Lincoln memorial

A few of us now decrepit pre-Reagan “conservatives” can remember the brief flicker of hope of saving the republic that we had around 1980. Around about that time we were heartened by the founding of the Washington Times, which, it was thought, might become an effective foe of the mainstream media—despite its connection with the vile Moonie cult. Like everything else in the spurious “Reagan Revolution,” the Times was soon just another firing post of the disguised (but non-spurious) Trotskyite revolution of Neoconservatism.

I suppose the paper has had a few good reporters and done some minor good here and there, but our naive hopes died aborning. The first editorial page editor, William Cheshire, a man of integrity, quickly learned that no professional could tolerate the position. I had long known Cheshire, my fellow Tar Heel. In the early days, before he resigned in disgust, he offered Yours Truly a job as editorial writer. I was in no position to make a move at the time. I suggested my Chapel Hill friend Sam Francis. The rest, as they say, is history.

Obviously, any hopes that we had for the Times were over when the neocon third-stringers who controlled the paper fired Sam Francis, one of the few intelligent, learned, principled, and honest writers they had. In fact, the only writer on the Times’s editorial page who had anything to say other than Republican boilerplate.

I remembered this when someone sent me a link to the Washington Times’s Lincoln Day editorial (unsigned). This silly exercise in fantasy pretending to be serious commentary would be a D- paper in any respectable freshman history class.

The readers are told that there have been two occasions when “the very existence of the United States was in grave doubt.” The first time we were saved by the Founding Fathers and the second time by Lincoln. This is to skip over the minor consideration that the existence of the United States was not in doubt when the Founders acted—because the United States did not exist in the way this writer means. That is why they are called Founders. (The Founders did not create the United States either. The United States was created by the American spirit of liberty and self-government and the thirteen free and independent States that already existed when they acted.)

Interestingly, in light of some discussion that has gone on on this site in regard to Lincoln’s reading, we are told that his treasured books were the Bible, Shakespeare, the Constitution, and the Statutes of the United States. This is a lawyer’s arsenal, not a statesman’s.

Our editor goes on to quote someone named Michael Beschloss, “perhaps America’s most noted historian.” I am considered a bit of a historian myself, but I have to admit I have never before heard or seen the name of Mr. Beschloss. There follows a long barf-making quotation from Carl Sandburg, whose name is misspelled by the way—which illustrates the folly of our pervasive Lincoln worship better than any critic can possibly do.

Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as rock and as soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.


And then we reach the peroration of this learned editorial: “Thank God for Abraham Lincoln. May our nation always be worthy of him.” Well, Mr. Washington Times pundit, the way things are going you don’t have to worry about that.

Clyde Wilson

Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina where he was the editor of the multivolume The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the M.E. Bradford Distinguished Chair at the Abbeville Institute. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews and is co-publisher of, a source  for unreconstructed Southern books.

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