Friday, November 6, 2020

America is a house divided against itself

Abraham Lincoln, photographed in Chicago



     There wasn't room in the printed column, but I wanted to point out that if you actually do go to the corner of Lake and Dearborn in an attempt to stand where Lincoln once stood, you'll be about 40 feet too high, because the location of the Tremont House would be far below your feet, before the downtown area was raised up.
  
    A columnist must be careful what he confesses. The idea is to echo common wisdom, not let slip some weird, damning personal detail.
     Fortune favors the bold, so here goes: I have trouble remembering that Abraham Lincoln walked the streets of Chicago. I mean, I know, intellectually, he was here. He was a lawyer. He argued cases in court here. But I sometimes forget, and occasionally marvel anew at Lincoln’s presence. Judge me harshly if you must.
     For instance: On July 10, 1858, Lincoln gave a speech from the balcony at the Tremont House, at Lake and Dearborn. His opponent in the senatorial race, Stephen Douglas, had attacked Lincoln from the same perch, and Lincoln, in town on legal business, promised to reply.
     Douglas had criticized Lincoln for his radical “House Divided” speech. In accepting the Republican nomination in Springfield the month before, Lincoln had quoted Scripture.
     “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Lincoln had said. “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
     Lincoln was wrong in two ways. First, the house did fall. The Union did dissolve. The South preferred succession to abandoning slavery. Though this wasn’t what Douglas and Lincoln were arguing over, not in 1858. Slavery was a given in the South. They were debating whether slavery should extend to new states. Douglas argued: if you ban slavery in Kansas, you’ll end up forced to treat Black people as equals. It’s a fear candidates have run on successfully — Douglas won, remember — for 160 years.
     The Civil War is in mind lately because my liberal pals bemoan the current national divide, suggesting we are at some historic low. I remind them that the nation did, in fact, break apart in a war that killed 620,000 Americans. That was worse. Just because it happened a long time ago doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

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2 comments:

  1. I really wish those poor counties could separate from us. Then they'd find out their taxes would at least triple to support all the services they get from the state that the six North Eastern counties provide them with, with our taxes.
    Then our tax rates would be cut in half & we could have better services at less cost.
    And Pulaski County voting to separate is really stupid, as it & next door Alexander County are probably the two poorest counties in the state.

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  2. Yes. "It’s because racism makes people stupid, and do things contrary to their best interests." We need to teach empathy, equity and how to bolster emotional intelligence in schools.

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