Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

November 11, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ASSASSINATIONS....In a comment responding to M.J. Rosenberg's post about right-wing Israeli extremists who venerate Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Matt Yglesias says:

It's hardly an original-to-me observation, but Amir really does seem like the rare assassin who actually managed to be quite effective at advancing his agenda.

I've heard that frequently myself, but is it true? John Wilkes Booth may not have saved the Confederacy, but in the longer term he was probably pretty effective — though I suppose you can always make the argument that things would eventually have turned out the same regardless of whether or not Lincoln had served out his second term. But that's cheating: if you take that view of history, then assassins are ineffective by definition and the game is over before it begins.

Part of the problem is that too often we don't even know assassins' motivations in the first place. Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan are ciphers. Ditto for James Earl Ray and Arthur Bremer, and Charles Guiteau had nothing more than a personal beef. Among famous American assassins, that leaves only Leon Czolgosz, who did have a motivation (justice for the working class) and pretty thoroughly failed to do anything about it.

[UPDATE: In comments, Will Divide points out that Teddy Roosevelt, though obviously no anarchist, was friendlier to business reform than McKinley. So Czolgosz may have done his cause some good after all.]

Gavrilo Princip? Serbia certainly didn't do well in the aftermath of WWI, but then again, neither did Austria-Hungary. Brutus? That didn't turn out as planned, did it? Ditto for Nikolai Rysakov et. al., though I suppose one might argue that in the long run they got what they wanted. Nathuram Godse? Hard to say. If his goal was eternal enmity between India and Pakistan, I suppose he got it. Christer Pettersson? Apparently there was no motivation at all.

So: who's the most successful assassin in history? That is, the one who most effectively advanced his stated goals? Is it Yigal Amir, or does someone have a good case to make for someone else?

UPDATE: Henry Farrell alerts me to what the heavy hitters in the academy have to say about this. First, Jones and Olken:

Using a new data set of assassination attempts on all world leaders from 1875 to 2004....We find that, on average, successful assassinations of autocrats produce sustained moves toward democracy. We also find that assassinations affect the intensity of small-scale conflicts.

Second, Iqbal and Zorn:

[A]n analysis of all assassinations of heads of state between 1952 and 1997....Our findings support the existence of an interactive relationship among assassination, leadership succession, and political turmoil: in particular, we find that assassinations' effects on political instability are greatest in systems in which the process of leadership succession is informal and unregulated.

So there you have it.

Kevin Drum 1:18 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (59)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Mark David Chapman did contrive to link his name to John Lennon's for as long as the latter's is remembered. The lesson here is perhaps that it's best to keep one's goals realistic.

Posted by: Rand Careaga on November 11, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Caligula's mother?

Posted by: Ben Brackley on November 11, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, I meant Nero's mother.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on November 11, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Does JFK count for Diem? W for Sadaam? What assassinations has the CIA pulled off? Anything effective anywhere?

Posted by: Martin on November 11, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Nice, morbid subject for a sunny weekend morning.

Posted by: Cap'n Phealy on November 11, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

In terms of windfalls, Guy Fawkes might have been the biggest assassin ever, though, considering the terrors that were visited upon British Catholics in the wake of his failed attempt, it's probably reasonable to say that successfully decapitating the government would have completely wiped out Catholicism -- and probably all Catholics -- in England.

Posted by: junebug on November 11, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

You know Kevin, I'm just sitting back and waiting for someone to claim Oswald didn't kill JFK, but was set up by, well everyone under the sun.

Posted by: TomStewart on November 11, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Alexander the Great ( or his mother Olympias, we're not sure which ) who assassinated his father, Philip of Macedon, clearing the way for Alexander's conquest of the world.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on November 11, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

As far I understand it, the goals of Princip's organization were the unification of the Serbs, Croats, Slovenes and other southern Slavic peoples under Serbian leadership. Which happened after World War I, at least for the next seventy or so years. Serbia didn't do so well during World War I, but it did fine in the immediate aftermath.

Posted by: Andrew Barham on November 11, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

McKinley had just been re-elected when Czolgosz shot him (though looking at what happened afterward, a strong case can be made that McKinley was killed by his doctors.) Roosevelt was considered a wacko by the GOP establishment, which was WAY more in line with what Mark Hanna had to offer them, and got the VP job to get him out of New York.

TR was a far greater champion of what's now called the working poor than McKinley, though he hated ararchists and tended to see labor activists through that lens.

McKinley's killed advanced a tide of reform, albeit short lived, that would have been impossible under McKinley and his pal Senator Hanna.

Posted by: Will Divide on November 11, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Ramon Mercader?
Khalid Islambouli?

Posted by: pbg on November 11, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

John Paul I?

Posted by: Wagster on November 11, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on November 11, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a little partial to the assassination of Rasputin by Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. The path of Russia with his hand on the wheel could have gone in a very Roveish direction.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on November 11, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Let's never forget how Dan White gave us Dianne Feinstein.

Maybe not exactly what he "intended" but he certainly was effective.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on November 11, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The assassination of Allende in Chile gave us Pinochet and a model for Social Security reform.

Go Chicago!

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on November 11, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

ETA's assassination of Admiral Carrero Blanco was the most effective one in modern times, bringing the Franco era to a complete stop.

Posted by: phil on November 11, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Sirhan Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian, dumbass.

Posted by: Hank Scorpio on November 11, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Japan: 1920s and 30s. The political assassins got pretty much what they wanted (those who assassinated business leaders, like Asahi Heigo's killing of Yasuda Zenjiro, weren't nearly as successful).
It just didn't turn out too well for everyone else.

Posted by: Alan on November 11, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Ignaty Grinevitsky killed Alexander II, the last reforming Czar, thus pretty much assuring the Russian Revolution. Hard to know what his exact goal was, but if it was bringing down the current Russian political order, he succeeded.

Posted by: jamie on November 11, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

If one accepts that JFK was killed by a conspiracy directed out of the US national security apparatus, then I'd say that was a politically successful assassination as well.

Posted by: Petey on November 11, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Unless Edwin Stanton actually was behind the assignation of Lincoln as alleged by substantial evidence.

Posted by: Avenger on November 11, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Who knows about the I, Claudius take on history, but Livia, the wife of Augustus the first emperor of Rome, comes to mind.

She is supposed to have murdered her own husband and everyone else who stood between her son and the throne. The idea is that assassination prevented Germanicus from restoring the Republic. That not only made Tiberius Emperor, but also ensured that Rome kept an imperial system for 35 decades -- so if half of what I, Claudius said about her is true, she ranks.

Another good candidate would be Yehonala, later the Dowager Empress of China. She was born in 1834, chosen as an imperial concubine in 1851, bore the emperor's only son in 1856. When the emperor was poisoned in... 1860, I think it was (she probably did it), she arranged to have it done SLOWLY, so that she could outmaneuver her (barely) male rivals who were required to stay with the dying guy at his palace, while she went to the capital and consolidated power. So she ruled as regent, but as her son got old enough she arranged for HIM to die in 1873 -- most likely by an odd combination of erotic stimulants and skilled, gorgeous women. (I'm not kidding: he died of exhaustion.) Then she moved her infant nephew into power, but when 20 some years later he began to seem like he might actually want to DO something, she had him isolated. The Mao-era autobiography of Henry Pu-I, made into Bertolucci's The Last Emperor of China, mentions her: she was his great aunt and her death made him emperor, such as it was. She probably had as many as a thousand people assassinated before she died in 1908: since her goal was just her own power, cuz she started as a loveslave and wound up the absolute ruler of China for three generations, gotta give her props.

'Course, if you expand "assassination" to include extrajudicial executions like that, ya gotta include Sulla, the Roman dictator from the generation before Julius Caesar. He was a patrician raised poor among the plebs; when he was dictator he had something like 9,000 people in Rome killed without trial for political reasons, to ensure the survival of patrician rule IN the Republic. The proof of his success is that that he then gave up power completely, and would literally walk around all by himself in the city for years after, and anybody could come up and demand to know why he had murdered their father, brother, or son: he would stand there and answer. Damndest thing -- and, oh yeah, in his last speech to the Senate before he died of old age, Sulla publicly acknowledged a transvestite whom he known since his youth, a famous actor, as the love of his life.

Why nobody has made a movie about HIM, I dunno.

But if by "assassination" you simply mean killing a leader to advance a cause, I'd argue for America killing Yamamoto in WW2, the one that upset Justice Stevens. The world would be a very different place today if Japan had sued for peace in 1944, and Yamamoto was the man to have done it.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 11, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce Wilder:
Wouldn't that be the CIA's lone success story(in their eyes anyway)?

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on November 11, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

How can K-Drum forget Huey Long's assassination? What did Dr. Carl Weiss accomplish?

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on November 11, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

The right-wing fascists who killed JFK, RFK, MLK and Paul Wellstone certainly stymied American liberalism and made most progressives into cowardly sheep who are afraid to even bring impeachment charges against the most criminal administration in American history.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 11, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Is it just me, or does mhr seem to think about "liberals" too much?

Posted by: Kenji on November 11, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Sirhan Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian

Born to Palestinian Christian parents, but later a Southern Baptist. As a child he attended Sunday School for three years at First Baptist Church, San Antonio.

Good job there, mhr.

Posted by: bob on November 11, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just you. I liked mhr better when he was banned. He doesn't succeed as either serious commentator, parody or comic relief.

Posted by: tomeck on November 11, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Considering today's date (11/11) I'd say that Mr Princips was pretty succesful in pulling down the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Course he managed to pull down a lot more than that and we're still living with the results - like Kosovo and, oh yes, that place in Mesopotamia - what's its name?

Posted by: richard locicero on November 11, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Outer Bushistan.

Speaking of which, has anybody else heard that the Bush family has been buying vast tracts of land in Paraguay?

Posted by: Kenji on November 11, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Part of the problem is that too often we don't even know assassins' motivations in the first place. Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan are ciphers. ...

Which should tell you a GREAT deal about their purported "guilt"! Genuine assassins, like Booth ("Sic semper tyrannis!") and Amir, tend to revel in their deeds. (Unless, of course, they're working for the CIA; but THOSE particular political "hit men" are never even indicted, much less convicted for their crimes.)

What part of Oswald's famous "I'm just a patsy" remark remotely resembles "triumphal glee"? Of course, since Lee was "conveniently" whacked before he could spill any beans by the notoriously Mafia-connected Jack Ruby (who also graciously "deined" to die before he could testify), we'll never really know, now will we?
_____________

... I'm just sitting back and waiting for someone to claim Oswald didn't kill JFK ...

TomStewart: Why, you must be absolutely psychic!!!

Then again, in a country where a huge portion of the population, for very good reasons, has never accepted the ridiculous "lone gunman" horsehit foisted on them by the cover-up maestros in the government, that's not exactly much of a "stretch", now is it?

I take it back. You're not "psychic" at all, just a transparently smug, self-assured "know-it-all". (Dipshit.)
_____________

U.S. GOVERNMENT ASSASSINATION PLOTS
From: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II
by William Blum
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 11, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

June 5, 1968. Robert Kennedy celebrates victory in the California primary and [wave a magic wand] doesn't get assassinated.

In Chicago, Hubert Humphrey has the most delegates but not a first ballot victory. RFK takes the nomination on the second ballot.

In November, RFK defeats Richard Nixon.

In January 1969, RFK takes the oath of office.

The U.S. invasions of Laos and Cambodia never happen. The Khmer Rouge never control Cambodia, and that country is spared the murderous killing fields.

Henry Kissinger never becomes secretary of state and never greenlights Indonesia's invasion of East Timor, which, lacking American support, never happens.

I don't know if Sirhan Sirhan cared about any of this, but these just a few of the international consequences of his act, as I imagine them. The consequences in the United States were equally pivotal.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on November 11, 2007 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Sirhan Sirhan was a southern Baptist? Who knew? (I didn't.)

Princip very nearly survived the war, btw, which has to be one the World's Great Ironies (should Kevin want to keep priming new pumps). They wouldn't execute him cuz he was too young; he died of pneumonia in April '18.

Something oughta be said for Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš , the guys who killed Reinhard Heydrich.

Heydrich was maybe the most Nazi of the Nazis -- the SS guy who did the fake Polish invasion of Germany that was the flimsy pretext for the German attack that launched WW2 in earnest, Heydrich chaired the Wannsee conference that launched the Final Solution, and he was just plain evil. The Brits parachuted Gabčík and Kubiš into place, and they killed the bastard. Most folks who talk about it emphasize the way the Germans murdered pretty much everybody in Lidice in retaliation, but fwiw, that sorta underscores WHY they did it in the first place.

And since at least one of the Wannsee guys lived into the 80s as a fat happy tax lawyer, it is a good thing that Heydrich did not: Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, RIP.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 11, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

The right-wing fascists who killed JFK, RFK, MLK and Paul Wellstone certainly stymied American liberalism and made most progressives into cowardly sheep who are afraid to even bring impeachment charges against the most criminal administration in American history.

HEAR, HEAR! So good it deserves repeating, CD.
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 11, 2007 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

(snicker) Oh, Joel, what the hell, if you're gonna speculate -- the most Catholic of the Kennedy brothers, RFK is President when Roe is decided in 1973 at the beginning of his second term. This father of 11 children who serves mass well into middle age categorically refuses to accept that abortion is a good thing, so Democrats AND Republicans have to work out an abortion politics that isn't polarized OR counterproductive, despite the Supreme Court's baffling attempt to settle the issue.

And when the second President Kennedy IS finally tested in some foreign crisis, he reminds the world why he was considered not only the meanest, but the most Machiavellian Kennedy. (Plus, he could quote Aeschylus from memory: RFK, RIP, also.)

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 11, 2007 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

How about assassinations BY heads of state? Have they ever accomplished much in the long run?

Posted by: anon on November 11, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it simply amazing how Sirhan somehow managed to kill RFK with a bullet -- fired from point blank range -- that entered Bobby Kennedy's skull from directly behind his ear, when Sirhan was standing in front of Kennedy, several feet away!

That must have been one HELL of a "magic bullet", huh? ;-)
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 11, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

(ahem) Oh, theAmericanist, how poorly you remember Bobby. Bobby was healing the racial divide in America like no other white man. Bobby was prepared to spend his political capital to assist the poor out of poverty like no other politician of his time, and hardly anyone else since. That, and not Machiavellianism, is what America lost in June 1968.

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on November 11, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of "ciphers", here's a HUGE one:

Why haven't we witnessed numerous attempts against our own "Reichsfuehrers" by now? A government this despicably foul and corrupt should already have inspired "lone nuts" by the droves! Yet, nichts, nada, nothing.

Quite a "puzzler", isn't it?
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 11, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's 1984 assassination at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards unleashed an orgy of ethnic violence in India, and led to a prolonged period of political turmoil and instability in that country.

But today, her daughter-in-law Sonja Gandhi, while not serving as prime minister, effectively controls the country's political scene as head of the Congress Party. India is apparently thriving under her guidance.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 11, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

anon: "How about assassinations BY heads of state? Have they ever accomplished much in the long run?"

Well, Benigno Aquino's assassination at the hands of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos undermined the latter's moral authority in the eyes of his own people, thereby paving the way for his ouster by Aquino's widow in Manila's February 1986 "People Power" revolution, and to the Marcos family literally becoming my neighbors in east Honolulu after they fled into exile.

So yeah, Marcos' act of violence against a perceived rival did in fact accomplish a lot -- just not what he obviously intended.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 11, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

And there's the assassination of Walther Rathenau, a Weimar Finance Minister, in 1922 by right-wing Freikorps soldiers.

Posted by: otherpaul on November 11, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

Avenger: Please. That Stanton bullshit is 100 times less credible than the least credible JFK conspiracy.

Poilu: Read "Case Closed." Posner more than answers any conspiracy theory nutbar idea on JFK's assasination.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 11, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Khalid Islambouli appears to have left Egypt pretty much where he found it under Sadat -- a cold peace with Egypt and a repressive personalistic dictatorship suppressing the Islamist movement.

Posted by: brooksfoe on November 11, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Bobby was prepared to spend his political capital to assist the poor out of poverty like no other politician of his time..."

Yeah, that LBJ guy couldn't give a shit about poor people.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 11, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Poilu:

I think there are a hell of a lot more right wing nutballs out there with guns then left wings ones, which helps explain why liberals out to change things are much more in danger than right wing extremists.

Now, You can sit there and believe that JFK, RFK, MLK, and Wellstone (?) died from Government conspiracies, but seeing the success that our government has in keeping secrets, I'd say you're, well, a dipshit.

No offense meant, of course.

Posted by: TomStewart on November 11, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

You all miss the most successful of all, John Hinckley, who, though he failed to kill his target, did successfully win Jodie Foster's heart, to whom he remains happily married to this day.

Posted by: Imaginary on November 12, 2007 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

A simple matter of comparing two outcomes in parallel universes.

Posted by: Luther on November 12, 2007 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, the tendency seems to be that matters are worsened. Yamamoto's strategic moves were almost uniformly disasterous--he was presiding over one when he was killed--and had he stayed in command, the end for Japan might have come faster.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on November 12, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

And let's not forget that Benigno Aquino's assassination was supposedly at the hands of a "disturbed lone nut" who was quickly dispatched by security guards, while the real fatal shot was fired by a gunman behind Aquino. This all came out in the investigation, which Marcos had hoped would be a Warren Commission-style coverup. But Marcos didn't have that many allies left.

Shades of RFK, shades of THE PARALLAX VIEW. Since Marcos' intelligence services and military were trained by the US, where do you think he learned such clever games?

Posted by: Speed on November 12, 2007 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it funny how Warren Commission supporters resort to name-calling and ad hominen attacks, and appeal to so-called "authorities" like Posner and Bugliosi?

American exceptionalism indeed - no conspiracies in the USofA! We only have lone nuts. I guess it allows them to sleep easier. Charles De Gaulle was the target of over a dozen assassination plots by rightist military groups, but if that had happened here we would insist it was just a bunch of lone psychos acting independently because they wanted to "be somebody."

Posted by: TRR on November 12, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

"I'd say you're, well, a dipshit."

Actually, the government has more luck in keeping secrets than you think. It took over 30 years for Operation Northwoods to leak out in a declassified document, but by that time it's just ancient history to most people.

You can go on believing in your childlike Approved History, or you can learn to think for yourself.

Posted by: Radical Moderate on November 12, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK
Using a new data set of assassination attempts on all world leaders from 1875 to 2004…

This post reminds me of a small, personal data set that I have never forgotten. The set of adults I came into contact with in the wake of the John Kennedy assassination years ago (I was junior high age and I’m talking about family, friends, teachers, preachers, coaches, neighbors).

The gist of their reaction was “Well, I hate that it had to happen that way, but somebody had to stop him”. I heard it over and over. In my world, that attitude was the prevailing view. I don’t have any doubt about it at all. It was not something that I was surprised to hear at all. It was the way I was taught to be.

And when I grew to know better, these same people gave me grief about it. They still do.

That’s why I am so irritated by people like David Brooks when they try to rewrite history.

Posted by: little ole jim from red state on November 12, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

It is a statistical fact that Democratic politicians are more likely to die in plane crashes than Republicans.

Paul Wellstone's assassin was VERY effective and successful. And it was likely that Wellstone was not his first kill. Probably won't be his last either.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on November 12, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Read "Case Closed." Posner more than answers any conspiracy theory nutbar idea on JFK's assasination.

Socratic Gadfly: No, thanks. Posner is HARDLY the "last word" on the JFK hit. Nor does he deliver any "death blow" to intelligent skepticism regarding the "official" story of the 9/11 attacks. However, his bias as a would-be "debunkster" is readily apparent.

The truly "nutbar" idea, actively promoted by those in power at the time (and ever since), is that Lee Oswald somehow managed to accomplish that deed all by his lonesome, then flatly DENIED any culpability. And of course the HSCA investigation, contrary to the Warren Commission's farcical charade, plainly conceded a likely conspiracy. (Were those Congressmen also supposedly "nutbars"?)

If you merely seek "closure", read things like "Case Closed". But if you seek thorough analysis of the crucial questions -- and they are myriad -- read on!
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 12, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think there are a hell of a lot more right wing nutballs out there with guns then left wings ones ...

A MAJOR deficiency in this country nowadays, it would seem.

... No offense meant, of course.

None taken (of course).
.

Posted by: Poilu on November 12, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Both Booth and oswald created "bloody shirts" that were used to great effect by the partie of their victims.

The Republicans used Lincoln's "bloody shirt" so often that the term became a cliche, but it was used to justify the harshness of the Reconstruction Era, rather thna the policy of reconciliation Lincolmn had wanted. It helped that party keep the Presidency for a generation.

Medicaid and the Voting Rights acts were pushed through, despite strong pre-assassination opposition to them, using the leverage of the national grief over JFK's assassination. If not for Viet Nam, LBJ could have used it to push through a lot more of his Great Society programs.

Posted by: Lew Wolkoff on November 13, 2007 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Bullshit.

Damn, I hate ignorance -- the term "bloody shirt" does NOT refer to Republicans using Lincoln's murder to justify the "harshness" of Reconstruction.

The phrase has deep roots (Mark Antony was said to have waved Caesar's slashed and stained toga in the actual eulogy he gave in the Forum), but the original American usage was an Abolitionist named James B. Weaver, who took the shirt of a preacher who was beaten to death for preaching to slaves in the 1850s: "Under this bloody shirt we shall march to victory.."

By the 1870s, it was Lincoln's CRITICS (like Horace Greeley) who used it to CONDEMN Reconstruction: "stop waving the bloody shirt", is what Greeley said when he ran as an independent in 1872.

In 1876, Senator John Logan acknowledged that the phrase was used to attack folks who fought against white supremacy in the South, and tried to use it as a counterattack: "It has come to be a saying that we are waving the bloody shirt if we call attention to brutal wholesale murder of colored Republicans. When Democrats stop staining the shirt with blood, we will stop shaking it."

Lincoln himself used it once, prosecuting a murder trial: "It is better to wave the bloody shirt than to waive justice." Wolkoff oughta think on Lincoln's meaning.

Cuz the idea that Reconstruction was "harsh" is the sorta rank bullshit that only an ignoramus or white supremacist would say, even diluted with the historical hallucination that Lincoln would not have stood up for the rights of emancipated US citizens.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 13, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly