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To the Editor:
Aaron D. Wolf’s essay in “Defense” of “Southern Symbols” (“Southern Symbols: Not in Memoriam, but (Once Again) in Defense,” AQ, Winter 2018) went well beyond its stated intention, blaming Abraham Lincoln for setting into motion the centralization of federal power that was really the work of the Progressives, who rejected our sixteenth president’s principles root and branch.
I was prepared to give Wolf’s thesis a sympathetic response, as there is nothing to admire in the mindless destruction of Confederate statues. Had Wolf paid more attention to Lincoln’s forgiving spirit and less time distorting the House Divided Speech he would have merited a respectful attention.
But by taking three words--“all one thing”--completely out of context from Lincoln’s famous 1858 speech accepting the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate against Democrat Stephen Douglas, he tries to make better mileage than his weakly argued case could.
The political and moral context of Lincoln’s...