A school district in San Francisco has cancelled Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln High School is going to be renamed. Why? “Lincoln, like the presidents before him and most after, did not show through policy or rhetoric that black lives ever mattered to them outside of human capital and as casualties or wealth building,” Jeremiah Jefferies, the chairman of the school district’s renaming committee and a first grade teacher, virtuously pontificated to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Let’s see if we can get this right. The first Republican president who led a party that was dedicated to stopping and eventually abolishing slavery doesn’t pass muster? The president who fought to preserve the Union against the Slave Power, emancipated the slaves, and died at the hands of a racist southern sympathizer is not woke enough for San Francisco’s schools?
Personally, I empathize with those who want to remove statues of Confederate heroes. They were, after all, defenders of secession and the dreadful enslavement of people.
But those who seek monsters to slay never seem to be satisfied. They are targeting the very heroes of movements that have allowed our nation to make so much progress. This is a bit like the French Revolution, when yesterday’s revolutionary heroes became the latest victims of the guillotine because the expanding demands of the vanguard required universal conformity.
Let me state the obvious: Lincoln was far from perfect. Regardless of the moral superiority the new woke crowd holds to, no mere human being is perfect now, much less when one considers the changes in sentiments of morality and justice that have occurred since Lincoln lived. The perspective that to be honored, one must be completely in agreement with today’s expectations dooms everyone to cancellation. Give it time, and the current woke crowd will be seen as blind, immoral Neanderthals. Mr. Jefferies should be careful; the worm will turn on him, his allies, and his heroes.
Nevertheless, whatever criteria one might want to conjure, Lincoln is worthy to have a high school named after him.
First, he personally believed slavery was evil. With our modern sensibilities we say, “Of course!” – but that is just ignorance of history. The whole course of human history is riddled with slavery, and hardly anyone challenged its legitimacy until recently.
Second, Lincoln campaigned for president on stopping the expansion of the Slave Power. This was not widely popular. He only received about 40 percent of the vote in the Election of 1860. The South seceded rather than have him as president.
Third, he took the extraordinarily heartbreaking step of going to war to stop secession and preserve the Union. We take this for granted. President Buchanan fiddled while Rome burned, and many voices in both parties cried for peace.
Fourth, with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln freed the slaves in Confederate-held territory.
Fifth, he reenvisioned the American experiment. With the Gettysburg Address, he dedicated America to fulfilling the proposition that all men are created equal. Yes, that language was in the Declaration of Independence, but it was not a reality. Lincoln worked to make it real.
Sixth, he worked to ensure that slavery would be abolished through the 13th Amendment.
Seventh, he passed the Homestead Act, which aided the settlement of the West.
Eighth, he passed the Pacific Railroad Act and Morrill Land Act. Ironically, it linked San Francisco to the rest of the continent.
Ninth, he approved the National Currency Act, creating a national banking system.
Tenth, he renewed the annual tradition of Thanksgiving.
Eleventh, he was assassinated because of his leadership in abolishing slavery and seeking greater equality. One must wonder what exactly the woke crowd has sacrificed?
Lincoln should be celebrated. In fact, he should be celebrated more than he is today. Let the madness stop.