Saturday, July 4, 2015

The 4th Of July Is A Good Day To Ponder Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

On July 4, 1776, the day the Continental Congress finally voted for Independence from Great Britain, future president, John Adams, wrote his wife, telling Mrs. Adams that today "ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore..."

In 1776 how did John Adams know that America would one day span the continent? It was over a quarter century later that Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase from France and sent Lewis and Clark to check out the new land, all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Those Founding Fathers, including John Adams, were very smart, very forward thinking, coming up with a democratic republic that was the first on earth.

Less than a century after those Founding Fathers founded America the world's first democratic republic was in dire straits, due to rebellious Southern states thinking they could leave the Union to start up their own new nation so as to preserve their odious practice of making slaves of fellow human beings.

Four months after the most deadly battle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln journeyed to the battle site to participate in the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg.

The principle orator at that Gettysburg dedication was not Mr. Lincoln. It was a guy few remember today named Edward Everett, a politician, pastor, educator, diplomat, senator and governor, known for his stirring orations.

Well, Edward Everett's Gettysburg oration lasted over two hours. And was not memorable.

And then it was President Lincoln's turn to speak, a three minute address in which Lincoln predicted "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here."

Mr. Lincoln was wrong. His Gettysburg Address is the most quoted speech in American history. And is known by democracy loving people the world over.

Most of us know the Gettysburg Address by heart, with its iconic opening line of  "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal", so I won't repeat the entire three minute speech here.

The Wikipedia article about Abraham Lincoln has a real good summing up of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address that I will repeat here....

In 272 words, and three minutes, Lincoln asserted the nation was born not in 1789, but in 1776, "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal". He defined the war as an effort dedicated to these principles of liberty and equality for all. The emancipation of slaves was now part of the national war effort. He declared that the deaths of so many brave soldiers would not be in vain, that slavery would end as a result of the losses, and the future of democracy in the world would be assured, that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth". Lincoln concluded that the Civil War had a profound objective: a new birth of freedom in the nation.

A new birth of freedom, with actual freedom for all the people living in America. A war to preserve what was then the world's one and only democratic republic.

Now I am wondering if people in the states which were part of the Confederacy actually do grow up knowing Lincoln's Gettysburg Address?

Lately I think we have learned the majority of the people who live in the states which made up the Confederacy now realize those state's rebellion against the Union, to preserve slavery, was not a noble cause, not then, and certainly not now, a century and a half later.

Anyway, have a safe and fun 4th of July doing what President John Adams suggested a long time ago, with hot dogs added, because I am sure if John Adams knew hot dogs were in America's future, he would have mentioned that in his 4th of July suggestions to his wife....


James Williams, Ft Worth, Texas said...

Tariffs not slavery were the major cause of the War of Northern Aggression,my friend.

Happy Independence Day.

Durango said...

Mr. Williams, I think it might behoove you to Google "American Civil War" or maybe go to a library and look the subject up in an encyclopedia. I suspect you must have been taught what you think you know about the Civil War whilst in a class room located in the long gone Confederacy.

Despite compromises in 1820 and 1850, the slavery issues exploded in the 1850s. Causes include controversy over admitting Missouri as a slave state in 1820, the acquisition of Texas as a slave state in 1845 and the status of slavery in western territories won as a result of the Mexican–American War and the resulting Compromise of 1850. Following the U.S. victory over Mexico, Northerners attempted to exclude slavery from conquered territories in the Wilmot Proviso; although it passed the House, it failed in the Senate. Northern (and British) readers recoiled in anger at the horrors of slavery as described in the novel and play Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe. Irreconcilable disagreements over slavery ended the Whig and Know Nothing political parties, and later split the Democratic Party between North and South, while the new Republican Party angered slavery interests by demanding a definite end to its expansion. Most observers believed that without expansion slavery would eventually die out; Lincoln argued this in 1845 and 1858.

With tobacco and cotton wearing out the soil, the South believed it needed to expand slavery. Some advocates for the Southern states argued in favor of reopening the international slave trade to populate territory that was to be newly opened to slavery. Southern demands for a slave code to ensure slavery in the territories repeatedly split the Democratic Party between North and South by widening margins.

To settle the dispute over slavery expansion, Abolitionists and proslavery elements sent their partisans into Kansas, both using ballots and bullets. In the 1850s, a violent conflict in Bleeding Kansas led pro-South Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan to attempt a forced admission of Kansas as a slave state through vote fraud. The 1857 Congressional rejection of the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution was the first multi-party solid-North vote, and that solid vote was anti-slavery to support the democratic majority voting in the Kansas Territory. Violence on behalf of Southern honor reached the floor of the Senate in 1856 when a Southern Congressman, Preston Brooks, physically assaulted Republican Senator Charles Sumner when he ridiculed prominent slaveholders as pimps for slavery.

As for tariff disputes bringing on the Civil War. Historians in the 1920s emphasized the tariff issue but since the 1950s they have minimized it, noting that few Southerners in 1860–61 said it was of central importance to them. Some secessionist documents do mention the tariff issue, though not nearly as often as the preservation of slavery.

Again, clearly your "history" education must have been acquired in a school located somewhere in the former Confederacy.

Steve A said...

Everett WA was named after a child named in honor of Edward Everett.

Martin Burwash said...

Slavery was the catalyst, no doubt about that....but most of the foot soldiers had no stake in that institution. In fact, mechanical farming was already beginning to spell its doom. That said, slavery was an issue the common folks could grasp and carry forward.

State's rights vs. Federal rights was the true political issue. That we all know. Add to that the economic forces at play. Northern industry and the nation as a whole made a shit ton of money off of Southern ag and trade. They could ill afford to see that positive balance of trade "go south" so to speak. Getting that trade money back in DC's coffers where it was needed was also a big factor.

Lots to ponder indeed. But yes, A.L. hit the nail on the head that day. No one has come close since. Just remember to put the emphasis where most Lincoln scholars believe he did that day....

".....government of the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE....most emphasize the prepositions, but that doesn't carry the same weight as how Lincoln most likely delivered the speech.

Stenotrophomonas said...

@James Williams:
Go here:
and do a search for "tariff" and any synonyms you can think of.

Then we can talk about education in the South and whether we still retain anything from 1776.

Steve A said...

We ARE talking about the "War of the Rebellion" here, are we not? This is the war in which Sam Houston was bodily thrown out of Office as Texas Governor simply for being a loyal American.

Durango said...

Steve A, apparently Sam Houston had no problem with those tariffs that caused the Rebels to rebel....