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America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Lincoln’s Sacred Effort

by Robert Morrison

January 16, 2009

March 4, 1865

The Capitol dome now finished; it was topped by a 19-foot Statue of Freedom. Those young black men who first muscled that statue into storage were slaves in the District of Columbia. But by the time they hoisted her into position atop the Capitol, they were free. Four long and bloody years had accomplished this much, and so much more. Not all the President’s hearers had come to applaud. John Wilkes Booth can be seen in grainy photographs of the event.

President Lincoln, defying all expectations (including his own), had been powerfully re-elected the previous November. Four years after appealing to “the better angels of our nature” to avoid civil war, 620,000 young Americans had fallen in a war of brother against brother.

Suddenly, at noon on that overcast Inauguration Day, the sun broke thought the clouds. Seeing victory in sight, Lincoln sounded no note of triumph, gave no hint of self righteousness. The war came, he said, and it was a judgment of heaven upon north and south alike. God could have given the victory to either side, many times. But it was not His perfect will. It would be our task, the President said, “to bind up the nation’s wounds.” He continued: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

The seven hundred and one words of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address have been carved in stone in his memorial. Every American should read them every year. After the ceremony, Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist orator and editor, went to the President’s House. He wanted to shake Lincoln’s hand. He was the first black man invited to a Presidential Inaugural. Barred from entry by an officious policeman, Douglass simply climbed through an open window. Lincoln spotted him in the receiving line and called out to him: “There’s my friend, Douglass.” The President asked for his opinion of the speech, and Douglass replied: “It was a sacred effort.” And so it remains. Just weeks later, Abraham Lincoln would belong to the Ages.

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America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Abraham Lincoln: An Oath Registered in Heaven

by Robert Morrison

January 16, 2009

lincoln_inaug.jpg

March 4, 1861

Wheezing old General Winfield Scott, gouty but doughty, was determined. The hero of a score of battles since 1812 would not let rebels disrupt the inauguration of the first Republican President. Virginia-born but Army-bred, great Scott stationed sharpshooters on the roofs of all the prominent buildings along the inaugural route. If anyone tried anything, Scott thundered, he would use his cannon to “manure the Virginia hills” with their bodies.

Scott’s brave show worked. Abraham Lincoln’s path to power was unimpeded. Lincoln rose before the as-yet-uncompleted Capitol building. As he spoke, seven states had already declared themselves out of the Union. They had set up their own rival government in Montgomery, Alabama. Lincoln weighed his every word. If he came down too strongly, he could tip Virginia and Maryland against the Union—and then the nation’s capital would itself be surrounded. But if he did not take a strong enough stance, his own supporters would be disheartened.

Holding Lincoln’s stovepipe silk hat on that Inaugural stand was his defeated rival, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, the Democrat. Another Democrat, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, would administer the oath. Taney had said “the black man has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”

Lincoln appealed to reason. Secession, he said, was illegal. And it was impossible. A husband and wife can get a divorce, but how can sections of the same country separate? He spoke eloquently of those “mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone.” He urged his “dissatisfied fellow-countrymen” not to take the momentous step of civil war, reminding them: “You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.’” Finally, he called upon “the better angels of our nature” to avert the looming catastrophe. Those better angels would not abandon this troubled land—despite four long and bloody years of fratricidal conflict.

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America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Andrew Jackson: King Mob?

by Robert Morrison

January 16, 2009

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March 4, 1829

Do you think the campaign we’ve just witnessed was too long? How about a four-year long campaign? Do you think it was too dirty? How about charging one candidate with being an adulterer, bigamist, and killer? And calling his opponent a pimp? That’s how long and how bad the campaign of 1824-28 was. Ever since the House of Representatives chose Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to be President—and Adams promptly chose a defeated rival, Henry Clay, to be his own Secretary of State—backers of Andrew Jackson howled “Corrupt Bargain!” And they kept howling for four long years. To his enthusiastic supporters, Jackson was, simply, the Hero. He had won the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, saving Louisiana and the West, and really saving the young country from the British. For the four years of his single term, President John Quincy Adams lived in the shadow of Jackson’s inevitable triumph. Jackson championed democracy. His opponents feared “King Mob.” Adams’ backers, though not Adams himself, circulated all the old rumors of Jackson’s 1791 marriage to Rachel Robards, a woman whose divorce was not final. They circulated the infamous Coffin Handbill, showing nine black coffins with the names of men the hot-tempered Old Hickory had killed, in duels, or as an iron-willed military commander. Jackson’s people responded with the wholly false charge that John Quincy Adams had procured a young American virgin for the lecherous Tsar of Russia when Adams was our ambassador. Talk about ugly!

President Jackson’s demeanor on the day of his Inauguration, March 4, 1829, could not have been more dignified. He wore mourning black, in honor of his recently deceased wife. On seeing the newspaper accounts of her long-ago sin, Jackson’s beloved Rachel had suffered a heart attack and died. He would blame Henry Clay to his dying day—and hate him for it.

Jackson bowed to the inaugural crowds, but their conduct was not so dignified. They mobbed the President’s House, backwoodsmen with muddy boots standing on damask covered chairs to get a glimpse of their idol. Jackson’s friends had to form a flying wedge to keep the rescue the new President and keep him from being crushed by his admirers. Bowie knives cut souvenir tassels from elegant draperies.

Nothing we’ve yet seen of Obamamania has equaled the raucous first Jackson Inaugural.

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Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

January 16, 2009

Here’s what we are reading this morning.

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Hearing Schedule Updated

by Family Research Council

January 15, 2009

Are you looking to see politicians stand up for what they believe in? Then I suggest you rent “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Otherwise here is an updated schedule for hearings and votes next week on HRH French flag.gifPresident-elect Barack Obama’s nominations. To watch the hearings as they are happening tune into the Committee websites or CSPAN.org

Timothy F. Geithner, nominee for Secretary of the Treasury

Hearing date: January 21st, 2009

10:00 A.M.

Location: Senate Finance Committee

Ray LaHood, nominee for Secretary of Transportation

Hearing date: January 21st, 2009

2:00 P.M.

Location: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

Scheduled committee vote on Susan Rice, nominee for Ambassador to the United Nations

Vote date: January 23rd, 2009

2:30 P.M.

Location: Senate Foreign Relations Committee

James B. Steinberg, nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Department of State;

Jacob J. Lew, nominee for Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources of the Department of State

Hearing date: January 24th, 2009

2:30 P.M.

Location: Senate Foreign Relations Committee

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Evening Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

January 15, 2009

Here’s what we are reading this evening.

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America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Thomas Jefferson: Americans “Enlightened by a Benign Religion”

by Robert Morrison

January 15, 2009

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March 4, 1801

Thomas Jefferson would wear no ceremonial swords to his simple swearing-in ceremony. He would ride in no stately coach-and-six, as President George Washington had enjoyed. “Mr. Jefferson,” as the simple Virginia republican preferred to be called, took breakfast at his Washington boarding house with all the other diners on Inauguration Morning, 1801. Then, he walked to the still unfinished Capitol, where he took the oath of office. He was the first President to take office in the new national capital. He was the first sworn in since the death of George Washington in 1799. Jefferson spoke in a barely audible voice (he was never the orator John Adams or Patrick Henry had been). Still, his listeners appreciated the way we soothed the ruffled feathers of a hard-fought election campaign. “We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists.” Jefferson had been elected only after weeks of balloting in the House of Representatives when the Electoral College failed to designate a clear winner. He spoke of religious liberty as one of the great achievements of the young republic. He and his close friend James Madison had blazed that trail with their work on the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom fifteen years earlier, in 1786. Now, Jefferson described God as “an overruling Providence [who] delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter…” He closed his inaugural address with a question: “[W]ith all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens-a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” These wise words can certainly be treasured by us two hundred years later, when national administrations of both parties are planning to add trillions to the national debt that will weigh down our children and our children’s children. Another point jumps out from Jefferson’s first inaugural address: It’s pretty hard to square his words about God’s “overruling Providence,” His delight in our happiness here and hereafter, with the scurrilous charges thrown at Jefferson during the 1800 campaign. It’s hard to see this man as an “atheist” of any kind.

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America’s Inauguration: A Retrospective—Honest John Adams, Coming and Going

by Robert Morrison

January 15, 2009

Our redoubtable second President, John Adams of Massachusetts, was inaugurated in Philadelphia on March 4, 1797. He followed two terms of the man revered as “Father of Our Country.” The bald and portly Adams was short, but powerfully built. Rising to the occasion, he wore a ceremonial sword for his swearing-in. Some of the senators sniped. “His Rotundity,” they called the man who was a genuine hero of the revolution. Adams, like Washington before him, attributed American independence to “the justice of their cause, and the integrity and intelligence of the people, under an overruling Providence which had so signally protected this country from the first.” While professing no religious ties himself, he said “a decent respect for Christianity [is] among the best recommendations for the public service.” In his diary, Adams later noted that the people who watched him take the oath were weeping. “[W]hether it was from grief or joy, whether from the loss of their beloved President [Washington], or from the accession of an unbeloved one…I know not.” Still, John Adams presided over the first peaceful transfer of political power. This was another of Washington’s great gifts to the nation. Four years later, in 1801, the defeated John Adams did not attend President Jefferson’s inauguration in the new capital of Washington, D.C. He left the vast, empty President’s House-in whose cavernous East Room First Lady Abigail Adams had hung her laundry-before dawn. He took the early coach home to the Bay State. Biographer David McCullough tells us that Adams was not the sore loser history thinks he was. He simply wasn’t invited to Mr. Jefferson’s inauguration. Even in this, however, Adams again made history. This was the first time the government had changed hands in a contested election, the first time the “ins” voluntarily stepped “out.” John and Abigail Adams were the first First Family to live in the President’s House. Leaving, John offered this prayer: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but wise and honest men every rule under this roof.”

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Blogs 4 Life 2009

by Krystle Gabele

January 15, 2009

It’s that time of year again! Blogs 4 Life 2009 will be taking place on Thursday, January 22 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the FRC Headquarters in Washington, D.C. B4L will take place on the same day as March For Life, and will provide an amazing opportunity to hear from renowned conservative voices such as: U.S. Senator Sam Brownback, Amanda Carpenter, Jill Stanek, Michael New, Ph.D., Charmaine Yoest, Ph.D., Michael Illions, Chris Gacek, J.D., Ph.D., and Martha Shuping, M.D.

This is a great opportunity for bloggers to network and grow in their knowledge of how internet technology can be used to promote life and bring ideas into action in a post-Roe America.

If you are unable to make B4L will also have a webcast that will be live streaming on FRC’s website. Additionally, there will be a Twitter hashtag devoted to B4L (#B4L) for those who are interested.

I hope to see you there.

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Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

January 15, 2009

Here’s what we are reading this morning.

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