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Happy Time Warp, tyrnn and ceruleanst!

Okay, for some reason LiveJournal thought the day was yesterday, but also thinks it's today. Makes no nevermind to me, have your Forgotten English (© Jeffrey Kacirk) anyway!

A state of being freed from water.
--Rev. John Boag's Imperial Lexicon, c. 1850

Juneteenth Observed
On this date in 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas, became the last to learn of their newfound freedom; Union soldiers reached the city and read Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, by then two and a half years old. Though Lincoln has received much of the credit for the liberation of American slaves, he could hardly have been characterized as being zealously against this evil, at least before becoming president. In the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates on August 21, 1858, he remarked, "I have no purpose, either directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no right to do so." And even as president four years later, just before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, he wrote to Horace Greeley, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."

That's something that drives me absolutely nuts about the Civil War as it's popularly taught and understood. Ask a dozen people on the street and they'll tell you it was to free the slaves -- but it wasn't about slavery and never was. It was about Federal power vs. State power -- from the government P.O.V. slavery was just a propaganda tool that the average Joe in the northern states would get behind. Sorta like WMDs in Iraq. If you are scared that the country is slouching towards totalitarianism [1], thank Abraham Lincoln, he's the one who laid the groundwork for it.

Of course, the reason slavery worked as a hot-button issue is because it was such an evil (duh), which is why the Civil War is still such a problem. Who do you root for, the Overreaching Government, or the Slavers? I'd say a fair assessment is that we all lost on that one. (Except for the slaves -- at least they got something good out of it! Eventually.)

-The Gneech

[1] Despite the best efforts of the Bush administration, and for that matter the Clinton administration before them, I don't believe we're slouching towards totalitarianism. The U.S. has long had a tendency to swing like a pendulum, going from libertine to puritan and back again, and averaging somewhere in the middle. The key is to try to avoid the evils of either extreme.


Jun. 19th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
And here's the rest of the passage -- of that quote referenced in the "Juneteenth" snippet:
I will say here, while upon this subject, that 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, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [Loud cheers.]

I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects-certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man. [Great applause.]
A comment about the "not my [color and maybe moral/intellectual] equal" phrase next.

===|==============/ Level Head
Jun. 19th, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC)
That quote illustrates a lot of things. First, context is everything; the tone of the snippet and placed with the larger context are vastly different.

Secondly, and more importantly, I think it illustrates Lincoln's ambivalence about the issue of race very well, and I've seen similar sort of statements elsewhere from Lincoln. There is a tendency to either completely valorize him, to think of him some sort of American Messiah, or try to vilify him for not being pure enough. But this sort of uncertainty, while extraordinary at the time from most politicians, shows him to be merely human. I don't think he suffers for the worst of it in the end.
Jun. 19th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
But this sort of uncertainty, while extraordinary at the time from most politicians, shows him to be merely human.

Indeed -- and he was willing to say this much in front of a crowd of people who had just been loudly cheering Judge Douglas. My own take, from a large amount of reading, was that he was more comfortable with social equality than this suggests -- but was easing his potential constituency into the notion.

Don't forget that he had clear and stated goals for equality under the law, even to this crowd, and the social/moral business was something of a political sop.

But judge him by his works, and he fares well indeed on the slavery issue. He would only regret not having been able to make that come to pass without the collateral damage to the country.

===|==============/ Level Head
Jun. 19th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)

My "don't forget" above sounds more pedantic than I intended; it was a conversational turn of phrase in my mind. I recognize that you too have read other Lincoln writings and statements.

===|==============/ Level Head
Jun. 19th, 2007 07:13 pm (UTC)
Don't worry about it. I do the same thing in my own conversations, so I took no offense.

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