“Of, by, and for the people”…? A reflection for Lincoln’s birthday

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Today, the 12th of February, is the birthday of one whom some celebrate as the “savior of his country,” while others of us excoriate as a vicious tyrant who may have “saved the Union,” but who in the process trampled the Constitution and destroyed the Constitutional Republic our Founders bequeathed to us. I refer, of course, to Abraham Lincoln.

Aside from the grossly misnamed “Emancipation Proclamation,” which “emancipated” not a single slave – it applied only to the Confederacy, and areas under CSA control, in which Mr. Lincoln’s writ did not run, and specifically excluded all areas (including those slave states which had remained in the Union, and also formerly Confederate areas then under Union occupation) in which it did – Lincoln is best-known for his “Gettysburg Address,” in which he claims, inter alia, that

“Fourscore and seven years ago, our Fathers brought forth on this continent a new Nation.”

In point of fact, of course, eighty-seven years prior to his 1863 Address, our Founding Fathers declared, in the Declaration of Independence, that “these United Colonies are, and by right ought to be, free and independent States.” Plural. That is something rather different. But of course Lincoln, frontier lawyer that he was, was never one to let truth get in the way of a good line!

He also piously proclaimed that this new Nation (first an alliance, then a Confederacy, and only later a Federal Union: now, arguably, not even so much as that) was “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” True, as far as it goes. But as one commentator has noted, it is interesting – and significant – that he did not follow that thought to its conclusion, in the Declaration, which includes these words:

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it and institute a new Government.”

The reason he did not point this out is obvious; but that he made the reference at all is indicative of the fact that he expected that, even then, not to many of his hearers would be familiar enough with our founding documents to make the connection. He was undoubtedly right, as his words – and not the full quote from the Declaration – have been slavishly repeated, ad nauseam, down through the 150+ years since he made that Address. And given the state of education, currently, there are even fewer now who would make it.

Thus me pointing it out!

He also made, in this Address, the outrageous claim that the War Between the States – the War of Northern Aggression, erroneously called by him (and again, echoed since) the “Civil War” (1) – was fought “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. As H.L. Mencken was later to accurately point out,

“The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history. Put beside it, all the whoopings of the Websters, Sumners and Everetts seem gaudy and silly. It is eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost child-like perfection—the highest emotion reduced to one graceful and irresistible gesture. Nothing else precisely like it is to be found in the whole range of oratory. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous.

But let us not forget that it is oratory, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it.  Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — ‘that government of the people, by the people, for the people,’ should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.

“What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country — and for nearly twenty years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary.”

As the commentator noted above (whose whole essay is well worth a read) points out, “The states that left the Union to join the Confederacy did so in the true sense of the Jeffersonian principle of self-government, as stated in the Declaration. Lincoln’s invasion of the Confederate States stood that idea on its head.” And of course, “Representative democracy would have continued in the Union and in the Confederacy regardless of the outcome” of the War.

Far from preserving liberty, equality, or representative government, the precedent set – of control and domination over the States by the central, Federal government in Washington, D.C. – by that terrible War, which killed half a million Americans entirely without need (2), continues to echo down through the ages, to our detriment.

This is what you are celebrating, if you choose to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday.

Please – think about it.


1)  A civil war is one fought between two or more factions for control of the central government. The Confederacy had no desire to run the Union! It merely wished to withdraw from it, and to enjoy the freedom to work out its own destiny in peace.

2)  The ending of slavery was emphatically, and by Lincoln’s own admission, not the aim of the War, and even if it had been, is it logical that the U.S., alone among the nations of the world, needed a horrific and destructive war to end an institution all the others ended peacefully?

 

Gettysburg Address: Still Balderdash After 150 (+) Years | James Bovard

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“I am mystified by all the whooping on the… anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Most of the commentators seem to believe that Lincoln was an honest man touting the highest ideals.”

Source: Gettysburg Address: Still Balderdash After 150 Years – James Bovard

November 19th of this year of grace 2019 was the 156th anniversary of Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

Along with his “Emancipation” Proclamation, which did not emancipate a single slave (*), it is the basis for the Northern/Federalist mythologizing of both Lincoln as the preserver of the Union (which is true, although at gunpoint, and at tremendous cost to the Founders’ vision of that Union) and liberator of the slaves (which is a bald-faced lie), and the War Between the States as a “civil war” and a conflict between freedom and oppression.

Well, it was not a civil war: a civil war is a war between two or more factions for control of the central government; the WBTS was an invasion of a group of States, who wanted only to be left alone, by another group of States – at the behest of the Federal government – which was violently determined not to leave them in peace.

It was, in fact, a war between freedom and oppression; but not in the way the Lincolnites and supporters of the “Glorious Union” would like us to believe. As one commenter has accurately noted, H.L. Menken had Lincoln pegged 100 years ago:

“The Gettysburg speech was at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history… the highest emotion reduced to a few poetical phrases. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous. But let us not forget that it is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense.

“Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth.

“It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.”

(For a more detailed treatment of Mencken on Lincoln, go here.)

And as the linked essay points out,

“Massachusetts abolitionist Lysander Spooner” – of all people! – “offered the most concise refutation to President Lincoln’s claim that the Civil War was fought to preserve a ‘government by consent.’ Spooner observed, ‘The only idea . . . ever manifested as to what is a government of consent, is this – that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot.'”

That was certainly the case with the Federal Union, in the War Between the States (a.k.a. War of Northern Aggression)! And it has been, by and large, ever since.

On the subject of liberating the slaves: I wonder how many people who hail Lincoln as “the Great Emancipator” realize that his much-vaunted Proclamation did not emancipate a single slave. And why? Because it applied only to areas – Confederate-controlled areas – in which his writ did not run.

It specifically did not apply to any area in or held by the Union! And why was that? Because, as he was very well aware, slavery was still PERMITTED BY THE CONSTITUTION in the “Glorious Union,” and he had absolutely no authority to change that, short of a Constitutional Amendment – which did not occur until after the War (though passed by a Congress in which the Southern States were not represented early in 1865, it was not ratified by the requisite number of States until December 6th of that year).

Now, granted, he did a lot of other things he had no Constitutional authority to do! But I think he was smart enough to realize that if he tried to end slavery inside the Union without an Amendment to the Constitution, he’d be losing several more states, and most likely, the War. And he had already made it clear that he didn’t give a hoot about slavery, one way or the other, as a matter of policy – just about keeping the Union together.

The “Emancipation” Proclamation was a very narrow and (I’m sorry to say) well-designed political and military “poison pill” to make it look like he was doing something about slavery when, in fact, he wasn’t; and to dissuade nations like Britain and France who were debating coming in on the side of the Confederacy, but didn’t want to look like they were defending slavery.

Lincoln was an @$$hole – pardon me – but he was a clever @$$hole… We sometimes forget, I think, that before he was President, he was a frontier lawyer! As one might expect of such an individual, he was very good at manipulating both facts and people to advance his agenda.


Side note: Washington, DC, emancipated its slaves in 1862, with the DC Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862, passed by the Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The act ended slavery in Washington, DC, freed 3,100 individuals, reimbursed those who had legally owned them and offered the newly freed women and men money to emigrate.

A good example of the correct way to do it, as distinct from what actually happened in the aftermath of the WBTS…

 

A Pledge to the Confederate Flag, by John Field Pankow

Raise Your Battle Flag” (partial) by Celtic Confederate. – this excerpt includes footage from flag-raisings by the Virginia Flaggers. Full version may be found here.

I have not posted much of a Confederate or Southern culture and heritage nature lately, as other issues have taken center stage for the time being. But that does not mean that I have lost my passion for the Southern Confederacy, which (as a friend of mine is wont to points out) “was wrong about slavery” – although many even among the elite recognized it as a moral as well as political evil, and most Confederate soldiers never owned a single slave – “but right about everything else!”

Here, then, by permission , is a Pledge to the Confederate Flag, by my friend John Field Pankow:

I pledge my allegiance to the flag of the Confederacy and to the ideals for which it stood and stands: liberty, honor, chivalry, independence, courage, duty, and love of God, family and home.

On my honor, I promise never to forget the just cause to which so many devoted their lives. I promise to do my best to see that their proud history is truly reported and not defamed. May my voice be strong and true as I tell the story of this flag and its people to my children and their children, and all else who will listen.

And if the time comes when the flag requires my defense, may I have the courage, the strength, and the honor to defend it, at all costs, with all that I have and all that I am.

This I pledge on my sacred word of honor.

John Field Pankow

To which I would add:

(The Rev’d) Thomas H. Harbold

Of course, it could be argued that there is not one single “Confederate flag.” There were three National flags, just in the four years of the Confederacy, and many battle flags, not just “the” Battle Flag, as it has become known.

The First National (1861) was the “Stars and Bars” properly speaking – distinct from, but intentionally similar to, the “Betsy Ross” version of the Stars and Stripes – and that came in four variations (with 7, 9, 11, or 13 stars in the canton), depending on how many states were in the Confederacy at the time:

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The Second National (1863), also known as the “Stainless Banner,” was the first to incorporate the “St. Andrew’s Cross” or “saltire” design as found on the Army of Northern Virginia’s Battle Flag:

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And the third and final design, the Third National (1865), or the “Bloodstained Banner,” added a vertical red bar, primarily to prevent the flag from being mistaken for a flag of truce when hanging from a staff with no wind:

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And of course, there is the one that is best known, called “the Battle Flag,” or “the Rebel Flag”: technically the “Second Naval Jack” (1863-1865). Variations were also used by several field armies (usually square ones closer to the canton of the Second and Third National flags), most notably (as mentioned above) by General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Here is the version usually seen today:

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It was this flag that has become the one most closely associated with the Confederacy in the popular imagination: loved and revered, or hated and despised, according to one’s sympathies. When people say “the” Confederate Flag, this is generally the one meant.

Needless to say, I fall into the “loved and revered” camp! And since we are still in a battle – a “cold civil war,” as some have termed it, or a “second Reconstruction,” as others have noted – it is this flag, the Battle Flag, that I think of when I read John’s Pledge. I encourage others who wish to “sign on” to the Pledge to do so in the comments. God bless, and Deo vindice (“God will vindicate us”)!

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Robert E. Lee | Abbeville Institute

Source: Ten Things You Don’t Know About Robert E. Lee | Abbeville Institute

General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, CSA (and later and for a time, all Confederate forces), was one of my first heroes and role models, and he remains so to this day. He was not only a great general (if I ever speak of “the General,” without further modification, I am speaking of Lee), but a great Christian gentleman.

But although he was a great man, he was not a perfect man: those who do not understand how both statements can be true understand little of human nature, or indeed of the nature of reality. The linked article does not whitewash the General, but it definitely shows his greatness. Well worth a read, and I commend it, dear readers, to your attention.

One note: I am not a huge fan (to put it mildly) of Federal Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. He permitted, if not actually enabled, the horrific actions of Sherman and Sheridan; and he was little more caring for his own men than for his opponents, being willing to sacrifice his own soldiers in a most callous fashion to obtain his victories: it is not without reason that he was nicknamed “Butcher Grant,” by Northern journalists.

But he was not entirely without honour, either, at least toward people he considered to be personal friends – as he apparently did General Lee, with whom he had served in the Mexican War. It is well-known that he gave honourable terms to the surrendering Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, even allowing the Confederate soldiers to keep their rifles (a major concession, for a defeated army).

What is less well-known is his personal intervention on Lee’s behalf, after the War, as recounted here:

“Later, when Lee was indicted for treason by a federal grand jury, with the threat of arrest and possible execution hanging over him, he appealed to Grant, noting that the terms of his army’s surrender included the stipulation—drafted by Grant himself—that ‘each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.’

“Grant concurred with Lee’s interpretation and urged Lee to apply for a federal pardon, which Grant said he would endorse. Lee did so, sending the documents to Grant, who indeed forwarded them on to President Andrew Johnson with his endorsement. (The application would be ‘lost,’ and Lee’s citizenship would not be restored until 1975—but that is another story.) What Lee did not know was that Grant quietly let it be known that he would resign from the army if Lee were to be arrested.”

I believe in giving credit where due, and this action is certainly to Grant’s credit. I will only add that it’s a shame his sense of honour was not a bit more general. But, again, human nature is what it is…

 

Defy Mob Justice by Celebrating the Life of Robert E. Lee | Crisis Magazine

The acting assumption seems to be that if only we can erase any memory of the Confederacy and slavery, racism will finally be a thing of the past… [However,] it’s worth pointing out that before we tear men apart, or tear down their statues, we are duty bound to know the facts of the case, no matter our personal feelings toward, or disagreements with, the male in question.

Source: Defy Mob Justice by Celebrating the Life of Robert E. Lee – Crisis Magazine

Today marks the anniversary of the passing of General Robert E. Lee – “Marse Robert” (“Master Robert”), to his devoted men – in 1870, just over five years after he had reluctantly surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, in the realization that he had done all he could do, and prolonging the conflict any further would simply result in still more senseless death and destruction.

Although he was the greatest of many great Southern generals (and indeed, among the greatest military leaders of any land and of any time), he had never been a secessionist, and only reluctantly resigned his commission in the United States Army when it became clear that he would have to choose between what he – along with many, both North and South – saw as a voluntary Union of sovereign States, and his beloved home state of Virginia, “the Old Dominion”: it would not be possible to remain loyal to both.

He also was personally opposed to slavery, holding it to be a “great moral and political evil,” but believed that its abolition should be gradual and equitable to all parties concerned – rather than the sudden, violent, and disorganized way in which it actually occurred, which has contributed to both resentment, and many practical problems, ever since. In this, I think he was rather prescient. Continue reading “Defy Mob Justice by Celebrating the Life of Robert E. Lee | Crisis Magazine”

“… of the people, by the people, for the people…”

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Notwithstanding Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” did not “perish from the earth” when the Southern States withdrew from a Union they had voluntarily entered into. It perished when they were driven back into it at the point of the bayonet.

— H.V. “Bo” Traywick, Jr.

 

Just sayin’…….

 

 

“How RUSSIA Saved The Union’s Ass In The Civil War” | The Burning Platform

The arrival of the Russian fleet to New York and San Francisco “unleashed an immense wave of euphoria in the North.” “The Russian visit… ended the last chance of European intervention.”

Source: How RUSSIA Saved The Union’s Ass In The Civil War – The Burning Platform

Very interesting indeed! And timely, in light of all the attention Russia is getting these days.

It is only fairly recently (within the last year) that I had become aware that Russia supported the Union at all, and I had no idea how decisively. The unspoken subtext to this article, though, is that even the American Civil War (War Between the States) was part of the “Great Game” between Great Britain and Russia for world dominance.

Wonder if it was a memory of this history that led the US to basically seek to impoverish Britain and end her Empire in exchange for American assistance during the World Wars!