Google has decided to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address by "showcasing" digital copies of all five versions of Abraham Lincoln's iconic speech. The company said that the Google Cultural Institute exhibit showcases not only the address itself, but the history leading up to and after Lincoln delivered the …
Gettysburg Adress: Still Balderdash after 150 Years
James Bovard, November 19, 2013
I am mystified by all the whooping on the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Most of the commentators seem to believe that Lincoln was an honest man touting the highest ideals.
The fact that warmongers like George W. Bush and Obama purport to idolize Lincoln should be a warning sign to attentive folks.
Massachusetts abolitionist Lysander Spooner offered the most concise refutation to President Lincoln’s claim that the Civil War was fought to preserve a “government by consent.” Spooner observed, “The only idea . . . ever manifested as to what is a government of consent, is this—that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot.”
The main lesson from the Gettysburg address is – the more vehemently a president equates democracy with freedom, the greater the danger he likely poses to Americans’ rights. Lincoln was by far the most avid champion of democracy among nineteenth century presidents—and the president with the greatest visible contempt for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Lincoln swayed people to view national unity as the ultimate test of the essence of freedom or self-rule. That Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, jailed 20,000 people without charges, forcibly shut down hundreds of newspapers that criticized him, and sent in federal troops to shut down state legislatures was irrelevant because he proclaimed “that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Lincoln’s rhetoric cannot be judged apart from the actions he authorized to enforce his “ideals”:
In a September 17, 1863, letter to the War Department, Gen. William Sherman wrote: “The United States has the right, and … the … power, to penetrate to every part of the national domain. We will remove and destroy every obstacle — if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper.” President Lincoln liked Sherman’s letter so much that he declared that it should be published.
On June 21, 1864, before his bloody March to the Sea, Sherman wrote to the secretary of war: “There is a class of people [in the South] — men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.”
On October 9, 1864, Sherman wrote to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant: “Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources.” Sherman lived up to his boast — and left a swath of devastation and misery that helped plunge the South into decades of poverty.
General Grant used similar tactics in Virginia, ordering his troops “make all the valleys south of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad a desert as high up as possible.” The Scorched Earth tactics the North used made life far more difficult for both white and black survivors of the Civil War.
Lincoln was blinded by his belief in the righteousness of federal supremacy. His abuses set legions of precedents that subverted the vision of government the Founding Fathers bequeathed to America.
Re: shock horror!
.... whereas all the South wanted to do was continue with slavery - pig ignorant conservatism clashing headlong with far from perfect enlightenment. Oh the humanity.
Re: shock horror!
It is not that simple. There was a lot more to the Civil War than the false dichotomy of "free the slaves" vs "keep the slaves" people have reduced this to. Lincoln was a political hack in the extreme. Slavery didn't need a war to bring it to an end -- in many nations at the time, it ended, simply because it was no longer profitable. (not that slavery has totally ended as of this day -- there is a lot of slavery yet in this world.)
Being right doesn't make the OP wrong
“The only idea . . . ever manifested as to what is a government of consent, is this—that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot.”
It's a fair comment on modern politics. Nobody cares who the hell is locked up in the land of the free so long as they are kept out of sight. Lincoln was Churchillian in his use of canon fodder and couldn't kill Americans fast enough. Churchillian to in his constantly switching generals in the search for better butchers who would do what he wanted.
And just like Churchill, he had his hand on the writing of history. It's no good winning at any price if people wake up to what you did, obviously.
"all the South wanted to do was continue with slavery"
It's hard to imagine a willing populace so hell bent on keeping slavery when the sons were dying like flies. Were slaves worth that much?
And did every family have slaves they valued so much more than their own flesh and blood?
Re: Being right doesn’t make the OP wrong
I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects, given the chronological order, perhaps you meant that Churchill was Lincolnian in the list of actions above? (Unless by Churchillian and cannon fodder, you were referring to Marlborough at Malplaquet?)
Regarding slaves on the eve of the US Civil War, the price of a youthful slave in good health was comparable to that of a small house at the time, roughly five times the annual salary of an average middle-class worker. According to the 1860 US census, 26% of households in what would become the CSA had at least one slave. Were slaves worth that much to the free people of the CSA? We only have the historical record to inform us on their thoughts on the matter.
Re: Being right doesn’t make the OP wrong
On the issue of the US civil war and slavery, would it be pertinent to point out that the emancipation proclamation (the executive order Lincoln passed to free the slaves) only applied to slaves held in the southern states - it did not in any way free slaves held in the actual states of the union (some union states were emancipated, others were not at the time of the proclamation) - it's purpose was not to free all slaves but to fill a big hole in the recruitment drive for the Union armies (specifically provided for in the proclamation).....
The 'freed' slaves, of course, were not granted actual citizenship or given the right to vote or anything like that, either.
@Destroy All Monsters -- Re: Bioshock! -- And remember these undisputed facts!
Remember these undisputed facts:
(a) The Union under Lincoln started the Civil War, not the South.
- Just one instance of the many early warmongering efforts by the North: Lincoln's scheming little warmongering mate, the Zouave, Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, who Lincoln so idolised you'd reckon they were having an affair, was ramping up trouble with his Zouave Cadets in 1860 many months before Sumter—long before he, Ellsworth, crossed the Potomac with a few mates into Alexandria, Virginia to tear down a Confederate flag from the Marshall House Inn, where in so doing its southern owner shot him dead.
- Lincoln, in the months between his election and inauguration did nothing and said nothing whatsoever to ameliorate or placate people on both sides; the heat for war ramped up during this time. After his inauguration, he was more intent on saving the Union than avoiding war or protecting his citizens from war. To Lincoln, the Union was more paramount than the lives of his soldiers or those from the South—both American citizens; simply, his deeds and actions can't be read any other way. Either the Gettysburg address was a hollow gesture made for political purposes, or it was his contrition and remorse for letting events get totally out of hand—events that he as president could have and should have stopped!
- The way the Confederate's bombarding of Fort Sumter started was because of incompetent handling of the Fort Sumter tensions by the Union. Major Robert Anderson's actions of moving his federal troops from Fort Moultrie to Sumter turned into a disaster the North could have avoided (Anderson's hardly to blame, as commander, he had to protect his troops). The real problem was screwed-up politics in Lincoln's War Department (too long to explain here except to mention that Lincoln's secretary of war, John Floyd, was playing a double game that Lincoln as commander-in-chief didn't get on top of) hence Sumter smouldered and eventually exploded.
- And there's much more...
(b) NO MATER HOW ONE DOES THE SUMS, President Abraham Lincoln presided over the most deadly of wars in American history—in the Civil War there were more casualties and deaths of mainly young Americans than for the total of ALL other wars that US has ever been involved in. I repeat, there were more Americans casualties in the Civil War than for WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc. combined—upward of one million soldiers! Lincoln's war record is just diabolical by any measure—no other commander in American history comes even close.
For various reasons, Lincoln's historical memory has had a charmed life but it's high time it was reassessed. No doubt, the Gettysburg speech, his assassination and the fact that the North was victorious contributed to Lincoln's idolisation over the last century and a half but cold hard facts speak for themselves. Nevertheless, to me it seems improbable that any reasonable reassessment of Lincoln is likely to come from within the US as this issue is still far too with raw for most Americans to handle with any objectivity.
Why should we outsiders so concern ourselves with American history? It's simple really, US hegemony—US worldview and its imperial role in the world today—essentially stems from the North's dominance over the South. American attitudes to governance, power, their self-righteousness and belief they've a right to impose their views on the world essentially stem from the outcome of the Civil War. Even though these views were prevalent at independence and onward, the Civil War reinforced them.
Issues over Lincoln and the Civil War are no longer just the concerns of the US; by its actions the US has ensured that they now belong to us as well.
@Uffish -- Re: shock horror!
... whereas all the South wanted to do was continue with slavery...
...And righted by Lincoln and the North at the cost of nearly one million war casualties--young Americans in the prime of life.
A pretty terrible price to pay to end an institution that was already on its way out. A real statesman would have found a better way.
My favorite version of the Gettysburg Address ...
... is also the best critique of PowerPoint that I have seen to date.
Re: My favorite version of the Gettysburg Address ...
I love the Organizational Overview (slide 5 of 6) -utterly, utterly, useless!
Re: My favorite version of the Gettysburg Address ...
Lincoln was a massive ass who paved the road away from the rule of law for the political class. In his push for equality he created a completely seperate class of privileged leaders. He did free the slaves in the South, and that's a good thing, but he did it the wrong way. The entire world is still paying for it. Meh, he was just a lawyer though, I guess nobody can be surprised he screwed everybody to reach his own goals.
Anyway, I don't see this as a 'big thing' for Google, I see it as a massive failure on the parts of our higher education and interpretive learning (museums) institutions. Those institutions should have done this ages ago. They were too busy dicking around with the Commercialization of learning to bother actually doing something educational though.
I find it wholly unsatisfactory that educational institutions have not only prioritized a commercial route over their stated mission, they dropped the ball on the Commercialization front to a commercial entity. They failed twice!
Christ on a stick. Putting business people in charge of education is possibly the single dumbest thing this country has ever done. We could save shitloads of money if we just closed the universities and gave everybody a Chromebook, a Nexus and a never ending prescription for Xanax. The results couldn't be any worse.
a new nation, conceived in Liberty...
The founding fathers had the idea in a London department store?
Re: a new nation, conceived in Liberty...
No, Liberty was the name of Ben Franklin's favorite sheep. That gets glossed over these days.
* The 150-year-old Gettysburg address is considered to be a public domain work
Yuh mean there's something still left in the public domain after the RIAA and MPAA et al have rampaged and pillaged through all the out-of-copyright material, scanned and tweaked it and thus automatically re-copyrighted everything again.
Unlike them to miss something this important.