Magazine article The American Conservative

GW and George W

Magazine article The American Conservative

GW and George W

Article excerpt

On that day we now celebrate as Presidents Day, our 43rd president took Marine One down to Mount Vernon to pay homage to our first president. Excellent idea.

It's time we junked Presidents Day and restored the Father of our Country to his rightful place of honor as "first in the hearts of his countrymen" by restoring Washington's Birthday. Progress is being made. The morning Bush choppered down the Potomac, the Washington Post came out for replacing Presidents Day-with Washington-Lincoln Day.

Well, we are halfway there. While Washington remains the least divisive great American, Lincoln-undeniably a giant-yet remains among the most controversial. Even the Post concedes that Father Abraham "perhaps ... exceeded the limits of presidential power."

Lincoln became a virtual dictator, suspended habeas corpus; locked up editors; sought to arrest the chief justice; unleashed Sherman and Sheridan to ravage Georgia, South Carolina, and the Shenandoah, taking war beyond the set bounds of civilized nations. The curse of slavery was lifted from the land, but Lincoln did not fight the war to end slavery. In his First Inaugural, to appease the seceding states, he endorsed a 13th Amendment to make slavery permanent and offered federal assistance in running down fugitive slaves.

In the Washington, D.C. in which this writer was raised, Lincoln's birthday was separate and celebrated Feb. 12, but not on the south side of the river. There they had Lee-Jackson Day.

Simple restoration of the national holiday to honor the greatest and most unifying figure in our history, George Washington, is surely a matter on which even this polarized nation can agree. And if the Post wants a joint holiday, why not twin Lincoln's Birthday with that of Dr. King, and call it King Lincoln Day?

In his tribute to "the first George W.," Mr. Bush, however, did slip in a passage that rang hollow, seeking to conscript the great man in a cause from which he would have recoiled: this war in Iraq.

"And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone. He once wrote, 'My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom.'"

As President Bush surely knows, the quote his writers dug up for him less represents the beliefs of the Father of our Country than his Farewell Address, the greatest state paper in American history. …

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