Lincoln Discussion Symposium

Full Version: "Constitutional" Quotations from "And There Was Light" by John Meacham
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On a speaking trip in Kansas, Lincoln tried to calm the storm. John Brown's attack "was a violation of law and it was, as all such attacks must be, futile as far as any effect it might have on the extinction of a great evil," Lincoln said. "We have a means provided for the expression of our belief in regard to Slavery -- it is through the ballot box -- the peaceful method provided by the Constitution." (Page 178.)
On Monday, December 14, 1863 -- just after the Gettysburg Address and while Lincoln was still recuperating from smallpox -- Representative James M. Ashley of Ohio had proposed the "submission to the several States of a proposition to amend the national Constitution prohibiting slavery, or involuntary servitude, in all of the States and Territories now owned or which may be hereafter acquired by the United States." The war was proving more than a match for the long-standing federal consensus that had protected slavery where it existed. Battle after battle, casualty count after casualty count, military campaign after military campaign. Northerners who had been willing to let the institution stand were impatient and more open to radical measures. . . . An abolition amendment was approved by the Senate on Friday, April 8 [1864]; the House would narrowly would narrowly fail to muster the necessary two-thirds majority for passage on Wednesday, June 15.

Lincoln had apparently been quietly supportive of the movement before June, but he had also wanted time to gauge public reaction to the proposal before committing himself. [The Republican nominating convention in early June 1864 in] Baltimore gave him the moment he had been looking for. "The unconditional Union men, North and South, perceive [the abolition amendment's importance, and embrace it," the president wrote in the published acceptance of his renomination. "In the joint names of Liberty and Union, let us labor to give it legal form, and practical effect." The Lincoln who went before the voters in 1864, therefore, was unambiguously linked with, and in favor of, the immediate, uncompensated, and permanent abolition of slavery.

(And There Was Light, by John Meacham, Page 327.)
The tide of time was running in favor of abolition. "We can never have an entire peace in this country as long as the institution of slavery remains," said Representative James S. Rollins of Missouri, himself a slave owner.

Lincoln and his men lobbied for the requisite two-thirds majority in the House. It was the right thing to do, and the president believed its success, with border state votes, would at last show the Confederacy that war was done. "The passage of this amendment will clinch the whole subject." Lincoln said: "it will bring the war, I have no doubt, rapidly to a close." Federal appointments, legislative favors, even bribes were rumored to be on offer. "Money will certainly do it, if patriotism fails," one of Seward's agents said. "The greatest measure of the nineteenth century," Thaddeus Stevens remarked, "was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America" -- Lincoln himself. God might be omnipotent, but in this case He needed a bit of help. And Lincoln provided it.

At four o'clock on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 31, 1865, the House approved the Thirteenth Amendment, 119 to 56, with eight members not voting. Lincoln delivered brief but heartfelt remarks at the White House. The amendment, he was reported to have said, "is a King's cure for all the evils. It winds the whole thing up. . . . He could not but congratulate all present, himself, [and] the country and the whole world upon this great moral victory."

(And There Was Light, by John Meacham, Page 354.)
New York Times
By Elisabeth Egan
Jan. 12, 2023, 5:00 a.m. ET

Lincoln’s shadow hovered over Meacham’s childhood, long before he became a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and biographer. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., about 1,000 yards from the Confederate headquarters on Missionary Ridge, site of a Union victory on Nov. 25, 1863.

A week after the battle, The Times published a report from an officer to the War Department, describing the scene: “The storming of the ridge by our troops was one of the greatest miracles in military history. No man who climbs the ascent by any of the roads that wind along its front, can believe that 18,000 men were moved upon its broken and crumbling face, unless it was his fortune to witness the deed.”

Meacham said, “I could still find, in the 1970s, old Civil War bullets in our yard.” He added, “To me, the Civil War was always tactile. It was real.”

So, why did Meacham take so long to turn his sights on Lincoln?

“Because the constitutional order has not been in as perilous a state since Lincoln himself became president,” he explained. “I actually started thinking about it after the 2016 election, wondering if the fears that many of us in the country had about threats to the constitutional order would in fact come to pass. And they did.”
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