Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln

In one of her very first posts here, Jessica posed a question, “What is America for Mummy?” It’s a question that has always haunted us from Winthrop’s sermon about the Cty on the Hill to last night. While then and now I really like Jessica’s answer, it is incomplete. But one of the two greatest of American Presidents also thought about it, so maybe what he said could amplify her point.

We are now a mighty nation, we are thirty—or about thirty millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country,—with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men,—we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men, they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity that we now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these [Independence Day] meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations.

But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration [loud and long continued applause], and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world. [Applause.]

Now, sirs, for the purpose of squaring things with this idea of “don’t care if slavery is voted up or voted down” [Douglas’s “popular sovereignty” position on the extension of slavery to the territories], for sustaining the Dred Scott decision [A voice—“Hit him again”], for holding that the Declaration of Independence did not mean anything at all, we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England. According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form. Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden.

That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge [Douglas] is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it! [Voices—“me” “no one,” &c.] If it is not true let us tear it out! [cries of “no, no,”] let us stick to it then [cheers], let us stand firmly by it then. [Applause.]

Abraham Lincoln on July 10, 1858, as he ran for the Senate against Stephen Douglass via Scott Johnson at PowerLine. Lincoln, along with Washington are our two greatest presidents. But Lincoln was also perhaps the best lawyer in the United States before he was president. In truth, this speech may well be what secured him the Republican nomination. And like the quote from Silent Cal in the sidebar, he recognized that any movement from what the founders wrote and said was of necessity a backwards movement, because as Coolidge said, if all men are created equal, that really is final. There can be no progress beyond that point, all movement from it creates inequality.

Something else strikes me currently, in that series of posts Jessica also wrote how Churchill and De Gaulle were outsiders from their political societies. She was correct, they were. But they both understood their peoples better than the insiders. I suspect that also applied to Lincoln, and it is very clear that it also did to Reagan, and does to Trump as well. The political class is not the people, and I suspect it never has been. Sometimes, rarely, that might be a good thing, but evidence saying so is mighty slim.

One of the wisest things Jessica ever wrote here was the last paragraph of that article, and it will serve to end this one as well…

In this case, in 1940, the ‘fools’ were two men whose status as outsiders had made them think hard and fast about their countries. They saw beyond the tawdry politics of the day to the reality of what France and what Britain were, and could again be.  The Bible tells us that without vision, the people perish – in 1940 two men stood forth in Europe with a vision sharpened by their status as outsiders – sometimes that difference of perspective makes for a better vision.

Brexit Day

And so, today at 5 pm CST, the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Nigel Farage said goodbye a couple days ago.

As we have said since at least 21 June 2016, Mummy has joined our revolution at last. and today marks a milestone on her journey back to freedom. It’s not over (in truth, it never is) but the day marks a milestone, now it is up to Britain to make good on the promise that Boris made to the people.

Sumantra Maitra in The Federalist reflects on this, using the vehicle of the Royal Mint’s commemorative 50p coin, which states on its reverse “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.” There is a strong echo there of Thomas Jefferson’s words in his 1801 inaugural where he spoke of  “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” As Sumantra notes, real life has intruded on Jefferson’s words, and they will on Britain’s hopes as well. As Britain’s Prime Minister MacMillian once observed, “Events, dear boy, events” always intrude on intentions and hopes. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter, only that things intrude. Here’s a bit more from the article:

While America has given up on the realism of no “entangling alliances,” and Britain is not going to turn from a parliamentary monarchy to a constitutional republic any time soon, these words somehow reflect a new direction, a closing of the gaps that have been haunting for the last 30 or so years. As the rest of Europe grows ever distant and even antagonistic to the United States, one country, tethered not just by politics but by language, culture, kinship, and common law, will remain close.

This island now feels the same nationalism and optimism as its former colony once felt, trying to forge a shaky but independent way ahead, coming out of an empire.

What Does Freedom Mean to the United Kingdom?

The culmination of Brexit has been interesting. The prime minister notified the nation with a short tweet, without much fanfare or boisterous triumphalism. House of Commons leader and Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, quoting Edward Gibbon, reminded the country it is not economic prosperity but the true freedom — “the first of earthly blessings, independence” — which is the key.

True freedom is not just predicated on cheap, Chinese-made toasters and 40 different cuisines in the poshest corners of London. True freedom is the power to pull up the drawbridge and put a flag on the ramparts. If a country cannot make its own laws and guard its own borders, dictated instead by the rules of a foreign elite in a distant city, it is not truly free.

Or on their desk in Brussels, even if it means having your speech cut off.

Nevertheless, sometimes upheaval is necessary, and what an upheaval Brexit was. There’s a pearl of odd conventional wisdom among Anglo-American conservatives that the only reason for survival is to conserve the existing order. But what if the existing order is steadily progressive, or worse, not just progressive but actually revolutionary? Do you still conserve an order that is determined to transform the very existence of your society?

Everything is relative. To the earnest, late-’80s, Soviet Communist Party man, conserving the USSR empire would be important, but the people decided against it. To an American conservative, preserving the managerial ruling of the Obama years with its global climate accords and Title IX kangaroo courts at universities, not to mention encroaching transgender madness in all aspects of society, would be madness. Likewise, Brexit was a reaction — because sometimes conserving isn’t enough. A restructuring and overthrow of the ruling progressive edifice is needed.

And that is what we mean in Anglo-American history as completing the revolution. To understand it helps to see history as a wheel, sometimes, as in  1215, 1642, 1688, 1776, and 2016, the wheel gets stuck upside down, and then we need to give it a push – to complete the revolution, and continue our journey.

And so, Great Britain has reached a milestone. Herman Wouk in War and Remembrance had Pug Henry comment on New Years Eve 1942 that there was “Plenty of hell behind and plenty more in front.” So it is with Brexit (the age of Trump, too). But it is a milestone, perhaps analogous to the Battle of Saratoga. Although it is interesting to note that one of the American heroes of that battle was Benedict Arnold. One hopes there is not a counterpart in the part of Brexit yet to come.

And so to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, A constitutional parliamentary monarchy, if they can keep it.

A Partisan Impeachment

James Coll writing in City Journal makes the point that the effort to impeach President Trump is most clearly parallel to the first presidential impeachment, that of Andrew Johnson, the Democrat that was Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President. He’s correct, I think.

Historians haven’t been kind to Johnson, and for good reason. His blatant racism and obstruction of reasonable Reconstruction policies place him in a tier of presidents who failed dramatically to meet the challenges of their time. But these same historians often defend Johnson when reviewing how his congressional opposition sought to remove him from the White House. Over time, Johnson’s impeachment came to be viewed, correctly, as a partisan endeavor resulting from the majority party’s power in both chambers. Legislators who stood against this partisanship protected constitutional principles over their party’s demands.

There are differences, of course. The Republicans held majorities in both houses (In fact, the Radical Republicans who wanted to impose a conquerer’s peace on the south pretty much held both houses.) The fracas erupted because of the firing of Edwin Stanton, the Radical Republican Secretary of War, a holdover from Lincoln’s administration. Johnson was trying to carry out Lincoln’s policies as he understood them.

About the only reason that people like Jefferson Davis, Robert E.Lee and many others didn’t find themselves on a scaffold was that US Grant, the Lieutenant General commanding the Army of the United States had given his word, and meant to enforce it.

So when Johnson fired Stanton, the House acted in a very partisan manner and impeached him. It looked an almost sure thing that johnson would be removed but ten Republicans voted to acquit. The one who got famous was Edmund Ross (R Kansas) who left some comments that apply very well today.

In a larger sense, the independence of the executive office . . . was on trial.  If . . . the president must step down . . . upon insufficient proofs and from partisan considerations, the office of President would be degraded . . . and ever after subordinate to the legislative will.

The major difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution is that the Founders kept a steady hand on the reins, and prevented the descent into the Terror. Yes, in many places there were reprisals and confiscations but they were not official US Policy -the Confederation was far too weak, and the new government was constrained by the Constitution. The supremacy of one branch puts that back on the agenda.

Back in 1788, Alexander Hamilton writing in Federalist 65 said this:

With impeachment there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

And that is exactly what we are seeing here, with the exception that the Democrats in the House have let their emotion run far away from whatever sense they have (or had) since there is no chance whatever that the President will be removed since few (if any) Republican Senators are willing to commit career suicide on this particular hill. Apparently, it seems quite a few Democratic Representatives, however, are. They should think about what Senator Ross said about his vote,

Ross later recounted his thoughts as he voiced his vote in the upper chamber: “I almost literally looked down into my open grave.” He was right about his political future. Johnson escaped conviction in the Senate by a single vote, and none of the ten Republican Senators who voted “not guilty” won reelection.

History doesn’t repeat itself; but fools repeat history.

Thanksgiving in America

And so it is Thanksgiving again in America. It is the one specifically American holiday, and a religious one as well, in which we gratefully acknowledge the bounteous land He gave us. But you know, that is exactly what He gave us, a strip of undeveloped land along the Atlantic Ocean. The rest is a story of the use of God-given gifts and talents and hard work.

The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

But so much of what we do is so very inherently dangerous, and we have made it safe.

For instance, I could walk into the Denver Airport this afternoon, and have lunch tomorrow in London. I will have a safe and pleasant trip (of course, more money will make it more pleasant, although not safer). But truly this is a miracle. How did it happen?

It’s the long story of man’s climb from, child-like beasts–to men and women who hold dominion over all they see, and the costs involved. But a couple of anecdotes can serve.

Back in the mid-30s Boeing built a bomber according to what they thought the Army needed, not what the RFP called for. It was a risky move but time was short and Hitler and Tojo were plenty scary. In fact, Martin’s B-18 which fully met the RFP won the competition and was pretty much useless. But the Air Corps guys also found some money to continue testing, and even build a few more.

Then disaster struck. Boeing’s chief test pilot took off one lovely day and flew straight into a stall. Killing all aboard, Destroying 299 amid rumors that it was too much airplane for two, let alone any pilot. It also very nearly killed Boeing.

It was a simple enough answer. The engineers feared the aircraft would beat itself to death on windy hardstands. So they designed a gizmo to lock the elevators while on the ground. It was clearly marked with that streamer known to every pilot, ‘Remove Before Flight‘. But it hadn’t been. That’s why all of us, from that day until the weekend after next, who do things that can kill you quick, work from a checklist, one reading it, and the other doing it.

Boeing 299 was the prototype of the B-17 Flying Fortress that carried the American Air War in northern Europe against Nazi Germany from 1942 until 1945. Could we have won without it? Maybe. The men who flew her simply called her (and still do) ‘The Queen’.

But you know, and I know that the flight I talked about above will be safer than walking out my drive to get the mail. And that is no accident, it is the result of a lot of very hard, amazingly unflattering work by a lot of people over the last hundred years.

If you’re the average consumer when you walk into a really good hardware store you’ll end up mightily confused, why on earth does anyone need 16 different ¼ nuts? Well, the answer is that that they do sixteen somewhat different jobs, within limits they can substitute for each other, although usually, it won’t be as good.

But the thing here is, you cannot (legally, anyway) use any of those nuts on your private aircraft, let alone an airliner. They might be fine, most likely they are cheap knockoffs of the real thing. And so, in the 20s and 30s NACA (later NASA) and the Bureau of Standards, (later NIST), standardized all this stuff, especially hardware and plumbing. It’s not used only in aircraft either, it’s the basis of the specifications for race cars, and for agricultural machinery, and in automotive as well.

The catalogs, by the way, are like page after page of spreadsheet output. How do you tell them? One they’re expensive, and second, they all have part numbers that start with AN- (which stands for Army-Navy) and sometimes now NSN which is usually the same spec but stands for NATO Stock No.

As always, Rudyard Kipling spoke for us grungy doers and movers. He traces us back to Martha who didn’t have time to listen to the Lord, because her work was never done. He had a point.

The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains “Be ye removèd.” They say to the lesser floods “Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd—they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit—then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger Death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden—under the earthline their altars are—
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not preach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s ways may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with the blood some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd—they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the feet—they hear the Word—they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and—the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons!

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, we sons of Martha will be on the job, as usual, so you can be your usual selves.

 

AG Barr at The Federalist Society

Attorney General William Barr gave the Barbara K Olson Lecture at the Federalist Society’s 2019 National Lawyers Convention.

It is a superb dissertation on the background and theory of the American system of government. I have never heard better. I highly recommend watching and paying attention.

Sometimes we forget, we have had, and we do ha some extremely intelligent and accomplished people in our government.

Since the AG said it all, there is little point to me adding my 2¢ worth.

Enjoy.

An Important Conversation

Last Friday, in the Daily Signal, Bill Walton wrote (mostly a transcript) of a podcast he did with Star Parker and Winsome Sears (R, VA) and the first black woman representative from Virginia. It’s very good, although it is very long it is well worth your time. It’s wide-ranging about the problems in the Black community and why the Republican Party doesn’t get more votes from it. Well, that was the aim, but the problems they see, and they mostly agree and expand on each other, apply to the white and Hispanic communities too. In fact, they apply right across western civilization. Here’s some of it.

Parker: Well, I came to believe what I believe by reading a proverb a day. I was believing the lies of the left for a very long time. I believed all that we even hear today, that my problems were somebody else’s fault. That America was racist and I shouldn’t mainstream. That I was poor because others were wealthy.

In buying all of these lies, I got very lost in my decision-making. So very early in life, [I] was engaged in criminal activity and drug activity and sexual activity and abortion activity and welfare activity, and then God saved me. Some gentlemen introduced me to the Lord and I changed my life. I went to school, I got a degree, I started a business. After the ’92 Los Angeles riots destroyed my business, I began to focus on social policy, and that’s how I came to run my organization, Urban CURE, today.

But if you ask, “How did you shape those views beyond just the personal responsibility that comes from knowing the Scripture and figuring out how to live through a daily proverb?” I started a business. That’s when I understood how extensive government is in the affairs of someone who just wants to buy an apple and sell it for enough to buy another one, and another one and another one. And [I] started being encroached by all types of three letters, from the IRS to the you-name-it. The disability, the environmental protection, a long list of all of [these] alphabets too.

Walton: Well, yeah, George McGovern became a conservative after he started a bed and breakfast.

Parker: Yes, exactly, you start finding out that, “Wait a minute, what has happened to our great country?” I think that’s what shaped my economic views. But what has shaped my philosophy and what drives me and my organization is my born-again experience.

Winsome Sears: Amen.

Walton: Winsome?

Sears: Well, I am a Marine and I had had my last child, my husband and I, and we were living in California at the time. It was right around the time of the election and George Bush Sr., he was running, he was a candidate and I was still a Democrat. I’m black …

Walton: This would have been ’88?

Sears: Yes. I’m black, I’m supposed to be a Democrat. It rhymes, OK. The whole family’s full of Democrats, so what am I? I am what I am. [Mike] Dukakis, his commercial came on and he said, “I’m going to expand welfare. I’m going to make sure that this, that, the other, we’re going to give you money and we’re going to… ” I thought, “But if that happens, my folks, they’re just going to be living on what they get. There’s nothing to propel them.” Then he said, “For abortion, I’m going to make sure abortion is this and legal and expanded and do this and public monies and public…” I had just had my baby and I thought, “Well, I don’t believe that.”

Then right behind him came George Bush Sr. with his commercial, and he said, “If all you have is welfare, is what the government gives you, you will never have anything to pass onto your children.” Then he said, “As for abortion, I’m going to try and make it less and less and less.” Then I said, “Oh my God, I’m a Republican.”

The next thing was, “How am I going to tell my family?” Because it’s almost as if I was changing my religion. It was a shock to me and I think to many black people; they really are Republicans because we are the most conservative, really, group. It’s just a matter of me getting in there and people like Star and everybody else getting in and saying, “Let us be who we want to be. You don’t get to tell me how to run my politics and I don’t get to tell you either. Just let us be free.”

Go and read it, it’s the best thing I’ve read in at least a week. My reader says 39 minutes, it’s worth twice that amount of time. And yes, I almost completely agree with them across the board.

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