Foertsh offers baseless attacks on Lincoln, Stevenson
Geary Foertsch's column last Tuesday was headlined, "Government subsidies no substitute for fathers."
So much for common ground.
Foertsch was responding to an ad paid for by the Progressive Democrats of Sussex County. His column was, I think, a defense of the state funding for the Marvel Carriage Museum, which hosts a Confederate memorial put up by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. But he also spent time criticizing the new Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, developed under the leadership of Milton native Bryan Stevenson.
It was hard to tell what his point was. He went off on tangents, some grossly inaccurate. Regarding slavery, Foertsch brought up President Lincoln, saying, "And, don't forget the sainted Abraham Lincoln. He had no problem with that 'peculiar institution.'" That would have come as quite a surprise to Southerners of 1860.
Here's Lincoln on slavery:
• "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master."
• "I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free."
• "If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong."
If Lincoln had "no problem" with slavery, what compelled Southern states to begin seceding after his election? Mass delusion? Nope. Southerners had read the 1860 Republican platform. It called for ending slavery's expansion into American territories. Southerners considered this a death knell for slavery. No more expansion of slavery meant no more slave states. It meant diminishing political power to protect slavery.
So great was their fear of Lincoln that nine Southern states didn't even allow his name on the ballot. In his 1854 Peoria speech, Lincoln outlined his objections to slavery on moral, economic and political grounds.
Here's a brief excerpt from his three-hour attack on slavery.
" ... the real zeal for the spread of slavery, I can not but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of just influence in the world - enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites - causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty ..."
It goes on and on. (Imagine today's Americans, attuned to 240-character Twitter feeds, paying attention to a three-hour stemwinder.)
Now it's true that Lincoln was no abolitionist. He spoke out against slavery but, as a lawyer, he thought the Constitution protected the institution where it already existed. As historian Eric Foner said, Lincoln hated slavery but didn't know how to end it. Neither did anyone else.
He hoped restricting slavery's expansion would lead to its eventual demise.
Some of Foertsch's other comments are equally wrong-headed and gratuitous. For example, he faults the Legacy Museum for ignoring the 1,297 whites who were lynched. Please. There's no comparison. First, more than 4,000 blacks were lynched. Second, they were lynched as part of a reign of racial terror designed to suppress black citizens and their communities.
Not so with whites.
Finally, Foertsch contends that Stevenson and the PDSC "fail to realize that government programs and a check are no substitute for fathers." No one said they are. Foertsch pretends to read minds and then proceeds with inane attacks, none of which offer logical reasons for continued state funding for an organization that offers implicit support for white supremacy. There's much more to dispute, but I leave Mr. Foertsch with one suggestion.
Instead of criticizing a museum and a memorial you haven't seen, keep an open mind. They may be more moving and enlightening than you imagine.
Don Flood is a former newspaper editor living in Lewes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.