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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divided" Speech

Feb. 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865
On June 16, 1858, at the Illinois State Republican convention in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln delivered his now famous "A House Divided" speech. Despite the fact that the speech was widely considered too radical by even his supporters, Lincoln was selected to be the Republican candidate for US Senate to run against Stephen A. Douglas. 

Lincoln lost the Senate race to Douglas, in part because of this speech. Yet, oddly enough, a number of Lincoln's contemporaries later credited this speech for awakening the people and eventually propelling Lincoln into the White House as the 16th President of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divided" Speech

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention:

If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let anyone who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery, so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider, not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted, but also let him study the history of its construction and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects, from the beginning.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the states by state constitutions and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery and was the first point gained.

But, so far, Congress only had acted; and an endorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable to save the point already gained and give chance for more.

This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of "squatter sovereignty," other-wise called "sacred right of self-government," which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska Bill itself, in the language which follows:

It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into an territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people there-of perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.

Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of "squatter sovereignty" and "sacred right of self-government." "But," said opposition members, "let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the territory may exclude slavery." "Not we," said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through Congress, a law case, involving the question of a Negro's freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free state and then into a territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the district of Missouri; and both Nebraska Bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May 1854. The Negro's name was Dred Scott, which name now designates the decision finally made in the case. Before the then next presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska Bill to state his opinion whether the people of a territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: "That is a question for the Supreme Court."

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the endorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The endorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly 400,000 votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory. The outgoing President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the endorsement. The Supreme Court met again, did not announce their decision, but ordered a reargument.

The presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the Court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital endorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to endorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained!

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton constitution was or was not in any just sense made by the people of Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration, that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered so much and is ready to suffer to the end. And well may he cling to that principle! If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine.

Under the Dred Scott decision, "squatter sovereignty" squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding; like the mold at the foundry, served through one blast and fell back into loose sand; helped to carry an election and then was kicked to the winds. His late joint struggle with the Republicans against the Lecompton constitution involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point — the right of a people to make their own constitution — upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas' "care not" policy, constitute the piece of machinery in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained. The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no Negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave can ever be a citizen of any state in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States. This point is made in order to deprive the Negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of that provision of the United States Constitution which declares that "the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."

Second, that, "subject to the Constitution of the United States," neither Congress nor a territorial legislature can exclude slavery from any United States territory. This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Third, that whether the holding a Negro in actual slavery in a free state makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave state the Negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately but, if acquiesced in for awhile, and apparently endorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred Scott in the free state of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or 1,000 slaves, in Illinois or in any other free state.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mold public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care whether slavery is voted down or voted up. This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter to go back and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left "perfectly free," "subject only to the Constitution." What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough, now, it was an exactly fitted niche for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in and declare the perfect freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment expressly declaring the right of the people voted down? Plainly enough, now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision. Why was the Court decision held up? Why even a senator's individual opinion withheld till after the presidential election? Plainly enough, now, the speaking out then would have damaged the "perfectly free" argument upon which the election was to be carried. Why the outgoing President's felicitation on the endorsement? Why the delay of a reargument? Why the incoming President's advance exhortation in favor of the decision? These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse preparatory to mounting him when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-endorsement of the decision by the President and others?

We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding, or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Encouragement for Beginning Gardeners

I want to encourage you to get started with gardening this year. It is an enjoyable hobby, good exercise, relieves stress, and may help you survive the difficult times ahead. Besides, there is nothing that tastes quite like a homegrown tomato sandwich!

I understand gardening can be intimidating for the inexperienced. You probably have a lot of questions: How do I know what to plant? When to plant? How to plant? Where to plant? How often should I water my garden? Do I need to test my soil? What fertilizer do I use? Do people even use fertilizer anymore? After all, my Earth Mother-type neighbor says if I don't go completely organic I'll immediately die a horrible, cancer-ridden death. And, just what is "organic" anyway?

Where do I buy my seeds and plants from? My Earth Mother-type neighbor's sort of ex-hippie husband told me about this company called Monsanto, which he says is more evil than Adolph Hitler and almost as evil as George Bush. I don't want to give them any of my money. Where do I buy seeds and plants that aren't tainted by such evil?

Relax, folks. Gardening doesn't have to be that complicated or scary - even if you happen to unwittingly buy some seed from Monsanto.

My first and most important tip is to simply get started. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. If this is your first garden, don't worry about making it perfect. Don't be afraid of making a few mistakes. Don't let others intimidate you into thinking there are "right ways" and "wrong ways" to garden. Just do it. You will learn as you go and find what works best for you.

Another bit of advice is not to try to do too much. There is no need to grow thirty-seven different kinds of vegetables your first year gardening. Let your first year be more about learning than about quantity. Plant a few tomato plants, a few pepper plants, some squash and a few other veggies that you like. Gardening is work and it takes time, energy and resources. It is real easy for a beginner to try to do too much and therefore quickly burn out.

If you want to know what grows well in your specific area, or when to plant what for your region, talk to the people around you who already garden. Visit your local agricultural extension office. Find out if there are any gardening clubs in your area. Your local gardening centers and hardware stores usually will have free leaflets which list the best crops for your area along with planting times, row spacing, planting depth and other important information.

I'm not going to recommend any gardening books for you to read, though there are a lot of them out there of varying quality. Don't worry about being perfect. Don't over think or over plan. It is more important that you actually get hands-on experience by growing a real-life garden rather than just getting a lot of book theory.

The Take Away: What I hope beginning gardeners will take away from this is simply encouragement to actually get started gardening. What you need is experience, and the only way to get that is to just do it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

At Least 90 Christians Abducted By ISIS in Raids on Villages in Syria

ISIS raid sends more than 3,000 fleeing from their villages and leaves churches destroyed in latest attack
2/24/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - Just before dawn on Monday, February 23, ISIS fighters entered the Assyrian Christian villages outside of Tal Tamr in Syria's Hasakah region. More than 90 men, women and children were taken from the villages and are believed to still be held by ISIS. As many as four churches have been destroyed and over 3,000 have fled their homes following the assault on the Christian villages along the Khabur River.

 "We fell asleep in total quiet, nothing was going on...," a woman who had fled Tal Tamr with her four young kids said. "We woke up to the sound of clashing; we didn't know what it was, until we saw that everyone in the camp was fleeing because ISIS had entered the village."

Initial reports stated that the men were taken by the fighters to the Abd al-Aziz Mountains, while the women and children were left in the village, guarded by ISIS militants, Steve Oshana, Executive Director of A Demand for Action (ADFA), told International Christian Concern (ICC) on Monday.

Sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported overhearing ISIS fighters say they had detained "56 crusaders" from Tal Shamiram. Additional reports of abductions pushed that number to between 70-100, according to Nuri Kino, founder of ADFA, with some reports as high as even 200 abducted.

On Tuesday, it was being reported that the hostages had now been moved to the Al-Shadadi village, Osama Edward, Director of the Assyrian Human Rights Network, told ICC.

"Most of the hostages are women, the elderly, and children," Edward said. "In fact, mostly women as many of the young men were fighting with the militias that are trying to defend these areas," he continued.       

Churches Destroyed as Thousands Flee

Residents immediately started to flee the area, hoping to make it to the Kurdish-held city of Hassakah, 40 miles away, or to Qamishli, 60 miles away, along the Turkish-Syrian border.

About 3,000 people are believed to have fled the Tal Tamr region, finding rides in private cars. Some were able to get busses to the area to drive people out of their villages.

Hundreds are taking refuge in the St. Mary Church in Hasakah and the St. Ephrem Church in Qamishli, AINA reported.

The cluster of around 35 Assyrian villages along the Khabur River had been home to between 40,000-45,000 Christians prior to 2011, Edward told ICC. Estimates were now that the remaining population was closer to 3,000 before these latest attacks forced entire villages to evacuate.

Large amounts of rain actually may have prevented the attack from being even more deadly. "In summer time you can cross the river, but the past three or four weeks have seen a lot of rain. So ISIS was able to attack the villages just on one side of the river," said Edward.

A number of churches have also been destroyed by ISIS during these raids. The church in Tel Hurmiz, one of the oldest churches in Syria, was destroyed, as well as the Assyrian Mar Bisho Church in Tel Shamiran, the church in Qabr Shamiy and the church in Tel Baloua, Assyrian activists are reporting. Pictures published by AINA appear to show smoke rising from the Mar Bisho Church in Tel Shamiran.

The destruction of these churches comes just a few weeks after ISIS fighters had entered the village of Tel Hormizd and forced the residents to remove the cross from the church and to pay the jizya tax, or face death, AINA reported

Response to Attacks Against ISIS Positions

The raid on these Christian villages comes in response to gains that had been made in a joint operation between the Syriac Military Council (known as MFS) and the Kurdish YPG militias "against the barbaric ISIS organization in Tal Hamis frontline. The result of this operation led to the liberation of 22 villages from ISIS control," the MFS said in a press release on Monday.

The victories in those villages seem to be what prompted the counterattack on the civilians in the villages surrounding Tal Tamr. The MFS said that at least three of its fighters had been injured and four were missing, believed to have been martyred, but their bodies had not yet been recovered.

This area also is the site of a key bridge across the Khabur River. Strategically, "This bridge is the target and what the fighting is concerned with capturing because control of this bridge gives control to the entire region,"Edward said. "It is used by the army to move supplies, food, etc."

Initial reports implied that ISIS was holding the men hostage in exchange for fighters held by the Kurds.

"One of the villagers called the cell phone of one of the captives and an ISIS fighter picked up," Oshana said. "He made clear that their demands were for the release of ISIS fighters held by Kurdish forces," he continued.

Subsequent attempts to contact those taken have largely been unsuccessful with some fighters answering the phone and saying there is nothing that can be done about their situation.

The taking of hostages also provides an element of protection from air strikes and direct intervention, Edward told ICC. "They now form a human shield preventing a Syrian army or coalition air strike in this area," he said.

Urgent Calls for Intervention

These latest attacks have once again raised the call for international assistance to help protect the Christian and other minority populations in Iraq and Syria that have been explicitly targeted by ISIS and other Islamic extremists groups operating in the region.

"The recent violence against the Assyrian Christian communities in Khabor is only the latest in an escalating campaign of violence against these indigenous people.  The siege of Mosul was just the beginning; soon the Nineveh Plains, the cradle of civilization, fell to the hands of the Islamic State, and now the very presence of Christianity in Syria is threatened by this siege," Oshana said in a statement to ICC.

While the United States and other countries have engaged in air strikes to roll back the presence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, there are clear calls for more to be done to get direct support to those providing security on the ground. 

"A Demand for Action has secured legislation to support local security for these vulnerable communities, which the President has signed into law, and we will continue to work towards the development of large scale local security forces comprised of these vulnerable minorities to join the fight to eradicate the region of this cancer called IS," Oshana continued.

As ISIS has shown in its actions in Eastern Syria over just the past 48 hours, Christians and the presence of the cross are among what they are seeking to eradicate from any of the lands that they control.

This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern

FDR's D-Day Prayer - "Let Our Hearts Be Stout"

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the following prayer over the radio on June 6, 1944, as US and Allied troops invaded Nazi-occupied Europe on D-Day. 

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the scheming of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus

In 1903, a sonnet by Emma Lazarus entitled "The New Colossus" was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Written in 1883, the sonnet contains the now famous words "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." 

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"