A statue of Abraham Lincoln, dedicated in 1969, stands in Prospect Park. Lincoln is depicted holding the Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order that effectively freed the slaves in 1862 at the height of the Civil War. Lincoln said at the signing:
“I never in my life felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper…if my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.”
A few days ago, John Kelly, chief of staff for President Donald Trump, made remarks that essentially denied that slavery was the central focus of the Civil War, and insulted the legacy of Lincoln. He said: “…the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
In 1860, speaking in the Great Hall of Cooper Union, Lincoln addressed, specifically, the issue of false equivalence — and the moral necessity of recognizing right from wrong.
Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man…
It is not necessary to demonize those who fought on the side of the south — my great, great grandfather died on the battlefield at Vicksburg — believing, I presume, that he fought for a just cause. But it is time to acknowledge that veneration should be reserved for those who fought against slavery, not for it.