Mencken and More on Lincoln’s Speech


Mencken and More on Lincoln’s Speech

by DC Dave

lincolnThe critical observations of America’s most famous journalist about America’s most famous speech, which was written and delivered by America’s most worshipped president, have recently received some attention on the Internet (but certainly never in the mainstream press).  I speak of H. L. Mencken and his comments on Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Here are Mencken’s words, which make up the concluding two paragraphs of his short, sharp essay on Lincoln.  The essay first appeared in 1920 in the Smart Set, a literary magazine published by Mencken and George Jean Nathan.* I encountered it some years ago in the 1955 edition of the Vintage Book Mencken collection by Alistair Cooke:


Dead Confederate in the Devil's Den area

Dead Confederate in the Devil’s Den area


Like William Jennings Bryan, he was a dark horse made suddenly formidable by fortunate rhetoric.  The Douglas debate launched him, and the Cooper Union Speech got him the Presidency. His talent for emotional utterance was an accomplishment of late growth. His early speeches were mere empty fire-works—the hollow rhodomontades of the era. But in middle life he purged his style of ornament and it became almost baldly 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 menckenthe 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.

But let us not forget that it is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it.  Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—”that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary.


Dead Confederates near McPherson's Ridge

Dead Confederates near McPherson’s Ridge

The quickest and easiest objection to Mencken on this assessment—that is to say, the objection of the average American who has had it drummed into him that the victory of Lincoln’s forces over the Confederacy was very nearly the best thing to happen in the history of the North American continent—is that the South could hardly be said to be fighting for freedom while it held a substantial proportion of its population in bondage as slaves.  That argument is easily dismissed.  One could argue in precisely the same way that the American colonial revolutionists couldn’t have been fighting for freedom, either, because they had lots of slaves then, too.  The thirteen colonies were fighting for their freedom from Britain—with the slavery question put off until later, and the eleven states of the Confederacy were fighting for their freedom from the Union—with the slavery question put off until later, both in the Confederacy and in the states remaining in the Union in which slavery remained legal.

Dead Union & Confederates near McPherson's Ridge

Dead Union & Confederates near McPherson’s Ridge

The big objection to be raised to Mencken, if his purpose was to show the full nonsense of the Gettysburg Address, is that he did not go nearly far enough.  Let us look a little more closely at Lincoln’s brief remarks on November 19, 1863, dedicating a cemetery for the victims of the bloody battle that had been fought on the first three days of July:

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 long endure. We are met on a great battle-field 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 can not dedicate–we can not consecrate—we can not 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, nor 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 nobly 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.



The most important untruth in the speech is right there in the famous opening sentence.  If you subtract four score and seven (87) from 1863, you’re back to 1776.  The Confederates would have been on much more solid ground invoking that year than the Unionists as a precedent and justification for their cause.  That was the year that the 13 British colonies proclaimed their independence (declared their secession) from the crown.  They did not at that time create any one, new nation, and it was not their agreed-upon intention to do so.**

Lincoln probably began his speech, “Four score and seven,” instead of “Three score and sixteen,” when the new nation was actually created eleven years later, in order to hearken back to the stirring opening lines of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, “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.”  Although the rebellious colonies were a long way from being a new nation at that point, in their rhetoric, at least, their cause was “conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

They may have been dedicated to that proposition in word, but they were hardly dedicated to it in deed.  Once again we remind our readers that these were colonies in which the age-old institution of slavery was mostly legal.  The principal author, Thomas Jefferson, after all, and many of the co-signers of that great document extolling freedom and equality were slave owners, and the New England-based slave trade was thriving.

Dead soldiers in the "Slaughter Pen" below Devil's Den and Little Round Top

Dead soldiers in the “Slaughter Pen” below Devil’s Den and Little Round Top


Invoking the Constitution instead of the Declaration of Independence might have made the “new nation” part of Lincoln’s speech accurate, but it would have created additional problems.  The Constitution, although silent on the question of the various state laws that made slavery legal, made it quite explicit that slaves were not equal to everyone else.  They were, in fact, three-fifths of everyone else when it came to representation of a state in the House of Representatives and direct taxation of its citizens.  There it is in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The Constitution also left the question of voting rights up to the states, and at that time the general rule was that only owners of property of a certain minimum value were allowed to vote. Furthermore, the federal government did not require that the states allow women to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.

So much for the first sentence.  The second one makes no more sense.  The “civil war” of which Lincoln speaks was no more a civil war than was the American Revolution.  The breakaway states were not competing for control of the central government. The 15th century War of the Roses between the supporters of the Houses of York and Lancaster for the crown was a classic civil war.  The war over which Lincoln presided was nothing like it.  Proclaiming it a civil war does raise the stakes rhetorically, though, making the speaker, his supporters, and their cause appear to be more threatened than they really are.  The viability of representative self-government, which Lincoln seems to be talking about, was not on the line in this struggle, either on the North American continent or certainly not in the world, as Lincoln implies.  Monarchists were not besieging the capital threatening to end the “noble experiment.”  Both parties to the war had a claim on the legacy of the founding fathers, and the South’s claim might have been the better of the two.  Those who signed onto the Constitution would certainly never have done so if they had thought that the rights of the signatory states to go their own separate ways at some future date should the union not work out were thereby abrogated forever.

Dead soldiers in the woods near Little Round Top

Dead soldiers in the woods near Little Round Top

Inflating the stakes is a routine way for war promoters to justify their decision to go to war and to persuade potential fighters that the cause is worth their risking their lives.  World War I, which looks even more pointless in retrospect than it did to many at the time, especially the U.S. participation in it, was preposterously justified as the “war to end all wars” and a war to “make the world safe for democracy.”  These days, with respect to our wars of choice in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are told, just as fantastically, that we are “fighting them over there so that we don’t have to fight them over here” and that the soldiers are “fighting for our freedom,” even as the government curtails historic liberties at home.

It is easy to see why Lincoln would have felt an acute need to inflate the stakes.  His war of choice against his fellow Americans, by the fall of 1863, some two-and-a-half years after it had begun, was becoming increasingly hard to sell to those who had to do the fighting.  So difficult had it become that, even with its large advantage in population, the Congress of the Union had felt it necessary earlier in the year to enact the country’s first conscription law.  So much for the fine ideal of “liberty.”  The law allowed exemption from service by payment of $300 or the supplying of a substitute, doing similar violence to “the proposition that all men are created equal.”


Dead soldiers near the Wheatfield and Emmittsburg Road

The gross inequity of the conscription legislation had not been lost on the populace, and bloody draft riots had broken out in New York City just days after the big Gettysburg victory.  Like many an oversold war before and since, this one had turned out not to be the easy victory that the people had been given to believe it would be.  And like the current unpopular war of choice in Iraq, the rationale was shifting, though for quite different reasons.  Preserving the Union was still the overriding concern, but, more than anything else, geopolitical 506px-New_York_Draft_Riots_-_fightingconsiderations had caused Lincoln to ease the freeing of the slaves more explicitly onto the agenda, something he could not have done at the outset without losing much of his Northern following along with the slave-holding states of Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and Missouri.  One of his biggest fears now was that Britain would lend its naval support to their great trading partners in the Confederacy, doing for them what the French had done for the Revolutionists.  The abolition movement was strong in Britain, however, and a British government seen to be fighting against the now outwardly pro-abolition government of the North would have lost popularity.  That was the main reason for the issuance of the rather hollow Emancipation Proclamation five days after the battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) on September 22, 1862.

Lincoln is no doubt making a veiled reference to the heightened importance of abolition as a war rationale when he speaks of a “new birth of freedom” in the concluding paragraph.  Like his clever maneuvering of the South into firing the first shot in a war that he (or those behind him) was determined to wage, it is a big grab for the moral high ground.  Most of the rest of that last paragraph is the standard boilerplate of political leaders who want to keep an unpopular war going.  Lots more people have to die so that those who have died up until now will not have died in vain.  What he means, of course, is, “Let’s fight on to victory so that all those brave men on the other side will have all died in vain.”  Hearkening to such a rallying cry, this country would probably still be mired down in Vietnam, and we will be killing and dying in the Middle East as far into the future as anyone can see.


The freedom that Lincoln spoke of in his “new birth” reference, in addition to including a military draft was most peculiar in other ways, as well.  Thousands of dissenters were jailed indefinitely without charge after he suspended the Constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus.  Lincoln also orchestrated “the shutting down of literally hundreds of opposition newspapers in the northern states during the war, along with the destruction of printing presses and the imprisonment of newspaper editors and owners.”

The conclusion of that last sentence, in good rhetorical fashion, with its invocation of the threat of annihilation of the grand experiment in people’s government, is nothing but a return to the dishonest stakes-inflation of the first two sentences of the speech.

Mencken calls it beautiful poetry, but I believe he is over-generous in doing so.  It is not at all poetry as this writer fancies it.  The definition of real poetry that appeals to me is that of the French priest, Joseph Roux, “Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.”


Lincoln only got the “Sunday clothes” part right, and in that he exceeded everyone’s expectations.  In his second paragraph he states plainly the occasion for the oration, that is, the dedication of a portion of this particular battlefield—the most costly among sickening scores of such scenes of carnage—as a cemetery for the Union soldiers killed there.  But then, in a flourish in which this quite irreligious man often engaged so as to better connect with his 19th century American audience, he uses religious language.  He suggests that the additional purpose of the gathering might be to make the place a holy one: “…we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow….”

No, he couldn’t, nor could any mere secular figure.  But Lincoln tells us that the men who fought in this major battle were able to do it.  For those practicing state-worshipping counterfeit religion, it might even sound believable.



David Martin

November 22, 2008  (With a new conclusion written the day after paying another visit, October 10, 2010, to the national shrine known as the Gettysburg Battlefield.)




* Mencken has a factual error in that essay.  In support of his argument that Lincoln was no abolitionist, he makes the following statement:  “An Abolitionist would have published the Emancipation Proclamation the day after the first battle of Bull Run.  But Lincoln waited until the time was more favorable–until Lee had been hurled out of Pennsylvania and more important still, until the political currents were safely running his way.”  Mencken’s interpretation of Lincoln’s motives is probably correct, but he’s a bit off on the timing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  It was issued in the wake of the inconclusive Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), which resulted in Lee’s temporary retreat from Maryland, not, as implied, after the later Battle of Gettysburg.  Beware, also, of the numerous typographical mistakes in the Free Republic version of Mencken’s essay, to which I have linked for the reader’s convenience.  At least one of them changes the meaning, from “baldly simple” to “badly simple” in describing Lincoln’s evolved writing style.

** The following three quotes are from Lawrence Goldstone, Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits, and the Struggle for the Constitution (2005):

Few countries have emerged with less enthusiasm for unity than the United States.  From the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 until the delegates convened in Philadelphia twenty-two years later, most Americans bore primary allegiance to the state within which they lived, and the notion of abandoning that identity to be part of a larger whole was preposterous. (p. 22)

Not one of [the delegates to the Constitutional Convention] came to Philadelphia believing that he was there to create a new government—or reform an old one—only for the benefit of thirteen states on the Atlantic. (p. 43)

Clearly, though [South Carolina’s Charles] Pinckney, [Connecticut’s Oliver] Ellsworth, [Maryland’s Luther] Martin, and [Virginia’s George] Mason, and most of the rest of the delegates who were active in the ratification were federalists or antifederalists only by coincidence.  For them, the Constitution was a national document only secondarily.  The forging of a nation was a far subordinate consideration to the welfare of their particular state, although they often equated the welfare of their state with that of the nation at large.  In that regard, these men had advanced their thinking very little in four months in Philadelphia.  They had arrived thinking of themselves as South Carolinians or Virginians or Connecticuters, and that is how they left. (p, 188)

h/t Gettysburg in 1863

Written by DC Dave

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22 thoughts on “Mencken and More on Lincoln’s Speech

  1. Great choice of illustrations! I’ve just been reading a report on the savagery of Sherman’s drive through Georgia and South Carolina by David P. Coyningham, an Irish-born journalist embedded (to use the current expression) with Sherman’s army for the New York Herald Tribune. Here is his concluding paragraph:

    Those who are unacquainted with war cannot realize the fearful sufferings it entails on mankind. They read it in papers and books, gilded over with all its false glare and strange fascinations, as a splendid game of glorious battles and triumphs, but close their eyes to its bloody horrors. The battlefield is to them a field of honor, a field of glory, where men resign their lives amidst the joys of conquest, which hallow the soldier’s gory couch and light up his death-features with a smile. This sounds well in heroic fiction, but how different the reality! Could these fireside heroes but witness a battlefield with its dead, its dying, and wounded, writhing in agonizing tortures, or witness the poor victims under the scalpel-knife, with the field-hospital clouded with human gore, and full of the maimed bodies and dissected limbs of their fellow-creatures, war would lose its false charms for them. Could many a tender mother see her darling boy, uncared-for, unpitied, without one kind hand to stay the welling blood or wipe his death-damp from his brow, her gentle, loving heart would break in one wail of anguish. War, after all, has horrors even greater than the battlefield presents. The death-wound is mercy compared to the slow torture of languishing in prison-houses–living charnel houses of slow putrefaction–pale, spiritless, uncared=for, unpitied, gasping and groaning away their lives in hopeless misery. And then think of the sacked and burned city; think of helpless women and children fleeing in terror before the devouring element, without a home to shelter them, without bread to feed them; think of the widows and orphans that water their scant bread with the tears of sorrow; think of all the sufferings, misery, ruin, death, war entails on mankind, and you will curse its authors, and wish that God had otherwise chastised his people. Though war may enrich the Shylock shoddies, paymasters, contractors, and speculative politicians, who sport gorgeous equipages and rich palaces out of the blood of their countrymen, it crushes the people under its wheels, like the car of Juggernaut, and oppresses the millions with taxation. (My Native Land: Life in America, 1790-1870, compiled and edited by Warren S. Tryon, 1952, pp. 266-267)


  2. I wonder why Lincoln never mentioned the problem of the debt(s) that initiated the war in the first place.

    Why did he not suggest that the taking of the US’s most valuable southern ports was for the greater good of paying off the debt the south refused to contribute to?

    Maybe he decided to create a rouse concerning the freedom of slaves to justify the confiscation of the incredible income that came from the southern ports he so needed to service the debts that were long overdue, or maybe that is why he decided to create the greenback.

    Political speeches are such utter nonsense, as one never says what one means and the analysis of such speeches is almost comical. Why examine a speech so devoid of truth when it was intended to be devoid of truth.


    • Unfortunately, the people lapping up the Ken Burns special, “The Address,” on PBS tonight regard this particular speech as the purest distilled truth. You and I agree that it is not, but as Thomas Sowell says he used to write in the margins of his students’ test papers, “specify, don’t characterize.” H. L. Mencken and I in this case have specified.


  3. I think those pictures are of Antietam, not Gettysburg. Anyone upholding the idea that slavery is good is an unworthy savage and a monster. Lincoln meant for his words to embrace all those who died, Confederate and Union. He saw himself as the president of the United States, not just the states fighting the Confederacy.


    • No one in this forum has yet upheld the idea that slavery is good, to my knowledge. As for whom Lincoln was embracing with his language, he certainly was intentionally ambiguous when he said that the Gettysburg fighters had somehow made the ground upon which they fought holy. But since the Union army happened to win this battle, one can readily come to the conclusion that the ground was made holy because of that fact. Is the ground at Ball’s Bluff near Leesburg, VA, or Mary’s Heights in Fredericksburg also hallowed ground, as well? Do you think Lincoln would have declared any of the numerous places where the Confederates won as hallowed ground? How big must a fight be, anyway, before it makes the ground under it holy? See “ronwall’s” comment on political speeches and nonsense.

      To be sure Lincoln regarded himself as president of the entire country, including the six states that first declared secession and the five additional ones he more or less forced into joining them by requesting troops from them to help “suppress the rebellion.” But the country was deeply divided in 1860. In the presidential election of that year in the home county of my great grandparents in North Carolina, Lincoln did not receive a single vote for president. There was hardly a slave there in Yadkin County in the foothills of the mountains and their opposition to the institution of slavery was very strong. Lincoln ran as a regional, anti-South candidate, and he was supported accordingly.


      • any ground which has absorbed the blood of men of war is holy, which is not what Lincoln meant neither side died in vain, not during the war between the states, nor those who are dying now,,,


  4. Mullins’ work contains some value for the unreconstructed inhabitants
    that have never surrendered the cause…

    Josephson wrote that Hamilton was half black and half Jewish, went to Hebrew school in London, and later prevented the fledgling colonies from financial freedom by reserving the printing of paper money to the banks, rather than the government, despite what the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution appears to say.

    “That kind of reminds me of Abraham Lincoln,” Eustace retorted. “Lincoln’s mother was a slave and his father was a Jew. Did you know that Lincoln’s wife went mad and spent the later part of her life in an insane asylum, and that both of Lincoln’s sons committed suicide?”

    He continued. “Lincoln was put in place by the bankers, too.
    That whole greenbacks thing was just a smokescreen.”

    In order to arouse provocation for the Fort Sumter attack, Lincoln dispatched heavy reinforcements to the fort. Even his Secretary of War, Seward, objected to his move, suggesting instead that Fort Sumter be yielded peacefully to the state of South Carolina.

    Lincoln himself was eagerly anticipating the approaching bloodbath and would hear of no compromise. He is known to have suffered from hereditary insanity, which did not come from the Lincoln family, for they were not his actual forebears. His mother, Nancy Hanks, being homeless, had been taken in as a charitable act by the Enloe family; she was thrown out by Mrs. Enloe after she had become pregnant by Abraham Enloe.
    Ward H. Lame, Lincoln’s law partner, later wrote a biography of Lincoln stating that Lincoln was of illegal parentage, and referring to his real father as Abraham Enloe.

    At one point, the massing of French and Spanish troops in Mexico seemed to doom the future of the United States, and to bring about the division which the Rothschilds desired. However, the Czar of Russia, a great leader of the Shemite people, learned of the plan. He immediately dispatched two of his fleets to the United States, one which landed at San Francisco, which was commanded by Admiral Lesowsky, and the second squadron, which arrived in New York harbour, commanded by Admiral A.A. Popoff.
    and then there’s Alex Cristopher who lives on Christopher street in Cullman, Al.
    and goes by the name of Vickie Martin and allegedly wrote Pandora’s Box, and
    a book on the Denver airport…with Phil Schneider.

    Pandora’s Box
    by Alex Christopher
    Little has been published about the early life of Abraham Lincoln. However, during a search of some old property records and will in a small courthouse in central North Carolina, Alex Christopher the author of “Pandora’s Box”, found the will
    of one A.A. Springs in an old will book dated around 1840….
    and of course one of my favorites was Andy’s film of the night
    Lincoln was shot at Fords Theatre . . .

    I did sleep on the ground next to the Lincoln Memorial the night before
    ROLLING THUNDER in May of 1999…500,000 Bikers ….from the Pentagon
    to the Wall….”we” simply must purify the language…and soon.

    but that won’t happen until Men are honest with themselves first


  5. Well-written and well thought-out. You make tangential points, but I think it all ties together sharply. (I agree with you about Dickey, btw. I knew him a little during my own university teaching days: his talent was considerable, but considerably superseded by his ego. Unfortunately, he set a pattern for academic poets that we must still struggle against!)

    As for Lincoln–certainly a complex character. He was a mix of Old Testament morality (learned from his beloved stepmother) and Western, frontiersman common sense, irony and humor. He was a showman, too. Taller than most everyone else, lean, wiry, powerful, and with a high-pitched voice, he would have stood out anywhere. The little “giant killer” Douglas never stood a chance against him. Theirs was our first “modern,” political campaign–i.e., mostly theater.

    Neither Lincoln nor Douglas spoke “the truth and nothing but the truth” about the looming war. (Politicians seem to be immune to speaking such truths. Often, they don’t know; and often, they don’t give a damn anyway!) In his Coopers Union speech, Lincoln wanted to frame it all in terms of the Union. Bankers and railroad tycoons wanted to preserve the Union because “Union” in their minds was pretty much synonymous with Empire–and that was synonymous with profits, money, gold.

    One of the main causes of the “Civil War” is hardly ever mentioned. That would be the Mexican-American War–which most Americans have forgotten about and which Mexicans, who lost half their country, never can! One war leads to another–just as the “French and Indian War” led to our glorious “Revolution” (not exactly!), or World War I led to World War II, and the Cold War led to the War on Terror and on and on. But, I digress…. After our (Nuremberg Standard) “war-crime” war of aggression and conquest against Mexico, we had a god-awful lot of new territory to deal with! The North wanted to fill up the space with workers (including indentured servants, wage-slaves, etc.) from Europe, and the South wanted to continue its caste-system agrarianism. Fission was inevitable.

    Interesting to note that North and South used different gauges on their railroad tracks! Some foresighted engineers on either side of the divide must have understood which way the winds were blowing. Neither side liked the prospect of an invasion by locomotives! Such would have sped up the conclusion and ended the miseries sooner, but planners don’t usually think that way then or now.

    About a year ago, I collaborated on an article with Janis Schmidt, touching on the Civil War, the question of slavery, America’s genocide of its native population, etc. Janis pointed out that if the North were truly motivated by liberating black slaves, it would have been far cheaper to buy every slave and offer them freedom in the North or West!

    Of course, the American plains “Indians” might have objected to an avalanche of Africans being imposed upon land they had cultivated and hunted on for over 10,000 years. Such niceties did not seem to bother Lincoln too much, though. When warriors escaped from one of the “reservations” (prison camps) in the West, they were rounded up and Lincoln ordered the greatest mass hanging in US history. (If memory serves, it was over 30!)

    History is full of gyrations, double-talk, Newspeak, etc. Your article on The Gettysburg Address opens a few windows that myth-makers like Ken Burns constantly attempt to keep closed.


    • Thanks for the nice, edifying review. Readers might like to know that the reference to “Dickey” concerns my article “To My Cousin on James Dickey.” She had some classes under him at the University of South Carolina. The article is at Dickey, like Lincoln, could turn a phrase pretty well, but if I were to compare him to presidents, Bill Clinton is the first one that comes to mind.


    • Another pernicious effect of the Mexican War, it might be added, is that the experience made the North and the Union Army tremendously over-confident. Victory had come very easily against a poorly organized, led, and armed Mexican army. Choosing the military route for “suppressing the rebellion” was thereby made a good deal more attractive in the eyes of Lincoln and his supporters than it should have been. The way in which the spectators sallied forth out of Washington to watch the glorious victory at the first big battle of Manassas shows how deluded they were in their foolish optimism. One thing you can say about Lincoln’s famous speech, it really took some amazing rhetorical skill to turn this near genocidal miscalculation into something good and noble.


  6. What utter nonsense. Lincoln was saving America from what was essentially a British strategy to divide and conquer their enemy -the United States. Anybody who thinks the South were doing this on their own are ignorant fools. Mencken is more than a fool, he was a stooge for these same forces.


    • “What utter nonsense. Lincoln was saving America from what was essentially a British strategy to divide and conquer their enemy -the United States. Anybody who thinks the South were doing this on their own are ignorant fools.”~Alexander Hamilton

      Your comment doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, the country was divided and conquered, and ended up in the hands of the British agents of Corporatism as a result of the war, which could have been avoided by allowing the South its clear sovereign right to succeed [predicated on the Declaration on Independence].

      The North should have abandoned Fort Sumter – the reinforcements were clearly a provocation. Lincoln started the war intentionally. History is clear on these facts.
      Such provocations continue throughout US history, from the Main, to Gulf of Tonkin, to 9/11.




      • Your response is ignorant of the facts. Simply look up who was funding AND supplying the South – the British Empire. How quickly the US would have become again just a rag tag collection of small colonies had the South and the British prevailed against Lincoln.

        And, if it weren’t for the Russian’s sending their warships to both New York and San Franscisco then the British and the French would have intervened militarily on behalf of the South. Look it up numbnuts – don’t be afraid of the truth.


  7. “You and I are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other races. Whether it be right or wrong, I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. Your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living amongst us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.”

    Statement to the Deputation of Free Negroes (14 August 1862), in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Baler, Rutgers University Press, 1953, Vol. V, page 371.


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