Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On February 28, 1861

On this day in 1861, only days before Lincoln was inaugurated the 16th president of the United States, the U.S. Marine band serenaded the President-elect and Mrs. Lincoln outside of the Willard Hotel where the Lincoln family was staying until their official move to the White House.

According to a New York Herald account on March 1, 1861, Lincoln made the following remarks to the crowd in response to the playing of "Hail to the Chief."

MY FRIENDS---I suppose that I may take this as a compliment paid to me, and as such please accept my thanks for it. I have reached this city of Washington under circumstances considerably differing from those under which any other man has ever reached it. I have reached it for the purpose of taking an official position amongst the people, almost all of whom were opposed to me, and are yet opposed to me, as I suppose. (Several voices, ``No, no.'' Other voices ``Go on, sir; you are mistaken in that, indeed you are.'') I propose no lengthy address to you now. I only propose to say, as I did say on yesterday, I believe, when your worthy Mayor and Board of Aldermen called upon me, that I thought much of the ill feeling that has existed between you and the people of your surroundings and that people from amongst whom I come, has depended, and now depends, upon a misunderstanding. (Several voices---``That's so;'' and applause.) I hope that if things shall go along as prosperously as I believe we all desire they may, I may have it in my power to remove something of this misunderstanding---(cries of ``Good,'' ``Good,'' and loud applause)---that I may be enabled to convince you, and the people of your section of the country, that we regard you as in all things being our equals---in all things entitled to the same respect and to the same treatment that we claim for ourselves---(cries of ``Good,'' and applause)---that we are in no wise disposed, if it were in our power, to oppress you or deprive you of any of your rights under the constitution of the United States or even narrowly to split hairs with you in regard to these rights. (Loud and prolonged cheering.) But are determined to give you, so far as lies in our hands, all your rights under the constitution, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly. (Cries of ``Good,'' and applause.) I hope that by thus dealing with you we will become better acquainted and be better friends. (Cries of ``Good,'' and applause.) And now my friends with these very few remarks, I again return my thanks for this compliment, and expressing my desire to hear a little more of your good music, I bid you good night.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Jon Stewart: About that speech...

I meant to post these last night -- good stuff.

I too was a bit distracted by the way Nancy Pelosi kept popping out of her chair after every complete sentence. My husband and I finally decided that Joe (Biden) had secretly installed an ejector cushion on her seat, and was entertaining himself during the speech by launching Nancy into the air, higher and higher, perhaps to see if she would eventually stick to the ceiling (I'm relieved to say that she did not.)

First, President Obama's speech to Congress (complete with a cameo by Jimmy Stewart)

Secondly, the GOP's Mr. Roberts retorts:

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Obama's 'Robin Hood' Budget

I like the sound of Obama's budget agenda. He outlined the main points in his 'not-a-State-of-the-Union' speech before Congress several nights ago, but the actual document is now before them.

As expected, the Republicans are already screaming.

You see, the people who got all of those tax breaks during the Bush years, leading to the now astonishing gap between the rich and the rest... just lost them. Not only have they lost their hefty tax breaks, but they will finally have to pony up and pay their share in the rebuilding of America -- the America that has encouraged the prosperity they currently enjoy (but want to keep all to themselves.)

"This will ruin our economy!" scream the (wealthy) Republican representatives. I wonder what their poor constituents think about that?

Read on...

In $3.6 Trillion Budget, Obama Signals Broad Shift in Priorities
Bold Agenda for Social Spending, Energy and Taxes Faces Fierce Fight

The president's budget would raise taxes on the highest-earning Americans, create a $1.2 trillion deficit in 2010 and curtail Medicare payments to insurance companies to pay for a $634 billion health care fund for the uninsured and a $150 billion energy package.

President Obama delivered to Congress yesterday a $3.6 trillion spending plan that would finance vast new investments in health care, energy independence and education by raising taxes on the oil and gas industry, hedge fund managers, multinational corporations and nearly 3 million of the nation's top earners.

The blueprint, meanwhile, would overhaul programs across the federal bureaucracy to strengthen assistance for millions of people who have borne the consequences of what Obama called "an era of profound irresponsibility," helping them pay for college, train for better jobs and save for retirement while taking less of their earnings in taxes.

The ambitious agenda for the fiscal year that begins in October would not come cheap. This year's budget deficit, swollen by spending to combat a severe recession, would hit a record $1.75 trillion, or 12.3 percent of the overall economy, under the president's plan, the highest since 1945. While Obama inherited the bulk of that gap, his budget would make room for a fresh round of spending that could hit $750 billion to prop up troubled financial institutions.

Next year's deficit would approach $1.2 trillion. But Obama proposes to cut that figure roughly in half by the end of his first term, in large part by levying nearly $1 trillion in new taxes over the next decade on the nation's highest earners, defined as families with gross income of more than $250,000 a year.

In unveiling the 134-page volume that outlines his spending priorities, Obama acknowledged that his proposal would "add to our deficits in the short term to provide immediate relief to families and get our economy moving." But he argued that the economic crisis should not be used as an excuse to delay costly investments intended to modernize the nation's economy, enhance its workforce and, ultimately, reduce government spending.

"What I won't do is sacrifice investments that will make America stronger, more competitive and more prosperous in the 21st century -- investments that have been neglected for too long," Obama said. Citing the need to "break free" from foreign oil, reduce "crushing health-care costs," and improve public education, Obama said: "These investments must be America's priorities, and that's what they will be when I sign this budget into law."

With its immense scope and bold prescriptions, Obama's agenda seeks to foster a redistribution of wealth, with the government working to narrow the growing gap between rich and poor. It is likely to spark fierce political battles on an array of fronts, from social spending to energy policy to taxes.

Alice M. Rivlin, a Brookings Institution economist who served as former president Bill Clinton's budget director, called the plan "gutsy and quite good."

"It has a strong flavor of the Obama philosophy, which is tilting the playing field away from upper income and toward the rest of America," she said.

Republicans quickly attacked the document as a recipe for economic disaster, saying it would raise taxes on businesses and consumers in the middle of a recession in order to bankroll a massive government expansion.

"The era of big government is back, and Democrats are asking you to pay for it," said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "The administration's plan, I think, is a job killer, plain and simple."

Job killer? Bah. Please -- stop insulting our intelligence. You make no sense, man. How will taxing the rich and creating jobs for the rest of Americans be a 'job killer?' GOP backwards-talk doesn't work on us anymore.

Sorry Mr. Minority Leader, but this is called tipping the scale back into balance.

Our 'Robin Hood' President is simply taking back everything that was stolen from us over the last 8 years of greed and plunder. He's taxing the rich to give back to the poor. And these days 'poor' includes a vast majority of us who used to be middle class.

I sure won't be taxed in this new arrangement (would that I was that comfortably set financially!) Who knows... I may even be able to finally afford that masters degree.

Up until 2000, I had my own American dream. Sure did. It died a terrible death (with the towers on 9/11; our small business never survived the loss of 95% of our business overnight.) But maybe a new dream can arise from the dust. Finally. Eight years later.

You just never know.

Hopefully the Blue Dogs will stay on leash. In truth, they are closet Republicans. They believe in the social progress, education and health care, but are generally terrified of spending money (although they didn't seem to blink when Bush blew through billions on the war in Iraq.) I don't trust them... however I think the Democrats will have the votes without them.

As for the GOP? They are nothing but a nonsensical noise machine these days. They continue trying to convince us that we don't want what we wanted so badly, that we flocked to the polls in record numbers to guarantee that they wouldn't steal another election and deprive us all again.

Their same ol' cries of indignation are not only boring... but astoundingly hypocritical. Nothing new here.

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Looking back at Lincoln: On February 27, 1860

On this day in 1860, Lincoln delivered his now-famous Cooper Union Address at the Cooper Institute in New York City.

Here is a little background on Lincoln's delivery of the speech, taken from The Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, by James C. Humes:

By the end of 1859, Lincoln had become a long-shot possibility for the presidency. The Lincoln-Douglas debate, even if the result was a Lincoln defeat, moved him to the front ranks of the Republican party national leaders. On February 16, 1860, the Chicago Tribune endorsed Lincoln for President. By that time Lincoln had already accepted an invitation to speak to the Cooper Union Institute. Since he was already planning to take his son Robert east to enroll in Exeter Academy, the speech in New York City meshed with those plans.

Lincoln had no idea that the address would become such a star-spangled occasion. He was escorted to the platform by the noted editor of the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley, and was then introduced by the poet William Cullen Bryant. The audience was a Who's Who of the city's elite in art, finance, and industry. They had come to take a look at this prairie lawyer, and he would far surpass their expectations.

Never was Lincoln more nervous about a speech. He feared his backwoods accent would invite ridicule from his urbane listeners. As a result he opened badly in a high-pitched stammer. Soon, though, the conviction of his message made him overcome his self-conscious awkwardness of manner.

The accomplished stump speaker in Lincoln emerged, and his talk demolished the Stephen Douglas thesis that the Founding Fathers had intended to forbid the federal government from controlling slavery in the Territories. On this challenge to prevent the extension of slavery, Lincoln closed with this rousing peroration:

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

Here is the speech in its entirety:

Mr. President and fellow citizens of New York:

The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there anything new in the general use I shall make of them. If there shall be any novelty, it will be in the mode of presenting the facts, and the inferences and observations following that presentation.

In his speech last autumn, at Columbus, Ohio, as reported in "The New-York Times," Senator Douglas said:

"Our fathers, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now."

I fully indorse this, and I adopt it as a text for this discourse. I so adopt it because it furnishes a precise and an agreed starting point for a discussion between Republicans and that wing of the Democracy headed by Senator Douglas. It simply leaves the inquiry: "What was the understanding those fathers had of the question mentioned?"

What is the frame of government under which we live?

The answer must be: "The Constitution of the United States." That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, (and under which the present government first went into operation,) and twelve subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of which were framed in 1789.

Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution? I suppose the "thirty-nine" who signed the original instrument may be fairly called our fathers who framed that part of the present Government. It is almost exactly true to say they framed it, and it is altogether true to say they fairly represented the opinion and sentiment of the whole nation at that time. Their names, being familiar to nearly all, and accessible to quite all, need not now be repeated.

I take these "thirty-nine," for the present, as being "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live."

What is the question which, according to the text, those fathers understood "just as well, and even better than we do now?"

It is this: Does the proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbid our Federal Government to control as to slavery in our Federal Territories?

Upon this, Senator Douglas holds the affirmative, and Republicans the negative. This affirmation and denial form an issue; and this issue - this question - is precisely what the text declares our fathers understood "better than we."

Let us now inquire whether the "thirty-nine," or any of them, ever acted upon this question; and if they did, how they acted upon it - how they expressed that better understanding?

In 1784, three years before the Constitution - the United States then owning the Northwestern Territory, and no other, the Congress of the Confederation had before them the question of prohibiting slavery in that Territory; and four of the "thirty-nine" who afterward framed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on that question. Of these, Roger Sherman, Thomas Mifflin, and Hugh Williamson voted for the prohibition, thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory. The other of the four - James M'Henry - voted against the prohibition, showing that, for some cause, he thought it improper to vote for it.

In 1787, still before the Constitution, but while the Convention was in session framing it, and while the Northwestern Territory still was the only territory owned by the United States, the same question of prohibiting slavery in the territory again came before the Congress of the Confederation; and two more of the "thirty-nine" who afterward signed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on the question. They were William Blount and William Few; and they both voted for the prohibition - thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in Federal territory. This time the prohibition became a law, being part of what is now well known as the Ordinance of '87.

The question of federal control of slavery in the territories, seems not to have been directly before the Convention which framed the original Constitution; and hence it is not recorded that the "thirty-nine," or any of them, while engaged on that instrument, expressed any opinion on that precise question.

In 1789, by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution, an act was passed to enforce the Ordinance of '87, including the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory. The bill for this act was reported by one of the "thirty-nine," Thomas Fitzsimmons, then a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. It went through all its stages without a word of opposition, and finally passed both branches without yeas and nays, which is equivalent to a unanimous passage. In this Congress there were sixteen of the thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman, Wm. S. Johnson, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Thos. Fitzsimmons, William Few, Abraham Baldwin, Rufus King, William Paterson, George Clymer, Richard Bassett, George Read, Pierce Butler, Daniel Carroll, James Madison.

This shows that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, properly forbade Congress to prohibit slavery in the federal territory; else both their fidelity to correct principle, and their oath to support the Constitution, would have constrained them to oppose the prohibition.

Again, George Washington, another of the "thirty-nine," was then President of the United States, and, as such approved and signed the bill; thus completing its validity as a law, and thus showing that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government, to control as to slavery in federal territory.

No great while after the adoption of the original Constitution, North Carolina ceded to the Federal Government the country now constituting the State of Tennessee; and a few years later Georgia ceded that which now constitutes the States of Mississippi and Alabama. In both deeds of cession it was made a condition by the ceding States that the Federal Government should not prohibit slavery in the ceded territory. Besides this, slavery was then actually in the ceded country. Under these circumstances, Congress, on taking charge of these countries, did not absolutely prohibit slavery within them. But they did interfere with it - take control of it - even there, to a certain extent. In 1798, Congress organized the Territory of Mississippi. In the act of organization, they prohibited the bringing of slaves into the Territory, from any place without the United States, by fine, and giving freedom to slaves so bought. This act passed both branches of Congress without yeas and nays. In that Congress were three of the "thirty-nine" who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, George Read and Abraham Baldwin. They all, probably, voted for it. Certainly they would have placed their opposition to it upon record, if, in their understanding, any line dividing local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory.

In 1803, the Federal Government purchased the Louisiana country. Our former territorial acquisitions came from certain of our own States; but this Louisiana country was acquired from a foreign nation. In 1804, Congress gave a territorial organization to that part of it which now constitutes the State of Louisiana. New Orleans, lying within that part, was an old and comparatively large city. There were other considerable towns and settlements, and slavery was extensively and thoroughly intermingled with the people. Congress did not, in the Territorial Act, prohibit slavery; but they did interfere with it - take control of it - in a more marked and extensive way than they did in the case of Mississippi. The substance of the provision therein made, in relation to slaves, was:

First. That no slave should be imported into the territory from foreign parts.

Second. That no slave should be carried into it who had been imported into the United States since the first day of May, 1798.

Third. That no slave should be carried into it, except by the owner, and for his own use as a settler; the penalty in all the cases being a fine upon the violator of the law, and freedom to the slave.

This act also was passed without yeas and nays. In the Congress which passed it, there were two of the "thirty-nine." They were Abraham Baldwin and Jonathan Dayton. As stated in the case of Mississippi, it is probable they both voted for it. They would not have allowed it to pass without recording their opposition to it, if, in their understanding, it violated either the line properly dividing local from federal authority, or any provision of the Constitution.

In 1819-20, came and passed the Missouri question. Many votes were taken, by yeas and nays, in both branches of Congress, upon the various phases of the general question. Two of the "thirty-nine" - Rufus King and Charles Pinckney - were members of that Congress. Mr. King steadily voted for slavery prohibition and against all compromises, while Mr. Pinckney as steadily voted against slavery prohibition and against all compromises. By this, Mr. King showed that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, was violated by Congress prohibiting slavery in federal territory; while Mr. Pinckney, by his votes, showed that, in his understanding, there was some sufficient reason for opposing such prohibition in that case.

The cases I have mentioned are the only acts of the "thirty-nine," or of any of them, upon the direct issue, which I have been able to discover.

To enumerate the persons who thus acted, as being four in 1784, two in 1787, seventeen in 1789, three in 1798, two in 1804, and two in 1819-20 - there would be thirty of them. But this would be counting John Langdon, Roger Sherman, William Few, Rufus King, and George Read each twice, and Abraham Baldwin, three times. The true number of those of the "thirty-nine" whom I have shown to have acted upon the question, which, by the text, they understood better than we, is twenty-three, leaving sixteen not shown to have acted upon it in any way.

Here, then, we have twenty-three out of our thirty-nine fathers "who framed the government under which we live," who have, upon their official responsibility and their corporal oaths, acted upon the very question which the text affirms they "understood just as well, and even better than we do now;" and twenty-one of them - a clear majority of the whole "thirty-nine" - so acting upon it as to make them guilty of gross political impropriety and willful perjury, if, in their understanding, any proper division between local and federal authority, or anything in the Constitution they had made themselves, and sworn to support, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. Thus the twenty-one acted; and, as actions speak louder than words, so actions, under such responsibility, speak still louder.

Two of the twenty-three voted against Congressional prohibition of slavery in the federal territories, in the instances in which they acted upon the question. But for what reasons they so voted is not known. They may have done so because they thought a proper division of local from federal authority, or some provision or principle of the Constitution, stood in the way; or they may, without any such question, have voted against the prohibition, on what appeared to them to be sufficient grounds of expediency. No one who has sworn to support the Constitution can conscientiously vote for what he understands to be an unconstitutional measure, however expedient he may think it; but one may and ought to vote against a measure which he deems constitutional, if, at the same time, he deems it inexpedient. It, therefore, would be unsafe to set down even the two who voted against the prohibition, as having done so because, in their understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory.

The remaining sixteen of the "thirty-nine," so far as I have discovered, have left no record of their understanding upon the direct question of federal control of slavery in the federal territories. But there is much reason to believe that their understanding upon that question would not have appeared different from that of their twenty-three compeers, had it been manifested at all.

For the purpose of adhering rigidly to the text, I have purposely omitted whatever understanding may have been manifested by any person, however distinguished, other than the thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution; and, for the same reason, I have also omitted whatever understanding may have been manifested by any of the "thirty-nine" even, on any other phase of the general question of slavery. If we should look into their acts and declarations on those other phases, as the foreign slave trade, and the morality and policy of slavery generally, it would appear to us that on the direct question of federal control of slavery in federal territories, the sixteen, if they had acted at all, would probably have acted just as the twenty-three did. Among that sixteen were several of the most noted anti-slavery men of those times - as Dr. Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris - while there was not one now known to have been otherwise, unless it may be John Rutledge, of South Carolina.

The sum of the whole is, that of our thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution, twenty-one - a clear majority of the whole - certainly understood that no proper division of local from federal authority, nor any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories; while all the rest probably had the same understanding. Such, unquestionably, was the understanding of our fathers who framed the original Constitution; and the text affirms that they understood the question "better than we."

But, so far, I have been considering the understanding of the question manifested by the framers of the original Constitution. In and by the original instrument, a mode was provided for amending it; and, as I have already stated, the present frame of "the Government under which we live" consists of that original, and twelve amendatory articles framed and adopted since. Those who now insist that federal control of slavery in federal territories violates the Constitution, point us to the provisions which they suppose it thus violates; and, as I understand, that all fix upon provisions in these amendatory articles, and not in the original instrument. The Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott case, plant themselves upon the fifth amendment, which provides that no person shall be deprived of "life, liberty or property without due process of law;" while Senator Douglas and his peculiar adherents plant themselves upon the tenth amendment, providing that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution" "are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Now, it so happens that these amendments were framed by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution - the identical Congress which passed the act already mentioned, enforcing the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory. Not only was it the same Congress, but they were the identical, same individual men who, at the same session, and at the same time within the session, had under consideration, and in progress toward maturity, these Constitutional amendments, and this act prohibiting slavery in all the territory the nation then owned. The Constitutional amendments were introduced before, and passed after the act enforcing the Ordinance of '87; so that, during the whole pendency of the act to enforce the Ordinance, the Constitutional amendments were also pending.

The seventy-six members of that Congress, including sixteen of the framers of the original Constitution, as before stated, were pre- eminently our fathers who framed that part of "the Government under which we live," which is now claimed as forbidding the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories.

Is it not a little presumptuous in any one at this day to affirm that the two things which that Congress deliberately framed, and carried to maturity at the same time, are absolutely inconsistent with each other? And does not such affirmation become impudently absurd when coupled with the other affirmation from the same mouth, that those who did the two things, alleged to be inconsistent, understood whether they really were inconsistent better than we - better than he who affirms that they are inconsistent?

It is surely safe to assume that the thirty-nine framers of the original Constitution, and the seventy-six members of the Congress which framed the amendments thereto, taken together, do certainly include those who may be fairly called "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." And so assuming, I defy any man to show that any one of them ever, in his whole life, declared that, in his understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. I go a step further. I defy any one to show that any living man in the whole world ever did, prior to the beginning of the present century, (and I might almost say prior to the beginning of the last half of the present century,) declare that, in his understanding, any proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. To those who now so declare, I give, not only "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live," but with them all other living men within the century in which it was framed, among whom to search, and they shall not be able to find the evidence of a single man agreeing with them.

Now, and here, let me guard a little against being misunderstood. I do not mean to say we are bound to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To do so, would be to discard all the lights of current experience - to reject all progress - all improvement. What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opinions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered and weighed, cannot stand; and most surely not in a case whereof we ourselves declare they understood the question better than we.

If any man at this day sincerely believes that a proper division of local from federal authority, or any part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories, he is right to say so, and to enforce his position by all truthful evidence and fair argument which he can. But he has no right to mislead others, who have less access to history, and less leisure to study it, into the false belief that "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live" were of the same opinion - thus substituting falsehood and deception for truthful evidence and fair argument. If any man at this day sincerely believes "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live," used and applied principles, in other cases, which ought to have led them to understand that a proper division of local from federal authority or some part of the Constitution, forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories, he is right to say so. But he should, at the same time, brave the responsibility of declaring that, in his opinion, he understands their principles better than they did themselves; and especially should he not shirk that responsibility by asserting that they "understood the question just as well, and even better, than we do now."

But enough! Let all who believe that "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now," speak as they spoke, and act as they acted upon it. This is all Republicans ask - all Republicans desire - in relation to slavery. As those fathers marked it, so let it be again marked, as an evil not to be extended, but to be tolerated and protected only because of and so far as its actual presence among us makes that toleration and protection a necessity. Let all the guarantees those fathers gave it, be, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly, maintained. For this Republicans contend, and with this, so far as I know or believe, they will be content.

And now, if they would listen - as I suppose they will not - I would address a few words to the Southern people.

I would say to them: - You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us a reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to "Black Republicans." In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of "Black Republicanism" as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite - license, so to speak - among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

You say we are sectional. We deny it. That makes an issue; and the burden of proof is upon you. You produce your proof; and what is it? Why, that our party has no existence in your section - gets no votes in your section. The fact is substantially true; but does it prove the issue? If it does, then in case we should, without change of principle, begin to get votes in your section, we should thereby cease to be sectional. You cannot escape this conclusion; and yet, are you willing to abide by it? If you are, you will probably soon find that we have ceased to be sectional, for we shall get votes in your section this very year. You will then begin to discover, as the truth plainly is, that your proof does not touch the issue. The fact that we get no votes in your section, is a fact of your making, and not of ours. And if there be fault in that fact, that fault is primarily yours, and remains until you show that we repel you by some wrong principle or practice. If we do repel you by any wrong principle or practice, the fault is ours; but this brings you to where you ought to have started - to a discussion of the right or wrong of our principle. If our principle, put in practice, would wrong your section for the benefit of ours, or for any other object, then our principle, and we with it, are sectional, and are justly opposed and denounced as such. Meet us, then, on the question of whether our principle, put in practice, would wrong your section; and so meet it as if it were possible that something may be said on our side. Do you accept the challenge? No! Then you really believe that the principle which "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live" thought so clearly right as to adopt it, and indorse it again and again, upon their official oaths, is in fact so clearly wrong as to demand your condemnation without a moment's consideration.

Some of you delight to flaunt in our faces the warning against sectional parties given by Washington in his Farewell Address. Less than eight years before Washington gave that warning, he had, as President of the United States, approved and signed an act of Congress, enforcing the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory, which act embodied the policy of the Government upon that subject up to and at the very moment he penned that warning; and about one year after he penned it, he wrote LaFayette that he considered that prohibition a wise measure, expressing in the same connection his hope that we should at some time have a confederacy of free States.

Bearing this in mind, and seeing that sectionalism has since arisen upon this same subject, is that warning a weapon in your hands against us, or in our hands against you? Could Washington himself speak, would he cast the blame of that sectionalism upon us, who sustain his policy, or upon you who repudiate it? We respect that warning of Washington, and we commend it to you, together with his example pointing to the right application of it.

But you say you are conservative - eminently conservative - while we are revolutionary, destructive, or something of the sort. What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried? We stick to, contend for, the identical old policy on the point in controversy which was adopted by "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live;" while you with one accord reject, and scout, and spit upon that old policy, and insist upon substituting something new. True, you disagree among yourselves as to what that substitute shall be. You are divided on new propositions and plans, but you are unanimous in rejecting and denouncing the old policy of the fathers. Some of you are for reviving the foreign slave trade; some for a Congressional Slave-Code for the Territories; some for Congress forbidding the Territories to prohibit Slavery within their limits; some for maintaining Slavery in the Territories through the judiciary; some for the "gur-reat pur-rinciple" that "if one man would enslave another, no third man should object," fantastically called "Popular Sovereignty;" but never a man among you is in favor of federal prohibition of slavery in federal territories, according to the practice of "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." Not one of all your various plans can show a precedent or an advocate in the century within which our Government originated. Consider, then, whether your claim of conservatism for yourselves, and your charge or destructiveness against us, are based on the most clear and stable foundations.

Again, you say we have made the slavery question more prominent than it formerly was. We deny it. We admit that it is more prominent, but we deny that we made it so. It was not we, but you, who discarded the old policy of the fathers. We resisted, and still resist, your innovation; and thence comes the greater prominence of the question. Would you have that question reduced to its former proportions? Go back to that old policy. What has been will be again, under the same conditions. If you would have the peace of the old times, readopt the precepts and policy of the old times.

You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it; and what is your proof? Harper's Ferry! John Brown!! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise. If any member of our party is guilty in that matter, you know it or you do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable for not designating the man and proving the fact. If you do not know it, you are inexcusable for asserting it, and especially for persisting in the assertion after you have tried and failed to make the proof. You need to be told that persisting in a charge which one does not know to be true, is simply malicious slander.

Some of you admit that no Republican designedly aided or encouraged the Harper's Ferry affair, but still insist that our doctrines and declarations necessarily lead to such results. We do not believe it. We know we hold to no doctrine, and make no declaration, which were not held to and made by "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." You never dealt fairly by us in relation to this affair. When it occurred, some important State elections were near at hand, and you were in evident glee with the belief that, by charging the blame upon us, you could get an advantage of us in those elections. The elections came, and your expectations were not quite fulfilled. Every Republican man knew that, as to himself at least, your charge was a slander, and he was not much inclined by it to cast his vote in your favor. Republican doctrines and declarations are accompanied with a continual protest against any interference whatever with your slaves, or with you about your slaves. Surely, this does not encourage them to revolt. True, we do, in common with "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live," declare our belief that slavery is wrong; but the slaves do not hear us declare even this. For anything we say or do, the slaves would scarcely know there is a Republican party. I believe they would not, in fact, generally know it but for your misrepresentations of us, in their hearing. In your political contests among yourselves, each faction charges the other with sympathy with Black Republicanism; and then, to give point to the charge, defines Black Republicanism to simply be insurrection, blood and thunder among the slaves.

Slave insurrections are no more common now than they were before the Republican party was organized. What induced the Southampton insurrection, twenty-eight years ago, in which, at least three times as many lives were lost as at Harper's Ferry? You can scarcely stretch your very elastic fancy to the conclusion that Southampton was "got up by Black Republicanism." In the present state of things in the United States, I do not think a general, or even a very extensive slave insurrection is possible. The indispensable concert of action cannot be attained. The slaves have no means of rapid communication; nor can incendiary freemen, black or white, supply it. The explosive materials are everywhere in parcels; but there neither are, nor can be supplied, the indispensable connecting trains.

Much is said by Southern people about the affection of slaves for their masters and mistresses; and a part of it, at least, is true. A plot for an uprising could scarcely be devised and communicated to twenty individuals before some one of them, to save the life of a favorite master or mistress, would divulge it. This is the rule; and the slave revolution in Hayti was not an exception to it, but a case occurring under peculiar circumstances. The gunpowder plot of British history, though not connected with slaves, was more in point. In that case, only about twenty were admitted to the secret; and yet one of them, in his anxiety to save a friend, betrayed the plot to that friend, and, by consequence, averted the calamity. Occasional poisonings from the kitchen, and open or stealthy assassinations in the field, and local revolts extending to a score or so, will continue to occur as the natural results of slavery; but no general insurrection of slaves, as I think, can happen in this country for a long time. Whoever much fears, or much hopes for such an event, will be alike disappointed.

In the language of Mr. Jefferson, uttered many years ago, "It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation, and deportation, peaceably, and in such slow degrees, as that the evil will wear off insensibly; and their places be, pari passu, filled up by free white laborers. If, on the contrary, it is left to force itself on, human nature must shudder at the prospect held up."

Mr. Jefferson did not mean to say, nor do I, that the power of emancipation is in the Federal Government. He spoke of Virginia; and, as to the power of emancipation, I speak of the slaveholding States only. The Federal Government, however, as we insist, has the power of restraining the extension of the institution - the power to insure that a slave insurrection shall never occur on any American soil which is now free from slavery.

John Brown's effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate. In fact, it was so absurd that the slaves, with all their ignorance, saw plainly enough it could not succeed. That affair, in its philosophy, corresponds with the many attempts, related in history, at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution. Orsini's attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown's attempt at Harper's Ferry were, in their philosophy, precisely the same. The eagerness to cast blame on old England in the one case, and on New England in the other, does not disprove the sameness of the two things.

And how much would it avail you, if you could, by the use of John Brown, Helper's Book, and the like, break up the Republican organization? Human action can be modified to some extent, but human nature cannot be changed. There is a judgment and a feeling against slavery in this nation, which cast at least a million and a half of votes. You cannot destroy that judgment and feeling - that sentiment - by breaking up the political organization which rallies around it. You can scarcely scatter and disperse an army which has been formed into order in the face of your heaviest fire; but if you could, how much would you gain by forcing the sentiment which created it out of the peaceful channel of the ballot-box, into some other channel? What would that other channel probably be? Would the number of John Browns be lessened or enlarged by the operation?

But you will break up the Union rather than submit to a denial of your Constitutional rights.

That has a somewhat reckless sound; but it would be palliated, if not fully justified, were we proposing, by the mere force of numbers, to deprive you of some right, plainly written down in the Constitution. But we are proposing no such thing.

When you make these declarations, you have a specific and well-understood allusion to an assumed Constitutional right of yours, to take slaves into the federal territories, and to hold them there as property. But no such right is specifically written in the Constitution. That instrument is literally silent about any such right. We, on the contrary, deny that such a right has any existence in the Constitution, even by implication.

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.

This, plainly stated, is your language. Perhaps you will say the Supreme Court has decided the disputed Constitutional question in your favor. Not quite so. But waiving the lawyer's distinction between dictum and decision, the Court have decided the question for you in a sort of way. The Court have substantially said, it is your Constitutional right to take slaves into the federal territories, and to hold them there as property. When I say the decision was made in a sort of way, I mean it was made in a divided Court, by a bare majority of the Judges, and they not quite agreeing with one another in the reasons for making it; that it is so made as that its avowed supporters disagree with one another about its meaning, and that it was mainly based upon a mistaken statement of fact - the statement in the opinion that "the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution."

An inspection of the Constitution will show that the right of property in a slave is not "distinctly and expressly affirmed" in it. Bear in mind, the Judges do not pledge their judicial opinion that such right is impliedly affirmed in the Constitution; but they pledge their veracity that it is "distinctly and expressly" affirmed there - "distinctly," that is, not mingled with anything else - "expressly," that is, in words meaning just that, without the aid of any inference, and susceptible of no other meaning.

If they had only pledged their judicial opinion that such right is affirmed in the instrument by implication, it would be open to others to show that neither the word "slave" nor "slavery" is to be found in the Constitution, nor the word "property" even, in any connection with language alluding to the things slave, or slavery; and that wherever in that instrument the slave is alluded to, he is called a "person;" - and wherever his master's legal right in relation to him is alluded to, it is spoken of as "service or labor which may be due," - as a debt payable in service or labor. Also, it would be open to show, by contemporaneous history, that this mode of alluding to slaves and slavery, instead of speaking of them, was employed on purpose to exclude from the Constitution the idea that there could be property in man.

To show all this, is easy and certain.

When this obvious mistake of the Judges shall be brought to their notice, is it not reasonable to expect that they will withdraw the mistaken statement, and reconsider the conclusion based upon it?

And then it is to be remembered that "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live" - the men who made the Constitution - decided this same Constitutional question in our favor, long ago - decided it without division among themselves, when making the decision; without division among themselves about the meaning of it after it was made, and, so far as any evidence is left, without basing it upon any mistaken statement of facts.

Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

To be sure, what the robber demanded of me - my money - was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and the threat of death to me, to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union, to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.

A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. Even though the southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them.

Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. In all their present complaints against us, the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions and insurrections are the rage now. Will it satisfy them, if, in the future, we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections? We know it will not. We so know, because we know we never had anything to do with invasions and insurrections; and yet this total abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

I am quite aware they do not state their case precisely in this way. Most of them would probably say to us, "Let us alone, do nothing to us, and say what you please about slavery." But we do let them alone - have never disturbed them - so that, after all, it is what we say, which dissatisfies them. They will continue to accuse us of doing, until we cease saying.

I am also aware they have not, as yet, in terms, demanded the overthrow of our Free-State Constitutions. Yet those Constitutions declare the wrong of slavery, with more solemn emphasis, than do all other sayings against it; and when all these other sayings shall have been silenced, the overthrow of these Constitutions will be demanded, and nothing be left to resist the demand. It is nothing to the contrary, that they do not demand the whole of this just now. Demanding what they do, and for the reason they do, they can voluntarily stop nowhere short of this consummation. Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing.

Nor can we justifiably withhold this, on any ground save our conviction that slavery is wrong. If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality - its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension - its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?

Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care - such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance - such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Recovery.gov... use it


We've been given a tool of oversight. We'll never know if it works unless we use it.

We'll also never know if our representatives, mayors and governors are making use of the money being allotted to us by this economic stimulus package if we don't pay attention and demand it.

We may have to demand our slice of this pie; especially those of us who live in GOP strongholds (or former GOP strongholds.) Will Indiana governor Mitch Daniels (R) make use of our share of this stimulus? Will he even accept it? I don't trust that man any farther than I can throw him. I'll be watching closely.

The GOP seems determined to make this economic stimulus plan fail. In the process, the American people will suffer terribly, our economy may collapse, and our nation may be plunged into a depression from which there is no escape.

Yes, it appears they would let this happen to their country before allowing a Democratic president achieve success. Their partisanship knows no bounds. Well, except for a few Republicans who seem to grasp the severity of our situation.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

"When people need to have roads built, when we talk about infrastructure in America, we need $1.7 trillion to $2 trillion of infrastructure in America. Who cares if you're a Republican or Democrat? Everyone is using the roads. Everyone would use high-speed rail. Everyone uses the infrastructure and all of those things, the schools, the kids. It doesn't matter," he said.

"The horrible thing about politics is that, the more they attack each other, the more that they try to derail each other, the worse it is for the people. That's why ... you know, you've got to go beyond just the principles. You've got to go and say, 'What is right for the country right now?'" Schwarzenegger said.

A New York Times Editorial lays it out even more directly:

Imagine yourself jobless and struggling to feed your family while the governor of your state threatens to reject tens of millions of dollars in federal aid earmarked for the unemployed. That is precisely what is happening in poverty-ridden states like Louisiana and Mississippi where Republican governors are threatening to turn away federal aid rather than expand access to unemployment insurance programs in ways that many other states did a long time ago.

What makes these bad decisions worse is that they are little more than political posturing by rising Republican stars, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. This behavior reinforces the disturbing conclusion that the Republican Party seems more interested in ideological warfare than in working on policies that get the country back on track.

It is useless explaining to these pouting - or posturing - Republicans that their obstructionist behavior amounts to, at the very least, a serious breach of patriotism. More realistically, many in the GOP are demonstrating an outright betrayal of their pledge to serve the people.

Republicans aren't serving the people's interest if they stand in the way of legislation that will help us keep our homes, jobs and get affordable health care. There is simply no way to spin this that doesn't make them look like heartless, selfish, partisan politicians.

What we need right now are leaders. The rest can shut up and sit down -- the election is over, and we don't want to hear anything they have to say unless it is about helping our nation and suffering people recover. They certainly had their chance - they blew it on an epic scale.

This stimulus is only going to be successful if we all get behind it and push for it. Demand it. Insist on it. Lean on our congressmen and senators - weekly, if necessary. Remind them that their only hope for re-election depends on cooperation, and that we're watching them right now, and we WILL remember how they voted when our interests were on the line.

Recovery.gov... check it out.

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Looking back at Lincoln: On February 26, 1864

I guess he tired of pardoning them all, one at a time.

On this day in 1864, Lincoln directed via General Orders No. 76, that all deserters condemned to death by Court Martial be instead imprisoned at Dry Tortugas, Florida, or (in special cases) returned to duty for the remainder of the war.

General Orders, No. 76.
War Department, Adjutant-General's Office

Washington, February 26, 1864.

Sentence of Deserters.

The President directs that the sentences of all deserters, who have been condemned by Court Martial to death, and that have not been otherwise acted upon by him, be mitigated to imprisonment during the war, at the Dry Tortugas, Florida, where they will be sent under suitable guards by orders from army commanders.

The Commanding Generals, who have power to act on proceedings of Courts Martial in such cases, are authorized in special cases to restore to duty deserters under sentence, when in their judgment the service will be thereby benefited.

Copies of all orders issued under the foregoing instructions will be immediately forwarded to the Adjutant General and to the Judge Advocate General.

By order of the Secretary of War: E. D. TOWNSEND,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

There is a reason that the people loved Lincoln; the people who met him, who knew him, who encountered him during the Civil War... and especially those he rescued from death. Lincoln, in his own personal humility, actually thought about how he himself might behave under fire and apparently came to the conclusion:

"I have not fully made up my mind how I should behave when mini-balls were whistling, and those great oblong shells shrieking in my ear. I might run away." (Meeting Mr. Lincoln, edited by Victoria Radford.)

Lincoln was a merciful man; he himself was no stranger to pain and loss, and therefore was able to recognize it right away in others. In his position as president, and when petitioned for help, he seemed to make every effort to ease the suffering of those who bore the burden of the war (he himself bore a similar burden as Commander in Chief.)

This often meant releasing prisoners; or in this case, returning a soldier son to an elderly mother with no other means of support.

I was waiting my turn to speak to the president one day... when my attention was attracted by the sad patient face of a woman advanced in life, who in a faded hood and shawl was among the applicants for an interview.

Presently Mr. Lincoln turned to her, saying in his accustomed manner, "Well, my good woman, what can I do for you this morning?"

"Mr President," said she, "my husband and three sons all went into the army. My husband was killed in the fight at ______. I get along very badly since then, living all alone, and I thought I would come and ask you to release my oldest son."

Mr. Lincoln looked into her face a moment, and in his kindest accents responded, "Certainly! Certainly! If you have given us all, and your prop has been taken away, you are justly entitled to one of your boys!" He immediately made out an order discharging the young man, which the woman took, and thanking him gratefully, went away.

I had forgotten the circumstance... till last week, when happening to be here again, who should come in but the same woman. It appeared that she had gone herself to the front, with the President's order, and found the son she was in search of had been mortally wounded in a recent engagement, and taken to a hospital. She found the hospital, but the boy was dead, or died while she was there. The surgeon in charge made a memorandum of the facts upon the back of the President's order, and almost broken-hearted, the poor woman had found her way again into Mr. Lincoln's presence.

He was much affected by her appearance and story, and said: "I know what you wish me do to now, and I shall do it without your asking: I shall release to you your second son." Upon this, he took up his pen and commenced writing the order.

While he was writing the poor woman stood by his side, the tears running down her face, and passed her hand softly over his head, stroking his rough hair, as I have seen a fond mother caress a son. By the time he had finished writing, his own heart and eyes were full. He handed her the paper: "Now," said he, "you have one and I have one of the other two left: that is no more than right."

She took the paper, and reverently placing her hand again upon his head, the tears still upon her cheeks, said: "The Lord bless you, Mr. Lincoln. May you live a thousand years, and may you always be the head of this great nation!"

This acccount was told by a reporter for the Washington Republican named Murtaugh (Six Months at the White House, by F.B. Carpenter.)

Mr. Lincoln will indeed live a thousand years as the head of our nation. He is our moral leader; the man to whom we turn in these dark, uncertain times for guidance, comfort and enduring wisdom.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On February 25, 1847

On this day in 1847, Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to his friend and fellow Whig lawyer, Andrew Johnston, granting him permission to publish a poem that Lincoln had written.

The poem is divided into sections called cantos, which Lincoln originally mailed to Johnston one at a time with an accompanying letter as each one was completed. It appears a third and final canto was included with this reply from Lincoln; although for some reason Johnston decided not to send it along to be published with the rest of the poem.

The poem's first two cantos were published anonymously - mailed in by Johnston - in the Quincy Whig on May 5, 1847. The poem was titled "The Return."

Springfield, February 25, 1847.

Dear Johnston: Yours of the 2d of December was duly delivered to me by Mr. Williams. [2] To say the least, I am not at all displeased with your proposal to publish the poetry, or doggerel, or whatever else it may be called, which I sent you. I consent that it may be done, together with the third canto, which I now send you. [3] Whether the prefatory remarks in my letter shall be published with the verses, I leave entirely to your discretion; but let names be suppressed by all means. I have not sufficient hope of the verses attracting any favorable notice to tempt me to risk being ridiculed for having written them.

Why not drop into the paper, at the same time, the ``half dozen stanzas of your own''? Or if, for any reason, it suit your feelings better, send them to me, and I will take pleasure in putting them in the paper here. Family well, and nothing new. Yours sincerely,


Christie's 6/8/90

When Lincoln had originally completed and sent Johnston the initial canto, he described the circumstances that inspired him to write the poem as follows:

"In the fall of 1844, thinking I might aid some to carry the State of Indiana for Mr. Clay, I went into the neighborhood in that State in which I was raised, where my mother and only sister were buried, and from which I had been absent about fifteen years. That part of the country is, within itself, as unpoetical as any spot of the earth; but still, seeing it and its objects and inhabitants aroused feelings in me which were certainly poetry; though whether my expression of those feelings is poetry is quite another question."

Lincoln described the topic of the second canto - the sudden madness that struck down childhood friend Matthew Gentry - in the canto's accompanying letter of September 6, 1846:

"The subject of the present one [canto] is an insane man. His name is Matthew Gentry. He is three years older than I, and when we were boys we went to school together. He was rather a bright lad, and the son of the rich man of our very poor neighbourhood. At the age of nineteen he unaccountably became furiously mad, from which condition he gradually settled down into harmless insanity. When, as I told you in my other letter I visited my old home in the fall of 1844, I found him still lingering in this wretched condition. In my poetizing mood I could not forget the impressions his case made upon me"

In the same letter, Lincoln also mentioned (of any future cantos) that if he 'should ever send another, the subject will be a 'Bear hunt.'"

Here is the poem, in two cantos, as it probably appeared in the Quincy Whig:

The Return

Part I---Reflection

My childhood's home I see again,
And sadden with the view;
And still, as memory crowds my brain,
There's pleasure in it too.

O Memory! thou midway world
'Twixt earth and paradise,
Where things decayed and loved ones lost
In dreamy shadows rise,

And, freed from all that's earthly vile,
Seem hallowed, pure, and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle,
All bathed in liquid light.

As dusky mountains please the eye,
When twilight chases day;
As bugle-notes that, passing by,
In distance die away;

As leaving some grand waterfall,
We, lingering, list its roar --
So memory will hallow all
We've known, but know no more.

Near twenty years have passed away
Since here I bid farewell
To woods and fields, and scenes of play,
And playmates loved so well.

Where many were, how few remain
Of old familiar things;
But seeing them, to mind again
The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day,
How changed, as time has sped!
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray,
And half of all are dead.

I hear the loved survivors tell
How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell,
And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms;
And feel (companion of the dead)
I'm living in the tombs.

Part II---The Maniac

But here's an object more of dread
Than ought the grave contains --
A human form with reason fled,
While wretched life remains.

Poor Matthew! Once of genius bright,
A fortune-favored child --
Now locked for aye, in mental night,
A haggard mad-man wild.

Poor Matthew! I have ne'er forgot
When first, with maddened will,
Yourself you maimed, your father fought,
And mother strove to kill;

When terror spread, and neighbours ran,
Your dang'rous strength to bind;
And soon, a howling crazy man
Your limbs were fast confined.

How then you strove and shrieked aloud,
Your bones and sinnews bared;
And fiendish on the gazing crowd,
With burning eye-balls glared --

And begged, and swore, and wept and prayed
With maniac laughter joined --
How fearful were those signs displayed
By pangs that killed thy mind!

And when at length, tho' drear and long,
Time soothed thy fiercer woes,
How plaintively thy mournful song,
Upon the still night rose.

I've heard it oft, as if I dreamed,
Far-distant, sweet, and lone --
The funeral dirge, it ever seemed
Of reason dead and gone.

To drink its strains, I've stole away,
All stealthily and still,
Ere yet the rising God of day
Had streaked the Eastern hill.

Air held his breath; trees, with the spell,
Seemed sorrowing angels round,
Whose swelling tears in dew-drops fell
Upon the listening ground.

But this is past; and nought remains,
That raised thee o'er the brute.
Thy piercing shrieks, and soothing strains,
Are like, forever mute.

Now fare thee well -- more thou the cause,
Than subject now of woe.
All mental pangs, by time's kind laws,
Hast lost the power to know.

O death! Thou awe-inspiring prince,
That keepst the world in fear;
Why dost thou tear more blest ones hence,
And leave him ling'ring here?

And here is 'Bear Hunt,' mailed to Johnston with the above letter, and most likely intended as the third and final canto of the poem.

Bear Hunt

A wild-bear chace, didst never see?
Then hast thou lived in vain.
Thy richest bump of glorious glee,
Lies desert in thy brain.

When first my father settled here,
'Twas then the frontier line:
The panther's scream, filled night with fear
And bears preyed on the swine.

But wo for Bruin's short lived fun,
When rose the squealing cry;
Now man and horse, with dog and gun,
For vengeance, at him fly.

A sound of danger strikes his ear;
He gives the breeze a snuff:
Away he bounds, with little fear,
And seeks the tangled rough.

On press his foes, and reach the ground,
Where's left his half munched meal;
The dogs, in circles, scent around,
And find his fresh made trail.

With instant cry, away they dash,
And men as fast pursue;
O'er logs they leap, through water splash,
And shout the brisk halloo.

Now to elude the eager pack,
Bear shuns the open ground;
Through matted vines, he shapes his track
And runs it, round and round.

The tall fleet cur, with deep-mouthed voice,
Now speeds him, as the wind;
While half-grown pup, and short-legged fice,
Are yelping far behind.

And fresh recruits are dropping in
To join the merry corps:
With yelp and yell,---a mingled din---
The woods are in a roar.

And round, and round the chace now goes,
The world's alive with fun;
Nick Carter's horse, his rider throws,
And more, Hill drops his gun.

Now sorely pressed, bear glances back,
And lolls his tired tongue;
When as, to force him from his track,
An ambush on him sprung.

Across the glade he sweeps for flight,
And fully is in view.
The dogs, new-fired, by the sight,
Their cry, and speed, renew.

The foremost ones, now reach his rear,
He turns, they dash away;
And circling now, the wrathful bear,
They have him full at bay.

At top of speed, the horse-men come,
All screaming in a row.
``Whoop! Take him Tiger. Seize him Drum.''
Bang,---bang---the rifles go.

And furious now, the dogs he tears,
And crushes in his ire.
Wheels right and left, and upward rears,
With eyes of burning fire.

But leaden death is at his heart,
Vain all the strength he plies.
And, spouting blood from every part,
He reels, and sinks, and dies.

And now a dinsome clamor rose,
'Bout who should have his skin;
Who first draws blood, each hunter knows,
This prize must always win.

But who did this, and how to trace
What's true from what's a lie,
Like lawyers, in a murder case
They stoutly argufy.

Aforesaid fice, of blustering mood,
Behind, and quite forgot,
Just now emerging from the wood,
Arrives upon the spot.

With grinning teeth, and up-turned hair---
Brim full of spunk and wrath,
He growls, and seizes on dead bear,
And shakes for life and death.

And swells as if his skin would tear,
And growls and shakes again;
And swears, as plain as dog can swear,
That he has won the skin.

Conceited whelp! we laugh at thee---
Nor mind, that not a few
Of pompous, two-legged dogs there be,
Conceited quite as you.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On February 24, 1863

On this day in 1863, Lincoln wrote the following letter to Major General Henry Halleck, on behalf of a request for reinforcement from West Virginia. It appears that Lincoln was 'politely ignored' by a general yet again; the troops were never transferred to West Virginia as requested.

Washington, February 24. 1863.

Major Gen. Halleck
Executive Mansion,

Dear Sir:

This morning the West-Virginia delegation call and say that the enemy contemplate invading & over-running them, in the early Spring; and that, for this object, among other things they are building a plank-road from Staunton to Beverly. To meet this our friends are anxious, first, that the 7 Virginia Infantry, and the 1st. Virginia Cavalry both now under Gen. Hooker, may be sent back to West-Virginia. These regiments are greatly reduced, our having not more than one hundred and sixteen men. Secondly, they desire that, if, possible, a larger portion of their force in West-Virginia, should be mounted, in order to meet the increasing guerallaism with which they are annoyed & threatened.

Can these things, or some of them, be done?

Yours truly


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Monday, February 23, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On February 23, 1861

On this day in 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln traveled from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. by night (a change from the announced and publicized visit to Baltimore that had been scheduled for the following day.) He boarded a different train than planned in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and passed quietly and secretly through Baltimore, Maryland at around 4 a.m.-- possibly in disguise -- and accompanied by detective Allan Pinkerton, who feared a plot against Lincoln's life.

Maryland on 1861 was a slave state and a hotbed of rebel sympathizers, in spite of it's close proximity to Washington and the fact that it never seceded from the Union. Pinkerton apparently believed that there was at least one credible plot against Lincoln's life; perhaps even a plan to derail the train on which the Lincoln's were riding.

When news of the change was printed in the papers, Lincoln-detractors mocked him in cartoons (like the one above) portraying him as a coward. As paper after newspaper picked up accounts that Lincoln had worn a Scottish plaid cap and a long military cloak as a disguise, portrayals of Lincoln dressed in a Scottish hat and cape morphed into caricatures of Lincoln wearing a short kilt... and finally into a dress borrowed from his wife.

These lampoons plagued Lincoln for the remainder of his presidency and undoubtedly caused him great chagrin, as they were a direct attack on his courage and leadership. I sometimes wonder if the sting of the Baltimore ridicule contributed to his refusal of guards and escorts when traveling around Washington and the surrounding countryside, and his often determined rebuffs when offered additional personal security.

The Baltimore Sun was especially harsh:

Had we any respect for Mr. Lincoln, official or personal, as a man, or as President elect of the United States…the final escapade by which he reached the capital would have utterly demolished it…. He might have entered Willard’s Hotel with a head spring and a summersault, and the clown’s merry greeting to Gen. Scott, Here we are! and we should care nothing about it, personally. We do not believe the Presidency can ever be more degraded by any of his successors than it has by him, even before his inauguration.

Ironically, Maryland (and famous Maryland resident and actor John Wilkes Booth) would yet play a role in the very real plot to assassinate Lincoln in 1865. And for some reason Lincoln shrugged off warnings from Secretary of State Stanton and even the misgivings of his wife on the night of April 14th, 1865 when he attended 'Our American Cousin' at Ford's Theater (sans the Scottish attire... and with only one guard posted outside the presidential box entrance.)

The following appeared in the March 9th edition of Harper's Weekly:


The city was startled on Saturday by the intelligence that the President-elect, instead of proceeding on his journey to Washington from Harrisburg, in accordance with the published programme, on Saturday morning, had left the latter city secretly, on a special train, on Friday night, and returning to Philadelphia, had passed thence, unrecognized, through Baltimore, and was already in the Federal Capital. This step, it appears, was induced by the desire to avoid threatened trouble in Baltimore, and was taken at the earnest solicitation of his friends and leading Republicans in Washington, who had received authentic information that an organized demonstration would be made against him in Baltimore—if, indeed, he were allowed to reach there alive' for it was also feared that an attempt would be made to throw the Presidential train from the track on the Northern Central Railroad. This information, it appears, was imparted to Mr. Lincoln on Thursday night at Philadelphia, and he consented, after considerable hesitation, to the private arrangement which was subsequently carried into effect. He reached Washington early on Saturday morning, and proceeded quietly to his hotel, his arrival being known to but few. He soon afterward, in company with Senator Seward, paid a visit to President Buchanan, and interchanged civilities with him and with other gentlemen of distinction.

Harper's Weekly went on to describe various versions of events that led to the change of route and schedule:


The Herald correspondent says: It appears that the plot was concocted in Baltimore, and, being discovered by a detective officer, was by him communicated to two or three leading Republicans, including Mr. Seward and Thurlow Weed. Afterward it was made known to Mr. Judd, of the Presidential party.

"On Thursday last, tile intelligence having been privately forwarded to New York, several detectives were at once sent from that city to confer and cooperate with those who had the matter originally In charge. Mr. General Superintendent Kennedy and Commissioner Acton were also on hand. Together they succeeded in ferreting out the details of the conspiracy, and enough. has been made known to give it, in the minds of these men, a rank by the side of the most infamous attempts ever made upon human life.

" The exact mode in which the conspirators intended to consummate their designs has not yet transpired; but enough is known to be satisfactory that either an infernal machine was to be placed under the cars or railway, like the Orsini attempt upon Napoleon, or some obstruction placed upon the track whereby the train would be thrown down an embankment at some convenient spot; and that if these failed, then, on the arrival at Baltimore, during the rush and crush of the crowd, as at Buffalo, by knife or pistol, the assassination was to be effected.

"It has also been ascertained that two or three of the conspirators were in New York on Wednesday, the 20th inst., watching the course of events while the President-elect was there."


The Times correspondent says: On Thursday night after he had retired, Mr. Lincoln was aroused and informed that a stranger desired to see him on a matter of life or death. He declined to admit him unless he gave his name, which he at once did. Of such prestige did the name carry that while Mr. Lincoln was yet disrobed he granted an interview to the caller.

"A prolonged conversation elicited the fact that an organized body of men had determined that Mr. Lincoln should not be inaugurated, and that he should never leave the city of Baltimore alive, if, indeed, he ever entered it.

"The list of the names of the conspirators presented a most astonishing array of persons high in Southern confidence, and some whose fame is not to this country alone.

"Statesmen laid the plan, bankers indorsed it, and adventurers were to carry it into effect. As they understood Mr. Lincoln was to leave Harrisburg at nine o'clock this morning by special train, and the idea was, if possible, to throw the cars from the road at some point where they would rush down a steep embankment and destroy in a moment the lives of all on board. In case of the failure of this project, their plan was to surround the carriage on the way from depot to depot in Baltimore, and assassinate him with dagger or pistol-shot.

"So authentic was the source from which the information was obtained that Mr. Lincoln, after counseling his friends, was compelled to make arrangements which would enable him to subvert the plans of his enemies.

"Greatly to the annoyance of the thousands who desired to call on him last night, he declined giving a reception. The final council was held at eight o'clock.

"Mr. Lincoln did not want to yield, and Colonel Sumner actually cried with indignation ; but Mrs. Lincoln, seconded by Mr. Judd and Mr. Lincoln's original informant, insisted upon it, and at nine o'clock Mr. Lincoln left on a special train. He wore a Scotch plaid cap and a very long military cloak, so that he was entirely unrecognizable. Accompanied by Superintendent Lewis and one friend, he started, while all the town, with the exception of Mrs. Lincoln, Colonel Sumner, Mr. Judd, and two reporters, who were sworn to secrecy, supposed him to be asleep.

"The telegraph wires were put beyond the reach of any one who might desire to use them."


The Tribune says : " The facts, as given by Superintendent Kennedy. are substantially as follows- The police authorities of Baltimore had come to the conclusion that there would be little demonstration of any kind during Mr. Lincoln's passage through the city. Indeed, as firmly had they become convinced of this, and that there would be no riotous proceedings, that they had determined to employ a force of only twenty men for the special duty of attending to the route of the Presidential cortege through Baltimore. The reason alleged for this course was, that they wished to demonstrate to the country and to the world the law-and-order character of the city.

"This coming to the ears of General Scott, he at once declared that one of two things must be done: either a military escort must be provided for Mr. Lincoln at Baltimore, or there must be a coup de main by which he should be brought through the city unknown to the populace. Under the circumstances, it was thought that the employment or a military escort might create undue excitement, and the cause of its being brought into requisition misinterpreted. The alternative of employing stratagem was therefore determined upon. A messenger—a civilian, and not a military man—carrying three or four letters from men high in position, and one from General Scott, was therefore immediately dispatched to Philadelphia. He had an interview, and delivered his letters sometime toward midnight of last Thursday. It is not known that the fact was communicated to any other person than Mr. Lincoln on that night. Mr. Lincoln, therefore, was apprised of the deviation from the published plan of his journey before he left Philadelphia. The messenger then went on to make arrangements for the special train which conveyed Mr. Lincoln from Harrisburg the next morning."

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