Perilous Times Call For Strong Leaders

By: Guest Authors

By: Joshua Ladd

The Civil War was a tremulous time for our young country. The war has no doubt played a vital role in the development of America. The affects of the Civil War can still be felt today, some 140 years later. I’m sure many would agree that history has shown the Union’s victory was a monumental achievement for the advancement of our country and all mankind. It’s hard to imagine where we would currently be if the Confederates would have written history. Today’s current War on Terrorism is without question a time of great turmoil for our country and the entire world. The results of this war will undoubtedly change the course of American history and that of mankind. While, I realize that these are two very different Wars, which are being fought in a different age of warfare, I believe there are some comparisons of our leaders during these times of great difficulty that should be explored. Essentially, I want to compare the responses of two great American President’s during a War that changed American history, and the current War that will change the fate of the free world.

President Lincoln was at times a controversial president. His election was essentially the deciding factor for seven states to succeed and the South to wage war. As the Civil War progressed the Union won two essential battles at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. Despite the success of these campaigns, there was growing discontent in the North. From the very beginning of the war, many of Lincoln’s measures were unpopular among Northerners. President Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus allowed him to hold those in opposition of the government indefinitely. The Emancipation Proclamation angered many willing to fight for the North, but not for the abolition of slavery. The military draft was the cause of many violent outbreaks. There were also those who did not want to support a war to which there was no foreseeable end.

The peace Democrats, also called the Copperheads strongly opposed President Lincoln and the war. Their stance was for compromise with the Confederates. Many believed that it would be impossible to defeat the South. Clement L. Vallandigham was an Ohio democrat in Congress who was a very influential member of the Copperheads. He was arrested on May 5, 1863 for an extreme antiwar speech he gave in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The military sentenced Clement to prison, but Lincoln intervened and changed his penalty to banishment to the Confederates. During this time Lincoln was being violently opposed by newspapers such as the Chicago Times, and also by the mayor of New York City.

In spite of all his critics President Lincoln stayed the course and the Union eventually won the war. It would have been easy for him to cave into the pressure of critics about him, but he stood firm on convictions of what he believed was right for the country. President Lincoln had the foresight to discern the long-term consequences to the outcome of this conflict. Although, he changed generals quite frequently, Lincoln stood by General Grant throughout his mistakes and eventually named him commander of the Union Army. President Lincoln’s loyalty to his administration and his ability to stay the course in the midst of harsh criticism may have saved our country, as we now know it, from sure ruin.

I observe similar characteristics in President George W. Bush. He is a man of strong conviction and has stayed the course in this vital War on Terrorism. President Bush is undoubtedly another controversial President, just look back to the election in 2000. As this War on Terror has progressed, the coalition has made some impressive gains. The success in Afghanistan has been outstanding, and the elections in Iraq are setting a new course towards freedom for the entire Middle East region. Despite these achievements, there is still much dissatisfaction among many in America. The provisions in the Patriot Act are very similar to that of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Many Americas are weary of the War in Iraq to which they see no predictable end, or even a reason to being there. There have been many questions looming of crucial mistakes and miscalculations made in this administration. President Bush is constantly being slammed by Democratic politicians and the mainstream media. Nevertheless, President Bush has not wavered in his convictions, and has defended his staff in times of turmoil.

Imagine if President Lincoln would have given in to his harsh critics, what would have become of our great country. Today, the stakes are equally as high if not greater, because the fate of the free world is at stake. What would happen now if our President just gave in to critics, and the terrorists were allowed to write the history books? It’s an unsettling thought, and that is why perilous times call for strong leaders. I see a variety of similarities between these two great Presidents. Their persistence and vast vision to see the far reaching affects of their crucial decisions has shaped America into the greatest nation on earth.
Josh Ladd

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