Jackson’s Black Sunday School

One of the more interesting tidbits about Thomas Jonathan Jackson, universally known as Stonewall, is that he and his wife established a Sunday School for free and slave blacks in Lexington, Virginia.  The school taught free blacks and slaves to read although this was against Virginia law.

Jackson’s personal views on slavery are probably best summed up by this statement from his wife:

 I have heard him say that he would prefer to see the negroes free, but he believed that the Bible taught that slavery was sanctioned by the Creator Himself, who maketh all men to differ, and instituted laws for the bond and free. He therefore accepted slavery, as it existed in the South, not as a thing desirable in itself, but as allowed by Providence for ends which it was not his business to determine.

Jackson continued to financially support the Sunday School during the War, and one his last pieces of correspondence prior to his fatal wounding contained his regular contribution.  Here is a letter Jackson wrote on June 7, 1858 describing the operation of the school to Lyle Davis, a Professor at Washington College and a member of the same Presbyterian Church in Lexington that Jackson attended: (more…)

Published in: on July 31, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Pagett, MP

British military historian John Keegan dearly loves the United States, and has visited the country many times.  However, he thinks we have an appalling climate in the summer, especially the hot, muggy summers of the Midwest which he experienced first hand on his initial trip here in the fifties.  He has compared the US climate in the summer in the Midwest unfavorably to the climate in summer of much of India.  Having endured the current heat wave in Central Illinois for many weeks, the worst since the great drought of 1988, I am inclined to agree with him.  Perhaps it is my Newfoundland blood, but I have always been fond of cold weather and despised hot weather.  In tribute to the agony inducing qualities of heat, I submit this poem by Rudyard Kipling.  With this poem, no commentary by me is necessary! (more…)

Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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Lincoln Reviews the Events of June 1862

Part of a fascinating on-going series, President Lincoln (portrayed by Fritz Klien) reviews the events of June 1862.

Published in: on July 29, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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North Dixie

A Union version of Dixie sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford.  Here is the regular version also sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford: (more…)

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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July, Springfield and Lincoln

On Wednesday my family and I made our annual trip to Springfield to see the Lincoln sites and pray at Lincoln’s tomb for the repose of the souls of Lincoln and his family.  A few observations:

1.  Heat:  The phrase hotter than blazes is trite but it was very descriptive for the triple digit day.  Walking outside was a trying experience with the heat and humidity.  Illinois is usually green and lush this time of year, the towns and cities of Central Illinois being isolated islands in an endless green sea of corn and soybeans.  Due to the drought, much of Illinois looks yellow and dead, with most crops under severe stress.  Not good.

2. Time is a River:   One of the reasons why I enjoy annual rituals like the drive to Springfield to see the Lincoln sites, is that they are a good way to mark the passage of time.  My wife and I began our trips when  we were mid-twenties newly weds.  This year our sons will be 21 in September, and our son Donald will be starting his junior year at the University of Illinois.  Our “baby-girl” will be a senior in high school this year, and we are in the midst of the college search with her.  Fortunately, my bride and I are not getting any older, or such reflections might take a turn to the melancholic!  :)

3.  Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation: This year is the 150th year of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.   As in past years what moved me most at the Lincoln Museum was an exhibit showing Lincoln standing at his desk staring at a draft of the Proclamation, as shadows behind him representing historical figures give him contradictory advice:  predicting doom or salvation for the Union if the Emancipation Proclamation is issued.  I have never seen anything which so neatly encapsulates the loneliness of someone making a huge decision for his nation.

4.  Assassination:  Each year I spot something new at the museum.  In the room which represents the laying in state of Lincoln’s coffin, I spotted this inscription on the top of the ceiling of this room, a quotation from a Lincoln speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on February 22, 1861:   But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it. (more…)

Published in: on July 27, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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DC During the Civil War

The Daily Mail has a collection of beautifully shot pictures taken in Washington, DC during the Civil War. As someone whose office overlooks a statue of General McClellan (right next to the hotel where Ronald Reagan was shot), it’s amazing to get a glimpse of what life was like in our nation’s capital during the Civil War. Even more amazing is that some of the shots – including the one of the Chain Bridge – look like they could have been taken today.

-Paul

Published in: on July 26, 2012 at 9:53 am  Comments (1)  

Lincoln and the Modern GOP

Jackie Hogan, head of the Sociology department at Bradley University in Peoria, wrote a piece for the Christian Science Monitor in which she argued that Abraham Lincoln would have difficulty in winning the presidential nomination of the modern Republican Party.  The article cries out for a fisk, and I am happy to oblige:

1. Lincoln ‘invented’ income tax

While Republican candidates today win kudos for signing Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, it is unlikely that Lincoln would sign on, since he, in effect, invented income tax. That is to say he was the first American president to sign federal income tax into law. And not only that, but it was a progressive income tax, with the wealthiest Americans paying a higher rate.

He made no distinctions between earned income and capital gains – money made was money earned – and Lincoln’s administration needed its cut to pull the nation back from the brink of collapse. Strike one against Honest Abe.

Actually current Republicans would hail the Lincoln income tax.  It had two rates, 3% and 5%.  Many Republicans have been calling for a flat tax for years, and Lincoln’s two tier system with very low rates would receive thunderous  approval from a GOP audience.

2. He didn’t advertise his faith

Strike two: He didn’t advertise his faith. Debate over Lincoln’s religious beliefs is heated. But there’s good evidence that he questioned Christian orthodoxy, perhaps not so surprising at a time when Biblical verses were routinely used to defend slavery, an institution he found morally repugnant.

While it’s true that Lincoln frequently evoked the Divine in his speeches, he never took up membership in a church, and certainly never spoke publicly about his personal relationship with Christ.

I find this to be simply bizarre.  Few Presidents have invoked God more frequently than Lincoln.  This section from the Second Inaugural would certainly brings calls for Lincoln’s impeachment from the American Civil Liberties Union:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (more…)

Published in: on July 26, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (8)  
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Federalist 54 – Madison

If there is one Federalist Paper that would cause modern readers to cringe, it is probably Federalist 54. In this essay. Madison discussed the apportionment of members of the House of Representative, in particular the notion that apportionment should be based on population. Most of the paper is focused specifically on the three-fifths clause. Madison defended the compromise, though he wrote not in his own voice but rather as “one of our Southern brethren.” This signals how uncomfortable Madison was with the topic of the compromise and with slavery in general. Frankly, it’s a bit uncomfortable reading some of the tortured logic.

We should probably back up a bit and discuss the three-fifths clause, because it has largely been misrepresented. It is a result of a compromise between northern and southern delegates. Southerners wanted slaves to count fully because it would increase the number of representatives allotted to slave-holding states. On the other hand, northern delegates wanted the slaves not to count at all. As they saw it, slaves were not free citizens, and considered as mere property by their masters. Why should this “property” count towards population and therefore benefit the slave states? The three-fifths compromise was therefore an attempt to split the difference between the two sides. It does not indicate that slaves were actually considered to be 3/5 of a human being.

Madison, speaking as the southern brethren, rebutted the idea that slaves should not be counted for apportionment purposes because they were ineligible to vote. Madison pointed out that franchise requirements were different in the various states; therefore this criticism doesn’t hold much weight.

“This objection is repelled by a single abservation. It is a fundamental principle of the proposed Constitution, that as the aggregate number of representatives allotted to the several States is to be determined by a federal rule, founded on the aggregate number of inhabitants, so the right of choosing this allotted number in each State is to be exercised by such part of the inhabitants as the State itself may designate. The qualifications on which the right of suffrage depend are not, perhaps, the same in any two States. In some of the States the difference is very material. In every State, a certain proportion of inhabitants are deprived of this right by the constitution of the State, who will be included in the census by which the federal Constitution apportions the representatives. In this point of view the Southern States might retort the complaint, by insisting that the principle laid down by the convention required that no regard should be had to the policy of particular States towards their own inhabitants; and consequently, that the slaves, as inhabitants, should have been admitted into the census according to their full number, in like manner with other inhabitants, who, by the policy of other States, are not admitted to all the rights of citizens. A rigorous adherence, however, to this principle, is waived by those who would be gainers by it. All that they ask is that equal moderation be shown on the other side. Let the case of the slaves be considered, as it is in truth, a peculiar one. Let the compromising expedient of the Constitution be mutually adopted, which regards them as inhabitants, but as debased by servitude below the equal level of free inhabitants, which regards the slave as divested of two fifths of the man.

Madison also noted that when it came to direct taxes, slaves would be considered property for purposes of apportioning these taxes. Thus, southerners would be adversely affected by any rule which did fully count slaves. In the end, the three-fifths compromise works out a delicate balance on a very thorny issue that works for all sides.

Madison’s logic was as sharp here as it normally was throughout these essays. That being said, Madison defended the three-fifths clause not merely as a compromise, but as the morally correct way to apportion slaves. As I said, none of the Framers necessarily viewed slaves as merely being three-fifths of a human being, but Madison did come close to making this point here.

But we must deny the fact, that slaves are considered merely as property, and in no respect whatever as persons. The true state of the case is, that they partake of both these qualities: being considered by our laws, in some respects, as persons, and in other respects as property. In being compelled to labor, not for himself, but for a master; in being vendible by one master to another master; and in being subject at all times to be restrained in his liberty and chastised in his body, by the capricious will of another, the slave may appear to be degraded from the human rank, and classed with those irrational animals which fall under the legal denomination of property. In being protected, on the other hand, in his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all others, even the master of his labor and his liberty; and in being punishable himself for all violence committed against others, the slave is no less evidently regarded by the law as a member of the society, not as a part of the irrational creation; as a moral person, not as a mere article of property. The federal Constitution, therefore, decides with great propriety on the case of our slaves, when it views them in the mixed character of persons and of property. This is in fact their true character. It is the character bestowed on them by the laws under which they live; and it will not be denied, that these are the proper criterion; because it is only under the pretext that the laws have transformed the negroes into subjects of property, that a place is disputed them in the computation of numbers; and it is admitted, that if the laws were to restore the rights which have been taken away, the negroes could no longer be refused an equal share of representation with the other inhabitants.

It is worth repeating that Madison did not state that he believed this to be the case, but rather this is what a southerner might say in defense of the compromise. Then again, Madison was a southern slaveholder himself, so perhaps the above paragraph is not really supposition at all. Whatever the case may be, Madison offered up a logical defense of the three-fifths clause positing that it was inherently justified on its own merits, not because it was merely a good compromise. It was certainly not Madison’s finest moment.

Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm  Comments Off  

Military Chow

youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kKaRm_i61Y]

A truly hilarious video from 1943, Food For Fighters, detailing the dedication of the Army to quality rations for the troops.  I imagine a room full of GI’s watching this video and laughing their heads off.  Virtually every veteran of World War II I have encountered has complained about the quality of the rations.  My late father-in-law was a Navy cook during the War.  He developed a life long detestation  of mutton when he was forced to prepare it for six months aboard ship because it was the only meat they were supplied.  He did his imaginative best, and he was a very good cook, but the sailors were ready to mutiny by the time the ship received a different type of meat.

Veterans of more recent conflicts have been slightly more complimentary as to the quality of military food, although I would note that when servicemen and women are given a choice they usually choose to not eat in mess halls, although the food is free for most enlisted personnel, and a common nickname for MREs, Meals Ready to Eat, is Meals Rejected by the Enemy.  Never fear however, something new is on the horizon:

The Army has developed a sandwich that purportedly stays fresh for two years. (more…)

Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (8)  
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History and Legend

Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?

Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

History tells us that George Washington as a boy did not cut down a cherry tree and, while telling his father about it, assure him that he could not tell a lie.  Saint Francis of Assisi almost certainly did not convert a wolf from his thieving ways and teach him to beg humbly for his  food like a good Franciscan.  Robin Hood did not help King Richard the Lionheart regain his throne from his brother John Lackland.  We know almost nothing about King Arthur and what we think we know about him is certainly almost entirely legend.

Historical accuracy is very important, and we should be unsparing about separating legend from hard historical fact.  However, that does not mean we should not also cherish the legends of historical figures.  Often the developments of the legend are an interesting historical tale in and of themselves.  However, the legends often also give us truth about the historical figure.  By all accounts George Washington was a man of extreme rectitude in all his dealings.  However that prosaic sentence lacks all of the poetry of Parson Weems’ fable of a boy too noble to lie, even when facing possible punishment.  Saint Francis probably never tamed a wolf, but the movement he started with his Franciscans has tamed the wolf in the soul of many a man and woman down through the centuries.  Robin Hood never lifted a bow for Richard the Lionheart, but the tale of the outlaw who fought for right has inspired the nobler natures of men and women for uncounted generations.  As for King Arthur, he is left in the hands of a great poet who sums up this post: (more…)

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