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Local View — ‘Afterthought’ Gettysburg Address stands the test of time

  • Written by Don C. White

  Note: With the passing of the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address, Palos Hills historian Don C. White takes a look at its significance.

  On November 19, 1863 at Gettysburg, PA — President Abraham Lincoln gave one of the most profound speeches in his life and one that has stood the test of time as we study it yet today.

  The battle of Gettysburg was fought on July 1st through 3rd of July 1863.
  After the battle, the remains of the Union and Confederate dead had to be laid to rest. Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin of Pennsylvania soon saw to the establishment of a cemetery at Gettysburg for the burial of the Union dead. It would not be until 1877-1879 that the remains of Confederate dead were removed to Richmond, VA and interred in the Hollywood Cemetery.
  The dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery was to take place on November 19, 1863. Edward Everett, the foremost orator of the day, was asked to give the main address. Almost as an afterthought, President Lincoln was asked to say a few appropriate remarks and that was how his “Gettysburg Address” came to be.
  There are some things that you may not know about the address such as how many copies exist in Lincoln’s hand? I didn’t know, so I talked with a fellow at the Lincoln Library in Springfield a few years ago. He told me there were five copies in Lincoln’s hand.
  They are as follows: Copy No. 1 was the Nicolay copy (one of Lincoln’s secretaries) which is in the Library of Congress. Copy No. 2 was the Hay copy (one of Lincoln’s secretaries) which is also in the Library of Congress. Copy No. 3 is the Everett Copy which is in the Lincoln Library at Springfield. Copy No. 4 is the Bancroft copy which is at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Copy No. 5 is the Bliss Copy which is in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House.
  The Brancroft and Bliss copies were to be sold at the Baltimore Sanitary Fair. But Bancroft kept the first copy. Alexander Bliss, Bancroft’s stepson and a member of the Baltimore Sanitary Fair Committee, prepared an autograph anthology for which he handled the second copy, which he kept. So, instead of being sold at the time, each stayed in the possession of their respective families well into the 20th century.
  I asked about the “Wills copy” and was told there is no record of Wills ever having received a copy; he could have, but no one knows for sure. David Wills was the man assigned by Curtin to oversee the purchase of land for the cemetery, arrange for the burials and organize the dedication ceremony. Many years ago at a sale of Wills’ documents and books a copy of the address was offered, but it proved to be a fake.
  So, there is no copy at the Gettysburg Battlefield site. I do know that the Springfield Copy has been on loan to Gettysburg in the past. I talked with one of my roundtable friends and he was on a tour of the Lincoln Library and got to see the copy of the Gettysburg Address.
  Through the years other copies have appeared, but all have proven to be forgeries. If a copy were to be found, it would fetch a handsome sum — in the millions.
  Quoting from Gabor Boritt’s book, “The Gettysburg Gospel,” he said “In 1963, David C. Mearns wrote from the Library of Congress to Ralph Newman, a Lincoln expert and the owner at that time of the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop in Chicago, that he had before him…a newly discovered Gettysburg Address. First in the keeping of one John Carter, It was next consigned for sale at Sotheby’s and then turned up as property of “Chris R. Ring . . . Mearns was dubious about the document’s authenticity, ‘I never confided my uneasiness to anyone else, but you chaps are different,’ he told Newman. In time, this simulated copy of the Gettysburg address appears to have disappeared.”
  Edward Everett spoke for over two hours on November 19, 1863. How many of us remember anything from his speech? Abraham Lincoln spoke for a little over two minutes. He spoke approximately 272 words (number of words from the copy that is mostly used today) and those words live on in our hearts and minds yet today. Are school children today required to learn and recite the address today? I certainly hope so.
  William E. Barton in his book “The Life of Abraham Lincoln” said this about the Gettysburg Address: “(It) is far more than a pleasing piece of occasional oratory. It is a marvelous piece of English composition. It is a pure well of English undefiled. It sets one to inquiring with nothing short of wonder ‘how knoweth this man letters, having never learned?’ The more closely the address is analyzed the more one must confess astonishment at its choice of words, the precision of its thought, its simplicity, directness and effectiveness.”

  For those who would like to enjoy it again, here is the Gettysburg Address:

  “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
  “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
  “But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
  “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Inside the First Amendment - At the Supreme Court, the politics of public prayer

  • Written by Charles C. Haynes

 The U.S. Supreme Court was to hear oral arguments Wednesday in Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway — a case that revisits the volatile issue of public prayers in government settings.
  It’s been 30 years since the Court upheld the constitutionality of legislative prayers in Marsh v. Chambers, citing the “unbroken history” of such prayers dating back to the founding of the nation.
  According to the majority opinion in Marsh, legislatures, city councils and other government bodies may open their sessions with prayer, as long as the prayer isn’t used to “proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief.”
  But rather than ending the fight over public prayers, the Court’s murky guidance in Marsh has caused widespread confusion and conflict over who gets to pray and what they can say. What has been ruled legal by a lower court in one part of the country has been struck down as illegal in another.
  Now a case involving the “prayer policy” of the Town Board in Greece, New York gives the justices an opportunity to clear up the mess created by Marsh.
  At issue is the town’s practice of soliciting volunteers to be the “chaplain of the month,” free to determine the content of his or her prayers. In a decade of prayer giving at Town Board meetings, Christian clergy have offered the vast majority of the prayers — frequently “in the name of Christ.”
  Does Greece’s prayer policy result in government endorsement of one religion over others, as critics charge? Or does the fact that prayer-givers are volunteers make the prayers constitutional, even if most of the prayers are from one faith? Do legislative prayers need to be “non-sectarian” to avoid proselytizing?
  After the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the policy violates the Establishment clause of the First Amendment, the town appealed to the Supreme Court.
  Short of overturning Marsh and ruling all legislative prayers unconstitutional (a very unlikely outcome), none of the answers the High Court can give to these questions will end the battle over legislative prayer.
  That’s because the fight isn’t really about prayer; it’s about power and politics.
  Most of the litigation challenging legislative prayer comes out of communities where members of the majority faith are determined to keep the practice. Although they must allow people of other religions to participate or risk losing the prayers, they often find creative ways to ensure that most of the prayers reflect their faith.
  For proponents of legislative prayer, the issue seems to be less about the act of prayer and more about the symbolic act of re-affirming America’s dependence on the God of the Bible. For these Americans, ending legislative prayer would be tantamount to re-defining the nation.
  If the issue were really about providing opportunities for authentic prayer, the solution would be creating a moment of silence where each person could pray (or not) as conscience dictates. The answer would not be government-sponsored prayers that either impose one God on everyone or offer “universal” supplications to no God in particular.
  People of faith (any and all faiths) who care about authentic prayer should be first in line to get the government out of the prayer business. The integrity and autonomy of religion is undermined when government officials determine who gets to pray and who does not — or when prayers are “proselytizing” and when they are not.
  No matter how the Supreme Court re-draws the guidelines for government-sponsored prayer, the problem remains that government entanglement with prayer always has been and always will be a threat to religious freedom and a recipe for conflict and division.

Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Viewpoint - Time to double dare Harry Reid to eliminate filibuster

  • Written by Robert Romano

  With Senate Republicans filibustering the nominations of Patricia Ann Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to be the new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Senate Democrats are once again threatening to eliminate the filibuster for executive, and now, judicial nominees.

  “If the Republican caucus finds … that somehow a filibuster is warranted, I believe this body will have to consider whether a rules change should be in order. If Republican senators are going to hold nominations hostage without consideration of individual merit, we will have drastic measures,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy in a floor speech.
  “I just think we should bite the bullet and change the rules at this point,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) declared to reporters after the votes.
  Usually, when this happens, Senate Republicans fold and then allow confirmation for the nominees they previously said they opposed.
  That’s what happened this past July, when Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Thomas Perez for the Department of Labor, and Gina McCarthy for the Environmental Protection Agency were all confirmed. That is, after Senate Democrats threatened to torpedo Rule XXII that gives the minority party the power to block almost any floor action.
  “The filibuster on executive nominees has been eliminated in all but name only,” Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens said at the time.
  “[Senate Republicans] might as well have just changed the rules if they never intend to invoke them to block radical nominees,” he added.
  And that is precisely where the Senate GOP finds itself once again. Whatever their legitimate reasons for blocking Millett and Watt, with Democrats once again threatening to take away the filibuster, it is time to call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) bluff.

  For, if they intend on caving once again into Reid’s pressure to simply rubber stamp every nominee that the White House puts forward, what is the point of having a filibuster rule in the first place that can never be used?
  They should double dare Reid to kill the filibuster.
  Then, he can do so knowing that when Republicans eventually do reclaim the Senate and the White House, they can confirm anybody they like to rein in the excesses of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Federal Reserve with a simple majority vote.
  Reid can also risk the political fallout of eliminating the filibuster in the 2014 election cycle, when Democrats must defend 21 out of the 35 Senate seats that are up, many in not-so-safe states like Alaska, Louisiana, and West Virginia.
  Sure, there will be those who complain that the Senate’s so-called cooling saucer will have been shattered. Let them.
  There is no point in having a rule to block nominees that is never allowed to be invoked. How, exactly, will the filibuster be saved by promising never to use it again?

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

Another View - Super-rich are abandoning America

  • Written by Paul Buchheit

  As they accumulate more and more wealth, the very rich have less need for society. At the same time, they’ve convinced themselves that they made it on their own, and that contributing to societal needs is unfair to them. There is ample evidence that this small group of takers is giving up on the country that made it possible for them to build huge fortunes.

  1. They’ve Taken $25 Trillion of New Wealth While Paying Less Taxes
  The 2013 Global Wealth Databook shows that U.S. wealth has increased from $47 trillion in 2008 to $72 trillion in mid-2013. But according to U.S. Government Revenue figures, federal income taxes have gone DOWN from 2008 to 2012. Even worse, corporations cut their tax rate in half.
  American society has gained nothing from its massive wealth expansion. There’s no wealth tax, no financial transaction tax, no way to ensure that infrastructure and public education are supported.
  Just how much have the super-rich taken over the past five years? Each of the elite 5% — the richest 12 million Americans — gained, on average, nearly a million dollars in financial wealth between 2008 and 2013.
  2. For the First Time in History, They Believe They Don’t Need the Rest of Us
  The rich have always needed the middle class to work in their factories and buy their products. With globalization this is no longer true. Their factories can be in China, producing goods for people in India or Europe or anywhere else in the world.
  They don’t need our infrastructure for their yachts and helicopters and submarines. They pay for private schools for their kids, private security for their homes. They have private emergency rooms to avoid the health care hassle. All they need is an assortment of servants, who might be guest workers coming to America on H2B visas, willing to work for less than a middle-class American can afford.
  The sentiment is spreading from the super-rich to the merely rich. In 2005 Sandy Springs, a wealthy suburb of Atlanta, stopped paying for most public services, deciding instead to avoid subsidizing poorer residents of Fulton County by hiring a “city outsourcer” called CH2M to manage everything except the police and fire departments. That includes paving the roads, running the courts, issuing tickets, handling waste, and various other public services. Several other towns followed suit.
  Results have been mixed, with some of CH2M’s clients backing out or renegotiating. But privatization keeps coming at us. Selective decisions about public services threaten to worsen already destitute conditions for many communities. Detroit, of course, is at the forefront. According to an Urban Land Institute report, “more municipalities may follow Detroit’s example and abandon services in certain districts.”
  3. They Soaked the Middle Class, and Now Demand Cuts in the Middle-Class Retirement Fund
  The richest Americans take the greatest share of over $2 trillion in Tax Expenditures, Tax Underpayments, Tax Haven holdings, and unpaid Corporate Taxes.
  The Social Security budget is less than half of that. Yet much of Congress and many other wealthy Americans think it should be cut. These are the same people who deprive the American public of $300 billion a year by not paying their full share of the payroll tax.
  4. They Continue to Insist that They “Made It on Their Own”
  They didn’t. Their fortunes derived in varying degrees — usually big degrees — from public funding, which provided almost half of basic research funds into the 1980s, and even today supports about 60 percent of the research performed at universities.
  Businesses rely on roads and seaports and airports to ship their products, the FAA and TSA and Coast Guard and Department of Transportation to safeguard them, a nationwide energy grid to power their factories, communications towers and satellites to conduct online business, the Department of Commerce to promote and safeguard global markets, the U.S. Navy to monitor shipping lanes, and FEMA to clean up after them.
  Apple, the tax haven specialist, still does most of its product and research development in the United States, with US-educated engineers and computer scientists. Google’s business is based on the Internet, which started as ARPANET, the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency computer network from the 1960s. The National Science Foundation funded the Digital Library Initiative research at Stanford University that was adopted as the Google model. Microsoft was started by our richest American, Bill Gates, whose success derived at least in part by taking the work of competitors and adapting it as his own. Same with Steve Jobs, who admitted: “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
  Companies like Pfizer and Merck have relied on basic research performed at the National Institute of Health. A Congressional Budget Office study reminds us that The primary rationale for the government to play a role in basic research is that private companies perform too little such research themselves (relative to what is best for society).
  5. As a Final Insult, Many of Them Desert the Country that Made Them Rich
  Many of the beneficiaries of American research and technology have abandoned their country because of taxes. Like multinational companies that rationalize the move by claiming to be citizens of the world, almost 2,000 Americans, and perhaps up to 8,000, have left their responsibilities behind for more favorable tax climates.
  The most egregious example is Eduardo Saverin, who found safe refuge in the U.S. after his family was threatened in Brazil, landed Mark Zuckerberg as a roommate at Harvard, benefited from American technology to make billions from his 4% share in Facebook, and then skipped out on his tax bill.
  An Apt Summary?
  Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and member of the Forbes 400, had this to say about any American who might object to all the greed: “Who gives a crap about some imbecile?”
  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Inside the First Amendment - Public schools rethinking Halloween

  • Written by Charles C. Haynes

 

  Principal Orlando Taylor believed he was doing the right thing last week when he sent a letter home announcing to parents that Halloween celebrations will be banned this year at Inglewood Elementary School.
  But Taylor underestimated how many parents in Towamencin Township, Pennsylvania are emotionally attached to the annual parties and parades featuring goblins, witches and ghosts. Outraged parents denounced the ban, calling it everything from ridiculous to un-American.
  After the media got wind of the story, Taylor was transformed overnight from respectable school principal into the Grinch who stole Halloween.
  Higher-ups in the school district scrambled to quell the controversy, announcing that Taylor had misstated the policy. It turns out that teachers are allowed to have Halloween parties, but school-wide Halloween events such as costume parades must be held before or after school.
  Although the “Halloween banned” story turned out to be a bust, the media wouldn’t have to look hard to find many other districts that are moving away from Halloween-themed activities during the school day and either moving them to non-school hours or replacing them with “harvest festivals” without Halloween paraphernalia.
  This trend to de-emphasize Halloween in elementary schools isn’t driven by fear of First Amendment lawsuits — or, at least, it shouldn’t be.
  True, some images and symbols associated with “trick or treat” can be traced to ancient pagan and other religious practices. But Halloween in America has been so thoroughly secularized that no court in the land is likely to view school Halloween parties as an establishment of religion.
  What’s actually pushing public schools to re-think Halloween is the recognition that growing numbers of Christian, Muslim and other religious parents are opting their kids out of Halloween celebrations at school. A judge may not see Halloween as “religious,” but many parents see activities involving images of witches, demons and ghosts as offensive to their faith.
  Non-religious objections to Halloween are also gaining traction in some school districts. Many educators want to reclaim time lost to Halloween activities during the school day. Others worry that school parades and parties leave out poor families who can’t afford the increasingly elaborate costumes.
  None of these objections matter much to Halloween enthusiasts, as the brouhaha in Pennsylvania illustrates. Their basic message seems to be “don’t spoil the fun for my kid.”
  But when Halloween-themed lessons and activities are ubiquitous in classrooms for weeks at a time — which is the case in many elementary schools — it isn’t much fun for parents who are trying to avoid Halloween. Kids assigned to color the witches green, sing spooky songs and read about haunted houses can’t opt out without opting out of school for much of October.
  Eliminating Halloween altogether, as Principal Taylor discovered, is too unpopular, unrealistic and counter-cultural to make sense for most school districts. But toning it down — as Taylor’s district is apparently trying to do — is a good idea. Pushing costume parades to after school hours, for example, makes them voluntary for families who want to participate.
  If Halloween lessons and activities disappeared tomorrow from the October curriculum, little of educational value would be lost. On the contrary, less Halloween could mean more time to teach something that really matters.
  Even better, dialing back Halloween during the school day would send a message of respect for the beliefs and values of many religious parents.
  Yes, Halloween as currently celebrated in elementary school classrooms is constitutional. But just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C. Web: religiousfreedomeducation.org. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.