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Thursday, April 10, 2014 12:01 am

Letters to the Editor 4/10/14

Abraham Lincoln and 15-year incumbent Stephen Douglas battled for one of Illinois’ two U.S. Senate seats in 1858. Douglas won though Lincoln would beat him two years later in a nomination for the presidency.



You deserve credit for attempting to address the causes of the Civil War in your column
(“Prince of demagogues: Stephen A. Douglas and Illinois’ populist past,” James Krohe Jr., March 27). But you need to get the rest of the story.

The Little Giant was not a good man. He and Lincoln were lawyers and politicians. They were horse thieves who did what they did for power and money. Lincoln had worked for the railroad helping run people off of land they had scratched out of rough country. Douglas won the debates by using every nasty trick of persuasion favored by hacks everywhere. Lincoln had it simply right when he said in effect that he would not choose to be a slave. But to the average voter circa 1858 that was “duh.”

Two years later, Lincoln won the presidency and later the terrible war that followed his election. That war had its antecedents in the Constitution. It is easy to believe after more than four years of brutal slaughter that it was a moral war fought to free others from oppression.  

Further you can’t blame that war just on the aggressive character of squalid border ruffians. Other madmen like John Brown went even further out of their way to kill people in Kansas. You left out the fact that the righteous of the day were prodding the South in every way imaginable. Boys from Knox College headed south to help slaves steal themselves from their masters. That was clearly against the law. West Point graduates of the 1850s learned constitutional law from a textbook that presented both sides of this question. Until February of 1865 a person might also be chattel property. If you could be hung for stealing a $30 horse, what might be proper punishment for stealing a $2,000 laborer?

Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War were about preserving the Union. You know the quote that fits here. It is the simple truth in Lincoln’s own words. Finally, go and read about Douglas. He spent the last weeks of his life and the last of his political currency helping Lincoln save the Union. Politics and philosophy are too important to be bandied about by the under-educated. Politics is the art of the deal and the possible.

It strikes me as even odder that you attempted to squeeze Putin and Crimea into this. Russia requires a warm water port. The people of Western Europe are really happy that Russian oil keeps them warm in the winter. Do you imagine that our NATO allies who did not have enough skill to bomb a mad dictator out of Libya a few summers back are in any great hurry to march off to war to free the Ukraine? Putin is a reprehensible bully but he ain’t no dummy. In taking advantage of our weaknesses he has strengthened his country’s economic and strategic position.

Be careful how you define good and always remember whose good is under scrutiny.  

Matthew Vernau


Publican’s thoughtful response to one of PETA’s pro-vegan billboards that went up near its restaurant and butcher shop in Chicago has opened up a meaningful dialogue. Publican is obviously concerned with reducing animals’ suffering. But people who buy organic or free-range animal products because they think that the animals are treated well have unfortunately been duped by clever marketing.

Many organic and free-range farms cram thousands of animals together in sheds or mud-filled lots. And the animals often suffer through the same mutilations that occur on factory farms, such as debeaking, dehorning and castration, all without painkillers.

And, as Publican recognizes, these animals “are slaughtered. There IS a death.” The animals are shipped to the same slaughterhouses used by factory farms. They are hung upside-down and their throats are cut, often while they are still conscious and struggling to escape. Some are still conscious when their bodies are hacked apart. Though the desire to purchase “humane meat” is admirable, there really is no such thing.

Michelle Kretzer
The PETA Foundation
Norfolk, Va.

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