September 19, 2021

OTHER THAN THAT, HOW DID YOU ENJOY THE PLAY, MRS. LINCOLN?

Flashback: Lincoln’s New Assassins.

Now the mob takes the role of John Wilkes Booth in removing perhaps the greatest of all Lincoln sculptures, the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, located in northeast Washington, D.C. The preeminent Lincoln scholar of our or any other time, Harry V. Jaffa, said many times that this sculpture, originally referred to as the Freedman’s Memorial, rivaled Daniel French’s Lincoln Memorial creation. The statue was dedicated to honor Lincoln on the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Yet the furious mob blindly objects that the statue shows a kneeling slave before a standing Lincoln. The mob is even more blinkered in its art appreciation than it is in its historical understanding, as I will show in close-up views of the muscular freedman—no longer a slave!—and other details.

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If we don’t believe our own eyes, we have the testimony of Frederick Douglass, who delivered the dedication address, honoring his friend Abraham Lincoln. The escaped slave Douglass is famous for his criticisms of Lincoln’s policies, including what he then regarded as his slowness to accede to plans for using black soldiers. But he also conceded the correctness of Lincoln’s measured policies. Douglass’s speech is among his best, his most complex, for its unsparing, many-sided views of Lincoln: it smashes all clichés about both men. His audience, we should note, included President Grant.

Related: Do we erase black history when we take down statues?

More: Why the Right Foresaw the Statues Coming Down. “When Donald Trump wondered whether it would be ‘George Washington next week’ and ‘Thomas Jefferson the week after,’ he was treated to haughty and dismissive dispatches in the mainstream press explaining why these Founders were more than just their proximity to slavery. These were valuable missives, but Trump wasn’t the right audience. They should have been directed at the activists who have taken their campus-based maximalism with them into the workforce. The failure on the part of polite liberal opinion makers to anticipate this attack on America’s foundations is a failure of imagination and an act of hubris. They assumed they spoke for the mob when it was the mob that spoke for them.”

It’s not surprising that Democrats are toppling statues of Lincoln — but this time, the calls are coming from inside the theater!

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