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
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
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:
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
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
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.
The above profile shot was taken by Lincoln that day and served as the basis for the image on the Lincoln penny. Continue reading
There are no easy answers but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Classic. Bob Newhart’s bit from 1960 about a conversation between Abraham Lincoln and a then modern day press agent just prior to the Gettysburg Address.
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
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
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.
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
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