Abraham Lincoln

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

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

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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

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

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 was now cut off 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 Kenesaw 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

Top Ten Reasons Why Liberals Would Have Hated Abraham Lincoln

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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

Abraham Lincoln and Robert Emmet

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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

Pro-Life Democrats?

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Matt Archbold at Creative Minority Report explains to us why the concept of “pro-life” Democrats is almost entirely a sick joke:

Here’s what it seems happened. When the bill limiting abortions to the first 20 weeks hit the Arkansas legislature last week, pro-life Republicans and pro-life Democrats joined together to vote for it. Nice, right? But it seems now that the only reason the pro-life Dems voted for it was because they knew that the “pro-life” Democratic Governor Mike Beebe was going to veto it.

Because what happened now was that moments after the veto was announced the pro-life Republicans sought to mount a vote to override the veto. You might remember that last week the bill got 80 votes. But yesterday when the vote hit the House floor, all but two of the “pro-life” Dems walked out so they didn’t have to cast a vote. That’s right. They left empty chairs in their place. These legislators are profiles in cowardice.

Their empty chairs are the perfect symbol of pro-life Democrats. When push comes to shove, the overwhelming majority of pro-life Dems are Dems first and foremost.

Two Democrats showed an enormous amount of courage by voting for the override – John Catlett and Jody Dickinson. They deserve our praise and admiration for standing up to their government and the party for the unborn.

Now, the bill moves on to the Senate where I’m certain pro-life Dems will be fleeing out the windows of the legislature to avoid a vote. Pray that some stand up for the unborn. Continue reading

February 25, 1863: National Bank Act

Greenback

Originally called the National Legal Currency Act, the National Bank Act was signed into law on February 25, 1863.  The Act created National Banks that could issue notes printed by the United States Treasury that would serve as currency, the famous Greenbacks.  Precisely one year before the Congress had authorized the treasury to issue paper currency in an amount not to exceed 150 million dollars.  Although the move to a fiat currency not backed in gold was widely unpopular around the country, the nickname of the notes, Greenbacks, coming from people complaining that the notes were backed only by the green ink used to print the backs of the notes, when the economic house did not fall in from the issuance of the Greenbacks in 1862, Congress placed no limits on the issuance of the currency in February of 1863.

The Union financed its war effort 88% through taxation and war bonds, with the Greenbacks taking up the slack.  Five hundred million in Greenbacks were issued during the War and caused an unpleasant, though manageable, inflation of 180% during the War.  This contrasted with the Confederacy that could finance only 46% of its war effort with taxes and bonds.  The inflation caused by the issuance of Confederate currency, popularly known as Greybacks, was an astonishing 9000% during the War.  The experience of the Union and Confederacy indicates that a fiat currency is always dependent on the innate strength of the economy of the nation issuing it, along with the question mark that always existed as to whether the Confederacy would win its independence.  The experience of the Confederacy with its currency was strikingly similar to that of the United States with the Continental currency during the American Revolution, which became so worthless that it ceased to circulate as money in May 1781.  Ironically both Continental and Confederate currency are precious today as a result of collectors. Continue reading

Lincoln and the Will of God

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Justice exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable.

Proverbs 13:14

Today is the 204th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.  One of the many things I find fascinating about Lincoln is his view of the Civil War, a view which is not much considered these days.  Lincoln viewed it simply as a punishment for the sin of slavery.  Lincoln put this idea forth clearly in a letter to Albert Hodges on April 4, 1864.  Hodges was the editor of the Frankfort Commonwealth in Kentucky and Lincoln was explaining why he had found it necessary to adopt a policy of Emancipation and to enlist black troops, neither policy being popular in Kentucky or any of the border states.  At the close of the letter Lincoln disclaimed that he had controlled the events which had led to his embracing abolition as a war goal:

I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years struggle the nation’s condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.

God was willing the removal of slavery and gave the War as a punishment to both North and South for the sin of slavery.  This was not a spur of the moment thought by Lincoln, but rather the fruit of much anguished contemplation as to why the War came and what it meant. Continue reading

Letter to Hooker

Joe Hooker

One hundred and fifty years ago last Saturday, President Abraham Lincoln sent what is doubtless the most unusual letter ever sent by an American president to an American general:

Executive Mansion Washington, January 26, 1863

Major General Hooker: General.

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of it’s ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it.

And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.

Yours very truly

A. Lincoln Continue reading

Guns and “All Men Are Created Equal”

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Few issues demonstrate better that liberal elites and the rest of us might as well live on different planets than the Second Amendment.  Frequently living in gated communities, usually working in institutions that have armed guards, and sending their kids to elite schools that have elaborate security, liberal elites are quite good at proclaiming that other people should disarm and rely on the police for protection who, as most cops will readily admit, are minutes away when seconds count.  James O’Keefe, the master of conservative undercover journalism, and his Project Veritas, expose liberal hypocrisy in the above video.  Contemporary liberalism is all about implementing rules for the majority to live by, rules which liberal elites themselves, and their friends and colleagues, can freely ignore.  Such a system, with one set of rules for the masses who live under the laws, and another set of rules for those who effectively live above the laws, is an essential component of a tyranny in the making.  It makes a mockery of the words of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:  “all men are created equal.”   Let us recall these words of Abraham Lincoln: Continue reading

David Green and the Better Angels of Our Nature

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The nation has been through a bad four years under President Obama and I expect the next four years, courtesy of his reelection by a majority of the voters last November, to be even worse.  In these dark times it is good to point to glimmers of light.  Such a glimmer of light is the fight being put up by Hobby Lobby and other employers against the contraceptive mandate.  Here is a letter from David Green, CEO of Hobby Lobby, which explains why Hobby Lobby is making this stand:

We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I’ve always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God’s laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week’s biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God’s grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We’ve not only added jobs in a weak economy, we’ve raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.

But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government health care mandate says that our family business MUST provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one. If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million PER DAY in government fines.

Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that’s raised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It’s not right. I know people will say we ought to follow the rules; that it’s the same for everybody. But that’s not true. The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenience or cost. But it won’t exempt them for reasons of religious belief.

So, Hobby Lobby – and my family – are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, we filed a lawsuit today, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. We don’t like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice. We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit. Continue reading

Interesting Times

 

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My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, has a new post in which he details bad signs aplenty of scary times ahead:

 

Read the News and Weep

That is not conspiracy talk, but simply a distillation of what I read today. On the last day of the year when I am writing this, I offer you just three sample op-eds.

A journalist, Donald Kaul, in the Des Moines Register offers us a three-step, presto! plan to stop school shootings:

Repeal the Second Amendment, the part about guns anyway. It’s badly written, confusing and more trouble than it’s worth. … Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. …Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.

Note the new ease with which the liberal mind calls for trashing the Constitution, outlawing those whom they don’t like (reminiscent of “punish our enemies”?), and killing those politicians with whom they don’t agree (we are back to Bush Derangement Syndrome, when novels, movies, and op-eds dreamed of the president’s assassination.)

What would be the Register’s reaction should a conservative opponent of abortion dare write, “Repeal the First Amendment; ban Planned Parenthood as a terrorist organization; and drag Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi from a truck”? If an idiot were to write that trash, I doubt the Washington Times or Wall Street Journal would print such sick calls for overturning the Constitution and committing violence against public officials.

Ah Yes, Still More Redistribution

Turning to a column in The New Republic, John Judis, in honest fashion, more or less puts all the progressive cards on the table in a column titled “Obama’s Tax Hikes Won’t Be Nearly Big Enough” — a candor about what the vast $5 trillion deficits of Obama’s first term were all about in the first place.

Here is the summation quote: “But to fund these programs, governments will have to extract a share of income from those who are able to afford them and use the revenues to make the services available for everyone.”

Note that Judis was not talking about the projected new taxes in the fiscal cliff talks, but something far greater to come. He understands well that the “gorge the beast” philosophy that resulted in these astronomical debts will require enormous new sources of revenue, funds “to extract” from “those who are able to afford them” in order to “make services available for everyone.”

That is about as neat a definition of coerced socialism as one can find. Implicit in Judas’s formulation is that only a very well-educated (and well-compensated) technocratic class will possess the wisdom, the proper schooling, and the morality to adjudicate who are to be the extracted ones and who the new “everyone.”

The Constitution — Who the Hell Needs It?

The third item in my year-end reading was the most disturbing. A law professor (could it be otherwise?) named Louis Michael Seidman enlightens us with “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution” — yet another vision of what the now triumphant liberal mind envisions for us all:

As the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.

Did Madison force Obama to borrow a half-billion dollars to fund Solyndra and its multimillionaire con artists?

Note Seidman’s use of “evil,” which tips his hand that our great moralist is on an ethical crusade to change the lives of lesser folk, who had the misfortune of growing up in America — a place so much less prosperous, fair, and secure than, say, Russia, China, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Spain, Greece, Italy, or Japan and Germany (in the earlier 20th century history) . When I lived in Greece, traveled to Libya, and went into Mexico, I forgot to sigh, “My God, these utopias are possible for us too, if we just junked that evil Constitution.” Continue reading

Let’s Ignore That Pesky Constitution

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Louis Michael Seidman, a professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown (surprise!), doesn’t think much of the Constitution as he explains in an op-ed in the New York Times:

Consider, for example, the assertion by the Senate minority leader last week that the House could not take up a plan by Senate Democrats to extend tax cuts on households making $250,000 or less because the Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the lower chamber. Why should anyone care? Why should a lame-duck House, 27 members of which were defeated for re-election, have a stranglehold on our economy? Why does a grotesquely malapportioned Senate get to decide the nation’s fate?       

Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.       

As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

Of course we should still obey those parts of the Constitution that Professor Seidman likes:

This is not to say that we should disobey all constitutional commands. Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution. We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.       

Nor should we have a debate about, for instance, how long the president’s term should last or whether Congress should consist of two houses. Some matters are better left settled, even if not in exactly the way we favor. Nor, finally, should we have an all-powerful president free to do whatever he wants. Even without constitutional fealty, the president would still be checked by Congress and by the states. There is even something to be said for an elite body like the Supreme Court with the power to impose its views of political morality on the country.       

What would change is not the existence of these institutions, but the basis on which they claim legitimacy. The president would have to justify military action against Iran solely on the merits, without shutting down the debate with a claim of unchallengeable constitutional power as commander in chief. Congress might well retain the power of the purse, but this power would have to be defended on contemporary policy grounds, not abstruse constitutional doctrine. The Supreme Court could stop pretending that its decisions protecting same-sex intimacy or limiting affirmative action were rooted in constitutional text. Continue reading

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