- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 14, 2004

Honesty about Honest Abe

I am writing in reply to the book review of “Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation” by Michael P. Riccards (“The Great Emancipator,” Books, Feb. 8). Though the article raises some interesting points, it unfortunately leaves out a good deal of history.

Though Lincoln may have opposed slavery for a long time, this doesn’t mean he wasn’t a racist. While debating Stephen Douglas in 1858 in Illinois, he clearly stated that he was in no way in favor of equality among the races: “I will say then that I am not, nor have I ever been in the favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. And inasmuch as they cannot so live while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” This might explain why he went out of his way to meet with several black leaders in 1862 to outline his plan to send black Americans to Africa.

Likewise, in a December 1862 message to Congress, Lincoln stated: “[B]ut why should emancipation South send the free people North? … And in any event, cannot the North decide for itself whether to receive them?” Earlier the same year, he also said: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” Clearly, Lincoln was a man who was willing to go to any length, no matter how ignoble, to preserve the Union.

The Emancipation Proclamation was thus another one of his tools for accomplishing that. Aside from not freeing any non-Southern slaves (which would have occurred had the edict been motivated by genuine principle instead of expediency), the proclamation did little to affect the ability of slaveholders in the border states to sell their slaves, for the economic disruption brought about by a major war was enough to make regular commerce in this arena next to impossible. What the proclamation did do, though, was galvanize a war-weary Northern public by attempting to cast a conflict of differing economic and cultural systems as a war of liberation. Down South, people of all races saw through this, defending their homes and families against the numerous cases of rape, pillage and forcible recruitment of black Americans into the federal army that are documented in the U.S. government’s own records.

In this Black History Month, it is time for Americans to honor true heroes of human rights such as Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King and Ivan Allen Jr. (mayor of Atlanta during the 1960s who, after initially opposing the civil rights movement, became a strong supporter). In this way, we can provide a proud example that our children can emulate.



Regarding Michael Riccards’ book review on “Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery,” by Allen C. Guelzo:

Once or twice a year, I ask historians, such as Mr. Guelzo, who support this heroic vision of Lincoln to explain why Julia Grant, wife of Ulysses S. Grant, was a slaveholder until the emancipation and possibly after.

The fact is that historian Richard Hofstadter was right, and no one has been able to make the great heroism of Lincoln square with the fact that emancipation was only in the areas that he did not control.

Please contrast that with George Mason, a Virginian who refused to sign the Constitution in part because it did not prohibit slavery. Now, who is your choice to have a big memorial on the Mall: Lincoln or Mason? You may want to compare the two memorials to these two men to see what we, as a country, think of them.

Historians such as Mr. Guelzo should explain how Lincoln could have emancipated the slaves, and yet the wife of his commanding general was a slaveholder at least up to the proclamation and perhaps until 1865.

How can anyone take seriously the notion that Lincoln emancipated the slaves when he would not even emancipate the slaves in the states he controlled?



Pornography victimizes the vulnerable

Sickened by the news of yet another child abduction and murder (“Kidnapped girl’s body found in lot,” Nation, Feb. 7), I am left to wonder how many of our children must be sacrificed on the pyre of protecting the constitutional rights of deviants in society. Also, how long before we acknowledge that the unmitigated access to pornography provided by the Internet and other media is both the flash point and the accelerant fueling the fire of perversion?

Those who cannot modulate their behavior to the norms and expectations of society must be curtailed, either by exclusion or the surrender of those rights otherwise guaranteed — or are we to suppose the framers of the Constitution intended to protect the rapists and murderers of our children rather than the children? It is time to recognize that the emperor is naked — pornography objectifies and victimizes the vulnerable.

The first obligation of government is to protect its citizenry, not only those who vote and pay taxes. Billions are spent on the defense of the nation, and yet we stand unwilling to address the task of protecting children for fear of offending the sensibilities of predators — perpetrators who have the highest rates of recidivism and are the least amenable to treatment. The life of any child is too high a price to pay for the continued freedoms of those who peddle and profit from filth while stimulating the compulsions of this scourge on our communities.


Severna Park, Md.

Facts forgotten in Tonkin Gulf

Arnaud de Borchgrave’s statement that “North Vietnamese gunboats did not attack U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin” (“Iraq and the Gulf of Tonkin,” Commentary, Tuesday) is the latest in a series of misstatements of fact about the 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident that have appeared in newspaper commentary since the debate began about going to war in Iraq. The record screams to be set straight.

On Aug. 2, 1964, the USS Maddox was indeed attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. As pointed out by Edwin E. Moise in his definitive account of the incident (“Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War,” Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), there is no disagreement among the belligerents, and the evidence is abundant. A shell fired into the Maddox is on display in the Navy Museum in Washington. Photographs were taken of the attacking boats. The Aug. 2 attack was praised in the Aug. 6, 1964, edition of the North Vietnamese newspaper Nanh Dan. Interrogations of North Vietnamese patrol-boat crewmen captured in 1967 substantiated the attack.

The attack of Aug. 2 seems to have been forgotten in the focus on the action of Aug. 4, when the crews of the Maddox and USS Turner Joy believed they were under attack. With the initial reports of the purported second attack in hand, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara recommended to President Johnson that he order retaliatory strikes, which Mr. Johnson did. The Pierce Arrow strikes were under way on Aug. 5, with the Aug. 4 attack still unconfirmed. Both Mr. McNamara and Mr. Johnson later developed doubts about the Aug. 4 incident, but, as Mr. Moise notes, there is no evidence that they had any doubts on Aug. 4 when they ordered retaliation.

Subsequent analysis by historians has determined that the Aug. 4 incident did not occur, a judgment confirmed by Mr. McNamara when he asked Vietnamese leaders specifically about the Aug. 4 incident during his trip to Vietnam in the mid-1990s. Somehow, over the years, this finding has been misinterpreted by many commentators to cover the entire Tonkin Gulf episode.


Managing editor

Sea Power Magazine


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