The Almighty Has His Own Purposes

 

The American Civil War has become such a part of American folk-lore, and so romanticized by reenactments, films, movies, etc, that we sometimes risk losing sight of just how dreadful it was.  The death toll in the war would be the equivalent of us losing some six million killed in a war today and some ten million wounded, many of those maimed for life.  One quarter of the nation devastated, and a huge war debt.  Americans tend to be optimists and to view themselves as blessed by God.  How had this dreadful calamity come upon the nation was the cry from millions of Americans at the time.

Lincoln also asked this question.  In 1862 he and his wife had suffered the death of their 11 year old son Willie on February 20, 1862.  This was the second son that the Lincolns had lost and the death of Willie left Lincoln and his wife shattered with grief , almost sending Mary over the brink into madness.  The war was going badly for the Union, with many defeats, endless casualties and no end in sight.  No wonder that Lincoln began to think hard about why God was allowing these terrible events to  occur. (more…)

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Published in: on September 27, 2018 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Kansas Nebraska Act and the Great Change in American Politics

 

An excellent presentation in how the Kansas-Nebraska Act reshuffled American politics.  This happens periodically in American politics.  American politics seems geared to two great parties fighting it out for political dominance, and it can often seem that nothing can change in the face of such a monolithic standoff.  However the Kansas-Nebraska Act demonstrates the factors that can lead to rapid political change.  Some of the factors are:

 

  1.  Some great issue arises that the conventional political parties seem helpless to deal with.
  2. The great issue cuts across the traditional two parties.
  3.  In confronting the great issue new political alignments are formed.
  4. Out of this maelstrom one party presents to the public some hope of resolving that issue and that party goes on to achieve political dominance, usually for several decades.

When Senator Douglas dreamed up the Kansas-Nebraska Act he predicted it would raise “one hell of a storm”.  Douglas never spoke more prophetic words.  His great antagonist Abraham Lincoln immediately grasped the great significance of what had happened and he noted it in a speech on October 16, 1854:

 

It is an aggravation, rather, of the only one thing which ever endangers the Union. When it came upon us, all was peace and quiet. The nation was looking to the forming of new bonds of Union; and a long course of peace and prosperity seemed to lie before us. In the whole range of possibility, there scarcely appears to me to have been any thing, out of which the slavery agitation could have been revived, except the very project of repealing the Missouri compromise. Every inch of territory we owned, already had a definite settlement of the slavery question, and by which, all parties were pledged to abide. Indeed, there was no uninhabited country on the continent, which we could acquire; if we except some extreme northern regions, which are wholly out of the question. In this state of case, the genius of Discord himself, could scarcely have invented a way of again getting [setting?] us by the ears, but by turning back and destroying the peace measures of the past. The councils of that genius seem to have prevailed, the Missouri compromise was repealed; and here we are, in the midst of a new slavery agitation, such, I think, as we have never seen before.

 

The Compromise of 1850 seemed to ensure the maintenance of the political status quo.  Kansas-Nebraska revealed that the old political order was dying and a new one was in the process of being born.

Published in: on August 22, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Kansas Nebraska Act and the Great Change in American Politics  
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August 17, 1864: Lincoln to Grant

Lincoln and Grant

The gaunt man, Abraham Lincoln, lives his days.
For a while the sky above him is very dark.
There are fifty thousand dead in these last, bleak months
And Richmond is still untaken.
                              The papers rail,
Grant is a butcher, the war will never be done.
The gaunt man’s term of office draws to an end,
His best friends muse and are doubtful.  He thinks himself
For a while that when the time of election comes
He will not be re-elected.  He does not flinch.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

In August of 1864 the bottom seemed to be giving out from underneath the Union war effort.  Grants’s drive against Richmond and Sherman’s drive against Atlanta seemed to have stalled, with Confederate armies holding tenaciously to both cities.  Casualties, especially in the eastern theater of the War, had been appallingly high since the campaigning season opened in April, and after a massive effusion of blood the War seemed no closer to a Union victory.  Northern governors feared draft riots in their cities in the face of a growing conviction that the South could not be conquered.  On August 15, Grant wrote to Chief of Staff General Henry Halleck, in response to proposals that troops could be sent from the Army of the Potomac to put down draft riots:

CITY POINT, VA., August 15, 1864-9 p. m.

Major-General HALLECK,

Washington, D. C.

If there is any danger of an uprising in the North to resist the draft or for any other purpose our loyal Governors ought to organize the militia at once to resist it. If we are to draw troops from the field to keep the loyal States in harness it will prove difficult to suppress the rebellion in the disloyal States. My withdrawal now from the James River would insure the defeat of Sherman. Twenty thousand men sent to him at this time would destroy the greater part of Hood’s army, and leave us men wherever required. General Heintzelman can get from the Governors of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois a militia organization that will deter the discontented from committing any overt act. I hope the President will call on Governors of States to organize thoroughly to preserve the peace until after the election.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

Lincoln responded to Grant, and, if the anachronism may be allowed, his message back had a Churchillian ring to it: (more…)

Published in: on August 17, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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August 8, 1862: Executive Order

Presidents have been issuing executive orders since 1789.  Prior to the Lincoln Presidency, the Executive Orders tended to be fairly rare, often only one or two a year.  Often they dealt with fairly trivial matters.  When the Marquis de Lafayette died, President Jackson issued an Executive Order saluting Lafayette as a friend of liberty and America and detailing the way in which the United States armed forces would honor his passing.  During the Civil War, Executive Orders were quite common, and often had a major impact on the people of the United States.

The Executive Order issued on August 8, 1862 is fairly typical.  The draft was proving unpopular and the Executive Order issued on August 8, 1862 dealt with attempts to evade it.  Note the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus for all people arrested for draft evasion, along with all people guilty of “disloyal practices”.  Unlike critics of Lincoln, I believe that such measures were necessary for the preservation of the United States.  However, no one can deny that both the Union and Confederacy in that time of national crisis ran roughshod over rights and procedures that Americans hold dear.  Here is the text of the Executive Order: (more…)

Published in: on August 8, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  
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August 3, 1864: Lincoln to Grant

Anti-Lincoln Cartoon

The gaunt man, Abraham Lincoln, lives his days.
For a while the sky above him is very dark.
There are fifty thousand dead in these last, bleak months
And Richmond is still untaken.
                              The papers rail,
Grant is a butcher, the war will never be done.
The gaunt man’s term of office draws to an end,
His best friends muse and are doubtful.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

By the beginning of August 1864 Lincoln began to suspect that he was going to lose re-election and the Union was going to lose the War.  Grant, at an immense cost in blood, had pushed Lee back to Richmond and Petersburg, but both cities still were controlled by the Confederates and Lee’s army was still a force to be reckoned with.  The North was still reeling from Early’s victories in the Shenandoah, his daring raid on Washington and his burning of Chambersburg on July 30.  In the West the Confederate Army of Tennessee still clung to Atlanta, and the Confederacy still controlled almost all of its heartland.  The War seemed to be entering a stalemate, and if it remained so until November, Lincoln would be a one term president and the Union would be permanently sundered.  With that on his mind, Lincoln sent a warning telegram to Grant.  Lincoln never lost his faith in Grant, but clearly he wanted Grant to understand that unless victories were forthcoming the Union was in peril.  Ironically, in this telegram Lincoln approves Sheridan being place in command in the Shenandoah, and it was Sheridan’s string of victories in the fall that probably ensured Lincoln’s re-election:

 

(more…)

Published in: on August 3, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 3, 1864: Lincoln to Grant  
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July 11, 1864: Battle of Fort Stevens

 

 

The culmination of Early’s raid on Washington, the skirmishing at Fort Stevens, one of the many forts guarding Washington, on July 11-12, really didn’t amount to much, Early quickly realizing that the fort was now manned partially by veteran troops of the VI corps from the Army of the Potomac, dispatched by Grant to guard Washington, and that whatever opportunity he had ever had to seize Washington by a coup de main was now gone.

battle-of-fort-stevens-925

Early withdrew on the evening of July 12 and by July 13 was south of the Potomac, his raid on Washington becoming simply a matter for historians.  The attack on Fort Stevens is now chiefly remembered for the visit by President and Mrs. Lincoln during the engagement, and Lincoln becoming the only American president during his term of office to come under combat fire. (more…)

Published in: on July 11, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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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

Published in: on July 5, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln  
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Theodore Roosevelt on Lincoln and Free Speech

 

On May 16, 1918 Congress passed an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917,  This Amendment is known to history as The Espionage Act of 1918.  Here is the text:

 

Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies, or shall willfully make or convey false reports, or false statements, …or incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct …the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, or …shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States …or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully …urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production …or advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated and whoever shall by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war or by word or act oppose the cause of the United States therein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both….

About 2000 people were prosecuted under the Espionage Act and the Supreme Court upheld the Sedition portion against a challenge that it violated the First Amendment.  A temporary war time measure, Congress repealed it along with many other war time measures on December 13, 1920.

Theodore Roosevelt was concerned that the Act would be used by the Administration to stifle criticism of the President, and he took up his pen in May of 1917 and wrote the following article:

 

 

LINCOLN AND FREE SPEECH

PATRIOTISM means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him in so far as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth–whether about the President or about any one else–save in the rare cases where this would make known to the enemy information of military value which would otherwise be unknown to him.

Sedition, in the legal sense, means to betray the government, to give aid and comfort to the enemy, or to counsel resistance to the laws or to measures of government having the force. of law. There can be conduct morally as bad as legal sedition which yet may not be violation of law. The President–any President–can by speech or action (by advocating an improper peace. or improper submission to national wrong) give aid and comfort to the public enemy as no one else in. the land can do, and yet his conduct, however damaging to the, country, is not seditious; and although if public sentiment is sufficiently aroused he can be impeached, such course is practically impossible.

One form of servility consists in a slavish attitude–of the kind, incompatible with self-respecting manliness–toward any person who is powerful by reason of his office or position.. Servility may be shown by a public servant toward the profiteering head of a large corporation, or toward the anti-American head of a big labor organization. It may also be shown in peculiarly noxious and un-American form by confounding the President or–any other official with the country and shrieking “stand by the President,” without regard to whether, by so acting, we do or do not stand by the country.

 

A distinguished Federal judge recently wrote me as follows:
“Last November [1917?] it seemed as if the American people were going to be converted into a hallelujah chorus, whose only function in government should be to shout ‘Hallelujah!’ ‘Hallelujah!’ for everything that the Administration did or failed to do. Any one who did not join that chorus was liable to imprisonment for treason or sedition.
“I hope that we shall soon have recovered our sense as well as our liberty.“The authors of the first amendment to the Federal Constitution guaranteeing the right of assembly and of freedom of speech and of the press. did not thus safeguard those rights for the sake alone of persons who were to enjoy them, but even more because they knew that the Republic which they were founding could not be worked on any other basis. Since Marshall tried Burr for treason it has been clear that that crime cannot be committed by words, unless one acts as a spy, or gives advice to the enemy of military or naval operations. It cannot be committed by statements reflecting upon officers or measures of government.
“Sedition is different. Any one who directly advises or counsels resistance to measures of government is guilty of sedition. That, however, ought to be clearly distinguished from ‘discussion of the wisdom or folly of measures of government, or the honesty or competency of public officers. That is not sedition. It is within the protection of the first amendment. The electorate cannot be qualified to perform its duty in removing incompetent officers and securing the repeal of unwise laws unless those questions may be freely discussed.
“The, right to say wise things necessarily implies the right to say foolish things. The answer to foolish speech is wise speech and not force. The Republic is founded upon the faith that if the American people are permitted freely to hear foolish and wise speech, a majority will choose the wise. If that faith is not justified the Republic is based on sand. John Milton said it all in his defense of freedom of the press: `Let truth and error grapple. Who ever knew truth to be beaten in a fair fight?’ ”

 

 

Abraham Lincoln was in Congress while Polk was President, during the Mexican War. The following extracts from his speeches, during war-time, about the then President ought to be illuminating to those persons who do not understand that one of the highest and most patriotic duties to be performed in his country at this time is to tell the truth whenever it becomes necessary in order to force our government to speed up the war. It would, for example, be our highest duty to tell it if at any time we became convinced that only thereby could we shame our leaders out of hypocrisy and prevent the betrayal of human rights by peace talk of the kind which bewilders and deceives plain people.
These quotations can be found on pages 100 to 146 of Volume I of “Lincoln’s Complete Works,” by Nicolay and Hay.

In a speech on January 12, 1848, Lincoln justified himself for voting in favor of a resolution censuring the President for his action prior to and during the war (which was still going on). He examines the President’s official message of justification and says, “that, taking for true all the President states as facts, he falls far short of proving his justification, and that the President would have gone further with his proof if it had not been for the small matter that the truth would not permit him.” He says that part of the message “is from beginning to end the sheerest deception.” He then asks the President to answer certain questions, and says: “Let him answer fully, fairly, and candidly. Let him answer with facts and not with arguments. Let him remember that he sits where Washington sat, and so remembering, let him answer as Washington would answer. Let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation.” In other words, Lincoln says that he does not wish rhetoric, or fine phrases or glittering statements that contradict one another and each of which has to be explained with a separate key or adroit and subtle special pleading and constant reversal of positions previously held, but straightforward and consistent adherence to the truth. He continues that he “more than suspects” that the President “is deeply conscious of being in the wrong; that he feels that innocent blood is crying to heaven against him”; that one of the best generals had “been driven into disfavor, if not disgrace, by the President” for insisting upon speaking unpalatable truths about the length of time the war would take (and therefore the need of full preparedness); and ends by saying that the army has done admirably, but that the President has bungled his work and “knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity.”
Remember that this is Lincoln speaking, in war-time, of the President. The general verdict of history has justified him. But it is impossible to justify him and not heartily to condemn the persons who in our time endeavor to suppress truth-telling of a far less emphatic type than Lincoln’s.

Lincoln had to deal with various critics of the “stand by the President” type. To one he answers that, “the only alternative is to tell the truth or to lie,” and that he would not “skulk” on such a question. He explains that the President’s supporters “are untiring in their efforts to make the impression that all who vote supplies or take part in the war do of necessity approve the President’s conduct,” but that he (Lincoln) and his associates sharply distinguished between the two and voted supplies and men but “denounced the President’s conduct” and “condemned the Administration.” He stated that to give the President the power demanded for him by certain people would “place the President where kings have always stood.” In touching on what we should now speak of as rhetoric, he says

“The honest laborer digs coal at about seventy cents a day, while the President digs abstractions at about seventy dollars a day. The coal is clearly worth more than the abstractions, and yet what a monstrous inequality in the price!” He emphatically protests against permitting the President “to take the whole of legislation into his hands”–surely a statement applying exactly to the present situation. To the President’s servile party supporters he makes a distinction which also readily applies at the present day: “The distinction between the cause of the President . . . and the cause of the country . . . you cannot perceive. To you the President and the country seem to be all one. . . . We see the distinction clearly enough.”
This last statement was the crux of the matter then and is the crux of the matter now. We hold that our loyalty is due solely to the American Republic, and to all our public servants exactly in proportion as they efficiently and faithfully serve the Republic. Our opponents, in flat contradiction of Lincoln’s position, hold that our loyalty is due to the President, not the country; to one man, the servant of the people, instead of to the people themselves. In practice they adopt the fetichism [sic] of all believers in absolutism, for every man who parrots the, cry of “stand by the President” without adding the proviso “so far as he serves the Republic” takes an attitude as essentially unmanly as that of any Stuart royalist who championed the doctrine that the king could do no wrong. No self-respecting and intelligent freeman can take such an attitude.

The Wisconsin legislature has just set forth the proper American doctrine, as follows
“The people of the State of Wisconsin always have stood and always will stand squarely behind the National Government in all things which are essential to bring the present war to a successful end, and we condemn Senator Robert La Follette and all others who have failed to see the righteousness of our nation’s cause, who have failed to support our government in matters vital to the winning of the war, and we denounce any attitude or utterance of theirs which has tended to incite sedition among the people of our country.”

In view of the recent attitude of the Administration as expressed through the attorney-general and postmaster-general I commend to its attention the utterances of Abraham Lincoln in 1848 and of the Wisconsin legislature in 1918. The Administration’s warfare against German spies and American traitors has been feeble. The government has achieved far less in this direction than has been achieved by a few of our newspapers and by various private individuals. This failure is aggravated by such action as was threatened against The Metropolitan Magazine. The Metropolitan–and the present writer–have stood and will continue to stand, “squarely behind the national government in all things which are essential to bring the present war to a successful end” and to support “the righteousness of the nation’s cause.” We will stand behind the country at every point, and we will at every point either support or oppose the Administration precisely in proportion as it does or does not with efficiency and single-minded devotion serve the country.

From this position we will not be driven by any abuse of power or by any effort to make us not the loyal servants of the American people, but the cringing tools of a man who at the moment has power.
The Administration has in some of its actions on vital points shown great inefficiency (as proved by Senator Chamberlain’s committee) and on other points has been guilty of conduct toward certain peoples wholly inconsistent with its conduct toward other peoples and wholly inconsistent with its public professions as regards all international conduct. It cannot meet these accusations, for they are truthful, and to try to suppress the truth by preventing the circulation of The Metropolitan Magazine is as high-handed a defiance of liberty and justice as anything done by the Hohenzollerns or the Romanoffs. [Roosevelt uses these royal families as examples of German and Russian tyranny, respectively.] Such action is intolerable. Contrast the leniency shown by the government toward the grossest offenses against the nation

with its eagerness to assail any one who tells unpleasant truths about the Administration. The Hearst papers play the German game when they oppose the war, assail our allies, and clamor for an inconclusive peace, and they play the German game when they assail the men who truthfully point out the shortcomings which, unless corrected, will redound to Germany’s advantage and our terrible disadvantage. But the Administration has taken no action against the Hear[s]t papers. The Metropolitan Magazine has supported the war, has championed every measure to speed up the war and to make our strength effective, and has stood against every proposal for a peace without victory. But the Administration acts against the magazine that in straightforward American fashion has championed the war. Such discrimination is not compatible with either honesty or patriotism. It means that the Administration is using the great power of the government to punish honest criticism of its shortcomings, while it accepts support of and apology for these shortcomings as an offset to action against the war and, therefore, against the nation. Conduct of this kind is a grave abuse of official power.

Whatever the Administration does, I shall continue to act in the future precisely as I have acted in the past. When a senator like Mr. Chamberlain in some great matter serves the country better than does the Administration, I shall support that senator; and when a senator like Mr. La Follette perseveres in the course followed by the Administration before it reversed itself in February, 1917 [urging that the U.S. stay out of World War I], I shall oppose him and to that extent support the Administration in its present position. I shall continue to support the Administration in every such action as floating the liberty loans, raising the draft army, or sending our troops abroad. I shall continue truthfully to criticise any flagrant acts of incompetency by the Administration, such as the failure in shipping matters and the breakdown of the War Department during the last fourteen months, when it appears that such truthful criticism offers the only chance of remedying the wrong. I shall support every official from the President down who does well, and shall oppose every such official who does ill. I shall not put the personal comfort of the President or of any other public servant above the welfare of the country.

In a self-governing country the people are called citizens.  Under a despotism or autocracy the people are called subjects. This is because in a free country the people are themselves sovereign, while in a despotic country the people are under a sovereign. In the United States the people are all citizens, including its President. The rest of them are fellow citizens of the President. In Germany the people are all subjects of the Kaiser. They are not his fellow citizens, they are his subjects. This is the essential difference between the United States and Germany, but the difference would vanish if we now submitted to the foolish or traitorous persons who endeavor to make it a crime to tell the truth about the Administration when the Administration is guilty of incompetence or other shortcomings. Such endeavor is itself a crime against the nation. Those who take such an attitude are guilty of moral treason of a kind both abject and dangerous.

Published in: on May 17, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Theodore Roosevelt on Lincoln and Free Speech  
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April 9, 1939: Marian Anderson Sings America at the Lincoln Memorial

The rendition at the beginning of this post is by Marian Anderson, perhaps the most gifted songstress of her generation.  A devout Christian, this granddaughter of slaves was denied the opportunity by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing at Constitution Hall in 1939.  In 1939 the District of Columbia was controlled by committees of Congress.  Democrat segregationists rigidly enforced rules of segregation in the District.  Blacks were rightly upset that during a performance by Miss Anderson, if it had been held at Constitution Hall, they would have been required to sit in the back of the hall.  The District of Columbia Board of Education, controlled by Democrats, declined to allow Marian Anderson to perform in the auditorium of a white school.  To her credit, Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband arranged for Anderson to give her unforgettable performance at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939, Easter Sunday.

During the war years, Miss Anderson spent a large part of her time entertaining troops.  In 1943, at the invitation of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she sang before an integrated audience for a Red Cross benefit at Constitution Hall.  The always gracious Miss Anderson remembered the event:  When I finally walked onto the stage of Constitution Hall, I felt no different than I had in other halls. There was no sense of triumph. I felt that it was a beautiful concert hall and I was very happy to sing there.

Published in: on April 9, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 9, 1939: Marian Anderson Sings America at the Lincoln Memorial  
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Two Minutes to Change the World

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. (more…)

Published in: on February 16, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Two Minutes to Change the World  
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