Monday, February 28, 2011

Last Doughboy Dead and a Toast to Liberty

Very late last night we learned the last surviving US veteran of the First World War has died.*

Frank W. Buckles died Sunday at 110. He was born on February 1, 1901.

After a 1903 attack of scarlet fever
Mr. Buckles pulled through and experienced a century. Few others born during the McKinley administration lived to have a Facebook page, as he did.
We'll raise a glass to that.

War, any war, is a complicated mess, however. Does anyone need to be reminded? Well, yes, probably, otherwise we wouldn't keep fighting them or needing them.

In his April, 1917 address to Congress, Woodrow Wilson proclaimed:
The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.
Sound familiar?

Are the Arab revolutions following the scripts of 1776, 1789, 1848, or 1968?

Here's a big toast to world-historical events, and hopes that few will die. Fortunately, Wilson's utopian urge seems tempered in the White House today.

Speaking of the White House and our President...It's also 150 years since our own Civil War. Although Salem was the Capital City, in 1861 it was a very small village, and news traveled at the speed of horse and human. This piece in the Statesman appears to be from news conveyed by the Pony Express to Sacramento, and then from Sacramento to Salem. In the mid-1860s Salem finally gained some telegraph service, but until then, information moved pretty darn slowly.

Here's what Asahel Bush had to say about disunion and President Buchanan.
MONDAY, FEB. 25, 1861

The news published to-day embraces a period of nearly two weeks. Nothing of a decisive character has bet been done by the secessionists...The proposals of compromise coming from Crittenden, from Douglas and many others in both branches of Congress, are doing a great deal to take the power away from the demagogues who have so long disquieted the southern public. That is being accomplished by finesse and diplomacy, which President Buchanan was too imbecile to do through the enforcement of law and the exercise of his just powers. The men who are dealing in these proposals to compromise and to amend the constitution are excusable in any course they may pursue to preserve the Union and to avoid an inter-State war.....It may now be justifiable for even great statesmen to adopt shallow and temporary expedients, though ever so improbable to postpone the final issue to a more propitious season for settlement, and to avert the calamity of rebellion and civil war....

Any amendment, then, to the federal constitution which can carry the votes of any northern states, must certainly be less liberal to slaveholders than existing laws and usages....For the present, we are opposed to any attempt at amending the constitution, for the reason that it must, in all probability, result in injustice to the vested rights of slaveholders, and create a still greater tumult than ever.

For the present it seems that disunion has its locks woven fast in the web of compromise, and we indulge the hope that it will not escape without a pretty thorough strangling....The great secession flame has burned out, or is apparently doing so, for want of fuel, but the spark sill remains to be rekindled at any time. This hushing the matter up as it is being done is perhaps the best under the circumstances of a lame, emasculate administration, but it will it will come up again very soon and the action at this time will be quoted as a precedent to prove the right of States to secede....The slavery question, too, the final chosen issue of the secessionists, is as thoroughly comprehended by saint and sinner, wise and simple, as any ever mooted in politics....If the secessionists are right, and a loop-hole was left for a State to crawl out at, it will very soon, and very certainly, be done, and one, or two, or ten years, more or less, as an undivided Nation are of no account, and not worth the doubt and toil endured. If, on the contrary, we are right, and the constitution has empowered the general government to perpetuate itself indefinitely, let us be assured of it, the sooner the better for all. The prospect of disunion is a ghost which has haunted the dying couch of every statesman from Gen. Washington to the present hour. We hope the present generation will be able to allay it.
* These are late night thoughts...

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