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H.L. Mencken on Abraham Lincoln
"Five Men at Random," Prejudices: Third Series, 1922, pp. 171-76. | H.L. Mencken

Posted on 06/20/2002 1:32:32 PM PDT by H.R. Gross

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To: TheDon
"The words ``coercion'' and ``invasion'' are in great use about these days. Suppose we were simply to try if we can, and ascertain what, is the meaning of these words. Let us get, if we can, the exact definitions of these words - not from dictionaries, but from the men who constantly repeat them - what things they mean to express by the words. What, then, is ``coercion''? What is ``invasion''? Would the marching of an army into South California, for instance, without the consent of her people, and in hostility against them, be coercion or invasion? I very frankly say, I think it would be invasion, and it would be coercion too, if the people of that country were forced to submit." - Abraham Lincoln, February 11, 1861
41 posted on 06/20/2002 9:25:58 PM PDT by GOPcapitalist
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To: Huck
Your still want to turn me on to Mencken?

Yet, this is damned good writing:

and it is a matter of unescapable record that his career in the State Legislature was indistinguishable from that of a Tammany Nietzsche.
Sophism is a joy to behold. (I should know.)
42 posted on 06/20/2002 9:28:59 PM PDT by nicollo
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To: Alabama_Wild_Man
Robert Owen, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 9th November, 1801. His father, a successful industrialist in Britain, decided in 1825 to establish a new community in America based on the ideas that he had developed over the years. Owen purchased an area of Indiana for £30,000 and called the community New Harmony.

Robert Owen left his son in charge while he carried on his business in Britain. Owen taught at the school and published the journal, New Harmony Gazette and worked closely with the feminist, Fanny Wright.

The couple also worked together on the Free Enquirer. In the journal Owen and Wright advocated socialism, the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, free secular education, birth control, changes in the marriage and divorce laws. Wright and Owen also became involved in the radical Workingmen's Party.

Owen moved to Indiana in 1832 and was elected to the Indiana Legislature (1836-38) and the House of Representatives (1845-47). In Congress he advocated the allocation of government funds for public schools.

In 1853 Owen was appointed as charge d'affaires at Naples and two years later became the minister to Italy. On his return to the United States in 1858 he became an outspoken opponent of slavery. During the American Civil War Owen urged Abraham Lincoln to force the South to emancipate the slaves. He wrote two books on the subject, The Policy of Emancipation (1863) and The Wrong of Slavery (1864).

Robert Dale Owen
, who also wrote a novel, Beyond the Breakers (1870) and an autobiography, Threading My Way (1874), died at Lake George, New York, on 24th June, 1877.
43 posted on 06/20/2002 9:39:19 PM PDT by eddie willers
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To: GOPcapitalist
Abraham Lincoln


I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.


I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.


Context is everything, ain't it? cuments/ ml
44 posted on 06/20/2002 10:05:06 PM PDT by TheDon
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To: okchemyst
A lot of what you complain about isn't so much directed against the South or Southerners, but against Di Lorenzo, or specific posters, or the myths that they spread. I won't deny that tempers do run high on these threads. But when they start out with attacks on the "tyrant" or "monster" or "war criminal" or "ape" Lincoln it does set a tone. Read some of the Rockwellite articles on Lincoln or some of the wilder confederatist articles about the evil Yankees and ask if such things are apt to promote calm and polite discussion.

19th Century American attitudes about race were far from those currently accepted. When someone points to discrepancies or deficiencies in Lincoln's record about race it's natural that those who respond will bring in the Confederate record on race and the fact that slavery was an important part of Southern life at the time. Then this is taken for an attack on the South.

The things that you cite are to be deplored. They don't fit into the tone that debates should hold to. But they aren't always characteristic of the posters that you have named, and they certainly aren't unique to them. There is plenty of abuse from the other side that you don't mention. You do a disservice by singling out people that you disagree with in a complaint about things that you object to. There is a big difference between indulging in fruitless debates and resorting to insults.

The comments that you mention are more likely to come from casual passers-by who see Civil War thread after Civil War thread and don't see what the fuss is about. The Rockwell/League of the South world is a small one that circulates the same quotes over and over again and seems to be speaking largely to itself. There are a lot of important and obvious things that this group ignores or denies, and no shortage of those who, happening accidentally upon a Rockwell piece for the first time or the umpteeth time, address these omissions in a colorful or offensive fashion.

I think you're right that neither side will be convinced by convinced by anything said here. But it would be a mistake to say that "neither side will change any minds" or that no one is writing in an attempt to persuade. There are many who are uncommitted and still amenable to reason and persuasion. I had an open mind when I first encountered these threads, and made a decision based on the different arguments and the sources they cited. Others may be able to say the same, without endorsing everything that's said by one side or the other. Even if everyone were committed to one side or another, still the effort to found evidence and craft a reasoned reply could be seen as an effort to debate and persuade. While the debate is frustrating and largely fruitless, it has been an interesting and entertaining way to learn more about American history, and that has been of some value.

I see enough spitting on the culture of the North and the leadership of the Union to make me sceptical of the "We just want to be left alone to honor our heroes" argument. Understand that others want to do the same. There is room for honoring both. But "The South Was Right" school goes far beyond honoring the Confederate dead and actively demeans the cause of those who fought on the other side.

As for Mencken, I think he misunderstands the questions behind the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln wasn't talking about the right of self-determination, but about the survival of free, constitutional and democratic republics. The demands that groups made for self-determination would tear apart self-governing societies, and secession would be a warrant for perpetual war and all the anarchy and tyranny that war brings. You can agree or disagree with Lincoln, but simply giving a green light to every movement that demands secession on its own terms at its own will, doesn't prevent the dilemmas Lincoln calls our attention to. Such a policy would be more likely to create and exacerbate them.

The idea that state sovereignty equals the sovereignty of the people of the states equals freedom is another that can be called into question. The idea of minority rights defended by "state's right's" advocates can also be applied against "state's rights." If I am not free because of the abuses of majorities at the federal level, do abuses of majorities at the state level leave me any freer? Similarly, the idea that "the Confederates went into battle free" is also open to debate. It depends on how one defines "Confederates" and "free." Mencken's sentence opens up too many cans of worms to be accepted at face value as true. A committed group of warriors always goes into battle free, but that doesn't tell us much about the society in which they live, and the rights of others in it, including slaves, oppositionists, taxpayers and conscripts.

45 posted on 06/20/2002 11:02:31 PM PDT by x
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To: stainlessbanner
Thanks for the ping. Bump for Mencken.
46 posted on 06/20/2002 11:06:30 PM PDT by Tauzero
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To: x
"But 'The South Was Right' school goes far beyond honoring the Confederate dead and actively demeans the cause of those who fought on the other side."

Well, respectfully, duh. If the South WAS right, it appears they have a bit to complain about.

"The demands that groups made for self-determination would tear apart self-governing societies, and secession would be a warrant for perpetual war and all the anarchy and tyranny that war brings."

Again, respectfully, do you even hear what you're saying? It's preposterous. The argument that the essence of lawful self-government is the denial of self-determination is so surreal and Orwellian as to leave one dumbfounded, and the notion that peaceful secession leads inevitably to war is, frankly, equally so. If a State can secede lawfully, then there are no grounds for war. It was precisely the attempt to STOP States from seceding that led to war--just as in the case of the American colonies, when they seceded from Great Britain.

"The idea that state sovereignty equals the sovereignty of the people of the states equals freedom is another that can be called into question."

Then equally so national sovereignty when compared against global government.
47 posted on 06/21/2002 2:24:03 AM PDT by Sicken Tard
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To: nicollo; stainlessbanner; Tauzero
But in the middle life he purged his style of ornament and it became almost badly simple—and it is for that simplicity that he is remembered today. The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history. Put beside it, all the whoopings of the Websters, Sumners and Everetts seem gaudy and silly It is eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost gem-like perfection—the highest emotion reduced to a few poetical phrases. Nothing else precisely like it is to be found in the whole range of oratory. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous.

Great description. Here he is addressing the style of Lincoln, and he is correct. Lincoln's rhetoric was stupendous. Absolutely I still want to turn you on to Mencken, nicollo. If you read enough Mencken, you see he was wrong about a great many things, but try to find another writer who is so entertaining and funny in the process of being wrong. If Bob Herbert or Thomas Friedman or Al Hunt were this funny, or this skillful with prose, I would read them regularly and disregard their political fallacies.

At times one wonders how serious he was about his subject matter. Which was more important to him? That he got his facts right, or that his sentence ended with the proper cadence. His humor, his gusto, and above all his style--the way he said things--is as lively and entertaining today as it must have been in his day. I imagine he was a great guy to have beer and steaks with, too. He was interested in a variety of subjects, including art, science, politics, history, sociology, psychology, sports, religion. But one doesn't go to him for facts, or even for excellent analysis. One goes to Mencken for language, and humor, and memorable aphorisms. Ultimately, we all find HLM saying things we don't like. I imagine fans of this Lincoln ditty might not like the following:

The South is one of the few regions in Christendom wherein it is still socially dangerous for a man to express belief in the ordinary principia of science. Northerners who are unfamiliar with the Southern mind are always loath to believe this, but it is a fact. Revivals still go on annually at nearly all of the principal sub-Potomac colleges, and in the smaller ones they are as important in the calendar as the annual football combats. It is impossible to imagine anyting properly describable as civilization in a region so dreadfully beset by organized imbecility. If any actual Southerner has ever spoken out openly and bravely against the tyranny of its reigning Protestant shamans I have not heard of him. They all devote themselves to furious debate over irrelevances, and usually end by putting the blame for all the troubles of the South on a Northern conspiracy. No such conspiracy exists. The North itself would be far better off if the South were more civilized.

--Henry Louis Mencken, Minority Report

HLM cut all ways. Here is my favorite HLM quote (available on my profile page:)

"To be an American is, unquestionably, to be the noblest, grandest, the proudest mammal that ever hoofed the verdure of God's green footstool. Often, in the black abysm of night, the thought that I am one awakens me like a blast of trumpets, and I am thrown into a cold sweat by contemplation of the fact. I shall cherish it on the scaffold; it will comfort me in hell.

--H.L. Mencken, "The Final Estimate," The Smart Set, 1919.

Superb writing. But he was wrong about a lot of things.

48 posted on 06/21/2002 3:18:05 AM PDT by Huck
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To: H.R. Gross
H.L.Mencken wrote better columns and had more wisdom on a bad day than all of the liberal establishment could hope to manage in a lifetime.

His shadow hovers over all of them laughing at their self-deception and stupidity.
49 posted on 06/21/2002 3:29:58 AM PDT by cgbg
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To: Grut
"The southern states were right about self-determination and wrong about Blacks."

Really? Ever been to Washington D.C.? Ever seen Al Sharpton? ;)

And do I need to mention crime statistics?

Undoubtedly slavery was morally wrong, but does anything get better after being "diversimyfied"? Is America a better, safer, healthier society today than in 1965, when it was over 90% European-American?
50 posted on 06/21/2002 5:09:04 AM PDT by pjsmith
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To: stainlessbanner; shuckmaster
Thanks for the ping.
I e-mailed this to my wife.

The only writer with the clarity and mordant wit that I have found today is Florence King, who writes "The Misanthrope's Corner" for National Review.


51 posted on 06/21/2002 5:29:20 AM PDT by Constitution Day
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To: Libertarianize the GOP
Consider the source.....
52 posted on 06/21/2002 5:30:46 AM PDT by stainlessbanner
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To: Libertarianize the GOP
Do you want to see Walt's latest find?

LOL!!! Well look who it's written by. What would you expect? Southern Dixie bump. This however is a good article and thanks for posting it

53 posted on 06/21/2002 5:32:44 AM PDT by billbears
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To: Libertarianize the GOP
You know lincoln's revisionist lapdogs are on their last leg when they start refering to the truth as 'bashing'.
54 posted on 06/21/2002 5:35:36 AM PDT by shuckmaster
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To: Sicken Tard
If a State can secede lawfully, then there are no grounds for war.

The only way for a state to secede lawfully is through the amendment process in Article V.

It shouldn't be forgotten that the Arts. of Confed were a big flop and people -knew- they were a big flog at the time They in many cases reluctantly agreed to the United States taking a national form under the Constitution. But they knew that was what was being done.

The framers -clearly- wanted to establish nationality and Washington, Madison and Jefferson are only the most prominent.

A state may NOT leave the union unilaterally. To suggest it may perverts what the framers intended.

A whole blizzard of obscure quotations cannot change what the framers wanted.

People shouldn't let dissatisfaction with the government today cloud ther view of what the framers intended.


55 posted on 06/21/2002 5:44:56 AM PDT by WhiskeyPapa
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To: H.R. Gross
56 posted on 06/21/2002 5:57:23 AM PDT by Aurelius
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To: WhiskeyPapa
A state may NOT leave the union unilaterally.

How did the original colonies enter? And where is the prohibition against leaving? Just curious.

57 posted on 06/21/2002 6:00:52 AM PDT by 4CJ
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To: 4ConservativeJustices
How did the original colonies enter? And where is the prohibition against leaving? Just curious.

Jay, Chief Justice:-- The Question we are now to decide has been accurately stated, viz.: Is a state suable by individual citizens of another state?...

The revolution, or rather the Declaration of Independence, found the people already united for general purposes, and at the same time, providing for their more domestic concerns by state conventions, and other temporary arrangements. From the crown of Great Britain, the sovereignty of their country passed to the people of it; and it was then not an uncommon opinion, that the unappropriated lands, which belonged to that crown, passed, not to the people of the colony or states within whose limits they were situated, but to the whole people; on whatever principles this opinion rested, it did not give way to the other, and thirteen sovereignties were considered as emerged from the principles of the revolution, combined with local convenience and considerations; the people nevertheless continued to consider themselves, in a national point of view, as one people; and they continued without interruption to manage their national concerns accordingly; afterwards, in the hurry of the war, and in the warmth of mutual confidence, they made a confederation of the States, the basis of a general Government.

Experience disappointed the expectations they had formed from it; and then the people, in their collective and national capacity, established the present Constitution. It is remarkable that in establishing it, the people exercised their own rights and their own proper sovereignty, and conscious of the plenitude of it, they declared with becoming dignity, "We the people of the United States," 'do ordain and establish this Constitution." Here we see the people acting as the sovereigns of the whole country.; and in the language of sovereignty, establishing a Constitution by which it was their will, that the state governments should be bound, and to which the State Constitutions should be made to conform. Every State Constitution is a compact made by and between the citizens of a state to govern themeselves in a certain manner; and the Constitution of the United States is liekwise a compact made by the people of the United States to govern themselves as to general objects, in a certain manner. By this great compact however, many prerogatives were transferred to the national Government, such as those of making war and peace, contracting alliances, coining money, etc."

Wilson, Justice-- "Whoever considers, in a combined and comprehensive view, the general texture of the constitution, will be satisfied that the people of the United States intended to form themselves into a nation for national purposes. They instituted, for such purposes, a national government complete in all its parts, with powers legislative, executive and judiiciary, ad in all those powers extending over the whole nation."

-- From "Chisholm v. Georgia", 1793

The Supreme Court is amply on the record to answer your question.

The whole Constitution forbids secession.


58 posted on 06/21/2002 6:25:11 AM PDT by WhiskeyPapa
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To: eddie willers
So - You've heard a bit about him too, eH ??
59 posted on 06/21/2002 6:44:52 AM PDT by Alabama_Wild_Man
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To: TheDon
>>Nice to know that no one can support the views of DiLorenzo, the Michael Bellesiles of Lincoln studies.

I have noticed that those who disagree with Dilorenzo NEVER refute his arguments. They just attack him personally. I see that you're no exception.
60 posted on 06/21/2002 6:52:00 AM PDT by dixiepatriot
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