Obama, Lincoln, Martin Luther King and the Liberal false narrative
This is a guest post by Martin Sewell:
Yesterday, His Grace wrote about the inappropriate adulation for President Obama exhibited by those once twin pillars of the British Establishment, the BBC and the Church of England.
Both in secular and religious British terms, it is indeed intellectually offensive to see such over enthusiastic embracing of a foreign leader of modest achievement - re-election and a Peace prize bestowed for no greater merit than that of not being his predecessor.
His Grace identified the liberal narrative as morphing this President with Abraham Lincoln, and the coinciding release of Stephen Spielberg’s film will no doubt be spawning many more such comparisons as President Obama takes his second Oath of Office.
Mr Spielberg’s political sympathies are well known and it is no accident that his film presents a liberal view of history intended to shape and inform the historical narrative for many on both sides of the Atlantic. It is happening to Lincoln as it has happened to Martin Luther King, so that few will actually know the inconvenient truth, not least that both assassinated heroes were Republicans.
The television trailers for Spielberg’s film presents a montage of high flown passionate anti-slavery rhetoric, with scant regard for the history. This is what Spielberg thinks Lincoln should have been like, though the record is significantly more nuanced.
Nobody can seriously read of the man and consider his words without appreciating that Lincoln was a sincere and life-long Abolitionist. He perhaps put it best in homespun wisdom rather than public oratory. "Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."
His first and primary loyalty was however to the Republican form of Government and the Constitution adopted only 23 years before his birth.
Few of those seeing Spielberg’s film will have the historical knowledge and perspective to appreciate how novel and fragile the idea of democracy was in the middle of the 19th Century. The French Revolution had collapsed back into Empire and the only other democratic republic was Switzerland. The idea of fracturing and weakening the noble American experiment in democracy was anathema to Lincoln. It is perhaps sensible to regard him as an idealistic pragmatist.
In 1860, writing to the future Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephen, Lincoln assured him: "Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly, or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears."
This same pragmatism ensured that the Emancipation Proclamation, when issued, was only directed to slaves living in the Confederate States, and the announcement itself was delayed until after the battle of Antietam had ended the occupation of border State Maryland and returned its Unionist owned slaves to the control of the North where they remained enslaved for the rest of the War.
Lest there be any doubt, consider:
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forebear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union."
In the Gettysburg Address there is not a single direct reference to slavery or the Abolitionist cause, though his devotion to the cause of the Republic and its Constitution is embodied in its closing hope 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.”
Martin Luther King would have happily concurred, not least with that important “under God” proviso which plainly offends many secular activists in the modern Democratic Camp.
MLK was brought up in a middle class educated Christian household; his Pastor father was a lifelong Republican and his son followed and was so registered throughout his life.
They both knew that every advance for the African American in both Civil Rights and Education had been built on Republican initiatives in the teeth of Democrat opposition. They would have appreciated that the earliest gun control measures had been enacted in the South to prevent the poor black man from exercising his Constitutional right to bear arms and be disabled from fighting back against the Democratic dominated Ku Klux Klan.
MLK possessed guns for his family’s protection and applied for a concealed carry permit.
You do not hear much about this from the Hollywood crowd.
The advice to his son from “Daddy King” - in many ways an even better man than his more celebrated son - was to secure for himself “an education, a job, and a mortgage”. That is a severely discordant to the current idealisation of the entitlement society.
He did not seek to fundamentally change the principles of the Constitution but rather to secure justice for all by making the USA live up to its plainly declared principles.
Nowhere did that ideal show itself better than in his “I have a dream” speech where he envisioned a society in which a person would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
That phrase bears some consideration.
It is plain that Martin Luther King saw himself first as a Christian, second as US citizen and only then as African American. He could express the latter thanks to the empowerments of the former.
Both of those pre-conditions are under threat from the current President, his supporters and his judicial nominees.
MLK would have appreciated the view of the Founding Father John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
President Obama appears to regard American Society and its Constitution as deficient; he might usefully consider with his Hollywood friends whether it is not the Constitution that needs changing but rather the undermining of that moral and religious character.
If he wishes to make the Constitution of Lincoln and MLK function as designed, he could do no better than build up that moral character by following the wisdom of another African American who shares much of President Obama’s academic history.
I speak of the eminent Conservative Academic Thomas Sowell, who is heir to the Lincoln/MLK tradition which believes that there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be solved by what is right with America.
I am sure that MLK would have understood Sowell’s perspective that “If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.”
I cannot see Lincoln disagreeing with: “I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.”
Or: “One of the consequences of such notions as ‘entitlements’ is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”
Both would surely have assented to the proposition that “Intellect is not wisdom.”
I cannot see any founding father dissenting from the idea that: “Since this is an era when many people are concerned about 'fairness' and 'social justice,' what is your 'fair share' of what someone else has worked for?”
The inauguration will be a time for rhetoric and hope. My hope is that the President changes and instead of following the dreams of his father he follows the dream of the Founding Fathers.
Martin Sewell can be followeed on Twitter: @martindsewell