educational bureaucrats are livid that we want our children learning things such as what you have posted here in context and for mastery. They have explicitly stated that they “want to teach modern American history.” An ADE assistant commissioner was reduced to blubbering over & over to the Sen Ed Committee, “what do you want us to leave out? There is too much to teach!” expecting us to accept that in the last 8 years it has suddenly become impossible for high school teachers to teach all of American history. And we know why that is. One liberal has specified on line that she does not want American Exceptionalism taught–won’t define for me what that term means for her but wants to be sure that the horrid genecidal things our country has done is taught to our students so there is what she calls balance. Anyway, I am preaching to the choir. Pray for us, please in our fight to give future Arkansans enough knowledge to maintain their freedoms. The bill goes to the full senate tomorrow and then on to the House Ed Committee which is a true lions den. The ADE has agreed to put any changes of educational standards up to public comment in the future, however Ibwould not hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Thank you for this beautiful post about the Civil War period. I thouroughly enjoyed it.

  • Barbara, Please come to Colorado and get elected to the legislature!

  • Harry Truman proud member of SCV…
    …When Harry’s mother (Mama) first came to the White House, she was very concerned that she would have to sleep in the Lincoln Room, (as her other son Vivian had erroneously told her). Told Harry that she would sleep on the floor before she’d occupy the same bed as Lincoln.
    BTW, I was gonna post all that until Barbara’s post, which made everything else seem so small. But, oh well, there it is.

Lincoln to City Point

Thursday, March 26, AD 2015

Lincoln 1860 and 1865



Anyone looking at photographs of Lincoln in 1860 and 1865 can’t help but see how much the War aged him.  By March 1865 Grant thought that Lincoln could use some time away from Washington, and suggested to him that he visit Grant at his headquarters at City Point, Virginia on the James River.   Lincoln readily agreed and on March 23, 1865 left for City Point, along with his wife and Tad.  In his last month of life, he would spend eighteen days at City Point.

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One Response to Lincoln to City Point

  • City point is just down the road from my office; still well-preserved, including Grant’s suprisingly modest log cabin right on the banks of the Appomattox.

    It doesn’t take much imagination to see the river clogged with supply and troop ships, and the area choked with troops, supply wagons, tents, campfires.

    Now City Point is a slice of parkland on the river, surrounded by residential development in what is now the city of Hopewell.