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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Like Rivals, Too

Normally, I would let this argument go by now, but I can't bear half baked history passing as truth. From our reader:
Lincoln "freed the slaves" in order to bankrupt the South. Period. Great man. Sheesh! Politicians always sell us their ideas by convincing us that it's good for us (or good for someone). We fought in Kuwait to free the people - a noble, humanitarian cause. Right. There just happened to be oil there, too. Lucky us! Men and women BOTH have a fallen, sinful nature in need of redemption. We cannot do this by ourselves, folks. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Let's swallow our pride, bury the hatchet, get to confession, and begin anew!

I used to believe that about Lincoln, too. Then I read books. History and humans are much more complex than than. Lincoln the man was an intensely complex creature, capable of growth, change and evolution in his beliefs. Thus it was for him on the question of slavery

He did free the slaves to bankrupt the South. It was indeed a move to end the war when the South would not give up. But he did not do it for that sole purpose. Do you know why the Civil War was fought in the first place? It had a lot to to with Western expansion and whether or not the new states would be allowed to have slavery. Individual states had already abolished slavery, but slaves owners desperately wanted to expand their wealth by buying land and having slaves to work it. The argument in the election (the one in which Lincoln ran and won), was whether or not slavery would continue to be a states rights issue, with states deciding for themselves to be slave or free states. The party that won said no. War ensued.

Lincoln could have simply put an end to slavery in the South (just the South) by Executive Order. He got rid of the right of Habeas Corpus during the war that way. But he didn't. He went for a Constitutional Amendment that would abolish slavery once and for all in the United States. It wasn't easy. You have to get  lot of people on board.

Before we look at how that happened, let's read up on what Mr. Lincoln thought about the institution of slavery.

Lincoln on slavery.

Please take note of the dates of his comments. Some are while he was running for office, some while in office, some before. They are complex thoughts that sometimes contradict each other. That's politics. That's humanity. That's a man who had to hold a country that was torn apart together, who toyed with the idea that the intensely grim civil war was a punishment for a country that refused to abolish slavery for over 100 years. If you read a lot of his writings, you'll find a man who felt that we deserved the civil war and all its horrors. It didn't make him any less determined to end it.

He said he would to anything to keep the country together, including keep slavery. He also said that the war's end would end slavery once and for all. And this is how it all went down. They didn't have enough votes to amend the Constitution, so they made Nevada a state:

      In order thus to amend the Constitution, it was necessary first to have the proposed amendment approved by three-fourths of the States. When that question came to be considered, the issue was seen to be so close that one State more was necessary. The State of Nevada was organized and admitted into the Union to answer that purpose.

In March, 1864, the question of allowing Nevada to form a State government finally came up in the House of Representatives. There was strong opposition to it. For a long time beforehand the question had been canvassed anxiously. At last, late one afternoon, the President came into my office, in the third story of the War Department. He used to come there sometimes rather than send for me, because he was fond of walking and liked to get away from the crowds in the White House. He came in and shut the door.

'Dana,' he said, 'I am very anxious about this vote. It was got to be taken next week. The time is very short. It is going to be a great deal closer than I wish it was.'

'There are plenty of Democrats who will vote for it,' I replied. 'There is James E. English, of Connecticut; I think he is sure, isn't he?'

'Oh, yes; he is sure on the merits of the question.'

'Then,' said I, 'there's 'Sunset' Cox, of Ohio. How is he?'

'He is sure and fearless. But there are some others that I am not clear about. There are three that you can deal with better than anybody else, perhaps, as you know them all. I wish you would send for them.'

He told me who they were; it isn't necessary to repeat the names here. One man was from New Jersey and two from New York.

'What will they be likely to want?' I asked.

'I don't know,' said the President; 'I don't know. It makes no difference, though, what they want. Here is the alternative: that we carry this vote, or be compelled to raise another million, and I don't know how many more, men, and fight no one knows how long. It is a question of three votes or new armies.'

'Well, sir,' said I, 'what shall I say to these gentlemen?'

'I don't know,' said he; 'but whatever promise you make to them I will perform.'

I sent for the men and saw them one by one. I found that they were afraid of their party They said that some fellows in the party would be down on them. Two of them wanted internal revenue collector's appointments. 'You shall have it,' I said. Another one wanted a very important appointment about the custom house of New York. I knew the man well whom he wanted to have appointed. He was a Republican, though a congressman was a Democrat. I had served with him in the Republican county committee of New York. The office was worth perhaps twenty thousand dollars a year. When the congressman stated the case, I asked him, 'Do you want that?'

'Yes,' said he.

'Well,' I answered, 'you shall have it.'

'I understand, of course,' said he, 'that you are not saying this on your own authority?'

'Oh, no,' said I; 'I am saying it on the authority of the President.'

Well, these men voted that Nevada be allowed to form a State government, and thus they helped secure the vote which was required. The next October the President signed the proclamation admitting the State. In the February following, Nevada was one of the States which ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, by which slavery was abolished by constitutional prohibition in all of the United States. I have always felt that this little piece of side politics was one of the most judicious, humane, and wise uses of executive authority that I have ever assisted in or witnessed. --War Department Official Charles A. Dana
Historian Fawn M. Brodie wrote: "The Radicals were greatly encouraged when in October, 1864, Maryland by popular vote amended her constitution and abolished slavery. Lincoln, elated said to a friend, "It is worth many victories in the field. It clears up a piece of ground.'" The President's reelection in November 1864 further laid the groundwork for its final passage. Rather than waiting for a new Congress to take their seats, President Lincoln appealed to the Congress that had already rejected the amendment. In his last message to that Congress in December 1864, President Lincoln wrote:
 "At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution abolishing slavery throughout the United States, passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives. Although the present is the same Congress, and nearly the same members, and without questioning the wisdom or patriotism of those who stood in opposition, I venture to recommend the reconsideration and passage of the measure at the present session. Of course the abstract question is not changed; but an intervening election shows, almost certainly, that the next Congress will pass the measure if this does not. Hence there is only a question of time as to when the proposed amendment will go to the States for their action. And as it is to so go, at all events, may we not agree that the sooner the better? It is not claimed that the election has imposed a duty on members to change their views or their votes, any further than, as an additional element to be considered, their judgment may be affected by it. It is the voice of the people now, for the first time, heard upon the question. In a great national crisis, like ours, unanimity of action among those seeking a common end is very desirable almost indispensable. And yet no approach to such unanimity is attainable, unless some deference shall be paid to the will of the majority, simply because it is the will of the majority. In this case the common end is the maintenance of the Union; and, among the means to secure that end, such will, through the election, is most clearly declared in favor of such constitutional amendment."

He knew what he was doing. He was crippling the South, bringing the war to a swifter end. He was adding soldiers to the Union Army by allowing the now freed men to fight. And he was ending slavery once and for all in the United States.  All of these things are part of the same equation. One thing can't be separated from the rest, especially when you understand the history leading up to the conflict itself. And Lincoln.

When he ran for office, if you read some of what he said in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, you'll meet a man who doesn't believe in slavery, but one who also doesn't believe that black people are equal to white people. When you meet Lincoln days before his death, you'll meet a man who believed in equal rights for black men and urged suffrage for blacks. John Wilkes Booth, a white supremest and Southern sympathizer, was in the crowd listening to that speech and  was so incensed by Lincoln's embrace of equal rights for all he said, "That is the last speech he will ever make." Booth went and bought a fast little mare.

Three days later, he shot Lincoln dead. Because of what Lincoln believed about slavery and equality.

 I highly recommend Doris Kearns Goodman's "Team of Rivals", which follows Lincoln and his cabinet members through all their lives and beliefs.

Lincoln evolved. I hope the same for you, dear reader.

Hey! Our next set of booklets are almost done! Maybe by tomorrow!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister Mary Martha. Thank you for your blog. I have been wondering about something. When my rosary and Miraculous medal were blessed the priest had me go to a water font and "seal the deal" as he said and put the water on myself. Do I need to have them blessed again so it really counts?