Our Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and the Civil War Era

By Stephen B. Oates | Go to book overview

NINE
GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY

He who invokes history is always secure," Czeslaw Milosz once observed, for "the dead will not rise to witness against him." In our time, a number of American politicians, activists, and commentators have invoked the history of the frontier and the immutable "lessons" it furnishes us today. One can find plenty of lyrical references to the frontier —and the romantic, two-fisted heroes who conquered it—in Paul Harvey's radio newscasts, in John Wayne's public utterances and his remarkable interview in Playboy Magazine, and in the speeches and writings of western Republicans like Ronald Reagan. In their individual ways, these self-styled conservatives dredge up the "lessons" of the Old West not only to justify their political philosophy, but to vindicate their crusade against liberal "do-gooders" and paternalistic government. In truth, all of them view Big Government as one of the chief villains in the modern- American scenario, and all are out to gun down what they regard as Big Government's most contemptible offspring: Welfare, Civil Rights, and Business Regulation. These, the conservatives contend, have done much to destroy those immortal freedoms our frontier forefathers passed on to us—initiative, rugged individualism, and free enterprise—and to surrender the United States to Communism. In his radio histrionics, Chicago's Paul Harvey blasts away at all signs of socialism in the United States and lectures his fellow Americans for selling out their glorious pioneer heritage. Ronald Reagan, for his part, charges that the liberals, in their "remote and massive strong-arming from afar," are out to obliterate "the unique powers of the individual and his personal

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Our Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and the Civil War Era
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • One Styron's War Against the Blacks 1
  • Two God's Stone in the Pool of Slavery 9
  • Three John Brown and His Judges 22
  • Four Modern Radicals and John Brown 43
  • Five the Enigma of Stephen A. Douglas 52
  • Six Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation 61
  • Seven the Long Shadow of Lincoln 86
  • Eight Carl Sandburg's Lincoln 99
  • Nine Ghost Riders in the Sky 112
  • Ten Themes and Variations of a Civil War Trilogy 121
  • References 130
  • Index 144
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