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“Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension,” Abraham Lincoln said on March 4, 1861.
“I am here to preserve the peace and honor of this State, until the rightful government is seated — whichever it may be, it is not for me to say. But it is for me to see that the laws of this state are put into effect, without fraud, without force, but with calm thought and purpose. I am here for that, and I shall do it,” Joshua Chamberlain said on Jan. 15, 1880.
Those are quotes from two of the greatest Republicans in our nation’s proud history.
They should resonate today.
In 1861, the election of Lincoln tore apart the United States. Not because of Lincoln himself, but rather because an unhinged minority believed they faced an imminent threat having lost an election.
Meanwhile, 1880 brought a struggle in Augusta. The election of 1879 saw an apparent Republican sweep in the Maine State House. But Democratic Gov. Alonzo Garcelon undertook certain chicancery to reach his desired result — a “Democratic/Greenback” majority.
Violence seemed nigh.
Five years prior to the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, violence rocked the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Preston Brooks attacked Republican Sen. Charles Sumner.
Tensions ran high.
And, following his election, Lincoln was faced with “a great Civil War,” where Americans were set against each other in violence. Maine answered his call, sending thousands of its young men to the front. One of them was Joshua Chamberlain.
You probably know his story.
The Union prevailed. The South, while defeated, was brought back into the fold. Lincoln asked a nearby band to play “Dixie,” an anthem of the south.
Chamberlain — and ye boys from Maine — came home. Many were adorned with our nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
Chamberlain went on to ably serve as a GOP governor, retiring to his Brunswick home.
Yet, when Garcelon’s hijinx led to threatened violence, Chamberlain stepped forth. And he placed himself between the mob and the capitol in Augusta, to ensure that the law was enforced.
These examples of our past should remain models today. And if anyone today wishes to count themselves as a Republican, these are the examples worthy of emulation.
Wednesday’s mob scene in Washington was vile. “Protestors” carried the Confederate Battle Flag into the Capitol Building, a feat not even Robert E. Lee achieved. A symbol of an armed military force that Mainers fought was carried by those allegedly supporting a Republican.
Lincoln and Chamberlain would both be aghast.
On Jan. 20, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. He’s a Democrat. Following the Georgia run-off, he will lead the country backed by a Democratic Congress.
For those on the right, this is disappointing. But the fear is overwrought. In Lincoln’s words, “there has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension.”
As Trump prepares to leave the White House, the future of the Grand Old Party is unclear. Does it follow the outgoing president as he moves onto whatever comes next, abandoning its past in favor of a figurehead? Or does it undergo another round of reform and return to its heritage reflecting the best of America?
Only time will tell.
Brooks’ violence in the capitol against Sumner helped the Republican Party coalesce into a formidable force, ultimately resulting in Lincoln’s election. 2021’s violence in the capitol saw a woman lose her life.
Hopefully it was not in vain. Because, again with Lincoln’s famous words, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Yet, less famously, he ended that speech on a hopeful note. “The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.”
Here’s to standing firm, ye all from Maine.