April 12, 2011
Cannon fire was heard early this morning in Charleston harbor, South Carolina. The guns, happily, were not shotted. They sounded to commemorate the beginning one hundred fifty years ago of the Civil War. The war began when Confederate artillery, on orders from Jefferson Davis, fired on the flag of the United States flying over Fort Sumter. General P.G.T. Beauregard fired those first volleys at 4:30 am, waking the citys residents. The attack on Fort Sumter came after months of mounting crisis following the election the previous November of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States.
South Carolina hurried through an Ordinance of Secession in December, 1860, and was soon followed by six other slaveholding states in the Deep South. Jefferson Davis, the tall, distinguished former Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Franklin Pierce and a former U.S. Senator from Mississippi, was hurriedly sworn in as the provisional President of the Confederate States of America.
Through the long Secession Winter of 1860-61, President-elect Lincoln remained in Springfield, Illinois, trying to complete his Cabinet and make hundreds of appointments for the first Republican Party administration. As one after another of the Southern States seceded, Lincoln told friends, I feel like a man trying to rent rooms at one end of his house while the other end is on fire.
In Washington, D.C., in the Willard Hotel, a convention of elderly gentlemen tried to avert civil war. They proposed a raft of compromises. There had been last-minute compromises that had saved the Union for forty years. In 1820, one such bargain resulted in the admission of Missouri as a Slave State, Maine as a Free State. And a line stretching from Missouris southern border to the Pacific marked the regions where slavery would and would not be permitted. North of 3630 of Latitude, no slavery. South of that line, it would be permitted if local citizens wanted it. In retirement at Monticello, former President Thomas Jefferson feared the laying down of such a line like a firebell in the night.
In 1860-61, however, Lincoln would accept many a compromise from the old men at the Willard. On one thing, however, he would not budge. The Republicans won the election pledging no extension of slavery into the territories. On that point, he advised friends at the convention of former office holders, hold as with a chain of steel.
The tug had to come sometime, he advised, and it is better that it come now. He would not bargain away the ground on which he stood for election. Free government required that much of him, he believed.
There was a strange echo of those events last weekend. Last-minute negotiations for the FY 2011 federal budget threatened to shut down the government. Family Research Council and FRCAction tried to persuade the Republicans to hold as with a chain of steel on the moral principle of no funding of abortion. Instead of the extension of human bondage, the moral issue debated today is the extension of killing of unborn children.
In this case, President Barack Obama is the one who would not budge. He was willing to see the government shut down rather than cut off funding for Planned Barrenhood. He came into office tightly bound to the demands of that evil enterprise. He would compromise on anything elsetaxes, spending, Guantanamo Bay closure, military tribunals for terrorists, but on abortion, he was like stone.
What is wrong in slavery and segregation, we believe, is the same thing that is wrong in abortion. In each case, human dignity is denied to those who are undeniably human.
What we sought to do in the recent budget negotiations here in Washington was to assert the principle that we should not be taxed for the killing of innocent unborn Americans. Most Americans agree with that proposition. In vote after vote in state referendums, when voters can vote against paying for abortions they do. During last years fight over nationalizing our health care system, polls showed 71% of Americans opposed being forced to pay for abortions with their tax dollars.
President-elect Obama came to Washington in 2009 re-tracing the route of Lincolns train in 1861. We welcomed him at that time with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: Nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon. We asked the new president, with all due respect: Are not unborn children so stamped?