Liberty, we like to pretend that we are more civil, more compassionate, and more intellectual than our ancestors. Yet we are just as barbaric, if not more so, than they were.
Throughout 2016, no matter who you supported, most Americans just wanted the whole election cycle over. Once the votes were cast, when the country should have finally relaxed, the media, political elites, and Hillary supporters became even more vitriolic and vicious in their attacks and divisiveness. Hollywood today is filled with Booths, demanding and declaring Trump’s demise, with the charge of tyrant dripping from their lips. Many have called for, written about, and even acted out his assassination. (see and )
However, they weren’t alone. While many NeverTrumpers, like myself, considered it a new day, dropping their resistance and concluding to give Republican President-elect Donald Trump a chance, other NeverTrumpers continued their attacks and accusations as well. (see ) That all being said, Trump is no Lincoln. His tweets, off-the-cuff comments, and careless statements not only added to the disunity, they actually gave ammunition to his critics on both sides of the aisle. Likewise, some of his most ardent supporters are behaving just as boorishly towards his critics. Both sides are equally guilty.
Slavery is a horrible and evil institution. Yet as soon as the Confederates laid down their arms, the Union called them Americans again. They had a valid, passionate dispute. But they were civil enough and compassionate enough to stop fighting when the fight was over. On the other hand, outliers like Booth did exist, only wanting to continue to fight and destroy. As a result of Booth’s actions, a peacemaker and unifier was murdered and replaced with Southern Democrat Andrew Johnson who was determined to continue with Southern ways of racial inequality. (see )
Booth thought Lincoln was a tyrant because Lincoln took his ability away to own another person. To make matters worse, Lincoln now promised to give that inferior race constitutional rights, including voting. Today’s actors worry about losing the ability to murder their unborn children or marry someone of their same sex while demanding law-abiding citizens give up their constitutional rights of owning an gun, free speech and freedom of religion.
Hollywood elitists, who pride themselves on being so enlightened, progressive and unbiased, are nothing more than carbon copies of the racist and bigoted Booth. If Lincoln had lived, then maybe the progress Republicans made during Reconstruction would not have been destroyed after Democrats returned to power. The Ku Klux Klan, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws would not have flourished while Civil Rights laws were repealed. (see and )
So here we are, continuing to massacre each other with personal attacks, baseless accusations, and unfounded stereotypes. Yet, we never even had that moment of facing each other with honor and dignity, saluting one another for a well-fought fight. No, instead we decided to walk away from the victory speech with hatred in our hearts and revenge in our minds. This is just one reason we should not be destroying statues of Grant, Lee, Lincoln, and other Civil War figures. Whether we agree with them or not, most of these men had an abundance of more dignity, honor, respect and decorum than those trying to tear their statues down. (see ). Then again, maybe that’s why they want them gone.
That’s my 2 cents.
April 9, 2018
When General Robert E. Lee woke on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, he was convinced his Confederate soldiers would march onto victory over General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union forces. However, it was soon apparent Lincoln’s Army surrounded his troops on three sides. He quickly realized the fighting was over for his tired, hungry, weary men. Lee relented, "Then there is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths."
In a series of messages between the generals throughout the morning, Grant and Lee agreed to meet at the home of Wilmer McLean in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, at 1 o’clock. Dressed in a private’s uniform darned with lieutenant-general straps along with mud splatter, Grant looked worn next to 6-foot-tall Lee in his new, full uniform, complete with sash and sword.
Grant later praised Lee’s dignity and honor during the meeting while stating, “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”
Following pleasantries and remembrances of meeting during the Mexican War (see ) of which they both fought, Lee brought the conversation to its purpose by requesting Grant’s terms of surrender. Grant grabbed a piece of paper and quickly scribbled several conditions. While only officers would be able to retain their sidearms, all would keep the rest of their private property. This included their horses, which they needed for planting spring crops. All Confederate military personnel would be pardoned and sent home after receiving much needed rations from the Union Army. Upon hearing the conditions, Lee quietly remarked, “This will have the best possible effect upon the men.”
Finding Grant’s terms more than charitable, Lee quickly agreed. As he exited the house, a Union band began to play as the soldiers cheered. Grant swiftly silenced them, informing his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.”
CIVILITY WAR ENDS
Two days later, crowds gather on the White House lawn below the front balcony to hear Republican President Abraham Lincoln’s comments. Understanding how truly divided the county was, Lincoln chose his words carefully so as not to be misconstrued, though journalists did their best. Within the audience, Radical Republican leader and party founder Senator Charles Sumner wanted the strictest prerequisites for Confederate states to return to the Union. (see ) However, Lincoln acknowledged this could threaten reunification and healing.
Constantly focusing on unity, peace and reconciliation, Lincoln began, “We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten.” (see )
Working towards reunification since before the war began, Lincoln referred to his Annual Message of December 1863, which outlined qualifications to re-enter the Union. If ten percent of the voting population in the 1860 election approved a loyalty oath to the Union, adopted a new Constitution and took other steps towards freedoms for blacks, they would be considered for reinstatement into the United States. For months, Lincoln and his administration were discussing Louisiana’s readmittance per these requirements. (see ) Knowing the Radical Republicans wanted the harshest of stipulations, Lincoln argued they should not dismiss the advances Louisiana already made.
“Now, if we reject, and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We in effect say to the white men ‘You are worthless, or worse--we will neither help you, nor be helped by you.’ To the blacks we say ‘This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, hold to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where, and how.’"
Lincoln continued, stating Louisiana had “adopted a free-state constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man.” He then played to his Republican critics, reminding them, “Their Legislature has already voted to ratify the constitutional recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation,” indicating their vote would help fulfill the required 2/3rds of states needed to make it law.
Lincoln argued the Union should embrace the actions Louisiana had already taken, contending the Union could then, “proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success.” Therefore, “the colored man too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring, to the same end.” In addition, taking advantage of the progress already made would ensure their right of “elective franchise” quicker than having to start all over from scratch.
While Lincoln’s address received both praise and condemnation, the Daily National Intelligencer commented, “The speech is from a lofty stand-point; it soars away above party; it is paternal as well as fraternal; it is Christian, and its spirit will be hailed with delight and responded to by almost the unanimous voice of the masses of the people, South as well as North.” However, Lincoln’s motion towards the black man’s “elective franchise”, or suffrage, infuriated John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor attending the speech. As he left the White House grounds, Booth swore this would be Lincoln’s last speech.
The formal surrender occurred on April 12, a day after Lincoln’s speech and exactly four years to the day after the war began with the Confederates attacking Union held Fort Sumter. (see ) Grant chose Battle of Gettysburg Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, to supervise the Confederate’s surrender of arms and flags under General John B. Gordon. (see ) As Chamberlain later described, “The General was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description.”
A feeling of compassion from one soldier to another overtook Chamberlain. A bugle sounded upon his order, to which the Union soldiers immediately snapped to attention, placing their rifles on their shoulders in a salute of honor. Shocked, Gordon’s head shot up and noticed the gesture. Turning his horse, he commanded his troops to return the salute. The men were no longer Blue or Gray, Union or Confederate. They were all once again Americans, recognizing and saluting each other in honor for a well-fought fight.
Two days later, on April 14, 1865, Booth made good on his threat. As the Lincoln’s enjoyed the performance at Washington D.C.’s Fords Theater, Booth managed to enter their balcony and shoot Lincoln in the head. As he jumped to the stage to escape, he exclaimed, “Sic Semper Tyrannis” meaning “Thus Always to Tyrants”. The President died later that night. (see ) What started as a Union victory on Palm Sunday ended in the death of a peaceful man on Good Friday. Pockets of fighting continued throughout the states until the war’s official end on May 9, 1865.