Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Amazing Abe

by Nina P. West - April 14th, 2008 - Forbes.com

Abraham Lincoln's ardent letter to a group of children who had implored him to "free all the little slave children," sold last week at Sotheby's for $3.4 million.

The one-page letter, penned by Lincoln while he was in office, was purchased by an American collector bidding by phone. Written in a fatherly tone, the letter is a personal and heartfelt statement on slavery and emancipation, and its purchase price represents a record for any presidential or American manuscript sold at auction.

"Please tell these little people I am very glad their young hearts are so full of just and generous sympathy and that, while I have not the power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it," wrote Lincoln in 1864.

The greatness of America is that so many people of good conscience and good will have worked to live up to the ideals of our nation. Though we are the best form of government ever discovered, no form of government is perfect. The question is whether we strive to live up to the best ideals of our founders and fix the shortcomings, or defend the injustice that occasionally heppens. Abraham Lincoln is unquestionably one man who strove to lvie up to our ideals. On that there is little question. This letter is a testament to his vision and goodness.

It is of great curiousity what might have happened to the healing our nation needed at the end of the civil war. Would Lincoln have handled the process so that "Jim Crow" laws were not sought by the losers, bitter about the way the "revenge" they were treated with after the war? Would he have found some way to head off formation of the Ku Klux Klan and its bitter legacy of hanging, not just blacks, but many whites guilty of nothing but seeking to live up to our nation's ideals?

Revenge is the source of the next round of hatred. There is no question that racism is still infecting the dialog of our nation. Some want to get past institutional racism and get back to the concept of individuals each being treated equally by the state. Some want to punish those who are alive today for the acts of others who lived long ago with special affirmative actions rights making them superior under the law. Two views of justice. The resolution will determine how racism is handled, not just for the short term, but for the next generation as well.


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