January 10, 2009

The "glum and strained and limited phrases" of the Emancipation Proclamation remind us that Lincoln "was a lifelong martyr to constipation."

Says Christopher Hitchens.

22 comments:

Michael H said...

Hitchens speaks as an expert, of course.

ricpic said...

I suppose Hitchens is disappointed that the Emancipation Proclamation was not written in an incendiary manner ala his hero, Tom Paine.

What Hitchens can't get his head around, because he doesn't have the head to get around it, is that Lincoln had a tragic sensibility.

kynefski said...

Is it appropriate, under weblogger etiquette, to link to the second page of an online essay when the intent is only to diminish the writer?

Could be it is. I'm just asking.

traditionalguy said...

Honest Abe was a commited abolishionist. However he could not find enough people in the northern states willing to fight a war as a solution to The South's peculiar institution. He was in fact a brilliant trial lawyer who knew what he could sell and what he could never put over. Once he had the bloody war was well under way "to preserve the Union", and after Antietam made hopes for a victory rise in the North, he struct his opportune blow in a reserved language that Hitchens now believes was from bad digestion. But remember that until 8/30/1864 there seemed NO HOPE for Lincoln"s re-election running against McClellan who simply planned to declare victory and let the South go and keep their slaves. A final bold manoever by Sherman, stalled at Atlanta, finished with a 2 day battle at Jonesboro, Ga after which the confederate army abandoned their Atlanta fortfications. Only then did the North decide to claim its victory and keep Lincoln. You can honestly state that Gen.Sherman's Army made of Mid-western farm boys freed the slaves rather than the political Proclamation made in 1863 by Honest Abe.The South therefore properly still hates Sherman -- not Lincoln.

paul a'barge said...

Wow. Just wow. Christopher Hitchens is describing someone else as constipated?

Christopher Hitchens is the Dubai Tower of constipation.

Just wow.

Chip Ahoy said...

Eeeeeew, that bastard, that imported bastard, how dare he make denigrating comments on our documents.

* reads Emancipation Proclamation *

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the * grunt * year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred * uuuuuugh * and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President * strain * of the United States, containing, among * uuuuuuugh * other things, the following, to wit:

Oh. Wait, I guess he's right.

Original George said...

Good piece on Presidents' writing ability by Jonathan Raban in today's WSJ, which includes these tasty Lincoln bits:

On slavery: "If I saw a venomous snake crawling in the road, any man would say I might seize the nearest stick and kill it; but if I found that snake in bed with my children, that would be another question. [Laughter.] I might hurt the children more than the snake, and it might bite them. [Applause.] Much more, if I found it in bed with my neighbor's children, and I had bound myself by a solemn compact not to meddle with his children under any circumstances, it would become me to let that particular mode of getting rid of the gentleman alone. [Great laughter.] But if there was a bed newly made up, to which the children were to be taken, and it was proposed to take a batch of young snakes and put them there with them, I take it no man would say there was any question how I ought to decide! [Prolonged applause and cheers.]"

....In 1858, describing those who stubbornly opposed the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, he came up with this marvelous sentence: "Though they blazed, like tallow-candles for a century, at last they flickered in the socket, died out, stank in the dark for a brief season, and were remembered no more, even by the smell."

And Teddy Roosevelt: "Then I heard a twig snap; and my blood leaped, for I knew the bear was at his supper."

Short, simple words. Strong verbs.

jdeeripper said...

paul a'barge said...Wow. Just wow. Christopher Hitchens is describing someone else as constipated?

Christopher Hitchens is the Dubai Tower of constipation.


If only. Hitchens is plagued with diarrhea of the mouth and typing fingers.

The Man Who Made Us Whole

Whatchyou mean us, limey!

I can't stand it when all these overbearing foreign freaks set themselves up as spokesmen for "us".

Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, Ariana Huffington. Fareed Zakaria. You aint "us". You're Eurotrash taking up space in my country.

chickenlittle said...

geez ripper, lighten up a bit. You sound ready to starting lighting the ovens.

I read Hitchens' phrase "lifelong martyr to constipation" and was instantly reminded of Lytton Strachey in Carrington: "I'm a martyr to the piles." I'm sure Hitchens would squirm in his seat to hear that comparison. :)

Mark O said...

I believe Hitchens may be coprophagic. What better way to be full of it?

Ah, the War of Northern Aggression.

Donna B. said...

The comments are confusing me here... am I supposed to think Hitchens was dissing Lincoln, think Hitchens is a bad writer, think Lincoln wasn't constipated or that Hitchen's either is constipated or has diarrhea?

The article did not portray Lincoln in a bad light. I thought it praised him, but praised him as a man of great insight and achievement not as a godlike persona.

What did I miss?

oh, and traditionalguy -- those Mid-western farmboys were accompanied by a number of Alabama farm boys who took the opportunity to get a little revenge on the confederates for burning their homes and farms.

Sherman's tactics and the actions of some of the farmboys would not be allowed today, would they?

Licoln might not have been re-elected, but I still think the war would have turned out about the same way. In my revisionist history world, Lincoln is re-elected and Reconstruction doesn't split the Union psychically apart for 100 years.

The South hates Sherman still, of course. But the damage was done in not allowing the South to recover and rejoin the Union as "equals".

kynefski said...

The comments are confusing me here...

It's Christopher Hitchens. Don't you get it?

Neither do I, but apparently they do.

Tibore said...

I think the word people here are looking for to describe Hitchens' act is "projection".

chuck b. said...

Well, this does nothing but remind me that I would like to read Lincoln and decide for myself about constipation.

I was obsessed with Sherman for years. I've read him and his biography. Sherman, Sherman, Sherman. I've toured the house he stayed in when he reached Savannah.

Has anyone been to Savannah? The USA's most beautiful city--it truly is. Just absolutely amazing. What a place Savannah is. I mean, just go there. Just go. Walk. Walk the grid. Up and down, north to south, and then do it again east to west. Do it in the day, and then do it again at night. Bring your camera.

What an amazing place, unlike any other place. I heart Savannah.

chuck b. said...

Atlanta, on the other hand is hideous. Blech. What a mess. Let the kudzu swallow that whole mess into the ground.

Obvious Man said...

Constipation, excrement, sex toys, and fat. It is a banner day on the Althouse blog!

Paging Dr. Freud.

chuck b. said...

I'm dying for a bodily fluids post!!!

kynefski said...

Atlanta, on the other hand is hideous.

OK, Atlanta is not an attractive place, but I have to defend its citizens. The few times I've been there, I've felt more welcome than in most US cities.

Locksmith Mesa said...

Argh! I really don't get it!

locksmith mesa

Tibore said...

Derail alert!

"I was obsessed with Sherman for years. I've read him and his biography. Sherman, Sherman, Sherman. I've toured the house he stayed in when he reached Savannah."

It's a shame he's only remembered for his "March to the Sea" campaign. I find his conduct towards his men exemplary, amazing, and worthy of further study and (I hope!) emulation by today's military leaders. What's less known about him is that often, well after the Civil War, he'd often do favors, and go so far as to reach into his own pocket to help out former soldiers in his command who were down on their luck. Sometimes the term "soldier's soldier" is misused (like "player's coach"), but I believe it very much applies in his case.

SaysMeow said...

From Sherman's autobiography, as he takes up a new line of work in Kansas in 1858:

"Although in the course of my military reading I had studied a few of the ordinary law books, such as Blackstone, Kent, Starkie, etc., I did not presume to be a lawyer...Yet, as my name was to be embraced in a law-firm, it seemed to me proper to take out a license. Accordingly, one day when United States Judge Lecompte was in our office, I mentioned the matter to him; he told me to go down to the clerk of his court, and he would give me the license. I inquired what examination I would have to submit to, and he replied, 'None at all;' he would admit me on the ground of general intelligence."

bearbee said...

I can't stand it when all these overbearing foreign freaks set themselves up as spokesmen for "us".

Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, Ariana Huffington. Fareed Zakaria. You aint "us". You're Eurotrash taking up space in my country


Sheeesh.... Am I more of an American because I was born here (eternally grateful first generation) and Hitchens less of an American because he merely chose to emigrate from one free country to another (thus far) and chose to become American citizen?

While his reference to a " lifelong martyr to constipation" seems strangely out of context, he describes a brilliant and intellectually inquiring Lincoln, wiling to break with traditional thought, growing and subscribing to ideas not yet generally known and accepted. He also describes Lincoln as politician - courageous, calculating and pragmatic.

So is there a reason why Hitchens chose to write this piece now?