The untold truth about slavery

By Edward Achorn

Last week, Tim Kaine made a ludicrous statement: “The United States didn’t inherit slavery from anybody. We created it.”

It is shocking to hear a U.S. senator, a former Virginia governor and a former major-party candidate for vice president spout such nonsense, particularly at a time when racial tensions have been ratcheted up, with rioters looting and burning neighborhoods.

Even a cursory reading of world history would reveal that America did not create the institution of slavery (though North America’s colonies permitted it to take hold here). Slavery goes back many thousands of years.

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Erasing Abraham Lincoln

By Edward Achorn

Abraham Lincoln is in the news again. A statue of Lincoln that has stood for over 100 years in Park Square in Boston is the latest target for historic obliteration.

The statue shows Lincoln standing above a crouching half-dressed black man in broken chains. The man is looking up with strength and determination, as if ready to rise.

With American cities in flames, and an all-out propaganda effort underway to depict America as systemically racist, the time seems ripe to destroy symbols of American history that were once deemed to celebrate freedom and its inseparable companion, courage.

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How ex-slaves freed America

By Edward Achorn

It is one of the supreme ironies of American history that our nation and our freedoms were saved by men who had been enslaved.

I think this story is not as widely told as it should be. Perhaps it does not fit today’s ideological narrative that black Americans are eternal victims of white privilege, and that blacks and whites must remain enemies.

But the heroism of the 180,000 black Americans who served for the United States during the Civil War ought to be recognized, remembered, and honored. They filled the Union ranks, fought, and died, and ultimately made it impossible for the Confederacy to fight on.

They saved the United States and, in doing so, radically transformed race relations in America.

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Torching Abraham Lincoln

By Edward Achorn

In recent days, numerous friends have sent me pictures of a charred bust of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago. I (and perhaps they) erroneously believed that the torching occurred during this spring’s riots, but in fact the statue was vandalized three years ago.

The mistake may be understandable, because the cultural war on statues and America’s past is definitely heating up.

My friends know I admire Lincoln and that my book, Every Drop of Blood, about his extraordinary call for charity and mercy after four years of harrowing war, has just been published.

“What an absolute disgraceful act of vandalism,” Alderman Ray Lopez wrote on Facebook in 2017, posting the picture.

“This bust of Abraham Lincoln, erected by Phil Bloomquist on August 31, 1926, was damaged and burned,” he added.

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Riots and the danger to America

By Edward Achorn

A 28-year-old country lawyer made a prescient observation in an 1837 address in Springfield, Illinois. He argued that, given its strengths, free America could only be destroyed from within.

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!—All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years,” the young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, asserted.

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

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The lessons of Memorial Day 2020

By Edward Achorn

The coronavirus crisis has had many depressing effects. One is that it has underscored that many Americans do not seem to understand their basic rights, the nature of their Constitution and how their government works.

Unless Americans reconnect with how this country is supposed to work, and why it remains a beacon of hope to oppressed people around the world, it is hard to see how our freedoms will survive.

An understanding of history is a crucial part of that, because it informs us of the nature of most human societies, and how rare and magnificent our blessings are.

History also acquaints us with the cruel cost of protecting these freedoms. This weekend we mark Memorial Day. Barbecues and sunshine are part of the celebration, even in this grim year, but the day is really about those who laid down their lives to preserve this country.

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Abraham Lincoln and the power of opinion

By Edward Achorn

If we hope to retain a representative democracy — always a difficult task — we will have to protect expressions of opinion and analysis, including unpopular ideas.

The heart of America remains the First Amendment — our right to question a powerful government without being punished or suppressed by that government.

Certainly, Abraham Lincoln understood the importance of public opinion in a free nation.

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The press vs. the president

By Edward Achorn

It takes a sizeable ego for any president to compare himself with Abraham Lincoln. But President Trump may have had a point in doing so at his recent “town hall” at the Lincoln Memorial.

“I am greeted with a hostile press the likes of which no president has ever seen,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “The closest will be that gentleman up there.”

He gestured to Daniel Chester French’s colossal statue of Abraham Lincoln in the memorial. “They say nobody got treated worse than Lincoln… I believe I am treated worse.”

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