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Web Letter

Guyatt writes: "Most Americans can probably remember a bit of the [Second Inaugural Address], which Lincoln delivered a few weeks before his death: it's the one in which he talked about God favoring neither the North nor the South completely, and made the jarring claim that the war would be justified by the sin of slavery even if it lasted for 250 years."

This is a startling misunderstanding of Lincoln's words. As engraved at the Lincoln Memorial, which I visited two days ago, the paragraph in question reads: "Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether'."

The "two hundred and fifty years" did not refer to any future duration of the war, the continuation of which Lincoln saw as God's will. Rather, Lincoln was referring to the length of time that had already passed during which slavery had been practiced in the English colonies which became the United States, during which both wealth, and blood shed by the lash, had accumulated. "The bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil" began with the first use of kidnapped Africans for labor at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619.

This is so substantial a misreading of Lincoln's meaning that I would like to know whether it is attributable to Mr. Guyatt or Mr. Gopnik, and whether the author in question, when informed of this, is willing to admit the error.

David B. Jodrey Jr.

Montgomery Village, MD

Jun 22 2009 - 10:13am

Web Letter

OMG, you really dropped the ball on this one. When are journalists ever going to quit painting a rosy picture of "good ol' Abe"?

Lincoln was a racist who didn't care about the black people. He has been paraphrased as saying, "If I could save the Union and not free one slave, I'm fine with that." He believed the black man was vastly inferior to the white man.

His Emancipation Proclamation was a war tactic. It had no effect in the North or any Southern state occupied by the Union Army. It was meant as another reason to invade the South. Washington couldn't afford to relinquish the tax collections from the Southern states.

Obviously you don't realize that secession was a viable option to any of the states. Our founding fathers believed in it. During previous administrations, there was talk, among some Northern states, of seceding from the Union; there were no threats of reprisals.

Lincoln was a war criminal by virtue of ordering Sheridan's march through Virginia, and Grant's march from Vicksburg through Atlanta and beyond. These two campaigns killed tens of thousands of civilians.

Altogether with the war and the reclamation of the Southern states, his invasion of the South killed almost 1,000,000 Americans, black and white.

Just in case you're wondering, I'm a white retired automotive designer from Detroit. You've greatly disappointed me with this article!

Charles Lingenfelser

Brandon, MS

Jun 8 2009 - 2:59pm