Slavery is Wrong, How Can Abortion be Right?

By Daniel Mallock (July 2019)
 
Here Comes the Wind, Benny Andrews, 1980
 
 
When a thing can be done it does not follow that that thing ought to be done.
 
Those who observe a growing conflict and speculate as to what it means and what might happen are not necessarily supporters of the conflict itself. Such was the case with Abraham Lincoln after his House Divided speech of June, 1858, and his address at Cooper Union of February, 1860, both of which called for the restriction of the extension of the slavery system in the United States.
 
As the several states of the South now line up once again in opposition to the federal authority in pursuit of the protection of their rights, ironically, the right to protect others as opposed to enslaving them, it is clear that a national crisis is underway. Who can say in which ways the crisis will develop, how it will expand (or be alleviated), and who and what will suffer on account of it?
 
As the states of the south pass laws to protect their unborn citizens from infanticidal mothers (and directly challenge Roe v. Wade), and the states of the north and west redouble their efforts to assert their views that killing their children is both perfectly correct and legal—a practice protected by the Constitution of the United States don’t-you-know—the American house is once again tragically divided.
 
 
That destruction of unborn children is convenient and readily available is an undeniable fact; its availability and constitutional protection does not make it right.
 
That a mother can kill her unborn child for whatever reason and stand beside the Constitution to justify the deed does not make it right, it just makes it legal.
 
It is legal much in the same fashion that the grotesque Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857 declared that blacks held in slavery in the southern states were not citizens, could not sue in court, and that Congress could not exclude the extension of slavery into the territories. After Dred Scott, slavery could do nothing but expand; after Dred Scott the opinion of the citizen of the free states was no longer relevant and his/her horrified, involuntary participation in the perpetuation of individual slavery as well as the slave system itself became a mandate of national law.
 
This abysmal Supreme Court decision was important in motivating Abraham Lincoln in his run against Stephen Douglas (who supported Popular Sovereignty on the territories question) for Senate in 1858, then later for President in 1860.
 
During the last week of the 1860 presidential campaign, in which he again faced Douglas, a Democrat, Lincoln was at the Illinois State House in Springfield. In a conversation with one of the leaders of Illinois politics, Lincoln said,
 
I know there is a God, and that He hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that His hand is in it. If He has a place and work for me I believe I am ready. I am nothing but truth is everything.[1]
 
Slavery is wrong; this is now an accepted truth, yet a war was required then before it was finally eradicated at great cost. Surely the murder of children is a larger crime than slavery, if such things can be determined by some dark calculus or weighed on some great scale.
 
What then awaits our generations that kill their children? The killing of children is wrong—but we have not, as a society, yet come to see its moral evil and wrongness. Why?
 
Alexander Stephens, congressman of Georgia, friend and former colleague of Lincoln, and later the Vice President of the Confederate States, knew full well that slavery was the essential issue of that hour and believed that a war was coming because of it. He knew that Lincoln’s election, and the great conflict over slavery, would spark a national schism.
 
Men will be cutting one another’s throats in a little while. In less than twelve months we shall be in a war and that the bloodiest in history. Men seem to be utterly blinded to the future. What is to become of us then? God only knows. The Union will certainly be disrupted.[2]
 
Such an appalling outcome was unavoidable, in the view of the future Vice President of the Confederacy, “because there are not virtue, and patriotism and sense enough left in the country to avoid it.”[3]
 
Few would suggest that ours is a time of virtue and patriotism, or an overabundance of sense; we ought to take heed from the tragedies and errors of the past.
 
If slavery is wrong and was certainly the central issue that sundered the country and brought civil war and tragedy and horror, then the killing of children by their mothers (and their medical providers) is just as significant and likely more so.
 
When a thing that can be done is done but ought not to be done, citizens must step forward and say that it is wrong and ought to be banned, just as slavery was banned. Such things can be done without war and pestilence.
 
Who would go to war for the purpose of protecting the rights of mothers to murder their children?
 
Those who held slaves, bought and sold them, and upheld the slave system, espousing its value on cultural, race supremacy, and economic arguments, finally went to war to uphold their Constitutional rights to keep black people enslaved. That the national law supported slavery via the Constitution did not make it right—it simply made it legal.
 
Too many confuse the concept of legal with the concept of right. There are many instances when the two do not overlap; the law is not always just and correct. Enslaved black people were and are people—not “property”—though the Constitution said that they were, just as unborn humans are not “undesired growths” or “healthcare decisions” as many abortion supporters claim that they are.
 
The American statesman John C. Calhoun once said, in reply to Henry Clay, that "legislating upon precedent is but to make the error of yesterday the law of today."[4] Our American courts are driven by precedent, founded upon it; but our state and national legislatures are not so bound; thus, the anti-abortion legislation now coming from anti-child murder states like Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Louisiana—all of them, ironically, former slave states (except Missouri which was a border state). Such laws are direct challenges to bad precedent and ought to be encouraged. However, the courts themselves are not literally enslaved by precedent, sometimes “demonstrably erroneous decisions,” like Roe and Dred Scott, can be challenged and defeated.
 
Lincoln told his audiences during his debates against Stephen Douglas for the Illinois seat in the US Senate in 1858 that a "house divided against itself cannot stand." Though Lincoln lost the Senate election he was elected President two years later. Lincoln's position on slavery was that he opposed its expansion into the territories—he was not then an abolitionist. By 1862, this would change radically and he became the leading abolitionist of the country. The country was so divided—and so entrenched in some sections in its views on the slavery issue—in ten states, he received not one popular vote.[5]
 
Being opposed to a thing that is legal, though it is wrong, is an unpopular position among those with an intrenched love and support for that legally protected wrong thing. More so, those who profit from that thing that is wrong are the greatest defenders of it.
 
Just a month after Lincoln’s election in 1860, and citing his election as a cause, South Carolina seceded from the Union. In the government of South Carolina’s Ordnance of Secession, the document with which they declared their justification for leaving the Union and rebelling against it, protection of the slavery system was the center of their complaint.
 
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
 
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
 
This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.
 
On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
 
The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.
 
—South Carolina’s Ordnance of Secession, adopted December 24, 1860.
 
This is all very dramatic and very clear; in the view of the secessionists of South Carolina slavery was a legal, constitutionally protected, positive good whose existence was assailed by a new administration (Lincoln) that promised to be hostile to it.
 
Lincoln once made the observation that if slavery were a positive good then why weren’t people volunteering to become slaves? And, in our own troubled time, if not-yet-born children could speak would they say, “please abort me”?
 
During the Senate debates with Douglas, Lincoln was no abolitionist. He opposed the expansion of slavery because he thought it wrong and did not want it to expand into the territories yet abided a great respect for the laws and the Constitution (which he felt prevented him from being a full abolitionist); Douglas supported "Popular Sovereignty" whereby the residents of a territory could themselves decide the slave/free status of a state-to-be. This approach led to conflict and strife, and provided an easy path to corruption of the vote. The example of "bleeding Kansas" illustrated Lincoln's point well. “Popular Sovereignty” was, in Lincoln’s view, just another method by which slavery could expand into the territories (and an indirect way in which slavery and its expansion could be supported).
 
Though Lincoln was ambivalent about black people and concerned about the viability of whites and blacks living together equally and peacefully under the same government (in the tradition of Jefferson's view) Lincoln was no friend of the slave system. During the time of the debates at a private event during which both Lincoln and Douglas were present, Lincoln was asked, "Do you know who Douglas is?" Knowing that Douglas himself would hear the answer, Lincoln replied,
 
Why, yes, he's a man with tens of thousands of blind followers. It's my business to make some of those blind followers see.[6]
 
The immorality of slavery was clear as a fire bell in the night to Lincoln and to many others; it is wrong to force men and women to work, take their freedom, buy and sell them as property, and steal the results of their labor. Such moral clarity drove Lincoln (and his Republican colleagues) in opposing Douglas—and later in his management of the war.
 
Such obvious moral truth is clear to many today about abortion; it is wrong to deny the most innocent and vulnerable among us of their lives. It is wrong to kill our children and celebrate such horrors as motherly empowerment. It is a moral abomination to participate in and support such things. It is a clear wrong to kill children—regardless of any legal arguments or Constitutional “protections” that might support it. Sometimes laws are mistaken and must be changed or defeated (Dred Scott being another example of morally-wrong law).
 
 
That some women who have had abortions now trot their experiences forward in public as a badge of honor, as if their abortion(s) were a positive and good thing worthy of applause and respect, shows further that so many are blind, and cannot see.
 
The immorality of slavery is clear to all reasonable and decent people now; then, the matter was an issue of hot debate.
 
Now, that the abortion issue is breaking out on state and regional lines will the pro-child murder states of the north, north-east, and west gather themselves up in battle array and fight their American brothers and sisters of the southern states to protect their Constitutional rights to commit infanticide? The idea seems preposterous, doesn't it? But consider this: When Lincoln was elected, South Carolina immediately seceded. Lincoln was not an abolitionist candidate and had campaigned on a platform of limiting the expansion of slavery into the territories only, not the eradication of the slave system in its entirety. But the leaders and blind followers of the slave states considered any limits on the slavery system as a direct threat to their billions worth of investment in enslaved humans. They then formed a combination of slave holding states of like mind and, to protect their immoral institution, gathered themselves together in battle array and went to war against their kinsmen to protect their Constitutional rights to continue to hold black people in bondage and profit from the arrangement.
 
Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States (and a congressional colleague and friend of Lincoln) considered slavery the "cornerstone" of the economy and culture of the South—the war came and almost 800,000 Americans died. As a direct result of the conflict slavery was eradicated in the United States.
 
When the war ended and the Confederacy defeated and slavery destroyed many of the former Confederate survivors and participants explained that their secession, rebellion, and war-making was not at all about slavery and its protection (though at the start they had said that it was) but rather was about tariffs, northern animus, southern nationalism, states’ rights and, finally, the protection of the Constitution itself. That their concepts of protecting the Constitution were founded upon ensuring their rights to enslave black people not all in the South acknowledged though most all understood. These post-war disingenuous, misleading, and false explanations for a national catastrophe that they had themselves brought about did not convince everyone.
 
It is most important to note that few southern whites were slaveholders and that many were not at all interested in slavery and that even some free blacks in the south owned slaves. Regardless, it is incontrovertible that secession and the Confederacy and the war were direct results of the existence of the slavery system and the desire to protect it. And not merely the existence of the slavery system but also an influential coterie of slave holders and their blind followers who desired its ongoing existence, expansion, and permanent national protections. Only in recent times has this false "lost cause" narrative finally been dismissed as misleading though, after the war, most knew exactly what these apologists were doing.
 
George Thomas, (a Virginian who did not join the Confederacy), one of the great commanders of the Union, hero of Chickamauga (known as "the rock of Chickamauga"), and the commander of Union forces at the battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864) described the post-war assault against truth three years after the war's close.
 
[T]he greatest efforts made by the defeated insurgents since the close of the war have been to promulgate the idea that the cause of liberty, justice, humanity, equality, and all the calendar of the virtues of freedom, suffered violence and wrong when the effort for southern independence failed. This is, of course, intended as a species of political cant, whereby the crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism, so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history hand in hand with the defenders of the government, thus wiping out with their own hands their own stains; a species of self-forgiveness amazing in its effrontery, when it is considered that life and property—justly forfeited by the laws of the country, of war, and of nations, through the magnanimity of the government and people—was not exacted from them.[7]
 
History has proven that bad laws can be enacted, that a radical few can manipulate, embolden and sway the masses, that countries of value can teeter and fall through the madness and confusion of their citizens. Most importantly, too, history teaches that people can justify the most appalling horrors to secure and advance an agenda that they value regardless of the wrongness of the thing they defend.
 
Holding humans in slavery is wrong (despite its having been protected under the Constitution) and, in our own time, regardless of Constitutional protections for abortion—the murder of children is as wrong now as slavery was then.
 
For many decades the defenders of child murder have perpetrated similar “lost cause” rhetorical convolutions and misrepresentations in fashion similar to some ex-Confederates and secession apologists. As of this writing, the efforts of the abortionists and their blind adherents have been generally successful.
 
The national debate on the subject is obfuscated by bizarre linkages and assertions of women’s empowerment and equal rights between the sexes, all of which have one single purpose—to obscure the ugly, immoral truth of the killing thing that they defend and applaud. A national battle is being waged between those who want to kill infants and those who want infants to be born and live.
 
The moral clarity of the matter when stated so starkly is difficult to evade. Abortion advocates go to great pains to assert that infants in the womb are not people, that unborn humans are not fully human, that a child growing in a woman's body is akin to a tumor and, should the mother wish to excise it, such destruction of the unwanted growth is within her rights.
 
It is important for the defenders of infanticide to assert that the murder of a not-yet-born child is not, in fact, a murder. This is the bizarre, disingenuous woman’s-health-care-decision argument deployed by many feminists, fans of child murder, and mainstream Democrat politicians who support abortion. All of this is a great lie and fraud whose purpose is to justify and minimize the slaughter of children.
 
Such lies are the things upon which national disgraces and national tragedies are built. That the Democrat party is now “the abortion party” and once was the party of slavery and secession prior to the Civil War; and that the Republican party supported abolition and sustaining the Union are perhaps not relevant historical truths.
 
In fact, the success of the pro-abortion paradigm is so extensive in the popular culture and in politics that among some in the pro-infanticide movement the true marker of love between a man and a woman is whether the man will permit the woman to kill their child should they have the great blessing to have one, and should she have the whim to do it. “Yes, dear heart, kill the baby. If the child lives, that would be inconvenient for us. Love you!” For some, such a grotesque conversation is the height of romance, while for others it can only fill the heart and soul with sorrow and despair. There is little value in belaboring this point that providing permission to one's partner to kill their child is in no way the consequence of a moral or loving or responsible decision.
 
These are definitive, declarative statements: Holding humans in slavery is wrong; killing children is wrong. What arguments can be presented to those who defend either to convince them of the wrongness of their views, the confusions of their hearts, and the terrible damage that they do to their country, themselves, and others?
 
At what point does the defense of enslaving others in a nation whose citizens, founders (and founding documents) assert that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" become absurd?
 
Since the Civil War the wrongness of slavery is now abundantly clear yet, while we proclaim that enslaving people is wrong many Americans continue to assert, and the highest national law continues to sustain, that the murder of children by their mothers is not wrong.
 
The matter of abortion, about killing children, is not about the empowerment of women. How can it be that some women can feel empowered by having, and implementing, the right to kill their children? Some nations and cultures throughout history, and still today, believe that the murder of children is empowering, good, and acceptable—not this one.
 
There are challenges abroad and there are challenges here at home, but there is no more fundamental domestic fight than that over the controversy as to whether or not the murder of children is wrong and whether legal protections for it should be rescinded.
 
A nation such as ours at the height of economic, military, and cultural success and might should have as its national position that idea that innocent life is of great and unmeasurable value and that we, Americans, will protect and succor such individuals.
 
Therefore, in furtherance of this essential and foundational concept, the Supreme Court decision on Roe, allowing abortion anywhere in the several states must be overturned, and the authority of deciding if mothers should have the legal right to kill their children returned to the several states.
 
The position of the nation should be one of reverence and respect for life, and a written-in-law sentiment that our children are our greatest national treasures that we can have now and into the future. Under the law, after the overturning of Roe, each state will decide for itself if they want infanticide or not within their borders. Perhaps in some future not so far distant in time, all the states will recognize and acknowledge this vile killing practice for what it is, and abandon it.
 
In late December, 1860, Lincoln replied to a query from John Gilmer of North Carolina, who asked for clarification on some of Lincoln's positions. Lincoln answered in depth, and would later offer Gilmer a Cabinet position, an offer which was not accepted. Gilmer later served in the Confederate Congress. In his reply to Gilmer, Lincoln was clear on the matter of the day, a clarity similar in quality and surety to the challenges of today.
 
You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. For this neither has any just occasion to be angry with the other.[8]
 
An Incontrovertible Basis for Life
 
The abortion issue is not a complex one with rhetorical, mental, and spiritual confusions involved, though its defenders assert that it is. It is a matter of simple logic upon which the cornerstone of science and civilization rests.
  1. It is true that it is immoral and wrong for one person to hold another in bondage; it is true that there ought to be no law that allows this, and no moral or ethical justification for it.
  2. If #1 is true, then the murder of children by their mothers is a crime against morality and against humanity.
  3. If the assertions of the proponents of abortion that unborn children aren't human but a sort of growth that can be excised and destroyed if the mother, whimsically or seriously, wishes it done is a lie, then the proponents of abortion (who believe this lie) operate under a false concept.
  4. If a nation of laws and justice passes through a catastrophic, tragic war in which almost a million citizens are killed—all on account of the existence of the immoral slave system—to end a rebellion based upon the desire to protect the slave system; then that same nation cannot, must not, support infanticide.
  5. If infanticide is wrong then the country in which it is practiced ought to ban it, and contend that a nation of laws and justice and freedom does not allow the murder of its children by anybody including their mothers or their mother’s medical provider.
  6. If it is true that nature itself dictates that women carry children and give birth, and not men, then the responsibility of birth rests incontrovertibly upon the females of the society. Should they wish to never carry a child, they should never have unprotected sex, and should they have sex and then conceive, then the child should not be killed as it is the very embodiment of innocence and good. How does one justify the murder of a child when there are ready alternatives that will alleviate the responsibility of child rearing from the disinterested, unwilling/unable or hostile mother, and allow the child to retain its life?
  7. If a woman of the country cares not to raise a child which she is carrying she ought not to be allowed to kill the child but rather allowed to give that child to a family who will raise him/her. Lack of desire to carry and rear a child does not give a woman the right to kill that child. She does not have that right because the murder of unborn children is wrong.
  8. There is little contention that the murder of born children is certainly wrong. The lie that abortion supporters tell is that unborn children are not proper humans and have no lawful or moral protections until they emerge from the womb (in some states, some Democrat political leaders would extend abortion even after birth). This is a great fraud which all who contend in this debate fully know but the abortion advocates must embrace to support their goal. Their goal is to protect their right to murder their children.
  9. It is wrong to murder children, born or unborn.
  10. Slavery was once protected by the Constitution, though it was wrong to do so.
  11. The murder of children is now protected by the Constitution, though it is wrong to do so.
  12. Any law at the national level that protects the murder of children must be defeated.
  13. Any politician who supports the murder of children must not be elected and, if elected, opposed and defeated at the earliest electoral opportunity.
  14. The blind must be made to see, and the laws that support their blindness—utterly, totally, and fully ended.
 
Times Out of Joint
 
The abortion matter is so abundantly morally clear yet now profoundly muddied by a culture that devalues life, wisdom, and the defense of the right. Some deeply troubled people do not even believe in the existence of “right” —only in what each individual considers to be the right. This bizarre, self-absorbed, Hobbesian, anti-human, amoral, humanist world-view is contrary to the concept of a just nation built upon laws and institutions.
 
In such a vexed climate as this few have taken up this matter as too difficult, too controversial, too heightened. Such were most likely the feelings of those who opposed slavery all the while it was protected by the Constitution. In that climate then and in this, now, certainly these similar struggles to defeat an injustice have like elements of challenge.
 
There were times when Abraham Lincoln himself seemed to be a sort of ghost standing on a platform in broad daylight before thousands of people solemnly unwrapping the sheets about their old laws and murmuring of forgotten oaths and wasted sacrifices.[9]
 
In May, 1856, amidst the violence over slavery in the territories on the Missouri/Kansas border which saw hundreds killed, Lincoln spoke at a Republican party rally in Springfield, Illinois.
 
"These are sad times, and seem out of joint,” he said. “All seems dead, dead, dead; but the age is not yet dead; it liveth as surely as our Maker liveth. Under all this seeming want of life and motion, the world does move, nevertheless. Be hopeful. Let us adjourn and appeal to the people."[10]
 
The Confederate Monuments
 
Since the Confederacy was founded upon slavery and its protection should Confederate monuments be allowed to stand? The answer must be “yes.”
 
This apparent contradiction is fundamental to understanding American history.
 
After the war, our forefathers forgave one another and re-united the country. This forgiveness (and subsequent re-unification of the country) is one of the essential lessons of the Civil War for the future generations.
 
Our forebears forgave each other and moved forward together as one united nation—without slavery. Statues and monuments and memorials to Confederate soldiers and leaders are acknowledgements in stone and bronze by the victors that the vanquished were not only defeated enemies in war, but brothers (and sisters) once again going forward into the future.
 
These monuments are silent lessons to us of mistakes made, courage exhibited, magnanimity in victory, and national unity into the future. If our boys and girls in blue forgave our boys and girls in gray then who are we to cancel their lessons and abandon their forgiveness? This was a conflict fought and resolved by previous generations which only relates to us now because of radical agitation to reignite old, resolved controversies for current political purposes. It is the self-destructive height of ignorance and anti-history.
 
Lessons of a Contrary Past
 
Accepting the lessons of our forebears is a debt we owe to the past and to ourselves. If there is no learning, if there is no lesson, if there are no themes of reunification then the tragedy of the war is compounded over and over again. We are mandated by history and by nature to learn the lessons of the past.
 
But we do have such lessons and themes—one in particular from an unexpected source. Here is a speech that former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest gave toward the end of his life, at Memphis, Tennessee, July, 1875. Forrest had been one of the leading generals of the Confederacy and acknowledged by many in the post-war years, including Robert E. Lee, as the best commander of the war (Sherman, Johnston, and Davis appeared to concur on this assessment). Prior to the war, Forrest had been a slave trader through which activities he acquired great wealth all of which he lost during the war.
 
After the war, Forrest was the first Grand Wizard of the Klan, which he later ordered disbanded. Now widely reviled for these things, and the controversial battle at Fort Pillow in 1864, Forrest had an extraordinary change of heart in the post-war years which is now generally unknown and unacknowledged. He is a fitting example of the concept that people can learn and change and that reconciliation and forgiveness are real.
 
For this generation, Forrest’s post-war change and the forgiveness presented to him by some he had harmed the most is an important story that challenges ignorance and hatreds now so widespread in our troubled country, and merits acknowledgement and review.
 
This is the last public address General Forrest delivered. He gave this speech to a black organization, at their invitation, called the “Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association.” Prior to the address he was presented a bouquet of flowers by a black woman, which he gladly accepted. This speech is not commonly known, but ought to be.
 
Gentlemen, I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the Southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none.
 
(Applause.)
 
I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand. (Prolonged applause.)[11]
 
This speech by Forrest to a black organization, and the later fact that hundreds or more black people attended his funeral, is evidence that the contradictions of our history and ourselves were once understood, and now tragically forgot.
 
The bravery and sacrifices of both sides now belong to all of us, north and south, black and white, blue and gray—and the Confederate statues can speak one lesson or another to all. We ignore and eradicate our history at our grave peril.
 
Unifying the Contradictions of American History
 
The past and present wilt — I have fill'd them, emptied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
 
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a
     minute longer.)
 
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
 
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
 
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through
     with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

 
—Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, from Leaves of Grass, 1855
 
There is no contradiction in declaring that slavery and the killing of children are both wrong. Ours is a sometimes-difficult, contradictory history. There is much to learn and gain from our contrary history foremost, perhaps, is that the eradication of the moral evil of slavery carried such a high cost.
 
All of this is here for the taking now so that we avoid the mistakes of our forebears who were forced to endure war and horror to end their great wrong (slavery). Now, it is for us to end our generation’s great wrong (the murder of children), assert that we are not slaves to precedent, and do it without enmity, discord, and disunion.
 
 
An Invitation
 
A performance is scheduled at Ford’s Theater. Appreciators of the theater and all concerned parties hope (and pray) that the play will be a successful one, and that the event will be unmarred by anything unpleasant among the performers or the attendees.
 
Despite invitations having been sent far and wide every one of them has been declined.
 
All send their regrets at the missed opportunity and an evening’s entertainment lost, but the children are at home asleep and they cannot be left unattended.
 
 
 

[1] William Eleroy Curtis, The True Abraham Lincoln, (J.B. Lippincott, 1905), p.388.
[2] Daniel Wait Howe, Political History of Secession: To the Beginning of the American Civil War, (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1914), p.421; and, James Ford Rhodes, History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850, vol. 2, 1854-1860, (Harper and Brothers, 1896), p.453-4.
[3] Rhodes, Ibid.
[4] Clyde N. Wilson and Shirley Bright Cook, eds., The Papers of John C. Calhoun, Volume 26, (1848-1849), (University of South Carolina Press, 2001) p.x; referencing William H. Herndon, Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life, (Belford, Clarke and Co., 1889), p.523.
[5] “When the votes were tallied, Lincoln, who was not on the ballot in any Southern state, carried all of the North but one state in the popular vote.” (University of Virginia, Miller Center).
[6] Winston Churchill, The Crisis, (MacMillan, London, 1902), vol. 4, p.136.
[7] Report of the Joint Select Committee to Inquire Into The Condition of Affairs in The Late Insurrectionary States, (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1872), p.19.
[8] John G. Nicolay, A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln: Condensed from Nicolay and Hay’s Abraham Lincoln: A History, (Century, 1902), p.166.
[9] Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years-2, (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1945), vol. 2, p.136.
[10] Ward Hill Lamon, The Life of Abraham Lincoln: From His Birth to His Inauguration as President, (Applewood reprint, 1872), p.378.
[11] Jack Hurst, Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography, (Vintage, 1993), pp.366-7.
 
 
 

__________________________________
Daniel Mallock is a historian of the Founding generation and of the Civil War and is the author of The New York Times Bestseller, Agony and Eloquence: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and a World of Revolution. He is a Contributing Editor at New English Review.

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Comments
1 Jul 2019
Send an emailG. Murphy Donovan
"Reason" is one of the great myths of history. Belief, for the most part is sentiment, more about feeling than reflection. Indeed, most "facts" can not be measured measured or quantified. Truth is merely what we chose to believe. Reason and morality, in turn, are bit players in most arguments. Facts do matter, but facts can be relevant and false at the same time. Most folks are slaves to their emotions and no volume of evidence, or skill with logic, are likely to sway them. It is the head, not the heart, that is a lonely hunter. A nihilist practice like abortion speaks for itself, a moral void, a kind of collective, yet "reasonable," death wish for the species. Why suffer the children? They shoot horses, don't they? Putin, with prescience, argues that a "liberal" West is now devouring itself. Indeed, and to all those who think of themselves as genocidal progressives, I would add, "bon appetite."

1 Jul 2019
Send an emailRebecca Bynum
Excellent article. It is interesting that Lincoln was quoting Christ with a "house divided" and "blind leading the blind." That was an age when we had a reservoir of shared cultural treasures from which a speaker could draw. Now, quote one of Jesus' parables, Proverbs, let alone Shakespeare, and you'll receive blank stares. Where is our shared culture now?

3 Jul 2019
Anon1
Superb. When can we expect it to be required reading?

4 Jul 2019
Send an emailKirby Olson
Nice to have see the Forrest even through all the trees for once. People are fluid. Races are fluid. Nations.

5 Jul 2019
Abolitionist
Both the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution state “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall … deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Roe Court (as mistaken as the Dred Scott Court) claimed that this could not apply to the unborn. The current Supreme Court must find its way to overturning this sentiment. The unborn are persons for the purposes of the Constitution. If this Court fails we may find that Lincoln’s Second Inaugural (which I paraphrase slightly) will seem like prophesy … “until every drop of blood drawn with the [abortionist’s tools] 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.’ ”

10 Jul 2019
Send an emailStephen Schecter
This is a good article on the history of the conflict between North and South over slavery and secession, a beginning of a discussion about the difference between morality and the legal system, but poor on the question of abortion. Abortion is not infanticide, at least not as infanticide has been known historically and legally. Throughout history women have sought abortions. When abortion was criminalized, they sought them anyway and died sometimes from getting them. Decriminalizing abortion was a step in the direction of freedom. Of course, abortion raises many issues, moral, legal and societal. When is a fetus a person is one such issue. There are scientific and medical aspects that shed light on this question. But surely we do not want to go back to the day when women discovered they were pregnant to their dismay and sought to abort, most likely in the first trimester, by resort to back-street practitioners. Even when they did so the decision was fraught with regret and pain in many cases, it may be presumed. Do we want to return to a situation where they died in order to abort? Do we want to stigmatize them as well for doing so? And what faith do we have that there will be people to adopt their children if they are forced to carry unwanted fetuses to term? Do people who dislike government intervention in their lives want to drag the government into the forced birth of unwanted children and their transfer to other families? I see a nightmare of conflict and suits developing that would only bring more confusion to an already confused society. This essay is somewhat specious in its equation of abortion and slavery, revealed in part by the fact that most of the article discusses the issue of slavery and its place in the events leading up to the Civil War. Having an abortion in the first trimester is not the same as murdering a child once it is born. There is no slippery slope here, but recognition of distinctions that need to be made on complex issues. Sadly, this article bludgeons where distinctions are needed.

14 Jul 2019
Send an emailEric MacDonald
This article is not worth reading. It is based on a false premise, that what some consider to be intuitively morally true, like 'Slavery is wrong,' is in some way related to the what others think to be intuitively morally true, such as 'Abortion is wrong.' There is no relation between the two, except insofar as the rights of individuals with lives to live is concerned. But this has to do with reasons, not with moral intuition. In both cases, the rights of individuals to live their own lives, in the case of American slavery, slaves of African ancestry, and in the case of abortion, women, are paramount. There is no sense in which a conceptus, an embryo or a foetus can be thought to be individuals or persons with lives to live. That is, there are reasons that make slavery wrong, and that make abortion something that should remain within the compass of a woman's liberty rights. There is nothing intuitively obvious about either moral claim made in this article. Perhaps the author should stick to history.

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