Curtis Dahlgren
WE HAVE TO TALK: a few words now to the "grand old party" of Lincoln
By Curtis Dahlgren
November 29, 2018

Jeremiad, n. A tale of woe, grief or despair; a lament over wickedness or degeneracy; often used sarcastically. – Funk & Wagnalls, 1938

It is not a closely-held secret, but when they are speaking among themselves, many Country Club Republicans consider cultural conservatives to be back-woodsy "one-issue voters." They have forgotten that their party was born and bred out of the fact that the Country Club Whigs considered the Railsplitters to be "one-issue voters." One of the most famous – but unread – speeches of Abraham Lincoln is his speech in February 1860 in New York City at the Cooper Institute. This is the speech that "made" the Republican party, but what is not well-known is that it contains a little Jeremiad aimed at his fellow Republicans before his nomination.

So often these days we are told that this or that issue is so "difficult" and so "complex," that – in the minds of the elite speakers – the rest of us will just have to agree with them and forego all attempts to rectify the situation!

We are also informed that in order to win, the GOP must try to keep the great Center happy and even give the left some of the things it wants. Abraham Lincoln never heard the term "triangulation," but he had been there, seen that, in the Whig party.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica (11th edition), the Whig party was "a coalition of opposition parties which influenced deeply and permanently the character, policy, and fortunes of the Whig party . . . Moreover as a means of strengthening the bond with their new allies, the Whigs learned to practice a tolerance towards the opinions and even the principles of their associates which is exceptional in the history of American political parties" [they were into 'diversity'].

They had supported the Gag Rules of 1835-44 which outlawed the mailing of anti-slavery materials, and most politicians in those days hoped that the slavery issue would just "go away" or, in lieu of that, they hoped that any distraction would take the people's attention off of it (the Mormon Rebellion and Indian uprisings served that purpose). But by reading between the lines, we can surmise the following facts about the Whigs:

They wanted to be inclusive; they wanted to reach out, to be A BIG TENT ("can't we all just get along?"). And so, on a Tuesday evening, February 27, 1860, the back-woodsman told a large crowd of New Yorkers that the U.S. Supreme Court was simply full of baloney on Dred Scott, and he answered the question, "What would it take to SATISFY the pro-slavery minority in the country?"

"A few words now to Republicans . . . Let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them. Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. . . . The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must, somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. . . . What will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly – done in acts as well as in words.


The so-called "Party of Lincoln" could do worse than to dig out those words and read them again. Lincoln's words, like the Law buried under trash in the old temple in Jerusalem, have been long time forgotten. This is not your father's Republican party anymore! And it's time for BOTH parties to get back to their roots!

Thomas Jefferson is supposedly the patron saint of the Democratic party. In his second inaugural address, he said: "I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power, and to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with me that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures that whatsoever they do shall result in your good, and shall secure to you peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations."

Or, in the words of Lincoln, "Let us be diverted by none of these sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man – such as a policy of 'don't care' on a question about which all true men do care – such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance. . . .


Some of our "hipper" Republican contemporaries will say, "That was then and now is now. Whatever works!" WELL, as the Gipper would say, and once did (in his farewell address to the United Nations):

"The deliberations of great leaders and great bodies are but overture. . . . The truly majestic music, the music of freedom, of justice, and peace is the music made in forgetting self and seeking in silence the will of Him who made us."


P.S. That, almost word-for-word, was my "#2" column (September 15, 2003, in the archives). Just my second "blog," though I don't like that term.

PPS: Never never say never. Some people think it is impossible to even "hope" that people will change. Un-reason-able to pray that people could change? I mean, will there ever be peace? In America? In the world? The Civil War was essentially caused by a disregard for the border of the Kansas Territory. A few people wanted to export slavery and slaves to Kansas. The people of Kansas didn't want slavery.

In 1857 the Democrats controlled the Supreme Court, Congress, and the White House. Slavery was safe. But the Rebels overran their headlights, and that made Lincoln the Commander in Chief, which office the Rebels ignored even before his inauguration. And the northern Democrats could no longer go along with the southern ones. But back to the present where borders are again being attacked. By 2021, 2020 will be hindsight, to coin a phrase (no joke). LOL – "lotsa luck" if the Two Americas continue their current paths, parallel though they be portrayed. Someone said:

"The truth is out there somewhere; it's just not indexed very well.

"Oh wouldn't that be nice?" (to coin another phrase). Actually it has been "indexed"! The American Association of University Women held a big used book sale here this fall, and I got "The Home Book of Bible Quotations" by Burton Stevenson (1949, Harper). I also got the "New Layman's Parallel Bible" and a paperback NIV Bible. They were all on the "FREE" table! Maybe that is a clue to the University Women's priorities and values. I had to pay a couple of bucks for a book by Barry Goldwater, but God's books were free. In fact, the "The Home Book" was stamped "WITHDRAWN" by some public library ("passe, past its prime"?). If you can find a used copy, I recommend it.

"The compiler of such classic volumes as "The Home Book of Verse," "The Home Book of Quotations," and "The Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Familiar Phrases" now offers a painstakingly complete collection of the most memorable literature in the Bible . . . He has spent ten years on this book . . . It belongs in every library in the country." – from the dust jacket

O the irony, eh? My copy was, quote, "Withdrawn," unquote, by a public library, and ended up at a used book sale as a throw away! This is why "some people think it is impossible to even "hope" that people will change." The university women, and some men, think that you are smart if you have one degree, twice as smart if you have two degrees, and three times as smart if you have three degrees.

Is that Celsius or Fahrenheit?

I know, that's COLD, but so is the weather.

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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