Interrupting Our Regularly Scheduled Catfight

Friday, October 07, 2005
I want to open by thanking Chuck for providing, in a thread below, a pointer to:

Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, April 14, 1876.

There is so much there that it is forever beyond me to do it justice. I am embarrassed that I was completely ignorant of this oration. I encourage any who stumble upon this recommendation and are, as I was, ignorant of it to take the time to read this Douglass speech.

I do not wish to make light of the words of Frederick Douglass in his oration upon the unveiling of The Freedmen’s Monument in Memory of Abraham Lincoln. Current circumstances pale, are ghostly pale, in comparison to what Douglass was actually talking about. The problems we face and wish to deal with are trifling compared to slavery. Nor do I wish to compare our current President to the incomparable Abraham Lincoln.

Given the current state of discussion among many of us who consider ourselves in some way part of a "conservative movement" within our beloved United States of America, and how important we feel the necessity of this movement is to combat and push back some of the gains and goals of the leftist movement, I would, however, like to point to this particular segment:

Fellow-citizens, ours is no new-born zeal and devotion--merely a thing of this moment. The name of Abraham Lincoln was near and dear to our hearts in the darkest and most perilous hours of the Republic. We were no more ashamed of him when shrouded in clouds of darkness, of doubt, and defeat than when we saw him crowned with victory, honor, and glory. Our faith in him was often taxed and strained to the uttermost, but it never failed. When he tarried long in the mountain; when he strangely told us that we were the cause of the war; when he still more strangely told us that we were to leave the land in which we were born; when he refused to employ our arms in defense of the Union; when, after accepting our services as colored soldiers, he refused to retaliate our murder and torture as colored prisoners; when he told us he would save the Union if he could with slavery; when he revoked the Proclamation of Emancipation of General Fremont; when he refused to remove the popular commander of the Army of the Potomac, in the days of its inaction and defeat, who was more zealous in his efforts to protect slavery than to suppress rebellion; when we saw all this, and more, we were at times grieved, stunned, and greatly bewildered; but our hearts believed while they ached and bled. Nor was this, even at that time, a blind and unreasoning superstition. Despite the mist and haze that surrounded him; despite the tumult, the hurry, and confusion of the hour, we were able to take a comprehensive view of Abraham Lincoln, and to make reasonable allowance for the circumstances of his position. We saw him, measured him, and estimated him; not by stray utterances to injudicious and tedious delegations, who often tried his patience; not by isolated facts torn from their connection; not by any partial and imperfect glimpses, caught at inopportune moments; but by a broad survey, in the light of the stern logic of great events, and in view of that divinity which shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will, we came to the conclusion that the hour and the man of our redemption had somehow met in the person of Abraham Lincoln. It mattered little to us what language he might employ on special occasions; it mattered little to us, when we fully knew him, whether he was swift or slow in his movements; it was enough for us that Abraham Lincoln was at the head of a great movement, and was in living and earnest sympathy with that movement, which, in the nature of things, must go on until slavery should be utterly and forever abolished in the United States.

Well, take it as you see fit. Man, could that Douglass guy give good speech or what!


vnjagvet said...

Thanks for taking time to post that speech, Knuck. And to quote that passage, in which Douglass describes as few could both the travails of leadership and the frustration of those whose cause (s)he is leading.

Timely on many levels.

Knucklehead said...

Deep criticism without condemnation. High praise without adulation. Recognition of how failures lie within successes and successes within failures. Remarkably poignant. Heart, and brain, breaking stuff in there. What a force of nature he was.

Syl said...


"Deep criticism without condemnation. High praise without adulation. Recognition of how failures lie within successes and successes within failures."

Excellent summation.

vnjagvet said...

Why he doesn't even now have the stature equal to WEB Dubois and MLK among black heroes, I cannot figure out.

Knucklehead said...


I've yet to see anything by Frederick Douglass that failed to leave me wide-eyed and slack-jawed with admiration.

I mentioned that I am embarrassed that I was ignorant of this particular piece of his work but I am also embarrassed that I've never taken the time to look specifically at his work. Just what I need - more stuff on my reading list ;)

terrye said...

Thank you for posting that.

It kind of puts things in perspective.

flenser said...

Look, people, we have all these new visitors to the site and they need to be entertained. So lets choreograph our next move.

I'll climb onto the top rope, then piledrive Knuck into the ring. Then he flips me over and puts me in his patented "Sleeper Hold". Meanwhile, Jamie sneaks into the ring wielding a folding metal chair ...

Knucklehead said...

I don't enjoy being pile driven (despite whatever invitations I may scatter about). But for you, Flens, I'll consider it.

vnjagvet said...


Douglas was really "somebody". I am pretty confident he did not have a speechwriter.

I have the same problem you do with more on the reading list than I can read.

I will be looking for Douglass' work. I believe he is one of those people that should be held up as a hero to black and white young men and women alike.

chuck said...

I will be looking for Douglass' work.

He wrote three autobiographies. In the last one he speaks a bit of John Brown, which I found facinating. In fact, he had to flee the country after Harpers Ferry, going to Canada and on to England. Here is a timeline of his life. He was also deeply involved in the woman's suffrage movement after the Civil War.