January 20, 2009

Historical Irony of Abraham Lincoln's Bible

Most of you know by now that Abraham Lincoln's Bible will be used at the inauguration of Barack Obama. The swearing in is the responsibility of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.

But do you know the name of the Chief Justice who held this bible and swore in Abraham Lincoln?

He was Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, most remembered for the Dred Scott decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford. In this infamous decision by our highest court, Taney stated that Blacks were "a subordinate and inferior class of beings" who have "none of the rights and privileges" of citizens of the United States. "Slaves were property". This famous decision outraged and polarized Americans and is considered a major cause of the Civil War.

Taney thus held this Bible as he passed on the power of the President to Lincoln who ultimately freed the slaves. It is pretty interesting that this same Bible will be used to inaugurate our first African American President.

8 comments:

Renee said...

For me the greatest problem is the ways in which we have ignored the fact that even though Lincoln was the president who freed the slaves he ultimately did not hold blacks in high esteem. At one point he wanted to ship all blacks back to Africa. The emancipation proclamation did not end slavery across the United States it only freed slaves in the rebelling states. Does this really seem like a man who whole heartedly believed his own rhetoric? I am not denying that Lincoln did great things I just believe that we should temper our praise of him with a little bit of historical accuracy. The constant linking of Obama with this man is wrong. On a historical moment like the inauguration of the first black man we should be even more vigilant about speaking accurately about the history of blacks in the US. Revisionist history may make some people more comfortable but it delegitimizes the scope of the struggle of POC.

Theo J. said...

Being a native Texan, I learned early on that Emancipation Proclamation's reach took a little longer to get to our state. The comparisons between Lincoln and Obama are getting on my nerves. I hope after the inauguration is over we can move past the comparisons.

Villager said...

Renee - The linking of Abe Lincoln to Barack Obama is being suggested by Obama himself. He announced for his presidency at the same place Lincoln announced. Obama is the one who chose to use Lincoln's bible. Both entered their presidency from serving the people of Illinois in Congress. None of us are as great as our greatest moments ... Lincoln included. However, regardless of his motives ... it was Abe Lincoln that signed the paper that ended formal chattel slavery. I give him props for that action...

Villager said...

Theo - My hope is that Obama sets a standard that causes other presidents to be compared to him!

SjP said...

Historical irony in deed. As one of my profs use to say, I'm finding myself "cogitating copiously" about the Lincoln - Obama connection. It can certainly be argued about Lincoln's intent with the penning of the Emancipation as well as what it did or did not do. But no one can argue that that document will be forever linked to the history of this country. While, I myself, have had "issues" with Obama's infinity with Lincoln since he announced his candidacy - it is very clear that both Lincoln and Obama shared the same goal. That goal being to preserve the Nation. Even Dr. King pointed out Lincoln's inconsistency with respect to the issue of slavery and slaves as did Lincoln himself.

But, one thing I have learned about our new President over these last 2 years is that he's smarter than most of us and much more complex. The last few days leading up to today have served as lessons in both civics and history. Obama has challenged us all these past days to cogitate copiously and to not take anything at face value. So, I wonder if in his use of the Lincoln Bible that was held in the hand of the Chief Justice who stated that Blacks were "a subordinate and inferior class of beings" who have "none of the rights and privileges" of citizens of the United States might not be somewhat of a "tongue and cheek" move on Obama's part.

I agree that it is very interesting that this same Bible will be used to inaugurate Barack Obama - our first Black President - who is both African and American. Now to me, that I say BOOYAH! In your face!. Yes! Today is a day of much historical irony...and I'm loving it!

Villager said...

Sojourner - I appreciate you for your comments. You've said alot ... and the thing I enjoyed the most was realizing that Obama is making our nation COGITATE (think) ... which is so different from the dumbing down policy of past presidents...

DNLee said...

That is an interesting irony. and the Obama-Linciln thing -- c'mon, It's all about Illinois.

Villager said...

DN Lee - The state of Illinois has definitely been in the news quite abit lately. I imagine that it will continue when the Blagojevich impeachment trial gets underway next month...