I didn’t watch much of the Republican Convention. But the speeches that I did hear left me depressed at the state of the Republican Party. Rather than focus on this week’s Republican Convention, I would rather think about the parts of the history of the Republican Party that any American would be appreciative of.
Though I am a liberal Democrat, I am appreciative of the the Republican Party’s proud history of leading the fight to abolish slavery, pioneering efforts to regulate businesses and protect the environment, promoting business and fighting against totalitarian communism. It’s hard to believe now, but before the 1960s, the Republican Party used to be better than the Democratic Party on minority rights when the Democratic Party was dominated by segregationist Southern Democrats.
My favorite President is the Republican President Abraham Lincoln. I appreciate his achievements in winning the Civil War while protecting our democratic republic principals, abolishing slavery, and defending the rights of the freed African American community.
I especially appreciate Lincoln’s capacity to grow as he encounters new facts and listens to people with differing experiences. Lincoln had always been against slavery, but before the Civil War, he held many of the same racist assumptions about Africans Americans that his fellow white Americans had. During the Civil War, though, his views on race began to change. He met black leaders like Frederick Douglass who engaged with him as intellectual equals. Lincoln read about the courage of black Union soldiers in battle. By the end of the war, Lincoln’s views on race were very different. He had evolved into one of the strongest defenders of African American rights on the American political scene.
Here is an excerpt of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:
“Both parties deprecated war but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
“One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves not distributed generally over the union but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen perpetuate and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding.
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered ~ that of neither has been answered fully.
The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses for it must needs be that offenses come but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.”
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come but which having continued through His appointed time He now wills to remove and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him.
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 bondsman’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.’
“With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”