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April 4, 1864: Lincoln’s Letter to A.G. Hodges

 

One hundred and fifty years ago Lincoln knew that 1864 was likely to be the decisive year of the War, as the people of the North had an opportunity to pass judgment on him at the polls.  With the Democrat party adopting an anti-war position, Lincoln was likely to be defeated unless radical progress in the War could be demonstrated by November.  Additionally he had to justify his policy of abolishing slavery and enlisting black troops, as many pro- Unionists in the North looked with considerable misgivings on both policies.  So on April 4, 1864 Lincoln took up a pen to defend his decision to enlist black troops to a Kentucky Unionist who with the Governor of Kentucky and a former Senator from Kentucky, also Unionists, had protested to Lincoln the enlistment of  such troops in Kentucky.  The end of the letter foreshadows language Lincoln would use in his Second Inaugural regarding the ending of slavery: Continue Reading

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John Wilkes Booth and the Outcome of the War Between the States

 

john-wilkes-booth-theater-ad-1863-11-09

 

During this sesquicentennial of the War Between the States a very old question arises:  What was the impact of John Wilkes Booth on the outcome of the War Between the States?  My response is none.

The assassination of Lincoln by Booth certainly shocked the nation.  A President had never been assassinated before, and to have it happen while the President was at ease, enjoying a play at Ford’s Theater, added an element of the grotesque that magnified the horror.  Booth, unknown to all but his closest intimates, had been a Confederate sympathizer throughout the War.  Whether his murder of Lincoln was an act of impulse or a carefully planned conspiracy remains a subject of heated debate.  Nevertheless, whether he decided that evening or after days or weeks of deliberation, Booth, using two pistols, ended the life of Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln and his entourage occupying a theater box on stage, and presenting a target that Booth could not, and did not, miss.  Booth himself being shot to death immediately thereafter ensured that he took whatever planning he engaged in with him to the grave, and made this assassination an endless source of conspiracy theorists ever thereafter. The aptly named play The Marble Heart, starring Booth, will remain forever etched in American memory, along with the date of November 9, 1863 when the first president of the United States to be assassinated died.

Hannibal Hamlin, forgotten Vice-President, thus became President.  On his narrow shoulders many have heaped blame for the defeat of the Union.  Rubbish!  A careful examination of the historical record reveals that he acted in a way almost certainly no different than Lincoln likely would have. Continue Reading

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Hannibal Hamlin: Forgotten Man of the Lincoln Administration

Thomas E. Marshall, Vice-President under Wilson, summed up the historical fate of most Vice-Presidents in this joke he used to tell:  There were two brothers.  One was lost at sea and one became Vice-President.  Neither were heard from again.  That was certainly the case with Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first Vice-President.  In an administration where almost everything has been examined endlessly by tens of thousands of historians with magnifying glasses, Hamlin is a complete void.  At the time Hamlin knew that he simply did not count in the Administration, although Lincoln was cordial on the rare occasions they met.  I am the fifth wheel of a coach is how Hamlin described his non-role in shaping the affairs of the nation during his term as Vice-President.

The most prominent politician from Maine, both before and after his term as Vice-President, perhaps Hamlin regretted his four years in political oblivion as Lincoln’s Veep.

Hamlin began his political career in 1836 when he won election to Maine’s house of representatives as a Democrat.  Serving in the Federal House of Representatives in 1843-47.  Appointed to serve out a term in the US Senate in 1848, Hamlin elected to a full term in his own right in 1851.  In 1856 he became a national celebrity when he broke with the Democrat party over slavery, and joined the Republicans.  Elected as a Republican as Governor of Maine in 1856 and  serving briefly, he resigned to take up a seat next year as a Republican, being one of the few members of the Senate to serve in that body as both a Democrat and a Republican.

He was placed on the Presidential ticket for regional balance and for the fame he had won as a former Democrat who left the party over slavery, a natural vote getter among anti-slavery Democrats.  Hamlin and Lincoln did not meet for the first time until after the election.  During the campaign Democrats spread the rumor that Hamlin was a mulatto.  Hamlin did have a swarthy complexion, but there was no truth in the allegation.  The same charge was made against Lincoln, racism being a weapon wielded freely by Democrats in both 1861 and 1864.

Hamlin as Veep advocated Emancipation and the use of black troops.  Less presciently, he also supported placing Fighting Joe Hooker in command of the Army of the Potomac.  Hamlin was left off the ticket in 1864 in order to broaden the ticket.  Hamlin was firmly associated now with the radical wing of the Republican Party, and Lincoln believed that a War Democrat would be a better choice in what was likely to be a close contest.  Andrew Johnson thus ultimately became President and Hamlin missed his opportunity to be something other than an historical footnote. Continue Reading

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Lincoln’s Lost Speech

Lost Speech

Most orations of historical figures are lost to us if they lived prior to the Nineteenth Century.  Usually we have summaries or reports of speeches, but the exact words are often lost.  Even in the Nineteenth Century, with the advent of mass papers and stenographic reports, many speeches of even major figures are lost to us.  So was the case with Abraham Lincoln, with his most famous lost speech being a stem winder of an attack on slavery that he made on May 29, 1856 at an anti-Nebraska convention that ended with the founding of the Republican party in Illinois.  Lincoln spoke for ninety minutes denouncing slavery, and calling on the creation of a Republican party in Illinois to do battle against the advocates of slavery.  His speech was frequently interrupted with cheers and standing ovations as Lincoln deeply moved his audience.

Other than very brief summaries in the press, the speech is completely lost, which is rather odd.  The convention was attended by representatives of the press, and Lincoln usually prepared his speeches in writing beforehand, although he was a master of revising them on the fly as he spoke.

In 1896 Chicago attorney Henry Clay Whitney wrote an article that he claimed contained the text of the speech from his notes that he took at the time.  Lincoln’s former secretary John Nicolay immediately denounced the text as a fraud, devoid completely of Lincoln’s style, and almost all historians have shared his conviction that Whitney made his text up.

Why the speech was not reported is a matter of conjecture.  It has been claimed that the reporters present were so stunned by Lincoln’s eloquence, and so swept up in the moment, that their pencils fell from their fingers.  Perhaps, although considering the hard bitten nature of most members of the Fourth Estate in Lincoln’s day, rather unlikely.  Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon who was present thought that the speech was such a radical attack on slavery that Lincoln agreed to its suppression so as not to hurt attempts to preserve the Union.  I personally find both explanations wanting.  A more likely explanation is that Lincoln did speak completely extemporaneously on this occasion, he was perhaps the finest stump orator of his time, and that the reporters present did not take down his words, assuming that he was using a text based upon his usual practice, and that he would give them a copy at the conclusion of his speech.  It is also possible that Lincoln’s enthusiastic audience was making so much noise that the reporters gave up attempts to take down Lincoln’s words because they could not clearly make out what he was saying.

In any event, the speech is truly lost to history and the most complete account of it is this brief summary in the Alton-Courier which appeared on June 5, 1856: Continue Reading

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Pro-aborts and the Race Card

The above video is from the Alabama Right to Life website.

In a vain attempt to stop the passage of pro-life legislation in Alabama, Democrat Representative Alvin Holmes, a truly charming individual who earlier this year referred to Justice Clarence Thomas as an Uncle Tom, drew the race card, the first resort of pro-aborts and the Democrat party:

“If you asked the people in here now to raise their hands, of those who are against abortion, 99% of all of the white people in here gonna raise their hand that they are against abortion,” Holmes said Tuesday according to a recording of some of the debate on al.com. “On the other hand, 99% of the whites that are sitting in here now, if they daughter got pregnant by a black man, they gonna make their daughter have an abortion. They ain’t gonna let her have the baby. You know, the truth sometimes hurts … They’re not gonna let that happen. You know that and I know that. You will never admit it.”

During his speech, Holmes asks one white woman, it’s unclear who, if she’d allow her daughter to have a mixed-race baby.

 

“Yes, I would,” the woman replies.

“Well, I need to commend you then,” Holmes says. “There’s not one in 100,000 that would do that.”

Go here to read the rest.  Of course abortion is the dream come true for the Klan, the traditional terrorist wing of the Democrat party in the South.  In adjacent Mississippi, for example, we have these statistics:

Although whites outnumber blacks in Mississippi by nearly 2-to-1, 71.67% of the babies aborted in Mississippi are black, while 26.6% are white.

Based on data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39,052 black babies were killed by abortions in Mississippi between 1995 and 2010.  During that same time period, 14,529 white babies were aborted in the Magnolia State.

The total number of abortions between 1995 and 2010 in Mississippi was 54,484. In addition to blacks and whites, that number also includes abortions among Hispanics, “Other” (meaning Asian and Native American), and “Unknown,” as published by the CDC.

Whites in Mississippi outnumber blacks by a ratio of 1.6-to-1. Despite that difference, the data show that black abortions comprised, on average, 72% of the total over the last 16 years. Continue Reading

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February 12, 1914: The Memory of Abraham Lincoln is Enshrined Forever

IN THIS TEMPLE

AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE

FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION

THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

IS ENSHRINED FOREVER

Inscription over the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial

Well, it took long enough.  Lincoln had been dead for almost half a century before work finally began on his memorial in Washington, with a dedication ceremony occurring on his birthday in Washington DC a hundred years ago.  Plans to memorialize Lincoln in Washington had been mooted about since the time of his death, but in Washington, then and now, nothing moves swiftly.  Controversies about cost and just what form the memorial should take had delayed the project for decades.  The final plan to erect a Greek styled temple to house a Lincoln statue appalled some Lincoln admirers who thought a log cabin memorial would better suit a man as humble as Lincoln.

The building of the memorial would take eight years, with it being completed and opened to the public on Memorial Day, May 30, 1922. Continue Reading

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February 9, 1864: Mr. Lincoln Has His Picture Taken

Lincoln-Berger-Tad1864

Mr. Lincoln took advantage of the winter lull in the War on February 9, 1864 to go, along with his son Tad, to Mathew Brady’s National Photographic Art Gallery in Washington DC to have his picture taken.  The manager of the Gallery was Anthony Berger who took the photographs that day.

The above picture was immensely popular after Lincoln’s death, showing the closeness between Lincoln and Tad.  Sadly, Tad would only outlive his father by six years, dying suddenly at 18, his death being variously ascribed to tuberculosis, pleurisy and congestive heart failure.

Lincoln Penny

The above profile shot was taken by Lincoln that day and served as the basis for the image on the Lincoln penny. Continue Reading

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Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation

There are no easy answers but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.

Ronald Reagan

Today is my 57th birthday.  I am pleased that I share my natal day with the man I consider the greatest president of my lifetime:  Ronald Wilson Reagan, who was born one hundred and three years ago today in Tampico, Illinois.  I greatly admire Reagan for many reasons:  his wit, eloquence and good humor;  his prime role in bringing about the destruction of Communism as a ruling ideology in the former, how good it is to write that adjective!, Soviet Union and Eastern Europe;  his restoration of American prosperity by wringing inflation from the American economy;  his rebuilding of the nation’s defenses;  his restoration of American pride and optimism.  However, there is one stand of his that, above all others, ensures that he will always have a special place in my heart, his defense of the weakest and the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.

In 1983 Reagan submitted an essay on abortion to the Human Life Review, then and now, the scholarly heart of the pro-life movement.  He entitled it, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation.  Go here to the Human Life Review’s website to read it.

Reagan in the article attacked Roe on its tenth anniversary and stated that Roe had not settled the abortion fight:

Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution. No serious scholar, including one disposed to agree with the Court’s result, has argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to create such a right. Shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision, Professor John Hart Ely, now Dean of Stanford Law School, wrote that the opinion “is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” Nowhere do the plain words of the Constitution even hint at a “right” so sweeping as to permit abortion up to the time the child is ready to be born. Yet that is what the Court ruled.

As an act of “raw judicial power” (to use Justice White’s biting phrase), the decision by the seven-man majority in Roe v. Wade has so far been made to stick. But the Court’s decision has by no means settled the debate. Instead, Roe v. Wade has become a continuing prod to the conscience of the nation.

Reagan saw that abortion diminished respect for all human life and quoted Mother Teresa as to the simple truth that abortion is the “greatest misery of our time”:

We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life—the unborn—without diminishing the value of all human life. We saw tragic proof of this truism last year when the Indiana courts allowed the starvation death of “Baby Doe” in Bloomington because the child had Down’s Syndrome.

Many of our fellow citizens grieve over the loss of life that has followed Roe v. Wade. Margaret Heckler, soon after being nominated to head the largest department of our government, Health and Human Services, told an audience that she believed abortion to be the greatest moral crisis facing our country today. And the revered Mother Teresa, who works in the streets of Calcutta ministering to dying people in her world-famous mission of mercy, has said that “the greatest misery of our time is the generalized abortion of children.”

Reagan, ever a student of American history, tied the fight against Roe with the fight against the Dred Scott decision:

Despite the formidable obstacles before us, we must not lose heart. This is not the first time our country has been divided by a Supreme Court decision that denied the value of certain human lives. The Dred Scottdecision of 1857 was not overturned in a day, or a year, or even a decade. At first, only a minority of Americans recognized and deplored the moral crisis brought about by denying the full humanity of our black brothers and sisters; but that minority persisted in their vision and finally prevailed. They did it by appealing to the hearts and minds of their countrymen, to the truth of human dignity under God. From their example, we know that respect for the sacred value of human life is too deeply engrained in the hearts of our people to remain forever suppressed. But the great majority of the American people have not yet made their voices heard, and we cannot expect them to—any more than the public voice arose against slavery—until the issue is clearly framed and presented. Continue Reading

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Stamped With the Divine Image

March for Life

 

 

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

Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858

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State of the Union 1863

Abraham Lincoln

On December 8, 1863 Lincoln sent his annual message to Congress in which he reviewed the state of the country during the year that was coming to an end.  The message to Congress would have been read by a clerk.  We would call this today a state of the union address.  Washington had delivered his annual messages to Congress personally to joint sessions.  This custom was ended by Thomas Jefferson, who thought the President delivering a speech to Congress smacked of monarchy, too closely resembling the speech from the throne delivered by English monarchs at the opening of Parliament.  Thereafter president’s sent their annual messages to Congress in written form, until Wilson revived the custom of delivering the speech in person.

One aspect of Lincoln’s speech that surprised me when I first read it is the amount of it devoted to foreign affairs, almost half, if the portion dealing with foreign nationals in the United States is included.  Lincoln devotes less than a quarter of the speech to the War which is unsurprising.  The War news was a constant feature of life in the United States during the Civil War, and Lincoln probably looked upon the annual message as an opportunity to remind Congress and the people that the War was not the only thing occurring in the United States.  Lincoln ends his message with a general overview of his policy regarding Reconstruction.  Lincoln could hope now that ultimate victory might be on the horizon, and he realized that a substantial portion of the Republican members of Congress opposed any leniency to the South.  Lincoln was beginning his tight rope walk to both satisfy the demands of the Radical Republicans for civil rights for freedmen, and to deny them their desire to punish the South.  He would continue to walk that tightrope until the bullet of Booth brought his life to an end with consequences the nation is still living with.  Here is the annual address of President Abraham Lincoln for 1863: Continue Reading

Lincoln and the Creation of Thanksgiving

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.

Abraham Lincoln, from his last public address, April 11, 1865

Abraham Lincoln frequently throughout the Civil War called for Thanksgiving for Union victories and for prayers and repentance for national sins.  The idea however of an annual Thanksgiving did not spring from him but from Sarah Josepha Hale, a noted literary figure who, among other accomplishments wrote the child’s poem Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Born in 1788, for years she had led a movement for a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed annually.

Sir.–

Permit me, as Editress of the “Lady’s Book”, to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and — as I trust — even to the President of our Republic, of some importance. This subject is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.

You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.

Enclosed are three papers (being printed these are easily read) which will make the idea and its progress clear and show also the popularity of the plan.

For the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea in the “Lady’s Book”, and placed the papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories — also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen — and commanders in the Navy. From the recipients I have received, uniformly the most kind approval. Two of these letters, one from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan are enclosed; both gentlemen as you will see, have nobly aided to bring about the desired Thanksgiving Union.

But I find there are obstacles not possible to be overcome without legislative aid — that each State should, by statute, make it obligatory on the Governor to appoint the last Thursday of November, annually, as Thanksgiving Day; — or, as this way would require years to be realized, it has ocurred to me that a proclamation from the President of the United States would be the best, surest and most fitting method of National appointment.

I have written to my friend, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and requested him to confer with President Lincoln on this subject As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories; also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag — could he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and

patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus the great Union Festival of America would be established.

Now the purpose of this letter is to entreat President Lincoln to put forth his Proclamation, appointing the last Thursday in November (which falls this year on the 26th) as the National Thanksgiving for all those classes of people who are under the National Government particularly, and commending this Union Thanksgiving to each State Executive: thus, by the noble example and action of the President of the United States, the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.

An immediate proclamation would be necessary, so as to reach all the States in season for State appointments, also to anticipate the early appointments by Governors.

Excuse the liberty I have taken

With profound respect

Yrs truly

Sarah Josepha Hale,

Editress of the “Ladys Book”

There is no evidence that Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued in response to this letter, but it is probable.  Here is the proclamation on October 3, 1863 by President Lincoln that established Thanksgiving as an annual event: Continue Reading

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We Have No King But Jesus

The feast of Christ the King is a very new one, although the image of Christ as King is as old as Christianity.  Pope Pius XI established the feast with his encyclical Quas Primas  in 1925 to remind the World after the horrors of World War I and its aftermath that God was in charge.

This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this is so the above quotations from Scripture amply prove, and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.

 

Prior to the American Revolution an English aristocrat related an incident in a letter.  He asked a servant who his master was, and the man responded unhesitatingly:  My Lord Jesus Christ!  The aristocrat found this hilarious, but the servant was reflecting a very old Christian view.

Christ Pantocrator is one of the more popular images by which Christians pictured, after the edict of Milan, Christ, the Lord of all.  This representation ties in nicely with the traditional American cry of “We have no King but Jesus!” which became popular during the American Revolution.  At the battle of Lexington the phrase “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus!”, was flung back at Major Pitcairn after he had ordered the militia to disperse.

Our wisest statesman have always remembered that behind the trappings of power of this World that God is ultimately the one who has charge of the fate of nations as well as individuals.  Abraham Lincoln was utterly convinced of this as he indicated in a letter to Eliza P. Gurney on September 4, 1864 as the Civil War teetered in the balance:

The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must  prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive  them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible  war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We  shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile  we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so  working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends  some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal  could make, and no mortal could stay. Continue Reading

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Get Thee Behind Abe, Editors!

Gettysburg-handwirting-experts-copy-490x600_jpg_pagespeed_ic_N1OjjilpoW

Hattip to Steven Hayward at Powerline.   Decades ago I recall watching a commercial, see the video below, where Abraham Lincoln is turned down for an executive position because he lacked a college degree.   I have often thought that Lincoln would not have been Lincoln without the arduous process of self education that he continued throughout his life.  (During his election campaign in 1860 he was pained to see that his campaign claimed that he had read Plutarch’s Lives.  He hadn’t, but he took time  out to do so before he was elected.)  Of course in his day it was not unusual for a self taught man to rise high politically.  In our day it is almost unthinkable, Harry Truman being the last president who did not attend college.  This is a great pity.  Self taught men and women can sometimes end up as town cranks or bores at bars, but sometimes they bring vitality and fresh insights that cannot be taught at any institution of higher learning, and their intellects are sharpened by their lonely quest for knowledge.  Lincoln regretted his lack of almost any formal education, but in his case I suspect his genius would have been lessened by it. Continue Reading

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November 19, 1863: Lincoln Delivers The Gettysburg Address

 

 

 

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

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

Lincoln then got up and spoke for two minutes.

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

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

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

“Fourscore and seven years ago”

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

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Gettysburg Address Medley

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a  new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men  are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any  nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great  battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a  final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might  live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not  hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have  consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will  little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what  they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the  unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It  is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —  that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for  which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve  that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall  have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people,  for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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The Prayer Before the Speeches

Stockton

 

Thomas H. Stockton in 1863 was pastor of the First Methodist Church in Philadelphia.  A man with many political connections, he had been chaplain of the United States House of Representatives in 1833, 1835, 1859 and 1861.  It was therefore no surprise that he was chosen to give the invocation on November 18, 1863 at the opening of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  He was in ill health and looked older than his 55 years, but he would live another five years and he had energy enough for the task before him.  Here is his prayer: Continue Reading

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A Silly Retraction

 

 

 

As faithful readers of this blog know, there are few bigger fans of Mr. Lincoln than me, and I completely concur with Sir Winston Churchill that the Gettysburg Address  is “The ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.” 

That having been said I found profoundly silly a retraction which appears in the Patriot News newspaper:

We write today in reconsideration of “The Gettysburg Address,” delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the greatest conflict seen on American soil. Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words “silly remarks,” deserving “a veil of oblivion,” apparently believing it an indifferent and altogether ordinary message, unremarkable in eloquence and uninspiring in its brevity.

The retraction goes on to state:

In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.

 

Go here to read the rest.  This rubs me the wrong way.  Apologizing for the actions of men long dead always strikes me as asinine.  The men who penned the original editorial cannot defend their opinion now.  If they could, they probably would note that they reflected a large body of Northern opinion that viewed the War as a tragic mistake, brought on by abolitionist fanaticism, which caused over a million homes in the North to be draped in mourning.  I view such arguments as being completely erroneous, but I leave to those who made such arguments the dignity to which they are entitled of being participants in the maelstrom of devastating events who were honestly stating their views.  To have successors a century and a half later glibly denouncing their views, even attributing such views to strong drink, insults them and insults the historical record.  It is part and parcel of a historical myopia which views the present as perfect and entitled to denounce the benighted individuals who had the misfortune to live before our enlightened times.  The simple truth is that we, just as much as those in the past we denounce, are in many ways prisoners of our times, often taking our attitudes and beliefs from those that enjoy popularity in our day.  I have absolutely no doubt that the successors of the papers which praised the Gettysburg Address one hundred and fifty years ago, might well be denouncing it today, if the War, and all our subsequent history, had turned out differently.  If one wishes to truly understand history, and the passions of the men and women who lived through it, one must be willing to understand what motivated them, why they did what they did.  This foolish retraction teaches us nothing about history, but quite a bit about how the Present usually is a bad judge of the Past, at least if we wish to understand the Past.  Here is a portion of the original editorial: Continue Reading

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Red Skelton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God

Red Skelton and his unforgettable rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Skelton rose out of abject poverty to become one of the great comedians of his time.  His comment about the phrase “under God”  reminds us how deeply this phrase is embedded in American history:

The addition of “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 of course echoes this sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Pledge was altered with that phrase of Lincoln’s specifically in mind.  The Knights of Columbus played an important role in getting the pledge changed, beginning in 1951 to say the Pledge with the phrase “under God” inserted at all Knights of Columbus functions.

Lincoln probably recalled the phrase from George Washington’s use of it in his order to the Continental Army on August 27, 1776 before the battle of Long Island:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

Continue Reading

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The Other Gettysburg Address

ieveree001p1

Edward Everett was the main attraction at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  He had led a distinguished life serving as Governor of Massachusetts and ambassador to Great Britain.  In 1860 he had run on the Constitutional Union Party ticket as vice-president, attempting to forestall the break up of the Union that he clearly saw coming.  After the election of Lincoln he became a vigorous supporter of Lincoln’s policies to preserve the Union by force.  He would die in 1865 prior to the end of the War, but with the knowledge that the Union would win and the Union would be preserved.

He was a good choice to be the main speaker, still vigorous at sixty-nine, one of the most eloquent orators of his time, a time which included such speakers as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Calhoun.  As he spoke it was as if the past of the country was commenting on its turbulent present.  He spoke for two hours and his listeners would have felt cheated if he had not done so, as lengthy speeches were expected at that time in American history on important occasions, unlike our own time where any statement that goes over three minutes is considered long-winded.

After his address he wrote Lincoln a famous letter in which he included this sentence that almost all Americans would agree with:   “I should be glad if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”

Lincoln replied:

Executive Mansion Washington November 20, 1863

Hon. Edward Everett. My dear Sir:

Your kind note of to-day is received. In our respective parts yesterday,  you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the  little I did say was not entirely a failure. Of course I knew Mr.  Everett would not fail; and yet, while the whole discourse was  eminently satisfactory, and will be of great value, there were passages  in it which transcended my expectation. The point made against  the theory of the general government being only an agency, whose  principals are the States, was new to me, and, as I think, is one of  the best arguments for the national supremacy. The tribute to our  noble women for their angel-ministering to the suffering soldiers,  surpasses, in its way, as do the subjects of it, whatever has gone  before.

Our sick boy, for whom you kindly inquire, we hope is past the  worst. Your Obt. Servt.

A. Lincoln

Here is Everett’s speech, interspersed with my commentary.  It is completely our of step with our sound bite age, but it is worthy of our close attention as it sheds light upon his time: Continue Reading

Thank You Mr. President

Lincoln

 

 

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

Abraham Lincoln, August 27, 1858

 

 

 

 

 

In nine days, this town will commemorate the 150th  anniversary of Lincoln’s speech with a ceremony at the same Soldiers’ National  Cemetery featuring the U.S. Marine Band, Gov. Tom Corbett and a reading of the  Gettysburg Address.

One person who will not be among those honoring  Lincoln is President Barack Obama. The White House gave no reason why the  president would not attend.

  According to the National Park Service, Obama  has never visited the battlefield as president.

 

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Gettysburg Address: First Draft

 

The news of the surrender of Vicksburg did not reach Washington until July 7, 1863.  On top of Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg, the town went wild with rejoicing.  A jubilant crowd went to the White House.  President Lincoln made an impromptu speech that contained many of the themes and thoughts that he would flesh out in his Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863:

Fellow-citizens: I am very glad to see you to-night.  But yet I will not say I thank you for this call.  But I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. [Cheers.]  How long ago is it?  Eighty odd years since, upon the Fourth day of July, for the first time in the world, a union body of representatives was assembled to declare as a self-evident truth that all men were created equal. [Cheers.]

That was the birthday of the United States of America.  Since then the fourth day of July has had several very peculiar recognitions.  The two most distinguished men who framed and supported that paper, including the particular declaration I have mentioned, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the one having framed it, and the other sustained it most ably in debate, the only two of the fifty-five or fifty-six who signed it, I believe, who were ever President of the United States, precisely fifty years after they put their hands to that paper it pleased the Almighty God to take away from this stage of action on the Fourth of July.  This extraordinary coincidence we can understand to be a dispensation of the Almighty Ruler of Events.

Another of our Presidents, five years afterwards, was called from this stage of existence on the same day of the month, and now on this Fourth of July just past, when a gigantic rebellion has risen in the land, precisely at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow that principle “that all men are created equal,” we have a surrender of one of their most powerful positions and powerful armies forced upon them on that very day. [Cheers.] And I see in the succession of battles in Pennsylvania, which continued three days, so rapidly following each other as to be justly called one great battle, fought on the first, second and third of July; on the fourth the enemies of the declaration that all men are created equal had to turn tail and run. [Laughter and applause.] Continue Reading

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Abraham Lincoln Democrat

Abraham Lincoln Democrat

Weasel Zippers broke the story that the above plaque is affixed to the Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies on the campus at Northeastern University in Chicago.  The historical ignorance is appalling but unsurprising.  After all, dead Republicans have been voting Democrat for generations in Chicago!

Update:  Northeastern responds:

 

The Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University is housed in a building that bears historical significance. From time to time, the integrity of a plaque honoring the memory of Abraham Lincoln is questioned. Installed in the building for its opening in 1905, the plaque includes an inscription of the word “democrat” following Abraham Lincoln’s name. According to building archives, the word democrat was used because Lincoln was an advocate for democracy—the political or social equality of all people. The word was not chosen to reflect a political affiliation.

The building was initially designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his uncle, the Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones. Jones and Wright disagreed about the building design, which was handed off in 1902 to Dwight Perkins, who made several changes to Wright’s original design.

The building was designed to house a comprehensive social service agency called the Abraham Lincoln Center. According to documents by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John Lloyd Wright, the building was named for his father’s hero.

The Abraham Lincoln Center was purchased in 1969 by the Illinois Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universities for Northeastern Illinois University. Since that time, the building has housed Northeastern’s Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. Now in its 47th year, Northeastern’s Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies is an academic center for students and scholars to examine the political, economic, cultural and social forces that impact inner city communities. Nearly 150 graduates have gone on to earn doctoral degrees and pursue careers as professors, instructors and administrators in higher education.

The academic programs housed in this building promote political and social equality, the same values espoused by Abraham Lincoln. Northeastern Illinois University recognizes the context that this plaque was created and intends to uphold its integrity.

Jones, who founded the Abraham Lincoln Center, was a Unitarian, and something of a flake.

 

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An Invitation to Speak

 

One hundred and fifty years ago President Lincoln received an invitation to say “a few appropriate remarks”.  Lincoln while he was President received many invitations to speak and accepted very few of them.  This one, however, he did accept.  It was an invitation from David Wills, a Gettysburg attorney, who had been appointed by Andrew Curtin, governor of Pennsylvania, to spearhead the ceremony for the opening of the national cemetery at Gettysburg.

Beginning on October 17 the Union dead had been removed from their makeshift graves and reburied.  We must not think of Gettysburg then as it is now.  Now, it is a national park, a symbol of national pride.  Then it was a scene of almost unspeakable horror, bearing the raw scars of a huge battle where over 8,000 Americans had recently been killed and over 27,000 had been wounded, many maimed for life.  It had been a Union victory, but the War went on with no end in sight.  Lincoln seized upon the opportunity to explain to the American people, perhaps to also explain to himself, what Gettysburg meant.  Here is the text of the invitation: Continue Reading

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The Many Faces of Abe

One of the many things that I find fascinating about Lincoln is how different he looked in most of his photographs.  All but one of the Lincoln photographs were taken during the last eleven years of his life, and they are an interesting study in contrasts.  This is especially intriguing since the subject of a photograph in Lincoln’s day had to sit absolutely still for at least 18 seconds, and I would think this would tend to flatten out any emotions that the subject was feeling at the time which might have altered his features.

I have studied Lincoln now for almost a half century and the complexity of the man is perhaps his most salient feature, and that shines through in his pictures.  A man known for his humble birth, but who hated the life of poverty and drudgery that he worked so hard to escape from.  Famous for reading before the embers of a fire place as a child, he read little as an adult beyond newspapers and a few choice books, but what he read he retained with a bear trap like grasp. A teller of humorous tales who was afflicted with deep melancholia.  No formal education to speak of, but the finest writer of prose ever to sit in the White House.  A deeply logical man who loved Euclid, he could understand the passions, the loves and the hates, that almost destroyed his nation.  A humane man who abhorred bloodshed, he presided over the bloodiest war in our history.  Viewed with suspicion by the abolitionists of his day, it was his fate to destroy slavery that had existed in what would be the United States for a quarter of a millennia.  Turn Lincoln over in your mind and new facets of the man spring up.

Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, captured some of the many Lincolns that appeared in the photographs: Continue Reading

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Gettysburg Closed

In the never ending effort of the Obama administration to see just how absurd they can be over the fake government shutdown, they have attempted to close down the Gettysburg battlefield.  I say attempted because a lot of tourists are engaging in civil disobedience and touring the battlefield, playing catch me if you can with National Park Service Rangers.  Go here to read all about it.

This of course is all part of a carefully orchestrated plot by the Obama administration:

A U.S. park ranger, who did not wish to be identified, told FoxNews.com that supervisors within the National Park Service overruled plans to deal with the budget cuts in a way that would have had minimal impact on the public. Instead, the source said, park staff were told to cancel special events and cut “interpretation services” — the talks, tours and other education services provided by local park rangers.

“Apparently, they want the public to feel the pain,” the ranger said.

 

Instead of feeling pain the public has had a glimpse into just how mean, petty and spiteful the gangsters currently in power in the White House can be.

 

 

Continue Reading

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Pastoral Letter on Abraham Lincoln

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

Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858

 

The things you find while wandering the Internet!  Here is a pastoral letter on Abraham Lincoln written in 2009 on the bicentennial of his birth by Bishop W. Francis Malooly, Wilmington Diocese:

 

MYSTIC CHORDS OF MEMORY IN THE 21ST CENTURY: REMEMBERING PRESIDENT LINCOLN ON THE BICENTENNIAL OF HIS BIRTH 1

A Pastoral Letter to the People of the Diocese of Wilmington by Bishop W. Francis Malooly

Abraham Lincoln was born 200 years ago today.  Lincoln was not a Catholic.  Nor was he a member of any organized denomination and his religious views are in many ways obscure.  Some aspects of his legacy are still controversial almost 150 years after his death.  Yet, by any measure Abraham Lincoln was one of America’s greatest statesmen and his speeches and writings contain some of the most profound thinking relating to religion that have been produced in this nation.  Moreover, in his life we can see many of the classic Christian virtues; virtues that are as relevant today as they ever were in the past; virtues that help explain why Lincoln’s legacy is so large.


Before turning to Lincoln, himself, though, it is useful to first consider another statesman whose life reflects those virtues.  In 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Saint Thomas More to be the patron of statesmen and politicians: “There are many reasons for proclaiming Thomas More Patron of statesmen and people in public life.  Among these is the need felt by the world of politics and public administration for credible role models able to indicate the path of truth at a time in history when difficult challenges and crucial responsibilities are increasing…His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue.”
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My predecessor, Bishop Michael Saltarelli, inspired by Pope John Paul II’s proclamation, issued in September 2004 his Litany of Saint Thomas More, Martyr and Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers which concludes with the prayer: “Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life – the foundation of all other human rights.”
3    With this Litany, Bishop Saltarelli emphasized that it is important for each of us to remember politicians and public servants daily in our prayers.  He also placed the Diocese of Wilmington at the forefront of efforts to foster and promote devotion to Saint Thomas More. As G.K. Chesterton so prophetically stated in 1929 “Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying; but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years’ time.”4


I followed Bishop Saltarelli’s lead this fall when I reissued the Litany and asked every parish to pray it at the end of every Mass in the Diocese the weekend of October 25-26, 2008.
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Saint Thomas More and Abraham Lincoln were two very different men, living in different countries and separated by centuries.  Nevertheless, they shared the view that public service required them to pursue the public good rather than their own personal ends, even to the point that they put their lives at risk-and ultimately died-in that pursuit.  Indeed, Lincoln and St. Thomas shared many virtues-virtues that are key to effective public service.  In Lincoln’s life, Catholics and non-Catholics alike can see so many dimensions of the beatitudes, the theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) and the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) lived vibrantly.   We can see through the lens of Abraham Lincoln so many of the lessons that were taught in the life of Saint Thomas More – that virtue in the life of the politician extends to both their public and their private lives, that magnanimity and charity lead to solid decisions in moments of crisis and confusion, and that governance is above all, an exercise in virtue.  Continue Reading

Visiting the Lincolns: A Review

On Saturday night, September 21, 2013, I was master of ceremonies at a performance of “Visiting the Lincolns” performed by Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller in Dwight, Illinois.  The performance was masterful.  Mr. Krebs and Ms. Miller have been performing as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln since the mid-nineties and they gave a highly polished two person play.  The audience was very much a part of the play, as the premise of the play is that the members of the audience are unexpected visitors at the White House who appear just before the Lincolns on Good Friday 1865 are due to leave to attend a play at Ford’s Theater.

The play is a mixture of comedy and drama as the Lincolns deal with the task of attempting to entertain their unexpected guests.  Mrs. Lincoln serves lemon juice and cookies as she and Mr. Lincoln discuss their courtship,  and their sorrow over the deaths  of their sons Eddie and Willie, as well as Emancipation, the War and the other events that made the Civil War an unforgettable crossroads in American history.  Mr. Krebs and Ms. Miller demonstrate both the bickering, that the Lincolns did on occasion historically, and their deep love for each other.  The play is enlivened with some of Lincoln’s stories and constant interaction between the Lincolns and the audience.  One of the more dramatic episodes occurs when Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln are reading amusing dispatches from Union generals and criticizing the incompetence that was often a hallmark of Union high command, when Mrs. Lincoln lightheartedly begins reading Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, not realizing that the letter consoled a mother for the loss of her five sons, and the reading awakens Mary’s constant grief over the loss of her two sons.  It made the dramatic hallmark for the evening. Continue Reading

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Abraham Lincoln in Dwight, Illinois at 7:00 PM, September 21, 2013

Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,
That which is gendered in the wilderness
From lonely prairies and God’s tenderness.
Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,
Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still dream,
Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,
Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire—
Fire that freed the slave.
 
Vachel Lindsay

 

Well, today is the day.  Every year my little town has a festival, Dwight Harvest Days.  We draw tens of thousands of visitors from all around for parades, a flea market, a craft show, rides, a 5k run, and many, many other events.

This year, I have arranged, well I should say the Dwight Rotary Club, of which I have been a member for 28 years, has arranged, for Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller to bring their presentations of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to the Dwight High School Auditorium, 801 South Franklin Street in Dwight on September 21, 2013, tonight, at 7:00 PM.  The presentation is free and I think we will have a huge turnout, especially among students.

I have long followed the career of Mr. Krebs and I believe he is the king of Lincoln presenters.  Some samples of his work:

 

 

I am looking forward to this immensely.  It speaks well of the Great Emancipator in our national memory that he is by far the President most portrayed by historical re-enactors.  Lincoln calls to something very deep in the American soul.  Men portraying Lincoln go back to the first decade of the last century, while men and women who knew Lincoln were still alive, but were rapidly departing this vale of tears.  They kept alive a memory of Lincoln as a man and not just a mere statue or a historical personage trapped in books.  Those early Lincoln presenters gave the models by which Lincoln was portrayed in the new technology of film.  Through the efforts of the Lincoln presenters the memory of Lincoln is kept ever green.

Like most counties in Central Illinois, we have our Lincoln sites, places Lincoln visited while he was riding the circuit as a lawyer. In those more civilized days, courts in most areas only operated part time. On a court day, the judges and attorneys would arrive at a county seat, and the trials on the court’s docket would be called and tried. So it was on May 18, 1840 when Lincoln and his fellow attorneys rode into Pontiac, the then tiny county seat of Livingston County, for the first ever session of the Circuit Court in Livingston County. Continue Reading

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August 19, 1863: Lincoln Fires a Spencer Rifle

christopher_m_spencer

 

How times have changed!  On August 18, 1863 Christopher Spencer, inventor of the revolutionary Spencer repeating rifle, was able to walk into the White House and show one of his rifles to President Lincoln.

The concept of a repeating rifle was not new, and examples of such weapons had been produced since at least 1779.  However, teething problems with the new technology made them impracticable as mass weapons until shortly before the Civil War.  Benjamin Tyler Henry developed the famed Henry repeating rifle in 1860.  Although never officially adopted by the Union army, this rifle was highly thought of enough by Union cavalry troopers that thousands of them purchased them privately, and they were equally prized when captured by Confederate troopers.  The rifle could fire off 28 rounds per minute, compared to a rifled musket that could barely manage three rounds per minute under ideal conditions.

The Spencer repeating rifle was developed by Christopher Spencer in 1860.  A seven shot weapon, it could manage 20 shots a minute and proved durable under battlefield conditions.  By the end of the War, most Union cavalry and mounted infantry units had Spencers and their firepower was often devastatingly effective on the battlefield.
War department conservatism is often blamed for the fact that the Spencers were not more widely used during the War, especially by the infantry, but the truth is that the ability to supply Spencers to replace all of the Union rifles and rifled muskets simply did not exist during the War, and supplying the ones that could be manufactured to units cavalry and mounted infantry was a wise choice since they greatly magnified the combat power of the most mobile forces that the Union had. Continue Reading

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Liberal Christianity as a “Religion”

 

 

Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels in defense of Catholicism so frequently that I have named him Defender of the Faith, explains why liberal Protestantism deserves a place on the endangered species list:

Why is mainline Protestantism withering on the vine?  Because as Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland, California, there is no “there” there:

Liberal Protestantism is dying. Rod Dreher says so in a recent column in The American Conservative, and the statistics back him up: for decades, liberal and mainline Protestantism has been on the decline in the US, with some denominations (such as the United Church of Christ) losing adherents so quickly that their future is in peril. Meanwhile, more conservative and evangelical denominations have generally held their own, or even experienced growth (see graph below). But liberal Protestantism in many ways exemplifies the best of what religion could be: it’s tolerant of differences, non-judgmental, open to scientific knowledge. Good stuff, right? So why is it that the open-minded liberal churches are dying out? 

Golly gee willickers, it has to be painful to be this clueless.  “Liberal Protestantism in many ways exemplifies the best of what religion could be,” only to someone who has absolutely no idea what religion actually is.

I guess I’m going to have to try to dumb this down even further and for the sake of brevity, I’m going to stick with the monotheistic religions but these principles apply to all religions.  So here goes not much of anything.

There are people out there who believe that there is a God.  They believe that this God is responsible for existence itself as well as their presence in that existence.

Once they accept that, they’re kind of forced to accept three more concepts.  Even if they never figure out what it is, there’s a reason why they’re here; after all, if you’re talented enough to speak existence into existence, why would Christopher Johnsons ever just sort of randomly turn up?

So if you’re here for a reason, even if you never ever understand what that reason is until you die, if then, does that not imply that the God who deliberately made you exist feels that your existence is important?  And if your existence is important, does that not rather obligate you to try to live the way the God who made you exist wants you to live?

You can’t do that as well as you want to, of course.  God, in His mercy, understands that and has provided vehicles of escape, the most sensible and efficacious being, according to this Christian, that vehicle provided by the Christian religion.  That fellow on the Cross.

Then there are people who don’t believe any of that. Continue Reading

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Abraham Lincoln Comes to Dwight, Illinois

Would I might rouse the Lincoln in you all,
That which is gendered in the wilderness
From lonely prairies and God’s tenderness.
Imperial soul, star of a weedy stream,
Born where the ghosts of buffaloes still dream,
Whose spirit hoof-beats storm above his grave,
Above that breast of earth and prairie-fire—
Fire that freed the slave.
Vachel Lindsay

 

Well, I guess this was inevitable, at least I am sure that faithful readers of this blog will think that it was inevitable!  Every year my little town has a festival, Dwight Harvest Days.  We draw tens of thousands of visitors from all around for parades, a flea market, a craft show, rides, a 5k run, and many, many other events.

This year, I have arranged, well I should say the Dwight Rotary Club, of which I have been a member for 28 years, has arranged, for Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller to bring their presentations of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to the Dwight High School Auditorium on September 21, 2013 at 7:00 PM.  The presentation is free and I think we will have a huge turnout, especially among students.

I have long followed the career of Mr. Krebs and I believe he is the king of Lincoln presenters.  Some samples of his work: Continue Reading

1

Edward Baker Lincoln

Eddielincoln

I had always said that the worst thing that could happen to any parent was to have a child die. Until it happened to me recently I really did not comprehend how true that statement was.  Abraham Lincoln would live to see two of his four sons die.  His wife would see three of their four sons die, as well as having her husband murdered before her eyes.  So much unbearable grief for one family.  At the Lincoln Museum that my family and I visited in our annual pilgrimage last week to the Lincoln sites in Springfield, there is an exhibit where Mary Todd Lincoln sits in a room by herself as rain beats on  a window.  This is a representation of her intense grief after the death of Willie, her second son to die.  I have always had a great deal of sympathy for Mrs. Lincoln, thinking that she has been treated unfairly in many historical accounts, but after experiencing myself the grief that she experienced three times, my sympathy for her is now boundless.

The first son of the Lincolns to die was Edward Baker Lincoln at three years on February 1, 1850 of tuberculosis.  Both the Lincolns were devastated by his death.   A poem which was published in the Illinois State Journal the next week reflected their grief.  Wrongly attributed to the Lincolns by some historians, the poem was actually written Ethel Grey in 1849 and was not meant to apply to Eddie Lincoln.  A friend of the Lincolns probably had it published in an attempt to comfort them. Continue Reading

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July 15, 1863: A Proclamation

President Lincoln throughout the Civil War issued several proclamations calling for prayers, fasting and thanksgiving.  The famous proclamation in October 1863 creating Thanksgiving was just one of a them.  Here is a proclamation he issued on July 15 in the wake of the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.  Note how he calls for repentance and submission to the Divine will.  He recognizes the hand of God in both the national triumphs and sorrows.  Such language would sound strange to most Americans today if uttered by a President of the United States.  More is the pity.  Here is the text of the proclamation: Continue Reading

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Lincoln and the Jesuits!

 

Lincoln Shocked!

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 .

Abraham Lincoln, letter to Joshua Speed, August 24, 1855

 

 

Presidential assassinations attract nut cases like bribes attract politicians.  The original presidential assassination conspiracy theorist was Charles P.T. Chiniquy, a Catholic priest from Quebec, who came to Kankakee County in Illinois circa 1850 to serve a colony of French Canadians who had settled there.  In 1860 he left the Church with some of his parishioners, having run afoul of his Bishop.  Eventually he became a Presbyterian Minister and made a living from publishing anti-Catholic books and tracts and giving anti-Catholic lectures

Chiniquy had used Lincoln’s services as a lawyer in a slander case in 1856.  From this slight association, after Lincoln’s assassination he created a fable of the Jesuits having been behind Lincoln’s death and putting anti-Catholic sentiments in the mouth of a man who knew no religious bigotry.  Chiniquy’s lies have been exposed for well over a century by historians.  One of the best eviscerations of Chiniquy was undertaken by Professor Joseph George, Jr. in an article which appeared in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society in 1976:

In 1891 John G. Nicolay, Lincoln’s former secretary, received a note  from Benedict Guldner, a Jesuit priest in New York, asking for information about a “libellous pamphlet” printed in Germany.   The pamphlet, according to Guldner, was a translation of a work “originally written in this country … in which the author maintains that the assassination of President Lincoln was the work of Jesuits.” Nicolay and John Hay, another former secretary to the President, had not mentioned the allegation in their biography of        Lincoln, and Guldner wished to know if they had heard the charge and if they considered it false. [1]         Nicolay consulted Hay, and then replied:        

          To [y]our first question whether in our studies on the life of Lincoln we came upon the charge that “the assasination of President Lincoln was the work of Jesuits”, we answer that we have read such a charge in a lengthy newspaper publication.  To your second question, viz: “If you did come across it, did the          accusation seem to you to be entirely groundless?”, we answer Yes. It seemed to us so entirely groundless as not to merit any attention on our part.  [2]        

        

        Perhaps the decision of Nicolay and Hay to ignore the charge of a Jesuit conspiracy against Lincoln was unwise. A prompt and firm denial might have prevented further publication of the story.  [3]        

        The originator of the conspiracy theory was Charles P.T. Chiniquy, a former Catholic priest who claimed to be a close friend and confidant of Abraham Lincoln’s.   According to Chiniquy, “emissaries of the        Pope” were plotting to murder Lincoln for his defense of Chiniquy in an 1856 trial.   Chiniquy’s autobiography, Fifty Years in the Church of Rome, published in 1885,  attributes remarks to the President on a variety of subjects, particularly religion. [4]  Most of Chinquy’s stories are so foreign to what is known about the Sixteenth President that scholars  have ignored them. Nevertheless, many of the less sensational portions of Chiniquy’s reminiscences have been used by serious students of Lincoln’s life, and the most sensational passages have been widely quoted and disseminated by writers engaged in anti-Catholic polemics. Continue Reading

Saving Lincoln: A Review

 

In the past year three films on President Lincoln have been released:  the truly odious Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, the superb Lincoln and now the low budget, funded by Kickstarter, Saving Lincoln.  I am pleased to report that I think Saving Lincoln is much closer in quality to Lincoln than Vampire Hunter.  The film has an intriguing take on Mr. Lincoln and I was both amused and moved by it.  My full review is below.  The usual caveat regarding spoilers ahead is given. Continue Reading

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Fortnight for Freedom: July 4, 1863

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

I confess that I am not likely to see the Hand of God very much in most human events.  Where some can clearly see Divine handiwork, I do not, perhaps because, in the words of Saint Paul, I “see as in a glass, darkly.”  However, even I find it hard not to look at the events on the Fourth of July one hundred and fifty years ago, with the retreat of Lee from Gettysburg and the surrender of Vicksburg and not suspect that God was saying something through his human instrumentalities.  At any rate it was left to Mr. Lincoln on November 19, 1863 to attempt to make sense of the terrible crisis that the nation was living through.

Presidents during their presidencies make hundreds of speeches.  Most are utterly forgotten soon after they are delivered.  Even most of the speeches by a president who is also a skilled orator, as Lincoln was, are recalled only by historians and trivia buffs.  Yet the Gettysburg address, given 146 years ago today, has achieved immortality.

 

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

Lincoln then got up and spoke for two minutes.

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

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

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Fortnight For Freedom: Lincoln on Liberty of Conscience

 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

In our current struggle for liberty we have the finest of American history on our side.  Americans, at their best, have been dedicated to liberty and opposed to attempts by government to take away the freedom that all Americans should enjoy.  One of the champions of freedom who would clearly be against the policies of the current administration in its squalid war against the Catholic Church is Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

In the 1840s America was beset by a wave of anti-Catholic riots.  An especially violent one occurred in Philadelphia on May 6-8 in 1844. 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].” Continue Reading

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Footnote 7

 

 

Justice Alito, in one footnote, underlines why the Federal judiciary has become an enemy to our most important civil right:  the right to govern ourselves:

The degree to which this question [the traditional view of marriage vs. the consent-based view] is intractable to typical judicial processes of decisionmaking was highlighted by the trial in Hollingsworth v. Perry. In that case, the trial judge, after receiving testimony from some expert witnesses, purported to make “findings of fact” on such questions as why marriage came to be, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921, 958 (ND Cal. 2010) (finding of fact no. 27) (“Marriage between a man and a woman was traditionally organized based on presumptions of division of labor along gender lines. Men were seen as suited for certain types of work and women for others. Women were seen as suited to raise children and men were seen as suited to provide for the family”), what marriage is, id., at 961 (finding of fact no. 34) (“Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents”), and the effect legalizing same-sex marriage would have on opposite-sex marriage, id., at 972 (finding of fact no. 55)(“Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages”).

At times, the trial reached the heights of parody, as when the trial judge questioned his ability to take into account the views of great thinkers of the past because they were unavailable to testify in person in his courtroom. See 13 Tr. in No. C 09–2292 VRW (ND Cal.), pp. 3038–3039.

And, if this spectacle were not enough, some professors of constitutional law have argued that we are bound to accept the trial judge’s findings—including those on major philosophical questions and predictions about the future—unless they are “clearly erroneous.” [citations omitted] Only an arrogant legal culture that has lost all appreciation of its own limitations could take such a suggestion seriously.  (Emphasis added)

Power hungry lawyers in black robes, accountable to no one, are the exact opposite of how the Founding Fathers believed their new country would be governed.  Abraham Lincoln, recalling the Dred Scott decision, addressed this issue head on in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861: Continue Reading

Saving Lincoln

Well this is interesting.  A film about Lincoln told from the perspective of Ward Lamon, Lincoln’s friend and self-appointed bodyguard for Lincoln who appointed him as United States Marshal for the District of Columbia.  The film uses computer graphics to place the film within period pictures.  An independent film, it received funding via Kickstarter.  Go here to view the film’s website.  I find the concept interesting, albeit gimmicky.  I will have a full review after I view the film.  It just arrived from Amazon so look for the review in a few days. Continue Reading

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Fortnight for Freedom 2013: Our Reliance

Lincoln and Liberty

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have proclaimed a second Fortnight for Freedom from June 21-July 4th, and, as last year, The American Catholic will participate with special blog posts each day.

This quote suitable for framing from Abraham Lincoln reminds us that the love of liberty placed in each human soul by the hand of God is the chief defense of our freedom:

 

Now, when by all these means you have succeeded in dehumanizing the negro; when you have put him down, and made it forever impossible for him to be but as the beasts of the field; when you have extinguished his soul, and placed him where the ray of hope is blown out in darkness like that which broods over the spirits of the damned; are you quite sure the demon which you have roused will not turn and rend you? What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, every where. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage, and you are preparing your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of those around you, you have lost the genius of your own independence, and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises.

Abraham Lincoln, September 11, 1858, Edwardsville, Illinois Continue Reading

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Lowry on Lincoln

Rich Lowry has written a brilliant article (and also evidently a book) defending Abraham Lincoln from his critics on the right. He meticulously goes through the charges that certain people on the fringe right level at Lincoln and rebuts them one by one. For example, on the charge that Lincoln was a great centralizer out to destroy the states, Lowry notes that Lincoln’s view of the nation was little different than James Madison. Madison, like Lincoln, fought against the ideas of the likes of John Calhoun, who had defended the doctrine of nullification and asserted the supremacy of the states. As for secession, Lowry makes a point that I have often made regarding the right of the confederate states to rebel:

In his anti-Lincoln tract The Real Lincoln, Thomas DiLorenzo argues that secession is as American as apple pie. “The United States were founded by secessionists,” he insists, “and began with a document, the Declaration, that justified the secession of the American states.” No. The country was founded by revolutionaries and the Declaration justified an act of revolution. No one denies the right of revolution. Madison said that revolution was an “extra & ultra constitutional right.” Even Lincoln, in his First Inaugural Address, concedes the point: “If, by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution — certainly would, if such right were a vital one.”

 

The friends of secession aren’t eager to invoke the right to revolution, though. For one thing, when a revolution fails, you hang. For another, the Declaration says a revolution shouldn’t be undertaken “for light and transient causes,” but only when a people have suffered “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” What was the train in 1860 and 1861? Seven southern states left the Union before Lincoln was inaugurated. The South had dominated the federal government for decades. Abuses and usurpations? It’s more like lose an election and go home.

He also takes on the likes of Ron Paul, who has asserted that Lincoln could have used the power of the purse to free the slaves rather than fighting a bloody civil war. Lowry writes:

They come up with fanciful alternatives to military conflict. Ron Paul wonders why Lincoln didn’t forestall the war by simply buying up and freeing the slaves. With his usual sense of realism, Paul ignores the fact that Lincoln repeatedly advanced schemes for just such a compensated emancipation. Lincoln argued for these proposals as “the cheapest and most humane way to end the war.” But except in the District of Columbia, they went precisely . . . nowhere. The border states weren’t selling, let alone the South. Even little Delaware, which was selected as a test case because in 1860 it had only 587 slaveholders out of a white population of 90,500, couldn’t be persuaded to cash out of slavery. One plan proposed by Lincoln would have paid $400 or so per slave and achieved full abolition by 1893. A version of the scheme failed in the state’s legislature.

Lowry addresses Lincoln’s war measures, and notes that Lincoln simply used the legitimate powers that were prescribed in the Constitution.

When it comes to the idea that Lincoln’s administration birthed the welfare state, Lowry destroys that argument.

Yet another favorite count against Lincoln on the Right is that he was the midwife for the birth of the modern welfare state — a false claim also made by progressives bent on appropriating him for their own purposes. The war necessarily entailed the growth and centralization of the state, but this hardly makes Lincoln a forerunner to FDR or LBJ. The income tax required to fund the war, instituted in 1861 and soon made into a progressive tax with higher rates for the wealthy, was a temporary measure eliminated in 1872. Wars are expensive. In 1860, the federal budget was well under $100 million. By the end of the war, it was more than $1 billion. But the budget dropped back down to $300 million, excluding payments on the debt, within five years of the end of the war.

 

To see in any of this the makings of the modern welfare state requires a leap of imagination. In the midst of the war, the State Department had all of 33 employees. The famous instances of government activism not directly related to the war — the subsidies to railroads, the Homestead Act — were a far cry from the massive transfer programs instituted in the 20th century. The railroads got land and loan guarantees but were a genuinely transformational technology often, though not always, providing an economic benefit. The Homestead Act, as Lincoln historian Allen Guelzo argues, can be viewed as a gigantic privatization of public lands, which were sold off at a cut rate to people willing to improve their plots.

 

In the North during the war, historian Richard Franklin Bensel points out, the industrial and agricultural sectors ran free of government controls. The labor force, although tapped for manpower for the war, was relatively unmolested. The government became entangled with the financial system, but that system was also becoming more modern, sophisticated, and free of European influence. Given its vitality and wealth, the North could wage the war without subjecting itself to heavy-handed command-and-control policies. Compared with the overmatched Confederacy, it was a laissez-faire haven.

Indeed federal government spending as a percentage of GDP increased to approximately 15 percent at the height of the Civil War, but came crashing down to about a 5 percent level immediately after its conclusion, where it remained until the Wilson administration. (Correction – see comments, spending was even lower, and remained low but for WWI until the Great Depression.)

If anything Lincoln was a Hamiltonian conservative. He believed in a strong national government to be sure, but one essentially limited in scope. It’s rather fitting considering that it was Hamilton’s political enemy – Thomas Jefferson – who Lincoln held up as a hero. It is also rather ironic that often those on the right who deride Lincoln are the same who glorify Jefferson. Perhaps that is a subject also worthy of deeper study.

 

 

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The Death of Willie Lincoln and God’s Purpose

[1] Then the Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and said:

[2] Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words?

[3] Gird up thy loins like a man: I will ask thee, and answer thou me.

[4] Where wast thou when I laid up the foundations of the earth? tell me if thou hast understanding.

[5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Job:  38:1-5

For any parent, I think the death of one of their children is the worst thing imaginable.  Abraham Lincoln would see two of his four sons die, Eddie and Willie, Willie dying on February 20, 1862 from typhoid fever, that great killer of the 19th century.  Mary Todd Lincoln would see three of her four sons die, and witness her husband  assassinated before her eyes.  Small wonder that Mrs. Lincoln had a fragile grasp on reality after so much sorrow.  Prostrate with grief, Mary Lincoln retired to her room for a month after Willie’s death, inconsolable in the immense anguish she felt, unable to bring herself to even attend Willie’s funeral.  Mr. Lincoln said when Willie died, “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so. It is hard, hard to have him die!” Lincoln continued his work, not having the luxury of private grief in a time of such public peril.

Dr. Phineas D. Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian church in Washington that the Lincolns sometimes attended, preached the funeral sermon.  I suspect this passage caught Lincoln’s attention:

His kingdom ruleth over all. All those events which in anywise affect our condition and happiness are in his hands, and at his disposal. Disease and death are his messengers; they go forth at his bidding, and their fearful work is limited or extended, according to the good pleasure of His will.

Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His direction; much less any one of the human family, for we are of more value than many sparrows.

We may be sure, — therefore, bereaved parents, and all the children of sorrow may be sure, — that their affliction has not come forth of the dust, nor has their trouble sprung out of the ground.

It is the well-ordered procedure of their Father and their God. Continue Reading

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Lincoln and the Modern South

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Lee Sigel has written a column for the Daily Beast in which he prays for the South to secede again:

Just think what America would look like without its mostly Southern states. (We could retain “America”: they could call themselves “Smith & Wesson” or “Coca-Cola” or something like that.) Universal health care. No guns. Strong unions. A humane minimum wage. A humane immigration policy. High revenues from a fair tax structure. A massive public-works program. Legal gay marriage. A ban on carbon emissions. Electric cars. Stronger workplace protections. Extended family leave from work in case of pregnancy or illness. Longer unemployment benefits. In short, a society on a par with most of the rest of the industrialized world—a place whose politics have finally caught up with its social and economic realities.

I will not link directly to his post as I do not want to give him any hits for his mind-bendingly foolish scribbling.  As most of our faithful readers know, I am one of Lincoln’s biggest fans in the Catholic blogosphere and my sentiments for the Union in the Late Unpleasantness are quite clear, but I must say if the South did secede today the new nation would have only one problem:  what to do with the hordes of Northern refugees, including me and my family, that would come flocking to live in Dixie.  As far as I can see the Southern states, much more so than most of the Northern states, would be a better fit for Lincoln today:

 

1.  They are Republican.

2.  They have a patriotism much more like Lincoln’s than the blame America first attitude prevalent in too many of the power centers of the North.

3.  They are pro-business as Lincoln was throughout his political career.

4.  They do not believe that self government consists of breathlessly waiting for the latest edict from the Supreme Court and chanting:  Yes Masters.

5.  They have not legalized gay marriage.  A man like Lincoln who opposed polygamy would not have looked kindly upon that cause. Continue Reading

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Civil War History and Inevitability

I’ve been on a bit of a history kicker lately, particularly Civil War history, even if by chance. On successive occasions I read Tony Horowitz’s Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War, followed by April 1865: The Month that Saved America by Jay Winik. It was purely coincidental that I read those books back-to-back, though they serve as proper bookends to Civil War history. I also happened to finally see Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. 

First a review of the works themselves. Midnight Rising is an excellent recounting of the events leading up to John Brown’s raid, the raid itself, and of course the fallout. Horowitz’s account is fairly straight, though one can’t help but detect a bit of admiration for Brown peeking through his narrative. You can probably make a good argument for both the proposition that Brown was a complete lunatic and that he was a hero who stood on principle (though probably more the former).

Winik’s narrative is engaging, and if you are unfamiliar with many of the details of not just the events of April 1865, but of the Civil War in general, then Winik’s book is a very good primer. Unfortunately it suffers from a few severe, though hardly fatal defects. First of all, Winik litters his story with repeated digressions, filling in biographical details of the main figures – Lee, Grant, Lincoln, Davis, Forrest, Sherman, Booth, even Johnston. Again, this may or may not infuriate the reader depending upon his knowledge of Civil War history. It felt like padding to me, and unnecessary padding at that.

Second, while he gets his history mostly right, there are a few notable lapses. Most grating to me was his discussion of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and their respective writings on nullification. Like many other writers, he contends that Madison supported nullification in the Virginia Resolutions, when in point of fact Madison completely rejected the doctrine of nullification throughout his life and merely argued for a concept known as interposition in the Virginia Resolutions. This is a relatively minor point, but Winik makes a handful of errors, especially with regards to Lincoln’s attitudes towards having extra protection on the day of his assassination. Winik makes Lincoln seem callous about his own security, but it was Edwin Stanton who denied him an extra bodyguard.

Finally, Winik’s fundamental thesis is overstated (and also restated repeatedly in a  seemingly unending epilogue). Though the conclusion of the war was a momentous occasion in American history, Winik overstates the willingness and the capability of the south to engage in guerilla warfare to prolong to conflict. Certainly Lee could have decided to rebuff Grant’s peace overtures, and Johnston could have listened to Jefferson Davis’s appeals to continue the fight, but would the south have kept the Union at bay as effectively and as long as Winik speculates?  I suppose that is a matter of some conjecture, but I think Winik drastically overestimates the ability of any sizable confederate band to harass the Union for much longer.

As for the movie Lincoln, I’ll largely second Donald’s review. It was an epic film, and Daniel Day-Lewis was simply outstanding. I’ll admit I even got choked up at the end – a rarity for me as usually only Field of Dreams ever makes me cry.

Beyond the merits of these works, I wanted to explore some of their themes – or at least some of the thoughts that they inspired in me directly or indirectly. Continue Reading

April 24, 1863: Promulgation of the Lieber Code

Art. 43. Therefore, in a war between the United States and a belligerent which admits of slavery, if a person held in bondage by that belligerent be captured by or come as a fugitive under the protection of the military forces of the United States, such person is immediately entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman To return such person into slavery would amount to enslaving a free person, and neither the United States nor any officer under their authority can enslave any human being. Moreover, a person so made free by the law of war is under the shield of the law of nations, and the former owner or State can have, by the law of postliminy, no belligerent lien or claim of service.

Francis Lieber led a colorful life.  Born in Berlin in 1798, he enlisted in the Prussian Army in 1815 and was wounded at Waterloo.  Unable to attend a university in Berlin due to his membership in a Liberal group that opposed the Prussian monarchy, he attended Jena University and, a brilliant student, completed his dissertation on mathematics in four months in 1820.  He took time out from his academic career to fight in the Greek War of Independence in which he was severely wounded.  He served as a tutor for the son of the Prussian ambassador in Rome for a year and wrote a book about his experiences in Greece.  Receiving a royal pardon, he returned to Prussia only to run afoul of the authorities again for his Republican beliefs.  Imprisoned, he took advantage of the time to do what any good Romantic of his generation would do, he wrote a book of poetry, Songs of Wine and Bliss.

After his release he fled to England, where he supported himself by acting as a tutor.  Meeting his future wife and marrying her, the Liebers left the Old World to start a new life in the New World in 1827.  There Lieber embarked on an academic career.  In Boston he achieved notoriety for opening a school which gave instruction in swimming, a first in America.  He edited a 13 volume Encyclopedia Americana.  From 1833-1835 he resided in Philadelphia while preparing a plan of education for Girard College.  In 1835 he began a sojourn of 21 years duration at the University of South Carolina teaching history and political economics.  He retained an interest in Germany, and returned for a few months after the revolution of 1848 although his hopes that Germany would take the Liberal path he favored were quickly dashed.

From 1856-1865 he was professor of history and political science at Columbia.  In 1860 he was also appointed a professor of political science at the law school at Columbia, a post he would hold until his death in 1872.

The coming of the Civil War tragically divided Lieber’s family, just as it divided the nation.  One of his sons fought and died for the Confederacy, while his other two sons fought for the Union.  Lieber himself was a staunch advocate of the Union and an opponent of slavery.  He founded and headed the Loyal Publication Society that wrote scholarly pro-Union propaganda during the War.  He first met Lincoln at the White House in 1861 to confer upon him an honorary degree from Columbia.  Thereafter he was called to Washington frequently to consult with Lincoln, Stanton and Seward on questions of international law.

During his academic career Lieber had written many books and articles on law, politics and history that had given him an international reputation.  It is therefore not surprising that Lincoln turned to Lieber to draft a code of Law to govern the Union forces during war-time.  The Code was promulgated in General Order 100 on April 24, 1863. Continue Reading

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Quotes Suitable For Framing: Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln

 

 

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

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Lincoln Defeated

Lincoln Weeping

If the end brings me out wrong, ten thousand angels swearing I was right wouldn’t make any difference.

Abraham Lincoln

 

 

During the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the War Between the States, it is time to take stock of the War that severed forever the United States of America and led to creation of two American republics, soon to be joined by a third, the Pacific Republic, and, eventually, by a fourth, after Texas seceded from the Confederacy  during the Great Depression of 1893.  All of our American history, for good and ill, was irrevocably altered by the events that transpired a century and a half ago.  Could events have come out differently?  I think many historians would say yes, if Lincoln had not lost the election of 1864.

By the Spring of 1864 the Union war effort had clearly made progress but at a terrible cost in human lives and treasure.  The Union had succeeded in conquering almost all of Tennessee and Arkansas.  The Confederacy’s largest city, New Orleans, was under Union control and, in Lincoln’s phrase, “the Father of the Waters” went unvexed to the Sea, and the Confederacy in Texas and the unconquered portions of Arkansas and Louisiana were now cut off from the rest of the Confederacy by a newly hostile Mississippi.  The Union had established control of much of the coast line of the Confederacy and the Union blockade, a joke in 1861, had become a very grim reality for the Confederacy in 1864.  Today, most people do not appreciate how close the Confederacy came to defeat in 1864, although it was a common theme in speeches given at Confederate Victory Day celebrations throughout the South for decades after the War.  How did this all turn to ashes for the Union by November 1864 with Lincoln rejected at the polls?  Here are, I think, some of  the major factors:

1.  War Weariness-By 1864 most Americans, North and South, were heartily sick of the War, the huge casualty lists filling the newspapers giving a nightmarish quality to life.  However, there was a difference.  If the North lost the War, there would be little change in the life of most Northerners.  If the South lost the War, they would be under what most white Southerners now perceived as hated foreign domination.  Northern morale was as a result more fragile than Southern morale.  The South would resist until they could resist no longer, while the North would continue the War only if it could be brought to a victorious conclusion relatively quickly.

2.  Lee-Ulysses S. Grant was a fine General even if ultimately he failed in his goal of defeating Lee.  In his Overland Campaign he succeeded in driving Lee back to Richmond, and ultimately brought Petersburg under siege.  No mean feat up against a man now universally regarded by nearly all Americans as the finest American General.  Lee realized the caliber of General that he was up against in regard to Grant, and that Grant could not be defeated easily as he had defeated other Union drives against Richmond.  It took all of Lee’s immense skill to prevent Grant from taking Richmond, but this he succeeded in doing while inflicting casualties of 2-1 against Grant, and causing much of the North, including, privately, Mary Todd Lincoln, to denounce Grant as a butcher.  Grant had brought the Union close to victory, but only by an immense effusion of Northern blood, and the population of the North simply had no stomach for many more casualties in what appeared to be an endless War.

3.  Sherman’s Death-Sherman’s drive on Atlanta, which had been making progress, came to a sudden end on June 27, 1864 with the battle of Kennesaw Mountain.  Of all the Civil War might have beens, perhaps none are more poignant than what would have happened if Sherman had stopped the battle after the failure of the initial assaults as he was advised to do by General Thomas.  Instead, Sherman ordered two more attacks each bloodily repulsed.  As he went out to meet the retreating survivors of his last attack, Sherman was felled by a long-range shot from a Confederate sharpshooter equipped with a rifle and a telescopic sight.  Lincoln wished to place Thomas in command, but Grant, who bore animosity for Thomas, why still being something of a mystery, insisted on General James McPherson being placed in overall command.  McPherson wished to continue the offensive against Atlanta, but that simply was not possible after the fifteen thousand casualties sustained by the Union.  Resisting calls in Northern papers to fall back on Chattanooga, McPherson remained in place and awaited reinforcements.  In early September the offensive was renewed, with McPherson making slow but steady progress against a skillful and dogged defense by General Johnston.  McPherson placed Atlanta under siege, two days before the November election, too late to alter the outcome.

4.  Blind Memorandum- With the War stalled both East and West Union morale was faltering.  Lincoln’s morale was also faltering as graphically demonstrated by what has become known as The Blind Memorandum.  Lincoln sealed this document and asked his cabinet officers to sign it unread.  They complied.  In the chaos that followed Lincoln’s defeat the document lay forgotten for some twenty years until Lincoln mentioned it in his autobiography, Of the People, (1884).  Here is the text:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.

A. Lincoln

5.  Cedar Creek- Lincoln’s prospects appeared brighter in September and October of 1864 with Union victories in the Shenandoah.  This came to a halt with the Confederate victory at Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864. In the aftermath Union commander General Phil Sheridan was sacked by Secretary of War Stanton, over the strenuous objections of General Grant, who had always considered him to be too young at 33 for such an important command.  Grant placed Meade in overall command of the Shenandoah theater.  The cautious Meade avoided any further Union defeats prior to election day, but did not succeed in winning any Union victories.  Democrats made considerable hay at rallies in late October with the fact that Sheridan had been fifty miles from Cedar Creek at the time of the battle and mocked his strenuous, albeit futile, ride to get to the battlefield in time to rescue the situation. Continue Reading

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Top Ten Reasons Why Liberals Would Have Hated Abraham Lincoln

The Lincoln (2012) film is coming out on Blu-ray and DVD on March 26, 2013 and I can’t wait to get my copy.  Faithful readers of this blog know that I immensely enjoyed the film.  Go here to read my review.

The film I enjoyed.  The attempt by liberals involved with the film  to steal Lincoln, a very partisan Republican, as one of their own, I did not find amusing, except in a bleakly dark fashion.  Go to here to read a post I wrote to refute the contention of the director of the film, Steven Spielberg, that the parties had switched positions since Lincoln’s day.  Actually modern liberals would have hated Abraham Lincoln, and here are ten reasons why:

1.  Marriage Equality-Gay Marriage was obviously not an issue in Lincoln’s day, but I know he would have been against “Marriage Equality” , the most vacuous political slogan in many a moon, because he was against “marriage equality” for polygamists.  Not recalled much today, but the Republicans ran opposed, as they said in their 1856 platform, to “those twin relics of barbarism, slavery and polygamy”.  Lincoln signed the Morill Anti-Bigamy Act on July 8, 1862.

2.  Military-Industrial Complex-The first example of a Military-Industrial Complex in American history was the mighty war machine assembled by Lincoln to crush the Confederacy.  One can imagine the outraged Code Pink demonstrations.

3.  Catholics-One does not have to peruse Leftist web sites for lengthy periods before usually finding examples of raw anti-Catholic bigotry.  Go here to read about what Lincoln thought of the anti-Catholic bigots of his day.

4.  Separation of Church and State-Imagine, just imagine, the outrage of liberals if a President were to use the White House grounds to host a fund raiser to build a Catholic Church.  Yet, that is precisely what Lincoln did on July 4, 1864.  Go here to read about it.

5.  Dead White Males-Lincoln did not regard the Founding Fathers as dead white males, but champions for human liberty as he ringingly proclaimed them on August 17, 1858:

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

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Abraham Lincoln and Robert Emmet

The Seven Days made the Irish Brigade’s reputation. It was said that whenever General Sumner prepared for battle he would ask, “Where are my green flags?” and that he once quipped that if the Irishmen ever ran from the field he would have to run as well. When Abraham Lincoln visited McClellan’s army at Harrison’s Landing, Va., where it was preparing to ship back to Union territory, an officer claimed the president picked up a corner of one of the Irish colors, kissed it and said, “God bless the Irish flag.”

Terry L. Jones, Civil War Historian

Throughout his life Abraham Lincoln was sympathetic to the plight of the Irish.  In 1847 he contributed $10.00 for relief of the Irish during the Great Famine, not an inconsiderable amount of money at a time that private soldiers during the Mexican War were being paid $8.00 per month.

When Irish Catholics faced discrimination in this country Lincoln spoke up for them in spite of the fact that most Irish Catholics were Democrats.

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].”

As a young man Lincoln memorized the speech of Robert Emmet, a Protestant Irishman, before he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered in 1803 after his capture by the British.  Emmet’s family was sympathetic to the plight of their Irish Catholic countrymen, as they had been earlier sympathetic to the cause of the patriots in the American Revolution.  He was captured after leading an abortive rebellion in Dublin in 1803.  Unbeknownst to Emmet, his chief defense counsel had been bribed by the British to help assure his conviction, although his junior defense counsel manfully defended Emmet with all of his skill.  Emmet himself took full advantage of his opportunity to speak before sentencing: Continue Reading