Author archives: Robert Morrison

So Help them God!

by Robert Morrison

July 2, 2015

My wife and I attended “I” (for Induction) Day ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy last night. We witnessed 1,139 of our best and brightest young people take the oath to defend the Constitution of the United States “against all enemies foreign and domestic.” We have seen plenty of evidence in recent days of just who those domestic enemies of the Constitution might be.

I was heartened to see those vital young people repeat the time-honored words: So help me God.

This was, of course, followed by the Academy’s song, Navy Blue & Gold and its most important military mission: BEAT ARMY!

For my wife, a retired commanding officer in the Navy, it is always a meaningful experience. She looks over the fresh-faced youth who are spending their first day in the Navy. “How young they look,” she remarks.

I survey the families of the incoming Midshipmen and reply: “How young their parents look!”

God bless and keep them all. And I thank them for their service.

Is POT a Laudable Pursuit?

by Robert Morrison

June 17, 2015

Some in the conservative movement seem confused by the rush to legalize marijuana. Maybe we should run with the crowd, these folks are asking themselves. Maybe we’ll be more popular with the young. Maybe the elders of the tribe should follow the youngest one, they say.

Maybe NOT. We elders have all been 18; none of these young Americans has been fifty yet. And we want them all to get to be fifty.

My friends Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn have penned this important column in the Los Angeles Times.  Here, they raise an important warning about the rush to reefers.

What I like best is their quote from Lincoln. The purpose of government is to “clear the paths of laudable pursuit.” This might be called the Lincoln Corollary to the Declaration of Independence. When some mistakenly think that Jefferson’s wonderful phrase “pursuit of happiness” implies hedonism and nihilism, or a laissez-faire attitude toward personal and public morality, Lincoln gets us back on track with that laudable pursuit line.

Do we have too many young men finishing school, pursuing skilled vocations, signing up for the military, marrying, fathering children, serving in local volunteer fire departments, and coaching Little League?

If you are in favor of legalizing pot, do you think we haven’t had enough Fergusons or Baltimores?

We owe the young our best judgment. I didn’t do drugs as a young man, but I was an avid smoker. I really enjoyed lighting up. I valued the camaraderie of a smoke break with my buddies in the military.

Last October 27, I was leaving my local convenience store with my coffee in hand. A fellow in front of me held the door and, just as I exited, he lit up.

I did inhale. It was my first inhaling in thirty-seven years. And I instantly remembered why I liked smoking cigarettes.

We shouldn’t “play the Pharisee,” another great Lincoln phrase. We shouldn’t act holier than thou. But we owe our young friends our best guidance for them and for ourselves.

Or else, what are those “better angels of our Nature” for?

Talking Turkey Tumult?

by Robert Morrison

June 11, 2015

America’s business newspaper of record, the Wall Street Journal, headlined this story this week: “Key Ally Turkey Braces for Tumult.” Generally, business does not like “tumult” and it especially doesn’t like it in a country viewed as vital to U.S. national interests. Turkey, a founding member of the NATO alliance, has been moving out of the orbit of American friends in recent years. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pronounced air-doo-WAN) has been pushing this large Muslim majority country into the arms of the jihadists. But last weekend’s voting in Turkey resulted in a loss of a majority in Parliament by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has ruled Turkey since 2002.

Erdogan tried five years ago to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The ship, the Mavi Marmara, was “discreetly encouraged” by Erdogan’s government. She was bringing only “humanitarian” aid to the people in that strip of land adjoining Israel. But Gaza is controlled by the terrorist gang, Hamas.

Humanitarian aid in Gaza includes construction materials that can be used, yes, to repair bomb damage from Israeli raids. But it can also be used to build Metro-size tunnels. Hamas is burrowing under Israeli schools and hospitals. To prevent a future terrorist strike by Hamas fighters emerging on Israel’s side of the border, Israel’s Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Protective Edge last summer.

So “tumult” for Ergodan and his cronies may be good news for us, for Americans, for Israelis, and perhaps even for Christians.

My best Turkish news this week came from friends who spoke of church planting among Turkish immigrants in Germany and who told me that even in Turkey itself, there are green shoots springing up, budding church communities. This in a land where one hundred years ago this year, millions of Christian Armenians were killed. “Who remembers the Armenians?” said Adolf Hitler as he planned his Holocaust of the Jews.

We can answer him: We do! And it is for the sake of the people of that troubled region that we demand religious freedom. It is because too many there murder their neighbors who worship differently that they have seen a century of tumult.

America has a lesson to teach the world. When George Washington greeted the Hebrew Congregation at Newport in 1790, he quoted Scripture to them: “Let each sit under his own vine and fig tree and let there be none to make him afraid.” That has too rarely been true in the Mideast. And, today, it is a heritage increasingly at risk here at home.

In demanding religious freedom for the people of Turkey, we assert a fundamental human right. And we strengthen our own resolve as Americans. 

Common Sense versus Common Core

by Robert Morrison

June 9, 2015

Bill Gates is the well-respected genius behind Microsoft. But he didn’t do everything right. He recently told a computer journal that he had made a mistake in developing the Crtl-Alt-Delete series of keystrokes for his program. Now, the achievements that have made Bill Gates one of the world’s wealthiest men are not negated by this single and candid admission of error. But one has to wonder: When will Bill Gates acknowledge that his support for (and lavish spending on) Common Core has also been a mistake?

Many of us who oppose Common Core are confronted with a list of good things that are said to be a part of Common Core. Yes. Sure. We do have alphabet instruction as part of Common Core and it does go from A to Z. No argument there.

But opponents of Common Core can rebound and ask their own questions. If, as you say, friendly advocate, Common Core is so good, is there a single school district in the country that does not have access to computers and the World Wide Web? If Massachusetts or Iowa have really good state standards, what is to stop any school district from accessing these good standards online? Then, they could adopt, adapt, and implement those parts that are really helpful and eschew the parts that aren’t.

Why is it necessary to prod, prompt, and press the states into compliance? Why is it necessary to force state and local education authorities to shackle themselves with the Common Core curriculum?

With many leading American executives, Mr. Gates wants a workforce primed for the challenges of the 21st century.  However, a top-down program that intrudes upon local and state educational systems is neither wise nor effective.  Unless, of course, the real motive is Control. Well, then we need an Alt (ernative) to Common Core. 

And we should Del(ete) anything that threatens freedom, undermines local authority, and denies parents’ choice.

Hollywood and the Truth: Ships that Pass in the Night?

by Robert Morrison

June 5, 2015

I was swimming in a very grand swimming pool in 2008. It was the only 5-star hotel we’d ever been to, but it was our thirtieth wedding anniversary so we splurged a little. Actually, saving up for five years, we splurged a lot.

Suddenly, I was overcome with a strange feeling: I have been here before. Swimming alone is never a good idea. I shuddered with a powerful sensation of being haunted. We were staying at Dromoland Castle in Ireland. I’d never set foot in Ireland before that tour. “This was crazy,” I told myself as I quickly got out of the pool. I had the strongest feeling of déjà vu.

Out on deck, I chanced to see a life ring on the wall: RMS Titanic. Now, that is even weirder.

Suddenly, I got it. The makeover of this ancient castle had been done at the same time as the blockbuster Hollywood movie, Titanic (1997). And that movie was famous for computer-generated images (CGI) that faithfully reproduced the luxurious interiors of the doomed ocean liner.

So that’s why this swimming pool looked so familiar. I had seen the movie and perused dozens of coffee table books on the Titanic story. The pool was modeled on that elegant 1912 shipboard pool. Not to leave weird world too soon: Who would think it was a good idea to decorate a swimming pool to look exactly like the one where all the swimmers wound up dead?

The Titanic movie was really awful. It incorrectly depicted rich and powerful men on that doomed ship pushing aside the poor immigrant women and children to get into the lifeboats. Untrue.

The movie despicably maligned First Officer William Murdoch. Since you cannot be sued for libeling the dead, producers doubtlessly figured they could get away with sliming a good man’s reputation.

But they forgot: There are thousands of us who devour all the details of that “Night to Remember.” We would yell if Hollywood deliberately falsified history. And some of us did yell. Here’s how a truthful account has it:

Indeed, so offensive was the [movie’s] portrayal of First Officer William Murdoch to his surviving family, that the Vice President of Fox personally made the journey to Murdoch’s hometown to apologise and donate £5,000 to the William Murdoch memorial prize hosted at Murdoch’s local school.

As well as suffering from general ineptitude by dint of being English and indeed, the officer who failed to avoid the iceberg, Murdoch is also presented as a corrupt murderer and then a coward. After accepting a bribe to let a man onto one of the lifeboats he then shoots two passengers dead, before, overwhelmed with guilt and/or despair he shoots himself in the head. This is a far cry from the man who went down with the ship, his last moments spent filling the lifeboats with women, children and indeed men

Why does Hollywood feel the need to lie? They willfully falsify true history that is readily accessible to anyone with a computer.

Perhaps we should be grateful that Hollywood did not include the story of Arthur Rostron in that already-too-long big screen epic. Captain Arthur Rostron commanded the rescue vessel, SS Carpathia. This humble Cunard liner was anything but as romantic as that last voyage of hundreds of millionaires on board the White Star Line’s four-stacker Titanic.

Carpathia was a simple workhorse of a ship, quietly steaming back and forth across the Atlantic with manifests of immigrants, plain people, and cargo.

When he got a radio message that Titanic had struck an iceberg and was sinking, Captain Rostron knew what to do. He knew that the great liner was four hours away at normal cruising speed. By that time, he also knew, any survivors were likely to be dead in the bitter cold of that clear, moonless night.

So Captain Rostron ordered his ship’s stokers mustered out of their racks and put them to work shoveling as much coal as the furnaces would take. He ordered his deck crew to swing out Carpathia’s lifeboats. Stewards and nurses were ordered to make plenty of coffee and tea and to collect as many blankets as possible.

As he headed his ship at flank speed into that black night, he knew she was headed into those same treacherous waters that had claimed great Titanic’s life. Captain Rostron then went out onto the bridge wing and — freezing though it was — he prayed. Perhaps this is why Hollywood omitted Captain Rostron’s role on that fateful night.

Happily, the British people and their American cousins did not fail to honor this heroic rescuer. He was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire — Sir Arthur Rostron. He was honored by Congress. And U.S. First Lady Helen Taft began the effort for a memorial to the men of the Titanic.

Hollywood may be headed for its own iceberg. Whenever we see violence erupt on our city streets, we might look to the violence glorified in Hollywood films called “splatterfests.” These are targeted at that profitable youth demographic.

How many Hollywood movies tell the amazing story of Pregnancy Care Centers? There are more of these than of Planned Barrenhood’s (Parenthood) killing centers.

How many movies have they made about Evangelist Billy Graham? Did you see Unbroken?  How did Hollywood manage to miss a pivotal event in hero Louie Zamperini’s life — his coming to faith in Jesus Christ?

So perhaps OK that Hollywood didn’t care about the man who saved 706 souls that night in 1912. Sir Arthur has a better recognition. He modestly said his mission of mercy was “guided by a Greater hand.”

May Day! May Day! For Britain and for US

by Robert Morrison

May 4, 2015

For Britain, it is May Day. May Day was last Friday. The First of May has been a traditional holiday in Britain and Europe for centuries. Since the French Revolution, however, May Day represented workers and the Left.

May Day!” is also the international distress call (M’aidez—from the French for help me!) Next Friday, there will be an important national election in Great Britain. It could have profound influence on America. Polls are unusually volatile this time, but British Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, could win and be installed in Number 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister.

If that happens, Britain will lurch dangerously to the Left. Among a raft of radical proposals, Miliband is promising (or threatening) to make “Islamophobia” a crime if Labour wins a majority in the House of Commons. Under the parliamentary system, the House of Commons wields almost unchecked power.

Ed Miliband certainly would not claim to be anti-Jewish. His own parents were Jewish refugees from Hitler’s murderous regime. They sought asylum in Britain. But Ed Miliband is a true believer—not in God, he’s an atheist—but in Marxism. As hard as that may be to believe, it is nonetheless true.

Ed Miliband had to oust his own brother David for the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party. But mostly, he repudiated “New Labour,” the shift toward moderation represented by the long tenure of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Just as President Obama sought out Marxist professors in college, Ed Miliband is the product of the most left-leaning background imaginable (during his American stay, he even developed a fanatical loyalty to an American baseball team: the Boston Red Sox!)

Britain’s socialists make it easy for voters: They wear red. Their posters and buttons are red. Even their ties, when they wear them, are red.

The reason the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is in trouble is not because he’s not compassionate enough; it’s because he’s not conservative enough.

He is wedded to the increasingly troubled, bureaucratic, undemocratic European Union (EU). And Cameron ignored mounting evidence that maintaining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is vital for a flourishing civil society. He cast aside reasonable concerns when he rammed through Parliament a bill to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples. This caused deep misgivings among many of the Tories’ grassroots supporters.

These traditional Tory voters have been moving to the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP). Party leader Nicholas Farage is anti-EU and is raising sharp questions about Britain’s immigration policies, which Cameron has maintained.

Cameron has recently made statements supporting Christians persecuted abroad—which is more than President Obama has done. But at home, Prime Minister Cameron’s government is not meeting the challenge of Islamism.

Several years ago, the Anglican Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-ali told a group at the Heritage Foundation that England is daily losing her historic identity. England, the prelate said, is characterized by Common Law and the Christian religion.

Every day, said the Pakistani-born bishop, Britain is giving in to Islamist demands.

Bishop Nazir-ali has been threatened with death for speaking out against Islamism. When asked if muezzins should be permitted to call the Muslim faithful to prayer his English diocese of Rochester, Bishop Nazir-ali, replied: “Yes, of course. As soon as church bells can be rung in Saudi Arabia!”

Ed Miliband would not agree on the importance of a Christian culture. And Leftists here are trying to stamp out all evidences of Christianity from our public life as well.

An example of what Britons call “the looney Left” and a cringing surrender to political correctness is seen in the horrific story of sex trafficking in Rotherham. Columnist Mona Charen spoke to Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” audience about the horror of Rotherham, England. English girls were trapped by a ring of pedophiles, most of them of Pakistani origin, most of them Muslim. Unwilling to confront this issue, British Labour Party local officials and police abandoned 1400 girls to sexual slavery.

We can expect more, not less, of this if Ed Miliband wins in Britain. Despite the fact that his fled from murderous anti-Semitism, Ed Miliband could be the man who makes it a crime to criticize any practice of Islam. Thus, objection to female genital mutilation, or dishonor killings, or death threats against apostates will be punishable by fines and prison.

For all his academic brilliance, Ed Miliband seems unaware that modern Islamist radicalism traces its origins to the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt in 1928.

Hassan al-Banna rejected the paganism of Germany’s National Socialist Party (NAZI), but he admired their organizational skill and he fully embraced their Judenhass (Jew hatred). We have been concerned about Muslim Brotherhood influence in our own government as well as in Great Britain. President Obama welcomed and gave millions in foreign aid to Egypt’s MB-dominated government in 2011. (Only when it was overthrown by popular demonstrations and Egypt’s military had to step in did Mr. Obama cut off aid to Egypt.)

Britain has no First Amendment—which is a major reason why we do! Still, Britain’s history of free speech and tolerance of dissent will be at risk if Ed Miliband gains the power to impose his austere brand of socialism.

FRC has long noted that Britain legalized abortion and homosexuality before the U.S. did. Labour in Britain also legalized suicide. That is why what happens in Britain doesn’t necessarily stay in Britain. All of these changes started there and came here. With President Obama equally determined to “fundamentally transform” America, a victory for Labour next Friday could give a sense of inevitability to these dangerous trends. May Day, indeed!

President Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill…and Ours

by Robert Morrison

April 27, 2015

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to a student group at my Alma Mater, University of Virginia. My topic was Jefferson and Madison and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. But during the question and answer period, my audience of Young America’s Foundation listeners peppered me with questions about Ronald Reagan. They seemed most interested in my service in the Reagan administration. For young conservatives, especially, but for young Americans generally, Reagan is a wonderful story.

The media in his time could not believe that Reagan was so popular on campus, so well-loved by the young. He returned that affection fully. The young liked Ronald Reagan because he liked them. Columnist George Will commended Reagan’s optimistic vision of the future, saying “he spoke to the future in the accents of the past.” So, for the young, he offered an appealing vision, but one firmly rooted in this country’s storied past. As President, Ronald Reagan quoted the Founding Fathers more than his four predecessors combined, as Heritage Foundation’s Andrew Busch tells us. And, alas, he cited the Founding Fathers more than any of his successors.

After a tumultuous two decades for America, President Reagan said his favorite placard was not one of protest. From his Presidential limousine, he pointed out a college cheerleader holding a sign. It said: “He’s old but he’s cute.”

Ronald Reagan explained for all of us what his vision was. He spoke of the Shining City on a Hill in his Farewell Address in 1989. I thought of his vision as I drove past the U.S. Capitol at dawn earlier this month. There was Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill!

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

That’s Ronald Reagan’s love of poetry. It’s his vision. But it also had policy content. And what Ronald Reagan sought to do for America is in many ways what Family Research Council seeks to do. His pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-faith agenda is very much what inspires our organization’s efforts. It’s why I am so grateful to have served in his administration and to have followed up with service in an organization dedicated to Faith, Family, and Freedom.

President Reagan made America strong and respected again. After four years of Jimmy Carter’s misrule (1977-1981), Americans yearned to see their country become once again what Winston Churchill called us: the Great Republic.

Ronald Reagan was pro-life. In fact, he was the first politician to call himself “pro-life.” Prior to Reagan, all those who defended the inalienable right to life were cast in the “anti” mode. The media casts us this way, still.

Reagan knew that it was better to be for something than against. He cut all federal funding for Title X, the so-called family planning program, from his federal budget all eight years of his presidency. He understood how these programs are abused and how these funds support Planned Barrenhood (Parenthood). This outfit kills more than one thousand unborn children every day. They are the world’s largest trafficker in abortion. Liberals in Congress put those funds back in the budget, but Reagan made that important statement.

He spoke about the right to life of unborn children—in his State of the Union Addresses, his messages to Congress, and in hundreds and hundreds of handwritten letters to pro-life constituents. He even spoke of the unborn in his Inaugural Addresses. President Reagan every year issued Sanctity of Human Life Proclamations, many of which lauded the life-saving work of Pregnancy Care Centers staffed and funded by Christian citizens.

Since I had served in the Reagan administration in the Education Department, I knew how strong President Reagan was for parents’ rights, including the parental right to choose a public, private, religious or home school for their children.

Reagan was pro-marriage. I was recently pressed by a student group that wanted to know what Reagan thought of giving marriage rights to same-sex couples. I was hard-pressed to remember if he had ever spoken of that idea—since no one was talking of men marrying men in the 1980s.

Then, it struck me. YES! He did have a view. As with pro-life, Reagan was pro-marriage. First, he became the only Republican candidate for President since 1928 who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. It was the redoubtable Phyllis Schlafly, of course, who led the fight in the trenches against ERA. Second, it was Ronald Reagan as President who validated her brave effort and those of the tens of thousands of American women who understood what ERA would mean. It would mean drafting women and ordering them into combat, forcing Americans to pay for abortion-on-demand, including sex-selection abortions that overwhelmingly target unborn baby girls, and ERA would mean ending marriage by permitting men to marry men. It would also mean men invading women’s rest rooms and locker rooms, claiming to have changed their sex.

Finally, Reagan’s Shining City figure of speech derived from the famous sermon by John Winthrop to the Puritans in 1630. Sailing on the Arbella on the always-dangerous Atlantic. Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor told his fellow colonists the eyes of the world would be upon them, as “a citee upon a hill.”

Reagan’s love of poetry came first from his love of the Bible. He read it regularly from the days of his youth. He actually proclaimed 1983 the Year of the Bible. The atheizers howled, of course. But his Proclamation showed how the Bible had been a formative influence in the life of this self-governing People.

When President Reagan went to the Berlin Wall in 1987, he called upon the Soviet dictator, Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” But there was another part of his speech that was of great significance. Reagan pointed to the East German Communists’ radio tower on their side of that brutal and ugly wall. They’ve tried to paint out the defect in globe atop that tower, Reagan told his listeners. They’ve tried to sand blast it and etch it out with acid. But still, when the sun strikes that globe, it reflects the Sign of the Cross.

This part of the speech was never covered in the West. Not surprising. The media didn’t like the man or his message.

But Americans did. And especially Young Americans.

In the spirit of President Reagan, Family Research Council is committed to protecting the unborn from the moment of conception onward. To learn more about our work and the resources we make available at no charge, go to www.frc.org

Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Robert Morrison

April 16, 2015

Stand by. The White House will shortly post a statement on www.whitehouse.gov by President Obama on Holocaust Remembrance Day. We feel confident they will do so. Or, perhaps, it will be posted on the State Department website at www.state.gov. Any minute now.

To underscore the importance of America’s relation to a free and democratic Israel, FRC President Tony Perkins will be leading a trip to the Holy Land this fall. You can find details here.

In the meantime, we might read this short but convincing statement from our good neighbor to the North.

April 16, 2015

Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day:

Yom HaShoah is a day to commemorate the six million innocent Jewish men, women and children who were systematically murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

On this day, Canadians across the country reflect on the unique horror of the Holocaust, pay tribute to the innocent victims, honour the brave survivors, and recognize the righteous individuals who risked their lives to save others, in many cases strangers to them.

The Holocaust was one of the darkest chapters in human history. It is essential that we never forget the lessons it taught us and that we continue to educate future generations about the damaging effects of anti-Semitism.

That is why our Government is committed to Holocaust remembrance and education both here in Canada and abroad. Here at home, we support organizations that combat anti-Semitism and racial hatred in all its forms and promote Holocaust remembrance and education, including through the building of a national Holocaust Monument in Ottawa.

In the international arena, our Government has taken a lead role in promoting Holocaust awareness and in the global fight against the persistent scourge of anti-Semitism, including the new anti-Semitism that masks direct attacks on the Jewish people by disproportionately singling out the State of Israel for censure. In 2011, Canada was the first country to sign the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism, and, in 2013-2014, Canada chaired the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – an organization with which we continue to work closely as an active member country.

On this day, I encourage all Canadians to participate in a Holocaust remembrance ceremony to honour both the victims and the survivors, and to join in efforts to combat all forms of anti-Semitism. Let us all commit to ‘never again’.”

Our leader Barack Obama’s first telephone call as President in January 2009 was placed to PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas’ Ph.D. dissertation was written at Moscow State University in the days of the USSR. It denied the Holocaust.

It is therefore especially important that our Commander-in-Chief should acknowledge this day.

As we await the White House Statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day,

it might be valuable to watch this video. It shows how Israelis observe this day.

Along with millions of Americans, FRC welcomes efforts to bring peace through strength to the Middle East

And let us also remember today, especially, to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.

His Truth is Marching On April 15, 1865

by Robert Morrison

April 16, 2015

My friend Jacob Rudolfsson from Sweden joined me this morning with roughly a thousand people outside Ford’s Theater in Washington.

We had come for an early morning tribute. Today is the 150th Anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination. Doctors who rushed to the Presidential Box that night in the theater knew the stricken leader could not survive a trip back to the White House, so they ordered him to be carried across the street. They placed him in the back room of the Petersen House. They had to position the 6’4” Lincoln diagonally on the bed for his final hours.

At 7:22 am on Saturday, April 15, 1865, he was pronounced dead. Today, the church bells of Washington tolled at that hour. It was after that long death vigil that Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton uttered his most famous words:

Now he belongs to the ages.”

The Secretary of War had spent the night in the Petersen House. “Mars,” as Lincoln playfully called his sternly efficient military Supremo, had briskly taken command of the deathwatch. He gave orders all night. He had to. No one knew how far the plot extended.

The keepers of the death watch in the Petersen House soon learned that Sec. of State William H. Seward had also been attacked that bloody night. One of the co-conspirators, a muscular young giant of a man, had pushed past soldiers and family members to enter Seward’s sickroom.

The cagey Seward, an experienced New York politico, was recovering from a near-fatal carriage accident and was savagely hacked that night. Only the metal and leather brace on his neck saved him from death.

John Wilkes Booth was a major actor of his day. He had starred in many roles on stage and was known for his athleticism. He was to demonstrate his style when he shot the President and then leaped to the stage. But he did not plan on catching his spur on the bunting draped on the Presidential Box. Hitting the stage at an angle, he broke his ankle.

Still, he held up his bloody dagger and yelled: “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” Thus ever to Tyrants is Virginia’s state motto. When reports of Booth’s actions circulated, many people throughout the North naturally thought Booth might have been part of a Virginia-based conspiracy.

Booth had used his dagger to slash at Major Henry enrHenryRathbone. The army officer was the escort for Miss Clara Harris that evening. She was the daughter of a U.S. Senator.

Several other couples had declined the President’s invitation to join him and Mrs. Lincoln in the reserved box for that Friday performance of “Our American Cousin.” Had all of the invited ones accepted, there might have been no way for Booth to enter the crowded box.

Booth could have shot the President almost any day. Lincoln had seen his elder brother Edwin Booth perform various Shakespeare plays. Had John Wilkes Booth simply presented a calling card to the White House Head Usher, he might well have been admitted to the President’s office. He then could have shot Lincoln at his desk.

But John Wilkes Booth craved an audience for his evil deed. James Swanson was also one of the speakers at this morning’s event. He related the story of the assassination in his excellent book, Manhunt. Booth the actor hid out in the Maryland woods for days. Injured and in pain, hungry, hunted, Booth nonetheless demanded newspapers. He wanted to read his “reviews.” He was shocked to find himself condemned North and South.

Today, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke appreciatively of the American people—all of the people—whom Lincoln served and loved. Crowded together on Tenth Street, we witnessed a military band. They were outfitted in Union blue uniforms of the Civil War.

They played song after song on period instruments. The tunes echoed the heritage of faith and freedom that Americans in 1865 unashamedly sang and shared. “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” “The Old Hundredth (Praise God from whom All Blessings Flow),” “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” and “America (My Country `Tis of Thee”). These great tunes alternated with lesser known songs of the era.

It was especially moving to see the window washers stop in their labors on the upper floors of the buildings that now overshadow Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House. They were watching the scene below with interest. Some of them might not have understood the English being spoken, but they knew they were a part of this history, too. After all, Lincoln’s dying hours were spent in the home of the Petersens, immigrants from Germany.

Perhaps the most powerful moment was when Jacob and I joined the assembly to sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It’s worth reading the lyrics to understand how our history cannot be understood without reference to the cause for which Abraham Lincoln and hundreds of thousands of others fought and died:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;

He is trampling out the vintage where grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword,

His truth is marching on.

Jacob’s presence reminds me of the universal appeal of Lincoln’s ideals. Last week, attendees at the Lincoln Cottage heard a discussion of the new Don Doyle book, The Cause of All Nations. That work emphasizes the international implications of our American Civil War.

To conclude this morning’s Lincoln Observance, bagpipers in kilts skirled “Amazing Grace.” At least one New York regiment in the Civil War had been uniformed as Scots Highlanders. And what was “Amazing Grace” if not the ex-slaver John Newton’s expression of repentance for his regretted past and his joy at his redemption by Jesus Christ? Once blind, he now can see.

Without the freedom to speak and to pray, to sing and to witness, how could America have survived that terrible fiery trial? And without our flag of freedom, why should the world care about America?

If this column has been helpful, Family Research Council recommends ‘We Have Long Remembered,’ a 2013 at FRC lecture by Prof. Daniel Dreisbach on the enduring greatness of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

This is the Lord’s Doing” Appomattox April 9, 1865

by Robert Morrison

April 9, 2015

One hundred and fifty years ago today we saw the greatest victory in American history. Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on this date in the crossroads village of Appomattox Courthouse. Gen. Lee was dressed in his finest gray uniform. He wore a gold sash and a jeweled ceremonial sword.

Ulysses S. Grant was the commanding general of all Union armies. He arrived late at the home of Wilmer McLean to receive the surrender of Lee’s army. Although there were yet Confederate forces in the field (notably Gen. Joseph Johnston’s army in North Carolina and Gen. Kirby Smith’s in Texas), everyone knew that Lee’s surrender marked the effective end of four bloody years of America’s terrible Civil War. We had lost 630,000 young men in battle.

In Washington, the commissioner of public buildings, Benjamin Brown French, strung a huge banner across the face of the Capitol. The Capitol’s dome had just recently been completed. President Lincoln had pressed to finish the work. It would symbolize the enduring nature of our sacred Union, he thought.

Lighted at night, the banner read:

This is the Lord’s Doing; It is Marvelous in our Eyes

Most Americans at the time would have recognized the Bible reference. It is from 118th Psalm, verse 23. It is hard to imagine that a similar Scripture passage could be used on a public building today. The atheizers would cry out that it was a violation of the First Amendment. They would demand equal time for their own messages of doubt and disbelief. As my colleague, FRC’s distinguished Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell, has written, “The fanatical authoritarianism of the political left is plunging this country headlong into a very dark place from which many nations never return.”

That dark place was far away from the “stillness at Appomattox.” The fierce struggles that had gone on for days came to a sudden halt. Young soldiers had been killed as recently as that Sunday morning. But as the two West Pointers—Lee and Grant—met in the front parlor of the McLean House, all was silent and subdued.

Gen. Grant had been suffering a blinding headache for more than a day prior to meeting Lee, but he would later recall that as soon as Lee’s written message came to him on the road, his headache departed. An expert horseman, Grant rode swiftly to meet the Southern commanding general. Grant could have been shot at almost any point along the way by a Southern sharpshooter, or even killed by “friendly fire” in the confusion of the opposing lines in these last hours of combat.

For their historic encounter, Grant wore a private’s uniform jacket with his general’s stars pinned on the shoulder. His uniform was still spattered with spring mud. Lee, taller, and immaculately attired, had told his lieutenants he might become Grant’s prisoner by the end of the day and should appear at his best.

He was not to be Grant’s prisoner. Nor were any of the remaining thousands of the starving rebel host made prisoners. When he was informed that many of these Confederate scarecrows had not eaten in days, Grant ordered generous provisions for them all. Many of those rations were even supplied by Grant’s black soldiers.

With Lee, Grant agreed to let the rebel officers keep their horses and to allow any enlisted man who claimed a horse or mule to take his animal home for spring planting. “This will have a most beneficial effect upon my men,” said Lee.

It would help also to reconcile the bleeding nation. Grant was following President Lincoln’s orders to the letter. Lincoln had never used the word “enemy” or “foe” in any public address. At his Second Inaugural, just a month prior, he had spoken of the need to “bind up the nation’s wounds.”  In an important shipboard conference with Generals Grant and Sherman and Admiral Porter, the President had urged his commanders to “let `em up easy.” It was a wrestler’s term for being gracious to a defeated opponent.

When Gen. Grant returned from his meeting with Gen. Lee, his troops began shouts of acclamation and his powerful artillery commenced a One-Hundred Gun salute to the Union victory. Grant immediately ordered a cease fire. “The rebels are our countrymen once again,” he said, and he would permit no word or gesture to humiliate them.

Instead, Grant designated his heroic subordinate, Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine, to oversee the formal surrender of Confederate flags and weapons. Chamberlain was a good choice. He had been the one to stand with his Twentieth Maine volunteers at Little Round Top at Gettysburg nearly two years earlier. His regiment of fishermen and lumberjacks had held at a critical moment in that crucial thee-day battle.

As these ragged Southern soldiers laid down their weapons and their rebel flags, Chamberlain saluted his opposite number, Gen. John Bell Gordon. Gordon, in the spirit of the day, tapped his horse’s flanks with his spurs and executed a most graceful bow in return. Both men would carry the wounds of war to their graves.

Americans are now in a great controversy over life, marriage, religious freedom, and civil rights. We even see a clash over the teaching of America’s past. Spurred by the advocate of a so-called Common Core, some of our brightest history students will be taught of our history with hardly a mention of Appomattox.

So much of our nation’s exceptional character can be seen in that “Stillness at Appomattox.” It represented the best of America. Gen. Grant would later write that he had to honor the valor and devotion of his opponents—even though he thought their “Lost Cause” was “one of the worst that men ever fought for.”

In this, Grant reflected the deep convictions of his Commander-in-Chief.  Abraham Lincoln’s long battle against slavery was finally culminating in that dreadful institution’s alleviation from American soil. 

Yet despite, their mutual antipathy for the central cause of the horrors of four years of war, both Lincoln and Grant wanted to welcome, not indemnify, their erring brothers back into the union.  o other country in the Nineteenth Century dealt with a massive rebellion with such leniency, such compassion, “with malice toward none.” In neighboring Canada, the British hanged rebels who demanded no more than a government by consent of the governed. In Mexico, the French-backed “Emperor” Maximilian would be put up against a wall and shot by nationalist forces. In France, just a few years after Appomattox, thousands of Paris “Communards” were shot by the forces of the born-in-blood Third Republic.

Americans need the Appomattox story today. President Reagan said it in his Farewell Message: “If we forget what we have done, we will forget who we are.” Remembering Appomattox—the Lord’s doing—is an important way of remembering who we are.

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