Now scrolling: The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

She was up to her ears in it

Even into the 21st Century, advocates of Mary Surratt keep hoping that evidence will surface proving her final words on the gallows to be true: "I am innocent."

But those hoping for her exoneration will be disappointed by Kate Clifford Larson’s book, Assassin’s Accomplice. Larson, initially setting out to prove Surratt’s innocence, became more convinced of her complicity in the course of researching the book. Though wisely leaving the bigger questions unanswered, Larson’s overall pronouncement is – guilty as charged.

I guess it is hard to believe that you could host a series of meetings at your boardinghouse and never once wonder what your son and his handsome friend were up to.

Larson unearths some careful evidence to back up her claims, but never loses that curious respect that we all seem to acquire for Mary Surratt. She points out that Surratt was one of the 19th Century’s true feminists. She embraced Catholicism against her family’s wishes, survived an abusive marriage to an alcoholic husband, raised her children virtually alone, ran her own business, became totally sold out to the Confederate cause, took a man’s risk in a dangerous adventure and accepted a man’s punishment for it. Like Belle Starr, she captures our imagination.

Interesting how Lincoln seemed to have trouble with women named Mary. But if her boardinghouse really was the nest that hatched the egg of the assassination plot, as Johnson claimed it was when refusing her pardon, then surely her death provided the first opportunity for a divided nation to agree on anything. Most people wanted her life spared and were surprised when it wasn’t – right up to the hangman who thought the rope he made for her would never be used.

1 comment:

librarian666 said...

How trag-hilarious!! Golly, I miss your gallows humour, my dear. So you think that Mary S. did it and not the Canadian government? I always love a big conspiracy theory. I suppose it was a lucky amateur job, with a bunch of crazed hicks, mostly Marylanders!

It seems that Lincoln deserved to be killed by better people. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. ;)