Monday, November 24, 2008

Lincoln and Thanksgiving

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the following Thanksgiving Proclamation:

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth. --- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Team of Rivals

Matthew Pinsker says that Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals should serve as a cautionary story about how to form a cabinet.

Pinsker says that there "were painful trade-offs with the "team of rivals" approach that are never fully addressed in the book." As evidence, Pinsker cites the resentment of those that helped elect him, the infighting and sabbotage by some cabinet members, and the resignations of three cabinet members during Lincoln's first term.

Pinsker, who teaches Civil War history at Dickinson College, says that "... it has become easy to forget that hard edge and once bad times that nearly destroyed a President. Lincoln's cabinet was no team."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lone Star Generals

On a recent trip to the library I discovered Ralph Wooster's book Lone Star Generals. Professor Wooster has a distinguished resume and has authored more than 70 articles and six books. His book contains descriptions on the thirty seven general officers from Texas who served in the Civil War.

Inspired by his book, I have added a new web page, Lone Star Generals, that summarizes his findings.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama's Election

Thr election of Senator Barrack Obama added an important victory in the Civil Rights battle. As Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for the NY Times commented on November 4th,

"A civil war that, in many ways, began at Bull Run, Virginia, on July 21, 1861, ended 147 years later via a ballot box in the very same state. For nothing more symbolically illustrated the final chapter of America’s Civil War than the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia — the state that once exalted slavery and whose secession from the Union in 1861 gave the Confederacy both strategic weight and its commanding general — voted Democratic, thus assuring that Barack Obama would become the 44th president of the United States."

While Mr. Friedman's history may not be rigorously accurate, his parallel is thought provoking.

Here is our chronological list of the top ten events in the Civil Rights Movement.

Emancipation Proclamation - January 1, 1863 - Slaves are declared free in those states still in rebellion against the United States
Freeman's Bureau - March 3, 1865 - Bureau was designed to protect the interests of former slaves
Civil Rights Act - April 9, 1865 - All persons born in US are citizens
13th Amendment - December 1865 - Abolished slavery
14th Amendment - June 13, 1866 - Granted citizenship and protected the civil liberties of recently freed slaves
Founding of the NAACP - February 12, 1909 -
Montgomery Bus Boycott - December 1, 1955 - Rosa Parks refuses to give up seat
Little Rock High School - September 4, 1957 - Black students attempt to to enter Little Rock High School
1964 Civil Rights Act - June 15, 1964 - Made racial discrimination in public places, such as theaters, restaurants and hotels, illegal. It also required employers to provide equal employment opportunities.
Election of Senator Barrack Obama - November 4, 2008 - Americans elect first black President

Please see USA History: Civil Rights 1860-1980 for more information.