Abraham Lincoln is one of our most revered presidents, and I’m wondering what he would think of the state of our nation. If asked what they think they know about Lincoln, many people would say …
Abraham Lincoln is one of our most revered presidents, and I’m wondering what he would think of the state of our nation. If asked what they think they know about Lincoln, many people would say that his primary desire was to end slavery. While it is true that he was an abolitionist from early on, he was also a practical man, and he knew how fragile the very young democracy was. He felt that the Union needed to be preserved, and while he wanted to prevent war through peaceful means, if that was not possible, then better to go to war than to have the Union destroyed.
Imagine what it was like for him. He had been elected with a narrow margin; his name wasn’t even on the ballot in several Southern states. East-coasters were appalled that he had been elected with many regarding him as a kind of illiterate backwoods bumpkin full of his folksy stories. Those who had heard him speak knew better, but that didn’t stop the press from shredding him with their misperceptions. His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, did not escape the journalistic hatchet, as bad in those days as today. Although many acknowledged her charm and social skills, one journalist referred to her as “squatty,” for which she never forgave him. Mary actually made excellent suggestions for her husband’s speeches, for which he relied on her. She was known for her astute assessment of campaign strategies and of the qualifications of potential political appointees. She did not hesitate to speak her mind and was criticized for doing so. Again, nothing new on the journalistic or political front in that.
Several states had seceded or were threatening to during the period between the election and inauguration in March. I’m sure outgoing President Buchanan heartily wished that Lincoln would take over early. It was hardly an ideal scenario for a new president.
Lincoln had said in his speech during the Republican State Convention in 1858, where he was named as the senatorial candidate, that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” He said he did not think the Union could survive half slave and half free. His words were considered radical, and he was urged not to include them, and when he did, they were blamed for his loss to Stephen Douglas.
In his first inaugural speech, Lincoln said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so.” As president, he took an oath to protect the Constitution, and the right to own slaves was protected by the Constitution.
He argued that states did not have the right to break up the Union. It follows that “no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances. The declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.”
Seven states had seceded before Lincoln’s inauguration–Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas–fearing that Lincoln’s opposition to slavery would lead to outlawing it. They formed the Confederate Constitution with Jefferson Davis as the provisional president until elections could be held. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the Confederacy after the inauguration. Citizens of Virginia who did not want to secede formed a new state, West Virginia. Through Union military pressure and political maneuvering, the slave-holding states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri did not secede.
There was a tangle of laws concerning slavery, with different laws operating within states as well as between them. In order to preserve the Union, Lincoln supported allowing slavery to exist in the states that supported the union but outlawing it in states that had seceded. On Jan. 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in rebellious states. It exempted the loyal border slave states as well as portions of the Confederacy that had come under Northern control. All of the provisions depended on military victory by the Union. The Proclamation also announced acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, and by the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.
The Emancipation Proclamation, while not conferring freedom to all slaves, did change the nature of the war, winning the hearts of Americans to move forward in expanding freedom.
Lincoln and his family withstood death threats, impassioned anger, and lies of every order while dealing with the loss of their son, Willie. Additionally, both Lincoln and Mary suffered from chronic depression, migraines, and for Mary debilitating grief. Given all that, surprising everyone including Lincoln, he had an overwhelming re-election victory in 1864 having won the hearts and trust of Americans. (He had asked Frederick Douglass to draft a plan to help as many slaves escape as possible before the November election, in case he lost and could no longer enforce emancipation policies.)
What a comparison to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and throughout the Trump campaign and presidency, with a man who preferred to create and disseminate lies to pursuing truth and protecting the Constitution. What would Lincoln have said to Trump on his unwillingness to admit he had lost the election, and his encouragement of a traitorous insurrection? Would Trump have accused Lincoln of fake news when he said that “acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances?”
But Trump appears unable to think with compassion about anyone but himself, so how could he embrace the whole of America and consider the common good? Unlike Trump, Honest Abe was known for his sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself. He said, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
Most of us Americans are not faithful students of history, but it’s good to take the time to remember and honor the wisdom and actions of those who helped form this country and guard its integrity. It’s good to remember in times of strife that truth and justice may have a chance if we pay attention and choose our actions and our elected officials accordingly.
Your chance is coming, and the first step is next Tuesday with local caucuses, some being held virtually. It is your chance to register, indicate your interest in being a delegate to county and state conventions, and bring resolutions concerning issues you want included in your party’s platform.
The St. Louis DFL Organizing Unit 3 (OU3), which includes Ely and surrounding townships, gives you three ways to register your presence at your caucus.
If you do want to show up in person and fill out the non-attendee forms and submit resolutions, representatives for all area caucuses will be available at the Vermilion Community College Theatre Lobby on Tuesday, Feb. 1 from 6:30-9 p.m..
Or go to dfl.org/caucus/ to Caucus Finder to find your caucus and sign in. Registration and resolution forms can be downloaded, filled out, and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall Lake Township will hold an in-person caucus at VCC with proof of vaccination required.
A third way is to download the forms online and mail forms to Barb Crow, DFL SLC OU3 Board Chair, 200 Mt. Royal Circle, #3187, Duluth, MN, 55803.
You can submit as many platform resolutions as you want and they’ll be considered at the SLC OU3 convention in May.
On the GOP side, you can go to mngop.com to find a link to the Secretary of State’s caucus finder. Enter your zip code to determine your location. In Ely, for example, the GOP caucus will be held at Vermilion Community College. In Tower, the caucus will be held at the Tower Civic Center.
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