Abolishing Slavery! Illinois and the 13th Amendment – by Daniel Sheridan

Today (December 6) is the anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery. Here’s the very short story.

Congress passed the 13th Amendment in early 1865 (watch the movie Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis). President Lincoln signed it on February 1, and then the Amendment went to the States for ratification. The Amendment reads,

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Senator Lyman Trumbull from Illinois, a co-author of the Amendment, telegraphed Illinois Governor Richard J. Oglesby moments after President Lincoln approved the Amendment, earnestly encouraging the legislature of the President’s home state to be the first to ratify. Oglesby urged the legislature, saying,

“It is just, it is constitutional, it is right to do so.”

Illinois ratified it that very day, becoming the first state to do so. During that same session, the horrible “Black Laws,” which had been in force since the state’s birth, were also repealed.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution became part of our Nation’s governing document on December 6, 1865.

“Not without thy wondrous story, Illinois, Illinois,

Can be writ the Nation’s glory, Illinois, Illinois…”

Reformation Day

While chewing your Halloween candy, please take a few minutes and chew on this. Your religious liberty is the result of what occurred 506 years ago today!

Reformation Day

Don’t Give Up the Ship!

#OTD, June 1, 1813, an American Navy Captain, as he lay dying, shouts out his heroic final command, which becomes the rallying cry of his countrymen. Who was he? What was his command? Here’s the story.

Don’t Give Up the Ship!

The United States Navy was in its infancy during the War of 1812. Although it suffered defeats, it achieved some brilliant victories. For example, Captain James Lawrence, who commanded the Hornet, captured the British brig called the Peacock, after which he took command of the Chesapeake.

Then, on June 1, 1813, while refitting the Chesapeake at Boston, Captain Phillip Bloke of the British Frigate Shannon was lying just off the harbor. He sent a message to Captain Lawrence, challenging him to a naval duel. Captain Lawrence was at a significant disadvantage:

First, he recently discharged some of his crew. 

Second, those still on board hadn’t been paid and were near mutiny. 

Third, these remaining men only had a few weeks of training. 

Finally, the Chesapeake was partially disabled. 

The situation was grim. However, the brave Captain accepted the challenge and headed to sea with his half-busted ship and untrained crew.

The Chesapeake didn’t fare well. The British took advantage and boarded her. Bloody hand-to-hand combat followed. All officers onboard were killed or wounded, including Captain Lawrence. As he lay dying, covered in blood, the dying Captain issued his final heroic order:

“Don’t Give Up The Ship!”

Unfortunately, the crew couldn’t fulfill the command as the British overpowered them. However, Captain Lawrence’s words became the rallying cry of his countrymen, inspiring a turn in the tide of the war just a few months after his death.

Inspired by Words

There was the dangerous possibility that the British could take possession of the Great Lakes, enabling them to send troops across Lake Erie to occupy American soil. The American Captain Oliver H. Perry gathered a fleet of nine armed vessels, five of which his men built out of timber on the banks of the lake. Perry manned the flag-ship Lawrence, named after the fallen hero. The crew of the Lawrence hoisted a flag with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship” woven on it. Do you have chills? Can you guess where this is going? 

With the Lawrence leading the way, the American Navy met a British fleet on Lake Erie, and a hot battle ensued. The Lawrence sank. Perry escaped the wreckage with his twelve-year-old brother, and together they rowed in a small vessel right through the thick of the battle for another ship. The rowboat took heavy fire, and bullets shredded Perry’s little brother’s hat. They made it to another boat and led the fleet to Victory!

Perry sent this message to General Harrison, who was defending Ohio:

“We have met the enemy, and they are ours!” 

The battle was a turning point, and the British never rechallenged the Old Northwest. Captain Lawrence and his men courageously faced overwhelming odds and perished, but their example inspired the American Navy to turn the tide of the war.

King Saul The Lovely

two silver chess pieces on white surface

King Saul The Lovely – By Daniel W. Sheridan

“The beauty of Israel is slain…tell it not in Gath…lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice…Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no…rain, upon you…for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away…Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided…Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul…” 2 Samuel 1:19-23

The Apostle Paul, the famous minister to the Gentiles, was named after the first king of Israel, Saul. King Saul is infamous to many, and some of these go so far as to consign Saul to the nightmarish orthodox “hell.” Saul did some foolish things, to be sure; he didn’t keep his word, pursued David, tried to kill him a few times, almost killed Jonathan, disobeyed God regarding Amalek, and, worst of all, consulted a medium! All bad. But his whole life wasn’t bad. In the Scriptures quoted above, King David said, “Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives.”

David praised the man who persecuted him, calling him “lovely.” Saul had some terrible moments, evil moments, but David never mentions any of those! He didn’t let Saul’s temporary lapses, though many, define his whole life. Saul didn’t rejoice in iniquity, but he, motivated by love, bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things regarding Saul. Look at the string of verses quoted above. Notice the following points:

  1. David calls the man who tried to kill him “beautiful.”
  2. After Saul falls on the battlefield, David commands that the news not be published lest his enemies rejoice. He issued an executive decree stifling the liberty of the press on this event.
  3. David wanted the place where Saul died to be wiped off the map. He didn’t want a permanent reminder of his death.
  4. David remembers Saul as lovely and pleasant.
  5. David calls upon the women in Israel to mourn with him over Saul.

How refreshing to read such an account of love, loyalty, and friendship in a world where people become eternally offended and sever ties over the pettiest things.

Let us be as gracious as David. David, after all, had his evil moments too, and so do we. Paul’s message of grace and love is anticipated from David’s actions regarding Saul (Paul’s other name was Saul). For “charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth…Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” – The Apostle Paul, a.k.a. SAUL of Tarsus, the former persecutor of God’s people.

Jamestown: The Beginning of the American Experiment

On May 13, 1607, the English colonists landed near the James River in Virginia.

Nations have risen and fallen throughout world history. In the late 1500s, there was another attempt to build a nation. This one was unique. If we could travel back to 1607 Jamestown, the first permanent settlement in America, we wouldn’t notice anything special. Their boats weren’t much better than the ones Columbus sailed on or crossed the Mediterranean 1000 years before that. Their tools weren’t much of an upgrade – their shovels, axes, and hoes were similar to the ones used in ancient China and Egypt; their farming methods were also hoary with age; the same for their clothes and medicines.

At first, it didn’t look like Jamestown would make any progress. Of the first 9,000 settlers, only around 1,000 survived. What made Jamestown unique was its potential. They came from Europe, where Governments controlled economics, politics, and religion. But in the new world, although they imitated those old world bad habits, they were in a position to make improvements.

Economic Improvements

Economically, the early settlers weren’t completely free to develop their talents. Jamestown tried a form of communism, or corporatism, which was a miserable failure. They replaced that system with free enterprise, and things improved.

Political Improvements

The colonists also made improvements politically. In the summer of 1619, the first representative assembly in America, where people created laws through their chosen representatives, gathered for the first time, marking the birthday of America’s free institutions.

Religious Improvements

At first, political leaders vigorously controlled religion in Jamestown. But, eventually, over time, Americans would win their freedom in this area too. Thomas Jefferson helped write a bill establishing religious liberty, which he considered one of the most significant accomplishments in his life.

We’ve Come A Long Way

Look how far we’ve advanced economically, politically, and religiously since Jamestown. We went from sailing in the uncomfortable and small Speedwell to enormous luxury Cruise liners, from Monarchy to the Representative Republic, from state-forced religion to freedom to worship.

We may regress if we’re not careful. We are never more than one untaught generation from losing our liberties. Where are we today? Our best days can still be ahead of us as they were for the folks in Jamestown. But we, like them, must work hard to maintain our heritage and pass it on to the next generation.

Our best days can be ahead of us!