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Islands of Civility: 41's Note to 42

Losing the Presidential election in 1992 must have been very hard for President George H. W. Bush. Just a year previously, in the spring of 1991, Bush was enjoying an unprecedented 90% approval rating, fresh from a victory in the Gulf War and the rapid defeat of Iraq. But in the intervening months, Bush had alienated much of his conservative base by breaking his 1988 campaign pledge against raising taxes. The economy was in a recession, and Bush's perceived greatest strength, foreign policy, was regarded as much less important following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the relatively peaceful climate in the Middle East after the end of the Gulf War.

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Bush faced modest opposition for his party's nomination in the form of Conservative journalist Pat Buchanan. The first real sign of trouble for Bush came on February 18, 1992, when Buchanan almost won the New Hampshire primary. Bush won by a 53–38% margin, but his support had eroded. Meanwhile, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton proved to be a political Lazarus, emerging from an early series of scandals to win his party's nomination, in part because some of the party's better known potential candidates, such as New York Governor Mario Cuomo, felt that Bush could not be defeated.

The independent candidacy of billionaire Texan Ross Perot added to Bush's woes. At one point Perot was leading the major party candidates in the polls. Perot crusaded against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), internal and external national debt, tapping into voters' potential fear of the deficit. His volunteers succeeded in collecting enough signatures to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. In June, Perot led the national public opinion polls with support from 39% of the voters (versus 31% for Bush and 25% for Clinton).

As the economy continued to grow sour, Democrats began to rally around their nominee. The Clinton campaign received the biggest convention "bounce" in history, going from 25 percent in the spring, behind Bush and Perot, to 55 percent versus Bush's 31 percent after the convention. Clinton and Gore began a bus tour around the United States, while the Bush/Quayle campaign adopted a strategy of attacks on Clinton's character, highlighting accusations of infidelity and draft dodging. Bush contrasted his military service to Clinton's lack thereof, and criticized Clinton's lack of foreign policy expertise. But the economy was the main issue of interest to voters and Bush's campaign floundered, even in strongly Republican areas. One of Clinton's slogans was "it's the economy, stupid", which intended to portray Bush as out of touch with the economic struggles of ordinary Americans. As Bush's economic edge had evaporated, his campaign looked to energize its socially conservative base at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas. Bush saw a small post-convention bounce in the polls, but this was short lived.

On November 3, Bill Clinton won the election by a wide margin in the Electoral College, receiving 43 percent of the popular vote against Bush's 37 percent and Perot's 19%. It was the first time since 1968 that a candidate won the White House with under 50 percent of the popular vote. Only Washington, D.C. and Clinton's home state of Arkansas gave the majority of their votes to a single candidate in the entire country. The rest were won by pluralities of the vote. The election was not without its share of dirty politics, including reporter Andrew Rosenthal's false report that Bush was "astonished" to see a demonstration of a supermarket scanner.

One might expect that such a defeat might have left the 41st President a bitter man. But Bush proved to have too strong a character to succumb to such a base emotion. Bush's Saturday Night Live impersonator Dana Carvey imitated the 41st President with the line "I'm not bitter" and that proved to be an accurate sentiment. In Bush's case, civility prevailed over resentment.

In recent years it has been a tradition for the outgoing President to leave his successor a note on the oval office desk. Ronald Reagan had left his successor (Bush) a note on some stationery bearing the legend: “Don’t let the turkeys get you down” which read:

“You’ll have moments when you want to use this particular stationery. Well, go to it. George, I treasure the memories we share and wish you all the very best. You’ll be in my prayers. God bless you and Barbara. I’ll miss our Thursday lunches. Ron.”

Bush took the tradition a step farther, making it clear that the prosperity of the country was what mattered most. Though his successor was a man from a different party, and a man who had taught him a lesson in electoral humility, Bush did not hold a grudge. He wrote the following note to the incoming president:

Dear Bill,

When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.

I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

Good luck – George


In their respective post-presidencies, the two men have maintained a friendship that ignores political differences. They worked together in 2005 in an unprecedented private fundraising drive for victims of the Indian ocean tsunami disaster to help address the widespread suffering caused by the earthquake-triggered tsunamis that struck the region on December 26, 2004. Just last month the two were photographed together and Bush, who is famous for his affinity for colorful socks, showed off a pair that had Clinton’s face on them. In a tweet, he remarked: “Special visit today with a great friend — and now, a best-selling author. Luckily I had a freshly laundered pair of @BillClinton socks to mark the occasion.”

In an era when civility is becoming a lost art, and those on both sides of the political spectrum feel justified in their disparagement of individuals rather than their policies, George H. W. Bush has left a legacy of civility that now seems to be needed more than ever.
It is said that ever since the geographically-challenged explorer Christopher Columbus mistakenly believed that he had landed in India instead of the East Indies, the indigenous people of North America have been mistakenly labelled as "Indians" and that error has been carried into modern times and is still used by many people today. Certainly in Calvin Coolidge's time, that is how the descendants of the first Americans were known. On June 2, 1924, Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, legislation that granted full citizenship to those who presidents such as Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren had confined to tracts of land known as reservations. It wasn't the affixing of his signature on a piece of legislation which illustrated the compassion and genuine concern that Coolidge had for these Americans, but the sincerity of his concern that surpassed political expediency and demonstrated true civility and integrity.


Since the earliest days of the Republic, Article One of the United States Constitution declared that indigenous Americans were not counted in assessing the population of a state for purposes of apportionment. Some of these persons could become citizens, under the authority of Congress, but only if that individual was, in the words of Chief Justice Roger Taney, "to leave his nation or tribe, and take up his abode among the white population, he would be entitled to all the rights and privileges which would belong to an emigrant from any other foreign people."

In 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution declared that all persons "born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" were declared citizens. However this clause was interpreted to exclude most indigenous Americans. In 1870, the Senate Judiciary committee wrote: "the 14th amendment to the Constitution has no effect whatever upon the status of the Indian tribes within the limits of the United States."

The exclusion of these persons from US citizenship was further underscored in an 1884 decision of the US Supreme Court, Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94, in which the Court held that a Native person born a citizen of a recognized tribal nation was not born an American citizen and did not become one simply by voluntarily leaving his tribe and settling among American citizens.

The Indian Citizenship Act that Coolidge signed granted citizenship to about 125,000 of 300,000 indigenous people in the United States. The U.S. population at that time was less than 125 million. The indigenous people who were not included in citizenship numbers had already become citizens by other means such as entering the armed forces, giving up tribal affiliations, or otherwise assimilating into mainstream American life.

The 1924 Act did not afford indigenous people all of the same rights as other citizens. Seven states still refused to grant them voting rights in 1938. Discrepancies between federal and state control provided other ways for states to evade the Act's enforcement. States justified discrimination based on state statutes and constitutions.

Under the 1924 Act, indigenous people did not have to apply for citizenship, nor did they have to give up their tribal citizenship to become a U.S. citizen. Most tribes had communal property, and to have a right to the land, individual Indian people needed to belong to the tribe. Thus, dual citizenship was allowed.

Many leaders in the indigenous community at the time, like Charles Santee, a Santee Sioux, were insistent on preserving their Native American identity. Many were also reluctant to trust the government. Progressive senators on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee were for the Act because they thought it would reduce corruption and inefficiency in the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Such institutions would no longer be in control of citizenship regulations if citizenship were automatically granted to all indigenous people. Other groups supported the legislation because of the "guardianship" status they felt the US government should take to protect indigenous people. They worried these people were being taken advantage by non-indigenous Americans for their land. The Indian Rights Association, a key group in the development of this legislation, asserted that federal guardianship was a necessary component of citizenship. They pushed for the clause "tribal rights and property" in the Indian Citizenship Act to preserve Indian identity but gain citizenship rights and protection.

As for Coolidge, he maintained a relationship with the indigenous community in the United States. During the summer of 1927, Coolidge was formally adopted into the Lakota nation. The ceremonies took place in Deadwood, South Dakota, with the prominent Sicangu Lakota activist and teacher Chauncy Yellow Robe presiding. Yellow Robe’s daughter placed an eagle feather headdress, a symbol of Lakota culture, on Coolidge’s head. The tribe also gave Coolidge a Lakota name: Wanblí Tokáhe, or “Leading Eagle”.


That summer Coolidge spent several months in Lakota Sioux territory. He vacationed at his “Summer White House” in South Dakota’s Custer State Park. He visited an off-reservation "Indian Boarding School" operated by the federal government. He met with tribal leaders and listened to their concerns about U.S. policies toward indigenous people. He became the first sitting U.S. president to make an official visit to an American Indian reservation—Pine Ridge, home to the Oglala Lakota.

Coolidge spoke about the “Indian problem” in his 1927 and 1928 annual messages to Congress. He noted only that despite improvements on reservations “still there remains much to be done,” and that “the administration of Indian affairs has been receiving intensive study for several years.”

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The years that Coolidge was president marked a period of remarkable advances for the United States. Rapid advancements in technologies such as the airplane, motion pictures, the refrigerator, the telephone, and radio transformed many Americans’ everyday habits and brought increases in employment and wages.

But even with Coolidge's good intentions, these were not good times for indigenous people. On many of the federally-administered reservations, most people continued to live in poverty, without adequate housing, food, clean water, or sewage disposal. Infectious illnesses, such as tuberculosis and trachoma were widespread. Federal policy did not alleviate the poverty and disease and likely made matters worse by forbidding these people to follow their traditional ways, by making them dependent on inadequate government health and other services, and by imposing a way of life that marginalized them economically. The government mandated that Native children attend schools, mostly off-reservation federal boarding schools where educators punished them for speaking their Native languages, and made systematic attempts to erase every aspect of their tribal culture and identity. Authorities outlawed some traditional religious practices.

Happy Birthday Gerald Ford

On July 14, 1913 (105 years ago today) Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. was born in Omaha, Nebraska. When he was born his name was Leslie Lynch King Jr. He would later change his name because his birth father, Leslie Lynch King Sr., was physically abusive to Ford's mother and he preferred to honor his mother's second husband, a much kinder man and more of a father figure to the future 38th President.


His mother was Dorothy Ayer Gardner. His abusive birth father was a wool trader and son of a prominent banker Charles Henry King. Dorothy separated from King just sixteen days after her son's birth. She took her son with her to the Oak Park, Illinois home of her sister Tannisse and brother-in-law, Clarence Haskins James. From there, she moved to the home of her parents, Levi Addison Gardner and Adele Augusta Ayer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dorothy Gardner divorced King in December 1913 and she gained full custody of her son. Ford's paternal grandfather Charles Henry King paid child support until shortly before his death in 1930. Ford later said his biological father had a history of hitting his mother. According to Ford's biographer Lou Cannon, the Kings' separation and divorce was the result of an incident which occurred a few days after Ford's birth, when Leslie King threatened to kill Dorothy while brandishing a butcher knife. King had first hit his wife on their honeymoon for smiling at another man.

After two and a half years with her parents, on February 1, 1916, Dorothy married Gerald Rudolff Ford, a salesman in a family-owned paint and varnish company. They then called her son Gerald Rudolff Ford, Jr. The future president was never formally adopted, however, and he did not legally change his name until December 3, 1935. Ford later said "My stepfather was a magnificent person and my mother equally wonderful. So I couldn't have written a better prescription for a superb family upbringing."

Ford attended the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, where he played center, linebacker and long snapper for the school's football team the Wolverines. The team had undefeated seasons and won national titles in 1932 and 1933. But it suffered a steep decline in his 1934 senior year, however, winning only one game. However despite the team's poor performance that year, Ford was one of the team's stars.

Gerald Ford spent the summer of 1937 as a student at the University of Michigan Law School and was admitted in spring 1938 to Yale Law School where he earned his LL.B. degree in 1941, graduating in the top 25 percent of his class. His introduction to politics came in the summer of 1940 when he worked in Wendell Willkie's presidential campaign. In 1941, he was admitted to the Michigan bar and in May of that year, he opened a Grand Rapids law practice with a friend, Philip W. Buchen, who would later serve as Ford's White House counsel. In December of 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ford enlisted in the Navy. In May of 1943 he served on the carrier USS Monterey. During the spring of 1944, the Monterey supported landings at Kwajalein and Eniwetok and participated in carrier strikes in the Marianas, Western Carolines, and northern New Guinea, as well as in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. From September to November 1944, aircraft from the Monterey launched strikes against Wake Island, participated in strikes in the Philippines and Ryukyus, and supported the landings at Leyte and Mindoro.

On October 15, 1948, Ford married Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer Warren, a department store fashion consultant, at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids. Warren had been a John Robert Powers fashion model and a dancer in the auxiliary troupe of the Martha Graham Dance Company. She had previously been married to and divorced from William G. Warren. At the time of his engagement, Ford was campaigning for what would be his first of thirteen terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives. The wedding was delayed until shortly before the elections because, as Betty Ford later stated, "Jerry was running for Congress and wasn't sure how voters might feel about his marrying a divorced ex-dancer." Ford served nearly 25 years as the Representative from Michigan's 5th congressional district, eight of them as the Republican Minority Leader. He was also a member of the Warren Commission which investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

After a distinguished career in Congress, Ford became the first person appointed to the vice-presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment (after Richard Nixon's Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned.) He became President upon Richard Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974, and became the only President of the United States who was never elected President nor Vice-President by the Electoral College.

As President, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union, marking a move toward détente in the Cold War. With the conquest of South Vietnam by North Vietnam nine months into his presidency, U.S. involvement in Vietnam essentially ended on his watch. Domestically, Ford presided over a terrible economy with growing inflation and a bad recession coupled with high consumer interest rates. His most controversial act was his granting of a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. Ford also escaped two assassination attempts, both by female would-be assassins.

In 1976, Ford survived a challenge by Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, but lost the presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Following his years as president, Ford remained active in the Republican Party. Asked in an 1978 interview about his life in retirement, Mr. Ford said that he was having trouble with chipping and putting in his golf game, but otherwise, “everything is wonderful.” After experiencing health problems, Ford died in his home on December 26, 2006. Ford lived longer than any other U.S. president, living 93 years and 165 days, while his 895 day presidency remains the shortest of all Presidents who did not die in office.
After leaving the White House at the end of his second term as President, Ulysses Grant and his family stayed in Washington for two months before setting out on a world tour that lasted for two and a half years. During the tour the Grants made stops in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the middle and Far East. He met with a number of world leaders and dignitaries including Queen Victoria, Pope Leo XIII, Otto von Bismarck and Emperor Meiji. Grant was the first President to visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Grants left Japan sailing on the SS City of Tokyo escorted by a Japanese man-of-war, crossed the Pacific and landed in San Francisco on September 20, 1879, where they were mey by cheering crowds. On the way home to Philadelphia, Grant stopped at Chicago for a reunion with General Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee.


When Grant had returned to America from his costly world tour, he had used up most of his savings. He needed to earn money and find a new home. A group of his wealthy friends bought him a home on Manhattan's Upper East Side. In order to earn income, Grant, Jay Gould, and former Mexican Finance Secretary Matías Romero chartered the Mexican Southern Railroad, with plans to build a railroad from Oaxaca to Mexico City. Grant urged President Chester A. Arthur to negotiate a free trade treaty with Mexico. Arthur and the Mexican government agreed on a treaty, but the United States Senate rejected it in 1883. As a result, the railroad venture failed.

It was during this time that Grant's son Ulysses Jr. (also known as "Buck") opened a Wall Street brokerage house with a man named Ferdinand Ward, a venture capitalist who was considered by many to be a rising star on Wall Street. The firm was called Grant & Ward. It was successful at first, trading on Ward's reputation as well as the Grant name. Ulysses Grant joined the firm in 1883. He invested $100,000 of his own money, on condition that the firm would not engage in government business. To encourage investment, Ward paid investors an unusually high rate of interest, by pledging the company's securities on multiple loans in a process called rehypothecation. Ward, with the assistance of his banker James D. Fish, was able to remove the firm's securities from the company's bank vault.

When the market took a dip and a number of trades went bad, a number of loans came due, all backed up by the same collateral, the securities that Ward had taken. Grant was unaware of Ward's dishonest intentions. In May 1884, enough investments went bad to convince Ward that the firm would soon be bankrupt. Ward assured Grant that this was just a temporary shortfall, although he knew otherwise. To prop up the business, Grant approached businessman William Henry Vanderbilt, who gave him a personal loan of $150,000. Grant invested the money in the firm, but it was not enough to save it from failure.

The failure of Grant and Ward left Ulysses Grant penniless. But Grant was too honorable man to leave a host of creditors in his wake. Compelled by a sense of personal honor, he made a decision that he would do whatever he could to ensure that all of the company's creditors would be repaid. To do this, Grant made a decision that he would sell his Civil War mementos and all of his other assets in order to raise money to pay the company's creditors. Vanderbilt took title to Grant's home, although he allowed the Grants to continue to reside there. Vanderbilt had also bought a number of Grant's war momentos and souvenirs. He donated them to the federal government.

Ward's deception hurt Grant and his trust in human nature. Privately he wondered how he could ever "trust any human being again." In March of 1885, as his health was failing, he testified against both Ward and Fish. Ward was later convicted of fraud in October 1885, months after Grant's death, and served six and a half years in prison.

The collapse of Grant and Ward resulted in an increase in the esteem that members of the public held Grant in. Rather than see Ward's embezzlement as the creditors' problem, Grant opted for a more unselfish course of action. He sacrificed his own personal wealth in order that those who had trusted in him and in his good name would not lose their investment.

Grant had one other group of people that he needed to look after. That was his own family. To restore his family's income, Grant wrote several articles on his Civil War campaigns for The Century Magazine. He was paid $500 for each one. The articles were well received by critics, and the editor, Robert Underwood Johnson, suggested that Grant write a book of memoirs, as Sherman and others had done. Grant's articles would serve as the basis for several chapters.

In writing his memoirs, Grant faced his last great fight. In the summer of 1884, Grant complained of a sore throat but put off seeing a doctor until late October. At that time he was diagnosed with cancer, likely caused by his frequent cigar smoking. Grant tried to hide his illness from his wife Julia, but she soon found out from Grant's doctor. He made his last public appearance at a Methodist service for Civil War veterans in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, on August 4, 1884, where he received a standing ovation from more than ten thousand veterans and others present.

In March of the following year, the New York Times announced that Grant was dying of cancer, and a nationwide public concern for the former president began. Congress voted to honor Grant and restored him to the rank of General of the Army with full retirement pay. They did so because they were aware of the family's precarious financial position. (When Grant became President in 1869, he was required to resign his commission and forfeit his pension).

Grant worried constantly about leaving his wife a suitable amount of money to live on. Century magazine offered Grant a book contract with a 10 percent royalty. Grant's friend Mark Twain, knew how bad Grant's financial condition was, and made him a much more generous offer for his memoirs, offering to pay an unprecedented 75 percent royalty. Grant worked intensely on his memoirs at his home in New York City, through the pain that his illness was causing him. His former staff member Adam Badeau assisted him with much of the research, while his son Frederick located documents and served as fact-checker. He worked at a cottage at the top of Mount McGregor, offered by a family friend, as he found the climate more comfortable.

Grant finished his memoirs just a few days before his death on July 23, 1885. The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant was a critical and commercial success. Julia Grant received about $450,000 in royalties (equivalent to $12,300,000 in 2017). Twain called the Memoirs a "literary masterpiece."

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Grant was surrounded by his family when he died at 8 o'clock in the morning in the Mount McGregor cottage on July 23, 1885, at the age of 63. President Grover Cleveland ordered a thirty-day nationwide period of mourning. Grant's body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, first in a temporary tomb, and then—twelve years later, on April 17, 1897—in the General Grant National Memorial, also known as "Grant's Tomb".
Was it civility or smart politics that caused candidate John F. Kennedy to call Coretta Scott King in the days preceding the 1960 Presidential election? Perhaps it was a bit of both. Going into the 1960 campaign, Vice-President Richard Nixon enjoyed good support among the African-American community. He had many friends in the civil rights community, including former baseball legend Jackie Robinson. The segregated southern states had been mainly in the Democratic camp since the civil war, and while Nixon was not expected to win southern states, he was perceived as having a decided edge among African-American voters in northern states and in urban areas in those states that the Republicans had a reasonable chance of winning. But the electoral calculus changed in the weeks prior to the election.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was jailed in DeKalb County, Georgia, on October 19, 1960, for picketing in a department store. After being released three days later, Dr. King was sent back to jail on October 22 for driving with an Alabama license while being a resident of Georgia. He was sentenced to jail for four months of hard labor. Dr. King's wife, Coretta Scott King, believed that her husband would not make it out of jail alive. She telephoned her friend Harris Wofford in tears, telling him "They're going to kill him. I know they are going to kill him."

Immediately after getting off the phone with Mrs. King, Wofford contacted Sargent Shriver, the brother-in-law of Democratic Candidate John F. Kennedy. Kennedy and Shriver were both in Chicago at the time, campaigning. Wofford told Shriver about Mrs. King's fears for her husband's safety. Shriver met privately with the candidate and suggested that Kennedy telephone King and express sympathy. Kennedy agreed to do so, though not after intense debate among his campaign staff.

At Kennedy's request, Shriver dialed Mrs. King and introduced himself to her her he was with Senator Kennedy in Chicago and that the Senator “wanted to speak with her for a moment, would that be okay?” She agreed. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Kennedy told mrs. King, “I want to express to you my concern about your husband. I know this must be very hard for you.” He mentioned that he was aware she was expecting a baby. “I just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you and Dr. King. If there is anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me.” She thanked him, saying: “I would appreciate anything you could do to help.” The call lasted no more than ninety seconds.

When Shriver informed Kenny O’Donnell, the campaign’s political strategist, O'Donnell barked at Shriver, “You just lost us the election.” Robert Kennedy was also irate at Shriver. He later remembered: “Bobby landed on me like a ton of bricks. He scorched my ass”. Shriver recalled Robert Kennedy saying “Jack Kennedy was going to get defeated because of the stupid call.” He added, “Do you know that three Southern governors told us that if Jack supported Jimmy Hoffa, Nikita Khrushchev, or Martin Luther King, they would throw their states to Nixon? Do you know that this election may be razor close and you have probably lost it for us?”

For Dr. King, the day began with considerable uncertainty about his future. He was woken up at 4:00 a.m., before dawn, on Wednesday, October 26, 1960, from his prison cell in DeKalb County, Georgia, when sheriff deputies aimed their flashlight beams into his face and yelled at him to get up. He was handcuffed, his legs were shackled and he was rushed him out of the cell as he repeatedly asked for an explanation that was not forthcoming. King found himself in the back seat of a police car heading off into the night.

Senator John Kennedy had phoned Georgia's Democratic Governor Ernest Vandiver. It was his intention to try to bring about some discreet way had to free the civil rights leader. The discussion was not purely altruistic, there were political considerations involved. If Kennedy was able to play a role in King’s release, he would be rewarded him an outpouring of support from African-American voters. But he was also aware that doing so would likely be met with a backlash from Southern white voters. While seeking his party's nomination as its Presidential candidate, Kennedy had alienated many in the African-American community by his attempting to attract Southern white support. After the Democratic National Convention in July, he met privately with many Southern leaders to address their concerns that he would be an aggressive civil rights president. Kennedy had promised Governor Vandiver that as president he would never use federal troops to force Georgia to desegregate its schools. In return, Vandiver declared his support for Kennedy.

Meanwhile, the Nixon campaign was mulling over what to do about King's imprisonment. His advisers decided that the best course of action was silence. Even a visit from Nixon's staunch supporter baseball hero and civil rights activist Jackie Robinson did not change his mind. William Safire, then a Nixon campaign aide and a future New York Times columnist, recalled that Robinson came out of his ten-minute meeting with what Safire called “tears of frustration in his eyes.” He told Safire: “He thinks calling Martin would be ‘grandstanding.’” Robinson added: “Nixon doesn’t deserve to win.” In spite of this, Robinson continued to support Nixon for the remainder of the campaign.

Early that morning, Kennedy woke up Vandiver at the governor’s mansion in Atlanta, and asked “Governor, is there any way that you think you could get Martin Luther King out of jail? It would be of tremendous benefit to me.” Vandiver later wrote:

"You may or may not know that Daddy King was supporting Nixon at that time. So I called my brother-in-law and a close friend of mine who had been secretary of state when I was lieutenant governor. His name was George Stewart. George Stewart went out and talked with Judge Mitchell. Judge Mitchell agreed, and I do not know what George told the man. He might have told him that he would get him appointed federal judge or something. Anyway, he agreed that if either Senator Kennedy or Bobby Kennedy would call him personally and ask him to release Dr. King, that he would release him. I called Bobby Kennedy and relayed the message that George Stewart had brought back to me. Bobby Kennedy called Judge Mitchell, and Martin Luther King was released from jail."

King was taken for a court appearance the next morning, Thursday, October 27, before Judge Oscar Mitchell, who released King on a $2,000 bond. Mitchell declared, inthe manner of Pontuis Pilate, that the action was mandatory under Georgia law. That afternoon, after about thirty hours of confinement at Reidsville, Martin Luther King Jr. was released from prison. About two hours later he stepped off a chartered plane at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport into the arms of his relieved wife and other supporters. Speaking to reporters at the airport, King said he was indebted to Kennedy. He said, “I understand from very reliable sources that Senator Kennedy served as a great force in making the release possible. For him to be that courageous shows that he is really acting upon principle and not expediency.” King added, “I hold Senator Kennedy in very high esteem. I am convinced he will seek to exercise the power of his office to fully implement the civil rights plank of his party’s platform.”

King told the media that he had not heard from Vice President Richard Nixon and knew of no Republican efforts on his behalf. Years later, in an interview just after Kennedy’s assassination, King once again spoke of his disappointment in Nixon. He said that at the time of his release, he had a closer relationship with Nixon than he had with Kennedy and that Nixon had frequently called on him for advice. He went on to say, "yet, when this moment came, it was like he had never heard of me. So this is why I really considered him a moral coward and one who was really unwilling to take a courageous step and take a risk.”

Even at the time, there was debates over whether Kennedy's call to Coretta Scott King was a calculated political act or a true expression of compassion. Kennedy was praised in newspapers across the country, while Nixon was criticized for his inaction. Martin Luther King Sr. was so grateful for his son's release that he declared that he was voting for Kennedy. He said to reporters, "I'll take a Catholic or the devil himself if he'll wipe the tears from my daughter-in-law's eyes."

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The Kennedy campaign distributed a pamphlet to African-American churchgoers the Sunday before the presidential election that said, “No Comment Nixon versus a Candidate with a Heart, Senator Kennedy.” On election day, Kennedy won the African-American vote in most areas by wide margins, which helped his margin of victory in close states such as New Jersey, South Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri.
It is highly unlikely that President George W. Bush was playing to his base, or expecting to win votes when he decided to launch an initiative to combat the spread of AIDS in Africa known as PEPFAR. It is a program that has saved millions of lives, and one that Bush's critics rarely mention.

PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) is a governmental initiative designed to address the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and to help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa. The program's initial goal was to provide anti-retroviral treatment to 2 million HIV-infected people in resource-limited countries in order to prevent millions of new infections, and to support care for 10 million people by 2010. PEPFAR increased the number of Africans receiving anti-retroviral treatment from 50,000 in 2004 to over 1.2 million by early 2008. It is the largest health initiative ever initiated by one country to address a disease. The program has made anti-retrovirals widely available, saving millions of lives. According to a 2009 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the program had prevented about 1.1 million deaths in Africa and reduced the death rate due to AIDS in the countries involved by 10%.

In 1998, when George W. Bush considered running for president, his foreign policy adviser (and future Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice suggested that Africa should be a focus of his. In 2002 he commissioned a report, which ultimately was titled "The Next Wave of HIV/AIDS: Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, India, and China". It was written by the National Intelligence Council. This repirt was significant because it discussed the mortality associated with the poorly controlled HIV pandemic across several decades and also forecast the impact of that excess mortality on U.S National Security interests. The U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (also known as the Global AIDS Act) was passed and it contained a series of goals, identifying measurable outcomes to be reached on the subject of controlling the spread of the disease and providing aid to its victims. The legislation also established the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator to oversee all international AIDS funding and programming.

In July 2008, PEPFAR was renewed, and expanded to more than triple the initiative's funds, increasing funding to $48 billion through 2013, including $39 billion for HIV and the global Fund, $4 billion for TB, and $5 billion for malaria. In May 2009, the Obama Administration launched the Global Health Initiative (GHI) as an effort to develop a comprehensive U.S. government strategy for global health and it included PEPFAR as a central component.

When PEPFAR was signed into law, 15 countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates and limited resources to combat the disease, were designated to receive the majority of the funding. The 15 "focus countries" were Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.

When the Bush administration inaugurated the program in 2003, fewer than 50,000 HIV-infected people on the African continent were receiving the antiretroviral drugs needed to keep the virus in check and halt the progression toward full-blown AIDS. By the time Bush left office, the number had increased to nearly 2 million. Today, the United States is directly supporting antiretroviral treatment for more than 4 million men, women and children worldwide, primarily in Africa.

Before PEPFAR, the prevailing theory was that the drug-treatment regimens that were saving lives in developed countries would not work in Africa because poor, uneducated people in these communities could not be counted on to take the right pill at the right time every day. When the drugs are taken haphazardly, the virus mutates and becomes resistant. Critics of PEPFAR's approach argued that trying to administer antiretroviral treatment in poor African countries might actually be worse than doing nothing at all. The Bush administration rejected these arguments. According to a survey by Doctors Without Borders, 11 African countries — including some of the hardest-hit by the epidemic — are providing antiretroviral drug treatment to well over half of their citizens infected with HIV. Treatment not only extends the patient’s life but also decreases the likelihood that he or she will pass the virus to an uninfected person. According to one official from Doctors Without Borders, "the end of the AIDS epidemic is not yet in sight, but it is no longer unimaginable."

Bush's biographer Peter Baker of the New York Times sums up the significance of this accomplishment as follows:

"Bush did more to stop AIDS and more to help Africa than any president before or since. He took on one of the world's biggest problems in a big, bold way and it changed the course of a continent. If it weren't for Iraq, it would be one of the main things history would remember about Bush, and it still should be part of any accounting of his presidency."
Many presidents have, in one form or another, made the claim of being "a uniter, not a divider". But one of the Presidents who best exemplified this phrase was probably James Monroe. He became President following the end of the War of 1812, a war that the nation was unprepared for, and a war which did not enjoy universal support throughout the nation. A rift developed between the New England states and the southern states. Citizens of the former had no desire to go to war with the British because of the injurious effect that the war had on their local industry due to the loss of trade. But citizens from the other states were more anxious to go to war. When the war ended with better results in some parts of the nation than in others, divisions existed. It was up to James Monroe to heal these divisions. He did so to such an extent that much of his presidency was characterized by what was called the "Era of Good Feelings".


As president, James Monroe wanted to harmonize the diverse factions within the country and to create a common national outlook, rather than one based on regional or party interests. He did so in a surprising way at first. He declined to appoint a federalist to his cabinet, despite being urged to do so as a means of keeping the peace. He did not want to continue a climate of "us vs. them" and felt that appointing a Federalist would only serve to continue competing factions. Echoing a sentiment first expressed by George Washington, he said that all political parties were by their very nature, incompatible with free government. He believed that the business of governing was best conducted by disinterested statesmen, acting exclusively in the national interest – not on behalf of sectional interests or personal ambition. His policy had precedent in the arguments put forth by Washington in his farewell address in 1796 and his warnings against political "factions."

In his public statements, Monroe was careful to avoid comments that could be perceived as politically partisan. He never attacked the Federalist party, in fact he never even mentioned them at all. In his private encounters with Federalists, he was described as always being "courteous and civil".

Perhaps the most magnanimous thing he did was to embark on two country-wide good-will tours, the first in 1817 and the second in 1819. Most importantly, he went into the heart of what for a Virginian Republican was enemy country: New England. He traveled to the Federalist stronghold of Boston, Massachusetts, and he was warmly received, in large measure because his remarks were non-partisan, with a goal of unifying the nation. It was on this trip that the phrase "Era of Good Feelings" was coined by a local Federalist journal.

On the tour Monroe, a Revolutionary War veteran himself, donned a Revolutionary War officer's uniform. Despite this no longer being the style, he tied his long powdered hair in a queue. Contemporary accounts of Monroe's appearances on the tour praise him for his "agreeable" impression, his charm, his dignity and for his "unusual ability to put men at their ease by his courtesy, lack of condescension, his frankness, and what his contemporaries looked upon as the essential goodness and kindness of heart which he always radiated" (in the words of his biographer Harry Ammon).

Monroe's visit to Boston elicited strong feelings of nationalist pride and expressions of reconciliation. New England Federalists were quick to demonstrate their loyalty. Monroe was welcomed with banquets, parades and receptions. Monroe later wrote that many of the New England Federalists appeared anxious "to get back into the great family of the union." Monroe understood the cathartic value in allowing Federalists the opportunity "by solemn public demonstrations to reaffirm their loyalty to the government and their acceptance of Republican control." Monroe was diligent about avoiding any remarks or expressions that might chasten, criticize or humiliate his hosts. He presented himself as the nation's head of state, and not as the leader of a triumphant political party.

The strategy not only had value in healing the nation's wounds, it was also a wise political strategy. In the years that followed, all New England states other than Massachusetts were in Republican Party hands. In 1820 Monroe was re-elected almost unanimously. He received every vote in the electoral college except for one, that by an elector who believed that the honor of unanimous electoral victory belonged to Washington alone. The only political downside to the strategy was that instead of the Republicans running against the Federalists in 1824, the candidates for the presidency came out of split factions within the party itself.

Monroe deserves credit for healing a divided nation and for displaying benevolence to his defeated political enemies, and most importantly for his good example in putting his role as head of state first, ahead of his role as leader of a political party.
Stephen Arnold Douglas differed with Abraham Lincoln in so many ways. Douglas was a Democrat, Lincoln was a Whig and then a Republican. Douglas was all for compromise on the issue of slavery, Lincoln was opposed to its expansion. Douglas was the designer of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Lincoln thought that the Act was a mess. Douglas was short and stout, facetiously nicknamed the Little Giant. (His height, depending on the source, was anywhere between 5 feet and 5 feet 4 inches). Lincoln was 6'4" tall. The two men ran against each other, first to be selected by the Illinois State Legislature as the US Senator from that state in 1858. Then they ran against one another for president in the 1860 election. They both even dated the same woman, Mary Todd, who later became Mary Todd Lincoln.


Douglas had a more successful career as a legislator. He was a skillful tactician when it came to getting legislation passed and he believed in the principle of popular sovereignty. It wasn't that he was pro-slavery, but that he believed that the majority of citizens should decide contentious issues such as slavery and territorial expansion. As chairman of the Committee on Territories from 1850 to 1859, Douglas was largely responsible for the Compromise of 1850 that many had falsely hoped had settled the slavery issues. But in 1854 the issue was reopened with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which opened some previously prohibited territories to slavery under popular sovereignty. Opposition to this led to the formation of the Republican Party.

Douglas had even initially endorsed the Dred Scott decision of 1857. He later said that its effect could be overruled by popular sovereignty. He also opposed the efforts of President James Buchanan and his Southern allies to enact a Federal slave code and impose the Lecompton Constitution on Kansas.

In 1860, the conflict over slavery led to the split in the Democratic Party in the 1860 Convention. Pro-slavery Southerners rejected Douglas as the party's candidate. They nominated their own candidate, Vice President John C. Breckinridge, while the Northern Democrats nominated Douglas. When Abraham Lincoln won the election with a majority of electoral votes, Douglas urged the South to support the constitution and accept Lincoln's election as President. When southern statess began to take steps toward secession, Douglas tried to use his skills as a negotiater to arrange a compromise which would avoid secession. As late as Christmas 1860, he wrote to Georgia Senator Alexander H. Stephens (who would become the Vice-President of the Confederate States of America) proposing the annexation of Mexico as slave territory as a compromise.

When a number of southern states decided to secede from the Union, Douglas denounced secession, calling it "criminal". He was one of the strongest advocates for maintaining the Union and he was critical of outgoing President James Buchanan, who had declared that, while the southern states were wrong to secede, there was nothing that the US government could do about it.

There are a number of sources that describe Douglas's graciousness at Lincoln's first inauguration. When Lincoln took the oath of office, he removed his "stovepipe" hat, but he had nowhere to set down the hat. Douglas, who was on the platform, stepped forward and took the hat from Lincoln. He is said to have remarked "If I can't be the President, at least I can hold his hat." Though he and Lincoln had been long-time rivals for both Senator and President, his respect for the office of President and his loyalty to the Union overcame any personal bad feelings. Though this story was considered by some to by apocryphal, in 1959, historian Allan Nevins found an independent contemporary source which corroborated its occurrence in a newspaper article published on March 11, 1861.

After the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Lincoln decided to proclaim a state of rebellion. He called for 75,000 troops to suppress it. It was a grave time in the nation's history, one that called for the setting aside of old political grudges, in favor of civility among former adversaries. Lincoln called upon his old rival for support. He asked Douglas to review the proclamation before it was issued. Douglas supported Lincoln completely on the matter, suggesting only one change. He suggested that Lincoln should call for 200,000 troops, not just 75,000. He told the president, "You do not know the dishonest purposes of those men as well as I do."

On the evening of April 14, 1861, just two days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter,Lincoln and Douglas met privately for two hours. Douglas had been working tirelessly in the Senate, trying to come up with a compromise to prevent civil war. Douglas had not given up hope that a peaceful solution could still be found. But the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12 crushed those hopes. Upon hearing the news of the Union surrender of the fort, Douglas arranged the meeting with Lincoln and it was at that meeting that Lincoln showed Douglas a draft of his proclamation calling for the state militias to furnish an army and summoning Congress to return for an extraordinary session on July 4. In a statement he made to the press after the meeting, Douglas told the assembled reporters that he had assured Lincoln that “he was prepared to sustain the President in the exercise of all his constitutional functions to preserve the Union, and maintain the government, and defend the Federal Capital.”

Douglas took on one further task that he was asked to do by his president. Douglas departed Washington for Illinois, making speeches along the way to rally support for the Union cause. One of the states he spoke in was Virginia, which joined the Confederacy. Douglas arrived in Springfield on the morning of April 25 and delivered an address to the Illinois Legislature that evening. He told his audience:

“Now permit me to say to the assembled Representatives and Senators of our beloved State, composed of men of both political parties, in my opinion it is your duty to lay aside, for the time being, your party creeds and party platforms. Forget that you were ever divided, until you have rescued the government and the country from their assailants.”


Shortly after giving this speech in Springfield, Douglas became quite ill. He contracted typhoid fever and died in Chicago on June 3, 1861.

Happy Birthday John Quincy Adams

On July 11, 1767 (251 years ago today) John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. He was the second child and oldest son of John and Abigail Adams.

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Much of Adams' youth was spent accompanying his father overseas. The elder Adams served as an American envoy to France from 1778 until 1779 and to the Netherlands from 1780 until 1782. John Quincy Adams accompanied his father on these trips.Schooled by his father in the art of diplomacy, John Quincy Adams served as an American diplomat, and went on to become a US Senator, and later a member of the House of Representatives. Over the course of his long and distinguished political career he was a member of five political parties: the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. He was Minister (Ambassador) to four different countries: the Netherlands, Prussia, Russia and Great Britain. As a diplomat, he played an important role in negotiating many prominent international treaties, the most famous of which was the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812.

He served as Secretary of State under President James Monroe, and in that capacity he negotiated with Great Britain over America's northern border with Canada, with Spain concerning the annexation of Florida, and he authored the Monroe Doctrine. Many historians believe that he was one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in American history.

You would think that such a great diplomat would get along with others and become a great President. He succeeded Monroe as President in the disputed election of 1824, finishing second in both popular and electoral vote to Andrew Jackson. The election was decided by Congress in what his opponents called "a corrupt bargain" after Henry Clay threw his support to Adams. Clay later became Secretary of State in the Adams administration.

Adams tried to modernize the American economy and promoted education. Part of his political agenda was to pay off much of the national debt. But he was stymied by a Congress controlled by his opponents, and his lack of patronage appointments didn't endear him to those in his own party. Building political consensus and coalitions was not his strong suit. He lost his 1828 bid for re-election to Andrew Jackson. This made him the first President since his father to serve a single term.

Adams didn't retire from the Presidency quietly. He was elected a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts after leaving office, the only president ever to be so, serving for the last 17 years of his life. In congress he launched a passionate campaign against slavery, even to the point where gag orders were passed attempting to prevent him from discussing the subject in Congress. He tried to ignore them or find ways around them. He even went so far as to argue a leading anti-slavery case (the Amistad) before the Supreme Court of the United States. Adams correctly predicted that if a civil war were to break out, the president could abolish slavery by using his war powers. Adams also predicted the Union's dissolution over the slavery issue, but said that if the South became independent there would be a series of bloody slave revolts.


On February 21, 1848, the House of Representatives was discussing the matter of honoring US Army officers who had served in the Mexican War. Adams had been opposed to the war because he believed its motive to be the expansion of slavery. When the rest of the house erupted into 'ayes' in support of the motion, Adams cried out, 'No!' He rose to answer a question from the Speaker of the House. He then immediately collapsed, having suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Two days later, on February 23, he died with his wife and son at his side in a bed placed in the Speaker's Room inside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. His last words were "This is the last of earth. I am content." He passed away at 7:20 P.M.
In March of 1865 Abraham Lincoln was being inaugurated at President of the United States for the second time, having just won re-election the previous November. The war was nearing its end and the south was on the brink of a humiliating defeat. If ever the time was right for Lincoln to gloat and make secessionists pay for their arrogant decision to tear the country apart, this was it. But Lincoln treasured civility above vengeance. His second inaugural address was meant to set an example for a nation sick of anger and bitterness and in need of compassion and healing.

Both of Lincoln's two inaugural addresses were magnificent for their rhetorical brilliance and eloquence. He delivered his final one on March 4, 1865, just six weeks before his death. Its tone was one of humility and generosity. In the speech, he sought to advocate against harsh treatment of the defeated South, while recognizing the evil of slavery.


Present in the crowd at the inaugural address were John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, and David Herold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Paine, John Surratt and Edmund Spangler, some of the conspirators involved with Lincoln's assassination. Before Lincoln was sworn in, Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson took his oath. At the ceremony Johnson, who had been drinking (he later claimed it was to offset the pain of typhoid fever) gave a rambling address in the Senate chamber and appeared to be quite drunk. Ever loyal and generous, Lincoln assured Republicans that this was a one off, telling them "Andy aint no drunkard."

In his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln spoke about Divine providence. He said that he wondered what God's will might have been in allowing the war to occur, and why it had grown to the terrible dimensions which it had. He used the biblical phrase, "but let us judge not, that we be not judged," paraphrasing the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, lest ye be not judged." Lincoln also quoted another of Jesus's sayings: "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." Lincoln's quoted this passage from Matthew 18:7. He also quoted Psalms 19:9 "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether".

Rather than break down the address, it deserves to be posted fully. Here is the text of the address:


At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. 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 judgements 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.

Remarkably, Lincoln did not believe his address was particularly well received at the time. Historians from successive generations disagree. Many consider the address to be one of the finest speeches ever given in American history.


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