Mr. Lincoln’s Patent

Abraham Lincoln throughout his life was always fascinated by mechanical devices, a trait which would serve him well during the Civil War, when he would champion new devices over the resistance of a hidebound War Department.  He is the only President to be granted a patent.  The patent was for a device to lift vessels over shoals in a river, something he had experience in during a flatboat trip to New Orleans as  a young man.

The application for his patent reads as follows:

March 10, 1849

To the Commissioner of Patents.

The Petition of Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield in the county of Sangamon & State of Illinois

Respectfully represents.

That your petitioner has invented a new and improved manner of combining adjustable buoyant chambers with steam boats or other vessels which has not, as he verily believes been heretofore used or known, and that he is desirous that Letters Patent of the United States may be granted to him therefor, securing to him and to his legal representatives, the exclusive right of making and using, and of vending to others the privilege to make or use, the same, agreeably to the provisions of the Acts of Congress in that case made and provided, he having paid thirty dollars into the Treasury of the United States, and complied with other provisions of the said Acts.

And he hereby authorises and empowers his Agent and Attorney, Z. C. ROBBINS, to alter or modify the within specification and claim as he may deem expedient, and to receive his patent; and also to receive back any moneys which he may be entitled to withdraw, and to receipt for the same. A. LINCOLN.

County of Washington District of Columbia SS.

On this 10th. day of March 1849 before the subscriber, a Jus Peace in and for the said county personally appeared the within named Abraham Lincoln and made solemn oath according to law, that he believes himself to be the original and first inventor of the within described improved manner of combining buoyant chambers with steam boats or other vessels and that he does not know or believe that the same has been before used or known; and that he is a citizen of the United States. I L. SMITH, JP

To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield, in the county of Sangamon, in the state of Illinois, have invented a new and improved manner of combining adjustable buoyant air chambers with a steam boat or other vessel for the purpose of enabling their draught of water to be readily lessened to enable them to pass over bars, or through shallow water, without discharging their cargoes; and I do hereby declare the following to be a full, clear, and exact description thereof, reference being had to the accompanying drawings making a part of this specification. Similar letters indicate like parts in all the figures.

The buoyant chambers A. A. which I employ, are constructed in such a manner that they can be expanded so as to hold a large volume of air when required for use, and can be contracted, into a very small space and safely secured as soon as their services can be dispensed with.

Fig. 1. is a side elevation of a vessel with the buoyant chambers combined therewith, expanded;

Fig. 2. is a transverse section of the same with the buoyant chambers contracted.

Fig. 3. is a longitudnal vertical section through the centre of one of the buoyant chambers, and the box B. for receiving it when contracted, which is secured to the lower guard of the vessel.

The top g, and bottom h, of each buoyant chamber, is composed of plank or metal, of suitable strength and stiffness, and the flexible sides and ends of the chambers, are composed of india-rubber cloth, or other suitable water proof fabric, securely united to the edges and ends of the top and bottom of the chambers.

The sides of the chambers may be stayed and supported centrally by a frame k,—as shown in Fig. 3,—or as many stays may becombined with them as may be necessary to give them the requisite fullness and strength when expanded. (more…)

Published in: on May 11, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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May 6, 1865: Executive Order Establishes Military Commission to Try Conspirators

Lincoln Miliary Tribunal

 

 

One hundred and fifty-seven years ago an executive order establishing the military commission to try the accused Lincoln conspirators was issued.  There was some newspaper opposition to not according the alleged conspirators a civil trial, but by and large a military tribunal met with approval throughout the North.  As Commander-in-Chief in time of war it was argued that the murder of Lincoln was a military offense.  Additionally it was pointed out that passions were running so high in the weeks after the assassination that empaneling an unbiased civil jury would have been impossible.   Since the Confederacy was defeated, I can see little justification for trying civilians before a military tribunal in time of peace.  Edward Bates, former Attorney General under Lincoln, and Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, criticized the use of a military tribunal instead having the accused conspirators tried in a civilian court.   Here is the text of the order: (more…)

Published in: on May 6, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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May 4, 1865: Lincoln Buried

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Ohio claims they are due a president as they haven’t had one since Taft. Look at the United States, they have not had one since Lincoln.

Will Rogers

On May 4, 1865 the body of Abraham Lincoln was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Springfield.  Here is the account of the New York Times:

 

 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Thursday, May 4.

Large numbers have continued to visit the former residence of the late President, on the corner of Eighth and Jefferson streets. It is hung with mourning without, and tastefully decorated within.

Large delegations from the adjoining States and neighboring settlements arrived through the night, and this morning the hotels are overflowing. Some of the visitors are being entertained by the citizens, while thousands of others are unable to find accommodations.

The weather is warm and the sun unclouded. Everybody in Springfield are on the streets. The State House continued to be visited. At 11 o’clock last night, the ladies of the Soldiers’ Aid Society laid upon the coffin a beautiful cross of evergreens, studied with rare flowers. Other similar tokens have been contributed to-day.

At noon, twenty-one guns were fired, and afterward, single guns at intervals of ten minutes. About noon, the remains were brought from the State House and placed in the hearse, which was from St. Louis, and was used at the funerals of Hon. THOMAS H. BENTON, Gen. LYON and Gov. GAMBLE. The hearse was surmounted by a magnificent crown of flowers. Meanwhile, a chorus of hundreds of voices, accompanied by a brass band, sang the hymn,

“Children of the heavenly King,

Let us journey as we sing,”

The funeral procession was under the immediate direction of Major-Gen. HOOKER, Marshal-in-Chief; Brig.-Gen. COOK and staff, and Brevet Brig.-Gen. OAKES and staff. The military and the firemen made a fine appearance. The guard of honor consisted of Gen. Barnard, Rear-Admiral Davis, and Gens. McCallum, Ramsay, Caldwell, Thomas, Howe, Townsend and Eakin, and Capt. Field, of the Marine Corps. The relations and family friends of the deceased were in carriages. Among them were Judge DAVIS, of the Supreme Court; the officiating clergyman, Bishop SIMPSON; Dr. GURLEY and others. In the procession were the Governors of six or seven States, members of Congress with their officers, the State and municipal authorities, and delegations from adjoining States. The long line of civilians was closed by the Free Masons, Odd Fellows and citizens at large, including colored persons. The hearse was immediately followed by the horse formerly belonging to Mr. LINCOLN. Its body was covered with black cloth trimmed with silver fringe.

Never before was there so large a military and civic display in Springfield. There were immense crowds of people in the immediate vicinity of the Capitol to see the processio nas it passed, and the people for several miles occupied the sidewalks.

The procession arrived at Oakwood Cemetery at 1 o’clock. On the left of the vault in which the remains of the President and his son were deposited immediately on their arrival, was a platform, on which singers and an instrumental band were in place, and these united in the chanting and singing of appropriate music, including a burial hymn by the deceased President’s Pastor, Rev. Dr. GURLEY. On the right was the speaker’s stand, appropriately draped with mourning.

A short time ago, a piece of property containing sight acres, and located in the heart of the city, was purchased by the citizens for $53,400. The ground is improved with several substantial houses, and trees and shrubbery. It was designed to render the site additionally beautiful and attractive, and to erect thereon a monument to the illustrious dead. A vault has been completed for the reception of the remains, but owing to the wishes of ROBERT LINCOLN, the remains were deposited in Oak Ridge Cemetery nearly two miles from the city. The vault at this place is erected at the foot of a knoll in a beautiful part of the grounds, which contains forest trees of all varieties. It has a doric gable resting on pilasters, the main wall being rustic. The vault is fifteen feet high and about the same in width, with semi-circular wings of bricks projecting from the hillsides. The material is limestone, procured at Joliet, Illinois. Directly inside of the ponderous doors is an iron grating. The interior walls are covered with black velvet, dotted with evergreens. In the centre of the velvet is a foundation of brick, capped with a marble slab, on which the coffin rests. The front of the vault is trimmed with evergreens. The “Dead March” in Saul was sung, accompanied by the band, as the remains were deposited.

Thousands of persons were assembled at the cemetery before the arrival of the procession, occupying the succession of green hills. The scene was one of solemnly intense interest. The landscape was beautiful in the light of an unclouded sun.

The religious exercises were commenced by the singing of a dirge. Then followed the reading of appropriate portions of the Scriptures and a prayer. After a hymn by the choir, Rev. Mr. HUBBARD read the last inaugural of President LINCOLN. Next a dirge was sung by the choir, when Bishop SIMPSON delivered the funeral oration. It was in the highest degree eloquent, and the patriotic portions of it was applauded. Then followed another hymn, when benediction was pronounced by Rev. Dr. GURLEY. The procession then returned to the city.

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May 3, 1865: Lincoln Funeral Train Arrives in Springfield

 

Lincoln’s funeral train arrived in Springfield on May 3, 1865.  His body lay in state at the Capitol as some 75,000 mourners filed past the casket.  Hundreds of people gathered around Lincoln’s house where his horse, “Old Bob”, and his dog, “Fido”, had been brought back for the day.  His burial would be conducted the next day. (more…)

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The Faces of Lincoln

This video purports to have in it every known photograph of Mr.  Lincoln.  The songs in the video are Lincoln and Liberty Too, perhaps the most stirring campaign song in American history, Dixie, ironically a favorite song of the President of the Union, and the haunting Ashokan Farewell.

Published in: on May 2, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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April 4, 1865: Lincoln Visits Richmond

Linoln in Richmond

When studying the past one of the primary rules is to remember how different one time is from another.  This rule comes jarringly to mind when we recall Lincoln’s visit to Richmond the day after it fell.  Lincoln was at City Point on the James River, so he was quite close to Richmond.  Lincoln was curious to see the city that had eluded Union armies for such a long time.  Since he wanted to see it, he did, almost with no security.  I cannot possibly imagine any chief of state today taking an informal tour of an enemy capital the day after it fell!  Any chief of security would have a stroke at the time.  John Hay, one of Lincoln’s secretaries, did note after the trip, that anyone who wanted to take a shot at Lincoln in Richmond could have.  Yes, the past is a different country!

 

Admiral David Dixon Porter who accompanied Lincoln in his journey into Richmond later wrote about it in his memoirs: (more…)

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March 17, 1865: Lincoln Comments on Confederate Plans to Enlist Black Troops

 

Last photo of Abraham Lincoln

Making a short speech on March 17, 1865 to the 140th Indiana Infantry regiment, Lincoln commented on the plans of the Confederacy to enlist black soldiers:

FELLOW CITIZENS—It will be but a very few words that I shall undertake to say. I was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana and lived in Illinois. (Laughter.) And now I am here, where it is my business to care equally for the good people of all the States. I am glad to see an Indiana regiment on this day able to present the captured flag to the Governor of Indiana. (Applause.) I am not disposed, in saying this, to make a distinction between the States, for all have done equally well. (Applause.) There are but few views or aspects of this great war upon which I have not said or written something whereby my own opinions might be known. But there is one—the recent attempt of our erring brethren, as they are sometimes called—(laughter)—to employ the negro to fight for them. I have neither written nor made a speech on that subject, because that was their business, not mine; and if I had a wish upon the subject I had not the power to introduce it, or make it effective. The great question with them was, whether the negro, being put into the army, would fight for them. I do not know, and therefore cannot decide. (Laughter.) They ought to know better than we. I have in my lifetime heard many arguments why the negroes ought to be slaves; but if they fight for those who would keep them in slavery it will be a better argument than any I have yet heard. (more…)

Published in: on March 17, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Like Father, Like Son

On July 4, 1835 Junius Brutus Booth, founder of the Booth theatrical family, sat down and penned a letter to President Andrew Jackson.  Booth and Jackson knew each other and were friends, which makes the letter quite odd indeed.  The text of the letter:

To His Excellency, General Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, Washington City,

You damn’d old Scoundrel if you don’t sign the pardon of your fellow men now under sentence of Death, De Ruiz and De Soto, I will cut your throat whilst you are sleeping. I wrote to you repeated Cautions so look out or damn you. I’ll have you burnt at the Stake in the City of Washington.

Your Master, Junius Brutus Booth.

You know me! Look out!

Booth was one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his day, and he often gave unforgettable performances.  However, he was often noted for his off stage escapades, usually fueled by copious amounts of alcohol.  I have little doubt that when he penned this missive Booth was quite drunk.  De Ruiz and De Soto had been convicted of piracy.  Many Americans had asked for clemency for the men.  De Soto did receive a Presidential pardon on July 6, 1835 after an interview with De Soto’s wife and defense attorney with Jackson.  In 1832 De Soto had saved the lives of 70 Americans aboard the burning ship Minerva in 1831 and that made him a sympathetic figure to the American public and Jackson.  De Ruiz and the other men convicted of piracy were hung.  Go here for the details of the piracy trial. (more…)

Published in: on March 3, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Like Father, Like Son  
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Governor Lincoln?

 

 

Abraham Lincoln’s life had many twists and turns in it which ultimately led him to the White House in 1861 and immortality.  One of the more interesting “what ifs” in Lincoln’s career was in 1849 when he was offered by the Taylor administration the governorship of the territory of Oregon.  Lincoln was an important man in the Whig party in Illinois and he had been one of Taylor’s most ardent advocates in that state.  Lincoln was out of office at the time, and the prospect of a territorial governorship might well have been attractive to him.  However, Mary Lincoln had no desire to assume residence in the wild west, and she warned her husband that removal to the far off land of the Oregon Territory would remove any hope that he might have of rising to national prominence.  More to the point, Lincoln had already recommended fellow Whig and Illinoisan Simeon Francis, owner of the Sangamo Journal, for the post.

New York businessman George T. M. Davis had recommended Lincoln for the governorship, and he later recalled Lincoln’s declination of the post:

 The motives influencing Mr. Lincoln in declining the public honor which was held in abeyance for him were these: His friend and neighbor, Simeon Francis, who was the proprietor and editor of the Sangamon Journal of Springfield, and at the time the leading and most influential Whig paper in the state, was an applicant for the office of secretary of the Territory of Oregon. Mr. Lincoln had not only strongly recommended Francis to the president, but, upon both personal and political grounds, felt the deepest interest in his success. Of course, Mr. Lincoln was well aware that the president would not, for a moment, entertain the idea of making both appointments from the same state. And as soon as he received the letter from Mr. Addison, without hesitation and with his proverbial magnanimity and high sense of honor, wrote the letter in which he said: ‘I can not accept it.’ This disinterestedness became the more conspicuous, as Mr. Lincoln had been advised by us that for political reasons the president had determined against the appointment of Mr. Francis during his administration. Mr. Francis never did receive the appointment, but a short time previous to the election of Mr. Lincoln to the presidency he removed with his wife to Oregon, on account of his health. (more…)

Published in: on February 22, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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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 February 14, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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