Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln

 

Now, my countrymen if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence; if you have listened to suggestions which would take away from its grandeur, and mutilate the fair symmetry of its proportions; if you have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back. Return to the fountain whose waters spring close by the blood of the Revolution. Think nothing of me, take no thought for the political fate of any man whomsoever; but come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me and put me to death. While pretending no indifference to earthly honors, I do claim to be actuated in this contest by something higher than an anxiety for office. I charge you to drop every paltry and insignificant thought for any man’s success. It is nothing; I am nothing; Judge Douglas is nothing. But do not destroy that immortal emblem of Humanity; the Declaration of American Independence.

Abraham Lincoln, August 17, 1858

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Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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Published in: on July 4, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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John Adams Recalls the Drafting of the Declaration of Independence

In 1822 John Adams responded to an inquiry of Timothy Pickering as to the circumstances surrounding the drafting of the Declaration of Independence;

You inquire why so young a man as Mr. Jefferson was placed at the head of the committee for preparing a Declaration of Independence? I answer: It was the Frankfort advice, to place Virginia at the head of everything. Mr. Richard Henry Lee might be gone to Virginia, to his sick family, for aught I know, but that was not the reason of Mr. Jefferson’s appointment. There were three committees appointed at the same time, one for the Declaration of Independence, another for preparing articles of confederation, and another for preparing a treaty to be proposed to France. Mr. Lee was chosen for the Committee of Confederation, and it was not thought convenient that the same person should be upon both. Mr. Jefferson came into Congress in June, 1775, and brought with him a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent of composition. Writings of his were handed about, remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression. Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, explicit, and decisive upon committees and in conversation – not even Samuel Adams was more so – that he soon seized upon my heart; and upon this occasion I gave him my vote, and did all in my power to procure the votes of others. I think he had one more vote than any other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the next highest number, and that placed me the second. The committee met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draft, I suppose because we were the two first on the list.

The subcommittee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft. I said, ‘I will not,’ ‘You should do it.’ ‘Oh! no.’ ‘Why will you not? You ought to do it.’ ‘I will not.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Reasons enough.’ ‘What can be your reasons?’ ‘Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.’ ‘Well,’ said Jefferson, ‘if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.’ ‘Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.’

A meeting we accordingly had, and conned the paper over. I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning Negro slavery, which, though I knew his Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose. There were other expressions which I would not have inserted if I had drawn it up, particularly that which called the King tyrant. I thought this too personal, for I never believed George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always believed him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his official capacity, only, cruel. I thought the expression too passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and solemn a document; but as Franklin and Sherman were to inspect it afterwards, I thought it would not become me to strike it out. I consented to report it, and do not now remember that I made or suggested a single alteration.

We reported it to the committee of five. It was read, and I do not remember that Franklin or Sherman criticized anything. We were all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the instrument was reported, as I believe, in Jefferson’s handwriting, as he first drew it. Congress cut off about a quarter of it, as I expected they would; but they obliterated some of the best of it, and left all that was exceptionable, if anything in it was. I have long wondered that the original draft had not been published. I suppose the reason is the vehement philippic against Negro slavery.

As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before. The substance of it is contained in the declaration of rights and the violation of those rights in the Journals of Congress in 1774. Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a pamphlet, voted and printed by the town of Boston, before the first Congress met, composed by James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and pruned and polished by Samuel Adams.

Published in: on July 3, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Top Ten Patriotic Movies for the Fourth

 

For those of you who want some patriotic movies to watch over the  Fourth of July, here are some suggestions for viewing.  Longtime readers of this blog will see that this differs somewhat from earlier lists of top ten patriotic movies with some additions and deletions.  Feel free to suggest additional movies in the comboxes.

10. National Treasure (2004)-Sure it’s cursed with a ridiculous plot involving the masons and a treasure, it is still a lot of fun and calls us back to the foundation document, the Declaration of Independence, that is the cornerstone of our Republic.

9. Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the video clip which may be viewed here.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.

 

8.    Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)-James Cagney in perhaps the greatest film bio of them all, a salute to George M. Cohan, the legendary composer, playwright and patriot.

 

7.      Saving Lincoln (2013)-  Overshadowed by the Lincoln film of 2012, this rendition of Lincoln’s years as President is first rate.

The human cost of the War is always at the core of the film, as we see in the delivery of the Gettysburg Address where some of the members of the crowd hearing Lincoln are holding pictures of soldier relatives who have died.

Lincoln in the film comes to believe that he will die in office and accepts his fate, hoping that God will spare him until his work is accomplished.

 

 

6.    Gettysburg (1993)-The movie that I think comes the closest to conveying to us the passions of the Civil War.  You really can’t understand America unless you understand the Civil War.  As Shelby Foote, one of the greatest historians of the war, said:  “Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.” (more…)

Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Winston Churchill: July 4, 1918

churchill-great-war-375x500

 

 

A speech given by the half-American Winston Churchill at a celebration of the Fourth of July at the city of Westminster, England on July 4, 1918:

 

We are, as the Chairman has stated, met here to-day in the City of Westminster to celebrate the hundred and forty-second anniversary of American Independence. We are met also, as he has reminded you, as brothers in arms, facing together grave injuries and perils, and passing through a period of exceptional anxiety and suffering. Therefore we seek to draw from the past history of our race inspiration and encouragement which will cheer our hearts and fortify and purify our resolution and our comradeship. A great harmony exists between the Declaration of Independence and all we are fighting for now. A similar harmony exists between the principles of that Declaration and what the British Empire has wished to stand for and has at last achieved, not only here at home, but in the great self-governing Dominions through the world. The Declaration of Independence is not only an American document; it follows on Magna Charta and the Petition of Right as the third of the great title deeds on which the liberties of the English-speaking race are founded. By it we lost an Empire, but by it we also preserved an Empire. By applying these principles and learning this lesson we have maintained unbroken communion with those powerful Commonwealths which our children have founded and have developed beyond the seas, and which, in this time of stress, have rallied spontaneously to our aid. The political conceptions embodied in the Declaration of Independence are the same as those which were consistently expressed at the time by Lord Chatham and Mr. Burke and by many others who had in turn received them from John Hampden and Algernon Sidney. They spring from the same source; they come from the same well of practical truth, and that well, ladies and gentlemen, is here, by the banks of the Thames in this famous Island, which we have guarded all these years, and which is the birthplace and the cradle of the British and the American race. It is English wisdom, it is that peculiar political sagacity and sense of practical truth, which animates the great document in the minds of all Americans to-day. Wherever men seek to frame polities or constitutions which are intended to safeguard the citizen, be he rich or be he poor, on the one hand from the shame of despotism, on the other from the misery of anarchy, which are devised to combine personal liberty with respect for law and love of country — wherever these desires are sincerely before the makers of constitutions or laws, it is to this original inspiration, this inspiration which was the product of English soil, which was the outcome of the Anglo-Saxon mind, that they will inevitably be drawn. (more…)

Published in: on July 1, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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God Bless America

 

Something for the weekend.  God Bless America sung by the imperishable Kate Smith.  This song became the rallying song for the United States during World War II.  Witten by Irving Berlin in 1918 while he was serving in the Army and revised by him in 1938, it was performed by Kate Smith on her radio show in 1938 and became an immediate hit, reaching unbelievable heights of popularity during World War II.  The song is a prayer to God, as the first stanza, rarely performed today, makes clear:

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,

Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,

Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,

As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

God bless America,

Land that I love.

Stand beside her, and guide her

Through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,

To the oceans, white with foam

God bless America, My home sweet home

God bless America, My home sweet home.

Few entertainers became so connected with one song as Kate Smith did with God Bless America.  A Protestant, Kate Smith attended Mass for years prior to her conversion to Catholicism.  So we have a hymn asking God to bless America, written by a Jew, sung by a Catholic and loved by a largely Protestant country.  What a wondeful place America truly is! (more…)

Published in: on June 30, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Benjamin Franklin

That Being, who gave me existence, and through almost threescore years has been continually showering his favors upon me, whose very chastisements have been blessings to me ; can I doubt that he loves me? And, if he loves me, can I doubt that he will go on to take care of me, not only here but hereafter? This to some may seem presumption ; to me it appears the best grounded hope ; hope of the future built on experience of the past.

Benjamin Franklin, June 19, 1764

 

Published in: on June 29, 2018 at 4:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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A New Nationality

“We’ve spawned a new race here Mr. Dickenson, rougher, simpler, more violent, more enterprising, less refined. We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation.”

Benjamin Franklin, 1776

 

 

 

 

He started off in a low voice, though you could hear every word. They say he could call on the harps of the blessed when he chose. And this was-just as simple and easy as a man could talk.
But he didn’t start out by condemning or reviling.

He was talking about the things that make a country a country, and a man a man.  And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt-the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those en-slaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days. It wasn’t a spread-eagle speech, but he made you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

 

Published in: on June 28, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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No Peace With an Undefeated Germany

 

Looking at World War I a century later we know how it turned out, and perhaps it seems to us that it was destined to turn out that way.  People living through it of course and had no such certainty, the issue of the War remaining in doubt throughout most of 1918.  In the pages of the Kansas City Star on May 12, 1918, former President Roosevelt warned against the dangers of a premature peace.  in that article he took a look at what the world might be like if a premature peace, before the German army had been defeated on the battlefield was made.  The Nazis of course would play to the hilt that the German Army had not been beaten and that Germany had been stabbed in the back by disloyal elements.

 

As now seems likely, if the great German drive fails, it is at least possible that, directly or indirectly, the Germans will then start a peace drive. In such case they will probably endeavor to make such seeming concessions as to put a premium upon pacifist agita tion for peace in the free countries of the West against which they are fighting. To yield to such peace proposals would be fraught with the greatest danger to the Allies, and especially to our own country in the future.

Let us never forget that no promise Germany makes can be trusted. The kultur developed under the Hohenzollerns rests upon shameless treachery and duplicity no less than upon ruthless violence and barbarity.

For example, there are strong indications that Germany may be prepared, if she now fails on the western front, to abandon all that for which she has fought on her western front, provided that in Middle Europe and in the East there is no interference with her. In other words, she would be prepared to give back Alsace and Lorraine to France, to give Italian Austria to Italy, to give Luxemburg to Belgium, and to let the Allies keep the colonies they have conquered, on condition that her dominance in Russia and in the Balkans, her dominance of the subject peoples of Austria through the Austrian Hapsburgs, and her dominance of Western Asia through her vassal state, Turkey, should be left undisturbed. To the average American, and probably to the average Englishman and Frenchman, there is much that is alluring in such a programme. It might be urged as a method of stopping the frightful slaughter of war, while securing every purpose for which the free peoples who still fight are fighting. Yet it would be infinitely better that this war were carried on to the point of exhaustion than that we yield to such terms.

Such terms would mean the definite establishment of Germany s military ascendancy on a scale never hitherto approached in the civilized world. It would mean that perhaps within a dozen years, certainly within the lifetime of the very men now fighting this war, this country and the other free countries would have to choose between bowing their necks to the German yoke or else going into another war under conditions far more disadvantageous to them.

A premature and inconclusive peace now would spell ruin for the world, just as in 1864 a premature and inconclusive peace would have spelled ruin to the United States, and in the present instance the United States would share the ruin of the rest of the free peoples of mankind.

On the face of it Germany would not become a giant empire. Just exactly as on the face of it at present Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria call themselves simply four allied nations, standing
on equal terms. But in reality those four powers are merely Germany and her three vassal states, whose military and economic and political powers are all disposed of by the Hohenzollerns. A peace such as that above outlined would leave these as really one huge empire. The population of these four countries, plus the populations of Russian regions recently annexed by Germany, is over two hundred millions. This population would be directed and dominated by the able, powerful, and utterly brutal and unscrupulous German governing class, which the very fact of the peace would put in the saddle, and the huge empire thus dominated and directed would become a greater menace to the free peoples than anything known for the last thousand years.

Short-sighted people will say that this power would only menace Asia, and therefore that we need feel no concern about it. There could be no error greater or more lamentable. Twenty years hence by mere mass and growth Germany would dominate the Western European powers that have now fought her. This would mean that the United States would be left as her victim.

In the first place, she would at once trample the Monroe Doctrine under foot, and treat tropical and south temperate America as her fields for exploitation, domination, and conquest. In the next place, she would surely trample this country under foot and bleed us white, doing to us on a gigantic scale what she has done to Belgium. If such a peace as is above described were at this time made, the United States could by no possibility escape the fate of Belgium and of the Russian territories taken by Germany unless we ourselves became a powerful militarist state with every democratic principle subordinated to the one necessity of turning this Nation into a huge armed camp I do not mean an armed nation, as Switzerland is armed, and as I believe this country ought to be armed. I mean a nation whose sons, every one of them, would have to serve from three to five years in the army, and whose whole activities, external and internal, would be conditioned by the one fact of the necessity of making head, single-handed, against Germany.

I very strongly believe that never again should we be caught unprepared as we have been caught unprepared this time. I believe that all our young men should be trained to arms as the Swiss are
trained. But I would regard it as an unspeakable calamity for this Nation to have to turn its whole energies into the kind of exaggerated militarism which under such circumstances would alone avail for self-defense.

The military power of Germany must be brought low. The subject nations of Austria, the Balkans, and Western Asia must be freed. We ought not to refrain an hour longer from going to war with
Turkey and Bulgaria. They are part of Germany’s military strength. They represent some of the most cruel tyrannies over subject peoples for which Ger many stands. It is idle for us to pretend sympathy with the Armenians unless we war on Turkey, which, with Germany’s assent, has well-nigh crushed the Armenians out of existence.

When President Wilson stated that this war was waged to make democracy safe throughout the world, he properly and definitely committed the American people to the principles above enunciated, and for the American people to accept less than their President has thus announced that he would insist upon would be unworthy. The President has also said that “there is therefore but one response possi ble for us.  Force force to the utmost force with out stint or limit the righteous and triumphant force which shall make right the law of the world and cast every selfish dominion down in the dust.”

The American people must support President Wilson unflinchingly in the stand to which he is committed and must resolutely refuse to accept any other position. We must guard against any slackening of effort. We must refuse to accept any pre mature peace or any peace other than the peace of overwhelming victory.

We must secure such complete freedom for the peoples of Central Europe and Western Asia as will shatter forever the threat of German world domina tion. Our honorable obligations to our allies, our loyalty to our own national principles, the need to protect our American neighbors, the need to defend our own land and people, and our hopes for the peace and happiness of our children s children all forbid us to accept an ignoble and inconclusive peace.

Published in: on June 27, 2018 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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June 26, 1863: First Confederate Occupation of Gettysburg

 

Doubtless none of the men of Major General Jubal Early’s division felt any twinges of foreboding as they marched through Gettysburg on their way to York, Pennsylvania on June 26, 1863.  Why should they have?  They had swatted aside some Pennsylvania militia who quickly decided that discretion was definitely the better part of valor against veteran Confederate infantry and taken to their heels.  The War for the Confederates had turned into a summer time lark where they were living off the produce of Pennsylvania and having a fun time giving the population of the Keystone State a small taste of what Virginia was enduring as a combat theater of operations.  Part of the fun was no doubt the arrest of John Burns, 69 year old veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, who was briefly jailed by the Confederates for his insistence of upholding the authority of the Union.  Brown was released as the Confederates marched out, and he promptly began arresting Confederate stragglers.  An innocent prelude to the bloodiest battle of a very bloody war.

Published in: on June 26, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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