Lazy Sunday XXXVII: Best of the Reblogs, Part II

Thanksgiving is almost here!  Regular readers will by now know of my love for Halloween, which is second only to Christmas in my heart.  But Thanksgiving is definitely up there in the Top Five, at least—sandwiched neatly between the former two, a brief taste of the Christmas togetherness and relaxation to come.

This week’s Lazy Sunday continues with some of my favorite reblogged posts.  As I wrote last week, one of the simple joys of blogging is making friends with other bloggers.  Maybe one day we can all meet up at some kind of blogging convention.

This week’s reblogs feature two from Practically Historical, a blog dedicated to historical topics, mostly American History.  The other is from Quintus Curtius, a classicist and world traveler (not to mention a former Marine) who writes beautifully about forgotten chunks of the distant past.  He revives the old tradition of the great antiquarians, much to our benefit.

  • Reblog: Lincoln and Civil Liberties” – This post is an examination of Lincoln’s decision to arrest pro-secessionist legislators in Maryland, in order to prevent the State from seceding from the Union.  He examines John Merryman, for whom the case Ex Parte Merryman is named, and notes Merryman was actively engaged in leading an armed militia in Maryland against federal authority.  Yikes!
  • Reblog: Quintus Curtius, ‘On Living Near the Ocean’” – This essay on the ocean really struck a chord with me.  Quintus Curtius is a strong writer, and his examination of the ways that people respond to living near the water are fascinating.  On the one hand, people enjoy the vigorous health of the salt air and good seafood, but maritime towns tend to be breeding grounds for shabbiness and dingy criminality (see also:  Myrtle Beach).  A worthy read.
  • Reblog: Practically Historical on the Electoral College” – Gordon Sheaffer of Practically Historical delivers again with an excellent examination and defense of the Electoral College.  He has a great takedown for the anti-EC crowd, who argue that individual votes are all that matter:  he argues that we should think of the EC like a series of baseball games.  Yes, the highest score wins individual games, but the wins are what matter.  A team can win ten games by one run each, while another team can win nine games by ten runs each; what matters are the wins, not the overall scoring.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy the fleeting glory of your weekend, and enjoy the short workweek!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Lincoln on Education

This week’s TBT feature was also in last Sunday’s “Lazy Sunday XXIV – Education.”  With the school year in full swing, it’s always enjoyable to look back at the benefits of education—a reminder of why getting education right is so important.

Abraham Lincoln was largely self-educated, and he was motivated, it seems, by both a desire to improve his condition in life, and by a genuine love of learning.  As an avid reader myself, I can related to the anecdote (relayed below) of young Abe walking around with “a book in his hand or in his pocket.”

This little piece was an “Historical Moment,” a monthly feature for the Florence County (SC) GOP’s public events.  If I recall correctly, the FCGOP Chairman skipped over my segment in the program (presumably by mistake, but perhaps to save time), so while I wrote this brief talk for the September 2018 meeting, I did not deliver it publicly until the October meeting (it was published on this blog in September).

I hope you’ll find this adaptation of my talk enjoyable.  Here is “Lincoln on Education“:

We’re gathered here tonight to hear from members of and candidates for School Board; in that spirit, I’d like to speak briefly about education, particularly the education of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln.

From what I’ve read, Lincoln’s entire formal education consisted of around a year of schooling.  He would have a week or two here and there throughout his childhood in Kentucky and Indiana, and then return to working on the family’s farm.

Despite little formal education, Lincoln taught himself throughout his life.  He loved to read, and would read deeply on a variety of subjects, obtaining books whenever and wherever he could.  One of his contemporaries commented that “I never saw Abe after he was twelve that he didn’t have a book in his hand or in his pocket. It didn’t seem natural to see a feller read like that.”  When he sat for the bar exam, he’d read law books on his own time to prepare.

Lincoln also believed in education as a source of patriotism, morality, and self-improvement—what we might call “upward mobility.”  He was not a man who wanted to stay on the farm, and his self-education was a means to escape poverty.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to quote Lincoln at length from his 1832 speech “To the People of Sangamo County”:

“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.”

Here we can see Lincoln’s belief that education lays the foundation for patriotism—we understand our freedoms better when we understood what they cost, and that others lack them.  We see, too, the power of education to teach us the virtuous and the good.  From that morality flows, as Lincoln said, “sobriety, enterprise, and industry,” the tripartite tools to improve our material conditions.

Patriotism, morality, and industry—these were the three benefits of education Lincoln espoused.  Coming from the man who wrote the Gettysburg Address, I think we should take Lincoln’s views on education seriously.

Lazy Sunday XXIV: Education

The school year is back in full swing, and I am already beat.  It looks like it’s going to be a good year, and I have some very bright students, but my teaching load is substantially busier than last year, and my private lesson empire continues to grow.  Those are all blessings, but it means a lot more work for yours portly.

That’s all to say that I thought this Sunday’s edition of Lazy Sunday would be perfect for looking back at my education-related posts:

  • Lincoln on Education” – a little post consisting of remarks I made to the Florence County (SC) Republican Party back in September 2018 (actually, it may have been October—one of my “Historical Moments” was skipped in the program accidentally, so I reused it the following month).  I looked at the education—and the views thereon—of President Abraham Lincoln.  He was an avid learner, and saw education as the means by which he could improve himself.  Apparently, it worked!
  • Teachers Quitting in Record Numbers – Reflections on Education” – this lengthy post outlines my own observations about why teachers quit the profession—and some of its major problems.  My main idea was “flexibility”:  in pay, in lesson plans, and in certification.  Public education is a great deal for bad teachers—they coast along, cashing a paycheck no matter how well they do—but a poor one for good teachers.  Private education is great, but it can’t compete, at least in the rural South, with public education in terms of teacher pay and benefits.

    But the biggest concern is what I elegantly dubbed “administrative bullcrap.”  Teachers get loaded down with all of these duties that are only distantly related to their alleged jobs:  molding young minds.

  • The State of Education” – this post details the travails of a New York City French teacher, a good teacher whose experiences in multiple schools illustrate how public education is a bad gig for good teachers.  The stories are jaw-dropping, but hardly surprising now:  zero administrative support for discipline, a “talent show” that nearly devolves into a sweaty orgy, violent outbursts from animalistic students, etc.  Terrifying stuff.
  • Sailer and Spotted Toad on Education” – this post was a bit “meta”—it’s an overview of a review of a book.  That makes my post tertiary commentary at best.  The post looks at demographer Steve Sailer’s review of blogger Spotted Toad’s book 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning a narrative memoir detailing Toad’s decade teaching in public schools in the Bronx.  I’ve picked up the book but still haven’t read it (I’m working through Milo’s Middle Rages: Why the Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America; review coming soon), but it looks to be an interesting read.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday:  The State of Education Update” – this post is an update of “The State of Education,” written nearly on the eve of my return to this present school year.  As SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive, you’ll have to subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more to read it.  Tantalizing, no?

So, there you have it.  Now to fulfill my obligation to my wonderful SubscribeStar subscribers and get their delayed post done.

Happy School Year!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

#MAGAWeek2019: President Trump’s Independence Day Speech

It’s #MAGAWeek2019 here at The Portly Politico.  Each day’s post will be a SubscribeStar exclusive.  For a subscription of $1/month, you gain exclusive to each day’s posts, as well as exclusive content every Saturday throughout the rest of the year.  Visit my SubscribeStar page for more details.

I was not planning on writing about President Trump’s incredible Independence Day speech as part of #MAGAWeek2019, mainly because I try to keep these posts historical.  The speech was so powerful, though, and so educational in a historical sense, it and President Trump have earned a spot (alongside the president’s favorite food) as part of my annual celebration of American greatness.

Read More »

Lazy Sunday II: Lincoln Posts

I’ve been out of town all weekend—thus yesterday’s very belated post—and it’s getting to the point in the academic year where all the craziness hits at once.  That being the case, I’m posting another one of these “compilation” reference posts to give you, my insatiable readers, the illusion of new content.  It’s like when a classic television show does a clip show episode:  you relive your favorite moments from the series (or, in this case, the arbitrary theming I foist upon you).

Today’s “Lazy Sunday” readings look back at my posts that pertain to President Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator (read the first “Lazy Sunday” compilation).  I noticed that I’ve been writing more about Lincoln over the past week (perhaps my quiet homage to the recently-completed Black History Month?), so I decided to compile, in one place, all of my Abraham Lincoln posts (at least, the ones I could find on this blog).

Without further ado, here are The Portly Politico‘s Lincoln Posts (in chronological order):

  • TBT: Happy Birthday, America!” – a reblog from the old TPP site, this post largely lets Lincoln speak for himself, as it features a full transcript of the Gettysburg Address.  Always good for patriotic goosebumps.
  • Historical Moment – The Formation of the Republican Party” – this short post was adapted from a brief talk I gave to the Florence County Republican Party.  The purpose of the meeting, I recall, was to focus Republicans on who we are as a Party and what we believe, so I thought it would be useful to give a brief introduction to the formation of the GOP.  As the first Republican President (although not the first Republican presidential candidate—that honor goes to John Charles Fremont of California, who ran in 1856), Lincoln obviously exercised huge influence on the young party.
  • Lincoln on Education” – another “Historical Moment” adaptation (I’m all about recycling material), I was supposed to deliver this moment before a forum of candidates for the Florence School District 1 race in autumn 2018.  I was all set to deliver it, but the FCGOP Chairman (accidentally?) skipped over me in the agenda, so I saved it until the following month’s meeting (again, why let good copy go to waste?).
  • Lincoln’s Favorability” – here’s one of TWO posts from last week about Abraham Lincoln.  I’m going to give Lincoln a rest after tonight—he worked hard enough during the Civil War—but this piece looked at an interesting Rasmussen poll, that shows Lincoln is massively beloved by the American people.
  • Reblog: Lincoln and Civil Liberties” – this post is a reblog from Practically Historical, the blog of SheafferHistorianAZ.  Sheaffer—a fellow high school history teacher—wrote a post detailing how Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeus corpus was, indeed, constitutional.

Happy Sunday!

–TPP

Reblog: Lincoln and Civil Liberties

One of the joys of blogging is the opportunity to read the work of other writers in the “blogosphere.”  Recently, I’ve been reading SheafferHistorianAZ‘s work at his blog, Practically Historical.  Sheaffer writes brief, pithy posts about various historical figures and problems, and seems to have a particular interest in both Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, two of my favorite presidents.

Yesterday, he posted a piece entitled “Lincoln and Civil Liberties” that touches on an interesting constitutional question:  did the Great Emancipator violate the Constitution when he suspended the writ of habeus corpus and arrested Americans without due process or the chance to see a judge?

Sheaffer argues that Lincoln was completely justified, as those arrested were actively seditious and traitorous.  He cites the case of John Merryman, the Marylander arrested for his attempt to spur Maryland to secede from the Union.  From Sheaffer (all links are his):

John Merryman was not an innocent victim… of government tyranny as portrayed by Chief Justice Roger Taney.  Merryman led a detachment of Maryland militiamen in armed resistance to troops in Federal service.  Taney was a partisan Democrat staunchly opposed to Lincoln and supportive of secessionist doctrine.  Ex parte Merryman is not legal precedent at all and cannot be cited as such- it is a political document designed to hinder Lincoln’s attempts to protect Washington and preserve the Union.  It was issued by Taney alone- scholars often make the mistake of assuming that the Supreme Court concurred with the ruling.

As Sheaffer points out, there is a trend in Lincoln scholarship that recasts the president as an out-of-control tyrant.  The most prominent figure in this revisionist school is probably Thomas DeLorenzo, and the idea has circulated broadly, even if it hasn’t penetrated the American psyche (remember, Lincoln enjoys a 90% favorability rating among Americans today).

No doubt the American Civil War expanded federal powers, and indelibly changed the relationship between the States and the federal government, in some ways to the detriment of constitutionalism.

Consider that, prior to the Civil War, many States assumed they could “opt out” of the Constitution, having previously “opted in” to it.  Lincoln argued that the Union predated the Constitution, and therefore could not be left; Daniel Webster earlier argued that the Union and the Constitution were “one and inseparable.”

Regardless, the American Civil War resolved by force of arms what could not be resolved in Congress or debating societies (of course, no political question is ever settled permanently).  After that, the States would never have quite the same leverage over the federal government (probably for the better, but perhaps for the worse in some ways), and would lose even more with the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment.

These are interesting questions to consider.  Sheaffer’s contribution to this discussion is sober and direct.

 

Lincoln’s Favorability

One of Scott Rasmussen’s recent Number of the Day entries for Ballotpedia deals with the Abraham Lincoln’s current high favorability ratings:  90% of Americans have a favorable view of the Great Emancipator.  88% have a favorable view of our first president, George Washington.

That was certainly not the case when Lincoln was president.  He was an unlikely figure when he first took office, and many in his own party—the young Republican Party—doubted his ability to see the United States through the American Civil War.

It’s easy to forget—or even to imagine—that Lincoln believed he would not win re-election in 1864.  Thus, he picked Andrew Johnson, a pro-Union, pro-slavery Democrat from Tennessee, as his running mate.  (Of course, Lincoln never dreamed his symbolic gesture of political goodwill and unity would lead to an unqualified boor becoming president.)  Regardless, the fall of Atlanta and subsequent Union victories boosted Lincoln at the polls, securing his reelection (he was touched to find that soldiers overwhelming supported their Commander-in-Chief).

Blogger SheafferHistorianAZ at Practically Historical posted a piece recently entitled, “Finest Two Minutes,” about Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address.  That speech is, indeed, one of the most moving and powerful political speeches in the English language, and it’s less than 300 words.

What caught my eye was this quotation:

The Chicago Times recorded, “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.”

It’s instructive to remember that, while history views Lincoln fondly (SheafferHistorianAZ rates him as a “Great”-level president), he was not universally beloved at his time, and only won in 1860 because the race was split four ways:  there were two Democratic candidates (Northern and Southern), the Republican (Lincoln), and John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party.  Lincoln did not even appear on the ballot in many Southern States.  Lincoln had to earn his greatness, and much of it came with posterity.

Similarly, President Reagan was not universally beloved in his own party when he was elected in 1980.  The parallels to our current president, Donald Trump, and his own struggles with his adopted party are striking.

The lesson seems to be to aim for greatness, regardless of contemporary naysayers.  Few Americans remember George McClellan, but everyone remembers the Great Emancipator.

Lincoln on Education

The following is adapted from remarks to the Florence County (SC) Republican Party on the evening of 10 September 2018.  The monthly program featured members of and candidates for the local school board, so I spoke briefly about President Abraham Lincoln’s education, and his views thereof.

We’re gathered here tonight to hear from members of and candidates for School Board; in that spirit, I’d like to speak briefly about education, particularly the education of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln.

From what I’ve read, Lincoln’s entire formal education consisted of around a year of schooling.  He would have a week or two here and there throughout his childhood in Kentucky and Indiana, and then return to working on the family’s farm.

Despite little formal education, Lincoln taught himself throughout his life.  He loved to read, and would read deeply on a variety of subjects, obtaining books whenever and wherever he could.  One of his contemporaries commented that “I never saw Abe after he was twelve that he didn’t have a book in his hand or in his pocket. It didn’t seem natural to see a feller read like that.”  When he sat for the bar exam, he’d read law books on his own time to prepare.

Lincoln also believed in education as a source of patriotism, morality, and self-improvement—what we might call “upward mobility.”  He was not a man who wanted to stay on the farm, and his self-education was a means to escape poverty.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to quote Lincoln at length from his 1832 speech “To the People of Sangamo County”:

“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.”

Here we can see Lincoln’s belief that education lays the foundation for patriotism—we understand our freedoms better when we understood what they cost, and that others lack them.  We see, too, the power of education to teach us the virtuous and the good.  From that morality flows, as Lincoln said, “sobriety, enterprise, and industry,” the tripartite tools to improve our material conditions.

Patriotism, morality, and industry—these were the three benefits of education Lincoln espoused.  Coming from the man who wrote the Gettysburg Address, I think we should take Lincoln’s views on education seriously.

Historical Moment – The Formation of the Republican Party

I’ve missed two days—this past Friday and yesterday—due to back-to-school insanity, coupled with returning to my flood-prone abode (and celebrating my niece’s third birthday).  School starts back Wednesday, and some online courses I teach at a local technical college launched yesterday, so I may be adopting a new posting schedule soon—probably one or two pieces a week, or some shorter posts.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a transcript of remarks I gave to the Florence County Republican Party last night.  Our guest speaker for our monthly program was South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick, a man with a genius for grassroots organizing.  As such, I decided to talk about the formation of the Republican Party back in 1854.  Enjoy!  –TPP

There is some disagreement about exactly when and where the Republican Party first originated.  The national GOP website says the Party came into being in Jackson, Michigan, on 6 July 1854.  The anti-slavery convention, also called the “Under the Oaks” convention because the conventioneers met in an oak grove, nominated statewide candidates, and their Convention Platform read, “we will cooperate and be known as REPUBLICANS.”

The South Carolina GOP website, on the other hand, points to a meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin, earlier in 1854, where a group of abolitionists met to fight the expansion of slavery, although it also mentions the Jackson, Michigan convention was when the Party was “formally organized.”  Two years later, Philadelphia hosted the first Republican National Convention, which nominated John C. Fremont as the first Republican candidate for President.

Regardless of where the GOP formally began, the climate for its formation was eerily similar to our own political situation.  The “peculiar institution” of slavery bitterly divided the country.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the brainchild of Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, proposed applying “popular sovereignty” to western territories; essentially, territories would decide whether to allow slavery, or remain “free soil.”

That Act embroiled Kansas in a bloody guerrilla war between pro-slavery “Fire-Eaters” and radical abolitionists, the latter of whom sent “Beecher’s Bibles”—rifles—to free soilers attempting to keep the territory free.  In 1856, John Brown, the deranged abolitionist, and his sons massacred pro-slavery advocates with swords in the Pottawatomie Massacre, a retaliation for an earlier attack on the abolitionists.

The old Whig Party, originally organized in protest over the policies Democratic President Andrew Jackson, collapsed over the issue of slavery and “popular sovereignty.”  The conditions were ripe for a new party to emerge, one dedicated to “Free Soil, Free Labor, and Free Men” (not quite as catchy as “Make America Great Again,” but it explained the Republican Party’s platform succinctly).

Over the course of the 1850s, the young Republican Party spread rapidly throughout Northern States, bringing together abolitionists, anti-slavery Democrats, and other constituencies disillusioned with the Democratic Party’s policies on slavery and the economy.  The Republican Party from its inception opposed the expansion, if not always the outright abolition, of slavery, and hoped to keep it out of any new territories.  Southern Democrats so feared a Republican victory, they threatened to secede from the Union should a Republican President be elected.

Of course, Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican elected in a four-way race in 1860—the Democratic Party split into Northern and Southern wings, while the Constitutional Union Party gained votes in the Upper South and Appalachia—and South Carolina seceded in December 1860.

Our first President was a good one, though, and the Republican Party has endured ever since, continuing to fight for the unborn, the working man and woman, and the values that make our country great.