Philadelphia Reflections

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Book Review: The Soul of America by Jon Meacham:

The Battle For Our Better Angels.

Lincoln was elected as a former Whig hoping to preserve the Union. The battle for Maryland (Battle of Antietam), depending on its outcome, was to decide whether the war was to free the slaves or to stop only with saving the Union. Lincoln wrote Horace Greeley in August 1862 explaining he was not conducting the war to destroy slavery, although he personally sympathized with the idea.

"If I could save the Union, without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save the Union by freeing every slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving the others alone, I would also do that."

He thus publicly promised his cabinet he planned eventually not to make emancipation the main reason why the war was fought. That was best for every race.

The North would remain free to call it "The Battle to Save the Union" and Jubal Early would eventually be free to call it "The Lost Cause." (Edward Alfred Pollard had apparently started the latter expression.) But it had been a black Harvard professor, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, who had first beaten the drum for black revenge, and he was beating the same drum half a century later. This straddle thus did not originate with Lincoln. Only one side was heard by each combatant. The North only heard “Union”, The South and Jubal Early's Ku Klux Klan was to hear only “The Lost Cause”. The battle cry of revenge lasted more than a century until a hundred thousand colored people got together at the Lincoln Memorial a century after the end of the Civil War, to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. propose peaceful black forgiveness instead of what they expected would be a vengeful bloodbath. It had been a black Harvard professor, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, who started things for vengeance in 1905, and it persisted. In Churchill's phrase, the “Americans always get things right after they have tried everything else”. Robert E. Lee failed to get a Southern victory, Teddy Roosevelt tried to persuade blacks by making using white soldiers to defeat Cubans and Phillipinos. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted the black man to do it the peaceful Christian black way, but it was looking as if his followers would learn that politics had failed him in New York City and California.

An unknown black preacher surprised them by calling for a crusade of peaceful forgiveness. He shortly became a martyr to its cause.

Let's now see if the coronavirus will do the trick or lose the game. The words are sometimes hostile, sometimes conciliatory, but are mostly King's. I personally bet King's way will win. I wish I heard more conciliatory sounds from white women, who fan these flames by continuing to repeat the words of vengeance for their own injustices of a much lower degree. That would help convince the rest of the country that Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations and FDR's United Nations will never be accepted as they now stand. Some compromise must be found between 'One man, one vote' and Democracy, which is essentially 'One vote, which is best for everyone'. We need to discover a way to have them both, but it won't be easy.

Originally published: Monday, April 06, 2020; most-recently modified: Tuesday, June 02, 2020

 

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