Lincoln as a social prophet; Lincoln's War...and Ours
I am planning on. Their feet on the following program is the eighth in a series of readings on Abraham Lincoln entitled Lincoln the social prophet. The readings in commemoration of Illinois sesquicentennial are done by Marvin saying our speech instructor at Northern Illinois University today is reading Lincoln's war and ours. Mr. S. R.. Although Abraham Lincoln dealt primarily with a domestic foe in the Civil War we wonder if he might not have some words of wisdom for us in our wars. Perhaps Lincoln
is a social prophet can speak to us no matter what war we are engaged in world wars one or two. The Korean conflict. The sad plight in Vietnam and so on. Some questions always seem to arise during any major war. I can think of at least four critical problems which Lincoln encountered during his struggle with the civil war. There are our problems too. Undoubtedly there are more but we have time just to consider these. The involvement of the United States with foreign powers. The freedom of American citizens within our own country. The actual reason why we are in a war and finally the binding up of the wounds after the war is over. The first of these difficulties that of dealing with other countries Lincoln discussed in his annual message to Congress on December 1st 1860 to his specific remarks about the countries we will delete since they are rather dated but a general principle comes through loud and clear. Listen for it. Fellow citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives. Since your last annual assembling another year of
health and bountiful harvest has passed and while it has not please the Almighty to bless us with the return of peace we can but to press on guided by the best light he gives us trusting that in his own good time and wise way all will yet be well. The correspondents touching foreign affairs which has taken place during the last year is here with submitted in virtual compliance with a request to that effect made by the House of Representatives near the close of the last session of Congress. If the condition of our relations with other nations is less gratifying than it has usually been at former periods it is certainly more satisfactory than a nation so on happily distracted as we are might reasonably have apprehended in the month of June last there were some grounds to expect that the maritime powers which at the beginning of our domestic difficulties. So on wisely and unnecessarily as we think recognize the insurgents as a belligerent would soon recede from that position which has proved only less injurious to themselves and to our own country. But the temporary reverses which afterwards be found the national arms and which were exaggerated by our own disloyal citizens
abroad have hitherto delayed that act of simple justice. The civil war which has so radically changed for the moment the occupations and habits of the American people has necessarily disturbed the social condition and affected very deeply the prosperity of the nations with which we have carried on a commerce that has been steadily increasing throughout a period of half a century. It has at the same time excited political ambitions and apprehensions which have produced a profound agitation throughout the civilized world in this unusual agitation we have forborne from taking part in any controversy between foreign states and between parties or factions in such states. We have attempted no propaganda ism and acknowledge no revolution but we have left to every nation the exclusive conduct and management of its own affairs. Our struggle has been of course contemplated by foreign nations with reference less to its own merits than to its supposed and often exaggerated effects and consequences resulting to those nations themselves nevertheless complain on the part of this government
even if it were just would certainly be on wise. It seems then that Lincoln's attitude toward other nations was in his words that we have left to every nation the exclusive conduct and management of its own affairs. As we ponder our world seen today we wonder whether or not we have followed that advice for instance in Vietnam. Lincoln did not counsel isolationism but avoidance of interference in what are the affairs of others. In addition to Lincoln's clear cunt position on foreign entanglements there is an equally lucid stand on a second problem in time of war. The problem of civilian rights within the United States. The president gave his adjudication on this matter in a letter to a restless Corning and others on June 12th 1863 as the war dragged on. Lincoln was being attacked by such critics. The June 12th letter was a direct reply to Corning and his group which met publicly in Albany New York May 16th. The letter also served as a general answer to all of Lincoln's opponents
in this question of the extent of civil rights in time of war. Here is what the president says. Gentleman your letter of May 19th in closing the resolutions of a public meeting held at Albany New York on the 16th of the same month was received several days ago. The resolutions as I understand them are resolvable into two propositions. First the expression of a purpose to sustain the cause of Union to secure peace through victory and to support the administration in every constitutional and lawful measure to suppress the rebellion. And secondly a declaration of censor upon the administration for a supposed unconstitutional action such as the making of military arrests and from the two propositions A third is deduced which is that the gentleman composing the meeting are resolved on doing their part to maintain our common government and country despite the folly or wickedness as they may conceive of any administration. This position is eminently patriotic and as such I think the meeting in congratulate the nation for it.
My own purpose is the same so that the meeting and myself have a common object and can have no difference except in the choice of means or measures for effecting that object. But the meeting by the resolutions assert in argue that certain military arrests and proceedings following them for which I am alternately responsible are unconstitutional. I think they are not. Let us consider the real case with which we are dealing and apply to it the parts of the Constitution plainly made for such cases. Ours is a case of rebellion so called by the resolutions before me. In fact a clear flagrant and gigantic case of rebellion. And the provision of the Constitution that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended on less when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it is the provision which especially applies to our present case. This provision plainly attests the understanding of those who made the Constitution that ordinary courts of justice are inadequate to cases every value a
test their purpose that in such cases men may be held in custody whom the courts acting on ordinary rules would discharge Heebie as corpus does not just charge men who are proved to be guilty of defined crime and it suspension is allowed by the Constitution on purpose that men may be arrested and held who cannot be proved to be guilty of defying crime when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it. This is precisely our present case a case of rebellion wherein the public safety does require the suspension. Indeed arrest by a process of courts and arrests in cases of rebellion do not proceed all together upon the same basis. The former is directed at the small percentage of ordinary and continuous perpetration of crime while the latter is directed at sudden and extensive uprisings against the government which at most will succeed or fail in no great length of time. In the latter case arrests are made not so much for what has been done as for what probably would be done. The latter is more for the preventive and less for the vindictive than
the former. In such cases the purposes of men are much more easily understood than in cases of ordinary crime. The man who stands by and says nothing when the peril of his government is discussed cannot be misunderstood if not hindered he is sure to help the enemy much more if he talks ambiguously talks for his country with buts and ifs and ends of how little value the constitutional provision I have quoted will be rendered if it shall never be made until the fine crime shall have been committed may be illustrated by a few notable examples. General John C. Breckinridge General Robert E. Lee General Joseph E. Johnston General John B Magruder General William B Preston General Simon B Buckner and Commodore Franklin Buchanan now occupying the very highest places in the rebel war service were all within the power of the government since the rebellion began and were nearly as well known to be traitors then as now unquestionably if we had seized and held them the insurgent cause would be much weaker. But
no one of them had then committed any crime defined in the law. Every one of them if arrested would have been discharged on Hevia Scorpios where the writ allowed to operate. In view of these and similar cases I think that not on likely to come when I shall be blamed for having made too few a rest rather than too many. By the third resolution the meeting indicate their opinion that military arrests may be constitutional in localities who are billion actually exists but that such arrests are unconstitutional in localities where rebellion or insurrection does not actually exist. They insist that such a race shall not be made outside of the lines of necessary military occupation and the scenes of insurrection in as much however as the Constitution itself makes no such distinction. I am one able to believe that there is any such constitutional distinction. I can see that the class of arrest complained of can be constitutional only when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require them. And I insist that in such cases they are
constitutional. Wherever the public safety does require them as well as in places to which they may prevent the rebellion extending as in those where it may be already previously as well where they may restrain mischievous interference with the raising and supplying of armies to suppress the rebellion is where the rebellion may actually be as well where they may restrain the enticing men out of the army as where they would prevent mutiny in the army. Equally constitutional at all places where they will conducive to the public safety as against the dangers of rebellion or invasion. Take the particular case mentioned by the meeting. It is asserted in substance that mr of landing him was by a military commander seized and tried for no other reason than words addressed to a public meeting in criticism of the course of the administration and in condemnation of the military orders of the general. Now if there be no mistake about this. If this assertion is the truth and the whole truth. If there was no other reason for the arrests then I can see that the arrest was wrong but the arrest as I understand was made for a very different reason.
Mr of landing Ham of his hostility to the war on the part of the Union and his arrest was made because he was laboring with some effect to prevent the raising of troops to encourage desertions from the army and to leave the rebellion without an adequate military force to suppress it. He was not arrested because he was damaging the political prospects of the administration or the personal interests of the commanding general. But because he was damaging the army upon the existence and vigor of which the life of the nation depends. He was warring upon the military and this gave the military constitutional jurisdiction to lay hands upon him. If Mr of landing him was not damaging the military power of the country then his arrest was made on mistake a fact which I would be glad to correct on reasonably satisfactory evidence. I understand the meeting whose resolutions I am considering to be in favor of suppressing the rebellion by military force. My army's long experience has shown that armies cannot be maintained on less desertion shall be punished by the severe penalty of death. The case requires and the
law in the Constitution sanctioned this punishment. Must ice should a simple minded soldier boy who deserts must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert. This is nonetheless injurious when effected by getting a father or brother or friend into a public meeting and they're working upon his feelings till he is persuaded to write the soldier boy that he is fighting in a bad cause for a wicked administration of a contemptible government too weak to arrest and punish him if he shall desert. I think that in such a case to silence the agitator and save the boy is not only constitutional but with all a great mercy. If I be wrong on this question of constitutional power my error lies in believing that certain proceedings are constitutional when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety requires them which would not be constitutional when an absence of rebellion or invasion the public safety does not require them. In other words that the Constitution is not in its application in all respects the same in cases of
rebellion or invasion invoking involving the public safety as it is in times of profound peace and public search security. The Constitution itself makes the distinction and I can no more be persuaded that the government can constitutionally take no strong measures in time of rebellion because it can be shown that the same could not be lawfully taken in time of peace than I can be persuaded that a particular drug is not good medicine for a sick man because it can be shown to not be good food for a well one. Nor am I able to appreciate the danger apprehended by the meeting that the American people will by means of military arrest during the rebellion lose the right of public discussion. The liberty of speech and the press the law of evidence. Trial by jury and habeas corpus throughout the indefinite peaceful future which I trust lies before them any more than I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for a medic's during temporary illness as to persist in feeding upon them during the remainder of his healthful life. In giving
the resolutions that earnest consideration which you request of me I cannot overlook the fact that the meeting speak as Democrats. Nor can I with full respect for their known intelligence and the fairly presumed deliberation with which they prepared their resolutions be pre permitted to suppose that this occurred by accident or in any way other than that they preferred to designate themselves as Democrats rather than American citizens in this time of national peril. I would have preferred to meet you upon a level one step higher than any party platform. But since you have denied me this I will yet be thankful for the country's sake that not all Democrats have done so. He on whose discretionary judgment mr of landing him was arrested and tried is a Democrat. Having no Old Party affinity with me and the judge who rejected the constitutional view expressed in these resolutions by refusing to discharge Mr blending ham on Haiti as Corpus is a Democrat of better days than these having received his judicial mantle at the hands of President Jackson. And still more
of all those Democrats who are notably exposing their lives and shedding their blood on the battlefield I have learned that many approve the course taken with Mr. Blanning ham. While I have not heard of a single one condemning it. And yet let me say that in my own discretion I do not know whether I would have ordered the arrest of Mr of landing him. While I cannot shift the responsibility from myself I hold it as a general rule. The commander in the field is the better judge of the necessity in any particular case. Of course I must practice a general directory and revise in the matter. One of the resolutions expresses the opinion of the meeting that arbitrary arrest will have the effect to divide and distract those who should be united in suppressing the rebellion. And I am specifically called on to discharge Mr. blending ham. I regard this at least a fair appeal to me on the expediency of exercising a constitutional power which I think exists in response to such appeal I have to say. It gave me pain when I learned that Mr. Blanding hand had been arrested. That is I was
pained that there should have seemed to be a necessity for arresting him and that it will afford me great pleasure to discharge him so soon as I can by any means believe the public safety will not suffer by it. I further say that as the war progresses it appears to me oh pinion in action which were in great confusion at first take shape and fall into more regular channels so that the necessity for strong dealing with them gradually decreases. I have every reason to desire that it should cease altogether. And five from the least is my regard for the opinions and wishes of those who like the media to Albany declare their purpose to sustain the government in every constitutional and lawful measure to suppress the rebellion. Still I must continue to do so much as may seem to be required by the public safety. This letter may have surprised us. For instance the standard practice of shooting a desert or in the armed forces leniency and rehabilitation of the emphases in our time.
As for civilian freedom in time of war Lincoln's words still largely hold true. Which is to say doing what may seem to be required by the public safety. As vague as this may appear it is a crucial standard. Our individual rights certainly must reseed as the welfare of the populace is at stake. Exactly what restrictive measures are required will depend of course on the precise circumstances. So if an individual practices civil disobedience he must be aware of the risks he takes. The more and perilous for the public good the more risk for himself. He cannot expect authorities to place his welfare above the welfare of numbers branch. They asked numbers of his compatriots. Some of the prophetic insights we have gained so far from Lincoln's handling of the civil war are that we should refuse to interfere in the affairs of other nations and that we should practice individual rights without jeopardizing the public good. A third insight arises from a study of the Gettysburg Address of November 19th 1963. What is this insight.
It deals with what one actually is fighting for in a war. Lincoln urged his listeners to remember what the honored dead had died for responsible freedom manifested in self-government such freedom still makes a sensible goal in any war. Perhaps it is the only goal worth having as we prepare to hear the Gettysburg Address in November 19th. We recall that some 15000 persons gathered on the grounds of the new cemetery. Reverend Edward Everett noted Boston preacher gave the main address saying essentially in two hours what Lincoln said in two minutes. It was right that Lincoln should speak because four months earlier July 1st through the 3rd the turning point of the war occurred at the Battle of Gettysburg. As for the remarks. History has judged them most appropriate here Lincoln's words now. Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are
created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can wrong endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot hallow this ground. 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 or 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 Nobili 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. Gleaning then from the Lincoln of the Civil War period we see that the purpose of war should be a strengthening of freedom and self-government that personal rights are proper If collective rights are ensured and that other nations should settle their own differences as we try to settle ours. The fourth prophetic view refers to what follows a war a binding up of the nations ones. Lincoln speaks of this heavy task in his second inaugural March 4th 1865. The background for the message is worth sharing. The Northern cause was all but one between the November
election and the march inauguration. A crowd larger than at Lincoln's first inaugural gathered on that cold March 4th a day contrary to the congressional radicals who wish to treat the South this conquered territory. Lincoln spoke with compassion compassion. We hardly outgrow the need for compassion in any war. Perhaps it is more crucial since the war is one big hurt with no side being an actual Victor. We're all in a sense losers in war. Let us not ponder Lincoln's second inaugural. At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now at the expiration of four years during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbed the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms upon which all else chiefly depends is as well known to the public as to myself
and it is I trust reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all with high hope for the future no prediction in regard to it is ventured. On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war all dreaded it all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place devoted altogether to saving the union without war insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war seeking to discern the union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came. One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves not distributed generally over the union but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves can constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All know that this interest was somehow the cause of the war to strengthen perpetuate and
extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would win the unique even by war. Well the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before that the conflict itself should cease its look for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any man to man should dare to ask just God's assistance in ringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces. But let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That if neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. We're all on to the world because of offenses must needs be that offenses come but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. If we shall suppose that
American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come but which having continued through his appointed time he now wills to remove and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war as the ROE do to those by whom the offense came shall we discern there in any departure from those divine attributes which the believers and a Living God always ascribe to him fondly do we hope for Avonlea do we pray that this mighty scorch of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled up by the bon bon means two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and on till every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. With malice toward none. With charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the
right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. A firm hand guided by love. That was Lincoln's affirmation March March 4th and ought to be our sentiment at the close of a conflict. Collar shirts represented many respondents with this reaction. No American president had ever spoken words like these to the American people. America never had a president who found such words in the depth of his heart. The London Spectator hailed the message as the noblest political document known in history and should have for the nation and the statesman he left behind him something of sacred and almost prophetic authority. We have said that Lincoln indeed spoke at times as a social prophet.
During the Civil War he urged none interference with strictly foreign affairs private liberties without endangering the public welfare. The goal of freedom and self-government for all men and an overwhelming compassion in restoring sanity where there was once the insanity of war. We have perceived then that although the civil war is lost in time much of what Lincoln uttered during that period rings true. Lincoln's war and ours is not just an idle phrase applications I dare if we have the moral courage to find them. I am. A Lincoln a
- Lincoln as a social prophet
- Lincoln's War...and Ours
- Producing Organization
- Northern Illinois University
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- For series info, see Item 3446. This prog.: Lincoln's War...and Ours
- Media type
Producing Organization: WNIC
Producing Organization: Northern Illinois University
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-25-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Lincoln as a social prophet; Lincoln's War...and Ours,” 1968-07-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 26, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-wh2ddb0x.
- MLA: “Lincoln as a social prophet; Lincoln's War...and Ours.” 1968-07-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-wh2ddb0x>.
- APA: Lincoln as a social prophet; Lincoln's War...and Ours. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-wh2ddb0x