Lincoln May Get His Own Day in Virginia

Just a quick update for those of you following the ongoing discussion in Richmond over whether to set aside a day to honor Abraham Lincoln.  The original bill can be found here.  There have been reports that the senate decided against the bill, but what follows is an update from Jeffry Burden, who is involved in the crafting of the legislation:

Per Sen. Marsh’s office: pressure was brought to bear over the last week on various Senators by the good folks at Mt. Vernon, who suggested that the bill be amended to provide another date for a paid “Lincoln Day”, which is not fiscally feasible (or that the bill designate a non-paid State holiday, which was also by law a complete non-starter).

However, Senate Joint Resolution 131 has been introduced in lieu of Senate Bill 43. It will establish February 12 as “Lincoln Day” in the Commonwealth. It does not go to the Governor for approval, so there’s no amendment or veto. Once agreed to by House and Senate, it will be up to Senator Marsh’s committee, the Lincoln Society of Virginia, and others to request that the Governor create the appropriate proclamation and urge appropriate commemorations.

You can read it here, but what follows are a few choice selections from the resolution:

WHEREAS, Abraham Lincoln’s roots run deep within the Commonwealth, and his great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents lived in Virginia; his parents met, married, and lived for a time in the Shenandoah Valley; his great-grandparents and multiple relatives are buried in Virginia in the Lincoln Cemetery at the Lincoln Family Homestead in Rockingham County; there are Lincoln descendants living in the Shenandoah Valley today. During the Civil War, Lincoln’s family in Virginia were slave owners and Confederates, and he visited several Virginia localities, including Petersburg and Richmond, the Confederate capital, in April 1865, just a few days prior to his death[.]

WHEREAS, at the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln rededicated the nation to freedom and democracy, stating, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God 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,” and the principles that he espoused remain a core part of the American value system[.]

And this just in…

HB 527 Establishes the Virginia Slave Commission in the legislative branch of state government for the purpose of addressing contemporary political, economic, educational, and societal issues and public policies whose roots lie in the transatlantic slave trade.

The Commission, among other things, must (i) identify the vestiges and assess the effects of the transatlantic slave trade on African Americans, the Commonwealth, and modern societal problems and public policies, (ii) explore and showcase the contributions of African Americans in building Virginia and the nation, (iii) determine the educational and economic value to the Commonwealth of preserving sites and facilities of historic and archaeological significance to African American culture and contributions, and (iv) recommend feasible and appropriate options to resolve lingering societal problems whose roots lie in slavery. Patron Del. McQuinn.

I’ve said it before, this is not your grandfather’s Civil War commemoration.

120 comments… add one

  • Allen Jan 25, 2012

    It didn’t take more than a couple of clicks to determine that the patrons/sponsors of both of these bits of foolishness are black legislators, both Democrats, from the Richmond area. So, no, it’s not my grandfather’s Civil War commemoration, is it?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

      Why should it matter that they are Democrats and black any more than the political affiliations and race of those who were responsible for earlier monuments and memorials?

      • Allen Jan 25, 2012

        Did I say it mattered? I think not. But the simple reality is that I “knew” what I would find out before I even checked into it.

      • Gregg Jones Jan 26, 2012

        I think Kevin’s point is good. I don’t want to have a Lincoln day for personal reasons. However if the democratic process passes a law that Virginia will have a Lincoln day, so be it.

    • Michael Douglas Jan 25, 2012

      Your point being. . .?
      Why are the sponsors’ ethnicity and political affiliation of particular note to you?

      By the way, I guess this kind of is one of *my* grandfathers’ Civil War commemoration. The one who fought with the USCT. The other one, the slaveholder who fought for the CSA, already has his. . .in spades, as it were. [no pun intended]
      ;-)

      • Allen Jan 25, 2012

        My point being that this is Virginia we’re talking about, which last I heard was still in the south and was still a former Confederate state. The likelihood of a white, Republican, and rural legislator proposing such things seems remote.

        While I’m at it, I fail to see what a “slavery commission” has to do with the sesquicentennial. The language reproduced here doesn’t even mention the war.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

          The Virginia that I know is part of the United States of America.

          • Allen Jan 25, 2012

            Factually correct. And also non-responsive. I should be used to that by now. Right?

            • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

              I apologize for my shortcomings.

        • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

          I too feel like marking these two bills as attempts to celebrate the sesquicentennial in Virginia is extremely misguided.

          • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

            You may already have visited Robert Moore’s site, but if not I highly recommend reading his post. Robert lives in the Shenandoah Valley and has deep roots in Virginia.

            • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

              Great recommendation, thanks!

        • Michael Douglas Jan 25, 2012

          “The likelihood of a white, Republican, and rural legislator proposing such things seems remote.”

          Yeah, I suppose it would be rather politically incorrect for that demographic to sponsor such bills.

          However, not everyone who lives in the former states of the Confederacy follows in lock step with Confederate apologists. I daresay most realize that they live in a state that is an integral part of the United States of America now and that the Confederacy died long ago.

          As for the slavery commission, I’d need to know a bit more about it before passing any judgment, but it seems a laudable project. Perhaps it’s a reaction to having an entire segment of the American population and its involvement in the war suppressed, ignored or marginalized for 150 years. I can see, though, that it will stick in the craw of those who have “issues” with any of the truths of American chattel slavery and its aftermath being discussed. I “know” that just as you “knew” what you would discover about the legislation.

          • Allen Jan 25, 2012

            Politically correct or incorrect doesn’t have anything to do with it, as I suspect you well know. It’s a simple matter of probability.

            As for the Slavery Commission, I have no problem with studying or preserving any aspect of American history, particularly that which may have been previously marginalized. Unfortunately, it’s my judgement that in these times elevating one aspect of history necessarily involves marginalizing another. Further, this is not just a historic preservation proposal. The language of the proposal itself states that it is for “the purpose of addressing contemporary political, economic, educational, and societal issues and public policies”. Add that to item “(iv) recommend feasible and appropriate options to resolve lingering societal problems whose roots lie in slavery” and the whole thing starts to smack of reparations. Whatever your opinion of reparations might be, it has little or nothing to do with the sesquicentennial.

        • Pat Young Jan 25, 2012

          Lincoln isn’t the hero of Republicans any more? My father’s family has been Republican for 150 years. Anyone who does not revere Lincoln can only be considered a Republican in name only.

          Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men

  • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

    Very interesting developments…

    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

      Indeed.

      Nice to hear from you.

  • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

    I admire Virginia for attempting to take an active role in acknowledging the sesquicentennial, HOWEVER, could they be more misguided?

    Regarding the Abraham Lincoln bill…

    I am really stunned at the inappropriateness of this bill…why don’t we give every person in history a day in every state? If Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania or Illinois (states that he actually DID something worthwhile in) want to give him a holiday so be it, but Virginia seems to have little tie to Lincoln himself except for that some of his family lived here and he passed through from time-to-time.

    This is simply a PC move and another attempt to waste money and tax dollars – both typical of our government these days.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

      Are all decisions PC that you happen to disagree with or just this one? The resolution states why it was proposed so what about it specifically do you disagree with? Let’s get to some substance and loose the vague references that don’t really tell us much beyond the fact that you disapprove, which is your right to do so.

      • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

        Have I been a repeat commenter who states that everything is “PC?” I do not recall ever using that phrase on your blog other than with this thread. And no, not everything I disagree with is PC and I wonder why you ask that extremely loaded question?

        That being said, I thought I was clear in my original comment when I stated “Virginia seems to have little tie to Lincoln himself except for that some of his family lived here and he passed through from time-to-time.” That is the reason I disapprove of this bill – is that vague?

        I also thought I was clear when I said that if a state where he actually DID something important (as listed above) wanted to recognize him with a state holiday then great, I have no problem with that. However, I DO NOT AGREE with Virginia recognizing him when there is nothing in the bill that seems like substantial evidence that he deserves that recognition here.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

          Thanks for the follow-up, Lindsay. I didn’t mean to offend you; rather, I was simply asking for a little clarification which you were kind enough to provide. I was simply curious as to whether you utilize the “PC” reference for all of the things you disagree with. At what point does something become PC?

          To suggest that Lincoln “passed through from time-to-time” seems to me to miss the significance of his entry in Richmond in April 1865. By all accounts thousands came out to welcome the president. I see nothing problematic with wanting to honor a president with strong Virginia roots, for saving the Union during the 150th anniversary and for his role in bringing about an end to slavery. That is exactly what brought so many Virginians out during his visit to the Confederate capital. Thanks again for the comment.

        • Michael Aubrecht Jan 25, 2012

          Lindsay you said above: ““I said that if a state where he actually DID something important (as listed above) wanted to recognize him with a state holiday then great, I have no problem with that.”

          What about all the enslaved African Americans that were freed by his actions? Isn’t that important? If we can celebrate Lee and Jackson for defending the Confederacy on behalf of whites, can’t we also celebrate Lincoln who defeated the Confederacy on behalf of blacks?

          And if the descendants of Virginia’s Confederate Veterans can celebrate their heroes – why can’t the descendants of Virginia slaves likewise celebrate theirs? The door swings BOTH ways in my opinion.

          • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

            I don’t think we need to draw such a sharp line between the races. I know plenty of white Virginians that embrace Lincoln as part of their state’s history and heritage.

            • Michael Aubrecht Jan 25, 2012

              True Kevin. I didn’t mean to draw lines. The implication I keep reading from those against the holiday is that Lincoln was ‘against’ the Old Dominion. This is NOT true. He was against the portion of Virginia that seceeded from the nation, the Confederate States of America to be exact. That is not the entire population of the state. What about all the enslaved African Americans that were freed by his actions? What about the loyalists who wanted to preserve the Union? Lincoln was actually ‘for’ them. These folks seem to be looking at this from a 1-dimensional perspective IMO.

              • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

                I understand what you’re saying Michael, and you make some good points to consider, but to me the difference isn’t about celebrating heroes, it is about celebrating people who have specific ties to our state (and our definition of what “ties” means differs, I understand.)

                Yes, he did indeed touch the lives of Virginia slaves but those actions weren’t specific to Virginia. Maybe those who support this bill should seek a federal holiday instead?

                And I never once said that Lincoln was “against” Virginia, in fact I said that his efforts to keep the Union together (among many other things) should not be denied.

                My point simply is that to be commemorated in Virginia, one should have very strong ties to the state and for me, that is lacking when it comes to Abraham Lincoln.

                • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

                  Mississippi celebrates Robert E. Lee day and his ties to the state are incredibly weak. Just a thought.

                  • Billy Bearden Jan 27, 2012

                    The main reason given by the Atlanta City Council to strip the name of “Ashby Street” and rename it to “Lowery Blvd” in Sept 2001 in full violation of Georgia Law was “Turner Ashby had no ties to Georgia” even though he commanded Georgia Troops. Not only incredibly weak, but incredibly racist.

      • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

        I think Lindsay has already written what she doesn’t like @ the effort to get a Lincoln birthday in Va. Asking her to get into the weeds of the bill moves away from her points expressed in her comment. I don’t think it calls for a debate on these fine points, as her comment was a general one about it being a PC (her view) effort.

        We used to have a distinct GW birthday and a Lincoln birthday in the US, although many/most southern states did not do much to observe the latter. It is still a legal holiday in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Indiana. In fact the official US Govt. holiday is still Washington’s Birthday. The term “Presidents Day” is actually unofficial.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

          Telling me that x is PC fails to convey anything substantive about x.

          • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

            Is it that hard to see why folks look at this as PC?

            • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

              For me it is. When I voice a position on an issue I do my best to explain myself.

            • Andy Hall Jan 25, 2012

              I think Kevin’s objection — which is the same as mine would be — is that complaining about “political correctness” has become so common, so overused, that it really doesn’t convey anything of substantive; it’s just a way of expressing displeasure about something without having to bother to explain specifically what the problem is. It’s a lazy argument that often reflects lazy thinking.

              Lindsay did a better job than most in explaining her objection, but more often it’s just tossed around loosely as a whingey gripe that gives the speaker an opportunity to dismiss something out of hand, without ever coming to grips with why the offending idea/claim/assertion is objectively wrong.

              • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

                Like calling someone or something “redneck,” ____-aphobic,” “right wing,” “hater,” or “Nazi,” when they represent something one doesn’t agree with. Right? I get it now…

                • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

                  Absolutely.

              • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

                I would agree that it has become almost ridiculous how much the term is used, however, I make it a practice to not throw it around lightly. It should be accompanied with an explanation, absolutely.

                • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

                  I know you agree with it, Lindsay, because you do attempt to explain yourself and I appreciate that.

            • Michael Douglas Jan 25, 2012

              If folks look at it as “PC” it’s because they are ignorant of any actual definition of the term and use it only to denigrate that with which they disagree, to shut down dissent, or to excuse rudeness and incivility. The majority of people who throw that term around have no inkling of its history OR its evolution. It’s become the sophomoric cultural and political equivalent of the ubiquitous”whatever.”

              If it’s even possible to use it properly anymore, the very people who hurl it at perceived Democrats, liberals, leftists, progressives, minorities, etc., are JUST as guilty of being “PC” in their own right.

              Visit some of the rhetoric found among so-called tea party types or some of the Confederate apologists and tell me that they don’t have their own brand of “political correctness.”

              The fact of the matter is that the term is meaningless and is intellectually dishonest.

              • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

                I understand what you are saying, and agree with some of it, however, some things are done simply for “political correctness” or whatever term you want to use to describe it. And it is done on both sides of the fence.

                • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

                  In this case it would be pretty easy to inquire into the motivation behind the resolution. All it takes is an email to the sponsor of the resolution.

                  • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

                    That is if you could get a genuine response.

                    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

                      I guess it also depends on what kind of attitude you go into it with.

                  • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

                    I can’t respond below for some reason but you are correct – attitude can just about determine everything.

                    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

                      Individual threads only allow for a certain number of comments before it defaults to the bottom.

                • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

                  And the political correctness (not as difficult to define as has been suggested within these comments) is usually very easy to spot.

                  • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

                    I could take your word for it, but I prefer to have things spelled out to further discussion.

    • Ray O'Hara Jan 25, 2012

      Maintaining Va in the Union and freeing the slaves are not worthwhile?
      oookaaay

  • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

    I am not negating the fact that Lincoln is not a noteworthy figure in American history (his efforts to keep the Union together among many other things cannot be denied), it is just that when I think of notable figures that have made a huge impact on Virginia or have strong roots in Virginia or contributed greatly to the benefit of Virginia, Lincoln just doesn’t come to mind. There are many others who are more-deserving (in my opinion) yet aren’t recognized with a state holiday.

    I concede to your point about “passing through” – My phrasing was bad, and I apologize for that. I using it to illustrate a slightly different a point.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

      There are many others who are more-deserving (in my opinion) yet aren’t recognized with a state holiday.

      I would love to know who you have in mind. I once posted with just this question.

      • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

        George Mason

      • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

        Lord know, I may get hammered here but what the heck, how about John Marshall? A man whose many contributions to Richmond and the state as a whole go largely unrecognized (in my humble opinion?) How about Patrick Henry? Walter Reed? James Madison? Edmund Randolph? Maybe even Edgar Allen Poe if we ventured into the arts (although I am not sure if I am really willing to back this one 100%.)

        The dilemma is, WHAT constitutes someone being important enough (for lack of a better way to say it) or their contributions important enough for them to be considered for a state holiday? Because as this entire post shows, there are lots of opinions on it. I am no expert in this field, and I want to investigate further and learn more because it is an interesting point of debate.

        • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

          Oh, and I forgot George Mason? Sorry…

          • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

            That’s two for Mason.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

          All interesting choices, but I especially like Walter Reed, though I don’t know enough about him.

          As to your question, I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules guiding public commemorations. In the context of public spaces it comes down to who can make the case and win enough support. That is something to keep in mind in a place like Virginia and the commemoration/remembrance of the Civil War era. Keep in mind that up until a few decades ago the black population was not involved in these decisions because it was prevented from voting and running for office. How might Monument Avenue in Richmond look today if the population that was represented in Richmond during its development had included African Americans? What about the lawns in front of county court houses that adorn the soldier statues?

          • Lindsay Jan 25, 2012

            Interesting Kevin, and your points certainly add another dimension. Fascinating topic, for sure.

          • Dudley Bokoski Jan 28, 2012

            If you are interested in Reed you might also be interested in Doctor Charles Tripler from New York who was in charge of the medical corp within McClellan’s Army. Really innovative fellow and a good character to boot.

  • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

    Speaking of holidays…wasn’t there a state governor within the last decade who tried to rescind the MLK, Jr holiday in his state? Maybe I am imagining that…

    • Michael Douglas Jan 25, 2012

      No, you’re right. That was Arizona’s Gov. Mecham. That was when it was a state holiday, though, not the federal one. It ended up costing the state Super Bowl XXVII, among other things. It wasn’t surprising really that he did so. It was one of his campaign issues. What can you expect, though, from a politician who referred to black kids as “pickaninnies?”

    • Michael Douglas Jan 25, 2012

      oops! My apologies. I just realized that you said “last decade.” Mecham was late 80s. If there was one in 2000s I’m not aware of it.

      • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

        thank you…i think that’s the one i was thinking of….

  • Billy Bearden Jan 25, 2012

    I oppose both proposals, but the renewed attempts at reparations for slavery is a little bit more on my radar than some Lincoln Day in a state that didnt vote for him, didn’t seceed over slavery, and who destroyed her economy, buildings, and killed and maimed thousands.

    I pray to God that HB527 dies a very humiliating public and tortuous death ASAP and everyone who signs on with McQuinn is never reelcted again

    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

      And yet thousands of Virginians welcomed Lincoln in April 1865 and some continue to honor his family’s deep roots in their state. Thanks for the comment, Billy.

    • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

      Va. did not secede over slavery? I wonder why the delegates to the convention in 1861 mentioned the federal government’s “oppression of the Southern slaveholding States”?

      I think Bill Link’s “Roots of Secession: Slavery and Politics in Antebellum Virginia” (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003) demolishes the position that the state didn’t secede over slavery.

    • Mark Snell Jan 25, 2012

      Billy,

      What about the thousands of Virginians who lived west of the Alleghenies who died fighting to preserve the Union? Did Lincoln kill them, too? Or should Jefferson Davis take credit for their demise? BTW, the term is spelled “secede”.

      • Allen Jan 25, 2012

        Ahem… Recent studies indicate that more “West Virginians” fought for the Confederacy than the Union. I always find it humorous when folks who will tell you in no uncertain terms that the secession(s) of the various Confederate states were patently illegal, and that Kentucky and Missouri never seceded at all due to the involvement of alternative legislatures, turn a blind eye to entirely similar circumstances when it comes to the creation of West Virginia and its admission to the Union.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

          You may want to check out Mark Snell’s new book, West Virginia and the Civil War.

        • Mark Snell Jan 25, 2012

          Allen,

          I, too, have a cold, so I understand the “ahem.” Actually, you are wrong when it comes to the numbers of West Virginians who served in the Confederate armies. In reality, the number was about equal for both sides. It has been my experience that those who criticize Lincoln for signing WV’s statehood bill are the loudest proponents of defending the secession of the Confederate states, not the other way around. Lincoln himself wrote: “The division of a State is dreaded as a precedent. But a measure made expedient by a war, is no precedent for times of peace. It is said that the admission of West-Virginia, is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we call it by that name, there is still difference enough between secession against the constitution, and secession in favor of the constitution. I believe the admission of West-Virginia into the Union is expedient.”

          • Allen Jan 25, 2012

            Since you apparently wrote the book, I won’t debate numbers with you. It suffices for me to know that they were apparently close to equal. The Federal practice of designating units as being from a particular state when their soldiers were uniformly from another makes things difficult to pin down.

            Lincoln’s remarks on the admission of West Virginia are, of course, sophistry. Secession in favor of the constitution as opposed to it? Please. He would have done better to have limited his statement to the last sentence. Claiming that a thing is expedient covers a multitude of sins, particularly with those who don’t care if you are sinning or not.

            • Mark Snell Jan 26, 2012

              Allen,

              So, you are saying that the secession of Virginia was OK, but the creation of a new state from a state that already had seceded was not OK?

              As far as the number of Virginians who served the Union, the most recent scholarship indicates that the total was about 20,000. The federal govt. credited West Virginia for raising more than 32,000 troops, but that number included men from other states, primarily Ohio and Pennsylvania, and it also included re-enlistments. Still, 20,000 men from the Commonwealth of Virginia (until June 20, 1863 when WV was admitted to the Union) wearing blue uniforms was a significant number.

              • Allen Jan 26, 2012

                No, Mark, that’s not what I’m saying. Secession was/is either legal or not. Constitutional or not. Lincoln was prosecuting a war to prevent secession on the part of 11 (or 13) states, yet encouraging and likely even manipulating it in the case of West Virginia, where it was to his advantage. Where I come from, that’s called having your cake and eating it too.

            • Dwight T. Pitcaithley Jan 26, 2012

              Is there some comparison to be made between Lincoln’s meditations on accepting West Virginia into the Union and Jefferson Davis’s meditations on accepting Kentucky into the Confederacy?

              Upon sending Kentucky’s application for admission to the Confederate Congress, Davis wrote: “That this proceeding for the admission of Knetucky into the Confederacy is wanting in the formality which characterized that of the States which seceded by the action of their organized government is manifested — indeed admitted — by terming it revolutionary…The conclusion at which I have arrived is that there is enough of merit in the application to warrant a disregard for its irregularity;….”

              Both men understood the irregular nature by which the two entities were applying for admission, but both were sufficiently practical to foresee a rejection of the applications as untenable.

              • Allen Jan 26, 2012

                I see Lincoln’s position as intellectually dishonest.

                • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012

                  I think that is the first time I have ever heard of Lincoln being described as “intellectually dishonest”. Perhaps at some point you might elaborate.

                  • Allen Jan 26, 2012

                    Off the top of my head, how would you reconcile Lincoln’s routine and persistent references to God, Providence, and the Bible with the fact that he was never a member of any church, never practiced any form of standard Christianity, and never made any public profession of faith in Christ?

                    How would you reconcile Lincoln’s assertion in the Gettysburg address that the men he was memorializing died so that “government of the people” etc. might survive when, in fact, the Union was actively and violently suppressing that very thing? I’d be happy to provide Mencken’s comments on that subject if you’d like. He makes the case far better than I could.

                    • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2012

                      Thanks for the follow-up.

                      I don’t see how the first example qualifies as intellectual dishonesty given that I know plenty of people who profess faith in God, but do not attend church on a regular basis. It sounds like the most we can say is that you disprove of his behavior.

                      Whether Lincoln was “actively and violently suppressing” the Union is a matter of opinion which I assume he would take issue with as would millions of other Americans north and south in the 1860s. No need to quote Mencken.

                    • Michael Lynch Jan 26, 2012

                      “Off the top of my head, how would you reconcile Lincoln’s routine and persistent references to God, Providence, and the Bible with the fact that he was never a member of any church, never practiced any form of standard Christianity, and never made any public profession of faith in Christ?”

                      Happens all the time, and was particularly common among elites in early America. We Christians don’t have a monopoly on invoking God, Providence, and the Bible.

                      –ML

  • Richard Williams Jan 25, 2012

    John Jasper.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 25, 2012

      No surprise there. :-)

    • John Maass Jan 25, 2012

      Or Jasper Johns?

  • Allen Jan 26, 2012

    (Sorry for the top-post. I presume the comment limit for the particular segment has been reached.)

    Kevin: “I don’t see how the first example qualifies as intellectual dishonesty given that I know plenty of people who profess faith in God, but do not attend church on a regular basis. It sounds like the most we can say is that you disprove of his behavior.”

    Please. It’s not just a matter of attending church on a regular basis. Lincoln never made a profession of faith of any kind, and even purportedly completed a manuscript ridiculing organized religion. Yet he chose to invoke Almighty God whenever it suited his purposes, or seemed to be what people expected to hear. Jefferson was guilty of much the same thing, but at least he was honest and open about his beliefs. To my knowledge, and in my opinion, Lincoln was not.

    Kevin – “Whether Lincoln was “actively and violently suppressing” the Union is a matter of opinion which I assume he would take issue with as would millions of other Americans north and south in the 1860s. No need to quote Mencken.”

    Off point, and slightly mis-stated. That Lincoln was suppressing government by the people – the natural right to self determination – is not really a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of fact. The difference of opinion comes in whether or not you, or I, or Lincoln himself thought it was the right thing to do.

    • Michael Jan 26, 2012

      “Lincoln never made a profession of faith of any kind, and even purportedly completed a manuscript ridiculing organized religion. Yet he chose to invoke Almighty God whenever it suited his purposes, or seemed to be what people expected to hear. Jefferson was guilty of much the same thing, but at least he was honest and open about his beliefs.”
      —————————————

      Jefferson was guilty of what? Being a deist instead of a Christian?

      You say that Lincoln “purportedly” wrote a manuscript ridiculing organized religion. What year was this? In an 1846 handbill to voters he said, “That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular. . .”

      Are you sure you’re not thinking of Jefferson? His written remarks on organized religion and Christianity are particularly scathing. Look up some time, if you aren’t aware already, what he had to say about the Bible and St. Paul. The so-called Jefferson Bible is a revealing exercise in his thoughts on the matter.

      I admire the foresight of Jefferson and other of the Founders in realizing what this country might become should our governance fall prey to religionists, and their efforts to prevent such from occurring. There’s a reason that Article VI of the Constitution forbids religious tests to hold office.

      Neither Christians nor christianists (small “c” intentional) have ownership of the concept of deity. And there’s a good deal of biblical scripture from which all can learn.

      • Allen Jan 27, 2012

        No, I’m not confusing anyone with another, nor do I intend to be lured into a discussion of the role of religion in government. As for Lincoln, I stand by my assertion that his public statements invoking the Almighty were not a reflection of his personal beliefs, and therefore intellectually dishonest. I refer you to “Fighting for Lincoln’s Soul” by Michael Nelson, Virginia Quarterly Review, Autumn, 2003. You can find it here: http://www.vqronline.org/articles/2003/autumn/nelson-fighting-lincolns-soul/

        • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012

          From the very essay that you reference:

          Did Lincoln embrace Christianity while he was president? There is a way of answering this question in the negative, but it requires considerable heavy lifting. If one defines being a Christian in the narrowest terms—joining a church (which Lincoln never did, although he frequently attended Washington’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church) or claiming with certainty that one had been saved—then Lincoln was not a Christian. Outside this strained and narrow construction, however, it is hard to deny the frequency and depth with which Lincoln turned, both publicly and in private, to Christian study, reflection, and discourse. The more straightforward answer to the question is, simply, yes.

          • Allen Jan 27, 2012

            I disagree with the author’s conclusion. The standard he defines as narrow is not narrow at all. Not to be dogmatic about it, but without a public profession of faith in Christ one is not a Christian. There are more than few denominations which also add baptism as an requirement.

            • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012

              Well then I have absolutely no idea why you cited the essay.

              • Allen Jan 27, 2012

                Really? Did you not read the second section? If you did not, then you missed this, among other things:

                “None of Lincoln’s biographers doubt that in his growing up and New Salem years, which lasted until he moved to Springfield in 1837, Lincoln was avowedly, even aggressively, irreligious.”

                Even though his position may have softened over the years for one reason or another, Lincoln is not known to have ever had a conversion experience or made any public profession of faith. The author of the essay concludes that, in the end, Lincoln should be considered a Christian under any viewpoint other than those he termed “narrow”. I disagree. I think his criteria is, well, squishy. But I provided the link because the essay appeared to be well researched, and because it was well written. I can appreciate a well formed argument even if I do not agree.

                • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012

                  So, you leave no room for an individual to evolve over time? All I’ve learned from you is that you take issue with Lincoln not having approached religion as you do.

                  • Allen Jan 28, 2012

                    You have no idea how I personally approach religion, Kevin. But we all know how Lincoln approached it, and his way did not include any public profession of faith, something every Christian denomination essentially requires, be it through answering an altar call in a protestant church or a camp meeting, or that first communion if you are a Catholic, etc.

                    • Kevin Levin Jan 28, 2012

                      I have absolutely no interest in how you approach religion. There are plenty of studies on Lincoln’s religious outlook. Unfortunately, you haven’t shared anything insightful about Lincoln or religion in the mid-nineteenth century.

                    • Allen Jan 28, 2012

                      Kevin – “I have absolutely no interest in how you approach religion. There are plenty of studies on Lincoln’s religious outlook. Unfortunately, you haven’t shared anything insightful about Lincoln or religion in the mid-nineteenth century.”

                      Wow. That’s pretty condescending. First you say that all you’ve learned is that I “take issue with Lincoln for not approaching religion as (I) do”, and follow that up with the point that you have “absolutely no interest” in how I might do that? Allow me to make a few points:

                      First, “Christianity” and “religion” are not interchangeable terms. One can be Christian without being religious, and vice versa.

                      Second, yes, there are plenty of “studies” on Lincoln’s religious outlook. You have no idea how many, if any, of those with which I may be familiar. I’ll propose to you that if Lincoln’s Christianity were plainly evident there would be no need for most of those studies. They only exist because doubts regarding Lincoln’s Christianity exist.

                      Third, since when is sharing anything “insightful” a prerequisite for participating here? What I have done is share an opinion, based upon the evidence of Lincoln’s faith as I have seen such presented. Whether my opinion is insightful is highly subjective, is it not? You apparently don’t think it is. Allow me to assure you that I don’t care whether you do or don’t.

                      Thanks for your time.

                    • Kevin Levin Jan 28, 2012

                      We’ve already been down this road. You are certainly entitled to your opinion. The problem is that your opinion sheds no light on how Lincoln approached his faith, Christianity, and civic religion. You also have said nothing that suggests that you are familiar with recent studies of Lincoln and religion. Sorry if you think that is condescending, but if you are not prepared to deal with responses you should perhaps refrain from commenting. Thanks again.

            • Jim Dick Jan 27, 2012

              The problem here Allen is that you are substituting your definition of Christianity for what it was defined as in Lincoln’s age. Lincoln experienced the Second Great Awakening as it rolled through the American Midwest. Yet he never joined a church. We have to understand that church membership in that era was much more formal than in this era. Women outnumbered men in most if not all denominations by a factor of 2 to 1 as well.
              Church membership was often deliberately demanding and difficult to achieve. (Daniel W. Howe, What Hath God Wrought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 186.) Read the chapter Awakenings of Religion and you can see how religion developed in America during Lincoln’s era.

              The mistake would be to consider the people in that era through the context of today’s era.

              • Allen Jan 28, 2012

                Thanks for your comment, Jim, but actual presence on any church roll or membership in a particular denomination or institution is of no particular import with me in this instance. And I do understand that obtaining such was more rigorous in the past than it is today.

                • Jim Dick Jan 28, 2012

                  I’m convinced Lincoln was a Christian. I would venture to say on a practical level, most Americans were Christians with the obvious exception for those of different faiths. Lincoln was just like half the country was, a Christian that didn’t belong to a church, didn’t go to church every week, and didn’t particularly follow any one denomination, but believed in the Christian ethos and belief set. I don’t see how you come up with the idea that he wasn’t Christian. His actions and words spoke loudly about his beliefs in my opinion.

                  • Allen Jan 28, 2012

                    Jim, you are certainly entitled to that opinion. Mine is based on the lack of any public profession of salvation, as I have stated elsewhere in this thread. Personally, I know many kind, honest, and moral people who are knowledgeable of scripture but who do not claim to be Christian. I’ve also heard it often stated that even Satan can quote scripture when it suits him to do so. Not that I am equating Lincoln with Satan.

                    • Ken Noe Jan 28, 2012

                      I highly recommend to you both Allen Guelzo’s Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President if you haven’t read it. Guelzo sees Lincoln at the end of his life coming around to his father’s Calvinism, but pessimistic as to whether he was among the saved. This a digression to what is already a digression, but I think that nothing is more misunderstood about Civil War Era religion than the tenacity of Calvinism.

        • Michael Douglas Jan 27, 2012

          Hehe. . .believe me, there’s no attempt to lure you into anything. Such a discussion would be outside the issues intended to be addressed in this thread. My comments in that regard were merely my personal afterthoughts.

          You mentioned a purported manuscript from Lincoln without citing a source. I cited a Lincoln document that contradicts the alleged content of that purported manuscript. I only asked if you were confusing him with Jefferson because Jefferson is on record as “ridiculing organized religion.” Lincoln is not.

          You called Jefferson “guilty of much the same thing” and then stated that he was at least honest and open about his beliefs, as though such beliefs were somehow a flaw.

          You can assert all you want, but the bottom line is that it is intellectually dishonest to determine that Lincoln was intellectually dishonest merely because his *perceived* beliefs do not fit some narrow definition of proper spirituality.

          • Allen Jan 27, 2012

            “You called Jefferson “guilty of much the same thing” and then stated that he was at least honest and open about his beliefs, as though such beliefs were somehow a flaw.”

            You are, of course, free to infer anything you like. But this one is incorrect.

            There is more to Lincoln’s intellectual dishonesty than just his frequent references to a religion and a deity to which he did not, in my opinion, adhere. His dual standard with regard to secession as it applied to the creation of West Virginia is noted elsewhere in this thread, or in one which immediately adjoins it.

            • Michael Lynch Jan 27, 2012

              The evidence we have from Lincoln’s private reflections during the war indicate that his personal beliefs were pretty much the same as his public theological statements. See the private memorandum he wrote dated Sept. 2, 1862, in the Collected Works, for example.

              –ML

    • Bob Pollock Jan 27, 2012

      “That Lincoln was suppressing government by the people – the natural right to self determination – is not really a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of fact.”

      This certainly is not a matter of fact. It is a blatant distortion of fact. For a start, I suggest reading Stephanie McCurry’s “Confederate Reckoning.” The CSA was, in her words, “an implicitly proslavery and anti-democratic nation-state.” Southern elites argued that “the people,” as referred to in the Constitution, certainly did not mean everyone. This is the problem with your interpretation of Lincoln. You need to define who “the people” were. Lincoln was elected in a fair and legal election. It was Southern elites who could not abide by the democratic process.

      • Allen Jan 27, 2012

        Actually, I don’t need to define who “the people” were, and the nature of Confederate nation is irrelevant. Let’s boil all of down to the one essential element, shall we? I refer you now to this single sentence from the Declaration of Independence:

        “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

        The majorities of the populations of the seceding states, either by plebiscite or through their duly elected representatives, did not consent. Period.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012

          The Declaration of Independence formally announced a revolution and not secession. It is not a constitution. Citing one line from it is not going to help much.

          • Bob Pollock Jan 27, 2012

            Allen,
            Actually, you do. Defining who the “the people” were is crucial. I am willing to accept your appeal to the Declaration. Lincoln said he never had a political feeling he did not derive from the Declaration and Ulysses S. Grant asserted secession was revolution. But your assertion that “the majorities of the populations of the seceding states, either by plebiscite or through their duly elected representatives, did not consent,” is false. Who are you including in “the population”?

            • David Rhoads Jan 27, 2012

              In both South Carolina and Mississippi, the slave populations outnumbered the free populations at the time of secession.

            • Allen Jan 27, 2012

              No, actually I don’t. I’d be interested in why you think the statement is false. I think I have a reasonably good idea, but would prefer not to assume.

              To answer you question, “the population” would mean those who had the franchise, or otherwise had a say in governance. The same general portion of the population who took part in that “democratic process” to which you refer in a prior post. I could probably have been a bit more specific, or used a different term.

              • Bob Pollock Jan 27, 2012

                Even if we accept your definition of “the population” there is considerable doubt that a “majority” approved of secession, and we could get into the details of how the attempt at secession was accomplished in various states, but setting that aside that, you cited the Declaration of Independence:
                “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
                But, you are limiting “the consent of the governed” to “those who had the franchise, or otherwise had a say in governance.” Can you not see the contradiction? Many people of the time could certainly see it.

                • Bob Pollock Jan 27, 2012
                  • Allen Jan 27, 2012

                    Thanks. I’ll read it in detail shortly. However, in an initial scan I noted the following statement — “In the remaining slave states, secession was largely, and unambiguously, unpopular.” One of those remaining states was Tennessee, according to a footnote. That’s not right at all without a qualification as to date. In February, 1861, a ballot question authorizing a secession convention (and selection of delegates should the convention be authorized) failed by a margin of 11,800-odd votes out of 127,000 cast. An 8% margin. But a legislative secession ordinance voted upon in June of that year passed by a margin of 104,913 for to 47,238. Or 69% to 31%. I wouldn’t call that “unpopular”. Perhaps I’ll find similar mis-statements. Perhaps not.

                • Allen Jan 27, 2012

                  Contradiction as a matter of principle? I’d think so, since few other than white men had a vote. Then again, we’re not dealing in woulda-been, shoulda-been counter-factuals.

                  • Bob Pollock Jan 27, 2012

                    Where did you get your numbers? I believe the vote in Tennessee rejecting a convention was 69,675 -57, 798. I suppose we can dispute the meaning of the word “unpopular.”
                    But, let’s go back to what you originally said that started this discussion:
                    “That Lincoln was suppressing government by the people – the natural right to self determination – is not really a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of fact.”
                    In what way did Lincoln suppress government by the people? What historical evidence supports this?

                    • Bob Pollock Jan 27, 2012

                      Oops, never mind about the numbers, I misread your statement.

          • Allen Jan 27, 2012

            “The Declaration of Independence formally announced a revolution and not secession.”

            Agreed. But not relevant.

            “It is not a constitution.”

            Agreed. But again, not relevant.

            “Citing one line from it is not going to help much.”

            It might not help you, but only because you insist on cluttering up the point. That one sentence is an enunciation of a natural right. I can’t make it any simpler than that.

            • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2012

              I have no problem if you want to play political philosophy. :-)

  • Dudley Bokoski Jan 27, 2012

    I’ll own up to having contradictory views on the subject. Does Lincoln deserve to be honored nationally on his birthday? I think so, for as his admirers would rightfully note, he preserved the Union on which we are all a part in no small measure due to his actions and ultimately his sacrifice. And in his use of language and conveying of ideas and ideals, Lincoln has few if any equals among the other presidents.

    But a holiday in Virginia or other rebellious states is different in that they experienced (I realize it could be argued justifiably so) the pointed end of a very sharp stick yielded by the administration. And here is where I’d pause and consider the administration’s record carefully in the following areas.

    First, although good arguments could be made for the necessity of actions restricting civil liberties in specific instances, the administration applied those restrictions with a very broad brush. Second, during 1861-62 in Missouri I believe there was too little done to reign in the use of the use of terror against civilians by both sides. Further, I believe Lincoln was aware and supportive of General Lane and the abuses committed by his troops. Third, the administration made an American Zola out of General Stone, who appears to have been arrested and confined without charges for no better reason than to serve as an object lesson to Democratic generals. And finally, much as with the question of civil liberties during the war, I believe fair minded people can make arguments for and against the concept of total war as practiced in the later stages of the war.

    I don’t begin to imagine my views are the only correct ones. That said, perhaps the bill will accomplish something if only in the discussion it generates.

    • Lindsay Jan 28, 2012

      Dudley, this is well-stated and exactly what my point was in earlier comments…a national holiday, maybe, but not a state holiday in Virginia. You put it much more eloquently than I.

      • Dudley Bokoski Jan 28, 2012

        Thanks Lindsay. I’ve just been catching up with this blog entry and you do a nice job raising points about individual Virginians who aren’t honored with a holiday. And it is also an interesting point you make regarding motivations. I was hoping to find something on the internet about why the authors of the bill want a Lincoln Day, but I’ve come up with nothing so far beyond what is excerpted here.

        I understand why the holiday might seem like a good idea but where would you stop? Here in North Carolina Franklin D. Roosevelt was a hero to my mother’s generation and, like Lincoln, Commander-In-Chief during a great war. Should North Carolina have a FDR holiday? Applying the logic of a Lincoln holiday in Virginia you might say so, but I can’t see it even though he is someone I greatly admire.

        Then there is this about Lincoln’s birthday. It is a holiday in Illinois, Connecticut, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York but not his native Kentucky. If his birthday isn’t a holiday in his home state, why should it be in Virginia?

  • Greg Bell Jan 30, 2012

    The thought of having an official Abraham Lincoln Day in Virginia is among the most ridiculous things I have ever heard of in my life. Why would we want to glorify the man who was responsible for more damage and destruction in our state than any man in history?

  • Dudley Bokoski Jan 30, 2012

    Mr. Bells comment started me thinking about a what if. Suppose Lincoln had not compelled the border states to send troops. Could a blockade coupled with an invasion thru SC and New Orleans and seizing naval control of the Mississippi slowly stangled the Confederacy? You would have kept Virginias troops out and perhaps North Carolinas. Were there means short of total war which could have limited the conflict?

    • Ray O'Hara Jan 31, 2012

      It was Lincoln’s calling for troops that cause Va and NC to declare fot the CSA.
      No invasion had taken place and Va allowed the CSA Army to move into the State and threaten Washington from Manasas Va .

      As there were no way Lincoln could could enforce the CONUS without calling up troops there really was no way to keep Va in the Union and suppress the rebellion.

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