Return to the fountain of freedom

By Edward Achorn

Every American would benefit by reading Frederick Douglass’s gut-wrenching address on the Declaration of Independence, which he delivered on July 5, 1852, at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York. That was more than ten years before Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation and 13 years before slavery was finally abolished.

It is a scathing denunciation of America’s hypocrisy in perpetuating slavery while celebrating the signing of the Declaration, which declared that “all men are created equal” and that all are endowed with rights no man or government could justly take away.

I write about this speech in my new book, Every Drop of Blood.

“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” the great black leader and former slave asked.

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Cancel culture vs. Mount Rushmore

By Edward Achorn

I was glad to see the Democratic Party this week quickly delete its tweet about the great fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore in honor of Independence Day. The reprehensible tweet called the nation’s birthday party “a rally glorifying white supremacy.”

Political passions have become so hot of late that some will not even set aside the hatreds of identity politics on July 4th, a day when we celebrate this great nation and express gratitude for the extraordinary blessings of freedom it has bestowed on all of us, of all skin tones.

Two of the mighty presidents hewn into the rock of Mount Rushmore — there on the left, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — were slaveowners. It is interesting that a third president, over on the right, Abraham Lincoln, was a bitter, lifelong enemy of slavery who, at immense sacrifice, finally presided over its destruction. But he had the highest regard for both, recognizing their crucial role in securing liberty and preparing the way for slavery’s destruction.

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Vandals vs. ex-slaves

By Edward Achorn

As expected, rioters have quickly moved on from tearing down statues of Christopher Columbus to those honoring such icons of freedom as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ulysses Grant. Some radicals have even called for the elimination of depictions of Jesus.

Once authorities have begun permitting violent attacks on America’s symbols and history, it is hard to see where the destruction will end.

And, of course, the vandals have turned against Abraham Lincoln — the great president who saved this country and, in doing so, freed four million enslaved African Americans.

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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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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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