Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lincoln, "Lure of Politics" 2

I'm in the third chapter of Team of Rivals about Lincoln and his cabinet team of Republican rivals.

Previous posts:
1. Lead up to election
2. Family background of Lincoln and rivals
3a. Lure of Politics for Edward Bates

Again, the third chapter talks about the entrance of the four men of the book into politics.  This week I read the section of the chapter on William Seward. I also saw the movie Lincoln by Spielberg this past weekend.  Seward's character in the movie was not as I imagined him, so I'll bracket that image as I continue reading in this book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Seward, if you remember, was the governor of New York for 2 terms (1838-42).  He was a Whig, the precursor to the Republican party.  It is quite interesting to me that so many of the values of the Republican party back then are more the values of the Democratic party right now.  I resonate strongly with the values of the original Republican party and am one of the many lifetime Republicans who is quite alienated by the party's emphases right now.

For example, the Whigs/Republicans stood for things like
  • unionism (versus excessive state's rights), 
  • internal improvements (roads, bridges, infrastructure--things that helped markets back then), 
  • anti-slavery (and thus pro-the rights of disempowered groups that today would translate into civil rights, immigration rights, and the pro-life movement as long as it takes seriously the lives of the women having the babies as well)
  • better public schools
It would be wrong to say that all southerners today are against such things.  When I went to Southern Wesleyan, the good Wesleyan folk who were my professors were pretty much on the same page politically as I am today.  I would argue that they are the most Wesleyan values and that a good deal of the grass roots Wesleyan church has strayed into foreign territory.

Seward seemed to wrestle significantly with balancing his political ambitions with his devotion to family.  His wife did not travel with him to the state house in New York and their relationship seemed to falter as an ambiguous friend of Seward (Tracy) was at first smothered Seward himself and then got too friendly with his wife Francis.

Seward was a principled man.  He was strongly against slavery and in fact hurt New York's trade with Virginia by refusing to turn over two freed slaves who had tried to smuggle a runaway slave out of Virginia.  He did allow the runaway to be returned, following the Constitution.

He got into problems with strong anti-catholics by trying to provide education for Irish and German catholic immigrants. This made him an enemy of the "nativists" and possibly lost him the Republican nomination won by Lincoln.

Horace Greeley wrote of his second election as governor that he would "henceforth be honored more for the three thousand votes he has lost, considering the causes, than for all he has received in his life" (84). Seward lost those votes for his stand against slavery and for providing education to all, even dirty, no good immigrants.


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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Since you are for "unionism", don't you think that dividing our society by focusing on "special group interests" defies justice? Justice requires a blindness to such things. Since humans are oriented to "group think" and identifications with their particular "tribe", don't you think it undermines your value of "unionism"? Some don't think that a "self" exists apart from group identifications, others think that "self" assesses and freely associates with particular groups because of their personal values. I'd like to affirm both, because of people are different in their personalities as well as their development. This is the only way to to fair. And I think is the strength of our two party system, as well as its weakness. It might be that the American people might be more interested in educating themselves about issues, if there were more nuances to diverse political parties.

A video I watched yesterday was attempting to get answers about why they supported Obama. Most were due to the issue of race. I think that is VERY short sighted and "tribal"! People that have such an attitude expose my own prejudice about "tribe mentality".

The warring factions in nations that have never had peace illustrate that civility is not furthered by maintaining a culture of "group identity". Civil Rights though good for a season, has grown to breed such "group identity". I think it is tearing our country apart but it is useful for political purposes!

Diversity used to be a strength to toleration, but today it has corrupted our national peace, civil discourse and limited Congressional ability to make a move...of compromise.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It seems that there is NO end to politicizing ANYTHING for political ends and agendas! That doesn't build peace or trust in a country! One cannot even trust the media, as whatever happens has a lot more information "behind the scenes". Instead of politics being useful for the true good of our country, such as protecting the values we've had, which protected personal liberty; politics is being used to change the whole of our society by strong armed politics, which is not nice, fair or tolerant to any differences of opinion!!! And it seems the warring factions are divided between science(the Democrats and the history of Traditions) and religion ( Republicans and personal faith and religious convictions about social institutions and social values.

The separation of Church and State was not to deny religious liberty, but was to protect from legislation about religious convictions. This becomes hard when theological (philosophical) moorings frame the debate on abortion and homosexual rights and even creation itself.

John Mark said...

The Republican party has changed in the last several decades, taking many conservatives along...or is it the other way around? I don't know. But can you deny that Democrat/liberal does not mean what it did in, say, 1965? Was there all that much difference in the two parties in 1960? I don't recall (I was pretty young) the level of animosity being what it is today, at any rate.
I don't know who began today's culture wars....each side accuses the other. To me it is clear that both sides are reacting to what they see as extreme in the 'other side.'
Frankly, I don't see a 'reasonable' (moderate? middle of the road?) conservative movement emerging, or making much difference if it would become a reality. Who would listen to them?