Post-Election Irony

Oceans of ink are being spilt as the nation (and the world) collectively pats itself on the back. It is fitting and proper that we do, of course, but Americans being Americans, we’ll manage to carry it too far in about 48 hours, I fear.


Lincoln as a Monkey, holding
a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation

David H. Strother [attributed],
Pencil on paper, Richmond, 14 Jan. 1863.

I have nothing profound or zippy, or anything to compete with all those clever writers, and I won’t try. But I do have this asterisk, this one small piece of history rattling around in the back of my head.Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech is called by Hans Holzer — our preeminent Lincoln historian — “The speech that made Lincoln president.” Certainly it electrified the nation over the succeeding months, and was widely spread as a pamphlet during the presidential campaign of 1860. So, it is with a profound sense of the irony of history that I include this excerpt, and a map from today’s New York Times. Lincoln on “Black Republicans” [emphasis added]:

And now, if they would listen – as I suppose they will not – I would address a few words to the Southern people.

I would say to them: – You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us a reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to “Black Republicans.” In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of “Black Republicanism” as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite – license, so to speak – among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

You say we are sectional. We deny it. That makes an issue; and the burden of proof is upon you. You produce your proof; and what is it? Why, that our party has no existence in your section – gets no votes in your section. The fact is substantially true; but does it prove the issue? If it does, then in case we should, without change of principle, begin to get votes in your section, we should thereby cease to be sectional. You cannot escape this conclusion; and yet, are you willing to abide by it? If you are, you will probably soon find that we have ceased to be sectional, for we shall get votes in your section this very year. You will then begin to discover, as the truth plainly is, that your proof does not touch the issue. The fact that we get no votes in your section, is a fact of your making, and not of ours…. (February 27, 1860)

This speech was delivered at Cooper Union in New York City, a hall that still exists, and in which Barack Obama delivered a major speech on the economy this spring.

Now, here’s the map (h/t Matt Yglesias):


New York Times (click map to enlarge)

Eerie, huh?



crossposted from his vorpal sword

NOTE: Yesterday’s “Hallelujah” post was the top featured post on Crooks and Liars this morning.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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