Archive for the ‘American politics’ Category

Prostitution Banned During Obama Events, But in Lincoln’s Time….

January 19, 2009

You invite a couple of million of your closest friends to the biggest bash your town has ever thrown. You extend bar hours nearly till dawn. You import thousands of cops to keep the streets safe. You commandeer every bit of paved surface you can think of to accommodate innumerable buses packed with visitors.

And then you plaster the street lamp poles in a central part of the city with big red signs “WARNING” all that “This area has been declared a PROSTITUTION FREE ZONE.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

By Marc Fisher
The Washington Post

Now, maybe I’m not reading this the way your average tourist or Obama supporter would, but to me, this sign–one of a whole bunch D.C. police have posted between 4th and 5th streets NW from Eye to L streets–means that everywhere the signs aren’t, prostitution is just fine and dandy.

Read the rest:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/
2009/01/welcome_to_inauguration_island.html

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In The Lincoln Presidency, House Of Ill Repute Stood on the Mall

By John E. Carey

Millions of Americans are in Washington DC to participate in the events of the New Obama Presidency.

May have enjoyed comparisons to Lincoln, and walked over the site of the finest Washington DC whore house ever.
Mary Ann Hall catered to the nation’s elite in Washington as the proprietor of the capital’s best brothel during the Civil War.

Located just three blocks from the U.S. Capitol on Maryland Avenue on what now is part of the Mall, her house, a three-story structure nearly the size of a city block, included parlors, an elegant dining room and, almost assuredly, the most attractive of the city’s estimated 5,000 “soiled doves.”

Prostitution was not a crime in the 19th century, and any concentration of troops during the Civil War attracted flocks of “camp followers” who were available for a price. Women often would show up after battles and offer their services to the generals as nurses. The “nursing,” however, frequently became an open door to those less honest and caring, and when armies experienced theft, prostitution and other less traditional forms of nursing, generals sometimes rejected offers of female help.

Houses of prostitution were fairly common in America’s larger cities, and Washington had as many as 450 entertainment venues on the “wilder side.” The presence of affluent politicians, lobbyists and the hierarchy of the government departments helped make Washington a man’s home away from home.

Elected representatives in those years did not routinely bring wives and families to Washington. Service in Congress was not necessarily even a full-time job. The city was hot and steamy. Nights could be filled with drinking, smoking, gambling and frolicking with willing companions of the gentler sex, far from the eyes of the electorate at home.

Mary Ann Hall took every opportunity to provide such indulgences. The throngs of men willing and able to pay her comparatively exorbitant rates deserved the best. Imported hats, dresses and perfume enhanced her staff. Magnums of champaign added an air of dignity, gentility and grace. Fine food filled the supper tables. Her real goal as hostess, however, was to supply attractive women.

The fashion of the time was an hourglass shape – an ample bosom and tiny waist – which not all women could achieve without corsets reinforced with steel belts called busks. Busks, champagne corks, fine china and combs to hold spectacular hair creations all have been excavated from the site where Hall’s house once stood. Historians and archaeologists believe the quality of these items shows the elegance Hall brought to her entertainment trade. Several of them, including rusted busks, have been preserved by the Smithsonian Institution.

Hall insisted on certain standards of decorum, and her house, which opened around 1837, flourished until it closed in 1878. She was never raided by police, was not the subject of public disgrace or even controversy and was never discussed in newspapers. Editors in those days believed that what was private should stay private. Unless a public figure disgraced himself so thoroughly that prosecution was in order, private excesses remained unreported.

Rep. Daniel E. Sickles of New York learned the limits the hard way. Rumors abounded in the late 1850s that he maintained close personal relationships with a variety of women. Though tongues wagged, his private pleasures never merited newspaper interest. Then, when he murdered his much-younger wife’s lover, Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key, who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner”- detailed accounts of the court proceedings made newspaper sales soar.

Sickles shoots Key in 1859 
Sickles shoots Key in 1859; from a newspaper

The 1859 trial and associated juicy details sold newspapers and became for a time the talk of Washington and New York. Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper printed 200,000 copies as the trial opened. Demand forced a second printing of 300,000. (During the Civil War, then-Gen. Sickles’ private indiscretions returned to the realm of private matters. After the war, despite routine and well-documented misbehavior, his private life remained taboo to journalists.)

Mary Ann Hall became a wealthy woman. She died in 1886 and was buried in Congressional Cemetery beneath a carved stone statue of herself.

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Ladies’ general

The slang word for prostitute, hooker, is generally thought to have originated during the Civil War. For generations, rumors claimed that Union Gen. “Fighting Joe” Hooker had inspired the nickname by his amorous relationships.


General Joe Hooker

There is, however, a recorded use of the word before the war, according to the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. The dictionary’s authors queried historian Bruce Catton, who agreed that the term came into use before the Civil War but that it became popular during the conflict. An area south of Constitution Avenue was known for its extracurricular activities and was referred to as “Hooker’s Division.” A Civil War officer, Charles Francis Adams Jr., referred to Hooker’s headquarters as “as place to which no self-respecting man likes to go, and no decent woman could go – a combination of barroom and brothel.”

Hooker should be remembered, however, for more than his moral laxities. He was wounded at Antietam and fought at Second Bull Run, and Lincoln made him commander of the Army of the Potomac after Ambrose Burnside’s disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg.

The Battle of Chancellorsville began well and ended badly for the 48-year-old West Point graduate, and just days before Gettysburg, Hooker asked to be relieved. The president appointed George Gordon Meade his successor as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to the Civil War page and The Washington Times.

http://civilwarstoriesofinspiration.wordpress.com/

Lincoln’s Top African American Advisor Recalled on Martin Luther King, Obama Days

January 19, 2009

On Martin Luther King Day and the day prior to the inauguration of the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama, it may be fitting to recall Frederick Douglass.

Douglass was Abraham Lincoln’s top African American advisor and he had permission to visit the president whenever he needed to.

Slave born and self educated, Douglass was the finest African American orator of his day — probably only equalled by Martin Luther King and Barack Obama years later.

By John E. Carey

To serious students of the Civil War, Frederick Douglass usually requires little introduction. Douglass excelled as a leader and role model. Slave, writer, accomplished orator, abolitionist, friend and advisor to Lincoln, Douglass spearheaded the movement to allow black men to enlist in the Union forces.

Douglass was the first African American ever invited to the White House (by Abraham Lincoln) and he coined the term “Ebony and Ivory” when he invited Stephen Douglas to debate slavery (Douglas demurred).

Douglass threw himself into the national debate with zeal and enthusiasm. He fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. Additionally, he complimented “talk” with action, managing an underground railroad that rescued hundreds and maybe even thousands of slaves by spiriting them into Canada.
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Frederick Douglass portrait.jpg
Frederick Douglass

Three turning points in Douglass’ fascinating life tell us much about the man who owns a unique place in American history. The first turning point came when John Brown tried to enlist Douglass, his powers of persuasion and his reputation into the Harper’s Ferry raid. Determining that the pacifists’ approach to abolition fostered by Douglass was not working, John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison set upon a more violent course of action. They wanted to enlist Douglass to help in their plan.In the very first issue of his anti-slavery newspaper, the Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison wrote, “I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. . . . I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

Douglass became enthralled with Garrison and the Liberator. “My soul was set on fire,” Douglass wrote of the paper. In 1839, Douglass began to write essays for the Liberator, which ultimately resulted in a long career of writing and speaking out against slavery. His newspaper notoriety made him a lightening rod for the abolitionist cause, and he became on the first truly nationally known black abolitionists.
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A former slave himself, Douglass had endured feeding from a trough, whippings and other humiliating privations. Douglass understood the plight of his fellow black men better than many others. His essays counted and white leaders in American took note.Even though Douglass and Garrison waged a public argument over the methods and tactics of achieving abolition, Douglass drew the attention of John Brown of Kansas.

Related:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITI
CS/01/18/obama.sunday/index.html

Brown believed that Douglass would like his idea to free slaves by attacking federal property in the deeply divided areas of Maryland and Virginia. Brown thought he could incite a revolt of slaves everywhere; and that Douglass might eagerly help him do just that.

In 1859, John Brown rented a farm near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and began planning his attack on Harper’s Ferry. He invited Douglass to a meeting in the hopes that he might recruit Douglass into the scheme.Douglass met with Brown in August, 1859.

John Brown, c.1856.

When Douglass heard the violent and illegal nature of Brown’s planned attack on the federal arsenal, Douglass knew that lawlessness would only alienate the support of the white community. This turning point marked Douglass as a moderate who refused to support violent or lawless opportunists in the cause of abolition.

Had Douglass become a part of Brown’s cabal, he certainly would have lost his standing with white abolition leaders and may have wound up alongside Brown on the gallows.At the outset of the Civil War, Douglass established two goals for his life: the emancipation of all the slaves in southern and border states and the establishment of the right of black men to enlist and serve in the Union Army. These goals would lead Douglass to two more turning points, both involving President Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln

Douglass launched what modern observers might call a “media blitz,” calling for the emancipation of the slaves. He created a pressure cooker, of sorts, for President Lincoln. Lincoln knew in his heart that Douglass was right to want the freedom of all the slaves, but agonizing defeats on the battlefield, rising casualty figures, and resistance to the draft caused Lincoln to balk. Lincoln didn’t want the emancipation controversy to become another reason for white northerners to take sides against the war.

But Douglass would not relent. Understanding well Lincoln’s political considerations, Douglass still believed emancipation must be achieved as soon as possible. This second turning point caused Douglass to kept up his pressure on the president. Douglass authored strongly worded published essays and gave innumerable speeches not directly attacking Lincoln but clearly supporting emancipation. And Lincoln relented: deciding he must free the slaves as soon as the Union Army turned back Lee’s forces at Antietam.

Frederick Douglass’ final turning point came when he became distressed at Lincoln’s failure to legalize the enlistment of black men into the Union Army after emancipation. If black men were free and full citizens, Douglass argued, they had the right and privilege of service in their nation’s military forces. They had the right to participate as combatants in their nation’s war.Douglass knew than emancipation was not his final goal. He wanted all black men to become citizens and he knew that the road to citizenship could come through service to the nation.

Said Douglass, “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.:Unable to contain his distress over Lincoln’s slow response on this issue, Douglass departed for Washington D.C. – and his third turning point. Douglass went to the White House to confront Lincoln over the issue of black enlistment.

Lincoln received the hostile Douglass in his usual dignified and gentlemanly manner. Lincoln explained that many of his generals expressed doubt about enlisting the black men.Although Douglass was not pleased with Lincoln’s response, Douglass experienced another turning point. He knew this was a time for cooperation and reconciliation. He left the White House with Lincoln’s promise to ultimately allow black men full rights and responsibilities in the Army. Lincoln asked for understanding and a little more time.

Douglass returned to Boston and a short time later became one of the best recruiters of black men into the Union Army.

Frederick Douglass inspired all men to greater things. His greatness can be seen in his turning points: the rejection of John Brown’s violence, his indefatigable refusal to give in on important issues such as emancipation, and his ability to reconcile and compromise with other leaders like Lincoln.

Douglass’ turning points allowed him to ultimately achieve all his objectives.On April 14, 1876, Frederick Douglass gave an oration in memory of Abraham Lincoln. Douglass’ words that day tell us much about both men:“Friends and fellow-citizens, the story of our presence here is soon and easily told. We are here in the District of Columbia, here in the city of Washington, the most luminous point of American territory; a city recently transformed and made beautiful in its body and in its spirit; we are here in the place where the ablest and best men of the country are sent to devise the policy, enact the laws, and shape the destiny of the Republic; we are here, with the stately pillars and majestic dome of the Capitol of the nation looking down upon us; we are here, with the broad earth freshly adorned with the foliage and flowers of spring for our church, and all races, colors, and conditions of men for our congregation–in a word, we are here to express, as best we may, by appropriate forms and ceremonies, our grateful sense of the vast, high, and preeminent services rendered to ourselves, to our race, to our country, and to the whole world by Abraham Lincoln.”

Frederick Douglass: a great American leader and achiever, shaped by his turning points.